The Beginning.....

Wed 30 Aug 2006 22:43
Leaving Portsmouth at 0700 on August 5th 2006
Seafarers are a superstitious lot....and I am therefore grateful that Free Spirit had a most propitious start to her long voyage. Sunshine and a glassy sea to cross the Channel to Braye harbour in Alderney on Saturday, August 5th 2006. On board were my sister Anne, Angus McIntosh (Insead) and Geoff Parkin (representing LEK!).
The "Channel" crew enjoying a beer in Alderney
The preceding 2 weeks of preparation at Haslar in Portsmouth were fun, sunny, efficient and re-assuringly expensive. A combination of getting to know the boat, equipment and systems; buying endless spares, sails, rigging, tools, safety kit and "stuff"; getting liferaft and engine serviced, compass swung; and sorting out living arrangements for crews of up to 6 people for the various stages of the journey over the next 5 months. Everything fell into place perfectly until, at the very last moment (the Friday afternoon, 12 hours before we were due to leave the South Coast for almost a year!) when Jerry the Rigger got a mouse line stuck halfway down the inside of the mast.  A routine job threading another main halyard, which should have taken 10 minutes, turned into a 6 hour marathon as we tried every trick in the book to free the string of stainless steel nuts used as a weight on a long nylon line. Eventually, the skipper had to grit his teeth and break the line with a winch - not a happy moment but it broke only 6 inches from the end with a clatter of nuts falling to the bottom of the mast.  These will remain with Free Spirit for ever as there is no way to remove them, but they are out of harm's way and (Jerry assures me!) will not cause any problems.  To his credit, Jerry worked up the mast, in the dark, through to 2300 to complete his list of jobs and we were finally "back on" for a 0630 departure on Saturday.  Angus arrived, mid-crisis, laden with provisions for the trip and made a quick crossing with me to Seaview to return my RIB to its mooring. A glass of wine with Sally, the midnight ferry back to Portsmouth and on board to find Geoff had arrived and sensibly gone to his bunk. Anne arrived at 0600 and we slipped our moorings at 0650.  All being well, Free Spirit will not see her comfortable berth in Portsmouth again until June 2007.
Cooked breakfast off Osborne Bay, through the Needles on schedule at 1000 and we left the coast of England for the first time in Free Spirit. A wonderful moment for me, shared with a great crew who all recognised the importance and symbolism of this first passage. We anchored in Braye in good time for dinner ashore - a bottle of champagne bought by Geoff and a walk up the hill to St Ann's to let the food go down. Aurigny provided us with a fun flight back to Southampton on Sunday afternoon and the first (tiny) leg of the trip was completed safely. I shall always remember that lovely weekend with great fondness.
Free Spirit, peacefully on her mooring in Braye Harbour, Alderney