Poole to Dartmouth via Cherbourg!!

I had arranged to help my mate Marcus to sail his yacht El Nino (a Dufour 32 Integral) from Poole to Dartmouth, which, if the wind gods behaved themselves, would be a quick and straightforward trip of around 10 hours. However given the wind forecast Marcus decided that we should sail for Alderney, and from there we could make Dartmouth all under sail alone.

Marcus picked me up at the airport and after we had picked up groceries etc from Tesco it was down to the boat. After all this was stored we then dropped the mooring to fill up the tanks with water and diesel. We nipped into the new marina and filled up with water – then around to the fuel berth at the bridge, but as it was busy Marcus decided to abort here, and fill up at the fuel barge moored in the harbour. Down the harbour we went but the fuel barge was nowhere to be seen so back to the fuel pontoon at the bridge we went……………ho hum.

From there we went out to anchor in Studland Bay, make an evening meal and get a few hours sleep before departing at midnight. With El Nino having a lifting keel we were able to get really close inshore and find a spot to anchor. This was my first time in Studland Bay and clearly it is a popular spot because there were plenty of boats at anchor.

When we awoke at midnight the wind had either eased off or we were sheltered in the bay, so up with the mainsail and on with the engine. As we rounded “Old Harry” and cleared the headland the wind began to fill in well so engine off genny out and a course set for Alderney. All through the night the wind was pretty strong and gusty and we were close hauled so as tight to the wind as we could get. After sunrise we made the decision to abort on Alderney and instead head for Cherbourg.

On the approach to Cherbourg the wind was still pretty strong and squally, and after we entered past the massive breakwater the wind increased even more. This was my first time sailing into Cherbourg and it is huge with a Navy Base taking up one complete section. There were a few option for us to berth, but the easiest was to go alongside the pontoon that sits by itself in the harbour, and use the dinghy to go ashore. We were both pretty jaded after the crossing and turned in for a few hours sleep. In fact we never went ashore until the next morning, and we had a good walk around the town picking up a few bits and pieces that we needed.

Having a look at the route and tides over to Dartmouth we decided to set off at 1000 the next morning rather than set off at 0400, and we reckoned on us having initially one full west going tide, then a full east going tide and the final run into Dartmouth would be with the westerly tide. Off we set and had an absolutely cracking sail with the speed over the ground exceeding our expectation, and it seemed in no time that we were approaching the end of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in mid channel amazing. When we cleared the northern tip of the TSS the wind started to ease off, which was a disappointment given that it was forecast to go to the south. Eventually we gave up and motorsailed with the swell and waves subsiding noticeably. We eventually got into Dartmouth at around 0130 and tied up at Town Quay and within minutes of tying up the wind began to pipe in strongly. The wee bonus was that it stayed dry for the entire crossing.

In the morning we moved El Nino over to Darthaven Marina and booked a flight for me to get home – luckily there was one at 1215 out of Exeter so that was that for now. Marcus and his family will be using the boat for a week or so and then I will nip back down to help him sail her back to Poole………….question is Dartmouth to Poole via?????