Will has to cut free the spinnaker during a nasty broach on the penultimate leg from Brighton to Ramsgate
Today the weather forecasts were all in agreement, a nice 3-4 W. It was an 80NM trip to Ramsgate, but with the right tide, I could see us doing it in less than 10 hours. The first two hours we motored – no wind at all. Then it picked up. Off Eastbourne we hoisted the kite, and very soon we were flying – 9.5kts over the ground. All the planes taking part in the airshow seemed to be heading straight for us. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
When we set off I was worried about being caught off Dover after sunset – the way we were going we would make Ramsgate before sunset.
Off Dungeness things took a turn for the worse. The wind was still W, but increased markedly. High teens, with gusts up to 27kts. Waves started building too and Yanita doesn’t ‘surf’ well. Let’s get the kite down. Before I had time to call the crew up what I feared for happened. Yanita surfed down a wave sideways, wind caught the kite, I shouted for everyone to come up NOW! We were heeling over 65 degrees, Brigitte took the helm and I made my way forward to get the kite down. By now we heeled over so much the kite was scooting up water – we were going nowhere but down. I could hear Brigitte crying for help at the helm. I felt strangely calm – training kicked in – I had to cut the kite. Out with the knife – cut sheets and halyard – say goodbye to the kite. Yanita responded straight away. We were going to live to fight another day.
A bit of luck – the wind dropped for a couple of minutes. I could see the kite floating away from us. I was not prepared to write off £2,000 worth of sail just yet. I shouted instructions to Brigitte so she could bring us near to the kite. Evita brought a boathook forward. She managed to hook the eternal loop. Two minutes of heave-ho later and we had the kite back on board.
Dover was its usual busy self. But it didn’t fill me with the same feeling of apprehension as it did on the way down. If you listen to port control you have a fairly good idea of what’s going on. Just the Goodwins to go and we were into Ramsgate. One thing I had forgotten though: Ramsgate Regatta. No room at the inn – or so it seemed. We found a berth alongside a lone 43ft-er. We were just about to make fast when their skipper informed us that they were leaving at 6 the next morning. Beggars can’t be choosers. Shower, a hot meal and an early night. Next morning the alarm woke me at 05H45. By 06h00 no movement onboard our neighbour. Had they overslept? Gave them a friendly reminder. Five minutes later two sleepy heads appeared. They hadn’t overslept – they were planning to leave at 10H00 and forgot to tell us. They won’t forget again. Back to bed. Later that morning we found a free berth alongside. Brigitte had to be back in the office the next day, so we decided to stay in Ramsgate at least one more day. I would take Yanita over to Ostend with the children when the weather had settled a bit more. Some shopping and a big clean up. We needed new gas and at the local chandlery I picked up replacement spinnaker sheets and halyard going cheap. £100 down the road you wouldn’t know anything had happened the day before.