Homecoming

Saturday 14th September – Weymouth to Dartmouth

We need to go round Portland Bill to reach Dartmouth. This is the last significant headland for us to round and has one of the roughest patches of water in the country in the form of the Portland Race running past it. We have concluded from Yvonne’s investigations and calculation yesterday that we can go round Portland Bill any time that the tide is flowing west. We plan to round it at 0700 once there is enough light to see the lobster pots off the headland so set the alarm for 0530. It rains again over night and the morning dawns grey and overcast.

Yesterday a couple of boats arrived late in the evening (in the pouring rain) and sought to raft up outside of us but we managed to persuade them both to go elsewhere due to our early start. (Rafting up is necessary when the space is too small to accommodate all boats against the quay or pontoon. It requires an element of tolerance by all concerned as the outside boats crew have to walk over the foredeck of the inside boat to access land so minimising such trips and the inevitable noise is needed. It is normal to help incoming boats to moor up against one’s boat. Sooner or later boaters have to expect to be the inside or outside boat so courtesy and help is the order of the day).

Sunrise over the Dorset coast en route to Portland Bill

Sunrise over the Dorset coast en route to Portland Bill

We are not the only boats on the move. The weather forecast shows that there is a window of opportunity to move today before several days of strong winds and bad weather. This has scuppered our plans for a leisurely few days travelling along this coast but we don’t have the flexibility now to arrive at Dartmouth later than Tuesday.

Part of the huge breakwater that forms Portland Harbour. The harbour is still used by the Navy (witness the Royal Fleet Auxilliary in harbour) as well as commercial shipping, the UK Sailing Academy (constructed for the 2012 Olympics) and as a leisure boating marina. Commenced in 1848, it took convicts 23 years to construct using Portland stone hewn from the Tout Quarry. This quarry is now closed but has been taken over by artists who have created sculptures and carvings in the rock face.

Part of the huge breakwater that forms Portland Harbour. The harbour is still used by the Navy (witness the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in harbour) as well as commercial shipping, the UK Sailing Academy (constructed for the 2012 Olympics) and as a leisure boating marina. Commenced in 1848, it took convicts 23 years to construct using Portland stone hewn from the Tout Quarry. This quarry is now closed but has been taken over by artists who have created sculptures and carvings in the rock faces.

We motor out as the sun rises and set the main sail in the almost windless morning. The clouds gradually clear as we motor up the east of Portland Harbour with its massive breakwater and then on past the headland where we can see the quarries used to provide the stone for the Harbour. We can see a few old wooden gantries that must have been used to load the stone onto barges when the harbour was built by convicts. It must have been hard work!

The advice from Reed’s Almanac and the Coast watch people is to keep within 1 cable of the shore to avoid the Portland Race where there is a strong tidal rip and overfalls. (A cable is 1/10th of a sea mile – about 200 yards).

The lighthouse at the southern end of Portland is the true Portland Bill - not the headland!

The lighthouse at the southern end of Portland is the true Portland Bill – not the headland!

As the headland approaches we can see the breaking waves of the Race off shore but we keep almost within touching distance of the shore and travel through relatively smooth water. We round the headland, passing Portland Bill. There are a total of three light houses – the working one with its red and white striped tower and two old disused ones known as the High and Low Lighthouses. To our surprise there is a crowd of photographers at the headland. The sky has cleared and there is a lovely light for photography – or perhaps they were waiting to photograph any boat that misjudged the right track and went through the race. In any event, we come through this notorious stretch of water without difficulty.

We had a fine final sail form Weymouth to Dartmouth, reaching across Lyme Bay in a north westerly wind achieving over 8 knots over the ground for long periods of time.

We had a fine final sail from Weymouth to Dartmouth, reaching across Lyme Bay in a north westerly wind and achieving over 8 knots over the ground for long periods of time.

As we round the head we catch the north-westerly wind so set ¾ of the genoa and full mainsail, switch off the engine and sail away. It turns into a lovely, if lively, sail across Lyme Bay. In the distance we can see the Jurassic Coast with its various cliffs.

We sail on as Portland gradually disappears over the horizon behind us. We see other boats as we cross Lyme Bay. After a couple of hours we see land ahead. Lyme Bay curves in such a way that the orientation of the land is not quite as one would expect. In the distance we can see Torbay, Paignton and Torquay. A large container ship which appears to have been anchored in Torbay comes towards us so we alter course slightly to keep our distance. (Torbay is east facing and has been a favourite anchorage for centuries for ships as they are sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds). Berry Head just south of Brixham becomes clear. We try calling Nigel Thorpe to confirm we will arrive at Dartmouth today but without success.

Th Dartmouth Daymark has been a welcome sight to sailors since the 1860's. This and other daymarks were set up as navigational aids in the days when coastal navigation consisted of a compass, telescope, basic chart and mark 1 eyeball. Much of the coastline looks the same from the sea with inlets to safe havens such as the River Dart merging into the grey rocks of the coast. each day mark is unique - the Dartmouth one is like a stone quadrapod. Dart Harbour Commissioners continue to maintain this structure, even though  modern navigation makes it obsolete for many (but not all ) boats.

The Dartmouth Day Mark has been a welcome sight to sailors since the 1860’s. This and other day marks were set up as navigational aids in the days when coastal navigation consisted of a compass, telescope, lead line, chart and Mk 1 eyeball. Much of the coastline looks the same from the sea with inlets to safe havens such as the River Dart merging into the grey rocks of the coast. Each day mark is unique – the Dartmouth one is like a stone quadruped. Dart Harbour Commissioners continue to maintain this structure, even though modern navigation makes it obsolete for many (but not all ) boats.

The entrance to the River Dart. The Tudor castles on each side once had a chain which could be drawn across the entrance to guard this fine port.

The entrance to the River Dart. The Tudor castles on each side once had a chain which could be drawn across the entrance to guard this fine port.

The Dartmouth Day Mark becomes clear and gives us a definite point to aim for in the otherwise grey cliffs along this stretch of coast. By 1400 we are off the entrance to the River Dart.

A naval frigate departs and the Torbay lifeboat speeds past on a “shout” as we take our sails in for the last time and motor into the river.

The Torbay lifeboat on a "shout" to tow a motor cruiser with failed engines and electrics off Slapton Sands and into Dartmouth. This is a Severn Class lifeboat, the same type as we "drove" in the simulator at the RNLI College in Poole.

The Torbay lifeboat on a “shout” to tow a motor cruiser with failed engines and electrics off Slapton Sands and into Dartmouth. This is a Severn Class lifeboat, the same type as we “drove” in the simulator at the RNLI College in Poole.

Dartmouth is a wonderful home port: it can be entered at any time and state of weather or tide. Once inside, the river provides excellent protection from the weather. The river itself is of outstanding natural beauty and boasts over 1000 years of maritime heritage. Dartmouth on the west side is a lovely and lively old town whilst Kingswear on the east is a proudly independent large village. It is possible to navigate at the appropriate state of tide all the way up to Totnes, about fourteen miles from Dartmouth.

Dartmouth is one of the best natural harbours in the country with a fine town and a beautiful river behind the entrance.

Dartmouth is one of the best natural harbours in the country with a fine town and a beautiful river behind the entrance.

Nigel’s new motor launch, Freia, is on the mooring usually used by Sundart (although it is actually Nigel’s mooring) so we decide to go up river to Dittisham for a quiet cuppa and to wind down from the end of our trip. The river is as lovely as ever in the afternoon sun with boats of all sorts coming and going.

Nigel T greeting us on our safe arrival back at our home port with a bottle of bubbly

Nigel Thorpe greeting us on our safe arrival back at our home port with a bottle of bubbly

As we moor up Nigel calls us over the VHF and we arrange to meet at Dittisham. Nigel has had a busy day already, ferrying his cousin’s daughter and her friends for a morning out to Salcombe. He brings a bottle of champagne to celebrate our return and we sit drinking it in the sun, catching up on the latest news. It is lovely to be welcomed back to our home port. He kindly invites us to supper with some old family friends.

The South Devon Steam Railway Company was founded to prreserve the railway between Piagnton and Kingswear (opposite Dartmouth). It runs a regular steam hauled service during the tourist season and has expanded its services to include the river ferries and tourist boats. The Kingswear Castle, a steam powered ferry,  is the latest addition to their fleet

The South Devon Steam Railway Company was founded to preserve the railway between Paignton and Kingswear (opposite Dartmouth). It runs a regular steam hauled service during the tourist season and has expanded its services to include the river ferries and tourist boats. The Kingswear Castle, a steam-powered ferry, is the latest addition to their fleet

We motor back down the Dart and moor at one of the Dart Harbour Authority deep water pontoons. Nigel brings his tender Arwen over for us to use to get to shore and after John has run him back to shore we pack the boat up for the last time and complete and sign off the log that we have been keeping for the last 121 days. We have covered around 2600 nautical miles (equivalent to about 3000 land or statute miles), stopped at 88 ports, harbours, marinas and anchorages and achieved our aim of visiting all 4 countries of the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, we have ended up back at Dartmouth on the exact day that we scheduled when we were planning the trip all those months ago.

For full details of our trip click here: Sundart round UK trip 2013 – The final tally

The boat tidied up, we set off around 1800 for Nigel’s and walk up Clarence Hill to his lovely house and an interesting evening learning about wine from Nigel’s family friends Peter and Pippa, who are both Masters of Wine and who select wines for Asda.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                                        48.4 nm

Total miles for the trip:                     2598.6 nm

Engine hours:                                 2.5 hours

Total engine hours for the trip:         314.0 hours

Hours sailed:                                   7.0 Hours

Total hours sailed for the trip           573.6 hours

Sunday 15th September – A wet day in Dartmouth

True to forecast, the weather is wet and windy for most of the day. John makes a quick trip to shore in Arwen for the Sunday paper and milk. We are rather tired so we enjoy the paper in the morning before setting to to pack our bags. We need to clear space so we can also strip the boat of the loose items that will not be sold with it.

Monday 16th September – Packing up and a brief trip up river.

Our personal stuff packed, we take Sundart up river to the Noss Marina where we have arranged to meet co-owners Phil and Nigel to visit a prospective broker to sell the boat. As part of the deal Sundart will be lifted out at Noss later this week to be polished up and antifouled and a few tidying up jobs done pending storage on the hard whilst she is sold. This will avoid paying for extra moorings.

We off-load our bags into Nigel’s car and return to the deep water pontoon opposite Dartmouth to start clearing out all the lockers of 29 years of accumulated “stuff”. It is just like moving house but in a smaller space!

We receive a message from our friends Errol and Joy DeBono to say that they and another couple Len and Eileen Darling will come to Dartmouth tomorrow to welcome us home. They are part of a wider group of John’s ex-university friends (who we have been going on an annual holiday with for the past 34 years!). They had been expecting us on Tuesday due to our last blog so it will be a delayed welcome.

Tuesday 16th September – Clearing Sundart and a delayed welcome home.

Tea at the Sloping Deck Restaurant in Dartmouth with the "welcome home" party: Joy, Len, JR, Nigel, Di, YV, Eileen and Errol. The Sloping Deck is a fine old institution at Dartmouth. Situated in the Butterwalk - a restored timbered Jacobean row of shops - it provides a wonderful array of bread, pasties and patisserie onthe ground floor and lunches and teas on the first floor with a true "sloping deck" of a floor without a single level area on it!

Tea at the Sloping Deck Restaurant in Dartmouth with the “welcome home” party: Joy, Len, JR, Nigel, Di, YV, Eileen and Errol. The Sloping Deck is a fine old institution at Dartmouth. Situated in the Butterwalk – a restored timbered Jacobean row of shops – it provides a wonderful array of bread, pasties and  patisserie on the ground floor and lunches and teas on the first floor with a true “sloping deck” of a floor without a single level area on it!

With Sundart cleared up, we meet co-owners Nigel and Phil at the quayside to off-load all the removable items, the sails and life raft before returning to the deep water pontoon.

Joy and Errol, Eileen and Len and also Nigel and Di Pepperdine (who are kindly ferrying us home) all arrive mid-afternoon so we go to a favourite old haunt at the Sloping deck to enjoy tea and their excellent cakes to catch up. Errol presents us with a bottle of bubbly and a welcome home card from the whole gang. It is a lovely gesture.

The welcome party moved on to the Windjammer in Dartmouth where we enjoyed a good meal.

The welcome party moved on to the Windjammer in Dartmouth where we enjoyed a good meal.

After loading Nigel’s car with about half our clobber (there not being room for it all!) we rejoin the others and enjoy a good meal and plenty of chat at the Windjammer – a traditional pub in Dartmouth that serves decent beer and food.

Nigel and Di return with us to Sundart for a final night on the boat before she is taken up to Noss tomorrow for lift out. The boat looks rather bare now that everything has been packed up and taken off.

Wednesday 17th September – Home

Farewell to Sundart on Wednesday 15th September. Later that day she was taken to Noss Marina and lifted out in readiness for sale. Our friends Di and Nigel Pepperdine kindly transported us and much of our clobber back to Melbourne.

Farewell to Sundart on Wednesday 15th September. Later that day she was taken to Noss Marina and lifted out in readiness for sale. Our friends Di and Nigel Pepperdine kindly transported us and much of our clobber back to Melbourne.

We leave the boat by mid-morning as Nigel T and Phil will take her up to Noss at midday. We make a final effort to maximise what we can fit in the car then set off. We are very grateful to Nigel and Di Pepperdine for coming to fetch us as we avoid having to leave most of our stuff in Dartmouth and travelling home by train.

After an uneventful journey we arrive home by mid-afternoon. The adventure is over and it is time to tackle a mountain of post and adjust to “normal” life – whatever that is!

We have had a wonderful trip with 4 months of adventure and interest and the odd scary bit! We have been touched by the support we have received, the family, friends and people we have met round our coasts, those who have sailed with us and the messages of support and interest we have received. (Messages have come from as far afield as Australia!). The support and interest has been wonderful.

Above all, we have been hugely grateful to all those who have supported our charity. We have so far raised over £3000 for SUDEP Action which has surpassed our wildest expectations and allowed us to sponsor their Epilepsy Deaths Register, which we will write about further in our final blog once the money is all gathered in. In the meantime, if you want to learn about this then click here: Epilepsy Register. If you want to contribute to our charity then click here: The Crusoes Virgin Money Giving Page.

Finally, if anyone is dreaming of an adventure such as this then our advice is: JUST DO IT!

A following wind and fair weather to you all.

Yvonne and John

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2 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. Dear John & Yvonne – we have not met but I am currently the Lifeboat Management Group chair at Torbay. We are designing a programme for our ‘Lifeboat Sunday’ on 13 August this year and came across your great photograph of Torbay Lifeboat out on a shout. Strange as it may seem we have very few images of her in a straightforward profile and would very much like to use the image you took back in 2013 as a centre piece on the front page of our programme booklet. The booklet is issued free and around 10,000 will be printed and distributed. It is funded by adverts (hopefully!). I would very much appreciate your agreement to use – the lifeboat will be extracted from the background for this purpose but your image would be great to hold on our archive. If you are happy with this and are able an original image would be appreciated.

    Thanks in anticipation

    David Ham MBE
    Chair – Torbay Lifeboat Management Group
    07554 903108

  2. Hi Yvonne and John, I happened upon your blog whilst doing some research on a similar voyage I am starting this year. https://seaventurestravels.blogspot.co.uk/ Your blog is very good and clearly you have better IT and sailing skills than myself. If you would be interested in following this and have any advice recommendations I would be most grateful to receive it.
    As my wife Rika is not a sailor and won’t be coming with me, I will be taking much longer to complete my voyage as I will be at the mercy of availability of crew. Rika will be joining me at various location in our Camper van so we will be exploring inland as well.
    Your charity SUDEP is very worthwhile and is doing some good research. This is of interest to us as a young man we fostered suffers from Epilepsy and know what an impact it has on his quality of life. We had some periods of great difficulty getting his medication balanced.
    You will see I am using this voyage to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer Support and hope to be as successful as yourselves.
    I’ve not yet read all of your blog entries, but very much look forward to reading it and comparing it to my experiences as I go along.

    Regards Geof Lane

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