Tag Archives: RBE2014

Thank you Hervé Sourisseau – Message In A Bottle Found

During our Round Britain Experience, I surreptitiously dropped overboard a “Message In A Bottle” bottle that was derived from a kit bought for me a long, long time ago by Moyna.

The original intention was that I would drop it overboard somewhere at the northern end of Britain and hope that it would make its way to some far off, very distant, romantic location and not be found for a hundred years or so. However, in all the excitement I clean forgot to do it. Only realising this on the Eastern coast I decided to wait until we were along the South Coast somewhere. Consequently I completed a real Bottle Over Board’ (‘BOB’) routine as we were sailing north from Guernsey and at the location 49′ 41.1N, 002′ 55.5W.

Today, 4th August, I received an email from a Mr Hervé Sourisseau who had found my bottle along the shore in Normandy at a town called Cabourg. That was some 110 or so nautical miles from where I dropped it overboard. Not a bad journey and it obviously washed up in one piece.  It was kind of Mr Sourisseau to take the time to contact me and he even offered to return the bottle to me filled with Calvados or Armagnac. So now I wish I’d dropped a Jeroboam size (3L) overboard and not the 100ml that did go! Only joking as I am very grateful that Mr Souisseau bothered to contact me at all.


4th August

(Note that I have to thank Tank for his assistance in sealing the bottle with hot wax. Not an easy job rocking around in the English Channel).

Complete Competence?

Late last week I received some very good news from the RYA in the form of a letter , signed by their Chief Examiner, congratulating me on becoming a Yachtmaster. Enclosed was my Certificate of Competence – see below – so now, as they say, I am a fully paid up member of the Yachtmaster fraternity. Wohoo.

Thank you Mr Penman, Duncs, Tank, Merv, Alastair, Nick.




3rd August

It’s All Over Bar the Waiting..

UPDATE  18th July 2014

I have completed this circumnavigation and have taken the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exam and now wait for the RYA to ratify the examiner’s recommendation of a ‘Pass’. With that good news I am no longer going to update this blog – once I have uploaded some more pictures – but will leave it here during the time it takes me to write, in more detail, of my experiences during the journey. I would do it again, or something similar, at the drop of  a hat.

I await the RYA decision


Prep, Prep and Prep Again.

Once settled, our new instructor came on board – Nick – to ‘prep’ us for the RYA Yachtmaster exam. There followed 10 or so days of pontoon bashing, sailing onto, and off, anchor or mooring buoy, Man Overboard (MOB) and general swotting up on IRPCS (No, not the International Regulations for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sailors but the International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea – ‘ColRegs’), weather and other associated yachting stuff.

A tough, and very pressured, period.

On Thursday (10th July) our examiner, Alan, joined us on board and immediately started putting us through our paces. That whirlwind lasted until mid-day Friday and entailed various tasks to be completed under the examiner’s watchful eye. A tough, very pressured 24hours.

In short, I must have displayed all the necessary attributes and was told that I would be recommended to become a Yachtmaster (Offshore) and needed only the ratification of the RYA. That was welcome news and the real icing on the RBE cake.


That’s all.

Goodbye, God bless and happy sailing.


The Episode of the Frozen Fridge.

Since I last wrote we (myself, Vera and Neil) have been busy swotting for the Yatchmaster’s exam next week 10/11th July. That entails a daily dose of ‘pontoon’ bashing – aka berthing the boat – as well as a daily practice at Man Over Board (MOB) drills at which, for some unknown reason, I am singularly failing to get right. I understand the principals and was able, on Kiki, to execute it near faultlessly but now there is an issue. Maybe I’m trying just a little too hard? And given that it is a cornerstone of the exam, and an instant ‘fail’ if not done correctly, I am under a little bit of pressure right now.

So, what’s been happening this week? Outside of our swotting and practicing – which is exceptionally tiring – the only real incident of note was the Episode of the Frozen Fridge.  South West Marine Training, who are running the course, must  have been seriously concerned about our diet – and maybe considered that we did not have enough calorific intake – as they had Sangers deliver provisions for us that could have fed ten people comfortably, not just the 3 of us. Bless. Its comforting to know that were being looked after. Thank you Mr Penman.

The provisions included a substantial amount of fresh foods (as a guard against us contracting scurvy) and meats that all had to be accommodated in a small chest type fridge, common on boats. After every nook and cranny in the saloon area had been filled with the non perishables, we loaded the fridge with the rest. Brimful is not an exaggeration.  Getting individual items out did entail, for a while, emptying most of the content each time said article was required. We got by. However, on one of the disembowelling forays, some article being removed or replaced must have caught the temperature switch and turned if full on. Ooops. The result the next morning, when I went in search of milk for breakfast, was that one half of the fridge and its contents were frozen solid, almost into one mass. Ooops again.

A quick audit indicated that we would have to eat, were we to follow the instructions to “consume within 24hours of defrosting”, 8Kgs of mince, 6 litres of milk, 40 rashers of bacon, 0.5Kgs each of green beans and courgettes, one cucumber, 300gms of cheese, 2kgs of mixed salad, 1 litre of ‘fresh’ soup (carrot & coriander) and 4 sticks of garlic bread (Edd, Don’t say it!). I defy even the best chef to make a meal out of that list of ingredients and not have any left-overs. However, we did our best by having bacon sarnies for brunch, soup for lunch and a bolognese type pasta for dinner. The fresh veg had to be dumped of course. We still have enough provisions left for the week so, fear not, we’ll survive.

Brixham is heaving with tourists but the weather these last few days has been great.

More later.


July 3rd Day 89


Goodbye To All That.

Back to Brixham

A couple of incidences in Salcombe that I forgot to mention. One is that (and possibly a reflection of its wealth) there were a great number of marble kerbstones! Neat touch.

The second, and one that had Neil and I in fits, was when we were having lunch in the local King’s Arms. A man was talking, loudly, to his acquaintance and telling him that “.. I’ve got a brand new combine ‘arvestor.” in a local accent. If you recall the song of the same name, from way-back then you’ll understand our merriment because the words and the accent were an exact copy. Almost a parody. On top of that, having imbibed on a reasonable quantity of the local brew, he repeated it again, not long after. Cue choking on a mouthful of beer. Obviously very proud but oblivious to the connection. I hope it serves him well in the harvesting season that’s fast approaching.


So, here we are, back in Brixham and only now does it properly feel like we’ve completed the circumnavigation.  And I must say that I really feel a very strong sense of achievement. Certainly on my Top 10 list of such.

People have been asking me “What Next?” to which I reply “Something Else”. Done this and got the T-Shirt (well, a polo shirt in reality. Thank you, Mr Penman) and some video. Plus lots of pictures.

Of course, I now have 2 weeks of intense prep for the Yachtmaster practical exam during which I’ll update you via this blog with maybe one or two more entries. No more.


So then, we are at the tail end of this blog/diary, I am certainly not going anywhere near waxing lyrical, or otherwise, on the journey, the people involved, the people we met or the experiences we faced, whether good or bad. Suffice to say that I will certainly remember it for a long, long time – until dementia overtakes and steals it from me at the Sunnyside Rest Home. I suggest that you try something like it for yourselves.

Cast off the bowlines. Explore Dream Discover”.

Goodbye. (For now)



June 29th Day 85


A Full English and A Full Drenching.

After completing my first circumnavigation of Britain – for which I also thank Neil Penman, Principal of SWMT together with the instructors Alastair, Merv, Duncs and Tank as well as my fellow crew members, Neil, Allan and Vera – we berthed for a short while on the town pontoon in Salcombe, scrambled ashore for a Full English and a shower before slipping lines there and hooking onto a mooring buoy in the Harbour for a well-earned rest after our overnight exertions.

Salcombe is, well, Salcombe. A beautiful harbour lined with, I guess, multi-million pound houses, just as so many rivers, harbours and inlets are nowadays. Later browsing in the estate agents’ windows confirmed those sky-high prices. I suspect that they are DFL’s and wonder how the locals feel? Mixed blessing I assume as they bring in investment but also place a lot of pressure on house prices.

Those houses here include one formerly used by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He of the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ , that singularly British celebration (?) of crass military leadership combined with the heroics of the individual.  Other residents include, apparently, several members of Led Zeppelin – now were talking.


From Salcombe we sailed on toward Dartmouth but not before anchoring at Blackpool Sands, just along the beach from Slapton Sands. Slapton Sands made famous, of course, for being one of the locations of intense preparation for the D-Day landings and also infamous for being the scene of a major ‘friendly fire’ incident in which many Allied troops lost their lives at the hand of their brothers.


We did not stay long at anchor as the swell and wind were picking up. So, having raised the anchor, we had a session of practicing our techniques for mooring onto a buoy. During this the weather turned a little spiteful and drenched us via a squall that lasted, maybe, 20minutes but (almost) got through to the skin. Nevertheless, we carried on in true, salty sea-dog, fashion. Maybe 8 weeks’ ago we’d have been cowering below? Who knows.

After the practice, we sailed into Dartmouth – the second time round on this RBE – and berthed up on the Town Pier for the night. Dartmouth Yacht Club were gracious enough to allow us to use their facilities – at only £1 a shower. Hot and high pressure. Just the ticket for washing the salt off.

After which a dinner of Spag.Bol. – hopefully for the last time for quite a while.

Tomorrow we get back to Brixham, marking the end of the ‘holiday’ sail and the start of 2 weeks’ prep for our Yachtmaster exam.



June 26/27th Day 82/83




From there to there to here…

Not to be outdone by Duncs, Tank decided that he was chef de jour and prepared a whole roast chicken, roasted veg and potatoes. Smashing stuff. He did boast that, at home with his future wife, Emma, it was he who did the cooking. I did suggest that it may then be a good idea, as he was that keen, for him to cook for the team every day. Expletives, deleted.

Another leisurely morning in Jersey before we prepped and headed out, sans electronic plotter, back North to Herm, a little island to the East of Guernsey. As soon as we left the harbour, Tank decided that we’d have an ‘engine failure’ and so put us to the test as to how we’d manage should such an occurrence come about. After an initial bemusement at the engine dying (Tank had opened the engine hatch and executed a manual ‘stop’ of which we were unaware until the engine spluttered and died) Neil, as Skipper for the day, got us to hoist the headsail and, at least, get some steerage on the boat to enable us to manoeuvre. That was apposite as a (very) fast catamaran had shot out of Jersey harbour and was hot on our stern. A period of “who would blink first’ ensued with us standing on and the cat, seemingly, trying to bully us out of the way. I consider that he blinked first and altered course to avoid us. He still came close though. (Note to Mr Penman – It was not as near a miss as may be implied and we were in a perfectly safe position!)

Be that as it may, we’re ‘engineless’ and in the process of getting headsails up and set. Fortunately, for the first time in yonks, the wind was in the right direction and of such force that we were able to have a very, very pleasant sail, again in warm sunshine, up to Herm.

We arrived at around 9pm, anchored, had some pasta and a beer and went to bed.


Although my sleep had been disturbed given that, around 5am, I recalled that no one had taken the frozen meat out ready for our planned beach BBQ on Herm, the early morning on the anchorage was delightful. Smooth seas, a gentle swell and cloudless skies and warm sunshine.

Tank and Neil set off in the dinghy to reccie the beaches and landing spots. They returned , under oars, as the outboard had, once again, packed up. Poor fuel mix or some-such. Tank then spent a good hour taking the outboard and its carburettor apart – see Gallery – and seems to have fixed the problem.

During this period there was also a little excitement on the island. An RNLI lifeboat steamed by (nearly tipping Tank into the drink with its wake) as there had been a casualty of some description on the island. We had noted that a few small ferries had been disgorging people all morning – so there goes our idyl of being alone, as we very much were on the Isle of Muck, for our picnic – and one of them had obviously fallen ill.

In a change of plan, we decided to head around the corner to another section of the island with ome promising looking beaches. We were very well rewarded when we cam across this small sandy beach, albeit with a few people on, but which fitted our bill to a tee. We dropped the anchor very close in, packed our BBQ goodies, swimmers and sun-tan lotion into bags and headed for the beach. A traditional burger, sausage and haloumi cheese BBQ, a can of beer followed by a long walk circumnavigating the island. How lovely.

Back on board by 4:30pm, or so and a rest before the long, long journey to St Peter Port in Guernsey. Said long haul, of just under 5miles, ;-).

We arrived in St Peter Port a little after we’d left Herm, including the unfavourable tidal stream. Settled in on the pontoon (note, no electricity so we’re battery saving as hard as we can) and had dinner, prepared by Vera for the first time, of couscous, vegetables and spices. Nice, after which we headed for the local pub. ‘Local’ being the only thing nice about it. Flat beer and barmaids that only seemed interested in preening themselves for later escapades, whatever they may be.


In a last minute decision – such is sailing – we decided to leave early for Salcombe. Hence this rushed blog. Forgive any spellos.

See you in Blighty!


June 22/23/24/25th Day 78/79/80/81




Look Ma! No plotter.

Hamble to Alum Bay, Alderney and Jersey

Friday was a leisurely day starting off with a walk into Hamble le Rice village to stock up on provisions and a walk back carrying the supplies. The plan, gang aftly, was that I would get a cab back with the load but I gave up after the first 3 taxi firms I called could not provide a car until later. Oh poo. That walk, though, on the edge of Hamble Common (that name is an oxymoron. As if anything in Hamble would be labelled ‘common’ !)  was pleasant enough.

After that, we prepared the boat for sea and set off at around 11am. This passage was to be made through Pilotage alone, with no electronic aids.  Simply put, that means that we went buoy hopping down the western Solent. A fine, warm day again and very many yachts out on the water, most of them practicing for Saturday’s Round the Island Race. Good luck Alan Krasno, and his team, and Merv and his team of racing pro’s.

So, buoy hopping was quite simple and vastly aided by the high number of buoys in the Solent. Aided also by the fact that this is, as mentioned, my home turf so I know where they are and what they look like. Although a couple of Yellow Special Marker buoys have, through age and neglect, turned a little grey.

A short 4 hour journey saw us anchor in Alum Bay, immediately to the east of the famous Needles. Alum Bay has its own fame in that one side of its cliffs of sand are multi-coloured. I recall school trips and family trips there and to come away with a glass ‘lighthouse’ with clearly defined layers of many different coloured sand, was a trophy indeed. (It was only later that I only realised that the lighthouse was an inverted test-tube with a cork stopper. But it has remained a lighthouse to me. Goodness knows what happened to it). There are a couple of pictures in the Gallery of Alum Bay.

So, from Alum Bay we made a late (11:00pm) start and headed out of the Needles and south (heading 220 degrees) toward the Channel Island. Watches were split into a ‘2 hour on, 3 hour off’ structure (very nice!) and we settled into a night-sail routine – essentially watching out for large, big, very big, and huge ships that may, were they not to sight us, cause substantial damage.

We arrived in Alderney in the early hours and quickly pumped up the dinghy and got the, erstwhile troublesome, outboard motor attached and working to everyone’s delight. Using that we made several foray’s ashore.  Once showered, I took an early walk into Alderney town. Later I met up with a friend, Richard Ward, who took myself and Allan on an informed tour of the island to see the highlights. Unfortunately we were due to have lunch first but, it seems, nearly all stop serving at 2pm and we’d missed that deadline by only a few minutes. Still, a ‘Becks’ and a slice of chocolate cake were most welcome and compensated well. After the tour we went to the Braye Beach hotel and imbibed in some more beer and a fabulous Pimms – first of the season. The rest of the team joined us at the hotel and we went on to the First and Last Restaurant just over the road – run by a fearsome matriach, Rita and her team – for a very fine dinner.

I found Alderney to be absolutely delightful. Maybe the sunshine and warmth of the day, maybe the pretty location, maybe the lack of sleep… whatever influences were at work, they worked and I now love the place. I will come back with Moyna.

Alderney has a sad history and was decimated during the Second World War. It’s worth doing some reading on its history as I’ve no intention of giving a précis in this blog. Its fascinating.

Allan and I woke early on Sunday morning (5am) to take the boat of it’s mooring buoy and set the course to go to Jersey and St Helier. Another windless day and a motoring journey during a warm and sunny day. We practised hoisting the storm sail and did some whipping before arriving around mid-day in Jersey. A D-Day commemorating service was being held on the quay-side as we arrived and brought home the enormity of the occupation in these islands.

More later. Out of humour on this one.


June 20th & 21st  Day 76/77