Monday, 30 June 2014

And now some messages for our friends abroad

WSH INR 2.2. 

Chris. Definitely Belfast!

Portaferry, Strangford Lough

As we had two crew changes to make today, and tiredness was catching up, I thought we would spend the day mooching around Strangford Lough. Partly, we could not leave without going into the washing machine again. Which was not a particularly compelling idea. 

We said goodbye to Graeme in the early morning and were thankful for his support and expertise as always, and then welcomed at tea time Charles who had flown into Belfast earlier in the day. 

Andy and I went further into Strangford Lough to the end where there is a nice restaurant. To reach the restaurant on Sketrick Island, we needed to use the tender. All very easy, the tender was winched down from its davits and set to work. Andy had earlier snared a buoy, and we needed to attach a second safety line through the hoop so we could leave the boat. We had difficulty doing that sounded the tender. Photo attached. Then off we sped, using the little outboard motor in the direction of Daft Eddys, a recommended local watering hole. We had difficulty getting in at first and got trapped by the kelp which fouled the outboard and kept us from rowing off. After I cleared it away, we continued our way and landed at Daft Eddys, as recommended  and directed by some year 7children whose guidance we sought. 

When we arrived, I thought we might have strayed onto the film set of the Whiskey Galore film, but very friendly. Andy and I had a very tasty meal overlooking a Mediterranean Sea scape, an exceptional view. 

Charles joined us today, which we both felt was a blessing as three people on board is so much easier than two. 

An excellent meal at the Portaferry hotel. I am trying to complete this blog but I keep falling asleep, and am suddenly aware of how tired I am with all the unrelenting cumulative activity taking its toll. Having a break in Strangford Lough was a very good idea, although a dodgy pork pie might have had its revenge. Tired and washed out is not a good feeling, however convivial the company. 

Still, the show must go on, and tomorrow we will exit the Lough at 0900, just after the ebb, and hope any standing waves will not be too  bad. Then off across the Irish Sea to Peel, Isle of Man where as long as we reach the lock by Peel HW plus 2.5, then all should be well. 

The Strangford Narrows

When I set out so carefully this morning to establish the correct time to safely leave Carlingford and enter Strangford, I was certain that the times were correct. The exit from Carlingford worked precisely right, and we got our tidal gate at Strangford exactly on cue.

However, although we were careful to time our entrance so that we missed any huge turbulence and standing waves on this, a springs day, in fact we instead were treated to the most extraordinary conditions.

We had deliberately chosen to time our arrival at Strangford for an hour before slack water, and expected a powerful spring tide to simply take the edge of our progress.

What we got was four miles of churning water with massive tide against us, and whirlpools and eddies.  It was one of the most challenging passage I have ever made. But great fun.

The tide was consistently running at an astonishing 8 knots against us at its worst. Our engines were producing around 10 knots through the water at one point, and yet the 8 or 9 knot tide reduced our progress to a mere 1 knot.  Over the following four miles, there were many gigantic whirlpools around fifty feet across, there were waterspouts, there was breaking water, and in the eddies the surface of the sea actually bent downwards. Astonishing. Little eddies ran all over over the sea, the boat is not small by any means, yet Alexandria writhed and skewed on her bearing as the whirlpools  did their work.

It was a very difficult passage and yet, as we neared the marina,the tide slackened completely

A day to remember, especially as I am pleased to note that Andy joined us today.

Tomorrow, we will likely stay in Strangford loch, then meet Charles in the late afternoon. I might plan a passage  to Isle of Man if everything aligns the following day.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Safely arrived at Strangford

Blimey! Safely here. Details  later. 

Eating Genoa cake under the Genoa sail

Graeme reluctantly being photographed. Earlier, we had both been sitting on the dolphin seats, one on each of the bows while the helm was on autopilot, making any adjustments by the WIFI link so that we could dodge the lobster pots, strewn around by fishermen to catch the unwary. 

The genoa cake was good, but not as good as Karen's cooking. 

Carlingford Lough to Strangford Lough

This morning we bade farewell to Mark who joined at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall and Alastair who joined at Padstow. Both great company and enormous expertise. Graeme and I went shopping for provisions in Carlingford, and nosed around, and I returned to Alexandria and attempted to find the reason for the freshwater pump coming on every 30 seconds while in port, I think because the accumulator is losing pressure...perhaps a small leak in the considerable plumbing on board. Showers, cockpit showers, taps, calorifiers all need to be systematically discounted, but not when the sea is rough. Ho hum!

We left Carlingford, a pretty village which seemed really, really quiet, at a time calculated to avoid the 5 knot tide (against us) which races around Greenore point and which yesterday had the sea 'churning' like a cauldron in places as we made our final approach. No going back! Today we hit the slack time exactly, so it was very calm, notwithstanding that we are on springs today, ie the proximity of the lunar cycle makes the largest movements of tide and so currents. The trick is to time our arrival at Strangford Lough to coincide with its slack period too, so that the famous standing wall of waves, especially today on springs, has dissipated. Low water is 1930 today, and we aim to approach 45 minutes beforehand when the show has nearly finished. I prefer not to be part of it! 

Andy will join us at Portaferry marina within Strangford Lough ETA 1900 which I am looking forward to, tempered by Graeme's departure from the same place tomorrow morning. 

We have, of course, crossed back into Northern Ireland so our Irish tricolour courtesy flag has been removed and the  burgee is back in its normal place. 

Charles will join us tomorrow evening, and if weather and tide coincide we will sail to Isle of Man the following day. 

All go! Meanwhile the mountains of Mourne glide past, and Isle of Man can be seen about 40 miles away. Perhaps we shall see Scotland later. 

Today is the end of my second week, characterised by good progress, good sailing and great company. I am missing my family, but thank goodness I can chat every day. However, I don't miss the preparation which has served us very  well, but which became a chore as we approached the beginning of our adventure.

The weather is much cooler than it should be, but today I am in shorts for only the second time...and fleece. Just in time for the unexplained bruise on my knee to have gone.

There is a noticable lack of activity around us. No ships, no maydays or pan pans as every other day, no wild life. Just lots and lots of sea! And a good meal with good company expected this evening. 

Photo is Alexandria at Carlingford. Note the small entrance. 

The end of a fantastic week

I am sitting in a cafe in Belfast, having left Alexandria in Carlingford Lough this morning on a beautiful sunny June day. It's been a great week. The weather has been kind to us - though the wind direction could have been better at times! Entertaining congenial company and some cracking sailing. 

My week was further enhanced by unexpectedly meeting not one but two friends: Si├ón in Milford Haven and Derek in Dun Laoghaire, both shipmates from when I did the Clipper race back in 2006. 

Highlights of the week: the dolphins, of course, who sported in our bow-wave as we motored across the Bristol Channel. But also the places we visited. Padstow is charming, despite its challenging shallows at the entrance. Milford Haven is an idyllic location with added massive oil refineries. 

Wexford had a memorably tricky entrance with very little water in the narrow winding channel even at high water (how do those huge mussel dredgers manage?); this was a highlight also because of the calm and efficient teamwork that Martin created. Wexford itself was a bit dispiriting, with so many shops closed and so many cracked windows; but dinner at Greenacres, with its walls lined from ceiling to floor with wine bottles, soon cheered us up. 

The sail up to Dun Laoghaire was perhaps the best sailing of the week, with a good easterly breeze on the beam and (some of the time) a fair ride under us. Dublin, of course: though I only saw the barber's shop on Grafton Street, an Italian restaurant and Doyle's pub where we finally sank a long-wished-for pint of Guinness. And finally, last night, the approach into Carlingford Lough, one of the most beautiful places, with the sun shining on the green mountains.

What a great week. Many thanks to Martin for inviting me! Fair winds and Godspeed for Alexandria and her skipper and crew on the rest of this adventure.


Carlingford Lough

We left Dun Laohaire, Ireland this morning and arrived at Carlingford Lough at 1840 this evening. The passage was marred by either insufficient wind or wind from the wrong direction although we did sail quite well for a few hours. There was an omnipresent short, sharp, steep and sometimes very uncomfortable wave pattern which meant we made poor progress and our journey time was slower. A combination of lumpy seas, a wind which was too  close for easy  sailing, small islands inour way and fluky winds, all made for a scrappy day sailing, and we motored the last hour to the mounth of the Lough.

The sailing pilot books speak of huge boiling seas as the ebb meets the outer sea so entering is impractical. However, we felt that the wind  was not very strong, and the tide though still ebbing, was not at full power, so we came in from the sea an hour before low water. it was quite rough and we were very careful, but nonetheless we could see one other yacht's attempts which were not succesful. The effort of the day was rewarded by our entry into Carlingford, and now I understated why so many people want to visit this stupendous beautiful scenery. High hills passing down to the sea, steep wooded valleys, all mean this small area of outstanding natural beauty would be visited by the hordes, though not today.

We are berthed at the small Carlingford marina and had supper at the Carlingford sailing club, both of   which are very,  welcoming.

Tomorrow we say good bye to Mark and Alastair which will be a sadness ss I have enjoyed their company very much . Graeme and I will continue on to Strangford Lough where I can pick up Andy tomorrow evening.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Dun Laoghaire, Ireland to Carlingford Lough

Good morning! 

Yesterday was R &R in Dublin. Mark kept meeting old sailing cronies from his clipper challenge, and we went aboard the 2041 British Steel challenge yacht which was very interesting, as was her crew. A very pleasant day in Dublin, quite valued after the recent continuos activity.  

We are very pleased to welcome Graeme to our crew where he joined at Dun Laoghair , so we are four POB today before Alastair and Mark leave tomorrow from Carlingford marina by complicated land route to their airport. Note the revised itinerary instead of Isle of Nam which we shall visit shortly, to accommodate crew changes and to reflect our good progress. 

Carlingford Lough is a very beautiful loch on the border of a Ireland and Northern Ireland whose borders go down the middle. Since we fly an Irish tricolour courtesy flag when in Irish waters, it raises the prospect of switching our Irish tricolour flying on the senior starboard signal halyard and RCIYC burgee on the port one as convention dictates, to no tricolour and RCIYC burgee back on its usual starboard halyard when we return to British waters...every time we tack! 

We have left at 0730 as planned and are currently motoring for 20 minutes in a lumpy sea before we can sail. 

Breakfast in a moment. 

ETA Carlingford 1700.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Dun Loaghaire, Ireland

We have reached Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) in Ireland, very close to Dublin. We had a blissful sail from Wexford today, about 65 nm and sailed most  of the way, sometimes at around 8 knots with a maximum of 15 knot winds.. gennaker and mainOnly and very satisfying..

Less satisfying was the need to take evasive action when a foreign cargo ship travelling at a constant 12 knots and an unchanging  bearing got close enough to trigger our collision avoidance alarm. When they failed to respond to several direct DSC calls, then 2 VHF 16 calls and  failed to change any course or speed from a collision course, we took evasive action and they swept past  at a relatively close distance. One wonders what they were doing not to notice any of our visual, radar, AIS transmit, DSC or VHF16  signatures. Our transmissions were picked up by the coastguard and a rescue helicopter flew over a few minutes later. I have removed them from my Christmas card list.

Dun Laoghaire is an enormous 830 berth marina, all state of the art. There are several super yachts here which are vast and very showy. We plan to visit Dublin tomorrow and this is a very convenient base.

That said, as I write this, it is raining hard against the windows and the wind is howling must be Ireland!

Graeme joins us tomorrow , and we are looking forward to his company.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A warm welcome in Wexford

A note on Wexford. The harbour is clearly very shallow indeed with ever changing sandbanks which create a 'fear factor' and deter all but the brave...or foolish. However, once you have completely disregarded your chat plotter, however recent, downloaded the chartlet from the harbourmaster and/or Wexford Harbour boat and tennis club, you just need to take your courage in your hands and follow the marked buoys attentively, watching the PHMs and your depth like a hawk.

Yesterday and today we arrived/left at  local HW of 1.8m, -5 neaps, and the range was HW 1.8/LW0.6m. We had a least depth of 0.7m and the buoys were difficult to see at times, but well marked from the chartlet. We found that switching the depth alarm off to avoid its hysterical distraction and having one person reading out the data from it, the second person helming a particular course using XTE to identify COG shifts caused by the strong tides, and the third person searching with compass binoculars for and identifying the next buoys worked very well. My huge thanks to Alastair and Mark for brilliant teamwork.

Once in the harbour we tied up against the town quay very well fendered but of course with a very small tidal range. We were called on by the local harbourmaster to ensure all was well and ask if we needed help or info, and I have just taken a follow up call from the excellent Phil Murphy, marine officer who laid the crucial buoys himself to confirm that we had a good night. As such, you could not ask for a more welcoming and proactive approach. Contact Phil Murphy 053 912 2300. Green acres restaurant was rather good too. 

So, if you have a shoal keel boat, be one of the few and explore Wexford harbour. But ignore the pilot and printed charts which will be out of date. The 'rocks' on a sand bank very close to our path were in fact about fifty seals all watching the excitement. Sadly no pictures as we were otherwise preoccupied.

The photo of the chart plotter shows the divergence of our track versus the stale Navionics chart.
The chartlet is also attached separately.

Today we continue our journey towards Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, ETA 1800. We have something off an embarras de richesses as our progress has been too fast, and we have new friends joining us. So there will be a small change to our schedule to allow for airports etc. We shall be in Dun Laoghaire tonight with wind and tide behind us until midday. The low lying Irish countryside of sandy beaches and gentle hills and low mountains in the background is currently sailing by at 8 knots. All rather pleasant. 

Mark, Alastair and I intend to have a day off in Dublin tomorrow for R&R, then our friend Graeme will arrive tomorrow evening, and we will move to Carrickfergus on 28th without detouring to the Isle of Man as planned. Alastair and Mark can then leave directly from Belfast and Graeme and I will explore the coast around Belfast of which there is much of interest. Andy will join us within a short radius of Belfast on the evening of 29th and Charles the same on the evening of 30th. Peel, Isle of Man then beckons. The rest is a function of wind and weather. It's sailing!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The snuffer technical team at work

Martin and Alastair rolled up their sleeves today to tackle a tear in the spinnaker snuffer without which unleashing the Beast would have been impossible. Thereafter it took them a mere hour to prepare the spinnaker for launching but it went up like a dream and with only a bit of encouragement untwisted itself. We had a glorious three quarters of an hour sailing under the kite before the wind died and we had to resort once again to the iron topsail. The photo shows the snufferettes at work.



We have arrived in Wexford after an extraordinarily tricky piloting into Wexford Harbour following a long passage across the normally rough Irish Sea.Wexford has depths of 0.7m under the keel at high tide which meant a long and very focused 4 mile meandering approach according to a chart delivered by Internet a few minutes before we got there... From the tennis club! We were raced to the safe water buoy by a French yacht who was long on style and perhaps short on preparation, and who suddenly slowed to follow us in, and then stopped completely, hopefully before they went aground. We are the only yacht here and something of a curiosity, no wonder, the tidal range at Wexford is a mere 1.0m ranging from horrible to suicidal and so we had a great sense of achievement when we finally got here. No passports or formalities required in fact, no body has noticed yet our existence, notwithstanding our prominent position in the middle of the town quay. A bizarre sight was the local train very slowly driving along next to us what looked like the road, and we wondered if he too was lost and worrying about depth.

A great day, demonstrating the advantages of having skilled people who act as a tight team aboard. I would not have wanted to do this entry with too many others.

Photo of Alexandria in Wexfird harbour attached. Note the 10 different fenders, ropes, buoys, flat fenders and tyres required to keep her good looks intact.

Spinnaker sailing in the Irish Sea.

We shall be in Irish territory at 1230 and have our Irish tricolour courtesy flag ready to fly. Meanwhile a little more spinnaker flying, and Alastair and I have repaired the snuffer with some sailing materials he brought with him. A good job done.  

We are looking forward to Wexfordwhich promise miles if golden beaches and is where 'Saving Private Ryan' was filmed.  There is a complicated maths calculation involving the balance between the course we have set to cross a TSS ( the equivalent of a motorway) at a certain point, the gentle wind going one way and the harsh tide tearing up and down the Irish Coast. We think we have the answer, but time will tell as there are a lot of variables to consider. 

We saw some puffins today, comical birds that seem ill suited to flight, but are actually quite good at it. While on the look out for big ships, we are hoping to see a whale, which would be very exciting. Wexford in six and a half hours. 


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

An easy day in The Milford Estuary, Wales

We had a fun day sailing today, enjoying the knowledge that an easy day pottering around in the Milford Estuary  (photo attached) was our reward  for making such good progress over the last week. I am certain that the current high pressure system will lose its identity soon and we shall be due a period of rainy and unsettled weather, but not yet. That said, the high pressure has meant quite high winds from a Northerly direction, and this has resulted in cooler higher winds with quite uncomfortable seas at times, so life has not been without its challenges. 

We had breakfast at 9.30 this morning which was a treat after the week's challenging regime of early departures in order to capture the tide, and the food was a treat too. A light Welsh breakfast, enjoyed knowing very well that we shall burn up the calories soon afterwards. We did indeed, with a great sail up and down the Estuary in 20 knots of wind, genoa and main only, but still 8 knots' speed at times on a 40 degree angle...not at all bad. 

As before, there were virtually no other yachts around this excellent cruising ground, apart from Challenge  Wales, the ex BT Challenge 72 foot yacht which came in as we were leaving. A friendly wave was exchanged by both vessels.

Lunch was super relaxed, cobbled together with leftovers and eaten at anchor off the river Cleddau, pronounced Clevo, then back for jobs. Fuel, provisions (Mark and Alastair), the mysteries of the laundry (me), and a general boaty miscellany. 

While waiting for our reasonably priced taxi, to take us to our reasonably priced dinner,  Mark bumped into a lady with whom he had sailed with from Australia to The Phillipines in the Clipper challenge several years ago. She was just off Challenge Wales, which had just berthed in Nayland, and she and four other crew were also going to dinner at the same place as we were. What an extraordinary coincidence! A very happy conversation occurred between us all. 

Tomorrow will be our next big push, leaving Milford Haven at 0600 and  sailing across the Irish sea to Ireland during when we hope we shall have more cooperative beam (NE) or even a broad (E) wind. We were originally aiming for Arklow but have just changed our passage plan to Wexford, Ireland. The angle of wind (though not much is forecast) is better, the distance is shorter and the recommendation from Challenge Wales was stronger. The approach to Wexford is described as 'daunting' in the pilot books but we think our rather hurried preparations are sufficient to take us safely over the shallow and ever changing sandbanks where waves routinely break. We should be there around 1800 tomorrow, and expect to spend the night at anchor.

Taking a slight breather in Wales

Good morning from Milford Haven, Wales where we reached yesterday after an exceptional but quite tiring day. We had been up the previous night making two adjustments at 0100 and 0400 to the lines which kept us secured to the harbour wall at Padstow, as the boat slowly  rose and fell a few metres over the tidal cycle. Then up at 0500, departing the Pool on a falling tide from Padstow and escaping over Doom Bar with plenty of water under us, all by 0700! 

The passage over the Bristol Channel is one of the more significant parts of the trip as it is long, exposed, but promises wildlife.. As you saw from the photo, we were handsomely  rewarded by a visit from a pod of 7 dolphins and later another of 10 with a baby. The experience was unbelievable, and awe inspiring. These beautiful, powerful, streamlined creatures spending in total several hours around us, certainly half an hour or so a metre or so from us playing in our bow waves, and racing around us at such speed, simply enjoying themselves. They were clearly wanting to interact with us, turning their heads to see us better as we were on the deck looking down? We were treated to the whole show of rushing us head on then diving under us at the last moment and jumping out the water at the stern, the classic formation flying of three arching simultaneously, and indeed the whole Red Arrows experience. The wind built through the day, though was bang on the nose for much of yesterday with a moderate sea which was quite grumpy at times. The boat's movement, though, was quite comfortable despite everything going on..

However, as soon as we entered Milford Haven entrance we were further rewarded by a terrific sail as soon as we turned East into the Milford Haven estuary towards our marina stop. A fresh 20 knot gusting 25 propelled us at 7 knots with a full gennaker, no main, and at an angle of around only 40 degrees at times, even though the gennaker is not intended for less than 60. Who says modern well designed catamarans can't point?!

Checking in with the Milford Haven marina to reconfirm, they said they had maintenance work and we would need to move into their lock at 0030, ie bed at 1am, and leave at 6am for our passage to Ireland. Not surprisingly, we were not so keen on this revised schedule, and we carried on to Nayland where we berthed and were met at 1930  by an exceptionally friendly guy on the pontoon. Very pretty setting, and after a good meal close by, we retired to bed after a very long but very rewarding day.

We have decided that since our progress from Shotley, Harwich only a week ago has been so swift, we can afford to pause a day here in pretty Milford  Haven, rest, and avoid a long close hauled or, worse, nose on motor across the Irish Sea to Arklow. We think the wind will veer around from N to NE or East which will mean a good sail tomorrow. We also need fuel which does not open until later morning. There is no other yachting activity around us, which is very odd for such a gorgeous sailing area. So, light sailing today, boat maintenance, snuffer repair, and gentle pottering after the storming around of the last week. 

Finally, we are three on board currently. I have been blessed with great crew over the whole of the trip so far, and Mark and Alastair are no exception, both being experienced sailors, good company and with a keen eye for sail trim. How blessed am I?

Monday, 23 June 2014


A pod of 7 dolphins including a young one just spent 30 minutes surfing between the two bows. We were travelling at 7 knots so they covered 3.5 miles effortlessly. Spectacular! View from the bows of the yacht attached. 

Later a pod of 10, came rushing head on and then dived under the boat, jumping out of the sea, and just having fun. When we stopped you could hear their squeaks. 

Alastair saw a whale surface twice and heard its blow. 

And now some messages for our friends abroad...

WSH: INR 2.4 All well. Pease confirm receipt 

Graeme: looks like you will need some Euros. 

A blog visitor from Chile: thank you for the detailed distinction between dolphins and porpoises. Very informative. 

A blog visitor from US: they speak Welsh in Wales and English. In Ireland they speak English and some Gaelic. In Scotland they speak English. In Isle of Man they speak English..,On board Alexandria we sometimes speak gibberish. Guernsey is in the Channel Islands, (where they speak English and some old Norman French). Tower Bridge is in London, distinct from old London Bridge which is relocated to Arizona, I think. 

For the 3000 people who have visited the blog from all over the World: thank you for doing so. Questions are welcome, as are pleasant comments. 

Breakfast at anchor off Padstow

Doom Watch, doom Bar

We spent the night tied up against the ice factory harbour wall, interrupted by the need to adjust springs at 1am and 4am   Up at 5 to see Les off for Reigate rehearsal, bags pulled up the quayside wall by a spinnaker halyard. 

We are having breakfast anchored outside Padstow, and will leave for Milford Haven immediately, ETA 1830.And then bed...

Les' departure is balanced by Alastair's arrival yesterday evening which was a joy. Great evening meal with the four of us in padstow, last night. 



We have safely arrived in Padstow after a rather long day. As you already know, we left Mounts Bay and the dolphins this morning early at 0700, rounded Lands End at a particular time to seek calm water in its tidal gate, and then sailed on for Padstow. The Cornish coast has no effective refuge, especially for our size, so once committed one needs to be sure that one can keep on. However, the wind was exactly on the nose, and we could not sail so we motored the entire way, 72 nm, 10 hours in a 17-20 knot headwind and quite large Atlantic rollers which came barrelling in from across the Atlantic. Not a very pleasant passage, although the boat handled everything with great aplomb.

We reached Padstow at 1700, a little earlier than expected, and contemplated the aptly known Doom Bar. This is a ridge of sand which protects the mouth of the Camel estuary in which Padstow sits. The bar is very famous and has counted for around 600 recorded ship wrecks including one in 1995. We arrived at almost low water, but careful plotting meant we could proceed although Mark spotting the changes of depth in the clear water, just in case. I called this activity Doom Watch (picture to follow).

When we had crossed Doom bar, which is less than 1m chart datum, the depth increased for a while but then there is a very shallow and drying channel ending in the town. The new chart showed a channel which had changed from last year and we kept touching the bottom and admitted defeat. A harbour master launch came and showed us to the rapidly drying channel so that we could stay in the deeper Pool, collect Alastair, and eat ashore. 

We tied up in the docks using a variety of springs and warps, against the harbour wall. However, the length has to be right.. Too short, and the boat will be pulled down as the tied rises. Too long, and the boat will swing as it refloats and damage itself or another vessel.  I have elected to check the tension of the ropes at 0100 in the morning,  Alastair has elected to check them again at 0400. These are long but satisfying days. tomorrow, we expect to sail to Milford Havens where  I 
have a berth guaranteed. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Rounding Lands End

Good morning to all at this sunny morning. Sufficiently warm out at sea that I have actually taken off my jumper. Sailing in shirtsleeves and life jacket. 

We are 0.75nm off Runnel Stone, a huge rock off Lands End and the point at which we shape a course  back NE towards Padstow. We have turned the corner!

The pilot books talk of keeping 5nm distance from Runnel Stone, but in the calm conditions boldness prevailed. Notwithstanding, those same calm conditions, one could still see breaking waves not so far away. As the tidal race moves around and so can catch us up, we have a Escape Plan B just in case. And C. If it gets to the need for Escape Plan D, then it's really not a good day and best to go back to bed.

The chart is full of jagged coves and headlands with names like Dr Syntax Head, Dr Johnson Head etc, all of which look inhospitable. Arriving at Padstein this evening is a much better bet.

Dolphins in Mounts Bay

Wehave left Newlyn harbour and Sy Michael's Mount and a family of three dolphins/porpoises played around us while we nudged out to sea. Unbelievably beautiful and visible on the clear water. Very special. Off to round Zlands End tidal gate at 0900, then turning NE towards Padstow ETA 1830, quite a long day today because if the tidal calculations. Alastair joins us for supper this evening. Photo of dolphins/porpoises attached (anyone know the difference)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

St Michael's Mount

St Michaels Mount

We arrived at 1300 after a fantastic sail. Too little wind around the Lizard, then a good F5 for the last two hours. We needed to reef the gennaker, then move to a full genoa, but the boat flew along, When we reached Penzance bay, the lock had just closed so we tried to pick up a buoy just off the castle harbour wall. We are short crewed however, and just the two if us was not enough to be able to pick up the buoy and communicate and manoeuvre all in a howling wind. We abandoned that and anchored instead while we await Mark's arrival and collect him by tender from within the castle,s tiny harbour. We will then hopefully move to Newlin where we can sleep more easily. While we recover from the excitement of getting here, we are at anchor in a bay with only one other boat, and the backdrop is stunning (photo attached).

Lobster pot duty. Extremely dangerous if you get one wrapped round the propellor...and you never get to eat the lobster.

Rounding the Lizard point

Small overfalls but nothing troublesome. I saw from my AIS that there were some yachts ahead, so called one of them via their DSC system to ask about sea state, so we decided to come right in to only 1nm off the rocks. You can see the Lizard coastguard station where I enjoyed many childhood holidays. The fog horn makes your lungs resonate when it is operating in foggy conditions.. No fog today, superb visibility. Time for tea... And a careful watch for more lobster pots and over falls as the tide moves from current slack to the foul tide that collides with the water coming round the Lizard headland from other way. 

The Manacles and a Lizard point

Good morning! Left Falmouth at 0630 as planned enroute to Penzance via Lizard point. We are now 1.5 nm East of the Manacles rocks, which are so called as once they trapped nearby ships they never let them go, and the rocks around the Lizard were waiting to do their work. Looking at the wrecks which are recorded, and still there, their fame is understandable. We however are keeping a distance, and the neap tide (check out the careful planning!) is whisking us past. Lizard point is next.

Then we turn NW back up towards Penzance where we have a berth in their harbour or, hopefully, we might take the ground in the fine sand of st michaels mount by the castle. We should be there at around 1200 noon to receive our new crew member Mark, get some tea bags, very important and find where the sailmaker is so that I may stitch the 3 foot tear in the 60 foot spinnaker snuffer which ripped during the excitement of our spinnaker fest the other day. There, we await the right tide to round the tidal gate at Lands End tomorrow, all being well and welcome our good friend Alastair at Padstow.

Very little wind at present so we are motoring again albeit across a surprisingly restless sea. We had a slight excitement leaving Falmouth as what should have been 17m of water turned into 0.9m and set off he depth alarm. A heart stopping moment.  With hindsight it may have been debris on our sensor or perhaps the elusive humpback whale under us. Either way whatever'it' was, it went away. Reported it to Falmouth CG as per protocol who then declared a state if 'seelonce' while dealing with a casualty. 

Photo attached. Famous Conductor on lobster pot duty while approaching the Lizard in the background. 

Friday, 20 June 2014


Greetings from Falmouth! We had high hopes of an Easterly force 3-5 powering us into Falmouth. However it didn't materialise and we motorsailed the entire 52 NM passage. Quite large waves were chasing us for quite a lot of the way but the boat was very stable surfing at a maximum at one point of 10.5 knots. We arrived earlier  than we expected,and changed   from the perhaps rather charmless Pendennis super yacht marina to the much friendlier and extremely helpful Mylor yacht haven, no further up the river and a really good experience. Water and AC power extended for us by the guy who just sought us out in the restaurant to confirm all was well. Thank you, Andrew. 

Tomorrow we have an early start and leave Falmouth at 0600 to round the Lizard point, a notable tidal gateway, so we should be in Penzance by 1200. If we can take the ground in St Michael's Mount bay, then we can anchor there. That would be perfect. 

We have a new infusion of blood tomorrow with Mark joining us in Penzance, and so we shall be  three to round Lands End on Sunday before Les leaves. Although we shall miss him,and Ishall miss  the opportunity to introduce him as a famous conductor to any strangers whom I meet, we look forward to his second coming on the later leg. 

Picture of blue sky attached. The multitude  are confused by five consecutive warm sunny days,which apparently is vet y unusual. We consider ourselves blessed. 

Eddystone lighthouse

We are enroute from Salcombe to Falmouth and from their respective headlands Start Point to St Anthony Head is around 47 miles of open sea. There are quite large rolling waves chasing us at times so I am pleased we are not going the other way! We have just passed Eddystone lighthouse, probably the best known of British lighthouses.  We passed a mile to the South and could see it quite clearly. 5 hours to go...

So long to Salcombe

0600 this morning started with a brilliant blue sky, but is now clouding over. We had a quiet night moored on a floating pontoon in Salcombe estuary. Stunning location. A protected stretch of deep water once over the bar, and the village which offers everything you might reasonably need. As I sit drinking my tea in the cockpit, there are no other sounds apart from cows mooing on the hillside, a wood pigeon, fish sploshing around under the boat, a deer belling, and general aviary chit chat. Brilliant.

Today, we are off to Falmouth with a productive F3-4 Easterly wind promised, past the Eddystone lighthouse, and into the super yacht marina, a small boat amongst the grown ups. Pendennis were the only ones who would guarantee to take us. I anticipated arranging berthing for the trip would be a problem as, especially on the south coast, marinas generally don't accept reservations. However, as we are too wide simply to turn up and take pot luck, we are allowed a reserved space   a few days ahead. Thank you!!

As I speak, a launch has passed, so it must be rush hour in Salcombe. We need to  call the water taxi soon to get ashore so Les can have his cream tea breakfast, and I can have my croissant. ETA Falmouth 1800, after a leisurely start dep Salcombe 0930. Ish. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Beautiful, beautiful Salcombe. We are in Devon!! We arrived at 1730 after a long passage from Portland across the enormous expanse of Lyme Bay, but with virtually no wind, so motor sailed most of the way across a glassy sea. I had hoped to see the odd minky whale, humpback or dolphin. Maybe a seal. Perhaps a single fish, but sadly the only item of interest was a plastic bottle and a couple of belligerent gulls sitting 15 miles out from land.  Salcombe features well in the difficult  category because of the tricky very shallow bar at the entrance and by chance we low water! We are East coast sailors, however, so proudly came in with a full 1.6m beneath our keel...more than enough. The entrance is enchanting  with steeply wooded sides supporting mooing cows, and glorious houses. We are moored on a floating pontoon so needed the friendly water taxi to take us to an excellent supper. Photo of Salcombe attached. 

Tomorrow Les wants a cream tea breakfast, then we leave at 0930 for Falmouth. An Easterly wind is promised, which would be very helpful indeed. I am worrying about all this good weather and major progress we have had as, on the basis of mean reversion, we are surely  due a major change in fortunes quite soon! 

Portland Race

While leaving Portland harbour this morning, my terse post said I had much to do. On reflection, it was much ado! Very little wind and tides at neaps meant it was rekatively calm. I had left sufficient navigational room for error  and triple checked the maths and tide tables, much to Tony's amusement, that the Race was today at least a pussy cat. Even so, this infamous stretch of churning waster which moves around and is recognised as a danger to small ships let alone yachts, still clearly showed itself at a safe distance. You could definitely see the large breaking waves on the horizon, 3 miles away! Glad not to have been in it. Now on course for Salcombe ETA 1800. Just Les and me today, warm and sunny but a head on 5 knot wind, so after yesterday's spinnaker Fest, it is likely a day to motor. Time for cleaning. 

Farewell to Portland and the chaps!

One last unofficial blog post. I said farewell and Bon voyage to the Alexandria this morning as Martin and Les set out to conquer the Portland race, good luck chaps.
I've had the most amazing 3 days, here's to old and new friendships, may they last a lifetime, and remember to look around you and take some memories from each day, they stay with you forever.

Dep Lymington 0730

Departed Lymington 0730 enroute for and entering the Portland Race ETA 0830. More later. Much to do. Just Kes and me as, very sadly, Tony has left us at Portland 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Studland Bay to Portland

Arrived Portland 19:30 after a wonderful hour playing with the Spinnaker outside the entrance. As this is my last night aboard, and I'm a non-sailer Martin has asked me (Tony) to post some thoughts. 
I'd like to be the first person on here to say a massive thank you to Martin for introducing me to coastal sailing and being such a wonderful, generous and patient host.
I've gone from the turmoil of sea sickness on Monday to the joy of basking in shorts and watching the spinnaker leap into life.
Today we watched Royal Marines jump out of planes into the sea, then conducted our own raiding party on the Studland Stores, bribed the locals with chocolate eclairs to guard our possessions, spent half an hour mooring to a bouy! and eased into Portland Harbour with the sun dropping and glinting on the water (picture attached), a perfect end to an amazing 3 days. Again Martin thank you so much!

Playing outside Portland Harbour

As we made such good time we decided to have a play with the 60' x 50' spinnaker, also known as "The Beast" before going into Portland harbour.

Studland Bay

Arrived for lunch at anchor, really beautiful spot. Just left  and passed Old Harry rocks (photo) enroute to Portland ETA 1900. 

Studland Bay

Lunch in Studland Bay, arr 1020 and spent half a hour trying to anchor due to protected sea horses. Wish they had galloped off somewhere else. At present tied to a buoy and eating a sandwich. Heaven. Shore party being raised for pillaging and general Viking duties until we leave for Portland at1430. Friendly board paddlers just approached, not pirates just telling us of a forthcoming para wet drop into Studland Bay. Even more exciting than today's PanPan issued by a forces boat in Poole Harbour. Life is not dull. All well. 

Lymington to Portland

We have left Lymington yacht haven at 0700 today. Very friendly staff as always, specially in sorting out the berth change I requested as soon as I saw it. A fresh wind blowing away from the pontoon , expensive yachts within 20 feet proximity,   our size and  no  escape route all might have made an unhappy mix...especially at the wrong end of a two day overnight passage. Today is different. Not much wind but enough to motorsail with the large gennaker and we might well fly the enormous spinnaker later. Our course is through the Needles with the nearly spring tide about 3 knots, then off to Studland Bay and anchor for lunch 10.30 ish. After the tide has caught up, we plan to leave Studland bay around 1430,  and into Portland. ETA 1800. We will take on the Portland Race tomorrow, all being well!! 

Needles lighthouse shown. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Safe arrival in Lymington at 1520

We arrived in Lymington at 1520 a few minutes after our tidal calculations, having left Ramsgate at 1800 yesterday evening. 

A cold night, a fantastic dawn, all safe and sound. We were remotely involved in a Mayday from another vessel coordinated by Shoream Coastguard but all is well.  Lots of fast sailing 10 knots at its park but mostly around 8 to 9, through the night, and some motor sailing when the wind slowed. All well and a fantastic but very long day. Off to bed now, departing for Portland marina tomorrow 0700 to catch the tide, via Studland Bay and the Needles. 

Monday, 16 June 2014


Arrived at Ramsgate 1507. Very fast passage with the tide in our favour for most of the time. 10+knots at times but often insufficient wind to sail to reach our tidal gate in time. 
Rather lumpy which took it's toll! We will refuel here and leave 1800, past Dover 2030, tidal gateway at Dungeness at 2300, then on to Lymington ETA 1500 unless we get distracted. 
All well. Tony is enjoying his coffee. 

The circumnavigation begins!

We left Shotley today, and were through the lock at 0855 and had a lovely send off from the marina staff. Thank you. Winds are light from the North and it is a little swelly. Bryan and Tony and I are expecting the spring tide to take us to just off Ramsgate, ETA 1530, for a short stop to allow the tide to catch up! Then off through the night to Lymington. 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Sea trials today

Today, I and a friend of mine Andy sailed a gentle 10 NM passage from Shotley to Ipswich lock for lunch and then back. More accurately we motor sailed as there was very little wind, but the aim was to give Alexandria a work out and establish that all systems, sails, engines, hardware etc were working properly after recent servicing. I am pleased to report that they are! 

We had a great day, blessed with sunshine, gentle wind and good company on one of the first warm days of the year. The river Orwell is a pretty river and I felt very pleased to be sailing on it, notwithstanding the incoming 'phone calls. 

By way of a test, our AIS trail is below. 

We leave on 16th June, a date which is creeping up quite quickly now, and for which I feel suddenly a lot more prepared. 

I am looking forward to the challenge, and let's see what the forecast brings as we get closer.