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Six days and 640 miles in variety of weather proved an interesting experience. Most books on the subject don't tell you much about those little things such as how you actually spend your waking moments, the practical side of bucket and chuck and how incredibly busy you always seem to be? It takes a while to get used to letting the boat sail for reasonable lengths of time ignoring small changes caused by wind shifts. Best to make occasional major corrections rather than too many micro navigation changes one would normally do along the coast.
Live by the sun rather than by the hour? Tom Cunliffe's advice not to have chart plotting running more than once or twice a day proved to be sound advice. As convenient as these tools may be, you seem to crawl across the larger distances and feel frustrated rather than pleased with progress. I fixed my position at 06h00, Noon and 18h00 and for the rest let the boat get on with it. At night I simply reefed, left the AIS on and slept when out of the Channel or when I was pretty sure of being clear of fishing boats.
On the third day everything seemed to change? I had got used to the motion, a daily pattern emerged and I reduced to half my dosage of Motion Sickness II tabs. It was no longer a chore and began to really enjoy! From then on I read a book a day, spent very little time in the cockpit and found Just Right generally took care of herself, bearing in mind the next two days was mainly about beating into 22 knots with 2 reefs and a staysail. Very bouncy and noisy below. Personal music is now on the list for next time! There was a moment when I had my breath knocked out while lying in my bunk and pondered how strong the hull really was, given I had more than 1000 m of water under me at the time? It helped to ease the motion by moving boxes of fuel and water around. I had a few irritating leaks / drips that need taking care of for the big one!
Weather information is really important for such a small boat
After the first day I picked up a weather fax ia the iCOM and PC and then compared it to the 7 day GRIB I had picked up via GPRS as I was leaving Plymouth. Both source gave me accurate wind speed and direction indications for roughly every 5 sq miles rather than the very broad-brush shipping forcasts and Navtex. I have come unstuck in the past when these turned out to be radically different or too vague from the reality when offshore. All the preparation over the past six months really paid off and this was the first time I was able to keep prepared for the changing weather conditions while on passage! Overall the weather forecasts turned out to be accurate and almost to the hour, the wind eased then died back once I neared the Scillies.
Although I had got the right bit of kit for the Iridium satellite phone, the provider had not sold me the service I needed to pick up weather GRIB files. This, along with the GCom email, was sorted on the day after I got back to make sure it will be operational. To be fair they then gave me a years service at half the price to see me through until after the Jester is complete.
The journey ended at midday on the sixth day as I entered Plymouth in pretty calm and sunny conditions, really pleased with all that had happened and sorry that the trip was over. Many valuable lessons learned and experience gained. Lots to do quite clearly but definitley do able!
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© Angus Davidson and Macmillan Cancer Support 2009
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