The constraints of the tides required an early start from St. Peter Port, slipping our lines on time. Our judgement seemed to be confirmed, as we left the harbour in company with three other boats. We made sail off St. Sampson, and were soon whistling up the channel with 3 knots of tide under us. The wind was as forecast from the west, with overcast skies but good visibility. We headed for the west side of Alderney, and the Swinge, and made rapid progress, arriving a little earlier than planned. The flood tide was still at full throttle, and we were swept north of our intended track in the middle of the channel, towards Burhou and the rip tides and shallows off it, giving a moment of anxiety that was allayed by motoring sharply away. Other yachts kept to the Alderney shore, and seemed to do better than us. We arrived in Braye harbour, and picked up a buoy, the harbour master soon relieving us of £15 for it. The harbour was surprisingly busy, with most of the buoys occupied.
We did not go ashore, but I spent much of the day trying to find out why the AIS was no longer working for us. I remade a couple of coax connections, and swapped aerials, and found what I thought was a dodgy power supply connection. The AIS was passing through the GPS traffic from Seatalk, but there was no hint of any AIS traffic, even with the masthead aerial. We concluded that the AIS receiver is most likely dead, explaining why we had seen so little on our way across from the Azores.
Once again, the tide dictated, but this time it was a question of getting a fair tide at the Needles, as well as getting away from the island. Happily, the two coincided, and we left at 0900, with some hours of easterly tide still to run. It was a fast sail, often at 7 knots or more, with a fresh westerly breeze.
We found ourselves staring at the bows of three ships at close quarters, but happily in each case the situations resolved without any drama on our part. We spent most of the time hunkered down in the corner of the cockpit, as the wind was extremely cold and the skies overcast. Mo was looking after me, as I had woken with a balance problem that made any movement difficult. As we reached towards the English shore it attempted to rain, and visibility closed down for a while so that we were quite close to the Isle of Wight before we saw it.
Although we were a little earlier than planned, the tide was already making and we had a fast sail up the Needles channel into the Solent. I really fancied a pint at the Ship Inn, so we made for Lymington. As we arrived at the mouth of the river, at low water springs, an enormous ferry was following us, with another coming down the river. These new ones seem so much higher, longer and wider than the old ones. We found that all the moorings up the river had been removed, presumably to accomodate them, and new pontoons where the X-boats used to be moored off the Yacht Haven. It was getting dark, but we found our way to the quay, where boats were already rafted four deep. There were vacant visitors moorings, but they seemed to close for us, and we returned back down to the new pontoon. Nominally reserved for rallies, the rally had left, and we went alongside, helped by the crew of a nice old wooden Hillyard. I didn't get my pint!
We left Lymington early to catch the best of the tide up to Gosport. There was a little breeze to start with from the NW, but halfway between Cowes and Portsmouth this died away to nothing, so we had to motor.
We were given a berth at Haslar, and signed up for a month. It was good to be 'home' again after nine seasons away. Our plan is to lay Fuga up at Gosport Boat Yard, and then to spend some months in New Zealand.