Passage 52, Brighton to Eastbourne

This one was a toughy. It started out with a beat against a force 4 as I headed out to sea, though making decent progress up the coast. I’d gone out double reefed knowing it was going to be breezy and it soon turned into a force 5. As it did so the waves changed from 1/2 - 1 meters to 1 to 2 meters.

By the time I was at Beachy Head, I was getting some force 6 and some waves 2 to 3 meters. But I was pleased with the way the sails were reefed and I was doing a good 4.5 knots against wind and waves. The tide was giving me 1/2 a knot on average for the whole trip. But I was now getting the occasional dousing. The sun was going down and as I turned the corner from Beachy Head, the sun set and I dug in for a tough set of tacks to get to Eastbourne harbour as darkness descended. As it got darker I couldn’t trim the boat as well for the oncoming waves as I couldn’t see them. So the dousings were a little more often as they had a surprise element to them.

It’s at times like this when you can’t really enjoy it and it just becomes an uncomfortable chore to get into harbour. I couldn’t stick the engine on even if I wanted to as there were doubtless oodles of lobster pot buoys out to get me. If I’m sailing with the propellor folded up (as I was) then running over a lobster pot buoy is usually harmless and I think I did at one point as I felt a twang on the rudder as the rope caught and then released. In heavy seas, the movement is bound to free the buoy. But if your prop is going round then the rope can easily wrap itself around it and that’s a pretty nasty situation to be in, tied to a lobster pot with no power in the dark in a force 6. So no engine until I was right outside the harbour.

Eastbourne has a lock to get into the marina and a little protected, and thus calm, bit of water immediately before. So I waited until then to rig my lines for tying up. Unfortunately, I’d put my handheld VHF radio on top of the cockpit locker. In a rush to get at those lines I whipped open the cockpit locker which flung my precious handheld into the abyss never to be seen again. Careless me.

I was locked in at 9:45pm and safely on my pontoon berth by 10pm. Night sailing in those conditions is not my idea of fun. Since I’ve been having such an easy time of it of late I’d decided to rough it out once just to get round this headland in readiness for a more feasible longer trip to my next port of call - Ramsgate. And all this on top of a 33 mile action-packed cycle ride in the morning. I was cream crackered. Soup, Shower and Sleep in short order.

The next day

I had a day off. No sailing. No cycling. It was hot and sunny and I spent most of my time with Nick who was berthed right next to me and sailing the exact same type of boat so we swapped notes liberally. I also witnessed his daring climb up the mast with the expert help of another fellow mariner (and ex climber), James, to advise on the technique and equipment. He got right up to the top and offered me a go. I declined. I’d had enough excitement.

Passage 53, Eastbourne to Ramsgate