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Frogs, rocks and a blue moon…

Bonjour, comment ca va? –I made it.

Thursday morning had started out brilliantly. I didn’t want an early start because I wanted to finish the 20hr crossing in daylight as I approached the Brittany coast. A lovely morning. An easy departure with no wind in the sheltered part of Falmouth marine where I was moored. This made it easy to slip the lines and casually stroll back to the cockpit and pull away with all the eyes and the cups of coffee watching. I topped it off with a knowing nod to the hirsuit skipper of the wooden schooner moored just aft of me – he echoed the nod – I am sure he was not muttering “If you reverse into me I’ll skin ye alive..” He looked just like Capn. Haddock. It was an omen. I was off to Frogland the land of Tin Tin, crap music and food that is – well – French.. “Je suis désolé, monsieur , si vous voulez curry peut-être vous devriez aller en Inde..”

Today, was a big day. My first solo Channel Crossing, my first solo full night passage, and my departure from the UK. I rewarded myself with my first gadget. You don’t expect a retired geek not to have brought some gadgets along do you? I fitted my “genuine fake GoPro Hero2” camera to the pole on the stern. It is actually a great alternative to the over priced GoPro – its called a SJ4000 sports camera. All from a supplier on eBay who also sells stick-on bra support pads – what could go wrong. The camera actually works – and you can install an app on your iPhone to control the camera using its own built in wifi network – amazing. I will post some videos taken with the camera when I get a chance to process them.

The first 12 hours were – well – perfect. I left harbour with 1 reef in the main – you never  know what to expect as you hit the Channel after such disturbed weather. but the horizon opened up to a sea of deep blue, and a sky of…er, sky blue. Very soon it was full sail, the only sound, the swoosh of the sea as it was shouldered out of the way by Enterprise. I imagine that the sensation is the same as driving a convertible Bentley through the deserted mountain roads of Scotland.

The day progressed as expected. the usual tussle to time the crossing of the commercial shipping lanes. This is when your Bentley morphs into a hedghog with a little saddle and you in it, coaxing the little creature to cross the M25. Once across however you are back in the Bentley. Lovely.

Tonight – Friday July 31 we should all be graced by a special full moon, a blue moon. It is the second full Moon to take place in July. Two full Moons in the same month happen only once every two to three years. Hence the old saying “Once in a blue moon” (…credit to Mum, again). The moon was huge and shining brilliant white as I approached the coast of France at midnight last night. The only blue thing was me. Yes it was cold, damn cold. I had my Musto BR2 gear on – I love my BR2 – except for the trousers – its always the toilet that defeats sports gear designers. I had run out of distractions like making tea, making coffee, eating an entire bag of liquorice All Sorts, micro waving “pasta surprise”  that I had prepared days earlier and put in the freezer. I sat huddled in the cockpit. The BR2 suit was so cold I could feel it through the layers underneath and I was trying to wear the gear without letting any part of my body actually touch it. Suddenly the VHF burst into life and through the fog of sleep I heard “Enterprise, Enterprise this is Ernest Shackleton, go channel zero six, over” – I jumped out of my skin. Not just because it took me a second to realise that this was most likely a boat name not a voice from the grave. My old bones had to swing into action when at 01000 I was hailed by the “Ernest Shackleton” Survey Ship. I was so annoyed at having to move – first I had to reply – taking my gloves off to use the remote mic at the helm – then being advised “go channel 6” – I scurried down below to unplug poor old Rod who was singing his heart out – and use the main VHF. The skipper of the “Shackleton” was barking orders in broad Scots brogue, that, combined with the VHF crackle, meant I had to ask him three times to repeat his message. This did not appear to improve his mood. In the end I decided that since he was drifting slowly west – I would turn hard to port. “aye Sir, tha wo be fine wi me!” came the sarcastic reply.

Shackleton

Shackleton is famous for the survival of the crew of “Endurance” when his ship got stuck in Antarctica and eventually sank. These grim thoughts, and the annoyance of having to steer in an arc of 1 mile around Shackleton’s brightly lit backside, did nothing to inspire me. I decided that since I was head to wind (in a useless 1kt Easterly) that I would take the main sail down, and motor so that I could manoeuvre more easily and avoid any further surprises that the looming, and notorious rocky Brittany coast, combined with the mad local French fishing fleet, may throw at me.

Dawn broke with a glorious sunrise and at last the rocky coastline went from black on black, to granite against a pink, red, blue airbrushed sky. Entering l’Aber Wrach – now two hours behind schedule and the tide running out hard –  helped to keep me awake. Luckily the port control rib was out and lead me into an alongside berth next to the life boat and the local fishing fleet – I think the guy took pity on me – or perhaps it was the red staring eyes that convinced him I was not going to be happy being shown a 10m finger pontoon (Enterprise is 13m long) in the crowded visitors area. I was already rigged with ropes and fenders on starboard – I was not going to change – I offered the rib man “Starboard s’il vous plait” and a meaningful glare – you have to show the Froggies who is top chien.

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Taken with SJD400
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8 comments to Frogs, rocks and a blue moon…

  • Glad you had enjoyable crossing, are you heading down the french coast now?, tell me when you get to the South of France and i may join you xx

  • john

    ……Astrix the Gaul….French comic book….in case you needed a substitute for Tin Tin in your next blog!
    Helpful bast**d aren’t I!

  • phil ient

    Excellent stuff Russ – the narrative is brilliant – I feel I am there with you. Keep up the blogs and there will be a book in there I am sure.

  • Stuart

    That’s great Russ. Hope it continues with blue skies, sun and calm sea. You didn’t mention the water production unit. Is that working now?

  • vicky

    bonjour captain chuck

    Daddy wanted to point out that Tin Tin was from Belguim……are you lost?

    Nanny Pat says hello as well! (we are reading your blog together….real saddo’s aren’t we!

    Just like the blitz all over again.

    On a serious note….be very interested in the go pro copy!

    • Hi John & Vicky & Nanny Pat

      You are of course right about Tin Tin – poetic license (it was published in French 🙂 )

      Click on the link in the posting for the camera it will take you to eBay.

      Capn Chuck

  • Well done Russ! Ironic that you’ve just made it over there while lots of people are trying to do the reverse from Calais to Dover! Loved reading this blog – as ever. I’ll be out there tonight looking for the blue moon & thinking of you doing the same. Have a lovely evening – we’re having curry (sorry!). xxx

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