South in a Westerly
cousin Paul runs Hamble Yacht Services out of the Mercury Marina at the
head of the Hamble River. Paul had been on at me to go sailing with him
for some time. Due to circumstances I'd never been able to make it but
at a recent family funeral we again discussed getting away. Paul
explained he wanted to relocate his 10m Westerly 330 Regatta from its
mooring on the Hamble to Cherbourg for a holiday and needed a crew to
help him take it over.
Three weeks later we met at Paul's place in Hamble
and were joined by another Mike. Mike Godwin also has a yacht at the
Mercury and is a great friend of Paul's and had also been recruited.
When we arrived we found that the Westerly had already been moved on to
the holding pontoon and was ready to go (i.e. there was plenty of beer
and wine onboard).
I got a
quick orientation tour and we cast off. Paul's boat turned out to be
quite an Aladdin's cave of technology. INGPS Satnav linked to George,
the self steering gear (should you want to use it). Multi distance
radar, two radios and every conventional and digital instrument you
ever heard of.
I was fascinated by the nav system which looked a
bit like those you see on modern passenger aircraft entertainment
screens. Alterations could be made in real time to way points and to
compensate for wind and tide and the whole thing was rather like an
aquatic video game.
Most of the instruments also displayed at the helm
station repeater and all the rigging and sail sheeting came onto the
coaming above the hatch to the cabin. The guys and halyards all ran
through individual muscle boxes and they and the sails sheeting could
be led onto one of the six selftailing winches.
Below there were berths for 6-7 people in three
cabin areas. The main cabin also housed a very well laid out galley and
a high tech nav station.
The head was aft on the starboard side, balanced on the port side by
the 'Captain's cabin'. Everything was varnished teak and was in tiptop
The run down the Hamble into Southampton Water was
done under mainsail and 20hp diesel engine but once we got out into The
Solent the genoa was unfurled and got underway. I kept pestering Paul
and Mike to keep the sails 'trimmed' and several times had the leeward
rail awash. We ran down to Hurst Castle, tacked and passed The Needles
away on our port side. Paul set up the course and we sailed out into
The sea was very calm and initially we made good
progress at about 5-6 knots; But after three or four hours the wind
fell away and we stowed the foresail and started the engine. The rest
of the trip across was fairly uneventful apart from dodging the odd
freighter. I've never seen the sea so calm, at times it looked like
black oil with the moon-light playing across it in silver; it was when
we got outside Cherbourg that the fun started.
We arrived at daybreak (about 4:30 i'sh). We could
see the harbour entrance about five miles away but as we cruised in a
really thick fog bank appeared out of nowhere and engulfed us. Mike
went to the nav station, Paul took the helm and I went right up into
the bow. I could only just see Paul 10m or so behind me. We edged into
the outer harbour to the sound of fog horns all around us. Other yacht
horns were easily recognized but the much deeper horns of the
commercial, military and ferry traffic was a worry and they were very
close to us. Obviously a lot of the boats were waiting for the fog to
lift before attempting the inner harbour.
Below Mike was 'playing' with the INGPS Satnav
display when suddenly a detail of the harbour came up with 'us' clearly
showing in the middle together with direction. Paul decided to trust it
and we headed for the inner wall with yours truly calling out course
changes as other traffic appeared out of the fog. It became apparent
that a lot of yachts and power boats were circling including one of the
'tall ships', in Cherbourg for the Bastille Day celebrations.
After an hour or so we entered the inner harbour
and things were no better. Mike continued to call out heading and
distance but because of the traffic we couldn't always follow his
navigation instructions. It was very crowded; obviously a lot of boats
had arrived for the French holiday weekend.
Then, ahead of us, I spotted some moored up
yachts. This turned out to be the holding pontoon just outside the
marina entrance. We moored temporarily on this while we got our
All of a sudden, and after nearly two hours, the
fog cleared ahead and there was the yacht marina off our port bow.
Almost immediately a harbour master Gemini appeared alongside and
directed us to the visitor's pontoon and moorings. To say we were glad
to get in would be an understatement, especially as we could still hear
fog horns bellowing in the outer harbor.
After spending another day with the boat during
which we walked around Cherbourg and had a look at the 'Tall Ships' and
their crew displays, Mike and I had to catch the ferry back to
Portsmouth. The sea was still like a mill pond and we made excellent
Mike's going back in three weeks time to help
bring the Westerly home but I will be up at Ullswater for the SigneT
Nationals. We all agreed to do it again sometime, and I must say I
can't wait. Racing dinghies are one thing but sailing a 10m is a whole