Our Yachtmaster student experiences the perils of mixing partying with sailing during her first offshore passage.
Cowes to Aldeney
I quickly learnt a fundamental lesson of long offshore passages – get an early night the night before. Hence the party I went to the night before our six-day offshore passage was probably not the most sensible idea and, as I was about to find out later in the day, the combination of alcohol and a lack of sleep made for a truly uncomfortable journey.
We were due to leave Cowes promptly at 0900 on our Beneteau 47.7 Oceanis but due to a damaged batten, broken radar and the need to fill the 600litre water tanks we were delayed until midday.
All of us had previously been assigned roles so were well aware of our responsibilities for the first passage from Cowes to Alderney. Steve, the skipper, had split us into two watches. Sam and I as navigators spent some time the previous day doing pilotage plans and the channel passage plan. The route from Cowes to the Needles was pretty straightforward, basically a dot-to-dot course between the buoys. After, as we left the land behind, it became more tricky as we headed south to the Channel Islands.
Having not been the only one to indulge in a spot of Saturday night partying, we all felt pretty tired so, at the end of every three-hour watch, most of us headed below deck for a quick nap. Fortunately, the yacht was huge in size compared to the X332s that we’ve been used to sailing in previous weeks. The fore cabin Sam and shared even had en suite!
The passage became particularly interesting when we crossed the shipping lanes and had to keep a close lookout for tankers passing in front of us. It was really difficult to judge the distance and speed and whether or not we were on a collision course.
Although the weather was great with a Force 4-5 with clear skies, it turned pretty cold by the evening. Sam was the only one of the crew who suffered with seasickness, although there were times when we all felt a little green. In fact dinner, chilli con carne, was eaten quite hesitantly by most of us and took me over half an hour to eat without feeling queasy.
Great to watch the stars at night but not so enjoyable being woken up in the middle of the night to do a three-hour watch in the cold. I was so tired at the end of my watch at 0100 that I managed to miss all the steps heading down into the cabin below and landed in a heap on the floor next to Andy at the nav table. Thankfully no broken bones, probably due to the fact that I had five layers of clothes on!
Arrived in Alderney at 3am and unfortunately all the mooring buoys were taken so we had to drop anchor. This would have been perfect as we were all looking forward to sleeping, but it meant that we had to do hourly anchor watches. I was totally disorientated being woken at 0400 again and having to get back into my damp foulies to sit in the cold cockpit in almost pitch black. Tim was on watch with me and we amused ourselves by flashing torch messages to our sister boat, and talking rubbish just to keep awake.
Had only been back in bed for two hours when I was awoken by the guys lifting anchor and moving the boat to a freed buoy. No peace for the wicked! Needless to say we were all pretty exhausted in the morning.
Alderney to St Peter Port, Guernsey
We headed into Braye for a cooked breakfast and to stock up on more provisions; It’s amazing how much food seven crew can get through in a day. We then cleaned the boat and handed over the navigator roles to Rob and Howard.
Before leaving Andy gave us feedback on the cross channel passage and on our individual roles. Unfortunately due to the fact that Sam and I were tired and sea sick, Andy said the navigation suffered and we needed to work on gaining our sea legs and applying more attention to our chartwork. We also received a bit of a telling off for partying the night before. I think this first passage was a wake up call for all of us, we all know that we’ve got a lot to do this week and a tired crew undoubtedly leads to frayed tempers.
As soon as we left harbour we were attacked by a tides for a few hours and our relatively short 25mile trip to Guernsey seemed to magically lengthen in time. En-route, Andy ran through the drill for an emergency evacuation and tested us on the procedure when we least expected it. Each of us were responsible for gathering a different piece of lifesaving equipment, my job was filling the grab bag – got top marks for bringing the chocolate biscuits!
Morale had been quite low during the past two days as everyone was tired and a bit fed up with sitting for hours in damp foulies on a cold deck. To keep us all busy we took it in turns to helm and attempted to sail as close to the wind as we could to avoid being swept away by the tide.
We arrived in Guernsey at 2100, spent ages on deck peeling potatoes(see photo above)in anticipation of bangers and mash for dinner and then we found out to our horror that the oven had broken. So, it was a quick trip ashore for takeaway pizzas and then early to bed.