Whilst organising folders and files on my expedition laptop i came across this piece i wrote a month or so before i set off on my journey after a 4 month hiatus.
I’ve just returned from 3 days of fantastic sailing up and down the south coast. The reason? After a frantic search, I’ve been offered a lift across the English Channel to Northern France. The Skipper wanted to ensure i was capable and compentant enough to make the short 13-15 hour journey. He asked me to head down to Plymouth for 3 days where his 43 foot yacht is moored, so i hopped online, booked return ticket with a budget coach company (£9 each way!) and packed a few bits into a bag.
After a gruelling 11 hour coach journey that involved uncomfortable seats, no air conditioning and the strong smell of urine wafting from the loo’s as the door swung open at every twist and turn of the road, i was in Plymouth. I got to the Marina and met Mark, the skipper and owner of the boat who showed me to my cabin.
Along with the another crew member, Richard, we were talked through the safety procedures and the itinary whilst tucking into boiled eggs and toast. Then we were off. It had been a few months since i’d been sailing and it felt great to be back out on the water. Jeaneva cut through the water smoothly and, apart from adjusting the course occasionally, we all sat chatting and enjoying watching the english coastline pass by. I was occasionally given a sailing based question to answer or a length of rope to weave into not as part of my sailing test.
We would sailed between small cornish fishing villages for a look around and to grab some food to cook on the boat. We trailed mackeral lines of the back of the yacht in the hope that we may be able to catch some supper – we didn’t.
Occasionally i was left on watch while Richard checked charts below deck and Mark had a snooze. Those 2-3 hours were some of the best i have ever spent sailing. I sat at the helm watching Gannets skimming the surface of the water searching for their lunch, then swooping up high, turning sharply in the air and diving straight at the water, folding their wings in tight mere feet from the surface and disapearing below the surface with only the slightest splash. I watched throated divers bobbing below the surface and reappearing a minute or so later a fair distance away. In the distance i could see trawlers making their way further out into the channel with a large, grey cloud of seagulls in hot pursuit waiting for scraps. I’d be momentarily brought back to reality by another boat getting quite close, or the marker buoy for a lobster pot forcing me to change out course slightly to avoid the obstacle.
We moored in a bay one evening surrounded by a hundred other yachts. On either side of the bay were pubs that were only really accesible by boat. Mark decided to stay on board and had an early night so Richard and I hopped in the tender and motored to one of the two pubs. After 4 hours, several pints and a rather large bonfire we jumped back in the tender to head back to the boat. It only occured to us as we were weaving our way in and out of yachts that ours was indisinguishable from the others in the dead of night with nothing but the moonlight illuminating the bay. After bumping into a couple of yachts and nearly boarding the wrong one, we clambered back on to the boat and fell into a deep, beer induced, snooze.
Pretty soon the weekend was over. Mark and Rich left to go back to work in the evening and my coach back to Manchester wasn’t until the next morning so i was allowed to stay on the yacht overnight. I sat eating pizza and watching a movie on a rather luxurious yacht late into the night readied myself for another 11 hour coach journey.