Ahoy Landlubbers and Mateys!
In early May we returned to Southampton, England to wake up our boat Ocean Pearl. Since October she rested on the hard (nauti-speak for stored on land). Out of the water brings enormous peace of mind when you are thousands of miles from your boat. For added protection she was shrink wrapped in heavy plastic for the nasty English winter. After a through bottom check we splashed her and cranked up the grey sail (engine). She’s much happier in the water.
Captain Braun overseeing the "splash down" at Saxons yard, Southampton, England ~
We took advantage of the winter layup out of the water to get work done, including:
Prop reconditioned and balanced
New speed transducer installed
New heads (toilets) installed…yea!
Salon air conditioning unit replaced
Bimini frame and canvas which was shipped from the USA ($ ouch!) was put back on the fly bridge. In anticipation of warmer weather, yea!
Custom reflector for steaming light to keep the loom off the foredeck during night passages
Many pumps worked on, water, hydraulic, etc.
New carpet installed on the lower level
Most of this work was coordinated and accomplished by Nordhavn/UK/Europe group. They did a great job watching and servicing the boat while it was kept in Southampton.
Early May is a chilly start to spring in the Hampshire region of England, but still lots going on. Our first weekend in the UK, country-wide celebrations were underway marking the 70th anniversary of V-E Day (WWII, Victory Europe). A fitting warm up for our plans to tour Normandy, France.
We said goodbye to the land of ‘bangers and mash’ and ‘fish n’chips’ to set off for Normandy, just after trusted cruising pal, Wayne Davis jumped aboard. We retraced the D-Day flotilla’s track, but our crossing of the Channel was a much more pleasant 65-mile passage. We landed in Cherbourg, France, just west of the famous and sacred D-Day beaches. Cherbourg is one of the best harbors in the world but Eisenhower ran boats aground on the sand rather than dock there in June of 1944.
You can barely make out the OP in the distance(middle of picture) with all the sail boat sticks in Cherbourg harbor ~
We secured the boat and set out to drive the lush green rolling hills of the Normandy countryside - Bayeux, Caen, Mont-St.-Michel, St. Mere-Eglise, and St. Lo. But THE “beaches” and their ghosts were omnipresent.
Despite the peacefulness you feel today, the region’s history is filled with war. Normandy was founded by Viking Norsemen who invaded from the north, settled here in the ninth century and gave the region its name. A couple hundred years later, William the Conqueror invaded England from Normandy. A few hundred years after that, Joan of Arc was convicted of heresy in Rouen and burned at the stake by the English, against whom she rallied France during the Hundred Years’ War. And in 1944, Normandy hosted a World War II battle that changed the course of history.
We have all studied D-Day and seen the WWII footage on the History channel, but it is quite different and sobering to actually walk the hallowed sand and ground. Brief background
(sorry, this will be a repeat for you history buffs) - During World War II the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Code named Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning. Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target. By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.
A snapshot of just a few of many highlights of this historically significant Normandy we experienced: D-Day Beaches
– 75 miles of coast north of Bayeux … the American D-Day sites: Utah and Omaha Beaches offered terrific museums, memorials/monuments and battle remnants.
Overlooking the town of Arromanches-Les-Bains/Omaha Beach...remains from coastal defenses can still be seen ~
Bluff overlooking Omaha Beach ~The America Cemetery and Memorial
– Resting on a bluff above Omaha Beach are 9,300 plus white marble crosses and Stars of David in memory of Americans of who gave their lives to free Europe on the beaches below. It is a peaceful and beautiful place. It is one of 14 permanent American WWII military cemeteries on foreign soil. The government of France granted use of this land, in perpetuity, as a permanent burial ground without charge or taxation.
White marble tombstones at The American Cemetery and Memorial ~
It was just a few days after our Memorial Day holiday and before the 71st D-day anniversary...so, lots of flower arrangements throughout the cemetery ~Utah Beach Landing Museum
– An excellent museum that offers film footage on what the Allies had to do to succeed and the many coordinated tasks that had to be accomplished. Several exhibits of innovative invasion equipment and videos demonstrating how it worked and vintage aircraft. Plus, THE BEST, moving testimonial videos from veterans on how they took the beach and moved to the interior. Caen Memorial Museum
– Another “must see” museum that gives a thorough account of Europe post WWI, then leading up to and through WWII. Plus, a “Cold War” section.
Large statue modeled after the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s on V-J Day (Victory over Japan) in New York’s Times Square, August 14th, 1945.
Come on...we HAD to do it! Abbaye du Mont-St-Michel
– This visit was a needed relief from the horror of D-Day. Perched on the border between Normandy and North Brittany is this impressive tidal island boasting a medieval abbey that took 500 years to build. Mont St Michel was designed to be as much a fortress as it was a shrine. From a distance it looks like a beautiful mirage floating on the horizon!
Wayne and Braun in front of Mont-St-Michele at low tide
Mont-St-Michele at high tide!
With a renewed sense of gratitude for the sacrifices of our WWII brave men and women, it was time to move on. Watching the weather and the tides carefully, we set off for St. Peters Port, Guernsey, of the Channel Islands. Geographically, Guernsey is closer to France (30 miles) but it remains loyal to the British crown. Guernsey’s semi-independent status allows it to establish a favorable tax climate. Hooray! Duty-free diesel fuel! About $2.70/gal. vs. ~$7/ gal. in England. The boat got a big drink, with plenty of $ leftover for its crew to drink French wine!
St Peters Port is very picturesque however; the weather kept us from further island exploring. Also the tidal streams in this area are fierce! Tides run 30+ feet! In fact, there are two large marinas in this port that can only be entered at near high tide. Note pictures below –
Low tide at St Peters Port, Guernsey ~
High tide in St Peters Port, Guernsey ~
The OP has a primo spot in the inner harbor of St Peters Port, Guernsey ~
We are too big of a boat to fit in either…the harbor master wisely chose to put us on one of the inner harbor pontoons.
We left Guernsey to cruise the Brittany French coast and stay in some small port towns, enjoying the renowned cuisine. The tides along this coast are also fierce and the coastline very hostile…think rocky shoreline with BIG rocks, shallow waters and huge surf…but oh so strikingly beautiful!
Entrance to Camaret Sur Mer ~
Low tide in Camaret Sur Mer ~
Great hiking near the Camaret Sur Mer port ~
Now we are underway to Bordeaux, baby! Wine country on steroids! Stay tuned for more ~
Over and out,
Tina, Braun and Wayne
Enjoyed the company of N68 'Migration' in Southampton - Owners George and Marci Laycock...heading for the Baltic Sea.
p.s. Our hope is to rendevous with our GSSR Buddy boats later this summer, N68 'Sans Souci' and N62 'Seabird'...very excited about our reunion!