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

Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

Eastbourne to Chichester Harbour and The Hamble

We left Eastbourne mid-afternoon for a gentle sail to Chichester Harbour and the Sparkes marina. Frankly, I remember little about the journey until we neared Chichester Bar – the infamous entrance to the harbour and renowned for its sandbanks and shifting sands. Approach with caution. As we had made good time from Eastbourne we had arrived too early to enter the harbour so were forced to anchor up in a nearby bay and pass the time until we could. I do recall that it was a moonless night and a cloudless night although it remained reasonably warm. We set the anchor and by the time we’d had a cup of tea, or so it seemed, we were ready to set off again.

The subsequent short journey was a very good test of ‘Spot That Light’ as we picked our way along the narrow, and deep, channel. If you are not of the sailing fraternity, you may not know that various buoys and channel markers all have lights of various rhythms and colour. Some red, some white, some green, as well as yellows and blues. They can be on permanently or can flash in differing sequences. Sometimes these buoys carry no lights at all and sometimes the bulb is bust and has not been replaced. Add to that the fact that they can be ‘lost’ in background lighting such as houses, industrial estates and road lighting. That all makes for a very interesting interpretation of what can be seen because,  of course, the old psychology comes into play we can sometimes see what we want to see and not what is actually there. Dangerous stuff in the wrong hands.

Fortunately, we have a good team of spotters and trainee Yatchmasters so were able to pick out the route into Sparkes thus avoiding the embarrassment, and danger, of going aground.


Thursday morning was one for housekeeping. Personal laundry and a spring clean for the yacht. We needed to look our best before we went on to the Solent and the Hamble – probably the UK’s the premier sailing ground. Not the prettiest, if one looks up Southampton Water and the Fawley Refinery, but certainly one of the most affluent with the industry fuelled partly by the wealthy ‘DFLs’ – as Merv would call the Down From London crowd. For me its my home turf, having owned and berthed a yacht (‘Kiki’) for 3 years around the Solent. So this was a bit of a homecoming. Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

The short journey, with Vera doing her first passage as skipper, was made in warm sunshine and winds that were a lot heartier than we were earlier led to believe we’d get. We successfully combined a very pleasant sail with the technical difficulties of sailing in an area packed with yachts, ferries, fast ferries, hovercraft (yes, there is still a commercial one operating from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight), enormous cruise liners (The Queen Victoria sailed past yesterday, much to our amusement) even more enormous tankers, container ships and car carriers. Phew! Quite a navigational challenge. The yachts were out in force, even though a week-day, practicing for the weekend’s ‘Round the Island Race’, a key date in the Solent sailing diary.

We arrived late afternoon and berthed at Hamble Point Marina. Another home-coming for me as this was where I bought my one and only yacht, Kiki. Tie another yellow ribbon, please.


A lovely dinner with Moyna and India in the Bugle pub (unfortunately listening to England lose to Uruguay) and a couple more beers afterward with the crew before the long(ish) walk back to the boat.

A thoroughly nice day.


June 18&19th    Day 74/75


No Bluebirds, Only Blue Rinse and Redheads.

Ramsgate to Eastbourne

Neil, in a bid to catch the best of the tides, and as Skipper for the day, set departure at 6:30am. On time, we slipped lines and headed out into the English Channel for the first time on RBE2014. With Northerly or North Easterly winds we were set fair to sail down and around the coast, crossing the busy shipping lanes at Dover (do people still go on the ‘Booze Run’, I wonder?) and around into Eastbourne. A beautiful day with, until later, cloudy skies. Nonetheless, I caught more of the sun that I should have so will be wearing a cap today, Wednesday, to cover my reddened head.

Our new team member, Vera, has fitted in well and the additional crew means that, on longer journeys where we operate a watch system, we can now each get 3 hours off for every 2 on Watch. Brilliant, except my first 3 hours were spent in my cabin with the lights off fighting nausea as the boat pitched and tossed in the swell. That’s my own fault as I simply did not take any sea-sickness tablets. My complacency needs addressing.

Vera, for lunch, and in her first foray into the galley, made a very mean salad and ham wrap with the addition of melted cheese on the inside of the wrap. Nice.

The marina where we’re berthed is 5km or so from Eastbourne town centre so the opportunity to explore, in the time we have, is limited. It has a reputation as being one of ‘God’s Waiting Rooms’ on the South Coast, given the number of elderly retired folk who move here to see their last days out by the seaside. It’s quite obvious, from the number of apartments surrounding the harbour and marina, that the Baby-Boomers are here in their numbers with their relative prosperity on show – that famous ‘Silver Pound’ and blue rinse brigade. (Hint to Edd and  India.. it’s better here than the Sunny Side Rest Home down the road. But then, so’s Scrabster. Or Helmand Province, come to that.)

Our plans remain fluid, as always, but we’re planning to leave here just after mid-day and make our way to Chichester Harbour and the marina that’s on East side of Hayling Island, Sparkes Marina. After that, it’s too early to tell.

Wildlife has been a bit thin lately so little to report. Certainly no sign of any Bluebirds over the Dover cliffs as we sped past.  And I’m still getting ribbed about the Sea Eagle mistake so I’m keeping my observations and sightings to myself until I can confirm that, for example, the huge light-house on the horizon is, in fact, a fast-moving yacht just 1km away, heading straight for us.

Dinner was pasta and salad, easily prepared with the help of a Loyd Grossman sauce and Waitrose’s finest Gnocchi.

Chichester Ship Basin – try saying that quickly and with a mouthful of Blancmange – here we come!


June 17th    Day 73




Creeks, Creaks and a Call to Play.

So we’re back. Back on board and back ready to tackle the last leg (Leg 5) round onto the South Coast and the Channel Islands.

Allan has gone AWOL, at least until Ramsgate and we’ll pick him up there. We have a new crew member, Vera Tschoep, who has flown in from Germany and joins us to ‘prep’ for the Yatchmaster’s exam, along with Neil and I, over the next few weeks. And we have, of course, that RNLI legend, from Salcombe, Symon Cater – a.k.a. ‘Tank’ , ‘coz he’s built like one – as our mentor and guide for the next 2 weeks or so.


The journey to Ramsgate began at 2pm on Sunday when we made our way out of St Katharine’s Dock and into the River Thames (a very busy Thames by the way) and headed east and out of the river and out of the estuary. I am still amazed at how built up the eastern side of London is, certainly along the river’s edge and up the creeks, comprising mostly, it seems, of genteel waterside apartments in areas where, only a few years ago, even policemen went around in threes.

The tide, having turned early, and fast, seemed to be squirting us out of the river as fast as it seemed able. (It did cross my mind that it – the river – maybe expunging us as if we were some form of toxic waste to be projectile vomited out into the wastes of north Kent. Dark thoughts? No, just practicing my imaginative prose for my forthcoming novella, that’s all. )

Be that as it may, we made very good progress sailing into the night and south, around Margate and down into its sister port, Ramsgate, arriving around 1.0am. Berthed on the outside of the Western breakwater, and pinched onto the pontoon by the wind, we have spent a night and most of the day listening to the creaks of the fenders as they battle the wooden edges of said pontoon.

Ramsgate is, well, Ramsgate. A fishing port and a seaside holiday home for Londoners, and others in the South East, that is now benefiting from the heavy investment in green technology in the form of the massive wind-farms being erected offshore. They all need servicing and maintaining, after planting, to ensure that they produce the finest green energy. That emerging industry is providing year-round employment in an otherwise seasonal town. Blow wind, blow.


The afternoon has been spent in some revision of ColRegs and Secondary Port calculations.


Tomorrow, Tuesday, we head for Eastbourne and then on to Chichester. Later in the week we will attempt to get down to the Channel Islands and , possibly, a port or two on the French coast.


On the back of a lovely card from Edd was a quote of GBS as follows:

we don’t stop playing because we grow old..

we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw

 I’m off to play..



June 17th    Day 73



Back to business and St Katharine’s.

The Interlude over, and having just watched the English Rugby team run the All Blacks to a close finish, I have boarded a train from Winchester back to Waterloo, travelling First Class – which is de riguer on a Saturday morning as it only costs a fiver to upgrade – as a gentle step back into the recent past; a reminder of my time in the City, travelling each and every day the 85 or so miles into London. [In an idle moment I have worked out that I have made over 17,500 train journeys, as a commuter, covering a distance of more than 800,000 land miles – not sea miles – and that equates to a total of more than three hundred, yes, three hundred, times Round Britain!]

I plan to be back on the boat by mid-day in time to:
a) Welcome Tank on board
b) Prepare the passage plan for getting to Ramsgate at the start of Leg 4
c) Do some provisioning for the journey ( and here you should note that there is a Waitrose not too far from St Kat’s, so there goes the budget)
d) Meet Edd for a drink
e) Update the blog

From here, St Katharine’s Dock, we travel back down the river taking a right turn, oops , sorry Tank, turning to starboard somewhere around Margate and sailing South to Ramsgate for Sunday night. From there, who knows at this stage? Our newest crew member, Vera, should be skipper for that leg.

I only hope that the weather gods are a little kinder for the final leg. We’ll see.


June 14th Day 70