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. It’s 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 4849.853 N, 0324.117 W; bon soir,

James