In April this year we cruised our Class 40 racing yacht, Fortissimo around the English Channel. Carolyn Morgan, one of our crew for the trip has very kindly written a summary of the trip. Here are her thoughts on the first two days of cruising a Class 40…
Monday 4 April: Portsmouth to Weymouth
Prompt start this morning: Alasdair and I had met James the night before and slept on the boat. As a racing yacht Fortissimo is more spartan than a typical cruising yacht, so no doors, but the berths are roomy and with a good sleeping bag and pillow perfectly comfortable. Ash and Gary arrived for breakfast and James gave us a safety brief before we discussed the plan. Our destination was Weymouth; with a strong southerly wind it should be an easy reach and the tide was fair to go through the Needles.
The skies were grey and the Solent was relatively empty as we slipped out of Portsmouth about 10am. Fortissimo soon powered up and after dodging a few container ships we settled down to following the coast. At 8-10 knots through the water on a close reach Cowes slipped by quickly. Fortissimo responded swiftly to the gusts coming down the Medina and Newton Creek, and by 1130 we were at Hurst Castle. I helmed through the Needles Channel as James made a quick repair to a halyard and we switched to the small staysail as the wind picked up. The waves were lively on both sides as we passed the Needles and emerged into open water. We rounded St Alban’s Head and aimed North to see a little more of the Jurassic coast, but the Lulworth range was live so we were requested to keep further south.
Heading into Weymouth we rafted up on the Custom House quay around 5pm amid brightly-painted houses, cosy pubs and authentic seafood smells from the fishing boats. After a quick turn along the beach and over the bridge to the old harbour we enjoyed a tasty supper in the George pub.
The evening debate was where to go next. We considered Alderney as the forecast was for north westerlies, but settled on Dartmouth as we could berth on a pontoon. Plus with light to medium winds the passage past Portland Bill would be fine, and with slack water at 10 we could make a civilised departure from Weymouth.
Tuesday 5 April: Weymouth to Dartmouth
We motored out of Weymouth in bright sunshine at nine, and headed out to the bay to hoist the main and the big solent jib. Fortissimo slipped past Portland in a flat sea under blue skies. James felt that in these conditions the inner passage would be fine, and I was helming as we passed extremely close to the lighthouse on the headland. To the south of us the sea was foaming, even in these light winds, and I was given my first lesson in helming the boat through waves. Fortissimo is light and responsive, and helms very like a dinghy, despite her size.
The wind picked up and swung more south west, so we had to tack our way across Lyme Bay, but at over 8 knots we were still making good progress. Mid afternoon we spotted a pod of dolphins in the water around us and for half an hour they ducked and dived around the boat, jumping in the bow wave then disappearing beneath the keel.
The sun came out as we approached Dartmouth – a majestic entrance between wooded rocky cliffs and castles, and moored on the Kingswear side about 6pm. James had been heating up a home made cottage pie in the oven so it was ready to eat as soon as we were tied up. Then we climbed the steep streets to the Ship Inn for a drink with spectacular views across to Dartmouth – the town lit up against the night sky and the inky black river. Despite assurances from the chart and the berthing master that our berth had deep water, Fortissimo touched the bottom at low water: it was only soft mud, and has obviously started to silt up, but it meant that we would have to time our departure from Dartmouth next day carefully.