August 1992 - Ipswich to Falmouth - Page 2

11 August 1992   Brighton Marina
Ceris and I caught a train back to Brighton.

The bad weather looks like it’s here to stay and we continue to have lashing rain and high winds. It’s extremely miserable staying on a yacht in England in the rain. All the hatches have to be closed and, inevitably, everyone’s clothes get wet and have to be hung up around the boat. This causes massive amounts of condensation and everywhere feels and smells damp. Yuk! Fortunately Ceris, a sprightly 70 year old, can take the children out into town while Glenys and I carry on working on the boat.

12 August 1992   Brighton Marina
The miserable weather continues with lashing rain and gale force winds. I busied myself doing some jobs on the boat. One of the bad design aspects of our boat is that the showers drain down into a bilge sump deep in the keel.

Settling into life aboard

I was in the middle of scraping the stinking soap and hair sludge from the bilge when Gareth’s wife, Fi unexpectedly arrived. She has flown over from the Caribbean where she and Gareth are working on their newly acquired Nicholson 55 called “Dabulamanzi”. They are planning to start doing up-market charters for two to four people and Fi has come back to England to buy things that are impossible to buy in the Caribbean. We babbled for a couple of hours about our respective boats and then Fi breezed out on her way back to the sunny Caribbean. 

13 August 1992   Brighton Marina
We’re still stuck in the marina with gales and heavy rain.

The strong winds and the forces on Glencora as she strained against the ropes, started me thinking about our anchors. We have three anchors onboard, a 45 lb. plough, a 35 lb. danforth, and a 50 lb. fisherman. I had intended to use the 45 lb. plough as our main anchor, but I had another look at it (while the wind howled) and decided that it was just a cheap copy of a CQR anchor.  I wandered down to the chandlers and bought a brand new 45 lb. CQR anchor - hopefully it will be worth the money.

14 August 1992   Brighton Marina to Chichester
Finally, after 3 days’ rain, the weather cleared and we sailed down to the Solent. We left the marina at midday, with blue skies, light wind and slight seas.  We arrived at Chichester Bar at low water springs so had to be very careful over the bar.

We sailed towards Northney Marina and I foolishly went on the wrong side of a marker and went aground. I soon got us off and crawled into the Marina with my tail between my legs. The harbour master expressed surprise that I’d managed to get in at low tide – I said nothing...

15 August 1992   Chichester to Cowes Marina
The next day we decided we would sail to Portsmouth, leave the yacht in a marina and go to visit HMS Victory and the Naval Museum. We managed to find our way out of Chichester Harbour and into Portsmouth without any further incidents. As we approached Nicholson’s marina, I noticed that the outside pontoons were being bounced up and down at least two feet by the wash from the passing ferries. I decided that I didn’t want to leave Glencora there, so I elected to go into one of the inner pontoons.

I checked the wind, which was blowing from the south. I decided that I would turn upwind and dock onto one of the pontoons on our port side. I entered the finger pontoons and selected the furthest one on the port side. In the next berth there was a very pretty looking Nicholson 42. As I turned the corner, I realised that the tide was remorselessly pushing us into the berth. I hit reverse and screamed at Glenys to be quick. Unfortunately, Glencora “kicks” to starboard when she’s put into reverse - this caused our stern to move sideways to starboard and with a big “Crump”, we hit the Nicholson. The owner (who had just stood there and made no attempt to help us) did a lot of ranting and raving in a very affected oxbridge accent. Eventually he stung me for £15 to get a small scratch repaired (“or I’ll get the yard to do it!”) - so much for the cruising community...

We took a ferry across to the other side of Portsmouth Harbour and spent a few hours in the Nautical Museum. We went on the HMS Victory, but didn’t have enough time to spend all day and see the other exhibits, which was a shame. I especially liked the guide on the HMS Victory who was a retired seaman and was very enthusiastic with his commentary. He would mime various parts of his descriptions such as ramming powder home into the cannons. He gave graphic details of the death of Nelson and his ride home in a barrel of rum. The sailors apparently each drank a tot of the rum that was used to preserve Nelson’s body because they thought that they would receive a bit of Nelson’s strength.

Back on the boat, I looked at the tricky problem of how to get out of the tight berth without causing any more mayhem - particularly with the Nicholson close to starboard.. The tide was still pushing us into the berth. We were on the inside of the row of pontoons, with nowhere to go to our starboard side. There was about 50 feet to the pontoons on the opposite side and the berth directly opposite us was occupied. The only way out appeared to be to back out against the current and then swing to port against the starboard kick of the propeller. It didn’t look good and the local residents were settling themselves down with a beer to watch the action.

 I decided on my Grand Plan. I would leave a stern port spring to the end of our pontoon and use that to turn the boat to port as I backed up. Glenys was to lengthen the spring until we were pointed at 45 degrees to our pontoon and then she could pull the rope on board. I would then motor in reverse like mad, and hopefully back into a vacant berth on the opposite dock, from where I could leave forwards.

All went well at first. We started to back up and the spring did indeed turn us to port. What I hadn’t counted on was the force of the tide. As we turned more sideways onto the tide, it took hold of the stern and remorselessly pushed us around. We pivoted around the end of our finger pontoon and ended up in the berth on the opposite side of our pontoon, which was fortunately vacant! The good news was that we were now facing outwards, and all I had to do was to motor out forwards. I slammed the engine into gear and with a great roar headed out of the marina. Glenys gave me a sick smile. Ceris looked at me with a worried frown.

Our next stop was Cowes. We wanted to berth somewhere near to the town but the town docks were heaving with boats rafted five deep. We decided to go all the way up the river to a public dock. We motored up the river avoiding the sand banks shown on our chart. Then we went off the edge of our chart...

Just as Glenys told me that it was getting shallower, I felt the now familiar deceleration as we went aground in the middle of the river at low tide. I tried to reverse off, but unfortunately, we had been going at about four knots and were hard aground.

About ten minutes later, a 30 foot yacht pulled up alongside and asked if they could help. I threw them a rope from our bow and asked them to tow our bow around so that we were pointing back down river. As they pivoted us around, I powered the engine forwards and we floated free of the mud bank that had been holding us.

Thanking our rescuers, we tentatively inched our way towards the nearest vacant berth on the dock at the side of the river. We tied alongside and, by asking a nearby yacht, I found out that we were on a private dock - great! We decided to stay there for the night and hoped that the owner of the berth was out for the night. We were just settling down to our dinner when the owners came back and we had to head back up the river to the marina that Glenys had suggested earlier. Fortunately, the tide had risen and we made it to the marina without further incident.
Just before we went to sleep, I whispered to Glenys that her mum must think we’re totally incompetent - we’ve hit another boat and been aground twice in the space of two days. “We are,” she replied.

16 August 1992   Cowes Marina to Southampton
We sailed across to Ocean Village Marina, Southampton arriving early afternoon without incident. We chilled out for the rest of the day.

17 August 1992   Ocean Village Marina, Southampton
Ceris went home for a well deserved rest and the weather took a turn for the worst, so Glenys decided to take the children into town for a walk around. She stopped to look at the ruins of an old church and let the children run around. Craig managed to fall down some steps and split his forehead open. Glenys had to get a taxi to take them to the hospital. Poor old Craig came back with 4 stitches in his forehead.

This was our first medical problem and it made us consider the risks of being on a boat in the middle of nowhere. We took out our medical supplies and checked what we had. We were carrying a wide range of painkillers from simple paracetamol, through Neurophen to our strongest, Antalgin 550. We had thought about taking injectable morphine based pain killers but finally decided that we didn’t have the skill or knowledge to safety inject someone. We had stick-on butterfly stitches and also some thread stitches for real emergencies. I’m was fairly sure that I could manage to stitch the other three, but Glenys is so squeamish that if I needed to be stitched I would probably have had to do it myself!

We had Flammazine and sterile dressings for burns; an emergency dental repair kit for teeth; Arret for the runs; lotion for head lice; eye drops; anti-fungicidal creams; a whole range of antibiotics; antiseptics; a good supply of seasickness tablets; the list went on and on. Satisfied that we had covered most eventualities, we packed it all away.

18 August 1992   Southampton to Yarmouth
The weather was more pleasant today, so we headed out of the marina and went alongside a barge anchored in the middle of the river. The enterprising couple who own this barge have set it up with diesel tanks and a pump and sell diesel to passing yachts. The marinas in the area don’t have fuel docks so the barge does a roaring trade.

There was very little wind and, remembering my appalling boat handling in Portsmouth, I decided that we would do some practice at reversing. We positioned ourselves in the middle of the river and tried slowly reversing.The stern kicked to starboard and we went in circles. We tried reversing hard and found that the stern kicked to starboard. We tried various rudder positions and engine power, but remorselessly the damn boat would turn to starboard. We gave up, and resigned ourselves to the fact that we couldn’t control the boat in reverse. We would turn to starboard no matter what we did.

After our balletic display, we sailed down to Yarmouth and picked up a mooring outside the harbour ready for an early start to Cherbourg tomorrow.

19 August 1992   Yarmouth to Cherbourg
We dropped the mooring at six o’clock and set off on our first international passage. I had spent hours checking tides and putting way-points into our GPS receiver. We had stowed everything away and were fully prepared for anything that the ocean could throw at us.

We motored all the way.... The biggest hazard was the large clumps of weed floating in the water. The weed itself is not really a hazard, but I was worried about going through the weed in case there was any rope or net hidden in it, which could wrap around our propeller. I spent most of the day steering us around these dense little islands of vegetation.

Halfway across the Channel, we decided to get out the mystery parcel that Grandad had left behind for the boys. We made a big fuss about getting the box out, and Brett and Craig were worked up into a frenzy of anticipation. The box came out. Slowly I cut away the tape. We delayed the moment by trying to guess what was in it. Cars? Lego? Big trucks? Toy Boats? I put the box down and let the boys at it. They feverishly ripped open the flaps and found....

A video player and some cartoon video tapes.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a television. Try explaining to a three year old and a five year old that they can’t watch “Robin Hood” and “Duck Tales” because rotten old Mummy and Daddy don’t want to get a television. We managed to calm them down by delving into Glenys’s cupboard of goodies.We made a sign saying “Nice Video, No TV” and took a picture of the boys to send to Grandad. I quietly hid the video and tapes while the boys munched happily on sweets.

To pass the time while motoring across the Channel, I played with “Estimated Position” navigation and found that I was not very accurate when compared to the GPS – I reckon that I didn’t pay enough attention to the actual course steered and I think that our log over-reads. I had to rely on the GPS more than I wanted to.

My nerves were on edge as we entered the huge outer harbour of Cherbourg. Would the Customs be a problem? How are we going to find a berth? In fact, there are big signs directing yachts to the visitors’ berths in a huge marina and the Customs procedure was a simple matter of filling in a form. We had made it, we were abroad.

20 August 1992   Cherbourg
Went into town and mooched about, waiting to sail overnight.