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I was very emotional
when I reached Lymington.

June – July 2018


Back in Kortgene after my first 500M solo sailing I felt I could go further. I had that crazy dream to bring Giulia where she had been built in 1978 – the Jeremy Rogers boatyard in Lymington -. It would be a good test to see if I were to go even further to the island of Flores in the Azores. Before that, I wanted to upgrade her for such a voyage. I was glad I had decided to sail her as much as I could that season, and get to know her better. What I needed to do became clearer.


I upgraded Giulia from November 2017 until May 2018. I did all I could do myself, but had to let many works be done. I had often to go through difficult situations, mostly with men not really taking me seriously. I know I can get very nervous when something breaks or I discover a damage, but I usually precisely pinpoint the origin of the problem thanks to my sciences background. This ended up in a few annoying talks. Luckily, I also met many men that welcomed my project with enthusiasm, and supported me, giving me good tips. 


In a nutshell, I added a windvane, more batteries, an electric windlass, solar panels, an inner forestay. I had new sails made, and changed many little things to make Giulia safer inside. 


As the day of departure approached, I realized that it would be difficult for me to cope with the emotions of a farewell, and organized instead a party a week before. It was a gorgeous day, we all sat around the tables of the barbecue place of Kortgene. I loved to see how people who didn’t know each other before, chatted and laughed for hours. 

I couldn't believe the tiller would be my best companion

I took a week to write down the first stages of the trip along the Belgian coast in my notebook. It was now time to leave. It felt strange as there was none to say goodbye, at the same time I wanted it so. I was glad that Jacky was also sailing the same direction than me with her husband. They welcomed me in Roompot, and we spent the evening together, after a beautiful sunset.


I prepared the voyage further the day of my fiftieth birthday.

Sailing down the Belgian coast

And the next day, there we were Giulia and me slipping out of the locks of the Roompot as the fog slowly dissolved. It felt unreal, and had to repeat to myself several times. “Yes we are casting off for a long time!”

The day went well, I easily avoided the cargos, following the most outside channel in the sandbanks and arrived safely in Zeebrugge, where a solo sailor met the day before took my lines. This sounds crazy but it was my first time I crossed a border with Giulia, the Belgian flag fiercely hoisted. I sailed along the coast until Nieuwpoort. The Zuydcoote pass on the way to Dunkerque was my next challenge. It is well known by the sailors, I you miss it you are on a sandbank. It didn’t happen to me, but I admit I had the engine on standby just in case. I could switch it off very quickly. I was very proud to replace the Belgian flag by the French one. Other yachts arrived, and left again to Boulogne-sur-Mer, just before a gale. “Why don’t you come with us?” I didn’t because I didn’t feel ready for it. I have often heard that accident occur when you precipitate your departure. I think this is even more true when you sail alone. I need to feel ready for the challenge. At the end I am alone to cope with the problem, should it occur. I stayed longer, and enjoyed the visit of a friend living nearby.

Towards the Zuydcoote pass!

I was ready to leave, when the wind eased, and the current set in the good direction. I had a new goal: to leave at 3:00 am. I took it as an opportunity to do a longer night navigation and a longer passage at sea. When I left I had to wait for a cargo to exit the industrial harbor, and then it was my turn to take the channel leading to Calais. I was laughing at myself when I discovered that the lights and fire of the industrial zone were so bright that they showed me the way. The sun rose in glory, illuminating the smile on my face. I soon discovered the beauty of the white cliffs of Dover, and further of the Cap Blanc-Nez and the Cap Gris-Nez. I just needed to switch then engine on for the last miles. 

Cap Blanc-Nez
Cap Gris-Nez

Arriving in Boulogne-sur-Mer felt as a huge victory: I had spent ten hours on the water, sailed at night and made a good preparation to take advantage of the current towards the South. A friend that didn’t want to wake up so early, and had left three hours later, arrived late at night, telling me I had been right to leave at that time. He had had a lot of current against him.

I spent very nice days with a good friend, visiting the city and painting together.

I also kept an eye on the weather forecast to go to the UK. I had had nice talks with sailors on the pontoon in Dunkerque. One had advised me to sail to Eastbourne from Boulogne.


There was I preparing myself for the biggest challenge I had until then: cross the Channel. Losing sight of the coast seemed at the time the ultimate adventure. Yet I was ready. The day came to cast off, just before sunrise to have as much light as I could. I needed to head South first along the traffic lane, until the wind would allow us to sail over perpendicularly to the cargos as required by the authorities. At first, it was an uncomfortable sail in the choppy seas to reach the buoy I chose to cross over. The water calmed down once in the deeper traffic lane. I was glad therefore. The wind to the beam Giulia glided happily to England. With this allure it was easy to avoid the cargos. Even the sun came out. It was funny, the part of the passage I was most afraid of, became the easiest one. I even took a nap, letting Giulia over to the autopilot. The white cliffs of England appeared in no time. I was thrilled. I thought we had almost arrived… but I had not yet experience with the acceleration zones, and this time with the one of Beachy Head. The wind was blowing from the front. I switched the engine on to keep as closed hauled as I could, and still make progress. I took a long time to reach the buoy close to Beachy Head. The sun was setting, I still had just enough light to get to the entrance of the marina. Changing course allowed me to sail again. Giulia was speeding up downwind, surfing on the waves. I was relieved when I identified the safe water buoy that marks the entrance to the channel to the marina. At that time, the tide was so low that I could see the wrecked boat on the sandbanks. I managed to let the mainsail down, and attach it quickly, and take the direction of the channel. I see me shouting to myself “White is good, green too much to port, red too much to starboard” once I saw the sector light. The harbourmaster on duty was very kind to come and help me to take the lines, as I did not have enough space to prepare them in front of the lock. The doors closed. Water entered the locks, Giulia in her bubble bath and her captain feeling so happy. The doors opened on the becalmed marina. People helped me to moor. I came ashore jumping of joy. I just had spent 16 hours on the water, and had managed to arrive safely. I fell asleep leaving the cleaning of the mess for the next day.

The little blue triangle is Giulia among the orange cargos
The funny trip one needs to do to comply with the rules.

When I woke up, my head was thinking of all that could have gone wrong. I felt thankful Giulia had taken good care of me. I needed a rest and took a few days off. I met the first lovely friends of the Contessa 32 community, after a drink onboard Giulia, we had a barbecue at their home.

The channel to Eastbourne at low tide

I went on, heading towards Brighton. I left two hours before the tide would turn, and the current set in the good direction. I was going back towards France when the sun began to go down, and the fog came down as I was vainly trying to pass Beachy Head. Some sailors had told me to go very close to the lighthouse to have a counter current… but I didn’t dare. In the middle of my battle against the wind and the current, I heard my faint little voice softly tell me: “If you go back to Eastbourne, you will be there in an hour. Giving up is not always a failure. Tomorrow you will have better conditions.”

 - But everyone will laugh at me…

 - So what? Do you prefer to have an accident?


She was right. I was getting tired and nervous. Going back was easier, I already knew the way. An hour later, a Dutch couple helped me to moor alongside their boat. I felt ashamed. They reassured me. “It was the best decision to take we fought against the tide and wind all afternoon, it wasn’t nice. Better to wait for good conditions.”

Learning by trials and errors...

The next day, I left very early. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Until I heard the same office lady that did my entrance, shouting: “You brave women, you are leaving again! Well done, have a good trip!” I had a little “glups” but soon realised that she was right, I was not giving up.

This time I enjoyed the sail with favorable wind and current, and went to Shoreham-by-Sea, that a sailor had advised me. I called the lock’s guardian that confirmed I still was on time for the next opening… but I had to give way to a fishermen’s boat and was too late. I called him again. “Don’t worry miss, I see you on the AIS and wait for you!” It felt so good to be welcomed. I moored alone on the cranky pontoon and enjoyed the sunset. I was glad I followed the advice. The town had a nice atmosphere.


I was getting closer to the Solent. I followed the long way to Porthsmouth, a bit afraid of taking a shortcut among the rocks. There I met other Contessa 32 owners.

Solent here we come!

Then the big day arrived, it was a nice downwind sail to Lymington. I felt very emotional when I entered the channel leading to Lymington, and remembered what Christophe, a Belgian owner of a Contessa 32, told me once: “Coming to Lymington feels like coming home.” He is right. Kit and Jessie Rogers had already left the office when I arrived, but the secretary would let them know I had arrived.


The next morning, I heard a knock on my deck. It was Kit welcoming me and asking how he could help. He congratulated me for the good shape Giulia was, and offered his help. Later in the day I met Jessie. The welcome I had was beyond expectations, also from the other Contessa owners. 


I was glad I had brought Giulia safely home. I took a longer time off and enjoyed the friendship of the Contessa 32 owners, and of the beauty of the Solent.

My dream to sail Giulia over the Ocean to the Azores came even closer!
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