Afloat Again …

8th July

Me and ‘Talisker 1’ are at anchor in Pyefleet Creek. We arrived on Monday afternoon.

An extraordinary year!

Before lockdown I had been working hard on the boat and took my shore based Ocean Yacht Master course with the Doc.  My goodness … Doc was the most patient Instructor.  Bill Hughes and James Robinson occasionally came to hold my hand.

Instructor Doc, Bill and James. I’m on the right of picture.  Utterly bemused by everything.

My Life Raft was due a service and before Lock Down I delivered it to Suffolk Marine Safety.  Highly professional they are always happy to remind me how everything functions.

Checking out my Life Raft with the expert. Dave at Suffolk Marine Safety reminds me how it works.

The maintenance mistakes made by me below the water line the previous winter made the winter work excruciating. With some help and a lot of moral support from my friend Peter Buchan, we scraped off, by hand, all the anti foul, the underwater primer and most of the Gel Shield.

Having very nearly finished the scraping and orbital sanding and with a launch day imminent, lock down was announced on the 23rd March. It was weeks before I returned to the boat to start work again. I’d never left ‘Talisker 1’ for so long.

Orbital sanding before lockdown

My friend Piers Rueb, SV Graphix, reassured me ‘Talisker 1’ was still at Suffolk YH.  Piers got there just before me!

When I was finally allowed to visit the yacht harbour I found that the birdies had decided the spreaders were a marvellous place to roost on ‘Talisker 1’.  My first job was to clean the coach roof and deck before going back to work on the underside of the hull.

I’d taken advice from Martyn Bridge, UK Technical Advisor at International Paint Ltd with regard to not making any mistakes again but having finally finished sanding, and then thoroughly cleaning the bottom ready for the first coat of Gel Shield, the country was hit by a heat wave.

I bided my time for some cooler weather before applying three coats of gel shield. Bill Hughes very very kindly helped me apply the last coat of Gel Shield, followed a few hours later by the coat of hard anti foul.

My mistake the previous year

(see my previous post

was the length of time between the application of the last coat of gel shield and the first coat of underwater primer. Martyn also told me that underwater primer had not been necessary and that I should apply just one coat of hard antifoul immediately the last coat of gel shield was touch dry. Approximately five hours depending on temperature.

I underwent cataract surgery before Covid 19. A masterly operation performed by Simon Hardman-Lea. I was beginning to struggle with night vision … red and green lights are the first to go!  With my sight again 20/20 again the blemishes on the top sides stood out like sore thumbs. I really could not see very well before the surgery even with my glasses on.

Andy (Finish First 07713 158751) expertly repaired every blemish and for the first time I had the top sides professionally polished by Andy Bennett (07824 557884). I thought I’d always done the polishing reasonably well. Well NOT now.

Andy expertly polishing ‘Talisker 1’

Starboard side done. Andy, Finish First GRP Repair checking out t’other Andy, the polishers work.

James, Oliver & Kyle move ‘Talisker 1’ in her cradle so I can Gel Shield the cradle pad areas.

Getting there! Hard anti foul and boot top.

Ready to launch …

I had hoped to sail to Faroe and perhaps Iceland this summer. I had anticipated to be returning to Scotland about now before the short summer ended in those higher latitudes.

With all the Covid 19 restrictions, ‘Talisker 1’ was re launched on the 30th June. Very very late indeed for my ship and me.

Experts at work. James, brother Oliver & Kyle carefully prepare to launch ‘Talisker 1’ while I look on in the red hat!

Finishing touches

It took a few days to re commission the boat in Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Bill and his grandson Ethan, a very talented young sailor, helped me with the heavy sails. I was very grateful for their help, as the boat does not get lighter in my 64th year.

Bill & Ethan kindly helped me with the sails

And hoisted me up the mast …

We were finally allowed to sleep on board on the 4th July. It was very windy on the 5th and I spent the day completing the final bits and pieces before staying on board that night.

‘Talisker 1’ and me sailed down the Wallet on Monday in fairly strong west north westerly winds. At times 30 + knots across the deck. We sailed the whole way under stay sail only!

First Sail of 2020

Windy Day

Under Stay Sail only …

The sun sets over Pyefleet Creek

Benn and Sarah from ‘Pas de Deux’ are anchored near by and it has been a pleasure meeting them. They had also met John, Kara and Dean Pennington while they were in Suffolk. Benn and Sarah, like me, are huge fans of John and Kara’s book ‘Orca’ and they have started a website with an audio of the book.

Benn and Sarah are making their way slowly to France.

A shout from a passing vessel yesterday had me on deck in a flash. Crikey! ‘Whisper’ with Tim Bigden and Julie. Last I’d heard, in late November last year, they were half way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean from the Canaries.

How the hell had they got back so quickly?

I took the tender over to ‘Whisper’ for a chat with Tim. When the Caribbean closed down with the virus, Tim arranged for ‘Whisper’ to return to the UK by ship while they flew home. Tim had planned to sail the eastern seaboard of the USA.

This afternoon I’m going to visit Benn and Sarah again.

11th July

We are at anchor just inside Orwell Port Hand Buoy in the Orwell having arrived here from Pyefleet Creek Yesterday at 2100.

At anchor just inside Orwell port hand buoy

Pyefleet Creek to the Orwell in variable winds

Heading back up the Wallet

The Port of Felixstowe approaches

Rounding Languard

PredictWind predicted exactly what would happen. WSW, then E and then NW. We were able to sail all the way with the ebb tide under us. “Whisper’ left much earlier and despite fighting the flood tide they would have been fairly quick returning to Suffolk Yacht Harbour in the quite strong, early WSW winds. As it was we made very good progress.

‘Talisker 1’ is moving beautifully through the water with her immaculate bottom. I just hope I really did nail the Gel Coat applications this winter. Or should I say summer?

The feeling of contentment that courses through my veins when on the water is indescribable. I just feel it’s where I am most comfortable. I can’t imagine life without the sea and my boat.

I had no desire to move during the week and spent a couple of sessions working on the teak. Peter Norris told me to use salt water. The old girl does not look too shabby. ‘Talisker 1’ will turn 30 next year.

I love being at anchor and the great joy of this coast is that there is always somewhere to go in any wind conditions and drop the ‘Pennington’. (John and Kara Pennington gave me one of their spare anchors).

‘Pas de Deux’ departed early yesterday morning for their longest passage to date. We had discussed them sailing to the Medway. By 1600 they were in the Swale. Well done them. They sent me a great picture of them passing Shivering Sands. I was amazed when I saw these constructions in the Estuary for the first time. I well remember Knock John Tower appearing out of the gloom like an alien space craft. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to man those emplacements as the Luftwaffe flew over them in the Second World War. They would have been a sitting duck to a Stuka.

I enjoyed meeting Benn and Sarah. They are lovely people. Their Oceanic 30, Bill O’Brian Catamaran is hilarious, in the nicest possible way and contains an artist studio for Sarah and a role top desk. They share the boat with Fuji, their very good natured Husky. I was flattered Fuji did not seem to mind me, considering I’d been bitten, or should I say nipped, on the arse, by a German Shepherd while working on my boat, on the hard, in Suffolk Yacht Harbour. The owner said he’d never done it before. How many times do we hear that?

Sarah is a very talented painter. Her studio on ‘Pas de Deux’

A very good natured lady.
Fuji. Benn & Sarah’s Husky.

Benn & Sarah heading out in to the Thames Estuary bound for the Kent coast …

My friend Patrick Laine is currently in Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Patrick sailed directly to Madeira from La Rochelle and was refused entry first in Porto Santo. Instead of staying there and anchoring off he sailed to the main island where again he was refused entry and told to quarantine in an uncomfortable anchorage off Funchal. Porto Santo would have been better and we were allowed to anchor within the harbour in 2018.

Patrick departed for the Azores immediately and sense prevailed when he arrived in Ponta Delgada. Patrick was able to show his track and he was allowed to enter the marina. I’m at least living his journey in mind and spirit. Nothing would entice me to leave UK waters in the current health crisis.

Today Ethan is racing at the Royal Harwich. Bill, Cath and Ethan are sailing from the Deben to the Orwell aboard ‘Livia’. Me n ‘Talisker 1’ might join them for the racing this afternoon. Of course obeying social distancing.

12th July

‘Talisker 1’ and me are back on our mooring at Orford after a terrific sail from the Orwell.

Sun set from our mooring at Orford. A joy to be home & afloat.

The Orwell to Orford

The stay sail is a marvel.

It took 24 tacks to get out of the Orwell under full main and stay sail. With her clean bottom ‘Talisker 1’ sailed beautifully.

24 tacks to leave the Orwell against the flood

Just down river of Orwell port hand buoy M/B ‘Lily’ carved us up while overtaking. Her one eyed owner oblivious to other traffic on the river. I managed to avoid a collision. It was close and quite near enough to have a conversation. I was livid. … I don’t normally lose it but sadly … I did on this occasion. Every other vessel in the river obeyed Colregs. The man is a complete menace.

Heading for Orford Haven. A powerful ship.

Sailing in to the river. Wearing round on to starboard as we leave Weir behind us.

Ethan was not racing yesterday but I did join Bill, Cath and Ethan at Royal Harwich YC for supper. It was a very pleasant evening. Whether it demonstrates a very slow return to normality is yet to be seen.

Sun Set over the Orwell Bridge from the Royal Harwich YC (photo Ethan Davey)

After supper we anchored in Buttermans Bay.

Pin Mill, River Orwell

I’ve been completely re energised by being afloat. How unwise it would have been, with only so many tides left in my life, NOT to be afloat and sailing for the foreseeable few weeks that remain of 2020.


  • Richard Dell says:

    Good to hear you’re back on the water and Talisker looks fantastic.

  • Nick Tudor says:

    Aha the Pyefleet, I used to manage the Colchester Oyster Fishery, happy days long long ago.
    I was due to leave Faro for Madeira about the same time as Patrick Laine and pretty much sail in his wake. But decided that this year the Bay of Cadiz will be my lot. I shall keep sailing this year through the winter and having applied Coppercoat just before lockdown hope that a quick scrub between the tides will do this year.
    Best wishes

    • Thank you for your comment Nick. Your very wise to stay close to home waters. I do love our home waters. An area you obviously know very well indeed. Stay safe. ATB James

  • Greg Penoyre says:

    I came into Pyefleet on the evening of Monday 6th July on Snow Goose and Anchored next to you. It was a fine evening and a restful anchorage after a windy crossing of the Thames Estuary from Queenborough. Somehow I didn’t get to say hello but was pleased to See Talisker 1 out and about and wondered whether you were en route further afield. (Snow Goose and I are regular visitors to the various Kent, Essex and Suffolk destinations and find estuary sailing satisfying and occasionally demanding). best wishes

    • Hi Greg. Were you in the smart business like Fulmar? I’m not leaving my beloved home waters this year. I would regard that as madness. I love the Kent, Essex and Suffolk coasts. They are among the most demanding in the world. Much easier to be offshore with 5,000 metres under the keel. Satisfaction for me is completing a passage however long or short, knowing I’ve looked after my ship. An unremarkable cruise means it’s been safe. Hope to see you again soon. Stay safe James

      • Greg says:

        Hi James. No Snow Goose is an early Macwester 27, a much loved and steady cruiser. Occasionally I take advantage of her bilge keels and dry out on a suitable shore. You can see a little of my exploits on Snow Goose at I agree about a satisfying cruise and the pleasure of coming in roughly when one thought one would. I came into Pyefleet at about 2000 that evening (and anchored between you and the sunset I’m afraid), a little earlier than planned having shot across the estuary in that wind. best Greg

  • John Pennington says:

    Great post, James. So glad to hear you’re back afloat this year!

Leave a Comment