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Sailing To Boulogne – A Channel Dash

I recently enjoyed a fabulous hop across the channel to Boulogne. We had squalls, hail, and brilliant sunshine.

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A beautiful sunrise

The crew:

7 men (including the skipper), myself and another lady. A good mixture of experience. A lovely lot. Sadly some suffered sea sickness, but all in all everyone was great and we enjoyed a fun weekend.

The Friday night dash to Queenborough…

Arriving at the boat on Friday night, we did brief introductions, settled in, and then slipped lines as soon as possible. We headed to Queenborough for the night. 10 nm down steam from the marina, and at the mouth of the Medway Estuary, Queenborough offers a basic mooring, but is a great starting point for getting away early in the morning. A couple of drinks in the local pub, we were all in bed by just gone midnight.

An early start…

My alarm pinged in to action at 5.30am, it’s a cold spring morning and darkness still lurks outside. I head up on deck and with a few others, prep the boat for our departure. We soon slip lines into the darkness. Following the marker buoys to lead us on our way. Destined for France.

I haven’t been on a decent sail for a long time, so I’m pleased to be finally crunching some miles, with hopefully a more challenging sail ahead. It’s pretty chilly (4 c or so) and we’ve got some lovely breeze, at about 20kts.

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A chilly morning up on deck, rewarded with a beautiful sunrise

Before long we can see the coast of Margate. But the sky is littered with ominous black clouds As soon as we spot it, a huge black squall transcends. The wind rapidly climbs, 23kts, 25 kts, 30kts, gusting at 35kts. I jump on the helm while the skipper and some of the crew busy themselves with other tasks. Wow, she is a wild one. It’s these moments that give me such a thrill. As our beautiful boat bucks and thrashes in the enormous swell. And then comes the free exfoliating facial… aka hail.

Like razors being launched at my face, each drop of hail, pelts and stings. Needing all my strength to keep the boat as steady as possibly, I’m unable to shelter my face, and just have to take the pelting. And as quickly as it started, it stopped. The hail disappears. The wind calms down to a steady 15kts or so, and the sky clears. Sunshine. Nature likes to play games with us at times.

A few have succumbed to sea sickness and are sleeping it off down below. We round south foreland and take in the beauty of the white cliffs. Such natural beauty. The chalky cliffs have seen so much, I wonder what stories they would tell if they could speak. Tales of smuggling, war, family beach trips and romantic walks.

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The infamous white cliffs of Dover

With that, we make our turn, and head across the channel for France. Making our fastest and best passage across the infamous, and busy TSS.

We had a beautiful sail across, and soon spy Boulogne on the horizon. Before we know it, we’re alongside. Moule avec frites, in a lovely French restaurant hits the spot nicely. And then it’s to bed, ready for the early start.

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Sailing in to Boulogne, the coast is lined with flats and blocks, and a string of fishing boats are moored alongside

In the morning we set off, the dark velvet sky overhead cloaking the land around us, we slip off silently into the early morning darkness, whilst France sleeps. It’s as if we were never here. Before long, we’re back at Chatham. Oh how I do love the freedom that sailing brings. What a glorious weekend on the water.

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The winding streets of Boulogne

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