Ouistreham, Caen & Bayeux

Ouistreham

25 nautical miles.  Our gennaker sail failed during journey (big light winds head sail), the shackle at the top of the mast came undone causing the gennaker sail to fall into the water down the port side of the boat (on inspection shackle was bent).  Lucky the engine wasn’t on – we were sailing so there wasn’t a risk of it getting caught in the prop, a big effort to pull it back on board as it was still secured at the bow deck.

We were secured at the waiting pontoon with hours to spare before we had to think about preparing to enter the lock (only opens at hight tide) so we set off for a walk to visit the sea festival which we could see up on the other side of the lock.  Enjoyed a nice stroll around the various stalls viewing lots of fish and seafood produce, local arts and craft, cheese, nougats, etc.  After doing a full lap we were drawn back to the apple man, whom was preparing cored and peeled apples wrapped in donut dough, cooked in a big vat and then rolled in cinnamon and icing sugar – delicious!!

A regatta being held out from Ouistreham finished about an hour prior to the lock opening to enter the marina, I was a little nervous watching dozens of small to medium racing yachts coming to wait with us on the pontoon.  We ended up with 4 yachts rafted off us.  The nerves came from knowing we were all going to have to enter the lock at the same time, and the pressure this would add to what essentially was our 3rd experience in a lock (ecluse as they are called in French).  Lucky enough with the festival being on at the foreshore the harbour master opened the “big shipping” lane lock to allow us all to enter on the side close to the festival to enable people to enjoy the scene – this allowed a lot more room for all the boats and all the racing yachts went right to the front and rafted along each other allowing enough room for us to hang at the back alone against the wall ☺.  We waited until all had left and snuck out around into the marina which surprise, surprise was full.  No spaces on the visitors pontoons and our only option (besides rafting – which isn’t something we were keen on at this point in time) was to slip into one of the local resident pontoons which had a vacant birth in it.  From our calculations the lock wouldn’t open to let anyone in again until morning anyway so the owner and boat shouldn’t be surprising us during the night!

Next morning some of the competition boats that were on the visitors pontoon left creating a space for us.  We settled in and opened up all the windows and hatches to give Red Roo a good airing and clean.  We got to it scrubbing inside and out, and washing the salt water off the gennaker sail that went swimming yesterday.  It being such a nice day sunny, very little wind Phil decided it was good conditions to make his first trip up the mast, this would test his plan and equipment (harnesses and one way climbers etc) as well as have a look as to why we lost the Gennaker.

We made a plan, talked the plan and confirmed the plan.  Time for Maree’s muscles to prove themselves by winding Phil 15+ meters up to the top of the mast (and I am delighted to report he is easier to winch than raising the main sail, being a lot lighter helps!)  We were both pleasantly impressed with how quick and easy it was, Phil saying he felt very safe.

Whilst up the mast removing the failed Gennaker Snap Shackle there was some miss communication resulting in Maree letting the Geneka halliard through the cleat – which was wrong – very wrong, very very wrong, resulting in the line being now out of the mast!!  After a lot of swearing from above, a safe decent of the Captain back to deck – it turned out we would have had to release the line anyway (or send the Captain back up the mast), small comfort however and still a heavy heart at my first stuff up.

Would be fair to say there wasn’t a whole lot to keep us in Ousitreham long (the cold showers were not enough to want to stay!) so after our day of housekeeping we planned to head inland tomorrow up the river to Caen.

Caen

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A motor up the canal in sleety cold rain 8 nautical miles (15km) with three opening bridges to pass under.  The first of those bridges being the Pegasus bridge famous for its role in the Second World War.

Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge built in 1934 that crossed the Caen Canal between Caen and Ouistreham in Normandy France.

Also known as the Benouville Bridge after the neighbouring village, it was a major objective of the British airborne troops during Operation Deadstick, part of Operation Tonga in the opening minutes of the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. A unit of Glider infantry was to land, take the bridges intact and hold them until relieved. The successful taking of the bridges played an important role in limiting the effectiveness of a German counter-attack in the days and weeks following the Normandy invasion.

In 1944 it was renamed Pegasus Bridge in honour of the operation. The name is derived from the shoulder emblem worn by the British airborne forces, which is the flying horse Pegasus. 

During our two days in Caen we explored on foot many of the very impressive buildings including Ducal Castle which was one of the largest fortified city walls in all of Europe.  One can only imagine how intimidating it would have been in it’s day, even it’s ruins which remain are so big it’s hard to imagine the people building it back in 1060 without the labour-saving infrastructure that would be available in today’s day and age when constructing something that huge!  The castle was used by both the Dukes of Normandy and the Kings of England.

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Bayeux

From Caen Phil suggested a day trip on the train to Bayeux to visit the Bayeux Tapestry, which was a welcome surprise for Maree having never heard of it.   To say we were both impressed is an absolute understatement, it was magnificent. Such a brilliant way to tell a historic event and story and such intricate needlework, absolutely amazing!  We both sincerely enjoyed it staying a long time and talking about it for days and weeks following.  The tapestry is an embrioded piece measuring nearly 70 metres (230 feet) in length.  It tells the story of the Norman conquest of England with William – Duke of Normandy and Harold – who was to become King of England and the battle of Hastings.  The story is told over 50 scenes and is believed to have been made around 1070.  This is just a brilliant piece of art and history combined.  Such a great way to tell a story, if any of our friends and family are ever in France this is on the must see list!!  We have purchased a book detailing the embroidery and the story and look forward to sharing it with people, however it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.  Maree also being fond of needlework (or as Phil says “stitching and bitching”) also purchases a kit to take on a small frame of the work myself – no pressure after seeing the real thing in all its wonder and greatness.  The stitching being absolutely perfect in real life – I couldn’t pick a mishap in over 70 meters!

Aside from the tapestry Bayeux itself it one of the most charming places visited to date with the buildings being so old and very well kept.  Just magical.  The huge tree’s the old stone buildings with streams and water wheels, we felt like we had taken a step back into past centuries – just amazing.

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