Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Stage 28, The Downs to The Hamble.

After sleeping for most of one tide I left The Downs at 05:20 for another long leg. I got off to a cracking start with a F4-5 wind a bit south of west and I made well over 5 knots under easy sail for comfort and to make life easier for the wind vane steering although it was now working well.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre" of Dover
Approaching Dover.

The wind was initially kind to me veering to the NW but lighter at F3-4 and I made excellent time past Dover, after which the wind dropped and became rather variable and at 10:00 I put the engine on south of Dungeness, still making good time.

The weather gods had not yet done with me, the inshore waters forecast was for winds from the west or north west force 3 or 4 occasionally 5, a good offshore sailing breeze promising a fast and comfortable sail and that was consistent with both the ECMWF and GFS weather models. But at about mid day the wind increased from the south west initially about F4 but rapidly building to at least a solid force 5. 

At the time I was over the Shingle Bank east of Beachy Head although, unlike the next bank inshore, this bank is not flagged on the chart with the warning "[waves] breaks" a very short sea quickly built up and were almost breaking, although not that high the near vertical wave faces meant at best I was making 3 - 3.5 knots and frequently only 1 or 2 as the waves pushed the boat back sending spray and solid water over the bow, showing that a rubber sealing strip on the forehatch had come adrift letting several pints of water into the forepeak, not dangerous but annoying.

The situation was not tenable and potentially dangerous with shoal water to leeward, so I headed out to sea, the change in angle made things easier even with the waves getting bigger as they were further apart.

Avoiding rough water over the Shingle Bank.

On several occasions I tried to get back onto a direct course but that was just too uncomfortable until I was 3 miles south of my planned route (and getting close to the shipping lanes) and the wind had moderated to a strong F4. The ride was still very uncomfortable until I was west of Beachy Head, about 20 miles from where it all started, and remain uncomfortable until level with the Grampian wind farm, a further 15 miles. 

I stayed offshore of my planned route to give an additional safety margin from the Owers Bank and the banks off of Selsey. By dawn conditions had improved dramatically with the wind coming round to the west and dropping considerably leading to a pleasant trip through the Solent in the early morning. The timing had worked out quite well and instead of anchoring to await until mid day for the tide to slacken through the moorings I was able to just slow down to make use of the slackening of the rate about 3 hours after low water and I was safely on the mooring at 09:45.

Job Done.

129 nautical miles in 28 hours 25 minutes.

Post to the owners forum sent in real time from the sunny patio of the RAFYC just after getting ashore in response to congrats from Achilles owners:

"Thanks all, first I need a beer (on its way), food (ordered), then to dry out the boat, I hit some nasty sea when the wind changed and I was on the Royal Sovereign banks, not the ones that break, after taking a lot straight over the bow I found a sealing strip on the fore hatch had vanished and water was coming in, a few pints I would think.


The good news was the car started after being there for just over 2 months.

Better news. The beer has arrived.

More when I have time, in a bit of a rush at the mo as the wife is going in for a minor op tomorrow, postponed due to the virus. Only just found out."

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