The closest of close shaves....

Tue 30 Jul 2013 14:40

We are all safe in St Raphael “43.24.59N 06.46.90E” but it could so easily have been a different story.

Yesterday morning we awoke just after 6 to the sound of our anchor alarm (set to go off if you move to far from where you start).  The wind had gone through 180 degrees, now bear in mind (and hold the thought for later..) that the forecast was for the wind to die away to nothing, and was blowing 30+ knots.  There must have been a hundred yachts anchored in the bay now suddenly a dangerous lee shore, three quarters left.  Two didn’t make it and the lifeboat had to come and tow them off the beach!! We decided to watch the antics...having dragged the day before I had shackled a second anchor with 10 metres of chain to our main anchor we weren’t going anywhere.  We had a leisurely breakfast, a pot of real coffee and then decided to head off as the wind was below 20 knots.

A beautiful sail along the coast with the wind behind us.  We only put the small jib up but that gave us the best part of 5 knots most of the time.  Too perfect it couldn’t last.  We looked at the chart and thought we should be able to find a nice place to anchor in the Golfe de Saint Tropez.  However as we rounded the Cap Camarat the wind started rising when it went over 30 knots we changed plan and decided that a marina would be safer especially as the wind had come backed making the Golfe less sheltered.

A hairy ride across the bay to St Raphael as the wind headed us and we ended up hard on the wind trying to make the entrance. Then, much as it had done in Portugal, as we arrived at the entrance the wind strength increased. Now I have always been of the opinion that one gets the boat into the relative safety of the harbour and then prepares lines fenders etc. It is not a god idea having crew trying to tie on fenders hanging over the side in a pitching sea nor do I want mooring lines out too early as they risk going over the side and round the prop or just becoming a tangled mess of mother’s knitting. On this occasion, there was no room and we had to turn round and go back out and sort ourselves.  By this time the wind was gusting over 55 knots and fairly steady at 50 knots, turning a boat is not like turning a car wind takes over!  The turning room was only about 100 feet with rocks all round and we are 45 feet long.  There was a moment when I really thought we had lost the boat but she came round, I could see the rocks over the side! Without question the most nerve wracking moment of my sailing career...Oh and remember the forecast, variable 2 or less, we had force 10 or more!

I spent much of the evening wondering whether or not we should have bow thrusters fitted, they would have allowed us to hold station in the marina first time...probably...

Still this morning the sun is out and the wind below 10 knots...

Have fun

Love Alasdair, Gill, Habitat, Pickles and Star Charger