Lloyds of Fowey


On arrival in Fowey I was pretty cold and my sailing suit was heavy following the good soaking on the trip from Plymouth. It’s at these times I am so grateful of the little diesel heater that I installed about a year ago. Without it I would never have been warm or got my stuff dry as there is no electric supply on the pontoon at Fowey. There was stuff everywhere as the boat always seems to get messy at sea. Once Fiesta was shipshape and when there was a break in the rain I got the dinghy ready and went across to Fowey so Max could uncross his legs! Max is far from stupid and although I’ve tried to teach him that he is allowed to have a p*ss on the deck, he just won’t do it. I’ve even tried leading by example but he just shakes it off and walks away……

At about 8pm I received notice that the pre conference conference was underway at the home of ‘The Awesome Mr Davis’ in Newbury and as usual there was plenty on the agenda so the pre conference itself was going to be no small affair (no offence Marky). I know from past experience that discussions continue into the small hours (again, no offence) and in the morning there is a lot of post conference hot air and plenty of data to be dowloaded and no one wants to be behind Mr Alexander in the queue to use the network as there is always some data left behind which makes it difficult and unpleasant to download your own. I have learnt this from my own bitter experience on many occasions over the last ten years so despite wishing I could have attended the first part of the conference I didn’t mind missing the first debrief.

After an Italian sat nav meltdown that resulted in an impromptu green laning session somewhere in Dartmoor, everyone arrived at the Carlyon Hotel in St Austell.  I arrived by taxi about 5 minutes later having spent the ten minute journey thinking that this was the furthest I had been away from Fiesta for over six weeks. Sad I know but my world is very strange and very small (sorry Marky, I’ll stop it now) and it felt odd to leave it behind!

We had lunch and once everyone was checked in we headed into Fowey. Over the next few hours I was brought up to speed with everything EC3 related and was disappointed to hear that the world of insurance keeps turning without me….
After a couple of drinks we went for a curry. There was some foresight going on at this point about the potential for some data overload from Russ so Big Kev (they don’t call him Big Kev for nothing – nearly 250kg of prime aged beef) decided to boycott his hotel room with Russ in favour of a night onboard Fiesta. He’s a brave man – I’ve been on my own for a long time and I’m not sure which option would be worse for him.
Whilst the others headed back to the hotel, Kev and I got in my three man (or one man plus Kev) dinghy and were treated to a show of phosphorescence lighting up the now considerable bow wave of the dinghy on the way to the boat.
We decided to talk a bit of sh*t and drink some of Scotland’s finest and turned in at about half past two which was probably not before time as far as our French neighbours on the pontoon were concerned.
‘Sacré Bleu, who is this bruv and where are all the Cornish people? Where are we Claude’?

I woke up with a start wondering why on earth the engine was running but then remembered that Kev was asleep in the saloon. Whilst not exactly a quiet sleeper, he is a deep sleeper so we never had any embarrassing questions such as ‘F*ckinell bruv, what happened last night’? Great, we can all move on.

We got Fiesta across to the Town Quay where you are allowed to stay for a maximum of two hours so we could pick up the others. Kev and I went to get some pasties and fruit juice (!) for the trip and the others arrived at 11am. Despite a quick downpour which destroyed the nice breeze, the wind returned, the sun came out and we had a fantastic little sail out of Fowey, along the coast and back again in time for lunch.
I had a sore head and like skiing, sailing clears that away in no time. I hoped it did the same for Kev’s soreness but I was too afraid to ask and as he was no longer looking sheepish, I took that as a good sign.
I thoroughly enjoyed having everyone onboard and I also enjoyed not being welded to the helm and instead Tom sailed us out and back again perfectly. What with the steering and various bits of string pulling being done by the others, I started to wonder if I actually needed my expensive new auto pilot. After all, these ones installed themselves at no cost and were already working pretty well. However, whilst no initial outlay, they do take up a fair amount of room and the ongoing fuel cost would be prohibitive.
Thankfully Tom left his Italian sat nav in the car and he got us out and back again without any detours or bumps along the way. Excellent.
Unfortunately it’s not all fun fun fun and we had to be in the Ship in Fowey at 1pm for a working lunch after which we headed back to the hotel for a powerpoint presentation wrap up over dinner.
It was a Tribute to us all that no one got overly rattler’d and after some black stuff we were back in the red and everything turned out Rosé.
After a long but thoroughly excellent day, my taxi arrived and as quick as that the conference was over and I headed back to the boat….
Peace and quiet onboard Fiesta resumed and whilst I am honest when I tell people that I never tire of being alone on the boat, after such a great couple of days with a bunch of blokes that I spent over ten years working, laughing and socialising with, the silence onboard was deafening and ok, I admit it, I felt ever so slightly alone and downhearted.
‘Max, its just you and me. Sorry to dissapoint you but the walrus of love won’t be with us tonight’.
I needed to distract myself from this loneliness so while it was fresh in my mind and post Kev’s visit, I wrote a shopping list.
Chloroform, shoe horn, Marmite, WD40.
Gents, it was great to see you all and thank you very much for making the trip out to see me. I absolutely loved it.

Getting ready for sea





Ok Justin, I’ve spoken to everyone and we promise not to mention your chalk stripe suit again even though if anyone can carry it off, you can…Come on, please come outside and join us again……

P1020316‘Ok, but if that dwarf says one more thing, he’s going over the side’!

‘Ok, thats fine’.

P1020310Don’t worry Marky, come back to the cockpit. It should be fine…..


Thats better, all happy again. 



Big ship for a little harbour.

Fiesta out.

Pirate Weekend and trip to Fowey

The sun shone and Pirate’s weekend was a busy time for Plymouth. Basically a couple of pirate ships showed up and there were pirates, mermaids and people everywhere. There was even one Somali pirate and although I’m not sure about the political correctness of painting yourself to play the role, no one seemed to mind and in fact more people wanted photos with him than they did with Captain Jack Sparrow! It was family fun by day and carnage by night. Being right in the thick of it in Sutton Harbour, on the Friday night the place was rocking until about 3am and whilst it didn’t really disturb me, I felt like I was part of it from the comfort of my bed and it sounded like a lot of fun so on Saturday night I joined them! I found a bar that was more like a pirate’s cave and the game seemed to be for the blokes to use a frame on the ceiling to demonstrate their manliness by doing pull ups and then encouraging the girls to try and do the same. The game descended into assisting the girls as if they were puppets and whilst some were none too pleased about the interference and quickly got down, others seemed to enjoy the support and hung around for quite some time! I would have joined in but not knowing the local etiquette added to the fact that the floor was too sticky for me to move I decided that a ‘ringside’ seat was enough for me!
My Essex accent seemed to throw the locals and three of them thought I was Australian. Maybe it was just their fascination of going down under with the pull up game but one gentleman in particular wouldn’t believe me and introduced me to his mates as Mark from Australia! In the end it was easier and much less painful just to go with it and after some local brew I stopped caring anyway….
Later on there were some girls trying to round up support to go to the OMG gay bar across the road and at this point I decided it was time to check on Max and head back home. I have to say that some of the people in there looked a bit unruly but there was no aggression whatsoever, just a good fun atmosphere and the puppet show game never lost it’s momentum or supply of players.

On Sunday I spent the day feeling slightly jaded whilst running a cable through from my chart table area into the cupboard where the new autopilot is going to be. This was never going to be a five minute job and having learnt from such previous jobs, I estimated a two hour fight which turned into four. Still, job done and now I am booked to have that special man down on the 22nd which means a return trip to Plymouth as I left Sutton Harbour on Monday morning.
To get in and out of Sutton harbour you have to go through a lock. The lock keeper was really friendly on the way in and slid open his window from the control tower for a chat. When I called him to ‘lock out’ on Monday he said ‘I’m sorry sir, you have just missed an outbound lock so it will be fifteen minutes or so I’m afraid. I will try and be as quick as I can for you. Stand by on this channel and I will call you when we are ready’.
They are so polite and helpful I thought….
‘No problem and thank you, Fiesta standing by awaiting instruction’ I said. Fifteen minutes later I got
‘Station that called the lock who wanted an exit. I can’t keep this lock open much longer, you have a green light but you’re going to miss it’.
Slightly flustered I replied, ‘Hello Sutton Lock, ok I am casting off now and will be there in three minutes’
‘I can’t wait that long, I thought you would be waiting outside the lock gates’.
‘Ok, I will be there in two minutes’.
I felt like I had been given I minor b*llocking and what happened to ‘Stand by and await instruction’? As soon as I was just in the lock and past the gates, the siren went and they closed.
Really? Is that necessary and after such a friendly welcome too!
There isn’t meant to be any idle chat over vhf so I decided to explain once inside the lock that he had said ‘Stand by for instruction’ but once inside the lock his window remained firmly shut this time and I couldn’t see in through the dark glass. It actually made chuckle a bit. Mr lock keeper, yes you do have the power but I’m on an extended sailing holiday and if a two plus grand bill for a new autopilot can’t p*ss me off, you have no chance son. I smiled and waved goodbye and carried on my merry little smug way!

Next stop was Millbrook Pool which is a tiny little inlet on the west of Plymouth sound. It felt like going back to the East Coast from a water depth point of view. You turn off the main Plymouth Harbour channel and the depth goes from about 100 feet to 40 feet and then very quickly down to 7 feet. The channel is completely unmarked and although there is a bread crumb trail on the chart showing the deepest water, there are very few reference points to make any sense of this so it was a case of picking my way along very gently on the rising tide. It got more and more shallow and I got stuck three times on the way in. No one on the banks paid any attention to this so I must have been ‘just another person who has never been here before’. Each time I got stuck it was only a matter of five or ten minutes before the tide floated me off again and I tried a different path. The river bed is mud so you just come to a slow stop rather than fearing hitting anything hard down there. I got right up to the old mill at the end where there is literally no further to go.
The reason for my trip up there was that of fantasy. It is a bit of a mecca for catamarans there and the man who owns the Mill that I was moored up at is called Daz and he makes absolutely awesome catamarans called Dazcats. I met up with him and he gave me a full tour of their facility and I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Oh, the smell of resin, wood, fibreglass and the carbon fibre department whipped me into a frenzy! I love those boats and whilst I wouldn’t say it in front of Fiesta, one day………
I was made really welcome by Daz and his wife Alex. The Mill is their home and the boatyard their business. It’s not a commercial marina at the Mill but a delightful little spot to escape to and I loved the fact that Darren was so keen to give me a full tour. Excellent.
I left Millbrook yesterday morning and had the vaguely intelligent idea of photographing the river at low water so I could see where the deepest channel was and I made some reference points of various sheds or trees or boats to aim at and Fiesta, Max and I slipped out without touching the bottom.

It had been blowing it balls off again the day before and was still pretty fresh on the way out so I was expecting a bit of swell and some breeze on the way to Fowey. The grim overcast day didn’t make it very appealing but I had a deadline to get to Fowey.
Tom, Justin, annoying Mark, Russ and big Kev are coming down for a few days to give me update on all things insurance related owing to the fact that I miss it so much which is very very kind of them.

What could possibly go wrong?

Pirate ships and Pirate’s, traditional and Somali


Beautiful Mermaid. I wouldn’t  imagine that she floats on her front….


Millbrook Pool with the tide in and out


There is a video in ‘Other bits’ of my trip to Fowey!

Salcombe and admitting that I need help!

Getting into Salcombe was easy. You can’t really see the entrance on approach until you are fairly close at which point it opens up in front of you between the dramatic rocky cliffs. The only thing you actually need to enter anywhere by boat is a chart as this tells you very factually all you need to know. However, I have also bought various ‘cruising companion’ books which are written for sailors by sailors and they give you real time instructions such as ‘You will see a conspicuous white house on the West side of the entrance. This is called Bar House and overlooks the bar. When you are under the house you are over the bar and you will see two poles in the water (blimey, they’ve swum a long way), one close and the other further behind and to the North. Line them up and following this line in will provide a safe passage past the rocks all the way until you can see the main channel markers’.
The bar is only a problem at low tide when its a bit shallow but I went in at about half tide, eyeballed the poles and the tide swept me in. Lovely – nice and easy. This written commentary is just what you need when all around you and very close on the West shore are big rocks sticking up out of the water and all you want to do is go down below and check what you have already checked a million times when the inevitable bit of self doubt creeps in again.

I think anyone who has heard of Salcombe is aware that it is a lovely little place. The hype is justified because it is truly beautiful but hype isn’t always a good thing is it. If escaping to a picturesque spot to enjoy the peace and tranquility is what you are aiming to do then you better be prepared to share (and to some extent dilute) that peace and tranquility with a vast number of like minded people.
Any idea of sneaking in unnoticed is an impossibility. I went straight in past Salcombe and up to a little anchorage off Halwell point. Within 10 minutes the harbour launch was alongside and I was being given some light relief by the Harbourmaster by way of the fee for anchoring. The harbour staff are extremely friendly, they tell you exactly what you need to know and are really helpful.

Bloody hell! Boats, boats, boats and more boats everywhere and then I was told ‘In the season it gets busy’! Really? This isn’t busy? Now I understand the need for their military like precision and efficiency. I also now believe that there is life after death and if you are a RIB you go through the gates, pay your harbour dues and arrive in Salcombe. They are everywhere although I have to say 90% were tied up to the various private berth holder pontoons but I can only imagine that on a sunny day in the season, you can probably be Jesus like and walk across from one side to the other without getting your feet wet!
Apparently over 40 percent of the properties in Salcombe are second homes and very grand many of them are too. However, Im not sure that this is ever a very good thing for the feel of a place and I imagine that whilst this probably felt like a beautiful quaint little place once upon a time, I think to some extent, this has probably been lost.
Still, this does not detract from what is a very special place and if you want to escape the masses there are various upper reaches without lots of boats but these places are only accessible if you are able to take the ground because three hours after high tide, the water has completely gone!
I spent two nights at Salcombe. The first night at anchor but on the second day whilst not forecasted, it blew its cock off and being totally unsheltered in my anchorage I moved alongside a sheltered floating pontoon. On Thursday morning it was cold and raining. I got ready for sea, pointed Fiesta away from Salcombe and towards Plymouth. Fortunately the rain cleared and a very nice easy sail followed and we arrived in Plymouth at about 4pm having had the benefit of the outgoing tide helping us along the coast before the incoming tide swept us into Plymouth. There are lots of rules and regulations for yachts regarding separation distance from war ships, submarines etc in the harbour and the chart looks scarily complicated when you are planning your entry. However, as is usually the case, following a bit of preparation it wasn’t nearly as bad in the flesh and we got in without stepping on any Naval or commercial vessel toes. I am well and truly in the middle of it here at Sutton Marina in Plymouth. There are bars all around and as soon as I realised that the reason for all the strangely dressed folk is that it is ‘Pirate’s Weekend’ this weekend I relaxed. I have no idea what Pirate Weekend entails but Im looking forward to finding out…..

Right, its time to come clean about my problem.

Fiesta and I have had to ‘sit down and have a heart to heart’ about our relationship. Those words strike fear and dread into the hearts of most men and I am no exception. To be perfectly honest I have been aware that things have not been quite right between us for a month or so but I was blissfully unaware that this was going to amount to a major crisis and instead I chose to ignore the little signs as much as possible in the hope that the problem would be but a little blip and an easy fix. However, regrettably I have had to accept that I am not measuring up in a certain department and we need to do something about it.
I like to think I am a modern man and rather than bury my head in the sand I have had to admit that my amateur fumblings have not been hitting the right spot and Fiesta remains unsatisfied. The consolation, albeit only a small one (none taken), is that I have been dabbling in the right general area and giving it my all; a little bit left, a little right, up a bit, down a bit, no no – not that far down, elbow deep in dark places, trying slow and measured to fast and frantic, nearly there, yes its gonna work, keep going, keep going, no not quite, oh no, oh no, its gone! It’s just no good, I just can’t find little Miss Autopilot’s sweet spot and god knows I’ve tried EVERYTHING! We’ve discussed it, laughed and cried but finally I have accepted that it’s me, not her. I just can’t make it work.

Following a recommendation from a friend in Burnham (cheers Andy of Yachting Solutions) I made a call to an expert marine electrician here in Plymouth who showed up at the drop of a hat. He ran some tests and gave me a couple of options.
So, I’m going to let him put his hands on her and give her what she needs. This isn’t going to be some ‘Indecent Proposal’ Robert Redford kind of affair. Oh no! I’m going to be there to watch, learn, touch, hold this, pull that etc etc and together we are going to make a fist of it. Okay, okay I know thats a whole new level but I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get us back to where we need to be.
Following his advice I am going to do the preparation work and once I have that in place he is going to come down at the critical moment and finish her off for me…..

The truth is that as a single hander I can’t be without the autopilot and the only viable option for the sake of keeping my trip on track and tackling some of the longer legs on my own is to junk the old stuff and cough up for the new. If I say it quickly, it doesn’t hurt as much but the net result is going to be GBP 2,350. There, I’ve said it. Still, it doesn’t matter I get paid in two weeks. Hang on, oh f*ck……Better put a call in to Sarah. She’s got previous with unemployed boyfriends so we should be fine…..

‘Darling, darling, hello……….helloooooo????’ Oh, maybe her battery has run out. I’m sure she’ll phone back……….

Approaching the entrance, some of the rocks on the way in and the ‘Conspicuous white house over the bar’


Lovely anchorage at Halwell Point


Just like sailors, it seems there are two types of swans. Those that have been aground and those that are going to go aground….don’t worry mate, I know its embarrasing


Lovely place, lovely day and a beautiful sunset


Fiesta and some new friends!

Having just sailed from Dartmouth to Salcombe, I am now happily anchored in a beautiful little spot in the sunshine. However, this blog entry is not to talk about the trip here in particular, it is about the dolphins that came along for a swim with Fiesta! I think it was 18 years ago that Joanna and I were in Devon for a race week on the Hurricane 5.9 that we used to sail and on a couple of the days we were joined by dolphins. That truly was a fantastic experience and my memory of those days has not faded with time one little bit. I have no idea why it feels so special to be up close with dolphins but it really does and this has truly made my day today! I think I will go ashore for a few beers to celebrate…


Cheers Flipper

Blow me

And it did, although not until the early hours of Friday! In retrospect, saying ‘Come on’ to the wind from behind the safety of a big wall is a bit like taunting a dog on a rusty chain. One day he is going to have his day but whatever you choose to do, there is never much fun to be had without a little bit of risk is there.
The wind didn’t get up to the severe gale force 9 that was eventually forecast but a gale 8 did blow through although inside the harbour this meant no more than seeing the occasional white spray over the top of the wall and hearing the wind whistling through the rigging. The entrance to the harbour was side on to the waves running onto the beach and as a result every now and again a surge of water enters that makes the boat twist and pull against all the lines which creek and groan under tension. It is impossible to adjust the lines to prevent this but thats a small price to pay for being in the safety of the harbour.

I ventured into town for a look around and liked what I saw. Nothing amazing or remarkable but a nice little area around the harbour blighted only by a massive Harvester Restaurant taking pride of place overlooking the marina. Their advert used to go something like ’Hello, have you ever been to a Harvester before’?
‘No, who the f*ck wants to’! What is it about these places? Just like Toby Carvery, it seems that people gravitate towards them at the point in the week when all of their clothes are in the wash apart from their football shirt and every child seems to be in there to make everyone else’s life a complete and utter misery. I don’t know, maybe there’s a dress code in the small print, maybe I just don’t get the joy of lots of small people shouting, crying, screaming or taking a dump in the ball pit. Okay, okay, I suppose I shouldn’t have been in there but honestly, it was him not me. Maybe, and most likely, I am simply a miserable unsociable scrotum who should probably just p*ss off on his boat for a while……Anyway, I digress.

Torquay was lovely and in the evening I ventured into town for a beer. I thought about the same time a week ago with Sarah in the The Jolly Sailor and wondered if I would be brave enough to venture in somewhere like that on my own. Unfortunately I found no such place. There was Yates and a Weatherspoon’s with doorman and loud music but whereas Poole folk seemed to have a live and let live mentality and just have a good time, there were far too many blokes with white muscle tops on and chests puffed out (as I remember from my DDDD Dukes experiences in the 90’s). It wasn’t just because I felt inferior that I didn’t go in but also to do with the fact that I would have stuck out like dog balls in there and having got away with it last week, I moved on. I walked around and found a couple of pubs that were full of middle aged men drinking on their own. I felt sorry for them if thats what they have been reduced to. I continued my search and elected for a nice little bar across the road with a good live band which wasn’t too loud (oh dear) where I could stand at the bar in all my middle aged glory and drink on my own. Eh?

On Saturday the wind had gone. The weather forecast was still saying ‘gale imminent’ for Portland and Lyme Bay but all the other areas were showing ‘gale ceased’. I spoke to the harbour master and the consensus was that it had gone through so I left Torquay bound for Dartmouth. There wasn’t any wind at all out there and shortly after leaving Torquay a met office report came though on my Navtex stating that the gale warning for this region had now ceased too. All that was left was a fairly big swell from all the wind of the previous day but mainly this was big enough to ride over nice and smoothly and it took three hours to motor with the tide into Dartmouth Harbour.

Sorry, here it is again. Dartmouth, what a treat! It was misty on the way in but it is still a stunning place to see and enter by boat. Pretty dramatic coastline giving way to some beautiful old buildings and cottages piled up on both sides of the entrance and all the way in. What a pretty spot this is. There is a marina here but I elected to stay on the island pontoon in the river. This means getting in the dinghy to go ashore and in my view the island pontoon is better than a swinging mooring (same price) because you have somewhere easy to get in and out of the dinghy rather than having to climb up on the side of the boat whilst trying to carry everything – yeah, been there before!
The sun came out and it was a beautiful first evening in Dartmouth. I took Max ashore for a comfort break and then back onboard to relax and get warm and cosy.

Yesterday I got in the dinghy and Max and I ventured up river to Totnes. With a 6 knot maximum speed in the River Dart this took about an hour and a half each way. Its very pretty along the way but got very shallow until finally the engine was on its maximum tilt whilst still keeping the propellor in the water and we just made it far enough to get to a jetty and get out. Lovely job. Totnes itself is pleasant and we stopped for lunch on the quay before making the journey back to Fiesta.

One thing that I keep plugging away at with little success is fishing from the boat. I used to fish a lot when I was younger although that was in fresh water and I was reasonably successful. However, in the sea I struggle. Ive caught some over the years and on a few occasions crabs, but that’s gong to happen isn’t it?
Yesterday I got the rod out and was hoping for a nice mackerel and whilst I did get some luck the mackerel eluded me and instead I caught a ‘Lesser Spotted Dogfish’ about a foot or so long. I’d love to talk about the fight, the struggle, the hunt, but the truth is that it didn’t really put up any resistance at all and just seemed to accept that it had been caught. Ok, so no Mackerel but still, I was extremely happy to have something rather than nothing. I got the hook out and let it go to swim another day.
The irony of life was not lost on me at this moment and once again I reminisced about my days in Dukes nightclub, being on the optimistic look out for something slim, racy, built for speed with bright eyes and lovely markings but ending up with a spotty old dog that just rolled over but was let go again the following day….Life is a funny thing.

Right Max, come on we’re going ashore.

Torquay Harbour


Just round the corner from the harbour


Waves on the way to Dartmouth







Going to Totnes and finding a lovely pub on the way


View from the pub


Spotty old dog


Early to Torquay

I made a plan to leave Weymouth on Thursday morning and decided to get the mountain bike out and ride to Portland Bill on Wednesday. Along the way I stopped at the 2012 Olympic sailing venue in Portland Harbour to watch some windsurfing, kitesurfing and a guy who is developing a foiling windsurfer. Now that looks awesome!
I really enjoy riding my bike in new places and on the way to Portland there were loads of lovely long downhill runs and I was conscious that meant for harsh payback on my return. The payback was harsh indeed but it is a mountain bike after all and this isn’t the flats of Essex so I had better get used to it from here on.
One of the reasons I wanted to ride to Portland Bill was to look at the water flow because there are two choices when rounding Portland Bill. You either give it plenty of room (3 miles in good weather, more in bad) or you talk to some locals, consult the almanac, plan your arrival timing carefully, take some liquid bravery pills and go for the inside route. The plan with that route is to be one or two hundred meters from the rocky shore when you go round and even closer to Chesil Beach on your way West. In the Harbour Master’s words, ‘Close? You have to be really close mate, so close that you feel like you’re sitting in the cafe on the beach’!
The basic idea is to be at Portland Bill at the critical moment and sneak through the inside route in order for the tidal race to spit you out the other side and fire you along westwards at speed cutting off the 12 or so miles that it takes to go round.
That all sounded very exciting to me and I wanted to see it in the flesh to help me visualise and make my final plans. However, it was only when I was actually looking at it and I could see just how close the inside route is to the rocks on one side and the utterly confused and boiling sea of the tidal race on the other side that I had a moment of complete clarity. ‘You must be having a f*cking laugh you bellend. You’re not taking Fiesta through there on your own, go home and plot your course around the Bill you knob’! So, thats what I did.  Portland Bill 1, my bottle – 0

I left at 7.30am on Thursday with a lovely breeze from the North East, the sails were up before I was out of the harbour and Fiesta was making 7 knots or so. The closest I got to Portand Bill was 3 miles to its south west side and even there the sea was a little confused. My plan was to head into Lyme Regis for a day or two and then into the River Exe. I had a couple of doubts about the entrance of the River Exe because the forecast was saying Easterly force 5 or maybe 6 and strong Easterly winds, according to the almanac, make the entrance pretty nasty because of the shallows and big swell rolling in. I was contemplating just how much Easterly wind would be too much when at that moment Solent Coastguard issued a maritime safety broadcast which made my mind up for me. The strong wind warning had now been changed to a local gale warning and the forecast was for an Easterly Gale 8.
Ok, I didn’t want to attempt getting out of Lyme Regis across the sand bar or into the River Exe in anything like that. I went downstairs re plotted my course and headed straight across Lyme Bay for the protection and deep water entrance of Torquay which would be a good place to sit out a gale.
The rest of the sail was very straight forward and in fact the wind decreased until I had to put the engine on in order to ensure I got in before dark which is always my preference for an entrance to somewhere new.

If this gale is on its way, there is nothing to suggest it yet. Since the wind died on my sail across Lyme Bay yesterday it has been perfectly still, beautiful and sunny. Come on, I fancy that gale now that I am tied up safely to the Quay inside the harbour!



Portland Bill


Close fly by from the Coastguard


Torquay Harbour looming out of the late afternoon haze


Sunset from the cockpit


Fun at Poole and on to Weymouth

After a cruise around the Harbour I got myself settled in at Pool Quay which is right in the thick of it in Poole. Its a really good spot and a perfect place for Sarah to meet me as the station is only a 10 minute walk away and there is also a big car park behind the Thistle Hotel across the road where Mum, Joanna and the boys could park when they arrived. I had a full day cleaning Fiesta and moving stuff around inside to make enough space to get everyone onboard and at 7pm I walked to the station to meet Sarah. I had planned to be chivalrous and help Sarah with her bag (suitcase – silly me) but there was absolutely no way I was going to walk down the mean streets of Poole with a bright fuchsia pink suitcase in tow so Sarah had to take care of her own bag transportation.

Being the Friday night of a bank holiday and happily reacquainted it seemed like the right thing to do was to hit the town. There were two pubs next door to each other about three minutes walk from the boat. One was the Lord Nelson and the other was The Jolly Sailor. The Lord Nelson looked great but once we were close, the sight of doorman outside, lots of young drunken revelry and really loud music made us swerve to the left and into The Jolly Sailor where the doorman were on the inside along with an even more plentiful supply of young drunken revellers and really really loud music. Well, we were in now so may as well crack on.
Inside there were more tattoos on display than skin and what skin there was to see is not the skin that you need your girlfriend to catch you looking at! Girls, girls, girls….Well done you! Plenty of places to park your bike….

It was immediately clear to me that being 41, sporting a sailing fleece and my blue and white deck shoes was going to make blending in here a bit of a challenge. In an attempt to rescue this situation I gave it my best shot with my order at the bar. ‘Alright love, can I av a pint of this one? Yeah that one, lovely fank you, cheers’. Job, done – I think I nailed it. ‘Sarah, what about you’? Sarah says ‘HI! Can I please get a glaaass of Prosecco’. Honestly Sarah, just for once can you drink a fake red bull based drink or some other kind of tart fuel and try not to be so lovely or so North American? Your life might depend on it!!!!
Anyway, as it turned out my concerns were unjustified. We had a great night. The young through to old of Poole were having it large with complete reckless abandon and it was a lot of fun. In the interest of equality there were fights involving both men and women and I imagine a pretty long queue at the chemist in the morning or a further increase in population to follow albeit no increase in the gene pool. What a lot of fun, thank you to The Jolly Sailor!

Mum, Joanna, Tom & Jack arrived on Saturday and we had a lovely day exploring Poole. Our visit coincided with a Maritime Festival celebrating Poole’s seafarer heritage and amongst other attractions there was a ferris wheel that we all went on and got some beautiful views of the harbour. The old dear wasn’t particularly happy with it and announced that she wanted to get off after about half a revolution. To Mum’s credit she was receptive to being convinced otherwise (held down and told to shut it) and we all emerged unscathed.
Sunseeker make their boats here so we had a look at their very special latest offering which the boys loved and enjoyed the glorious sunshine. After dinner onboard Fiesta and plenty of prosecco it was the end of a lovely day and with every laying down space taken onboard, it was time for bed although by this time it wasn’t a peaceful night because the wind had now picked up and was whistling through the rigging.

After breakfast on Sunday and all to soon, Mum, Joanna & the boys were off. It was fantastic having you all down so thank you very much for making the drive down see me. From here on, the further West I go the harder it will be for a flying family visit but with Joanna, James and boys holidaying in Croyd in a month or so hopefully we will be able to have a catch up again then……

The strong wind that was now blowing had also brought heavy rain (the first of this trip) and the plan was to leave Poole Harbour today and get to Weymouth. I checked the forecast and there was a mini depression floating around and no one seemed to know where it was likely to go so some forecasts were saying 35 mph gusts (gale 8) and some were saying that the wind would be levelling out around 20 mph and decreasing as the day went on. The one thing that was constant was the wind direction and that was favourable for a trip to Weymouth so the decision was made to ready Fiesta for sea and poke our noses out of the harbour for a look.
The charts show a lot of overfalls around here which are areas of turbulent water caused by strong currents flowing over submarine ridges or meeting of currents around headlands plus the almanac warns of quite a big swell building at the entrance for Weymouth in Easterly winds so everything that could fall over, whisky bottles, wine glasses, dogs and Canadians were packed away or lashed down and we set off. I plotted a course to stand well off the headland and away from the overfalls but as we skirted the edge of the overfall area the motion was pretty uncomfortable, there was quite a bit of water over the deck and the swell was at two to three meters. However, once we made a turn, passed St Alban’s Head and pointed at Weymouth the wind and and waves were directly behind us and it was a really good sail into Weymouth. The wind never did gust to a gale 8. We had 25 knots across the deck which is about a force 6 but that decreased until we were left with about 10 knots and a fairly boisterous swell running into Weymouth. To get to Weymouth entrance you go passed Portland Harbour and get an ominous view of Northe Fort which is now decommissioned and is a museum but still has the guns on top and a very rocky outline. Once passed the Fort the entrance into Weymouth opens up and after obtaining permission to enter from Weymouth Harbour Radio you head in and as soon as you are between the piers the water is completely flat, the harbour is in front of you and is absolutely beautiful. I can only imagine what a sight for sore eyes this place would be on escaping a storm outside, threading the needle between the two piers and into the instant calm and protection of the harbour. It would make you want to run to the nearest pub, of which there are loads, and celebrate your safe arrival. Funnily enough that is exactly what we did! Our celebration was not escaping a storm but the milestone of arriving in Dorset. I am really proud of Fiesta for getting us here in such safety, ease and comfort and from here on the coast is dramatic and exciting, the next milestone being the rounding of Portland Bill with its notorious tidal race and then onwards West.

Yesterday (Monday) Sarah, Max and I explored Weymouth inclusive of a visit to Northe Fort where there are some fantastic views of Portland harbour. We walked miles and miles and loved what we found. We are moored up in the main harbour which is still commercial as far as fishing boats are concerned so there is a lot coming and going. Being in this spot was a bit of an accident. I had planned on going through the lifting bridge and into the inner harbour where the marina is. However, when I spoke to Weymouth Harbour Radio they said we could stay on their pontoon in the outer harbour and this is definitely the preferable place to be. Its a really pretty old school harbour with a lovely walk round to the cosy pubs on the other side or alternatively the local ferry boat man will row you across for a pound.
I suppose I have to accept that at some point I will probably find a sh*t hole but it hasn’t happened yet!
Its Sarah’s last day here before she heads back to London later and she probably won’t be back onboard for a month.  Once again the sun is out so we’ve got to make the most of the day…..

Colgate moments


The view from the ferris wheel

Best sand castle ever


local man finds wormhole?

P1010555The Fort and view towards Portland






Weymouth Harbour


Lymington and on to Poole Harbour

I had a lovely last little walk around Newtown on Tuesday morning and then a really close call when I slipped on the weed covered ladders on the quay trying to get back in the dinghy and came a gnats cock from falling in the water with the dog under one arm, iPhone in my pocket and camera around my neck. After just managing to hang on with one arm I composed myself and then checked that no one was was looking although unhappily someone was! Some salty old sea dog was watching me from the boat house with a wry smile on his face which said ‘You complete penis’!
That would have been very cold, very expensive and very embarrassing but I got away with a wet foot and trouser leg!

The anchor took a bit of work to get up as it had buried itself deep in the mud over the last three days. I had to motor it out which involved pulling as much chain in as possible, winding it round the deck cleat, going back to the helm and giving it a bit of forward throttle, then back to the bow and retrieving the anchor covered in sticky black mud that goes all over the deck! Lovely.

Whilst anchored in Newtown I checked a few more electrical connections so on the way out I tried again to recalibrate the auto helm compass. Again, no joy at all so I just carried on to Lymington which took a couple of hours. As I got to the marina area of Lymington the Isle of Wight ferry at the dock let out one short blast to let everyone know that it was about to depart. Fortunately the Captain waited for me to go by as I was already really close and I carried on past before turning behind him and going onto the pontoon.
My time in Lymington was mainly about boat jobs including talking to Raymarine about my auto helm issue. Unfortunately they no longer make the fluxgate compass that I have but they can repair them if you send them to the service department. However, that takes about three weeks so after talking extensively to a guy in their technical department I ordered the internal part which, fingers well and truly crossed, is the culprit. This arrived yesterday by courier so now I have to take the old one apart which isn’t difficult and try the new part. I didn’t do that yesterday because it was 3pm before it arrived and I had a deadline to meet! Head Office is coming for a visit this weekend arriving tonight (Friday) and we arranged to meet at Poole Harbour so yesterday at 3.30pm I waited for a ferry to leave, followed him out and sailed out of the Solent bound for Poole Harbour.
What a fantastic sail! The tide is pretty special around here. It was bubbling and boiling all around the boat, there were overfalls that make it look like its about 2ft deep when its actually over 100ft deep and there are also strange smooth churning patches where a loud hiss can be heard from inside the boat as you sail through them. We had some pretty nasty chop with quite a lot of water over the deck before the tide turned and the sea state calmed down. We went through the entrance and into Poole Harbour at about 8.30pm and anchored in South Deep anchorage just as it got dark. Great sail, I loved it.

As I have mentioned, Sarah is arriving tonight and will be with me until Tuesday and tomorrow my Mum, Joanna, Tom & Jack are coming down too and staying until Sunday. Fiesta is going to be full with all onboard but it will be great to see everyone. Today I will move from this anchorage to Poole Quay Boat Haven, get Fiesta ship shape and hoist the Canadian courtesy flag. I forgot that last time Sarah was here and the absence of said flag was noted!!

Little side note here…….

One thing that I have always annoyed myself with is not sailing to windward very much on this boat and instead, just motoring upwind. Truth be told, going to windward is the achilles heel of Fiesta. This is a weak point for most cruising catamarans and the Prout Event is no exception. This is to do with some of the reasons that it is so good in other areas such as shallow draft for getting to places others can’t reach, the ability to take the ground and remain level and the fact that catamaran stability means your beer doesn’t fall over when you put it down whilst sailing. Tacking a catamaran is much slower than tacking a monohull due to the increased resistance of turning two hulls through the water rather than one and because they are not as efficient upwind as a monohull you need more space and more time. Space between sandbanks or on the rivers of the East Coast is at a premium and time, when you have to make it to and back from a destination before work on a Monday, is too.
On this trip I have all the time that I want, plenty of room in all the deep water and as this is a sailing trip rather than a motoring trip I have been viewing tacking as a pleasure rather than a frustrating way not to make much timely forward progress. So I sailed out of Newtown and tacked across to Lymington (ok, not very far I admit) but I also sailed from Lymington to Poole Harbour in a force 3 to 5 headwind. I really enjoyed it and as we all know, the more you do something the better you get and I have really started to learn how to coax Fiesta upwind and with the right amount of sail up, a more delicate approach rather than forcing her to go upwind we are making good progress. Fiesta of course hasn’t changed but I have definitely improved.
That’s one of the things I love about sailing. It is impossible not to get better the more time you spend on the water and whilst you don’t really know why or how you get better, you just do. You can learn the science straight out of a book in the warm and dry but the ‘feel’ is something that grows and improves for as long and as many years as you sail. I read somewhere that ‘Sailing is a cruel Mistress. First you get the exam and then the lesson’. So true!
Sorry if it sounds like I’m talking bollox but I’m just really happy to feel like I’ve improved!

Flag, flag, flag, remember the flag…….

You get up close and personal to the ferries at Lymington


Sunset at Lymington


Strong tide equals a fast exit from the Solent


Hurst Castle and Fort Albert


The Needles, fading light outside Poole Harbour and I love a picture of the Ensign, any time anywhere!




Beaulieu to Newtown Estuary

After a lovely peaceful night on my visitors mooring, I headed ashore to have a look around. I walked the river path along to Beaulieu and took Max with me. Beaulieu village is nice but I didn’t venture to the Palace or the car museum, instead I just headed back to Bucklers Hard. Its a lovely walk although slightly too long for my old dog and he dragged further and further behind until I gave in to him and carried him. He’s only little but in the end he felt very heavy and after a mile or so I resented his free ride so he walked the last part and then slept the rest of the day away!!!

I had thought I would stay in the Beaulieu River for two nights but to be honest, after one night and a walk into the village I felt like I had done it justice so I slipped the mooring and left.
We sailed / drifted out of the river in about 0 to 4 knots of wind and once in the Solent the tide was against us so our speed went to 1 knot backwards! The engine went on and we motored across to Newtown. It is very tough resisting a tourette’s outburst about this place. Instead I will just say that it is proverbially beautiful! The pictures below do it far more justice than my words can. We motored in through the channel close to the shingle beach either side of the entrance and into the calm and tranquility that is the Newtown Estuary. This is another place run by the National Trust and whilst there is a place called Shalfleet Quay that can be reached by road, the only way to fully appreciate this place is by boat. Lucky me…..We continued to and beyond the visitors moorings into a small spot where I put the anchor down in 3 feet of water (low tide). The only other boat in here with a shallow enough draft to get to me is the harbour master who works for the National Trust. He’s a very friendly chap with an incredible office. There is no charge for anchoring here but donations to the National Trust are welcome and happily given to keep this place protected. He has a 1960’s bus ticket machine mounted in the cockpit of his boat and you get a ticket following a donation. Apparently its the only thing that continues to work in the wet and cold.

Yesterday I went ashore in the dinghy with my clowns bike (fold up job with tiny wheels) and cycled to Yarmouth for look around. I went on to Fort Victoria for some lunch where I got a good view of where I will be sailing out once my my Solent visit is complete.
I rode back to Shalfleet Quay, chucked everything back in the dinghy and relieved Max of his watch. I must admit that I was happy to be back onboard. I have really enjoyed the solitude of this place for the last couple of days. Later on this morning I will be upping anchor and heading to Lymington. I sailed from Lymington Town Sailing Club with Joanna many years ago so Im looking forward to going back there. It also gives me a chance to refill my water tanks and get some supplies in town. Firstly, Im off to walk the hound. Its another beautiful morning out there.

Just inside the entrance to the Beaulieu River


Fiesta in Beaulieu River


Bucklers Hard


P1010217Newtown Estuary


Not a bad Monday morning 


Shalfleet Quay


Lazy little prick (none taken)


Into the Solent

I liked Chichester Harbour so much that I was actually sad to leave and spending ten nights in there was never part of the plan but thats one of the great things about this trip. Its totally flexible and if I like somewhere then I can stay a while.
I left Emsworth and spent my last night anchored at East Head, the same anchorage as my first night in Chichester Harbour. I picked my spot and at low water I was about 30ft from the beach and still afloat. Lovely little spot.

I was up and about at 6am on Wednesday and it was a beautiful day albeit chilly. I was anchored perfectly head to wind so I put the main up whilst at anchor so we were sailing as soon as the anchor was on deck. Nice gentle breeze and the tide was underneath us so we cruised out of the Harbour at about 4 knots.
I think its the fact that I have a catamaran that I sometimes like to cut a corner or two rather than follow the channel by the book. I decided to cut a little corner off but could see the colour of the water was a bit lighter and I could see from the chart where the spit was. The depth sounder was at 44ft when I went into the lighter coloured water and in the space of about a boat length it went to 7ft and the water was so clear that I could see the pebbles on the spit! I carried on but was pretty relieved to see the colour change again and 40 odd feet back on the depth sounder. It was only a little corner that I cut but they obviously mean it where they put the channel markers here!!!

There wasn’t much wind for the rest of the day, perhaps a maximum of 9 knots or so but it was up my backside so I put the spinnaker up. I love that sail but it is a bit of a faff putting it up on your own so its only worth going through that workout if you are going to carry it for a while and on this trip it stayed up for three hours until I turned into to Southampton Water. Perfect.
There was quite a lot of traffic on the way through the Solent and I try to stay well out of the way. My AIS safe zone is set to 1 nautical mile around the boat and I was listening on the vessel traffic services channel (its like air traffic control but for ships) and could hear that a big container ship was coming in so I tracked it on AIS coming my way at 18 knots! The AIS tells you the ship’s size, speed, course over the ground and port of destination so this all means that you should be able to look on the chart and work out what course the ship is going to take to get to its destination. The size of this one meant it was definitely going through the deep channel where I was so I adjusted my course to get the f*ck out of there. I was on the North side of a marker that I knew this fella was going to pass to the North of so I wasn’t surprised to see him still coming my way but soon he was within my 1 mile safe zone so my alarm went off and he was still coming straight at me. At this point I started to second guess the decisions that I had made. Its amazing how much an audible alarm in this situation ups the ante! The AIS also gives you the call sign and name of the vessel so I was just about to call him to make sure he had actually seen me when I heard on the vessel traffic services channel that he was altering course to the North to go round the stern of an outbound Isle of White Ferry. Ok, so now I knew that he didn’t really want to be this far to the North and beyond my position the water gets too shallow for him so looking at the position of the Isle of Wight Ferry he was going to have to make a pretty sharp turn between the stern of the ferry and me to stay in the deep water. By this time there was enough info to tell me that this was what was going to happen and I now had a ringside seat where I felt relatively comfortable in that if he was going to mow me down, he was surely going to run aground too so we’d all be f*cked, although Max, Fiesta and me more than him!
There is absolutely no way that there wasn’t a conversation on the bridge of that ship that went along the lines of ‘That poor little prick down there must be having a proper brown trouser moment’!
What I can say is that the Captain was fully committed to his manoeuvre because once the ferry was through he turned that ship like I didn’t know it was possible to turn them. There was actually spray coming off one side of the bow as it turned so sharply and a pretty big lean on the ship as it made the turn and passed more than close enough for my liking to my stern. Those things are massive and even at a mile away they are scary so when the AIS alarm is bleeping and all you can see is the bow bearing down on you, it really isn’t a place you want to be!
Happily, in the comfort of my clean jeans, the rest of the sail was uneventful and soon we were tied up at Shamrock Quay in the River Itchen.
Its mostly commercial there so its not pretty but there is lots going on around to watch which makes it interesting.
I surprised an old mate of mine called Lee by texting him and telling him I was in his part of the world and spent a bit of time with him on Wednesday and Thursday. Really good to see you and your family mate.

On Friday I set off for the massive sea voyage to the Beaulieu River. Its actually just around the corner so only took three hours. There wasn’t much wind and what there was, was right on the nose so I decided to motor which also meant I could spend 45 minutes going round in circles trying to recalibrate my auto helm compass. As it turns out the ever decreasing circles were totally pointless as the compass just wouldn’t calibrate. So, it looks like I need to buy a new one which I will try and arrange when I’m in Lymington in a few days time.

We crept up the Beaulieu River which is very pretty and I looked for somewhere to anchor. There are so many mooring buoys that finding a place to anchor with enough room to swing round proved impossible so I picked up a visitors mooring buoy and took Max ashore in the dinghy to Bucklers Hard where I had a beer overlooking the river at the Yachtsman’s Bar. Very nice indeed.
I also looked for the harbour master to pay my dues. On account of the fact that Lord Montagu own the river, he charges you even if you just fart in it. Ok, thats not entirely fair, you can come in for a look around and then go out again but as soon as you pick up a mooring buoy or even put your own anchor down (he owns the river bed too), payment is due. It is beautiful though and well worth a visit.

Last evening in Chichester Harbour


This is the outer marker for Chichester harbour entrance. It took some doing but we’ve left!

P1010116Spinnaker up, passing one of the Forts and various traffic

This is the one that was slightly too close for comfort


Going into the River Itchen


Under the Itchen Bridge


This photo is just because I like it!