We sailed back to Dover the next day with little to report. Tired but elated we had a great time aboard Barnacle Bill. She had behaved very well and was a real pleasure to sail. Acting as first mate to Jon’s skippering was also a fantastic experience too, so my thanks go out to him for his patience and knowledge! Linda and Jon – come over to Turkey soon!
We slipped the lines at 10am, making the most of the strong tides that run around Alderney Race, though this was nothing like our outward journey. We had the steering back for one thing! After passing Cherbourg we turned the engine off to find that we were doing roughly one knot through the water due to changing tides. Five knots of wind and fed up with the engine on… spinnaker anyone?
We left St Peter Port up Little Russel. The tides were incredible. Fortunately we were pointing in the right direction! The approach to Alderney was quite technical with a number of transits to take into account but we successfully moored up in the SE corner of Braye harbour. Although I had been to Alderney before, where it had p!ssed it down the entire time, it was good to see that the weather was a little better.
Aside from catching some seaweed and taking in some fine sunshine the weak easterlies meant we motored sailed much of the way back to Guernsey. We rafted up in St Peter Port, it being invaded by a French flotilla. We didn’t want to return to Guernsey since we’d been there twice already on this trip but it was necessary. The highlight was discovering an Indian restaurant in town, which Linda, Jon and I rated as perhaps the best curry we had ever had!
Paimpol is one of those French towns that comes to life at six in the morning. The boulangerie and patisserie were open for trade, so too were the cafes and tabacs. That early morning buzz is something that is lost in the UK. The only thing open in the UK at that time in the morning is the all-night garage and McDonalds.
So what was the lesson learnt? Simple really. Always err on the side of caution if things do not seem quite right. Don’t try and ‘force’ your passage into an angle that doesn’t match the suggested instructions. Generally a compass won’t lie so if it’s telling you you are 10 degrees out, then you probably are. Thanks to Jon’s sensible and considered approach we successfully made our way up the river with no problems, despite the fact that all his crew were moaning about him being over cautious!
With Tim and Sharine replaced by Liz, we made our way down towards the northern coast of France, aiming towards Lezardrieux. Lezardrieux is France’s answer to Dartmouth, with pink granite, cider and lots of bottles of Pouilley Fume. The sun came out for our crossing though despite some great SW winds early on we had to motor for the second half of the journey. Still, spending the next 24 hours drinking cider made up for the lack of the sail.
We anchored up at Creux harbour and as the sun went down Tim and I nipped ashore for a quick exploration and then back again to spend an evening of getting drunk whilst at anchor. We explored intellectual topics – just how fishy is fish from the north sea – and looked at the stars.
What didn’t help, however, was the autohelm playing havoc with the steering. It kept locking up! It was starting to get so bad that it was taking over the steeting of Barnacle Bill, often pointing us in the direction of immediate danger. As we approached the south of Sark, heading towards an eastern cardinal warning us of very shallow water, we decided to take drastic action.
A rather amusing incident occurred today. Due to an administrative cock up with the marina the English power-boat users next to us had been directed to someone else’s berth. That someone else was a rather snotty-nosed Belgian couple in a very expensive yacht who decided to turn up later that morning.
Jon had spent much time explaining the basics of passage planning. We had sat down each evening to plan our route for the next day. In Portsmouth we had to decide where we were planning to head to next and we debated two options: either head west towards Devon and Cornwall in the south west of the UK, or sail due south towards Cherbourg.
I started the morning off hunting for a fishing line. The local fishing shop was closed (I thought fishermen got up early) so I hung around the fisherman’s pontoon, looking like I was after a different type of cruise. A bloke walked past in wellies, arms loaded with tats – gotta be a fisherman, I thought – so I asked him if he could help. Sure enough he was about to head out to sea for a day’s work so I wandered down to his boat with him, chatting skate and whiting.
We started off well, skirting our way around the Thames barges down the Orwell, and around Kentish Knock BB started sailing herself. The wind dropped soon after, however, and we were forced to motor sail for four hours. To make up for this we threw an old line out the back of the boat and as we approached Ramsgate we got a bite! It could only be mackerel so as I pulled in the line it went taught and then snapped. Arse.
It’s funny how one can sail the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, through the Pacific – even across the English channel to France and the Netherlands, to Portugal and Spain, and completely forget that some of the prettiest sailing territory is around the Essex and Suffolk coast. Our quick 12 mile trip from Felixstowe Ferry down the River Deben took us briefly into open waters and then back up the River Orwell.
We stayed on the boat and didn’t go anywhere today. The weather was miserable and by the time we had stocked up with provisions it wasn’t worth going anywhere anyway, so we remained tied to the mooring. I made myself comfortable in the forward cabin, though it was a little tight. Barnacle Bill was, after all, built as a racing boat so the designers, Sparkman and Stephens, had clearly prioritised speed over sleeping comfort. The saloon, however, was very accommodating and was begging us to get through a couple of bottles of red.
You can tell from the crew photos that this trip was a bit of a giggle. In fact it was a complete scream, but the emphasis, for me at least, was to learn much about navigation. This was due to Jon’s methodical and considered approach to passage planning and sailing, but when you own a boat like Barnacle Bill then you’re going to be a proper sailor, aren’t you? This boat is a real head-turner!