Over the Blue to Tatihou

On Friday we crossed to the small island off St Vaast, known as Tatihou.  It is no more than 28 hectares in area and offers a sanctuary for birds, grazing for sheep whose meat is sold in local butchers, some restored historical buildings including one of the famous Vauban ‘pepperpot’ towers, and a maritime museum whose exhibitions change every 18 months or so.

The former ‘lazaret’ which was used as a quarantine during the plague of the 17th century is now a small field centre which runs week-end residential courses on intertidal biology, seafood cooking, astronomy.  The small subtropical botanical garden in the walled grounds of the buildings forming the field station and museum is only managed to a level which prevents wilderness taking over.  Before we crossed in the 54-seater amphibious boat for which we had prebooked tickets, we ate lunch in La Marina.  Rosie and I chose salads, hers was a pretty Salade Nordique.

We climbed the tower and enjoyed the view.  There are small exhibits in the chambers of the former subterranean powder magazine.  In the gardens the most spectacular botanical display was a large clump of Echium fastuosum. I have 2 single Echium growing in my garden and I’m not sure if they are pinnata or pininana.  They have survived the winter and I think they are going to be huge.

We decided to walk back home across the oyster park rather than take the boat, which overtook us as it trundled over the causeway which the low tide exposes.  The exercise allowed us to buy gateaux at the boulangerie with a bit of self-justification.  We sat in the sunshine on our terrace and shared a taste of each kind of French fancy with some good English tea.  Another marriage made in heaven.

In the evening I cooked another house special, fish pie and in view of a busy day planned for the morrow we were not late to bed.  The market was busy: Gosselin were offering a champagne tasting of Veuve Cliquot, we also tasted some local Cidre Bouché, a sparkling cider which is used for a local speciality, Kir Normande, where Crême de Cassis is added to it instead of the more usual wine or champagne.  We looked inside the Aladdin’s Cave which is Gosselin and bought some bits and pieces.  I never cease to be fascinated by the array of preserves: so many jars of fish and seafood soups, patés, terrines and every conceivable sweet conserve including a jelly with violet petals.

Back home we had lunch outside and the plan had been to visit the botanic garden in the grounds of the Chateau de Vauville.  But when I proposed we abandon this idea in favour of staying at home to prepare for supper guests, it was met with immediate agreement.  However Nick did do the Voie Vert walk with Rob and Rosie whilst I tidied up at the house.

Supper was a joint enterprise with Rosie piercing the leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, Rob peeling the potatoes and making a mint sauce (which Anne later pronounced to be un délice) and I prepared the other vegetables and made a homegrown rhubarb, raspberry and lemon crumble.  Anne brought some home made mini goats cheese and cherry tartlets and some lengths of chorizo sausage roll which she snipped into bite size pieces.  They also brought a cast iron crêpe skillet like the ones Daniel uses for limpets as a bouquet for the hostess.  I had said I was looking out for a second hand one.  They are so kind.  I managed to cook the lamb without overdoing it, although I think some of the diners might have liked it pinker.  It was, as always with the Poulets, a convivial evening.

On Sunday Nick, François and Daniel took the boat Aroona out for a fish.  Rumours had it that there were cuttle to be fished just outside the harbour.  This expedition had been planned with some subterfuge around the coffee table before dinner.  François then announced during the meal that he needed to take Nick to the hospital to get his gout-ridden foot some proper attention amd the round trip would take two hours so he would surely be back by 11.30 am.

Something about the emphatic way François explained this rang bells of suspicion in my head, and when I glanced at the expectant expressions on Nick’s and Daniel’s faces, the Euro dropped.  In the event they were back the sooner as no cuttle were biting.  Rosie and I had been gardening.  We all changed quickly to walk down to Fuchsias for lunch.

We ate off a different set menu this time.  I chose a seafood gratin with a scoop of creamy oyster soup served in its shell on the side.  I followed this with sea bream fillet on a cake of soft, grated waxy potatoes (a sort of under-done rosti), broad beans and sautéed peas.  Nick and Rob chose stuffed mackerel to start and pork cooked en trois façons.   The meals were as beautiful as ever……….  During coffee Rosie and I walked through the garden towards the annex so she could see some of the exotic plants and the extent of the rooms available at the hotel.

There was a beautiful plant climbing up a sheltered wall which my knowledgeable friend Andy in California tells me is a Clianthus puniceus, native to New Zealand where they are endangered in the wild.    I am immediately reminded of parrots when I stop to photograph it, so am all the more amused to find it has three common names: Parrot’s Beak, Parrot’s Bill and Lobster Claw.  In view of the plant’s location I think the latter most appropriate.

Back at the house we all need some quiet time, and I sleep soundly for two hours.  After a reviving tea we find our way outside where Rosie sets to to weed the beds which form a boundary between the lawn and the gravels by the back gate.  She has now created a clear space for me to plant out annual poppies and empty some of the smaller pots of plants which will not survive if we get a dry spell during the remainder of May.  Meanwhile I tie up bunches of the thyme which I have cut off an old leggy plant which has to come out to clear the plot for fresh planting.

On our last day we had planned to walk between Gattefille and Barfleur but it is raining and in any event it takes us all morning to complete shopping and other tasks before going to get Plat du Jour at Cafe de France in Barfleur.  There is a Marmite de la Mer which contains a medley of seafood (oysters, mussels, cockles, squid, prawns) and fish (tuna, salmon, pollack, red gurnard) and dices of floury potates in a spicy Indian-style curry sauce.  Perfect for a cool, wet spring day.

Back at the house and there is easy time for Rob and Rosie to round up stuff, pack their car, and we sort loose ends like the visitors’ book, and surf the internet.  All too soon it is time for them to wend their way.  We have had a wonderful time with them, a perfect combination of outings and time spent at the house and in the garden.  What a joy to have visitors who like to work in other people’s gardens!

As they pull out of the drive I am already thinking about our next reunion to be spent with them in Devon ………. the last pages we had drawn up on my laptop were about Lundy, in order to lay first plans for a trip there with them in October.

Back in French Mode

Nick returned from Sardinia late on Sunday.  I’d had a Janthina of a weekend drifting from a night babysitting Ted on Friday to a day at the Natural History Museum for the Conch. Soc. AGM on Saturday, and overnighter at Hackney for some Granny time with Lola and Ruby.  On Sunday I train it back to west London to pick up my car, thence to Godalming.  I’ve more hours at my disposal than I’d reckoned on but can make good use of them sorting Conch. Soc. business and starting to assemble the carload for France.

Nick is thoroughly glad to be home and gladder still to be packing for France.  Great to see Barney who came over on Monday night for supper and got a late train back to Reading, leaving us to round up last minute things.  I’d made a list of last minute tasks, even so I managed to leave milk and soya in the fridge and the home baked loaf in the bin.

Sitting on the ferry an hour and a half into our crossing and feeling like it is wine time I look at my watch to see it is only 9.30.  But then I have been awake since half past 4!  On arrival in St Vaast we unloaded the car quickly then made our way down to La Marina for their Plat du Jour.

We’ve got friends arriving on Wednesday afternoon for 5 days: Rob and Rosie from southwest England.  The interim is taken up with preparations for guests indoors and out but mainly this involves a rapid garden-tidying exercise.  A cut of the grass and clip of the edges brings about a transformation.  The daffodils all need dead-heading except the late variety Narcissus poeticus recurvus – which has dainty white petals with short trumpet with a dark orange centre and a lovely scent.  I’m glad to see that this year I will enjoy the Camassia which are almost out.

I have just planted the blue Clematis macropetala I bought with my mother at Abbotsbury Gardens in Dorset, and Nick and I have moved to the front to have a de-weeding session of the gravels when our guests pull into the drive in their VW Golf convertible with the top down.

We last met up at their son’s wedding in December, but spent 3 happy days at their hill-top home in the heartlands of Devon at the end of July.  We go back a long way, Rosie and I having met up as mothers of children attending the same nursery.  There have been longish intervals when we have not seen each other but it is a friendship that has stood the test of time.

Gardening is abandoned in favour of tea on the lawn and a catch-up on family news: all our children are now married and we are grandparents.  We make a short walk into the port to buy a baguette and call in at the bar for an apero.  Nick negotiates the purchase of a box of scallops with a fisherman who identifies himself as Roger Osmont, cousin of Daniel.  We suspect we paid more than we should for the scallops – and Daniel subsequently confirms this!  One learns……..  Over dinner (a house special of Aile de Raie with Capers and Black Butter) we talk on but before we go to bed I demonstrate how to shuck king scallops and trim them for cooking.

The next morning it is warm enough to have breakfast outside.  I make a meal of this, everything laid formally (I am conscious our friends do occasional 5 star B&B from the cottage in their garden) and I manage to time our Oeufs a la Coque just right.  To my delight R & R are only too happy to put some time into the garden, so Rob helps Nick overhaul the compost heaps, sieve out some fines, and reinstate the remainder to continue ‘cooking’ .  Rosie sets about weeding the strawberry patch.  I potter inside and out and then after lunch – another meal in the sunshine – we do the ‘house’ walk round the Hougue.  The tide is out and we are on springs so there is plenty to see and explain on the shore.

Daniel appears early evening just as we are opening a bottle of wine.  He joins us for an apero and is invited back for pool at 9.30.  This gives me plenty of time to serve one of the easiest meals to prepare, Scallops seared in Garlic, Ginger and Butter sitting on top of a simple Pea Risotto.   With cheese and a green salad to follow.

Pool never seems to be anything other than convivial, the session has its share of lucky shots and comic moments.  Franglais is our common language – Daniel does not speak English but I think he must be picking up some useful words as he is beginning to understand some of the backchat.

There’ll be more opportunity for everyone to improve their second language when Francois and Anne join us for supper on Saturday night.

The Final Appointment

Before leaving the French house I made a quick patrol of the garden.  I have put the pots and trays of seeds on some temporary staging to reduce the risk of snail predation of seedlings, for which I already have evidence on the sunflowers.  The dwarf Iris are now out and the Auricula seem to have taken in their trough.  Indoors Ted has slept through a good bit of the afternoon, allowing us to pack up efficiently.

We left St Vaast at the end of the afternoon on Monday and caught the fast cat home.  Whilst parking at Godalming to let me and my bags out, my fat cat came hurtling down the steps to point out that he had been kept waiting overly long for his food.  There is mail to deal with and then I have an appointment with a good night’s sleep.

In the morning I can see that there have been developments in the garden at 88.  As I stand in the kitchen with a mug of coffee staring out through the French doors I notics a very large bird on our peanut bird feeders.  A beautiful Jay is feasting.   He peckings then stops to look around, through 360 degrees, to check that the coast is clear.  He need not worry, Monsieur Le Cool is fast asleep at the top of the house.  Even from 10 metres away the blue wing patches are clearly visible and I would like to know for what advantage evolution selected those electric blue feathers.

Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, Jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover so I feel pleased that we have them feeding just outside the house.  On the internet I read that Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter.

The species lives in both deciduous and coniferous woodland, parks and mature gardens. It likes oak trees in autumn when there are plenty of acorns so no wonder we see them so often at the top of our garden.  We have a very mature oak tree as an outlier from the semi-ancient bluebell woods beyond our garden boundary.

I have a week in England before we return to St Vaast in advance of some guests from Devon.  One evening in the week is taken up with Book Group.  We are eleven, although seldom meet in force.  Eight of us convene at Judy’s house for wine and savouries to discuss ‘Bad Science’ and ‘Here at the End of the World we Learn to Dance’.  I have really enjoyed the former, finding the opening chapter high on laugh-out-loud factor. I haven’t finished the second book.  We choose ‘White Tiger’ and ‘The Secret Scripture’ for our next reads.  

Four of us travelled home in the same car and on the way the talk turned to the matter of implants. I learn that 2 of my companions are weighing the pros and cons and I am able to contribute to their debate having just had my implant fitted this very week. The process started a year ago when I was presented with various options and scenarios in terms of the hoops through which I would have to leap to achieve a good result.

It is going to be a costly business. Nothing of this nature can be a hole in one, so I have had a succession of appointments for groundwork to be laid, measurements to be taken, impressions to be made, the finished result to be considered. Finally I receive the phonecall to say the implant is ready and am summoned for fitting.

It takes less time then I imagined, feels slightly intrusive to begin with but once pronounced a good fit I leave the surgery and sally forth, confident in the expectation that my replacement molar is going to make chewing so much easier.

Chipos, Cheeses, Chores….

After young Ted’s shore foray we spent the rest of Easter in the port of St Vaast.  If the weather had been more clement we might have gone back to the beach but at best we had overcast, slightly chilly weather to deal with.  With typical cussedness the nicest day by far was Monday, when we were housebound, clearing up before departure.

On Saturday morning Charlotte and I took Ted in his buggy to the market where we bought two fine cauliflowers, wanting to believe they came from the same crop at Jonville which were being harvested as we drove to the beach the day before.  We bought 4 cheeses (Fourme d’ Ambert, Camembert, Chèvre and Abondance Fermier), some Chipos to barbeque on Sunday (with lamb from the freezer).  In the boulangerie we were taken with the Brioche Feuilletée which, unlike the everyday version, looks as if it is nothing more than a brioche made with croissant mixture.

But it is everything more; the taste and texture were divine – a ‘cabbage’ of delicious soft, slightly chewy, mildly sweet butteriness with a flaky crust.  The shop was full of pastries, gateaux and hand-made chocolate eggs, rabbits, fish, starfish….  It would be open on Easter Sunday – all day.

In addition to the larger stalls there are the small space fillers selling bunches of flowers, eggs, oysters, shellfish.  In late summer you can buy huge bunches of colourful annuals and hydrangea flower-heads in pinks, blues and greens to dry for the winter.  You have to get the moment just right with the annuals, otherwise they form a seedhead.  Dried flowers seem to have gone out of fashion in the UK which is a pity as I think them much preferable to silk flowers.

One woman had a large crate full of live Velvet Swimming Crabs.  The French call them Etrilles.  Nick learnt to cook and eat them chez Daniel, we had one batch from our lobster pot before we lifted it for the winter.  It was strange and slightly sad to see so many of the little crabs for sale.  I don’t know whether they had been collected on the shore (doubtful) or taken by pot or trawl (more likely), but they were fresh and active and destined for seafood platters.  Six of them make a serving and you eat virtually all of them once they have been ‘decortiques’ – removed from their shell.

I am busy planting some young broad bean plants when I take a call from Nick who is in Sardinia with his friend Nigel.  They have gone to fit out Nigel’s new boat, having driven down through France to pick up a ferry at Marseilles.  One thing Nick had failed to anticipate is that Nigel would fail to remember that it was the Easter weekend and everywhere has closed down.  Food is a bit difficult to come by.  I am amused when Nick tells me it is doing wonders for his waistline.  If there were a Lord, he would be moving in mysterious ways!

On Saturday night I successfully put Ted to bed as his parents have gone to Au Moyne de Saire for dinner.  I clear up the house and create an atmosphere of tranquility with a Dire Straits album.  Long time since I listened to Brothers in Arms and I still love that chill-out saxophone solo on Your Latest Trick.

Ted’s well-fed parents return to sleep off their repast but I have two sluggish appointments to keep before I can go to bed.  With a large torch I venture to the bottom of the garden to check my broad beans.  There are few snails and slugs patrolling their environs but they don’t seem to be targetting the young plants.  I remove all molluscs in proximity just the same.

And then I retrieve the 2 sea slugs I found under a rock at Dranguet and which I brought back to identify. They have been chilling out themselves in a pot in the fridge.  I already have a good idea what species they are and searching one or 2 sites on the internet confirms my view.  They are ‘nudibranchs’ which feed on sea anemones, of which there were numerous examples in the sands at Dranguet.  These little nudibranchs are called Aeolidiella alderi.   Finding  sea slugs always makes a field excursion to the shore that bit special.

Ted and the Sea Urchin

Ted Perryman has been initiated into the ways of conchologists………… and other shore explorers.  There are stones under which he has now looked.

Back in France for Easter and, sadly, the bright warm days we have enjoyed in England have not crossed the Channel with us.  Tant pis – we look at the tide tables and calculate that a late afternoon beach foray followed by a car boot picnic tea will be possible, before Ted is driven home and launched into the bedtime routine.

Rochers de Dranguet is becoming a bit of a favourite place to look at intertidal life.  It is also a child-friendly shore.  The clean, smooth sands which are gradually exposed as the tide goes out give way to a mid-shore rocks which extend over a distance of some 600m to the lowest shoreline.

As these rocks start to emerge from the receding sea you are already getting into a zone where there is ‘life’ to find which is varied and interactive.  There are also tracks and channels through which you can safely plodge in the shallow draining seawater.  Unlike a lot of rocky shores you are not faced with a uniform platform blanketed in treacherous seaweed.

But first we must find our way across the sands in our wetting shoes.  Ted’s are crocs, which are a shade large.  With the aid of socks, and after a few shed shoes, he finds his technique for keeping the crocs on.  We reach the first pool around an isolated rock.  We slop through this water and Ted thinks it is hilarious.  Our first hurdle over – after all the water is not that warm at this time of year – we get to shelly gravels, rollable weedy boulders and some meandering channels through the platform. We roll our first boulder and, behold, we find 2 small cushion stars.  Ted knows about these.  His brain is probably word perfect on his bedtime story, Tiddler.  He also knows about crabs and we find these easily, several kinds, including the classy Velvet Swimming Crab .

We now have a shallow white pot with half a dozen crabs scurrying around and 2 starfish.  We carry on looking and find a sizeable Edible Crab.  This one has a carapace width of 10cm and has to be coaxed out of the sand for inspection, then released.   The crab reburies himself with ease. We have been finding various sea snails, including winkles, dog whelks and the showy Painted Top Shell.

But the best is yet to come.  Under the last boulder of the day we find a Green Sea Urchin.  We agree this is a prickly beast and then put him back.

If there were a test to pass then Ted would have done so with flying colours.  It probably helps that he loves the water and he is going through a stage of rapidly accumulating vocabulary, repeating what he hears, and then surprising us by coming out with words we don’t think he has heard recently, but which must have been residing in his head, in waiting.  Ted’s field trip is concluded with a brief picnic sitting on the tail gate of the new car.

Charlotte has recorded Ted’s little adventure on video and also on her digital camera.  Cribbing Charlotte’s photos for this post feels a bit like copying her homework!

Landlubbers again – interim report

We were lucky to get our ferry home!  Whilst Nick was an hour out on this timings because he had not altered his watch, I have to deal with the fact that, where the 24 hour clock is concerned, when I see 17.30hr on a ticket or timetable, something in my head says half past 7!   We scrambled for the off, rescued by Daniel the Bon Voisin who said he would shut everything down for us.

Back in Blighty and the Lights have a mountain of mail to go through, 90% of which is catalogues, magazines, journals.   There is just one irritating matter to deal with the following morning – sales material, accidentally signed up for, which is being billed.  Twenty years ago one would have had an argument – these days customer services personnel are trained to know who is right, and only too happy to initiate refunds.

An unseasonal dry spell has nearly wrecked my contained Primula which bear the full brunt of a south-facing house.  But there are a few friends to find in the garden and photograph, and thanks to the temporary erection of our wire fence to enclose the flower beds and lawn area, new shoots have not been nibbled by the deer.

On Friday, in desperation I make an emergency dental appointment with a locum, my own surgery having closed for a fortnight.  He pokes around, takes an X-Ray, squirts my teeth with ethyl chloride which makes me jump (it is cooooold) and immediately identifies sensitive areas which may account for my tooth-ache, then taps a recently filled tooth which makes me jump again and says I may be brewing an abscess.  With the comfort blanket of a prescription for antibiotic should things get worse over the weekend I have to go away and wait and see.  If necessary I will have to go in again on Monday…………………..by which time the suspect tooth has gone quiet and I think I can wait until my pre-existing dental appointment due in a week’s time.

Some time on Saturday I discovered Jessica Winder’s Blog.  Our paths crossed over 10 years ago when we met at an Archaeological Conference.  Jessica researched oysters in archaeology for her PhD and produced some insightful results which continue to inform the work I do on oysters, most recently Restormel Castle.  Jessica posts notes and photos on her blog about the nature on her Dorset doorstep………….. and other beautiful stretches of coast such as the Gower.

Looking through her pages it highlights one of my great joys in walking by the sea.  It is a marine ‘ terrain’ which is forever changing.  When the cycle of tides is on falling springs you can find stranded driftlines around a bay, like so many strings of beads on a necklace.   On any day you go to look you are likely to find a something new that the sea has cast up to delight the eye or excite the curiosity.  You will find answers on Jessica’s blog, linked in here.

The weekend sees an excursion to the Dorset coast to visit my mother.  Charlotte and Teddy are coming too, we are going to have lunch with sisters/cousins/nieces/nephews.  It is a gorgeous spring day, warm enough for octogenarian ladies to sit serenely in the garden and look on whilst all about them the little folk scurry and climb and negotiate for turns on various mobile toys.  I have presented my mother with print-outs of her genealogy, so kindly compiled by sister-in-law Maddy who loves this kind of thing.  With the aid of a box file and folder of certificates and notes accumulated by mother with a great aunt 20 years ago, Maddy has used the internet to trace Mum’s roots on both sides back to the late 1700s.  My mother never knew her maternal family because her mother died 3 months after Mum was born and contact was not maintained.  Now she has it in black and white, she is evidently thrilled that the jigsaw has been completed.  Thank you Maddy.

A Jolly (Long) Update

Monsieur Le Cool went for his pre-travel treatment for a DEFRA certificate today. Our cat earned himself this name on his visit to the vet last week. We were a bit concerned that he has started spraying in the kitchen and salon-séjour behind our backs…….. and his!! As the nice lady vet took his temperature in the usual way, Rooney started purring. “Ah, Monsieur Le Cool”, she said.

We were questioned closely to see if we could arrive at the reason for the aberrant behaviour. Were there new cats in the neighbourhood? Well yes, but rugged, scruffy French cats have been patrolling our garden since we arrived three years ago. Was there anything else that had changed in Rooney’s life? Well yes, we had started shutting him downstairs at night, giving him the run of the kitchen and salon-séjour only. (We were fed up with being walked all over and plucked at, at 4.30 a.m. as we slept, because Monsieur Le Gros Chat thought it was time for breakfast.) A look of triumph lit her features. Here was the answer: our cat was ‘perturbé’ because he is ‘sensible’ (sensitive in French) and needed reassurance. If our bedroom door was re-opened the problem would surely go away. If not, she was willing to consider homéopathie, or anti-depresseurs…………

Look below and you will see a cat who knows he has got his own way but fortunately has also decided to modify his behaviour accordingly.

Liz is on her way home.  Nick and I have a list of tasks to work our way through.  He is painting the floor of the workshop, I have some curtain lining to cut.  Tomorrow I want to put time into the garden.  We are going to eat some reheated fish pie and steamed cauliflower and turnip.   Then there is a cheese platter which has been neglected for a couple of days………..

When we drove up to the north coast yesterday we could see the Jolly moored alongside the quay at Barfleur.  She appears not to have moved.  We have now found out a bit more about the vessel.

At the beginning of December 2008 a For Sale notice appeared on the internet advertising a fast, safe multipurpose-built vessel for use in salvage, icebreaking or firefighting.

“She has a beautifully designed hull for sailing and that’s why I originally bought her. She sails exceptionally well. I was planning to take her to India but I am now getting too old, 64 years old. However I could deliver the boat for you. The total weight of the ship is 270 tons unloaded so if you scrapped the ship yourself you would get about double the price that I’m offering it. Jolly is a good investment in steel alone. It had a 17 man crew, so the accommodation is particularly large with five cabins down below and the captain’s, galley, mess room, and bathroom at deck level.”

When, 3 weeks after this ad appeared the Coastguard called out the Ramsgate Lifeboat to the assistance of an ex-tug called Jolly, the RNLI skipper, Coxswain Cannon, must have had a sense of deja vu.  Jolly was adrift and without power and in view of the wind and current directions the decision was taken to tow her to Dover. However Dover refused to allow Jolly into the port and the course was altered to Ramsgate.

Jolly’s skipper then advised Coxswain Cannon that he did not wish to enter any port and would rather be given an anchorage. Whilst Coxswain Cannon tried to persuade the skipper that an anchorage off Ramsgate would be unsafe, Dover authorities intervened and insisted the Jolly be towed into the port. She was duly towed into Ramsgate and moored.

Eight years earlier Coxswain Cannon had had another brush with Jolly. The Ramsgate Lifeboat put to sea to her assistance where she had broken down off Deal. A tow line was secured to Jolly and she was towed towards Dover.  As they approached Dover Harbour Coxswain Cannon requested that the Dover lifeboat be called out to take over the tow.  She put to sea, meeting up with the Ramsgate Lifeboat and Jolly 3 miles east of Dover. The 2 Coxes agreed that the Ramsgate Lifeboat would continue the tow, with the Dover Lifeboat leading them into the harbour.

All went well until less than a mile from the harbour entrance where the 2 lifeboats were requested to give way to a ferry about to leave the harbour. The Ramsgate Lifeboat had to make a 360 º turn to get clear then bring Jolly back on course to get into the harbour.   But in that turn the Jolly’s mast broke and fell over the side, remaining attached at the base and dragging in the water.   All 3 boats entered the harbour safely and once inside, the Ramsgate Lifeboat shortened up the tow-line while the Dover Lifeboat got a line onto the stern of the stricken Jolly to help her berth

As they approached the allocated berth the wind caught Jolly and blew her southwards towards a jetty.  Coxswain Cannon had to keep as far to the north as he could to keep the Jolly clear.  In doing so the Ramsgate Lifeboat got very close to a harbour wall and the towline had to be cut, the lifeboat striking the wall and receiving some damage. The Dover Lifeboat was put into reverse and Jolly was pulled clear.

As the Dover Lifeboat Coxswain took his vessel forward again to try and push Jolly into the berth, the vessel’s mast, still hanging over the side dug into the seabed, causing the vessel to swing round sharply to port, striking the Dover Lifeboat and causing damage to her starboard. The towline was immediately cut and the lifeboat went full astern to pull clear.  Fortunately the Jolly’s mast, which was stuck fast in the sea bed, acted as a pivot and the gale then blew the vessel round and alongside the berth, where she was quickly secured by the shore helpers from the Dover Lifeboat Station.

‘Letters of Thanks’ were sent to Coxswain Ron Cannon, of Ramsgate and to Coxswain David Pascall, of Dover, for their excellent seamanship, working in very poor conditions, in a confined area, both men exhibiting great leadership, the crews of both lifeboats working extremely well together, during this excellent service.


A final word on Monsieur Le Cool. We have had the last laugh. If we leave the vacuum cleaner standing in our bedroom he won’t go near it.


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