Our web site was selected by the RYA to be the winner of the 2004 Communications Award for the best web site in the East Midlands region.
The 2005 London Boat Show was the venue for the presentation of the awards to all 13 regional winners, and the announcement of the overall national winner. This honour was shared between Whitstable Yacht Club and Bolton Sailing Club. Congratulations to them both!
Our web designer, Geoff Portas, was presented with the award by Kim Hollamby of International Boat Industry News who along with Mark Jardine of Yachts and Yachting and James Boyd of The Daily Sail judged the finalists.
Several Northampton Sailability members were there to help celebrate the occasion.
Once again Jenny, John, Phil and Isolda have ventured forth in their Wayfarers in order to raise funds for Northampton Sailability.
This time the aim was to cross the North Sea from Ramsgate to Ostend.
Congratulations are due to the four of them for another successful and exciting expedition, and our heartfelt thanks for raising the magnificent sum of £2000 for our group.
It was 08.00, 4 hours after breakfast and we were having the time of our lives! For Wayfarer Jabiru crewed by Phil and Isolda and Now or Never with Jenny and John, the day stretched ahead with unknown prospects toward Ostend 70 miles away. But for the moment life was perfect! We were making 4-5 knots towards our first waypoint, Falls Head buoy in a SE F2 under full sail, sunshine and calm seas. I looked back at all the preparations for the trip; the hours on logistics from John, the excited preparations for a first long sea passage from Phil and Isolda, the options and decisions on navigational strategy for me and the committed help of ground crew Paul and Ken. We had launched at 6.30 from Ramsgate and cleared the harbour under motor by 7.15 after waiting for the ferry to leave and getting permission by VHF from the harbour master.
We lost sight of land at 09.30, always a significant moment, and reached Falls Head at 10.30 with Dover Coastguard still loud and clear on our hourly VHF checks. "Sparky" our Icom hand held radio defied all the physics of propagation and we able to communicate with Dover Coastguard at ranges of 26-28 miles. Amazing! We rounded the buoy and sailed close hauled on a port tack for our next waypoint 22 miles away across the main shipping lanes. The tide was on our lee bow giving a lift northwards.
We had worried about shipping, this being a major hazard for a small open dinghy. A large container ship can come over the horizon and be upon you in minutes so keeping a good look out, knowledge of collision regulations and quick thinking was essential. The visibility had improved since morning to about 2-3 miles. We encountered 8 ships in all, taking careful bearings on each one with a hand bearing compass and assessing the risk of collision. The first ship altered course for us. The others we passed clear, but had to alter course for a SW bound freighter around 13.00.
It was becoming apparent that with so much East in the wind we were ending up too far South. The tide was about to turn South too which added to the problem. We were navigating using GPS and a pre-drawn cross track error ladder but were struggling to stay within it. We tacked onto starboard or motored a few miles to get North then sailed again to make progress East. By 18.30 we were clear of shipping lanes made a decision to change the passage plan for a more southerly approach to Ostend. At 20.00 the sun was going down, Ostend was 20 miles away and we had been at sea for 13 hours. We passed a massive radar tower, a good charted landmark and Phil and Isolda tucked in a reef to help their stability.
We ploughed on, close hauled through the breaking seas for the final part of the passage, picking up Ostend Lighthouse flashing at 21.30. As we closed the Belgium Coast the wind increased to NE F4-5, the shallow banks making choppy seas, white horses and there were waves breaking over the bow. Conditions aboard were wet and at times unstable. We experienced difficulty using the self bailers when the boat was heeled and Jenny got seasick from having head down using the dinghy pump. Navigating in a dinghy in F4-5 is like writing a letter on a roller coaster ride!
We were careful to keep together in sight of each other’s masthead lights. Now the tide had turned North again but the leeway from the wind and waves made progress hard going. At last we made contact with the ground crew waiting anxiously at the end of Ostend pier. By 22.00 the wind and seas had calmed and we entered Ostend Harbour at 23.30 taking care to obey the IPTS. We berthed in Montgomery Dock at The Royal North Sea Yacht Club at midnight after 17 hours and 70 miles at sea.
We would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to Dover Coastguard for communications and safety support, Transeuropa ferries for financial support with ground crew and trailers and the Royal Navy Ocean Weather Centre Northwood for accurate forecasting. Also to all the sponsors who gave a total of £2000 for Sailability.
John and Jenny "Now or Never"
Phil and Isolda "Jabiru"