Sailing to France
That holiday in France had been planned for months, years maybe. Passports and sunglasses no less! The excitement as we left Yarmouth (IOW) was electric. Cruising, out of the harbour we pass the Isle of Wight ferry with her engines throbbing and lights blazing, the heaving monster discharging diesel fumes and noise. ‘Only going to Lymington, a mere stone’s throw, don’t you know? We are on our way to France.’ Our gracious lady and her precious load were bound for France. As we entered the Solent we cut the engine and set the sails, clutching the coast line, reluctant to take that mighty step beyond the Needles. There was little more than a gentle breeze. Now comfortable that we no longer needed the glow of the lighthouse at the Needles her winks continue to warn other interlopers of her treacherous white cliffs.
As we turned into the English Channel, children tucked up, Mother and Father, settled into their respective roles and private thoughts; Trooper caught the now fair wind and cut the running tide. There is something strange and ghostly about sailing at night; the sound of the wind in the stays and the flap of the sails, the creak of the mast as it begins to feel the might of the increasing wind and the feel of the rudder as it takes the strain of the swell.
The lights marking the coast of France are not yet visible, but the moon is high and we are making good time. Then we hit a head wind and the waves began to increase so we changed tack towards the beckoning lights of Cherbourg, however, the current and the wind were not so welcoming they threw us back into the turmoil of the winds and the waves. Trooper didn’t deserve this. This was not as we planned. The tiller was lashed into a forward position while my mother comforted us and my father shot out a flare to summon the lifeboat. Was lighting up the sky, an act of defiance or to placate that jealous night? His children were now at risk. He crawled along the decks to drop the sails and prepare the sea anchors.
The darkness came back with a vengeance, the moon now obliterated by the storm laden clouds. The lights of Cherbourg joining the tirade that taunted us as we mounted yet another voracious wave only to be regurgitated down the other side.
They were a formidable team my ma, pa and Trooper