Sunday, 15 May 2011

Thursday 12th, just off Guernsey

Up for the 4am watch and was expecting to see open sea, but as I came onto deck Guernsey was whizzing past! We had been steaming ahead during the night and the last watch had not been over watchful. We couldn't slow The Irene down and overshot Guernsey by 14 miles! We needed to be outside St.Peter Port for 9am to pick up two new crew members Hugh Johnson and Tony Laithwaite … I think they just wanted to check on the cargo!

As we turned the corner into St.Peter Port, the Access Challenger came speeding out with Hugh and Tony clinging on. The pilot skilfully pulled alongside and Hugh hopped in first. Tony was lingering with a crate of beer and wasn't sure that if he handed over the goods first we would make a run for it! We didn't and both were safe and sound on board.

We left the Channel Islands via the exciting Alderney Race, named because the sheer speed of the tide racing through this narrow channel … and we certainly raced through! We were then out into the English Channel and the next task was to cross the nautical equivalent of the M4 motorway.

Huge tankers steam up and down, with each boat being 7 miles apart. 7 miles sounds a lot, but believe you me, when crossing this seaway by sail it isn't much of a gap … and there are no lollypop ladies or zebra crossings either! The Irene was dwarfed by the enormous ships as we weaved our way through the traffic, reminding me of that old computer game where you have to get the frog across the motorway before it gets squashed.

Over the next 9 hours I experienced and learnt what sailing was really all about! The wind was up and in the perfect direction and the sea was calm, every single sail on the Irene went up and leaned gracefully to the port side and accelerated, gliding effortlessly through the sea. We were really sailing, getting up to 8.5knots! The balance of wind, sail and water meant you didn't have to even touch the wheel.

Amazingly, by 9pm we had the first glimpse of land: The Needles!

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