Tuesday 29th May, 2001
Iles Tome, France
Writer : James Frankham
The sea melts into the sky and forms a blanket that
envelopes everything. STARSHIP and her crew are isolated in a comprehensive
nothingness, through which neither sound nor light can penetrate. Its weird.
We see the outside world with radar, non-descript blotches of colour on a
screen. The water is so calm that even a patch of seaweed shows a strong echo,
impersonating a vessel. Our GPS receivers monitor four satellites outside the
atmosphere, pin-pointing our location upon the TRANSAS moving map.
Radio calls crackle across our VHF on channel 16. A yacht has lost its way in
the fog and cannot even give an idea of its position for rescuers to target.
Without GPS and radar, sailors traditionally used a system called dead-reckoning
to establish their position when celestial bodies were not visible. My
grandfather recounts the shortcomings of this system of speed over distance and
it is with no small relief that I watch our position click over on the GPS to
the nearest thousandth of a mile (2 metres).
Iles de Tome.
We navigated between the unseen buoys and invisible channel markers of the north
coast of Brittany, all the way to Perros-Guirec and dropped anchor, still within
the cloudy shroud, under Ile Tome. The tender was deployed by crane from the
deck and Michael, Odetta, Birgit and I set off on reconnaissance, the sun
miraculously breaking through the fog as the throttles were pushed forward. The
water was thick with zooplankton, tiny animals that float with the currents and
form the bulk of the diet for baleen whales and filter-feeders. Zooplankton is
also partly responsible for the bioluminescence we witnessed a few nights ago.
The tidal range today is just less than 6 metres, and at one hour before low
tide, the surface of the water around the green island was matted with kelp and
seaweed. Algae clung to the rocks in brown bunches, Herring gulls and
Oystercatchers screeched out across the bay. This region of France is renown for
its birdlife, particularly the Les Sept Isles which we shall visit in the next
few days. Tonight we pick up Jan Wiechmann, a reporter from stern magazine who
is writing a story on the completion of the Millennium Voyage.
Boats at Perros-Guirec.
It will be nearly midnight before Jan leaps aboard, so we also took the time to
visit Perros-Guirec and investigate the channel. There was barely a metre of
water, making it impossible to venture all the way to the town. The good news is
that, come 2300 hours, there should be a good five metres of water under the
keel. The rolling fog squirms between boats aground on the mudflats and we
follow our GPS trail back to STARSHIP, blind in the cold mist.
From precisely 48º49.853 N, 03º24.117 W; bon soir,