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The Skipper at Sally Gap (Picture courtesy Pete Goss)

The Skipper at Sally Gap (Picture courtesy Pete Goss)

Team A-Jay (picture courtesy Pete Goss)

Team A-Jay Leaves Arklow (picture courtesy Pete Goss)

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Busy Little Place Padstow

There were several senior live-aboard ‘Captain Fry Ups’ in Penzance Wet Dock; you could tell by the smoke and heady aroma of ancient cooking oil, mingled with sausages and bacon that wafted across whichever Quay you chose to walk on. I was keen to become one of them, though with an eye for the healthier option I used fresh olive oil and a little black pudding for a more sophisticated approach, to create the perfect ‘Fat Boy’s’ breakfast.

With showers for a pound and very reasonable daily rates Penzance makes an excellent and cheap holiday base for the ever welcome ‘yachtie’, as the crew who helped dock a wayward A-Jay had discovered – they had stayed 8 weeks, long enough for their basil plant to look very lush.

‘Prep for sea’ checks revealed Yanny had a modest thirst but otherwise looked to be a happy Yanmar; the bilges sparkled, Barry the Barometer remained in high spirits, 2 mainsail battens had been refitted and the skipper’s stew pot refilled (recipe available on request). Passage planning was refreshingly simple; on departing the lock, bear 135° T for the Lizard and thence 109° T for Les Hanois lighthouse 120 nautical miles hence.

Porridge fired the skipper up next morning and Team A-Jay slipped quietly through the lock at 0730 and jogged light-footedly across Mounts Bay with St. Michael keeping a close watch, towards the creepy crawly Lizard Headland, Espresso to hand and sadness in the heart at the end of a modest life journey, with a tinge of excitement too, at the thought of returning home after 4 1/2 months at sea.

At 0920 something hit A-Jay lightly but noisily beneath the waterline, though the oceans didn’t enter the bilges, Yanny’s life blood did not dribble down his chin, A-Jay never flinched and the skipper didn’t spill a drop. There was no visible evidence and we were in open, clear water. Strange but all part of growing up and being British..

Anyway the wind off the Lizard had gone on vacation and Team A-Jay’s tide assisted headway created more apparent puff than the real wind, but at a heady 7.5 knots, the skipper wasn’t complaining for the miles were being guzzled faster than he could manage his Espresso.  Rain clouds puffed up their pigeon chests and postured ineffectively, as the Eddystone Light stood tall and proud in the brighter distance and 40,000 tons of ship throbbed past a mile off. Lunch approached and the wind teased, enough to sail for a few minutes before it would stop for a rest like an overweight jogger, before trotting on again. Oh well, at least lunch could be taken on a horizontal level for today, 2nd September.

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After 4 1/2 Months, the Skipper Discovered the ‘Selfie’ Button

It was just after lunch, as the sun was shining and the wind remained spent that the sinister, sleek black hulled submarine slunk past 2 miles astern; impressively scary but she didn’t play with us as her sister ship had done up near Mull in July. Alone now with nothing visible to the MK1 eyeball mid Channel I decided to play ‘spot the ship’ with Ray the Radar – he won 11 – 3! Continuing with the maths theme, the skipper did a little in-flight refuelling before dark, for conditions were still benign.  Fuel consumption calculations suggested 0.5 gph, as it had been throughout the voyage, so there was enough in the tank to continue under power if necessary.

Reading a certain yachting magazine as the light faded, two things struck me; a new 24 hour sailing record of 642 miles had just been set – that was not a misprint and was 5 times what the good ship A-Jay had ever managed. The second was a photograph of a small yacht, the size of A-Jay, impaled on a Scottish rock very close to where we had passed.  The solo skipper had fallen asleep and not only struck the rock, but was so disorientated he had been unable to give an accurate position.  No dishonour – it happens.

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Busy Channel

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Blue Sky Channel

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The Royal Navy were out in force, for a svelte frigate now hissed busily ahead of Team A-Jay on a mission, a complete contrast to the rusty floating suitcase that huffed and puffed past heading West.  As darkness fell the wind picked up and pushed for the next 3 hours, shipping now just twinkling lights and purple blobs on Ray’s screen.  Occasionally the dark clouds peeled back to reveal shy stars, as 23 ships came and went about their business around us in the dusk, though illuminated evidence of just 5 could be seen.

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Svelte Frigate, Evening

To the East, the faint loom of the Roche Douvres could be discerned though Les Hanois still hid 35 miles ahead and the moon levitated from the dark horizon like an orange egg.  It was cold.  In the early hours, the peace was disturbed by another collision.  Two fenders, tied together, wrapped themselves around the starboard keel banging angrily against the hull before escaping and shooting under the stern.  30 minutes later, the prop slowed – we had either picked up something else, or the residue from the fenders had caught in the prop. Into neutral, slow astern, then ahead, neutral and forward.  It seemed to do the trick and off we went again, the sails barely filled by the flagging wind.

Exhaustion and sleeplessness impair judgement and play tricks on the mind, but the results can sometimes be amusing. For example I had been convinced that up ahead, a very large brightly lit oil installation was being towed Northwards by a tug whose port light could be seen. Wrong. It was the airport lights on Guernsey and very soon the double flash of Les Hanois could be discerned, which confirmed this. The sea now picked up and A-Jay wiggled her posterior to surf happily off the playful crests, which hissed white in the darkness.

Time to concentrate, for I had no chart plotter and although I know this coast well, I was very tired and did not want to become a statistic, or a photograph in a yachting magazine.  The new master plan was simple, always best ….. take your time, keep well offshore to avoid the myriad lobster pot markers (we had hit enough under water objects for one trip) and avoid the many inshore rocks.  It was amazing how the mind could bend images and Team A-Jay was once heading for Jersey, with the skipper wondering who had hidden St. Peter Port for it was a very dark night.  Gradually sense was made of the plethora of lights and dark shadows and A-Jay found the right heading and fought the punchy spring tides, heading North for home.

0530 found Team A-Jay alongside a waiting pontoon in St. Peter Port, with no one but the gulls for company, the skipper busy with the consumption of an excellent Fat Boy’s…. 22 hours and 136 miles out from Penzance, 4 1/2 months and 2,000 miles since leaving Guernsey. Life quite simply would never be the same again.

Sitting in the cockpit, coffee to hand the skipper heard a shout.  A loyal friend stood on the distant quayside, waiting to take the lines of Team A-Jay in an hour ….what a fine welcome! Such people make the World go round.

That’s it – Journey’s End. Thank you all for supporting me.

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By ajay290

Journey’s End

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All the Way from Basel

I love quirky, laid back friendly Penzance and once again woke to find myself put firmly in my place – a Beneteau First 27.7 – yup, a light weight Frenchie – all the way from Basel. Good boat, but clearly a great skipper. Anyway back to whence we came.

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Ice Breaker to Luxury Yacht

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Penzance Wet Dock

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Penzance Sunshine

Good plans never survive the first write and the latest master Plan was at least Mk4. Sunday 30th saw Teams Goss and A-Jay slip quietly out of the River Avoca, trickling South either side of the Tusker Buoy. Farewell Pete and Tracey, it was a pleasure and a privilege to meet you both.

Barry the Barometer remained cheerful, a weak sun escaped from the overcast and the skipper was chipper after a good lunch and 8 knots on the clock, as wind and tide sluiced Team A-Jay South, Yanny pushing very gently. We routed East of Tusker to clip the NE corner of the Tusker TSS and popped out of St. George’s Channel like a cork from a bottle, at a cool 8.5 knots, drinking tea with nothing on the radar to worry about. Rising to an oily sea, a metre high on tip toes, nervy Guillemots “Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring”, Ireland to starboard, Kilmore Quay a bolt hole, little Dale a pretty Pembrokeshire safe haven, no others until Padstow and its Doom Bar which Team A-Jay had crossed in a pre dawn raid back in May.

The skipper boiled cabbage as the Saint with his attendant Bishops and Clerks washed their Smalls off the Welsh coast, in the cold grey dusk, and busy ships slipped up the Smalls TSS.

Dolphins came as the skipper’s thoughts turned to supper, and danced close under the prow though most avoided capture by the skipper’s Tesco Hudl2. While the dolphins – perhaps a dozen-   hunted, the skipper, dressed for dinner in blue crash helmet and fetching red life jacket, smugly congratulated himself on the contents of his pot whilst working diligently at maintaining a healthy ballast ratio.

Blessed with tide, pushed gently by Yanny and pulled by he sails in 8 knots from the North, Team A-Jay had averaged better than 7knots, though tide would head us through sunset into the small hours and the pace would slow.

Dark night, busy with ships tramping Northwards, the shore alive; astern the ruby, emerald and diamond lights of a yacht maintaining station, the sea gently restless. Dull midnight veiled moon, sleepy wind, quiet sea, deserted for now but for the following yacht and a fishing boat out to sea – 83 miles done, many more to go.

Pubescent dawn came with a bang as Harry announced to the sleepy  skipper that the boat was ill balanced for the lively conditions. Stepping on deck it was clear that things had become more boisterous and the skipper had been ill prepared. It wasn’t long before there was a rope round the prop, the job sheets had knitted themselves into a ball more fuel was required and the skipper’s DIY preventer was over powered.

‘Saga Mode, make a list, get on with it. A bad start to the day but there was excitement to be had as A-Jay picked up her skirts and surfed off the big daddies at nearly 9 knots, no big deal but enough excitement for this skipper. So it was that Team A-Jay shot out of the Celtic Sea and plunged clumsily into Cornish waters. It was strange to find quiet waters around the Longships, at which point the Master Plan was again rewritten to include Penzance for a rest, 186 nautical miles and too many sleepless hours out from Arklow. Needless to say Team Goss was snugly ensconced in the Scillies, drama free, long before the skipper stabled Team A-Jay; a little way to go yet I fear.

Next stop home, or shall we go round again??

By ajay290