My little adventure has well and truly begun. As I sit here in Ramsgate with a northerly wind gusting to force 7, I contemplate the first section of my journey. I have now covered over 350 nautical miles ( 1 nm is about 1800m ), and the south coast of England is now behind me.
I finally departed Exmouth on the 27th of April at 01.30 a.m.heading for Portland famed for its tidal race off the Bill, I timed my arrival there so the race would be slight and daylight, even so I was met by metre high sharp and vertical waves coming from all directions, an exciting 15 minutes before I came into clear water and sailed down into Portland harbour and dropped my anchor after 11hrs under way. Sleep was required as the last week of preperation had taken its toll, ( packing ones boat with everything needed for such a trip is a logistics nightmare, then putting the other part of my life into a shipping container without any vital items being forgotten, or excess gear being carried ).
I continued the next day on around to Studland, just outside Poole Harbour, a good sail, with maybe a smidgen too much sail up as I was hitting 9 knts downwind, which is exhilarating in a 20ft well loaded boat, I sat on one of there visitor moorings for a couple of nights settling into the boat routine again, and realizing what I was attempting. Foolishly or Boldly I decided to avoid the busy Solent and sail around the outside of the Isle of wight. Those who know the area, the south side is fairly exposed with no bolt holes or escape routes, a case of sail to the other side or return to start. I wanted to get the feeling of exposure which I will have to face over the coming months, and I sailed of with a couple of butterflies in the wellies. Two thirds of the away around after watching a squall approach, I put a couple of reefs in the main and part reefed my genoa when it hit. 35knts said my windex as the boat heeled over and water poured into the cockpit, my reactions from dinghy sailing sent me for the centreboard, my safety harness didn’t agree. Ok I thought, will have to see what the boat does on her own, and she did wonderfully and headed up into the wind and came onto an even keel, Sinbad the ships cat was swimming as was the waterproof speaker, which has since never worked. The cockpit self bailers worked a treat and within minutes the boat was dry ish and on we sailed, towards Hayling Island feeling a bit jaded but very happy all had survived the first ‘knock down’, just had to fight the tide to get into the marina at 19.30 after 12 hours at the helm. I decided to skip the evening ration pack and eat out and have some more iron rations by way of Guiness.
After a couple of quiet days exploring the estuary, with the hawk 20 having a drafty of 30cm with centreboard up we can go where other boats don’t dare, dry out at low tide and enjoy the tranquility of marshes and the wildlife they hold. On to Shoreham for the next stop, where I sat on the Sussex Yachtclub visitor pontoon, which dried at low tide and left me hanging of the edge, surrounded by flotsam and jetsom of the smelly kind, so I didn’t stay long and then headed around to Eastbourne and Soverign marina. It was the first time we have gone through lock gates, pinned in by several smelly fishing boats, ( a different smell than my wellies anyway ) and in we went, A big and pricey marina surrounded by expensive flats, I am sure I was the novelty boat in there, and spied several nosey critters with there binoculars on me.. You get what you look for!! Not a home for me so on into Dover, hmmm big boats coming and going, I used my radar transponder for added visibility and kept in shallower waters playing dodge the lobster pots whilst feeling tired from a long overnight sail so as to catch the tide right, though having to wait outside the harbour for an hour in a racing tide diminished my fuel supplies and was a noisy end to the morning. Not the nicest of towns these days so I hopped around to Ramsgate and had a foggy trip, not my wisest of days bur I was able to put into all I had learnt at Cornish cruising, and stayed on the contours, then hopped from bouy to bouy using my Garmin 78s handheld gps, now that makes life easier with visibility down to 20m at times, exposed sand bars and the Harbour Break water to hit, I tried to be cautious, the 4knt tide made the last approach exciting, but alls well that ends well.
With gusty conditions and an unforgiving swell, it is time for a bit of maintenace, repaired the main halyard and adjusted the centreboard uphaul, today is time to look at the extra somar panels and do a few modifications to my palm rescue bouyancy aid, another pocket to add and adjust the safety line attachment point. I have now fixed my harness to the boat as it is a double hooked system which is now larks footed onto my strong point I can clip on and off when I feel it is needed, so far very little as I choose the days I sail and take my time. On the idea of time and reaching Northern Norway, well, I don’t reckon it will be this year! I may just slip up into the Baltic and see where I get to and have a nice early start next year, if arctic joy and I are still speaking, of if Sinbad hasn’t set me adrift on my paddle board..