Is it that time already? We couldn’t believe the end of the trip was in sight. I could easily have stayed another couple of days.
With the prospect of an overnight crossing short handed, we were pleased the ARC team has laid on a train for us to see the last corner of Alderney.
The Braye Express (my title) took us from the harbour to the site of the quarry where they sourced the rocks for the harbour wall. Right next door to the Mannez lighthouse.
The railway staff were proud to tell us the history of the line and show us the ex London underground rolling stock. The kids and the big kids were even allowed onto the engine and blow the horn.
Back on the boat we tried to grab another couple of hours sleep before setting off at 5pm for the final marathon - Braye to Gosport keeping the Isle of Wight to the west.
With winds forecast force 4 to 5 from the west it promised to be near perfect conditions for us. We left the harbour with a reefed main on a bearing of 35 degrees and pretty much stayed like that for the next 10 hours.
I have done almost no night sailing and I remembered having feelings of unease as darkness falls. This time was a lot better. We had now learned to get the boat set up for the passage at the start and the instruments were already switched over to red on black display as the sun set.
The sail plan seemed good for the night and we were pushing an amazing 10 knots over ground. An early arrival? Suits us.
Legato is well equipped, but if I could recommend one piece of kit anyone contemplating channel sailing, it would be an AIS transponder. Ships could see us and we could see them. Our system even has a collision avoidance warning setting that calculates no go areas where you might converge.
You can still use a compass to check your relative course to any approaching vessel but this box of tricks seems so accurate you can really trust it. Some big ships had so many lights on board it was hard for the untrained eye to work out if they were still approaching or already past us. The AIS tells you precisely.
Our good progress meant we were pushing a negative tide at St Catherine’s point. We went wide to avoid any overfalls and lost a bit of time, but it gave us a smooth sail up to Bembridge. Turning towards the welcoming light of the Spinnaker Tower, the wind picked up. So did the traffic. I was hoping to own the Solent at that time in the morning. Far from it, we had dredgers, cruise ships, cargo ships, tugs, commercial ships at anchor, you name it. The place was lit up like Oxford Street at Christmas. If I didn’t already have local knowledge I may have struggled to pick out the navigation marks from the background light pollution.
Finally at 5am Tessa Jane, Reflections and Legato arrived within minutes of each other to elated hugs and congratulations all round.
I will confess that the two areas of concern I had about the trip were the shipping lanes and the overnight sail. I am so pleased I did it. I no longer have any worries. ‘Job done’, Roger. Thank you.