Scarborough to Gran Canaria, almost!

Author: Heath Samples

Yes, the jet stream should be established further north on the forecast so it’s a better sign of more stable weather, the paid expert said..

Two days before departure, the jet steam was still firmly established south of the UK, guaranteed to bring in inclement weather.

1950nm from Scarborough to Gran Canaria, for the start of the ARC, is never going to be an easy passage, so unless you start it, you’re never going to put a dent in it.

Time off work booked (for some! 🙂 and off we went.

At Flamborough, wind dropped, engine on, and the feeling of calm before the storm- it was forecast but we should be able to get round Norfolk and shelter off Suffolk in time.

Nope. Arrival obviously earlier than planned, head to wind and rather large seas. Asymmetric on the furler tried to unravel, strong tides coupled with the waves and wind, we started going backwards!

Quick divert and bum clench between Corton Sands and Barley Pickle, (aptly named shooals ) we had breaking waves now on the beam. Stopover for fuel and to dry clothes in Lowestoft for 8hrs, then onwards.

And it was head to wind and sea all the way around the coast. More fuel in Dover, onward again.

On the south coast it went wonderfully to SW, on the nose, but by Tuesday we managed a decent sail from Brighton and past the Isle of Wight.

Forecast stating F4-5 from the western approaches, we’re in good seas, 7-9kts occasional 10kts boat speed.

Now mid channel north of Roscoff, with a good Biscay forecast for at least two days, all hell broke loose.

The F4-5 turned into a gale force warning and within an hour, the wind had blown the windex off, the VHF aerial off, and the waves were now the size of large houses; I’m talking Deepdale, not Dudley, many of which were breaking over and into the yacht. Confirmed later as force 9 by Guernsey Coast guard.

They could change direction in a second. It was absolutely amazing to watch.

Window smashed, saloon table and fittings smashed, things falling off that really shouldn’t fall off, sailing sheets snapping under load, traveller, genoa and reefing lines fraying, we thought we’d get onto Falmouth Coastguard to ask how long it was going to last.

Iridium Go! Sat phone decided it would neither make calls out or update our weather.

Luckily it would send a message so messaged Lucy for her to contact Falmouth for an update.

By now, we’re taking on some serious waves, breaking on top and we were down to less than a 1kt going up them.

All the years on the Lifeboat, big seas (so I thought..) I’d never seen anything, at all, even close, like this…

The first few hours were fun, but then the novelty seriously disappeared when bits are breaking and your yacht is really a floating caravan built for the Med by the crazy French people.

Lucy messaged back:”tell them to immediately divert to Guernsey, worsening conditions”

We did, and arrived 12 hours later, 0230am onto a quarantine waiting pontoon, unattached to shoreside.

Guernsey are in lockdown. “Welcome to Guernsey, you need a CV19 test but you can’t get off the yacht for 7 days even if it’s negative, and there are no flights or ferries out available until the 21st May- enjoy!”

Quick call to some resident friends on the island and the essentials were dropped via the harbour launch, 3 crates of Stella.

Luckily we have a generator and Watermaker onboard, and ample food to go with the Stella.

Fast forward and my friends Bill and Sharon had organised a lift out, damage repairs, hull and rigging inspection, fixing and replacing lost bits and the washing of clothes. Lady L is in great hands!

Only one thing left, quick call and a 6 seater private aircraft booked for rescue Friday morning, after filling in more forms than a folder full of forms, we’re off.

We’ve logged 560 miles, and are nearly a third of the way, so progress has been made.

When the yacht is ready, but more importantly, the Jet Stream is further north- early June hopefully, we’ll be ready for round two, still yearning to get to those Portuguese trades and onward bound for San Miguel country.

However, after that experience, I’ve now decided I’m a fair weather sailor. Others with bigger coconuts can put themselves through it if they wish, but that experience is enough to last me a lifetime.


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