Andy and myself departed Gillingham with the basics plus an electronic speed log and a medium wave portable radio. RDF sets were available in the ‘80s but a ferrite aerial on a MW radio does the same job with a handmade pelorus and a simultaneous compass bearing. The pelorus is also useful for swinging the compass. Ah yes, deviation, remember that?
The mooring was slipped about 5pm and with a westerly breeze and smooth surface were making four knots downstream. Andy suggested that the conditions were perfect for spinnaker and although offshore experienced, I’d never flown a kite. My other objections were lack of crew and the cost of a new kite if it all went pear shaped. It was all very well for him, he wouldn’t have to cough up 500 quid for a replacement. Usually a minimum of three is required, one on each sheet and a helm. We discussed how to manage it with just two and I agreed to rig the tackle and then decide once we were ready to hoist.
As he came back on deck he shouted and pointed at broken water to port, I shoved the tiller over and our keel just touched a sandbank. We were also very close to a flashing buoy that shouldn’t have been there. I read the name off the side and checked the chart. Oh shit, my bad this time. I’d offset tide the wrong way and we were ten degrees off course. What did I say earlier about electronics? GPS would have helped but it wasn’t available (affordably). What would have helped was asking Andy to double check my nav calculations.
The hour we had to wait for the lock gates into Bassin Ouest gave us the opportunity to tidy up and once inside we had merely to tie up to the pontoon. An Englishman from the 35 footer next to us came over and asked if we’d just come in. My god he said, I’ve just come back from the mole and it’s blowing a hooley in seas I wouldn’t consider. Andy and I looked at each other and shrugged.
We fell into our bunks and slept soundly till 6pm despite the loud clanking from a pile driver. Neither of us had thought to set an alarm clock and missed the bonded store which was only open from 9 til 5.The following morning we needed to depart early to ensure we arrived back in Blighty in time for work. Prevailing westerlies would make the return trip a lot longer. Bugger, all that way and no duty free! Frites, moules mariniere and an early night.