The Channel

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August 11th 2012
Published: August 12th 2012
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Idyllic at first, with an ideal weight of wind and a flattish sea. We clipped happily along with a tame 14 knots off to starboard, full sails, auto-pilot on, with mugs of tea and cake anglais for breakfast. But by late morning, merely half way across, the wind and the waves had grown. The swell, sideways on to our path, rolled us up and down again, and jostled us about as we waited more than an hour for a convoy of huge cargo ships to plunge blindly past. We stopped a second time for ships ploughing the other way, by which time the wind and waves had grown again. We reefed, and reefed once more, still four hours from any coast. This was as hard as we wanted to make it.

We dug in though, never in any danger, but knowing that several more hours on the helm would be tough. It was, and twice we were drenched by wave tops catching the windward rail. Then the birds returned, and a shadow of land in the haze. Brighton came into view. Then at last the chimney we had been looking out for, a few miles west of Hove. Twelve hours after starting we were safely in the lock at Shoreham. We were back in Britain, two weeks after leaving, everyone safe and well.

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