Thursday, April 26, 2007

Still in Falmouth

(A few last minute pics from Falmouth...)

The anchorage is right near the docks, where we had some very large neighbours!

The Chain Locker pub near the town quay

Good Morning again from Falmouth. This week has been very relaxed. We spent several nights at anchor a little further up the river near Trelissick House, and an early morning doing some twitching in the dinghy even further upstream where we had to pay constant attention on the tide, in order not to have to carry it back to deeper water. Motored up at about 6am then switched the outboard off and enjoyed some tranquility while drifting back on the ebb in total silence, and almost undisturbed by other people save for a couple of kayakers. Spotted most of the birds as advertised in the brochure - herons, egrets, oystercatchers and others. Stayed at that anchorage for another couple of nights before heading back into Falmouth. I made a completely avoidable navigational error going around a green buoy the wrong way. Very embarrassing as there were people watching from the beach as Lady Ayesha grounded on the sandbank and sat there heeling over more and more as the last of the tide was still dropping. But despite sheeting in all sail, I couldn't get her to tilt enough to float free so luckily we were assisted by a couple of friendly blokes in a speedboat. Passed them a halyard and managed to swing free and back into deeper water again. A very good lesson learnt regarding paying attention to pilotage in narrow channels. Once anchored again we thought it a good idea to inspect the underside in case of any damage to rudder or skeg. In these waters, that means getting rubbered up!

We also did a bit of engine maintenance after hearing a slightly different tone from the drive chain to usual. Disconnected the propshaft at the flanges to check engine alignment and make any adjustments to the engine mounts if necessary as we had replaced these a few months earlier and they had now had a chance to bed in. Fortunately no further adjustments were necessary, and following inspection of prop, P bracket, stern gland and shaft concluded that everything was in order.

Had a terrific sail back into Falmouth where we were visited several times near our anchorage by this wonderful old square rigger which in the early morning mist looked like it had sailed sraight out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Anchored next to us are a couple, Paul & Christine, sailing their Canadian registered boat Quintana, en route to Ireland from their Atlantic crossing and a winter in France. Spent a couple of evenings hanging out with them, chatting over a bottle of wine or two and playing cards. Great to hear stories from the other side of the pond. Anyway, the weather front we were waiting for now appears to have passed over. The barometric 'dip' we saw over the last few days which was accompanied by fairly strong winds has now normalised, and the wind has veered again, so the plan now is to head down to near Penzance tomorrow, and around the corner on Saturday.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dartmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth

Hello again, this time from Falmouth where we've picked up another wi-fi signal. Thanks to everyone for your comments on the blog so far, it's always nice to read them, and as suggested, I'll try to add a bit more detail about the practical aspects of sailing, and life aboard!

But first, an update on our progress from Lyme Bay. We arrived in Dartmouth last Wednesday evening and dropped anchor in Newfoundland Bay, just at the entrance to the harbour, and just out of the area where harbour dues are applicable. Again, we had no problems with the anchor despite being close inshore to the rocks and a tiny little beach with a bit of swell coming in. Our anchor light is a paraffin storm lantern, which I hoist up the backstay using a halyard and which is still going strong despite its unknown age and rusty appearance. But I'm on the lookout for an LED light which will make things a bit easier. Our anchor watches take a bit of getting used to with the night divided up into 2 or 3 hour shifts. The last thing we want is to drag during the night due to an unexpected wind shift or mis-calculated tidal height. It is important to work out both the height of tide at the time of anchoring, as well as the expected height at low water to ensure we don't touch the bottom, and at high water, to ensure enough chain is laid out. We need minimum of four times the HW depth to keep the anchor dug in properly. The swing of the boat around the anchor is due to a combination of the effects of wind, tidal flow and depth, and so is almost impossible to calculate accurately. The effect of the wind may at some times override the effect of tide, or vice versa, meaning in some cases, such as at Mupe Bay, the boat will swing in a complete circle. The anchor needs to rebed itself reliably without too much drag on each turn. Our GPS alarm seems to work reliably and it's comforting to hear it go off now and then as we shift, but it's still necessary to monitor our position both visually using transits or compass bearings, and on the GPS and radar if visibility is low.

The next morning we sailed into Dartmouth and decided to take a visitor pontoon to allow us to rest, as well as to go into town together, as when anchored we never leave the boat unattended, or at least we keep her in sight. Dartmouth was a relaxing stopping point, where we stocked up with a few supplies, enjoyed an evening of steak and ale at the Cherub Inn, and met a few of the more interesting locals at the Ship In Dock. Also bought some fishing tackle and received plenty of advice from Rod O'Reely, so the lines will be over the side more often, and I'll be pursuing the elusive seabass with even more deadly equipment now! Also dropped in to the Dartmouth Sailing Club for a pint, and watched the racing of the traditional Cornish Pilot Gigs in the harbour which took place alongside our mooring.

We also took the opportunity to leave the bustle of the harbour behind, and row up the River Dart towards Dittisham. Making good use of the tide made things a bit easier especially as the outboard was out of petrol. We're looking forward to exploring more using the dinghy in shallow waters out of the reach of the 'mothership'.

Jaime took the helm to leave Dartmouth early Monday morning, with the passage planned for an arrival in Plymouth that evening. We started off with a lovely breeze which unfortunately dropped within a few hours, so progress remained slow, bringing us in to Plymouth Harbour just on dusk, but with dolphins paying us several visits along the way, playing alongside, and the sun sparkling on the water, I found very little reason to complain. Besides, running the engine for an hour or two guarantees us both a hot shower on arrival and plenty of charge in the batteries for the next few days. About an hour out of Plymouth the wind picked up to a surprising 25 knots and we had to reef the mains'l and furl in a bit of genoa to keep the Lady from heeling over too much. This is what we were waiting for all afternoon and we had a fantastic sail, tacking our way into the wind all the way into Plymouth harbour where we dropped the hook just across the marked channel from Drake's Island in an area charted as 'small craft anchorage'. Again, we avoided mooring fees. This area of coast has a long history of piracy and privateering, with the tradition enthusiastically upheld by the corporate marinas, one of which wanted to charge me £8.50 to park the dinghy on a pontoon to visit the chandlery for an hour! No way! I managed to get around this but we both felt disgusted at the commercial nature of sailing around such places and long to get to quieter, friendler ports. However, in contrast, I was thrilled to find a part to fix the old anchor windlass for a mere 90p, when I was facing the prospect of replacing it for £300, thanks to the expertise and great service from the guys at Plymouth Yacht Parts!

Wednesday morning and we were on our way to Falmouth, unsurprisingly located at the mouth of the River Fal. On our way past Dodman Point we were alerted by a securite announcement that the Navy were conducting an exercise in the area we were about to sail through. Not wanting to turn back, Jaime had her first radio contact with a warship to check that our progress would not cause us any problem, and more importantly that we wouldn't be inadvertently used as target practice! It was odd to hear the radio officer of a British Frigate speaking with what may have been a German or Dutch accent. The MOD have many bases along this coast and we regularly see Air Force planes in training exercises above.

Falmouth is a beautiful, thriving town with deep water access to protected estuaries, and a long seafaring history. As a working town with a reasonably sized commercial port, several marinas and a nearby university, it also has plenty to attract tourists by land. We took a mooring buoy for the first night which again gave us the chance to explore the town together, and buy supplies, aswell as dumping our rubbish and filling up with water. Falmouth has retained a small town feel but the student population and beach culture helps to maintain a youthful atmosphere reflected in plenty of galleries, interesting secondhand shops, imaginitive cafes, restaurants, and picturesque lanes and harbourside pubs. None of the trashy seaside attractions that places like Brighton and Blackpool have been blighted with. Well, enough of the advertising! We bought some seabass filets and local scallops from the fishmonger and dined aboard with a chilled bottle of white wine. This morning we were visited by the harbourmaster, not for dues, thankfully, but requesting us politely to anchor a short distance further away as another Navy Frigate was about to dock in the commercial port and we might be in the way (again!). So this was a spectacle to enjoy with morning coffee. All hands were in uniform on deck as she entered the dock about 200m behind us, with two pilot vessels to guide her in and other Naval support ships motoring alongside, and the harbourmaster zipping around in his boat trying to keep out of the way!

Falmouth Harbour, and a lovely sail training boat moored nearby. ...

Today at low water we will be heading up the river towards Truro to anchor in what is meant to be an area of beautiful wooded hills, abundant birdlife and protected estuaries containing oyster beds and bass nurseries (no, I won't be tempted!). This is where we need to do some more passage planning for the next part of the voyage, around Lands End, through the St George's Channel and the Irish Sea, and on to the Isle of Man, with several stops, probably in Wales, along the way. So the next update may not be for another week or two.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Worbarrow Bay to Dartmouth

Following a really enjoyable day at Mupe Bay we weighed anchor on Tuesday morning and drifted in the slightest of breezes and warm sunshine, further along the Jurassic coast past sweeping chalk cliffs and rocky shores to Durdle Door where we dropped the hook again for lunch. Have to admit to feeling just slightly smug as we watched the people on the beach baking in the midday heat while we sat in the shade in the cockpit and enjoyed a chilled beverage or two from the fridge.

After lunch we got into the dinghy, now becoming known as 'Baby Ayesha', and rowed down the beach to explore the rocks at the western end, and back through the Door. I imagine that most days this would have been quite dangerous but in this flat and balmy weather, with near neap tides and a big high pressure hanging over us, the sea was almost glassy. As a Birthday treat, Jaime also let me disturb the peace for a while by starting up the outboard!

Lady Ayesha through Durdle Door

Sailing ship passing Lulworth Cove

Unfortunately we had to start the engine up in the afternoon to get us on to Weymouth Bay where we briefly anchored for the night, outside the harbour. Didn't make a landfall there. The sounds of the seafront drifting across the bay reminded me of Brighton, and we were keen to get an early night before crossing Lyme Bay on Wednesday morning.

We were up and away by 4am on Wednesday as the passage was about 40 miles and we had to make the best use of the tide since we weren't expecting much help from the wind. We rounded Portland Bill with the fishing boats in the morning haze and several of Her Majesty's warships keeping the nation safe. The coast guard's reports warned us that there may still be containers floating in the area following the recent grounding of the Napoli, but despite a good lookout, and my desire for a slightly salty BMW motorbike, nothing was seen.

In the end, with just a few knots of breeze we had a good chance to practise using the cruising chute which up until now had only been aired once or twice. Jaime was particularly chuffed when we managed to gybe it without a hitch, a manouvre which in slightly stronger winds would require more than just two crew of our experience.

A visitor rests his wings. Not sure if it was a warbler or pipin perhaps. Our guide book left us unsure, but he looked very tired and happy to have somewhere to land for a while.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Beaulieu to Worbarrow Bay

Well, it's been a whole week since we've had internet access so there are a few photos to upload..

After Cowes, Beaulieu River, which is a privately owned nature reserve, was a welcome and surprisingly peaceful retreat from the crowded Solent. Tied up to a mooring buoy and enjoyed the late afternoon listening to the calls of water birds.

Friday morning saw us back out into the Solent and down to the Western approach where the fast tidal streams past the Needles swept us out towards Poole where we anchored in Studland Bay protected by 'Old Harry' amongst a few other yachts, eager to claim their places for the night. The fine weather saw many out on power boats and jetskis, creating wake for poor sailboats just waiting for the wind to pick up.

Studland Bay anchorage

Old Harry and his wife

The sun rises during Jaime's anchor watch.

Saturday saw us playing around Handfast Point, and then heading into Poole Harbour, where Lady Ayesha was built back in 1985, to drop off shipmate Colin who had joined us for these first few days. That evening we picked up a private buoy in Wareham Creek, further up Poole Harbour and did our passage planning for he next few days.

Colin and Old Harry

Handfast Point

On Sunday we got our first taste of the Jurassic coast, now quite familiar to anyone who has watched the endlessly repeated BBC TV series 'Coast'. We sailed close inshore to Saint Albans Head to avoid the races over the ledge, and entered the well known MOD firing range which won't be active again until after April 16. Arrived at Worbarrow Bay at dusk, and dropped the hook near another boat snuggled in behind Mupe Rocks which offereed protection from west and northerly winds. The catabatic effect over the high cliffs kept us rocking and swinging all night but 35 lbs of iron and 40 metres of heavy chain kept us safely connected to the seabed. The morning brought some beautiful views and we decided to stay for another night to allow us to expore the nearby coves and walk to Lulworth, just to the west. Apparently the caves behind Mupe Rocks were used by smugglers in times gone by, but a thorough search revealed not even a single dubloon.

Sunrise over Worbarrow Bay

Mupe Bay

Mupe Bay anchorage

Mupe Rocks

Worbarrow Bay

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Isle of Wight

We eventually left Brighton early on Wednesday morning with favourable winds, and a good pace all the way through the Looe Channel at Selsey Bill and on to the Isle of Wight. Stayed in Cowes overnight and now enjoying a relaxed morning before a short sail over to Beaulieu this afternoon.

Craig endures the usual morning rush hour!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tying up loose ends, and a departure date

Well, what a week. We both took our Yachtmaster theory exam today, and both passed which was a relief since we'd delayed our departure in order to complete it. We're required to log about 5000 sea miles before taking the practical exam which hopefully this trip will provide. So, just a few more last minute jobs to finish off: calorifier circulation pump needs replacing and rewiring, domestic hot water tank leaking at the outlet needs a new adapter and seal. And our ground tackle (ie: anchors) needs reassembling having bought all new shackles and a new second anchor, chain and rode. So, we expect to be underway Wednesday morning.

Picture is of Jaime up the mast a few weeks ago replacing a nav light and radar reflector.