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South England
-- 23rd May to 3rd June 2011 --
From London to Guernsey, or « 10 days playing hide-and-seek with strong winds »...
Other pictures from this trip can be found on the page “Pictures".

From a straight way of 330 miles we made 470… “not efficient” you say? Really don’t see why...
Our stops, click on the names for more details:
London South Dock marina (marina)Ramsgate (marina) Dover (marina)Brigthon (marina)Guernsey (marina)
May 23rd 2011 : London to London (2.5 miles)
6 a.m., the city is waking up, soon Londoners will rush and squeeze in tiny packed metro carriages. Saltimbanque is rushing, and squeezing along with 10 other sailing boats into the Saint Katharine lock. “Move further, further!” the harbourmaster shouts, confident of the capacity. Once freed of the lock, our companions turn on their powerful engines, full speed towards the river, despite the strong wind warning and without the slightest intention to use their sails nicely folded and wrapped on the boom.

The idea to struggle against strong winds and slalom between all the various sorts of floating stuff living on this highway called the Thames does not appeal to us so much. We make the most of a short period of quieter wind to go 2.5 further down the river, on the South bank, to South Dock Marina.
Here some comments about London marinas. They are three: Saint Katharine Dock (central, mythical, perfect service – 40 euros for 8m boat), Limehouse that we did not visit, and South Dock Marina that we enjoyed a lot. Not only is it much cheaper (25 euros, like the average of any UK marina anyways), but also the harbourmaster opens the lock on demand (HW-2.5 / +1.5) helps you through and chats a bit. The marina is located in an area of renovated old docks. Here you will find no shiny 40 footers, no luxuous motorboats, only barges and sailing boats where people live all year round. Groceries can be found at walking distance in Tesco, there is also a petrol station where we fill a couple of jerrycans brought in our backpacks. The Jubilee Line Canada Waters station is nearby, quick line to central London. All in all, South Dock marina is a good idea if you’re planning to visit London with your sailing boat!
From South Dock Marina you enjoy a great view on Canary Wharf
May 24th 2011 : London – Ramsgate, 73 M

The river Thames, peaceful countryside as ever...
So, enough of the nice view on Canary Wharf towers, time for our sailing boat to get back to his natural element: the sea. On the back of the depression we surf along the quays. Everything goes fast, very fast. The conspicuous points fly by: Greenwich, the tidal barrier, factories exhaling weird and specific scents… then the containers terminal, the refinery and finally, the sea!
We pass by our old friends the Shivering Sands forts, called Maunsell forts. Built during WWII their history was unveiled to us by Didier on the Saltimblog – thanks!
First right after the windmills farm, we land in Ramsgate. In the dark, of course, as always in this place.
And that’s all we saw from Ramsgate
May 25th 2011 : Ramsgate – Dover, 23 miles in 4 hours :o)
We leave with the tide, under the sun. All sails on, then only one reef, Saltimbanque is glides along the white cliffs, passes a small sea lion and arrives to the next harbour before lunch. Before the next storm as well...

South Foreland, where the North Sea meets the Channel

May 26th 2011 : Dover, strong wind, day off

Dark skies on Dover Castle
A day dedicated to decoration, small reparations, weather forecasts… more than 50 knots measured in the harbour. Then the wind falls suddenly after a hailstorm.
May 27th 2011 : 38 miles for nothing
The weather forecast let us see a short period of 24 hours with reasonable winds before the next low pressure sweeps across the UK. We want to take advantage of it and join the next shelter, Eastbourne, 45 miles in the Southwest. The wind blowing straight in our faces, we count on twice as much distance actually – a boat cannot sails against the wind, it needs to go a little bit on one side, a little bit on the other (to tack). 90 miles… we set sails without too much hope, to at least give it a chance.
On 1 pm the weather forecast announces SW5-7, increasing 8 later. Just to be sure, we check: that small word, “later”, means “12 hours after broadcast” – 1 in the morning, that is to say.

Back to Dover ...
Force 8 in 12 hours, it’s much too soon. Reluctantly we turn around and hurry back into the safe haven of Dover.
Checking other sources there, it appears that the Metoffice issuing the radio forecasts was the only one to see this gale so early. Indeed, the following night is very quiet… a bit frustrated and mad at the Metoffice we get settled in Dover again, ready to spend the weekend there.

Dover is a big and very busy ferry terminal

May 28th - 29th 2011 : exploring Dover

Showing our colours
South Westerly 8b, rough sea in the Dover straight… those are perfect conditions to stay onshore, do the laundry, the cleaning, replenishing our “fridge” with fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. We even indulge into going to the movie at night! (Pirates of the Caribbean...to stay in the mood).
Sunday we go for a walk on the cliffs until Folkestone. The rough seas are beautiful seen from above.

All in all being stuck in Dover is not that bad. The Marina is relatively cheap (less than 20 pounds), fully equipped with plenty of shops and a friendly ship chandler across the street. The office is open 24/7, including a smiling staff and a computer with free internet. The atmosphere on the pontoons is friendly, we wave at fellow stranded sailors – “so, you stuck here as well hey?”
We can speak a bit of Dutch with our neighbour, coming from Scheveningen and bound to Falmouth where he’s about to start on the “Acores and back” race. He has a nice and new 9.6 m boat that he partly conceived himself and will sail alone all the way to the Acores! At the time of writing, he made it to the starting line ontime and can be followed on www.homeofjazzracing.nl. Succes Marteen, wij houden vingers gekruist voor jou!

Can’t get enough of Dover and the White Cliffs
Conclusion of the weekend: if you ever want to visit Dover, let us know – we know the place!

Easily accessed by ferry, Dover has much more to offer as far as nautical activities are concerned.

May 30th - 31st 2011 : Dover – Brighton via the Isle of Wight (180 miles)
No strong wind warning for the next 3 days… yeepee! Let’s get going. We finally take off from Dover, with the firm intention to sail a good way. First hours in paradise: little wind, and decreasing, current against us, fog...

Such is the start of a very very long journey… Weather conditions will not stay stable for more than ½ hour, forcing us to constant maneuvers. No wind, too much wind, wind turning along the coastline we are following, just to be sure to stay ALL the time in our face. Take one reef, take two reef, release the second then the first, change the front sail for a smaller gib, then set the genoa. And tack, tack, tack again between the coastline and the cargoes. On top of that all, the night falling brings rain...

Tuesday same situation but with the sun and less wind… that is to say, until Camille gets thrown down her bunk by a sudden heel.

“- Another storm, Laure?
- Mmm no, there’s no cloud... that’s weird...
- Oops, let’s REALLY reduce the sail then!”
2 reefs and the gib. Then we hear the radio weather forecast : « beautiful weather everywhere, except in the South of the Isle of Wight ». Guess where we are :-S
Saltimbanque is holding strong on his course close to the wind on a strong sea and in 6b. We brace ourselves for the last 20 miles before the Solent.

Last surprise of the day: the wind decreases, but the waves do not, and the current turns against us with the tide… the engine starts off in alarm mode... it is been decided somewhere that we would not see the Solent

That’s as close as we will ever get of the Isle of Wight
Turn around. The Isle of Wight disappears in the sunset as we are sailing WITH the wind (yeepee!) towards Brighton. We get there with the first lights of the day (that’s 4 a.m. here). By night the entrance of the harbour is not easy to spot in the middle of the thousands of lights of the town. By day, it doesn’t get better. Actually the entrance is completely in the East, where the cliff starts again. The jetties are a bit darker and can be distinguished from the white cliffs. Still, happy to have a good GPS onboard.

You enter between the two jetties – which can’t be seen coming from the West.

June 1st 2011 : Brighton
The mystery of the engine alarm is promptly resolved. We heard a feeble continuous alarm – without any light getting off. The oil and water checks gave no result. After some hours left resting under the sun, there is no sound any more. It confirms our theory of a short-circuit caused by water getting in with big waves the day before.
We make sure everything is dry before isolating the loudspeaker and wires with silicon and tape.
As we are here, we get an engineer check our engine. He agrees with our conclusion on the alarm and reassures us on a small leak from the water pump.
June 2nd - 3rd 2011 : Brighton – Guernsey (145 miles)
North Easterly wind; finally! Sailing with the wind therefore. We decide to enjoy this unique opportunity to cross the Channel – too bad for Wight. They say the wind will be moderate to strong on the East of the area. We set sails, first to the West to get out of the dangerous zone before crossing to the South.
As for wind with us, we get feeble wind in our face the first hour then... nothing... engine on for 10 hours (thank you Nestor!)

The wind becomes stronger when the night falls, quickly even as we have to take the first reef within 15 minutes. During the night everything goes well. We managed to avoid the strongest winds, but not the waves and we stay most of the time steering manually. Finally in the morning along the cape of the Hague the wind increases up to 25 knots and the sea becomes rougher (due to the wind blowing in the opposite direction of the current). Saltimbanque surfs on a wave at 11 knots with two reefs and a little piece of the genoa left.

During that time it’s quite agitated in Laure’s stomach as well. Three weeks at sea and several long trips without an issue had get us to hope that seasickness was not to fear any longer… wrong! Once you start to be sick, it gets away after a couple of hours only, nothing to do, just be patient and wait – preferably clutched at the tiller and staring at the horizon. About managing what (temporarily) stays in the stomach, some observations:
- Better have something than nothing at all
- In the top 10 of the food you want to avoid: everything too salty (instant soups or noodles) or too acid (Coca, orange juice – and the worst of all, energy drink!)
- Remember that the food will have the same rough texture on the way out as on the way in (cereal bars)
- Finally the best bets remain the famous banana, or, if you don’t want to waste the whole stock to the fishes in one night, some water with diluted sugar in it.
This time it got away quicker than usual, perhaps thanks to the scopolamine patches protecting the first trips and allowing to progressively get used to a moving world.

Hurray for the current!
Finally strong weather stops all of a sudden at the change of tide: the perceived wind decreases by 6 knots (3 knots due to the current previously against + 3 knots due to current with now) and the sea smoothens. We pass the Casquets lighthouse under the sun and enter on the Guernsey highway at a good 9 knots of speed.
Arrival at Saint Peter in Guernsey by the North (Little Russel Chanel). And the shock: after 30 hours at sea we suddenly engulfed in a crowd of French boats. It happens to be a stop of the Tresco amateur regatta. The harbour is full, everybody speaks French, which feels really weird and somehow aggressive after two years living and sailing abroad.
The entry form we have to fill in Guernsey – weird questions...
We find our balance back around a good pint of ale and looking at the wind charts, planning the rest of the trip...
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Your messages:

Dick - 13/06/2011 23:59:25
Really enjoy reading about your adventures, keep up the good spirits and keep sending pix!

Estelle - 08/06/2011 22:31:22
Salut les filles !
Le mal de mer, je connais, je compatis Laure...
Votre voyage a l'air de très bien se passer, continuez à nous envoyer des nouvelles !


Didier - 08/06/2011 08:21:56
A chacun de vos recit, on a l'impression d'y etre, sauf que nous, on prend plusieurs jours de nav dans un temps tres reduit. Une telle intensite me donne envie d'aller faire une sieste dans mon hamac au soleil de la Bretagne sud. Vous savez... le soleil , ce cercle lumineux dans le ciel qui eclaire un chauffe pendant une bonne moitie d'une journée. Vous le decouvrirez bientot des que vous atteindrez les cotes bretonnes.
Bonne nav!

P.S. parait que l'avantage de la banane , c'est que c'est le seul aliment qui a le meme gout dans un sens que dans l'autre.

SuDad - 06/06/2011 09:59:14
Quand vous rédigez ici le compte-rendu de vos aventures, ça peut (peut-être, éventuellement, parfois…) vous paraître (un peu) fastidieux, par rapport à l’action. Alors songez au plaisir de vos supporters, nous tous, qui nous régalons de votre récit et de vos photos. C’est excitant comme une très très bonne série. Housewives, par ex., sans le Desperate. (d’ailleurs leur 23e est dans la boîte). Après Victor, bientôt Paimpol et sa falaise. Du velours, hein ? Big Bizzou.

Kariine - 05/06/2011 21:10:50
Waouh,c'est pas de l'aventure pour débutantes. Une pleine page qui m'a tenu en halène ... et je compatis franchement côté estomac (surtout quand on n'aime pas les bananes hein)!

Michèle - 05/06/2011 09:23:02
Quel beau début d'aventure.
Que de souvenirs engrangés!
Je vais devenir un peu moins ignare en termes de voile et approfondir mes connaissances géogra.
Bravo à vous deux.

la mamou - 05/06/2011 08:23:40
le Nord vous a enfin laissé repartir !!!
en tout cas , merci pour ce bien beau récit qu'on ne se lasse pas de relire ... ;-))))

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