Cross-Channel commuting

 'La Traviata' appears on stage rather abruptly from the fog.The 'WB Yeats' is now the world's biggest passenger ferry.

On Thursday looked an ideal day to cross back to France, though the shipping forecast was giving fog patches; I was sailing as soon as I was clear of the Stone Pier, though beyond the Shambles it was obvious there was humidity still being carried up-Channel after Wednesday's rain, and I soon had about 400m visibility, which lasted till after the shipping. AIS should mean there are no surprises, but it was still a shock to see a huge container ship suddenly loom out of the fog to starboard, heading SE to Le Havre.

The wind settled at around 15 knots, though seemed to be dropping, so I eased out some more main but too much tension on the outhaul block snagged the rope between the pulley and the cheek, which jammed the sail neither in nor out. Working on the end of the boom is not recommended if the boat is rolling about, especially as the wind decided to get up at this point. I finally decided to cut the outhaul, free it from the block, then re-reeve it though the block on the clew, and start again. I hove to, but once the main was free, the boat set off downwind while I sorted things out, so I had to gybe to get back on course and reset the main, with the original amount of reef!

After which the day passed more agreeably, with the boat doing more than 6 knots, and the sun began to come out as I cleared the shipping. I was aiming to stay west, using the weak ebb to head towards La Hague so as to come up with the beginning of the flood, and avoid the trap of the wind backing on the coast. This it duly did, giving a pleasant reach past Omonville and Nacqueville towards the Passe de l'Ouest. In the grande rade I met the new Irish ferry 'WB Yeats', which has replaced the 'Oscar Wilde' on that route – better poetry, but less humour...


This week saw the 18th anniversary of my first solo Channel crossing in 'Dove', since when it has become quite normal to find myself in the middle of nowhere, struggling with some recalcitrant piece of chandlery, usually before breakfast to boot! A little patch of blue air to colour the grey of a normal morning in the Channel...

We will be putting the finishing touches to the organisation of the Transmanche in the next few days, and look forward to seeing WSC boats here next week ready for the race to Weymouth. Well done, Jelenko, in the Myth of Malham, too!

Steve Fraser

Submitted on 31st May 2019