Trip on Spellbinder starting 2010-08-02 in BSAAug10
Cross-Channel on Spellbinder, 2 – 6 August – report by John Hartland
Sailing from Hasler Marina, Gosport 2-6 August 2010 on Spellbinder a Phoenix Yacht Club boat.
Once on board and having loaded all our provisions we needed to fill the tank before the Fuel pontoon closed for the day. This done we made ready for sea as quickly as possible as we were planning an overnight Channel crossing to Cherbourg. The forecast was North Westerly force 4 winds which would have been ideal however we had a South Westerly wind instead and so we set off making the best course we could. We passed through the lobster pots off Bembridge in daylight and on past several ships anchored off Whitecliff Bay. The Sunset was very colourful as we sailed out across the channel. We split into four hour watches with David, Jenny & Joe taking the first. They made good progress out into the shipping lanes but shortly after starting our watch the wind dropped and we had to motor the rest of the way across. The Marina in Cherbourg was very full but we were allocated a berth by staff in a rib.
We paid our dues and purchased ‘jetons’ (2 euro) for showers at the office before walking into town to have a relaxed brunch. The sun by this time was very warm and we needed to find some shade, Jenny asked directions and we found a lovely park in which to cool down. We returned to Spellbinder for a snooze before making our way around the town for our evening meal, finally deciding on a small restaurant called La Pourc 2, Joe made such a good job conversing with the waitress he was appointed ship’s interpreter for the duration . During the day we had made the decision to have a relaxing few days rather than dash around to visit as many places as possible. So on Tuesday after shopping and finding a Cafe for Petit Dejeuner we left Cherbourg to sail to St Vaast . The winds were light with a fairly flat sea eventually we had to start the engine to complete the journey. The waters off St Vaast were extremely busy with lots of small fishing boats and lobster pots. Once in the harbour we found all visitor pontoons were taken and boats were rafted up together in places. We found a boat on the end of a pontoon to which we could raft up, deciding to hail them we discovered it was called SPELLBOUND so it was obviously a good choice. Gordon & David returned to the boat later with the news that a low was forecast with winds of 5-6 occasionally 7 for Wednesday/Thursday this was not good news.
Gordon had been talking practically non-stop about St Vaast oysters so I was surprised when he was trying to persuade us to have one of his during our meal that evening. On Wednesday we thought we would visit Ile de Tatihou on an amphibious vehicle but the heavy drizzle deterred us. Our return to Gosport needed to be planned as the harbour lock closed at 07:30 (French Time) on Thursday morning. As the weather forecast was promising lighter winds from the West on Thursday night It was decided to leave at 07:30 for Cherbourg . We sailed back to Cherbourg in a Force 5 North Westerly wind and a very lumpy sea with two reefs in. After catching a couple of hours sleep on board we went out for a light evening meal and made ready for sea, leaving the berth at 11pm. We agreed that the first and second watch should be two hours and subsequent watches three. The sea was still quite lumpy but the wind was coming from the west and so we were able to sail on a broad reach.
Near the end of the first watch I was unceremoniously tossed out of bed as I had neglected to tie one of the ropes on the ‘leecloth’, luckily I had been awake and felt myself going so had been able reduce the effect. When asked what had happened Gordon was heard to reply “the twerp fell out of bed”. As Jenny was taking my vacated “bed” I made sure the rope was attached properly.
On taking over Gordon and I took half hour stints helming, on or as near to, the course Jenny had calculated. Spellbinder’s compass light is very weak and so we had to hold a torch to see our heading, I found it easier to pick out a star to steer by, checking now and again I was still on course. There were a few shooting stars but the cloud started increasing and by the end of our watch the wind had died and it was back on with the engine.
The shipping lanes were passed through without incident although sometimes it was difficult to make out what you were seeing when they first appeared. On our way over to France we had seen a lot of red light moving east but could not determine if it was one or more ships close together, there were two red lights that were flashing and when the sky lightened towards dawn it appeared to be an oil rig with two huge towers being towed by another ship.
Overnight we had averaged a good 6.5 knots and as we approached the eastern end of the Isle of Wight the wind started picking up again quite strongly, Gordon was enjoying helming up the Solent and kept saying “this is great”, “isn’t this just wonderful sailing” just then a shower of rain came across and he suddenly said “Jenny you take over “ and disappeared down below, obviously a fair weather sailor! Jenny had been a bit apprehensive about sailing with four men but after being served breakfast in bed on the return journey thought there were some small compensations.
The entry into Gosport was very busy with hovercraft, ferries, power boats and yachts all vying for the same patch of very broken water. As we arrived in the Marina a little earlier than planned Jenny, Joe and I took it in turns to come alongside and moor up to a pontoon, this just completed a very enjoyable week’s sailing.