Long ago, when a Westerly 33 was thought large, five friends and I chartered one from Lymington. Our navigator failed to show so it was down to me to find Cherbourg. Young, confident and inexperienced, I found the port after an uneventful night passage.
Then it unravelled. Entering the Grande Rade, a strong south-easterly headed us as we looked to cross to the marina. We motored, furling the sails, but the wind checked our course. Alarmed, we dropped our anchor, engaging forward gear to ease the strain on the ground tackle. The anchor dragged; the harbour wall neared. Our first flare failed. The second soared over Cherbourg, landing on the harbour lookout tower, startling its occupants. The French Navy came, towing us the short distance to the marina.
Next morning, a writ arrived, keeping us in harbour until payment of salvage. The charter firm advised flight. We sought the Lloyd’s Insurance Agent instead. Release was secured with promise of payment of the salvage claim. A visit to the admiral saw removal of the writ with an apology that payment helped keep the French fleet at sea.
Back on board, my crew had solved the problem of the night before – the gear linkage had reversed.