Mile Building with Mustang Sailing
Our mile builders are an opportunity to accumulate miles and experience with the benefit of having an instructor on board.
We plan the event so that a number of skippered 60 mile passages can be accomplished along with some time spent visiting interesting harbours on the English and French coast.
We try to have some sort of 'theme' rather than just rattling back and forth across the channel.
Think of it as a cruise rather than just banging around for the sake of logging the miles.
A Mustang Milebuilder
A small account of the voyage of ‘Dreamchaser’
Cards on the table! I like Mustang Sailing. I had originally planned to do my Coastal Skipper theory with them in January 2008, but Paul had been poorly so it was April before I finally found myself in their most delightful setting, right in the shadow of the South Downs, and ready for my big adventure! Mind you they’d already been nice enough to give me a free RYA first aid course for the ‘inconvenience’ of the delay,. Oh yes, I really do like Mustang Sailing.
Paul’s style on the theory course, together with wonderful Spring weather, made the whole week most enjoyable, and what’s more, I passed, and with certificate in hand, I went searching for a practical course. The lure of warmer weather enticed me to Gibraltar in May and a 2 week experience with, dare I say it, another school which offered voyages to Morocco and Costa del Sol put the practical certificate under my belt. Another two weeks in glorious sunshine and I was well and truly hooked, so now for the all important mile building phase of my new passion.
Despite my apparent defection, Paul called me about Mustang’s September Milebuilder and after what seemed far too long off the water, I turned up at Gosport’s Haslar Marina on a pleasant Sunday evening to meet my shipmates and get ready for some serious miles. I was delighted to be met by Paul, who, even though he was not coming on the voyage, had travelled all the way from his home to load the boat with oilies, equipment and victuals and wish us bon voyage. There were four of us in the crew, with ‘Captain Bob’, our professional skipper/ RYA Yachtmaster Instructor to keep us out of trouble and make sure we extracted the most from our week.
Monday saw us doing a bit of boat handling in the Marina to get used to the aptly named ‘Dreamchaser’, a Jeanneau Sun Oddysey 37, before setting off for our cross-Channel leg. I seem to remember there was talk of going to Alderney but the plan soon settled on St Peter’s Port on Guernsey instead. We split into two watches of 2 per watch, with a 4 hours on/ 4 hours off pattern. It was cool, and very pleasant in the sunny breaks so the school oilies proved to be just the ticket. Sadly the weather deteriorated as the day wore on and my over-riding memory of this first leg was being woken up for our midnight to four spell to find the sea state well up, everything pitch black, the wind above 25 knots and a need to get the second reef in straight away as the outgoing helmsman was finding it hard to hold course. The four of us stayed together to do this job before the other watch retired and, I have to say, I was relieved when it was over and we had a sense of achievement having done everything in the right order, if somewhat slowly.
The boat was much more manageable and the weather imperceptibly improved as our watch went on. We were streaming through the famous Alderney Race, a strong tidal current between the Cherbourg peninsula and the Channel Islands that you have to time correctly to make sure, when you are in it, that it is going the same direction as you are!! We had talked about ‘the Race’ in the classroom in April but there was nothing to compare with experiencing it. Dawn broke with St Peter Port in sight and, as we moored up just outside the marina, it was exciting to reflect on our first leg – 24 hours and 120 nautical miles non-stop, through the Race and with real weather!
It was raining in Guernsey and the point was proven that there is no such thing as a simple ‘run ashore’ for us sailors. A shower and shop run entailed inflating the dinghy to become an impromptu water taxi, because the pontoon was not attached to the shore. Later we sat in the saloon out of the rain and planned the next leg to St Helier on Jersey when someone said ‘how about a little catch up on sleep’ so early afternoon found us all snoring as we enjoyed the most blissful of ‘power naps’ imaginable before setting off South. We arrived in Jersey after dark, which, now I think about it, was a feature of all our arrivals that week, bar the final return to Gosport on the Friday. We were getting very adept at lights and buoy recognition as well as identifying other traffic in the blackness.
We over nighted in St Helier, tied up outside another boat as there were no spaces at the pontoons. This was another special element of sailing - where else can you tie up to strangers and walk all over their property and be made to feel so welcome? Etiquette of course does demand that you walk to the jetty around the foredeck of their boat. Coming back from dinner at the pub you have to do it all again and hope you are not disturbing people too much. Mind you, as they left before us in the morning, the favour was returned as we were woken early to let them out.
The next leg was to Cherbourg, back through the Race, this time going North, but not before some anchoring practice off a beach on the North side of Herm (sheltered from the weather) so that we could have an idyllic lunch on yet another home made meal that Paul had supplied. It was the curry I seem to remember. Delicious!
We made Cherbourg in time for moules frites before the restaurants closed.
Next day was Thursday so we had to start thinking about being in a position on the Friday morning for a timely arrival back at Gosport by mid afternoon because the boat was due out on another charter.
We crossed the Channel again and went to the West side of the Isle of Wight, past the Needles, and up to Yarmouth. The navigation all that day and up the West Solent, in the dark again, was my responsibility and working out the lights and transits to keep us safe was one of the most rewarding things I have done in sailing. It wasn’t without stress though and, at one point, Captain Bob was heard to remark “I like to see a man under pressure”. The wind from the South West put us running downwind too so each turn in the channel was a gybe, more good practice. We arrived after midnight and rather than enter the harbour at Yarmouth we picked up a mooring buoy just outside and bobbed ourselves to sleep again.
Friday morning was a stunner. Wind zero, sky blue and the Solent like a millpond, Someone whipped up a hearty breakfast using up what was left of the eggs, ham, tomatoes and mushrooms. Do you get the impression, dear reader, that food is important to sailing. I think so! We had the tides worked out perfectly so just slipped the line off the buoy and drifted at zero boatspeed with the sails up, but lifeless, towards Cowes and our final destination of Gosport. The wind came up a little so the sails did add a bit of ground speed but most of it came from the tide. There was a regatta on at Cowes so we picked our way amongst the hundreds of boats in that part of the Solent which all added to the enjoyment of the last day. We docked at our allotted space in Haslar Marina in good time, with Paul once again on hand to meet us and help with the tidy up and getting the gear off the boat.
My log book was filled in, signed and recorded 5 days on board, 314 nautical miles covered and 20 hours night sailing. Not a bad milebuilder week. Not bad at all.
Over-riding memories are feeling like a proper sailor with all the aspects of tide and passage planning, port entry and exit, when to eat and when to sleep, not to mention chartwork on a rolling table rather than in the classroom. Good shipmates and an understanding Captain who knew how far to let us go, and when to step in with a nudge in the right direction either verbally or actually on the wheel.
Well done Mustang. A great week, well organised and executed.