Today we sail to England.
We’re in Dunkerque. It’s taken us ten days to put the boat back together again (mast had to go back up. Lots of work adjusting rigging, wiring all the mast electronics, putting up the running rigging, bending the sails.) But now all is ready.
We haven’t been to sea in a couple of months, and our adrenaline flows freely on the eve of first sails. It is not too far, at 40 miles, but with the shortened days, we will have to maintain a good speed to do it all in daylight.
Every new place seems to have special challenges. Here, there are a few. We’ll be going through a massive shipping channel, as a good portion of the seaborne cargo going to northern Europe funnels into the bottleneck of the channel. Then there are the massive tides, bigger than any we’ve seen since Australia, which create currents of up to three knots. At the beginning of the day they’ll be on our starboard side, and then switch at mid-day. And then there are a number of sandbanks to contend with, both on the French coast and then again as we close on England. It’s also supposed to blow pretty well tomorrow, but the forecast is for it to be aft of the beam, i.e., more behind us than not, and so that will give us better speed, and help us to do the trip before the daylight runs out. The wind will help the speed, but it will also, unfortunately, push us into the current, and create very choppy seas, famously known as the “English Channel Chop.” With the need to re-season our sea legs, this might be a challenge.
We’re excited. Alexander will be sailing through the Downs, an area just below Ramsgate, to which we’re sailing, and protected by a sandbank called Goodwind Sands. A little more than two hundred years ago, his namesake and great-, great-, great-, great-grandfather anchored in the same place, aboard the HMS Leander. In the days that follow, we’ll sail the boat right up the Thames to London, retracing, again, Alexander’s footsteps. It ought to be fun.