Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 14

Belle Île (Courtesy Wikipedia)

I listened to the early morning shipping forecast on Sunday, 4th August: variable 3 or less, becoming west, thundery showers, moderate or good. Well, that wasn’t bad. By 0640 we were underway and ten minutes later I streamed the log. As we sailed northwest we encountered numerous fishing buoys. Each and every one had to be avoided. By mid morning the sea was free of them. At mid-day we were attacked by a heavy squall that had me handing the Genoa. More was to come after lunch when we suffered the most horrendous thunderstorm accompanied by a gale force blast of wind that had ‘Aziz’ heeling about 25 degrees – that was after I had taken all sail off her. I can’t say I had seen such heavy rain before! – It was like being under Niagara Falls. I was fearful that the yacht may be struck by lightening as blinding bolts of light hurtled into the water all around. I was expecting to see the mast aglow with St. Elmo’s fire, but that didn’t happen.

Chastened by the experience, when the worst had passed I set the small jib and put three reefs in the main. Later in the afternoon another storm hit us, but it was not so vicious. By 2039 we were snugly anchored in the lee of the harbour wall at Le Palais, Belle Île. The sun was shining and I expected a quiet evening. We had only been anchored for ten or so minutes when a French yacht anchored beside ‘Aziz’ so close that we could just about shake hands – not that I felt like doing so. This was followed by another, almost equally close on the other side. By nightfall we were completely hemmed in. I prayed that the wind would not blow up during the hours of darkness. Shouting continued until early in the morning, when at last there was peace. However, I could not sleep on account of being worried that yachts may bump in the night. Miraculously they did not.

In the morning I noticed an English yacht had arrived from the River Deben; her name was ‘Mzuri’. Her crew was down below, presumably getting some shuteye. We remained anchored there until mid-afternoon when I couldn’t stand being hemmed in by other yachts. Getting the anchor up was a nightmare, as I had to push yachts aside before I could retrieve it. I dread to think what could have happened had anchor cables been entwined.


Two hours later we arrived at Sauzon, a small port further to the northwest. There all was peaceful as we lay at anchor admiring the scenery. I had a super coastal walk and returned to the yacht for my evening meal.

Îlse du Groix (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Fairly early, on the morning of Tuesday, 12th August, I set off for Port Tudy on the Îlse du Groix. Seven hours later I made a terrible hash of anchoring outside the harbour. Each time I reversed the yacht the anchor would not hold, because it was clogged with weed. Eventually, I found good holding, and all was well. Nearby there was an English yacht named ‘Kaisow’ with Paul and Lesley from Southampton aboard. They invited me to a meal, which I gladly accepted.

Text for the Day

Psalm 1:1,2 ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.’

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 13

La Rochelle Harbour Dues Receipt

There was very little new for me to see at La Rochelle. The marina was a place where I could catch up on my sleep, replenish the ship’s stores, buy French charts and sample local cuisine before pushing on. I stayed there until the morning of Wednesday, 6th August and headed out to sea. That was the better place by far. A routine sail took us north of the Ile de Re to Les Sables d'Olonne. En route we passed through an area of large patches of weed and absolutely enormous jellyfish with long trailing tentacles. We had a very fast trip to Les Sable d’Olonne, where we berthed at Port Olona. On our arrival, rain bucketed down, which put paid to me exploring ashore that evening; instead I made use of the marina’s facilities, including having a shower.

The following morning was not terribly inviting on account of the sky being overcast; therefore I did my laundry and stayed put in the boat until after the evening meal, by which time the sun made an appearance. As I enjoy a good walk I tramped around the town until 2030.

Me at the Heliport, Port-Joinville, Ile D'Yeu

Next morning I wanted to get going. I made a start from Olona Marina at 0708. The distance to Ile D’Yeu was about 28 nautical miles. As there was no wind I had to suffer the engine. On arriving at Port-Joinville, the main harbour of Ile d’Yeu, I was somewhat taken aback to find a newly constructed Heliport right by the harbour. That did nothing for the town, except destroy what peace there was and to bring more tourists to the island, who in turn spoil tranquil beauty spots by their very presence.

That evening I was invited aboard a Trintella from Walton-on-the-Nez by the name of ‘Arianwen’. As far as I remember there were several people aboard, including two sisters, Sue and Zara and their father.

On Saturday, 9th August I took a bus tour of the island to remind me of beauty spots I had seen before and to see others I had not. I also discovered a leak in the yacht engine’s exhaust pipe and mended it with appropriate filler suited to high temperatures.

Text for the Day

Psalm 150:6 ‘Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!’

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 12

La Rochelle from seaward (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

It would take me six days to sail across the Bay of Biscay to La Rochelle. For all of that time the barometric pressure hovered around 1,015 millibars, which was consistent with the fine weather we experienced, except for the 31st July when the wind for a short time almost reached a Force 7.

At 0820 on Tuesday, 29th July I broke out the anchor and took the yacht to sea. La Corunna was soon a memory. The wind was NNE 3 giving us a good turn of speed to the northwest taking us clear of land. Early in the afternoon the wind increased, causing me to change down from the Genoa to the big jib. How much easier that would have been had I had a furling Genoa. By 1730 we were well clear of Point Candelaria to the southeast.

I was entranced with the beauty of that grand coastline. Outcrops of high granite cliffs rose upwards from the sea. An incredible blue haze hovered at their base. Later that evening I was overwhelmed, almost to tears, with the most stunning sunset that imparted golden linings to paper thin clouds. A cargo vessel overhauled us and another yacht near to our portside. As darkness replaced light, layers of wispy clouds dissipated. I was treated to the most heavenly display of twinkling stars, all with subtle hues – some were red, others green, yet others blue, indigo or violet. Unless you are well away from the influence of man-made light, you can never see their glory; in fact, you may not see them at all! Such is life for the city dweller.

First thing on the morning of Wednesday, 30th July the Walker log confirmed we had sailed 73 miles since leaving La Corunna. We were heading towards La Rochelle, which was 300 miles beyond the horizon. As the sun was rising to bring the morn, I replaced the jib with the Genoa. Nothing went unnoticed by the porpoises. They had been watching our every move, and they came for a closer look. They could not let us go; that evening they made a return visit for their entertainment and mine. Another yacht approached on a reciprocal course; at the same time a merchant ship was heading north. We came upon a group of purse seine fishing boats that we had to avoid.

Despite the barometer registering 1,015 millibars we encountered strong winds from the northeast, but we pressed on under reefed sails. The seas were rough, and in my log I described them as ‘wild and rugged’. Later on Thursday, 31st July, the wind eased as we sailed to windward. It was uncomfortable, but exhilarating sailing. According to the GPS, we had 257 miles to go before reaching La Rochelle.

Friday, 1st August was mainly a day of frustrations on account of infuriating wind shifts. However, by evening a breeze settled in from east of northeast, giving splendid sailing. We passed very close to an enormous beam of wood, which if the yacht had collided with it she surely would have been damaged. For the first time on the cruise we saw tunny fishermen. Their boats have exceedingly long rods that extend sideways resembling cat’s whiskers.

Saturday, 2nd August brought fluky winds and calms. I put the engine on, but forgot to turn the cooling water on! Habitually, I look over the stern to see if water is coming from the exhaust, but that time it went clean out of my head to check. No damage was done to the engine, because I remembered in time before it could have overheated. By 1700 the wind had settled down to bring perfect sailing, except for the many plastic bags and large clumps of weed littering the surface of the sea. Two yachts sailing south of us were flying spinnakers. I had a short chat over the VHF with the nearest. I did another twenty minutes of sunbathing.

The final full day at sea before closing with land was Sunday, 3rd August. We had another starry night and the sea was almost like a stationary, circular mirror with us at the centre. There were a number of fishing boats that kept us on our toes. They made me uneasy because they had right of way, and their actions were unpredictable. One moment they would be heading away and the next they would be coming towards us. For the second time on this trip we sailed through a pod of whales. As before, they never posed a threat.

That afternoon, the boat tramped along at 6.7 knots, our fastest to date. We continued in like manner throughout the night. A very brightly illuminated passenger ship passed within a half-a-mile. I could hear the throb of her engine through the hull and at the same time hear the chatter of nearby porpoises.

On the morning of Monday, 4th August we closed the land. I handed the log which gave a reading of 1,321.5 miles – the total mileage since leaving Falmouth.

Text for the Day

James 3:4, 5 ‘Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.’

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 11

Larger than life sculpture at La Corruna

After twenty minutes I had enough of the sun. I plastered my face, arms and legs with sun barrier cream and made myself presentable by dressing in shorts and a shirt. La Corunna was only 7.5 miles away, but there was hardly any wind and it was baking hot. I prepared 32 metres of anchor chain by laying it on the side decks in anticipation of our arrival. Two miles from the harbour the wind failed altogether, which left me with the only one option if I wanted to be in before nightfall, and that was to row! I made an improvised rowlock by tying a loop of rope around the base of a stanchion through which I placed the shaft of an oar. This arrangement allowed me to stand in the cockpit while facing forwards and to row by pushing forwards. If I kept a regular rhythm I could propel ‘Aziz’ at a speed of about a knot. Slowly I rowed two miles to the anchorage, but it was hard work. I finally anchored within the shelter of the breakwater at 2300.

On the morning of Saturday, 26th July I was making breakfast when the Camping Gaz ran out. The canister had contained enough Gaz for 26 days, which was more than I expected. That gave me a measure for future use. I didn’t have a problem finding a replacement canister from a nearby store, and I was surprised that it only cost the equivalent of £2.42. When I did my laundry I realised how economical I had been by only wearing 4 pairs of socks, 4 underpants, 1 shirt and 1 pair of jeans since leaving the Scillies! I phoned home for an exchange of news. Soon the ship’s battery was fully charged. That evening I enjoyed watching a fiesta.

My port log contains short notes about things that interested me; for example, on Sunday, 27th July there were not just a few people who were exercising by jogging and cycling along the breakwater, there were many. A passion on the part of locals for physical exercise was very evident. I observed that there were cruising yachts from Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and England. Early in the afternoon a number of locals participated in an around-the-buoys race. All day long, numerous fish swam around my yacht, periodically coming to the surface for gulps of air.

Monday, 28th July was a bit special, because I met Max and Erica from ‘Blue Clipper’, a Van de Stadt Legend 34. Max rowed from his yacht to introduce himself and he invited me to see her and to meet Erica. These lovely people subsequently continued south, visiting Portugal, Madeira, and the Canary Islands and far beyond to the other side of the Atlantic before returning to England. (For more info. visit Max’s website – see link below.)

That same day, I became acquainted with Mike Dwyer of ‘Allegro 111’, a Summer Twins catamaran, out from Falmouth. You’ll see why I named him, Mr Engine. He said he would help me fix ‘Aziz’s’ recalcitrant engine, on the condition that I would do all the dirty work. This was a good deal, as it would cost me nothing, but with his knowledge there was a chance it could be made to go. He told me how to dismantle certain parts of the engine and how to reassemble them. When he had examined every part he said there was no fault with them. After I dutifully put the engine back together I turned the starting handle, and hey presto! It sang as it had in the beginning. The machine ran sweetly ever after. Life is full of mysteries and that was one of them. If you are reading this Mike, thanks a thousand.

Text for the Day

Revelation 14:12 ‘Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’


Blue Clipper - Van de Stadt Legend 34


Friday, January 27, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 10

Why I actually made the decision to sail towards La Corunna I do no know. Perhaps it was because I had been there before with my friend Bill aboard his Eventide, ‘Ishani’. I had plenty of water and food; I was not exhausted; I was not ill. In hindsight the decision puzzles me. The wind almost immediately increased to Force 3, from the northeast, which gave the yacht a good speed of 4.3 knots. In fact, my log records that I was enjoying the best sailing to date. I did a meridian altitude that exactly corresponded with the Garmin GPS that gave a reading of 45 degrees, 17.5 minutes north. Our longitude was 13 degrees 41.7 minutes west. ‘Aziz’ was heading directly towards La Corunna on a course of 123 degrees compass. The GPS confirmed we had 256 nautical miles to go.

The sea was gorgeous and jewel like; each little wave reflecting and refracting sunlight so as to make a spectacular scene of spectrum colours for my delight.

Half-an-hour after midnight the sea became very agitated, shaking the yacht and pummelling her. She was racing along at 5.7 knots. I noted from the chart that we were directly above a spot where there was a sudden decrease in depth from 4,000 metres to 3,000. I handed the Genoa to slow the yacht and to make life more comfortable. All around there were large areas of florescence. I was entertained by the moon and her many reflections. The sea was alive. I could hear waves conversing, chattering, murmuring, humming and sighing.

Early that morning of 23rd July there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The air was the purest I had ever breathed. Visibility was fantastic. We had the most excellent sailing with full main and working jib while beam reaching – speeds regularly over 5 knots. At 1618 I discovered I had left the navigation lights on all day, causing the battery to discharge faster than the wind charger could replace spent electricity. There were about 130 miles of ocean between us and the land. The shipping forecast warned of fog patches, but that seemed most unlikely. As the wind strengthened I was forced to set the number two jib and put two reefs in the main. I felt there might be a blow during the night – it was better to reef when I could see what I was doing.

My fears were unfounded. Later I was able to shake out the reefs. At sunrise on the morning of 24th July I replaced the small jib with the Genoa. At breakfast I discovered the remaining bread had very bad mildew. I generously gave it to the fishes. At 0818 I observed a military vessel well ahead, fine on the port bow. She didn’t worry us. The wind was coming from the port quarter and for some unknown reason the self-steering gear vibrated badly. On closing land the air became humid.

For the first time during the cruise I deliberately sunbathed, as conditions were ideal. Not long after exposing myself to the sun a school of porpoises came to have a look! They were truly inquisitive, but definitely not impressed! I wished I could join them in their frolicking. Numerous ships passed north and south. Tuna jumped from wave top to wave top. Again and again porpoises visited the yacht. Sunset was spectacular.

Text for the Day

Psalm 147:5 ‘Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.’

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 9

My log for the next four days makes fascinating reading as I recall frustrating and contrasting, moments, some of them beautiful on account of there being very little wind. The 18th to the 22nd July were characterized by being calm, sunny days. That would have been fine if my yacht had been anchored at a desert island by a gorgeous, golden, sandy beach complete with coconut trees, but there in the middle of nowhere with no one to share my concerns, it was no joke. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because I went into it knowing full well that I might be becalmed for days at a time. I had no inkling of what was to come.

Horta was 776 miles away; the Lizard was 443 miles astern, and La Corunna was 272 miles to the east. Over four days we had only sailed 146 miles, averaging 36.6 miles a day. At that rate we wouldn’t reach Horta until the passing of 21 days, assuming the ship’s progress was maintained. I believed we were entering ever deeper into the centre of the Azores high; therefore I anticipated there would be even less wind.

I examined the drinking water and calculated I had enough for 56 days, providing I didn’t consume more than I should. To keep cool and avoid being burnt to a frazzle I wore my pyjamas and kept in the shade whenever possible. At times I found myself drinking more than my allowance because I felt a ravenous need to replace perspiration that poured off me. Sometimes I took in all sail, because I couldn’t stand the incessant flipping and flopping of them resulting in wear and tear; at other times I would set the main and make it board tight to reduce rolling.

Portuguese Man of War


Early on the morning of Saturday, 19th July I had the most wonderful experience that words cannot adequately describe. The ocean was gently undulating. There was a peace so quiet that I could hear my heart beating. I could not discern where horizon met sky - the two where fused together. Overhead an azure heaven was dappled with fluffy white clouds that were reflected in a cobalt and indigo sea. Amazingly this aqueous prism sent rays of sunshine into dark chasms below where they were lost in the depths, but more astonishingly all around the yacht there were thousands of bright sparkling stars - tiny Portuguese men of war, each with an arched sail reflecting intermittent shafts of light reflected from the sun that dazzled my eyes.

Salvador Dali had nothing on this. His weird paintings were insignificant by comparison. I was in a world of wonders, a heaven of heavens. I had never seen such beauty. If I was close to God that day, I was indeed very close to the Creator of heaven and earth. Everything that I had seen before paled into insignificance. It was the ultimate earth experience, but so heavenly as to feel unreal.

On Sunday, 20th the yacht was sailing slowly when I climbed into the cockpit to scan the horizon and my heart lost more than a beat, because all around there were many large whales. One, the length of the yacht, lay beside her on the port side almost close enough to be touched. Another was swimming at right angles to pass forwards of the bow only yards away. I did not have time to unlock the self-steering gear before an inevitable collision, but to my astonishment and relief, the huge creature submerged so that ‘Aziz’ continued without contact. These enormous mammals are so knowing, and so gentle that they caused me no concern. I felt very privileged to have them as company for half-an-hour or so, but I was disappointed I could not photograph them because the camera’s battery was flat.

I tried yet again to make the engine work. There was a good ignition spark; fuel was in the carburettor, but it would not go. Early on the morning of Tuesday, 22nd July, I made the decision to head for the nearest port, which was La Corunna, northwest Spain.

Text for the Day

Psalm 147:1 ‘Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God: For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.’

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 8


At midnight of the 15th July, the trailing log indicated that ‘Aziz’ had exactly travelled through the water 50.0 nautical miles. On midnight of 16th July the log reading was 168.5 miles. Accordingly, the yacht had sailed 118.5 in 24 hours, averaging a speed of 4.9 knots – fantastic – all I had hoped for. The wind had been from the northwest at Force 3; hence our excellent progress. Drizzle and general greyness of the scene did not dampen my spirits.

Early on the morning of 17th July we were in total darkness when I was faced with the task of making a big detour around a fleet of fishing boats. Avoiding them would have been more manageable had the engine been working. They seemed to be linked together with nets spread between them for a mile or more. At one point I thought we were going to be caught in the trap, but somehow, I’m not quite sure how, ‘Aziz’ managed to slip past the windward drifter. I confess to being frightened because I had heard of trawlers ramming yachts, and in one instance a yacht sank, leaving her crew in the water. They only survived because their liferaft self-inflated when the yacht went down, but I believe one crew member may have drowned. Nasty stuff – I didn’t want any of that. I breathed a sight of relief when we were clear.

Porpoises again

At 0605, after a muted sunrise seen through drizzle, we were visited by a school of small, light brown porpoises with cream underbellies. These playful creatures cavorted around the bow, and sometimes swam under the yacht. They were obviously having fun and me too.

The evening shipping forecast mentioned west or northwest 4/5 winds, and occasional rain with fog patches; the latter I definitely did not want, on account of the possibility of meeting more fishing boats. With night approaching and the likelihood of increasing wind, I changed the Genoa for the small jib and put one reef in the main. We were being overhauled by a ship, but it became clear we were not in her path. At 2320 we observed a minesweeper displaying characteristic green lights in the shape of a triangle. I was required to keep clear by more than a thousand metres. I had never seen one before at night. I guess she was on manoeuvres and there were no live mines!

According to my GPS at 0750, Horta was 1,050 miles away on a bearing of 251 degrees true – all useful stuff, for I knew where we should be heading. We were off track, and it took four hours to rectify the matter. There was no point in sailing further than we need. The sun broke through the clouds and the wind eased enough for me to shake out the reef in the mainsail. There on the ocean I was bewitched by an unusual quietness, except for the hissing of the yacht’s bow waves. Everything seemed so unreal. Was I in this life, or in another?

By mid-day we only had to go 245 miles to reach the mid-point between Falmouth and Horta. In the same trancelike state as mentioned earlier I was mesmerized by a tiny spider that was engaged in weaving a vibrating web on the wind generator support. After all his efforts there surely would not be any flies for his supper. I observed that the sea was an incredible indigo hue. I replaced the jib with the Genoa.

Friday, 18th of July would soon be with us. Meanwhile a ship displaying green lights overhauled us – perhaps she was the same minesweeper I had seen before. That morning found ‘Aziz’ wallowing with no wind to give her way. I set about doing household chores and general maintenance, things like greasing the steering lines, checking the rigging, dusting the cabin floor, and preparing a tasty meal. I checked the bilges which were as dry as dead bone. About mid-afternoon we were visited by a swallow heading south. Apart from my new friend the spider, the porpoises and the swallow, we had seen no other wildlife.

Text for the Day

Genesis 1:21 ‘So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according its kind. And God saw that it was good.’

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 7

Falmouth Roads is the traditional anchorage for ship’s waiting for orders. ‘Aziz’ was waiting for my order to be off into the Atlantic in search of the Azores, but first I had to sort out the engine and victual the ship. Idyllic as St. Mawes was, I could not provision the yacht from there. I needed to sail over to Falmouth where I could obtain fresh food, more tinned provisions, rice and water. I could live off rice, almost indefinitely, and if necessary add about one third seawater to freshwater for boiling the rice.

My log brings back memories of the pleasant day I had at St. Mawes. There the water was clear; the sun shone and I had plenty of get-up-and-go. I thoroughly tidied the yacht and made myself presentable.

Falmouth Harbour Dues Receipt

At mid-afternoon the wind came in from the west causing the anchor to drag. When I hauled it in a great clump of weed had to be removed before the anchor could be stowed. As the anchorage was open to the west I moved to Falmouth where I picked up a mooring at 1708. This was close to the anchorage where yachts of many nations congregate between the docks and the waterfront. A disadvantage of setting an anchor there was that every now and then, ships entering or leaving the docks required sea room for manoeuvring exactly where visiting yachts were anchored. From my secure mooring I could watch these happenings without being disturbed, for the princely sum of £9.00 a day. The harbour master kindly waived the fee for the evening and night of Friday, 11th July. In return I gave him a Christian tract! He had never had such a thing before and was taken aback.

For the next three days I lived the life of a sea gypsy. I really felt the part. There were those final preparations that needed to be done before leaving Falmouth, such as cleaning weed from the self-steering paddle, trying to make the engine work, laundry, obtaining Portuguese money and meeting up with my pal and his wife who lived in a bungalow at the head of Mylor Creek. He and his wife sailed from there in their yacht, ‘Aegina’ to wish me bon voyage and safe passage.

My ship is so small .....

At 1500 on Tuesday, 15th July, ‘Aziz’ was underway at the beginning of a great adventure. The shipping forecast predicted southwest 3, veering to the west, which was ideal for a speedy getaway. On passing Pendennis Castle I heard shouts from the ramparts. They were from my friend and his wife who were cheering me on and taking photos of our departure. I felt pretty good, because all had been done to my satisfaction. Being without a working engine was not an issue, as the oceans are for sailing; both wind and currents are free. In the vastness as far as the horizon there are no harbour dues, no petty restrictions, no bureaucrats, politicians, liars or thieves.

The dominant forces are the wind and the sea over which you have no control. You and your yacht are subservient to them. You work with them, or it is to your peril. They have no feelings and their power is beyond belief, and yet they can be sublime and blissful. They can caress you or terrify you. Being in harmony with them is what it is about - experiencing a freedom that cannot be had within the constraints of land.

At 1515 I set the Walker trailing log to 000. By 2045 the reading was 34.8, giving us an average speed through the water of 7 knots! To the north there were the lights of many yachts, no doubt participating in a race. To the west, there were two trawlers, objects to avoid. Soon it would be midnight and somehow I had to snatch some sleep, and yet be observant because of the proximity of land and the likelihood of passing traffic. Twenty minute naps at a maximum; so I set the timer and lay in my bunk.

Text for the Day

Psalm 146:5 ‘Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help ……..’

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 6

On the morning of Thursday, 10th July I woke to find a cold, uninviting grey scene. There were dark clouds scurrying to the southwest, but at least, that meant the wind was in the right direction for the next leg to Falmouth. We were underway at 0920 and by 1100 ‘Aziz’ was hurtling along south of Dartmouth, at the same time we dodged through gaps within a flotilla of racing yachts. Heavy drizzle reduced visibility. Disconcertingly at that time, the self-steering unaccountably made juddering noises, which was a bit perplexing, but it continued to satisfactorily steer the boat.

I called up Wembury Firing Range on the VHF to inform them that I would be sailing a mile south of their danger zone. In fact, they stopped firing until I was well clear, and on a heading which would take me north of the Eddystone Lighthouse. The chart was littered with innumerable wreck symbols marking the graves of valiant men who went down with vessels that were torpedoed by German U-boats during both world wars.

Eddystone Lighthouse, courtesy of Wikipedia

As the wind was from astern, we were comfortably averaging 5 knots. The evening forecast mentioned fog, but thankfully I could see no sign of it. I also noted from the final gong of Big Ben, as heard on my radio at 1800, that my watch was exactly 4 seconds fast. Exact time was very important for calculating sun sights. At 1944 the yacht’s position was 50 degrees 13.5 seconds north and 4 degrees 22.7 minutes west. The Eddystone Lighthouse bore 192 degrees at a distance of 5.1 nautical miles. I learnt a lesson to keep well clear of the Eddystone, because when I was sailing ‘Zeta’, my Folksong, fairly close to the rock in calm weather, she nearly became impaled on a beacon marking a small separate rock. I only avoided a catastrophe by ferry gliding the yacht across the current to generate lift in her sail.

By mid afternoon the clouds disappeared to bring glorious sunshine which made things so much more pleasurable. At night the stars aided our steering, and I had the thrill of seeing several shooting stars. A phosphorescence wake marked our progress.

St. Mawes

At 0400 St. Anthony Head light bore 276 at 2.9 miles, and by 0600 we were peacefully anchored off the delightful Cornish village of St. Mawes, to the east of Falmouth.

Text for the Day

Psalm 145:8 ‘The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.’

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 5

A day’s rest was in order. Hayling Island Sailing Club allowed me to stay on their visitors’ mooring free of charge. That evening I took the opportunity for having a super walk along the foreshore. The next day at 0915 I slipped the mooring and with the help of the ebb and a Force 3 from the northwest I steered ‘Aziz’ south. By the use of transits astern I kept her to the centre of the deepwater channel that leads to the Chichester Bar Beacon. According to the Cruising Association Handbook I could expect to find there ample depth of water for ‘Aziz’, especially as the tide had not long been on the ebb.

Nab Tower on a fine day

Two hours later we were fair romping towards Bembridge Ledge Buoy off the eastern end of the Isle of Wight. I was not in the least concerned about the defunct engine, as I had previously cruised yachts without them. My Pioneer 9 was so responsive and well-behaved that I felt at ease in the trickiest of situations. She could be brought around on a sixpence, and yet she could hold her course with the touch of a finger. Her Haslar self-steering gear was wonderfully effective, so as to leave me free to navigate, cook a meal or simply relax and enjoy the passing scenery. We were not hassled by ships as we sailed south of the buoyed fairway channel. The Nab Tower was a convenient marker as to where that was.

Freshwater Bay

Closeup of the Needles Lighthouse

Anchored in Swanage Bay

While heading across Sandown Bay the wind came in from astern, and by 1517 when we were about a mile south of St. Catherine’s Point we felt the true wind from the northwest. This steady Force 3 made for fantastic sailing towards Swanage Bay where we anchored in 4.9 metres. The time was 1927. Handfast Point to the north provided protection from the wind. I took a bearing of Peveril Point and another of Swanage Pier. These gave me the yacht’s position which I plotted on the chart. If she were to drag her anchor, the bearings would accordingly change.

We could not sail first thing on Monday, 7th July because of fog. This did not clear until mid-day when I weighed anchor. The forecast was for a Force 3 from the northeast. There was hardly any wind, but I wanted to get going. Progress was extremely slow, and at 1500 ‘Aziz’ was becalmed off St. Alban’s Head, which was not the nicest place to be. A fellow with a Seal 22 offered us a tow into Chapman’s Pool where I anchored in 3.5 metres. Having nothing better to do I practiced using the sextant until teatime. As I sat in the cockpit I was entertained by a man and a girl lifting lobster pots. For all their labour they caught five beauties.

All night there was calm. I broke out the anchor at 0610 on the 8th July to slowly sail south. I was prevented from sailing west on account of the Lulworth Firing Range. In any case, I needed to make southing because I was to sail around Portland Bill, and by mid afternoon the yacht was on her way but very slowly, since there was just a zephyr. Fog overhauled us from astern as we were drawn towards it by the tide and away from Portland. All was quiet except for the rustling of sails. By late evening the fog had lifted to reveal a mirror-like sea.

We didn’t make any progress until 0230 on the morning of Wednesday, 9th July. By 0500 we were due south of Portland Bill. A warship and a helicopter kept moving around us, kicking up a racket. Our speed oscillated between 1.5 and 3.4 knots for most of the day. Cumulus hovered over land to the north, but out at sea there was relentless sunshine.

Eventually we drifted into Brixham Harbour where I picked up a buoy at 2220, but I didn’t trust the metal loop at the top of the buoy so I shackled my own chain to the chain below it. At least that way we were secure.

Text for the Day

Romans 8:25 ‘But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.’

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 4

Owers Lanby on a fine day

Unknown to me at the outset, my cruise with ‘Aziz’ would continue for 70 days. If I were to tell the story day by day restricting accounts to what actually occurred each day, we would be here for more than two months before hearing the end. Therefore I propose summarizing events, but where more interesting happenings occured I shall recount them in detail.

That brings me to Wednesday morning after having a late breakfast. I set about charging the battery and nearly killed myself doing it. Very foolishly I plugged the lead into the mains supply before entering the lazarette under the aft deck where I had previously placed the charger. I had correctly wired the terminals to the battery from the charger, but what I did not foresee was the dampness of the compartment. I was kneeling on the fibreglass hull when I plugged the charger into the socket. At that moment I received a powerful shock through my left index finger and thumb that initially immobilized me. Only by striking my left arm with my right hand was I able to release my hand. My thumb and finger were badly burned. Somehow, the plug had become damp; hence electricity, instead of being transferred to the charger, passed through my arm and body to the fibreglass hull! I was fortunate not to have been killed.

Lessons learned from the incident were that I should never plug the charger into a mains socket until all other connections have been made, and that I should never be in direct contact with the fibreglass hull. A rubber mat between me and the hull would have made all the difference. For the greatest safety, I should also have checked that that all components were free of condensation.

Cleaning out spilt oil from the bilge was a horrendous task. I spooned most of it out, but with difficulty, because I had to stretch down as far as the keelson. By soaking the remainder of the oil in tissues I was able to get rid of the residue. I finally removed smatterings by rubbing them with paraffin soaked rags and with paper towels. During the process I found the oil filler cap under the engine. I replenished the oil in the sump and tightly secured the filler cap to prevent it from coming off.

On doing a check of the internal fittings I discovered that a starboard hand stringer near the bow had slightly come adrift from the hull moulding. This I repaired with woven roving and epoxy. All in all I had a busy day.

Thursday, 3rd July was memorable for torrential rain, accompanied by a westerly Force 5. An ASDA supermarket was but a short distance from the Marina; there I bought food for the next few days. Rain continued throughout the evening, but I donned my waterproofs and took a stroll along the promenade.

You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a westerly against you when sailing down Channel. Sure enough on the morning of 4th July it was no exception, but we couldn’t stay in Brighton forever; therefore at 0800 I started the engine and we were away. To begin with we had a jousting match with wind and rain. I got fed up with being in the rain and cut the engine for a bit of sailing so that I could leave the self-steering in charge. Later when the rain eased I tried starting the engine; however, there was no response, except for the whining of the starting motor. In no way, could I get it to fire up. Providentially, the wind veered to the northwest so I was able to make the boat sail on the starboard tack. This was the preferred tack, because it had precedence over vessels on the port tack. Our course took us towards the Owers Lanby which we passed to the north.

After rounding Selsey Bill we had a slog to windward before entering Chichester Harbour where we picked up a buoy off Hayling Island Sailing Club at 2219. By then it was a lovely clear evening, because the weather fronts that had brought rain had moved to the east.

Text for the Day

1 Corinthians 6:20 ‘For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.’

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 3

Mooring Receipt at Brighton

Please bear in mind that I am writing this account of my attempted cruise to the Azores 14 ½ years after it took place; therefore I can only rely on my actual log for the basic facts. Details are entirely down to my memory of events, and over time my recollections of them may differ to what actually occurred. I may also incorporate a little artistic license for the sake of the story.

Well, I’ll continue with the morning of Tuesday, 1st July. You’ll remember that ‘Aziz’ was snugly berthed at Dover Marina. At 0810 we left the western entrance of the Outer Harbour where the water was decidedly choppy on account of there being a contrary south-westerly wind of Force 4. The objective was to reach a point a mile or so south of Dungeness, and from there to continue further to the west for Beachy Head, beyond which was Newhaven or Brighton where I could rest.

Tacking against the wind was a slow and uncomfortable business. Each time after tacking one hour on the port tack and another on the starboard I would measure the distance made good by reading the ship’s position from the GPS. That would be about one mile in the right direction. At that rate it would take over 60 hours to reach Brighton! Therefore I turned on the engine for a spot of motor sailing.

Mostly ‘Aziz’ could hold a course towards the first waypoint off Dungeness. The Nuclear Power Station there is such a mammoth structure that when there is good visibility it can be seen from a distance of 20 miles. Now that’s very handy for steering a course. You need line up the dot on the horizon with the forestay and keep heading in that direction. An occasional glance at the compass will confirm that you are not being set off course by the tide or because of leeway or both. You may then have to compensate by steering to starboard or port. If the bearing of the distant mark remains constant, the yacht is adhering to the desired track.

After seven hours of slogging to windward, we eventually rounded Dungeness, but this was not achieved without trauma, because I discovered oil sluicing around in the bilge. At first I thought the engine’s crankcase had split, but close inspection revealed that the filler cap had come adrift; thus lubricating oil was spattering all over the place making the most unimaginable mess. I could not find the cap, but I knew it was under the oil in the bilge, and as very little oil was left in the sump I turned the engine off. From there on I would have to sail the yacht to Brighton or bust. I didn’t fancy heaving to and sorting out the mess, because I reasoned it would be far easier done in the calm of a marina.

At least, the weather was consistent. There was no change of the wind in force or direction, constantly from ahead.

By midnight we were only three miles from Beachy Head. To the north were the lights of Bexhill and nearby to the south was the piercing flash of the Royal Sovereign light. As day began to dawn we were making our approach to Brighton Marina and I was pretty knackered, but there was no ducking what must happen. I had to prepare for every contingency because we would be going in under sail. I hove to and set fenders and mooring lines on both sides of the yacht. Fortunately the wind was perfect for entering the narrow entrance. Only in the lee of the west wall was there an element of doubt, but the yacht continued way as the top of her mainsail found sufficient wind for continuing into the Marina where I brought her round head to wind at the visitors’ pontoon. All went without a hitch.

I summoned enough energy to report to duty staff before returning to the yacht where I fell asleep and woke that same morning of Wednesday, 2nd July at 1030.

Text for the Day

2 Corinthians 3:5 ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God …………………………..’

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 2

If at all possible when coastal cruising, it always pays to work tides in your favour. On the morning of Monday, 30th June tides could not have been more perfect. High water at Sheerness was at 0932 BST which meant that the ebb would be with us along the North Kent coast as far as North Foreland, from where we would take the beginning of the flood tide to Dover. Bear in mind that the flood tide flows in a southerly direction in the North Sea; on reaching Dover it continues down the English Channel as far as Dungeness where it meets the flooding tide coming up the Channel.

I had a leisurely breakfast before attending to my personal hygiene. Maintenance of ones personal hygiene is important for good health and optimum performance. Regular meals conforming as far as possible to those eaten ashore help provide energy and alertness. Seasickness is often caused by eating intermittent meals, which in turn my cause constipation, itself a factor contributing to a queasy stomach. For my general wellbeing I like to have a freshwater shave every day and to brush my teeth twice a day. When out on the ocean, seawater suffices for cleaning most things. Dishes and clothing can be cleaned with seawater, providing sufficient detergent or washing powder is added to the water.

'Speedwell' rigged as a ketch

Before casting off from the visitor’s buoy at the River Swale I double-checked the passage plan and consulted the weather forecast. The ship’s barometer registered 998 millibars and there was a north-westerly wind of Force 2. That was ideal for beam reaching along the Kent coast. We first had to motor sail out of the Swale. At 0835 I made sail, turned on the engine, checked that cooling water was coming from the exhaust and cast off. An hour-and-a-half later ‘Aziz; was rounding Whitstable Street buoy, north of the ancient smack port of Whitstable. I was mindful of when I was skipper of the ‘Speedwell’, the famous Whitstable smack built in 1908. I had the privilege of being in charge of her between 1985 and 1986 while in the employ of the Discovery Dockland Trust. (See link below)

With the combination of wind and tide, my trusty yacht was speeding along at 6.1 knots. Navigation was a matter of counting off the landmarks to the south. When a very tall water tower was due south of us at Herne Bay I knew we had little more than 3 miles to go before arriving at the East Last port hand buoy. This marks the western end of the Gore Channel where there is a very good secure anchorage, protected by Hook Sand to the north and the Kent coast to the south. Just make sure you display a riding light at night, because this route is in frequent use by yachtsmen and fishermen.

The coastline here is not terribly interesting, since it is rather flat and there is nothing of note, apart from beacons marking the Gore Channel. Further to the east there are the remains of what was Margate Pier which was severely damaged by a ferocious gale in 1978. Attempts were made to demolish the structure completely by using explosives, but in the end the demolition team had to admit defeat.

North Foreland

Margate behind us and with a westerly of Force 3 swishing us along, we rapidly rounded North Foreland. In the lee of the white cliffs the brown swirling water trundled us southwards past North Foreland lighthouse. A black and fluorescent orange Ramsgate pilot vessel sped to the north where a number of cargo vessels were at anchor. East Brake buoy marked the beginning of the dredged channel that runs due west into Ramsgate Harbour. There I made the decision to continue south and take the first of the flooding tide to Dover. We were to follow the deep water channel, the Gull Stream, leaving the notorious Goodwin Sands to port. Deal Pier and the three cooling towers of Richborough Power Station beyond Pegwell Bay are excellent aids to navigation.

The old square riggers of long ago would have anchored there at Deal Roads, awaiting fair winds, being well sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. I’ve been tempted to do it myself to avoid paying harbour dues at Ramsgate or Dover, but never found the opportunity on account of northerly and easterly winds. You need to anchor as close to the shore as possible to avoid strong running currents. From beyond Deal the chalk cliffs increase in height until reaching their highest point at South Foreland. Along that stretch of coast the sea is always agitated by the frequent and rapid rushing of waters at the beckoning call of the moon’s gravitational powerful influence. Tidal tables around the UK are based on tides at the standard port of Dover. If you have a table of constants you can work out tides for other places based on Dover tides.

I do not know why, but I am always excited when entering Dover Harbour. Perhaps it’s because of having to dodge the frequent ferries that come and go, or maybe just because of the business of the place. There’s always something going on. Well, instead of anchoring in the outer harbour where one suffers from constant rolling of the yacht, I berthed at pontoon B No 65 where I could walk ashore and take a shower. I note in the log that I had to pay £12.60 for one night, but it was well worth it.

Text for the Day

2 Thessalonians 3:10 ‘For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.’




Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Aziz’ a Pioneer 9 Part 1


For some unaccountable reason over a period of many years I have wanted to sail to the Azores. I think the idea goes back to when I was a sixteen year old. An elderly fellow who owned a miniature St. Ives lugger that he converted into a gaff cutter, taught me much of what I know about sailing. He kept his little boat at Dartmouth and often he would take me as his crew for weekend sailing. One weekend the whole of Dartmouth was excited about a small yacht that had arrived there directly from the Azores. It seemed that people were astonished because the four man crew were all septuagenarians. I just had to look at their boat, which was a well-found carvel yawl of about thirty feet in length.

I believe this may have been the origin of my desire to sail to the Azores. Well, before my attempt at doing it with ‘Aziz’ I had already had three goes at it, two of them single-handed. The first was with my tiny Hunter 19 Europa; the second was with my Folksong, and the third was a two-handed attempt aboard ‘Ishani’ (See recent article about the Cruise of ‘Ishani’). Could I succeed at my fourth attempt?

Nicolettes's Book

The story will unfold as I bring it to life from the ship’s log. If I was going to succeed it would surely be with ‘Aziz’ my Van de Sadt Pioneer 9. She had proven herself as being more than capable when Nicolette Milnes-Walker successfully sailed her across the Atlantic to grab the record for being the first woman to do so unassisted and non-stop.

My adventure began on Sunday, 29th June, 1997. I believed I had fully prepared the yacht for blue water sailing. At 0905 I excitedly cast ‘Aziz’ off her mooring at Fambridge. Then we were on our way. I speak on behalf of my yacht and myself as a team, because she was my partner in all things. Without her cooperation I knew my dreams would be unfulfilled. I sensed a wonderful feeling of freedom. The air was very good and the blood throbbing in my veins confirmed I was very much alive. I was at the beginning of a new chapter in my life, the end of which I could not be certain.

By 1338 we were at Barrow No 5, a starboard hand buoy to the north-east of the shallows of East Barrow Bank. This sand and gravel bank dries to a height of 5.6 metres above sea level at low water springs. There I brought the yacht around onto a course of 226 degrees compass heading for Barrow Deep No 6 port hand buoy. We were still under engine, as there was very little wind. At Barrow Deep No 6 buoy I judged there would be sufficient water for crossing between South West Sunk and Knock John if I kept near to the South West Sunk Beacon. However, this was not the case, and I was alarmed when ‘Aziz’ felt the ground and she started bumping over what appeared to be a bouldery terrain. Fortunately at that very moment the wind sprang up sufficiently for the yacht to heel. This saved our bacon by reducing her draught and before long we were in deeper water heading for Black Deep No 7.

Entrance to the River Swale

From there we kept north of the Shingles Bank on a course for the north-west Shingles buoy. Eventually we felt for sure we were heading towards the entrance to the River Swale, and once we were at the Spaniard Buoy, it was a simple matter of finding our way into the River by following the channel between the port and starboard buoys. At 2022 I was thankful that ‘Aziz’ was securely tied to a visitor’s buoy.

Text for the Day

1 Thessalonians 1:2 'We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers'

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 17

Lundy landing jetty

We were indeed on the way home. The Bristol Channel beckoned. Of all places visited, the Scilly Isles were the best by far, because of their beauty and peace. Sadly, today, there are too many noisy planes, helicopters and jet taxis that destroy their tranquillity.

With high pressure still active, we were faced with a headwind of Force 1 from the northeast; this required running the faithful Yanmar for us to make progress towards St. Ives. Not long after leaving Crow Sound we noticed a small yacht coming towards us; by chance it belonged to a fellow I had met two years before at the Scillies. West Country sailors know him as ‘Mr Folkboat’. His lovely authentic, clinker Scandinavian Folkboat was kept Bristol fashion. Her home mooring was at Polruan, a delightful fishermen’s hamlet across the river from the holiday town of Fowey. Bill at first thought I was having him on about knowing the owner, but as we drew near it was quickly established that we were in conversation with ‘Mr Folkboat’. We wished each other bon voyage before proceeding on our way. Nothing of note was recorded in the log, except that we anchored in St. Ives Bay at 1735.

Next morning, of Monday, 6th July, we were underway at 0547, yet again under power. Visibility was very bad. In fact it reminded us of a previous encounter with fog we had at the same place, of which I made mention earlier in this account. We very quickly became disorientated, but this time instead of trying to follow soundings back to St. Ives, we anchored in 18 fathoms. Within half-an-hour the fog sufficiently cleared for us continue. Without incident we arrived at Padstow late that afternoon in time for tea. Neither of us had been there before. We inflated the dinghy and went ashore to do a bit of shopping and to top up the ship’s water. Before returning aboard we telephoned our good wives to let them know that all was well.

We discovered that Padstow was a pretty town with quaint stone buildings, and a small harbour conveniently situated south of the entrance of the River Camel on the west side. The surrounding countryside was very beautiful, mainly consisting of arable farmland interspersed with copses and lager areas of woodland.

We had a quiet, undisturbed night at a borrowed mooring where ‘Ishani’ briefly touched bottom. Underway again, early in the morning of Tuesday, 7th July there was precious little wind. Beyond the entrance, after crossing the bar, we found a Force 2 from north of northeast, which with a helpful tide we were able to lay a course towards Lundy Island. Later that morning we thought we were going to be boarded by commandoes who were hammering their way towards us in three camouflaged landing craft, but they left us alone and proceeded up Channel, probably to the Marine training camp on the Taw estuary.

The cliff scenery along this north Cornish coast was fabulous to behold, especially in the vicinity of Tintagel. If you view the cliffs from their tops you can get some idea of their grandeur, but when you see them from sea level you can really appreciate the scale and beauty.

When the tides are worked in the Bristol Channel, progress is rapid, because there they rise and fall more than most places in the world; hence they run faster. Therefore we found ourselves at anchor by mid afternoon in the little cove at the south-eastern end of Lundy. Needless to say, the motion was most uncomfortable. To improve matters we set an improvised mizzen by hanking a small jib to the backstay to act as a riding sail. Other yachts arrived and anchored nearby, all with the same intention of staying overnight to take advantage of the tide up Channel next morning.

Thursday, 9th July was to be our last day of the cruise. ‘Ishani’ had unexpectedly taken the ground at low water. Under the circumstances we had a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit, while not exactly admiring the scenery which was uninspiring, almost a little grim, there being a couple of drab cottages at the head of slipway; nevertheless we enjoyed our boiled eggs and marmalade on toast.

‘Ishani’ bumped off the bottom and we were away under power, as there was hardly any wind. Later the wind sprang up to help us along, and with the aid of the favourable current, we averaged 7 knots over the ground, so that we arrived back at Combwich after covering a distance of 21.9 nautical miles in 3 hours. We were highly chuffed at having completed a 7 week cruise of over 2,000 miles, the longest leg being 13 days out of sight of land between the Scillies and La Corunna.

Text for the Day

1 Timothy 6:6 'Now godliness with contentment is great gain.'

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 16

'Ishani' off Hugh Town

Early morning of Wednesday, 1st July, found ‘Ishani’ wallowing with no wind in her sails. We were forced into starting the engine, but we benefited by making 3.4 knots. Sunrise brought a Force 3 from the northwest so that we were able to lay a course directly for the Scillies. On this fetch ‘Ishani’ agreed she would look after herself. We had coerced her into sailing with the helm lashed so that we could relax and enjoy watching the ever changing scene, clouds, sea and sky, partners in a rhythmic dance.

Without a doubt this was the best part of our adventure to date. Conditions were perfect. We had a magical evening watching a golden sunset, and the stars that night were literally, out of this world, a canopy of sparkling jewels. It was as if ‘Ishani’ knew she was on the homeward leg. She dipped and curtsied in harmony with wind and sea. It was a timeless, almost surreal experience that made all our previous encounters with malevolent seas and strong winds so very worthwhile. No longer were the elements against us; instead they were caressing and willing us along the way. We wanted this forever.

Around midnight the wind briefly faltered; then it came in from the northeast at a gentle Force 1. The barometric reading was still high at 1,026 millibars. Sunrise heralded a helpful north-easterly for the most perfect sailing. At 0945 we were blasted by the sonic boom of Concord as she passed overhead, en route for the States. Our position as ascertained by sextant was 49 degrees 12.4 minutes north and 6 degrees 25.9 minutes west, which placed us 44 miles from the Scilly Isles. That evening of Thursday, 2nd July at 2133 we caught a glimpse of the Bishop Rock lighthouse, the granite beacon we had taken our departure from on 25th May.

The following morning we entered St. Mary’s Sound and anchored off Hugh Town. After breakfast and a nap we were awakened by a customs officer who promptly cleared us so that we were free to disembark. Our priority was to phone our wives, then do a bit of shopping. For relaxation we sailed to St. Agnes where we anchored for a peaceful day in the little cove between it and the tiny island of Gugh. There at low water, it is possible to walk across the sand between the two islands.

On the morning of Saturday, 4th July, we returned to Hugh Town where we re-victualled the ship, including topping up our water; then we motored to St. Martin’s Island. There we anchored by the Old Quay to the east of Cruther’s Point where ‘Ishani’ took the ground. This was a perfect sheltered spot for getting ashore and for exploring the wonderful, charming island where time stands still. Then there were no cars, only tractors for mechanical transport. The seawater was crystal clear, but perishing cold for a swim. We both enjoyed a tranquil stroll. It seemed we had the island to ourselves. That’s quite different these days, because of frequent visits by noisy water jet taxis that kick up a hell-of-wash. Why ever the authorities sanctioned their use, I cannot imagine. The old longboat ferries that so quietly graced those waters, was far superior in every way.

Text for the Day

Philemon 1:3 ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 15

We had made up our minds that it was time to set off for home. Ahead, lay the Western Approaches; these are the waters at the western end of the English Channel - La Manche (The Sleeve) according to the French. You can in fact imagine the Channel as having the shape of an old-fashioned sleeve with a wide-open cuff that is shaped like the open end of a fishing net. The Brittany peninsular protrudes into the Altantic at the southern extremity of the Channel, and to the north, the southwest Cornwall peninsular pokes its nose out into the Ocean. At the eastern end of the Channel there is the Strait of Dover, or the Pas de Calais, the narrow stretch of water between England and France providing access to and from the North Sea. This is perhaps the busiest shipping channel in the world.

The relevance of this geography may be grasped as the story of the next phase of our cruise unfolds. Our objective was first to sail west, then north, so as to arrive without mishap at the Scilly Isles. ‘Without mishap’ was absolutely crucial to our success, because our small ‘ship’ had to cross the paths of large ocean-going vessels entering and leaving the Channel. By natural design there are places where these vessels will come together, such as when rounding L'île d'Ouessant, a small island to seaward of the extreme end of the Brittany peninsular. If these vessels were not constrained, the consequences would be unimaginable. For the sake of safe passage, shipping separation zones are marked on the charts. These zones separate ships travelling in opposite directions, and the International Rule is that motorized vessels when heading towards each other must pass port to port so as to avoid colliding with one another. That simple rule is inadequate for keeping vessels apart where many of them meet at the same time; therefore at such confluences artificial ‘roadways’ or ‘separation zones’ are drawn on the chart to keep vessels well apart. Infringement of the rules can result in severe penalties for ship owners and catastrophe when ships collide.

Why did we first need to sail west before going north? Quite simple really, because we had to get around the end of the Brittany Peninsula which was one and a half degrees further west than the Île de Groix. We also had to make even further to the west if we were to gain safe sea room between us and the land. Our prime purpose was to avoid being in the thick of numerous ships that pass through the separation zones off L'île d'Ouessant. It is always preferable to cross at right angles to avoid any element of doubt as to intentions. By first heading west we would cross the paths of southbound and northbound ships at right angles. At our latitude of 47 degrees 35 minutes north, there was a better chance that gaps between them would have widened.

On the morning of Tuesday, 30th January the weather forecast was good, predicting a Force 1 or 2 from the north – ideal for sailing west. By heading out to sea, we avoided the rocky coast of Brittany and the notorious Raz du Sein and the Chanal du Four. Both of these passages have fast flowing currents and hazardous rocks. In addition to avoiding those dangers, we were not tempted by seductive French sirens intent on luring unsuspecting matelots Anglais to their death.

For the first time during our cruise we set full sail including our light weather cruising chute. ‘Ishani’ was hauled along in great style at a good three to four knots. Several French warships were out on exercise. By early afternoon we could see the The Glénan Isles to the north, and at nightfall we were approaching the first of the south-going ships. Dodging a stream of ships at night is not a light-hearted task. We had to keep our wits about us and be prepared to use the engine if the need should arise. The powerful light from the Île de Sein helped us plot our position and progress.

Text for the Day

1 Corinthians 3:31 ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 14

Île de Groix

For the next two days fog associated with high pressure prevented us from sailing the short distance to Île de Groix. This small, highly cultivated island, only 8 kilometres by 3 kilometres, is a real gem. It supports a higher percentage of woodland than its immediate neighbours. Five years before our visit, the island was designated as a mineral nature reserve, since it is the source of more than 60 different minerals. Port Tudy on the northern side of the island serves as its main port. Regular ferries run every day between it and the Brittany port of Lorient. Port Lay, a short distance to the west is very small, being only suitable for a handful of boats that can take the ground, most of them are fishermen’s open boats suitable for crabbing or lobster fishing. The natural cove Locmaria to the south does not provide a great deal of protection, but it is filled with moorings for local craft.

Entrance to Port Tudy

Sunday, 28th June

The barometer was still high, at 1,023 millibars. Visibility improved sufficiently for us to sail for Île de Groix. An hour after leaving Le Palais we observed a wall of fog advancing towards us from the south. In 1987, the year of our cruise, we were not equipped with a GPS, nor did we have radar – Our most useful tool for navigating in fog was a DF set. As we neared Île de Groix it became a race between us and the fog. At 1047 we caught our first glimpse of the Île de Groix, but at the same time we very aware of the ever advancing fog. By the time we were approaching Port Tudy it was almost upon us, and we could no longer see the easternmost end of the island.

Mondy, 29th June

We elected to stay one full day at Île de Groix. We agreed that this was ample time for exploring the island by foot. That morning we walked to Port Lay with the purpose of having a swim in the sea, but conditions were not suitable. As far as I remember, the tide was out and the bottom was very rocky and full of weeds. We returned to the yacht, but I was disappointed at our lack of success; therefore and I thought I would search elsewhere for a suitable beach. Bill didn’t object, so I left him to tinker around on the yacht. I covered quite a lot ground and found a beautiful beach at Port Melite.

That evening we dined at a local restaurant specializing in sea foods. I didn’t fancy eating mussels which was Bill’s choice; instead I had delicious Sole Meunière fried in butter. The very thought of mussels made me feel queasy – each to his own I say – but we both shared half a bottle of rich red wine. I was a bit light-headed on my way back to the yacht, but I felt a contented glow within.

Text for the Day

1 Corinthians 16:13, 14 ‘Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.’

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 13

Belle Isle

Barometric pressure remained high at an astonishing 1,029 millibars, but the sky was overcast. Visibility was not great, due to haze; nevertheless we pushed off from our Port Joinville mooring at 0550 on Wednesday, 24th June. A light wind blew from the northwest; this was in accord with an area of high pressure centred to the southeast. By mid-day the wind had increased to a Force 3 enabling ‘Ishani’ to motor-sail with her sails fully sheeted.

A convenient radio beacon halfway between de l'Île d'Yeu and our objective, La Belle Île, made navigation a piece of cake. On account of a fast-moving current to the southeast of the island, the water became quite lumpy. To make way over the ground, we had to increase engine revs. Our progress was slow, but when we came into the lee of the land our speed remarkably increased. By then we had taken in all sail. We could have persevered without the engine, but the effort required, and loss of time in reaching the harbour of Le Palais, would not have made it worthwhile. Smoother water close inshore allowed us to make very good progress.

Le Palais

We arrived at Le Palais at 1825 where we immediately prepared and cooked mackerel we had caught only hours before.

Fishing boats at Le Palais

Customs Officer

On the morning of 25th June we were visited by French Customs who asked for the ship’s papers and our passports. Almost immediately after they had gone, the harbourmaster introduced himself, and requested ‘dix neuf’ francs for one day’s harbour dues. We stayed at Le Palais for three days, and each morning Monsieur ‘Dix Neuf’, repeated his task of collecting dues. Generously he had under-estimated the length of ‘Ishani’ by insisting she could be no more than “sept metres”. This entente cordiale was gladly accepted by Les Anglaises.

Once again, we hired bicycles for a bit of exploring. At first we cycled to Sauzon, a small port to the northeast of the island. There, we examined a shark that had been caught in nets. Bill asked one of the fishermen to open the jaw of the fish so that he could photograph its teeth. Somehow there may have been a misunderstanding, on account of Bill’s limited linguistic skill, because his request only brought an expression of disdain from the one he addressed.

Before returning our cycles we had to see the rocky inlet of Ster Wenn that serves as a natural harbour on the west side of the northern tip of the island. This is a small, but pretty fiord where yachts anchor stern first to the cliffs. Bill described it as a lobster pot from which the catch could not escape, should the weather suddenly take a turn for the worst. Under calm conditions when we were there the anchorage was idyllic; nowadays, I guess it would be so popular, that it would lose its appeal.

Text for the Day

Romans 12:9 ‘Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.’

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 12

We were now truly in relaxed holiday mood. Over the next nine days we were to visit three islands in the northern half of the Bay. These spanned a distance of 180 nautical miles, the largest being Belle Isle between Ile de Groix to the northwest, and Ile de Yeu to the southeast.

We left the Marina at 0720 on Sunday, 21st June, but as there was very little wind, our only option was to motor. Our original intention had been to head for Île d'Yeu. This put us on a course parallel to the coast. Under the circumstances we changed our mind and went into Les Sables-d'Olonne, after motoring a distance of 25 nautical miles from La Rochelle.

We had no real desire to visit a town that was nothing more than a seaside resort with a long sandy beach and the usual non-descript hotels overlooking a promenade, but it was better than the monotony of motoring over a calm sea. There was one consolation however, mackerel were biting. Our catch made an almost instant meal not long after we berthed in the marina at 1600.

The next morning of 22nd June we left the marina at 0715. Prior to vacating our berth, Bill did the usual checks. He observed that the engine had been slightly overheating; therefore he changed the water impeller and tightened the ‘V’ belts that drive the pump and alternator.

Calm conditions continued as on Sunday, when we were en route from La Rochelle. Any wind there was came from ahead, from exactly the opposite direction to which we wanted to go! We could just make out the faint outline of Île d'Yeu far away on the horizon. For most of the morning this object seemed to get no closer. Instead of fretting we devised a distraction, fishing for mackerel, and by early afternoon features of the island were emerging from the heat haze.

Our planned destination was Port Joinville where we arrived at 1630, complete with freshly gutted mackerel, but that was not before having a tussle against the tide. We had to overcome a torrent of water streaking over the shallows to the east of Plage de la Grande Conche at the south-eastern end of the island. The smaller Port de La Meule to the south of the island may have been a better choice. We managed to visit that tiny harbour the next day when we hired bicycles for exploring the island. Port Joinville had a pleasant atmosphere of contentment, and when we were there in 1987 it was an important tuna and lobster fishing port. Perhaps that may not be the case today, since the Marina may be a better commercial proposition because of the popularity of yachting, particularly by the French.

We observed that the island was experiencing prosperity; houses were trim and well-cared for. The island’s coastline was magnificent, especially on the exposed western and south-western rocky coasts where there were deep indentations caused by sea erosion. On our bicycle tour we looked at Fort de La Citadelle and the Vieux-château de l'Île d'Yeu, the latter being the grander of the two, situated on a large outcrop of rock to the southern side of the island. This early 14th Century castle built at the order of Olivier lV de Clisson would have been virtually impregnable when the drawbridge to the mainland was raised, but that did not stop the English pirate Oliver Knolles from capturing it and the island in 1355 where he maintained control for the next 37 years.

Text for the Day

Romans 15:13 ‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 11

Île de Ré

Shortly after midnight on the morning of 16th June we sensed an easing of the wind to about Force7. As we wanted to make landfall that day, and there were signs the weather was improving, we set the storm jib and a heavily reefed main. I obtained a good sun sight at 0942. It confirmed that if we maintained our speed we could be in port or at anchor by midnight. Hopefully by then the wind would have eased for making entry to La Rochelle.

The closer we came to land the more evidence there was of it, things like fishing floats, weeds and birds. Very gradually soundings decreased until they were in the order of 24 fathoms. At 16 fathoms we would have another 30 miles to sail before reaching La Rochelle. The Île de Ré light would be clearly visible, for then it would be midnight.

By late evening the barograph gave a reading of 1025 millibars, and the wind speed had decreased to a Force 5. This was ideal for ‘Ishani’; therefore our spirits were lifted and more so when land was seen ahead. Eventually we were able to identify the lighthouse of St Clément des Baleines on the westernmost tip of Île de Ré.

Not long after midnight on Wednesday, 17th June we anchored in the snug Anse de Oubye at the southeastern tip of the Île de Ré. This was opposite the large commercial port of La Pallice. The peace was such a contrast to the hurly burly of previous days. It was no wonder that after downing a belated evening meal, we slept like logs until 0600. After breakfast we were soon underway to the Port des Minimes, which was a large marina at La Rochelle. There an official of the Capitanerie conducted us to a berth, and as the first day of stay was free, we were left to do as we pleased.

La Rochelle


Our first priority was to repair the broken gooseneck. An assistant at the chandlers recommended we took the gooseneck to a boatyard that was four or five kilometers from La Rochelle. On the way, we fortuitously chanced upon a marine engineer who advised us to visit a nearby chandlery. There we bought a part that matched the broken one. In turn, that chandler gave us the address of an engineer who could weld the parts together. We were impressed with the help and hospitality given to us, especially by an owner of car bearing a disabled person’s badge who conveyed us to various locations free of charge.

Back at the boat in time for lunch, we prepared it and ‘dined’ in the local square. Afterwards we bought French charts to help us with the next stage of our cruise northwards.

Edel 22

We stayed at La Rochelle until the 21st June. We didn’t do a great deal, but every afternoon we made tea and ate the most scrumptious fresh cakes bought from a shop just up the road from the marina.

One outstanding highlight for me was being offered the chance to sail an Edel 22’ trimaran, with which I was most impressed. For her length she was extremely fast, light on the helm and exhilarating. The only difficulty I had was getting her back to the pontoon on my own without damaging her or other craft. I took in sail, started the outboard and made my approach. At the last moment, there was to be a sharp turn to port for the trimaran to come alongside the pontoon. I had to keep way on her to make the turn, which left me precious little time for engaging reverse before her bows would come into contact with the main pontoon. The engine was put into neutral and I had to be jolly nifty to be at her bow before it struck the pontoon so as to fend her off.

Text for the Day

Romans 12:18 ‘If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.’

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 10

S.E. Bay of Biscay

Monday, 15th June

Today we were to experience the worst gale of the cruise. We had had more than our fair share. June and July are reckoned to be the best months for crossing the Bay with the least chance of meeting a gale, but severe gale 9s have been experienced near the coast of Spain in these summer months. Adding the ferocity of such gales is the effect a sudden change in depth of water can make. We were approximately at 46 degrees north and 4 degrees 30 minutes west, where the deep Atlantic meets the continental shelf, and soundings change from 4,000 metres to 130 metres. The Atlantic swell is forced to rise, causing the regular rhythms of waves to be broken. Most often such gales will be precipitated by the Azores High when it edges a little to the east. Winds between the high and the Spanish heat low accelerate, and they change in direction from southwest to northwest causing confused seas.

15th June

The wind progressively increased in strength, and Bill admitted to being careless when steering downwind; this resulted in several bad gybes. At the final one the bronze gooseneck by which the boom was attached to the mast broke, and as it was an essential component for keeping the boom attached to the mast, we were forced to devise a makeshift repair. Our solution was to lash the fitting with ropes to the mast and tighten them by driving wooden wedges between the lashings and the mast. By the time we finished, the wind was blowing at a good Force 7. From there onwards we ran before the wind with only the storm jib set.

Before nightfall we were about 95 miles from La Rochelle, and it seemed sensible to heave to for the night. By doing so we would maintain our sea room and we would not drift too far and too fast into shallower water where the waves would be more dangerous, even lethal. The barometer indicated a rise in pressure hinting that the worst of the gale would be over in a few hours. Meanwhile life below was interesting to say the least; crockery rattled and banged, waves hissed and crashed against the hull, but we held firmly to our bunks to stay in place while trying to relax. We had seen it all before, and I was pleased that Bill had overcome his problem with seasickness. In fact, he was quite upbeat.

At 2220 we successfully obtained a rough radio bearing of Cape Ferrate which lay to south of southeast. We also found another bearing from La Baleines Lighthouse on the Ille de Re. These bearings were insufficiently far apart to provide a reliable position, but they were better than nothing. It is preferable to have at least three bearings that exactly intersect at the yacht’s position. If they do, then the position can be accepted as reliable. A depth sounding taken at the same time will further confirm the accuracy of the plot. Navigators often forget the value of soundings. Bill and I were once caught in dense fog near St Ives, and by using soundings we were able to find our way into the harbour.

When we took radio bearings there in the Bay of Biscay our sounder gave a reading of 64 fathoms, each fathom being 6 feet. By simple calculation we were in a depth of 117 metres. One foot is 0.3084 metres; therefore we were actually into shallow waters. However, with the rise and fall of the yacht on account of the swell and the yacht’s violent movement, we could not rely on the reading.

Text for the Day

Romans 13:8 ‘Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.’


Crossing Biscay – A Weatherman’s Perspective