Falmouth to Guernsey.
Time for a more interesting sail!
We all decided it
would be interesting to take the 100 mile English Channel crossing (as the crow
flies) from Falmouth to St Peter Port in Guernsey overnight. The weather
patterns were looking in our favour for this trip and we thought it would be an
interesting night sail to boot. I tend to compare two sources of weather (well,
apart from the twitching of my big toe). Both forecasts were for NW to W winds
from 14 to 20 knots, good visibility and just a little rain. Well, it wouldn’t
be an English summer without rain.
It wasn’t long after leaving Falmouth that a pod of
about 8 or more porpoises chose to join us as leaving party! Criss-crossing our
bow they kept with us for over 5 minutes! Luckily, we were able to video too!
(Note to self; learn to hold the camera still whilst the red button is pressed
All one can say about the rest of trip is that it all
went to plan. The winds were a little bigger than forecast and they came mainly
on our aft. The boat just kept going with an easy motion in swells, the
in-furling mast learnt who was really the boss, and the shipping traffic was
many. Actually, the shipping traffic was many many!
We set up a 2 hourly night watch system and went through
the shipping lanes during the night. It was quite fun, often with huge tankers
and cargo ships all around us, their navigation lights often being the only
visible part of them for some time. Bob and Les had a great time on their watch!
Our watch handover reviews following their watches were often punctuated with
Bob’s enthusiastic details of his sparring matches with tankers and fishing
vessels that just seemed to turn for no obvious reason as they chased their
quarry. Great stuff!
Having sailed across the shipping channels we then
negotiated the currents between Guernsey and Alderney during early sun rise. The
currents were heading along our course so we were making good time to arrive in
St Peter Port by breakfast.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Panic! “What is this Beep!” BEEPs everywhere, and AIS “Man
Overboard” alerts on both the Chart plotters! “Someone has fallen in the Ocean
right next to us!”
A quick head headcount confirmed it wasn’t anyone from
‘Timeless’ – but there were no other boats around either! Hmmmmm? Neither could we see any bodies
floating around in the water!
Now is the time to explain that there is a high tech
system that sailors can use that ensures an automatic beacon called AIS is
activated in an emergency - for example if they fall in the water. This enables
boats within 2 miles or so to locate them by following the signal produced.
There are obvious benefits to the modern day sailor as this system doesn’t rely
on the vagaries of noticing if a crew falls and not losing sight of them – and
the system also alerts all other vessels within range equipped with AIS
The clue to solve this conundrum lies in the fact that
all ‘Timeless’ crew are supplied with super-dooper life jackets equipped with
AIS transmitters. BEEP! BEEP! Had one of them been activated
accidentally? “Ah ha!” It turns out that I had accidentally caught my own jacket
on a line and set off my alert! BEEP!
BEEP! Just a simple matter (?) of ripping the jacket apart, deactivating and
resetting the AIS, then re-building the jacket and it was if nothing had ever
happened! Five minutes later the
peaceful early morning sunrise returned.
Hey! Think of it as a practice run - ahead of the
unthinkable ever really happening if someone really fell in. The system worked.
All the remaining crew would have been alerted – even if they were asleep (based
on the noise!) AND the man overboard would have been located regardless of how
far they might have drifted from the boat or how dark the evening or how large
the seas – even if they were unconscious! (Of course you still have to get the
poor crew member back on board!)
We have quite a stringent crew regime on ‘Timeless’ when
underway – crew always wear a ‘Timeless’ AIS equipped life jacket and always
wear a harness if we leave the cockpit or if we are the only one on
Overall, the journey took just under 19 hours and we
averaged a speed of 7 knots for the 142 miles actually traveled.
No pictures this time because it was night time for the
most part and we spent most of our time keeping an eye on those skittish fishing