West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 10 (Fowey to Falmouth / Mylor)

After the night of a gale blowing swell into Fowey, whistling in the rigging, rocking and shaking us about, we arose bleary eyed and stared dumbly at the tugs thundering past, going about their business. Fortunately the weather had passed in the night, howling off to torment those further East during the day (we heard the BBC news of floods and damage), leaving a calm harbour with no sign of our night’s unrest.

Eventually, the reason for the tug’s activity became apparent when, shyly, the pointed prow of a large cruise ship tentatively poked her nose into the harbour entrance, as if peering around the corner to check there was room (and immediately dwarfing everything else). The tugs scurried away after it, pushing and pulling it out of sight, before re-emerging, ignominiously dragging their prey backwards behind them.

The yellow beasts huffed and puffed: slowly, inch by inch, drawing this leviathan into the now calm pool of Fowey.

MY Holland had been moved, banished to a new mooring outside the harbour and, after an hour or so of careful negotiation, the work crews had her stern’s three thick hawsers secured to the mooring buoy nearest us; her passengers (some in dressing gowns) regarding the bedraggled crew of Krugerrand with as much interest as we watched their proceedings as the Prinsendam (more Dutch connections) was shackled and bound.

Cruise liner Prinsendam enters Fowey. This is her stern: sideways she’s huge.

Juxtaposing this oily, belching, behemoth’s successful restraint, a small human propelled craft plugged quietly past us on their Saturday morning row. Odysseus taunting Cyclops.

Old Boat House and rowers at Fowey

And so, our thoughts turned to the possibility of leaving, the fury of the recent winds making us cautious. The peculiar forecast gave us the possibility of a bit of everything – including a F7, although this was a relatively short trip and so we decided to risk it.

Strange forecast, but we only saw calm and the top end of a F6. It was fine sailing

We left Fowey, crossing St Austell Bay in a gently running swell and an eerie weather impasse: an uneasy truce between the gale and whatever was coming next.  The visibility was reasonable but weather felt close, low dark clouds scudded across the landmass, precipitation most definitely in sight. By the time we passed Megavissey Bay the rain and mist had reached us too, obscuring the land, but were soon blown away to be replaced by clearer skies and a rising wind.

The final hop: Fowey to Mylor, via Falmouth. Saturday 7th July 2012

Both sails were up off Dodman Point and, by the time we cut across Veryan and Gerrans Bays, it was in a healthy NW wind, close hauled, main reefed (eventually – must resolve that), a tuck out of the roller headsail and howling along beautifully. One of the finest sails of the past few days (conveniently ignoring the fact that this put the gunwales under with associated gallons of seawater inside the main cabin – time to get that hull deck joint sealed!).

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth. Almost home!

We all took turns to helm and managed to clear St Anthony’s Head easily, easing off the wind to pick up speed, up to 7 knots readily seen. From the ships anchored outside the Carrick Roads, another tack cleared us into the entrance to St Mawes Harbour and then another across, ready for either a close shave up the east coast or resigned to short tacking (rather appealing in these conditions) most of the remaining couple of miles to Mylor.

Fine sailing at the sheltered entrance to the Carrick Roads.

However, circumstances conspired against us: the bodged gooseneck parted, the boom pushed forward, the main took on an unhealthy balloon, and we could no longer point well enough to make short tacking a worthwhile exercise. Instead, we motor sailed up the channel, enviously watching the fine sport about us but still satisfied from our own wonderful sail.

St Anthony’s Head, entering Carrick Roads

With the very last half mile came the final small drama: we stared at the deepometer in wonder: 20 metres, 10, 5, 2metres, 1.8metres!  Quick! About turn, get back to the channel and lick our wounds.

I realised that, despite all of the careful passage planning during the previous 500 miles of the trip (I think the log showed 490 by then!), I’d neglected to consider that this last section could be anything other than the deep harbour I’d assumed it to be when staring at it from the shore. But there, staring at me from the chart, was a dredged fairway leading into Mylor and, at low water (shortly after springs), the 1.4s and 0.7s mocked me.

Mylor and the north Carrick Roads. More shallow than I’d imagined outside of the main channel

Of course, it all made perfect sense: the gently sloping kelp and bladderwrack cloaked rocky shores on which I’d walked with Catherine, Poppy & Rose (and which Hamish had galloped across, chasing herring gulls at low tide) were unlikely to have shelved steeply to the 5 metre depths I’d imagined.

After radioing Mylor Yacht Harbour (VHF channel 80) to ask which buoy we should pick up and tell them we were arriving (another glaring, but now obvious, omission) the launch motored out into the chop to guide us in, a generous gesture considering the soaking the lad got.

As it happens, our course north west from the main channel would probably have got no shallower than 1.8, however it’s rather more shoal (shown 0.4m at Chart Datum) approaching from the north. This was confirmed later in the bar by a local sailor who reported the occasionally drying dredged bank edges of the bank visible at some very low springs – and varying depth elsewhere, depending on where the channel dredgers had heaped their mounds of underwater spoil.

By way of a silver lining, we were given a temporary berth on Mylor’s outer pontoon. Although we’d obtained the mooring in March, it still required mooring chains due to our unannounced arrival. Therefore, whilst these were being attached, we un-shipped two weeks of baggage and detritus and moped around in the general malaise of anticlimax which one experiences at the end of an adventure.

Mylor! Apart from the trip from the pontoon to our swinging mooring, the journey was over.

Catherine, Poppy and Rose, a sight for sore eyes, arrived from home just in time for a drink in the yacht club (and a chat with a couple mentioned earlier in this story – of J Class and Super Yachts) and then we were home. Phil and myself due to travel up country for work in Hertfordshire and London on Monday; Rebs expected to row for her Cambridge club on Sunday evening, to where we headed the next day after the first night in a comfortable (dry) bed for a while.

It would be at few days before I would be home again and able to explore the fine sailing territory of the Carrick Roads with the girls, but that’s another story.

Helford Passage, bottom; Falmouth & St Mawes, centre; Mylor & St Just, above. Restronguet, King Harry Ferry & Rivers Fal and Truro, top

West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 9 (Salcombe to Fowey)

Where was I? Ah yes. We motored much of the way from Salcombe, in an almost flat calm sea.  Passing the entrance to The Yealm the wind picked up a little. By the time the Eddystone Rock Lighthouse looked a stone’s throw away (it wasn’t, unless you’re Trecobben or Cormelian), we could set both sails.

Leg 9 (more of a hop): Salcombe to Fowey. Friday 6th July 2012

Polhawn fort, the site of the first Not The Millennium Party and now mainly a wedding venue, was the last part of the huge expanse of Plymouth Harbour to slide past. The last time I sailed here was watching the Total Solar Eclipse with Catherine, from a friend’s Nic 45 ‘Innisfree’, during our return to Haslar via the Isles of Scilly. We recall seeing the shoreline clearly defined and outlined by seemingly millions of pinpricks of far off flashbulbs, as totality sliced across the sea towards us.

This time it was a more subdued affair, as the previously reliable Standard Horizon Chart Plotter (which had looked decidedly peaky earlier) flickered out. A quick wiggle of cables indicated that it wasn’t a power problem and, furthermore, the trickle of water which ran our of the card slot, upon turning it upside down, hinted at something more involved. That was nothing compared with the torrent which emerged when I finally plucked up courage to take it apart. The only surprising thing was how resilient it was not to have succumbed to a watery death earlier (although technically, it’s waterproof – I still have no idea how the water got in). We resorted to taking bearings, working out the magnetic deviation and compass variations.
note: after a day warming its self on the engine the screen occasionally flickered into life once reconnected, rather hindered by the rusty capacitors, but still reliably giving the Standard Horizon GX2100 DSC radio a position, meaning we could again navigate from the chart table.. and display AIS targets on the radio (essentially some rather useful advance warning about the big ships about to run you down in fog).

Phil on the Helm near Plymouth

The breeze weakened after a short while so we furled the genoa and started the, now reliable*, donkey in order to avoid our continued game of marine-chicken with some pair trawlers who appeared to be chasing shoals of fish (or us) in unpredictable circles. Finally, when somewhere between Looe and Polperro, we could discern our destination ahead: the huge Red and White victorian daymark ushering seafarers into the safety of Fowey’s deep harbour and shelter.

*The engineer from SMS had visited around 9am and soon found a failing olive, replacing the copper pipe with rubber hose and changing the pre filter. It was a worthwhile exercise, considering the outcome, however we paid for the time taken to find, or make, parts which one could reasonably expect in stock at that rate (£240: £80 call out, 2 additional hours labour, parts and VAT). Still, this is boating, and it comes with the territory: I don’t particularly begrudge it. Anyway, nothing gets remotely near Ollie’s bar bill for a week (luckily, he’s a man of independent means when it comes to slaking thirst, otherwise we’d have rarely afforded to start the engine and it’d have taken significantly longer to get here in the first place, let alone without mutiny).

Pilotage into Fowey

Gradually, we became aware of a presence – a large UK Border Agency cutter, shadowing us, disguised by the cliffs inshore. It had crept up silently, grey as old ocean himself. This mysterious vessel maintained intimidatingly perfect speed and distance for quite some time, a large calibre gun meanacingly prominent on its foredeck. Eventually, it disgorged a RIB and we excitedly thought of adventure in the form of a boarding party. However, the RIB sped along the coast towards the now nearby entrance of Fowey. The Cutter smartly went about, gliding silently back to whence it came, presumably the military fastness of Devonport.

Entering Fowey

And so, in the gloaming, we chugged into the Fowey’s fairway as if it were night: guided by the reassurance of transits and the White and Green of the sector light; now in the company of some racing yachts returning home, limp spinnakers sagging in the failing wind like the breasts of sad, famine ravaged, mothers.

A Pontoon on Fowey, we’re in Cornwall!

Inside, within the expanse of this deceptively compact and busy working harbour, was a sight we’d not expcected to see: the 130′ (40m) regal sweep and thrust of a J Class, with Black hull – not one I recognised but which we later discovered was the new Aluminium ‘Rainbow’: a replica of the original, scrapped in 1940 after successfully defending the Americas Cup (possibly the world’s oldest continuing sporting trophy) against Endeavour during her short life of only 6(!) years.

The Harbour Patrol (VHF ch12) directed us to the stern of a proper working ship: ‘Holland’. However, it seemed that even this large, robust, steel boat was involved in the J Class event: she’s the ‘Motor Yacht’ acting as Mother Ship for Rainbow. After all, if I had the funds to commission and race Rainbow, I’d also probably insist that the 30 sweaty crew (remember, this is 1930’s racing) left me to enjoy the abject luxury of her staterooms with my friends and family, rather than some coffee-grinding (sorry, hemp hawser handling) gorilla. That is, if there’s 30 left after my helming (after all, there are no guard rails either).

J Class replica ‘Rainbow’: 130′ of unashamed 1930s luxury racing for the Newspaper Magnates, Woolworth Proprietors and King George the V ths amongst us.

A quick trip across the river in the water taxi, a turn around town to find a shower, drink and meal (entirely not in that order) from the extremely hospitable fellows and ladies of the Fowey Gallants Sailing Club, some table football, watching the china ships pass, chewing the cud with their old salts and admiring their Fowey River class sailing boats.

Fowey Gallants Sailing Club: Extreme Hospitality (and 24 hour showers!)

Eventually, the three of us bundled out into the night to take the water taxi back to Krugerrand, in the now pouring rain, as the first hints of a gale began to churn up the water.

The night was fairly sleepless: a Southerly gale (the harbour’s Achilles’ Heel) blew the swell straight up the Fowey River. The rigging creaked (or maybe that was Phil’s nocturnal ‘heavy breathing’) and we wished we had some forgiving nylon twist instead of polyester braid, because it was difficult to loosen the mooring lines enough to stop the wrenching crashes trying to jerk the fairleads out, as the waves tossed us to and fro. By the time it was light we had little sleep but, in various combinations of slackness and taught, now had a magnificent array of: two stern springs, a bow spring, breast line, a stern line and two bow lines.

We were finally home in Cornwall and I’d at last made use of my collection of spare string (sorry Ollie: until it’s given a purpose – lanyard, spring, sheet, shore line, cunningham, halyard, rode or shoe lace – it’ll always just be string to me).

next… Fowey to Mylor

West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 8 (Dartmouth to Salcombe)

I planned this leg as ‘Dartmouth to The Yealm’, for the previous day, to meet our friends on another Varne – Osea Mist. However, because of the earlier weather, we were a day late and they were elsewhere. Therefore, we decided to stop in Salcombe for lunch (good shout Rebs).

Leaving Dartmouth – Castle at the harbour entrance

The tides were a little tight for getting in and out of the Yealm without drama and so, because of Phil’s night time arrival and our later start, by the time we found ourselves slopping the Skerries and trying to fly the cruising chute in a F3 in a swell off Start Point (it never really work, does it), we decided to put into Salcombe and remain there for the day, as it’s such a great spot. The River Yealm would have to wait for us another day (a good excuse to rearrange our meeting with Happy Jon on Osea Mist).

Leg 8 – Dartmouth to Salcombe, via Start Point (not that there’s really another way than this without crossing the channel). Thursday 5th July 2012

However, this meant we approached Salcombe Bar at springish low.. which means there ain’t an awful lot of water. We saw a couple of yachts approach, perform an immediate volte-face and clear off out to sea.

Krugerrand draws about 1.7 metres, but there wasn’t much swell and, besides, she’s used to the East Coast being a lot shallower (just not rocky).. so we gave it a bash.. and found no less than a metre and a half under the keel (OK, so we may have done a quick bit of tidal calcs rather than just relying on being gung-ho). Another boat followed us in, less close to the deeper channel than us, but spun around quickly and made out to their anchorage in the bay again.

approaching Salcombe just after low springs – very shoal: the channel’s hard against the cliff (30 yards isn’t too close).

I’d rather not have had the worry about the engine conking out again, but gave it another pre-emptory bleed and ploughed on.

Salcombe’s worth the nail biting entry. I’d not been there since staying in a YHA aged 15, during a mammouth Buckinghamshire to Cornwall cycle ride (we started on the ancient Ridgeway path and sort of got carried away). Salcombe’s even better better than I remembered – but then, everything is from seaward.

Entering Salcombe. Me: thinking about something or other

After the shallow bit, just stick to the channel (it’s still shallow and rocky either side) and.. admire the scenery.

Rebs and Phil (on helm) admiring the scenery. Fantastic on a summer’s day.

After a quick fill up at the fuel barge, enquiries of marine engineers (would be good to get the Donk sorted, ‘eh), we took the water taxi into town and made a fantastic (if rather purse-clearing) picnic from supplies at the Deli, which we ate whilst admiring the views at Cliff Gardens (?), before retiring to the pub for a leisurely read of the papers and St Austell Brewery’s finest refreshment (and some Cornish Rattler too).

Making our way back to the mooring in comfort

Pump up the (superb) Bombard AX2 and watch Phil potter about with the 2.5HP mariner at full chat (for whatever reason, Rebs decided against rowing all the way to Frogmore Creek and back) followed by a foray into town for take away Fush and Chups.

Phil driving anything: 2 position throttle (off or full). Be Afraid.

We weren’t going anywhere the next day until the Marine Engineer’s 9am visit to fault find the air leak, so it was a rather relaxing afternoon and we felt proud of ourselves for enjoying this day which, preceeded by the scenery of the sail here with minimal motoring, actually felt like a holiday.

To cap it all, we were rewarded in our sated state by a super sunset, which we watched with mugs of tea, before a gentle rainless night.

A great Salcombe sunset to boot.

Salcombe: Tranquility Base

By the way: the image which may still be the top of the page, if I haven’t changed it, is whilst moored (for the sum of £16 Harbour Dues IIRC) at Salcombe.

West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 5 (Yarmouth to Poole)

The camera now stays away when the weather’s poor (I’ve lost a couple of phones that way), so you’ll have to excuse the lack of pictures and substitute imagination instead, although a video camera on the foredeck would have provided good entertainment.

Bumpy Leg 5- Yarmouth to Poole. Friday 29th June 2012

With hindsight, wind blowing swell into the bays all night – and the SW F7 – should have hinted that we’d get a little wet, although it was rather frustrating that the hull-deck capping joint decided to leak again too, ensuring that, even if gallons of water hadn’t come down the companionway, it would have been wet inside anyway. On top of that, the gooseneck on the Z Spars boom broke, meaning it was rather difficult to point, just when we’d rather do so, and the engine kept conking out, due to it preferring to breathe air rather than diesel. Still, we got some unexpected surfing in, and it all makes for a more interesting life, eh.

The land based forecast that morning. I don’t recall seeing any sun that day however…

I’m sure Ollie would have been fine, but Weymouth would honestly have been too far for me in those conditions. Therefore Poole, via the North Channel exit from the Solent (very fast on a good ebb, although a little bumpy, too shoal in that swell, and a bit too much of a lee shore by the time we were committed), and Christchurch Ledge (really not cricket in much of a swell, but frankly the entire bloody bay was full of breaking waves, so it hardly seemed to matter) was the plan.

On a brighter note, the 1/2 tablet of Dramamine worked its magic and I felt only very marginally unwell (a whole tab would have dulled my already atrophied brain), although I wasn’t going to risk going below to bleed the ruddy engine.

Besides, when it comes to Infernal Confusion Engines (as well as beer), Ollie is a professional and seemed perfectly happy to leave me on the helm (where I function best in heavy weather – and I don’t usually do a bad job). He spent more of the trip below than I’d have dared, bleeding the engine, tinkering with cups of tea, mugs of coffee, pints of beer, pots of noodles and bars of chocolate (for all of which, Ollie, I am eternally grateful)…. or simply trying for hours to get his sodden roll-ups alight in the relative dry.  He would occasionally stoically poke his head out, still dressed in the equivalent of (sopping wet) Sunday best crossed with Engine Room or Stevedore attire [note to self – when a millionaire, present Ollie with some actually waterproof clothes, to replace those which were once waterproof and now just pretend], hop up on deck in order to get a lungful of fresh air / survey the view of whichever breaking wave had just tried to knock us down / we’d fallen off the back of / or check I wasn’t running us onto the shore early, in a pique of cowardice.

Ordinarily, he’d get sloshed by another bucket of South Coast vintage 2012, glare bedraggledly at the sea and retreat below to light another rollie. Frankly, if I didn’t get ill at the first whiff of Derv in a heavy swell, I’d have joined him for a beer and a pipe. The Lucky Bastard.

A note for those interested in the finer points of Mal de Mer prevention: the active ingredient in Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate) appears to have been banned in the UK many years ago, although it seems to be available in every sweet shop, newsagent and petrol (sorry, gas) station in the US. I had to resort to importing a couple of tubes (and hoping it wasn’t made by Hookey Pharma Inc.), after discovering its wonders during a tropical storm in the Carribean – and the subsequent Atlantic crossing in the same Nic 45 (annoyingly, I ran out after a couple of days, so resorted to the usual stomach emptying weight loss programme).

hey, it’s a colourful picture. Don’t complain, I could have written some more dross instead.

Anyway, 31–38 mph is a F7, so I guess that put us squarely in one and the Met Office inshore waters forecast concurred. Apologies to those who work in knots (it’s 27–33 kts), but the earlier screen shot was of a land based forecast, so you can safely assume there was no less than that in Poole Bay. We wouldn’t know, because the brand new wind-ometer (sorry, anemometer for the pedants amongst us) from a company which sounds like it makes sweets, had stopped working some time ago: something to do with it being too expensive to deign to work its self on a small craft. Luckily the ancient Stowe deep-ometer as well as the TackTick one worked OK. It was certainly useful to know the sea was 14 degrees Centigrade, thank you TickTack.

Despite the windometer deciding it couldn’t see anything though the misty gloom either, we gathered that the wind had backed ever so slightly further south: allowing us, with our broken boom (which even Ollie wasn’t going to hang around on that foredeck to fix) to claw off across Poole Bay from Christchurch Ledge – and even point roughly where the fairway for Poole Harbour was supposed to be.

Eventually, in the far more pleasant conditions slightly in the lee of Old Harry’s Purbeck Hills, we spotted the Bar Buoy and waited at the shallow entrance, as a Condor Fast Cat bound for France was escorted by its Pilot boat into what I guess wasn’t the most pleasant channel crossing, even in a large ship.

Entering the sheltered, but still distinctly wind-whipped Poole harbour (the 2nd largest natural harbour in the world), we pootled past the chain ferry and ogled the silly buggers will full sail heading out for a race. Gratifyingly, most reduced sail and stayed in the shelter of the harbour.

Poole Harbour: like the East Coast (mainly rather shallow in places).

A bit more pottering about, whilst trying to find somewhere to stay, until Tom Cunliffe’s fine ‘Shell Channel Pilot’ pointed out that Poole Yacht Club had a policy of letting waifs and strays use its member’s berths whilst they were away on their adventures.

Poole Yacht Club is a magnificent sailing organisation, seemingly strongly supported and with many yachting and dinghy classes, including its unique R19 One Design. It’s helped by the fact that the Poole Harbour Commissioners, eager to secure for its self the strategically positioned land on which club was then sited and owned, offered to buy it and provide PYC with a massive and ideally suitable chunk of real estate in return, upon which the club could build a splendid new Club House and operate with minimal overheads from then on, with a massive car park and ownership of the sea bed to boot (indeed, I believe it’s only a few hundred quid a year for members – an unheard of bargain on the South Coast).

The only downside is that it’s all rather squeezed in, so the rather peculiar sight of yachts motoring everywhere backwards (something most boats do not do easily or by design) is commonplace. Indeed, I didn’t manage the turn into our berth, so we slotted into another hole, comforted by the fact that our neighbours suspected its owners would have no intention of leaving wherever they’d managed to hole up in this weather, so we wouldn’t need to attempt an un-seamanlike exit and slot into a nearby available berth.

Poole Lifeboat Station and the Sunseeker yard (1500 employees, 95% of boats exported). Taken the next day, but you need a pic amongst this sea of words, ‘eh?

We had the rest of that afternoon to enjoy, wring the boat out, secure other bits we’d lost and to make running repairs: i.e. for Ollie to ram (probably not the engineering term he would use, but heigh-ho) a bolt into hole where the gooseneck broke.

Saturday 30th June

The next day, Saturday 30th June, was the Round The Island Race; the forecast was for less wind, but still strong enough to make it an interesting one, certainly for the smaller boats. Rebecca, an old school friend and our new crew member, was also due to join us from Cambridge.

We spent some of the morning doing boaty stuff, whilst listening to the Round The Island dramas playing out on the VHF (capsized boat, injuries, winches, engine fires) and then ambled into the superb Poole Museum and spent a fascinated couple of hours looking at iron age log boats, reading about history of the harbour and inspecting various other nick-nacks. After an ogle of the Rona / London Sailing Project’s Ocean 75 ‘Donald Searle’, which I’d joined on a delivery from the Hamble to St Katharine’s Dock with the DSP when younger (or was it Rona II?) and admiring other floating objects, we could avoid our duties no longer, so obtained some diesel filters and other interesting marine articles.

Poole Museum (photo: Dorset Museums Association)

This was followed by Ollie instructing me in the fine art of Pre-Filter changing, in order to inspect and remove the gunk, which had been sucked into it the previous Saturday, when we’d discovered how badly the tank level indicator misread (and ran it dry – or more accurately, sucked the water, fuel bug, bits of string, fish and other detritus from the bottom of the fuel tank). We hoped this would help alleviate the rather annoying engine-stopping-just-when-you-least-need-it situation (it didn’t).

Rebs arrived on the late afternoon train, so we pottered into town for a combined dinner/luncheon, followed by a drink and passage planning session in the deserted PYC bar (everyone must be in Cowes for the RTI) before heading off to bed.

West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 4 (Portsmouth to Yarmouth)

Being a latish start (Kevin decided against joining us, due to a hangover and work), this was due to be one of the shortest legs of the trip, owing to the likelyhood of strong winds by the time we’d be either a) passing through the Needles or b) taking the northern route past Hurst castle. Just as truthfully, possibly because Yarmouth is a nice spot and we fancied taking it easy for a day, after all we’d covered a couple of hundred miles in only 3 days and didn’t need, or want, to get to Poole immediately (with hindsight, it would have been more comfortable).

Leg4 – Portsmouth to Poole. No, sod it, Yarmouth. Thursday 28th June 2012

Call QHM on VHF channel 11, to cross the channel from N to S inside Pompey harbour, pop up to the fuel berth at Gosport Marina, rush out through the narrow entrance then take the transit (align ball-topped war memorial with edge of tan block of flats) for the safe corner-cutting channel between Hamilton and Spit Sand Bank. The Portsmouth routine completed by the close passing of the Ryde ferry and the Bothercraft buzzing past.

Ollie admires Eleanora, a replica of the 1910 schooner Westward, in the twinkling waters of the Solent

For now, the gentle F3/4 Easterly breeze pushed us Westwards, whilst the coastguard helicopter (India Juliet?) and a smaller Coastguard cutter performed some sort of coordinated exercise with a RIB and one of the larger UK Border Agency Cutters (later in the journey, one of these cutters crept up silently from nowhere and appeared a mile off inshore, apparently shadowing us, whilst we coasted along to Fowey).

Coastguard and UKBA exercise

At Cowes the wind dropped a little and we noticed, only a mile away, that yachts in the Western Solent had suddenly dropped their downwind sails and started making upwind on the same course. An curiously exotic smelling warm breeze filled the air and it was obvious a new weather pattern had taken over, presaging dramatically different conditions to the existing benign weather (either that or Ollie was working on one of his weather changing culinary marvels again).

What’s brown and steamy and comes out of Cowes? Not the IOW Ferry any more – it’s been Red and White for years.

As we passed the ever pretty Newtown Creek (I wonder how the Van de Stadt Invicta 26 ‘Newtown Maid’, which I used to sail on, now fares?), I spotted a beautiful red hulled boat emerging from its entrance, Not being able to resist the lure of another Varne, we circled Aldebaran and hailed her crew, discovering we were both bound for the same place and arranging to meet.

After the wind switch, it was now either a gentle tack up the Solent, or make for Yarmouth with the donkey on, in order to make the Swindlery for charts and to replace other broken bits (the main sheet blocks etc etc) before it closed. Besides, there’d be more time for the boozer. Oh, and I suppose we’d need food the next day too.. as our ‘fridge’ (the sink) doesn’t exactly keep food fresh.

We slipped inside the safety of Yarmouth harbour just as the wind began to pick up (it howled a bit in the night), congratulating ourselves on our superb planning as the smell of the beer got closer.

Krugerrand and Aldebaran. A splash of colour amongst boring white hulls.

After goggle eyeing in the Deli and an extremely congenial meeting with Danny ‘in Newton Creek, I ran aground for the first time ever’ (not enough time on the East Coast if you ask me) and his crewmate on Aldebaran, we all retired for the afternoon (and evening, in our case) to the Bugle Coaching Inn’s, very snug, snug (why, on earth, would one wish to sit elsewhere in there?), sampling ale after wonderful ale.

Ollie, happily ensconced in his second favourite place (“a pub’s only for when you’ve run the bar dry at home”)

The comfort of the marina facilities in Yarmouth are superb, as long as you remember your shower token, otherwise an ignominious be-towelled trip back outside is the order of the day.