It was a year ago that I first met Frenchman André Reze. He had berth next to Baybreeze at Shamrock Quay for the night making use of Marina Developments Ltd (MDL) Freedom Berthing scheme. He’d just arrived having crossed Lyme Bay and the Bill of Portland and recounted when a huge wave seemed to come from nowhere and land in his cockpit. He’d travelled with the tide but was not aware of the dangers of the Portland Race!
He’d just completed a circuit in his yacht Eden, a Beneteau 400, around the southern and eastern coasts of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, much of it single-handed. I had loaned him a pilot book for the day and that evening we’d got together over a few glasses of French red wine. He explained to me his successful fishing technique which was to locate a shallow seamount or wreck passing over it a few times with fishing lure dangling overboard. His fish catch was recently supplemented by clawing a bucketful of cockles on the Hamble Point mudflats at low tide.
He expressed a fondness for the English and was keen to improve his spoken English, so we agreed to keep in touch.
André arrived back a year later having completed a similar circuit on coasts adjacent to the Irish Sea. His track is shown below. Where his track crosses several times over a sea mount, you’ll know that’s where he’d been fishing!
Much of trip was, as before, single-handed, except for a three week period, when he took on a French crew at Oban. As he was about to head back for his home port on the Britanny coast, I suggested we head back together in tandem, as least as far as Torquay, where I would leave him to continue his journey and I would return to Shamrock Quay. I agreed to ‘collect’ him as I passed Ocean Village Marina, where he was berthed, at 0830 on Friday 28 August. Leaving a mid-flood tide always seemed a good idea as the Needles tidal gate would be in ebb as we transited.
Much of the journey was pleasant and without incident, except for an autopilot failure on Baybreeze soon after departure which meant my being stationed at the helm for the entire eight-hour journey without a break from mid-Solent to Studland Bay where we anchored for the night. The steering lock was of little use, as the boat would turn, head into the wind and lose speed. Fortunately, it was a recurring problem and one which I was familiar with and so was easily repaired while at anchor.
An early 0600 start to catch the tide the next day (Sat 29 August) was hindered by a lack of wind the entire day so we motored the whole journey from Studland Bay to Tor Bay, some 70 nm or about 14 hours. Fortunately, the autopilot behaved well and I was able to be relieved of the helm for many hours. We passed about 3 nm off the Bill of Portland and, even at this distance, the ride through ‘the Race’ was bumpy. What is really interesting is how propeller efficiency appears to reduce in highly turbulent waters. The difference in speed over ground (SOG) and speed through water (STW) tended to remain the same although both reduced as the race was traversed.
We arrived at Tor Bay at about 2300 hours to an easy-to-find anchorage. While we had rafted the boats together for a brief period during the evening while anchored in Studland Bay, on this occasion we decided to anchor apart for fear of our masts colliding and causing damage as a result of wind or wave action.
Waking up to now visible new surroundings is always a delight and in Tor Bay this was no exception. A lovely bay with easy access though perhaps not so comfortable in an easterly wind. During my brief stay the light wind was NE so all was well. André motored over in his dinghy, we had lunch together and revelled in how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such freedom.
We parted company about mid-afternoon. A decision now had to be made for when to undertake the return journey. A lovely F4 northerly breeze was forecast making conditions for the sail back ideal. Catching the tide meant either an early morning departure at 0100 (Monday 31 August) arriving in Studland Bay in daylight hours (mid-afternoon) or departing 1100 and arriving in darkness. It seemed the former was the obvious choice. A catching up on sleep was called for!
The sail back was pleasant with all sails fully deployed and no sail changes except for the final moments tacking into Studland Bay. This time I decided to give Portland Bill an even wider berth – 5 nm!
I anchored in Studland Bay overnight and departed 0630 the next day (Tuesday 1 September) to catch the spring ‘supertide’ back to Shamrock Quay. I decided on the route through the main Channel rather than the North Channel and, as the wind direction and strength was right, was hoping to sail Baybreeze through it. Alas, I had misjudged the strength of the tide and found myself being set off track onto the Isle of Wight. The idea of sailing through had to be abandoned and the motor started and run only for a short time to put us on track. [This is evident in the vessel’s track shown below. What would I have done if the problem have been compounded by engine failure? Turn the boat southward helped by the northerly wind, then figure out the next move! When single-handed, one has fewer options!].
Another yacht wasn’t so lucky and found itself grounded on the west side of The Shingles bank probably set there by the strong flood supertide that prevailed. I first noticed her as I entered the Needles, keeled over, with foresail out but going nowhere. On approaching Hurst Point, a call for assistance was answered as an RNLI lifeboat sped past.
Catching the tide is a ‘no-brainer’. At times Baybreeze’s COG was 10 knots. Speedy! Less time at the wheel, more time to relax, less tiredness! I arrived at Shamrock Quay as the flood tide abated and managed to berth Baybreeze confidently and without assistance! A lovely trip.
Distance travelled: 232 nm. Engine hours: 15. Overnight hours: 10.
Next planned trip
The Channel Isles and the north Brittany Coast, mid-October 2015.