I left Bonita at Gosport for a few days while the NE winds blew over and went back aboard on Wednesday night. Luckily our friend Jane agreed to come as crew.
Jane has done lots of sailing here and in Australian waters and has sailed on Bonita many times before. We set out at 1.30am to catch the tide. Such an early start seemed a bit bleak, but we had a a still night with a full moon. We motored to the Looe channel just off Selsey Bill, arriving just as the east going tide was starting.. Soon a light SW wind came up and we spent the day gently running up Channel keeping a few miles offshore. We heard many warnings on the VHF about illegal migrants crossing the channel, and we saw some military activity, but we saw no overloaded dinghies full of migrants. Very likely many slip in unnoticed by anyone.
As night fell we were concerned to see that the Varne lightship marking a sandbank in the middle of the English Channel, whose light has always flashed once every 20 seconds was in fact flashing every 5 seconds. Usually the characteristic of major navigational lights stays the same for many years. None of the charts we carried could explain this. However it appears that this change has been made as part of converting from diesel generated electricity to a solar powered LED light. Very few lightships show a red light, which requires much more power as the red filter absorbs the majority of the light. Its possible some of our charts might not be completely up to date, and perhaps its time for a new chip for the chartplotter.
By midnight we were passing Dover harbour with a brisk fair spring tide. There is plenty of anxiety in passing Dover at night, with its frequent fast ferries entering and leaving, and the array of dazzling shore lights can make the process more stressful. Immediately after Dover there is the contrast of the calm and unclutted waters of East Kent. Daybreak saw us off Margate, and we had a brisk tack into Swale against a freshening SW wind. D met us in the car, and we had the abrupt transition from old gaffer sailing into the real world. Ds picture shows Bonita back on her mooring with Jane and myself sorting out the covers intended to keep the worst of the rain off.
This was our second year attending the Falmouth Classics, which we enjoyed a lot, although it is a long way to go from the Thames estuary. Maybe next year we will be freer to cross the English channel and North Sea, although I am always anxious that we might meet an official demanding proof that VAT has been paid, or certification that Bonita complies with current boatbuilding regulations.