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


Jester Challenge 2014

May 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I bought Duet 2 years ago with the intention of doing a circumnavigation of the UK with her at some point. It’s something I would still like to do, but I’d like to visit some places so it’s probably not going to get done in one season as I’d planned originally…

In the meantime I’ve stumbled across the Jester Challenge guys and been kinda charmed by their ethos. I say guys, because I cannot find any evidence of any lady skippers attempting any of the Challenges. Ever. (I may be wrong though…)

If you’ve not heard of the Jester Challenge (you must not call it a race, there are no prizes) then at it’s essence is simple, single handed ocean racing in boats under 30 foot with no sponsorship (the full rules are here) – And there’s usually a Hurley 22 amongst the fleet, which is probably how I found them…

There is a Jester Challenge every year from Plymouth, either to Baltimore (in Ireland), the Azores, or as it is this year, to Newport, Rhode Island.

So they were due to start from Plymouth yesterday, and if you’re in the UK you’ll be well aware that we had a bit of stormy weather roll in from the West last week.  I was thrilled to see this SIT REP (Situation Report) from Ewen Southby-Tailyour, the organiser, published yesterday evening, and it sums up the Jester Ethos perfectly;

This year, as with last year’s Baltimore Challenge, the weather tried it’s hardest to beat us.  Force 9 from the West with driving rain was forecast and indeed on the Saturday conditions were close to that. The forecast for today was no better and so it was decided to cancel the spectator craft in good time and have the start off the Royal Western Yacht Club’s start line from where the spectators could watch in comfort while the skippers could, or could not, sail depending on their individual wishes. It is not up to the coordinator to delay the start for that would imply taking that decision to sail or not to sail away from the skipper which of course is at the very heart of the Jester ethos. So at 1255 BST our very own, tireless friend and supporter Eric (who was first into Newport in 2006) fired the five-minute gun and Norm (our gallant and equally tireless supporter in Newport) fired the start gun. As it happened there was no one afloat on the line, indeed all the skippers were watching the firing from the Club. The wind was still gusting hugely and the rain was still driving in sheets – sometimes. Nevertheless, the Jester Challenge 2014 was now ‘open’!

Based on my maxim ‘seamanship not showmanship’ it was not the time for heroics but a calm assessment when best to face the Atlantic. At 1600 Andy Lane slipped and sailed, taking advantage of one of the increasing number of lulls while the others decided that a Monday morning (very early) start would give them a full day of light to get well beyond the Lizard. The forecast from Tuesday onwards offers a vast improvement in conditions.

I believe that six boats have now started, with a further four pending a late start.

Not sure there’s a Hurley 22 this year, but bloody good luck to them I say.

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