English Channel “close” calls

The scale of everything at sea is not that of life ashore. Small dinghies are happy to come within centimetres of each other as they jockey for position at the starting line of a race. Larger racing boats are content to pass within metres of each other at great speed. However, when there are miles of ocean around you to spare, coming within a few nautical miles of another ship seems too close! For this crossing, we are happy to have two extra sets of eyes on board to join in the boat-watching. Chris O’Brien and Rob Stevens have joined us for the leg from Falmouth to Spain.

Crossing the English Channel and the Traffic Separation Scheme near France, we kept close tabs on all ships passing within 5 nautical miles of us. We joked that when Rob, Anneka and I (Angela) were on watch from 7-10pm, we took great care to avoid any close encounters. We noted an expectation of “CLOSE” contact with a tanker named “Caribbean Highway” from the moment he was within 14 nautical miles of us. At that point he was 45 minutes away! Thanks to AIS, we were able to see that our CPA (closest point of approach) was going to be less than 0.3 nautical miles. CLOSE! We have laughed about what “close” means out here and how we planned and enacted our “evasive action” for something that at that point was a city away and which was predicted to be (gasp) nearly 2 blocks away from us at its closest point! Ironically, near the time of our CPA, we spotted dolphins alongside our boat. All large ships were clearly forgotten!

At 0900 on Saturday the 6th of August, we are just now passing Le Four and Iles D’Ouessant, France. Land has been spotted and we have turned our course beyond it towards Spain. It is a calm day and we are, at the moment, motoring with less than 5 knots of wind. We will plan to do some oceanographic measurements (CTD and secchi disk, more info to follow!) as we cross Biscay while the wind is light. Hopefully we will also put out some fishing lines!

Happy sailing!

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