Category Archives: Summer 2010

The Solent Rally

Saturday, 28 August 2010 – Monday, 30 August 2010

This is the first RAFYC rally that we’ve done, so we set off not really knowing what to expect.  Tom was on board, adding a certain credibility in the “RAF” bit!  The two stop rally of Chichester and Cowes (up the Medina river to Island Harbour) had an added complication of being tidal, meaning a window of time around high tide when you can get access in via a lock.

Saturday 28 August

Hamble – Chichester Marina

19 miles, mostly a gentle WNW (Force 3-4) and slight seas

 The marina was full of life when we arrived – in contrast to the other night.  We met our berth neighbours who said that they were breaking their own code of sailing over the August Bank Holiday when it was too busy.  That hadn’t even occurred to me!  We watched them leave and then we slipped our mooring, around 10:15, very neatly, and eased out of the Hamble.  Universal is almost at the top of the Hamble, so it took 30 minutes to get to the mouth (about 2 miles).  There was a breath of wind, so we hauled the sails and we were sailing!  Our berth neighbours were right – the Solent was full of boats; quite a sight.

The wind was more or less behind us, nudging us along as we goose-winged out.  Pete had planned a route through the Northern Channel, but got nervous about it when he saw that no one else was doing it…  Our knowledge of sailing the Solent is, well, very little, and there are many sand banks and navigational hazards.  I was surprised how shallow the Solent actually was in places. Anyway, Pete double checked the passage, and we went for it, reassuringly with others following.  We were making gentle progress, but certainly not the 6 knots that he’d planned for!

At around noon, Pete decided that it was prime conditions to fly the cruising chute.  My heart sank!  The boys rigged the chute, and tried to fly it.  I have no idea what happened, but it was reluctant to fly.  Pete was at the bow, pulling and pulling on the sheets to unfurl it… then suddenly it billowed out, but it wasn’t really setting very well.  We needed to change course, so we then gibed… or tried to.  Tom was at the bow trying to push it through, but it wasn’t rigged right, so Tom came rushing back with one of the sheets re-setting it.  Somehow, the chute filled, and Pete was trying to goose-wing with the cruising chute out.  It wasn’t happy, so we needed to gibe it back… where it got in a right pickle, wrapped around the furled yankee.  All very stressful.  So Pete yelled for me to drop it; even if it meant  that it would get dunked in the sea… which it inevitably did!  Tom was sitting on the deck trying to pull the sail in, with the wind catching it and trying to fly bits of it.  I’d rushed forward to help pile it on board, which was a slightly hairy moment.  Once we’d got it on deck, we decided to pack it back in to the fore-cabin and get it out of the way.  I went down below and fed the blessed thing as Tom stuffed it through the hatch.  One slightly damp sail firmly out of the way.  Nightmare!  This had done nothing to persuade me that the cruising chute was anything but hassle – our biggest and most beautiful sail seems to have a mind of its own.

Back with the two sails we coasted along towards the entrance to Chichester Harbour.  We knew that the entrance contained its own navigational hazards, which required holding as close to the port channel markers as we could.  The rules of the road say that you ‘drive on the right’ and pass port-to-port with other boats, which makes holding tight to a port marker going in to the channel interesting!  Again, this was somewhere that we hadn’t sailed before, and it’s hard to judge what reality is (local knowledge and all that).  We were sailing into the harbour, overtaking boats as we went, as well as dealing with boats coming out, and the relatively narrow channel, all becoming a bit exciting.  I noticed that we had more sail out than anyone else, which accounted for our relative speed, so we furled the yankee which helped a bit.  The point where there was two fleets of dinghies racing, coming at us from different directions caused us to revert to the engine, where we knew we’d have more control.  Another heart-stopping moment as the engine wouldn’t start!  Eeek!  Pete was frantically turning the key, when suddenly it kicked in.  Big sigh of relief.  We dumped the mainsail, and Tom drove us in.  It took an hour to get to the marina entrance.

Pete took the helm, taking us into the marina.  There is a lock that is used to manage entry according to the state of the tide.  When we approached, we saw that the lock was open, or in ‘free flow’, and with a green light we were able to proceed straight through – we were swept through with a strong tidal stream.  We had been allocated a berth, starboard to, which we edged towards.  Our mooring wasn’t our finest (again).  This time close enough to get onto the pontoon, but a little too close.  We grazed the wooden pontoon where the fenders hadn’t done their job.  Pete was really upset.  Our first marks on the hull.  Fortunately the pontoon is soft wood, and I thought the marks looked more like smudges in the coating of salt from the sea… so I set about hosing the hull which made a big difference, and I think lifted Pete’s mood a little.

At around 17:00 we were in the midst of a pontoon party.  20 boats from the RAFYC and their crews drinking wine and eating snacks.  It was very high spirited and we met some lovely people.  Simon, the rally organiser, had said that there were a few rally ‘virgins’ so apparently lots of new faces to everyone.  From there we went on to eat dinner at the yacht club, and drink more wine.  In my case, far too much than was sensible!  I would regret it and pay for it the following day.

Sunday 29 August

Chichester Marina – Cowes, Island Harbour Marina

22 miles, mostly a stiff W (Force 6-7) and moderate seas

My head was thumping a bit and I felt sluggish, revived for a bit by the bacon sandwich and coffee.  We were aiming for a 10:15 departure, when we thought there’d be just about enough water.  We radioed up and were told to wait a few minutes and then proceed… We proceeded to see the lock gates close and a red light!  This meant hovering until a green.  There were boats coming up behind us, and the wind was gusting straight at us, so it was very hard for Pete to maintain a stopped position in the wind.  He tried to hold it, but lost the bow through the wind so we ended up sort of circling around.  Pete’s cortisol levels must’ve been very high, but he did brilliantly.  Finally, the green light appeared so we were called into the lock – where a small army of lock staff were there to help.  There are many lines down from the lock, which you secure.  He told me to put it around the winch and ease it as the water lowered.  Tom was on the bow.  The complication of wind and additional boats being crammed in made it quite exciting – not stressful in itself, because it was all very good humoured.  There was a small boat behind us, who got nudged forwards, I noticed the bow poking through our railing on the stern..  I cheerfully smiled and pushed them backwards, much to the relief of the skipper!  The trouble with being first out of the lock, is that we were first into the channel, which we thought would have enough water but that was still to be tested.  Pete edged out, and the depth meter hit 1.8m – exactly what we draw!  Eek.  We didn’t graze any mud so we were good to continue.  The two miles out on the way seemed longer – Pete was ready for a second coffee now the worst of the departure was over.  I set up the log for the day.  We all watched with interest the wind readings – around 25 – 30 knots from the west!  Who ordered that?  It meant a beat all the way to Cowes.

Once out of the harbour, we raised the sails.  With so much wind Pete put a reef in the main (with the halyard slipping so he had to winch in twice) and we opted for the staysail, effectively giving a reefed foresail.  Well, the wind was really blowing and giving Whinchat a different workout – most of the sailing back from the west country was from behind us.  This is the most ‘tippy’ point of sail, and with the sea being quite lively, Tom forecast that we were going to get wet! And boy did we!  Tom helmed the whole way, clearly absolutely loving it.  He was standing on the helmsman’s seat (he’s too tall to look through the spray hood) with his face in the elements, constantly getting sprayed by waves, and very occasionally a dousing.  Pete had the biggest wave dunk.  We’d forgotten the perfect timing to tack the staysail, which is slightly after the wind has gone through the bow, and controlled in order to stop the sheets catching on the spinnaker pole.  On one tack, when it did get caught, Pete went to the fore-deck to sort it out – on the way back I saw him disappear under a wall of water as a wave broke over him.  He was absolutely fine as he was gripping on, but wet from head to toe, and laughing…. not quite as loudly as Tom was!  I was buried under the spray hood.  Pete was actually to get more wet later – even I got a soaking!  Pete was sitting beside me half under the spray hood, when a wave launched at us from the side – sending water over Pete and a bit of me.  Pete’s foulies were undone, meaning the sea poured down his back wetting him from the inside!  Nice!

Beating through the waves is hard work – more for the crew than the boat (though Tom showed no evidence of tiring).  The constant pounding wasn’t doing my recovery any good, and I grew paler and paler and more and more useless.  In fact, I put my lifejacket on because I didn’t trust myself.  “I’m not at my sharpest” I said to Pete…. Note to self – never ever sail with a hangover!

We were racing a bit against the tides, because Island Harbour is another tidal marina, with a lock to go through.  It was touch and go whether we would make it – Pete was stressing about it, but we took that one away from him.  What can you do against the forces of Mother Nature?  After what felt like hours on the water, we eventually arrived at Cowes, and were able to drop the sails and ease up the Medina River.  There was a monster speed boat clearly with some kind of mechanical problem as we were dropping the sails – revving like anything but not going anywhere!   It turned out that Cowes was full of these mega-fast boats; some kind of race from Weymouth… in those seas it would have been horrible!

I called up the marina on the way up, and the lock was in free-flow.  We probably had 30 minutes to play with, so in some respects our timing was perfect!  It’s some way up the Medina (past the Folly Inn); further than I was expecting, and not really Cowes at all in my view.  We weren’t the first to arrive, and it was a relief to see that we weren’t the only ones there.  All of us were on “delta” pontoon, and we had fellow yachtees to help us in.  Pete had opted for a port-to tie up, to maximise the suitability to Whinchat, but the wind was so strong that we ended up being blown sideways to a starboard-to tie up – not a problem as no one else was there, but meant a mad couple of minutes as Tom and I retied the warps.  All safely tied up and me on the dock certainly very happy to step on land!

Did we abstain that night?  No!  I was much more careful…  We joined the pontoon party – less in numbers as some boats hadn’t made it across the water, diverting to Portsmouth or even staying in Chichester.  We had another rally dinner at the yacht club, which was most excellent, and we met different people.  I was ready for bed, and happy that the wind had seemed to ease off, although I didn’t think that very much would disturb me that night.

Monday 30 August

Cowes, Island Harbour Marina – The Hamble

10 miles, mostly a fluky wind (Force 3) and slight seas 

We didn’t leave Island Harbour until around 14:30  – we had to wait for highish water  – so it was a fairly lazy start to the day.  Tom more or less did every puzzle in the paper and Pete and I went to watch the chaos of the boats that could leave (as their draft is less than Whinchat’s) going through the lock system.  There was a kind-of order going on, but a very small pool for boats to wait to be called forward into the lock…  meaning that boats had to try and circle each other.  No mean feat!  How it went on without anyone bumping into each other, I have no idea!  We decided to wait for ‘free flow’ which is when there’s sufficient water not to need to lock-in on the lock…  Hence why we departed at 14:30!

Guess what the wind had done?  Switched, again, which meant that we had another beat back to the Hamble.  The NW had arrived that was due in yesterday, thankfully without it’s power – although waking feeling refreshed after my sleep, it would have been no bother.

I ended up on the helm for the sail back, and was very much frustrated by the wind… which seemed to bend around meaning that it was hard to hold a course.  It was also hard to sail very close to the wind at times – Tom couldn’t believe that I could only get about 45 degrees to it at one point.  I also had a kind of lesson in choosing a tacking line – I think a racing technique.  Pete got frustrated that we tacked too late (I suspect he had mentally been racing another RAFYC boat) and lost some ‘advantage’.  I ended up shouting at him because this was all new to me; and in his frustration he didn’t chose very well how to describe it to me.  “Just follow their line” meant absolutely nothing to me.  He had to deconstruct it.  I certainly don’t remember being taught it before so it was perhaps a costly lesson in the ‘race’ that was taking place back to the Hamble.  It was a challenging sail in a very different way – clearly a helmsman who wasn’t up to ‘racing’ and a wind that couldn’t decide where it wanted to go.

Our biggest mishap would be mooring in the marina.  It was the day that Whinchat got her first proper dint.  Pete was beside himself – really dejected.  The conditions were really tough – a strong tidal flow and this starboard-to mooring.  I’m not sure what happened, as I spent most of the time on Whinchat with my leg wedged between us and the boat on our left.  A combination of the tide, wind and Whinchat’s severe kick to port in reverse (you have to slam into reverse to stop a boat) meant that she wanted to park on top of our neighbour.  Tom had a real job to get her alongside, and in the commotion, Pete had driven her forwards into the pontoon.  I’m sure it’ll be polished out – and my wisdom says it was bound to happen.  It was a horrible way to end the rally – not really the lasting memory that I would have chosen for Pete.   Like anything in sailing – there is always a possibility of learning, and this was no exception…

Update:  Thursday 2 September

We’ve spent the day out on Whinchat – Pete doing some close-hand manoeuvring (we were going to do it in Falmouth, but the great sailing days kept on presenting themselves) so Pete now feels much more in tune with Whinchat.  We also moved berth at the marina!  We have a port-to mooring, which we ‘practised’.  How smooth were we?  When we came to dock after a few sunny hours on the water, it was model mooring.  Not a raised voice, nor any frantic leaping around.  Wonderful.

Falmouth – The Hamble

Tuesday, 17 August 2010 – Thursday, 26 August 2010

Well.  It happens eventually… we have to get home!  People to see and things to do.  We stayed around in Falmouth for Falmouth Week, which was great fun (some photos uploaded onto the ‘photos’ page).  We said that we’d head towards home after this, after a day of provisioning, watering (our 3 tanks had lasted until then, amazing, but that’s probably what not showering does for you) and laundry…

Tuesday 17 August

Falmouth – Durgan Bay, Helford River

6 miles, mostly a gentle NW (Force 4) and calm seas

 Plan A this morning was to go to Fowey.  However, our margin for tides meant leaving Falmouth between 10:00 – 12:00.  Rustler were coming to sort a couple of things out for us, and our passage east rather depended on how long things would take with them.  Pete had said that Plan B would be to stay in the Yacht Haven (yes, we’d left the Rustler mooring, and were rafted up a delightful French boat, delightful captain and crew at least) and take the bus to Truro.  However, at some point waiting for the water to fill (it took the thick end of half an hour to drip through) I suggested we head up the Helford and anchor.  Chatting to Craig, and having dissected the advice from a lady in the laundry facilities, our passage to Fowey would arrive at the worst time – when the racing was finishing, which could just add too much stress to the Skipper (and crew).  In the end, Rustler left us about noon.  We decided to make for Plan C.

It was a kind of changeover time at the yacht haven (a really great place to rest up, lots of activity with all boat owners actually on their boats, lots of chatter and kids fishing for crabs… all very sociable).  Two boats eased out behind us, a massive cat came and very elegantly crabbed sideways into a spot.  Our French neighbours had gone for lunch before their very own long passage home, so it was up to us to loosen the lines and make for the seas.  I think it went very well – didn’t hit anyone; didn’t have to fend off (using the fenders to prevent munching of the neighbour’s boat).  Pete used the bow thruster, which probably lessens the success factors in his eyes, but that’s exactly what it’s there for!

Safely off, we had all of six miles to go – rather bizarrely heading west!  Slightly counter-logical for the passage eastwards home, but it made sense given the constraints earlier in the day.  We had a lot of warps to coil after rafting up – we hadn’t been much used to those in a while, particularly the very long lines!  We had a sniff of a breeze behind us, so Pete released the yankee (the front sail) and the breeze blew us gently out of Falmouth Harbour, probably for the last time in a while.  I felt sad about this, because we’d seen some super sailing, events and friends and family there.  I was also looking forward to the exploration of new places, more akin to the reasons for investing in Whinchat.  Durgan Bay would be the first of those, almost a new place (we’ve sailed past it before, and have walked along the coastal path a few times when visiting Pete’s parents), as neither of us has anchored there!  We coasted along with the wind blowing us gently along – only under the yankee.  It was perhaps lazy sailing,  but we were in no rush, only a ‘pastie’ to hurry for.  I was surprised that Whinchat sailed so well… we even hit ‘4.0’ on the speed log (which under records massively), the GPS giving us a speed-over-the-ground of 6.0 knots … in 14 of wind, and one sail!  Impressive.  I helmed us over there, Pete consulting charts down below.  It was lovely.  The bay seemed quiet after all the little boats that had been playing in Falmouth Week; there were nine tankers/container ships, which seemed a lot, but we left them in the bay when we entered the Helford.  Durgan Bay isn’t that far up, so we tucked the sail away and went for the anchorage.  Only the second time we’ve dropped anchor!  The chain markers weren’t that easy to see (again) so more need to be set out.  There is 30 metres of chain and an anchor securing us to the bed.  I was pretty confident that the anchor had bitten, and set about to take bearings to prove it.  First at 14:00 (pasties on and warming in the oven), then a succession every 30 minutes, eventually hourly.  Nothing suggesting that our anchor was slipping.

Pete and I went ashore and walked to Helford Passage (about 2 miles on the coastal path) and back.  The dinghy was reassuringly still on the beach when we returned, and Whinchat seemed to be lying in much the same place.  I had an outboard lesson, taking us back to Whinchat… from starting the outboard, steering (still feels alien) and then landing back at Whinchat’s steps…  All very successfully done, and very satisfying.  Another set of readings taken, all supporting the fact that we haven’t slipped.  Evidence of a successful anchorage!  The sunset was gorgeous, and the wind has now completely died off.  It was fun to be in the midst of things last night, but this is something else.  No street lights, no mobile phone reception.. just a kind of wilderness.  Heavenly.


Wednesday 18 August

Durgan Bay – Newton Ferrers, River Yealm

43 miles, W backing SW (Force 1,2,3, 4 & 5) and slight to moderate seas

 After a very peaceful night at anchor, we were ready to leave at almost 08:30… Continuing my broadening of my engine lessons, I was the one to drive off the anchorage with Pete being the winch wench!  All very gently done, with me following Pete’s heading signals.  There was evidence that our anchor had held well; Pete said that it was covered in mud!  The wind was up with us, so we were able to set our sails and say good bye to Falmouth appropriately, sailing off towards blue skies.  The wind was behind us, a westerly, so we were running, goose-winging the yankee and the mainsail.  What’s more amazing is that AutoDoris was doing the helming, for a large part of the morning (as the second picture shows).

Pete had tied a warp to the boom, a gibe-preventer, in order to prevent an accidental gibe… it was early in the day and we didn’t know how fluky the wind would be.  Of course one of us was on watch all the time that AutoDoris was sailing!

The blue skies were enveloped by increasing banks of clouds, with showers visible over Falmouth, now well behind us.  I went below to extract the foulies from the wet-locker, not before time.  Pete and I foolishly opted to keep our deck shoes on, not realising quite how mad the rain showers would be.  Needless to say, we both opted for drying our soaked feet and getting the full wet-weather gear on.  Oh those summer sailing days!

The weather would trick us throughout the day.  Without any warning, the wind just vanished, disappearing to barely enough of a breath to give us a couple of knots of forward speed.  It was when the GPS gave us an eta of some 8 hours hence that it became silly… so very reluctantly, Pete put the engine on and furled the yankee and released the gibe-preventer.  We were motor-sailing with the mainsail, with the engine doing most of the work.  This was the pattern, unfortunately, for the rest of the passage to Newton Ferrers.  The sea had been slight, a bit rolly but not too bad – I was able to stand in the galley and make lunch with no problems, and no need to gimble the oven, for example.  It was the sea becoming more lively that was the indicator that the weather was changing; it was becoming more rolly and ‘moderate‘ (a couple of metres).  The wind was fluking, and AutoDoris was in charge, until she accidentally gibed the mainsail.  Eek!  This is potentially dangerous, because the strength of the wind ‘slamming’ the boom the other way can snap the mast…  It was a moment that made me take a sharp intake of breath, the sound being like a loud booming crack (a combination of metal and sails), and Pete reassuringly saying that it wasn’t so bad because the sail wasn’t set very widely, and therefore didn’t travel a great distance through the wind.  Even so, AutoDoris was stood down, and Pete and I took turns to helm.  It was quite challenging, given the sea rolling down behind us, but at least the wind had decided that it was going to stick with SW.

At about 15:30 we were heading towards the entrance to the River Yealm, which has its own challenges.  Just as we were motioning to take down the mainsail, there was a broadcast for assistance from Brixham Coastguard for anyone in the entrance to the River Yealm… there were three of us, and we were the only ones to respond.  Pete took instruction from the Coastguard, and we were looking for a rib adrift with one adult and four children on board.  We quickly dropped the mainsail, and I set about scanning the seas (now pretty choppy, with the waves rolling in) with the binoculars.  Nothing.  Pete asked for a more exact location, and it turned out that they were around the headland, beyond us.  We were stood down, and a motor boat “Maverick” went to help.  We saw them being towed in an hour or so later, the kids looking very miserable.

The entrance to the Yealm is challenging, given a large sand bar, but there are clear markers, leading lines on the cliffs ahead, and as long as you obey (and there’s not a strong wind to trouble you) those, it’s fine.  We edged up the river, and I think both of us were surprised to see a space on the visitor’s pontoon… the pilot book warns you that you will have to raft.  Everyone else was pointing downstream, so we went with them.  It felt a bit rushed to get things done – four fenders to secure on starboard and the lines.  We were at the pontoon before I was comfortable, and very badly chucked the bow line… which set up a string of mooring mishaps.  The wind, of course, by now had whipped up and there was a strong current (I read later in the pilot book that it can be up to two knots in places).  Thankfully we had very helpful neighbours – two blokes sweating the bow line to get it through, much bow-thrusting against the wind.  It was all a bit mad, but we got there.  Perhaps it would have been better to go around; certainly better to have longer lines out; Pete reckons we should have set up to do it differently – tricks learnt on his yacht master programme.  Whatever, it’s all great learning.  We also learnt, when we were tied up, that everyone had the same problem… which really made Pete feel a million times better!  By 17:30 we were all tied up, even after my bow line had slipped and we had to drive us back in against the stern (with me doing the driving at this end of the day too).

We decided that we’d head inshore and see what Newton Ferrers had to offer; we were pleasantly surprised.  Three pubs, a yacht club (which we visited for a “we have arrived beer”), a butchers, pharmacy and shop.  Perfect for provisioning needs of stranded yachtsmen!

We have been expecting a bit weather system to blow up all week – the deepening and occluding depression has shifted each day (it was forecast for Tuesday at the weekend, and now Thursday), so expect to rest up until it blows through.  Who knows when that will be!


Thursday 19 August

Newton Ferrers, River Yealm

Shore leave

Pete and I were able to have a shower!  Marvellous!  Another £1 well spent!  We decided that we would have shore leave, so we’ve spent the day mooching about.  When we paid our dues to the Harbour Master, we were given a little guide book about the River Yealm, which has some walks included.  We began our exploration of the Yealm, by taking the long route to Newton Ferrers.  We were able to pick up some provisions (face cream!) and also post Alice’s parcel off to her, as well as some treats (olives, bacon) before we then set to walk around the headland towards the Ship Inn (in Noss Mayo) where we had lunch.  A really super pub, great location on the river with lovely food.  I wondered if it was in our Good Pub Guide – it should be!  We then wandered back, where I had a signal to call up Mum and chat for a while, before heading back to Whinchat.

We decided that we would then take the dinghy upstream, towards the private Kitley Estate.  It became more peaceful as we headed on up the river – Jenson might have described it as being “like the Amazon”, as he had done up the Malpass towards Truro.  Rather surprisingly, we found some wind.  Clearly from a different direction to that of yesterday, because there was very little on our pontoon; we’d meandered upstream and met the southerly winds forecast.  Pete commented that it would be a more bumpy ride back to the boat, as little waves had been formed by the wind.  I was watching the rain up the valley, not really noticing that it was advancing from behind…  We were in waterproof coats, but not legs!  We turned and had a very soggy beat back to the boat… both of us totally soaked from the bum southwards!  Our saloon now resembles a Chinese laundry, with things trying to dry.  The rain has heralded the imminent arrival of the fronts, and it is dark and miserable outside.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring – a sail training boat has just arrived (Pete reckons a naval crew based on the efficiency of their mooring) and from what they’re saying, it sounds like it’s not pleasant out there beyond the river mouth.

Friday 20 August

Newton Ferrers, River Yealm

More shore leave

 Guess what?  The weather forecast is still completely rubbish!  Differently rubbish – the wind strength has been downgraded (although there is barely a breath in our little river location), but the seas are moderate/rough and the visibility is terrible!  When I poked my head out of the hatch this morning, I couldn’t see to the hilltops behind us!  Murky, mizzly greyness had descended from above.   It really never seemed to get light all day.  Pete and I decided that another day in the Yealm beckoned.  Would this sleepy haven be able to occupy us, challenging perhaps given the lack of technological staples of mobile phone reception and internet access.  We had resorted to the Times concise crossword last night (which we were one away from completing… very satisfying). We had to provision, setting off in the dinghy in mist and returning in heavy rain.  The Times then occupied us (remarkably the local post office taking our Times vouchers).  We had lunch on board giving us time to dry out.  It’s actually the worst of weathers, because it’s not actually cold.  It’s very humid, but with the driving rain you want to wear a waterproof, which then makes you overheat.  When we were in ‘town’, I had to get some saline solution, and in the time I stood to be served in the pharmacy, I was positively ‘glowing’.

We decided to go for another walk this afternoon, around the headland, out to the mouth of the Yealm, which would give us views of where we had come in from, but perhaps more importantly, where we would head out to.  We had a very short dinghy ride across to the shore, where the walk started.  Pete was all up for being ecologically sensitive and rowing (threatening to have me row), but the dinghy was wet which would have involved getting a wet bum, so we motored!  I fancy that Mother Earth was having her revenge, as we tried to moor against a set of steps cut deep into the cliffside.  I scrambled out first, giving my sailing boots rather a soaking, and was too busy looking for somewhere to secure the lines to – I nearly caused Pete to tumble in.  He also managed to scramble ashore, getting much wetter, and with a tidal surge from somewhere, it was suddenly all a bit stressy, with the dinghy pounding on the rocks.  With the air of a sit com, we got back into the dinghy, me pushing off, for Pete to re-start the engine, and motor all of 100m away, to another landing place, where we tried the same again.  However, with less wash, and neither of us getting anymore wet, we were able to tie our launch and begin our walk.  We were on a 2 hour circular walk, which was super.  From feeling a bit flat about being weathered in (and not sailing, as was our intention), the walk really lifted us.   We were both intrigued to see the state of the sea.  I was a bit aghast at the sight of a sailing boat rolling up and down into the sea, with Pete declaring it ‘not too bad’!  There wasn’t much wind (later confirmed to us, which could have been the worst of worlds… I am taken back to Corsica, but that’s a whole other story) which made it look like hard work.  Despite neither of us being in very good walking shoes (note to self: pack trainers or walkers next time) we slipped along the paths.  The visibility wasn’t much better on top, but the breeze on the cliffs was welcome at dissipating some of the mugginess.

Pete, within range of Plymouth, was high enough for Vodafone to reach him… He came to a sudden stop – presumably his pocket had vibrated – enough to pick up a couple of messages, one of them being the very exciting news that we’ve got a place on the Solent Rally at RAFYC.  OMG!!!  Suddenly we have a deadline to get back for.  It’s really good news, as we both wanted to do this one, and hopefully Tom will be around to join us too.

We stopped off at the Ship Inn (wonderful pub) for a soda/lime before heading back to the dinghy (still there!) and Whinchat.  We had toyed with the idea of going in search of Wifi at the Yacht Club this evening, but it started raining again.  So instead, we’ve cranked up Whinchat’s heating, delved deeper into the Times (crossword completed, 100%) and opened a bottle of Rioja in celebration of Friday evening.  Pete is making risotto, and we will debate what to do tomorrow…

Saturday 21 August

Newton Ferrers, River Yealm

Guess what? We’re still here….

 The mist hangs in the valley, again!  It’s beginning to be a bit depressing.  The weather forecast isn’t too bad, but it just looks unpleasant.  We opt for an excursion on land to take a shower and get a paper.  It’s always a decision what to wear when you head out by dinghy, because what might be good in a damp dinghy isn’t usually so good on land – full foulies and lifejacket would be desirous on the water, but not on land.  We opted for leg-foulies… me with fit flops.  We went in search of the paper before showering (in case they had run out), and on the way to the village, the mist morphed into pretty heavy rain.  I could have stood in the rain and washed my hair.  We were soaked (admittedly top half only) right through to the skin.  The shower was glorious, six minutes of warm running water, but getting back into damp, no wet, clothes wasn’t such fun.  My hair didn’t dry until we went to the YYC (Yealm Yacht Club) for lunch; lured in by the promise of free wifi, which wasn’t working.  I was very disappointed.

The boat is feeling completely damp, with clothes and towels hanging from hangers.  Whereas things had dried out the other day, nothing is now.  It doesn’t bother Pete, but it’s got to me today.

We continued our walking tour of the Yealm, completing the last walk in the guide book.  We landed at Warren Point (the north shore) without any of the dramas, or comedies, of yesterday and set off up the hill.  The directions in the book extend to about five sentences, and we must have gone wrong somewhere, as we ended up walking along a lane and into the town of Wembury and through a housing estate… not the coastal paths I’d expected.  Still, at the top of the hill, vodafone again found Pete, and we have confirmation that we’re in for the Solent Rally – very good news.  We knew that we had to find a church and an NT cafe; fortunately they were both signposted out of the village, so we took the road down to the coast.  The fog had rolled in, and when we got down to the beach, you couldn’t see across the bay or the Mewstone Rock.  It was disappointing.  We stopped off at the cafe for an expresso and cake to fuel us back up the hill, and onto the path to take us back to Warren Point.  Visibility was a couple of hundred metres at best, and I have the feeling that we really missed out on some lovely views.

Back on the boat, the Harbour Master was there to tell us about a weather change – good for tomorrow, but with a storm brewing for Tuesday.  We have a window to escape the Yealm – not that it’s been a hard place to spend time; it’s charming.  It’s just it’s time to let the wind take us somewhere else.

Sunday 22 August

Newton Ferrers, River Yealm – Dartmouth

32 miles, “cyclonic” (varying from nothing to bit more than nothing) and roly poly seas (flattening around Stark Point)

We left the Yealm having prepared as much as we could to allow us to haul the sails quickly and easily (given that we thought the seas would be lumpy making sail work at the mast unpleasant).  We slipped the mooring lines, watching as the current just moved us sideways… no wonder mooring up was such hard work!  It was quite the reverse, thankfully. With a cockpit full of lines, we headed out into Wembury Bay.  We’d left approaching low tide, and heading into springs (when the lunar effect is greater on our tides, giving a greater tidal range).  We knew we had a GPS track to follow going out to the bay, but it was quite a surprise to me to turn around (I was watching the leading lines off the stern) to see the depth gauge reading 2.3m!  That’s 50cm away from the bottom of the keel.  It was a hold-your-breath-until-it-rises… which it did!  Out past the navigation hazards, I could take in the view that we didn’t see on our coastal walk… just as the rain started.  It was the most torrential downpour, so Pete sent me down below for full foulies as he remained partially dry in his jacket (he was wearing shorts and bare feet). I emerged fully waterproofed, and was tasked to take us to the first waypoint, just out in the bay.   By the time we’d settled on a course, towards the next one, some 10 miles away, the sea was very ‘roly poly’ (sorry Mum, avert your eyes until the next paragraph…).  Pete set AutoDoris on the task of steering, given that there was NO wind at all… just lots of sea.  We both sat for a while, and then Pete suggested standing at the coach-hood… ah; fresh air.  I basically assumed this position until we made it to Dartmouth.  The cockpit was full of warps to be coiled, but I couldn’t stomach looking down, so Pete did them all!

Our passage to Dartmouth felt a long one – watching the coastline disappear and emerge in various degrees of cloud and rain.  The weather always seemed to be better behind us.  The one thing that was consistent was the lack of wind.  “Cyclonic” was the stated wind in the met office’s weather forecast, as broadcast by the Falmouth Coastguard… which neither Pete or I had heard of before.  Pete looked it up in the almanac and it basically means “not sure, could be from anywhere”..  and it really did that.  I’m not convinced that it made any consistency of direction.

Once we had rounded Start Point, the sea completely changed… flattening out to a glassy calm.  It was really eerie.  Pete then told me some ‘lore’ about Start Point, in that locally it is called “Cape Horn” because in Lyme Bay it can be calm, whereas rounding the Point, well, it can be lively.  Now he tells me!  We later heard of a racing crew that came in from the Solent, who, with no wind either, and no sea to deal with, jumped into the bay to have a swim!  Not many times a year that you can do that.  We continued under motor, AutoDoris having navigated us through all the waypoint changes.  She’s done a great job today!  As we approached Dartmouth, we watched a boat trying to fly their spinnaker, perhaps in race training, but there was barely enough wind to fill it.

Pete was hoping for a berth in Dart Haven Marina, but couldn’t raise them on the VHF, so we headed in to the visitor’s pontoon, and tied up… only it was a “no berthing” part of the pontoon… Sighs!  All was not lost though, as the boat just along (and in a legal part of the pontoon) were filling with water and would be on their way.  We almost walked Whinchat along and tied alongside with no hassles.  It was a relief after a long day of motoring!  We knew that rain was in store, but would the gales arrive?  We had a ‘you have arrived beer’ in a terrific pub, the Ship Inn (Kingswear) where a boat crew (rowing) had evidently been celebrating their success in the rowing regatta.  We mused the day and headed back to Whinchat for supper, me very much suffering from roly poly sea-legs, just as the rain began.


Monday 23 August


Shore leave

 There’s a kind of before and after shot to be had of Dartmouth.  The first picture is of Dartmouth in the rain, torrential, which hammered down on the boat all night – it felt like it.  It was actually pleasant, making us feel all snug in the cabin… it wasn’t doing much for lifting the damp of the boat though!  The second is taken about lunchtime, after the rains have come through, and it’s so pretty!

What a difference a few hours makes!  We’ve had shore leave today to do some shopping – mooching shopping!  Including new undies for me as some got destroyed in the laundrette in Falmouth… and since we are formulating new passage plans by the hour, buying new saves risking destroying more in the laundrette here!  That’s my excuse.  I’ve also bought some big fluffy socks – strangely enough most places haven’t stocked them in their summer range, but Fat Face knows better!  Pete also bought some new sailing trousers, so he wasn’t exactly a victim in Dartmouth.  Following a facebook suggestion by Deb, we had lunch in the Dartmouth Arms; lovely!

Back on board, Pete has been planning our next moves, which hope to see us back in the Hamble in two hops, beating the next big weather system that’s due in on Thursday.  I’ve taken advantage of the sunshine and scrubbed the decks!  Seems silly in some ways to get wet, but Whinchat was looking a bit grubby.  The breaking news of the day though has to be that our clothes have dried from the shower escapade of Saturday and our towels have dried in a day.   We’re going out for supper tonight, and will set off at a civilised time tomorrow (09:30) to head for Weymouth.  Let’s hope for a lovely sailing wind.  All things crossed, please!

Tuesday 24 August

Dartmouth – Weymouth

63 miles, W-WSW (Force 5-7) and moderate – rough seas

 Yesterday’s day at sea (some 11 hours) was something else, and I’m not yet certain I’ve made sense of it.  I was exhausted by the time we’d tied up in Weymouth Marina, completely “over stimulated” as I said to Pete.  I think this entry needs to come with a health warning to those sensitive to the seas – just know that we arrived safely!

We had to leave Dartmouth, because it’s regatta time and the yacht haven was booked for racing yachts.  We also checked the weather, and it was scheduled to be breezy, lively, but nothing beyond what we could cope with.  There was very little wind when we slipped out of the pontoon, and we left Dartmouth with the sun shining.  We were really pleased with our exit.

Out in the bay the sea had piled up; so different to the sea-state on our arrival, already lumpy and ‘moderate’.  The wind was also there to greet us!  Quite a lot of it.  I was really pleased that I did all the jobs of clearing the lines and the fenders in the lumpiness, even coiling the ropes without feeling like throwing up.  I mused to myself that perhaps I was finding my sea-legs.

When we set sail, we didn’t know where we’d end up, with a possibility of three destinations given the weather and sea conditions when we got out there – Weymouth, Yarmouth or a long day towards the Hamble.  The wind was more than we were expecting so early – already blowing around 20 knots (4-5) and I joked that we’d be sailing on the stay-sail (the smallest sail we have).    In fact, Pete decided to opt for the yankee, which was the sail that would look after us all day, most of the time with the wind behind us.   In fact, Whinchat looked after us so well all day – I completely love and respect her even more!

Pete keeping an eye on things…

Interestingly, most of the day it was fairly sunny, with great expanses of blue sky… with squally showers at times.  We were in foulies because it was cool; the wind was strong and therefore it just whipped any heat out of the air.  I think this made a massive difference to my perception of the conditions – after all, everything seems better in sunlight!  If it had been grey and wet, well, I think I’d’ve perceived the wind/sea combo as being much worse… silly really.

After a couple of hours, with the winds increasing together with the sea, Pete decided it would be foolish to go for the inner passage past Portland Bill (there are three possibilities, given the conditions, within 100 metres, a central line, and one six miles out to sea), so we headed for the central line.  Lunch can be a challenge, but we’d bought an M&S quiche which Pete had put in the oven.  He emerged from down below looking a bit green at the gills, since he’d also done the hourly checks and log entries…. of course just as the sea had headed towards being rough.  I was the one, amazingly, who ventured down and took it out of the oven and recovered the sprite from the fridge (miracle drink, recommended as essential on all journeys from now on).  We ate it out of the tin, and felt loads better for something warm inside us.  We cheerfully posed for a picture at this point (foulies fully deployed because of a squall, AutoDoris being in control).

AutoDoris was complaining bitterly at the change in conditions, so from here on Pete and I swapped helming responsibilities.  It was actually much better, as the afternoon passed much quicker.  It’s something else to be part of the action rather than watching, with anxieties rising, as the wind gauge records higher and higher speeds and the wave ferocity seems to increase.  We had about four hours where the winds were in excess of 27 knots and the seas were looming large.

This is the bit I’m finding hard to make sense of.  Tell me before hand that it’s the conditions we’d be in, and I would have chained myself to the dock.  The power of the elements frightens me.  I maintain that I was much braver than I thought I would be… and I am very proud of myself for this.  For large parts of it, I couldn’t stand up as the wave motion was too violent, so it was a sitting down wedged in the cockpit… wedged, learned by trial and error, so to speak, as one wave sent me skidding down towards the sea.  Pete laughed, and fortunately so did I!  I also learned to stop watching over the stern, as walls of water piled up!  One particularly large wave shifted the packed dinghy across the back of the boat – I thought it was going to head overboard, as I leapt to do something (what I don’t know) but the guard rails stopped it.  I was given the task of securing it with a rope, the action of looking down and trying to haul it (it weighs around 30kg) heated me up and made me very green… so I was back on the helm.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the day was when Pete noticed the leech line of the yankee had got jammed around the furling gear… and he announced that we wouldn’t be able to furl the yankee until it was freed.  Pete had to go to the bow and sort it out.  I was at the helm, my heart pounding, as he edged towards the bow (clipped on with a safety line to the jackstays) and sorted it out.  He’d had to cut it as it had wound so tightly – I’m not actually sure what that means, but I don’t think it’s dangerous!  From then on, I was the one who insisted that the person at the helm had to be clipped on.

As to the experience of sailing.  Well.  The picture below, we think, gives some indication of the sea:

You can see that the yacht appears to be above us, and that you can’t see its hull.  We reckon the wave heights were around four metres… what you can also see is that the sea looks blue, because of the lovely weather from above!

Anyway.  Whinchat was very solid in the water – without doubt, any other of the boats we’d chartered in the past would have made it feel much worse.  Whinchat took it in her stride – surfing down the waves, sinking and then rising with the next one.  We actually only got wet a couple of times, so she did an excellent job of keeping the water out of the boat.  Handling her was also OK – completely in control.  Sure, you’re being pulled to one side (starboard on the tack we were on) by the wind and the sea, but you point her back to the course and she dives down another wave.  I wouldn’t describe it as fun – I don’t do fairground rides – but it was very satisfying.  The air was a bit ‘blue’ at times, not because it was hairy-scary, but for me it was when I saw a wall of water looming over my shoulder in my peripheral vision…. and you know you’re in for a big surge.  If Whinchat was embodied, I’m sure she’d’ve been whooping!

The other trouble was one of bladder.  I overruled my need for the loo because of a lack of desire to want to go below – for several hours.  When I had to give in (around 7pm, when the seas had slipped back to moderate as we were in the shelter of Portland Bill) it was a mix of pleasure and pain!  I emerged decidedly queasy!  I was not much help at winching in the yankee (now sailing into the wind), because you kind of need to look down at the winch and the motion was sending my system into free-fall.

By the time we were approaching Weymouth, the sea had all but gone and I was enjoying the views towards Lulworth and Durdle Door, picked out in super visibility and lovely clouds.  It was surreal in some ways, given that I had been churned up not so long ago by the very environment that was offering something really spectacular.

At 19:30 we were moored alongside the waiting pontoon in Weymouth waiting for the 20:00 swing bridge opening.  It was a funny moment – the usual routine is that I’m the one to jump off first at the bow to tie on and then run back and take the stern line.  The conditions were so benign, and Pete had left me with about 8 feet to jump to the pontoon (too much!) so he was the one leaping off the stern, and us pulling the bow in.  Loads of people wanted to stop and chat, on the quay, which was lovely… as we set about and tidied the boat from the day.  This wouldn’t be the end of our activities and excitement for the day.  We had booked a berth in Weymouth Marina (my request) and knew it was bows in, starboard tie up (opposite to the waiting pontoon, so I had to flip the fenders and lines over in about three minutes).  We found the berth, and Pete edged us in, with me jumping off with the bowline.  Only, Pete had misjudged the berth length/boat length (we were both tired) and I couldn’t believe it when I turned to see Whinchat stopped, and about to crunch into the pontoon.  I leapt back and pushed her off with all my strength!  I’ve no idea what happened next really, but Pete says that I was brilliant, bringing her in and fending off at the same time.  It hadn’t been our finest arrival, but there is not a scratch on her!  All learning, as Pete said!

We sank a beer and I know I was almost numb with the day, like I said, very over stimulated.  We’ve picked up an updated weather forecast, which has gale warnings in the Portland area.  We’ve decided that we could use a day to recover before heading out for something of the same… We’re right next to a cinema so a matinee of Toy Story 3 beckons!  We’ve also decided to go for the beat to the Hamble tomorrow – so a day’s rest is no bad thing.

Thursday 26 August

Weymouth – Hamble

45 miles, SW-NW (and everything in between) (Force 5 – nothing) and roughish seas becoming flat calm

 We deliberated and cogitated about whether we should set sail or not.  The wind howled all night through the marina, but this turned out to be a kind of funnelling effect.  More disturbing were the gale warnings off-shore.  We scoured every weather source we could, with most suggesting the winds would die off – except for the maritime team at the Met Office, who were crying ‘gales’.

We decided that we’d just have to go for it, but we couldn’t leave until 12:00 – the swing bridge in Weymouth but also to make the tidal gate around the Dorset coast (off St Alban’s Head, just west of Swanage).  Both of us were edgy in the run up to departure – having decided to go for it, we wanted to do just that…. whatever the elements would chuck at us!

It would be a long day in prospect – we were expecting to reach the Hamble around 22:00, so introducing Whinchat to night sailing (of which I have a few hours only, so only marginally more qualified!).  We really didn’t know what to expect, but having experienced wild weather in Weymouth, we knew that it might be a bumpy old ride – all foods ready in snack form and in the galley cupboard nearest the hatch.  It started off pretty rough, but the seas eased throughout the day.

[Mother skip a paragraph…]  The worst sea wasn’t the big rough waves, smaller than the previous day with the occasional whopper, but the ‘moderate’ seas where we were running perpendicular to the direction of the sea.. you’re kind of corkscrewed through the waves, which is very queasy-inducing (at least for me).  Fortunately, there wasn’t too much of this on the passage home.

It was a really long day at sea; grey skies (not that much rain), grey seas, lumpy seas with not enough wind to push us through the waves for much of the time… and that tidal stream?  Well, after an episode of said queasiness (note to Jenson, not actually sea-sick!) I lay down in the cockpit for about an hour whilst Pete was sailing.  It seemed to be heavy going, with the wind fluking and flicking around meaning that the boat just wasn’t gliding through the seas… He went down below to do the 17:00 log entry, and I noted our speed over ground was 1.8 knots!  Almost backwards!  Needless to say, within about 15 minutes of me being on the helm, cursing the wind and the attempted gibes (we had a gibe preventer on, so no actual risk emerged) we had the engine on and our speed had increased to 4.0 knots… still pretty bad.  Pete must’ve made an error in his passage planning, but there wasn’t much we could do about it – other than turn back.  Um.  No.

So, this was our pattern for several hours, for me – well not exactly grim, but unpleasant.  Pete was grumpy with the wind, and that we couldn’t sail.  Perplexed about the tides..  It wasn’t our finest hours.  At 18:30, we were still 4 miles off the Needles, and our eta seemed optimistic…

Then, things started changing and the last few hours of the passage home just flew by.  The sea by now was slight (as the picture above shows) so we could both move about up and below deck without any problems.  The Needles were growing in stature, and I’d never seen them from the sea before.  It’s a majestical sight… way too gloomy and heading towards dusk otherwise there’d be another picture!  We also were now on the disco boat – I cranked up the stereo, set the speaker fade to play in the cockpit, and we had Abba to boogie along to!  Awesome!  Abba selected by the iPod as the battery had gone flat, and I couldn’t get power the change it.  I was thinking a lot of Alice (known to appreciate Abba) and also a resident of IoW as a toddler before her parents sold the house in Totland Bay… Happy days and happy memories accompanied me down the Solent.  The fading of the day brought a different quality to the water – the lights become very important.  It was also eerie because the Solent was so quiet – not many boats about – but also no wind and an almost glassy sea.  Absolutely flat calm.  And, to cap it all, we finally had some tides with us… we were moving about 11 knots over the ground, literally making up for lost time.  I was deeply impressed by the navigational aids – a lighthouse which if you had ‘white’ meant you were holding a good course, ‘red’ meant you were too far to port and ‘green’ too far to starboard.  The lights guided us all the way to the mouth of the Hamble – where someone shouted at us that our port light had gone… not good!

Edging up the Hamble was somewhat of a blur to me, as I set about preparing the boat for mooring… fenders down, warps tied (all upside down in the dark was a new sensation).  We have only been to the marina once, by shore, and neither of us could remember our berth number (a phone call helped us out), but finding it from the water was a challenge!  We have a monster search light, which I swung around until we picked the pontoon.  It wasn’t our finest mooring hour, perhaps not surprising given that it was the first time we’d be there and that we were tired.  Pete hadn’t approached the berth well (by his own admission) and the way you stop a boat going forwards is to welly it in reverse.. but every boat kicks to one side, and Whinchat is to port.  This isn’t the way that’s helpful in our mooring case (starboard tie up).  The manoeuvring meant that Pete was having to fend off against the boat on our port side (because she kicks that way), and he hadn’t left me very close to the pontoon – about six feet short.  He was shouting at me to tie a line on (I was still on the boat looking at the great expanse of water between me and the very low pontoon, and he told me it wasn’t actually at me, but just out of stress).  I basically had to leap from the boat across the water, tie the bow line tight (to stop it dead) and pull the stern in with Pete on board.  I did it, with much yelling.  Again, kept telling me that I was brilliant!  After our epic day, we had arrived… tired, stressed and ready to stop.

So.  Our first passage… Full of experiences and adventures, but not as we’d planned.  So much for stopping in at places along the way.  We very much wanted to visit Salcombe, Lymington and also Exmouth to see Pete’s family.  Instead we stopped long and looked at the terrible August weather and endured some tough sailing conditions.  We’ve learned a great deal, laughed a lot and have totally fallen in love with our Whinchat.  I only hope that she continues to deliver, and that we can live up to her standards.

The Scilies

Sunday 25th July – Thursday 29th July 2010

Tom arrived to join us in Falmouth last night, arriving in a dampening blanket of fog that just seemed to descend from nowhere.  It was really eerie as the fog levelled a stillness on everything… the sea flattened to a glassy sheen with barely a ripple and the sounds of the boats moored on the water also silenced.  It was like a dementor had come over and sucked the life out of the water.  Pete’s comment was, “if this is the weather in the morning, then we’re not going anywhere!” We all hoped for better conditions in the morning.  We listened in to the VHF broadcast (the navtex wasn’t updating properly) and it suggested we would be in luck, with a good NW 3-4 to blow us down to the Scillies…


Sunday 25 July

Falmouth – Penzance

43 miles, W, mostly moderate seas

Pete got up just before 07:00 to listen to the updated forecast, and it was looking good to go.  At 08:20 we slipped our mooring (much easier in slack winds, Tom was up at the bow to help heave off the mooring chain, but actually on this occasion, I could have managed!) and set out into the bay.  No wind, really, no wind.  We motored for the first couple of hours (stopping briefly to allow Pete to haul the mainsail).  We seemed to be trading a balance between sun and no-wind and clouds and some-wind.  We couldn’t decide which we favoured!  On balance, wind, I think.  A couple of times the wind threatened to blow, but it wasn’t until it reached a steady 12 knots that I thought it would be worth trying to sail.  Pete said we needed 6 knots an hour to make the Scillies in a sensible time.  6 knots in the right direction!  This is where the wind let us down today – the wind was blowing, but hadn’t properly read its brief as it was coming with far too much west in it – we were sailing directly into the wind.  So much for the lovely beam reach down to the Scillies, we were beating.  We cleared the Lizard about 6 miles out to sea, and were trying to make a course due west right through to St Mary’s on the Scillies.  The sea was seriously bouncing us around, not that Whinchat minded, but I rather did!  Moderate it certainly felt, and we were making cracking speeds (around 7-8 knots) in the wrong direction, making our passage to our course heavy going.  Pete reckoned about 5 knots… well short of the 6 knots we needed.  Pete was helming, Tom was snoozing along the back of the cockpit (behind the cockpit technically).  I figured I’d lie down, just about warm enough (the sun was out with the wind by then, but the boom was casting a shadow, and we needed the sun to take the chill out of the wind).  I also dozed for about an hour.  My plans for lunch didn’t quite work!  It was supposed to be a chilli reheated and dunked with bread, only neither of us fancied standing in the galley stirring a pan of food… so we went for the hunks of bread with a slice of ham slapped in the middle!  It was just perfect, and certainly reviving.  Pete knew we weren’t making good time, and said we needed to call at 14:00 on what we were going to do – press on or head into Penzance.  He called that we would actually make a change of destination and we would go to Penzance.  This was still 15 miles away, as we were this far south of land! The wind seemed to ease down, and the sea certainly seemed to have its tiggerness (bounce) taken out of it… or was I just getting used to it?  It was a long tack towards Penzance, which took three hours to see us tied up inside the locked inner harbour.  The wind, of course, by then had received the script as we approached the town and found some north – we were once again beating into the wind!  Pete had clearly had enough at this time of beating into the wind, so we motored the last bit.

Our arrival into Penzance was as stressy as any new place we go into, but knowing there was an extra pair of hands in the form of Tom was brilliant!  We were certain to raft, and had the authority of the harbour master to respond to.  He had told us to go one side, which we prepared for, and then he changed his mind… only none of us could hear him with the roaring wind (25 knots of it by now, lots of north) so messages were relayed across various boats… “against the one with the Norwegian flag… eh?…. the one with the yellow bimini?… yes”… this mean tying up on the port side, the other side.  The Norwegians were out, so we had the job of going gently onto their boat and tying up.  We actually did it really well, not much fuss, no screaming, not much fending off (I did a little on the stern, but out of worry-this-is-a-new-boat rather than any great need).  I had to dive into the port lazarette to get the additional monster fenders…  Additional springs laid, so there is a spaghetti of blue warps that run from our boat to the Norwegians next door.  We are rafted, several boats out (six!!!), so there is currently a clamber and then a short walk (now the gate has been locked) between me and the shower, and that’s something I am rather looking forward to.


Monday 26 July

Penzance – St Mary’s

43 miles, NW, mostly slight seas



The opening times of the tidal gate meant that we dropped our mooring lines at 06:20 to ease out of the harbour, washing up as we headed out into the bay.  There wasn’t much of a sea which meant that making below deck ship-shape wasn’t so bad.  When I came up on deck, there was a fierce looking storm over St Michael’s Mount; it looked spectacular, and Tom and I both appreciated that we were heading the other way – towards the sunshine.  We weren’t sure what the wind was doing, so we motored out until we made our first way-marker… and the sails were up at 06:45!  Not bad.  Tom had the first helm, and despite what the forecast had said, the wind again hadn’t read the briefing… we had yesterday’s NW!

Still, it was suited to our course, so we were on a lovely long tack, with a super Force 4, occasionally gusting around 22 knots. Whinchat seemed to just lean into the wind, and the gusts meant that the fore-deck was completely cleaned by the sea slooshing over us of the mini-shrimps from the mucky anchor chain in Falmouth.  One of the displays that we were using was to give an accuracy check of the heading to the way-points plotted in the Furuno gear.  Tom had us spot on.  Pete then took the helm for a short while, and saw Tom’s immaculate record slip.  It was a change of wind – more W than we needed, so that once again, Whinchat was head to wind.  This meant the course we could hold wasn’t ideal, and the record time, “We’ll be there for lunch time at this rate” (which we thought about 13:00, 14:00 allowing for all being tied up safely) was a decent promise.  The skies had even cleared, and we had wind and sunshine!  We passed Land’s End, and headed further west in sight of the Scillies.  The sea that we had experienced yesterday wasn’t there at all either – it was slight, no pounding through the swell.  It was all going rather well.  We knew we had to pass the end of a shipping clearance zone, but our skipper was OK with that because of the Furuno kit.  We could see other vessels on the screen before we could actually see them, at times.  We were also visible because of the same technology (AIS, I think).  However, not everyone has it, including a fishing boat that Tom had spied when we were off Land’s End.  Was it fishing?  Possibly (its day markers were up saying that they were fishing, but Pete reckoned that they always charge about with them on, fishing or not).  It seemed to change course, perhaps seeing us, and we were good… but then it seemed to slow down and we were once again approaching = not so good.  We eventually passed it without incidence, none the wiser as to what it was actually doing.  Neither Pete nor I could see any sign of life.

I took the helm around 10:00, and promptly found some wind!  We were watching a sailing boat on the horizon, when Pete said, “is that a bank of fog ahead?” I looked towards the yacht, and it had vanished.  We were in fog, also not in the weather forecast!  Our skipper insisted we wear life jackets and that we were clipped on.  I had expected the fog to deaden the wind, as it had done in Falmouth the other evening, but the wind continued the same – in the wrong direction for us.  Pete activated the radar, for the first time, and we were really needing it to work (the Furuno gear had gone wobbly, the charts were visible on the monitor at the helm, but not down below in the chart table).  The gear delivered!  We could see that the yacht on the horizon was still there, and also that there was nothing very much in the shipping separation.  Very pleasing!  Fog stresses Pete massively.  We sailed through varying densities of fog for about 90 minutes, and then suddenly, Tom and I realised that the horizon was extending all around us, and we were eerily out of the fog.  I’d helmed a long stint, so it was back to Tom.  Oh, and I had continued to take us massively off-track (thanks to the wind, I hasten to add, and not my sailing skills).  We were clear of the shipping separation, so it was a tack backwards and forth to get us back on course.  Pete spotted some porpoises (or perhaps dolphins) which I missed.  We all then saw other fins close to the boat, which Pete realised was a basking shark!  Awesome!  It was some size, and delighted all of us.  We were close to the Scillies here, and Pete thought we should have had sight of land by then, clearly suggesting that there was more murkiness around than I’d realised.  Then, I caught sight of a lump of land through the gloom – St Martin’s.  It was a very welcome sight, even though it wasn’t in the direction that I thought it would be!  The trouble with tacking into the wind, you just can’t get there in a straight line!

We still had about 5 miles to run to the last way-point, and as we approached it, it dawned on Pete that our destination must be shrouded in fog!  We took the sails in where we knew we had plenty of space, and we were under motor to take us into the harbour.  I thought he’d be really stressed at this point, but he didn’t show it.  All he said was, “if I’d known that this weather would have greeted us, I wouldn’t have set off” Pete was at the helm, following his very carefully selected way points on the Furuno, with Tom and I spotting markers, Tom on the port side and me to starboard.  We made a great team coming into the harbour.  A couple of trip boats cut around us, but we held fast to our route.  I had no idea where land was around us, and at times would say where I could see something, even if I couldn’t make it out – one such spot turned out to be a red port can, marking the channel, very useful!

As we came into the harbour, we could see it was filled with moored yachts.  Pete asked me to go down below and find the Harbour Master to call, so I flicked through until I found the call sign, channel 14.  In flicking, I’d found some comments about approaching the Scillies, which is viewed as challenging because of the plethora of hidden rocks.  Passages in and out are by transit lines and bearings (which came back to me in a rush of brain activity when we did the passage out here with Cornish Cruising years ago).  The pilot book cries out that the Scillies can be tackled by a good boat, a good crew and good visibility!  I chatted to a bloke later, when we’d tied up, who was local (from Tresco) and he said he’d only come across from there, and he shuddered when I said we’d come in from the mainland.  Anyway, all this is distracting me from my story!  I called up the Harbour Master, in my best VHF voice, and found out that we had to moor in the outer two rows of buoys and that as they were full, we’d have to raft.  That wasn’t in our immediate plan!  Pete identified a target, a very pretty blue boat, and we went alongside.  It took about 30 minutes to tie up, with us lying lines and springs to keep us safe.  The boys inflated the dinghy and secured us onto the mooring buoy as I made our lunch (somewhat later than planned, at 15:30), reheating the chilli and adding a liberal amount of cheese on toast.  It was wonderful.  We then headed for the shore, to see what was what.  We were all pretty shattered, so had a very half-hearted shop.  I was very thirsty, as were we all, so we had a beer in The Atlantic pub.  Lovely.  A pint of shandy!  We talked of showers, and made a dinner reservation for 19:15 in a restaurant a short walk away from Huw Town.  We then headed back to the boat, feeling refreshed by the beer, but the effects were short-lived.  The skipper was back on his boat next to us, and had put many fenders down, and was clearly fussed about us.  Pete chatted to him.  I sat down in the saloon, and felt very weary.  Tom was also flaked out.  I had to go and lie down, where I fell asleep for a good while.  Through layers of sleep, I heard Pete cancel dinner and re-book for Wednesday.  The boat was really yanking and clanking.  Pete was holding his head in in hands, looking so stressed out.  The skipper next to us was up and about, pacing.  Pete went up, and I followed.  We spent the next hour relaying lines, which seemed to stop the jerking.  However, our spreaders were now close together.  The guy was really nice, but neither skipper was happy.  At one point, I was chatting to him about the mooring lines, and he said, “we’ll have a conference with your captain…” I thought it was lovely.  In the end, Pete went back into the dinghy to relay our mooring line to the buoy – this was the magic trick to slacken off, as previously we were weighted on his mooring line.  However, this then meant adjusting more lines.  An hour later, we weren’t jerking around, despite the same sea and wind conditions.  Pete’s stress levels had subsided, but I wouldn’t describe him as comfortable.  We were all very pleased that we hadn’t gone out to dinner – none of this would have happened, and it risked moving things around late at night, or worse still, having to move off in the dead of night.

None of us had any energy for very much; I cooked a meal and none of us were in the mood for wine.  I think each of us realising that we might be needed to spring into action if something went wrong overnight.  We all needed a really good sleep, but would we be rewarded?


Tuesday 27 – Wednesday 28 July

St Mary’s, Tresco (by trip boat)!

We slept well; no alarm clocks and no need to rush around on deck during the night to relay lines – or worst of all, have to find another place to tie up!  On Tuesday we didn’t do very much, just hung out.  Tom scrubbed the dinghy which certainly didn’t look shiny brand new now.  The close proximity to the harbour’s mooring buoy meant that the dinghy now had yellow ‘go faster’ streaks along it!  Not ideal!  Tom was concerned that we’d end up with go faster yellow on us unless it was tackled… so he duly did.  Our first task was to shower… my goodness, £1 well spent!  I didn’t wait for the full £1 to run down, but Pete and Tom did, to the last drop.  From there our day stretched into lunch and then Tom and I did a bit of retail, as Pete went back to the boat to measure up the cleats so that we too could have a strop to moor with (Pete was having ‘strop’ envy on the boat we were moored against, and the standard sized one didn’t fit, so Pete had a custom one made…. of course!).  I’m not really sure where the afternoon drifted to, but it slipped by in pages of books and blogs. We went back ashore for supper – an excellent steak on a stone in the Atlantic.  On the way back to the boat, we were treated to the most spectacular sunset.


Breathtaking, eh?

Wednesday saw us venture to Tresco, not by our boat (we had a nice little mooring buoy all to ourselves!) but taking a trip boat.  There was a fair amount of chaos in the harbour, since a cruise ship was anchored in the waters off St Mary’s and most of the trip boats were being called upon to act as launch to the eldery Scottish passengers.  How some of them manouvred on and off the boats I have no idea!  Tresco saw us enjoy a walk up from the southern quay (it was low tide), cue photo…

…. and end up with lunch at the New Inn.  Super!  More local crab!  The only thing affecting us all was a dodgy case of sea-legs.  It wasn’t the beer as we had soft drinks, but we were all certainly swaying at the table. We then wandered up to the northern tip of Tresco, across the top of the island and back towards New Grimsby for a spot of provisioning at “Trescos”, Tresco’s own deli-supermarket.

Pete had found a place for dinner on Wednesday night, courtesy of  Juliet’s Garden.  It was a good 20 minute walk out of Huw Town (on St Mary’s) and we were beginning to lose faith about it, but it was sooooooo worth the walk and the wait (it had been closed on Tuesday).  Apart from our sea legs, you couldn’t fault it.  Gorgeous location, lovely menu, beautifully cooked food and excellent service.  It got full marks from each of us, and my chocolate pudding was just heavenly (and slightly off-menu because of the wheat-free).  We rolled back down the hill, and out to the boat very happy.


Thursday 29 July

St Mary’s – Falmouth

65 miles, not really much wind and flat calm seas

Pete set the timetable for the day based on the tidal flow that would see us around the Lizard with the most favourable start.  It meant that we had to leave about 09:00.  Not too shabby!  It also meant that it would see us relatively late into Falmouth, so I had made up a shepherd’s pie to heat up when we got there.  None of us really fancied the idea of making something when we arrived, and certainly if we were heeled over!  The same went for lunch; maximum food availability for little need to stand in the galley.  I had checked the weather online yesterday, and it wasn’t promising very much wind anywhere; not really confirmed by the VHF weather check by Pete.  NW 3-4, it said.  Where?!

We left in beautiful sunshine, and I was amazed at the land around us as we left St Mary’s.  There was no indication of it when we had come in, and you see the extent of the lumpy bits around.  I was even more impressed with Pete’s passage planning.  We headed out to sea, and it looked so peaceful.  We hauled the mainsail (well, Tom did) and duly noted that there was no wind.  It was going to be a motor until we found some…. which was about 15:30, on my watch (of course, as I am the wind finder).  The next six hours settled into a rotation of watches – we deployed AutoDoris to do the driving, but she can’t spot lobster pots or other ships.  Tom went up to the bow and concentrated on his tan.  I laid down in the cockpit and finished my book (One Day, thank you Karen, it was a slow-burner and completely brilliant).  My shift next.  Pete made lunch (so much for worrying about the boat heeling, it couldn’t have been much flatter).  Tom did a watch.  Nothing very exciting happened in any of our watches – no basking sharks, no dolphins, not even many ships to worry about.

We had one moment of excitement, moderately so, when I was on watch and a ship seemed to be on collision, albeit about 4 minutes away.  I called for Pete and for a time AutoDoris was rested and Pete massively changed course in order to avoid anything.  We would have been totally OK, but it provided something to do.  Was it boring?  No, not at all.  You begin thinking that 11 hours of motoring lie ahead of you, and that it’s going to drag, but in fact the day just slipped by.

As we were approaching The Mannacles (I think) the wind seemed to arrive, enough to try sailing at the very least.  I was at the helm, so the guys released the front sails – and we were cruising along at a very respectable 6-7 knots.  Pete was itching to fly the cruising chute again, and as the wind had slackened a bit (we were in about 15 knots, too much for the whopping great big sail in my view), I offered no more resistance.  It took them a good while to sort it out, and longer for the chute to unfurl and fly.  When she did, Whinchat became really hard to control.  It was like we were going to be dragged into the bow waters.  I yelped!  I wrestled the wind and managed to get her righted, but the wind won out.  I screamed out.  Pete jumped about and spilled some wind out of the main (easing it out) and the battle was over.  Not content with its defeat, the wind did the ultimate in dirty tactics and changed course, everso slightly, but by adding more north, we were seriously heading off course.  Pete had half- joked that we would be in Falmouth for 8 o’clock, for G&Ts. Tom and I took him at his word!  The chute was taking us further out to sea, and therefore it was taken down, as we headed up into the wind.  Tom took the helm, for a sail, as we debriefed about the successes and matters for improving on flying the chute.  “Don’t do it in a wind shift”, I thought!  Tom reckoned we were making the next waymaker OK, and we agreed between us that we would concur with sailing provided it got us to our destination for G&T time.  In fact, the wind helped us out, and we joked with Pete that we didn’t have to mutiny and put the engines on.

We came into Falmouth about 19:30, and we made the deck ship-shape, easily making the G&T time.  Wonderful!  We were all rather pink from a day in the sun, and very happy that we could just bang supper in the oven and wait for it to bubble away.

It hadn’t been the sailing day that any of us had imagined, or wanted, but as they say, better than any good day in the office!