‘My first Chan­nel cruise to France’

Yachting Monthly - - CRUISING LOG -

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

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