Should I stay or should I go?

For­mer RYA Chief Ex­am­iner James Stevens looks at a clas­sic skip­per’s dilemma, con­sid­er­ing the skip­per, the boat, the pas­sage and the weather

Yachting Monthly - - VIEW FROM THE HELM -

With strong south west­er­lies ap­proach­ing, would you leave your ex­posed an­chor­age, and where would you go?

Arthur’s crew for this sum­mer’s cruise of Brit­tany and its At­lantic coast is Ben, a friend who sails with him reg­u­larly. After a very light wind cross-Chan­nel pas­sage the night be­fore, Arthur and Ben have reached the Île d’Oues­sant off Brit­tany. They’re an­chored off Lam­paul, a small har­bour at the top of a long bay fac­ing WSW, which their pi­lot guide says is fine in set­tled weather. The in­ten­tion is to con­tinue to South Brit­tany with a 45-mile pas­sage to Audierne, whose en­trance faces south, though other pos­si­ble desti­na­tions are Ca­maret (27 miles away) and Douarnenez, (42 miles). The tides are com­ing up for springs, and be­tween Lam­paul and Audierne is the Raz de Sein ti­dal gate with a max­i­mum spring ti­dal stream rate of 6.5 knots. It runs south through the Raz de Sein un­til mid­day.

Arthur, 67, doesn’t have a sin­gle RYA qual­i­fi­ca­tion to his name, but he does have nearly 60 years of sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence since learn­ing as a child. He usu­ally cruises the coast from his home port of Mil­ford Haven, ac­tively avoid­ing mari­nas and even pop­u­lar an­chor­ages. He takes care of all the main­te­nance on his 30-year-old, twin­keeled Westerly Cen­taur, which has a slabreefed main­sail. As her skip­per is no fan of tech­nol­ogy (he’ll never own a smart­phone) she’s sparsely kit­ted out with a hand­held VHF ra­dio and a much-loved tran­sis­tor ra­dio, a hand­held GPS and pa­per charts, along with flares, life­jack­ets and horse­shoe buoys. She has no AIS or lif­er­aft, but sails with the dinghy stowed on deck.

The weather

On Mon­day evening there’s a light north­east­erly breeze, but it’s hazy with some high cir­rus in the west. Arthur fires up his trusty tranny and tunes into that evening’s ship­ping fore­cast to jot down the fol­low­ing:

Gen­eral Syn­op­sis at 1700UTC

High 1022 Cro­marty, ex­pected N Ut­sire 1021 by 1200 to­mor­row. New low 1008 200 miles W of Fitzroy, ex­pected Shan­non 995 by 1200 to­mor­row.

Area fore­casts

Bis­cay: light & vari­able be­com­ing SW 5/6 later, slight be­com­ing mod­er­ate later, rain later, mod­er­ate oc­ca­sion­ally poor.

Sole: light & vari­able be­com­ing SW 4/5 veer­ing W 5/6 later, slight be­com­ing mod­er­ate & oc­ca­sion­ally rough later, rain later, mod­er­ate, oc­ca­sion­ally poor.

With that fore­cast and those plans, what would you rec­om­mend? Should he stay or should he go?

Arthur's ven­er­a­ble Cen­taur has fewer in­stru­ments than we see here, but he does have a bat­tered wire­less and tunes into the ship­ping fore­cast Thanks to Si­mon Row­ell, the Bri­tish Olympic Sail­ing Team’s me­te­o­rol­o­gist, for his ex­pert in­put in de­vis­ing the weather sce­nario

Lam­paul is open to the south­west so stay­ing at an­chor is not an op­tion. Arthur wants to get to Audierne to­day, but is that wise?

The twin-keeled 26ft Westerly Cen­taur, de­signed in 1968 by Jack Lau­rent Giles, is one of the most pop­u­lar boats in Bri­tain, with over 2,400 built. She is tough and sea­wor­thy, but not close-winded

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