1219 24th July
Subject:- Working Up Channel
We are in Portland Marina.
It does not have quite the appeal of Falmouth, St Mawes and then our overnight in Dartmouth! I’ve always dreamed of sailing in to Dartmouth. What a treat that was.
It’s been quite a lot to take in since we made it to Falmouth from the Azores.
It was lovely watching the world go by in St Mawes and in particular the St Mawes Oystermen out racing. A very pretty site.
I’ve found the two days of coastal sailing to get here more tiring than all the time spent in the ocean. I had a lovely day with family in Falmouth. Logan, Alicia and their wonderful small boys. They move to the south west on the 24th August.
Childish I know but I took great pleasure in just sailing for sailing pleasure as in light airs we steadily narrowed a very big gap on three SV’s ahead of us approaching Start Point inbound to Dartmouth.
We all sailed close in shore to take the big lift from the current in to Start Bay itself. Needless to say ‘Talisker 1’ showed all three her transom before we all entered Dartmouth. It was just totally different from the 25 days we had spent sailing in the ocean. Just fun. The other boats were totally unaware of me and ‘Talisker 1’ trying to get the best out of each other! Yesterday we sailed across Lyme Bay in light south westerlies. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. Most boats were motoring!
There will be less wind today so it looks at the moment as if we might HAVE to motor to the Solent.
I have some early afterthoughts about my short ocean passages.
First … I’m thrilled we have done it. Porto Santo, Madeira, seems so long ago and so very very far away.
I do know this boat. I feel I know what is best for her to sail to her maximum from all points of sail without pressing her. It’s a boat that tells you what she wants and then seems to say. Now that’s better isn’t it! We hardly motored at all. The engine was run to charge the batteries. It was a great disappointment to have had to charge the batteries in this way so much. The worst scenario was about two and half to three hours at first light. ‘Talisker 1’ is marvellous to windward. She drives through stuff and does not get stopped. We were triple reefed at times with stay sail heading ENE towards NW Spain from the Azores, sailing as high as we could. She just bashed her way through it for quite a few days.
It was lovely to see how well she sailed downwind to Madeira. The wind was strong and the seas quite big. For a time we were triple reefed on a preventer and a small amount of genoa poled out to keep the weight forward. Those 24 hour runs were consistently 180 NM +. The 24 hour runs from Madeira coming home and more an upwind passage were 130 to 140 NM. The Raymarine Evolution steering was outstanding in all conditions. As indeed I was told it would be. It had been properly tested on the Norwegian voyages in 2016 and 2017.
The sail plan is excellent. Only the mast remains of the original rig. The bespoke inner forestay and stay sail have been an outstanding success for three years. In 2016 it was a hank on to see how well it worked. Its been on a furler for the last two years.
James Robi and Doc, insisted I sailed to Norway before setting off in to the Atlantic. The Norwegian voyages were very important to give us a taste of what the ocean would be like. I was pleased I went up there two years in a row. I was a lot less green after that. But nothing can really prepare you for sailing alone in the ocean.
I got myself in to a routine underway. The days were almost compartmentalised between filling in the log every six hours. There is no doubt that I was a lot less hungry. But I certainly ate enough. I was miserly with water unless it was to drink. Baby Wipes for washing!! You need very little water to wash up. I slept about 5 to 6 hours in 24 and never felt very tired. On the very odd occasion the radar or AIS alarm sounded it woke me immediately. I set a timer to wake me every two hours. This rarely had to wake me as a slight change in the way the boat was working had my eyes wide open and straight up to attend to the boat. I felt as though I was semi conscious sleeping. Never in a deep sleep but having absolutely bizarre dreams. Not ones I have had at any other time. Mostly about people coming down the hatch!!
If I did not have a lovely life at home and a gorgeous family it would be very easy not to come back. I could easily be permanently sailing and almost certainly sailing much further. But as much as I love being at sea I also miss Sally and my family. This is a great compromise.
In the ocean I plotted our position every 6 hours. Joining the plotted positions it seemed that we’d hardly moved at all but move we had.
Not a very long time ago I had felt ill and cold 40 miles from land. It seemed like eight hours was an eternity to get to a harbour. I vowed then never to be cold again. The distance just seemed to be enormous. One hundred and twenty miles from land last year I felt queasy. That seemed like quite a long way from land. I remember thinking. Pull yourself together! This is what we do!
Now distance is measured in a different way. When we were 150 NM from Porto Santo, I was thinking prepare for arrival, we are nearly there! Also! We’ll get there when we get there. There IS NO HURRY. Also how meticulous the preparation for arrival has to be when approaching a strange landmass. And at times on this voyage we were hundreds of miles from land and it was … just … normal.
In the ocean you spend much more time below. For coastal sailors on deck the whole time you have to get used to the noise the ship makes as it works from the inside. It’s almost like a drum as the boat takes the hits. You get very sensitive to every noise and its meaning.
Iridium Go was marvellous. PredictWind support in New Zealand were outstanding. My help in the office there was wonderful Marlene Cleyndert. She’s sailed twice round the world! Google her. I foolishly did not do what she told me to do. I was too mean to pay an extra month to Iridium before I left. I needed a month to learn to use the equipment to its best capability before leaving. It wasn’t until I was off the coast of Portugal I was really getting the hang of it. And not until I left Madeira was I getting the best out of it. Fool me. I can not recommend it more highly.
With unlimited power the Raymarine Evolution steering is outstanding. Nothing would steer the boat as well as this. BUT I would not want to go in to the ocean again alone without wind vane steering. I’m sure I would have steered with a wind vane steering system at night. I would also have known that I had purely a mechanical back up if the electrics had decided to go on strike. I would have felt less vulnerable. But much more on power generation at a later date. I have quite specific views on what I should have installed. A wind generator would have probably made the difference when the solar went dead at night.
When a sail has been flying non stop for five to eleven days it does get wear and tear. I found myself making minor repairs in Maria Santa and one or two more in Falmouth. My longer distance friends fly their sails for weeks!!! Kemp Sails manufactured all the sails for ‘Talisker 1’. They have done a lot of miles in the last three years. Bravo to Rob and his excellent team in Wareham.
I’m pleased I had a heavy duty spray hood frame manufactured in the winter by Mr Stainless at Suffolk Yacht Harbour. And a tough new hood. I was well protected. Dave from Parker & Kay, Suffolk Yacht Harbour made the hood. Jonnie and Sam, Evolution Rigging did a thorough check of the rigging before we set off.
1844 27th July
Subject:- Nearly Home …Ramsgate
22nd Left lovely St Mawes for beautiful Dartmouth 10.5 Engine Hours 65 NM and sailed the last bit … which was NICE and I got a bit childish.
23rd Dartmouth to Portland 3.3 Engine Hours 52 NM sailed most of the way.
24th Portland to The Solent 0.7 Engine Hours 41 NM … Wonderful SAILED all the way
25th The Solent to Brighton 6.2 Engine Hours 53 NM A bit of sailing … AND to then land in Brighton Marina.
26th Brighton to Eastbourne 3 Engine Hours 22 NM but a nice beat round Beachy Head after deciding we were going no further than Eastbourne.
Today the 27th Eastbourne to Ramsgate 9.4 Engine Hours 54.4 We motored all the way ..
I remember sailing Down Channel in early June ALL THE WAY. It was a breeze .. yes there was more than enough breeze. And all downwind.
I cant remember motoring so much as we have over the last few days!
So still to come. The final leg across my favourite estuary, in and out of the sandbanks and across the odd one almost certainly, to get us back to the Ore and beautiful Orford. But me and ’Talisker 1’ will have to be on out metal. Just because we are in familiar water … I’ve never seen the same stretch of water the same EVER.
But we are not going tomorrow. Apart from being tired from all this collision avoidance with land and traffic there are strong winds forecast .. so we are staying put.
And crikey it’s hot. I just went for a shower on arrival here and the temperature is set to …. HOT. I’m not even going to question why the thermostat is set so high. No wonder all the Dutch are swimming in the harbour here. The trouble is the Dutch are fastidious about what they put in their home waters and harbours. I hope they are all ok. It’s a sewer here.
Ramsgate is very busy. I was allocated a berth. The wind had literally just started and it was about to get much stronger.
“Is that one of your very short fingers and downwind?’ I politely asked.
“No wind in the marina” came the answer.
“I suggest you go outside your office!” I replied “Over”. Of course there was no reply.
Single handed, a breeze behind you, an 11 metre + boat and the finger (I just measured it) 5 metres long with a nice pile slap in front to dent your pulpit to make the whole finger even shorter.
I did get some help but I did my usual thing of jumping off the bow and holding the stem. We were well fendered to lean against our neighbour. All a bit unnecessary as the HM, and not the chap on the VHF, came down and said your too long for that berth and moved us!!
There was a time when the HM’s were retired Mariners who no longer went to sea. These guys also manned the Lifeboat. They just … knew their stuff.
Brighton! Let me tell you about Brighton!
Called up on the VHF and (let’s call him Richard! No better still …) Dick was on duty.
“Yes! I can allocate you an 11 metre berth… no problem” said Dick.
I interrupted .. “My beam is 3.75 … I repeat 3.75! My draft is 1.9”.
“Go to berth 23 D 41 A!”
“I’m sorry? I was expecting a simple letter and a number” I replied.
“Oh no. The marina is huge!” Dick was proudly to tell me.
I realised on my plotter that 23 was marked as a pontoon. Perhaps the rest would be straightforward.
Half an hour later after reversing in and out of tight spaces and getting slightly exasperated, I found, with the aid of helpful residents on their boats, berth 23 D 41 A that was mostly occupied by a fat Motor Boat. I could have parked a canoe with a beam of a metre next to it. And even a very long canoe would have been fine. Errrrr Dick!
“But I’m telling you that’s an 11 metre berth” Dick exclaimed. Yup … even a 15 metre … but with a beam of …
Five minutes later … and Dick is back on the VHF. I should have been parked with a cup of tea by now!
“‘Talisker 1! Go to 21 X 52 T!”
Twenty minutes later I found it. By this time two sailors, feeling sorry for me, were off their boats and had been run ragged as they followed us round trying to help, as we negotiated the maize that is Brighton Marina.
Of course a fat 58’ SV occupied the other finger of 21 X 52 T. The space available to us was about 2 metres beam … beam. Yup! A very very long canoe would fit ..! Two down … perhaps my luck might change? Errrrrrrrrrr Dick???
“Dick .. I’m struggling here a bit …”
“But I’m telling you that’s an 11 metre berth!” Sorry! Had he just played a recording …?
“The one next door is free. Can I go in there?” I asked. “The 3.75 metre beam is critical … and there is plenty of room for my fat ….. !” I was still feeling friendly!
“What number is that?”
You tell me I thought, but politely gave him the number.
“What about …?”
“That’s condemned too!”
Finally .. and I swear this is true, the two kind guys took my lines. Both single handers. I’d been driving round Brighton Marina for an hour.
I then walked what seemed like 500 metres to the marina office. There were turnstiles to get in. I thought I was about to have the pleasure of Brentford versus Wimbledon. Come on you real Dons! No…. This is a marina James!
“I’m not surprised you don’t know the marina and the boats very well. It’s so huge” I said expansively to Dick, trying to make friends while actually feeling like grabbing him round the neck.
“Oh I’ve been here 4 years! I know it very well”…. which naturally ended any slight desire I had to make even the smallest amount of polite small talk. My face must have darkened. I refrained from grabbing round the neck …. But Dick was so thick skinned and stupid he did not notice the offence he had caused. And of course utterly unaware that there might be a tired sailor in front of him who had been fahked around unnecessarily for 90 odd minutes.
After asking twice for my electricity to be turned on it eventually went live. By that time I was ready to turn in. It was well past bed time.. At first light I was gone gone GONE.
I think we are coming up to the 4,000NM mark since June 1st.
But the most exhausting period has been the last 6 days. Errrrrrrrr Dick!?
0239 1st August
Firstly … hugest thank yous to all of you for reading … well the equivalent of listening, to my innermost thoughts, anxieties, worries while making, what for some of you was a very short voyage in to the Atlantic.
The moral support of both all you master mariners and those of you who are not was …. well lovely. My Everest … I would not have missed it for the world.
A magical experience to sail, in effect for about 25 days in the Ocean with stops once down Channel in L’Aber-Wrac’h, north west France, Cedeira north west Spain, Porto Santo in Madeira, Santa Maria in the Azores and finally Falmouth. We clocked over 4,000 NM in exactly two months. We sailed from Orford on the 1st June and returned to the river on the 31st July.
I wanted to do it right. I have a wonderful ship. I did not want to let her down. I am pleased that I remained in good shape for the whole two months. I managed myself properly. This enabled me to look after ‘Talisker 1’. She was not going to let me down. I was the weakest link.
I’m inquisitive and read lots. But the wisdom I’ve extracted from some very special sailors over the years has been golden. You know who you are.
We got the thunder and lightning in Ramsgate. I was all strapped down when the first spots of rain struck the deck. Much of the marina seemed to be taken by surprise. It was windy for a few days.
We finally got away the day before yesterday and it was still blowing from the south west but once round North Foreland it was all familiar and easy as ‘Talisker 1’ charged across the estuary.
Rounding the top of Gunfleet Sands we had to reef the main and fly the stay sail. It was as though the boat knew she was nearly home.
Medusa flashed by and then Stone Banks and we were still making 5-6 knots when we came in to the docks at Felixstowe under a reefed main having furled the stay sail. It was still blowing a bit and I took the easy option of a night in Shotley Marina where they again squeezed us in to a berth that was too small.
Yesterday we sailed gently up the coast to Orford under genoa only.
I was startled by a VHF call. Thinking it was a guard vessel for the works taking place off Bawdsey I was explaining that I was taking the inshore route and was that good for them. “What’s the matter with you? Have you been on the Oxtail Soup and Pasta?” It was James Robi at the Orford Bar in his rib waiting to welcome us home!
That was lovely. Coming in to the river James Robi, Fiona, Simon and children were waving before getting in the rib and catching up with us.
Then Doc sailed down the river to meet us in his beautiful 10 footer.
Sally was already in Orford with brother David and sister in law Jane. James Robi collected David and deposited him on board so I had the final mile or so with my big brother. We received a very nice greeting from Olly on ‘Regardless’.
Our harbour master Philip took our strop to put on our mooring and collected Sally and Jane and brought them out to our mooring. It was lovely putting the boat to bed with them on board.
Doc came for a chat, Philip collected David and Jane and then returned for Sally and me.
The most challenging sailing has been from Falmouth, back up Channel to Ramsgate and then across the estuary and home. I’m utterly exhausted from that bit. It will take months to recover from Brighton!!