Cast Off

For those of you that have not travelled to Europe since the relaxation of restrictions following the Covid crisis, let me share my experiences and those of my crew. Travelling to France now requires a double vaccination certificate and a declaration that no symptoms have been experienced recently. It is not now possible to check in and obtain the British Airways boarding pass on-line, so you have to queue up and be checked for the documentation before a paper boarding pass is issued. Perversely, in France, they don’t seem to give a damn, didn’t want to see anything other than the passport and my enquiries about officially clearing out as we leave French jurisdiction were met with a shrug and just ‘get on with it’!

We were very grateful to Walter Fisher who met us at Nice Airport and kindly conveyed us to Baie des Anges preparing us for the mess that we were about to encounter on board. Several contractors had carried out work in my absence and they had each left detritus which seemed to compound an escalating ‘to do list’.

In my absence, collared doves had set up home between my radar transmitter and the mast and a chick was visible in the nest.

Collared doves nesting between the radar and the mast. You can just see the tail of a second chick.

They had kindly left plenty of evidence of their occupation and the situation was debated at length.

Mess on deck beneath the nest.

The solution championed by Walter as the most humane was to go up the mast in a bosuns chair and retrieve the offspring into a bag if they were not ready to fly. In that it was Walter’s suggestion, he was volunteered for the job despite suffering from vertigo and never having previously been hoisted in a bosuns chair.

Walter up the mast in the bosuns chair.

In the event, there were two chicks and they both flew off, presumably for the first time. Their mother who was absent at the time, kept returning, looking for her babies and I certainly felt guilty at having intervened in such a way but what else could we have done? It must have been better than testing their swimming ability.

What have you done with my babies.

Dinner was taken in a marina restaurant, and we were joined by Walter and Les Sampson who has ‘Bettina’ in Cannes Port. He very kindly sent us a case of rose the next morning ‘to ease our passage’ – many thanks Les!

A case of Rose kindly donated by Les.

I should have known better than to leave Peter in charge of the shopping (Walter very kindly drove Peter and Richard to the ‘Geant’ which is a massive supermarket) while I carried on with jobs and formalities in the Marina. I remember his purchase of blackbird pate when in Corsica so I should have known better! My personal requests seemed to be ignored in favour of some very dubious purchases including a black saucisson (which was mostly gristle) and loads of beetroot.

The ‘black saussison’. It defied chewing!

Replete with victuals, water, and diesel, including an extra 200 litres in jerry cans on the aft deck, we departed at 13.30, 24 hours after our arrival.

Approaching the fuel dock.
Walter filling the eight Jerry Cans on the aft deck.

Conditions matched the weather forecast and we motored along the Cote d’Azur with no wind and a relatively flat sea. As I have previously experienced (to an extreme in the Straits of Messina) there are some significant currents in the Med. Our instruments showed a discrepancy between our log impeller speed though the water and the GPS speed over the ground which suggested a favourable one knot current heading west. This was confirmed when passing a lobster pot marker buoy with the current clearly streaming on it. Into the Golfe Du Lion and the currents fluctuated, only a quarter of a knot but sometimes with us, sometimes against us. I have always experienced heavy weather in the Golfe Du Lion so I was suspicious of the forecast which suggested that it would be benign.

Nick contemplating life, the Universe and everything.

The wind increased in the night to the point that there would have been slight merit in seeking some assistance from the mainsail but as this didn’t happen until 05.00 and we were on single man watches I chose to ignore the temptation and wait until the morning when all hands would be on deck.

An abandoned doughnut which caught our attention on passage and we diverted to inspect. It had become a perch for seabirds.

We had debated at length and agreed on our watch arrangements which appear to suit everyone. Richard grabs a nap after dinner while I sit up with Peter, preparing Hejira for the night. This involves, among other things, adjusting the instrument displays and lighting to red so as not to compromise night vision. I then turn in leaving Peter on watch until 01.00 when he is replaced by Richard who calls me for my watch at 04.00. I then continue until the other two emerge in their own time. It has always worked well in the past and the crew soon adjust their body clocks to the regime and appear to suffer no ill effects.

After 18 months neglected in the Mediterranean, sun and sea have taken their toll on poor Hejira. Dirt, corrosion and just UV degradation are evident everywhere. The windows of the sprayhood which were perfectly transparent are now milkily opaque. So, we have been using plenty of WD40 to free and work seized shackles, hinges and pins and I expect to be spending a considerable amount of time bringing the maintenance back up to scratch when we get back to the UK. Having said all that, the topsides which had been polished back in the UK 3 years previously are miraculously still shiny bright.

Some equipment has simply stopped working and defied our attempts at repair. These include  the tannoy (for fog signals), the generator and the saloon Air Conditioning. None of these are essential and, so far, the failures are all ‘nice to have’ and not essential and will not impede our safe continuation.

Peter had previously made contributions to the blogs when we cruised back from the Azores in 2016 and his efforts were considered curiously impenetrable. Probably after pressure from his partner, Marian, he has declined any input citing his ‘hero’ Barry who politely absented himself from the chore over two Atlantic crossings!

I am hoping that Richard will contribute to the blog in the future if only to provide some independent (and probably more entertaining) crew perspective.

8 thoughts on “Cast Off

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    1. Thanks for your comments Nigel. The constant motoring in a flat calm have given us an opportunity to address some of the maintenance and degradation issues while on passage. She is in much better shape and hopefully better able to shoulder some of the challenges we now expect in the Atlantic.

  1. Wishing you well .I assume you have seen the maritime exclusion zone close to the coast off ?? finnastaire due to the killer whales.
    John and Alison sharvill

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