‘My first Channel cruise to France’
Having learnt to sail and bought a boat, crossing the Channel was the next big hurdle for Ian Simon.
I had been planning the trip to France for a very long time. After discussing it at length with my wife we had finally agreed to head off in August. Preparation to get my 28ft Trapper 500 Gee N Tee ready had been ongoing since I bought her three years ago, slowly ticking off jobs, as well as passing my Day Skipper.
I had never sailed across the Channel before and the thought had kept me up at night. Nerves only increased as the day approached. I planned to set off a bit before dawn from Brighton marina; it was a long way to go and the forecast was for light winds for several hours, increasing to Force 5 as we got closer to France.
With my friend Pete crewing, we got off later than planned, though not by much. The crossing started slowly but as we got closer to the Traffic Separation Scheme we picked up pace along with the wind. The wind direction was perfect to cross the TSS at right angles. We kept our eyes peeled but I only adjusted course once and that was just me being over-cautious. The speed of the large ships is amazing and it was well out of the way before we got close.
During the planning I had always thought that we must get to Fécamp before nightfall, I hadn’t done much sailing in the dark and didn’t want to build my experience around an unfamiliar French port. After the TSS, the wind increased steadily, as did the swell, and by the time we were a couple of hours from Fécamp we were in waves bigger than I had taken Gee N
Tee out in before. We took the main down to the second reef and rolled away half the genoa. The wind and sea built more, but Gee
N Tee behaved herself and we started to fly along, surfing down the waves without a second thought.
It was a relief to see Fécamp drawing closer and when we were around 30 minutes out, I went to start the engine. For a brief moment it refused to start, barely turning over. Then it fired up, much to our relief and we motor-sailed into Fécamp at dusk. By the time we reached the marina it was after 2200 and there was no answer on the radio We pulled up to the end of the visitors’ pontoon and breathed a sigh of relief. It had taken 17 hours but we had done it.
The visitors’ pontoon was packed the next day with large boats dwarfing Gee N Tee and we had more than one compliment for having sailed through some fairly big seas. The next day we planned to head on to Le Havre where Pete was catching the ferry home and my wife was meeting me to sail on up the Seine and through the canals to the Mediterranean.
The wind let Ian fetch across the TSS at right angles
Ian with Gee N Tee happily alongside in Fécamp
As the sun rose and land dropped astern, Ian sent sent a last text to report home