The plan: The plan was to leave Universal Marina in the Hamble on Friday night and sail East along the South Coast, North along the East coast, arriving in Ipswich Sunday morning. However the plan didn’t allow for gale warnings, followed by the gales, from Saturday night through to Monday. So here we are in Dover, waiting out our first storm. Well, waiting for the train to London as in reality we have to go to work tomorrow and the storm won’t pass until Wednesday.

Friday night we met up at Bistro 8, a hidden gem of a restaurant in the Hamble. Matt joined us for dinner and the journey to Dover. We set off around 10 in stunning conditions, wind on the beam (25 knots from the S) and tides in our favour. We had a beautiful sail through the night and most of Saturday. Great views of Beachy Head (Gareth didn’t jump off this time), the wind farms and a massive nuclear power station at Dungeness. As we cruised along the south coast, the wind moved left and we had a brilliant SW reach up to Dover. At this point, with a forecast of max wind speeds of Force 8, we decided to call in and regroup. We moored up in Granville Marina, which was a millpond compared to the swell we’d been sailing through for the past 20 hours. Unfortunately Matt, our incredibly competent and helpful crew (he helmed for most of the day and made tea!) jumped off and, seeing the opportunity to get in the good books at home, sensibly headed back to Petersfield.

Hal Route

This left us to fend for ourselves and we decided to sleep on it (until 4am) and try again. So in the early hours of Sunday morning we radioed first Granville Marina office and then Dover Port to let them know we were heading out. In hindsight, we probably should’ve listened better to their hesitation when we asked for permission to leave (not something required by most marinas but Dover is a massive ferry port so we need a green light to pass through it’s big old gates). Or at least tried to hear them laughing over the howling wind. But we didn’t. Instead we motored out of the marina into the big walled port, hoping to hoist the main with a bit of shelter. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Gareth decided this was a good time to put the route into the nav because as I was turning us in circles, trying to differentiate between walls and boats, we saw gusts every 30-40 seconds up to 43 knots.

Max gust at 4am tour of the marina

This was enough to discourage us and I think RNLI breathed a sigh of relief when we told the Harbour Master we’d changed our minds and were going back to bed. Porridge, more sleep, showers, cleaning, packing and lunch later, we’re on our way home in the rain.

Hopefully the weather will improve and we can complete the journey on Wednesday.

Gareth wants to include a bit about who Matt is. Matt is a friend of Andrew. Andrew is friends with Patrick. Patrick owns a sailboat called Fooster. He’s also friends with Gareth. These four raced Fooster together in the Round the Island Race last June. They completed the race in 16 hours, winning their class. It was only on Sunday when they were halfway home across the Solent that the race committee called them say their award was waiting with Sir Ben Ainslie in Cowes.

L to R: Ben, Matt, Andrew, Patrick, Gareth and the Ben’s bouncer…