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!

Dinner and a show!

We have enjoyed the first 30 miles of our 500 mile passage to Northern Spain. After setting sail from Falmouth at 1:30 PM, we enjoyed some nice sunny weather and close-reaching on starboard tack in about 10-15 knot winds. After enjoying a nice dinner of warmed Cornish Pasties, we were entertained by a showing of two small dolphins. Later, we saw a nice sunset and now we are dodging shipping traffic across the English Channel. The off-watch is sleeping and I should get back on deck! 🙂 No photos at the moment because we are updating the blog via sat phone. Hopefully loads of photos upon our arrival early next week.

Friends and fun (Bangor, N. Ireland)

The wind was forecast to be from the south for a few days, so we decided to stay in one place for a bit until the weather shifted back to a more favourable direction. Laundry, showers and town exploration were on the agenda.


The agenda further improved (showers are GREAT, but laundry isn’t much of a highlight!) when our kids acquired other “non-adults” to play with them. Each time we arrived at a new location, Anneka and Dorian looked around for little people that might wish to play. This time, they met a nice little girl that lived aboard a lovely wooden sailboat named Dreamcatcher in Bangor Marina. We took turns having play dates on our boats – which the kids loved. Later we walked with her family to a local beach and looked for crabs and other marine life in the tide pools.

The next day, good friends that we knew from Stonehaven sailed into the marina – thanks to some last minute organisation by Eric! Simon and Lena, aboard Sirona, arrived with their 3 kids in the slip right beside us! Just around the corner from the boats was a splash park that all of the kids were drawn to like magnets. Simon and Lena had a sailing dinghy on board that also kept the kids (and the husbands!) out of trouble for a while. The weather was already considerably warmer than when we left Inverness, so all of the kids (young and old) were in summer mode.

On Sunday morning, we walked around the harbour to a lovely little waterfront church. The people were very welcoming and even Eliana immediately at home in a crèche overlooking the Irish Sea – enjoying crafts, colouring, singing and activities.

Next stop Northern Ireland

Our last evening in Scotland, after a beautiful afternoon exploring Gigha Island, was capped off with a man on a sailboat in the harbour playing the bagpipes as the sun set over the island. A fitting end to an amazing 2.5 years in a lovely, friend-filled and picturesque country.

The trip to Bangor is just over a 60 mile day. We could complete it all during daylight hours (at least Scottish summer daylight hours!), but we had to get an early start in order to do so. We (the parents) woke up and were happy to see the wind was from the west. As all the kids were still sleeping below, we were happy to be able sail off of the mooring and out into the Sound of Jura. When Eliana woke, she said that she “need(s) a wee, but it is TOO rocky” – and so requested help from “mama” for her trip to the toilet.  Afterwards, when asked if she was hungry, she replied “yes, can I have some bread with lettuce and chorizo?”  We honestly never know what to expect out of that one!

After everyone was awake, the wind shifted to be more from the SW than west and we motor-sailed from Glenacardoch Point. However, before we had reached Kintyre Point, the wind was back to 15kts from the west and we were off.  Throughout the day, we had generally favourable winds.  It was a bit of a roly-poly upwind ride at first, but later the wind backed and the ride smoothed out considerably. At all wind angles, the boat behaved beautifully. In the end, we pulled into Bangor Marina by 1830 that night.

Oban to Gigha Island

After completing the three-day passage through the Caledonia Canal, our first port of call was Dunstaffnage Bay, Oban.  While the rain and light winds continued, our spirits were lifted by sharing the ritual of Cocktail Hour with the kids.  We introduced them to cold ginger beer with generous wedges of lime upon arrival in Oban.

Our arrival in Oban was perfectly timed to allow our trusty crew, Rona, to meet up with us.  Rona is joining us onboard Laridae for the first portion of the trip.  She is an experienced sailor (one of the kids sailing instructors at ASYC), amazing with children, and a true pleasure to have join as a member of the family.  She is teaching us something new every day, and hopefully she is receiving a fun experience in return!

With the arrival of Rona, the rain subsided and the sun returned with a perfect beam reach in 10-20 knot winds during the 60 mile passage from Oban to Gigha Island.  We picked up a mooring ball at about 5 PM and immediately launched the dinghy to explore the clear waters and sandy beaches.  Basking in the warm sun, the kids explored the shallows and tide pools until we begrudgingly forced them back into the dinghy to return for dinner and bed.  We had an early morning in front of us for another 70 mile day to Bangor (Northern Ireland) the next morning.