Ultimately the decision to leave was the right one but I must say that for the proceeding 7 days it really didn't feel like it.
We departed at 1400 hrs on Friday lunchtime alongside the good ship Sumara. The weather was fine and we had full sails up as we left Lillesand. 6 hrs later we were sailing with a triple reefed main and scrap of genny in 35 knots of wind gusting up to 45 knots; we didn't shake the reefs out of the main for 6 days! The rather windy conditions did mean that the first night was a bit bouncy-bouncy so much so that my carefully prepared Chicken Tikka Masala received short shrift from the crew - I must agree that the chicken was a little dry. In addition water that should have stayed on the outside migrated enthusiastically inside the boat dripping on crew and electronics alike - the stereo was I'm afraid a casualty of this assault. I hadn't realised how many routes there were. Gordon received the first shower as water shot through a dorado vent and landed straight in his crutch - undoubtedly refreshing but I think speaking on behalf Gordon, a little unwanted. This was followed by another deluge onto the chart table with water firing through the gaps in the spray hood and coaming and then shooting down the companionway. But as ever you quickly live and learn and we gradually filled the offending holes using bits of foam, two tea towels, and for those smaller, trickier gaps a selection of Norwegian soft toffees. Pretty soon we had most of the water staying where it should be with the exception of the dorado vents which despite being blocked outside continued to weep. No worries, Mr White solved the problem by inserting a clump of paper towel into the dripping holes which were then changed every few hours as they became saturated. It is worthy of note that my relationship with Jerry reached a new level when one morning he shyly asked me if I would mind changing his tampon. Of course I replied; it's nothing to be embarrassed about. Don't let it be said that we're not in touch with our feminine side on the good ship Brimble.
After the first night the winds stayed strong and adverse. We remained close hauled, beating into the wind for pretty much the whole trip with winds varying from force 5 up to severe gale force 9. We lost contact with Alasdair and Sumara on the second day but exchanging notes on arrival found out they stayed not far away and taking a similar route.
I won't bore you with the details but I think between Cap'n and crew we covered off most emotions over the course of the passage. I wouldn't have voted for the weather but I wouldn't undo it, it was a great experience.
After the first night things did quieten down a bit but within a day or so we were back with strong winds and a forecast suggesting of worse things to come. Hambourg Navtex reports were clearly drafted by a manic depressive who seemed unable to contain his enthusiasm for letting us know that things were bad and not going to get any better. His brother who would appear to have been seconded to the Dutch coastguard wasn't much better. One report demanded that all inshore fishing vessels and pleasure-craft immediately return to port at best speed to avoid the impending storm - not much ****ing use when you're 200 miles from the nearest port - and anyway what did they think we were doing.
When the worst of the weather finally arrived we were well prepared and hove to through the worst of it; all was well as the winds maxed out at something in the order of 45 - 50 kts. Brimble was absolutely great as were Gordon and Jerry who maintained their sense of humour from start to finish and did a great job looking after the GSB. More importantly I am delighted to say that they regained their appetites after the initial rejection of my Day 1 curry and from then on devoured the culinary delights presented to them with a fervour.
We finally arrived at Shotley Marina, Harwich, at 2330 on 15th August 7 1/2 days after departure. We had logged a mileage of 597 miles for a direct journey of under 500. We moored up on berth H05 and got well and truly ****ed. Well done Brimble, Gordon and Jerry.