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henrystanley 06-25-2007 03:12 PM

Sailing the English Channel
I am new to yachting - my second season , previously sailed dinghies . I plan to take the big step of sailing from Ramsgate to Calais ,possibly short - handed . The furthest i have sailed before now is to Dover. Have any of you folk out there got some local advice ( pearls of wisdom ) , i.e way points , tides ,wind hazards etc . I have the RYA Yachtmaster Theory .

Ta .

Valiente 06-25-2007 04:07 PM

Only ever transited on the cross-channel ferry, years back, but I know it's a section of water subject to numerous tidal influences, sandbars, opposing winds, loads of sometimes oblivious traffic (see Practical Boat Owner's article on "Ouzo" this month and the accident report here:

Nigel Calder's book "The English Channel" made me think I'd enjoy the technical aspects of coasting around those parts. I recommend it. The English Channel: Books: Nigel Calder

henrystanley 06-27-2007 04:10 PM

Many thanks , but i certainly hope i dont suffer the same fate as the Ouzo crew !


tdw 06-27-2007 08:10 PM

I'd think Nigel Calder's book would be one to have. I've never sailed across the channel, like Val I've only ever done it by ferry, but from what I've read it is one of the most restricted waterways on the planet. There are strict traffic lanes and any craft crossing these lanes do so at their own peril. Traffic withing the lanes has absolute right of way. again, from what I've read, the idea is to enter the lanes at full speed under power and play nautical dodgems until you are through. The very idea scares the daylights out of me. :)

Davidrogerson 03-29-2008 08:42 PM

I am a Yachtmaster who has crossed the channel several times. the tides are not to much of a problem if you time your departure right, they will push you one way then back the other. The main problem you COULD encouter is heavy weather but if you check the forecast and read the synoptics you should be fine. Then the Main problem you WILL encounter is commercial shipping the only way you can counteract this is to keep a VERY good watch.
Have fun

LynW 03-29-2008 11:32 PM

I live in Dover part of the time, did the Calais run at least five times every year for many years.

From Ramsgate, first you have to get round the Goodwin sands, then across the Dover Straight TSS. The two keys are these. First, by law you have to cross the TSS on a heading that is at right-angles to it. You'll see on the chart this means departing from somewhere near South Goodwin lightship (though the lightship has now been replaced by a buoy). So first you have to get there. Second, if you want to enter the marina at Calais, the lock opens about 1 hours either side of HW, so you aim to arrive near high water. And it will take about 5 hours to get there from Ramsgate.

Leave on a rising tide shortly after low water, go east then around the outside of the Goodwin sands, coming down south with the help of the tide to somewhere a little to the east of S. Goodwin. Then aim straight across, letting the tide carry you the rest of the way westwards.

The Dover Straight TSS is the busiest in the world and is a daunting prospect first time given the number of ships. Don't try it in poor visibility or at night (first time). You must have an engine capable of giving 5 kts even if you actually sail. If you try to wait until its all clear, you will wait forever, so you must head out and expect to take avoidance action en route.

Ships in the TSS WILL ASSUME YOU ARE MOTORING whether or not you actually are, and interpret the Collision Regs accordingly. This means in the first, west-going lane they will give way to you. But beware some to do not, and some can't because of the number of ships around them - so never forget ColRegs Rule 10j: "A vessel of less than 20 metres in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the safe passage of a power-driven vessel following a traffic lane." So watch like a hawk, if you're within a mile of a ship and still seem to be on a collision course, make a major change of course (I turn right round) and wait for them to go by. In the second, east-bound lane it is easier because you are the give-way vessel, so you just keep clear of everything by at least half a mile.

You'll be reaching Calais near high water so the shallow bank (The Ridens) outside is not normally an issue. Go up to the harbor wall but as Calais is a very busy port DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APPROACH THE ENTRANCE until you have received permission from port control on VHF ch17 before entering. They speak good English if your French is limited, but may keep you waiting awhile.

Once inside, you stick to the right-hand side which leads to the marina. At present the lock gate to the marina is broken so the marina is out of action. However there are mooring buoys just outside you can pick up. Its a bit smelly there at low tide from the fish dock and you'll need a dinghy to get ashore, but otherwise OK.

As I said, The Dover TSS can seem daunting, but I can never remember a case of a yacht getting into serious trouble out there. Everyone, ships, ferries, fishing boats and yachts, is very much on the watch. But if you do have doubts for your first crossing, you'll almost certainly find a local yacht willing to buddy-up to help you. Ask in the Royal Temple YC.

If you blow it on the tide, then it may be better to take the inside passage (via buoy B1) down to South Goodwin at first. This is OK, but remember there is now an 'advisory' route for the cross-channel ferries out of Dover that you should avoid straying into as you go across the TSS. There should be a chart showing the position of this route pinned up in Ramsgate Marina and RTYC - it isn't yet marked on regular charts.

Valiente 03-30-2008 02:28 AM

Nice advice, Lyn. I hope to one day use it.

Davidrogerson 03-30-2008 02:42 AM

:) That's what i said

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