Checking for collision avoidance

After essential work being done in Guernsey we had to sail Vagabond back to the UK to pay VAT on her for travelling in Europe; so we planned a Channel crossing in February.

To help with the crossing in strange waters and strange boat we enlisted the help of Charlie Tait of CharlieSailing - an RYA instructor and delightful person to have on board. We made Charlie skipper so we could blame him for any problems!!

February had been a very cold and windy month and we waited in St Peter Port for a week hoping for a gap in the continuous stream of fronts and gales coming in from the Atlantic. We spotted a possible lull a few days ahead and called Charlie to be with us over the weekend ready to set off. The lull was relative - force 6-7 NW forecast to die down about midnight. We left QE2 dock at 11:00 thanks to our lifting keel and rudder as soon as there was a metre over the sill and set off for the Alderney race. Tides were not perfect for the race as we were more concerned with maximising daylight but going through with the tide proved uneventful and we had the calmest water in the lee of Alderney. Outside the sea was quite disturbed due to to tail of the race and left overs of storms. Charlie reckoned he might be sick since it was his first sail since before \Christmas but he was fine while we were all feeling green within a few hours - after a trip forward to the heads I had to make use of the sick bucket - first time I’d ever been seasick - had I lost my sea legs? - But better after bringing the subject up!

We crossed the first East going shipping lanes as the sun went down with no worries - keeping a bearing watch on possible close encounters.

We then set off into a cold (very cold due to low temps, wind chill, and the fact that we all (except Charlie) wanted to stay in the cockpit for some reason?) night. We had a nice moon to keep us happy.

Crossing the west going shipping some hrs later proved a bit more exiting; visibility was good, but some of the ships appeared to be disbelieving that anyone would be daft enough to be out sailing on a freezing February night ( we had our tricolour masthead light on). One particularly stubborn ship changed course to round our stern quite late - and then put a searchlight on us to see what we were - spoiled our night vision for a bit.

Long before anything else we had the vertical red lights of the Isle of Wight TV transmitter tower to let us know land was ahead. As we approached St Catherine’s point the wind dropped right off and the 8 knots we had been maintaining dropped and dropped until we were barely stemming the tide. Motor on and we rounded Bembridge ledge inside and crept into the lee of N Bembridge to anchor and get some rest at 02:00.

Next dawn the wind was back from the west and we set off to beat up the Solent. Heidi was very busy taking lots of sights and keeping up with navigation as we tacked in blustery conditions and entered the North Channel and then a nice reach up Southampton water to the Itchen and up to Shamrock Quay. We sailed right up and dropped sails and slid onto J pontoon under motor to complete our maiden voyage and first Channel Crossing.

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