Dunkirk and Bleu Marine to Granville

When we bought Opsimath, there were a few things to do to get her ready for this summer’s sail.

The wonderful crew up at Bleu Marine in Dunkerque got her back in the water, and secured her to their private dock in front of the shop. She stayed there for nearly 3 weeks free of charge, with water, electricity and secure parking, permitting us to come and go as we got her ready for this summer. We came up weekends to equip her and slept on board. We loved Dunkirk, just 2 hours by TGV from Paris. What it lacks in sunny weather it makes up for in warm hearts, good eats and great pubs. Thanks to the set up at Bleu Marine, we were able to take our time prepping our trip, while benefitting from the expert advice of Michel Dupre and technical skills of the Bleu Marine staff.

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I can’t say enough about this yacht broker and ship chandler. If we’d bought our boat from an private individual, we’d have been on our own. Bleu Marine provided all the logistical, technical and material support we needed, in an atmosphere of complete confidence. For novice boat owners and salty seafarers alike, it’s a great place to buy a boat. The extensive chandlery is both a blessing and a curse: they have everything you could want and need, right there, 10 meters from where you’re docked! Not a bad business plan :).

We had a Rutland 1200 wind turbine installed in place of the Raymarine TV antenna, which we didn’t want or need (more about that, and our technical problems with the Rutland, later). Michel Dupre found us a tender and an outboard motor, and we ordered custom made storm sail which hope to have installed before next season. We wanted wind steerage and a few other things, but he told us to wait and see how things went this summer, then decide where we wanted to put our money. Great advice, and the return business we saw coming back to Bleu Marine is a good indication of the quality of their services.

Bleu Marine provided us with one of their team to accompany us on our first day out, which entailed going through a lock. We were happy to have the guidance, and were expecting for one of the guys to show up for this duty.

Julie Mira
Julie Mira, professional skipper extraordinaire, artist and author of lesmarinettes.com

Instead, the amazing Julie Mira showed up with bare feet and a warm smile. A professional skipper, Julie is among the very best, and her much solicited navigational skills take her around the world skippering boats for hire. She is also an artist and a blogger (lesmarinettes.com)… and generally a top notch bad ass woman! She was terrific: calm, funny, and obviously, very knowledgeable. Sailing Opsimath was child’s play for her, and she was incredibly reassuring, explaining what we needed to know and taking the drama out of it all. Peter had her out a second time, and learned oodles. I’d love to have a weekend sailing with her, there is so much I need to learn. What a great teacher. As far as I know, Julie’s initial expert accompaniment was totally free of charge and just part of the Bleu Marine service. She’s adorable in the photo above and even more adorable in person!

Dunkirk’s mermaid buoy

Julie took us out to see the very sexy and sensual mermaid buoy that welcomes sailors into the port of Dunkirk. From far away, she sort of looks like a Disney princess. But close up? Va-va-va-voom! She’s worth the detour!

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The Bommel – Rue de la Soif

We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Dunkirk. Like many places that are cold, wet and windy much of the year, it is full of warm and friendly people, bars and cafés. On the recommendation of a client from Dunkirk, we headed down La Rue de la Soif (Thirsty Street) to have a beer at the Bommel! Very fun.

Pretty much everything you could need is within walking distance of Bleu Marine: Grocery stores, an open air farmer’s market, bookshop… Dunkirk has a lot going for it, and is worth getting to know.

In between my work gigs in far-away places, we came up to Dunkirk to start feathering Opsimath’s nest. Peter’s jaw dropped when he saw everything I was bringing along! But my mission was to make Opsimath comfortable, aesthetic, and functional. I did not plan to furnish Opsimath with old odds and ends we had lying around, so we ponied up for new cookware, dishes, bedding, and organisation. I figured we’d better take it seriously if she was going to become our home on the water! One of the best and most used purchases I made was this fantastic rechargeable vacuum cleaner which we use almost everyday.

While I got on with the womanly touches, Peter and the technical team got everything else working. I’ll have to ask him for a little more detail about that, as my version is obviously light on the technicalities and heavy on the domestic front!

As we discovered Opsimath, we realised how gently-used and well-appointed she was. Her 2 previous owners were meticulous, and had outfitted her with most of the perks you could ask for: Good ropes and fenders, a custom-made Bimini and windscreen, covers for everything, and the list goes on. She looked as though she had never been sailed seriously, and had only 300 hours on the engine. Not a trace of water anywhere inside. Beautiful and pristinely kept, this Oceanis 37 is an absolute jewel, and we plan to keep her that way.

Unfortunately, I could not be there for Opsimath’s maiden voyage out of Dunkirk. So Peter sailed with our friend Maarten De Groot, perhaps the saltiest sailor we know. They wrestled Opsimath down the coast in terrible weather, finally making it to Granville. A very difficult trip in inclement weather, Peter was impressed Maarten’s grit, determination, and navigating skills, and learned a tremendous amount firsthand about sailing in tough conditions.

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