“Every sailor knows that the sea is a friend made enemy”, U2
Are we ready to be swept off our feet?
One of my greatest frustrations in all the reading we have done to prepare for this trip is the complete absence of descriptions of the actual sailing bits. A month into our journey we now understand why. It is because, generally, as soon as you arrive in safe harbour any memories of the previous passage disappear all too quickly amidst the relief, the exhaustion and the excitement of being somewhere new.
Someone once said that sailing is 99% boredom interspersed with 1% of sheer panic. It is probably a good thing that memories of those moments of panic, be they minutes, hours or days, are fleeting because we might have left Pintail in Brest and headed home!
Another thing we have learnt very quickly is that having a passage plan and any kind of schedule is all very well but the weather usually has a different one. Learning to adapt, not just to new places, people, languages, but to a new kind of timetable over which we have very little control is something we are slowly adjusting to.
21 to 22 June 2016
Essex Marina N 51° 37.34′ E 0° 47.85′ to Newhaven N 50° 46.84′ E 0° 03.53′
120 nm, 24 hours
Our original plan to sail from Essex to Falmouth, via Brighton, and then outside the Bay of Biscay to Baiona flew out of the hatch (1) at about Seaford Head when the state of the tide at Brighton meant we decided to stop for our first night at Newhaven.
The now familiar sail across the Thames Estuary and down the Kent coast was a good opportunity to get our novice crew member, Lee “Tannoy” Tanner, acclimatised to life on board. It was a very gentle introduction. Conditions were calm enough for the bean bag to make an early appearance. Lulled in to a false sense of security Lee could not have imagined that in only a few days he would be christened with a whole new nickname. We said goodbye to the windfarms and the sand banks, to Knock John Tower and North Edinburgh Channel, to an uncharacteristically calm North Foreland.
A night in Newhaven, returning for the first time since we delivered Pintail to Essex in April 2014, was accompanied again by metal recycling and the enormous yet agile Newhaven-Dieppe ferry (photo credit Lee Tanner).
23 to 25 June 2016
Newhaven N 50° 46.84′ E 0° 03.53′ to Plymouth N 50° 21.60′ E 04° 07.15′
207 nm, 46 hours
Glassy sea and eerie mist started our second passage and longest yet with Pintail. On watch together Lee and I made a vain attempt at I spy but there really was nothing. A very fleeting visit from a couple of dolphins and a few gannet fly-bys.
It was the day of the EU referendum and we settled in to a night listening to Radio 4, fuelled by flapjack made on board. Our 3 hour watches provided more twists and turns in the unfolding political drama. As I went to bed Nigel Farage appeared to be conceding defeat. I woke and it looked as though the leave campaign were edging it. I got up for my morning watch to the news that the Prime Minister had resigned. From our own little floating island it all felt a bit surreal. Along with so many we felt a sense of shock and grateful to be leaving an island of 52% small minded imperialists behind for our European adventure.
Whilst all that drama was going on we started to get a sense of the bigger seas we were heading for. Conditions in the English Channel got lumpier the further west we got. Sleeping during off watch in the forward (2) cabin, strapped in with the lee cloth (3), Pintail smashing into each wave, creaking like she was ready to split open. Those horribly confused sea and the wind on Pintail’s nose made us change our planned destination of Falmouth and we headed in to Plymouth.
We used our couple of days in Plymouth Yacht Haven to enjoy luxurious, long hot showers and even a bath in their hotel spa like facilities. Lee set about investigating the vibration in the engine which had been on a lot in the past few days. “I’ve never fixed a diesel engine in a kitchen before!” And Stefan got the water maker making water.
Stefan also decided to try out his new wetsuit for size and take his first dip on the pretence of checking the anodes (4).
Fourth crew member, Clive, veteran of our delivery trip and a number of trips out into the Estuary, arrived on Monday 27 June and we had planned to get going almost straight away. The weather, however, had other ideas with a big area of low pressure (5) heading towards us right in the Bay of Biscay. We didn’t like the look of it and decided on another night in Plymouth. Sleeping on it didn’t help. It was still there in the morning and we didn’t fancy heading straight into it.
So instead we decided that we would make an unintended trip across to France in the hope that we would miss the worst of wind. We set sail for Brest. Finally we were leaving the UK and all its political mess behind.
But it turns out Pintail can’t out run the weather…
Footnotes for Fen and others who want to get with the lingo!
(2) At the front of the boat
(3) Bit of fabric that stops you falling out of the bunk
(4) Sacrificial bit of metal that stops the important bits of metal like the propeller from eroding
(5) Scary windy weather