Trip on Gull starting 2019-05-17 in BSAJune19

Hamble to Normandy, May 17 – 24 – report by Chris Watts

Skipper: Chris Watts. Crew: Ginny Watts, Gordon Ogden, John Hartland, Sue Fowle and Ewart Hutton.

Boat: Beneteau Oceanis 423 ‘Gull’.

Friday 17thThe day didn’t start very auspiciously as Gordon phoned to say he was unwell and wouldn’t be coming down, and then we had a puncture. Fortunately the RAC were there in 20 minutes and changed the tyre. We got to Hamble Point marinaMap at 1415 and had lunch with the others, John Hartland, Sue Fowle and Ewart Hutton. Got on board boat at 1515. Checked inventory etc and waited for the handover which didn’t materialise till 1900 as they had 12 boats going out, though they did appear with a bottle of wine at 1800 to apologise about the wait. As it was cold and raining we decided to go to bar for a quick drink and then back onboard to eat the excellent pasta that Sue had cooked for the Channel crossing we had hoped to do that night.Saturday 18thWe woke to grey skies and little wind and another setback. Ginny was not well and decided to go home, so she caught the 0915 train back to Nailsea. On the up side was a call from Gordon to say he felt a lot better and would join us. So it was agreed we would head for Weymouth and pick him up there. We set sail, well motor, at 0935. Not far off the entrance we got an alternator warning light and buzzer, this was intermittent, and eventually it was consistently on. We phoned Hamble Point Charterers, who advised us to phone Sea Start. Sea Start asked us to moor behind Calshot SpitMap on some buoys which were there and wait for the engineer. The engineer arrived about 15 mins later and thoroughly checked the circuits and was happy that the batteries were being charged, but couldn’t work out why the amp meter was showing constant discharge. He tightened some very loose wiring, which later transpired to be the electric winch wiring, and hopefully the fault would be cured. We set off again after an hour only for the problem to return, so back to the marina. The charter company’s Andy came on board and disconnected the buzzer! We set off again at 1315. No way we could make Weymouth now, so Poole was agreed on instead. We motored out to the Western Solent and put the sails up briefly before being headed and furling them again. Out through the Needles and over to Poole. Moored in Poole MarinaMap at 1800, where Gordon joined us. After wandering around looking for a suitable place to eat, our usual place seems to have closed down, we opted for The Oriole on The Quay for pizza, pasta and fish and chips, all very good.

Sunday 19thEwart, John and Chris were up at 0200 and slipped at 0225. Calm still misty morning with full moon, but broken cloud. Ewart was in charge of all the navigation for this week after his successful day skipper course, he had to contend with Spring tides so a lot of brain work was needed. We motored out, departing no. 1 bar buoy at 0315. A fairly uneventful trip followed. On the first watch Ewart and Chris saw no boats, we tried the auto helm, but this caused the boat to yaw through 30 degrees either way constantly, which put tremendous pressure on the rudder, so we helmed all the way. On the 2nd watch Gordon, John and Sue only saw 2 boats, one a fully rigged ketch with flying jibs. Ewart and I on the next watch through the east going shipping lane saw 2 boats, one was the fast ferry from Portsmouth. The visibility was about 3 miles, the AIS receiver was the screen of the vhf set, so rather small, but was sufficient to make an assessment of the situations evolving. Gull has a radar reflector, but no AIS transmitter. As we approached the French coast, though not in sight of it, visibility still only about 3 miles a racing pigeon decided to hitch a lift. La Pierre Noire abeam at 1325, as we entered the Outer Rade the pigeon decided that it could now see land so left us, it might have also been because of a close encounter with a fender wielded by Gordon. We were tied up on Q pontoon Cherbourg MarinaMap at 1455. We did try to get on the very short finger pontoons, but didn’t like it as we overhung a long way. We then spotted an alongside berth so went for that. Tea and Frances’s lovely cake were followed by a bit of sleep. Showers were excellent, but the same cannot be said about the Marina Bistro, where we all had very average meals, but at least we didn’t have to go very far looking for somewhere to eat on a Sunday night.

Ewart celebrating his first Channel crossing.

Monday 20thA late start saw us wander into Cherbourg at about 0900 for coffee and croissants. We all then went to Carrefour to get wine and some food. Back on board by 1100. After lunch we moved the boat to the fuelling berth and refuelled with 66 litres. Before fuelling the fuel gauge was showing full, even though the tank was over half empty. It stayed showing full the whole time. In evening we went to La Marina, a restaurant in town, for supper where we all had excellent food.

Tuesday 21stWe were up at 0630, John went for croissant and baguettes. Cast off at 0750 and motored out to the outer Rade where we hoisted the sails. Tide very strong going easterly. Wind really not strong enough to sail so motored, 11 knots over the ground at times. Sunny, but what wind there was cool. Good visibility, tied up on B pontoon at St VaastMap at 1210. Lunch, then a bit of a sleep for some while others went on a walk about. After drink and nibbles we went ashore for supper, our first choice was full so we walked back to near the lock gates where we went to the Criée du Tomahawk, a seafood restaurant. An excellent choice. Chris had an assiette de Fruits de Mer, while the others had Raie or Dorade, Sue had crab.

Wandered round to the old church then back to boat and just before the gates opened the proprietor of the restaurant came rushing across with Ewart’s glasses which he had left.Wednesday 22ndWe were up early so we could get coffee and croissants at a cafe before buying ticket to go to Ile de Tatihou. Went across on the 1000 amphibian vehicle which only took 5 mins as tide was coming in. Wandered round island for a couple of hours. Lovely peaceful place with a wonderful Vauban tour to

climb up for great views

across the surrounding bay.

The gardens of the old isolation hospital were interesting. Caught 1200 ferry back and had lunch.

We departed at 1350BST. No wind again today and very sunny.

Had an excellent crossing with good visibility more ships than on the outward journey. Saw the Isle of Wight from about 40 miles away. Came in the eastern end entering the Solent about 0130, before that we passed through the Nab AnchorageMap with several boats at anchor with their deck lights ablaze. We passed a survey vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, then looked behind to see this enormous block of flats coming towards us with a red light at the mast head. As it got much nearer we could see that it was in fact 3 lights, so constrained by her draft. As we dropped anchor in Osborne BayMap at 0300 it was passed by another block of flats going the other way, the 2 boats crossing just by us. We were slightly nervous about anchoring as the chain was very badly corroded in places. The 87 miles from St Vaast had taken just over 13 hours.Thursday 23rdAll up by 0830. Major disaster, we are down to our last tea bag. Breakfast, then up anchor at 10.15, wind NE 3 so sailed all morning in eastern Solent, Gordon had 2 Wootton ferries, a hovercraft, a trip boat and a Wight Link cat passing him in the Swashway leading to Portsmouth.

We tacked into the main channel and crossed over to sail through submarine barrier. It was here that it was very evident that the chart plotter was way out of date as it showed us with 1 metre of water when we were in fact in the main channel, the Poole chart was last updated in 2008. We headed back into the Solent via the passage inshore of No Man’s Land Fort on a broad reach. We decided to head for Yarmouth for the night. As we approached N Sturbridge a rib came up to us from the survey vessel and shooed us away as they were going to detonate some ordnance. At this point the wind decided to die so we motored gently away. At 1400 we felt a bang on the boat which must been the explosion. We saw no plume of water coming up. What did come up was the wind, from the SW, F4-5, enough of a blow to put in a reef. So we were now tacking towards the Western Solent. Tide was in our favour but by East Lepe it was decided that it would take too long to get to Yarmouth so we turned back towards Cowes. Moored in Cowes Yacht HavenMap, tea bags quickly bought and Frances’s cake gratefully consumed. Supper was in The Anchor immediately outside the gates. Large portions, but good pub grub.Friday 24thWe left at 0845 and motored straight back to the HambleMap. Refuelled. It only took 53 litres to fill right up this time, for slightly more hours engine use. On berth by 1010 and cleaned ship. The office assured me that the boat had been full when we left, and showed me the receipt from previous charterers. So where did the 13 litres disappear to. They also seemed unconcerned with all the defects (Autohelm. Amp-meter. Log. Alternator warning. Fuel gauge. Anchor chain. Out of date charts and chart plotter), and the inconvenience that these caused to us.

We travelled 264 miles over the ground, the log read 125 miles. Motoring for 42 hours.

(Secretary’s note: Following the charter, Hamble Point found a small surface scratch below the anchor with an estimated repair cost of £80. This was waived as compensation for the inconvenience noted in Chris’s report.)

Hamble Point marina  50.8518,-1.3124
Calshot Spit  50.8211,-1.3134
Poole Marina  50.7118,-1.9848
Cherbourg Marina  49.6464,-1.6219
St Vaast  49.5878,-1.2637
Nab Tower  50.6674,-0.9524
Osborne Bay  50.7577,-1.251
Cowes Yacht Haven  50.7614,-1.2961