17 May - passage from the Azores to Gosport - the last leg
Friday 17 May may have been a little grey and wet along the south coast of England, but the last leg of our passage from the Azores to Gosport was a textbook example of good planning (from Peter) and accurate execution, sprinkled with happy surprises along the way.
Having sailed at 2330 from St Mawes with very little wind, we motored eastwards at best spend to catch the last of the favourable tide around Start Point soon after dawn. The wind strengthened a little, but it was almost dead on the nose, so if we had elected to sail, we would have made for the Channel Islands… no bad thing, except that the weather forecast suggested that by the time we reached Guernsey, the wind would have backed into the North and dropped. That would have meant motoring across the Channel and completing two sides of a triangle, so we elected to continue under engine towards the Needles.
Lyme Bay was monochrome and choppy, but we made good time and reached the western side of Portland Bill at lunchtime. We aimed for a spot just south of Blacknor Point and watched the ‘Course over the Ground’ on the GPS carefully. About half a mile west of the shoreline, we got out of the west-running tide and the COG increased to match the speed through the water , so we started to come right towards the Bill itself. We passed around the headland about 75 yards off the rocks in 10m depths, maintaining a speed of seven knots over the ground. We kept close to the shore all the way up the east side of Portland as far as Grove Point, when we started to come right towards St Alban’s Head.
An hour later, we picked up the first of the east-running tidal stream and our speed over the ground increased to over 8 knots. We passed close under St Albans Head (also known as St Aldhelm’s) at teatime. I was making tea and preparing some scones and clotted cream when Peter noticed some people waving enthusiastically from the clifftop. The penny dropped: I checked my phone and found an email from my great friend Robin Swaine. Robin and I served together in the mighty HMS GAVINTON in the 1980s, along with Alistair Halliday, Stuart McQuaker and our captain, Bernie Bruen. We had many adventures and gallons of laughter in that fine ship and we have remained good friends ever since. Robin was on the clifftops at St Aldhelm’s Coastguard station on 16 May 2017 (see 18 May Blog entry) to wave us off, so to see him back there on a wet Friday afternoon, two years to the day, as Escapade stormed home was a very special moment for me… and people ask ‘why did you come back from the Caribbean?’
The Needles appeared out of the gloom a couple of hours later and we had supper doing over ten knots up the western Solent. Our ETA kept creeping forward as the tide carried us home and we reached Gilkicker Point at 2030 – just in time to see that Julie had set our White Ensign on the side of our house in Stokes Bay! She and Diane Davies were on the jetty to meet us at Hornet where we arrived just before 2100. Much relief, some flowers, strawberries and Nyetimber bubbles.
Home safe. My huge thanks to Tom Reed, Ed Pearson, Peter Davies and Dave Godwin for helping me bring Escapade east across the Atlantic in some fairly demanding conditions over the last few weeks. Great sailing, great company.
Escapade homeward bound off the Lizard (photo courtesy of HMS SCOTT)