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GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.


First port of call - Part 2

Last week, we saw how Jerry Tremain started to plan his passage from Southampton to the South of France.  This week we hear about the start...  Jerry writes:


Cushla in refitThe preceding days in March proved to be quite worrisome. Having gotten most of the gear, mostly second-hand from Ebay, there was the matter of a lift which was planned for two weekends in the middle of the month at Saxon Wharf. As it turned out, the lift was delayed due to the launch of Superyacht Hetairos taking longer than expected. I now only had the one weekend to do all the painting and gearbox servicing and with no spare leave to call on I was in fear of not getting it all done in time for a test sail and the departure.

Fortuitously, Cushla's hull was in a very good shape despite having been immersed for the last two years without break. There was very little weed; just some barnacles on the waterline and over the props. The base antifouling was sound and would only need a scrub and top coat. That said, catamarans have two hulls and it is always frustrating to look over your shoulder and notice that 'the other' hull needs doing as well!



I worked hard in the evenings for as long as I could and even stayed onboard for many of them so that I could attend to the engine servicing and other last minute jobs. The weekend loomed quickly and I wondered if it would all get done in time for the lift back in but my crew came to the rescue and I found myself with lots of spare hands on both Saturday and Sunday. The hulls were painted, props re-coated, fenders polished, topsides scrubbed and waxed and reflector fitted. All that remained was to collect and rig the stackpack and bimini which had been sent off for repair, and to change the gearbox oils. Miraculously, after 9 days, Cushla had had the overhaul she deserved and was duly re-launched ready for refuelling, storing and a quick spin down Southampton Water to see if everything all worked. It did, and so with just five days till the departure, I declared her ready to take on the Atlantic Ocean.


The day of departure was surprisingly calm. I afforded myself a bit of a lay in before Kathy and I went off to fetch the bulk of the fresh food for the trip. Kathy had already worked out a structured menu for the first week so all we had to do was tick it all off from the list. We arrived at the marina mid afternoon giving us just enough time to stow all the goods, remove canvas work, run up engines and generally square things away below. The crew started to arrive from 3pm onwards with the last straggler pitching up about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time of 5pm!

Having gotten everyone settled in and shown where to stow their gear we commenced the obligatory safety and 'whereabouts this bit lives' briefs. The novice element of the crew where extremely receptive and keen to know everything but there would be time to go over it all in detail later on. For now it was time for a quick crew photo and then head off into the afternoon sunshine. My outline plan was to sail a short first leg to Brixham to pick up Bob who had been unable to get to Southampton for the departure, then cross the Channel to Cameret, where we would leave for the Bay of Biscay and hopefully La Coruna.

With a promise of fair weather ahead we unceremoniously slipped Ocean Quay for the last time with just enough time for a wave goodbye to Kathy and Lee and one last look back to the place we had called 'home' for three and a half years. I didn't give the notion of leaving the marina too much thought as I knew our new home would be unquestionably better, but I did have an anxious moment feeling about leaving Kathy behind, wondering how she would cope with seeing us disappear over the horizon. I had a gnawing feeling of trepidation mixed with the excitement - Kathy just had the trepidation.

I chose to leave late in the afternoon so that we would catch the turn of the tide once out past the Needles. But the initial few hours was going to be a tough slog out through the West Solent with a flood tide and a typical SW wind determined to slow us up. It was around 8pm whilst thinking of something to do that I remembered to touch base with Solent Coastguard to confirm our departure and passage plan (which I had already submitted by email). They were grateful and wished us a safe journey of course.

The initial crewWe had hoped to reach the Needles in daylight but progress was slow and we didn't catch sight of the famous rocks until around 9pm when darkness had us surrounded. Fortunately it was a dry clear night and by 9.45pm we were able to kill the engines and turn west for our first waypoint off Anvil Point, some 16 miles away. Cushla relished having a decent wind of 25 knots just forward of the beam and so we shot off with the west going tide making good about 8½ kts over the ground. The plan paid off as we kept this up for most of the night.


6.50am on the second day brought our first sunrise of the trip whilst hammering along in 30kts of wind through Lyme Bay. With around 9 miles to go to the Brixham WP it wasn't very long before a hearty breakfast was rustled up and then all that remained was the final approach into Torbay. However, the tide had turned east at about 6am and so we found ourselves being heavily pushed north back into Lyme Bay, making the final stages quite tiresome and a bit of a struggle. We needed to get into the lee provided by Berry Head so the motors were started for the last couple of miles. Once into shelter the wind had less of an edge and so before long we found ourselves sneaking neatly round the pierhead looking for a berth on the 'Events' pontoon just to the right of the marina. Under a grey mid-morning sky we berthed alongside.

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