And We’re Off!

Sunday July 12

I stayed overnight at the anchorage at Dandy Hole and then brought Moon Shadow up to the Mayflower marina to meet with the two guys that were going to come across the Bay of Biscay with me. My friends Pete and Karen also came down from Exeter to see me off, which was nice.

The plan was to motor round to Cawsand Bay and anchor overnight in order to get an early start in the morning for the trip to Falmouth. I’d decided to make the stop as the predicted wind was more westerly than forecast for the Monday but getting more northerly on Tuesday and there didn’t seem much point in beating into wind for a day and a night when Falmouth was on the way anyway.

As it turned out, the stop at Falmouth was to be longer than expected…

Monday July 13

We weighed anchor around 06.30 and motored out of the anchorage in zero wind and a flat sea. By mid-morning though the wind had got up and we had a cracking sail down to Falmouth.

Then we tried to furl the genoa (the big sail at the front for you non-boaty types) and the furling system had jammed. Looking up the mast with the binoculars I could see a halyard would around the top of the furler but we were unable to get it unwound. My crewman Paul and I then rolled the sail manually which was not the easiest thing in the world to do.

We arrived in Falmouth late in the afternoon and picked up one of the visitor buoys for the night just as it started to rain. My mate Phil who had left about the same time arrived a couple of hours later. He’d had a pretty miserable trip as he couldn’t get his self steering to work and had helmed all day single handed and hadn’t had anything to eat or drink.

Tuesday 14th July

I needed to replace the jack stays (the straps that run along the deck that you clip a safety line to if you have to go on deck whilst at sea) as the ones fitted when I bought her were simply a bit of old rope and not really up to the job. I found a rigger in Falmouth that could do the job for me and they’d be ready tomorrow. I walked to the riggers with Paul and on the walk back he voiced his misgivings about the trip. I said that if he was concerned and didn’t want to continue then he didn’t have to stay. He accepted and once back at the boat he collected his things and I ran him ashore. To be perfectly frank, I was rather relieved as I felt our personalities simply didn’t gel and the the thought of a five day passage with an “atmoshpere” didn’t fill me with joy.

Once he was gone I chatted with Pavel and explained that we would no longer be able to do the direct Biscay trip with just the two of us. Of course it is possible and plenty of people have done so but for one thing this was to be my first offshore trip and, in addition, Pavel was a relatively novice sailor. Because of these two factors I said I’d made the decision to revert to my original idea of doing the French coastal route. Pavel was happy to carry on on that basis.

Wednesday 15th July

We tried to sort out the genoa but just couldn’t see how the halyard was tangled. There was nothing for it but to go up the mast. Once up there I could see that the top cap of the furler was missing which had allowed the foil to be prized off the forestay – collecting the genoa and spinnaker halyards in the process! I had to cut away the spinnaker halyard but as it needed replacing anyway I wasn’t too bothered. Unfortunately I didn’t tie a stopper in the cut end before letting go and the whole thing dropped down through the mast. I’d have to re-mouse it for the new halyard which is a tricky job.

‘ere, there’s a bit missing…

With Phil’s help we managed to track down a new section of the foil at another rigger in Falmouth Riggers-UK who were the epitome of helpfulness and I’m so grateful for their assistance. If you are ever in Falmouth and need a rigger look them up and ask to speak to Ben or Jake – tell them I sent you!

The next couple of days involved several trips to the top of the mast. Disconnecting the forestay and lowering it to the pontoon (I’d taken the boat into Pendennis marina as we need somewhere to drop the stay). It turned out that the tangle had partially unwound the forestay so I had to get a new one made up – a bit of a shame as I’d only just had the whole boat re-rigged!

Anyway, Jake came to the rescue again, working on his day off to sort me out – what a star! I also fitted a halyard diverter on the genoa halyard to prevent any further entanglements and, for the time being I’m leaving the new spinnaker halyard external to the mast.

Sunday 19th July

The new plan was to leave Falmouth and head for Camaret-sur-Mer at the southern end of the Chenal du Fort. The CdF is legendary for the strong tides that run through it so it is important to arrive at the right state of tide to be carried through. The tide was turning to the ebb at just after 17:00 on Monday so we needed to leave Falmouth about 21:30, add a couple of “contingency hours” and we set off at 19:30.

Off at Last!

Of course nothing on this trip seems to go smoothly and about 30 minutes before sunset I went below to turn on the navigation lights. As soon as I pressed the circuit breaker all the indicator lights went out! I thought we’d have to turn back but checking round the boat everything was working normally, including the nav lights. Must be some issue with the indicator lights on the panel. Anyway crisis averted we carried on. Around 22:30 we watched our last sunset over the UK…

No I’m not wearing a toupe, it’s my baseball cap!

As the night drew on we settled into our watch rota – two hours on and two off, Pavel took the first. I came back on at 01:00. It was a bit surreal seeing the Lizard Point lighthouse disappearing over the horizon until all that was visible was the glow as the light swept past. Soon that was gone also. It was a new moon so the middle of the English Channel was pretty dark and the stars were simply breathtaking. It got pretty cold in the Easterly wind but I hunkered down behind the spray hood, emerging every ten minutes or so to scan for traffic. There was remarkably little all the way across.

Monday 19th July

With the wind turning more Easterly than forecast the sea in the middle of the channel became quite sloppy on the flood and I got a bit queasy and lost my breakfast but poor Pavel got it really bad (I’ve never seen anyone actually turn green before). It was also causing the self steering gear a bit of a problem and I decided to hand steer until things calmed down a bit. Six hours later it was no better. In fact we continued to hand steer for the rest of the day.

However, around 16:30 we saw one of the best sights ever…

The French Coast

We’d made it across!

We were a little bit further East than I’d planned but I’d purposely tried to get some easting in so that we could bear away to our waypoint rather than have to beat upwind to it.

We headed west but the angle we needed meant a dead run with inherent danger of an uncontrolled gybe so I rigged up a preventer and we managed to get the genoa to deploy on the opposite side and we made reasonable progress. An hour or so later we passed the famous “Le Fort” lighthouse.

Le Fort

Unfortunately the wind chose this point to die away to under ten knots which made progress rather slow. So much so that I calculated our destination wouldn’t be reached until after 23:00. The prospect of negotiating the CdF in the dark wasn’t filling me with joy and, as we were both pretty tired, I decided to look for somewhere close by to stop for the night. The small port of L’Aber-Ildut looked to be a contender so we headed for that.

Once in we looked for a visitor’s mooring buoy or a visitor berth in the very small marina. There were no buoys that we could see and the visitor berth at the marina was already rafted three deep. There was an anchorage shown on the chart but I didn’t think it looked suitable for Moon Shadow – perhaps a bilge keeler but not a fin keeler. A quick look at the chart showed another possibility further south so we decided to head for that.

Heading out of the very narrow channel I was faced with a low sun and a lot of glare off the water. I saw the rock with seconds to spare but still managed to come in contact with it. Luckily I was going very slowly and we bounced off. I thought we’d got away with it until I realised my steering wasn’t working!

The rudder had taken a hit and the shaft had been bent (I subsequently learned). Without steering we were in trouble so I took the engine out of gear, ran forward and dropped the anchor. I then issued a PAN PAN call and the local coastguard responded almost immediately. We were still afloat, there was no water entering the boat and the reliable Rocna anchor had set first time (as always) so we were in no immediate danger. However the local lifeboat arrived on the scene very quickly. A small rib was able to get close to us and get a line attached. I pulled up the anchor and the rib reversed us away from the rocks.

Getting pulled away from the rock

The rock I actually hit can’t be seen in that picture as it was below the surface.

coming alongside the lifeboat

Once we were tied up to the lifeboat we were towed back into the harbour and secured to an unused buoy – if only we’d known it was unused 45 minutes earlier! With thanks to Georges Heilmann for those dramatic photos.

On the way in we were treated to a wonderful Brittany sunset.

We spent two nights on the mooring and then were lifted out of the water on Thursday 23rd July.

Look a that bent rudder!

So now the journey has come to an abrupt halt. I need to decide how to proceed with the repairs – for repairable it certainly is.

One option is to leave Moon Shadow here in Brittany and get the local guys to do the repair or get her back to the UK and do the repairs there. There are pros and cons for either option not least of which is how the insurance company want to play it!

So that’s it for the time being. I’ll post again when I know what will happen next and I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the repairs.

2 thoughts on “And We’re Off!

  1. Blimey, Paul. Talk about an eventful first leg! At least you’re safe and well. And all good learning experiences. Really good to hear how you’re doing and fabulous to see your photos. Stay well, buddy. And keep your followers and fans updated.


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