Today we sailed to Bologne and back

This bank holiday, I decided to join Oliver, Carlotta, and Will, on Troskala to Bolougne. Oliver and Carlotta had sailed to Bolougne earlier in the year, and highly recommended it.

We had a great trip over to Bolougne, without any problems.

Bolougne’s a nice little french town.  The old town is pretty and the waitresses aren”t bad either. There’s not more to say apart from, that you’ll need to bring some mountaineering gear to climb up the steep incline leading out of the marina at low tide. If you suffer from angina, you’re done for!

Heading back turned out to be a little bit more interesting. Oliver tasked me with job of getting us back to blighty. We headed out of the marina and set our course to Dover. All was fine; the sun was shining, and not a cloud in the sky. I had heard over the radio that there was a bit of fog somewhere, but Oliver wasn’t bothered, and Will was smiling, so nothing to worry about…right?! Whilst Oliver was napping, we could make something out on the horizon that resembled a bank of foggy misty stuff. Within about 10 minutes we were in zero visibilit, sailing across the busiest shipping channel in the world. Oliver came up on deck, the engine came on, and we proceeded at Troskala warp drive, with the sails up. After a little discussion where I recalled some of my day skipper learnings, we took down the sails and motored slowly. I headed up front  and sat on the bow, looking for any shapes that might resemble big, tooting ferries. Will assumed a watch standing up on the lazerette. Carlotta took to the radar, and Oliver hand steered with flares in hand. Travelling through fog turned out to be a eerily terrifying experience. There’s nothing more unsettling than deep thunderous fog horns coming from all directions. I did my best to point at the general direction of the sound of fog horns, whilst Carlotta shouted and screamed that were constantly on a collision course with ‘cockroaches’, or shapes that could be other boats. Our fog horn was about as useful as a horn you get on 50cc scooters, but that’s all we had. Things got very interesting when one fog horn blast came out of the blue. I saw nothing, but Oliver shouted out, fired a white collision flare (not sure how useful this was in thick fog but it was better than nothing) and spun Troskala around 180 degrees, which possibly did nothing to improve our safety, as we couldn’t see a bloody thing anyway.

I spent about 2 hours sat on the bow, looking at fog, sometimes shapes seemed to appear, but it was really just figments of my imagination. I even envisaged the Black Pearl heading directly for us a couple of times!

As darkness descended, we eventually made it to the entrance of Dover, which was engulfed in thick fog. The conditions were pretty lumpy around the entrance. Oliver nearly did a swan dive into the drink, when something broke, and the boom fell down. With the task of getting into the bloody marina at hand, the broken boom was quickly lashed down and we tentatively motored into the marina. We were all pretty relieved once we moored up and the engine was switched off.

Fog is so bloody creepy to sail through. If I ever hear it on the radio, I will take more notice next time.

The next morning Oliver wanted to leave, but the fog was still engulfing the marina. Reports from other boats that had just come in, reported that the fog was sat around Dover and no where else. Will was taking the train back, leaving just the 3 of us. We had a small mutiny, as myself and Carlotta had pretty much had enough of fog for one trip. Oliver begrudgingly gave in and we decided to leave at night, when the fog was forecasted to subside. Immediately after all agreeing to spend the day in Dover, Carlotta started to suggest that maybe we should leave in the fog. Women are such darlings!

In the end, we left in the early hours of Sunday morning, for a non-stop slog back to St Kats. The trip turned out pretty well. Travelling by night meant that navigating through the treacherous Goodwin Sands was a doddle, as it was lit up like a runway. The only small scare was when Oliver told me to keep a bit closer to the buoys, which I did until the tide sucked us in very close to a buoy, which resulted me having to turn Troskala stern on to the buoy and give her all she  had to stop us colliding with the buoy. Knowing which way the tide is flowing was another lesson learnt, and that sometimes the skipper doesn’t know it all 🙂

18 hours later we made it back all in one piece. Tired but fulfilled. yay!



Author: Tim Butler

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