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A French Interlude ( The Channel Dash )

UPDATE: A collection of photographs can be viewed here.

Early on a bright May morning with a brisk Easterly wind, three Club boats  Alana III, Alouette and Moody Blue set  course for the Bembridge Ledge Buoy before easing onto a course of 195 for Cherbourg. The wind had conspired with the spring tide to throw up a lively sea which gradually eased after the tide turned about noon.

Alana III (42ft) secured in Chantereyne  Marina Cherbourg about 12 hours later followed by Alouette (34ft) a couple of hours later. Moody Blue (28ft) crept in after another epic 18 hour passage which demonstrated that size does matter where long passages are concerned.

A dramatic thunderstorm lit up the Friday night sky but by the Saturday morning conditions had improved and the opportunity was taken by many to visit the impressive museum “City of the Sea” which includes a decommissioned nuclear submarine and a Titanic exhibition. Others savoured Moules and Frites and stocked up at the Carrefour Hypermarket and the Normandy Wine Store.

Our Commodore and his crew of ancient mariners in Volunteer arrived in time to join the rest of the party at a pontoon party-not on a pontoon but under a clump of trees overlooking the marina. With flying speed achieved, the party dispersed to local eateries various to savour French cuisine.

Sunday dawned under a cloudy sky but pleasantly warm to permit further tourist activity  and the chance to top up internal batteries. Egret with world cruisers Patrick and Amanda Marshall join the rally mid-afternoon after a gentle sail up from St Vaast and all then repaired to the L’Equipage Bistro above the marina office for a farewell dinner in typical French style.

The weather forecast for Monday was SW F3-4 – ideal one might think for a return passage. Dawn on Monday however, revealed no wind with a mirror-like sea and limited visibility as the small fleet cranked up the steel spinnakers and set a course of 015 for the Solent. AIS proved to be very valuable as shipping lanes were crossed with no dramas and as the day wore on, the visibility decreased with Alouette and Moody Blue hitting thick fog as they approached the Bembridge anchorage which was pretty busy and require careful weaving in and out of the anchored vessels . All made it home safely, some sooner than others with Moody Blue again being tail-end Charlie at 2230 after a 0430 start!  Size really does matter but they did have a stowaway – a racing pigeon that flew in outside Cherbourg and steadfastly refused to leave until Gosport.

All in all an exhausting but enjoyable week-end to blow out the cobwebs, savour French cuisine and an opportunity to restock the boats with liquid stores for the forthcoming season.

Mike Morgan

Eileen Morgan showing Sue West the ropes onboard Alouette in mid-Channel.