Dunkerque 

It is now Friday the 7th July and we have been in Dunkerque for 3 days, but we needed to have our fridge repaired and then the weather on Thursday was forecast to be stormy with vicious squalls and thunderstorms…….which it was!

Some views of Dunkerque……


There was in fact plenty to see and do in Dunkerque (its name is rather unoriginally derived from; the church or Kirk in the dunes). It was sold by the British to one of Louis in about 1660. He built a very impressive port and defended it really well. The outlines of the original walls and moats you can still see among the docks and harbours of today’s port. Louis then promptly opened it up to privateers who then prayed on British and Dutch shipping. This is where Jean Bart comes in, he was a swashbuckling privateer and later joined the French navy to become a successful if rather podgy admiral defeating both British and Dutch fleets at the Battle of Texel. Streets, schools and the lifeboat are named after him! 

A proper pirate here, but in later life a bit of a porker!

Our location on the far end of the pontoon means that we do not get too many boats raft up against us and I don’t get twitched about being crushed by bigger and heavier yachts. However it is 1/3 miles walk to the toilet but we are right in the middle of watching the preparations for the the sailing ‘tour de France’ with people blowing in big marker buoys and preparing race and press boats. It is quite nice to watch all this activity while I sit on deck and drink coffee and eat croissants! 


Race preparations on the beach

Pierre ‘le fridge’ turns up, it is 6pm and he is on the ball and keen. He seems to be a bit of a Mr Fixit when it comes to boats, that morning on our way to the museum we eventually tracked him down to a boat on another part of the Marina. He has a very impressive website and I imagined him to be a big boatyard and not a man on a boat! Anyway he was helpful and assured us that he would fix the problem that day! When he arrived I knew straightaway that he had no intention of trying to fix the old fridge but would simply rip the old one out and replace it. He took one look at the fridge and with a very sad face told me (Monsieur) that it was not possible to repair it unless it was sent away and then it was the holidays and I might not get it back to September! With that he and his mate promptly ripped the bits out of the old fridge and stuffed the new on in. At least now when it goes wrong again I can replace it myself. However it is working well and we can have ice of the G&T! 

The museum was really interesting and gave a great history of the port, if you pick your days correctly to can go around the Sandgettie lightship and a schooner moored in the dock outside and then up the old lighthouse on the dock. Needless to say we did not pick the right day! 

Duchess Anne
Sandgettie Lightship

Operation Dynamo is covered in a separate exhibit, but all around the town there are monuments and notice boards about the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ and to the ‘Little Chips’ (their spelling not mine!) that rescued 338,000 allied soldiers of the beaches and breakwaters. The walls of the cathedral are covered with the scars of the fighting that took place.


One of the ‘little chips’


Again hoping to see the Operation Dynamo museum, I discover that it is still the wrong day and is closed for refurbishment! Anyway we go to the beach and paddle in the warm water. You can see why it must have been a good place to rescue people from as it is wide and gently sloping but very exposed which must have made waiting for rescue terrifying.

Dunkerque beach looking towards the Eastern Breakwater 


The red diesel problem! I can only buy red diesel for my boat in the UK and although I have paid the duty it is illegal to use it in the rest of Europe. Everywhere except Belgium recognises that if you have been to the UK you will have red derv in your tanks and ignores it! Needless to say my tanks are full of red derv, I had to fill up to cross the channel, it would have been irresponsible not to and anyway the traces of the red dye stay in your tanks for months! The man in the yacht next to us has just come through Belgium and regails us with tales of British boats being stopped at sea by customs and then being sent to Neiupoort or Oostende to be fined despite having the correct paperwork. We are sanguine about this! If they do stop and fine us then we will have to pay up, we have no option. We have to cross Belgium waters and our next destination,  Berens in Holland is another 54 miles away from Dunkerque and is too long a hop for us to make in one go. And anyway we want to go to Bruges and I want to ride on the coastal tram! Anne has given me strict instructions that I must be civil if we are stopped as she will not rescue me from a Belgium prison, I must be polite to them but take their details and complain officially later! Perhaps, as we will be sailing on Friday and Sunday they will be less keen! However I am not yet quite prepared to take this lying down and I have applied a bit of mild guile, I have bought a Europe flag to fly as my ensign to replace the very easy to spot Red Ensign. That might confuse things for a while!!


My cunning plan! Grace in disguise!

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