Hello fabulous festive fans! After a quick spot of coaching in glamorous Rutland water, home of winter training squads of the great British youth I returned to chilly Cowes with plague, AKA a cold, no doubt contracted from the very sharing youths. To what I thought was going to be a lovely week of boat work with copious tea breaks and a cake eating competition in Tiffins, the local maker of fine cakes and warm beverages.
However on my arrival it had been identified that there was some slightly north winds coming (best direction for fast sailing to the land of frog eating) and therefore the ideal time to take on the final delivery of Figaros 43 and 37.
So it became a rushed preparation of the boats and a quick pack up of my life into my dry bags. Then during my pre departure shower it came to me that I was about to sail off without my passport, so with wet hair and a highly inappropriate bra I sprinted down the high street (obviously to get there and see the ferry depart). Eventually, after a double Red Jet run, a heroic housemate who taxi-ed the passport to the Red Jet terminal and several hours later, back in Cowes, I had possession of my little red book of official Britishness.
Having developed a really horrible cold from the infected children, sniffling and coughing I was not entirely keen for the optimistic viewing of the Grib files that said 27 knots just off the nose for 48hrs across the channel and could only imagine the apocalyptic swell that was awaiting us, having been building two months of non stop gales!
But we decided this was the best opportunity we were going to get so with just the three Rookies left to sail the boats across, we recruited Joan our beautiful boat captain to join me in our all female boat out across the English channel.
We started off well beating out through the Solent on a beautiful sunny ,if very breezy day into enormous swell. As you can see it was rather damp on board.
Being on the boat is like being at a wet and cold version of Alton Towers. You are on a permanent ride without a seat belt. You get thrown forward with a gut wrenching lurch as the boat accelerates down the wave and then fall backwards with a bone shuddering halt as you pile into the next oncoming wall of water. Each wave is slightly different shaped and thus varies the angle to which you are thrown and keeps you in a permanent state of apprehension.
I like to think of it as attempting to manoeuvre the boat through a row of oncoming cars you have to choose which is the best way to hit them? Straight on at 90 degrees and there is a huge bang as the boat parks itself into the passenger window of the wave. Side on and you propel an enormous cloud of white water straight down the side deck covering your lap, chilling the spot of deck your bottom had been warming for the last 10 minutes and inevitably pouring itself into the sachet of nice warm porridge you are holding. It’s quite a tricky business.
But poor old Joan didn’t respond well to the rollercoaster experience and started feeding the fish early doors. I was feeling very sorry for myself with the sniffles and fully rocking the hamster look with every item of fleecy warmth I owned wrapped around me.
Here is me looking particularly glamorous, throughly enjoying myself.
Poor old Joan really suffered with the rocking and rolling and sea vomited non stop for the whole crossing. Fairly uneventful apart from the mishap with the buckets!
We have one allocated bucket! As I have discussed previously use of the bucket is rather tricky on the Alton Towers Oblivion and Joan managed to dispose of the first one with ease, oh well its ok we do have another one (apart from the obvious eco unfriendly sadness of bucket disposal at sea). However, the other one is strapped to the front of the bow, the scene of the most violent upping and downing and loudest deafening crashing. Joan quickly got that one in use and came up from down below holding the blue beauty.
Whilst holding it in the precarious position down to leeward it was whipped out from her hands, much to the screeching from us both. We’re 8hrs in and now we can’t pee for the rest of the journey.
Those who know me, know I have a notoriously pathetic bladder tolerance, that at least keeps me from developing any DVT on aeroplanes.
Poor old Joan, who hadn’t managed to eat any of her lunch was now wracked with guilt over the loss of the bucket – I should say buckets!!!
As we got into our first night and we reached the top of the TSS (bloody big ships going fast best to be avoided zone) we bore away from the wind and with this the sea state became a bit more bearable and the possibility of the spinnaker became more of an option. We waited for a bit of a drop in the wind and decided to go for the spinnaker. Joan feeling horrendous with an stomach empty took the helm and me sniffling away with plague infected muscles attempted possibly the slowest hoist in history.
Emotionally we were a little premature in our excitement to round the northern cape of France so proceeded to require dropping the spinnaker a further three times and performing four more snail speed hoists before we actually made it to the corner.
Eventually we made it around the corner and with the spinnaker up for the remainder, zipped on down through the French coast successfully navigating the submerged rock of which there are a plenty, and through the notorious Raz du Sein with enormous rolling waves. This picture shows quite amusingly the numbers that are our mast sat nav. With 30knts wind strength (really quite windy for non sailing big sister Roz) Boat speed 11.29 (very fast Roz) and actual speed over the ground 5.30 (exceptionally slow ) meant that we had an enormous 6 knts of tide against us and the prevailing wind direction, resulting in enormous waves and amazing sailing.
In these enormous waves and wind we got caught out a couple of times and would perform a rather alarming, sideways, damp manoeuver, and broach the boat (word for capsizing in a boat with a keel Roz) fully legs in water action, I would creep down to the wet side of the boat to release everything, in the hope that it would be enough to release us from the winds grasp and the keel (heavy lead underneath bit Roz) can do its thing, and I could get back to munching on my current snack.
Finally down the west coast of France the sea started to flatten off and we managed several beautiful textbook gybes and Joan managed to get some food down. We had a good game of freeze dried Top Trumps, highly entertaining, competing with the nutritional content of our freeze dried meals oh yes! Exciting times.
It was at this point we had some really fabulous different type of dolphins, not the usual English ones these were big and grey and did full flips and spins, remarkable.
Sadly the wind started to drop off at this point ruining our world speed record attempt only 15knots basically the lightest wind we had seen for months.
At around 11pm we docked into the rather intimidating WW2 submarine base that is Lorient la Basse, the adventure was complete.