Dear avid reader fans, so the last few weeks haven’t totally gone to plan due to the continuous bombardment of storm upon seasonal storm on our beautiful British coastline. As you have no doubt been busy hiding inside and enjoying nice heated buildings we have been out enjoying what gale force winds do to the seaside.
We have made the most of the challenging conditions and grouped up sailing with the other members of the Artemis squad when we were scared and had a generally bloody marvellous time zipping up and down the solent.
We have of course had to intersperse this fun sailing with boat work and repairs of the damage we caused irresponsibly yachting around in 42 knots (for non sailing reader fans, big sis Roz VERY WINDY) and any management listening we didn’t break anything too big, promise.
The big task for the following few days was to take two of our boats down to Lorient in France. This is the location of our training over the next few months, where we will do our best to learn from the french gods of offshore sailing.
The trip required lots of Navigational fun, route planning and weather forecasting. Sadly with the first named British storm – Abigail on her way, we decided we would just do the first bit of the journey and sail west along the south coast of England and if it all became too much we could take safe haven in one of the wonderful seaside towns along the way.
See Hugh (below right) enthused by the navigational process.
We performed our last few boat checks, here Will is seen attaching the forestay and me halfway up the mast with the boys shouting up from below a continuous stream of advice, while I squeal from the dizzy heights.
So the best weather and tide window for old Abigail (a big gale) involved us leaving at 11pm from Cowes and heading out into the dark windy solent night. Here we all are excited, thermal-ed up and ready for action.
For those that don’t know, when you go offshore sailing in November in England its rather a palaver in terms of the clothing dept. One starts with a thin layer (or two) of thermal base covering a nice squishy sports bra, breathable, no seam pants (very important for comfy bottom) waterproof socks and a wooly preferably two layer, wind proof hat. Then you get to wear the most delicious mid-layer which is basically like a fluffy sleeping bag with a slightly water proof outer in the form of a long john and a jacket of the same and then top that off with a very waterproof, stiff and bulky, outer layer. Finally then pull on the sailing gloves and one is ready, resembling an astronaut or in my case a round hamster like fluffy waterproof ball.
Off we went and in the blonde team (Willy and myself) in Artemis 77 we had a guest star Sam Matson (figaro racer expert) with us to watch over our decisions and advise on sail trim. We ran a two hours on watch (primarily responsible for sailing fast and not hitting any rocks/land). Two hours on stand by (available for advice on avoiding rocks/land or assisting sailing performance but otherwise cooking up yummy freeze dried snacks or napping) and two hours off (total relaxing sleep, unless required to tack when you have to move the whole contents of the boat including yourself to the other side of the bateau and then get back to snoozeville).
We had a great night and day whistling along the south coast and as the second night approached it was getting really very very windy so we dived into Plymouth and into safe haven.
However that night turned into several days STORMBOUND, so being the resourceful, enthusiastic sailors we are, we had a good chance to explore everything that wonderful Plymouth has to offer, on a beautiful November weekend.
We found some interesting street names.
We sampled lots of the local eateries.
We spent far too much time looking at our fellow squadee’s faces during this stormbound stay-cation, I found they started to remind me of other things…
We visited the local chandlery and read up on some appropriate reading material. We also took the opportunity to replenish the blonde team with a rather important piece of equipment that I may or may not have lost over board on Leg one. You see its a rather precarious situation being a girl in a boat that spends its time bucking around like a wild pony, slamming into, onto and around waves and constantly at an approximate angle of 45 degrees and having to … well we won’t go into it, but needless to say when one is trying to empty said bucket in a state of undress, the water rushing past the boat sailing in 37 knots really whips past and snatches equipment out of ones hands.
Anyway weather window identified and ready and raring to go at 3am we leave the safety of Plymouth and out we go across the English/French channel into the wonderful enormous mountainous landscape that has been building up over the last month of relentless wind.
Down to just the original blonde members, Will and myself we go straight into watch rotation and I offer to go down for the first snooze. However I didn’t quite appreciate the size of the waves and the period of acclimatisation that it takes to get body ready. So I am very disappointed in myself to report, following my two hour snooze I woke up and feeling all funny, I did my first ever sea vomit. Yuck I know, luckily after which I felt totally better and then got to appreciate the MOST BEAUTIFUL dawn I have ever experienced. The pictures really don’t do it justice, it was incredible.
And at least it put Will off eating ALL the Salami he was currently scoffing at the time of the sea vomit.
And to top it off there were playful, fun, dolphins to bounce along with.
Unfortunately the red sky in the morning was a warning of what was to come. As we approached the north west tip of France the windspeed was increasing and the sea state was getting worse. Additionally all the jumping and slamming continuously over the last 24 hours had left our two boats one without Navigation lights (therefore invisible in the pitch black night) and one without a working VHF radio (no way of radioing for help if something really bad went down). So instead of continuing around the very rough and notoriously dangerous corner of French boating death we decided again to dive into safe Haven and were once again STORMBOUND but this time in France, in Roscoff!
Once landed and the vigorous jumping, bucking, slamming motion had ceased we made a hot chocolate and went down for a little snooze. By this point we were soaked and the boat was dripping so it was rather a chilling and moist experience. Next morning we ran a weather routing again, with nothing but storms forecast for the next few days we decided to make the trip to Lorient our training destination, but this time by more civilised forms of transport, here we are trekking across the french villages to find a train and then finally here is Willy looking very happy on the train with his Grand Pain ou Chocolate (as you can see my french is coming along marvellously).