|Well - I should first off say that I'm back "home" in Mercury Yacht Harbour. I write this blog sat out on the back of the boat in such sunshine I could easily think I'm already there in the Med.|
Over the last few days we have covered in excess of 500nm, 4 days and 3 nights at sea. We had an average speed of 6.0knts with a max boat speed of 9.5knts. Winds hit 28knts true with speeds over the deck in the mid 30's knts.
You can see the passage travelled in the map extract below captured from our SPOT Satellite Tracker. Each of the points represents ~6hrs;
We left Lymington at 10:00hrs and headed out past The Needles then turned as much south as we could.
Mark with the Needles behind him
We wanted to get South as we were aware that the previous poor weather, stronger winds and rougher seas were on their way back to South Coast UK. We made great progress across the channel realising that Cherbourg is a short weekend hope in the future. We played FROGGER with the commercial shipping near to the Casquet TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme). However tides were very strong which slowed progress through the first night. We seemed to stand for ages off Alderney and Guernsey and had to apply a little engine to help progress.
Monday 4th Apr
David pretending to be a coiled spring on watch!!!!
Hmmm, Malcolm, our other coiled spring!!!!!!!! Obviously a boot fetish......
We continued in an overall SouthWesterly direction making towards Ushant and North West France. Progress was very slow. Big tides against us, winds against us and a forecast of rising winds. SW Force 5/6. We carried on but seas were beginning to rise and getting very lumpy. Not helped at this stage by the fact the tides turned in our favour and we had wind over tide. We continued into the night to a point where we had winds constantly in excess of 30knts. We had a hint of jib and 2 reefs in the main.
However, the seas rose quite steeply and life became very very uncomfortable. Motoring into this was not really an option or something that I wanted to do, afterall, this is supposed to be pleasure so I turned the boat round. Crew were disappointed but it became much more comfortable running down wind in a big sea. The winds continued to increase and we were seeing apparent winds in the late 20knts even whilst running with it. Watermark still felt over powered charging down waves at up to 9knts so on went the decklights and we put the 3rd reef in. Our first 2 reefs are single line affairs while the 3rd reef involves looping a stainless ring over a "cowhorn" and someone has to be at the mast to do that. Once in, it was much more comfortable and we were still travelling at 7-8knts.
The decision now was where to go. We considered trying for Brest but that was still some 100nm into big seas and winds etc, so NO. Channel Islands/Cherbourg, yes, possible, but I decided that it was back to Solent to re-group were there would be many other options to explore and simply go again.
Tuesday 5th Apr
The winds began to ease mid morning and we slowly started to increase sail.
Colin on watch after sunrise - yes, it was cold..... "Hmmmm - what's that following me?"
The plan was now straight to the Solent. Once round the bottom of the Shipping Lane we turned Watermark Northwards again across the English Channel. The shipping lanes are just so busy nowadays. They really are the motorways of the seas. I believe they say that the English Channel is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Thankfully I had an AIS (Automatic Identification of Ships)
transponder fitted. This meant I could monitor ships and they could monitor me. The interesting thing is lots of friends and family had been monitoring my progress in real time because of the AIS on a website called www.marinetraffic.com/ais
. This shows AIS targets for the whole of the route to Gibraltar. On board, this system tells you just how close a ship is going to pass and at what time - amazing stuff. Would not now be without it......... We covered the east going lane in daylight but the west going in the dark. Ships look so much bigger and closer in the dark. The cruise liner "Independence of the Seas" passed 0.4 nm from us but she seemed almost on top of us.
Just before we crossed back into UK waters we appeared to be buzzed by a helicopter who hovered above us for ~60 secs. Very noisy, then it whizzed over to other ships and put a very bright spotlight on them. 3hrs later this was followed by a routine call by Solent Coastguard on the DSC radio where I was requested to acknowledge their DSC message. We duly did.
From then on the wind was dying and we were forced to motor all the way home - literally into Mercury Marina.
Mike overseeing our entrance to The Solent.
And now - well, it was a few hours in a hot shower, some sleep and consider what PLAN B is.
Watermark IV will get to the Med one way or another.
Thanks so much to the Crew, sorry we didn't make it. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side this time. In hind sight, a weeks delay would have been best but no worries, the Fray Bentos pies are OK until Dec 2012!!!!!!