Drama in the Channel

Departing from Portland was simple: The tide was in the right direction, taking us away from any hazards around Portland Bill. There wasn’t much shipping around, and the wind was at the right strength to have a great sail for about 6 hours at 7-8 knots with the tide.

Having to get up at 3.30am made it very easy to sleep en-route, while leaving Allen to keep a lookout for ships and other hazards and hoping to spot a dolphin two. He does everything on the boat you know.

After about six hours the wind changed direction and we decided to motor ( or put the donkey on ). Nearly there – only 1.5 hours to go. Then the engine noise changed!

We had picked up a hitchhiker on the propeller, in the form of a piece of rope. We tried getting it off with the boat hook but it was no use , Allen (not Maria) had to go in. He put on the MiniB (diving equipment) and the dinghy was lowered into the water.

I’ll not describe the full extent of the danger as my mum reads this, but it wasn’t plain sailing. Two hours later, one wet and cold skipper back safely onboard and it was sorted, and we finally got on our way, arriving in Cherbourg a little later than planned!

Shopping in Cherbourg


A trip to Cherbourg means a walk to Carrefour. We took a back pack, trolley and an Ikea bag with some bungee ropes to carry everything back.

At the Carrefour checkout, I suffered the outrage of the checkout assistant for not weighing and pricing the bag of courgettes. She demonstrated this by waving the bag of courgettes at me. I had to quickly get to the scales and back with the required label.

We then loaded up the shopping and began wheeling it to the boat, taking it in turns and trying to keep it on the trolley. Avoiding cobbles, kerbs and cyclists we only had a few squashed peaches and broken eggs when we arrived back at the marina. A successful trip !

A view from below – by Allen

Well, the Coppercoat seems to be working. There is no fouling on the hull. And the prop is relatively clean… apart from several metres of discarded rope wrapped around it.

Underneath the boat in a Channel swell, no matter how slight, is not a pleasant place to be. The boat is pitching and rolling, and there is risk of the boat clobbering you on the head. It is dangerous, it is cold, and it is very unpleasant.

The mitigation technique while underwater is to assume the relaxed position of an orang-utan with one arm over the top of your head. That way you fend off the hull as it comes down on you. Of course this makes the whole challenge even more difficult, because you are then in a ridiculous position – visually and physically – where you are trying to stabilise yourself under a moving boat while trying to free the rope with one hand.

All the prep takes a long time and it’s a pain in the arse. The rope came off easily enough, however, and we were able to recover it onto the boat for disposal ashore.

We aren’t the only ones who suffered this:

Earlier in the week when in Portland, I came across a chap – not in the first flush of youth – dragging a bundle of rope and netting down the pontoon. He picked that lot up around his prop, also in the channel, and tried to free it himself. Eventually he had to hire a diver to do it for him. At considerable cost no doubt.

In our drive to be as self-sufficient as possible, we are fortunate to have diving gear onboard. Otherwise we too would have needed to call for assistance.

Discarding rope and nets into the sea is irresponsible… a thoughtless act that can (and does) put boats and people in danger.

It’s a common problem and it is not only related to rope and netting. The oceans are seen by many as a dumping ground that causes no end of damage to the environment. Take a look here: https://www.plasticoceans.org