France Belgium Netherlands all in a weeks sailing. 

8th May - 17th May 

Sounds far but in fact total distance since leaving Dieppe has been 213nm or around 395km. Imagine driving Darwin to  Katherine and you had passed through two countries and on to a third.

150507 1 Arriving Boulogne.jpg150509 2 Messy stuff in the harbour.jpg

First port of call after Dieppe was Boulogne-Sur-Mer a fishing port in northern France. Our arrival into Boulogne was for Lee a little too spirited. Throughout the day there was a large swell running and as we entered through the outer breakwater Katherine was picked up and literally surfed into the sanctuary of the flat water inside the outer harbour. Something slightly disconcerting about 30 ton of boat with full main spearing sideways down a wave!. The tides, currents, shoals and changeable conditions of this coast make for interesting and challenging port entrances at times.

150508 9 Liberation Day March Boulogne.jpg

The marina in Boulogne runs alongside the southern wall of the harbour whilst the fishing fleet tied up on the northern wall. From early hours of morning until late in the evening the sound of the fishing boats manoeuvring into and out of their docks could be heard along with the clanging of boxes as they were unloaded and reloaded. When I think of fishing boats it generally conjures up images of quaint fishing boats as seen in the north but here they were built for business and beauty was definitely in the eye of the beholder as was the trust that some of these vessels could even go to sea. The harbour had one more endearing characteristic - a brown foam sludge generated when the lock gates were sluicing. The foam ran out so thick that at one stage whilst we were there it seemed to threaten to engulf some of the smaller boats. We were later told not a rare occurrence - and the mess it left behind was certainly not at all nice.

Boulogne-sur-mer city itself was just that - a city - good access to a supermarket from the marina but reminded us how spoilt we had been in Dieppe harbour. Take a short walk up the hill from the city centre and the gem of Boulogne could be found. The Old Walled City with its ramparts dating back to between 1227 and 1231 are apparently among the best conserved in Northern Europe. A walk within the old town taking in the views of The Belfry, Notre Dames Bascilia, and The Old Castle were made a little more unique as a local parade commemorating Liberation Day came marching through.

150512 2 RYCO founded 1846.jpg

Seventy miles north of Boulogne we took down the French courtesy flag and for the first time flew the Belgium Flag as we arrived into the port of Oostende. There are several potential places to stay in Oostende but our draft and size dictated that we head down the channel to the Royal Yacht Club Oostende. The oldest yacht club in Belgium having been established on the 12/4/1846 we had the friendliest welcome possible from Patrick the harbourmaster. We tied up to what initially looked like an undersized position for Katherine but with the right run of lines we were secure and stayed put for the next week. The view from our cockpit could only be described as industrial as large barges came in and offloaded sand but the upside of this quiet marina far outweighed the view. 

We managed two good bike riding days north and south on the Coastal Cycle Route and inland through farmlands and bordering communities, discovering scarecrows along the way. Oostende has probably got one of the longest stretches of beach we have seen so far this season and explains why people must flock here for the summer and beach huts are stacked three deep for as far as the eye can see. 

150515 23 Brugge.jpg150515 18 Brugge.jpg

Being so close to the town of Brugge - a Medieval city that is tagged by some as the “Venice of the North” we decided to take the 15 minute train trip and spend a day. Well it may not be summer but this is one town I would not enter in peak tourist season. The crowds were to us a little bit of a surprise and after lining up for an hour to climb the 366 steps of the Belfry to get a view of the town we found it much more appealing to wander further from the main square. The enclosed gardens of the Beguinage, a community on the edge of Brugge established in 1245 and today inhabited by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict provided a sharp contrast of tranquility to the noise and commotion outside its walls in the old town. In hindsight I think the best way to do Brugge would be to stay a night or two, awake early, wander the streets until the hoards arrive and seek refuge until at least four in the afternoon when the crowds hopefully begin to abate. Crowds aside it was a beautiful town and well worth the visit. 

150515 29 Baz Truffles Andrew and Christene.jpg

The food highlight of our trip to Brugge were definitely the Frites. We had read and were told by those in the know that Belgium Frites are the best. So we sought out a food van and sampled our Belgium Frites with Mayonnaise. Had to laugh when a lady in front asked for Fries - the vendor quickly informed her only the best Frites sold here for Fries you have to go to Paris. The Frites definitely were the best.

150516 2 RYCO Commodore and friendly Members.jpg


Our weekend in Oostende seemed to focus on good food and company. On the Friday evening we were delighted that Christene and Bas along with Truffles had sailed down from the Netherlands onboard their yacht Lovefool. We had not seen them since the 2013 Gold Cup in Copenhagen so it was a real pleasure to spend the evening in their company and catch up. Saturday saw us dining at the RYCO restaurant where it just happened that several of our yacht neighbours were having a club dinner. Throughout the week we had had the opportunity to talk with them and felt rather privileged to be handed a plaque from the Commodore. 


So with our goodbyes completed we were off early on Sunday for Rotterdam our next port and base for a few weeks. 


(For more photos click here) 




© SV Katherine 2017      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Faro Portugal with Askari of Australia