We made landfall at Falmouth, in SW England, early on Tuesday morning after a 20-days long, frustrating and stormy but also challenging and memorable 1950 miles passage.
By memorable I mean: not easily forgotten. The worst part of it was not only that we were unable to sail in the desired direction, but also the winter-like proportion of gale force winds. It reminded me of Jack London’s remark that the worst ever winter he could remember was summer in San Francisco.
To top it all, in the last fours days we had two storms. Not just gales but proper storms with sustained winds of 45 knots, a few gusts over 50, and seas to match. For those of my followers who are not familiar with nautical terms, and wisely spend their holidays on four wheels, imagine how it would feel putting your head out of the car window at the equivalent of 90 km per hour. Don’t.
As conditions became quite uncomfortable, we decided to heave-to. For non-sailors I need to explain that it is a usual manoeuver to attempt to slow down the boat by turning the small foresail into the wind so that it is backed and virtually stops the boat. It is quite amazing how relatively calm and quiet it became once we were hove-to.
Our situation on this long passage was made worse by the fact that for most of it we did not have a working engine. Having taken us safely through the Northwest Passage, our Volvo 75 h.p. diesel engine must have felt, like us, of having a well-deserved rest. So it showed its displeasure by refusing to work. Just as we managed to sort out one problem, it stopped for an entirely different reason until we gave up, let it rest, and just sailed.
As I do not have a diesel generator, the engine is rarely used to charge the batteries while on passage, so our electricity needs were amply supplied by our efficient Sail-Gen hydro-generator
… backed by its wind equivalent and a solar panel.
The reason for the unplanned stop at Falmouth was to have the engine checked and repaired before we tackled the busy English Channel. Fortunately we managed to get the engine working to get us into Pendennis marina. I had already made arrangements via satellite phone with the local Volvo agent and, exactly at 9 o’clock an engineer showed up and took matters in hand.
Nick spent the next 5 hours diagnosing and treating one ailment after another, of which the dirty fuel was not the main one, and by early afternoon he declared the patient fully recovered, and left us with the engine in perfect running order.
Dunbar would have liked to spend at least one night away from the sea, but he was also keen to get to London. To make up for it, I took him out for a local treat: English afternoon tea with oven-warm scones, covered in dollops of clotted Cornish cream and strawberry jam. Delicious.
At 1800, we slipped our lines, had a quick look behind at the attractive port we were regretfully leaving, and started on the 360-miles leg to London.
As we sailed into Falmouth Bay we were rewarded for the sight of a large fleet of yachts racing along the shore. The magnificent mixture of modern and traditional yachts being a perfect reflection of the attractive Cornish town we were leaving behind.
It is now Wednesday morning and we are sailing along the south of England. As I am writing these lines, the forecast is for another gale. The only good thing is that it may bring favourable winds to speed us on our way.
Isn’t life exciting?