Route du Calvados

A few years ago, I wrote about a project, the Route du Calvados for a sailing gathering in Normandy to sail along the scene of D-Day of 6th June 1944 when the Allies made a successful invasion of France which proved to be the beginning of the defeat of Nazi Germany. Most of the beaches in question were along the western part of this coast, but there was a battle for Ouistreham where there was a German stronghold and the famous Pegasus Bridge up the Orne towards Caen. There are monuments and museums in many places of this area, and I recommend seeing the epic film The Longest Day.

It is a long coast, and my plan of 2014 came to nothing, simply because I am not an organising kind of person and one can have serious legal liabilities for other people’s accidents. It is better to go to a gathering that more qualified people have organised, often with financial support from businesses and public authorities. The idea was put to sleep, but I kept ideas of having some sails in the area. Finally, I put the idea to a friend by the name of Jean-Baptiste who is a highly experienced sailor, mostly in yachts. So, we did a little bit of this Route du Calvados, two boats and complete simplicity.

We sailed from Dives sur Mer to Ouistreham and the Orne estuary and back. He sailed in my little Tabur 320 with its sprit rig and I on “Sarum”. It was just for Saturday and Sunday, one night on a beach to one side of the Orne estuary. It was pleasant to be otherwise than alone, with a friend who is a highly experienced sailor.

I chose the name Route du Calvados because that is the name of the Département and also of their famous apple brandy which is wonderful after a meal or between courses with ice cream as a trou normand.

This video will give a little taste of this coast, which seems to be the French equivalent of Sussex with its seaside resorts of Brighton and Eastbourne. Deauville and Trouville are the most opulent and wealthy as resorts for Parisians. Cabourg is a little more popular, but still marked by its wealthy past by the hotels and villas from the Impressionist era. Being in August, the beaches were crowded and the sea too was invaded by motor boats and jet skis, making a lot of noise and waves from their wakes. It was a little quieter towards Ouistreham and the entry into the estuary.

We entered the Orne and made some way towards Pegasus Bridge, on the tidal section, not on the canal that takes boats and ships to Caen. We then returned towards a sandy beach rather than the grey ooze that sucks at your feet. There we spent the night, my boat with fore and aft anchors and Jean-Baptist’s high up on the beach on a single anchor. That provided the possibility to get going the next morning at mid (flood) tide. We motored hard against the current and found a place to do a little repair and eat a few bits of old bread and cheese.

The sail back to Dives sur Mer was pleasant, with a moderately agitated sea and a beam wind. The recovery was leisurely and we found a pleasant place to stop off for something to eat, the old lighthouse, the Phare de la Roque overlooking a part of the Seine that was reclaimed for farmland in the nineteenth century. It is now a tourist attraction with a fine view from the cliff. That is where I took the final part of my video.

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3 Responses to Route du Calvados

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Wow – lovely, and fascinating! The post and the video complement so nicely that you might consider adding a link to the former in the description at the latter.

    I had no idea that the French had reclaimed such ‘polder’ land along the Seine – do you happen to know if there were any Dutchman involved, as in eastern parts of England?

    • A Spanish sailor with whom I have been in contact:

      “Meme si la voile nous rends souvent solitaires, par la meme nature farouche et rebelle qui nous habite, aussi une traverseé partagé en amitie avec un autre c´est une grande joie!

      Santé avec un petit calvados tout pennard!!”

      Even if sailing often brings us to be alone, by the same fierce and rebellious nature living in us, it is a voyage shared in friendship with another and is a great joy!

      Cheers with a little calvados, relaxed!!

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I don’t think I was aware of Frits Thaulow until I just now encountered his 1905 painting of Dordrecht which (mutatis mutandis) looks like it could be a ‘still’ taken from one of your sailing videos! Do have a look at the little gallery in his Wikipedia article when you have a moment.

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