Going West?

July 28, 2014 at 9:42 pm

“Going West?” said the skipper of the pilot cutter. “Yes”, we answered, and felt like adventurers.  “And you?” He shook his head.  We’d have a head wind, he reminded us, all across the bay.  We knew it, but we had a good ship, too. The west wind still blew.  When we were clear of the harbour we backed the jib and let the boat lie while we hoisted the dinghy on deck, and lashed it.  That done, we let draw, set the foresail and mizzen, and stood away for the Shambles Light.  Our voyage had begun.  We were bound west, to visit a new country beyond the Bill…”

Aubrey de Selincourt wrote this in 1948.

Nothing much changes then, the wind is still on the nose… It’s 65 miles to Brixham, so at 4 knots that’s a bit over 16 hours.  I’m going the outside passage, 6 miles off, as we are on Spring tides and the currents are stronger and the lobster pots on the inner passage will be invisible under water.

My tide is fair to leave at 1130 tomorrow (and yes that’s BST), 2 hours before high water Dover, so I’ll check the weather in the morning. But it’s looking like West or North West f3 or f4, sea state smooth or slight.

So that’s perfect then… Just on the nose.

Our first passage: Poole or Bust!

July 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm

So Moonlight had gone to Alderney, Offcutt was prevaricating about going anywhere, and I was already sick of going round and round Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay.  The wind was from the West and Alderney was too far ..but Poole is only 30 miles to the East and has a couple of headlands to navigate round and was a good chance to practice my (rusty) navigation and give my new GPS its first proper run out. A mile builder if you like.

So on Tuesday 22nd July at 1030 I set off for Poole in pretty light winds.  I took the outside passage round St Alban’s Ledge passing 5 miles off Lulworth Ranges the ledge and then 3 miles off St Alban’s Head before turning up to pass a mile or so off Peverill Point and Swanage and then Old Harry. It was pretty uneventful, although it was incredibly hot as I motor sailed downwind there was no respite from the sun and our forward movement cancelled out any following wind so the air was still over the boat.

I motor sailed pretty much all of the way there, not only to make time to catch the tide, but also in part to drown out the guns on Lulworth.  I was never sure whether to duck when they fired…  It was a little unnerving being alone at sea, and under fire.

I got to Poole about 7.30pm and then snuck in round the back of Brownsea Island, anchoring at the back of Green Island just before the sun went down.  First time anchoring Duet alone (ever!) it went well and I reversed the Danforth into the Poole mud easily, feeling pretty chuffed with my achievement (although 30 miles in 9.5 hours isn’t exactly record breaking…)

Beautiful sunset:

Anchorage behind Green Island, Poole Harbour

Anchorage behind Green Island, Poole Harbour

I had calculated that my return tide would need me to leave at 0530 the next morning, but to be honest that was never going to happen.  I woke tired, probably from long day in the sun and I had been woken at midnight to find the tide was turning and Duet was ‘sailing’ back and forth on the anchor rode.  I let out another 5m of rode but I didn’t settle again easily.

So at 0500 I turned the alarm off and went back to sleep before spending the day reading, and napping.  It was very hot again and we were anchored just outside the channel so rolled around in the wash from a tour boat every, like, 10 minutes.  I would have loved a swim but the water looked merky…

Another beautiful sunset again though, and I got the proper camera out:

Anchorage behind Green Island, Poole Harbour

Anchorage behind Green Island, Poole Harbour

The next morning I left at 0630 to catch the tide, lifting the anchor easily on still water. Motored off back down the channel and out of Pool Harbour into a rising North Easterly.  By the time I had got to the end of the Swash Channel it was getting choppy, and by the time I was another few miles on, off Swanage, the windometer was showing it was gusting mid 20s (f6) and I had a horrible following sea on the quarter which was pretty uncomfortable.  It was just starting to feel like it was too much, and we hadn’t even got near St Alban’s Ledge yet.

So I turned around and headed back to Poole:  I needed a shower, and some people, and I fancied a cold beer too so I headed up the harbour to Poole Quay Haven Marina and berthed in a pretty tight corner (go me!) after hitting a green post whilst talking on the radio with Marina control about where I was going to go (boo…) .  Honestly, I didn’t see it as I was carefully keeping distance from all the million pound Sunseekers!

I found Blizzard tied up there too (a boat I know from Portland), and yes there was cold beer and showers.

Amongst my neighbours was Equinox, a Cornish Crabber who had previously circumnavigated the UK for prostate cancer.  His blog is here: sailingchallenge.blogspot.com and also two chaps who had completed a Jester Challenge! Lizzie-G, an Albin Vega, who has done the full Atlantic Jester Challenge and Jalina, a Sadler 25, who circumnavigated the UK and Ireland twice with Roger Oliver and is the star of his great book (that I got signed one year at Southampton Boat Show!) but now has a new skipper and did the last Baltimore Challenge with him.

Later there was curry, more beer, and then wine and a pretty spectacular firework display watched from the cockpit of Jalina. Much sailing chat and good times.

We all left the following morning at 10am, after I had realised that I had not been adding an hour to the tide times for British Summer Time, and also the tidal streams I had been looking at were shown for High Water Plymouth, not High Water Dover as I had been calculating (I did tell you I was rusty….) which would explain the grottiness encountered at Swanage the day before (wind over tide?)

A plan had been hatched for me, Blizzard, Lizzie-G and Jalina to take the inner passage round to Worbarrow to anchor for the night and have a barbeque, though Blizzard had to go home to Portland.  The range shut at 1230 so would be closed by the time we got there!

All started well, with a cracking sail down Poole Harbour with a North Easterly wind (again) and once we got out to sea it was very different to the day before.

However, off Swanage the wind started to die off and we had some fairly sticky chop at Peverill Point so I decided to peel off and take the outer route over St Alban’s Ledge as I felt my outboard had struggled to keep me moving in the overfalls and I was nervous about what was then ahead.

I turned away to head to my offshore waypoints and motorsailed slowly, and again uneventfully round the outside.  I passed close to one of the DZR buoys with a stunning run of tide, clocking 8.8 knots over the ground at one point! But I added at least 10 miles to my passage, catching Jalina and Lizzie-G up at Worbarrow Bay at around 1500.

I joined their raft in 5m of water about 30 metres from the shore, setting my anchor in line with theirs and being pulled back to tie up with them.  Had a lovely swim and there was a sudden fierce thunder storm while Jalina was trying to barbeque the burgers that just appeared out of nowhere over the cliffs but was gone again in 10 minutes.

Rafted up in Worbarrow Bay

Rafted up with Jesters in Worbarrow Bay

After debate we stayed rafted for the night, and although a swell started to roll in from the south West, we held well and did not drag.

The next morning Lizzie G and Jalina left for Swanage/The Solent and I puttered back to Weymouth though I am pretty sure I will see them again somewhere…

Leaving Worbarrow Bay anchorage

Leaving Worbarrow Bay anchorage


Shakedown Week 2 – Alderney?

July 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

So at the start of Duet’s second shakedown week it was looking like a trip to Alderney in the company of Moonlight (a 30’ Jeanneau) and Offcutt (a 28’ Twister) was on the cards.  The wind was from the West and Alderney is actually the same distance as Brixham.

I’d been out a few times, and confidence was up, and nothing had broken… But I knew really I wasn’t ready for that, and would soon be left behind the other bigger, faster boats so needed to be ready.  Also the wind was f4-5 from the west with moderate sea. No good at all for Dartmouth, but better for Alderney, although Alderney has a harbour entrance that needs careful timing, and accuracy of arrival time is not so easy to predict in a 22 foot boat after 60 odd miles.

So it ended up that Bob and Moonlight left alone for Bray after we all rendez-vous’d for the 0530 shipping forecast and fried egg sandwiches, and I went off back to bed.

Later though, I took the opportunity to take a little spin out to the East Shambles buoy where although it was lovely and sunny, it was gusting a good f5 and the sea was looking pretty darn moderate. I got out there on genoa alone and lay ahull before raising up the mainsail which I had put one reef in before I left, and then put the genoa back up with a couple of rolls in it.  However, the mainsail wouldn’t set properly as I’d done the reefing lines wrong and I then careered back downwind towards Lulworth clearly with far too much canvas up: she was two handed heavy on the helm and felt totally out of control!  I thought she was going to broach. It was also very clear that the rigging was far too slack, and the leeward cap and aft lowers were flapping in the breeze.  All pretty scary to be honest. At one point I logged 6.9 knots on the GPS, and I would love to know our speed through the water.  Our wake was fizzing!

I did manage to drop the main, and get some sail ties round it from the hatchway so I didn’t actually have to go forward on deck and as we continued down towards Lulworth I started to feel we were getting too far downwind to be able to get home easily so I tacked towards White Nothe.  But as we closed on it, the sea steepened and the wind rose.  At one point it was regularly gusting 25 knots (apparent wind) on the windometer, a f6.

I did a couple of tacks back and forth but only gained about 200 yards up wind as it was blowing West.

So I put the engine on and tromped home into wind for an hour and a half, but kinda glad I hadn’t gone to Alderney.

In the end, we had some problems but I resolved them pretty easily without anything breaking, and no-one got hurt. On the bright side, I had managed to find the Shambles buoy using my new handheld GPS for the first time!  This is what shakedowns are for…

There are no pictures for this post: I couldn’t take my hands off the tiller.

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