Trip on Phoebe starting 2019-04-26 in BSAMay19
Springtime in Normandy – report by Ian Collins
Boat: Bavaria 36 ‘Phoebe’
April 26th and Don Hirst, Neil Webber, Jeff Birkin and I with bags and boots and naive optimism crushed into my car and headed off to the Yacht Haven Marina Plymouth. I was to take possession of ‘Phoebe’ and Jefff was to skipper Cleo, and we were to be joined by Nigel Alltimes, Rob Cantle and Jeff Woolmer to complete Jeff’s crew, and Kath and Rhian to complete mine.
What could be more appealing than a cruise through the Channel Islands and along the Normandy Coast in springtime? The weather forecast for the weekend had looked good from a distance but by the Wednesday it was decided that a meal in the Clovelly rather than setting forth to sail seemed the best decision. Fed and lubricated an early start was suggested but overnight it turned from frisky to forceful and we sat and waited for a break in the weather. It did, if not break, it eased in the early evening and we set off at midnight on Saturday for an overnight to Guernsey in lively conditions. It’s at a point somewhere beyond the Mewstone in Bigbury Bay that my account becomes repetitive.
Fortunately it had been agreed that during this trip Neil would act as Skipper as for the first time in what seemed that night far to long sailing I went below to complete my layering up for the night but ended up wiped out by “Mal de Mer” for the first time ever. Yes I’ve lost the odd bacon butty or pasty but nothing a cup of tea wouldn’t cure. T’was what separates a wavelet from a Tsunami. I was joined in this abject misery by Rhian; someone else who is not a regular when it comes to upsets. Those upright souls remaining were magnificent and brought us safely into St Peter Port.
An easy day on the tourist trail in the pleasant spring weather that blesses the Channel Isles and an evening meal in the wonderfully named “Pickled Pig” Saw us rested and keen to go on the Tuesday morning on passage to Carteret. This was a good day on the water, yes the wind could have been more obliging but the weather held and we were well on time to make it over the cill at the Marina. That was until passing a pot buoy by 10 metres to starboard I failed to notice a small chunk of polystyrene just below the surface to port. This was the pick-up buoy and I sure picked it up all around the prop shaft. Neil braved the elements and confirmed the problem. Jeff and Cleo returned and tried to tow us off. We were more secure than the lobsters in the pots below.
I informed the Coastguard of our position and assured them that we were in no danger, and that what we would need was a diver in the morning. They for their part seemed keen for me to be at least a Pan-Pan. I was quite happy about our safety and so turned the offer of a lifeboat for €3,500 down explaining that all we could offer and had on board in cash was €300. Around an hour later the Coastguard called us to advise that a lifeboat was on its way with two divers, and for the princely sum of €300 we would have our prop released and be towed farther inshore to moor awaiting the Carteret lifeboat who would take us in to the Marina on the tide in the morning. This was good except for the rudder which had slipped and jammed on the stop and required that we were strapped to the lifeboat for the final approach. May I just say that all of the guys were great, good humoured and helpful even down to the usual fault, language.
Our ever ready engineer, auto-pilot and generally all round super-crew Don, inspected the rudder diagnosed the problem and would have cured forthwith barring the fact that we could find no tools. Next hurdle was our reluctance to call Wednesday May 1st ‘May Day’ made no difference to the French approach to a national holiday. No one was open. Here I once again praise the people of small town and rural France. One of the lifeboat crew turned up on the pontoon and with the aid of Google translate answered our most urgent questions and took Kath and Rhian to the supermarket in the nearby town/ village of Barneville in his car and found the number we needed for the Yacht Club ablutions which were fine. That evening we dined ashore. Carteret is a pleasant, very tidy and clean little port on a drying river that deserves care when navigating. The Marina is claimed to be dredged to 2.4 m which is true of the visitors’ area but not of the rest when the tide is below the cill.
On the following day, Thursday, Don repaired the steering and when the tide permitted we were joined by Cleo, and both crews plus supercargo in the person of Claire who had joined them in Jersey invaded the “Le Cap” Hotel Restaurant for a seafood splurge.
Early the next morning we took the tide and headed North for Alderney. Once again the weather held well and we arrived early afternoon and for a time tied up together, both crews relaxing before strolling round the port of Braye before climbing the hill to the metropolis of St Annes and an evening meal at the Georgian House Hotel.
The weather on Friday morning was decidedly unpleasant. Something around 5 or 6 coming at us from the North East. We sailed out to meet this hooley in the morning. The sensation is best described as attempting a course across the surface of a large and very angry top loading washing machine. Suffice it to say we left some 15 to 20 minutes behind Cleo my reckoning being if he didn’t come back into harbour in that time scale and we could still talk to him on the radio; the enterprise was possible. Jeff claimed that the further out you got the calmer it became. Calm in this case is a relative term but he wasn't too far north of the truth. Personally I had another unpleasant trip back but this time the fault of the bug I brought with me, and once again the crew with Neil heading them up did sterling service.
I must apologise for my shortcomings on this trip. I can now however take two items from a bucket list of things to avoid. One, I have never been seriously sea sick. I have always felt so sorry for those who do but now I can truly empathise. Two, I have long been a member of the RNLI and never called for their services, but their French counterparts were great, but I don’t intend to make it a habit either side of the Channel.