You only get one life and nobody really knows what is around the corner for each of us in our lives and you must make the most of it, so for the past 3 weeks, ‘One Life’ was the name of the yacht that was to be my home and safe haven. She was to protect us from what mother nature would serve up as weather and transport us from one end of the eastern English Channel to as far West as you can go before navigating the Atlantic ocean stopping at the Scilly Isles. We had scope to self sail around the English Channel and Northern French coast to put all our offshore training into practice without the expert guidance of an instructor on board. Put simply, we were left to our own devices to either sink or swim (sail) offshore and gain valuable experience & learnings by doing it alone !
I would have the pleasure of sharing this experience with 4 others. Our mission was to try and achieve 1200 nautical miles and each of us complete a minimum 60 mile offshore passage.
Forget about the sailing for a minute, but 5 men sharing a boat in close quarters for nearly 3 weeks, this was going to be a real challenge, as much a psychological experiment as an offshore sailing adventure. The art of patience and diplomacy was pushed to the limits, however remarkably tension was low throughout and all skippers worked together to achieve our common goal.
In turns each aspiring Yachtmaster took the responsibility for each passage. I decided to take us from Alderney in the Channel islands to Le Harvein France – a passage of 115 Nautical miles and a second passage from Brighton to Poole sailing around the South of the IOW. In each passage having to a take into account the tides, weather, sail plan, crew shifts, navigation and hazards along the way.
Hamble, Dartmouth, Roscoff, Alderney, Le Harve, Portsmouth, Eastbourne, FeCamp, Brighton, Poole, Guernsey, St Marys IOS, Brixham, Hamble
TOTAL = 1308 nautical miles & 81 nights hours ( about 80 too many !)
Our track as the pink boat……
The approach was a rolling shift of 3 hours on, 3 hours off, working in pairs, taking it in turns to be skipper for each long passage, this was fine during the day but at night time the shifts of 12am – 3am & 3am – 6am were particularly gruelling with tiredness and the cold to contend with. At times staring into the darkness was so monotonous but trying to navigate to avoid the erratic courses of the fisherman trawlers that we had to avoid under the rules of the defined collision regulations became a welcome distraction to pass the time, along with Podcasts and a pot of tea on deck watching the sunrise, those moments were the ones to savour.
Beautiful Scilly Isles
After a 30 hours 160 NM passage from Guernsey in the Channel Islands we finally arrived in St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly – Hugh town is the largest habitation within all the Isles of Scilly. Visiting in May in fine weather was a real treat, I would not be wanting to visit in the winter months, I can only imagine how cold and wet, windy the isles would be with the Atlantic storms battering the isles day and after day during the cold winter days. After catching a mooring buoy in the harbour we quickly went a shore, showered and ate whilst talking about what we had just achieved together. Not everyone gets the luck with the easterly wind to sail to Scilly isles, we have all achieved something that I am sure will be part of our story telling for many years ahead, it was an accomplishment to be proud of.
Great to be BACK
Sailing is a passion, however your existence at sea offshore is basic, you quickly fall into a routine of shifts with sail, sleep and eat…, life is simple but I have learnt that it can at times by very very monotonous . I missed my family, yes I actually missed my screaming, bickering, annoying, towels left on floor, deodorant stealing kids, along with my wife and definitely my beloved dog Baloo.
I believe the path to happiness is too have a balance, I don’t want to spend months at sea away from the family, I think the the Napkin plan is still the way forward. I have to pass the Yachtmaster offshore exam first, which is fast looming, so focus must be on that and then see what doors can open up in the future. Staring forward into the unknown is both exciting and scary all rolled into one but one step at a time and passing the exam is the number one priority!
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