May 06, 2012
After a long winter of planning it was a relief at last to be ready to set sail for France! Betsan, Jac and I went down to Chichester to make the final preparations. The weather for the coming week looked poor – high winds and waves – but I suddenly realised there was a chance for me to make Dieppe on Monday the 16th of April direct from Chichester, instead of sailing up to Newhaven to make the crossing. It would be a long passage (92nm), but the conditions would be good with a steady F4 on the port beam. Consequently I left the marina soon after Betsan and Jac started for home, and I picked up a mooring at the entrance to Chichester Harbour after some difficulty in the dwindling light.
I was up at 0230 and off by 0300 motoring tentatively over Chichester Bar at low tide and in the pitch black (save for the port-hand lights winking at me). Once safely at sea, I set a course to clear Selsey Bill. At 0400 the sails were raised and I was motor-sailing at over 8knots. By 0700 I began to encouter the first of many ships passing east to west. Ship dodging continued until noon as I crossed in front of the Traffic Separation Scheme. I must have had to deal with 12-16 ships (I lost count) many more than expected. They always look as if they are coming at you head-on, until the last 15 minutes. Just when you think it’s safe to relax, the next one comes over the horizon!
I didn’t feel brilliant since it was my first day at sea, but the conditions were otherwise very good. After midday when I’d cleared the TSS things became more pleasant, and I made excellent progress, having first my sight of France by 1500. At 1800 I was off Dieppe harbour entrance, and half-an-hour later I was tied up in the marina. Dieppe proved an excellent choice of landfall in France for several reasons, but more in the next blog.