Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tuesday, 31st May

Last night was the calmest so far. ‘Bumper’ felt snug in the little cove across the Percuil River from St Mawes. We woke to the comforting sound of lapping water as the flood tide swished by. There was a heavy mist and fine drizzle that veiled parts of the river, but here and there I could see an assortment of yachts and small boats tethered to their moorings.

We had made arrangements to meet Chas Warren, an old sailing friend, on the quay at St Mawes, around mid-day. Geoff and I assembled the Seahopper folding dinghy and launched her in readiness to meet Chas. Sure enough, as the town clock signalled the time of our rendezvous, there was Chas looking over the sea wall waving his arms to attract our attention.

Before coming aboard he bought 3 tasty Cornish pasties baked at the local shop, some sesame cakes and a sticky bun. Apple juice completed our meal as we reminisced while sitting in the cockpit. Even the drizzle held off to help make it a very pleasant occasion. Sights and sounds brought back memories of previous visits by water.

After lunch we sailed to Mylor Yacht Harbour to find out if my Autohelm had been sent there for safe-keeping after being repaired, but alas it was not to be. Enquiries by phone established that the Autohelm could not be repaired and a new one would cost £280.00, plus VAT.

I took the opportunity to buy 5 litres of diesel before we set off for the return trip to St Mawes. It started to drizzle again, but that did not dampen our spirits.

At 1600 Chas left for home and we re-visited the mooring we had abandoned in the morning.

Tomorrow, the general plan is for Geoff to leave ship at Falmouth where he will take the train home. I shall use the marina facilities to have a shower and charge my computer and telephone; if the weather is suitable, I’ll sail to the Helford River.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sunday, 29th May and Monday, 30th May

This cruise gets better every day. Morning brought a bright scene of sunshine and blue waters hardly ruffled by a gentle wind. Alastair’s little green boat lay to her anchor close by the beach. To the south, hardly a stone’s throw away, was a brightly coloured catamaran, and to the north we were flanked by a Westerly Centaur, name ‘Summer Wine’.

Barn Pool, our anchorage for the previous night, was this morning at its very best; birdsong echoed across the water. A flotilla of yachts with their sails hoisted motored towards the western entrance of the outer harbour where surf from a heavy swell broke over the breakwater.

At 0930 we took ‘Little Jim’ in tow while Alastair steered her from within the cabin.

By the time we arrived at the breakwater the flotilla had disappeared beyond the horizon and very few boats were out on the water, but a colourful yellow and blue chequered police launch kept an eye on our movements as we anchored in the spectator area by the western end of the breakwater.

The OSTAR multihulls were due to start their race at mid-day, and the monohulls were to follow a quarter of an hour later. By 1130 we were surrounded by many anchored yachts and motor boats while hundreds more jockeyed for favourable viewing positions.

Because what little wind there was came from the south, the OSTAR racing yachts laid their courses on the far side of the fairway which meant we were too far away for good viewing, but Alastair used his digital zoom camera to focus in on various competing boats.

When all the contestants disappeared out of sight Alastair let me have a sail in ‘Little Jim’. I was nervous at first, but after doing a few manoeuvres I felt more confident. She went a lot faster than I imagined would be the case; perhaps it felt that way because I was sitting at water level.

After saying goodbye to Alastair, Geoff and I hoisted the anchor and we set sail for Fowey. The afternoon’s sail was sailing at its best, with enough wind to keep the boat going and the most wonderful Cornish coastline for our visual enjoyment. Our conversation was stimulating.

For the final stretch from Udder Rock Buoy to the entrance of Fowey harbour the wind increased in strength and it was dead on the nose; therefore we used the engine for better progress.

On our arrival the Harbour Master directed us to an unoccupied resident’s mooring where we tied up for the night.

Monday, 30th May

What better place can there be than Falmouth were we arrived at 1745 today after a wonderful sail from Fowey? It’s so peaceful here tucked in behind Amsterdam Point, across the River Percuil from St Mawes.

At the outset of our passage the wind came from the south, and after motoring for a while we were able to sail towards Mevagissey, but when we were 2 miles from Gwineas Rock Buoy we had to turn on the engine again. The scenery along this stretch of the coast to Dodman Point is one of high cliffs which are not beautiful but strikingly impressive for their massive size.

As expected, we found several boats fishing in the area marked on the chart indicating a race, not that there was much of a race. I suppose it was because the tide was on the turn and in our favour. The sun and wind combined to make our faces glow.

From there we were able to have a fine sail on the wind across the expanse of Veryan Bay towards the impressive Gull Rock, which is a small rocky island to the east of Gerran’s Bay. In this area there are numerous crab pots, therefore a careful watch needs to be kept for their floats, but the sun at late afternoon reflects off the water making the task of spotting them difficult.

Throughout the day there were very many yachts coming and going; perhaps their owners were taking advantage of the fine weather.

At Pothmellin Head the wind died all together. Reluctantly we started the engine and motored around St Anthony Head and into the Percuil River where we hope we’ll have a peaceful night.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Saturday, 28th May

What an excellent day we have had. The morning brought force 6 south westerly winds; therefore staying in the marina and attending to things like getting diesel and filling up the water tank. Geoff bought himself a new sleeping bag.

In the afternoon we had a boisterous sail in the outer harbour within the protection of the breakwater. It was good fun testing different combinations of sail and using the windvane self-steering gear.

Around teatime we anchored at Barn Pool in readiness for the morning when we want to get out to the spectator area near the breakwater to watch the start of the OSTAR, the Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race.

After our evening meal we had a wonderful surprise. Alastair with his Paradox cruiser found us in our anchorage and tied up alongside. We had a really good discussion about his little boat.

The strong winds have eased off; therefore we are hopeful for a good night’s rest.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thursday, 26th May

Today has been what I call ‘a lazy day’. Apart from taking the boat under engine the short distance from the Lynher River to Cargreen, I’ve done little else other than take two walks – a short one in the morning to explore part of the village I had not seen before, and a longer one in the afternoon lasting nearly three hours.

Walking in this part of Cornwall is a delight. The scenery is so picturesque and well managed. Farming is the prime industry, as was confirmed by my observations. I came across factory chicken farming, dairy herds and some land used for cereal crops.

It’s not all farming. Tucked away behind some woodland there’s a huge National Grid Plant at Gandulph with several overhead cables converging there for power management.

Sadly the Cargreen Post Office has closed and there’s no local ‘corner’ shop, but the Crooked Spaniards Inn was doing good trade this evening. I happen to have picked up their number one mooring which seems to be going for free!

Mostly the mooring is peaceful, apart from the odd high speed power boat. Why they can’t slow down when passing between the moorings I don’t understand.

Tomorrow morning I’ll probably take the boat further up the River Tamar, past Cotehele, as far as Calstock, where my friend Geoff lives.

Friday, 27th May

I underestimated how long it would take to reach Calstock. Having made arrangements to meet Geoff at the Tamar Inn’s pontoon around 0900, I left the Cargreen mooring an hour before.

What a feast for the eye is the beautiful Tamer valley which meanders between undulating hills, some wooded and others set aside for sheep or cattle. Keeping to the deepest parts of the river was made easier by reference to an old copy of the Cruising Association Handbook. Where there was a choice of which river bank to follow, the one with the steepest side is always the one to take.

At a few locations where road access to the river is possible there are boat yards, such as the one at Weir Quay on the east bank, a mile and half north of Cargreen. It brought back memories of 1974 when I left ‘Shyauk’ there before entering her for the Round Britain Race. She was a 24 foot boat, the smallest permissible for entry at the time. In fact I had to add 3 inches to her bow to qualify for entry.

An old ketch named ‘Shamrock’ is preserved at Cotehele. Although she did not have an engine she was used for carrying coal, and to this day she does not have an engine, despite the fact she is used for special occasions perhaps involving historic boats.

Before Calstock the river takes a sharp bend to the east and becomes quite narrow, especially as it passes under a very high railway bridge.

On arrival at the Tamar Inn’s pontoon at 0935 and I was relieved to find Geoff patiently waiting there. I was really pleased to have a crew once again, as I had missed Gordon’s company when he left ship at Brighton.

Returning back the way we had come gave a new perspective of this beautiful river. Sheltered beneath a steep sided bank, a live-aboard character with a Broads type motor cruiser, shouted to us saying he was going to catch eels. Geoff told me this man makes his living by doing so.

It was a perfect morning, being warm and sunny.

By mid-day we were at the southern end of the Hamoaze, having passed the naval dockyard to port, where there was an aircraft carrier. Once we had motored through the dredged channel known as ‘The Bridge’ we hoisted sail and finished our lunch. ‘Fred’, the windvane steering gear, took us outside the breakwater and over to Cawsands.

As the wind faltered we put the engine on and made our way to St Anne’s Battery Marina so that I could have a shower and get the computer and mobile phone fully charged.

To celebrate our reunion Geoff and I had an enjoyable meal at the Marina restaurant.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wednesday, 25th May

This has been the best day by far.

After an early breakfast the engine was turned on at 0615 to plug the tide and wind to gain open water. Low cloud and a little drizzle gave a sombre note to the steep sided River Dart. Tops of the hills were lost in grey cloud. A couple of trawlers bustled seaward.

As we passed Homestone Buoy, visibility was down to a mile. A large sleek yacht came into view and quickly overhauled ‘Bumper’. Wind and tide were from ahead, which made progress painstakingly slow. Even by 1050 we had only made three and a half miles from the entrance to the Dart, but things quickly changed; the wind sprang up from astern and the tide slackened. Before we knew it we were halfway along the south east side of the Skerries Bank where there were several rod fishing boats, not to mention lots of buoys marking crab pots.

The wind petered out, but excellent progress was made under engine towards Start Point where we had a harum-scarum ride through the race. Things were so hectic I had no opportunity to write up the log until Prawle Point came within a mile to the north.

By 1350 we were racing along with the tide in our favour as Hamstone Rocks were a mile or so to the north where the swell broke on the granite crags. From there we could make a direct course to the Great Mewstone near the entrance to the River Yealm. With the ebb tide in our favour we were making 5.7 knots and by 1400 a force 3 wind was directly behind us; therefore I turned the engine off and was surprised to find ‘Fred’, the windvane self-steering, was able to hold the course.

With my hands free I prepared and ate lunch. Without a doubt this was the best sailing so far. Our course took us across Bigbury Bay. The sun was shining and visibility was good. Burgh Island and the village of Bigbury could clearly be seen nestled among the orderly fields which looked like a variegated green and grey tapestry contrasting with the bluest sea imaginable. Wisps of trailed white cloud high in the sky provided an overhead veil. A large white motor sailer named ‘Selina’ overhauled ‘Bumper’ while more yachts were on opposite courses heading up Channel.

There was no need for pinpoint navigation as everything could be eyeballed. Keeping an eye on transits enabled us to steer a straight course toward the Great Mewstone, which we passed to the south at 1630, while the current hurried us along. Plymouth and the Breakwater came into view, and by 1750 we were only a cable from its eastern end.

I laid a course for The Bridge, which is a dredged channel marked by beacons to the South East of Drake’s Island, but a huge bulk carrier was being escorted up the fairway to anchor nearby to the south east, so I changed course and passed astern of her. Just as we were about to shoot through The Bridge a sumptuous and very fast motor yacht hurtled through in the opposite direction causing a commotion with her wake.

Originally I was intending to anchor at Barn Pool, close inshore under the protection of Mount Edgecombe, but that’s only suitable for west or south west winds; therefore I pressed on up the Hamoaze to where there are some moorings under a bluff between Looking Glass Point and Carew Point near the entrance to the Lynher River. There I found a free mooring which was very peaceful; only the note of wren could be heard to accompany the sound of ripples running around the hull. This was an ideal spot to cook my first chips, because there was little chance of the fat being spilled from the pan, and so I had chips, baked beans, egg and bacon, with tinned peaches for afters.

I used the mobile phone to let Geoff know I was on his doorstep and by the tone of his voice, I could tell he was delighted, because he would be joining ship the day after next for the leg to the Scilly Isles.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tuesday, 24th May

Early this morning, with a southerly wind of around gale force coming straight through the harbour entrance, my otherwise ‘idyllic’ mooring at the pontoon by the Dartmouth Harbour Office almost became untenable. The trouble was, ‘Bumper’ was attached to the pontoon and she was being blown forcefully against it by severe gusts at times. An hour or so before high water conditions were really bad. I had to borrow a large ball fender from the ‘African Queen’, a nearby charter fishing boat. ‘Bumper’ was certainly living up to her name! She bumped the pontoon over and again, but thankfully no damage was sustained.

This is all part-and-parcel of cruising small boats. Those who engage in this activity have to take the rough with the smooth.

As the tide ebbed, so the water became more stable and the wind decreased in strength. Heavy drizzle helped put a damper on the scene, but gradually the wind abated and by the afternoon the sun shone, although a few clouds scurried overhead. The speed of the clouds is always a good indicator of what the wind is like at sea. An experienced yachtsman always observes the clouds before putting to sea.

When it’s too windy for sailing there are always little jobs that can be done on the boat. I checked the fuel, the engine water intake and the fresh water. I cleaned the fenders and bought a new one in case ‘Bumper’ finds herself in a similar position to last night.

For an afternoon walk I took the main road out of town to find the nearest garage where I could buy diesel. The road just kept going up and up, and around and around, but after about a mile and a half I found a BP garage. Instead of carrying the two canisters of diesel back to the yacht I decided to catch the bus, but the driver would not let me enter his vehicle because I was carrying fuel. Therefore I linked the cans together, one at each end of my scarf to make a bridle, which enabled me to carry them on my shoulders.

Several local and visiting yachtsmen have asked me about ‘Bumper’s’ junk rig. I had to be honest and tell them such a sail will not allow the yacht to point as high as a Bermudan type, but the other attributes, especially the ease with which it can be reefed, more than compensates.

No gales have been forecast for tomorrow, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to make some progress by reaching Salcombe. We shall see ………...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Monday, 23rd May

It was not the best of forecasts, but it was now or never, therefore I left the Brixham Marina pontoon at 0640. With the prospect of a South Westerly wind of force 5 or 6, occasionally 6 or 7, I knew parts of the trip would be hard going.

The start was idyllic; bright sunshine, excellent visibility and a gentle South West wind taking me to the tip of Berry Head, where I could see the lighthouse Harding and I had walked to the day before. A brightly painted red trawler was working towards the South. Anchored a mile or so to the North East was a large freighter.

I was thrilled by the magnificent cliff scenery which can only truly be appreciated by seeing it from the sea. There were many buoys marking crab pots which always seemed to be in exactly the position ‘Fred’, (‘Bumper’s’ self-steering gear) wanted to take the boat. Therefore I was vigilant and ready to disengage the gear in order to steer around these hazards.

Keeping warm and having an input of energy is important, therefore I made a mug of coffee and ate a Mars. I exchanged my peaked cap for my Russian imitation fur cap which protected my ears from the bitterly cold wind. Occasionally spray came over the deck and landed on my spectacles which became caked with salt. Frequently I went below to clean the lenses so that I could read the GPS to ascertain our progress.

By the time we were adjacent to Druid’s Mare, a small rocky island two miles south of Berry Head, our speed dropped to less than two and a half knots which prompted me to turn on the engine. That made a dramatic improvement to our speed by increasing it to three and a half knots.

At 0900 we were two miles east of the Mew Stone where we tacked inshore. Our track brought us to the Mew Stone South Cardinal Buoy which warns of the danger to the north. The Mew Stone has the appearance of a dinosaur’s head with spikes running from its nose to the back of his neck.

A mile and a half further to the West there’s another south cardinal buoy marking West Rock, which forced us to put in another tack.

Having passed Castle Ledge, our final hazard, we had a clear run into the Dart though the narrow entrance flanked by Dartmouth Castle to port and Kingswear Castle to starboard.

By then the wind had increased to a good force 6 and I had taken in three panels. I thought there was no need to have the engine running so I turned it off, but as we entered ‘the narrows’ we lost our wind and the ebb tide ran swiftly against us. There was no option; we had to use the engine again.

Once inside the natural harbour I chose a mooring near the west bank, opposite Kingswear, where I had lunch and took a well earned rest. We had taken just over 5 hours to sail and motor sail a distance of 13 nautical miles.

Mid afternoon we moved to the Dartmouth Sailing Club pontoon which is by the Harbour Master’s Office. This is very convenient, right near the town centre.

After an early evening dinner I took a stroll to Dartmouth Castle where I had a view of the beautiful deep sided valley through which this part of the river flows. Geologists claim the valley was gouged out by ice thousands of years ago. I could also survey the entrance leading in from seaward.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday, 22nd May

Sunday, 22nd May

This weather for May is certainly inclement with strong winds and heavy showers. My hopes for a quick and easy passage to Dartmouth were quashed when I heard the early morning forecast: West or South West, 5 to 6; thunder showers; moderate or good visibility. Yes, no force 7, but I’m doing this for pleasure, and when the tide turns against the wind, there would be very uncomfortable seas.

Instead of setting off after the mid-day forecast, which was roughly the same as the earlier one, I phoned Harding, an old sailing friend, with the hope that he may join me for a walk to Berry Head. I was delighted he accepted, but he explained he would be unable to be at the Marina before 1430, which in reality was closer to 1500, but it made no difference; in fact that gave me time to visit the Office to pay for a second night at berth 31, pontoon B.

My main morning chore was doing the laundry, because I had built up sufficient dirty washing for a proper clean at the Marina Launderette. Using the machine was simplicity itself; I placed the dirty items in the top loader; added powder, closed the lid, and slid two one pound pieces into the receptor. Forty minutes later the washed items were ready for the tumble dryer which worked by inserting two twenty pence coins.

Housework is really easy, isn’t it? There is no iron on my boat, and hence no ironing, but instead, I fold the dried crinkled items into a holdall, and that’s it! Where the time goes when afloat is difficult to fathom. Before I knew it, I was having lunch with the aim of finishing before my visitor’s arrival.

My walk with Harding was enjoyable as we took in views of Tor Bay and other views of the sea which was flecked with millions of white breakers. At Berry Head Lighthouse we observed its huge lenses which magnify the rather diminutive light source. As the lantern slowly rotated, all the colours of the rainbow were refracted from the sun’s rays.

While looking down from the cliff’s edge we watched a scarlet red trawler drag her catch almost to the base of the cliff where she resembled a child’s toy boat in a bath, but aboard her where real fishermen working hard on a Sunday afternoon to make a living. By contrast, we Senior Citizens were out for a leisurely stroll.

During our walk we didn’t see any of the resident and visiting birds for which Berry Head is famous. To do that, we would have needed to explore the extreme southern side of the precipitous peninsula where guillemots have a colony in excess of 1000. Seeing the greater horsehoe bats in a cave system sited in the old quarry was out of the question, but learning about them and the kittiwakes that nest on the cliff ledges was graphically explained by the use of models and illustrations in the Visitors’ Centre. In the old Artillery Store there was an excellent exhibition recounting the history of Berry Head, both in terms of geology and man’s influence upon it.

Had more time been available, no doubt we would have seen some of the rare plants and insects associated with the Berry Head National Nature Reserve. Perhaps there will be an opportunity when returning back up the English Channel.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saturday, 21st May

My miniature Roberts radio could only give me an uninspiring early morning forecast of gales for the whole of the south coast from St Catherine’s Point, on the Isle of Wight, to Lands End. From where I was anchored at Elberry Cove, the distance by sea to Kingswear on the River Dart was only a matter of 12 nautical miles, and it was to be my next port of call, but with the outlook of strong winds and prolonged heavy showers, my best option was to visit Brixham Marina, but with some reluctance.

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not fond of marinas, but they do have their advantages.

Having slept longer than usual, I didn’t finish breakfast and the usual ablutions until 1000. As I surveyed the panorama from the cockpit I was struck with how calm it was. There was no indication at all of the strong cold winds to come.

To starboard I noted a limestone folly tower, built low down on a miniature cliff which was next to Elberry Cove’s pebbly beach. High up above the waterline there was a tent where a couple had spent the night making themselves visible by the light of their barbecue fire. A lone figure strode along the water’s edge while her two dogs scampered to and fro. Bubbly birdsong broke the silence, but incessant crows did all they could to nullify the harmonious melody by monotonously repeating their raucous cries. Meanwhile a local crab fisherman in a black work boat expertly tended his pots marked by bright orange buoys. In the direction of Paington a high pitched note of a steam train drew my attention to its ponderous progress marked by a trail of grey smoke, as if a dragon were breathing fire. Such moments are the stuff of a coastal cruise.

Soon this picture of calm was broken by a blast of wind which whipped ‘Bumper’ at the end of her anchor rode; then several heavy downpours cooled and dampened the scene. I stayed below with the washboards firmly in place and whiled away my time by attending to mundane things like testing the engine oil level, sharpening my penknife and kitchen knife and looking up details of possible next ports of call.

The morning was soon over and at mid-day I listened to the forecast. It was the same as before: South West 5 to 7, occasionally 8 at first, with thunder showers and moderate to good visibility. My mind was made up, Brixham it would be. Confirming my decision, a ski boat made circles around ‘Bumper’, treating her as a newly found marker buoy!

By 1230 the boat had been prepared with lines and fenders in readiness for entering the marina. At 1320 I turned off the engine after the difficult manoeuvre of entering berth 31 at pontoon ‘B’, which was made a bit easier by a kind motorboat owner who anticipated I would need assistance, since ‘Bumper’ had to come alongside on the downwind side of the finger berth. Being single-handed, one cannot attach the bow and stern lines immediately at the same time to the pontoon. I suppose the answer is to use a temporary single line from amidships, which can be attached to the central cleat on the finger pontoon. (I’ll have to remember that in future.)

Feeling tired after getting the boat sorted out, I took a well earned snooze, and when I woke, around mid-afternoon, I visited Brixham’s main shopping area, where I bought a new pair of gloves for only £2.00, an absolute bargain.

Brixham is famous for being a fishing port, and in times past it boasted a large fleet of sailing trawlers, three of which are in the harbour today being used as charter boats. They are getting geared up for ‘The Festival of Sea’ events, in commemoration of Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar.

As soon as I returned to ‘Bumper’ after my successful shopping expedition, the rain really came down, as the proverbial saying, ‘Like cats and dogs’; although I cannot associate the link between heavy rain and these animals.

While preparing this entry to the ‘blog’, every now and again ‘Bumper’ is pummelled by blasts of wind, which tension her lines as she heels several degrees. I am thankful not to be at sea.

What will tomorrow bring?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday, 20th May

The forecast was for South West 5 or 6, occasionally 7 in the west, which didn’t inspire me to sail, although by mid afternoon conditions were ideal and I set off for Elberry Cove, which in the South West corner of Tor Bay.

I used the morning for things like showering, arranging to have the Autohelm mended and shopping for food. Since the time I lived near Torquay back in the early seventies, the town has undergone a significant change. There are more undercover shopping areas and some streets have been set aside for the exclusive use of pedestrians, which I think is an improvement.

My sail in the afternoon was one of the best. A force 3 wind blew from the west, and because of the land to windward, the sea was wonderfully smooth, which meant ‘Bumper’ creamed along effortlessly.

William Turner would have relished the atmospheric light as showers and sunshine made their contrasts. I was struck with the beauty of the Bay. To the west of Brixham trees line the low cliffs, almost down to the water. The colour of the sea was an unbelievable turquoise, set for an artist intent upon capturing the harmonious splash of light blue in the form of ‘Western Lady 1V, a ferry en route for Torquay from Brixham. Her red, white and black funnel put the finishing touches to a memorable scene. I only wished I had been close enough to the dignified lady to take a photo of her.

This evening, after eating Bernard Matthews turkey fillets, new potatoes, carrots and runner beans, I sit composing these words, and the peace of the cove, except now and again a ski boat passes by causing ‘Bumper’ to rock gently.

My wife phoned at our pre-arranged time with news that the weather over the weekend will not be good, but I’ll have to deal with it accordingly, perhaps by entering Brixham Marina. At least here at anchorage, where I plan to stay for the night, I’m not paying £19.00 for the privilege of mooring to a pontoon attached to the land with access to a shower which is too small by far for an average person to fit into. A fat man would have no chance of entering, but if he did, he would be wedged tightly trapped there for ever.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Thursday, 19th May

Thursday, 19th May

There are 10 days to go before the start of the OSTAR (The Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race) at Plymouth, and arriving at Torquay this evening puts me within a comfortable time frame to be there by mid-day on Sunday, 29th.

‘Bumper’ left her borrowed mooring at Starcross at 1040 today, only an hour after low water, but by the time we arrived at the bar there was a 6 foot clearance under her keel

With the force 3 wind from the South, getting out against the incoming tide was not at all difficult, because the buoyed channel runs East by South for about 2 miles and with sail and engine providing drive we were able to make steady progress to the E Exe buoy which marks the outer limit of the estuary. From there we made our departure and we could hold a course seaward to the South East for 3 miles, before tacking towards Teignmouth.

At first the visibility was poor because of low cloud and drizzle, but as the afternoon progressed the clouds lifted and I could see the rich pastureland of the rolling Devon countryside two miles away on our starboard hand. I always find the Devonian dark red soil contrasts with the complementary green hedgerows and fields, and for me such vistas are truly beautiful. Man and nature work together to create a wonderful tapestry. Why ever did I forsake Devon for Essex? Everything here is so fresh and clean and the air is so pure.

‘Fred’, my faithful Windpilot self-steering gear, did all the hard work as we bashed into the waves for an exhilarating thrash to windward. (I decided to call the windvane steering ‘Fred’, because years ago my brother Fred used to share the steering with me. Now he no longer goes boating.)

When we were near the Diffuser buoy, a mile and a quarter to the East from The Ness, which marks the entrance to the River Teign at Teignmouth, we tacked to the South East, but as we did so the wind suddenly died. Reluctantly I started the engine and headed for Babbacombe Bay on a course of 200 degrees true.

If the weather had been settled I would have anchored for the night in the bay, which provides excellent shelter from the prevailing South Westerly winds, but as the forecast gave the chance of a force 7 in the Plymouth region I thought it would be wise to continue for Torquay or Brixham.

As I held a course between the Ore Stone and Hope’s Nose I was surprised to see a trawler dragging her nets there at the same time. I thought perhaps her nets may get snagged on rocks between the two craggy features. I was particulary vigilant being on the lookout for divers, because the venue is popular with sub aqua enthusiasts and, as expected, there was a boat flying the ‘A’ flag which signals divers in operation.

Heavy drizzle and poor visibility helped me make up my mind to aim for Torquay rather than Brixham. A mile south of the Ore Stone, and under sail again, I tacked ‘Bumper’ and freed off her main so as to make a course to the West where the narrow entrance of the Harbour lay about 2 miles away.

As usual I prepared the boat for berthing by having two lines forward, one, either side of the bow, and lines attached to each quarter cleat. I placed two fenders on both sides of the boat, so that she could berth on either side.

When a quarter of a mile from the Harbour I called up the Marina on channel 80, but for some unknown reason, they could hear me, but I could not hear them. At least they expected me and they were ready to take the lines, for which I was grateful.

At £19.00 a night Torquay is not a place I really want to stay, but being able to plug into the electric and have a mains supply is a luxury. For the first time on the cruise I’ve been able to sit in the boat without a sweater, because the blow heater is pumping out lovely warm air and drying out my wet waterproofs.

I’m hoping for a good night’s rest, although strong winds are expected from the South West, which will make a howling noise in the rigging.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Wednesday, 18th May

Today I had a fairly relaxing time. I woke at 0600 to witness a moment of silent beauty, as there was a flat calm causing perfect reflections on the mirror-like water and there was an unusual a yellowish silver glow from the rising sun. That was a picture not to miss which I duly recorded with the digital camera.

When breakfast and my time for bible study were over I dedicated the morning to removing the Essex grime from the superstructure; that’s the deck top, the cabin exterior and cockpit. Now these parts of the boat positively gleam. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a go at the topsides; that’s the hull from the waterline to deck level. I’ll do it while in the dinghy.

Around mid afternoon I caught the train from Starcross to Exeter St. Thomas Station from where I walked to Alphington to see my wife, June, who was staying with her sister Rita. On their journey from Essex, June’s case slipped while they stood on the escalator at Paddington Underground Station, and in effort to prevent it careering down the moving stairs she broke a bone in her wrist. Not only that, the case under the influence of gravity knocked Rita backwards down the steps; meanwhile June was taken unceremoniously feet first to the top of the staircase. Therefore it was especially good to see June and her sister, despite some bruises and to give thanks that nothing worse had happened.

While at Rita’s a hot bath and a good meal pumped energy into the solo sailor who arrived back at his faithful ship before nightfall.

What will the day bring tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mondady, 16th and Tuesday 17th May


It’s 2140 and I’ve just finished clearing up after eating a welcome meal of rice, bacon, onions and scrambled egg, with tinned pears as a sweet – not a meal I suppose most people would fancy, but I put it together of necessity from what I had aboard.

My trip today started at 0400 in Weymouth Harbour and after 32 nautical miles it ended at 1930 on a borrowed mooring at Starcross, a village situated by the Exe estuary in Devon. You wouldn’t believe it, but what little wind there was came from ahead throughout the day; therefore the engine was much used.

The most exciting parts of the passage were rounding Portland Bill and entering the River Exe over the bar, an hour and a half after low water, which meant a nail-biting 5 foot clearance under keel and I’m glad there was no swell.

All in all it was a successful day; I felt very comfortable, to the extent that I was able to wash and shave and prepare snacks. Living aboard has now become routine, even while underway.

For mid May the wind was unusually cold and to combat it I wore my Russian hat and Musto yacht gloves.

As I didn’t have much sleep last night I’m hoping for a peaceful night.


Yes, indeed, I did have a refreshing sleep and I woke to hear rain lashing the cabin top, but as the morning progressed the sun came out and a fresh wind from the south soon dried the decks and sail.

After my usual breakfast I had a strip wash before donning a complete change of clothing; then I took the opportunity to clean the interior of the yacht.

Assembling the dinghy on the pushpit was an easy task, which I did in preparation for taking the rubbish ashore and for obtaining ‘yacht’ diesel at the local garage. There can’t be many places where ‘boat’ diesel is sold at a local garage, but Starcross has it all – even drinking water at the head of the boat slip which passes under the mainline railway.

Of course, Starcross is really famous for the Brunel Pumping House which was used for his vacuum suction railway. Although it worked, reliability was a problem, and the idea never took off for commercial success.

My laptop wanted charging and I had to do some shopping; therefore when I had eaten lunch I caught the 47A bus to the centre of Exeter, where I went to an obliging hotel which allowed me to use their cocktail room for charging the computer while in use.

Tesco’s was just down the road from the hotel and it was convenient to shop there before meeting my wife at her sister’s place in Alphington, a village on the outskirts of Exeter.

I intend to stay at Starcross for a couple of days, because it is in a beautiful village, and as far as I can tell, the moorings are free, since many of them are unused. There are several interesting places to look at, such as Powderham Castle where I intend to have a walk, although some parts of the estate are out of bounds to the public, maybe because of a resident herd of deer.

Starcross is particularly nostalgic for me, because back in the late sixties I kept two of my boats there before I took my family to Essex where we’ve lived for the past 33 years.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sunday, 15th May

It’ll be a short write up today, because the battery is running low. ‘Bumper’ left Yarmouth at 0640 and she arrived at Weymouth at 1925 after sailing 40 miles with a favourable wind from the East.

Today was the best so far with fair weather and pleasurable sailing. The Windpilot took us all the way.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be sailing tomorrow, and if I do it will be a very early start – say around 0400, as the boat I’m tied up to plans to leave that time. That’s to ensure a safe passage around Portland Bill.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saturday, 14th May

There’s less than a fortnight to reach Plymouth to be there before the start of the OSTAR – The Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race - with starts at noon on Sunday, 29th. At this rate I’m wondering if I’ll make it, but fortunately the wind abated this afternoon, despite the forecast for occasional spasms of gale 8 flurries.

At 0945 Martin Morris was as good as his word, as he duly showed up with his partner Roma in their functional van with nautical items spread over the floor. On the way to ‘Mad’ Cowes we had a congenial conversation about various boats we have built and sailed, and before I knew it, Martin and Roma were taking me to D. G. Wroath’s marine electronic shop where I hoped to leave the Autohelm for servicing, but it was not to be, because they were closed on a Saturday.

The only other place where the Autohelm could serviced was R. H. P. Marine, but they too were closed. Apparently it is usual at Cowes for marine shops to close on Saturdays – the very day when they would have much custom, but maybe, five days a week is sufficient, and they like getting out on the water. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ so goes the saying.

Martin and Roma bumped into me after they had picked up a few bargains at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club’s nautical ‘boot’ sale and excitedly told me they had seen an Autohelm there for £75.00; so it seemed a good idea to have a look, but the actual price was £170.00! No amount of bargaining would bring the price down to £50.00 which I thought was a more reasonable second-hand value, because it was a much older version than my broken one.

At 1100 it was time for coffee, and in the little cafe by Cowes Yachthaven it was very good at £1.50.

The rain continued all day, but I was togged-up in my new set of waterproofs which I had bought for Gordon, I decided to explore West Cowes. All the narrow roads by the sea front are set aside for pedestrian use, which makes for pleasant window shopping. As you would expect, there are many clothes shops and boutiques. Also there are several jewellery shops, many cafes, loads of restaurants, marine photographers, galleries, chandlers and pubs.

Around lunch time I took a stroll along the sea front and was amazed to see hundreds of yachts out racing, despite the high winds. Early in the morning there had been a lifeboat rescue off the Needles, which I monitored on channel 16 and 74; there had also been a Mayday, because a crew member of a racing yacht had fallen into the water, but fortunately he was rescued by his crewmates.

Cowes, of course, is famous for everything to do with sailing, and has several prestigious yachts clubs; perhaps the most famous being The Royal Yacht Squadron which has pride of place where the sea front curves to the north. It seemed to me that these fellows who run the races at the RYS are a bit like little boys, because I counted 22 polished brass canons, 11 either side of the start line flag staff which has a top mast. Also there is a very grand and much larger canon high up on the wall of the veranda of the yacht club.

Other clubs I noted were the Island Yacht Club, which has a red flag with gold castle emblazoned on it; the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and the Royal London Yacht Club. Apart from the Island Club, all the others have royal patronage.

While having my lunch seated near the entrance to the Medina River leading to Newport I was entertained with all the comings and goings of many yachts, the Southampton to East Cowes car ferry and the catamaran high-speed passenger ferry which runs between West Cowes and Southampton.

After lunch the rain continued, but this did not dampen my spirits or take away the fun I was having by observing so many activities.

My journey back to Yarmouth was by two buses, the first to Newport and the second a number 7 to the Harbour. On arrival there I found it packed full of JOG (Junior Offshore Group) boats, probably after taking part in a rather rough Mum Pavois race from La Rochelle.

As I type this before cooking dinner, the rain continues to fall heavily, but thankfully the awful wind and the associated howling and whistling in the rigging has been replaced with the pitter-patter of rain drops.

I look forward to a peaceful evening and a good night’s sleep.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday, 13th May

I’m not at all superstitious, but those who are, would say the omens are there for a horrible day, since it is the 13th and a Friday. Incidentally, some sailors will never put to sea on a Friday. For me, there was no chance of putting to sea, because the wind has been very strong from the East all day and the forecast predicts there will be a full gale later this evening.

Who would have thought I would still be at Yarmouth, and yet a local here by the name of Martin Morris says this spell of strong winds is due to last until Monday or Tuesday of next week. I met Martin this evening, and by a coincidence he owns a Wylo class blue water cruiser designed by Nick Skeats. His steel boat is almost identical to John Srutt’s, a friend whom Martin met because he had built one himself.

I can’t remember if I mentioned the Autohelm electronic self-steering packed up on the leg between Dover and Brighton, but Martin has offered to take me to Cowes tomorrow morning, where I’ll most likely find an Autohelm dealer.

The Yarmouth Harbour Master kindly recharged my laptop computer because the pontoon where I am currently moored does not have an electric supply.

This afternoon I had an enjoyable walk following the Freshwater Trail, which is a small trek normally taking a couple of hours while exploring the countryside on both sides of the River Yar. I was amazed at the enormous variety of trees in the area. I saw oak, silver birch, maple, slow, ash, hazel, various fir trees, dead elm trees and many others, the names of which I am unable to recall.

Because there are several different habitats such as mud flats, grassland, copses and woods, bird life is abundant. I saw finches, swallows, blackbirds, crows, magpies and several species of wading birds.

I was also aware of a wide variety of wild flowers along the hedgerows, and in the woods I marvelled at a wonderful show of bluebells like a rich carpet laid out for the Queen.

My walk started in bright sunshine, but as it came to a close the sky darkened with a hint of rain and shortly after my evening meal there was a heavy shower.

The sport of sailing a small boat along the UK coast requires patience and money - patience, because one has to wait for the weather; and money, because it costs to stay put at a marina. Patience I have, but the money, it’s going rather too quickly.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thursday, 12th May

It’s been a fine day, but very windy; in fact too much wind for comfortable sailing. The forecast for Dover, Wight, Portland and Plymouth, was East or North East 6 to 8; hence I have stayed put in Yarmouth Harbour at the mouth of the River Yar and where the ‘Wightlink’ Ferry berths.

The Harbour has many facilities, including the best showers I have found to date, but there is a charge of £1.10 for their use, since members of the public who are not sailors have access to them.

Today has been one in which my efforts have been on cleaning and reorganizing the boat for a more efficiency. I really feel I am living aboard, and ‘Bumper’ has become my second home. She has every convenience one needs when at sea or in port. Her accommodation is the best of any boat I have owned. I suppose there is still room for refinements, but everything is now in the right place for ease of use.

All the containers for drinks such as fresh milk, Nescafe, Ovaltine, Hot Chocolate and Tetley’s Tea are in a rack above the cooker, along with salt, pepper and mustard. Plates, mugs and bowls have their purpose-built racks. In the locker under the starboard pilot berth I keep all the dry food items such as rice, macaroni, bread, cereal, chocolate bars, and tinned foods. Under the port bunk in the main cabin there are two lockers; one I use for fruit and vegetables and the other for dairy products, meat, and fatty items. Most foods are kept in sealed plastic containers.

For washing up and keeping the boat clean, there are containers on the drainer for washing up liquid, rough sponge, wire cleaner, brush and dish cloth. A paper towel roll is suspended by the basin.

In the port rack above the bunk I keep navigation equipment such as Reeds Nautical Almanac, Practical Boat Owner Tide Tables, and the instruments, including a Breton Plotter which I prefer to a parallel rule. There is locker next to the engine console in which charts are kept to hand. The GPS and depth sounder have fixtures on a swinging support which can be deployed in the companionway when the boat is on the move.

The yacht has a generous heads fitted with a Porta Potti 240. As is the norm in yachts, this facility is seldom used, because when at sea and well away from land, it is more convenient to use the ‘bucket and chuck it’ system, and when in harbour, there is a land based toilet.

‘Bumper’ is equipped with safety gear such as two fire extinguishers and a fire blanket. She has two bilge pumps, one fixed and the other can be used in any part of the boat. Within reach of the companionway there is an offshore flare pack, and several other distress flares. She has two VHF radios; one fixed, and the other a mobile unit which is the more used of the two, as it is handy in the cockpit when entering a marina or harbour for communication with those responsible for traffic.

My Seahopper dinghy doubles as a kind of life raft, because she can be fitted with inflatable fender tubes along both her gunwales. For sure, she would not be much good in a real gale, but if there was ever a need to abandon ship, at least she would be a floating refuge that would not sink.

The Bukh 10 diesel engine consumes 5 litres of fuel every 4 hours, and on board I have 40 litres stored in cans and in the main tank, which theoretically gives ‘Bumper’ the capacity to travel 128 nautical miles at 4 knots.

My yacht’s strong point is her junk sail, which is so easy to reef, with never the need to go on deck.

As the cruise progresses I am more and more impressed with ‘Bumper’s’ qualities.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wednesday, 11th May

The early morning forecast was very good: North Easterly 3 to 4, veering Easterly 4 or 5; weather fair; visibility good.

Tuesday night was eventful. After uploading the ‘blog’, ‘Bumper’ broke out her anchor, which meant some quick work in pitch darkness to get the boat back to a safe anchorage. It was exceedingly cold and I failed to have a good night’s rest.

After doing all the usual preparations before sailing, we set off from the East Head anchorage with a fair wind out to sea. For some reason I could not get the windvane steering to work, which meant hand steering to the West in the direction of Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

Since I last sailed in the Solent I noticed a change to the landscape of Portsmouth waterfront which now has a huge symbolic building in the form of a sailing boat sail. It’s really tall and when the sun shines on its glass structure the reflection is dazzling.

Our course South of West took us to No Man’s Land Fort, which is to the South East of Spithead, where the Queen is due to review the Fleet on 28th June, with further celebrations until July, 3rd.

While sailing up the East Solent the windvane gear decided to work perfectly which made having lunch easier than if I had to hand steer. All around was a spectacle because so much was going on. In addition to the various ferries crossing from the mainland to the Isle of Wight there were large ships navigating the deep water channel and several impressive yachts racing.

At 1240 we passed by North Sturbridge Buoy which is north of Ryde Sand, where the hovercraft zooms to and fro between Portsmouth and Ryde. A large yellow catamaran ferry belonging to Speed Link noisily hurried by astern on her way to Ryde Ferry Terminal. Global Challenge yachts were racing to the west, while a large blue ketch belonging to the Bulldog Trust lay at anchor close inshore.

Near the entrance of Cowes Roads a large work boat was laying buoys and by contrast at anchor therwas the most beautiful Danish motor yacht, complete with funnel, raked mast and guilt work on her cutter bow.

I had first thought I would take ‘Bumper’ into Newton Creek, but because one is restricted to sufficient rise of tide for getting in and out I decided to anchor a couple of miles to the east of Yarmouth where some small cliffs called Bouldnor Cliffs provide a little protection from the wind. The anchorage was indeed peaceful while wind and tide were together. There I made a welcome meal from rice, bacon and onions.

Listening to the evening Shipping Forecast I was somewhat surprised to hear there would be East or North East winds of 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8. Without hesitation I made all speed to Yarmouth, where I tied ‘Bumper’ to number 11 A, Red Pontoon.

I’ll have to see what tomorrow brings, but I would really like to call into Christchurch where Derek Munnion will demonstrate his super lifting keel day boat. Furthermore he intends to let me try her out. Christchurch is not the easiest of places and finding somewhere to moor may present a problem. Apparently it is not permitted to anchor in the channels; therefore one must allow the boat to take the mud at low water.

Another cold night is in store. I can feel it as I type this entry for my ‘blog’.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Tuesday, 10th May

Tuesday, 10th May

After filling all five cans with diesel at the Brighton Marina fuel pontoon, we made our start for the next leg to Chichester Harbour. For the first time since the beginning of the cruise the forecast was exceptionally good: North Easterly 3 or 4, then veering east, and so it turned out to be.

I went to use the Autohelm, but sadly it would no longer work. The instruction manual stated if anything fails, it should be taken to the nearest dealer. Fortunately the windvane works reasonably well, except in stronger winds while running; therefore I used that instead.

Most of the day at sea was sunny, while clouds hovered over the land. A mile or so out from Brighton I heard a strange clonking noise which seemed to come from the rudder, and as I was near some crab pot buoys I thought the propeller had snagged a line, but in the event it was a small plank of wood which extricated itself when I sailed the boat backwards.

Our course to the Owers Light Buoy was 246 true, and by offsetting 10 degrees to port to compensate for the favourable tide, the course held good. There was little by way of interest apart from some rod fishing boats over various shoals and the odd crab pot buoy here and there.

At 1620 we rounded the Owers Light Buoy after sailing 23 miles in 5 hours 20 minutes, giving an average speed of 4.3 knots. Our next mark was the South Pullar Buoy, nearly 5 miles to the west. From there we were able to sail a course directly to the West Pole Beacon marking the approach to Chichester harbour to our north.

While 5 miles from the West Pole Beacon I prepared dinner and hove near the entrance of the harbour. After eating my meal I sailed to the West Pole Beacon where I took the sail down and started the engine. I paid good attention the depth sounder as we crossed the bar shortly after low water with a reading of 9 feet.

By following the buoyed channel, first to the north, then to the east, it was easy to find the marked anchorage near East Head, which is North West of West Wittering. A quiet anchorage it has turned out to be as I type this log at 2200 before turning in for the night.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sunday, 8th May, 05

Yesterday we paid a visit to Dover Castle and saw the underground tunnels where there was a preserved military Control Station for operations involving the evacuation of Dunkerque and the D-Day invasion. We saw a huge wartime underground hospital which was comprised of tunnels, and we saw a similarly constructed barracks for soldiers at the time of Napoleon.

The early morning forecast for Sunday, 8th May was reasonable: Westerly 4 or 5, occasionally 6; veering North West; weather mainly fair; visibility good.

We set off at 0600 from Dover Marina and a short while later at the Outer Harbour we were given permission by Harbour Control to make our departure from the Western Entrance. Usually, the sea near the harbour is a bit chaotic, but it was unusually smooth as we made our way to the west. Gradually the wind increased and the seas correspondingly built up with breaking wave crests.

Because we only had 3 hours of favourable tide we wanted to make the most of it by using the engine for extra speed while beating to windward.

There were many ships going up and down the channel and several ferries crossing to and fro. When we were a couple of miles to the south of Folkestone and over the Channel Tunnel we saw several hot air balloons crossing the Channel towards France. It was a spectacle of colour.

Shortly after this unexpected display Gordon succumbed to seasickness and remained comatose until our arrival at Brighton early on Monday morning. While crossing St Mary’s Bay the wind increased to a force 6 partly, because of the effect of the tide being against it. As the seas were quite steep and breaking we continued using the engine to help us make good progress to windward.

Near the tip of Dungeness peninsula there is a huge nuclear power station which can be seen for miles and it took us an hour or so to fight our way against the flood tide around it. By 1100 we were 2 miles to the south east of the more recent Dungeness lighthouse. Our progress could be judged by observing the transit between the old and new lighthouse.

Lydd firing range is to the west of the Dungeness Peninsula and it was there the Range Launch ordered us to proceed to Rye Fairway Buoy. Although we followed the request, subsequently we were told via the VHF on channel 37 to motor south before going west so as to avoid live firing. The launch was kept busy dashing here and there in an effort to prevent yachts straying into the danger zone, which is not precisely marked on the chart.

During the afternoon we passed Cliff End and Hastings to the north and by late evening we were south of Bexhill near Pevensey Shoal. In the dramatic evening light of a setting sun we could see the Royal Sovereign light tower with its helicopter platform looking a bit like a gigantic bird table stuck in the sea.

As the sun disappeared behind the nearby cliffs the double flash of Beachy Head lighthouse suddenly came into view and stars began to multiply in the darkening sky above.

Monday, 9th May.

After rounding the precipitous cliff which has a lighthouse at its base we motor sailed the yacht on a course of 291 true, parallel with the coast leading to Newhaven and Brighton. A brightly lit passenger ferry departed from Newhaven and proceeded to the south west for a couple of miles were she anchored.

By 0100 on Monday morning we passed half a mile to the south of Newhaven breakwater where I did the fifth refuelling of 5 litres which is sufficient for 4 hours running of the engine. The GPS was enormously helpful to locate the entrance of Brighton Marina because it was difficult to pick out the flashing lights on the moles.

Mooring to the visitors’ pontoon was a bit tricky, as it was difficult to see what was what owing to many lights causing semi-blindness, and since I had to do it without the help of Gordon who was still very ill because of his seasickness. I felt sad he had not been able to enjoy the wonderful stars of that fabulous night sky and that he had been so poorly.

Because of his repeated seasickness and because he was feeling a little homesick he decided to leave for home today, which means I shall no longer have him for company and to help in times of difficulty. Somehow, I think he will enjoy the sort of sailing that does not entail long rough sea passages, but instead is confined to protected waters. I think we will enjoy dinghy sailing.

If conditions are right tomorrow, I shall take ‘Bumper’ further to the west.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Saturday, 7th May

It’s 0915 and we are still in Dover Tidal Harbour. We had hoped to be sailing today, but the shipping forecast for Dover and Wight was Westerly 5 to 7, occasionally 8, (except in Wight), veering North West 5 or 6; rain, then showers; visibility moderate or good.

As we are on a ‘pleasure’ trip, and because of the possibility of a yachtsman’s gale, that’s a force 7, and because I promised Gordon’s father ‘Bumper’ would not put to sea unless winds were forecast for no more than force 6, we are securely tied to our floating pontoon.

Shore facilities at the Marina are good. Integral with the toilet and showers there is a washroom and a babies’ room, not that Gordon and I have a need for the latter. At the pontoon where we are moored most of the boats are purpose-built fishing launches for dedicated rod fishermen. A few of them are catamarans that are both stable and speedy - both characteristics being ideal for fishermen.

Yesterday evening after a Marks and Spencer beef burger meal we had an enjoyable walk along the sea front where we noticed some people who, by their appearance, most likely were immigrants, and there were a few unfortunate souls who would be spending the night under one of the strangely designed shelters that are a feature of the promenade. These shelters have roofs made from lead flashing and they are shaped like the helmets of ancient knights, but poking upwards and through them, each has a lance angled backwards, sloping away from the pointed peak. I suppose the idea of these architectural curiosities is to evoke a certain ‘atmosphere’ of grandiose intent, reminiscent of days of yore.

Because we have attended to all the little things that have to be done to a boat while cruising, such as changing the gas container, checking the engine and having that special clean inside and out, today is entirely free for anything we wish. Gordon seems to want to sleep his life away, which in fact will refresh him for the next leg of the cruise. This will be one of the longest, at 60 nautical miles. Most likely we shall be doing a part of it at night.

This afternoon our intention is to have a walk to the imposing Dover Castle, which is situated at the top of a prominent white cliff which overshadows the town.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Thursday 5th May

0505 Forecast: North West 3 to 4, backing Westerly 4 to 5. That was ideal for the 15 mile sail to Dover from Ramsgate.

As we couldn’t sail until mid afternoon because we needed the flood tide towards Dover, we did necessary tasks for maintaining the boat. An important item was checking the engine oil which had to be topped up. Amazingly, weed had started to grow around the waterline just above the antifouling so we scrubbed it off. Water was taken aboard and rubbish deposited ashore.

Ramsgate Marina was very full because of the arrival of a flotilla of yachts from Belgium, all from the same unidentified Yacht Club. Around mid-day a noisy party was held by their club members aboard a visiting yacht next to ours. Throughout the morning a huge dredger busily sucked up mud and gravel from the entrance to the Yacht Harbour.

Having obtained permission from Port Control to leave Ramsgate Harbour we left there for Dover at 1450. There was a south west wind of force 2 which meant we were on the wind most of the time. The computer’s navigation system came in handy as we made our way south along the Gull Stream Passage with the Brake sands to the west and the Goodwin Knoll sands to the east. Visibility was good which meant we were able to identify various buoys and have a good view of the Kent coast, including Deal, with its pier.

When were near Deal Bank red can buoy we stopped using the computer for navigation to conserve battery power and changed to the GPS. The flood current helped us along as we approached South Foreland, but we had to keep a good lookout for fishing floats. Here the wind was on the nose; therefore we started the engine. As we passed Dover Patrol Coastguard Station, Dover Harbour breakwaters came into view to the South West.

On our approach to the Harbour, one cross-channel ferry was leaving and another was entering.

After following the Fairway to the western end of the outer harbour we anchored in 12 feet of water in the North West corner of the outer harbour. Only one other yacht was there. As usual for Dover, the boat started to roll because of the swell. Gordon grilled two lovely sirloin chops, but the gas had to be changed at the halfway stage. It was a lovely evening and the Dover ladies rowing teams were out practising.

Both of us had a reasonable sleep before waking up for the early morning forecast the next day.

Friday, 6th May.

The general area forecast for Dover predicted winds up to force 8 from the West, but the inshore forecast said winds would be no more than force 5 from the South West. Prudence dictated it would be better to visit Dover Marina, where we are this morning. Hopefully we shall have a look around the environs of Dover.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tuesday 3rd April

0535 Shipping forecast – Thames: Variable 3, becoming west or south west 4, showers, moderate visibility, occasional fog patches.

In the event, the wind came from the south, and was about a three to four.

‘Bumper’ left her mooring at Rice and Coles at 0700 and proceeded seaward under engine against the incoming flood tide for two hours. By 0950 we were at the Foulness buoy which almost marks the north eastern corner of Maplin Sands. The wind was a pleasant force 2 from the south, which helped us motor sail at just over 3 knots.

Later, we passed over the shallow waters a cable to the west of the South West Sunk Beacon, and then headed east towards Fisherman’s Gat. This is a very well buoyed channel between the sands taking us to a point north of North Foreland, on the extreme north east tip of Kent.

Some way back, Gordon succumbed to seasickness, although it could in part have been brought on by a bug transferred to him by his sister, who had been sick the previous day.

Still several miles to the north of the Foreland lighthouse we took in sail and motored directly into the wind, although we had to offset our course because of the flood tide into the Thames estuary.

The Foreland gave us a little protection from the wind as we came within a mile of it. Progress down the eastern Kent shore was rapid, so that we arrived off Ramsgate Harbour at 1900 just as the tide started to ebb. Unfortunately we could not enter the harbour until an hour later, because one ferry and a freighter left and a dredger and a pilot boat entered. Meanwhile Port Control kept us on station by number 4 fairway buoy.

Trying to see the green starboard hand buoy for the approach to the Yacht Harbour was difficult because of the setting sun. Port Control had given us permission to enter the Yacht Harbour; therefore I was surprised to be confronted with an enormous dredger working in the entrance. Having motored between it and the starboard hand sea wall I found it difficult to come alongside a pontoon because of the wind, but eventually managed it with a near miss.

Dinner was cooked late, but was very welcome.

Wednesday 4th May.

We decided today would be a non-sailing day. After breakfast and showering we explored the streets of Ramsgate and shopped at Waitrose. The afternoon was a time for Gordon to do his school studies while I read and prepared the page for the blog. This evening we are plan to have a meal ashore.

Monday, May 02, 2005

First Day

Monday Bank Holiday is officially the first day of ‘Bumper’s’ cruise. Gordon has joined ship and we have taken all the necessary stores aboard. The Seahopper dinghy fits nicely down one side of the foredeck.

Our first task was for Gordon to have some instruction in motoring and sailing. He has taken to things very well. He practised motoring between buoys while allowing for the tidal current, picking up buoys and reversing. Afterwards we had a jolly good sail between Burnham and the entrance to the River Roach. Gordon helmed the boat on all points and we reefed the sail.

On returning to our mooring we grilled some pork chops and cooked potatoes, broccoli and carrots in the pressure cooker. For a sweet we had yoghurts.

This evening the sun set with a bright golden hue and all was peaceful except for the call of various birds (of the feathery variety).

We worked out a rough plan for tomorrow’s sailing – that’s if there’s a good weather forecast.

Now it’s a matter of making up our bunks and preparing for the night.

I hope there will be no problem in uploading this via Vodafone.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Yesterday I was unable to upload my ‘blog’ because the Vodafone signal was not strong enough off the Maplin Sands which are south of the approaches to Burnham-on-Sea, Essex.

Today, I’m back at Burnham and I hope the signal will be OK.

All the trials have been completed, and as far as I can tell, ‘Bumper’ is fit to put to sea. My crew, Gordon, is due to join ship tomorrow morning, but first we’ll do some shopping for fresh foods – that’s if shops open on a Bank Holiday. Tescos should.

The intention on Monday is to familiarize Gordon with the boat and let him find his sea legs. It will be a bit strange for him because everything will be new. As I’ve mentioned before, he’ll have to learn how to handle the boat under engine and under sail – hopefully he will grasp the basics in one day.

If the weather turns out to be suitable we’ll set off on Tuesday with aim of reaching the Kent coast, perhaps Margate or Ramsgate. We’ll see.

Included with this note is the entry for yesterday:


As I type this, the boat is rocking to and fro because of the wash of a motor cruiser. ‘Bumper’ is anchored in 16 ft of water, a cable to the east of Buxey No 1 Buoy, on the approaches to the River Crouch. To the south, about three cables, is the northern edge of Maplin Sands. There are 37 seals resting on the mud near the water. They are very fat indeed!

The time is 1150 am. Fortunately a light wind is blowing from the south, and because of Maplin Bank the water is very smooth water. A seal has just made a kind of bellowing sound as the majority lay quietly basking in the hazy sunshine, but a couple are flexing and stretching their huge slug-like bodies.

Nearby there are several motor launches. An old lifeboat being used as a spectator boat for watching the seals has just arrived and anchored. A few large yachts are on their way to Burnham - presumably they have come from Brightlingsea or the Blackwater.

It is very peaceful here, and I’m about to have lunch. The seals are making a racket again.

All the boat systems seem fine.

Well, I’m going to see if I can post this to the ‘blog’. Perhaps we are out of range for Vodafone, but it’s worth a go.