Sailing on a 34 footer across the English Channel

My first major voyage - in safe hands

The skies opened up over the target, pretty as a picture

I got obsessed by sailing in Boston and spent a couple of hours most evenings of the week on the river, helpfully sited between the apartment and the office, sailing single-handed in a 'Cape Cod Mercury' - a tradition which Katya is apparently carrying on in my absence. So since I've been back in the UK I really missed it.

Fortunately at Adastral Park they have a really active sailing club, which owns a fully equipped 34 foot ocean-going bermuda sloop, a Beneteau called First Kiss. When I went to my first club meeting to see if I could get out on the water and sail somehow, people were discussing the details of a cross-channel trip. I asked a bit more about it, and in discussions it turned out that there were some spaces on board for additional crew. I snapped it up.

So sure enough a few weeks later I was on a ferry across the channel to meet First Kiss where it was moored at a marina in 'Goes' a pretty little town in the Netherlands. From there we sailed through the waterways and locks into the open sea, sailing overnight after a brief stopover in Breskens, a night in Nieuwpoort, Belgium and then down to Calais and on to Dover across the channel.

As my first true sea-going voyage, (if you don't count the Community Boating Harbour Trips) this will stick in my mind forever. I'd never done a night watch before - 2 hours on, with 3 hours sleeping as we crossed shipping lanes in the dark, squinting to work out which way tankers, trawlers and high speed ferries were travelling at 20 knots, while we crossed their path at 6 knots! Take a test to see how you do.

However, the most striking moment of all for me was on my final watch after we'd crossed the midpoint of the channel. Everyone else was below decks, and I was left to steer the ship alone. As the white cliffs of Dover hove into view, the overcast grey day was peeled back to reveal a clear blue sky and brilliant sun as we cruised into the Dover marina. The moment was captured in this photo by another of the crew, who snapped me from the companionway below decks.

If only I wasn't gurning so badly, this would be the perfect picture to show my grandchildren, (assuming I ever have sex again - the combination of working in a technology company, taking male-only voyages and doing boys toys adrenaline sports is frankly doing nothing for my social life :).

When we'd moored up we went for a traditional British meal to welcome ourselves home - with Bangla beer naturally.


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