Archive for the the English Channel Category

5 years :)

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel on September 21, 2014 by maidofmettle

Note – to give the original view from the time via Caroline’s splendid blogging I’ve added that week’s posts into the Index of posts I’ve been working on to sort my blog’s rather confusing timelines out 🙂

Technically this post – Leaving! – is from the day before, so on 21-09-09 there was a bit more of that tidying still in progress. Not much time to think about leaving the UK for an unspecified amount of time really.

2009-09-21 #03 (Custom)

It was time for a bit of a celebration that evening though. A mixture of excitement, and just plain relief to be starting something we’d been planning and then preparing for for so long. The canals were a bit of an unknown at this stage, but more appealing than Biscay in September/October. Not to say we/I didn’t second-guess that a bit at times!

2009-09-21 #20 (Custom)

We had managed to find a window of sunny, light westerly winds for heading up the English Channel towards the shortest crossing point from Dover to Calais where we would enter the canal system – we could have gone in at Rouen but making once of our first sails since the refit an overnight channel (read: motorway) crossing didn’t really appeal.

2009-09-22 #01 East Head to Littlehampton (Custom)

A quick cloudy one lest anything think it was continuous sunshine (why head south at all? 😀 )..

2009-09-23 #03 Littlehampton to Brighton (Custom)

but generally the weather was great, especially for admiring the iconic white cliffs..

2009-09-24 #01 Brighton to Eastbourne (Custom)

Some strange memories do stick out – being woken up by the boat suddenly heeling over in Eastbourne Marina in the night because we were moored near a sluice from the lock!

Looking at the nex picture, it’s slightly strange to think we had no choice about helming back then (Maid will steer herself happily at some angles to the wind, but not that one) – self steering is definitely a luxury. Mind you, when the wind’s light and it’s sunny..

2009-09-25 #02 (Custom)

I don’t actually remember much of crossing the channel from Dover – I suspect because I spent some of it getting ready to go up (and probably rather less actually up) to free something I’d got caught, and what felt like most of the rest fixing issues with the burner and pressure pump for the paraffin cooker so we could reheat lunch! (Thinking about it, the others must have got lumbered with a lot of steering on a rather less cheery day..)

2009-09-28 #02 [C&C] (Custom)

I did manage to serve lunch before we got to Calais though – and the fried supper Caroline made after we moored up still stands out as delicious.

2009-09-29 #01 Calais (Custom)

So, France! And into the canals..

(I won’t be repeating that, but I will add it to the Index of posts, as well as some more general reflections. If you can’t contain your curiosity just browsing through from the indexed posts or clicking the ‘French canals and rivers’ category on the right should do)

The Azores to England Part II

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel with tags on May 12, 2012 by maidofmettle

Day 10: Friday 12th August
The next week (at sea, but it still seems odd to write that about a Friday!) continued well, with Maid surging along with just one of the large jibs up. Having made several hundred miles north from the Azores I’d been gradually changing course over the last few days, and was now heading more or less towards England, not that I was really thinking about that yet.

I had a rather surprising encounter with another boat – especially as I was talking on the satellite phone on the time saying how unlikely it was! I’d only ever seen 4 other boats out sailing since leaving the Canaries, and always with land in sight as well, so out here I certainly didn’t expect to! But just as I was saying that a little white triangle appeared…

Richard and I had quite a chat on the VHF radio for as long as we were in range – he presumably hadn’t seen another boat for even longer since he had sailed from the east coast of the United States. We were both slightly surprised to discover that we were heading for the same place since it looked as though he was crossing in front of me almost at right-angles! So we swapped weather forecasts as well as chatting, but both continued with broadly the same plan.

I don’t know if it occurred to him to consider trying to keep company for the rest of the trip, though we did swap satellite phone numbers – it didn’t to me at the time. Even if I had thought of it close proximity to another boat while sailing long-distances single handed would seem to bring as much risk as reassurance, not to mention the fact that he was probably going to go rather faster.

I seem to have managed an entire day without any photos – or at least not any on wordpress ready to slot in. Never mind, this is late enough anyway!

Day 11: Saturday 13th August

The log (or ship’s diary) for 0130 on Saturday reads ‘dolphins! or something’ in slightly wavy handwriting. I could certainly hear something…. Dolphins seemed more likely than a whale or giant squid, and happily more likely to be benign as well.

The wind was getting a lot lighter but I tended not to increase sail during the night unless Maid was starting to roll around, and we were still making pretty good speed. I had turned eastwards from my original northerly course a few days before and definitely seemed to be getting a helping hand from the Gulf Stream.

With full sail in the day things were going very well. There was even a bit of a lull for a peaceful lunchtime, and a generally fairly good forecast.

After the strong winds of the day before, progress was slowly but certainly more relaxing.

Day 12: Sunday 14th August

The wind was fitful early Sunday morning – half five is never a good time to wonder if the wind is about to die completely – but happily the lull was only brief.

After that it was a glorious day – the wind varied a little requiring a few sail changes but the weather was beautiful. Like many tasks – when things are going well overall it’s no hardship, and a pleasure to get the boat sailing at her best.


After a couple of days sailing close to the wind we were back to having it coming from behind us again – a smoother ride but with more rolling. It may look worse than it felt – it’s certainly something you get used to.

I was having no problems with solar power for the batteries either, with plenty spare for playing music in the afternoons, though I tended to conserve it at night.

Horace was doing an impressive job of steering – this is a tricky point of sailing as the wind feels relatively light since you’re sailing away from it and a large deviation from the course can cause a nasty surprise if the wind comes the wrong side of one of the sails.

Day 13: Monday 15th August

Early the next morning I saw the first boats from the UK, though I can’t say I was exactly pleased to be worrying about keeping clear of a fishing fleet in the early hours of the morning, especially when the wind changed at one point and I found Horace had brought us surprisingly close to them!

Still, if he hadn’t I suppose the photo wouldn’t have come out this well….


Dolphins are much better than coffee for waking up after a busy night though.

Maid was doing a speed they seemed quite happy with and we kep company for quite a while.


Photos can’t really convey the excitement of seeing dolphins in the wild but the next one gives a reasonable impression of the boat sailing fast and shoving her way through the waves- though of course a video would give a better idea of the noise!


In fact, why don’t we try that?

Day 14: Tuesday 16th August

The next day had rather less excitement, unless you counted the fact that it was starting to seem like I was getting lose enough to home that tidal streams might be starting to affect us more strongly – they’re much more powerful in narrow spaces like the English Channel than the open ocean.

I don’t think that counts though, especially as I tended to wonder it when going slowly! Thinking of 3 knots as slow showed how well the trip was going though – at two weeks in the routine of regularly looking round, plotting position and occasional course and sail changes was feeling very normal.

It felt far from dull though, as we were usually making good progress, which felt good in itself as much as it did as a means towards getting home.

The evening’s sunset was rather lurid. In theory this is as delightful for sailors as shepherds’s but it ddid’t quite work out like that.

The wind was dying away in the evening, though we were making reasonable ground with a lot of sail up. However, I was expecting stronger wind in the early hours of the next morning so reduced to the normal maximum, but ended up going very slowly indeed, and then even more so when the wind died away at around 11.

It ended up seeming best to take everything down – the boat rolled a little more but at last it wasn’t making a huge racket by flapping the mainsail back and forth. It would have been a lovely peaceful nights sleep, except that knowing we were drifting the wrong way wasn’t exactly ideal.

Day 15: Wednesday 17th August
The wind did come back the next morning, but nothing like the strength I’d been concerned about. The direction was tricky though – more or less straight from where I wanted to go, and (again blaming this on the tide flowing west) I seemed to have the choice of heading for Ireland or France!

It was especially frustrating as a few days before I’d been concerned about getting pushed too far north and putting up with spray crashing over the boat and a bumpy ride to avoid it. With hindsight I’d have been much better positioned now as well as more comfortable then if I’d just gone with it.

Still, with the latest forecast it looked like the best plan for now was to head straight north while I could and then turn eastward when the wind went northerly, even if I was wishing I’d done it earlier!

Tonight’s sunset was much less colourful…

…but we were making much better progress, though it was frustrating at times when the wind pushed us slightly east. Having made my plan I was happy to stick with it though – it seemed best still and even if it hadn’t I might have been inclined to wait till morning to change it dramatically.

Day 16: Thursday 18th August

The earl hours of the morning brought a fair bit of excitement, with the AIS showing lots of boats nearby.

It took me a little while to figure out what was going on, but I eventually realised my cunning plan involved crossing the fleet of yachts competing in the Fastnet Race (from Cowes round the Fastnet Rock just off southern Ireland and back to Plymouth) at right angles. Oops.

Not that I’d have wanted to go the way they were going – the whole point of my plan was to get north while I could and have an easier sail later on, rather than heading south of the Scillies and then having to try and sail close to the wind. Not that it was likely to pose much of a problem for them, but then racing is a different matter.

It was exciting to see the islands though – I would have loved to stop there but didn’t have any detailed charts of the area, which is very rocky and not a good place to go without them.

There was a horribly frustrating calm spell in the morning making that especially irritating – it’s much easier to be patient in mid-ocean that within sight of land – partly psychological and partly for very good reasons relating to the strong tides and number of ships and boats around.

Thankfully the wind did get up again, quickly going from very light airs to a lovely breeze – facing the challenge of trying to fold a sail measuring several hundred square feet into a sensible size on deck felt a very small price to pay!

From then on the sailing was fantastic, with a great wind, smooth seas and the tide helping Maid charge past the Scillies. There was added excitement from sightseeing – from the Seven Stones lightship…

…to Land’s End and Cape Cornwall..

…and the Wolf Rock lighthouse.

After a fortnight of measuring progress on a chart it was a real thrill to actually pass things I could see, especially with the boat going so beautifully.


There were even some welcome-back fireworks at Land’s End that evening.

It could be considered slightly anti-climatic to spend that evening becalmed off Mount’s Bay, but lying just north of the shipping lanes it was a very peaceful night.

Day 17: Friday 19th August
The morning was beautiful but calm, and the forecast wasn’t promising much wind.

I rather fancied stopping somewhere quiet for a first night or two, and ended up heading to the nearest anchorage in Mullion Cove, tucked in behind Mullion Island. That is, I did after belatedly realising I was heading into the next bay north and turning round rather hastily in case there were any rocks lurking – even after a thousand miles a few hundred yards can make a lot of difference!

Although the previous day’s sailing had been among the best of the whole trip, it still felt very nice to have the anchor down – and it helped that it was a beautiful day, perfect for getting the kayak out, taking some photos, going to the beach and seeing if I could buy some fish off a couple of locals….

Of course, readers with impressive memories might recall some of that, and recognise that last photo 🙂 but then getting to this post has taken quite a while – time definitely seems to move rather differently now!

Kernow a’gas Dynnergh

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel, Walking with tags , , on September 26, 2011 by maidofmettle

Or welcome to Cornwall. Just when I thought I’d run out of tricky foreign languages to try and learn..

I did say I’d try and catch up on what I’ve been up to since I got back as well as carrying on with the story through the Azores and back to here. You can use the tags and categories to get things to appear in a more sensible order if it gets too confusing.

So, my first stop in England, sorry, Cornwall – many would say there’s definitely a difference – was Mullion Cove. It’s a little bay to the west of the Lizard, looking back across Mount’s Bay to Penzance and Mousehole, provided with a very little shelter by Mullion Island just offshore.

It was idyllic in the afternoon – I paddled ashore to the beach visible just astern of Maid..

and also said hello to some locals out for a days fishing, who very kindly provided me with a very fresh fish for dinner.

Unfortunately it didn’t stay this idyllic – the wind got up rather more than forecast and when the tide was going the opposite way to it the shelter of the island wasn’t really enough to make it all that uncomfortable. I’d been just about to enjoy a celebratory drink of honey rum & lemon juice but decided I’d better leave it for the next day in case I had to make a hasty exit.

The next morning was much less pleasant – grey and wet, and the sea still quite lumpy. I left straight after the early morning forecast with the aim of tacking around the Lizard while the tide was still favourable.

At this point, the wind promptly dropped away to nothing, so I ended up motor-sailing for an hour or so into a rather lumpy sea, in the rain..

Happily, that only lasted an hour or so – then the wind returned, I was able to turn eastwards and ride the waves rather than plunging into them, and the tide was helping to rush Maid eastwards around the point rather than trying to take her northwards into the bay.

Time for the sushi I’d made with some of the fish yesterday…

The sun even came out later, providing a lovely sail around to the Helford River on the opposite side of the peninsula, just south of Falmouth. The wind got lighter again, but with some additional sail and flat water it wasn’t a problem this time.

In fact the opposite was the case when the wind suddenly increased again just as I was approaching a lot of moored boats – cue a rapid removal as all sail as I didn’t fancy storming through them at that speed since I’d only visited the river by land before..

I did at least have verbal instructions, as there was a good anchorage just upstream from Mike & Carolyn’s Phantom Lady – I’d been planning on on stopping here since saying goodbye to them several months before in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

This is the view looking downstream from there. It’s certainly a beautiful and sheltered spot, and it was great to see them both again over the next few days.

I ended up staying a bit longer than I’d planned to see the Helford regatta, and did quite a bit of exploring round the local area in the portabote, the kayak and on foot.

The banks of the Helford are home to some lovely woodland

– and some very nice little villages.

and have inspired at least one novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchmans Creek, the bottom of which you can see below.

A lot of people seem to have been grumbling about the summer weather this year, but it was mostly pretty nice there, though some mornings were rather misty, almost like those French canals…

Definitely porridge weather..

Fortunately the evening before the regatta was beautiful, as the village stores in Helford was hosting a paella night. Didn’t I leave Spain a while ago? I think about 300 people were there, and very well catered for – below you can see just one of the three dishes…

I think this is pretty much the final fling of the village social calendar before all the second-home owners disappear for the winter – it was certainly a good party

and an excellent adventure finding my way back out of the village and through the woods to the dinghy afterwards, with a long line of us winding our way down muddy paths having forgotten to take torches..

The regatta day itself looked like it might turn out rather wet, but fortunately it cleared again by the time the tide had risen enough to allow all the races to be held in the creek in front of the pub. The one-oar paddling race and backwards rowing competitions were definite highlights.

The most gruelling event was probably a two-man effort – rowing to one place, dropping off a runner who had to go up a steep hill and back through Helford to get to another landing spot in the other direction before being rowed back to the finish.

Afterwards most people moved up to a cafe near the sailing club for refreshments and music before the fireworks display.

Mike had said the fireworks would probably be very good, and he was definitely right. It might not have been quite on the scale of some of the Portuguese displays, but for a spectacular 8 or 9 minutes it was pretty close.

The next day I went ashore to pick a few more blackberries and then set sail about an hour before low water. That meant I had the tide with me to get down to the bottom of the Helford River, and slack water and then tide with me to take me up Carrick Roads and the Truro River to an Ocean Cruising Club gathering.

I did make a bit of a spectacle of myself on arrival with a couple of aborted approaches to the pontoon before deciding I definitely needed to approach from the other direction, at which point Maid pretty much berthed herself while I moved the fenders around.

I was also decidedly late, so it was a dramatic entrance all round! It had been a very nice sail though, and all the people I knew (Liz, Mark & Chloe on Lone Rival, the boat ahead of Maid) or knew by association and occasional correspondence about pilot book revisions (Anne on Wrestler, moored outside Lone Rival) were planning on staying overnight.

Although they’d pretty much finished lunch this did have it’s advantages, as the food and drinks tables were moved down alongside Maid a few minutes after tying up.

Everyone staying for the night met up again later on for dinner with some additional guests helping themselves to Chloe’s very tasty punch.

Mum made all of these three at various times, and they’ve done a fair bit of sailing between them – Scubus (left) racing across the Atlantic with Liz and Anne, and lots more cruising since, Cornelius going all round Africa in Lone Rival, and Josh having accompanied me down to the Canaries and back.

The next day I rather remarkably managed to establish mobile contact with Si & Cat who we’d met last year in France, and sailed back down the Fal and went past St Mawes to a beautifully peaceful and sheltered anchorage at Percuil

before joining them for a trip to the famous ‘Plume of Feathers’ in Portscatho. It was quite strange to see them again on land, with both our boats having their masts up and everything, but another very good evening.

The next day I dropped down to St Mawes in the evening to catch up with Nick on Wylo II, who I’d last seen in the Canaries (and before that in Penryn not long after we’d bought the boat), and marvel at his photos of classic boats racing in Antigua this summer. He designed the boat himself, and has since sailed her around the world three or four times at least. Falmouth harbour is another crossroads similar to Horta – I’d seen one of the boats in the last photo there as well though I’d never spoken to the owners.

St Mawes itself is a very picturesque little town, still with a couple of working fishing boats though it is largely a rather genteel seaside resort now.

From the other side of the Percuil it’s a short and very scenic walk around the coast

to St Antony’s Head, which eighties kids’ TV aficionados may be excited to learn was the home of the Fraggles.

The water is beautifully clear, if a little chilly. In fact the first time I went swimming it felt like I’d imagine rolling in broken glass would be, but much nicer once you stopped, though after that it’s seemed much more pleasant.


The cliffs are also a great place for watching boats racing in the harbour, especially the traditional working boats which set a huge area of sail.

I sailed across and anchored off Falmouth for a few days (Maid is on the left). It was quite strange approaching Custom House Quay from the sea when I could really only remember it from the land – it is tucked right round the corner near the docks, almost in the shadow of the warhips. I suspect anchoring there would have been banned by now if it wasn’t such a long-standing tradition.

From there I got a rather early bus to Helston to see the Cornish Gorsedh, or ‘Gathering of the Bards’ – hence my use of Cornish in the title. This is the equivalent of the Welsh Eisteddfod, and was attended by guests from Wales and Brittany as well as the surprisingly numerous Cornish bards.

The weather was unfortunately living up to Celtic tradition, with some additions to the ceremonies required – well done for your poem in Cornish, efforts in schools or promoting Cornish culture, we’ll just tip the rainwater out of your cup; sit down here, I’ll just tip the water off it..

The music and singing was unsurprisingly very good, though it did come as something of a relief to enjoy it indoors out of the drizzle after the main ceremony had ended.

Thankfully the weather didn’t stay like that… This is Gyllngvase beach on the southern side of Falmouth after a walk around the castle.

It’s not all that cheap to stay off Falmouth even anchoring, but it was handy to have hot showers and things, and I did a lot of washing and a little shopping before sailing back to Percuil to check it would be a good place to leave the boat for a few days. It was certainly a good test of it, with near gale force winds roaring up the river. It was certainly noisy, but not really rough, and none of the four of us anchored there shifted.

I felt pretty happy things would be fine with the weather calming down as I left to go for a job interview and meet up with friends from my old office, before before meeting Mum in London and coming back down again. I did get a bit more tense on the way back to the boat, but she was still happily just where I’d left her when we got back.

It was another very misty morning the next day when we’d planned to sail to Falmouth…

We dropped the anchor off St Mawes first for lunch in the hope it would clear, but ended up going for a very slow and gentle sail with lots of practice on the foghorn (not sure it’ll help much with the harmonica though). It was quite strange as being able to see something would’ve been the only sense that really told you the boat was moving!

Still, we made it across to Falmouth, and tied up ahead of the boat I’d crossed paths with in mid-ocean on the way back from the Azores. Having chatted with Richard via VHF radio and satellite phone it was nice to finally see him at closer range than half a mile!

We had a lovely meal with Liz, Chloe and Anne, and a few days later welcomed Mark, Liz and Chloe onto Maid for an evening.

Mum and I also did some walking – both on the Roseland peninsula

along St Just creek

to the beautiful little waterside (well, at high tide anyway..) church

and around Pendennis Point at the entrance to the harbour

as well as having a look in the impressive National Maritime Museum.

When Mum went back home I went with her a few stops up the branch line to visit Penryn, where Chris & I had first bought Maid several years ago. It looked fairly similar

though most of the people who’d been there had moved on, though I did find one of our further neighbours, and further down the bank another acquaintance I’d made in the Canaries.

Back in Falmouth I met up with Si and Cat again, who’d sailed over in Planet for a quick stop

before we both sailed back over to St Mawes. Since this was the first time we’d actually seen each others’ boats under sail after meeting a couple of years ago we obviously took a few photos..

Here are Maid just leaving Falmouth…

and Planet setting out across Carrick Roads.

We met up again a few days later for lunch after I’d walked over to Portscatho – a slightly odd experience as it’s not that long after leaving the banks of the Percuil that you can see the sea on the other side of the high ground –

and then again for dinner on Maid the following day. I’d made a bit of an expedition of getting blackberries for dessert, walking up over the fields around the Percuil

to Place Creek

and along to St Anthony’s Head before taking the other path along the coast back to the dinghy via Towan Beach.

It’s not that convenient a place to keep the boat, which is something I’ve been spending a while considering, but it’s a very nice place to holiday.

In Calais

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel on September 29, 2009 by maidofmettle

We had amazing weather (albeit with little wind) on the way to Dover where we spent two days. It was really nice to have a bit of a rest and explore a bit of coastline I’ve never seen before.

chris and caroline

Chris and Caroline on approach to Dover

It was a bit weird leaving the country at last having sort of officially left nearly a week before, but here we are in Calais. The weather for the channel crossing was far better than expected seeing as the forecast had predicted very little wind, and we managed to sail most of the way.

The crossing was a little bit eventful. First off the running back-stay (bit of wire that helps support the mast at times) was pulled out a bit when the main sail went up so Pete had to be hoisted up in the bosuns chair to sort it out. Unfortunately we lost an hour or so travelling in the wrong direction back towards England during this to avoid the shipping lanes.

pete up mast

Pete up the mast

Then one of the poles that held the jib (front sail) out made a worrying sound and then bent like a banana. Luckily the Hibbert tendancy to bring more things than you would expect to be necessary proved useful on this occasion as there was a replacement ready and waiting to be used!

chris helming

Chris helming

The cooker proved to be truculent so lunch was a little later than planned but the spag bol tasted really good a few miles outside of Calais (thanks Mike and Lisa for our dinner!)

There are lots of ships coming in and out of Calais so a little boat like ours isn’t exactly considered important in the grand scheme. We were supposed to avoid polluting the airwaves with unimportant chatter on the VHF so waited patiently for the traffic light system to let us in. The traffic lights seem only to work for the big ferries so we waited and waited and then finally decided it was best to follow one of the bigger boats in or we would be waiting all night. Once through the first set of lights we waited and waited and waited for the next set to allow us entry into the inner harbour…the lights only went red or a combination of green and white neither of which were very useful for us. Again, not wanting to wait for the next 24hrs for nothing to happen, we decided to go for it when it was showing “pass if you have permission”. So far no one has told us that we didn’t have implied permission so i think we’re ok and anyway we are politely flying the french flag so that should pacify them…

caroline putting up flag

Caroline flying the French courtesy flag

Hoping to spend today exploring the older part of Calais.

We’ve left!

Posted in Sailing, the English Channel on September 22, 2009 by maidofmettle

GPS N50º48.4, W000 º32.6

Left Chichester on Monday evening and motored to East Head for the night. It was pretty calm until sometime in the early morning when we started rolling about a bit because the tide had changed.

After trying to stow things in a reasonable order, today we had a fairly bumpy sail to Littlehampton and Chris and I were reminded of the fact we haven’t been sailing for a few years through not feeling ‘quite right’ for a few hours until we entered port. The harbour is fortunately very calm at the moment. Heading East tomorrow as long as forecast remains good.


Posted in the English Channel with tags on September 20, 2009 by maidofmettle

After a number of false starts we’re looking more and more ready to go.  The wind is looking favourable from tomorrow so with luck (and a bit more tidying) we’ll be leaving Chichester tomorrow or Tuesday and heading towards Brighton and then on to the shortest bit of the channel to Calais.

Most of the stowing is finished but there are the innevitable little jobs to do such as photocopying passports, picking up last minute items and putting the last bits and pieces away.