MBM fleet in Cherbourg

The 26 boats of the MBM Channel Islands cruise in company are now safely assembled in France after a comfortable Channel crossing yesterday.

The 26 boats of the MBM Channel Islands cruise in company are now safely assembled in France after a comfortable Channel crossing yesterday.

Intensive weather watching paid dividends in finding a suitable window for the 65nm passage from Lymington to Cherbourg in France. Inshore forecasts were threatening winds as high as Force 7 for later in the day at one point, but examination of the synoptic charts and consideration of local French forecasts indicated the possibility of getting across in lighter conditions suitable for the first-time Channel crossers in the fleet.

The breeze was out of the west at first and no more than 12 knots (Force 4). That gave the last of a wind against tide lump through the Needles for boats to punch through but after that it steadily dropped away until there was little to tickle the long residual swell left over from the 25 knots of wind that was blowing mid-Channel the day before. Of equal importance the visibility was excellent, with only broken cloud for much of the crossing.

The slowest boats in the fleet were away just after 0600 and the fastest cleared Berthon Lymington Marina by 0830. Just one boat suffered difficulties; Bryan and Lynda Sanders’ Sealine S34Lady Helenahad a fuel filter fall into the bilge from one of her MerCruiser D220 engines, 31nm outside of Cherbourg. Bryan attempted to fix the problem but fishing for a missing part underneath the sump of a hot engine while rolling in a swell proved to be less inviting than a leisurely run to harbour at nine knots on one engine, escorted by the Fleming 55Play d’eau. On the final run in the wind picked up out of the east and rose to as much as16 knots in some puffs but by then it was a done deal.

All participants were safely tied up in Cherbourg by the end of lunchtime, giving plenty of time to deal with the essential fuelling of boats and crew before a pontoon party was held to celebrate the maiden crossings of half of the fleet. Motor Boats Monthly has never logged the numbers of boatowners that it has taken abroad for the first time since the cruise in company programme commenced in 1987 but that figure is certainly well into the several hundreds.

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There was just one fly in the ointment – a British yachtsman who found the noisy but not unreasonable late afternoon celebrations on P pontoon not to his liking and fired both barrels at anyone who would listen, MBM’s Club Co-ordinator Neale Byart included. He might have had a point but it got lost somewhere in bombast making stereotypical associations between motorboats and the ‘type’ of people that own them. It’s a bit sad because many have recognised the need for better relations between the sailing community and motorboat owners, some good moves have been made of late and many friendships cemented.

Today the plan was to try and reach Jersey. However, although the promised cold front has provided its rainy calling card in timely fashion this morning the fleet still finds itself sat in the bottom part of the low passing across Britain and 15 knots of south westerly against a fairly lively tide didn’t seem to be a great way to reach St Helier. So it is time to explore the surroundings here. It’s going to be a day of two contrasting acts; a public holiday means that everything is pretty quiet and many shops are closed but a large tent on the nearby green and the strident sound of someone testing a substantial public address system with what sounded suspiciously like a Gallic version of ‘Like A Virgin’ point to a big party tonight. It’s gratifying in a vindictive kind of way to see that the French suffer the same kind of inclement conditions for their public holidays as we see back in the UK.

So now we find ourselves two days off schedule. The plan, encouraged by the promise of a useful high establishing itself for the rest of the week, is to head for Jersey for two nights followed by Guernsey for two nights before heading home.

Culinary PS: after a couple of years of indifferent service the Cherbourg yacht club restaurant has re-established previous standards and passed the judgement of several who sat at its tables last night.

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