Yachting Monthly reader Helen Mortimer owns up and confesses her sailing sins. Submit yours at yachtingmonthly.com for a chance to win a new VHF radio

My first proper solo sail was something I had been looking forward to for a long time.

After kissing my wife goodbye and reassuring the dog that he would be okay without me for a while, I slipped the lines and headed out of my berth in La Rochelle at 0500.

The sail was going well, with 12 knots of wind on the beam.

I had rested in Belle-Île and was heading for Camaret where I would rest again; I had to get the tides right to go through the Raz de Sein.

I had been setting my alarm for 20-minute periods and was catching some sleep in the cockpit of Vino, our 35ft Taling sloop.

I got through the Raz, rested in Camaret and caught the right tide through the Chenal du Four, and was now heading out across the Channel to Dartmouth.

Continues below…

The wind had died a bit and I was behind schedule to cross the shipping lanes in the light.

Feeling tired now, I decided to motor sail. The huge cargo ships seemed endless and night was descending.

I really needed a bit of sleep but knew there was no chance for a while.

I finally cleared the last of the potentially dangerous ships at 0230 and the AIS said I was clear for a while.

I turned off the engine, set the Hydrovane windvane steering and let the light breeze send me towards Dartmouth.

My alarm was set for 25 minutes and I laid down for some much needed shut eye.

However, what I hadn’t thought about was wind shift and the Hydrovane following the wind.

I woke up not to my alarm but the AIS alarm screaming at me, to find myself right in the middle of the shipping lane.

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