As I write this we’ve just heard on VHF that there is an unexploded ‘something’ floating in the waters close by, so I should tell the skipper about this, though I think the danger has passed. Instead I’ll go help the boys with the sail, which has a rip in the UV cover (this is the second sail this has happened to now). The sun is out and the sea is (almost) as flat as a pancake. This is a huge improvement on the last 36 hours but we’ve still a long way to go. We’ve passed the shipping lane but still only on the same longitude as London and we’re supposed to be dropping Michelle off in Falmouth by the 14th. This is a shame as we’ll miss Michelle who’d been a rock since we hit the open waters, setting to in the galley without complaint and supplying us with endless cups of tea when no one else could be bothered to make them.
Today has been a treat. After really pushing Voyager and testing it’s sea-worthiness in force 8 storms we’re now motoring with the tide towards Dover. There’s not a wave in sight and the sun has been out, accompanied by a cloudless sky. For an October day on the North Sea this was exceptional weather, so we chilled with a beer and played with Big Bertha, a huge multicoloured sail that spreads out across the port and starboard bow. Sailing around the shipping lane on the North Sea just for fun. Madness!
The weather continued to amaze us as the sun set in the west and a huge orange moon rose in the east. On the one side was the Kentish coast and on the other Dunkirk, with huge great ships lit up dotted around in-between. We celebrated with a Thai red curry (cooked by yours truly) and ate it outside watching the sunset before us. No special effects movie could top what we were experiencing first hand.
As if for a treat for dealing with our force 8 experience Saturday night into Sunday morning was an amazing sail. The wind switched to a south easterly, allowing us to get out both the foresails and the main sail fully. A consistent wind and flat sea, no clouds and with the coast of England in sight we were cruising at over 11 knots! For the uneducated like myself this was really enjoyable, but for the experienced like the skipper and Leo this was heaven. Perfect sailing weather.
Fun and games were had as we approached Dover, taking us through the shipping lane and across the paths of massive ferries. Whilst entertaining this is also extremely dangerous. Forget what you heard about steam giving way to sail, the fact is when a ferry is traveling at 25 knots it’s not going to get out the way of a little sailing boat. This meant a keen eye was required on both the sea and the radar, which was chocca with glowing green blobs. Distance is difficult to judge as ferries approach and at one point we found ourselves in the direct path of an approaching P+O ship just 1.5 miles away. With some cursing from the skipper we grabbed the spotlight and lit the sails to make clear our position, as well as radioing through on the VHF. As expected the ferry didn’t answer and it was getting closer and closer. Of course if we had a head on the ferry wouldn’t know about it and we’d be swimming with the fishes, so drastic action had to be taken. With just over half a mile to spare the skipper slammed the engine full throttle and we scarpered pronto. Had he not have done this we would have been hit for sure. So whilst the spectacular White Cliffs provided a magnificent backdrop to all the sparkling ferries and tankers cruising past the danger was high and kept us all on edge. Even so nothing could have spoiled the great feeling of some proper sailing we had finally achieved.
Sunday day offered a less sunny but still fantastic sail across the Solent. We passed the Isle of Wight which could just be seen in the far distance to the north, but saw no other sailing vessel. With a strong easterly wind we were making superb progress, averaging a comfortable 9.5 knots. Pumping up some Banco de Gaia through the outside speakers we were cruising once again. Everything was chilled, we’d made it though a storm and the favourable winds made the second half of our leg a journey to be remembered and envied. We were able to kick back and relax, knowing that our destination, Falmouth, was just round the corner. The hard work we’d all put into preparing the boat over the last week or so had made it all the more worthwhile.