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Aurai's Summer Cruise and Classic Regatta 2009 Part 3

Aurai motoring
Click on image for more pictures - photo by Charles Hessey

The delights of Paimpol were slightly offset by Aurai beginning to show signs of "stress” (yacht, skipper and crew) the Heads were playing up, the Taylor’s Cooker was playing up, everything down below had got wet and needed to be rinsed and dried and the X-channel bit had revealed we possibly had more than one Skipper on board.  With lots of lovely yachts in the Regatta, it was not difficult for me to take a day off with Aurai and the crew to do around the Isle de Brehat on another boat, in this case Lutine was in need of fresh crew.

I really enjoyed my day, not least as I caught up with chores and also with only three or four of us left in port we all got loads of attention and visitors.  Many of whom were knowledgeable and very interested in the history of our boats.  While I also bonded with the crew of "Clarionet" two Fastnet Class wins to her credit.  They were waiting for engine spares and I learned that the crew were not quite as old as their boat but had been together as a crew for over 20 years!  My day included touching up some varnish scuffs and kept Aurai looking her best.  The water below, was from not realising how much had got in the bilge, then heeling a lot and this sloshing seawater into under bunk lockers.  Once we get water over our decks Aurai does seem to let a lot in, whereas she is pretty dry at rest.  One more Party in Paimpol with another great band and two of my crew asked to sail on Lutine again and I assured the 3rd that he could go as well, I would be OK.

Paimpol to Guernsey, was meant to be  a race and I was all set to join in on my own – a forecast of F3/4 west was not going to trouble me on a 40 Nm trip.  In the event the race was aborted, through a complete lack of wind and we all motored off to Guernsey, some breeze got up and I did sail for a couple of hours and those with light spinnakers enjoyed a reasonable push.  I made Guernsey OK, fendering and mooring on my own from lessons learned from our very own Commodore who I have seen is very adept at Chatham Lock.  I just had an early night and was then in demand as a non-hung-over crew or deckhand and accepted an invite on "Polly Agatha” whose crew were decidedly unwell from their night on the town. Polly is a new, but traditional build Pilot Cutter, built in Falmouth (Gweek).  Skipper and helm, Kim, is brilliant and I learned a lot from him as we sailed a race around Sark and though we made good time, we were not in the honours, I really enjoyed myself with a great crew.  Final party was in the castle, us piped in and lots of awards and a sea shanty band.  Then home.

I had now persuaded my friend Graham to meet me in Cherbourg and I only had the Alderney Race to contend with, as far as I could make out the conditions were ideal, I followed the Almanac timings to the letter and enjoyed a roller coaster ride.  At some points it was very bouncy indeed, but with 9+ knots Speed Over Ground (and even 10+) it was a rapid ride and I made Cherbourg on schedule, not much wind once evening arrived and I anchored in the outer harbour, waking up on the Monday 13th July or day before Bastille Day.  Graham was due in at lunchtime and I was flattered by a Danish sailor who rowed over to say how lovely Aurai was and if we wished we could tie up alongside his boat, later that day, to watch the fireworks and concert.  He later contacted me to refer me to plan B as he had been chased away by French Fishermen from his chosen freebie spot.

Graham and I met and planned to set sail that evening to work the tide north up the French coast. We felt he 80+Nm trip across the bay was too much and decided to head down to Arromanche, the D-Day harbour which offers a simple sheltered anchorage and that worked really well, except we never caught any fish. Then, after a few hours sleep we sailed across to Dieppe, arriving late at night and totally missing a huge expanse of empty visitor pontoon to start with. Off again early next day (after fuel top-up) we now headed to Boulogne Sur Mer. To be honest, nearly all this was motor sailing, either very light winds or none to make progress with, but tidal assistance kept us going at 5 knots with ease. We arrived at Boulogne for late afternoon which is a rarity for me, and actually got guided in and registered on arrival. Each of Cherbourg, Dieppe and Boulogne are big ship ports adjusted to yacht marinas and worked really well and we liked the bars and shops being so close. Facilities 7/10 mostly but always clean and with plenty of hot water.

Now to cross the channel. Wind was promised as west or SW, we experienced NE. More motor sail up wind and up tide to Calais, but now realising the crossing itself ought to be a broad reach. It was, heading of 310 degrees to satisfy TSS needs and 330 degrees track, gentle 6.5 Beam reach and N Foreland cleared on the rising tide. Though it had been a long day, the final rapid progress, suggested we press for home, bypassing Ramsgate and the Margate Sands Anchorage. We had warnings of Strong Winds and Thunderstorms and my wife even texted me to say Central London had had a shocker.

Which builds nicely for the finale and the welcome home we got from the Thames Estuary. We saw the storm coming, we were Ok in the first bit, even keeping our sails up, what was a bit of heavy rain when you are so close to home. Then it went ominously still and quiet, I had just said to Graham that we might have to hang on as wind would come from any direction with a strong gust, when my next words were a screamed "hang-on” the wind arrived gusting from zero to 40+ knots in a second and good old Aurai knocked completely flat, filling the cockpit with water before springing upright, as if nothing had happened. Graham and I then had a challenging 90 minutes in the storm of all thunder storms as far as we were concerned. Lashing rain, shrieking wind, and constant lightening, so no chance of seeing anything. We had just entered the Prince’s Channel but headed back to sea, until things quietened down and then we motored all the way home, having had just enough sailing for now. We moored at HNYC and promptly went to bed. Later we got Graham ashore [Friday 17th] (Thank-you Rod) and I stayed aboard for the w/e, to delouse Aurai after her trip of 700 + miles. Brilliant boat, brilliant trip.

Cheers All


Date Published 28th Jul 2009