“Grab some food and something to drink, we’re off to Jersey!”
This is what I said to Tim when I called to tell him he was going to be crewing for me. I had a handover to do on an SC35 at the weekend and the weather window to get the boat there from Southampton had just opened up.
As it turned out, this was exactly the right decision – the water was a little lumpy when we went through the Needles Channel but by the time we’d got to the shipping lanes it was flattening and the Alderney Gap was like glass. In the end it took us precisely 5 hours to get the boat from the Hamble to St. Hellier harbour.
This must sound like a perfect start to glorious few days in the Channel Islands. Well in some respects it was; excellent run across, wall to wall blue skies forecast and the prospect of some fabulous boating. The ‘downer’ came in the shape of a fender line attached to the tender which, it turned out, was dangling in the water. Thinking back, it must have been the first time I’d been in astern since leaving the Hamble River. Yes, you guessed it, the rope got caught around the port props.
Fortunately, mooring an SC35 with only one engine working isn’t too much of a drama, even if the mooring was really tight at only 36 feet long! Once we were tied up it only took a quick look over the back to see where the rope had gone and to decide on a plan to get it off.
The moral of the story – check for dangling rope. I guess I should have known better and as much as I’d like to blame the rush to get across the Channel in time to get over the marina sill and the fact that the rope was only visible if you stood and looked at the boat directly from behind, I cannot. As skipper you must check and re-check, especially when your trip takes you so far from land.
Anyway, enough self-recrimination, let’s get on with the story. The handover was a riot from beginning to end. To illustrate this I’ll just mention that we ended up toasting the arrival of the new boat with a round of bacon rolls!
I told you it was a tight fit!
Finally, having opened every locker, pressed every button, switched every switch and taken copious notes the handover was complete. Well, actually, we still had to go out for a sea trial and once we’d had a bite to eat this is exactly what we did. Everyone had a go on the controls as we went around and around like possessed madmen (and women, although I’m certain I’ve been told women are always fully in control). We had to try her at full speed of course and somebody called Mandy had to go one step further and try ‘stop to stop’ turns at full speed too!! In truth, it was at my bidding, as I wanted everyone to see what the boat was capable of. I know it will never happen again but it does boost your confidence to find out that you will ‘give up’ long before your boat does and if you get caught out in bad weather, your elegant, stylish Sealine SC35 will also get you safely back to harbour.
The next day we mooched around the marina as we learnt how to control ‘Calma’ at close quarters. Incidentally, the name ‘Calma’ is derived from Karma as in peace and well-being, coupled with calm as in not out at sea in rough conditions – clever, isn’t it?
By the time we’d finished for lunch we were getting pretty competent and the neighbouring boats were getting pretty fed up – the admiring glances and rounds of applause had changed to piercing looks and under the breath mutterings.
So over lunch we hatched a plan to go on an adventure the next day. This meant that Nick and I would spend some time learning about the chart-plotter and the others would go and buy all sorts of scrummy things for the picnic.
Eventually, the planning was done the picnic was stowed and we sat ourselves down to relax and enjoy and evening on the boat. This is one aspect of boating that all folk enjoy, irrespective of how good your sea-legs are, sitting on the back of a boat, sipping a chilled drink and discussing the day is an exquisite pleasure and one I would heartily recommend everyone to enjoy if the opportunity arises.
When I awoke the following morning and peered at the curtains I realised that even though my clock said 06:30 (lie in) it was still dark outside. This didn’t bode well for our fabulous adventure and less still for the BBQ on the beach, which the picnic had now become. When I looked out, the island was shrouded in mist – this was destined to become more significant than it seems right now.
Not to be daunted, I was soon breakfasted and on my way to the boat. In my experience as Sea School Principal, with a whole host of theory courses under my belt and hours spent teaching Meteorology, I was certain the mist would burn off. After all, we were in the ‘sunny’ Channel Islands, it was August and we were going to anchor off a beach at the top of the island and have a BBQ on the beach – mist was definitely not allowed.
It all became quite ominous when we received a call from one of Lucy’s friends asking if we could run her to Guernsey as the flights out of Jersey were cancelled. “Cancelled!”, I blurted out. “You do know I have to fly back tonight?”
During our lunch on the boat – the beach was looking a little forlorn by now – we checked on the fast ferry back to Poole and the status of flights leaving Jersey and the mist rolling off the top of the hillside above us and realised that all looked to be lost. Normally, it wouldn’t matter too much but I had another handover to complete and this was due to commence at 9am the following morning.
Suddenly, we noticed blue sky appearing above our heads and all was well with the world again. The lunch on the boat turned out to be great fun, especially the bananas cooked in Baileys! Soon, it was time to head back and with the anchor stowed we headed back to the marina.
Now, if ever you are in Jersey and you get a chance to look at the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Marina just as the sill drops, do. You might consider getting a chair and a drink and perhaps even something to eat, as there are hours of fun and amazement to be had watching the boats coming screaming through at upwards of 7 or 8 knots – some even manage to turn around unscathed!!
I made my farewells and left for the airport, all the time watching the disconcerting sight of a fog bank sitting close to the western shoreline of the island. It seemed quite menacing, I guess as a boater the significance of being enveloped in fog is so much greater than when you are in a car. Even though the sun was shining brightly, that blessed fog was just hanging there, threateningly. By the time I checked in, I had forgotten about the fog and was readying myself for the flight back.
At 11pm, 3 hours later, I walked back out of Jersey Airport and into a taxi as the flights had been cancelled…
This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure. If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.