The RYA cruise takes a well-earned break in Cherbourg while the crew of Midsummer II confess a few sailing sins...

Having heard strange tales in the bar about wet feet and sinking dinghies, I paid a visit to the crew of Midsummer II, who sail from Hayling Island. Before leaving Gosport, skipper Paul Reeve had announced that they would be using ‘traditional navigation techniques’, so I hoped to find sextant, sight reduction tables and perhaps a slide rule. Instead I found a laptop, GPS, prawns and whisky – maybe the whisky is traditional?

Paul has been messing about on boats since the early ’80’s, trying his hand at canal boating, dinghy sailing and windsurfing, before finally taking up yachting two years ago. Having done his Yachtmaster theory ‘by accident’, in an attempt to learn more about boating in general, Paul persuaded his brother-in-law Steve to join him for the Competent Crew course. Since then, Paul has taken his Dayskipper, and bought Deb 33 Midsummer II as part of a boat-share scheme just before Christmas last year. This is his first long passage, and Paul has had a great opportunity to put his Yachtmaster navigation into practice.

After nearly losing crew Steve and Sylvie by tipping up the dinghy when going out to the boat, Paul decided to redeem himself by using conventional pilotage methods during the Channel crossing. Having calculated that the tides would more or less offset one another during the passage, he set a direct course to Cherbourg, aiming to arrive a little up-tide of the port. Unfortunately, the crew spotted a still-unidentified object in mid-Channel, which they mistook for one of Cherbourg’s forts. This error, combined with a false GPS plot, made Paul rapidly revise his plan, which left Midsummer II pushing tide for the last couple of hours and arriving towards the end of the fleet. When I asked him about what he had learned from yesterday’s voyage, he commented that he should have had more confidence in his original plan, double-checked his plots and that it’s very hard to make out landmarks from a distance. Steve added that they had too much gear and not enough beer. Steve, a scuba diver, maintains his sole purpose on the voyage is to clear the prop if it fouls. An interesting addition to a yacht’s safety portfolio?

Paul was full of praise for the cruise, commenting that although he felt he was theoretically able to do the crossing, it was great to have the reassurance of the lead boat, while not having an instructor on board allowed him to learn from his mistakes.