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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Alice Sails Undone.

The tempers have snapped.  Two houses up the road the occupants are threatening to kill each other. Their argument is splattered with the dreadful things they are going to do to their respective mothers, and quite a few choice descriptions of bums. These are not permanent residents but have set up a beach bar for the summer and are renting the house.. They will vanish in the autumn mists.
Anyway, here is part of Alice's (Alice who used to be Frank) email which arrived today.

Alex came to help me across the CHANNEL. We were up at 3.45am so that we could get out on the 04.30 lock opening. All this, so that the tide would be in our favour and we would be able to get into the marina in Calais – the bridge at the entrance only opens at certain times around high tide. We had gone a fair way up the coast to Dungerness and then across the first shipping lane. At the half way point we weren’t making good time and I was convinced we were not going to make it. Should we not risk it and go to Boulogne instead?

After crossing the second shipping lane, the wind and the tide picked up and we were zooming towards Calais at 10 knots, but it was still touch and go. Getting near the entrance to the harbour a large car ferry came steaming up behind us. If we stopped, would he run into us? Was there enough room to get out of the way? Were the red lights just for the ferries? I made the wrong decision and went for it. The pressure of getting to the bridge in time and the block of flats peering down at me made me panic. I went to the right and the ferry to the left as we entered. I was so close to the entrance wall, I took some fishing lines with me. Lots of not happy, shouting people.

We made the bridge opening with about 20 minutes to spare. This was now 2.00 pm. As we moored into the side of the dock, the marina man said we were in trouble. They had already been on to him about us, for not using the VHF to radio in. We had tried 3 times but been unsuccessful. It turns out that the channel we had in our guide book was wrong – 5 years wrong! Sure enough, a port official came to take me away. He photocopied my documents and gave me a ticking off. Alex managed to take a photo before heading home. The next afternoon 3 police officers appeared at my boat. I would have to accompany them to the station the following day for an “audition”. I was tempted to ask if I was required to sing, but the situation was a bit serious. In fact I was a bit upset about making such a bad mistake.

The next day 3 different gendarmerie took me away to the station. I showed them the book and explained what had happened and they were understanding and were a little sympathetic. They still had to phone up the justice department,t to see whether I should have to pay a fine of 500€. Thankfully not.

I spent a very unhappy week in Calais and was close to giving up. Alex came over for the day to help me take the mast down. The crane man helped too. Eventually Roberto came to help me out of Calais and into the canal system. All the preparation I had done to find out what to do, didn’t seem to matter much. Anyway it all worked in the end.

Don’t miss the next update with more escapades!

Problem with the connection so I am sorry that I can't send any photos...

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