Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Putting my sea-legs on again!!

This Friday I join the other ‘Long John Silver Sailing Club’ guys at Hamble Point Marina – we’re off for 10 days sailing across to the Channel Islands and France!

The plan is to leave the Hamble at around 6pm, aiming to pass the Needles just off the western end of the Isle of Wight at approximately 9pm just before the light fades; and then it’s a straight passage across the busy English Channel to Alderney where we hope to arrive around 8am – 80 miles or so at roughly 5 knots per hour will take us a total of about 16 hours so with fingers crossed for the weather and sea state, I guess we’ll be still all be a little tired when we tie up in the picturesque harbour at Alderney.

The English Channel at night is always a challenge as its one of the busiest shipping areas in the world so everyone will be ‘alert’ and watching the eerie dark shapes of big ships moving this way and that in the darkness! We usually arrange shifts – 2 hours on and 4 hours off depending upon how many crew we have. One guy always on the helm of course and at least one on permanent look-out which is such a critical and important job to do while everyone else tries to sleep below until woken and then immediately get up on deck, blinking and rubbing eyes, ready for their shift.

Although busy, mid-Channel is also a very lonely place especially at night, regardless of the weather and there’s a lone single buoy mid-Channel which looks surreal when you pass it by – it marks the midway point of the 5 mile wide separation zone of the two 5-mile wide shipping channels (westbound and eastbound) so it’s a fairly important feature in an otherwise featureless seascape, completely out of sight of land!

The boat we have this time is called Jane’s Buoy, a 10-berth Sun Odyssey 43 built in 2005 – if anyone is interested, you’ll find it here. At this moment there are only 6 of us on board so I’m sure we’ll be able to spread out a little! I usually get allocated a cabin to myself anyway because I’m told I snore – what, who me??

The overall plan is to cross the Channel and visit the Channel Islands of Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey before heading further south to the lovely port of St. Malo on the Northern French coast. Then afterwards heading north again passing the Channel Islands again to port and then around to Cherbourg where we’ll rest up before the return crossing to Cowes, Isle of Wight probably on Friday 27th July; then finally back up to the Hamble to return the boat on Sunday 29th July, hopefully undamaged!!

Of course, the weather, wind, sea-state, crew state etc all play a part when sailing so if everything goes ‘pear-shaped’ its possible we could just stay put on the mooring at the Hamble for 10 days!!!!!! Anything more than a Force 5 or 6 on Friday will certainly make us rethink the plans!!

Watch this space………………….!