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  • Writer's picturePeter

Autumn Storms in the English Channel - Cowes to Brest

Our plan to sail from Cowes (Southern UK) to Brest (Northern France) was based on the availability of crew and a suitable weather window.

Our first departure date slipped by as there was no wind at all and the second was approaching with all crew onboard (Jonathan and Stuart). We looked for hours at the weather and wind expectations and thought we had a good plan where everyone agreed.

We set off from Cowes with the tide against us, so we could arrive at the Needles with the turn in tide and get the maximum possible help as we headed in a south westerly direction for France.

My mum came down to the sea front of Gurnard (near Cowes) to wave us goodbye; it was great to be able to wave to her as we went past as we were only a short distance off shore at this point of our route.

Our first few hours were with a fresh wind in a good direction, so we made great headway in the direction we wanted. As the day wore on, the wind began to increase and change in direction – this was about 6 hours earlier than expected from the various wind models we had spent hours looking at.

Now the sea state was less comfortable and both Jonathan and I had already lost our lunch several hours earlier. We changed course to head in a more southerly direction to make the best use of the wind and to get closer to France.

The weather had further deteriorated and the seas were additionally uncomfortable. Jonathan was frequently seen with his arms around a black bucket, then after a while he retreated to Stuart’s cabin with his bucket, where there was less movement, and was not seen at all until later the following morning.

Stuart and I made 2 hour watches through the night with 2 hours of rest/sleep between. At first we did not sleep much, but as we reached a stability and did not encounter many other ships in our path the 2 hours off seemed very short.

Our initial destination of L’Aber Wrac’h looked impossible to reach due to the wind direction and the time it would take to get there, so we modified our destination to the closer port of Roscoff. Unfortunately, the wind was coming directly from Roscoff, so it was necessary to use the motor to make any progress – and considering Jonathans discomfort, we wanted to get there as soon as we could.

The calm waters of Roscoff’s harbour area were very welcome to us all and we safely berthed 36 hours after departure from Cowes. Ingrid’s watchful eye on Marine Traffic captured photos of our boat as we entered the harbour and we even had a photo sent to us of Jonathan on the pontoons!

After a shower and light dinner, we were ready for our beds.

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