Poole to St Alban’s Head – and back again! – 19th June 2015

Back down to Poole on the evening of the 18th, via the rural train line from Castle Cary to Weymouth, which is like travelling back in time.

I left Poole next day around 6.00 to pick up the last of the ebb out of Poole Harbour, but there would not be a favourable tide thereafter.  The forecast was force 4 to 5 SW, seas slight or moderate.  There was a good breeze, and once I turned south down towards Anvil Point, it was good sailing, 6-7 knots.  As we drew out of the lee of the land, the wind increased, and I rolled in some of the genoa to reduce the heel.  The seas were rougher than I was expecting, and the pitching around began to make me feel a bit queasy, even though I had taken tablets before setting out.

Brownsea Island
Brownsea Island
The Sandbanks ferry
The Sandbanks ferry

Turning southwest to take me around the St Alban’s ledge, and towards Portland, we were heading directly into the wind, and the waves, and I started up the engine and rolled the genoa in.  Against the wind, tide and sea, Chime was only making a couple of knots over the ground, so I bore away from the wind a little to give some drive from the mainsail, which took us to 3 to 4 knots.  But the motion was extremely unpleasant, and Chime was falling off some of the bigger waves into the next, in a cloud of spray.  I began to wonder whether it would be wise to turn back.  I was feeling worse, and the prospect, at the speed over ground we were making, of bashing into these seas for several hours was not an enticing prospect.  After plugging on a little while longer, to confirm that pressing on was not the right thing, I turned around.  Immediate relief! and my seasickness began to abate a little.

I arrived back at Poole about six hours after I had set out.  A yacht (Dufour 410) arrived later that had set off for France from the IOW, but they had also decided to turn back.  Further out in the Channel they had had 30 knot winds.

Old Harry
Old Harry

On the positive side, I did much better with the autopilot.  I had changed the rudder gain setting from 4 to 7, and this produced much more positive steering.  I also then noticed that there was some slipping of the belt on the wheel, and I think that I had not been engaged the cam mechanism fully to tension the belt.  Especially given the conditions, this time the pilot performed much more satisfactorily.

Poole to St Alban’s Head – and back again! – 19th June 2015

Gosport to Poole – 14th June 2015

Well after a bit of a break to help with Jen and Dan’s wedding – a fantastic day – the journey continues.  But first a note of thanks to Jules of Sheldon Marine in Gosport, who took the trouble to repair, rather than replace, at very modest cost, the faulty jammer for the kicking strap.

We (Chime and me!) left early to catch the west-going tide along the Solent and through the Hurst narrows.  Heading out of Gosport, we were passed by an inbound ferry and a German warship, but apart from a massive container ship leaving Southampton later on, and which passed behind us, there was not much commercial shipping, although quite a few yachts were around.  The weather initially was grey and murky, with a breeze heading us and a bit of a chop.  But after Southampton, the breeze dropped and it started brightening up.

Yarmouth, IOW
Yarmouth, IOW

By the time we reached Hurst Point it was flat calm.  We went up the North Channel, and here the wind sprung up again – genoa out, and I thought that when we rounded the North Head buoy we would be able to reach across to Poole.  However the wind died again and it wasn’t until some way across the bay that we had some wind again and I was able to turn the engine off for half an hour.

Hurst Point
Hurst Point
The Needles
The Needles

Entry into Poole Harbour was straightforward, and by mid afternoon I was berthed in Poole Quay Boat Haven.  Right by the old town, and good facilities, but a bit expensive.

Fliss drove down to pick me up, and we had dinner sitting in the cockpit.  There was some drama, however, when Fliss dropped my car keys – together with my house and office keys – in the harbour when she was getting off the boat to fetch some things from the car.  I stayed very calm I thought!  The yacht next door looked well equipped, so I suggested Fliss ask them if they had a magnet.  They did!  And after a few minutes bobbing with the magnet Fliss came up with the keys!  She wants to buy a magnet of our own, which sounds a bit ominous.

The entrance to Poole Harbour - Sandbanks on the right!
The entrance to Poole Harbour – Sandbanks on the right!

The car key wouldn’t start the car, so I opened up the fob and we put it on top of the oven to dry out.  I was looking forward to an extra night aboard, but sadly when we tried it later, the car started.

'Tenacious' in Poole
‘Tenacious’ in Poole
Gosport to Poole – 14th June 2015

Brighton to Gosport – 25th May 2015

I had originally been intending to leave Chime at Brighton until the next chance to continue the journey, but the forecast for the Monday was good (SW 3 to 4, dry) and looking at the tides, an early start would make it possible to reach Selsey Bill before the tide turned foul.  It seemed mad not to take the opportunity to reach Portsmouth.  Before I set off at around 7.00 I discovered water in the bilges again and had to pump them out.  We were able to motorsail towards Selsey in pleasant conditions, although the tide seemed to be taking a knot off our speed, when it should have been with us.  I had originally planned to take the outside route around the Bill, which meant going outside the Outer Owers.  The Shell Channel Pilot suggested that picking your way through the inside Looe Channel was not always straightforward.  However, a couple of other yachts that left at the same time as me were clearly heading for the Looe, so I decided to change plan and go through with them, as it would save quite a bit of time.  In the event it was very straightforward in the good conditions.

Leaving Brighton behind
Leaving Brighton behind

I had been a little apprehensive of sailing in the Solent, for the first time, singlehanded – shoal areas, a lot of commercial traffic, restricted channels etc., but again it presented no problem.  Despite a fresh breeze, the sea conditions were comfortable (unlike at Dover or Eastbourne) and this, together with the chartplotter at the helm, made it easy enough.  (My previous yacht had only a GPS down below, and so singlehanded piloting would have meant coping with a paper chart in a plastic wallet in the cockpit!).

Isle of Wight in the distance
Isle of Wight in the distance

Approaching Portsmouth we rounded Horse Sands Fort and I made for the port hand side of the channel.  There were a lot of yachts and small craft going in and out of the small boat channel and it was a bit chaotic!  Made taking photographs difficult!  I had decided to leave Chime at the Royal Clarence Marina at Gosport, based at a former naval yard.  It was a good choice, super location, excellent alongside berthing, and helpful staff.

Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower
Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower
Royal Clarence Marina, Gosport
Chime in Royal Clarence Marina, Gosport

The final word on the leaks: I found that the patent water system drain plug had been leaking, the cause of the water in the bilges this time.  I think I have fixed this!  I also discovered diesel in one of the cockpit coaming storage caves!  Couldn’t imagine how it had got there until I noticed a breather(?) from the day tank set into one end of the cave.  I must have really overfilled the day tank when trying to top it up a little more to get rid of the diesel leak the previous day.  I will need to speak to Mike Bell about these before tackling this final(?) teething problem.

But teething problems apart, and they have to be expected, I am really pleased with Chime.  She seems really capable, and signficantly faster than my previous yacht, which makes longer passages singlehanded so much easier.  She is very comfortable to live on too – running hot water, a fridge and a cabin heater make a big difference!  And then at the end of the day you can sit back and admire all Mike’s wonderful joinery.

The next stages on this journey in two or three weeks time (?) will be probably be Poole and Portland, and then around Portland Bill and across Lyme Bay to the cruising grounds I know, stopping at Dartmouth before taking Chime into Sutton Harbour at Plymouth.  I am hoping for some winds suitable for making sufficient progress without use of the engine!

Brighton to Gosport – 25th May 2015

Eastbourne to Brighton – 24th May 2015

A shorter leg today, and with no prospect of working the tide in our favour, I made a later start, locking out at 10.00 – with the Lifeboat!  Must have been tipped off!  (Despite both owners having been assisted by the RNLI with previous boats, Chime herself has so far been spared the ignominy, and long may it continue!)

Followed out of Sovereign Marina by the RNLI
Followed out of Sovereign Marina by the RNLI
The Sovereign Marina complex and entrance
The Sovereign Marina complex and entrance

The wind was westerly and so it was possible to motor-sail out past Beachy Head, but after that the genoa became redundant.  The passage itself was straightforward and I arrived at Brighton Marina mid-afternoon, when things quickly went downhill.  I decided to refuel and so went straight to the fuel pontoon.  However, the marina was short-staffed, and I must have waited an hour – not what you want when all you would like is to get tied up get a cup of tea.  The wait was made slightly more bearable by the company of another sailing boat, Spindrift, a rather strange vessel crewed by a couple in what looked like hand-knitted woolly hats.

Beachy Head and lighthouse
Beachy Head and lighthouse

The story behind Spindrift, I learnt, was that she is a dory, gaff rigged, built in wood by a man in Dorset, who then became terminally ill.  Her current owners had bought her recently, fitted her out, and were now sailing her back to Sandwich.  The fitting out had included the fitting of a Volvo Penta engine salvaged from a ship’s lifeboat, and which may have been a bit overpowered for the small yacht – more of this later.  Her owners were, I feel, novices.

After I had eventually been refuelled (and promised a discount) I motored around to my allocated pontoon.  Shortly after, Spindrift arrived, and the subsequent scenes were like the Keystone Cops of sailing.  Her skipper had some difficulty manoeuvring her into the pontoon space (a double) and kept thrusting her alternatively into full ahead and full astern, with the prop throwing up plumes of spray.  He found himself somehow laterally across the end of the pontoon finger, and instead of letting the marina staff just pull the boat around, he decided to ‘go out and come in again’, putting it into full ahead – straight at the side of Chime’s stern!  There was a big collision, the force of which ripped big chunks out of Chime’s substantial teak rubbing strake.  When they eventually were helped to moor up, the skipper was very apologetic, and agreed to pay for the damage to be repaired, but……

The damage....
The damage….
....the culprit!
….the culprit!

To add to the general misery, I found that the fuel tank dipstick tube was leaking even more after being filled up.  The tank is in the bilge and is fed by a hose, so all the fuel still in the hose would be leaking out.  Foolishly, while waiting around on the fuel pontoon, I had decided to top up the ‘day tank’ with fuel for the next day, so I couldn’t draw off more diesel from the main tank to stop the leaking.  It was simply a matter of packing it around with paper towel until the next day.

Brighton Marina is, I believe, the largest in Britain, and it must also be the worst.  It has no redeeming features at all, and seemed rather run down (broken pontoons etc), although there is some rebuilding going on.  By this time it was too late to walk into Brighton, so I ate in the Prezzo in the marina restaurant and shop complex.

Eastbourne to Brighton – 24th May 2015

Dover to Eastbourne – 23rd May 2015

I got up early to run the engine for an hour before I left to try to charge the domestic batteries.  Left early to try to get a fair tide at Dungeness.  The chartplotter was again only working intermittently.  Not too much of a problem, as I had up to date paper charts, a charting app on my tablet, and a handheld GPS, but puzzling, because if the batteries were not fully charged, the alternator should be providing enough charge for the plotter.  Then I suddenly thought!  Perhaps the battery selector needs to be in the ‘Both’ position for the alternator to be feeding the domestic circuit?  Went below to switch it over, and bingo, everything back to normal. So since Ipswich, the domestic batteries had been running the fridge, lights, etc. for quite a lot of time, without any charging.  So does the wind generator charge both sets of batteries when the battery selector is set to ‘Off’?  Need to ask Mike about that.

Waiting for a cruise ship to dock before leaving Dover
Waiting for a cruise ship to dock before leaving Dover

Again, a trip of two halves.  Up to Dungeness, pretty flat seas, north easterly wind, comfortable motor sailing.  So much so that I was able to do some trombone practice!  After Dungeness, the wind increased, still from astern, and increasingly steep seas – another wind over tide situation probably causing these.  I put the trombone away and concentrated on sailing on broad reaches.  Gybing was tricky, and I found the mainsheet system difficult to use from the helming position.  I was also concerned that when the sheet was in the jammer, if the forces on it were significant it was difficult to release it – something that could be a risk in strong winds.  Off Sovereign Harbour, I rounded into the wind to drop the main – again, stowing the sail properly was not easy on the pitching deck, and the autopilot did not do a good job of keeping the boat head to wind.

Passing Dungeness nuclear power station
Passing Dungeness nuclear power station

The entrance to Sovereign Harbour was easy, and I locked through with a number of other boats and into a visitor berth.  Nice, if modern marina, good facilities, Asda nearby.  In the evening I walked along the front into Eastbourne (about half an hour’s walk) and had dinner in a Portugese restaurant.  Not a lot else there though!

Berthed in Sovereign Marina
Berthed in Sovereign Marina
Dover to Eastbourne – 23rd May 2015

Ramsgate to Dover – 21st May 2015

I travelled to Ramsgate by train the evening before, and left early in the morning to make use of the favourable tide to Dover.  Singlehanded now!  It was a tale of two halves.  Motored in flat seas inside the Goodwind Sands, up the Gull Stream.  Breeze picked up, on the nose, but put up the sails and did some tacking up the channel.  Towards the southern end of the Gull Stream, there was an almost instant change from flat water to a chop.  Chime sailed pretty well to windward I thought, making 5 knots heeled over and into the seas.   I didn’t have time to consider how much leeway she was making though!   As we were making towards the SW Goodwin shoals I rolled in the genoa and motored directly towards Dover.  It was a bit of a roller coaster ride and a struggle to tidy the mainsail up after I had dropped it.  It was also a bit of a concern that the autopilot struggled to keep control in the conditions, as I rely on it quite a bit when I am singlehanded.  I was pleased to get into the shelter of the harbour.

Heading towards North Foreland
Heading towards North Foreland
Moored at Dover
Moored at Dover

Once moored up, I set about replacing the water pump – I had taken a new one with me.  Although of the same make, the mountings were different, and I had to walk into Dover to get new bolts and a drill.  The fitting went OK and I started running the pump to bring the system up to pressure.  It kept running, and running!  I looked in the engine compartment, and water was pouring out of what looked like a pressure release valve on the calorifier.  Filling the bilges for a second time!  I emptied the cockpit locker to get at the valve, and a bit of a fiddle with it produced the desired result.  Refilled the water tank and now had running water, a big improvement!  I also noticed that there was some diesel leaking from the dipstick tube on the tank, after I had fuelled up.

During the journey, the chartplotter display had also been blacking out at times, and when I tried to enter the waypoints for the next day’s passage to Eastbourne, it shut down.  The battery monitor was showing that the voltage of the domestic batteries was low.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have the fridge on all the time!

Ramsgate to Dover – 21st May 2015

Sheltering in Ramsgate – 14th May

Dan left for home that morning (thanks for your help across the Thames Dan!), and we were glad we had brought the trip forward by a day, as the weather was atrocious.  Winds building to Force 6 or 7, and torrential rain.  I was settled in the cabin with the heater on when yachts started arriving!  Turned out it was the Ostend – Ramsgate race organised by the Royal Temple Yacht Club, and about 40 yachts made the harbour – a lot of soaking crews.  If I had known how many were coming in, I might have gone to the harbour mouth to watch them in the seas outside, but I imagine it might have been a bit scary!

Race boats
Race boats
A better day for the race fleet on the Friday
A better day for the race fleet on the Friday
Sheltering in Ramsgate – 14th May