Tuesday 10 September 2013

Cherbourg to Dover 14/8 - 15/8 2013

So we had a quick breakfast and then went ashore to shop for provisions. We were back by 0930, fuelled up by 1000 and out of the marina by 1030.

By 1100 we had exited the Harbour - the eastern entrance/exit being considerable nearer than the western one which we had entered through. The weather charts had shown that the wind from the South West should strengthen the further north we got (another reason for not continuing East along the French coast). Within 20 minutes we had a fair breeze and the engine went off at 1200. For the rest of the day the wind returned and departed in fits and starts. One minute we'd be sailing well and I was convinced we'd found the proper wind; the next it had died away completely and we'd be motoring once again.

Finally by late in the evening we did find the proper wind and were quite bowling along. Mick and Bernie had gone off watch for a kip leaving Ian and I to enjoy some exhilarating down-hill sailing.

Mick and Bernie got up about 2000 and Bernie aided by Mick once more set too in the Galley to produce our evening meal. Ian and I were still enjoying the ride in the cockpit, but no sooner had Mick got into the galley than he was complaining about the boat rolling too much. Bernie just on with the job at hand . Mick's complaints continued however and soon I was persuaded to alter course for a while to put us on a reach rather than a dead run in order to reduce the rolling. Of course that required taking the Genoa off the pole, which I did.

By the time we had finished our meal it was getting dark and I was feeling tired after  a lot of sailing and now a full tummy. Tiredness of course often encourages bad decision making and I now made a bad decision - or more accurately I failed to make a decision which amounted to the same thing.

So Ian and I took our turn off watch and I left Mick with instructions to get us back on a run. I really didn't give it any thought which is why it wasn't really a decision. I should have considered whether to help the other two get the boat back on a run first, but I didn't, I just went to bed. For the next hour or so I tried to sleep but for some reason Mick was clearly having problems getting the boat set back on a run. Over what seemed like quite an extended period the boat rolled horribly first on one gybe and then another. My tiredness got the better of me though and rather than get up to help, I sulked (to myself) - those two had had 3 hours of blissful kip and they couldn't sail the boat well enough for me to get mine. I therefore persevered (unsuccessfully) with my quest for sleep. After a couple of what felt like very uncontrolled gybes - the second of which ended with a resounding crash - I gave up on sleep and got up to find out what all the bloody commotion was about. Mick if I remember correctly was at the helm whilst Bernie was at the VHF/AIS.

It transpired that there was a lot of traffic about as we crossed to the west of the traffic separation zone and the combination of avoiding action and the increased swell had proved a bit of a challenge and there had indeed been two uncontrolled gybes. The conditions and the need for course changes and the preventer on the main not being secured had led to the first bad gybe. Realising their mistake Mick then rigged the preventer on the other side of the boat but he had used an old furling line block fixed to a stanchion base that I should have removed ages ago but never got round to - rather than the proper block. The crash at the end of the second bad gybe was the sound of the stanchion base ripping apart as it was subjected to forces for which it was not designed.

My lack of sleep (partly) contributed to my very grumpy response to this discovery. Mick's reaction to my grumpiness was to point out that thankfully no one had got hurt. Of course that was good but I was still pretty hacked off by what I saw as a needless breakage. It transpired that he'd made at least one attempt on the foredeck to re-rig the Genoa on the pole but that he'd nearly lost his footing in the process. At the time I took his response to the breakage as being a little off-hand and I continued to be rather grumpy. Looking back at it now I think it more likely that he was rather shaken by the whole experience - probably as much because of his concerns about Bernie (who was still very new to all this sort of thing) as his realisation that he had come close to going overboard. At the time though I was oblivious to all that and was much more concerned about my broken stanchion base!

We were still having to keep a sharp lookout for shipping and to make course adjustments where necessary. Even though we were sailing and were not actually crossing the formal separation zone but were to the west of it, we were not inclined to push our luck with lumps of steel that were considerably bigger than us.

Any way we still needed to get back on to a run with the Genoa boomed out so at around 0530 whilst Mick helmed and Bernie kept an eye on the VHF/AIS for more shipping, I went up on the foredeck and sorted out the Genoa. Whilst doing so we left the shipping behind but were soon amongst a fishing fleet and that was even more un-nerving due to the sudden changes in direction the fishing boats were inclined to make in the dark. The three of us stayed on watch while we got through the fishing fleet by which time it was daylight and Mick and Bernie looked pretty knackered. Strangely enough despite not having slept I felt OK and so we got Ian up and I suggested that Mick and Bernie got some sleep for as long as I continued to feel OK.

The downhill sailing continued and given we were making good progress, I decided we'd press on to Dover rather than go into Eastbourne and I took the opportunity to take some video footage.

We were off Dungeness by 1600 and approaching the west entrance of Dover by 1840. Having cleared our approach with Dover Port control we got the sails down a mile or so before the entrance. There was as is often the case here, a nasty confused sea in the entrance and the tide was running strongly across it eastwards. We crabbed in through the heavy chop with the Bhuk providing just enough power to get us through although at one point the harbour wall looked very close! By 1920 we were moored up in the marina - and pretty glad to be so.

Rough key stats:

Departed Cherbourg 1130 on 14/8/13
Total distance over the ground = 160 nautical miles
Total passage hours = 31
Average speed over the ground 5 knots
Engine hours = 8
Sailing hours = 23
Arrived Dover 1840 on 15/8/13

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