Saturday, April 30, 2011

UK - France - Passage Day 4

Weather: Overcast, light drizzle, thunder and lightning overnight (luckily from a distance, no closer than a mile); still not shorts
Sailing conditions: Still mostly downwind, currently on a beam reach, mixed sailing mostly with the screacher.

General Comments: More Dolphins to play! Just after I reported not many boats around we noticed a fishing vessel actively trawling
that we would need to avoid. Just as we were trying to understand just how far behind it was safe to pass, it stopped in its tracks.
At first we were unsure why, but we soon decided that it was letting us pass ahead of it. This proved a difficult gift, as the
trawler was still moving, just very slowly, and to pass ahead of it, we still needed to shift to more downwind sailing, blanketing
our foresail, and making our progress slower, as all the time it still edged forwards - collision course. We all came very close,
less than a boat length, and we had to look up at his bow. All the time we tried to call the fishing boat on the radio to confirm
his intention, but without any luck. They didn't come out and swear at us, and after we'd passed they set off again, so I hope we
understood him correctly (otherwise there is a French trawler out there swearing about American sailors).

[Kyle] At about noon yesterday, against a very strong current, we made a very slow pass about 3 miles off Lands End and the Lizard.
It was kind-a cool to see it from sea since Maryanne and I had visited it from land a couple of weeks before we set off cruising in
2008. When we saw it from land it was in March, on a very windy day, and we clearly remember thinking it was not a nice place to be.
The conditions were much better this time and visibility was such that it appeared as a grey silhouette on a gray background - but
still I could recognize it and it was cool to be back, it really does look like a lizard from sea!

At the midnight watch change Maryanne was experiencing a frustrating lull caused by an approaching storm and had clearly had it with
going back and forth on deck to change sails, once she was asleep after a couple of heavy downpours and a lightening show, the wind
came back up again and we were able to start heading in the right direction again. All was well until the morning rig check (we do
two a day during a passage) revealed a line to be trailing in the water; it turned out one of the screacher sheets had fallen in the
water and had now made a hitch (knot) around the rudder. The line could not be pulled up from either direction; eventually the only
solution was to climb down to the rudder and free it from underwater. I did what I could by timing the waves and using a boat hook
(actually 2, we lost one overboard!!!), but eventually I had no choice but to climb to the bottom step and have a wave soak my best
warm socks.

We have just crossed over to the French side of the channel and are passing through the shipping channel (no ships so far).

Food: Salad for Lunch and a seafood soup/stew concoction for Dinner with bread fresh from the oven (no, I didn't make it, just
purchased those half baked ones - so easy).

Progress: Yesterday we made 99.65nm, So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 327.37nm, and have 284nm (routed
line) to go.

Friday, April 29, 2011

UK - France - Passage Day 3

Weather: Not a cloud in the sky for the last 24 hours! Winds are slowly increasing, but it's still and easy-on-the-bones passage.
The temperature is warming, but we are still wrapped up well against the temperature and wind. We are expecting the wind to continue
to increase and possibly a thunderstorm or two later. The seas remain very flat

Sailing conditions: We continue to find ourselves sailing downwind, and when the wind hasn't been too shifty, we've used the
screacher (our light wind forward sail) and often been wing-on-wing. You can see from our progress though it has been a relatively
slow sail, due to the really light winds.

General Comments: Kyle was concerned about our low battery and ran the engine for an hour overnight, but otherwise it's been
straightforward sailing. The Bristol Chanel is a cut running to the river Severn, that divides Wales and Cornwall, and we are
crossing at its widest point (over 100miles). As soon as we entered we were greeted by a small pod of dolphins; they kept falling
back and racing again to catch up with us (we were obviously too slow for them to have too much fun, so they made us appear faster).
Dolphins so obviously alter course to come and play, they are magical, and it beats a day in the office any time. Kyle went forward
to see them at their best, while I steered and squealed with delight and applauded each time I saw them approach

We've seen very little traffic, but every so often there is a container ship on the horizon, we even saw a tall ship in full sail
off in the distance. The radio is a different matter, we can hear calls from multiple coast guard stations and yesterday was a busy
day with 3 separate life boat calls during just one of my watches, including one ship that reported itself sinking and then lost
radio contact (hopefully that is just due to a lost battery and nothing more serious!). Being on watch in such mild and uneventful
conditions leaves plenty of time to do other things. I've been finally catching up with a book about travelling the French canals by
a couple that have gone before us (thanks to cirrus cat), and repeating my French lessons all while keeping a good eye on the empty
sea. Yesterday I was treated to several hours to a coast guard (or military) exercise between a small ship and a helicopter for
hours as they drifted along practicing something as I sailed at a snails pace in the same direction.

[Kyle]Our non-stop passage to France is deceptively long, looking on the map we can see that we're never very far from land, but in
reality on this passage (except for only a couple of glimpses through the summer haze Ð the tip of Anglesey and St David's head) we
haven't seen land at all after leaving the Ribble. This gives the feel of a much longer ocean passage. The distance we'll be
travelling is equivalent (approximately) from Norfolk to Boston on the East coast of the USA. It seems like it should be shorter
since France is "next door" to England after all, but I guess we didn't plan our passage between the shortest distance between them
(Dover - Calais).

Food: Nothing fancy - Fajitas last night, and leftovers (Breakfast burritos) this morning

Progress: Yesterday we made 74.57nm (yikes, the wind is light!), So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 226.44nm,
and have 383nm (routed line) to go. If you've been following on each day, you will have noticed that the numbers don't seem to add
up, this is because we only measure distance through the water and sometimes the tides work with us and against us, also we end up
not travelling exactly on the route we've planned, so a few extra miles are clocked up with that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

UK - France - Passage Day 2

Weather: Clear skys and OK (cold at night)

Sailing conditions: Still more downwind sailing, but wind is now very light, so after a good push yesterday morning, we needed to
motor in the afternoon, and are now sailing along about a slow amble. The sea has been almost mirror calm at times - certainly not
something we've ever experienced here before!

General Comments: Kyle spotted a dolphin this morning! (It didn't want to play, but just got on with its own life). We are so
glad the weather is cleared up (the sun shine helps) but we are struggling with the tides which of course are half the time against
us. Maryanne had one short bout of seasickness Wednesday morning, but Kyle has been fine, the weather is really too mild to be an
issue. I think we are also settling into our watch schedule, especially important for Kyle who only landed from the USA the day we
set off!

Progress: Yesterday (Wednesday) we made 102.53nm, So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 138.88nm, and have 480nm
(routed line) to go.

Food: Last night we had an Indian (ready meal / package); we were supposed to have it the previous night before heading off (always
good to have spicy food to ward off the seasickness... Oops), but I dropped a box of eggs so we had scrambled eggs on toast
instead... Otherwise we've been doing lots of snacking thanks to Dave's graze (a food supply package from a colleague at work) and a
bag of other goodies; we're unlikely to lose weight on the trip.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UK - France - Passage Day 1

General Comments: We left Preston Marina as planned, but unusually favorable winds gave us a problem, it was keeping the water out
of the river, so it wasn't exactly a fast get away while we hung out in the lock! We eventually edged our way out of the shallow
water and found ourselves out to sea before dark.

Weather: Describe weather cool and overcast. Despite summer arriving in the UK, the nights are very cold and we are very grateful
to our enclosure, foul weather gear and hand warmers

Sailing conditions: We've been sailing down wind with the main and screacher until the wind was too much for the screacher - so now
just with the main. With the good winds, we've had a much calmer Irish sea, even now where we are wind against tide, it isn't too
bad (1m high waves)

Progress: Yesterday we made 63.35nm, So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 63.35nm, and have 568nm (routed line)
to go.