Baie de Seine: a sailing circuit for small cruises


We don’t all have time to sail all summer. The Baie de Seine in northern France offers the perfect cruising ground for two to three weeks

A lovely circuit can be made by sailing to France and heading east from Cherbourg along the coast of the Baie de Seine, ending at the charming little port of Honfleur or Fécamp before crossing back into England.

This is the D-Day landing coast and there are some excellent museums along the way.

The harbors in the bay mostly dry out with locked basins and the best advice is to honor the cardinals as you go, due to the unsanitary ground of the landings.

Going east along the bay of the Seine has the merit of giving you a rising tide as you progress.

Mulberry Harbor from the D-Day landings requires careful navigation. Credit: incamerastock/Alamy Stock Photo

Many of them would be dangerous in strong offshore winds with few diversion options.

St Vaast is a lovely little place, with an amphibious ride on the ferry to the old fort Vauban on the island of Tatihou.

Beware of the countless pots reported outside the port.

You can drop anchor at the Saint Marcouf Islands in good weather and discover its fortifications then go down the neighboring canal to Carentan, (beware of the junction for Isigny, which dries up).

Sandstone and red houses in Honfleur

Honfleur seduces artists with its chocolate box charm. Credit: Travelinglight/Alamy Stock Photo

It takes you into rural France through water meadows and pastoral scenes to the locks of the basin where you will find an attractive town.

In good weather, you can anchor inside the caissons of Mulberry Harbor in Arromanches.

It is a strange and haunting experience. Avoid the marked obstacles and respect the anchor indicated on the map for an unsoiled ground. It is safe to drop your anchor here.

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The Cruising Association and the RYA advise UK cruise passengers to arrive and depart from France via an official port of entry.  Credit: Getty

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Port-en-Bessin is a busy fishing port, has Landing museums and a panoramic view from the top of the cliffs.

Courseulles-sur-Mer has a busy little marina, nearby Juno Beach and a Canadian D-Day Museum.

Bayeux and the famous tapestry are not far away. There are vast shoals to cross and submerged breakwaters that dry up.

To the west, there are oyster beds. Deauville and Trouville are very fashionable, with a casino and a racecourse.

Honfleur has a beautiful setting and the town is full of artists.

Map of the Seine Bay

Credit: Maxine Heath

The Seine flows hard in the Chenal de Rouen and at the entrance to the lock.

Once crossed, there is a waiting pontoon for the road bridge in the Old Port.

Le Havre, opposite, has a large marina and ferries for crew changes.

Fécamp has a striking approach with high cliffs and a narrow, shallow entrance between breakwaters. Strong tides and winds can sweep a yacht.

A yacht passing in front of a fort

It is worth the trip to Fort Vauban near St Vaast. Credit: Arterra Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

The beautiful town is home to Benedictine monks and their delicious liquor.

Grandcamp Maisy has a large indoor fish market and a lovely walk through town to the “Angel of Peace”.

There is a bus to Bayeux. From Fécamp your obvious landing spots are Brighton or Newhaven.

A direct line to Brighton takes you across the TSS almost exactly at right angles, otherwise grace the Greenwich Light Vessel; for Newhaven you will need to shape your course for a 90 degree traverse.

An aerial view of the bay of Fécamp

Attempts to approach Fécamp with its high cliffs and narrow entrance. Credit: Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy Stock Photo

Ouistreham is rural and quiet, the harbor is surrounded by trees and there is a large fish market.

St Valery en Caux offers beautiful walks to the cliffs of the Côte d’Albâtre.

You could leave from here for Newhaven but Dieppe would give you greater flexibility as to when you leave

Sailing to Seine Bay/Seine Bay

Time taken: 2 weeks

Needles at Chantereyne Marina, Cherbourg – 61M
Cherbourg to St Vaast, off-road – 27M
St Vaast-Les Iles St Marcouf – 7M
St Marcouf Islands in Carentan SWM – 4.5M
Carentan safe water brand in Carentan – 8M
Carenten to Port en Bessin – 15.5M
Safe Water Mark from Carentan to Arromanches – 20M
Arromanches to Corseulles sur Mer Le Havre to Brighton – 78M
Fecamp to Brighton – 65M
Fecamp to Newhaven – 62M

The trains: from Morlaix

Ferries: Cherbourg from Poole and Portsmouth, Caen and Le Havre to Portsmouth, Dieppe to Newhaven

Airports: Caen, Deauville, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Rouen

Hazards in the Bay of Seine

No ports of refuge with 24 hour access between Cherbourg and Le Havre.

Strong onshore winds can make them untenable.

Shoals and offshore oyster beds.

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