Saturday, July 31, 2010

‘Ladybird’ for Sale

For more photos, visit the ebay page

The deed has been done. I made the decision to place my Seawych 19 for sale in the ‘Buy it now’ category of Ebay. You can see the advert by pasting this number160462863471in the search box at The asking price of £2,750 which is a true value based on the age, condition and inventory of the yacht, includes an almost brand new Honda 2.3 outboard and a dinghy with oars, rowlocks and dinghy trolley.

I know this boat is good, because I have sailed her during the past two months in a variety of conditions, the worst being around Portland Bill when the waves were about three metres high and breaking. She ran before them and her buoyancy kept her out of trouble as we passed by the western end of the Shambles Bank. For an account of that day’s sailing visit: .

My regular readers will know that I change my boats on average, every two years, in order to do new projects, which this time could well be building a small boat, smaller than the Paradox I built: see or , plus others featuring ‘Faith’ at YouTube.

Whoever gets this boat will have a bargain. You need only look at new boats of around 19 feet LOA to see that this is the case, and often they do not come with all the necessary cruising equipment, unlike a second-hand one.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Back Home

The driver and his cousin

The passengers

Forest and Jenny, the cats who are not stupid; they know where to stay cool in the shade!

One of the great things about being back home is that you are not cut off from family and friends, as when you are alone on a boat. I have been cruising my yacht for the past two months and I have missed close contact with those who are important to me: my wife, my children who have grown up, their children, some of whom have grown up and of course, my church family, the people I meet and worship with on Sundays and at other times. When you are on a boat by yourself, your decisions are simplified, because the main ones are concerned with your own safety and welfare, but when you are at your home base, your main decisions are about the welfare and wellbeing of those you love and care for.

Being involved, as ever, this morning I found myself in the role of driver for my wife, and carer for my triplet grandchildren. How closer could you get than this with doing something vital and worthwhile? It’s always a privilege and a responsibility to look after grandchildren, and a few hours ago I fully appreciated the love they have for me; likewise I enjoyed being able to show my love for them. An older granddaughter was with us as a third hand to help with the children. The boys each have their own buggies in which we took them to the local ASDA for slices of toast. This was a great treat for them at a place where they are well-known by the staff and regular shoppers. The fun we had cannot be measured; we had such a lovely time together. On the way back to their home we took a route away from the traffic, along a path through a green area where there are birds, insects and a variety of plants and trees. Butterflies were flitting to and fro under the summer sun and we saw a few ladybirds. The children wore hats to protect them from the sun’s scorching rays.

Back at home the boys had a late morning nap, while the two cats took up residence in the lounge to escape the heat. They are about fourteen years old, and very sprightly for their age. The male cat, who is named Forest tried staring me out, which he could not do, and he turned his head away in subjugation and defeat, but he was not daunted; he proudly lifted his head and looked towards his sister who was cleaning her mouth with one of her paws. The two cats live harmoniously together, and although much older than the triplets, they have accepted them into the family, as if they are their own kittens.

The boat is on hold, until I sort out the things I have to attend to, after being away for two months, but a decision will have to made, to sell the yacht, or to keep her. I also need to have a self-debriefing of the days spent aboard so that I can profit from the exercise, to take hold of what has been useful and take with me what will be valuable. What lessons were learned, and can they be applied to my future actions? Meanwhile ‘Ladybird’ is pining away without her skipper as she feels redundant while on a tether, hoping she will not be abandoned to a new owner.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, 29th July

Early morning view from the boat

The summer cruise is well and truly finished. This morning I offloaded all the cruising gear and gave the boat a thorough clean. The friendly Rice and Cole boatman helped me put ’Ladybird’ on her new mooring which is closer to the jetty than the old one. One of my daughters arrived in the car at a prearranged time and we put all the bits and pieces in the boot.

The first day back ashore has been exceptionally busy, because not only have I had to sort out the cruising gear, but I have been in demand for driving family members to and fro. (I haven’t driven them mad, neither have they caused me any hassle.)

It’s good to be back home sharing all the news and getting into the routine of being on terra firma. There have been times when I stepped ashore and the land was moving all over the place, particularly in a confined space like a shower. Regaining my shore legs is not usually a problem, because I’m seldom onboard for more than two days at a time, and when I’m able to get ashore I enjoy walking to sample the locality, to take in the sights, and to see those things that interest me.

My Sony Cyber-shot 7.2 mega pixels camera has been a really useful tool. More recently I’ve been exploring the different modes for taking photos with the camera; for example, this morning I took a low light photo of an early morning view from the boat, looking towards the shore.

Perhaps tomorrow I‘ll be able to find time to put together a few thoughts about the summer cruise.

I have yet to make a decision whether to sell ‘Ladybird‘, as would be the case if I follow my usual pattern of owning a boat for two years, then taking on a new boat project; maybe building one, renovating one, or getting hold of another boat for improving her and trying her out..

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday, 28th July

The Red Sand Towers

One of the three ships heading southwest

'Ladybird' at home

My long summer cruise is finished. ‘Ladybird’ is back at her Rice and Cole mooring. She voyaged from the River Crouch to Falmouth and back in less than two months.

Conditions were ideal at the beginning of today as we left the River Swale moorings. The wind was from the NW, which meant we could lee-bow the incoming tide northwards to the Red Sand Towers. We had first to pass to the west of the East Middle Sand Beacon which marked the clear water there. The Kentish Flats Wind Farm to starboard was a magnificent sight - row upon row of enormous wind turbines.

Immediately to the north of the Red Sand Towers there is the Owers Deep shipping Channel and as we were crossing it, one ship was going along it north-eastwards and three were going to the southwest. There was ample time to cross the bow of the ship from the west, but not enough time to make it beyond the buoys marking the northern side of the Channel before the other ships would have passed our bow. I therefore had to bear away under the stern of all three vessels.

We continued northwards toward Maplin Sands, but before reaching them we bore off slightly to the SW Barrow Buoy where the incoming tide was very strong, reducing our speed to only 1.5 knots; however, the wind on the new course was directly from astern, which was a great help. We very, very slowly ran up the West Swin along the edge of Maplin Sands. The Firing Range was active and the guard boat crossed rapidly north astern of us. At first I thought she was heading for ‘Ladybird’.

At mid morning we were invaded by a swarm of those flies that look like miniature wasps. They kept landing on my hands, which was a bit annoying. Even now as I type, there are one or two flying around the cabin.

I did my usual trick of cutting across the northern end of Maplin Sands a half-a- mile beyond the extremity of the Firing Range boarder. I could do this because it was high water and there were nearly three metres of clearance under the transducer.

There was a tiny glitch near the Buxey No 1 Buoy because the wind increased in strength and I couldn’t shorten down the sails as I needed to steer the boat to keep her moving. Later when the boat was in clear water I reefed the mainsail and that made all the difference. We were just able to lee bow the out coming tide so that we could motor sail into the River Crouch. The further we went into the River the smoother the water became and the faster the boat went, until we were doing a reasonable 2.5 knots against the ebb.

We arrived at the Rice and Cole pontoon at 1820 after a really good day’s sail. Then, all of a sudden it dawned on me that my summer cruise had come to an end.

What next?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday, 27th July

North Foreland Lighthouse
Swale mooring

When I set off from Ramsgate I didn’t know how difficult and demanding the going would be. By the time ‘Ladybird’ was abeam of Broadstairs, having travelled 2.8 miles, the engine had been running for two hours! The tide didn’t turn in our favour until we were off the Longnose Buoy, north of North Foreland. From there on progress was good along the north Kent coast past Margate until we were abeam of Reculver. The Margate Hook Sands were behind us, but the tide and wind were then against us. The rain came down and drenched everything. The wind strengthened which caused me to make full sail and start tacking to the west. The engine was ineffective because of the short choppy waves. To make things difficult the wind varied in strength and direction, causing me to make several adjustments to the sails. A bigger, more powerful yacht easily overtook us.

When Whitstable was abeam I identified the Whitstable Spit Buoy. This was no longer a north cardinal buoy because it has been substituted for a red can buoy. Gradually the wind increased in strength and backed to the southwest so that going into the River Swale, ‘Ladybird’ had to battle against it and the ebbing current. Our average speed at that point was only two knots. By following the four metre sounding line we were able to make better progress, because the current wasn’t as strong there as in the centre and deepest part of the River.

Dark clouds ahead threatened more rain, but there was a bright spot, seven seals on the mud to our starboard hand. By the time we reached Harty Ferry on the southeast corner of the Isle of Sheppey the tide slackened. A little further up the River I tied the boat to a vacant mooring. The time was at 1850. I was really pleased to have arrived in the River Swale, because the passage had been energy sapping. It had taken nine hours and twenty minutes to complete 25 nautical miles.

I have yet to work out a passage plan for tomorrow so that I can have the choice of sailing or stay put for a rest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday, 26th July

Sunrise at Dover
The 'Balmoral'

Despite the rolling of the yacht in Dover Harbour I had a refreshing sleep. My internal alarm clock had me out of the bunk at 0500 in readiness for the early shipping forecast.

Dover is a fascinating place because there are always things happening; for example, at 0600 on the dot, the cruise ship Balmoral docked at the Admiralty Pier. A tug stood by as she l did this under her own steam; first turning 180 degrees before reversing to come alongside the Pier. While that was happening a solitary rod fisherman stood motionless at the adjacent Prince of Wales Pier with his fishing line dangling into the calm water.

My departure from the Harbour was not due until 1100 when the ebb would help me on the way to Ramsgate. I expected a Force 4 from the northwest. The direction was correct, but the variation of strength was changeable, due in part to the varying speed of the current. When the water passed over shallows the speed of it increased, very much like large scale rapids on rivers where the waves increase in size. At such places like the Downs Shoal to the northwest of Deal, I needed to reduce sail, otherwise ‘Ladybird’ was overpowered.

Because of the fast-moving current and the squally wind, the sail to Ramsgate was demanding. The final positioning before reaching Ramsgate was important, because if the boat was taken too far north, getting her across the north-going ebb to the Harbour entrance may not have been possible, which would have meant a late entry, until the tide ceased running.

In the Royal Harbour the harbour master was there to show me my berth and take my warps - the only place where this has happened, and the Marina was the cheapest of them all!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, 25th July

Looking toards Dover Castle
Hint of sunrise
Gaffer leaving Soveriegn Harbour

I couldn’t sleep from two-thirty this morning. I awoke and started thinking about the day’s sail from Eastbourne to Dover, a distance of 35 nautical miles. ‘Ladybird’ had to be in the lock by 0450, and it took me from 0300 to have breakfast, visit the toilet, prepare the boat, plus motor her to the lock.

Out on the water the scene was rather leaden, but a beautiful gaffer brightened the scene. She was powered with an outboard, but because of her long waterline length she very soon left us behind, and motored ahead with two larger yachts. Soon they were tiny dots on the horizon as the sun briefly showed behind cloud. There was hardly a breath of wind. When we were off Hastings I caught my first glimpse of Dungeness Power Station, unmistakeable very large buildings on the horizon. From there on the steering was visual - I just pointed the bow directly towards the smudges in the distance until they became larger when our course was refined for rounding the headland itself.

Wildlife was in abundance. A mile to the northeast of Dungeness I had the privilege of watching small black porpoises, the likes of which I have not seen before. Porpoise are usually grey. Gannets were diving for fish, and even swallows passed nearby. A handful of rod fishing boats were drifting on the tide; their occupants were oblivious of our passing them. Other yachts overtook us. The wind picked up and I cut the engine. Like yesterday, the strength of the wind increased until I had to reef both sails. Off Folkestone it blew its strongest, but not as strongly as yesterday when I severely reefed the sails.

Fortuitously, ‘Ladybird’ arrived at the western entrance to Dover Harbour shortly after the departure of a merchant ship. With permission from Harbour Control via the VHF radio, I anchored the boat in 3.8 metres of water where the chart showed 1.7 metres at low water. I think I have the best place in Dover - here all by myself in the lee of the Harbour wall. Yes, the boat is rolling, but there is no fee to pay and there is no noise, except for the sound of water and the mewing of gulls. The views are stunning, particularly towards the elevated Dover Castle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday, 24th July

Botter style Dutch yacht
Sovereign Marina

This morning I restocked the boat with food and bought five litres of unleaded petrol for the outboard. I didn’t make the mistake of obtaining the petrol from the Marina, as I did last time. The Asda garage around the corner sells fuel considerably cheaper than the Marina, and it is much closer to the boat. There was hardly any wind and the sun was shining. I took the opportunity to hang up my oilskins and towel to dry.

By the time of my departure at 1200 from Brighton the wind had picked up to a good Force 4; that was helpful, for the tide was against us all the way to Sovereign Marina at Eastbourne. I anticipated that the waves at Beachy Head would be quite steep and perhaps with breaking crests. That was the case half a mile offshore, but close in, the water was smooth. I had reefed the mainsail more than at any time during the cruise, which was just as well, because past the Head the wind increased to a Force 6. ‘Ladybird’ managed this very well.

Off the entrance of the Marina I hove the boat to and prepared the warps and fenders for the lock. My timing was fortuitous, because we berthed into the lock at 1755, five minutes before it was closed. Inside the landlocked marina the water was dead smooth and there was hardly any wind because of the building surrounding the Marina.

As usual, what to do the next day will depend on the weather forecast.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday, 23rd July

General view of Eastoke Point at the narrows of Chichester Harbour
Zoomed-in view of the Sailing Club at Eastoke
Running downwind to Brighton

‘Ladybird’ is now at Brighton after a 36 mile passage from East Head, Chichester Harbour. The morning was full of promise with a light wind from the NW. The anchor was up at 0530, and we were away, the engine purring, giving 3.5 knots against the first of the flood tide into Chichester Harbour. Outside at West Pole the tide was still flooding up the English Channel, but it was due to turn against us at 0915, by which time I hoped to be two or three miles beyond the Mixon Beacon that marks the southern extremity of Selsey Bill. The current there is a brute beast if you get it wrong so that you can be held up for hours until the tide turns in your favour.

Everything worked according to plan, and the wind even backed to the SW, so that we had a dead run on 80 degrees for Brighton Marina 28 miles along the coast - that’s from the Boulder Buoy at the western end of the Loo Passage.

A thing that struck me was an almost absence of wildlife. Only at the beginning of the trip did I see a number of gulls grouped together on Pole Sands. In fact, from the start, it was a solitary experience until nearing Brighton, where yachts from all directions were arriving simultaneously. The Marina was packed with French, German and Belgium yachts. Unusually, ‘Ladybird’ was the first yacht to arrive.Three others closely followed her in.

I’m always pleased when I make it to a secure harbour where the water is flat so that I need no longer to expend energy on keeping upright, and at night I can lay down in horizontal mode at rest. So that’s what I am looking forward to after I’ve had a shower.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday, 22nd July

Sunset at Newton



‘Ladybird’ has returned to the anchorage off East Head, Chichester Harbour. She loves it here, as does her skipper. Anchored out of the channel in two meters of water gives a peaceful berth because the boat mainly lies to the wind, which means there is no fight between wind and tide for supremacy - that’s unlike being at Newton last night. There, the tussle between wind and tide caused me to have an hour’s anchor watch between midnight and one a.m. to check that the anchor was not dragging. There was that characteristic grinding sound of the chain as it was moved over the seabed. In the dark, even with the moon shining, yachts nearby looked really close. Darkness tends to make things look nearer than they really are.

Despite not having the peaceful night I so wanted, my in-built time clock had me out of my bunk in time to hear the early morning shipping forecast. Apart from the prediction there would be showers at first, the southerly wind was ideal for making east. ‘Ladybird’ would be able to sail over the ebb from Cowes onwards. From Newton to Cowes the wind was in our favour. The wind turned out to be variable in strength which mean frequent adjustments of the sails to find the right amount to have up.

Even at seven in the morning there were several yachts out and about in the Solent, plus the usual ferries, including the hovercraft, a very fast catamaran, the Lymington to Yarmouth ferries and the Portsmouth and Ryde ferries. I had to be extra vigilant when passing Cowes because one ferry was entering while another was leaving and a very large private motor yacht insisted on aiming at ‘Ladybird’ as she tried to avoid the ferry exiting Cowes. A heavy shower that reduced visibility did not help matters. The engine at that point was essential for keeping out of trouble. Beyond the outer moorings at Cowes the wind almost petered out as we were overtaken by a swish sailing yacht that had been anchored nearby at Newton.

Later in the morning the dark clouds disappeared to be replaced with volatile, rapidly changing cumulus clouds, indicative of a fresh wind from abeam. Frigate 229 made a fine sight as she rapidly steamed eastwards at Spithead on a course between No Man’s Land Fort and Horse Sand Fort. From there the course to West Pole Beacon, marking the entrance of Chichester Harbour, was 080. The scene was rather grand as the white crests of the waves marched northwards over the shallows of Hayling Bay. Langstone Harbour was to our north and three miles ahead I could just make out the Beacon where we would turn northwards to Chichester Harour.

I knew it would be a rough entry because the wind was fresh and the tide was ebbing against it. Three yachts were leaving and that number were entering. A large motor yacht making her exit came at speed past ‘Ladybird’, despite there being only five meters of water. This created a very turbulent sea, and shortly after, we did an involuntary gybe. No damage was done and we proceeded to make slow progress against the ebb towards the beacon at Eastoke Point were the water really gushed out like tea coming from the spout of a kettle, except the colour of the water was a fantastic translucent green capped with rolling white curlers. It was exciting to say the least, steering the boat directly downwind while trying to avoid broaching. I needed a fair amount of sail to have enough power to move the boat against the ebb. In any case, reducing sail under those conditions was not possible.

Inside the Harbour the water flattened out; in fact the water was almost smooth, which was very deceptive for those making out to sea because they may not have realised how bumpy it was out there.

A handful of yachts were anchored off East Head, and another four were high and dry, having being deliberately beached on the wonderful, fine sand below the dunes. For some unaccountable reason, my anchor did not hold, which caused me to have a second go at anchoring. The second attempt proved successful. A cup of tea soon refreshed me for making a late lunch which I ate with relish, and after tidying the boat i had an afternoon nap. Here I am at 1700 typing my Blog. Tomorrow will bring its own decisions; meanwhile, all I ask is that I may have a quiet night with no anchor watch!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday, 21st July

Property at Sandbanks
Hurst Point Fort
Very fast Customs vessel

I had intended to have at least another day in Poole Harbour, but the wind and tide were absolutely perfect for a run to the Solent. After leaving Poole Quay Boat Haven, I hoisted sail and cut the engine. From thereon I enjoyed a fantastic sail across Poole Bay on a course of 080 degrees heading for North Head Buoy 16 miles away. With the force 3 wind coming over the starboard quarter ‘Ladybird’ had no difficulty in making over the ebbing tide. At first I steered through the channel close to the beach at Sandbanks where the most expensive houses in the UK are situated. From them the occupants have a view overlooking Poole Bay towards the Isle of Wight in the very far distance.

As I expected, there was a turbulence of water over the shallows extending from Christchurch. There I reefed the Genoa to make the ride comfortable. The weather was perfect for sailing - the wind being a force 3 to 4 alternated from astern to broad on the beam. With the aid of my chart GPS I was able to steer towards North Head Buoy where we arrived at 1230. The ebb was still running through the narrows between Fort Albert on the Isle of Wight and Hurst Point Fort on the mainland to my port.

There was a perfect anchorage in the shallows to the northeast of Hurst Point where I dropped the hook so that I could rest and have time to work out where to spend the night. The anchorage where I was, was a little too exposed for an overnight stop. After having a snooze I unfurled the Genoa and headed towards Yarmouth. By then the tide was flooding and good speed was made along the Island shore until we arrived at the entrance of Newton Creek. The opening looked impossibly narrow, but when we went through it the water was about 5 meters in depth. The anchorage to the south of Fishhouse Point was quite full; however, there was a spot that I quickly grabbed. Since anchoring there, a several yachts have arrived and they have all have found places to set their anchors.

I’m hoping I’ll have a quiet night, which could be the case if the wind dies down. The Harbour Master came by in his launch and somehow he didn’t see ‘Ladybird’ when collecting his dues. The fact that she is the smallest visiting yacht could have something to do with his blind spot, for which I’m grateful.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday,20th July

Bronze sculpture of Robert Baden-Powell
Close-up showing details

I’m getting used to this life aboard, rambling along the shoreline of Southern England. Wherever I stop, I explore the neighbourhood on foot and record what I see by taking digital photos, which I store on a memory card. Going back through the photographs when I get home will bring back memories of where I have been and what I saw.

Here at Poole there are so many things of interest, but my Blog is limited regarding the number of photographic illustrations I can include per posting. Four photos is probably the maximum, because they take time to download at your end when you access them. Therefore I have to be very, very selective as to what I include. Today is a case in point, because I took snapshots of the Commercial Harbour, Sunseeker Yachts outside the yard where they are built, several old buildings, items in the Museum including examples of the world-famous Poole pottery, and numerous other subjects, but I have chosen only one for now, a sculpture of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement. He set up the first campsite with Scouts on Brownsea Island.

Sailing the boat from one location to another takes a lot of energy and I’m finding I need a rest now and again; therefore I have decided to stay at Poole Quay Boat Haven for another night. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll find a peaceful anchorage where I can recoup my energy for continuing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday, 19th July

'Condor Express'

Anvil Point

Old Harry

The first main decision of the morning was to put to sea rather than wait for the shops to open. Soon after leaving the berth at Weymouth, ‘Ladybird’ passed by the huge ‘Condor Express’, and when we were a mile on our way, a fast motor launch drew alongside enquiring if we intended to go south of the Lulworth Firing Range. I confirmed that was my intention. He asked if I thought the boat was too small to venture 6 miles out sea. I replied that I planned to sail to Poole; whereupon he gave me a latitude and a longitude waypoint which would ensure the boat would be outside of the Range.

Apart from the coastal scenery, which included the chalk cliffs of Lulworth Cove, until mid morning the trip was rather uninteresting, because I had to use the engine as there was insufficient wind for sailing. There were several other yachts all heading for the same waypoint, some from the east and others from the west. The only real excitement was at St. Alban’s Head where Race carried us along at a good lick. The next interesting stretch was in Poole Harbour where there were many boats speeding along. I needed eyes in the back of my head because ‘Ladybird’ was frequently overhauled.

Getting into Poole Quay Yacht Haven was easier than I thought it would be.

I’ll probably have a look at the Town tomorrow morning before finding an anchorage in the Harbour.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday, 18th July

Dorchester Grace Baptist Church meets at the premises of the YMCA near Tesco
Before the worship
An almost clow-like ceramic figure at Dorchester Tesco
Another ceramic piece at Tesco
George 111 Memorial

If you are a Christian what do you do on a Sunday? Answer: You do the same as you do every day, you worship God, but more than that, if you have opportunity, you join with other worshippers to praise and adore Jesus. That said and done, this morning I had a special time with the fellowship at Dorchester Grace Baptist Church with a visiting preacher from Ulster. He very appropriately for me preached on the sovereignty of God, the God who controls and sustains all things, including every molecule of water. That made me think of the waves with their awesome power, waves that rose and fell over the Shambles Bank, to the east of Portland Bill. Yesterday I experienced the power of those waves firsthand and responded to them by acting with the tiller of ‘Ladybird’ to keep her in harmony with them. Likewise, I and others who worship God, react to what He ordains. He is the God who is more powerful than the waves, the wind and the whole universe, for He is the Creator who made them and controls them.

After our worship, we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. The day was one I shall not forget, because it was so enjoyable to be with brothers and sisters in Christ.

To occupy time before the church meeting I took an interest in the nearby Tesco, which I am led to believe was designed with special criteria to satisfy the whims of Prince Charles. One of the stipulations appears to have been the inclusion of creative art works. Almost hidden in the grand scheme there are small ceramic three-d pieces representing animals, plants and people. Exactly what their significance is I couldn’t say, but they certainly caught my attention.

Much grander than the Tesco grandeur, at Weymouth seafront there’s a huge memorial sculpture commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reign of George 111. While I was waiting for the arrival of the bus that would convey me to Dorchester I couldn’t resist taking photos of the ‘object‘.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday, 17th July

Morning rainbow as seen through the cabin window
Leaving Exmouth
Exe Bell Buoy
View from the cabin at Weymouth

My morning started with a rainbow. The boat was just touching bottom at low water. This gave me time to prepare for the off as soon as ‘Ladybird’ was afloat. At 0630 I started the engine and made pretty good progress against the first of the flood tide. By 0730 we were alongside the Exe Bell Buoy and I squared the boat off for the course of 101 degrees for a point south of the Portland Race which was 36.5 miles away. The wind filled in from the SW and with the tide in our favour we scuttled along. The strength of the wind gradually increased to force 6, but as we were broad reaching I could keep full sail until 1300 when I had to put in a heavy reef in the mainsail.

At 1400 we were only 6 miles from the Bill and there was still an hour of tide in our favour which meant that by the time we were south of Portland Lighthouse the tide was ebbing which caused large breaking waves, but ‘Ladybird’ was magnificent and responded to the helm so that the worst ones could be taken directly with the stern pointing into them. The Shambles Bank increased the height of the waves. Instead of going to the west, on a course parallel to the Shambles Bank I took a risk and went across the western end of it. This saved me about 4 extra miles and a lot of time, but it was a risky strategy that paid off. Only once did a wave come over the quarter, dumping some water in the cockpit that quickly drained out. Two other yachts were making for Weymouth.

The further north we went the smoother the seas became in the lee of Portland Harbour and ‘Ladybird’ really shifted. A mile from the entrance of Weymouth Harbour I took in sail and started the engine. Keeping a lookout for large craft entering or leaving the Harbour I steered for the southernmost pier and kept clear of the fishermen’s lines. I berthed alongside a larger yacht at 1800, having taken less than 12 hours to do the whole trip of 42 nautical miles. It had been an exhilarating day’s sail.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday, 16th July

Last night's gale
'Boss' Gull
General view with Mill Bridge
The stalking cat

Last night’s gale gave me a bumpy ride, but I had a good night after listening to Classic FM. Today was far more promising in terms of weather, and tomorrow looks even better. Perhaps I’ll be able to set sail for Weymouth in the morning?

Exeter seems to hold a fascination, because once again I was drawn to visit the City, and while there I saw one of my sister-in-laws.

I’m amazed how much has changed over the years since the early 60s. This time I explored the Exe River as far as Cowley Bridge. A lot of large-scale building works have been erected beside the railway line and along the river bank, much of it in the form of blocks of flats and new houses. One part that is quite attractive is the landscaping of the river bank by the Miller’s Bridge, which in itself is unusual, being based on a cantilever design with an enormous imitation millstone acting as a counterweight to balance the gravitation force acting on the cross-members.

While I was having a picnic beside the River, a ’boss’ gull took up residence a few feet away, hoping to be fed with morsels from me. He was the dominant gull who chased the others away. In the end I had to award him for his persistence and patience. I kind of softened to him and gave in. He didn’t like me offering anything to the other birds and aggressively attacked them.

A noticed at a cat stalking birds up a tree; he was so attractive I couldn’t resist taking a photo of him.

Passage planning has priority before I turn in for the night.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


At the beginning of the gale

Note the angle of heel

Today is Thursday, 15th July, 2010. I have been marooned on the yacht since last night. Basically, the wind has been too strong for me to risk using the tiny inflatable dinghy to get ashore and return to the boat. Blowing downwind and sideways to the Starcross shore is feasible, but rowing back against the wind is not. I learnt the reality of this last evening when I had to return to ‘Ladybird’ after spending the day at Exeter. The going was tough, as I explained in today’s Blog.

While the gale has been blowing I have had to entertain myself. After breakfast I had the usual self-clean which entails a strip wash, then I prepared and posted the Blog. The remainder of the morning I spent reading; likewise after lunch I did the same. I have run out of reading matter, but reading things a second time will be profitable because I shall pickup on themes and items I previously missed.

The time is 1845 and the ship’s barometer indicates an air pressure of 996 millibars and it is falling. I am expecting the forecasted force 9 wind shortly. Rain lashes the boat so as to drum on her decks while the wind howls through the rigging. In addition to that, the sea slaps the hull which seem rather thin, acting like a drum magnifying the effect, a bit like the sound of a cane when it comes into contact with the backside of a miscreant receiving just punishment. (Not politically correct these day, but nevertheless justice being meted out to persuade the wrongdoer to amend his ways, and an example for others to note that if they do wrong, that’s what they can expect.) The mooring line tugs on the bow fairlead each time the bow is flung upwards by breaking waves, while at the same time the stern hit’s the water, making a sound like water going down a drain. The main halyard now and again bangs on the mast which resounds loudly with a staccato metallic clanking overriding the other noises.

When I think of being at sea in a force nine my heart misses a beat. Here at Starcross there is not much protection from the wind, but the Dawlish Warren Sands come between the boat and the sea to cushion the effect. Take it from me, the experience is not exactly nice. I hope the mooring will hold and the moorings upwind will also hold. The movement is like being on the back of a bucking bronco and the whining of the wind is nerve-racking.

I hope the wind will abate by tomorrow morning when I’m expected to move to another mooring.

Thursday, 15th July

One of yesterday's downpours in Exeter

The Exmouth/Starcross Ferry passing by a few moments ago

The diesel train also passing by

As I prepare this posting, the yacht is being buffeted by the wind; she has about 10 degrees of heel because the keels are being pushed by the ebbing tide towards the wind. I am sat in the middle of the boat where there is the least movement. There is a forecast for winds to occasionally reach Force 9! I am dubious about trying to get ashore today, as last night I had real difficulty in reaching the yacht by the use of the dinghy. Both wind and tide were against me. In the end I had to carry the dinghy for a good quarter of a mile from the railway underpass at the Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club to well beyond the one adjacent to where ‘Ladybird’ is moored. That was necessary to be sufficiently upwind of the boat to make it there before being swept up the River. While carrying the dinghy I needed to put a lot of effort into pointing the bow of the dinghy towards the wind. If it swung sideways to the wind I almost took off as if I were kite sailing. At first the going was almost impossible, because my Wellington boots stuck in the mud, but the more progress I made, the better the surface became for walking, until eventually I was walking on pebbles, but the tide was coming in, and shortly where I stood would be covered, and apart from climbing a buttress for retaining the sea wall, there was no escape.

This morning I woke to the alarm and routinely listened to the forecast, but I didn’t need to hear it to know I would not be sailing for Weymouth - south or southwest 6-8, occasionally 9. I’m thankful to be on a substantial mooring obviously made for a larger boat than ‘Ladybird’ because of the length of the strops and the size of the buoy. Tomorrow morning I’ll need to find another mooring because the owner of this one wants to put his own boat on it. I just hope the wind will have lessened by then. Trying to pick up a mooring buoy by oneself in very windy conditions can be difficult. You point the bow of the yacht to the buoy, but by the time you have walked forward with the boathook the buoy is beyond your reach, or the waves bounce the buoy and the boat around so much that you can’t get the hook to engage.

Well, my plan is to stay on the boat until the wind abates, or if there is a lull I may be able to get ashore; the problem then is finding another lull for returning to the boat. Gale force 8 and the occasional 9, make this a risky business. It looks as though I’ll be confined to the boat for more reading and a buffeting.