Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

Waves of Confusion

This morning, as our Land Rover rolled onto the Brittany ferry, or MV Bretagne as she likes to be called, I had a cunning plan. I would use the pretence of work to escape the mayhem that was sure to ensue on our return from our summer holiday. While our young boys tried and generally succeeded to convince their mum that two hours of singing clowns and suspect magic were preferable to another game of 'destroy the duty free shop and then pillage the canteen', I would slip out onto the deck with a notepad and pen.

The wind was SSW about force 5. The speed of the ferry meant that the difference between true and apparent wind was stark and varied significantly depending on whether you stood in the slipstream or behind a break of some sort. The waves, however, did not succumb to such vagaries and marched obediently in line towards their destination. They remained a consistent and reliable indicator of direction from the deck I stood on which must have been a good 50ft up. How did I know? Well, there were plenty of obliging yachts around and their sails confirmed it.

I confess I did spend some minutes trying to read a swell pattern, but they were fruitless – this was the English Channel not Tonga after all.

The uniformity of the waves did appear to break as we passed St Catherine's , but not in any useful way, and by the time Portsmouth was in sight the water was, unsurprisingly, a total mess of mixed ripples, waves and swells. Even a Polynesian would have reached for a GPS confronted with that lot. Although the wind was still a constant and so may have been useful on a much slower boat.

The only other thing worthy of note was the clarity of shadows, wind and current, in the lee of an anchored container ship to the east of Bembridge. From the height of the ferry deck the ease with which I could make out the different lines of wind shadow and tidal current, and their overlap, was refreshing. So much clearer than from the deck of a 32ft yacht, although in the smaller boat their effects are so much more apparent.

Our early evening mooring at Portsmouth was delayed for 20 minutes due to 'extraordinary tidal conditions'. Granted there was a bit of springs about them, but nothing else that I could guess at. Maybe they have a list of these expressions to help cope with operational delays without upsetting people. Perhaps tomorrow's passengers will be late due to 'unusual current patterns'?

We were sitting almost patiently next to another Land Rover on the car deck before disembarking, when a voice from inside it asked me where home was.

'Just along the M and then A27 to Chichester.' I replied. They looked confused.

'Sun on the left until I hit a big road then sun in the mirror until I see a cathedral.' I elucidated. They looked worried for me, but smiled and waved us on our way.