Apollo at Scarborough

Apollo's cruise to France



1996 was my second year’s experience of owning a yacht. I had bought a half share in a Legend 23.5, called Apollo. We wanted a yacht which was suitable for racing and trailer sailing. Trailer sailing was important because I wanted to do some cruising abroad, and, as I was working, I needed to be able to reach the South Coast quickly – otherwise there would be no time for very much sailing along the French coast.

I was keen to pass my RYA/DOT coastal certificate (ie. the official yacht driving test), and so decided to book a course through a sailing school with my son and three friends. We agreed to do the course in Apollo and an instructor was provided

Apollo has limited accommodation: there is space under the cockpit designed for two berths, which is nevertheless just about wide enough for three; there is space in the forepeak and a single berth in the main cabin. While under sail at night, there was plenty of room, as two people needed to be on watch: when in harbour, we made do by taking the sails from the forepeak and putting them into the cabin, so that three slept under the cockpit and the other two, in the forepeak and the main cabin.

We arrived in Dover on Sunday 29th July, launched Apollo and spent the night at anchor in the harbour. The instructor arrived on Monday. We did some exercises in the harbour, and eventually set sail at 0155 hours Tuesday morning. The night crossing was not difficult: the Varne Buoy and Cape Griz Nez lighthouse were visible most of the way across the Channel, and crossing the shipping lanes was no problem. We arrived at Boulogne at 0900 hours.

We spent a few hours looking round Boulogne, and then set off for St. Valery Sur Somme – a pretty French port which William the Conqueror had used as his base for the invasion of England.

The approach to St. Valery is not advised except one hour on either side of High Water. We set off at 1405, but the wind was against us, and it took longer than we had expected. When we reached the Somme Estuary, we were already too late, but we reckoned that, if necessary, we could lift our swing keel, and should just about make it. Instead of following the buoyed channel, we motored across the estuary towards Point du Hourdel, and then followed the buoyed channel to the marina. We were just in time, without having to lift the keel.

When we arrived, we found a reception committee on the visitors’ berths: the commodore, the harbour master, and the mayor! They were clearly but pleasantly surprised to see us. They invited us into the yacht club for some drinks, and we stayed until the early hours of the morning. We couldn’t understand much French, nor they, much English, but somehow we got on very well together!

We breakfasted at St. Valery, and set off back to Boulogne at 11.30. My main recollection of the passage is being sat below doing navigation exercises with my friends: at first, there was no motion on the flat estuary, but, after a while, the motion started and increased, while, one by one my friends went up to the cockpit for air! I stayed to the bitter end – only to be rewarded by being sea sick for the first time in my life!

By the time we had come out of the estuary, the sea was heaving with large waves, in a wind which continued to grow from Force 4 to what seemed like 5 gusting 6 or more. As the wind grew, we reduced sail, so that by the time we entered Boulogne harbour at 1730, we were reaching under foresail alone.

The next day we set sail to Ramsgate. You could not miss your way across the Channel, as there was a seemingly endless procession of ferries across it. However, we had planned to pass the Godwin Sands to Starboard in calm water, and felt reasonably confident that we could do so, until the instructor asked us to focus binoculars on an object which looked like a buoy, but turned out to be a lightship. So we ended up buoy hopping over rough water with the Godwin Sands to Port.

We spent Friday doing exercises inside and just outside the harbour. Then our instructor left and the examiner arrived. We were examined, initially under motor, and then each of us was given a passage plan to prepare for the following day. The rest of the test was conducted under sail the next day on a passage from Ramsgate to Dover. Two of us passed

The course was excellent. We had a good holiday. We made some mistakes and learnt from them. We had to rely on traditional navigation and not the GPS, which made the course more interesting and challenging. Apollo proved herself satisfactory for sailing in these conditions, and we came away with more knowledge and experience – and a qualification.

NOTE FOR VISITORS FROM SYYC SITE: I plan to repeat this cruise (this time with the GPS), and perhaps go a little further in 2007. We expect to be away for one or two weeks starting on 15TH OR 23RD JUNE (or later or earlier depending on the North Sea Race). THERE IS ONE BERTH SPARE. ANY EXPERIENCED SAILOR, IF INTERESTED, PLEASE CLICK ON "CONTACT" AND LET ME KNOW.



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