Last week I went down to Gosport boatyard to do the final pack up of 6X, the Trapper 300 which has been part of our family life for nearly 30 years. My Dad, "the Admiral", decided at the end of last year that it was time to let someone else take on the responsibility for the boat. He is 79 this August and was starting to find the maintenance and upkeep too much of a chore. I had been the main user of the boat for the last ten years, with him having a few day sails in gentler weather, and have appreciated working alongside him on the annual cycle of anti-fouling, engine maintenance, fitting out, laying up. But the boat would always belong to him, and as long as I was sailing it he would feel responsible for her upkeep and safety. So, reluctantly, we turned our thoughts to selling it to someone else.
I mentioned in my previous blog that when we made the passage to Calais there seemed to be a lot less depth in the SW Sunk than last year. East Coast navigators may be interested to know that (saint) Roger Gaspar of the Crossing the Thames Estuary website has been out to survey the location and has produced an updated chartlet, which can be found here, with additional discussion and some photos on the YBW forum.
The best route through the swatchway is now further to the NE as indicated by the chartlet. Many thanks to Roger Gaspar for all his efforts.
Getting a crew for this cruise turned out to be a nightmare, several members were otherwise booked and others had to drop out. However I managed to rustle up two crew making three on board, just enough in my planning.
Plan was go as far as Waddenzee if all went well, do-able if the weather played ball and nothing else went awry. The weather did indeed play its wicked way, the weekend of the 22/23 saw predictions of F5/7 and gale 8 in Wight and Dover, no place to be with a crew fresh to the yacht. We prudently stayed in Chichester Marina picking up a buoy on Sunday to leave first thing Monday 24th.
The Little Ship Club provided the perfect setting for the Mums Away Best of Bond fundraising night on Friday 28 June raising money for The AHOY Centre, Deptford which raised £20,000 after costs. With the team riding the crest of their fundraising wave, this week saw them bought down to earth with the news that the French authorities have imposed a blanket ban on all 'unconventional crossings' which puts the row to France in doubt.
Once again, the Potamoi were on our side, and the rain held off as we made our way to Caix. We stopped en route to test the “ancrage sauvage” so dear to the French (not a people generally known for their parking prowess!), and lunch was spent at anchor – or rather, lassoed to a tree.
For the first time, the food served for dinner in the only restaurant was disappointing – however, we were treated to a wonderful impromptu concert, by a local guitarist and a clarinet player – whom we had met working the locks! They jammed for a good hour, clearly enjoying performing as much as we enjoyed listening to them.
When we signed up for the Rally, we little suspected that the most difficult part would be our navigation through the murky waters of French bureaucracy and labor actions. From the beginning Caroline provided some of the most extensive guidance and material that I have seen and once disruptions in train and Air travel occurred she worked tirelessly to provide assistance wherever she could. We were all extremely appreciative and thankful to her.
Wednesday, Skipper got his crew on deck early, as there were only 2 days left to get as far as the end of the navigable part of the Upper Lot.
Caroline Quentin had set up a few obstacles to those of us who wanted to join the Lot cruise she had organised, and we had to battle through strikes from both French air traffic controllers and train drivers to get to Douelle, the start of the cruise. Years of living in the UK have badly eroded my capacity at navigating the French public service, and I managed to get there a day late - therefore missed the sailing up to Cahors, as well as the visit to the market on the Sunday morning.
I met the boat at lunchtime on Saturday, and dinner at Le Balandre was the perfect way to recover from a slightly frustrating journey - French cuisine does not get much better than in the Quercy, and regional wines need no introduction. A walk back to the boat through the sleepy town rounded up my first day.
I have arrived back home after 5 weeks sailing up the East Coast of the UK and have met up with three HPOs and on returning to Scotland I shall try to meet two more on the West Coast towards August before laying the boat up for the winter in Kip Marina.
CHANGES TO HPOs:
Yvonne Phillips, HPO Mallorca (South) has returned to the UK and has resigned as HPO.
Dr Meinhard Kohfahl, HPO Cuxhaven, having reached the age of 85 and 17 years as HPO, has stepped down but his son Dr Jens Kohfahf has agreed to continue as our HPO for Cuxhaven.