Sunday, December 30, 2007


What is beauty? Something that is in the eye of the beholder, the ear of the listener or the touch of one who feels with his fingers or a sensation of taste – beauty is therefore a subjective reaction involving the senses and the mind. What appeals to one may not be the case for another, but undoubtedly for all who sense beauty, each one experiences pleasure. Conversely those who are confronted by ugliness are repulsed by it. There may never be a general agreement or consensus on what is beautiful, but everyone who knows of it has the common experience of pleasure.

If we are free to think or meditate we usually prefer to ponder beautiful things; we may bring to mind a musical melody, a memory of a glorious sunset or a sensuous intimate moment or even a rapturous episode of closeness with God the Creator.

For those intrigued with boats there is a never-ending fascination with their beauty. The jaunty, functional appearance of a Plymouth Tosher, or the stately elegance of square-rigger or the gliding symmetry of a high-tech racing trimaran can be equally beautiful to the mind.

I was drawn to this topic of beauty by my natural reaction upon seeing a photo of a fourteen foot sailing skiff of the Melonseed type. What makes her so appealing and so attractive to me? She calls out with her simplicity of function embodied by her minimal character. Her curvaceous lines speak beauty, far more than the statue of Venus de Milo in the Louvre. To me there’s not another dinghy so beautiful. Every time I see her she brings pleasure and desire. How beautiful she must be to sail!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Christmas means so many different things to many people according to their associations, cultures and age; to some the word conjures up nothing at all.

When I was young, Christmas was a time I looked forward to because of all it had to offer; there was the Christmas Day roast dinner when the whole family would sit around the large table in the lounge; the glowing coal fire would cast its heat upon the one with his back to it; there would be much jollity after the main course was eaten and brandy was poured over the Christmas pudding to be ignited with a match; the blue flame did its magic so that each eater savoured the special flavour as he searched for a silver threepenny bit that had been hidden in the pudding. He who found it could make a wish that would be bound to come true, but the coin had to be returned to the chef for next year’s search.

Our Christmas tree was real with roots and all. Sometimes a tree would survive to grow again for the following year, but most of them shed their needles and died. The tree was always decorated with red candles which were lit for only a brief moment for the sake of economy and safety. Such a tree was a fire hazard, especially as the paper chain decorations criss-crossed the ceiling, but a hand’s breadth above.

The meal over, the table cleared, and the washing-up finished, it was time to relax and listen to the King’s speech on radio. King George V1 died in 1952 when I was 18, and for your interest I’ve found this 1951 Christmas Speech on YouTube: .

My family were not church-goers, but in the late forties I was a member of the Wilton Church choir. I joined it for the ignoble reason of being paid a small sum at the end of each month which enabled me to buy comics, sweets, marbles, buns and all those delights of little boys. I remember buying a packet of bath salts for my Mum at Christmas, which kind act gave me a glow of inner satisfaction and brought about an outward visible halo because my face gleamed with delight. (It’s always more blessed to give than receive.)

Singing at the Carol Service was a great occasion, although I could never be in tune, but there was always something special about the festivity. Every Christmas the church was packed, and there would be a visiting preacher from the Franciscan Friary with a unique message barely understood by myself.

It wasn’t until I became a Christian back in 1984 that I really understood the significance of the story of the Magi presenting their gifts to the infant King. I believe it was from that event the secular world tradition of gift giving at Christmastide came into being, but much veiled by the myth of Father Christmas. The Wise Men were led to the Jewish King by the 'Star of Bethlehem' and the wisdom given to them of God. They recognised the One who had been born Immanuel, ‘God with us’. Their desire was to worship Him by the presentation of themselves and the giving of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All of these were costly gifts symbolic in meaning: gold represented their worshipful tribute, frankincense stood for their honourable devotion to Him, and myrrh showed their respect and value of Him.

In secular Christmas traditional objects there are hidden symbolisms associated with the birth and death of Christ. The leaves and greenness of a Christmas tree represent eternal life, because of its evergreen characteristic. The angel at the top of the tree reminds one of the Angel Gabriel, who announced the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary and the decorative lights speak of the Light of the World who brought light into the world when He was born in a stable at Bethlehem. A holly wreath that adorns the front door has cruel spiked leaves that remind one of the thorns that dug into the Lord’s head when He was forced to wear a crown of thorns and the red berries speak of the blood that was shed when nails held Him to the cross.

Perhaps the most traditional Christmas object is the ‘robin’ Christmas card. Never, it seems at Yuletide is there a mantelshelf which does not have one of these. The robin is always pictured against a pure white snowfall; white being symbolic of the purity of Christ and the red breast of the tiny bird tells of Christ’s blood that was shed. The robin is for all seasons, the most faithful of birds that never deserts, mindful of the fact that the Lord is for ever faithful.

To finish my homily I’ll wish you a Very Happy Christmas and invite you to view my Christmas card in Cyberspace: , and you yachtsmen don’t forget to hoist your tree to the mast top.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Time to Spare

Mark Twain wrote the ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, in which he poses questions to the reader, perhaps with tongue in cheek, or rather more seriously he makes statements about the characters within his novel which in turn may challenge the reader in his own experiences. He describes an episode when Huck and Jim spent a day hidden ashore while en passage down the Mississippi on a log raft. They were having an unaccustomed period of relaxation when Huck read stories to ‘learn’ Jim in the ways of Kings and how they spend their time.

The story goes as follows:

I read considerable to Jim about kings, and dukes, and earls, and such, and how gaudy they dressed, and how much style they put on, and called each other your majesty, and your grace, and your lordship, and so on, ‘stead of mister; and Jim’s eyes bugged out, and he was interested.

He says:

‘I didn’t know dey was so many un um. I hain’t hearn ‘bout none un um, skasely, but ole King Sollermun, onless you counts dem kings dat’s in a pack er k’yards. How much do a king git?’

‘Git? I says; why, they get a thousand dollars a month if they want; everything belongs to them.’

‘Aint dat gay? En what dey got to do, Huck?’

‘They don’t do nothing! Why, how you talk. They just set around.’

‘No – is dat so?’

‘Of course it is. They just set around. Except maybe when there’s a war; then they go to war. But other times they just lazy around; or go hawking – just hawking ………’

The retiree often remarks that he is busier than when he worked to earn a living, but for some there is little to do and they feel like dying of boredom; they are as kings with time on their hands and no wars to fight, but the retired yachtsman looks forward to the new season when the days lengthen and he’ll be reunited with his yacht upon the oceans; meanwhile, his faithful vessel needs maintaining while he dreams of future adventures, and to make those a reality he studies the charts, the almanac and the tide tables. His imagination paints scenarios of luxuriant bays with sandy beaches, purple mountains forming far horizons; white horses skipping on the wave tops; green fields rolling to the sea shore and darkened glades running in valleys to the water’s edge; broad sand dunes and granite cliffs; muddy creeks; gulls, guillemots, plovers, Arctic skuas, heron, dunlin and even the perky puffin with his red, white and blue bill.

The retired yachtsman with time to spare is far richer than any king. He does not laze around with nothing to do; neither does he look for wars to relieve his boredom; instead, he dreams of fresh mackerel straight from the pan!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vanity of the Sailor

Perhaps no other person in history could match the possessions of King Solomon who amassed a great fortune by inheriting a kingdom from his father, and by increasing his wealth through the receipt of taxes and by accepting gifts from many, including the Queen of Sheba. Solomon was not only revered for his possessions, but for his wisdom also. Without the latter it is doubtful he would have acquired his great material wealth. When not distracted by his many wives and concubines he found time to write exquisite poems and prose, some of which are recorded in the Bible, notably his Song of Songs, several Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

It is generally accepted that Solomon wrote the wisdom literature of Ecclesiastes when in his old age, and although this exceptionally gifted king was noted for his wisdom when he was a young man, his experience of life would have endowed him with a retrospective insight into the nature of life so as to draw from it a synthesis of quintessential moral and ethical values. If anyone could have done this, it undoubtedly would have been Solomon who had experienced so much.

To short-circuit the learning curve of gaining wisdom, it must make sense to study the words of Solomon, and if we examine Ecclesiastes we shall know of his conclusion to the purpose of life and the most apt conduct for us to adopt during our sojourn upon this planet. Such knowledge should give us a head start.

The word that crops up time and again throughout Ecclesiastes is ‘vanity’, and it has two meanings: the first is, ‘excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements’ and the other is, ‘the quality of being worthless or futile’. How to handle these aspects of vanity requires a certain amount of wisdom. Those who think highly of themselves and who place themselves on pedestals run the risk of falling, and those who believe they are worthless and that their efforts are futile, stand the chance of being victims of their lack of self-esteem. There needs to be a balance, but most importantly there should be a standard for judging one’s conduct and one should have a sense of direction in the pursuit of goals.

At the end of Ecclesiastes Solomon concludes, “Vanity of vanities ………… all is vanity,” and he further proclaims that the correct attitude for man’s conduct should be to “Fear God and keep His commandments.” How does this wisdom relate to the sailor? Surely if he is on the water for pleasure, his conduct is vain – or is it? Those who race across oceans, those who endeavour to break sailing records and those who explore the world by cruising their yachts, are they practitioners of vanity? They certainly are not - if they fear God and keep His commandments.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Running into Danger

At the age of 16 I often crewed aboard a converted St Ives lugger. She was owned by a man nearing retirement and he had fitted her out as a gaff cutter with a small cabin. There was kneeling headroom and enough floor space for two people to lay out their bunks. Cooking was done on a single gimballed Primus stove. I learnt a great deal about handling this boat under sail from her owner who had sailed all his life. I discovered ‘Petrel’ could easily be balanced on a steady course by lashing her helm, and slightly backing her staysail. I learnt how to reduce the power of the wind in the mainsail by dropping the peak, tricing the tack, or topping-up the boom, and how to reef by tying reefing tails - not around the boom, but under the bundled foot of the sail, as it was loose-footed.

During the school holidays we would spend two to three weeks cruising along the south coast of the South West Peninsular from Dartmouth to Falmouth and back. My memory is of long sunny days when the sparkling turquoise water blended with a clear azure sky, while over the distant land there hovered white cumulus clouds, but there were times when storm clouds rushed above us while we raced up Channel with crested waves pressing us onwards, and there was a time when we ran to the south west with a south easterly bowling us along in thick fog. Our hope was that the sun would break through, enabling us to establish our position, as our dead-reckoning had placed us to the south east of Salcombe. We desperately needed a bearing of Prawle Point before heading for Bolt Head, which marked the entrance to Salcombe. Obligingly, the fog lifted and we took a sight with the hand-bearing compass. We had sailed far enough westwards to have a view of the craggy cliffs above the Mewstone south of Salcombe and we set our course towards it, but within minutes we were again engulfed in thick fog. Another half-an-hour and we should see the Mewstone loom out of the fog, from which point we could sail due north while keeping the steep cliffs to our port and periodically casting the lead to monitor the shoaling bottom.

Half-an-hour passed and we were relieved to see craggy rocks loom out of the fog to port, but there was no Mew Stone; maybe it was hidden to the south. So we turned northwards, triced up the main and took in the staysail; meanwhile our punt streamed astern with a bucket tied behind her to stop her rearing up and smashing into the transom because of the oncoming waves. All of a sudden there was a shout of alarm from the skipper, “Breakers ahead!” followed by, “Bring her round to starboard!” I yanked the tiller to port, but our boat would not come round. The beach ahead drew closer. My companion rapidly hauled in the punt until her bow touched our transom, and with all his strength he used a boat hook to hoist the bucket out of the water. “Take her round,” he commanded, and this time she slowly responded. “Up staysail!” and after much noise, snaking of sheets, flapping of canvas, the sail was hoisted, and ‘Petrel’ gradually clawed to windward, up and over the advancing waves.

It had been a near miss. We both realized we had not allowed for the east-going tide, and no doubt our course steering had not been too clever, consequently we had run up the eastern side of Prawle Point, mistaking it for the eastern side of Bolt Head.

As we sailed seaward the fog lifted, and for a second time we made for the entrance of Salcombe where the flooding tide took us to a peaceful anchorage in The Bag. Back in 1950 that stretch of water was an idyllic spot where there were only a few moorings and a houseboat nestled close to Snapes Point. The most delicious fresh prawns were there for the taking among the seaweed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


What is Around-in-Ten? Some who have heard about it may reply, ‘Around the Bend’! But without being prejudicial, it’s a race for 10’ sailing boats around the world. Having regained our breath after taking in the enormity of the task before the intrepid skippers, let’s soberly look at the prospect of circumnavigating the globe in such small vessels via the Panama Canal west going from the Bahamas, a distance of approximately 27,000 miles. The scheduled start will be in January 2009 - that’s just over a year and two months remaining before these micro-yachts cross the start line. Participants will have built and fully tested their yachts before arriving at the Bahamas. They will have equipped their vessels with essential gear and put aboard provisions of food and water and everything necessary for their complete self-sufficiency while crossing oceans up to distances of perhaps 4000 miles.

The origins and spirit for this race go back to the remarkable achievement of Serge Testa, who in 1987 completed a circumnavigation in his 11’ 10” aluminium yacht ‘Acrohc Australis’; in so doing he became the record-holder for having sailed the smallest boat around the world. He arrived back in Brisbane after a gruelling three years of being tossed to and fro while crossing the oceans of the world. During this epic voyaging he suffered many setbacks, including a fire onboard from which he and his boat narrowly escaped oblivion; sleep deprivation, salt water boils, groundings, a hurricane and always continuous movement while cooped up in a space providing barely enough room for him to lie down for respite.

Given this knowledge, why would four people to date commit themselves to such a tortuous undertaking and no doubt others will volunteer for the same venture? Because it will be a ‘venture’ with the outcome unknown – possibly fame and a book recording their achievement, bringing to them a million dollar fortune, or at the other extreme, death and critics saying, “I told you so!”

If we take a sober look at the logistics, it took Serge 500 days of voyaging over a period of three years (1095 days) to achieve his record. The racers will be sailing smaller and slower boats, but like their hero they will have to dodge hurricanes and use the prevailing winds and ocean currents equally well. Unlike him they will be competing in a race for the world record which may spur them on for even more super-human efforts. Only the fittest, most well prepared and the most determined will win.

I don’t doubt the smallest boat circumnavigation record can be beaten and I believe it will be done, if not by one of the venturesome Around-in-Ten sailors, it will eventually be broken by one who will deserve the honour and the accolade he or she will receive.
(Around-in-Ten web site: )

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Purist Sailor

Purism when applied to sailing is like an aspect of a religion. How can the sailor’s ‘purism’ be defined, and what is the nature of those devoted to this esoteric maritime activity?

A purist sailor can be likened to a religious Puritan of the Elizabethan era; one who was not satisfied with blemishes within the Reformation or papism within Catholicism. He sought a simple form of worship not tainted by the world or the traditions of men; he wanted to live the purity of the word of God as found in the Bible. The exclusion of all else, except the truth of the Bible was to be his form of worship; he desired an inward and outward life, devoted exclusively to God for His glory.

The term Puritan was used in a derisory sense aimed at those who did not conform to, or accept the Elizabethan Religious Settlement that established Queen Elizabeth 1st as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and neither did they subscribe to the Common Book of Prayer decreed by the Act of Uniformity. There are some sailors today who would use the word ‘purist’ in a derisory sense too when referring to seafarers who will not have an engine on their boat. The same critics would consider these purists irresponsible because they voluntarily restrict themselves to using the wind, the currents and manual power for navigating waterways, or crossing lakes, seas and oceans. They heap further criticism upon purists for their lack of consideration when negotiating congested waters such as the Solent where huge ships are restricted by their draught; they further argue that common sense and safety should dictate the use of an engine.

Despite ridicule and reasoned argument by those who advocate engines the real sailing purist will not budge from his belief. His intellect confirms that engines on boats are evil, smelly polluting contrivances that contribute towards global warming and noise pollution. He considers using them is to commit the ultimate sin because they blemish and stain otherwise pristine seas and oceans by the spillage of oil and fuel. They contaminate the water, and their exhaust fumes permeate the air. The purist further reminds himself that in the good old days when the seas were plentiful with fish, fishermen earned their living by using boats powered by sail and oar. His ridicule of those who succumb to the convenience of engines is equal to that poured out upon the purist.

As with the non-conformist Puritan and his counterpart, there are two sailing fraternities practising their beliefs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared, “I feel, therefore I am”. Although blamed for a degenerative civilization in view of his radical and life-changing philosophy, many would accept Rousseau’s statement as being true for them and would go along with the gist of his teaching. When he made this observation about himself perhaps he was trying among other things to establish his ‘identity’ - that’s the very nature of himself that makes him unique. Not only was a he a human being, but he was aware of his essential characteristics that combined to make the one and only Jean-Jacques Rouseau.

When listening to a sermon about the Christian Identity I was faced with the question as to my true identity and did it fit within the collective identity of those belonging to Christ? Did I have Christ-like characteristics? More recently I happened upon a BBC 2 TV programme featuring Donny Osmond called ‘Identity’. I can’t say the viewing was riveting, neither was it particularly entertaining but there was a certain desire on my part to discover the nature of the mystery identities. A guest participant under the prompting of Donny endeavoured to ascertain which tag feature belonged to each of a number of personalities who stood upon a stage. Some clues were obvious, for example, in yesterday’s programme a fit young lady wearing a sweater with the words, ‘Surf Competition’ emblazoned upon it turned out to be a Surfing Champion. Although undoubtedly being a surfing champion was a clue to her true identity, I wondered what essential feature really identified her as unique.

Well, we all know about the uniqueness of our DNA for establishing our identity or for providing a strong scientific basis as to heredity or family relationship, but that does not allow for character as shown in our actions in the drama of life.

What has any of the foregoing to do with my passion for sailing boats? Well, all boats essentially do the same thing, i.e., they float upon water, because they weigh the same as the water they displace, but when we examine these floating mobile creations they are often so different in appearance. Some have points at each end, in contrast to those with sharp bows and wide sterns; some are broad, while some are narrow; some are deep heavy displacement craft, but others are like skimming dishes that plane across the waves. Do the characteristics that personify these boats tell us something about the identity of their designers? When I look at my most recent creation, a Paradox sailboat designed by Matt Layden, what do I see as identifying features that truly make her unique? Undoubtedly the answer must be her chine runners; these are longitudinal narrow ‘wings’ that stick out horizontally from the chines. They act in some mysterious way to minimize leeway when the boat sails to windward. What do they tell me about Matt? They indicate that he is a free-thinker; a person not caught up with restrictive traditional design. He is a pragmatic person very willing to try new ideas. Such a characteristic points to his identity.

Those capable of truly creative thinking such as Leonardo da Vinci transform the society in which they live; they can transform it for the better or for the worse. We can only hope and pray that their true identities will bring benefits to mankind.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cobnor (Day Nine)

Being ashore with the boat on the trailer during the night meant there was no movement as one would have while at anchor; therefore I slept well and woke rather late. My first task after breakfast was to remove the recalcitrant mast and to that end I enlisted a yachtsman who was working on a nearby yacht. Our combined efforts accomplished the business. An examination of the mast showed that the base had swollen due to being very damp on account of the rain over the past days. Rain water had entered the ventilation hole through the deck and naturally drained away through the pipe under the mast as it was supposed to, but in so doing the wood had become swollen. When I arrived home it was a simple matter to rectify and I should no longer have a problem with it.

The sun shone brightly and for the first time in the past eight days the sky was cloudless. There was no wind whatsoever. So, even if ‘Faith’ had been on the water she would not have gone anywhere, but what an irony that the very day she was ashore, a mini-high pressure system approached the British Isles. Still, I knew there were many things needing attention at home and I had been on the water for over seven days and nights – it was time to go home.

Having paid the Marina dues for the use of the slipway I set up the TomTom in the car to assist me in finding the right roads for the journey on that Bank Holiday weekend. TomTom did not let me down. It took a route first towards Portsmouth then the A3 and M3. Fortunately there were no long delays going east, but I noted huge traffic jams on the opposite side of the road and I was thankful I was not travelling to the West.

It only took just under 3 hours and ‘Faith’ was on the driveway at home being emptied of her stores in readiness for a complete clean before her next cruise or outing on the water.

Cobnor had been fun, despite the unfavourable weather and I was pleased I had met DCA folk I had not seen for many a year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cobnor (Day Eight)

As each day passes, so the equivalent tide on successive days is later and if the moon is on the wane the rise and fall of water becomes less until the moon begins to wax. By Friday, 24th August the range of tide was only 1.5 metres as opposed to 3 metres when I first arrived at Chichester Harbour. This meant the speed of currents generated by the rise and fall of water would be less than when I started my cruise, which in turn would ease the effect the wind would have on the water when blowing against the current. For a change, the wind eased, and the combination of neap tides bode favourably for enjoyable sailing.

After a quiet night I awoke to find sunshine, and as I ate breakfast I enjoyed watching several rabbits scampering around the patchy grass at the front of a nearby private beach house. They bobbed up and down while chasing one another, stopping now and again to check for predators by sitting upright so as to have a good view and at the same time listen for tell-tell sounds. Shoals of silver mullet broke the surface of the placid water as an Egret waited patiently at the water’s edge for an unsuspecting tiddler swimming within range of its black needle-sharp beak. I caught a glimpse of a fine mullet when it passed just a foot or so from the side of ‘Faith’. I was told that only red mullet are good for eating. An elderly couple complete with fishing gear arrived at the slipway with their dinghy and outboard motor and within a short time, having deployed their rods and lines, they were drifting between the moored yachts. There was a shout of joy from the lady as she hooked a small fish and expertly landed it into the dinghy.

By 0815 we were underway with the aid of a gentle wind fanning us towards the Chichester Channel. Only a couple of yachts were on the move and there was no sign of any DCA members or their boats. At 0830 we were at Camber Beacon that marks the entrance to Thorney Channel stretching to the north. With full sail and on a beam reach we made rapid progress eastwards leaving East Head by a cable to the south before coming on the wind towards Verner Beacon adjacent to the inlet leading to Hayling Island Yacht Company’s moorings. Sporadically motor vessels and motor yachts chugged seaward, most bent on fishing somewhere within the Harbour or beyond in the Solent. A few sailing yachts, also under motor, took the same route. Meanwhile I tacked ‘Faith’ northwards between the deep water channel markers with the aim of getting as near to Emsworth Marina as possible. Low water wasn’t until 1433, so there was ample time, especially as the tide was still making, but as things turned out I would have to wait hours before I could take ‘Faith’ into the Marina, because the wind petered out when she arrived at the North East Hayling beacon which marks the channel to Northney Marina. I wasn’t in a hurry otherwise I would have tried using the yuloh for the next mile to Emsworth Yacht Harbour. My desire was just to relax and enjoy the scenery, the sunshine and the peace, so I set the anchor and made a coffee before lying down for a snooze.

Being anchored at the junction between Northney Marina, Emsworth Yacht Harbour and the north/south-going Emsworth Channel I tied my black wading shoes together as an anchor ball and hung them on the lazy jack. This indicated to an ever-increasing number of boats on the move that ‘Faith’ was at anchor. After my snooze I made a coffee and I was surprised to find Al in ‘Little Jim’ nearby; he informed me he and other DCA sailors intended to sail around Hayling Island. At that moment the wind was almost non-existent, but there was just enough for making way. I noticed Cliff was also within hailing distance aboard his well-sailed Mirror; he gave me a call and continued with his endeavour of working close inshore towards Northney and Langstone Bridge where both he and Al would have to remove masts from their boats so as to pass under the bridge. In the distance, way to the south, I saw Liz in her Cormorant and someone in a Wayfarer, but the ebb had set and within a quarter of an hour they were no more to be seen.

Just before mid-day the wind set in and I could discern a dark tan sail way down the Emsworth Channel; by using my binoculars I confirmed it was the sail of Liz’s dinghy. Twenty minutes later she sailed along an identical track to the one taken by Cliff, but she didn’t appear to recognize ‘Faith’. I noticed there was an outboard motor at the stern of her dinghy and it was obvious she had no intention of using it, unless absolutely necessary. A very official looking motor launch slowly chugged by and I observed it belonged to the Harbour Master who gave me a hearty wave and a cheery greeting.

Half-an-hour before low water at 1400 I took in the anchor and tacked northwards between the many moored yachts, motorboats and runabouts. Eventually the water became so shallow that I could proceed no further under sail and therefore I tried to make progress against the wind with the yuloh, but at first I had little success until the tide turned in my favour when I continued until grounding on pebbles near the entrance to Emsworth Yacht Harbour. I knew there would be a long wait because I could see the sill was not covered and I would need at least one foot six inches of water to pass safely over it; otherwise ‘Faith’ could become stranded on it sideways with the force of the water, or the rudder could be damaged by being hooked on the sill as the boat traversed the tide-induced waterfall into the Marina.

My wait in the sunshine was a pleasant one. Swans swam around hoping for tidbits and two Egrets vied with one another for territorial rights. A gull attacked a large grey heron that retreated with little defence from the swifter smaller bird. As this was happening a motor launch tried approaching the Marina along the pebbly gully, but she became stuck and after ten minutes of frantic grinding and propeller clanging she reversed off to await the tide at a pontoon by the Emsworth Sailing Club. Two lads who had erected a tent on the weedy beach decided to relieve their boredom by throwing stones at each other and a fat woman took her equally fat dog for a walk between the many small boats dried out on their moorings. A car zoomed down a slipway between the expensive waterside mansions then turned around in a semi-circle over the weed-covered stones before climbing back up the slipway to disappear from view around the corner. A homeowner not wishing to draw attention to himself peered around a wall at the bottom of his garden to examine ‘Faith’. Transfixed, he stared for several minutes before slowly withdrawing behind the wall.

At 1730 ‘Faith’ was still anchored near the entrance to the Marina and the gushing of water could be heard as it rushed over the sill. An hour later when the moving water no longer plunged to the lower level within the compound a mother duck with many tiny chicks briefly peeped outside and took one look at us before fleeing back to the safety of their enclosure.

By 1930 I had retrieved the boat on her trailer, but not without a minor flap when the car lost traction on the weedy slipway. I asked a kindly yachtsman for his assistance and he suggested attaching his four-by-four to my car with a tow rope, only to abandon the idea when we could not find a tow bracket on the Mondeo. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I discovered a hidden loop behind a cover. He enlisted a friend and they both sat on the boot of my car while I eased it forward in first gear. The extra weight on the tail of the car did the trick. The next slight hiccup was when I tried extracting the mast, only to discover it was well and truly jammed. No amount of effort could dislodge it. Sweat poured off me in my attempt at lifting it out. Abandoning the attempt until morning I went to the washroom for a welcome refreshing shower and to escape the persistent attack of midges. By the time I returned to the boat after nightfall there was no sign of the little blighters. I settled down for the night and for the first time of the whole trip I could see stars through the window in the hatch.

Cobnor (Day Seven)

Weather dictates what the sailor can do. If there’s wind, he can sail, providing it is not too strong and preferably if it comes from a favourable direction. Paradox can work to windward, but not handily as a Wayfarer or a Mirror dinghy; therefore I must first consider the proposed route before setting off. Without an engine there is no guarantee of achieving the objective. Perhaps that’s not such a problem with Paradox, if there is time to spare, because the necessities of life and items for survival are immediately available. The boat is very strong and she can take the ground; she can be sealed from the elements to provide relative comfort. With food and drink available it does not matter if plans are changed by the weather or if the boat is stranded on a mud bank until the next tide.

Considering these factors and having been afloat for two days without moving from the anchorage at Cobnor I felt I could not face another day of bobbing around while the wind whistled from the north; therefore at 0710 I beached ‘Faith’ near the slipway, but as the water receded and the wind pushed her on the beach I became aware of the sharp flint stones under her. As she lifted on each wave and the noise of grinding was magnified by the hollowness of her hull, but my fears that there would be damage were without foundation, because a later inspection of the bottom showed there was no discernable wear. An hour and half later she was high and dry which meant I had ten hours before ‘Faith’ would be afloat again.

With the prospect of drizzle and the aim of reaching Emsworth by foot I donned my anorak and placed a Mars Bar in the pocket. More appropriately I should have prepared a picnic with ample drink. I needed to buy fruit, milk, yoghurts and paper towels and a knapsack would have been useful for carrying the goodies. Having told Al and Len of my intentions I set off for the ten mile return trek. There was lightness in my heart when I found myself in isolation walking the sandy eastern fringe of the Thorney Channel. Glancing behind I saw the imprints of my shoes and I made a mental note to look for them on my return. To my right there was a red sandstone bank almost hidden by clusters of miniature ancient gnarled oak trees and to my left was the broad and colourful expanse of marshland stretching to narrow muddy channels where flocks of gulls searched for food. The silence, apart from a faint rustling of leaves was most apparent. My spontaneous reaction was to burst into song and with no one to hear me I was not embarrassed with being off-tune. The joy of freedom I greatly cherished.

I became aware of my lack of knowledge regarding the huge variety of estuarine plants and flowers it was my privilege to see; some were so beautiful I just had to stop and examine them; the flotsam and jetsam cast up at the foot of the sea wall I purposely ignored. Appearing from nowhere a stranger approached me from ahead. To my mind his appearance was weird – tall, tassel haired and with his head inclined towards his right shoulder. On passing close, because of the narrow path between tall grasses each side of the pathway, I greeted him with, “Good morning!”, but there was no reply. Pleased that our encounter was brief I scanned the way ahead and noted two more figures proceeding in my direction. Optical perspective gave the impression they were a long way off, but it was only a matter of minutes and we were greeting each other. The two were obviously hikers out for the day because of the way they were dressed with boots while having small rucksacks on their backs and using walking sticks.

How many more people would I meet along this protected stretch of National Trust walkway? Only a few, and those meetings were near easy access points which encouraged owners of dogs to bring them for exercise and to do their inevitable deposits of whatnots. I kept my eyes open for treacle sausages, because if there’s one thing I dislike it’s having the smelly stuff on my shoes!

By mid-day I had traversed the southern boundary of Prinsted and walked through the boatyard of Thorney Marina where I called into the Boater’s Café for a ploughman’s lunch without the cider. The cup of coffee did not satisfy my thirst, but the salad, cheese and buttered loaf more than satisfied my hunger. I did not care for the loud piped music. Before continuing with my walk I thought it prudent to ask the way to Emsworth and how far I needed to go. It was just as well I did, because I would have followed the path going south towards Stanbury Point, only then realizing my error. Instead of taking the path dictated by my instinct I went as I was directed up the road from the Marina until coming to a main road which I crossed to a footpath leading to Emsworth Marina. There was barely room between overhanging branches and bramble bushes, but I proceeded until reaching the Marina. As I had walked to the town centre before from the Marina I confidently made my way along the delightful raised pathway that lay between a tidal leat and a large pond.

With only a short distance left to the Co-op I raised the hood of my anorak to protect myself from the drizzle, but I felt people were looking at me with some trepidation because of my resemblance to one of David Cameron’s adorable ‘hoodies’ who are people we should not hug, but understand. By the time I had done my little shopping the drizzle had ceased and I could walk with my hair blown by the blustery wind. Back at Emsworth Marina I called into the office to inform the duty staff that I would be taking ‘Faith’ out of the water some days later than stated and I enquired if I could use the slipway winch.

The return to Cobnor was over previously covered ground, but more prolonged because I stopped to pick blackberries on the way. I noted a colourful pair of spectacles that were hung on a signpost and tried them to see if they were any good for reading and they were perfect, but they were not mine; therefore I replaced them for the owner to find. In my mind I was convinced I would come across the spectacles I had lost when I fell off the boat and to this end before arriving back at Cobnor slipway I searched the muddy stretch by the sea wall where I had had the mishap. Saddened that I could not find my spectacles in the mud or blobs of weed I returned to ‘Faith’ for a welcome cup of tea, but before getting aboard I mentioned to Al that I had run out of reading material and he gave me a Pan book by Agatha Christie, ‘The Secret Adversary’.

By 1900 my boat was at anchor in her ‘spot’ overlooking the slipway. The wind had abated and was only a zephyr. Reading the Christie book was difficult because the print was small, the light bad and I had to use the magnifying glass. I took solace by listening to the radio and telephoning my wife. Then I slumbered until I fell asleep.

This is small boat cruising.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Cobnor (Day Six)

Wednesday, 26th August was a day of strong winds, at times reaching near gale force 8, as forecast. For ‘Faith’ this meant being on anchor at her ‘acquired’ spot. The ground was good for holding, since it was thick black mud. Transits showed the boat was secure.

I never cease to be amazed at human activity because of audaciousness or because of ignorance or foolishness on the part of the doer. Without being judgemental or having a sense of superiority I wonder if a few people are plain obdurate. An example of such a person, who incidentally may be reading this, decided he would launch his Avon Redstart pneumatic dinghy and row it to his craft at a mooring. There was a near gale. As he held the inflatable at arm’s length it waved around in the air like a kite. When he reached the water’s edge without taking off he realised he did not have the oars. It dawned on him that he could not leave the dinghy on the pebbly beach because it would be whipped away with the wind. Unable to find a means of securing the dinghy he carried it back up the beach to the slipway where he grabbed his oars. Like a cartoon character he repeated the journey to the water’s edge and by leaning into the wind he managed not to be blown along the beach. With force and determination he restrained the dinghy so that it floated in shallow water then smartly jumped into it, whereupon the dinghy was immediately blown onto the beach. Embarking from the dinghy, he waded into deeper water, jumped aboard and rowed like a madman with no success at making headway, again ending up on the beach. Undaunted he repeated the exercise so as to be blown back to the beach. Only then, did he acknowledge defeat, retreating with his head hung low as the dinghy gyrated in the air at arm’s length.

While at anchor, time passed surprisingly quickly because there was always free entertainment especially provided by the Activities Centre. First thing in the morning instead of sailing their dinghies the youngsters were ushered into open canoes that had been lashed together in pairs. They paddled with all their might to stay in the upper reaches of the Bosham Channel. After morning break they were taken in the ribs by their instructors to explore other parts of Chichester Harbour. Each person wore a lifejacket. On returning, one of the ribs was towed by another; presumably the engine of the one being towed had failed. After lunch the wind had moderated, although still rather boisterous with intermittent squalls. The trainees were out sailing the Bosun dinghies, the Picos and the Lazers.

When the dinghies sailed to the northern end of the Chichester Channel where the wind was less strong because of the lee provided by Cobnor Point I turned with some difficulty to reading ‘Survive the Savage Sea’ because I had to use the magnifying glass. While engrossed with the incredible account I made use of the strong wind by drying one of my sweaters.

At mid afternoon I observed an adoration party gathered around Al’s ‘Little Jim’, which was always a source of wonderment for passers-by. I take my hat off to him because of his exuberant enthusiasm. Had it not been for him I would never have built ‘Faith’. He kindly let me visit his home twice and sail his boat twice, besides giving me plenty of advice and help while building my Paradox.

Late afternoon Cliff returned from sailing his heavily reefed Mirror dinghy. He approached the beach with much forethought, first making his way well to windward before lowering sail; then as the boat drifted downwind he used the rudder to edge across the incoming tide so as to nudge the bow on the beach at the very moment of raising the rudder, the daggerboard having already been removed.

The evening meal over, I listened to music on Radio 3 while I read more of the Robertson family’s epic survival in the Pacific ocean adrift in their dinghy after abandoning their worn-out life raft. The sky being heavily covered with cloud, darkness came early before I made a non-alcoholic nightcap and turned in with hopes for a sail the next day.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cobnor (Day Five)

Approximately three hours after high water ‘Faith’ took the hard at the Cobnor slipway; it was 0810 on a grey morning of Tuesday, 21st August. I had listened to the forecast that predicted winds from the North, occasionally reaching force 7. One or two of the DCA folk made an appearance at the slipway, but the general opinion was that not many would venture out on the water. Some had decided they would return home with their boats, as the weather was not improving according the Meteorological Office’s expectations at the weekend. Phil was one of those. His beautiful green Ness Yawl (that wasn’t a yawl) was already on her trailer, but he had time to spare before taking to the road. I told him of my shortage of food and that I would need to find a grocer’s shop, whereupon he volunteered to take me in his luxurious campervan to the enormous Tesco Supermarket at Christchurch.

Only a stone’s throw from the quiet backwater we were cautiously proceeding along country lanes and all of a sudden at a roundabout we found ourselves amongst congested traffic of a main road where drivers were bent of getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ as fast as they could. None of them appeared to have any patience whatsoever. Cars and lorries screeched around the roundabout and no one wanted to give way. I found the contrast of being with patient boaters happy to pass the time of day until the arrival of better weather was quite a shock. We had left Keith and Al in their private worlds aboard their tiny boats quietly attending to their affairs until the return of the tide by nature’s rhythmic force.

At the ginormous supermarket Phil and I entered such a different world – one most perplexing by the diverse choice of goods stacked on the shelves and a completely man-made environment. I was in a daze unable to remember what I really needed for re-provisioning ‘Faith’ for the next four to six days. I was uncertain how long I would continue the cruise at Christchurch, but it would depend on the weather and how I felt. Vegetables, fruit, bread, drink and tinned meat; these I knew I would have to buy. Paper towels and batteries for the miniature torch I completely forgot. Toilet paper I had. Not until I returned to my boat did I remember I should have looked for a stand containing reading glasses to replace the ones I had lost when I fell off the boat. Because of my obvious uncertainty of what was really needed I sensed Phil was guiding me in my choices and I appreciated his knowledge gained through shopping expeditions in the normal course of his life, since this was his usual role when he went shopping with his wife. (Not that I was a substitute for his partner!)

Back at the campsite, and laden with plastic bags full of goodies, Phil gave me a hand with them to the muddy beach where I squelched to ‘Faith’ for off-loading them to her decks until I could find places for each item. On a boat there’s a place reserved for everything, but first I had to lift myself onto the deck without leaving black mud everywhere and experience had taught me to have a bucket of clean water kept for the purpose of sponging off the filthy stuff. I actually use a stiff brush for this necessary task while taking care not to splatter the deck with specks of mud. When the footwear has been cleaned I leave it so that the soles face uppermost to dry; in the case of Wellington boots, they are left on their sides.

By 1130 ‘Faith’ was back at her favourite anchorage overlooking the slipway. The wind blew strongly from the north against the incoming tide which had the tendency to swing my boat from one side to the other, but not a great strain was placed on the anchor and cable because the forces of wind and tide counteracted each other. Lots of people had decided to walk the river banks; there was one family however occupying a bench seat at the head of the slipway. They had two boys aged about 11 and 9. The smaller and younger of the two started playing at the water’s edge, and as he did so he began to be soaked by the breaking waves; then he waded deeper into the water only to be joined with his brother. Not to be outdone, the smaller boy, although wearing his ordinary clothes waded further until he found himself swimming. Only then did their parents have any concern for him. His mother ran down the slipway calling for the swimmer to return to the shore. Reluctantly he obeyed his mum, but when back in shallow water he used his hands to spray his brother. The bigger lad responded by going after the perpetrator until he also became waterlogged. Both lads seemed not to be affected by the cold wind and chill factor because of their wet attire. They continued messing around on the beach, each in turn throwing stones towards moored boats, not to hit them, but simply to try splashing them.

I remained at the anchorage all day while being thoroughly entertained by many young sailors learning their skills under the tuition of the nearby Sailing Centre. On occasions I was concerned about their closeness when sailing over ‘Faith’s’ anchor line. Their tutors did not seem to realise how close to the surface the rope was, because of the pull of the current. Unlike chain used with the nearby moorings for yachts, the anchor rope skimmed the surface for several feet before being pulled down by the influence of the chain and anchor. I took the opportunity of using the strong wind to dry my anorak and swimming costume by hanging them from the lazy jack. As there was little else to do I thoroughly cleaned the interior of the boat and rearranged a few items. I also became better acquainted with my VHF set by testing different functions.

By 1800 the meteorologist’s promised drizzle forced me to retrieve my anorak and swimming costume while they were dry, and to close the hatch. I had already eaten the main meal of the day, so I made myself comfortable by setting up the mattress and preparing myself for a long night’s rest, but before closing my eyes I used the navigation magnifying glass to read two more chapters of ‘Survive the Savage Sea’. Finally, after listening to the radio I snuggled down into the warmth of my sleeping bag. The wind had died away and there was a welcome silence after the cessation of the constant drumming of halyards on metal masts of nearby yachts. I contentedly fell asleep.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Cobnor (Day Four)

The early morning forecast, breakfast and ablutions having been completed I took up the anchor and paddled ‘Faith’ to the beach by the slipway. It was 0800, an hour and a half before low water on Monday, 20th August. Peter Moore was the keenest of the DCA bunch because he was the first to launch his boat, which was an immaculate fibreglass Wafarer. In fact, I think he was renting a cottage with his family, rather than camping under canvas with the crowd. Coincidentally he had booked in advance without realising there would be a DCA gathering. By mid morning several Members were ready for the off. I met Geoff, a recent convert to cruising who owned a Tideway dinghy and I introduced myself to Ian who was a keen photographer of the old school. His camera was state of the art, about 20 years ago, with a huge telescopic lens. He confided that he only did ‘real’ photography with actual film. Digital cameras did not appeal to him.

After mid-day lunch I set off in pursuit of those who had already started. The plan was to sail to Emsworth and return. Being a Monday I didn’t expect to find a dinghy racing fleet, complete with a posh motor yacht and canon at the start line. I was pleased ‘Faith’ was on the starboard tack because it gave her right of way through the fleet as they positioned themselves for the start. Al in ‘Little Jim’, Liz with her Cormorant, Doug in Houdini and Phil with his Ness Yawl (which wasn’t a yawl, because it lacked a mizzen) followed behind. I stuck to the deepwater channel, not wanting to take a risk a grounding, even though the tide was flooding. A mile south of Emsworth Yacht Harbour there were many moored yachts with only a narrow passage between them and I didn’t fancy tacking ‘Faith’ through the trots; therefore I turned around and headed back for Cobnor. There was a good force 4 from the north which enabled my little boat to ‘fly’ southwards towards East Head. The sun made a welcome appearance and the sailing was great fun.

Just as the tide was on the turn for the ebb I sailed towards the Cobnor beach near the slipway and prepared to anchor, but the wind and current drifted ‘Faith’ away from where I wanted to drop the hook. I tried using the yuloh, but the wind caught her bow and set us towards the walled bank, so I tried paddling from the foredeck and immediately fell into the water! I had forgotten to put on my buoyancy aid which meant I was floundering because I was wearing two sweaters and an anorak. Fortunately I was able to hold onto the boat and make my way to her stern where, with an enormous effort, I managed to hoist myself aboard by using the boarding step built into the rudder stock. I was surprised by the weight of the water that had soaked into my sweaters and anorak and I was even more surprised to discover how difficult it was to lever myself out of the water.

That evening I beached the boat and used the washroom to flush my soaked clothes with fresh water. Before dusk I walked along the muddy beach by the retaining wall and found my peaked cap and plastic shoe, both of which had parted from me when I took a ducking. Unfortunately I did not find my old pair of spectacles I had been wearing at the time of the incident; they too had flown into the water. That meant from thereon I had to use a large magnifying glass to read and see details on the chart.

Cobnor (Day Three)

There wasn’t much wind early on the morning of Sunday, 19th August as the tide turned on the flood. The forecast was for a North Westerly between 5 and 6 with occasional rain and drizzle. I had moved the boat into deeper water at 0200 to avoid taking the ground. Without wind there was little prospect of a sail; therefore at 1100 I beached ‘Faith’ near the slipway so that I would be able to meet the DCA contingent at the campsite. After having met Phil, Doug, Chris, John and Josephine and seeing their boats I returned to anchor ‘Faith’ near the moored yachts. John and Josephine were on their way home after attending a Hostelers’ Club cruise on the East Coast. They are an unassuming couple who have sailed their open day sailer across the English Channel several times. Chris owns a West Wight Potter, but had brought his Mirage canoe instead. Doug had his beautiful ‘Houdini’ designed by John Welsford, and Phil was the owner of a home-built Ian Oughtred Ness Yawl, without a mizzen. All of these fine boats have character like their owners.

At mid-afternoon I made sail, the wind being a light north westerly. An hour of so later found us off the sailing club mid way along the Thorney Channel, and by teatime we were back at Cobnor after a pleasant, but short exploration of the locality – at the time there had been a small fleet of Tideway dinghies either racing or cruising the same waters. ‘Faith’ matched their performance when on the reach, but they did marginally better to windward. Al, Doug and Liz returned to the slipway, just as drizzle set in, but this did not curtail their conversation as they attended to their boats - Doug and Al anchoring theirs, while Liz retrieved hers on the road trailer.

Bob drew alongside in his Mirror, ‘Tarka Too’, to explain he had lost his rudder after the tiller had snapped and I couldn’t think how this had happened since the wind had not been all that strong. (I learned that he found the rudder the next day at East Head where it had drifted ashore.) All credit to Bob, since he had managed to get back to Cobnor without his rudder. He found steering the boat with an oar only partially successful.

That evening I started reading ‘Survive the Savage Sea’ by Dougal Robertson. This is a story of a remarkable survival marathon in the Pacific Ocean to the west of the Galapagos Islands after their old wooden yacht had been attacked by killer whales. Before dusk the rain came down like a continuous waterfall and I was pleased I was not under canvas as were most of the DCA contingent at the campsite. Keith Holdsworth, in his very tiny ‘Flying Pig’ was surviving under his boom tent. The Vodfone telephone signal was very good so that I was able to send text messages and have my mobile phone on from 2100 to 2115 for communication with the ‘outside world’. I always look forward to speaking with my wife by phone at least once a day while on a cruise. Friends and relatives know that it is my custom to have the phone on at that time and no other, to conserve the battery that I am unable to charge when I’m cruising ‘Faith’.

My daily routine is to wake up with the sun, and go to bed when it sets. Around 2100 there was no longer daylight – it was time to slumber and hopefully sleep until dawn on Monday morning.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cobnor (Day Two)

I woke after a fitful night to hear an uninspiring early morning forecast predicting winds between force 5 and 7 from the North West accompanied with rain or drizzle. I had not expected Saturday the 18th to be up to much and I was prepared to sit it out with the prospect of the weather gradually improving from Sunday onwards – or so the long-range forecast indicated.

After a late breakfast I was pleasantly surprised to find Al in his Paradox, ‘Little Jim’ anchoring alongside. He had launched at Northney Marina at the northern end of Hayling Island late on Friday afternoon before spending the night at anchor in the shallow inlet at East Head. Al and I had had a good cruise in company the previous month when we sailed from Falmouth to Exmouth. The prospect of sailing together again was uplifting. As we whiled away the time at anchor I amused myself by watching all sorts of activity on the water. While there was comparative quiet before the DCA contingent arrived with their dinghies I watched a Curlew patiently wading along the waterline in search of food as the water gradually rose over the dark muddy bank. The same cormorant I saw yesterday was perched on his favourite lookout post, a stained port hand beacon.

Liz Baker, a respected and longstanding member of the DCA appeared on the concrete slipway, but there was no sign of her much loved Cormorant dinghy. I guessed it was at the campsite some way along the narrow road leading to the pebbly beach and slipway. Al had beached his boat and was chatting with Liz. A familiar figure joined them as he pulled a bright yellow canoe behind him on a trolley. Within a few minutes Chris Jenkins was demonstrating to me how well his Hobie Mirage foot peddled canoe performed. He had stowed the trolley behind him and was ready for a preliminary recce of Ichenor Reach. I was impressed with the ease with which he could make excellent progress against the incoming tide. Four members of the DCA launched their dinghies and set off in pursuit or to do their own thing. There was a Wayfarer and a couple of Mirror dinghies, one belonging to an intrepid fellow known as Cliff. He had twin polystyrene floats attached to the peak of the yard and single fenders either side of his boat. I assume this arrangement prevents a full capsize and facilitates righting the boat.

At mid afternoon the rain came down in earnest and I took cover under the closed hatch of ‘Faith’ to watch numerous dinghies being sailed by youngsters under the auspices of the Cobnor Christian Activities Centre. These people seemed fearless and completely oblivious of the rain. They revelled in the gusty conditions while being shepherded by vigilant young men racing around in fast ribs; when a dinghy headed towards a moored yacht one of these ribs expertly intervened to prevent a collision. The Centre has a variety of dinghies, but learners are first placed in Bosun dinghies. When they are more proficient they are allowed to try their hand at Picos and Lazers. I saw a Pico being towed back to the Centre after its mast had broken in two.

I didn’t do any sailing on Saturday, but I was most marvellously entertained by all those who took to the water and I enjoyed good food and welcome relaxation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cobnor (Day One)

On Thursday, 16th August the forecast for the weekend at Cobnor was not great – SW veering to NW 5 – 7 on the Saturday, but decreasing on Sunday, and better for the coming week.

An examination of the chart for Chichester Harbour showed an area of outstanding natural beauty with navigable water of 11 square miles distributed in four ‘fingers’ running from South to North: the Emsworth Channel, the Thorney Channel, the Bosham Channel and the Fishbourne Channel. To my mind, this configuration was promising for some interesting sailing at a location I had only visited to await passage when cruising the English Channel and the Solent. If the general winds were from the West, South West or North West as could be expected, exploring these waters would be great fun. In the event, generally throughout the week, cold winds persisted from the north accompanied by periods of rain, drizzle or showers, but there were some periods of hazy sun and several hours of good sunny weather.

It was a long time since my last attendance at a Dinghy Cruising Association meeting, largely due to the fact that meanwhile I had built two boats and owned a sailing cruiser which I sailed extensively for a couple years. After an uneventful road journey to Emsworth Marina I launched ‘Faith’ shortly after mid-day on Friday, 17th August. In the short passage to the west after leaving the protective walls of the Marina I encountered the wind and current from ahead. No matter how hard I tried with the yuloh I could not make any progress; indeed I lost ground and drifted into the natural backwater north of the Marina where I asked the owner of ‘Brise’ to tow me into open water, to which he agreed. There I hoisted sail for a close-reach down the Emsworth Channel.

To the Fishery South Cardinal Buoy is a distance of about 6 nautical miles and sailing against the incoming tide presented no problems. A good many yachtsmen and dinghy sailors were out enjoying the sunshine. Not being totally familiar with these waters I took due note of where ‘Faith’ sailed. Emsworth Channel is particularly well marked with port hand and starboard hand beacons, as indeed is the case with all of the navigable waters within the jurisdiction of the Chichester Harbour Authority. Soon after my departure I took a good look towards Northney Marina where I guessed Al would be launching his Paradox, ‘Little Jim’, but there was no sign of him or of his boat. Next came Marker Point, a small peninsular of land to my port hand. Rather more quickly than I imagined possible, we moved southwards over the smooth water brought about by Hayling Island to windward.

A mile or so north of the Island Sailing Club at Sandy Point I lay a course towards East Head which is a gorgeous sand spit to the east of the Harbour entrance with a popular anchorage for day sailors and over night cruisers. By then the tide was ebbing, but there was ample wind for ‘Faith’ as she ran before it along the approach to the Chichester Channel which lay to the North East. I was a little concerned that my boat may get caught on the sand near the derelict wooden pilings leading to the mouth of Thorney Channel, but beacons marked the deep water all the way. The expanse of water narrowed between Cobnor Point and the wooded Itchenor bank to the South; there ‘Faith’ had to negotiate a safe path between hundreds of racing dinghies doing their thing. Among the melee I found the green conical Fairway Buoy which marked my turning point to the north for the Bosham Channel and the Cobnor Activities Centre where nearby I found the slipway to be used by the DCA members for launching and retrieving their dinghies. I had been unable to use the slipway, because ‘Faith’ was heavier than a Wayfarer dinghy and the rule stated that such boats were taboo. I think the main reason for the weight restriction is to prevent many vehicles using the very narrow and unsuitable road leading to the slipway. The whole of that part of Thorney Island is privately owned and it is only by consent that visitors can use the facilities which include a washroom, toilets and showers. There is a field set aside for campers who must book in advance, and that’s where the DCA contingent set up their tents and campervans.

At quarter past four in the afternoon on the dot I set the anchor a cable or so from the slipway. There was no sign of any other DCA members or their boats, but as the meeting was not due to commence until after 11.00 am the next day I was not concerned. I was happy to be afloat again with all I needed for a comfortable night aboard my little boat. As the water receded and the expanse of mud increased either side of the fairway a white Egret with a black beak and black legs searched the water’s edge for morsels to eat. A cormorant perched on a nearby beacon spread his wings to dry and a bird hidden in trees surrounding a private beach house made an unusual shrieking call I did not recognise.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Back Home

Friday, 3rd August

Again, it was another perfect morning. After breakfast I went for a stroll along the river bank; early as it was, there were a good number of people doing the same; several were exercising their dogs. One such person cleared pooh from the pavement, but as I watched him I stepped into some of the smelly stuff deposited by another dog!

The whole morning was a lazy affair as I waited for my daughter to bring the car; meanwhile I un-stepped the mast and cleaned Blackwater mud off the anchor. I also prepared the trailer for the time of retrieving the boat at 1400. Everything went smoothly and we were ready for the off after half-an-hour, which was a record.

I’m uncertain when ‘Faith’ will continue her adventures – possibly at the Cobnor DCA meeting scheduled for 18th and 19th August.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

An Excellent Day

Thursday, 2nd August 07

At 0550 ‘Faith’ was underway after being anchored for the night in the lee of Pewit Island, Bradwell. There was a light wind from the NW that provided steerage way as we headed for the Bench Head buoy four and a half miles away to the east. It was one of those wonderful mornings when the rising sun was a bright golden ball, the sky was azure blue speckled with mackerel patterned white clouds and between them a waning moon said, “Hello. I know you are enjoying it.” Two other yachts were heading in the same direction but under ‘steam’. I was surprised with a heavy breathing sound to the stern of the boat and on glancing behind there was an inquisitive seal surveying the scene.

By 0700 St Peter’s church, that very ancient monument built from stone lay on the port quarter visible above the sandy sea shore. A series of old mulberry harbour type concrete structures were strategically placed on the sand as wave breakers. I made a note in the log that this was sailing at its best. ‘Faith’ held her course towards the Swin Spitway and on her way she passed a series of buoys at the entrance to the River Colne. There was virtually no wind at the Spitway and a drifting match ensued. Once through the gap between the sands I downed the sail and used the yuloh to steer the boat with the new flooding tide towards the Ridge buoy. There a light NE wind helped us in the direction of Burnham marked by low lying land on the north side of the River Crouch. It was quite strange that the tall buildings of Southend-on-Sea could be seen in the hazy distance. Several motor yachts came by, none of them slowing down, hence what little wind there was, was shaken from the sail. By 1130 we were at the Outer Crouch buoy and the wind freshened to a force 2 from the west. Coming from Burnham there was fine schooner Freedom yacht with tan sails.

Tacking through the Burnham moorings was an exciting business because the wind increased to force 3 and I had to take great care not to collide with any moored yacht. Beyond the trots I shortened sail and prepared the boat for entering Burnham Yacht Harbour. On entering the Harbour I found the wind was from ahead, so I downed the sail and used the yuloh to reach a vacant pontoon. There I started writing up the log, but I was required to move the boat because the owner of the berth arrived with her open motorboat. Unfortunately I lost my spectacles doing the move, but I was able to use a spare pair for typing. Just now the rain has started, so I’ll prepare the boat in readiness for when it may pour down.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Two Good Days

Tuesady, 31st July 07

As the sun set yesterday a veil of gossamer cobwebs streaked horizontally from the mast and rigging; a large white moon lifted above the southern horizon. Night was not as peaceful as I had hoped, but whenever I woke and glanced around there was beauty in the moonlight.

Up early as usual I listened to the shipping forecast and after breakfast we were away with the last of the ebb. I was surprised that a huge barge carrying a crane and a new north cardinal buoy overtook me on the way to lay the sea mark. There was very little wind, just a NE force 1 that saw us close-hauled. Shortly after 0800 we passed the Sunken Buxey Buoy near Foulness Sands where a dozen seals lay contented on the beach. A beautiful black and cream smack with a blue and white topsail overhauled ‘Faith’ and her girl crew asked permission to take a photo of the little boat.

By 0900 the wind petered out as the flood was intent on sweeping us back to Burnham; therefore I dropped the hook to await the anticipated sea breeze. An hour and a half later a large blue cargo ship with a white superstructure passed to the north and a gentle wind came in from the South East which meant we were on the wind again. Taking advantage of ‘Faith’s’ shallow draught I laid a course for the Buxey Beacon to the north and at the same time the wind came in from behind. Shortly before half eleven we were within a quarter of a mile of the lattice structure. Beyond lay the entrance to the River Colne and Brightlingsea could clearly be seen. Some anchored fishing boats were on our course.

At 1340 I anchored at Mearsea Stone for a break and refreshments, but an hour and a half later I moved because there was only 5 feet of water and a small rapid developed as the ebb made itself felt. With only a scrap of sail ‘Faith’ ran up river to the entrance of Pyefleet Creek where I again set the anchor, but in sufficient depth to allow us to remain afloat. Many yachts passed us on their way into the Creek and after my evening meal one anchored almost on top of ‘Faith’s’ anchor. I just hope we do not collide during the night.

Wednesday, 1st August 07

The anchorage on the River Colne became peaceful, but despite this I had a restless night and at 0430 I noticed a yellow Snapdragon 23 dragging her anchor; therefore I shouted “Ahoy” several times before a sleepy young man emerged from the cabin. He very quickly re-laid his anchor and disappeared below but not without thanking me for my warning.

There wasn’t a drop of wind, but the last of the tide was ebbing so I took up my anchor and used the yuloh to take ‘Faith’ with the current. Two hours later we were not far from the Colne Point buoy when a gentle wind came in from the SW which very soon backed to the SE. Progress was non-existent because the flood tide began to sweep us back into the River Colne. There was no way we were going to reach the Walton Backwaters and the only alternative was to drift with the current towards Bradwell Power Station where we arrived near the outfall at 1125. I decided to call into the Marconi Sailing Club for drinking water and on the way I followed the line of the perches marking drying mud at low water springs.

There was a lot of activity at the Sailing Club because hundreds of youngsters were sailing lightweight colourful dinghies such as Picos and Toppers. As I pulled into the new jetty many willing hands attended to my needs and the water was aboard in a few moments after which ‘Faith’ drifted with the current to anchor in time for lunch. It was really enjoyable in the summer sun watching many dinghies sailing to and fro.

When I had finished my afternoon snooze I made sail for a freshening wind that developed into a force 3 from east by south which meant ‘Faith’ was on the wind towards Bradwell where I intended to anchor in the lee of Pewit Island. I had a difficult moment near the north shore when ‘Faith’ would not tack; therefore I ran the boat before the wind and brought her round on the starboard tack which made it easier to reef. On the dot of 1630 I set the anchor in 15’ of water off Pewit Islalnd. I judged that depth of water would mean we would remain afloat.

As I type this I’m well fed and the wind has dropped altogether. It’s really peaceful here. The sun is reflected off the water to starboard and the birds on Pewit Island are making their characteristic trilling call..

Monday, July 30, 2007

Afloat Again

It is Monday, 30th July 07 and ‘Faith’ is afloat again, but this time on the River Crouch, her home waters. She was launched at Burnham Yacht Harbour at 1300, almost an hour before high water. I had intended to launch at Hullbridge at the public slipway, but the wind was onshore and I was uncertain I’d have enough depth of water. As it worked out Burnham was fine.

After lunch I tried the yuloh which was much better than before but I needed to make a bungee fixture to keep the yuloh from coming of its pin.

Because the wind was coming from the North West I felt it best not to set out right away, but rather to leave the departure until daylight tomorrow, all being well with the forecast. The tides are unfavourable for getting north and east because the flood will be in action for the greater part of the day and ‘Faith’ will need to make way against the current.

Tonight looks like being peaceful since ‘Faith’ is anchored near the north bank of the River Crouch opposite the entrance to the River Roach and the boat is protected from what little wind there is.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


The forecast for the next few days looks good, except the wind speeds are likely to be low or non-existent; nevertheless, I think I should avail myself of this ‘promise’ by the forecasters after such a bad summer. If I can get the boat launched on Monday, 30th July at Hullbridge from the public slipway I’ll take the ebb towards Burnham-on-Crouch, and who knows where I might drift off the East Coast. Perhaps the currents will whisk me to the Walton Backwaters and into Titchmarsh Marina where my friend Richard keeps his 40’ wooden classic yacht? Maybe I’ll be taken by the currents to the Rivers Ore and Alde where the DCA have a scheduled meeting on the weekend of 4th and 5th June?

The ship’s battery aboard ‘Faith’ is fully charged; therefore I’m hopeful I’ll be able to keep the blog log going by charging the laptop battery from it. So if you are interested in where the currents take us, that’s me and the boat, keep an eye on this page.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Plymouth to Exmouth

We had a quiet night anchored in the lee near the entrance to Millbrook Creek and we left the anchorage shortly after 0830 on the morning of 17th July 07. The inshore forecast was for a south westerly wind of force 5/6, decreasing 3 or 4 for with showers. As we sailed across Plymouth Sound we felt the full force of a southerly wind. We could hold a course for the eastern end of the breakwater and beyond near the shore where we put in a tack taking us outside the Mewstone off the entrance of the River Yealm. When clear of the fearsome looking rock we bore off on a course to windward of the Udder Rock. There was a large swell to the extent that for seconds at a time we could not see our companion boat. The wind increased to force 5 and perhaps 6 and showing no sign of abating.

Our boats were absolutely amazing; they never gave us occasion for alarm, although waves lifted and attempted to topple them. I kept the hatch of ‘Faith’ partially open, but I noticed Al was sailing his boat from inside, completely sealed from the elements. With the help of the flood tide our little craft frequently touched five knots and Al told me his GPS registered a top speed for a brief moment of eight knots! His miniature yacht must have surfed down a wave at the time.

At Bolt Head and Bolt Tail the spring tide was ebbing fast, causing the seas to be very confused. This was more awesome than we had expected, bringing about a situation of true adventure sailing. Had we known the weather forecast of decreasing winds was badly out we would not have sailed that day. Squalls shot over the hill tops and down the valleys laying our boats on their sides. We fair scooted up the narrow entrance with high granite cliffs and rolling hills either side. Further in, beyond the sandbar we passed grand hotels and large mansions. While approaching the public pontoon we downed our sails then used the yulohs to come alongside. The harbour master’s assistants were very helpful by providing us with information and also allowing us to stay at the pontoon longer than the permitted two hours. I shopped for a new peaked cap, as I had lost two when they were blown into the water. Retrieving such a small item when underway in windy conditions is always tricky because an eye has to be kept on it while the boat is being turned around, then a smart manoeuvre is required for plucking it out of the water before it sinks or it is lost from sight in the waves.

High water that evening was approximately at 2100 hours and therefore we waited until the incoming tide had slackened before beating to the beach at Splat Cove near the entrance to the River. We made the mistake of thinking we could settle on the beach for a quiet night, but in the event the surge brought about by the boisterous winds caused us some anxiety as our boats bounced on the appropriately named beach. Eventually we were left high and dry. At 0400 I laid out the anchors for our boats, placing them much further from the high water mark so that we would be able to pull our craft clear as they floated.

By 0700 we were afloat and anchored leeward of the beach for breakfast before setting off against the incoming tide. As there was so little wind we had to scull or paddle beyond Salcombe’s infamous sandbar in search of wind. It was the morning of the 18th July and yachts motor-sailing passed us on their way to a point where they could safely round Start Point. Al and I had agreed a waypoint well south of the Race and there we changed course for Berry Head, which was just visible in the distance. With the wind and tide behind us we made excellent time, but when we arrived near the prominent steep-sided sandstone cliff the tide turned against us and the wind dropped, so it was back to our yulohs again. Gradually we made progress towards the centre of Torbay where the effect of the ebb was less and where we were likely to pick up what little wind there was in the shadow of the land to windward. We were surprised at the strength of the ebb current as it moved southwards past Brixham Harbour, but by sailing well to the north before doing a final tack we gained access the Harbour where we moored at the Sailing Club pontoon.

The skipper of ‘Oronso’, a grand 31’ Moody yacht, made us very welcome. He and his crew had been stormbound for many days on his way from the upper reaches of the Bristol Channel - even 9 frustrating days he spent at the tiny Cornish port of Newlyn. He had wisely chosen not to sail the day our little craft had arrived at Salcombe.

The Brixham Yacht Club staff and members received us warmly by making their facilities at our disposal, including the use of their showers and afterwards by providing a cooked meal at a very reasonable price. One member even made his dinghy available for us so that we could get ashore from the pontoon.

Thursday, 19th July.

It was one of those gorgeous, calm sunny mornings as we cast off from the pontoon at Brixham Sailing Club. Al led the way by efficiently sculling ‘Little Jim’ while I paddled ‘Faith’ rather more slowly behind him. I wished my yuloh had been working properly so that I could have kept up with the leader. I had not made the pivot hole in the shaft sufficiently wide to allow me to rotate the blade properly.

Even beyond the promontory of Berry Head there was little wind. Al’s racing car green boat with her tan sail was almost a dot near the horizon by the time a zephyr stirred ‘Faith’ into action. Gradually I made my way towards the south while Al took his boat northwards for the shore, our courses converging until the situation was reversed. I maintained a track parallel to the coast well to the south, clear of the land, while Al searched for onshore breezes near the beach.

Creamy cumulus clouds floated above the land and directly overhead the sky was a perfectly pale blue; seaward there was a thin veil of dark grey cloud with a hint of thunder. Both boats slowly sailed to the east. By mid afternoon ‘Faith’ lay abeam of the seaside resort of Teignmouth, unmistakeable for its high bluff of dark red coloured cliff to the west the river Teign. Beyond, 45 degrees from the port bow lay the tiny seaside town of Dawlish and beyond I could see the sand of Dawlish Warren pointing in the direction of Exmouth. I frequently looked at the changing map on my Garmin GPS to confirm ‘Faith’ was heading towards the Pole Sands, a constantly moving sandbank that we hoped to cross because our boats only required a few inches of water. By doing so we would save a distance of nearly 3 miles.

When abeam of Dawlish Town I was struck with the beauty of the place from seaward. There were outcrops of sandstone cliffs carved and sculpted into attractive abstract shapes by the action of sea and wind. They reminded me of the works of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, both of whom were influenced by the beauty of natural forms moulded by wind and water.

Approaching the Pole Sands both boats found themselves partners again after sailing different courses and the intrepid Al took the lead again. We called out the depths of water as it gradually began to shallow; then ‘Little Jim’ came to a halt causing Al to jump over the side to float his boat clear. The same thing happened to ‘Faith’. Little by little we worked our craft over the sands as the water rapidly ebbed. Behind we observed breaking wavelets before solid land suddenly popped out of the water. The action was instantaneous and all of a sudden we were trapped while water rushed by as if charging down a rapid. Al had already laid his anchor when he waded towards me to help me lay mine. There was no danger, just a delay as we waited for the flood tide, taking the opportunity for cooking an early evening meal.

While we awaited the return of the water a young man dressed in a black wetsuit lazily sailed and dragged his Topper dinghy with the sail number 33347 towards the beach at Exmouth. Two open catamarans moved slowly beyond the sands on the seaward side of the Pole Sands and a man looking rather concerned for our welfare stood on the Warren beach. He was beyond hailing distance; therefore we could not reassure him that we were perfectly happy with our situation. Tripper boats, fishing launches and numerous small craft motored in on the incoming tide that charged up the main channel between the off-lying bank where we were stranded and Exmouth town beach. Waves from their wakes disturbed gulls searching for food at the water’s edge.

When the tide obligingly lifted our boats we used the current to whisk us beyond the harbour, then by the lifeboat and into a sandy cove adjacent to Imperial Park near the slipway we were to use the next morning. At this point Bill Churchhouse appeared wading in a pair of blue welly boots; the tanned spritely figure introduced himself and in no time we were chatting about boats as if we had been friends for years. He had entered the 2006 Jester Challenge Atlantic Race and was an entrant for the 2010 race. His boat with the name ‘Belgean’ was aground nearby on a raised level of sand. To anchor there cost nothing and as he was living aboard his Westerly 22 during the summer months he was appreciative of the facility. She looked the part with a self-steering gear and a transparent observation dome.

True to his word he turned up in his tender before high water on Friday morning (20th July) to help us retrieve our boats. Al took his ashore first because he could winch ‘Little Jim’ onto the trailer from very shallow water without getting the wheels of his trailer wet. Putting my boat on her trailer was more problematic. By the time the water was deep enough the incoming tide was intent on whisking her to one side, but as I held her centrally on the trailer Al winched in the boat. I quickly jumped into the car and pulled the trailer clear by using a long length of rope. Bill Churchouse and Al chocked the wheels so that the trailer would not roll down the slipway and I released the rope and backed the car for attaching the trailer to it.

Another interested party in our Paradoxes, by the name of Mike joined the ensuing conversation. He had been busily taking photos of the retrieval events. These photos he would send to me via the Internet and he also told me his Seawych bilge keel yacht was for sale, whereupon I said I would gladly add an advertisement on my web site. The journey home by road was very tedious because it took 7 hours on account of the volume of traffic, it being the first day after the schools had broken up for the summer recess and because the rain was absolutely torrential, causing accidents and breakdowns. Road works added to the delay in getting home.

In retrospect, Al and I had enjoyed a fortnight’s cruise despite the bad weather and we made tentative murmurings that we might have another attempt at the Scilly Isles next year after seeing the start of the Jester Azores Challenge Race at Plymouth. For such plans so much depends upon personal circumstances and the vagaries of the weather.

Monday, July 16, 2007

To Plymouth

Rainy Day

I’m not superstitious and yet it is Friday 13th July and the barometer hits a low and there is rain for much of the day. What best to do? Al and I beached our boats at St Just in Roseland and took the car to Truro where we did essential shopping. I for one need ‘GAZ’ canisters for the cooker, milk and tomatoes. Al was desperate for a book, as he had exhausted his library.

While at Truro we visited the Cathedral which is something of a jewel. The architecture inside is supreme beautiful with high vaulted brick ceilings, magnificent pillars, and three large rose windows decorated with colourful stained glass. There’s a superb carved alter wall at the east end full of biblical figures. In the town there is a large pedestrian precinct with all the usual shops and stores.

After our short stay at Truro we moved on to Falmouth where we took the ‘Park and Ride’ service to avoid the difficulty of parking in the town. Despite the appalling wet weather, the main street was full of visitors and the red white and blue bunting strung across the road provided a festive atmosphere. We bought traditional Cornish pasties for consumption at Boat Park near the Maritime Museum where we had a view of the harbour.

Instead of returning to St Just via Truro we took a shortcut by using the King Harry Chain Ferry, and it was just as well we did, for the water was about to float our boats, but not before we had laid out anchors for hauling them into deep water. We used our yulohs to edge across the wind for re-setting the anchors, and as we did so down came the rain in torrents lasting for three hours. Needless to say, I used the time aboard to carry out two jobs: the first was fixing the GPS bracket, because it had come loose, and the second was repairing the join for the water pump that came away from the screw top attaching it to the water tank.

Because the wind was almost gale force, our boats bounced up and down and continued to do so into the night.

14th July

We sailed from St Just to Polruan and picked up mooring there. It was a great sail with a following wind and the sun all day.

15th July

It was a terrible morning with incessant rain. A three mast square rigger named the ‘Earl of Pembroke’ entered the harbour. Al took me in his boat to the town pontoon at Fowey in search of a chandler open on a Sunday. Sure enough we found one and bought the chart.

16th July

We left the moorings at 0840 and tacked out of the entrance to head for the Udder Rock buoy. Visibility was not great but Loe Island came into view. Al took a more windward course which paid off, because I had a real struggle around Rame Head, having to tack to get around it against the ebb. Al waited for me at Cawsands where we met for the run towards Drake Island. Barnpool was not protected from the wind so we made our way to Millbrook Creek and anchored in 10 feet of water at 1740.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

9th to 12th July

Helford River etc (Four Days)

On Monday 9th of July while in St Just Creek I was surprised to find Al in ‘Little Jim’ alongside. He had launched his Paradox an hour or so before. We had a great chat catching up on all the news.

Tuesday, 10th July

Tuesday morning there was drizzle on and off, but we made sail for Falmouth where I wanted to shop for food and batteries. The wind was force at least force 5, more likely 6, which made getting into the pontoons difficult. I sailed in an lay beside a large yacht and I was instructed by the person in charge to move because ‘Faith’ was obstructing the Pilot Boat. As I could not use the yuloh efficiently because of an error in construction I had no option but to sail for Mylor where I had arranged to meet Chas, a longstanding sailing friend, but like Falmouth, because of the strong wind I could not take the boat in safely; therefore Al and I sailed across the River Fal for St Just.

Wednesday, 11th July

There was a weak ridge of high pressure over the British Isles and for the first time sun broke through the clouds. At last the solar panel was charging the battery satisfactorily.

Both boats left St Just Creek at 0815 bound for the Helford River. Sailing across Falmouth Bay was great fun as the force 4 wind was off the shore and the water was smooth, enabling us to make 4 knots and even up to 5 for short bursts. When it came to tacking in the River, Al took the lead and left ‘Faith’ behind. It became obvious I was not sailing my boat correctly, or the sail was inefficient, or the boat was not ballasted correctly for going to windward.

We anchored just inside the mouth of the river by a sandy beach protected with extending rocks, where we had lunch in bright sunshine. Afterwards we sailed to the pontoons at Helford River Sailing Club, we had a super walk exploring the picturesque village. Sadly the cream teas café had closed down. While doing the walk I inadvertently dropped my sailing hat and it wasn’t until I arrived back at the boat that I noticed it was missing. I retraced the walk and found the cap on the grass beside the path leading to the ferry slip.

Back at the club we had showers and Al ate out, while I cooked a meal before joining him for a drink at the Club. Whenever we were at the boats people would ask questions about their origin and design.

That night was very peaceful because the wind dropped and out boats had dried out.

Thursday, 12th July

We spent the morning walking to St Anthony Head and set sail in the afternoon for St Just. There was a following wind of force 4 which gave us high speed across Falmouth Bay. ‘Faith’ briefly touched 6 knots!

Back at St Just we relaxed and watched DCA boats as they came in from their exploits.

Tomorrow the forecast is for rain and a southerly force 7; therefore we’ll beach the boats and take to the car for Falmouth and other places.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Two Days

Sunday, 8th

Saturday’s forecast was variable becoming SW 3/4 increasing 5 or 6, heavy showers, good visibility, occasionally moderate. As I had breakfast while anchored at St Mawes I admired the scenery; seaward the colours were magical with huge white clouds reflected in an undulating mirror sea. I set sail for the River Fal and as ‘Faith’ neared the entrance to St Just Creek a swish black launch headed towards us and her skipper shouted, “You have a very distinctive boat,” to which I replied, “She is a bit different.” And that’s what I love about Paradox.

Changing course to the west I made a beeline for the lee, south of Restrongate Creek where tall trees kept the wind at bay, and there set the anchor. A sleek ‘Firebird’ catamaran lay quietly at her mooring a cable to the north and to the south were hundreds of boats tethered to the Mylor trots.

While having lunch a blue ‘Cruz’ drew alongside and Richard and Mark of the Dinghy Cruising Association introduced themselves. Later I observed two more dinghies flying the distinctive blue white and yellow pennant of the DCA. One was large varnished clinker boat with a high peeked lugsail and mizzen, the other was similar to a small Drascombe open boat.

At 1420 I broke out the anchor and hoisted sail with only 2 panels and in the strong wind we made 3.7 knots with an angle of heel of 20 degrees while on the wind. After an hour and a half I returned to nearly the identical spot in the lee of the trees. Later that evening after dinner and ablutions I discovered the laptop computer only had 18% battery power and therefore I could not write up the daily log. Before nightfall I was privileged to see the most beautiful double rainbow while around the boat cormorants or shags were catching their evening meal of fish. The fish were so abundant, shoals of them were breaking surface in a frenzy, presumably because a predator was after them.

Just before dusk the trip boat the, ‘Enterprise’ passed within a few feet while blasting out piped music; she was taking a party of holiday makers up the River to an inn, the name I cannot recall, but probably it was ‘The Anchor’. (Nearly all pubs by rivers have that name.)

In contrast to the unwelcome noise from the ‘Enterprise’ the quiet of the night was a joy, and I had a peaceful sleep.

Monday, 9th

The weather forecast predicted the wind would be stronger than yesterday, following the same pattern with heavy showers.

By 0730 we were underway and I cleaned the mud off the Danforth anchor, but in so doing I managed to get some rather large dollops on my sleeves, which later on dried and almost disappeared. Almost an hour after leaving the anchorage I set the anchor again before beaching on the shingle at St Just in Roseland. I took the laptop and mobile phone to Pasco’s Yard where Julian let me put them on charge. When anchored a few yards out after the shore escapade that included getting water and disposing the rubbish, a Hartley 14 came alongside with a crew of two; the helmsman introduced himself as Alan and he reminded me he had sent me an email in which he said he hoped to meet me at the DCA rally.

While anchored for lunch I checked the wiring on the solar panel and I found I had wired it incorrectly which accounted for the fact that the ship’s battery was low. After rectifying the fault the charger sprang into life.

At 1230 I set saile and followed several of the DCA dinghies bound for the sandy beach at the entrance to Mylor Creek. It was pretty boisterous with breakers brought about by the force 4 or 5 wind, maybe more; therefore I was not surprised when nearly all the boats returned and one crew wished my good luck. Outside in fairway ‘Faith’ came into her own having only 3 panels of sail she was sailing at 2.5 knots almost into the eye of the wind. Along the western shore by Restrongate and Loe Beach the sailing was exciting. There the water was smooth and the wind had increased causing ‘Faith’ to touch 5 knots while reaching. She gave a very comforting feel with no anxiety as she heeled between 20 and 30 degrees. I had the time of my life reaching and beating over and over again before sailing to the narrows at the northern end of the River.

When we returned to St Just in Roseland, there was Al in ‘Little Jim’; he very smartly used his yuloh to come alongside. We had a happy reunion and chatted for two-and-quarter hours before he took his boat to a slightly more protected anchorage within the Creek. We had arranged to use channel 77 at 0800 tomorrow.

Having eaten, washed and shaved I began typing this log and I’m hoping the wind will die down so that I’ll have a good sleep before tomorrow. The morning’s forecast is for much of the same – strong west to northwest winds and heavy showers.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

St Mawes

High water at Falmouth was at 1057 BST which meant I could launch ‘Faith’ at 0815 from the pebbly beach at St Just in Roseland. Everything went to plan and that was partly due to the fact there was hardly any wind, but there was sufficient to allow me to sail out of the creek into the River Fal where the wind freshened a little from the North West. That was ideal for a sail to Helford River, about 3 nautical miles from Pendennis Point

As ‘Faith’ sailed across Falmouth Bay on a fine reach I enjoyed looking at scenery; to the north there were some white beaches and behind them large buildings, including a prominent hotel, and to the south there were two ships at anchor laying side by side while transferring their cargo. Before I arrived off the entrance to the Helford River both ships got under way; the smaller black hulled vessel with a white superstructure crossed ahead in search of an anchorage. I was impressed by the way that whoever was in charge of the vessel carefully considered my slow progress and patiently waited until I was well clear before going astern to set the anchor.

The weather was almost perfect with white clouds set against an azure sky. ‘Faith’ sailed mostly unattended on her course towards Helford where the wind petered out giving me an opportunity to try the yuloh. There was no way I could get into the Helford River, as the ebb was on the run; I therefore turned the boat towards Falmouth with the prospect of playing with the sail to make the best of the fickle light wind. I had never before sailed close to the shore of Falmouth Bay and as the wind came in from the North West I took the opportunity. By then hundreds of yachts were sailing towards Helford from Falmouth and nearby there were many Pico dinghies from Bob Warren’s Sailing School practising their capsize drill in the lee of the cliffs.

When I arrived back at Pendennis Point the ebb was on the run and making into the Fal Estuary was hard going because the wind was negligible. I wondered if I would be able to pass to the north of Black Rock Beacon, which is an enormous monument with two black balls on the top, marking the spot of the infamous rock right in the middle of the entrance to the Fal.

I spent three hours trying to make progress northwards against the wind and the ebb tide; in the end I gave up and ran for St Mawes where I anchored in 15 feet of water to the east of the granite Castle. Setting the anchor was OK, but I had to make sure I was well away from three other yachts at anchor and as I tried rolling in the sail it did not go perfectly so the end of the boom went into the water, but I dropped the anchor astern and moved it forwards before sorting out the mess with the rig.

‘Faith’ is such an unusual boat she causes people to come and have a look; one such person, with the name of Jason, was intrigued with her. He spent a full half hour alongside on a fact-finding mission. He had a large Westerly yacht that he renovated after she had sunk.

As I type this log ‘Faith’ is sheltered from the North wind, but she is near the fairway that the St Mawes Ferry uses and every half hour I’m subjected to the buffeting of her wash and there are numerous runabouts going to and fro, some deliberately come close for the fun of it. I guess my night here will not be very quiet, as it is a Saturday which most probably means there will be a lot of activity well into the early hours of the morning.