A new mate, the old weather
Because of my back, and because of the traffic to be expected, I want another mate on board for the last trip to the Channel. It isn't so easy tough to find a mate in the Azores as it was to find one in the Carib. Most are just passing thru and are allready on a boat. After a bad experience with a crew flewn in from Belgium, I have to go once again looking for one. At last I find an Englishman who has to go home to Falmouth.
The first days we're again becalmed, and this time it is me who has to calm down my mate. He always crewed bigger boats, square riggers with 10 or more crew. He clearly has a hard time on such a small boat being only 2. But he holds strong and doesn't make any problems, eventough we were close to it at times. It is always difficult to find a way of living on board which gives each enough room for himself, and David needs far more room than Marcus did, also psycologically. He finds it hard to think I was able to fulfill my dream, whereas he's still searching for it, he hasn't got the slightest idea yet of how to really do it. I withold myself and give him all the room I can dispose of, without bringing the boat into danger. He can sail wat he wants, I look for it that the mast doesn't come down.
The ultimate test
Because it starts to blow, we are running new day records day after day. The horse smells it's stable. Those are exhiliarating days and frightful nights, with lots of spray and fluorecent water. The last 4 days are a little too much to the rough side.
We receive a 7bft+ weatherforecast when we are at last getting nearer to the continental shelf. I never saw such high waves, so many breakers. We can't keep our course to Falmouth, we have to steer towards Cork to position ourselves better on the waves. This isn't what David likes, he wants to be home as quick as possible. When I tell him he can take the ferry from Cork, he's becalmed again. We can only keep a tiny bit of jib. It isn't as bad as it seems tough, we only have little water in the cockpit That is something I am afraid of, as a flooded cockpit brings a lot of water down below. I fill it up with the liferaft, stormsails and the dinghy so that fewer water can come in. But the deck is often under water, and water is entering thru the vents. We have to pump every 4 hours to keep the (very deep) bilge dry. I keep on being suprised at how a wave passes under the boat whereas I would have bet it would whiten out the deck. This rough weather lasts for 1 day, the time to cross the continental shelf. Once on the shelf, the wind doesn't weaken, but the waves are much more managable, and we're able to sail a straight course again to Falmouth. It remains wet tough, because we're just parallel to the waves. Inside everything is wet, and we don't get the chance to dry anything. We both long for a warm shower en dry clothes. Again we sight land, England this time. It sure is something, I just feel I've come home. But those small Channel waves that slam the boat take some getting used to.
Back at our side
As usual, the first thing we do ashore is to take a shower. Then we de-salt the boat. It takes two days for me to be able to walk normally, it seems as if all Falmouth streets are mounted on rubber. David goes home quickly, I sit under the sprayhood enjoying a cofee when an other boat comes alongside, the crew wet and pleased to be in harbour. They ask me wether I come from: the Scilly's or from the Channel. When I point a bit further away towards the horizon, they're clearly supprised. Customs comes along, asks me some simple questions standing on the quay, and leaves me alone. When I'm cooking inside, two men come to look at my boat and I hear one say "You say this boat crossed the Atlantic ? You wouldn't say so, but it certainly got some ocean going gear on it !" I feel fulfilled, but a stranger in this world. I left my world on the Azores, now it's back to workmanslife again. It takes some days before the boats that left with me from the Azores, enter. Most had bad weather, some even had to hove to. This time I made a very fast crossing compared to the others.
The last part
After 4 days rest my last single handed trip goes to Cherbourg, 36 hours without sleep, in the mist in the middle of the traffic zone thru the Channel. My father comes to join me on the last leg home, eventough he's never sailed before. It will be quit an experience for him as well as for me. We start with a second 36 hour trip towards Boulogne, but I decide to run to Dieppe after a rough night beating to windward. Quite a first experience for my father ! After a warm meal and a good night we make it to Boulogne, where my sister and her family has been waiting for 2 days ! Now this is getting home.
Still one stop in Dunkerque, where as usual for me I remain blocked for a day due to another gale. (it's my fatum, whenever I go to Dunkerque I am blocked there by a gale). Then the last daytrip to Oostende, my home port, where I arrive 2 hours before the ETA I gave thru over 2m ham radio last night. Only two hams who've followed me practically the whole trip know of my sudden quick proceedings and are standing on the pier to welcome me. We've allready got a beer at the bar when the rest enters. All of a suddens there's laughing, shouting, congratulations, coming home. The voyage fades quickly, when I get a drive home in the car I see a sign saying "Gent 60 km" and I think "just another day", but then I realize 60 km by car goes much faster than 60 M per sailing boat. I'm back home.
The circle is rounded. I realized my dream, and now it is as if I dreamed my realisation.