There are seven yachting harbors on the D-Day coast, stretched between St. Vaast, located ten miles north of Utah Beach, and Ouistreham, the ferry port on the Caen Canal, which marked the eastern edge of the landing zone. These waters may not command the fearful respect of those belonging to neighboring Brittany, with its 35-foot tides and jagged rocks, but they still expect you to pay attention. The spring-tide range is more than 20 feet, and with the shoreline being predominantly shallow, shelving, and sandy, you’ve got to hold your cruising guide the right way up if you don’t want to find yourself high and dry several miles offshore, instead of locking securely through into some snug overnight haven.
St.Vaast is perhaps the most famous yachting center on this stretch of coast, long popular with English cruising boats, many of which make the trip here solely for the superb Saturday market—cheeses, seafood, smoked meats, truffles, the best of rural France—and to stock up at the legendary Monsieur Gosselin’s, one street back from the Quai Vauban. In their own quiet way the French tend to regard their country as the center of world civilization, and in a shop like this you can see what they mean. The delicatessen stocks everything you can think of and a good many things you won’t recognize, but proprietors are used to the culinary ignorance of foreigners and are happy to explain. The finest wines are in the dark cellar at the back of the shop, but for the more price-conscious, Gosselin bottles his own. Although the English Channel in December is grey, cold, and often stormy, British yachts routinely make the 70-mile crossing to stock up for Christmas at Gosselin’s, or die of exposure in the attempt. It’s worth it.