14 September 2015 | St Anne, Alderney 49’43.47N 2’11.35W – Beaulei River, UK 50’27.32N 2’32.09W via Studland Bay, UK
When sailing on Ruffian everything on board is familiar and everything outside is new. There are always new harbours to enter, new oceans to cross and new mountains to climb. We've grown used to this lack of familiarity over the last 30k miles, but now that we are nearing 'home' things outside Ruffian seem as old and as familiar as all those things onboard.
Leaving Alderney, The English Channel, which both Fiona and Iain have crossed 100's of times, felt like a familiar piece of water. The sea was grey, the wind howled and, as is usual for the Channel, ships tried to run us down from every direction.
The one thing that didn't feel familiar about the channel was just how tiny a piece of water it is. In what felt like minutes we were approaching the Isle of Wight and we were early, too early, way too early. There is a tidal gate at the needles that we had to get right and right now, because we'd sailed across the channel so fast, we were getting it very wrong.
Quickly running out of sea room we tried and failed to slow Ruffian down, we then tried and failed to happily hove-to; the channel was giving us some sort of lesson. Even after those miles, all those new learning experiences, the English Channel was teaching us who was boss.
We diverted to our old lunch spot at Studland Bay and the familiarity continued. Old Harry cast his long shadow over us while the endangered sea horses (apparently) frolicked below us. This now felt like we were home. This was not a new harbour and there were no mountains to climb, but we revelled in the fact that the Coastguard spoke the Queen's English with perfect articulation and there was proper warm English beer which could be drunk from glasses with handles in pubs with thatched roofs and open fires.
We still had to make the tidal gate, and just the other side of it there was a reception committee waiting for us, and more importantly for Larry. Larry had started an affair, with Stella Bear, many years ago (sorry Hans, of "Serafina" fame) and there in Alan & Mary's Bowman 40's forepeak was Stella Bear. All ready, waiting and willing for the big man himself and as a special welcome home present she was there 'with friends'. Larry was beside himself.
As we left Larry and Stella (& friends) to their own devices familiar friendships were rekindled and stories of daring doo swapped. As the moments passed we felt more and more like we were home and the only signs we had ever left were our deep tans, our depleted bank balances and our improved Llama taming skills. To have a boat based reception committee made our return so very special. Then the explosions happened.
High above "Stella" the still night sky was alive with light and sound. Just yards away, rockets, mortars, and screamers fired high in to the air marking our return to the Solent and the bosom of our friends, while Larry was getting to the bosoms of his special friend.
The one thing that felt most familiar about England was the shipping forecast and the news that it bought was very familiar. Like some form of poetry it proclaimed; Dover, Wight, Portland Plymouth, Biscay. Southwest Gale 8 to Severe Gale 9, occasionally storm 10. Rain. Rough to Very Rough occasionally High in far West. Oh how we missed its calming tones amongst the bad news it brought.
As the rain pelted down and tree branches fell we knew that we were home. Ruffian was safe in the pretty surrounds of the Beaulieu river and our biggest worry was 'Should I have the next beer with a swizzle or not?'
We are home in familiar waters, surrounded by familiar people and hiding from familiar weather. The journey is nearly over and the next adventure is almost about to begin.
The channel is one windy place.
Old Harry is still standing.
Oh Bridge beacon. How we've missed you.
The iconic needles. We last saw you years ago.
Fireworks mark our return into the Solent.
Larry meets with Stella and her friends. He likes being home.
Surrounded by friends. Crossing tacks with "Mad Fish" last seen in the Eastern Caribbean in 2013.
Surrounded by friends. TEAMStella is there to greet us.
Classic British weather.
Fiona enjoys another one of Iain's spectacular guided walks.