Cruising News and Views

The Sailing Blog of the cruising captain of Lymington Town Sailing Club

06 / 2011


Woosh, and the summer has gone! Not that there was much of it in the first place, but at least I managed to put some water under Selene’s keel and catch up on my early season lack of distance.

Cherbourg and St Vaast

At the end of July, crewed by Ron and Celia Swan and Peter Heard, we went across on the popular LTSC Meet to Cherbourg and St Vaast. A hugely successful event with a total of 18 boats attending. The photo shows the crew after an excellent Sunday Lunch in Les Fuscias, St Vaast:

Being of an independent frame of mind I set off a day earlier than the rest on Wednesday 27th July, just to check that Cherbourg was still where it used to be, and to leave Thursday free for enjoying the town. Cherbourg I always feel is a good place, plenty of things to look at, lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy, and a general sense of je ne sais quoi. Amazing how one leaves an England full of constant media tripe and schadenfreude about Europe being in supposed chaos because of the Euro, how lucky we are (!) that we did not join the single currency, and other tosh. One then arrives in a France proceeding serenely along with its usual style, no sense of crisis, citizens always confident that if anything does go wrong they will take to the barricades and bring the Government down, but in the meantime lets all have another glass of pastis? Ron Swan put it well as we wandered round. These people still have a sense of style in how they live he said. Vive la France say I.

We left almost on time at 0700 on the Wednesday, a day of the flattest calm, and had to motor the whole way. The next day when the crowd arrived I discovered the one problem with having a full Class B, transmit and receive, AIS system as opposed to merely a receiver. We came yesterday I said. Yes we know was the reply, we were watching you on the Web. No privacy with AIS, but at least the big ships can see you and know what you are doing. Here are Peter and Celia keeping an eagle eye out mid-Channel:-

Thursday we mooched around Cherbourg in the sunshine, and in the evening after the others arrived we went with Rick Underhill and his crew Chris Everitt and Chris Barr and had a good meal in La Calle on the Place de La Republique. Here the shellfish addicts enjoyed themselves whilst I had a nice plate of ordinary fish. The photo shows Celia getting ready to tuck in to her plate of oysters:-

The next afternoon we fuelled up, and then set sail round Cap Barfleur for St Vaast. On this occasion, aided by a favourable tide, we had enough wind to sail, and we dropped sail just before the final mark into St Vaast, Le Gavendest, in nice time for the lock, having logged 9.5 knots over the ground on the way down.

St Vaast was pretty full, as perhaps can be expected when a Meet takes place on a weekend which leads right up to 1st August and thus the French annual holidays. After a few abortive attempts to find a finger pontoon in the areas we were supposed to go to, I spotted an English yacht complete with drying washing rafted outside a Dutch yacht on a hammerhead, and asked if we could come alongside. A few minutes later there were two others outside us...

Saturday was a lay day for everyone, and we wandered around, visited the celebrated Maison Gosselin, had a nice lunch at the Hotel Nelson, and ended the day with everyone else at the barbie on the rocks near the Capitainerie:-

All the other LTSC boats left on the Sunday morning, but the weather was set fair for another couple of days, Ron had managed to postpone his various Monday meetings, and so on Selene we lingered on until Monday morning and had a great Sunday lunch in Les Fuscias whilst we were at it.

Monday was again flat calm and apart from a couple of hours in the afternoon we had to motor the whole way back to Lymington. It was a bit misty, and in the usual way it thickened to about 200 metres visibility just as we approached the East-bound tanker tracks. This was the first time I had had the chance to use my all-singing, all-dancing, AIS system in anger as opposed to merely practice. What a joy it is to be able to lock the vessel the system computes will come closest when it is still about 8 miles away, and thus get a bearing line on it on the screen, so that from then on a glance immediately tells you who is going ahead of whom.

Weymouth and Dartmouth

The next bit of distance was the Weymouth Meet on the Bank Holiday weekend of 27th - 29th August, after which we went down to Dartmouth for a couple of nights. This time my crew  was Peter Heard and Robyn Bolam, plus Michael Knowles who was the organiser of the Weymouth Meet.

This time it was not so calm. The forecast outbound was something like W / NW 5 increasing 6 at times. Which is very much what it did. And with a weather going tide it kicked up a bit from Anvil Point onwards, with quite a rough sea, breaking at times. This was the first time I had had Selene out for a substantial duration in the open sea in a strong head wind and any sort of a sea running, and I have to say I was delighted with her performance.  With just one reef down in order to keep the boat moving I held a single tack close hauled from Bridge Buoy to past the SW end of Saint Alban’s Ledge, about two-thirds of the total distance. At this point two of the crew succumbed. Being a kindly and humane skipper, I then motor-sailed the remainder of the way, thus cutting the overall distance / time down since Weymouth was essentially dead up-wind.

Eventually we brought up alongside Jim Sey’s Second Rebellion in the Cove, on the port hand side where the Weymouth Harbour authorities had reserved plenty of space for the eleven boats that attended. This worked fine - the Cove these days has a proper pontoon with electricity and water on it, and it is further from the pubs etc on the other side, which on a Bank Holiday weekend are very noisy with loud music blaring.

Unfortunately our location in the Cove had caused a certain amount of controversy over the air waves. Michael Knowles believed that in organising things he had booked specific berths on the starboard side just below the Harbour Office, and he called them on Channel 12 from Selene as we came in. When they told him we were in fact in the Cove, a rather protracted on-air conversation resulted about the difference between reserving sufficient space (which they had done) and booking specific berths (which they do not do). This was essentially terminated because I was by then arriving at the Cove in any case, but I gather was resumed next morning in the Harbour Office. I am glad I am not a Harbour Master!

The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing, and with a pontoon party on and alongside Second Rebellion.

The next day a pre-lunch visit was made to the recently renovated Royal Dorset Yacht Club, where we were all to dine that evening.. Their club house with its distinctive pitched roof can be seen behind the stern of the motor boat in the photo. The Royal Dorset is now affiliated with LTSC and is a nice place to drop in for a drink if you are in Weymouth.

The dinner at the RDYC was fine, with about 25 of us present. During the dinner I did as I had been instructed as LTSC Cruising Captain, and thus, supposedly, “the senior LTSC Officer present”, and conducted an exchange of Burgees with the RDYC’s Rear Commodore, Ben Harris.

On the Monday morning most of the fleet left at an early hour to return home, leaving only Mike and Andie Smith in Merryl, and us in Selene, both of whom were proceeding to points west around Portland Bill, Merryl to Lyme Regis, and Selene to Dartmouth.

Before departure we decided to fill Selene’s fresh water tank, and we were taken aback when water started to come up through the cabin sole! We had had a previous occasion like this when Meandering, when we discovered that the inspection cap on the water tank was unscrewed and the tank had overflowed. At that time I had assumed that somebody had for some reason removed the cap and not replaced it. However it now became clear that the screwed cap can work its way loose if in a rough sea. Forty minutes were spent pumping out using the fixed manual Whale pump in the cockpit, the automatic electric bilge pump, and a stirrup pump I carry (which is probably the most effective weapon of the three).  During the pump-out the Whale pump once again failed by the diaphragm pulling loose from its mounting, so that will have to be changed for a different design!

Once the bilges were reasonably dry again we set off past Portland Harbour down to the Bill and the inshore passage. There seems to be an advantage in doing this on a Bank Holiday Monday in that there were far fewer lobster pots than the last time I went that way two years before, presumably because the fishermen were in the pub having a Bank Holiday treat with their wives.

We continued across Lyme Bay, sailing until the wind dropped and headed us, and catching up Merryl who then tacked and went across our stern on their way to Lyme Regis. RT conversations about possibly meeting up in Brixham a couple of days later were made redundant by a subsequent change in the weather.

Ploughing across Lyme Bay is what you make of it. I have done it lots of times. I used to keep my boats in Devon until 1985, and, after I moved base to the Solent, getting back to uncrowded Devon and Cornish waters, family on board, for the summer holidays was the regular objective. It is more complex than crossing the Channel because of the tides, but the principle is the same. There is nowhere to put into (except Weymouth which, if you are not starting from there, is a substantial diversion). Poole, Swanage, and Studland, all of which I have used on occasion, are actually largely delusions. If you are returning from Devon and have a tide which will be fair through Hurst, turning left at Anvil Point and proceeding up to Poole and finding a place to anchor saves you very little if anything by the time you have brought up compared to simply ploughing on to Lymington, perhaps 60 - 90 minutes at most. I have done it both ways lots of times.

So my approach to Lyme Bay is simple. If you decide to go to Devon (where better?), time your departure appropriately for the tide, take care about the weather, and just go. Ditto coming back. There is no easy solution, no real port of refuge to break your journey, unless the tide is fair for the inshore passage, so you have to go for it. Settle in, relax, and get the miles under your keel asap.

Bank Holiday Monday was a lovely day with excellent visibility. Dartmoor, behind Torbay, tried its usual trick of pretending to be nearby land when actually there were many miles still to go, but I was surprised to find I could see the Dartmouth Day Mark on Froward Point above the entrance from 20 miles away. What a blessing that must have been in the days before GPS, Decca, or radar!

Slowly morning turned to afternoon and Dartmouth drew nearer. It is still my favourite port of all. I first got there, from Exmouth, in my own little 22 foot boat thirty-four years ago, and the thrill and beauty of the entrance past the Mewstone and the steep sides up to the castle until the town opens up remain just as exciting to me today.

Bank Holiday Monday was supposedly the last day of the Dartmouth regatta, and I was concerned about finding a decent berth, but when we got past the Royal Dart Yacht Club and the lower Ferry, there was plenty of room on the visitors pontoons at the Darthaven Marina at Kingswear. The Marina told me that attendance at the regatta had been well down this year, which they attributed to the lack of the Red Arrows after the tragic accident at the Bournemouth Air Show, and that those boats attending had simply waited for the fireworks on the Sunday night and then departed.

Kingswear is ideal. There is a splendid view of the Royal Naval College towering above the Dart, and of Dartmouth itself. The passenger ferries run every few minutes in the summer, and for £1-50 you can be in Dartmouth before you know it. And you can watch the steam trains on the Dart Valley Railway coming and going - transporting the grockles across from Dartmouth to the train is one reason why the ferries run so frequently.

So on Tuesday we had a nice lunch together in a real pub-style pub called the Market Square Inn, Mike  departed, Peter, Robyn, and I played Pool, and then we all went our separate ways for the afternoon. My original plan had been to stay in Dartmouth at least until the Thursday, but a careful study of the likely weather using PocketGRIB on my iPhone and other tools showed this might be a bad plan. The wind had already come round into the East, and Thursday looked like it could well be Easterly Force 6 (which in the event came true). I did not fancy having to crash into that for 89 miles, wind against tide for much of the way. So on Tuesday evening I broke the news to the crew that we would be off at 0600 the next morning with the intent of making Lymington in one go on the Wednesday. There was some chuffing from the oldest crew member, which reoccurred during the passage, that I “should break the journey and put in somewhere” (Where??? No answer!) And so to bed.

We left the pontoon at 0631 on Wednesday and were alongside in Lymington at 2230, having reached Bridge Buoy at 2114, one minute earlier than my pre-departure predicted time. We lost the tide just before Portland Bill, and I went inshore from 5 miles off the Bill, skirting the Shambles Bank, in the hope of cheating a bit, which looking at it since was probably a mistake, it would have been better to head out further still. The tide turned fair again just after St Alban’s ledge, and the sun set just after we reached Anvil Point, exactly as per my passage plan. Other than the fact that we essentially did it all under engine, the wind being bang on the bow and quite light, a satisfying passage.

And so ended the summer and my longer-distance endeavours for a while. I will have to put up with the weekly Newtown for now. Roll on Spring!

Pilotage Quiz

I am running out of suitable photos, so here is an easy one (anybody with good examples please feel free to send them to me!). Where exactly is this?

A Blast from the Past

So here is a well-known ace photographer, a cheery chap, and incidentally a first-rate chef, on a hungry day at Wooton Creek long ago:-

That will have to do until nearer to Christmas!  Have fun!