We’re onboard her sister yacht, the 12m Endurance, a few miles out of Dartmouth in Devon. The Devon coastline is a picturesque patchwork of gorse and greenery, stretching away to the jagged headland of Start Point, punctuated by the yellow beach at Slapton. We’re bound for the postcard-pretty harbour of Salcombe – and drinks are on whoever gets there last.
I’m not convinced by the lobster pot story, though. For a start all the other buoys are pink and, wrinkling my eyes against the glare of the sun, I’m sure I can spot some spikes.
Sure enough, as we draw closer, hot on Discovery’s wake, Geoff’s attention becomes fixed on my mystery lobster pot, and his expression darkens. Next thing I know he’s reaching for the radio and, a lot of crackling later, my fellow crew members and I are grappling with metres of flapping canvas as we drop the main sail. Geoff at the helm, we’re motoring straight for what, apparently, is an unexploded mine.
Lobster pot, my arse – to coin a phrase. Closer inspection of our mystery object reveals a rusty, black and fluorescent yellow floating menace, equipped with solar panels and some kind of radio-controlled antenna, complete with a strange code on its side.
Hot on the scent of a story, the journalist in me rather enjoys leaning precariously over the yacht’s side, binoculars in hand, relaying this information to the coastguard via Geoff – while the other (better) half of my brain screams “get the hell out of here”. Our civic duty done and our vessel none the worse, that’s exactly what we do.
Back to the task in hand, it is definitely a case of playing catch-up – Discovery can be seen in the distance rounding Start Point.
Under Geoff’s expert guidance and a generous wind, we soon have the main sail hoisted, reefed and trimmed, and we’re cutting a steady path through the waves with the sea slapping satisfyingly against the hull. Endurance leans gracefully into the wind, almost as though she’s grateful for the chance to let fly.
With the salty wind in our faces and our feet dangling free over the choppy Channel waters, I feel a million miles from the greyness of busy London.
We catch up with Discovery just as she makes her first tack into Salcombe harbour, and almost overtake thanks to a rogue gust of wind that sends her spinning. But the afternoon is wearing on, the inlet isn’t that wide, and there’s a hailstorm out at sea heading our way – time to cut our losses and spark up the engine.
Safely hitched onto our mooring (after only the second attempt), we learn from the coastguard that our unexploded bomb is, in fact, a wave recorder – one of many positioned in the English Channel to monitor the effects of global warming.
Maybe not a front-page story, but at least both the newshound and regular sides of my brain got to sleep well that night. Although that could have been down to the combination of fresh air, honest exercise … and a bottle of wine.
» Claire Goodall sailed with Nonstop Sail (01803-833 399; www.nonstopsail.com). An Experience Weekend starts at £190, including two nights’ on-board accommodation, breakfast, lunch and one evening meal, all Royal Yachting Association tuition and wet weather gear.
Want to give sailing a go, or are you an old sea dog raring to get back on the ocean wave? There are hundreds of sailing schools across the UK where you can try your hand at helming or brush up your skipper skills. Go for one that offers Royal Yachting Association courses, as the qualifications are internationally recognised (www.ryatraining.org).
Sign up at www.crewseekers.net (£60 for six months) for details of yachts needing crew, from a day on the Solent to a hop across the Channel – or cruising the Pacific.
Britain’s biggest sailing event is Cowes Week – an annual regatta based on the Isle of Wight. Go along for a gander at the world’s classiest yachts and most skilled sailors, from August 2-9 this year (www.skandiacowesweek.co.uk).