A Three For One Break

If you have been wondering why I’ve not posted anything recently its because we’ve been busy sailing a newly fettled Temptress with gleaming topsides, clean teak decks and no green on the canvas work. Thx JWS! Out of sight a lot more has been sorted too by One Degree West and rigger Martin Leaning in this refit which left Kevin’s wallet reelling. Much of it was work we’d normally do ourselves but time is precious when you live in another country to your boat. So get yourself a cup of coffee and bear with me if this post is a tad long but I hope you’ll enjoy our adventures too.

To start at the beginning…we managed not one but three mini-cruises between Good Friday and end of the first May Bank holiday! As a bonus the thursday evening before Good Friday saw a return to the good old days with the crews of Aspen, Mingarry, Eos and Blue drinking the health of the oversea’s contingent of Southsea’s E&F pontoon mafia aka the crews of Full Flight (now cruising Malysia) and Temptress around Temptress’ saloon table. Son Will arrived to join the crowd late in the evening from London whilst Friday morning saw a few cases of “Southsea Head” along the pontoons. It was lovely to see everyone and be together again.

Cruise One – French Adventure

Temptress of Dwon , St Vaast

For our first cruise Temptress with Kevin as Skipper and Susie, friend Paul (skipper of Clarionet) and Will (son and sometime cabin boy from earlier cruises) as crew, headed across the Channel in the general direction of Deauville to the south and east of Portsmouth. Somewhere in the shipping lanes during the evening given the current rate of progress we realised there might not be sufficient rise of tide to get into Deauville or Trouville or most other ports in that general vicinity except L’Havre and we all agreed the latter was not on our itinery. Eventually after much discussion we all gave in to the Skipper and headed for his original choice of destination, St Vaast in Normandy, “around the corner from Cherbourg”. We arrived soon after 1am with plenty of time before the harbour gate closed, though the First mates ability to calculate tides for secondary ports was rather rusty. In the morning I hustled everyone out of their bunks to find breakfast at the Easter market. There is a market in St Vaast every Saturday morning but the Easter one is a bit bigger and busier. We ate huge sausages in rolls though the requests for sauces got a bit lost in translation between the french staff and we each got a messy helping of ketchup. As usual with this lovely French village the crew spent their day eating and sleeping… a long long lunch with views over the quayside in a disorganised restuarant eventually yielded moules frites.

The crew loitering in sunny France

After a couple of beers in the sun at the bar on the other side of the marina and a late afternoon nap we fitted in a trip to Hotel Fuschias’ wonderful dining experience. Highly recommended if you have never been but do book. We were amazed to get a table on Easter Saturday night, though Kevin was a bit disappointed not to be able to sit in the conservatory with its trompe d’oeil and the eponymous fuschias growing up the walls. The service is amazing, attentive but not in your face, the staff obviously love their jobs and the courses are from foodie heaven interspersed with lots of lovely extra bits.

The next day we left shortly after the gate opened again to head back across the channel. It was initially a good sail but then we settled down to radar watch and motoring in poor viz and little wind. Various members of the crew slept at various intervals which was hardly surprising considering the quantities of food we’d consumed. No organised watch for suc a short trip. The hours passed quickly and it didn’t seem long before we were tying up on Southseas holding pontoon to land our crew who had to head off for work and an interview respectively on Tuesday. Paul provided Will with a lift to the station and Temptress headed across the harbour to pay her Harbour Dues.

Cruise Two – Westward Ho!

Sunset – Newton Creek, IoW

Wallop. Somewhere just short of the Hayling Island side a few boat lengths from the ferry pontoon the keel hit the putty at seven knots. Ouch my knee hurt from falling forward onto it on the side deck where I’d been bending down to pick up a mooring line. More than ouch I realised my thumb was leaking profusely all down one side having apparently had the wire that opens the jaws on the spinnaker pole embedded in one side of it briefly. Now I know why they call it a cheese-wire! Two neat slices above and below my thumb knuckle. Fortunately with the wind and tide opposing each other Temptress was happy just to sit across the north end of the harbour entrance whilst first aid was administered. Harbour dues extortedand a bright red sticker newly attached to the port quarter, Temptress headed down the Solent to Newton Creek to spend the night on a bouy. There is nothing so wonderful as taking the tide out of the Solent through the Needles Channel – it always brings back memories of holidays and races past whilst anticpating adventures to come. We were amazed to see looking north across the Shingles a new bit of England – dead on high water and there for all to see were a hundred yards or so of shingle standing several feet above sea level. Probably a sight you’d only see once in a lifetime.

Peaceful nights in Weymouth ?
Not with this things generators running!

The northerly wind was ideal for reaching across Christchurch Bay past St Albans Head and into Weymouth but bitterly bitterly cold for us Middle Eastern dwellers with our now thinned blood. Without consultation both crew donned full winter thermals, mid-layer salopettes lined with fleece, fleece jackets, hats, boots and oilies. The first mate found a scarf and gloves too and used every excuse to escape down below to the warmth of the galley to try out the new toy Mr D’s Thermal Cooker or to the nav table. Listening to the VHF we realised that being a midweek in April Lulworth range was active to headed south of the whole area partly to avoid it and partly because it was a faster course to sail.

The range officer and the safety boats conversations about other boats approaching the area from either side kept us amused for sometime but proved useful when we realised that we could cut the corner a bit, head up more north-westerly and shorten our voyage to Weymouth. After a fantastic cobweb removing sail we arrived in Weymouth mid afternoon with time to do a spot of provisioning as well as invest in a new fender to replace the last of the big round ones from our old boat Mustigo (we actually require two fenders but the cost of one put us off a second). If it lasts as long as its predecessor the annual cost will be under a fiver but the initial “investment” was a bit of a shock. The camaraderie amongst the rafted boats on the quayside was all always in this harbour, wonderful and our thermally cooked lamb supper lovely. The following morning at 6am we were woken politely as arranged by the big converted fishing boat inside us who wanted to catch the tide to Dartmouth. The rafts ahead and behind were also being broken apart so it was easy once the two boats outside of us had let go, to cast off and do a circle until they’d gone. Then we reformed our raft with Temptress alongside the pontoon.

As we were wide awake in the chilly morning air it seemed stupid to waste a lovely morning by returning to our bunk so by 11am we’d cycled the ten miles to Abbotsbury in time for the noon feeding of the swans. The cycle nearly killed us so unfit we have become but it was well worth the effort to see the hundreds of swans with many many pairs sitting on nests all around the place. The swannery has been there for hundreds of years, originally to provide food for the monks in the near by abbey, though sawn meat is a bit of acquired taste apparently tough, stringy and fishy tasting. This swan heaven with three meals a day and nests provided sits at the top end of Chesil Bank on the shores of the Fleet, the lagoon formed on the landward side of the bank. At this end the Fleet is virtually freshwater, what swans require for drinking, further down it turns brackish and there eel grass grows on the bottom, a delicacy for the swans. These swans belong to Abbotsbury not the Queen nor one of the London Guilds, the latter own most of the Thames swans, the former all the rest. The swans are free to fly and are tagged, visiting swans get a tag too to indicate that they have visited rather than ownership. Shortly after our visit the first cygnets fo the season arrived, a couple of weeks ahead of the usual schedule, probably because of the unseasonably warm weather the UK had had before our arrival.

A couple of hours later and our stomaches were reminding us of lunch time so we headed back up the hill to the village pub. Across the road was a bus stop… we have folding bikes so it tempted us with an easier trip home to Weymouth. Checking the times there was a bus due about now, 13:15, with the next in two hours time…two hours for lunch? Nope, we choose to get the bus and sort out food at our destination. A heavily tattoed scruffy man in his forties sat on the bus-stop bench with a large Alsatian at his side. The dog came over for a scratch round the ears and we soon struck up conversation. “Bus due soon?”, “Yes mate but its always late by the time it gets here”, “Nice dog”, “Yes mate she likes taking the bus to the pub”. It soon transpired the guy didn’t drink in his local in the next village, no reason given. Man and dog used to the bus to frequent the village hosterlies between Weymouth and Dorchester, a different one each lunchtime through the week, the timetable providing a convenient amount of drinking time. On the bus the two elderly ladies heading into Weymouth for a spot of shopping started up a lively conversation with us and anyone else who’d join them on the merits of having folding bikes and more… I couldn’t quite picture them actually riding a bike at their age around the Dorset hills though!

Back in Weymouth we cycled along the seafront and found a tatty looking coffee house (thats what the sign said) with people sitting out front, Hamiltons. It was out of the wind, in the sun and the lunch menu attracted us. A large portion of upmarket fish,chips and mushy peas for the Skipper and a wonderful dressed crab with salad for me accompanied by a coke and a huge glass of Scilian white wine respectively. Peeling paint and wobbly chairs belied the wine bar’s amazing food. A slight, Italian mama served us, her son issuing instructions from inside. Every B&B along the front had patriotic bunting stretching from their railings to the upper floors and across the road glimpses of the beach could be caught between the parked cars. What we love about Weymouth, after it’s lovely harbour is that it remains a traditional English seaside resort. Lets hope the Olympics don’t transform it too much as I love its slightly run down scruffy, cheerful streets.

Too soon it was time to head back east to collect our passengers for the third and final mini-cruise. The wind had turned more easterly and was blowing hard. With the first reef in and a scrap of headsail (we are glad our well cut genoa still sets well when furled) we set off for Worbarrow Bay. Normally this amazing location shletered in most winds is closed to the public as it is deep within the Lulworth gunnery range but a comment by the range officers had left us wondering whether the might be no firing on the thursday before the Royal Wedding holiday. In Weymouth Harbour Office the list was out of date and the staff promised to find out, which they did, coming down to the boat on Wednesday evenig as they left for the day to tell us they had had a call that the range was open (ie no firing and open to the public) from late on Wednesday until Monday morning. The east end of the bay is a lovely spot surrounded by colourful cliffs a steep shingle beach and aa flatish bit of beach to land a dinghy on.

Telephone box, Tynham

In warm sunshine we made the short walk up to the deserted village of Tynham evacuted by the army in 1943 its residents never allowed to return since. The was no one else there except the birds so it was an eery place frozen at a point in time when national interest came above people’s lives and well being. We could hear a woodpecker tap tapping somewhere. The telephone box, church and school room remain intact but the mostly tiny cottages are just four walls. It has never seen post war development and having been small with a declining population in the forties, had hardly changed since the end of the Victorian era. Sad but fascinating.

From Worbarrow we beat then motored against a vague easterly back into the Solent via the Needles again to take our usual place against the wall in a busy bank holiday Yarmouth. The partying was in full swing with a fair on the green and twenty-somethings dressed as memmbers of the royal wedding party clambering out of ribs and heading into town somewhere. After a walk along the foreshore to Victoria fort and supper onboard we retreated to the yacht club for a few bevies. We propped up the bar with a bunch of old salts (you know the types who prop up yacht club bars the world over) who were more than acquainted with Paul’s boat Clarionet and her racing pedigree having competed against her when they were younger. It had rained whilst we were inside and was blowing a bit as we walked back through Yarmouth’s narrow streets. Not quite certain how we made it back onto Temptress who by now had two UKSA forty-odd footers outside of her. In this blowy-off berth the result was a six foot gap between boat and wall with the deck several feet down and no ladder conveniently placed. We obviously managed the transition without incident  as I woke up safe and sound in my bunk the next morning!

View over Yarmouth harbour from the bridge

Late morning we unfurled a smidgeon of gennie and tucked in the first reef to beat up the Solent to Southsea, thankful that the easterly wind was warmer than the polar blasts we’d had earlier in the week. It became an imformal race against one of the UKSA boats that had been alongside us, a SO 45. We crossed tacks several times on our path back and forth eastwards until Kevin & I agreed that lunch at anchor in the lee of the Isle of Wight would be more than pleasant. That way we’d also have the tide with us for the afternoon and anyway we didn’t want to arrive in Southsea at low water. After a spot of homemade asparagus rissotto we weighed anchor and continued east. Round the “bend” in the Solent at Cowes the wind freed us off a little which helped. Then, off Southsea beach, we furled away the genoa before shaking out the reef so the main could folded neatly onto the boom whilst we had searoom. The weather forecast for the weekend was gloomy with gales mentioned, with passengers on board it would be easier to handle just the gennie so the main was put away until our summer holiday. A surfeit of sail ties held everything in place – yellow, pale blue and red ends gaily fluttering in the breeze, the sail cover would go on later. Then there was a small incident when the helm ie me failed to keep to the wrong side of the channel (yes I know I’ve taken the boat up there many times before and I know the deep water is at the red pole side, I have no defence except perhaps day dreaming). We ran firmly aground just after the green and red poles where the big dog leg is… with help from the Skipper windiing the wheel back and forth and lots of engine revs Temptress became a dredger until with a slight rise fo the tide eventually the big torpedo shaped bulb on the keel ploughed us back into deeper water – oops sorry skipper, I’ll try to remember next time!

As always the Southsea Marina staff uncomplainingly cleared a space big enough for Temptress after we’d called to announce our imminent though eventually slightly delayed arrival. They then provided a welcome hand to help spring her into the berth against the strong winds. Supper was a tasty Stella Stew with dumplings and new potatoes from the thermal cooker.

Cruise Three – Cowes And Back

The Royalist entering Cowes

Kevin’s parents were expected not before 10am the next day so I was somewhat surprised shortly after 8am the following morning to emerge from the toilets and find my father-in-law wandering around. By ten everything was stowed, our new crew installed in the cockpit warmly wrapped up and Temptress made her way back down the marina channel for the third time in eight days. It was a quick downwind sail under a small scrap of jib to Cowes with helpings of cup-a-soups to keep the cockles warm enroute.

We had selected the Yacht Haven as a suitable mooring crossing our fingers that we would get an alongside berth to avoid too much clambering up and down for the oldies.  They responded by giving us probably the most awkward berth in the marina. The cross berth in the north basin could only be entered by turning sideways to all the traffic in Medina and reversing in. Having waited for the car ferry to depart Kevin had to run the gauntlet of several large yachts, ribs and other assorted craft heading either up or down the Medina once I had all the fenders and lines sorted. Once through the North Basin entrance things settled down and we were gently blown into the allocated space, the cockpit providing a pleasant, sunny lee for lunch.

The the four of us headed into the high street for a spot of wallet emptying in a swindlery. The main halyard’s captive shackle had bent sometime the previous day and now would not close, a quick rummage through our deck spares box had shown us to be woefully short of shackles of any kind. The list was quite long; shackles, replacement sail rollers for the guard wires, shroud covers/rollers and more. The best thing about boat shopping is that you have to visit so many chandleries to acquire everything on your list so we found a few things not necessarily on the list and caught up with acquaintances on the way!

I also managed a quick dive into the Sebago shop and am now the proud owner of a pair of red siling “slippers” – that’s not their real name but these soft sailing shoes really feel as comfortable as slippers even when soaking wet, dry quickly and cling tight to a slopping deck thanks to their octopus like suckers. Sir Frances Chichester sailed round the world in his carpet slippers and I’ve sailed everywhere in my once pale blue and white ones for the last six years unless its really cold when I tuck into my Dubarries. My old pair still have some life left in them but are gradually succumbing to the effects of salt water with bits of the lacing mechanism now tied together and the soles starting to part company from the uppers. My smart new pair will see me nicely turned out on the newly fettled Clarionet for the Channel Classics in June!

Portsmouth skyline

A couple of beers with our friends at Cowes Corinthian partly watching the footie, partly chatting was followed by all but me retiring for a snooze! Later supper at Mojac’s was wonderful although there was an awkward moment when Noel realised his chicken dish was not what he thought it was and a bit over sauced for his liking. Still the scrummy puddings made up for that. The next morning we needed an early start to catch the tides for Southsea, our plane the following day, Tuesday could not be missed. The weather forecasters had got it right it was blowing fives or sixes, gusting sevens or more all from the East. Everyone donned lifejackets and oilies for the trip. Getting out of the north basin cross berth just by the entrance was an interesting problem Kevin & I had pondered the day before but was actually easier than we’d feared. I think the folk on the race boat berthed across our stern were possibly a bit worried when the Skipper reversed onto our spring to turn the bow through the wind but our projecting sugar scoop stern was well clear of their topsides. I scrambled back to relase the stern spring and we headed out into the melee that is the Medina when everyone is leaving. It was windy and after a couple of long tacks across to the North Island and back we made little headway against the rapidly turning tide, plus the passengers were finding life at an extreme angle a bit tedious so Temptress returned to the slight shelter offered by north shore and motored homeward.

Off Southsea beach we indulged in a bit more sail handling this time it was judged the only safe place to take the genoa down in the strong easterlies as it would be on the beam in our berth. George the autopilot was left in charge of sailing whilst I handled the halyard and Kevin went forward to wrestle the acres of cloth. It all got a bit wet when a gust blew the bow off head to wind and part of the sail made a bid for freedom but between the pair of us we recovered it aboard and tied it down. A quick fill up with diesel on the way into the marina and we were back in our home berth in time for lunch. Eos and Aspen were still there, the weather delaying to their plans to sail across the Channel south to Brittany’s warmer climes for a couple of months or so. (Premier Marina’s offer their berth holders a sabbatical repaid through a reduction in the following years mooring fees which means you effectively save some money by taking a break from your home port for a month or more up to three months I think.)  

We packed up piles of dirty towels, bedding and clothes. There was a small bag of clean stuff along with assorted other things to take back to DXB.  Our remaining perishable food was handed to Gina of Aspen to help feed the marooned crews during their wait for more favourable winds and around 5:30pm we were finally about to depart when Kevin remembered he needed to empty the bilge.

When Temptress was launched the stern gland seal was not properly formed and a small aount of water had found its way into the boat and into the engine bay. We’d hoped it would work its way forward to the bilge pump but hope is just that… the scuppers between the various sections of bilge were blocked with hair, dust and crumbs from the cabin sole so the water had remained all week swilling round. Two people and one stirrup pump applied themsleves to the task and Temptress now has a fairly well washed, dry bilge again.

The pump filter had to be unblocked again as most of the rubbish ended up there. This involves emptying a hanging locker containing a dozen or so self-inflating life jackets, grab bag, high intensity safety light, two old foam type life jackets (for sitting on in the liferaft should we ever come to that situation as they apparently keep your bottom warmer or just for kids/adults to wear for fun jumping into the water) and the electric drill box. Lift up the locker base and hey presto two bilge pumps, one manual and one electric plus the pressure cooker in the locker below… you can’t reach the filter via the lower locker by removing the pressure cooker, that would be just too simple on a boat!  Shortly after six the car was packed and we were on the road to Ham. The end of three delightful mini-cruises and very sad that it was time to head back to DXB even if the weather would be welcomingly warmer.

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