We’re ready for the Channel crossing. Since moving onto Joker and out of my parents’ house we’ve shed a further chunk of inessential stuff, installed a new radio, a new radar reflector, our wind powered self-steering, dried out and scrubbed down the hull, dried out and had a survey done, then dried out and replaced a corroded skin fitting the surveyor found.
The drying out process has been quite tense every time, as we didn’t want to pay the £200 or so for a lift-out so we spent £45 a time to use the concrete square by the main pontoon at Wicor Marine, which empties at low tide.
While Lexia had a bilge keel that could settle on the ground, Joker has a single lifting keel and detachable beaching legs- two scaff poles with square bases that suspend from metal rings at the sides. The manuals we received had two different heights for the keel to balance with the legs, and both have been wrong. Once the keel touches down and you realise you’re off balance, you can’t wind it up because it’s bearing weight.
So each time we’ve dried out we’ve had to lash Joker to the pontoon with all the lines and fenders we have, attach the halyard (sail-hoisting) line and make sure she is leaning onto the pontoon side instead of outwards. Even with the keel and pontoon taking lots of weight, it puts a lot of pressure on just one metal loop embedded in the deck’s fibreglass. We step very very carefully around onboard and underneath, and can’t relax until the tide comes back in.
We’ve taken Joker out in the harbour a lot and got familiar with our routines for setting off and coming in. We’ve been watching the weather and getting nervous about the shortening days and worsening cold, wind and waves.
With all this and our sailing inexperience in mind, Sam decided we needed some help on the crossing. It’s a journey of about 12-15 hours, and if we want to do most of it in the light, we will need to set off at about 3am. Even then it’ll be getting dark when we arrive, tired, at a new harbour. Getting in somewhere is always the most stressful bit of a sail for us. (Here I touch wood, as this is only true in the case of an uneventful sail where mega-waves, breakages, hidden rocks and inescapable currents don’t intervene).
I pushed a bit for going it alone. I feel like this adventure has been pretty tame so far, despite the crash course in marriage and the many things I’m learning about boats. But Sam is the skipper and the journey would be a nightmare if we were tense and exhausted the whole time. It’s also possible that my role as the ‘storyteller’ of the trip and accompanying desire for drama and excitement gets in the way of my eye for safety. So we found a skipper and RYA teacher who agreed to help us over the Channel and paid him a deposit. Des also said that if all goes well he could give me my RYA Competent Crew certification on the way over.
Unfortunately the weather has been bad for both the initial windows he had in his schedule. The day before yesterday we thought we’d be going on Friday and got VERY excited. Then Des emailed us and said he couldn’t do it. The next window is looking like 2-3 December, and even then we’re at the mercy of the weather. So pray to the sea gods for some clear days around then, people.
In the meantime we’re paying around £200/month at the well equipped Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport. If we had housing to pay for as well, that would seem like a lot. As it is our house, it’s cheaper than living almost anywhere in the UK. But we’re SO ready to go.
Calling on Poseidon, Amphitrite, Aeolus, Triton and the Nereides. Sirens, Harpies and Gorgons, stay away!