Pornichet to Plymouth…the Adventures Continue

May 8, 2012 posted by admin

May 8, 2012

Waking up this morning was like waking up in a battle zone.  There were bodies and kit strewn everywhere and the smell was a little more than ripe! Radio transmissions were buzzing in and out and battle stories were being told with great detail.  In fact it wasn’t a bomb shelter, it’s the Royal Western Yacht Club, and it’s the after math of The Solent and the Trinite Sur Mer “feeder” races which feeds racers in to Plymouth for the UK Fastnet race.  I arrived to Plymouth from France just after the boats started finishing from the Trinite Sur Mer race.

For two reasons I chose not to do the Trinite Sur Mer race to Plymouth.  One Girl’s Ocean Challenge needed to become compliant with a rule change.  405 litres of flotation volume needed to be added to the inside of OGOC and laminated into place.  Additionally I needed to make sure I had functioning autopilots.  Non functioning autopilots is what kept me out of the Pornichet Select race.    Without both of those checked off of the list, I wasn’t going anywhere.  Once both of these items were checked off of the list, I would do a delivery passage from Pornichet, France up the coast to Plymouth, England.  This would serve as an excellent testing ground for the functioning pilots, and the changes I made aboard as a result of adding 405 litres of flotation.  Racing is never a good testing ground, but doing a delivery is.

My delivery was set to take me out of Pornichet France, up the coast to the Raz de Seine and the Chenal Du Four, and then across the English Channel to Plymouth.  In general the weather window was perfect.  As I worked my way up the Bay of Biscay in a north west direction, the wind was on the nose and ten knots or less.  Most would not find this favourable, but it gave me an uncomplicated start and a chance to fiddle with things as I went along.  After the Bay of Biscay, the Raz De Seine is located in the North West corner of France just before you make the jump across the English Channel.  The Raz De Seine is notable for its rocks and its current and rips and eddies.  When the tidal stream is running full blast the current can be moving at 6 knots head on.  If wind and tide are against you this can be pretty much impossible to pass and be pretty dangerous with massive rocks all around.  If wind and tide are favourable for you you can have a down wind run with a spinnaker and a favourable push of 6 knots!  Either way there are also significant eddies pooling in different spots.  I calculated and speculated current and wind as I got close to the Raz and it looked good for coming through just as the current started going northbound to be favourable.  The wind was almost non-existent, so that meant motoring through.  If I could get through quick enough and get across to the Chenal Du Four, then I could get through this section with a favourable current as well.  The Chenal Du Four is not as tricky, but it`s still notable and well worthy of calculating for a favourable current.  Coming through the Raz De Seine was very nice and uneventful.  It`s actually a pretty scary ominous looking place with all the rock cliffs.  On the other side of the Raz De Seine there was absolutely no wind.  Now for a new calculation.  I have some fuel onboard, but I need to make sure that I keep enough fuel for getting in to Plymouth.  If I motor the 10 or so miles to the Chenal Du Four and motor through the Chenal Du Four, then I won’t have enough fuel left for no wind freighter avoidance in the English Channel and for the entry to Plymouth.  If I don’t get to the Chenal Du Four in time, then I will miss my northbound current window, and I’ll be stuck sitting outside for 6 hours just before dark.  So with a little combination of sailing in the puffs and motoring in the lulls, I made it to the Chenal Du Four about an hour after the current turned southbound.  As I motored through the current was light but building.  An hour later it was a 4 knot unfavourable current and I was making about 1 knot of speed over ground, but I was almost out of the Chenal Du Four.  Fortunately the wind started to pick up from behind.  As soon as it got over 5 knots I hoisted every inch of sail I could find!  Then I was able to cut the engine and sail out of the Chenal Du Four.  Woohoo!  We were on our way to the English Channel!  This I thought would be the last obstacle to overcome.  Things were really in our favour.  The wind was steady at 10 to 15 knots and from behind.  The sun was going down, the wind was building and the rain was also coming.  I had lots of maneuverability, fantastic autopilots working thanks to the amazing teams of Raymarine and a boat in excellent state for anything to come.  Anything to come….anything to come…..What was that shadow in the distance?

The English Channel is a very very busy channel with shipping going all over the world.  In the mist there was a large looming mass.  Why was the AIS not buzzing?  AHHHHH.  One would have to turn on the alarm to hear the alarm.  That fuzzy mass was a very large commercial tanker heading straight towards me.  Quick GYBE!  Thankfully there was wind.  Then the AIS started screaming.  There were six more coming.  I was now smack in the shipping lanes.  The nice thing is that I was crossing the lanes so I had excellent bearing on their lights to see if I was ahead or behind.  For the next 60 miles I dodged commercial traffic.  In the morning, the sun came up, the code 0 went up and then the kite went up and I was making my way to Plymouth at a fantastic rate.  I passed the Eddystone Rock and the dolphins joined in for the ride in to Plymouth.  What an awesome sight!

“Securite, Securite, Securite”  “This is the Warship…..”  Did I mention that I was going in to Plymouth? When you look at the Reeds Almanac for entering Plymouth, you will note the highly emphasized information about warships having right of way when doing exercises, and also the note about clearance required on submarines.  Hmmmmmm and now I have a warship sitting in my path doing helicopter exercises…..  Apparently this is the life of a mini racer?  Well by the time I got to the warship the notice was cancelled and the exercise was over.  I radioed in to the race organizers for the incoming racers and let them know of my arrival, and they kindly offered to pick me up with the RIB!

Well I can honestly say mission accomplished.  The boat is ready for the Fastnet.  There are a couple of little things to do, and some massive chart work to map out a plan for the race, and we’ll be good to go.  I love it when a plan comes together 🙂


3 Responses to “Pornichet to Plymouth…the Adventures Continue”

  1. Phil Says:

    Hey Diane, This posts are fantastic. Keep up the amazing work! Phil

  2. John Globemasterone Says:

    Well done Diane. Mission accomplished. Oh…you can turn the alarm off now.

  3. Roger Van Vlack Says:

    Way to go kid push on! push on!

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