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Author Topic: End of May Bank holiday cruise to St. Vaast – Cassiopeia report.  (Read 985 times)

Nigel Ashdown

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Having travelled down Thursday evening and enjoyed a curry and a few beers we were aiming for an early start Friday. The crew on Cassiopeia (myself, Joe and Phil) were raring to go next morning and motored from our berth to just make the 8.00 am lock. Excellent I thought to myself we are half an hour ahead of schedule. However this thought was short lived when Phil reported that he had left his jacket in the showers and would be going back to retrieve it. This involved climbing a very long vertical ladder from the lock as it was low water springs in Eastbourne that morning.

On his return, I did not need to ask him if he had found his jacket. His expression said it all. In the hour between having his shower and returning to retrieve it, someone had made off with his beloved blue fleece jacket. Not a good start!

Once out in clear water we were greeted by an easterly wind of 12 to 15 knots. As this would mean that the wind would be behind us, it was decided to rig the boom brake. This was a new piece of equipment on Cassiopeia, so we were all interested to see how it performed.

We sailed with the main out, protected by the boom brake (which worked very well) and the genoa poled out for a couple of hours, but the wind gradually dropped and the decision was made to start the engine in order to arrive at Gosport in good time to eat and meet our additional two crew members.

Once through the Looe Channel the wind picked up to 15kts and the slight course change to head for the dolphin in the submarine barrier also benefitted our angle to the wind and we were able to sail without motor right into the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour. Having refuelled we found our berth for the night and were greeted by Gill, who was already there to welcome us. She left us to lock up the boat and went over to the Boat House to reserve us all a table for dinner and to contact our other crew member, Ian Green, to arrange for him to meet us there.

When the three of us arrived at the Boat House, we were greeted by an individual who was clearly the worse for drink, slouched over a table with a bag of beer cans, mostly empty, singing along to a personal radio playing mainly 80’s music and being abusive to anyone who passed by near to him. No, this was not Ian or Gill, just a local resident who was well past reasoning with.

Shortly afterwards, Ian did arrive and the five of us enjoyed our evening meal together, particularly after the aforementioned local resident was removed by marina security.

The following morning we slipped our lines at 7.45 and headed out to the Solent and towards Bembridge Ledge. The wind was SW around 12kts, but having set course for St. Vaast (185 deg) was only a few degrees off our nose. We therefore decided not to raise the sails at this point. Unfortunately, although not rough, there was a fair chop, the waves hitting the bow and slowing progress to an average 4.8 knots.  This continued until 2.00 pm when the wind veered enough to give us a reasonable angle to sail. The wind picked up and at 4-00pm the decision was taken to reef. Of course as soon as we did this the wind dropped and we redeployed full sail again.

Around 5.00 pm, the wind dropped further to the point that we were not making adequate progress and the engine was started. The course of 185 deg. proved to be perfect and the strong easterly flowing tide off the French coast, swept us around Barfleur and down the peninsula to St. Vaast.

We arrived around 10.00 pm UK time and were met by the crew of Marmot who directed us towards a suitable berth on the visitors’ pontoon. Having helped us to tie up, we were then invited to drinks on board Marmot. An excellent way to round off the day.

The following day the crew of both boats met for lunch, followed by a walk in the afternoon to take in the local sights. We all met again in the evening at one of my favourite restaurants, Les Fuchsias. We had a superb meal before retiring for an early night, because Marmot were leaving at 2.00 am to catch the marina gate opening time.

Overnight, Ian transferred to Marmot to join them on their return leg to Gosport.

On the Monday morning, we went shopping to provision the boat for our return to Eastbourne. However, being a Monday in France, all of the shops were closed. We decided to have a nice French breakfast, but the only cafe open was only serving coffee, not even a croissant! However they did direct us to the only patisserie in town that was open and said that we could buy pastries there and eat them in the cafe, which we did.

Fortunately at the patisserie we were able to buy some filled rolls for lunch and some bread and rolls for the following day. We also came across a butcher that was open and bought some splendid looking lasagne.

In the afternoon we took the amphibious bus to the island of Tatihou. Very interesting and well worth the visit.
Following a very good meal at a local restaurant, we had an early night in preparation for our return to Eastbourne the next day.

We were up at 3.00 UK time the following morning and passed through the marina gates at 3.30. The new moon shed very little light on our passage so Joe went up front to spot fishing pots. They are abundant in this area, which makes navigation difficult, particularly in the dark. We set our course as 44 deg and had to motor the entire trip, as the wind was behind us from the SE and only about 8 knots. However, we made good time, taking full advantage of the easterly flowing tide from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and arrived back in Eastbourne at 7.00pm.

My thanks to my magnificent crew, Joe and Gill Allen, Phil Browne and Ian Green. I look forward to sailing with you all again soon and also to Richard and the crew of Marmot for assisting with our arrival in St. Vaast and for their excellent company during our stay.

Nigel Ashdown