With only a relatively short sail from Oostende to Dunkirk there was time for a last run to the bakery to pick up pastries and bread before waving goodbye to the ever hospitable Royal North Sea Yacht Club. It was a largely uneventful motor on a glasslike sea, with the only excitement being a lone sighting of a pilot whale. The kids spent most of the trip hiding down below out of the sun enjoying their electronics, whilst Patrick and I took turns to brave the sun.
On our arrival at Dunkirk the boys immediately recognised the pier from the film Dunkirk and despite us still having some chapters to go in our book, the story of Operation Dynamo was starting to come alive for them. We arrived early afternoon and after a brief rest and lunch we headed into town for groceries on the free bus. On the three previous occasions I have visited Dunkirk we have stayed at the Yacht Club De La Mer Du Nord however this time we were interested in the beaches and 1940 Museum which was much closer to Port Du Grande Large so we decided to give it a go. Late last year all buses in Dunkirk became free and the bus stop was just 5 minutes walk away from the marina. As always in a new location, grocery shopping takes far longer than at home and we were particularly keen to resample some of the treats we had in France 2 years ago. Very quickly we found the Normandy Cider although it took us some time to locate our favourite sausages! Eventually we finished off by adding a good sized tray of prawns to our basket and we were done.
Back to the boat for dinner and a relatively early night.
After a lie in and then a cooked breakfast it was almost noon when we set off for the 1940 Operation Dynamo Museum which was only about 5-10 minutes walk away.
Once inside we were all engrossed in the exhibits for a good hour or two. Esme, as always, engaged better once she had an audio guide which in this case was provided by a QR code on each information board which she scanned with her Dad's phone then listened to. Oliver was in his element snapping away photos and AJ was intent on completing a booklet the museum had given to the kids. I think AJ and Esme were beginning to grasp the concept that small boats like Laurin (ok I guess not too many sailboats but a similar size) were being asked to join the Dunkirk Effort along with their crew. We talked about how they would feel if Daddy took Laurin to save some soldiers, about how scared they would be for him. We also talked about the fact that at the time there were only Male soldiers and why it would have been unlikely that Mummy would have gone as well. We talked about why it was important to have small craft to ferry the soldiers to the bigger rescue ships, and thought about how it would feel to be on the beach waiting for help and improvising piers out of trucks.
We also talked about the ships that didn't make it home, and how the small ships made such a massive contribution to the safe return of British soldiers.
On the way back Esme and I took a detour into a funky art gallery which happened to be free admission on Sundays. Esme loves this kind of thing and it is a joy to watch her engaging with the exhibits.
After a while we stopped for a drink and were particularly surprised to find clear cola!! It tasted a bit different but very delicious!
Finally at the end Esme enjoyed engaging with some of the activities provided for kids. All in all a nice detour!
When we returned to the boat it was time for an exceptionally late lunch where Cousin Ollie tried "Prawns in their jackets" for the first time. The Gregorys then went to the beach for a swim while Ollie had some quiet time on the boat.
After an even later dinner the rest of the family were finally in bed and I enjoyed a peaceful evening in the cockpit.
An earlier start than normal as we had a lot to fit in. First up a visit to the marina office to extend our stay and Esme makes yet another doggy friend! Next, off to the bus stop into town and then another bus out to the Cemetery where there are WW1 and WW2 war graves as well as a Memorial with the names of those whose bodies were not found. It was a moving place and the kids really seemed to engage with what it represented.
Next up was lunch in town as we didn't really have time to go back to the boat, and then out to Zuydcoote via 2 more buses and a walk down a long hot lane just in time for Low Water. We walked out onto the sands to examine the wreck of the "Crested Eagle", a British Paddle Steamer wrecked at Dunkirk during operation Dynamo.
Oliver with the best combination of long legs and short shorts read out the plaque to us as we all thought about the desperation of the soldiers gathered on this beach nearly 80 years ago.
By the time we returned to Laurin (via the supermarket for more prawns and cider) we were all exhausted and collapsed before showers, dinner and bed.
Earlyish start tomorrow... probably Ramsgate!