The Return to Dieppe and cooking onboard
During the summer of 2022 we discussed resuming cross Channel sailing trips to Dieppe and other Normandy ports, after their suspension due first to Brexit and then Covid lockdowns, but it all seemed a little daunting so we opted for staying within UK waters instead.
At the start of the 2023 season we were determined to make a crossing so long as it was safe to do so. In the past the sailor’s greatest dangers were usually sea monsters and tempests; now they seemed to be EU and government regulations.
Therefore we hoped our Yacht Club would take the lead and organise something with their counterparts in France. They didn’t disappoint, and after what must have been a lot of hard work the Dieppe Dash was arranged for the first May bank holiday.
As cruising yachtsmen we didn’t want to race, but would appreciate the reassurance of travelling in company. We need not have worried as our wonderful club had already included a cruising section programme so we could join in.
As the momentous day of our departure approached we discussed our catering arrangements because as first mate, I felt crew welfare was my responsibility and I wanted to take some of the weight off our hard pressed and generous skipper’s shoulders.
It was suggested that we all bring our own food but that was quickly rejected with visions of a shared houses fridge full of little packets with our names on them.
We came up with the idea of a cash kitty, with one crew member kindly offering to do the shopping but didn’t really know what to buy as apart from me no-one had crossed the Channel before.
The weather forecast for the morning of the 28th April was for big waves and windy conditions. As we were due an early start, we had spent the night on board so we were all ready for a swift departure.
We rose just as dawn broke to a howling wind with storm clouds scudding past. The skipper and I exchanged anxious looks, but other yachts already leaving gave us reassurance.
Before venturing out of harbour we double reefed our main, however the race fleet was already out and milling around for their start not only with full mainsails but also rigging up their spinnaker gear for a downwind getaway..
For us, it was a bit windy and so we felt more comfortable with our reefs in, as we could always let them out later.
We had a bumpy and boisterous crossing, the wind on the beam most of the way, before reaching Dieppe late afternoon and some four hours after our club’s first race boat had arrived.
We were all somewhat tired, cold and hungry what with a sleepless night before, shipping lanes and an angry sea to contend with and hot food was really the answer.
We’d had various snacks and nibbles to eat but were soon gone and although the boat has a great galley and new stove the violent rocking of the vessel proved problematic and attempts to make hot drinks were fraught with difficulties.
Alas, the night before I’d started to go down with a cold and all my essential remedies were at home, so I didn’t feel I was up for much and the others on board had never perfected the knack of boiling a kettle on a rough sea.
I felt it was my job to sit on the floor next to the oven and heat a couple of Cornish pasties, slice them into individual strips and then pass the bowl around.
It is always interesting to discover the sincerity of crew’s food fads and dietary requirements but once at sea they seem to reduce to ‘anything hot’.
We further discovered that we must be economical with the cooker gas as we’d become used to mains electricity for kettle boiling and powering the microwave while in port.
Alas, ours ran out at a crucial moment and although we did have a spare on board it was deemed too rough to try and change it until we were within the shelter of the French coast.
A delay entering Dieppe harbour gave time for me to empty a full packet of pasta into a not very big saucepan which still, none the less, boiled. To this I added a jar of pasta sauce so that moments after coming alongside to tie up, I was able to sit us all down and provide a hot cooked meal, if only a bowl of Italian pasta and a roll to go with it.
I got the feeling this was well received so I’ve resolved to repeat on future trips away from home.
Editor’s note: The RYA caution that cooking at sea is one of the primary causes of injury on board recommending that cook should always wear oilskins and waterproof footwear to avoid getting a pan or kettle full of boiling water splashed over the groin area necessitating being airlifted off in agony.