Back in the Water, an Injury & Down Channel

8th April I take over from David Robinson (left) as Commodore of Orford SC. Vice Commodore Patrick Cooper (right)

26th April

Yesterday I put my main sail back on single-handed.  Don’t laugh.  I could not have handled that last year.

25th April Don’t laugh

25th April

The day before I climbed the mast with the ships self climber.  I never thought I’d do that again.

I’ve been able to do everything myself.  No need of help this year from my wonderful friend Bill Hughes who came and antifouled my ship last year.

On the 17th April my boat was immaculately relaunched under the careful supervision of James at SYH.  A vital part of the care of my boat is the way she is hauled out and laid up.  James and his SYH team tick all those boxes.

17th April Relaunch Day

20th April

My friend Piers Ruheb sold his boat and asked me if I was interested in his Hydrovane.  I am in the process of doing the final installation.  Positioning an offset, wind vane self steering is awfully difficult to get right when a boat is laid up.  Much easier in the water.  Nearly there.

14th April Hydrovane installation … to be continued in the water.

My sails were returned from Kemp, beautifully serviced, washed and repaired.  They have done some miles but are in fine condition perhaps to do another 20,000 miles.  Rob Kemp and his team have been such a support to my sailing.

20th May

19th April Suffolk Yacht Harbour to the Colne

19th May

20th May Thames Barge ‘Pudge’ leaving the Colne

Me n ‘Talisker 1’ are at anchor just off Brightlingsea Creek.  We finally departed Suffolk Yacht Harbour yesterday and had a pleasant sail down the Essex coast.  My hopes of sailing to the Medway look tricky.  There does not appear to be a break from these northerly winds for quite some time.

It has been an eventful few weeks.

I somehow avoided very serious injury when I fell out of a rib that was on its trolley on to the slip.

I lost teeth, smashed my nose and bruised my chest and knee.  I’m thankful that my teeth and not my skull hit the concrete.

Hopping out of the sailing club safety boat quickly is not for the elderly.  My behaviour was in stark contrast to the way I sail ‘Talisker 1’.

David Foreman told me years ago to act ten years older when moving around the boat and I’ve steadfastly stuck to this as a single-hander to avoid injury.  Moving carefully and slowly and always, like the climber, having three parts attached to the ship.  It works!  An injury to the solo sailor incapacitates the ship.

The other recent surprise was my wonderful yacht insurance.  I’m insured single-handed 24/7 for a fairly vast area but have never been refused permission, on the few occasions I have asked to do so, to sail beyond the area insured.  It was always understood that I should inform them of my seasons cruising plans if I was planning to sail further and that there might be an excess or a premium to pay.

A few weeks ago I told the insurer that, weather, ship and crew fitness dependent, I might sail to Iceland.  I was surprised to be told that they wanted to check with their underwriters.  A few days later insurance was refused despite Faroe being included.  Insurance for the Azores was also refused despite the infamous Portuguese coast being included.

I’m still recovering very slowly from falling out of the safety boat so the likelihood of me going anywhere too far this year had already become highly unlikely.

From a personal point of view I am worried about the increasing wariness of underwriters regarding me as a solo sailor.  Mike Hulbert retired from the insurance company so I am now dealing with people who don’t know me.  In my case the goal posts have moved.

Perhaps there are a few people who should not be out there and the insurers have had their fingers burnt.

I don’t think there are stats to support a solo sailor being more vulnerable than a crewed boat.

23rd May

We sailed 42 miles yesterday.  Gorgeous Paglesham, one of Maurice Griffith’s favourite places, to The Stour.  We are now anchored in Erwarton Bay.  We should have a brief respite from the northerlies tonight.

The day before yesterday we sailed out of the Colne and across to the Wallet Spitway, the spray flying as ‘Talisker 1’ approached the Buxey Sand.

21st May The Colne to the River Roach

21st May the spray flying as ‘Talisker 1’ approached the Buxey Sand

Having passed through the Spitway, and rounded Buxey Sand all was peaceful as we took a following wind under main only all the way into the Crouch, on into the Roach and up to Paglesham where we anchored off the entrance to Paglesham Pool.

21st May anchored off the entrance to Paglesham Pool

Yesterday the Wallet was disturbed as we beat back in to a northerly F5 under double reefed main and Stay sail.  Four tacks to round the Naze and a further fifteen tacks before freeing off and sailing in to the Stour.

22nd May The Roach to the Stour

22nd May under double reefed main and Stay sail

22nd May Four tacks to round the Naze

22nd May Harwich approaches

22nd May

24th May at anchor in the Stour

My recovery from the fall is progressing.  Small steps at a time.

25th May

Yesterday I rested.  Today we sailed 30 miles via Roughs Tower, round the south end of the Cork Sands and then returned via Medusa to anchor in Erwarton Bay. A circumnavigation of the Cork Sands!  Westerly Oceanlord ‘Gravitas’ John and Liz Mills are anchored close by.

25th May A circumnavigation of the Cork Sands 🙂

25th May Roughs Tower

25th May

25th May They get bigger and bigger …

Stenna Line docked just across the river at 1915 this evening bringing home my brother Henry and sister in law Molly from the Hook of Holland.

25th May Molly and Henry are waving from just under the funnel!

27th May

We are anchored under the bank off Trimley Marshes, River Orwell having left Suffolk Yacht Harbour early this morning.  Later this morning we will sail back to our home port of Orford.

27th May The Orwell to the Ore

27th May

Yesterday morning we motored from the Stour to Suffolk Yacht Harbour.  I drove my van to Orford and former Orford Harbour Master Philip very kindly drove me back to my ship.

John and Liz Mills had also come into the marina so it was very good to catch up with my mentors from twenty five years ago!  Candy was aboard ‘Endeavor’ and we had a catch up.  ‘Endeavor’ was looking very smart.  I don’t envy the prepping and varnishing of her masts though.

Following my fall I am beginning to feel capable again.  Certainly my ship is in pretty good fettle.

29th May

I’m home.

It was a long beat back to Orford on the 27th and it was cold.

Having picked up my mooring and gone ashore for the day on the 28th me n ‘Talisker 1’ were not going to stay overnight in the strong north easterlies so we slipped our mooring and had a peaceful night anchored against the bank in Short Gull.  It was still blowing hard the following day and Annabel Cox took the helm and helped me secure my mooring lines.  North easterlies are not much fun on our mooring.

It looks like the northerlies are not going away too soon.

13th June

11th June Orford to the Orwell

11th June the masterly sailor David Doc Foreman and his Orford Dabchick Ten Footer ‘Goblin’

11th June underway from Orford

11th June at anchor off Trimley Marshes River Orwell

Where do I start?

Me n ‘Talisker 1’ are in Ramsgate Marina.  We sailed from Harwich yesterday, or rather motor sailed until Fisherman’s Gat when the breaths of wind from the east finally touched the dizzy heights of 10 knots and we were able to switch off the engine.

12th June The Orwell to Ramsgate

12th June passing through Fisherman’s Gat

12th June light airs across the Thames Estuary

12th June ghosting towards a very benign North Foreland

12th June Ramsgate Marina

My concentration is poor.  I’m in limbo now!  I don’t know if I should return home or carry on with this cruise.

The difference in me since 2021 is marked.  I felt on top of the world from a health point of view.  I had confidence in myself at sea.

With very little sailing last year due to the Heart Block I am wildly out of practice.  Was yesterday a good wake up call?  A time for reflection!

16th June

Me n ‘Talisker 1’ are at anchor in Chichester Harbour.  We did not turn back.  We are on the south bank of the Chichester Channel off Cobnor Point.

We arrived here from Eastbourne yesterday evening.

15th June Eastbourne to Chichester Harbour

15th June Beachy Head

15th June The Mixon

15th June West Pole & the entrance to Chichester Harbour

15th June The Bar Beacon Chichester entrance

15th June Itchenor approaches

The Chichester Bar was benign after a frustrating motor sail with little wind.  Sea breezes were light and it was very hot.  After some of our river bars the Chichester Bar is a doddle, weather dependant!

On the 14th June we sailed downwind from Ramsgate to Eastbourne with the stiff breeze finally petering out as we closed in on Eastbourne. Eastbourne bay has numerous appallingly marked fishing floats.

14th June Ramsgate to Eastbourne

14th June

Passing Dover is nearly always testing and having asked permission to proceed west from Dover Port Control it was a case of watching movements in the port and the inbound ferries that move so so quickly.  With a big following wind and turbulent waters, we took no risks with the inbound ‘Cote des Flandres’ and hove to.

14th June

14th June Dover and the Castle

14th June Dungeness

Ramsgate was £40 a night and Eastbourne nearly £50 which makes a cruise in these parts unaffordable if a sailor likes a pontoon berth.  There is no real shelter from North Foreland to the Solent.  Thankfully the waters of Chichester Harbour have numerous places to anchor.

The weather is difficult for sailing.  Are we rapidly turning in to a Mediterranean climate?  Nesting birds, normally found in southern France and, at a pinch, sometimes seen in northern France, are now nesting on the south coast of the UK!

Some old fashioned British weather would be welcome.  It would bring some wind and some sailing.

18th June

16th June Ed visits ‘Talisker 1’

16th June at anchor Chichester Harbour

I was invited to Ed and Geanna Gorman for lunch yesterday.  Ed was brilliant and so helpful with his south coast and Channel knowledge.

I went to see Ed’s boat again today.  She is on the hard having been antifouled and will go back in the water on Tuesday.  It was very good to catch up and if I do go further west it is not unlikely we will catch up again further down Channel.

18th June & back to ‘Talisker 1’

20th June

I’m feeling none too brave despite a lovely sail west from Chichester.

19th June Chichester Harbour to Newtown River

We passed Horse Sand Fort and then along the north coast of the Isle of White and Queen Victoria’s famous Osborne House, now managed by English Heritage and then Cowes before choosing to seek shelter in Newtown River.  It was Springs and a fast sail.

19th June approaching East Head outward bound from Chichester Harbour

19th June Horse Sand Fort

19th June & ancient super yachts competing for the Richard Mille Cup

19th June

It is quite tight in Newtown River but there are six boats anchored in fairly close proximity including us.  All the very well organised white visitors mooring buoys were occupied.

19th June Newtown River

19th June A peaceful night

I contemplated sailing to France today but although blowing fairly hard on this side of the channel it looks like the wind would die on the other side.  Thursday looks like a better day and I might sail towards Cherbourg.


We had to move.  Too many boats anchored in close proximity so we departed Newtown River.  Those who arrived last should have gone … but hey!  Nobody was going to budge!  We are anchored just outside Newtown River just to the south off Hampstead Point.

Engine on 1835 Engine off 1900.

21st June

Passage plan done.  We sail towards Cherbourg tomorrow.

This morning we sailed gently across the Solent to the Beaulieu River where we picked up a visitor’s mooring.  It is sad we can no longer anchor in this pretty river.  We have an early start tomorrow, so I am determined to have a good night.

I’m loving Tom Cunliffe’s ‘Channel Pilot’.  Saint Valery sur Somme was of interest until I read Tom’s notes.  Doable with an eagle eyed crew so not to miss a mark, but alone, and 67 years old … no.  I don’t need any more of what Tom calls, ‘character building’ experiences, or the tot of Ricard that is, I understand, necessary, to brave a departure from Saint Valery :-).

It has been lovely in the Solent.  I’ve been fascinated by the ancient super yachts racing in the Richard Mille Cup.  I’m slowly learning more about ‘The Lady Anne’, ‘Mariquita’, ‘Kelpie’, ‘Moonbeam IV’, ‘Tuiga’, ‘Moonbeam’, ‘Ayesha’, ‘Cynthia’, ‘Mariette’, ‘Atlantic’ and ‘Adix’.

1 Comment

  • John Pennington says:

    Thanks for writing, James. Sorry to hear Mike is out of the insurance game, he was excellent to us when we were in Europe. Haven’t found decent insurance since!

    Hope your injury is healing nicely. The season is still early!

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