Brighton to Dover

Another weekend, another night sail.

I wanted to take every opportunity to get Excalibur further along the coast as soon as possible before any October storms rolled in. So we had an ambitious plan of doing a 14 hour sail to Dover, and then head to London for a 70’s themed night in Shepherds Bush in the evening, followed by a taxi back to Reading in the early hours.

We met in Brighton and grabbed a pizza at Fatto a Mano before being sped down to the marina by an over enthusiastic uber driver. We quickly unpacked, got the boat ready and put our heads down for an hour.

We left just after 12am (-1 LW Dover), and were expecting a nice broad reach all the way to Dover. Once all the canvas out, the main halyard caused a bit of mayhem, we set our sights on Beachy Head.

It was a warm night, we had a good breeze and seas were peaceful. An enormous crescent moon hung above the shoreline, periodically covered by glowing clouds.

I took the first watch whilst Trina slept. On nights like these it’s nice to sit quietly and listen to your thoughts, without books or music. I spent most of my shift lightly dozing. I can quite happily doze off for a few minutes at a time, get up, have a look around and then close my eyes for another 5 minutes without falling into a deep slumber. The Hydrovane was doing his thing, money well spent. I trimmed the sails occasionally, but that was about it.

I woke Trina up at 4am and we swapped over. Not long after and the wind died away, so the engine went on.

I haven’t slept well on night passages, but I must have been tired as the next thing I remember was waking up at 8am. We were approaching Dungeness.

Trina’s main challenge in the night was avoiding fishing boats lit up like UFO’s, who keep you on your toes by constantly changing direction. Their abundance of lights also make it extremely difficult to judge their direction of travel.

We swapped over again.

Passages like these are a blessing. No stress, OK not much wind, but we were chomping up the miles, edging closer to home. We’ll have clocked up about 500 miles by the time we arrive in Dover.

A small military motor boat kept me occupied, as I watched it close in on us, pass by closely and zoom off. I gave them a wave, no response. As we approached the ever so beautiful Dungeness nuclear power plant, lit up by the morning sun, another military boat who was tracking along the dotted line marked Military training area on the chart came bounding up to us, like a kid on a BMX pulling a skid at the school gates, he watched us pass by. I gave him a wave, again no response. I can only conclude that my Jihadi Timmy appearance from afar must have warranted a closer look 🙂

We had to punch the tide as we neared Dover, and got treated to the washing machine. 

A storm is rolling in next week, so we tied up and stripped down the boat of anything that would cause additional windage. We’re now in Granville marina, ready for the final leg to London. I may move the boat to Ramsgate to shorten the final trip to London, we’ll see.

Trina bagged a £1 dress for the 70’s night in a charity shop in Dover. Showers, drinks, train, 70’s night, taxi back home to Reading. 3am. Sleep!

We spent Sunday evening watching Storm Tactics by Lin and Larry Pardey. I must have watched Storm Tactics half a dozen times, but as I get more miles under my belt I still learn things re-watching this video. Lin and Larry suggest among other things, that you should take your boat out in inclement weather to practice heavy weather sailing techniques. Once the rudder has been fixed we’ll have to do this. In the meantime we can run though some practice drills on in the marina, once we’re tucked up in St Kats for the winter.



Author: Tim Butler

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