SV Songbird

Dartmouth to Guernsey

14 August 2013 | Dartmouth UK
Stu & Shar
Motoring down the Dart just as dawn broke, my cousin Matt (who joined us for the trip across to Guernsey) said “Red sky in morning fishermans warning”. The forecast said rain and reduced visibility for the Dartmouth area late in the day. The weather actually came in about 2 hours after we left. The visibility reduced to about 2-3 miles the wind shifted to south west….the good thing it was consistent pressure at about 18kts. I opted to motor sail this sector to ensure we could do this as fast as we could with the ability to quickly get out of the way of any ships that would appear out of the murk. The rain persisted with the steady breeze made it quite cold. We rugged up in full wet weather gear…..even our new boots were pulled on, these were worth buying. The tide was with us pushing us along a little faster over ground. We were pushed west of track with the outgoing current, which gives you the urge to correct it as you go. I held heading and let her drift off knowing that later in the day if all went to plan we would be carried back in on the incoming tide. (this is a subtle difference to my experience in flying light aircraft you always offset your heading for a crosswind to keep you on track). Kim Klaka explained this subtle difference on the Bali race and was reinforced by a couple of other people I spoke with about sailing tides in the UK. It worked, as by the end of the trip we were only 1.5 miles off track when we arrived at Platte Fourgere light in Guernsey. Shipping traffic was spasmodic for the first couple of hours but as we came up to the shipping lanes, I thought “shit this is busy” or it may have been a bit bluer that that. (see the photo of the AIS). On went the Radar and eyes glued into the murk….13 ships heading our way…some slow around 9kts some very fast 28kts. I was told it could be quite busy, but this was unbelievable. I took on a racing approach, hold your heading and dip the stern (by a minimum of 300mtr to avoid prop wash). As a ship appeared out of the murk time your run and bear away allowing enough time to let the master of the ship know what you are doing. It worked because we didn’t get run over….talked to a Dutch/German? fisherman who cut across in front of us, just in case he was dragging a net. All clear, no course change necessary. The rest of the run into Guernsey was uneventful as the weather improved and turned into a nice afternoon even though it was still cold. We started engines in Dartmouth at 05:40, arrived in Guernsey at 15:30 with 86 miles on the log, a nice quick crossing, its good when things go as planned.
I have noticed the accuracy of local weather forecasts, are not that reliable, which appears to be the norm for the UK. I have taken to looking hard at synoptic charts for a better understanding of the patterns in this region. Simply put they are very complex systems, with imbedded fronts and occluded fronts appearing out of nowhere overnight, so unpredictable weather it is to be expected. We are spoilt in Fremantle……fronts you can see 4 days out and a tide that doesn’t make much difference to when and where you can go.
Vessel Name: Songbird
Vessel Make/Model: Dufour 40E
Hailing Port: Fremantle - Australia
Crew: Stuart & Sharanne


Who: Stuart & Sharanne
Port: Fremantle - Australia