Finally a weather window appeared to launch Florence and possibly sail her round to Portsmouth. We needed this to coincide with a Spring tide to have enough water to launch and had already seen 2 such tides come and go due to excessive wind.
We launched Tuesday, Peter Norris (the engineer who fitted Florence’s engine) very kindly came with us for a short distance to commission the engine and advised us on the best rpm for cruising, which gives just under 7 knots (she will do nearly 8 flat out with empty tanks and a clean bottom). I had my father and Amy’s step father with me for the launch and the leg to the Orwell as Amy could not get the time off at short notice. We moored off of Ramsholt for the night before exiting over the bar the next morning. I was thankful for the glassy flat calm to traverse the bar for the first time. We put the sails up and sorted out the reefing lines etc in the flat calm so that was useful.
We moored at Suffolk Yacht Harbour where we sterilised the water tanks, topped up the fuel and swapped the heads pump for the spare that was on board as the seals had not lasted the 3 years without use. We then made the decision that all was in order and we were confident enough in Florence to carry on round to Portsmouth. Amy joined us late that night having traveled up by train so we had 4 people to sail Florence round.
In the morning we were expecting very light NW breeze but were fortunate enough to have enough to sail, we turned the engine off at the exit from the Orwell and sailed out down the Medusa channel under main and genoa. At the end of the channel we gybed out to head around all the sand bars as we did not fancy going through them until we had a bit more sea time in Florence. At this point we put the cruising chute up and kept it up until we were past the knock deep wind farm when the breeze shifted too far forward to carry it. We carried on under main and genoa in a dying breeze until 1700 when we furled the genoa and put the engine on as the wind had become very light and we were falling behind on our tidal planning.
Now having more confidence sailing and navigating using the chart plotter and instruments we decided to take the Gul channel inside Goodwin sands. This was very easy as the good visibility enabled us to pick out the light patterns of the various marks in the dark and a match them to our pilotage plan.
Passing Dover we dodged a ferry (we were the stand on vessel but the ferry was much bigger than Florence so we made a big course change to go round its stern). After that we went into our watches for the night and apart from a couple of trawlers to dodge it was incident free but very very cold. Flat water and no wind meant we made good progress and we had timed it very well for the tides at the various headlands.
At 5am on Friday morning the breeze shifted round to the south east and picked up to 10 knots so we were able to turn the engine off and sail once more. We found a new wind farm being built that we didn’t have on our charts (a bit remiss of me not to have made that particular update, I must have of missed it on the list). Once we worked out what it was we stayed offshore past it before heading back inshore for the Looe channel off of Selsey Bill, through here the breeze picked up and we were doing 8 knots under main and genoa so we put a reef in the main to take it a but more gently. We are very impressed with the single line reefing system which we had not had the pleasure of using before.
Once through the Looe channel and into the solent the breeze reduced so we shook out the reef and then put the cruising chute up again. We held the chute down the solent and gybed through the forts to head for Portsmouth now back in familiar waters for us. You have to have the engine on through the entrance to Portsmouth harbour so we dropped the chute and motored through. Once through we un-furled the genoa and sailed all the way up the channel past Portchester Castle, we dropped the sails just before the lock which was already open for us to head straight in to Port Solent marina.
My father was apparently checking to see if Florence, Amy and I were up to it. When we entered the solent he said ‘well I suppose you can go then’. I’m not sure what would have happened if we didn’t pass muster (he can’t really ground me any more) but it is comforting to know that he feels happy that we and Florence know how to look after each other.
Florence was a joy to sail and handled better than we had hoped for. John and Jenny (the previous owners) have clearly done a very good job setting her up and we promise to them that we will look after her.
The following day was spent scrubbing Florence clean of all the lichen and dirt that had built up from being at Larkmans without water. We felt we owed it to her for looking after us so well on the sail round.