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

The Solent, Poole and Weymouth

Monday 9th September – Thorney Island to the Folly Inn via Portsmouth

It rains again over night and the morning dawns grey and overcast. After breakfast we talk to Nigel Thorpe, one of the co-owners. Nigel is arranging to get Sundart lifted out as soon as we return to Dartmouth and on the market as soon as possible so we discus the details of removing our kit and the various loose items off the boat.

Horse Sand Fort. One of a string of forts across the entrance to the Solent near Portsmouth. This is one of the larger Royal Commission Forts built between 1865 & 1880. In WW2 concrete blocks were sunk between here and the shore which remain in place with only two narrow passages through to block U boat entry to Portsmouth

Horse Sand Fort. One of a string of forts across the entrance to the Solent near Portsmouth. This is one of the larger Royal Commission Forts built between 1865 & 1880. In WW2 concrete blocks were sunk between here and the shore which remain in place with only two narrow passages through to block U boat entry to Portsmouth

We need to go to Portsmouth to collect Charles and Judith after lunch, as they have volunteered for another stint with us. The weather forecast is for force 4 to 5 winds although the reality is a light force 1; we set 2 reefs in case it is stronger outside the harbour and motor out. In reality, once we get out the winds remain light so we shake out the reefs and set full sail. We don’t need to be at Portsmouth until 1400 so we sail slowly towards Horse Sand Fort where we turn alongside the shipping channel into harbour. Small ships have to follow their dedicated channel out of the main ship channel and keep watch on the Port Control Channel 11 but today it is calm and relatively quiet with just a few Isle of Wight ferries coming and going.

The hovercraft ferry to Ryde. The hovercraft was invented by Sir Christopher Cockerell and was first built in the UK. Griffiths Aviation now build them

The hovercraft ferry to Ryde. The hovercraft was invented by Sir Christopher Cockerell and was first built in the UK. Griffiths Aviation now build them

The hovercraft to Ryde blasts by as we enter port.

The entrance to Portsmouth with the Spinnaker Tower visible. The photo is taken from the small boat channel to one side of the main ship channel.

The entrance to Portsmouth with the Spinnaker Tower visible. The photo is taken from the small boat channel to one side of the main ship channel.

We have radioed to Gunwharf Quay, which is right next to Portsmouth Harbour station so we can collect Charles and Judith there although there is a fee of £5 for 10 minutes pick up – nice business if you can get it!

The Royal naval dockyard at Portsmouth with an interesting array of modern warships.

The Royal naval dockyard at Portsmouth with an interesting array of modern warships.

HMS Warrior - the latest thing in 1860. This ship was restored at Hartlepool by the same team who restored HMS Trimcomalee

HMS Warrior – the latest thing in warship design in 1860. This ship was restored at Hartlepool by the same team who restored HMS Trimcomalee

We motor past the Royal Naval yards, which we thought were being run down but in fact have quite a few modern war ships in, including one of the latest Type 45 stealth destroyers with the unusual angular hull and superstructure and a huge radar tower and command centre.

Nelson's flagship Victory is currently under wraps being rennovated. The Mary Rose (Henry VIII's flagship) is in the covered museum next door, as is HMS Warrior

Nelson’s flagship Victory is currently under wraps being rennovated. The Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship) is in the covered museum next door, as is HMS Warrior

It makes a stark contrast to Nelson’s flagship Victory (currently undergoing restoration) and Warrior nearby. We pass a police patrol launch idly patrolling outside the dockyard – it must be a mind numbingly boring job for 99% of the time. We find a vacant mooring buoy and tie up to have lunch in the afternoon sunshine.

The 115 m high Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth, right next to Gunwharf Quay. Built as part of the Rennaisance of Portsmouth project and finally completed in 2005, it has been a great success.

The 115 m high Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth, right next to Gunwharf Quay. Built as part of the Rennaisance of Portsmouth project and finally completed in 2005, it has been a great success.

Charles and Judith are on time so we collect them from Gunwharf Quay (under the shadow of the Spinnaker Tower) and set off into the Solent for Cowes. The wind has freshened and we have a pleasant sail along the Solent, albeit against the tide.

Once we reach Cowes we decide to go down the River Medina to moor at the Folly Inn a mile or two south of Cowes. Cowes is, as ever, busy with Red Funnel Ferries, the Fast-Cat ferry and the chain ferry all busy, plus an oil coaster coming out of the river, presumably having re-fuelled the local power station. The Folly Inn is an institution in this area, with the word INN painted large on its roof. It is apparently very busy in the season but quiet today and we have no problem mooring up. We decline the offer of the ferry to the Inn at £2.50 per person and spend the night on board.

Charles and John roll up their sleeves to sort out the failed anchor winch. Charles brings to bear a working life of railway engineering, persuading electrical items to keep working underneath wet and windy railway trains. The motor is initially reluctant to come out but some careful unpicking of sub-standard nylon washers frees it. We strip the motor down and find the inside rather rusty with seized brushes. Charles diagnoses a design fault based on his experience that no matter how hard you try it is impossible to completely keep water out of electrical things under wet trains or in damp anchor lockers so better give the water somewhere to run out so the electrics dry out and keep running. We reassemble the motor with modifications to the brush cover and presto: it works first time, spinning ever faster as the muck comes off the rotor. The anchor winch is re-assembled with its motor and the winch re-sealed into the anchor winch well and it still works. Tomorrow we will try it for real.

John cooks up a curry for supper.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                       20.1 nm

Total miles to date:          2467.1 nm

Engine hours:                  2.4 hours

Total engine hours:          302.1 hours

Hours sailed:                   6.0 Hours

Total hours sailed;           545.1 hours

Tuesday 10th September – Folly Inn to Beaulieu River

Sundart on the Town Quay at Cowes

Sundart on the Town Quay at Cowes

The day dawns sunny with a fair breeze. Today we will explore the Solent. Breakfast over, we motor out of the river and moor up at the Town Quay at West Cowes for a quick spot of shopping. Cowes is a pleasant old town with an old fashioned High Street but we don’t tarry long as we need to clear the quay. Back on board the assistant harbour master pays us a visit to inform us that the boat is too big to stay here. We have a pleasant chat as he is a yacht owner; he lets us off the mooring fee and we depart.

Cowes attracts all sizes, types and ages of sailing ships

Cowes attracts all sizes, types and ages of sailing ships. This is the Earl of Pembroke from Bristol.

Cowes is a delightful old town with a proper high street as well as being a yachtie mecca

Cowes is a delightful old town with a proper high street as well as being a yachtie mecca

A gaff rigger sailing by Cowes in the sunshine

A gaff rigger sailing by Cowes in the sunshine

The Red Funnel line has been a feature of Cowes for many years. The captains need a considerable level of skill to negotiate the narrow channel and miss all the small boats that are often milling around

The Red Funnel line has been a feature of Cowes for many years. The captains need a considerable level of skill to negotiate the narrow channel and miss all the small boats that are often milling around

It is a lovely sailing day as we set sail westwards towards Newtown Creek. The tide is against us but it is sunny and we have a good wind to reach down the Solent, passing the sailing clubs at the entrance to the medina at Cowes, avoiding the ferries and making our way west.

The "gunsight" leading marks at the entry to the Newtown River

The “gunsight” leading marks at the entry to the Newtown River

The anchorge in Newtown River. This was once used by the Romans as their principle harbour but has long been a quiet spot. A century ago there were salt pans and a meadow behind the ruined wall on the left.

The anchorage in Newtown River. This was once used by the Romans as their principle harbour but has long been a quiet spot. A century ago there were salt pans and a meadow behind the ruined wall on the left.

We enter Newtown Creek using the unique “gun sight” leading marks and anchor up. The harbour master pays us a visit but as this is National Trust Property and we are all members we are exempt from payment. We chat to him for a while and obtain a leaflet describing this interesting area.

Lunch taken, we try the anchor winch and happily it works; we set sail eastwards. By this time the tide has turned against us but once again there is enough wind to sail over it and we can enjoy the views of both sides of the Solent in the sun as we make our way to the Beaulieu River.

The UK has a programme to train young sailors in ocean racing. Here two 40 ft yachts practice, reaching down the Solent

The UK has a programme to train young sailors in ocean racing. Here two Open 40 type yachts practice, reaching down the Solent

A couple of open 40 racing yachts pass by.

The entrance to the Beaulieu River requires careful navigation due to the sand banks. The entrance safely negotiated, we anchor inside Gull Island by “port hand mark No. 22” in a lovely tranquil spot.

Anchored off Gull Island in the Beaulieu River

Anchored off Gull Island in the Beaulieu River

The Beaulieu River is part of the Lord Montague of Beaulieu’s estate whilst Gull Island is a wild life sanctuary. Godwits, oyster catchers, black headed gulls and curlews stalk the mud flats for food as the tide drops. Charles and Judith make spaghetti bolognaise for supper and we settle down to a cosy evening with the sound of the evening chorus from the various birds as the sun sets. Charles and Judith cook up spaghetti bolognaise washed down with a glass of Italian red.

Tomorrow we will leave the Solent and head for Poole as we start making tracks further west.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                       20.1 nm

Total miles to date:          2487.2 nm

Engine hours:                  2.0 hours

Total engine hours:          304.1 hours

Hours sailed:                   6.8 Hours

Total hours sailed;           551.9 hours

Wednesday 11th September – Beaulieu River to Poole

Bucklers Hard with the old slipways in the foreground

Bucklers Hard with the old slipways in the foreground

The morning is a hazy day with hints of sun. After breakfast we decide to motor up river to have a look at Buckler’s Hard as  the tide will not turn the right way for us to get out of the Solent past Hurst Castle until mid-afternoon. We up anchor using the newly repaired winch and discover that we have just touched the mud on the river side but no problem. We motor up against the stream and have a good look at the village and surroundings but don’t stop as we need to sail along the Solent and in any case there is a landing charge!

The Waverley: the last steam powered paddle steamer built in the UK and now a pleasure steamer

The Waverley: the last steam powered paddle steamer built in the UK and now a pleasure steamer

A yacht from the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust takes young people aged between 8-24 sailing to help them regain their confidence, on their way to recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other serious illness.

A yacht from the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust takes young people aged between 8-24 sailing to help them regain their confidence, on their way to recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other serious illness.

We manage to sail down the river and out into the Solent, taking care to avoid the sand banks at the entrance as the tide is still low. We have a good sail west along the Solent, albeit rather slowly as we are against the tide. We notice several boats much closer to the shore in shallower water going our way that seem to make better progress – we make a mental note for future reference to use the shallow water at the edge when going against the stream.

As we sail along various interesting boats pass by including a yacht from the Ellen MacArthur Trust and the SS Waverley.

The Needles off the western end of the Isle of Wight - a famous landmark for generations of seafarers

The Needles off the western end of the Isle of Wight – a famous landmark for generations of seafarers

The western exit from the Solent. Hurst Castlre to the right, the Needles to the left.

The western exit from the Solent. Hurst Castle to the right, the Needles to the left.

Hurst Castle  is one of Henry VIII's Device Forts, built at the end of a long shingle spit at the west end of the Solent to guard the approaches to Southampton. Hurst Castle was sited at the narrow entrance to the Solent where the ebb and flow of the tides creates strong currents, putting would-be invaders at its mercy. Also known as a Henrician Castle, Hurst was built as part of Henry's chain of coastal defences to protect England during the turbulent times of his reign. Charles I was imprisoned here in 1648 before being taken to London to his trial and execution. The fort was modified throughout the 19th century, and two large wing batteries were built to house heavy guns. It was fortified again in World War II and then decommissioned. It is now owned by English Heritage

Hurst Castle is one of Henry VIII’s Device Forts, built at the end of a long shingle spit at the west end of the Solent to guard the approaches to Southampton. Hurst Castle was sited at the narrow entrance to the Solent where the ebb and flow of the tides creates strong currents, putting would-be invaders at its mercy. Also known as a Henrician Castle, Hurst was built as part of Henry’s chain of coastal defences to protect England during the turbulent times of his reign.
Charles I was imprisoned here in 1648 before being taken to London to his trial and execution. The fort was modified throughout the 19th century, and two large wing batteries were built to house heavy guns. It was fortified again in World War II and then decommissioned. It is now owned by English Heritage

We reach Hurst Castle just before the tide turns at 1500 and pass slowly through. The famous Needles are clearly visible. However, the wind dies so we end up motor sailing. We have several boats for company including a small, 30 ft yacht that motors ahead of us.  There is enough tide to go over the shallows on the direct route to Poole. In due course the wind starts to set in as the sky gets grayer. We resume sailing close hauled, keeping pace with the little boat ahead that seems to sail well on the wind. The wind continues to build and gets gusty and it starts to rain – farewell to our fine weather in the Solent! We take in two reefs but as time is pressing to catch the tide into Poole Harbour past Sandbanks and the wind is dead ahead we end up motoring into the wind. The little yacht goes in via the shallow channel from the north, we go in via the main channel but the little yacht just beats us.

Sandbanks at the entrance was once said to be the most expensive place to live in the UK. One suspects that it has been surpassed by London but it remains exclusive and pricey

Sandbanks at the entrance was once said to be the most expensive place to live in the UK. One suspects that it has been surpassed by London but it remains exclusive and pricey

It is now deluging with rain so we motor along the north side of Brownsea Island and pick up one of the many vacant mooring buoys instead of anchoring.

It is Judith’s birthday so John attempts to cook goulash as a birthday meal but it ends up a bit spicy – no matter there is none left! Yvonne’s pears with melted chocolate are more successful.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                       33.5 nm

Total miles to date:          2520.7 nm

Engine hours:                  2.4 hours

Total engine hours:          306.5 hours

Hours sailed:                   8.5 Hours

Total hours sailed;           560.4 hours

Thursday 12th September – Poole

The castle on Brownsea island. The island is now owned by the National Trust; half of it is a wildlife sanctuary

The castle on Brownsea island. The island is now owned by the National Trust; half of it is a wildlife sanctuary

We are going to spend today in Poole. We have already phoned several of the marinas in Poole: all of them are remarkably expensive. (In fact Poole is the most expensive area we have visited, even London). We have settled for Poole Quay Boat Haven as this is right in the middle of Poole and the most convenient for shopping and meeting friends.

Statue of Lord Robert Baden-Powell at Poole. BP held his first scout camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour

Statue of Lord Robert Baden-Powell at Poole. BP held his first scout camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour

The morning is misty but the rain has cleared through. We motor as far as we can round Brownsea Island to see the views, then back-track and reach the marina. It is not very busy – hardly any surprise given the cost (£42.50 including harbour dues, electricity and one night stay). However, it is right outside a Tesco and the showers are good. We duly shower then Yvonne, Charles and Judith visit Tesco whilst John does the blog.

Alex Anderson and Bob and Julie Shute all arrive at midday. The sun has broken through so all is set fair for a good day with friends.

Poole has an attractive old town by the harbour

Poole has an attractive old town by the harbour

Part of the Sunseeker establishment manufacturing upmarket motor yachts. It is one of the UK's manufacturing success stories:one hopes the new Chinese owners keep it that way.

Part of the Sunseeker establishment manufacturing upmarket motor yachts. It is one of the UK’s manufacturing success stories:one hopes the new Chinese owners keep it that way.

Bob has the idea of having lunch at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Training College about a mile away. Four of us are members and Bob has eaten there before and recommends it. We walk round, passing the old town. Although the marina charges are too high, there is much of interest in Poole. The old town is attractive with narrow streets and old buildings along the harbour front and back in the town. We walk past the numerous factories units and other buildings making Sunseeker Motor yachts. Some of these are fabulous craft for millionaires. The firm is a real success story with a very large export business. Sadly, it has just been sold to a Chinese company but we learn that the Chinese have given assurances about keeping the jobs in the UK.

The RNLI Training College. One of several modern RNLI buildings grouped together. A new manufacturing facility is under construction next to this site for construction of off-shore lifeboats

The RNLI Training College. One of several modern RNLI buildings grouped together. A new manufacturing facility is under construction next to this site for construction of off-shore lifeboats

The sculpture by Sam Holland outside the RNLI College symbolising the history and purpose of the RNLI

The sculpture by Sam Holland outside the RNLI College symbolising the history and purpose of the RNLI

We reach the RNLI buildings. Most of these are modern and very impressive. The Training College is about 5 or 6 years old with a fine view over the harbour and the new Twin Leaf Bridge.

Lunch at the RNLI College. From L to R: Charles & Judith Saunders, Yvonne, Alex Anderson, John, Bob and Julie Shute.

Lunch at the RNLI College. From L to R: Charles & Judith Saunders, Yvonne, Alex Anderson, John, Bob and Julie Shute.

We find that we can have a drink in the bar on the first floor with a fine view and eat food there from the restaurant below. The food is excellent and the staff extremely helpful and pleasant. The Training Centre is primarily for training crews and volunteers but is also used for hospitality and even weddings.

After lunch Bob and John go to reception to see if it is possible to visit the huge survival tank that is used for training in the water. By luck a tour is about to start of the building but they don’t have enough space for us all. However, they find another tour guide who will take us round. We are in luck! The others are quickly rounded up and we are introduced to our young guide, Max, who enthusiastically explains the function of the building and what we will be seeing.

In the lifeboat simulator at the RNLI during a "Force 6 to 7".

In the lifeboat simulator at the RNLI during a “Force 6 to 7”.

John playing at helmsman at 25 knots.

John playing at helmsman at 25 knots.

The RNLI was set up nearly 190 years ago by Sir William Hillary in 1824. (His watch words “With courage nothing is impossible” are on a large sign at the entrance to the College).  It has always been based on volunteers and today over 95% of the people who work for the RNLI are volunteers. Our guide Max is one such volunteer, having been involved since his teens. Bob and Julie regularly collect for the RNLI.

Max takes us first to the simulator. This is a full size mock up of the bridge largest lifeboat, the Severn Class of-shore life boat. Although it does not move, there is an extremely realistic simulation of the sea and everything else that might be seen through the windows of a lifeboat on active service. All the controls are replicated plus the navigation and communications instruments. The simulator is used to simulate any condition so that trainee lifeboat crews can realistically undergo different scenarios from calm conditions in bright sunlight to gales on a foggy night. A typical training exercise can take several hours with each crew member playing their part in the navigation and control of the lifeboat and the communications required. The simulator covers the coxswain, helmsman, engineer and navigator roles. Everything is recorded for feedback and instruction later.

We are given the full works up to a force 7. Some of us find the simulation too realistic and retire to the training and control room next door but the rest thoroughly enjoy the experience.

The Survival Training tank with Inshore Life Boat (ILB) righting training going on.

The Survival Training tank with Inshore Life Boat (ILB) righting training going on.

Having been thrilled by the simulator we are then taken by Max to the survival training tank. This is really a huge swimming pool in a large, hangar-like building. There is an exercise going on to work out the best way to right a capsized in-shore life boat (ILB). A lifeboat crew in their full oilskins, life jackets and boots are jumping into the water and the ILB is then flipped over with an overhead crane so that they can learn how to right it. Max explains the technique including how they sort out the engines to get them to re-start. We also have a look at different life rafts and how they can flip over and be righted.

We round off with a short film about the training at the college, the systems behind the simulators and the reality once the training is put into practice. The whole trip is absolutely fascinating and we feel very privileged to have been given the trip.

Outside the building we catch our breath. Over the road the RNLI is constructing a new manufacturing facility to bring construction of the off-shore lifeboats in house. (They already make the ILB’s at Cowes and fit out all their lifeboats).

John has to meet a customer and has arranged to be picked up at the RNLI. The others walk back to Sundart. Bob, Julie and Alex depart their ways. In due course John returns, job dealt with.

A fine meal in La Lupa Restaurant at Poole to celebrate Judith's birthday

A fine meal in La Lupa Restaurant at Poole to celebrate Judith’s birthday

Charles has invited us all to a meal out to celebrate Judith’s birthday. Bob and Julie recommended an Italian Restaurant, La Lupa, on the harbour front. We have checked the place out earlier in the day and decide it looks good and so it proves. We have an excellent meal, thanks to Charles’s generosity and take all evening over it.

Back at the boat we check the weather forecast for the next few days. Charles and Judith are leaving tomorrow and John and Yvonne want to take a few days to get back to Dartmouth, visiting 4 or 5 spots on the way. However, the forecast is showing storms from Sunday into the rest of the week so these plans have to change. We decide to take the early tide directly to Weymouth which means an early start.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                       3.7 nm

Engine hours:                  1.2 hours

Hours sailed:                   1.2 Hours

Friday 13th September – Poole to Weymouth

Old Harry (and his wife) by Studland Bay, Dorset

Old Harry (and his wife) by Studland Bay, Dorset

The headlands around the East Dorset coast including Anvil Point and St. Alban's Point all have overfalls (rough water) off them when the tide is running.

The headlands around the East Dorset coast including Anvil Point and St. Alban’s Point all have overfalls (rough water) off them when the tide is running.

We get up at 6 AM and breakfast. Charles and Judith depart for the milk train. John and Yvonne leave the marina at 7, setting the sails but motor sailing out of Poole harbour as there is not much wind. The forecast has predicted increasing winds over the day and rain later.

We continue to motor sail as we want to catch the west going tide round several headlands including Old Harry and culminating in St. Alban’s head before it turns against us. As we follow the coast we gradually turn west, directly into the wind which increases, necessitating reefing down. There are some overfalls (lumpy seas) off some of the headlands but we make good progress with the tide in our favour.

The last of the chalk cliffs we will see on our journey were just to the west of Weymouth. We have been seeing chalk cliffs at intervals since Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.

The last of the chalk cliffs we will see on our journey were just to the west of Weymouth. We have been seeing chalk cliffs at intervals since Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.

Portland looks like a wedge of cheese shaped island from the distance but is joined to the land at Weymouth (to the right of this photo)

Portland looks like a wedge of cheese shaped island from the distance but is joined to the land at Weymouth (to the right of this photo)

We pass Lulworth Cove (where we had hoped to anchor over night and reach Weymouth bay. By now the rain has stopped, the wind has moderated and the sea has calmed down. There is a large fleet of around 70 Dragon keel boats racing in the Bay. We motor past their race area, then sail the rest of the way, beating to Weymouth Harbour entrance. We have some lunch. In the distance we can see Portland Bill and Portland Harbour with its massive breakwater (dating from Napoleonic times) and the new UK Sailing Academy, home to Olympic Sailing last year.

We call up Weymouth Port Control and are allocated a berth and given permission to enter.

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The Pelican of London at Weymouth

The Pelican of London at Weymouth

The Condor Fast Cat ferry to the Channel Isles docks at Weymouth and dwarfs most of the craft around it. They are quick but rather fearsome when viewed from a small craft at sea as they travel at up to 40 knots. They are a far cry from the steam powered steamers that bought passengers and Guernsey tomatoes here 40 years ago.

The Condor Fast Cat ferry to the Channel Isles docks at Weymouth and dwarfs most of the craft around it. They are quick but rather fearsome when viewed from a small craft at sea as they travel at up to 40 knots. They are a far cry from the steam powered steamers that bought passengers and Guernsey tomatoes here 40 years ago.

We moor up with help from the harbour assistant in the sun (which has appeared). We are across the river from the lifeboat – the very same type as we used in the simulator yesterday. We report to the harbour office to pay our dues and get the shower codes and weather update. The forecast is still giving the weather window tomorrow that we want to use to get back to Dartmouth. We glean some tips for getting past the renowned tidal race off Portland Bill

Weymouth is an attractive old own round its old harbour. There is the seaside bit to the east with the sandy beach and donkey rides in the season.

Weymouth is an attractive old own round its old harbour. There is the seaside bit to the east with the sandy beach and donkey rides in the season.

Weymouth looks pretty and attractive in the sun so we take a walk round the harbour before returning to Sundart where Yvonne works out the best way round Portland Bill.

The old Customs house lives on as a public building serving the mariners....

The old Customs house lives on as a public building serving the mariners….

...as can be seen from the polished nameplates on the wall.

…as can be seen from the polished nameplates on the wall.

Passenger and goods trains ran down to the quay at Weymouth along the "Tramway" until the end of steam traction in 1984

Passenger and goods trains ran down to the quay at Weymouth along the “Tramway” until the end of steam traction in 1984

Some signs take a while to remove - this one became obsolete in 1984 when trains ceased to run down on the quay.

Some signs take a while to remove – this one became obsolete in 1984 when trains ceased to run down on the quay.

The

Weymouth has its lifting bridge, in this case to access the inner harbour.

Weymouth has its lifting bridge, in this case to access the inner harbour.

Weymouth Harbour handbook gives the phone number of Coastwatch Portland Bill so once she has done her calculations she contacts them and receives friendly and very helpful advice to confirm her passage plan and give us a bit more information. (Coastwatch is a national voluntary organisation that was set up once the Coastguard Service became a radio and radar based service and no longer actually watched out over strategic areas of the coast. Coastwatch volunteers usually use the old coastguard look outs and often build up a very useful bank of local knowledge. Portland must be one of the best organised of the voluntary groups as we have used them before). We will need to leave at 6 am tomorrow.

The forecast rain begins to set in just as another boat is directed to raft up alongside us. After some debate about our intended departure hour tomorrow there is a general re-organisation of boats and we end up rafted up on the outside of a French boat that has just come up from St. Malo. The joys of limited mooring space!

The Severn Class lifeboat on station at Weymouth - just like the simulator at the RNLI College! This is a busy lifeboat and was called out twice in quick succession during the evening whilst we were moored at Weymouth

The Severn Class lifeboat on station at Weymouth – just like the simulator at the RNLI College! This is a busy lifeboat and was called out twice in quick succession during the evening whilst we were moored at Weymouth

John settles down to update the blog whilst Yvonne tops up the water tanks. After a while we hear a Mayday relay over a loudspeaker relating to a dismasted 22 ft catamaran. No sooner than we hear this than we see the lifeboat crew running to the lifeboat, donning their oilskins as they go. Weymouth is one of the busiest lifeboats. It returns after half an hour but is immediately called out again, this time for a boat that has lost its steering.

Tomorrow we plan to get back to our home port of to Dartmouth before the storms set in. We shall see!

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                       26.8 nm

Total miles to date:          2550.2 nm

Engine hours:                  4.0 hours

Total engine hours:          311.7 hours

Hours sailed:                   5.0 Hours

Total hours sailed;           566.6 hours

A following wind and fair weather to you all.

Yvonne and John