Coming into soundings

Wed 29 Jul 2009 08:15
Amoret is now (morning of Wed 29 July) in sea area Sole and before long will be over the continental shelf in a depth of something over 100 metres rather than the 4000 metres to which we have been accustomed. It sounds scarily shallow! Our approach to home waters has been marked by the addition to the ocean birds (shearwater and storm petrel) of some off-coast species (common tern, fulmar and gannet).
Last night was fairly hideous, with SW wind mainly of F7 but gusting to gale force and a large, short sea that frequently doused us and filled the cockpit ankle-deep. In the small hours the wind suddenly fell to NW F2-3, leaving us with no sail power to make a speed of more than 2 kt. Neither was the engine an option, as headway would have been slow and miserably uncomfortable in a short sea of 4m or so. To crown it all it was pouring with rain outside and dripping with condensation inside. We gybed the main, crossed the preventer over (not easy on a heaving deck in pitch darkness and rain, poled out some genoa and sailed miserably at 1.5-2 kt until 0400 (with the added complication of fishing boats to dodge) by which time the seastate had moderated sufficiently for some engine. This made all the difference, with good progress in the right direction, abundant electricity and hands warmed by putting them over the open top hatch of the engine compartment. With dawn the sky began to clear and, apart from a brief shower, the rain had gone. Now it is 0800 (GMT), the sun is shining, the crew (apart from Berend who is recently off watch and still sleeping) have a plate of scrambled eggs inside them, and the world is transformed. Isn't it surprising the difference that a few hours can make?
All being well, we hope to make Falmouth (another 195M) on Friday morning. Many libations are being made to the great god Aeolus (in charge of wind) to lay off the heavy stuff, and to Poseidon (Chief Exec of the Sea as well as part-time earthshaker). Jokes apart, we are in mind of the Breton fishermen's prayer quoted at the beginning of the otherwise pretty prosaic book on our saloon shelf - Admiralty Ocean Passages for the World:
"Oh God be good to me,
Thy sea is so wide and my ship is so small."