As you may have gathered from the log, or recent lack of it, Jeremy has had to return to business responsibilities. This has left me with the formidable task of trying to follow in his footsteps and provide my input into the log.
I have always accepted that to have a boat and sail you must be a little mad. I guess that this would be doubly so for sailing on your own. However, there is a thrill, a mixture of fear, anticipation and excitement that motivates this urge. My first leg from Padstow, where Jeremy stepped ashore, was to the isolated beauty of Lundy. In this idyllic weather the solitude beckoned like a siren to the rocks, impossible to ignore and almost impossible not to follow. The rewards though were visiting dolphins, first spotted off the starboard bow who came to investigate and say hello, swimming around and under Ardent for some five minutes as we sailed. Shy seals sneaked a look from a distance and gannets dived vertically into the sea at great speed in their unique fishing style. As the wind picked up over the day the Atlantic swell would lift the boat high from behind then plunge you into a trough, blocking out the horizon.
By contrast, having reached Milford Haven and being joined for a few days by Colin, we left for a 120 mile leg overnighter for the Isle Of Man. The wind was force 5-6 when we left but expected to ease and was fortunately a much needed southerly which would make the distance a speedy hop. At 23:30 the coastguard upgraded the proceeding strong wind warning to imminent gale force 8. Nowhere to hide, just keep going. The night was black, but the pounding rain that flattened the surface of the sea reduced visibility to just a dozen yards, the foam from our bow just visible from the illumination of the nav lights. Three times as we plunged through the darkness I heard the dismayed cawing of a seabird, probably a surprised Guillemot having taken refuge on the water, not expecting to be run down as we loomed out of the black and startled him from sleep. I was eternally thankful for the high tech assistance that I had installed in the form of AIS and active radar reflector. The helmsman’s job was exhausting work, constantly correcting the course which was best steered by wind instrument as visibility was zero. Happy but exhausted we arrived at the IOM and slept until lunch time!
Arriving at Portpatrick, my first call in Scotland, brought to memory the words of an experienced yacht helmsman in the IOM who had advised me that this was a good stopping point but that the entrance had truly scared him the first time as the tide races across the entrance of this tiny harbour and the waves break across the 30 foot gap in the harbour wall in any serious weather. The harbourmaster, when called before arrival and asked about space had chuckled and said ‘Pontoons? What are they? We get a 14 foot swell in the harbour here in a strong westerly.’ Glad of the tyre that I carry I moored alongside a fishing boat that I had been assured would be staying put the next day, as was I, due to forecast gales!