Unexpected Company on the Final Cruise in Company of the Season

Sunrise from East ShamblesAll smiles on Crystella Normandie WinesRemedy departing Port ChantereyneMoonshadow departing Grande RadeRaining stair rods off Cherbourg Welcome company for CrystellaA free ride!

With the cruising season coming to a close it was a final opportunity for 4 boats and 14 crew to make the channel crossing to Cherbourg. Even though light winds were forecast, Moonshadow, Crystella, Arcsine and Remedy set out pre-dawn on Friday 15th September for what was to become quite an eventful trip, especially for one!

The outbound crossing went without incident under a clear blue sky and varying wind which did enable a mixture of sailing and motor sailing, ending in a flourish with a good reaching breeze for the final couple of hours. Remedy hosted drinks in their humongous cockpit on arrival, and then we all dined al fresco at the marina restaurant.

Saturday was a free day with some taking to the bustling streets of the town, whilst others paid a visit to La Cite de La Mer maritime museum including an interesting tour of a retired nuclear submarine. We all then visited Normandie Wines for the now customary wine tasting, 3 whites and 3 reds were sampled, spitting out wasn't mandatory!! Having ordered more ballast for our bilges we then returned to the boats for relaxation and revitalisation before heading out for a group meal at La Regence restaurant on the old harbourside. The volume of conversation and ensuing hubbub increased in proportion to the amount of wine flowing until we finally got our wrists slapped by the unimpressed Maitre d' !!

Sunday was our departure day for the return crossing, the forecast was for a good North Westerly with a “chance” of thunderstorms to start! It turned out there was no sign of the North Westerly which meant we motored in a very unexpected lumpy sea, and we were soon engulfed by electrical storms and rain like stair rods. It was most unpleasant for several hours until the storms cleared and some wind filled in. The fleet gradually spread out and the faster boats disappeared over the horizon. It was in the middle of the Westbound shipping lane that Crystella's troubles began! The engine was being used to keep up speed and try and make up some Westing when it started missing a beat. It finally spluttered to a halt, unfortunately at the same time as the wind died, it never rains but it pours, again!! Being “not under command” in a shipping lane is not ideal, hence a call to the coastguard was made to let them know our situation. Having had a new engine fitted some months previous it seemed obvious that we had a problem with the fuel, but several attempts to find the problem were to no avail. We were going nowhere, in the shipping lane, still around 32 miles SE of Weymouth with time and daylight against us, so I made the decision to call the coastguard for assistance. Within an hour the Swanage lifeboat had accompanied us, a welcome sight, they came alongside and put an engineer lifeboatman on board, he also had no joy at finding the fuel problem so an offer of a tow to Weymouth was gladly accepted.

After a 4 hour tow and a transfer to the Weymouth inshore lifeboat a few miles off Portland we were finally towed to our own berth at around 11pm, extremely grateful, but shattered from the days experience. We were told by both lifeboat crews that we absolutely did the right thing as situations like ours could escalate and be compounded by further failures such as battery failure or crew sickness etc. That made me feel a whole lot better! What an incredible volunteer service we are privileged to have access to, thank you RNLI.

Crystella Footnote: A whole load of diesel bug sludge has since been removed from the fuel tank and the filters replaced. It had been a gradual build up over the last 8 years since the tank was last cleaned. Lesson learned – more frequent tank inspections are required!!

Submitted on 2nd October 2023