Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Monday, 5 October 2009

Equinoctial Gale

The return voyage from Cornwall to Portsmouth started and finished easily, but included a full gale and mountainous seas - distinctly challenging!

On Friday we set off at 04:50 and drove down to St Mawes, arriving at 09:00. Loaded up with bags and provisions and said farewell to Anne, who took the opportunity for a swim off Summer's Beach.

We set sail just before midday to Salcombe, but with rather light winds we had to motor sail, past the Eddystone light eventually navigating in with the leading lights over the bar and up the river after dark. Emily turned out a great lasagne for us all shortly after she helmed us to a mooring. We eyed the pubs on shore, but it was cozy and convivial on board, so there we stayed.

Then I got everyone up at 0700 on Saturday to howling wind in the rigging. Outside we found large breaking seas and set off across Lyme Bay on a full run, with jib poled out and making 8+ knots down the waves. Neil was amazing as he helmed out of the river into the rough water with excellent anticipation and correction of the boat movement, and an almost unheard of solid stomach he was able to sit and read in the cabin.

The wind increased from 7 to a full gale 8, and by the time we arrived off Portland Bill the sea state was quite threatening. Fortunately the crew all were enjoying it and no one sea sick. In fact Antaeus, Tim and Matt sat in the bow, without getting wet at all. Got some good shots of mountainous seas for once - always difficult to capture the effect of a stormy sea as it always seems so unremarkable in a still photo. It was rather too rough to head the 5 miles past the Shambles into Weymouth so we raced on down under double reefed main towards Poole, eventually flying the jib again.

As darkness fell we closed on Durlston Head with the winking lighthouse guiding us, and as we turned in towards the red light of the buoy off Swanage, the seas eased down, giving us all a wonderful feeling of contentment. The skies cleared enough for the full moon to light the water like a searchlight, and the Plough, Cassiopeia and Cygnus could be seen in the clear evening blue between the clouds. We made our way past the gleaming moonlit sands of Shell Bay, past the brightly lit chain ferry and through the confusing reds and greens marking the many channels up to Poole Town Quay arriving at 9pm. Meanwhile delightful smells of coq au vin began wafting tantalisingly out of the galley.

We were lucky to spot a spare berth at the entrance to the marina and, in a bold (and only slightly botched) manoeuvre, swung in a tight circle to end up bows head to wind, with Matthew smartly ashore with the bow line, Within a moment we were moored alongside with engine off and a rather startled dinner party in a large gin palace, as our stern had just missed them.

Had one too many drinks (one) in the Jolly Sailor, on top of gin and tonic and wine for supper, which made the 06:30 breakfast hard to handle. However the wind was light so we motored over to Hurst Narrows, with a brief but futile attempt at fishing. Once in the Solent we had a then great sail , despite the foul Spring tide most of the way. We dined in the cockpit on the previous day's lasagne and then a great apple and blackberry crumble, while George helmed perfectly under poled out jib and full main.

We arrived back in Haslar at 4pm and were hailed by a neighbouring yacht which recognised us from St. Mawes as we joined the melee of yachts fighting through the turbulent tide into the harbour. It was comfortably familiar, to be back in Haslar again, and strange to be only a few berths away from Marta still in her old berth.