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Journey from Milford Haven

It all began in the clubhouse at Hoo Ness Yacht Club in August 2007. We had only recently made ourselves members. We had a Hunter Minstrel 23’ gaff rigged boat, and had been sailing up and down the east coast for about 15 years. We usually moored our boat in Hoo Marina when we were sailing, and would then take the boat out of the water at Mariner’s Farm and leave it there during the winter. Lurking around on one of the tables at the club there was a copy of the latest “Sailing Today” magazine. Somewhere in the back of our minds there had been a desire to own a bigger boat with a junk rigged sail. What should we find in this magazine but an advert for this particular kind of boat. The boat happened to be in Wales and that meant a long journey to Pembrokeshire, to a place called Lawrenny.

We had looked at other junk rigged boats but were happy with the detailed information we had received about this one. It was a 27’ Colvic Salty Dog and ticked all the boxes for what we were now needing: we could stand up inside, an inboard diesel engine and an anchor winch. The owner switched on that engine – it seemed to work, and it would be the first time we would be regularly using an inboard engine. There was a Taylor's paraffin stove, which I was told would be safer than the gas cooker I had been used to using. There was a flushable sea toilet with holding tank. It seemed like a luxury. So we made the decision and bought the boat after some haggling with the price. The surveyor’s report found no major problem. The boat's name is “Joleta of Pettycur”' named after a Scottish queen: a name we liked and decided to retain. During the following two years we spent many weeks at Lawrenny while refurbishing the boat.

We were aware that the boat was somewhat neglected and in need of updating, but the amount of refurbishment needed became more apparent as time went on. The stove was overhauled. The fuel supply tubing to it was replaced throughout. I had the upholstery dry cleaned and finished off all the seams inside as they were badly frayed. The mast needed re-wiring before stepping and the sail rigged. At the same time the sail halyard and lazyjack ropes and shackles were replaced. All the instrumentation, VHF radio and associated wiring had to be replaced and updated. Cabin wiring and lights were replaced. Gradually, problems were found which had not been immediately noticed when we bought the boat. Andrew spent some rainy nights in the boat and soon became aware of the leaks. Windows were removed and seals replaced. The fore-hatch was rebuilt. Some of the interior linings were replaced. Handles and other brass objects were polished. During that time, we got to know the local people, and attended some of their charity teas and concerts. It was a great area for walking too and we explored parts of the Pembrokeshire coastal path and more locally along the various branches of the R. Cleddau. Not far away was Picton Castle and garden overlooking the point where the river splits into two branches: the western one continuing to Haverfordwest.

While at Lawrenny, I met a certain Bob Burns who owned a junk rigged ketch called “Roamer”. He had sailed all around the world in this boat. Some time later, I was to meet him again at Watchet, where he was selling his book “Roamer around the world”. After nearly two years work, it seemed as though the boat was ready for launching. Andrew serviced the engine and ran the engine again. All appeared to be in working order. And so, early in July 2009 the boat was launched. Almost immediately, Andrew found he couldn't manoeuvre. No propulsion, the prop shaft had come out of the coupling! As we drifted on a strong tide past the nearby moorings, we managed to slide onto a vacant one and hang on. We worked together. Andrew got over the side to get hold of the prop while I knelt down in the cockpit and helped fit it back into the coupling. We then contacted the boatyard and requested some help from them to tow us to a drying mooring. We spent 3 days there and made some more attempts to fix the prop shaft, but it could not be secured in the coupling in such a way that it would not slip out again. So we had to ask the boatyard to take us out of the water. We took the prop shaft and coupling to the marine engineers at Pembroke Dock. We were told that the coupling was a very bad design and not in very good condition. The coupling and shaft were drilled through and a pin was inserted right through so that it would not slip out again. A temporary fix; new coupling and shaft next winter! Later in the month the boat was launched a second time. This time we were successful. We motored up to Hobbs Point and then sailed out into the haven. It was our first attempt to sail a junk rigged boat of our own. The main problem was part of the main sheet kept getting caught around the top batten every time we tacked.

July 25th 2009. We sailed to Angle where we picked up a vacant mooring. The weather deteriorated and the mooring later proved to be rotten. We were drifting away during the night and had to pick up another. When the tide was down, some one came walking up to us and told us we should pick up yet another because that particular one belonged to some one who might shortly be coming back to use it.

The following day, we sailed back up to Milford Haven and went into the harbour marina.

We had noticed earlier that the battery was not charging. When we arrived in the marina, we arranged for an engineer from Neyland Marine to fix some of our electrical problem while we went back to Kent to do some fund raising for the RNLI.

August 5th 2009. We returned to Milford Haven. We stayed a bit longer while Andrew did some more re-wiring.

August 16th. We left Milford Haven and picked up a mooring outside for lunch. Later that day, we sailed down to Dale and anchored for the night near to “Roamer”.

August 17th 2009. We left Dale motoring. We had intended to cross the Bristol Channel to Ilfracombe but I got very seasick, (1st time!); big swell and confused sea of the haven. We had to alter course and went towards Tenby instead. Later we went into Saundersfoot Harbour. The weather was very windy and the swells were quite high, so we did not consider leaving Saundersfoot until it had settled. So we explored the area and took a bus trip to Pendine Sands, where we visited the museum of speed.

August 22nd 2009.We left Saundersfoot motoring. We tried to raise the sail and tack for a little while but had to motor when we found we were not going very far. There were strong tides around the bays, which seemed to suck us in. Eventually we passed through the Helwick channel and finally rounded the Mumbles at 19.35 and entered Swansea at 20.00 hrs. There were two locks and a gate to get through in order to get into the marina. It was while attempting to tie up ahead of the second lock that I lost a mooring line. We were very tired and did not get enough time to prepare ourselves. When we arrived in the marina, we noticed that we still had some electrical problems, so we decided to buy a new service battery. (Neyland Marine had wrongly told us that our battery was in good condition.) We returned back to Kent for a couple of weeks, and then came back in September.

September 5th 2009. We left the River Tawe barrage lock, with the aim of going across to Watchet.

There were various problems that needed to be dealt with and Watchet seemed to be a good place to haul the boat out for wintering. We anchored at Mumbles for lunch, and then managed to sail until 3 pm. Again we had the problems of the bays sucking us in and holding us back, so we motor sailed the rest of the day. We didn't get to Watchet until 22.00hrs. I had called the harbourmaster earlier and he told me to “just find a free pontoon to moor”. The tide is very strong here and when you get through the gate there is not much room for manoeuvre. The marina seemed quite full, too. I spotted one small finger pontoon meant for a motorboat. As Andrew approached, I quickly jumped onto the little pontoon. We were provided with a proper berth the following day and later decided to go for little sail, just to try the sails out and feel less under pressure to get somewhere.

We went out to Blue Anchor Bay and anchored for lunch. We returned in the late afternoon. The advice for entering the marina is to go in after high water. What is not said is that immediately after high water there is a very strong cross current as it emerges across a sill adjacent to the entrance into Watchet Marina. We got through bumping the wall as we did so. Andrew felt a bit embarrassed until other yachtsmen told us we were the 3rd to do so that tide. Another boater came in shortly afterwards and had the same problem. An arrangement was made to lift the boat out of the water for the winter so that certain repairs could be made. During that winter, we got to know other people who had had their boats damaged when entering though that gate. The following year the actor Timothy Spall came in with his Dutch barge and managed to damage some of the columns in the marina. During our time in Watchet we took advantage of the local countryside, which included Exmoor National Park, visiting Dunster Castle and going on various walks, which included the Lorna Doone walk and the old mineral railway route. We also noticed during our sailing expeditions that a certain Bob Burns had been sailing around these parts and that he had also had moored up at Watchet. One day we were to find him sitting in the chandlery advertising his book: “Roamer Around the World”. He was prepared to sign his copies. I went in and decided to buy, as it was similar rigging to ours. It turned out that I was also the first person to buy his book.


After fitting a new coupling, re-aligning and servicing the engine and carrying out the usual maintenance jobs, our boat was lifted back into the water in June.

We waited for the wind to be in a favourable direction before departing towards the exit of the Bristol Channel. We waited and waited, but the little arrows on the wind gauges on top of the boats were always pointing in the same direction, day after day. A westerly wind couldn’t help us. So we went home and hoped that the direction would turn after we returned. A week later we were back and the wind was still southwesterly. Some one said that these were the prevailing winds there and that the only way was to motor.

So we motored out on June 30th. The destination could have been Ilfracombe but time was getting on and we could not do more than 3 knots. So, we decided to head for Watermouth Cove. The picture of Watermouth Cove in our pilot book looked quite attractive, but cannot be seen from out at sea when approaching from the east. The pilot mentions some houses on the top of the hill and a derelict tower on a hill on the port side. It was not until we passed over to the other side of the cove that we were able to see some masts and could make out where the entrance lay. The pilot was written for people sailing from west to east. The pilot also says that there are visitor’s moorings. As we motored in, I saw some tiny pick-up buoys floating around. Surely those are not moorings meant to hold our boat? We decided to anchor. “Pick up those moorings! They are tested and very safe. Much better than anchoring,” other boaters nearby later shouted across to us. Andrew got into the dinghy and paddled up to one. A thin rope was attached to the buoy. He came back. Then again some one shouted out to us that these moorings were good and much better than anchoring. So after picking up our anchor I then picked up the little yellow mooring. “Hang on! I’ll show you!” the Welshman in the nearby boat cried out and rowed over to us and clambered aboard. Under the buoy and thin rope there were some heavy lines and very heavy chains attached to the ropes attached to the mooring. The ropes and chains were all tangled up, so the two men struggled to untangle them and move one to the foredeck and one to the aft. Later we learned that this is a common form of mooring around Devon and Cornwall. It is called a “Nelson’s” mooring. Next day we took the dinghy ashore and walked to Combe Martin. We visited the museum there, where some volunteers came and talked to us about the history of the area.

Two days later, we left Watermouth Cove and moored at Ilfracombe for lunch. There was the same mooring arrangement, but you had to unclip the lines form the mooring buoy and remember to clip them again before leaving. As we departed, the harbour master contacted us via the VHF to ask us if we had any trouble with the mooring. I reassured them that we had re-clipped the ropes. We also felt reassured ourselves that the VHF was working. We had had trouble with getting the weather forecast from the coastguards. Often, as well, we had trouble when contacting the harbour masters we would get no reply. This was often because there was no one on duty. We continued to motor to Bull Point. We managed a little sailing after that. Should we go to Bideford? On approaching Bideford, we saw surf visible on the bar. It did not look safe to go in there. So we decided to pass it by and headed for Clovelly. The sea is quite choppy here and we arrived at 23.30hrs and picked up a fisherman’s mooring for the night. The following morning we motored into the harbour, were assigned a particular ladder and tied up against the wall.

People came to look at our boat. They were interested in our unusual rigging. One young man called Mukhti took particular interest. He offered to help us with anything we needed. We took him up on the offering. He showed us where he lived and let us use his computer so that we could get an inshore weather forecast. He then drove us to Hartland where we did some shopping. He then took us to his mother’s home where they have a big garden and he gave us a plastic box to put our picked strawberries into. He told us that he once made a trip around Britain in a boat he designed and so understood that a boater often needs help. Thank you! Mukhti was working for himself in a new business that provides insulation for old houses. We explored Clovelly and walked up its steep cobbled roads. We stopped at a pub and talked to the locals. One of them, a nurse, seemed to be offering a job in her nursing home. She then slipped her shoes off and went to talk to some young students. She asked them to take their trousers down so that she could look at their tattoos! A little tipsy, perhaps? Nearby, her husband was talking to Andrew about gardening.

July 5th: We left Clovelly for Padstow. It was a fine day with good wind in the right direction. We managed to sail most of the day. We sailed right into the R. Camel and at 21.35 hrs we reached Padstow Pool. This is Rick Stein town with plenty of restaurants with his name on them. You can have a lobster meal for £42.00 if you want. There are also cafés and fish and chip shops with his name everywhere. We opt for the fish and delicatessen shop and buy some grilled monkfish, which also has to come with chips! We ate it with some of my own stir-fried vegetables. We visited a lobster hatchery and later went for a walk towards Stepper Point, but did not quite get there. We then arranged to leave the boat for two weeks so that we could go home to do some RNLI fund raising. I also had to work some shifts at the nursing home. We returned on the 27th and made a point of visiting Prideaux Place, the local stately home.

The following day we left Padstow, motoring. We managed three hours of sailing that day, but had to return to motoring because there was not enough wind. The sea was quite choppy and Andrew experienced seasickness for the first time in his life. I was also seasick. I had bought some sickness tablets after my experience in crossing the Bristol Channel. I also always made sure that I had all our sandwiches, fruit, coffee, tea and cakes made ready and arranged so that I could reach them from the cockpit. I spent most of my time at the helm. I had taken the RYA Day Skipper navigation course during the winter at Hoo Ness before I had started this sailing expedition, but I found I could not get into the cabin to use my knowledge without feeling sick. It did help, however, when we were planning our journeys. We arrived outside St Ives harbour at 20.40 and picked up a fishing boat mooring there for the night.

Next day, July 29th was a fine day. We had our coffee and set off for Penzance. There was very little wind again so we had to motor. The sea state was so calm that were able to use the inshore route passing close to Cape Cornwall passing inside rocks called “The Brisons”.

It felt quite exciting to alter course after passing Lands End, at 17.45hrs, and now to be sailing eastward for the first time. At 21.00hrs we found a mooring outside Penzance Harbour.

An old friend from Tai Chi classes had moved here some years ago and I hadn’t seen her since she had left Warlingham, Surrey. I contacted her and she was quite excited about us arriving in a boat. When we got into the harbour, I sent her a text message. She replied, telling me she was in the farmer’s market in St John’s Hall. We walked up there, had coffee and arranged to meet for dinner at Marazion with a view of St Michael’s Mount.

She was also keen to see our boat, so after we bought some fish at the farmer’s market and we went on board for lunch. Later, we visited Penlee House and saw an exhibition of the Newlyn and Lamorne artists.

The next day we walked along the coast path to Newlyn and on to what was supposed to be a smuggler’s cave. From above the cave it looked a bit too steep, to get down, so I decided to go no further. Later that day, we went to my friend’s mobile home and helped eat the gurnard, which she had bought at the farmer’s market.

August 2nd. We left Penzance at 09.40. The idea was to use the tide to leave and to pick up a favourable tide as we rounded the Lizard. It was a drizzly, overcast day. We rounded the Lizard at 16.15 hrs but could hardly see it. Many French sailing boats were sailing in the opposite direction. The tide was more favourable to them and they whizzed past whereas the tide didn’t seem favourable to us, even at 6 pm or so as it should have been. We arrived at Falmouth at 21.45 hrs and picked up a mooring for the night. Another late supper had to be hastily prepared. The next day, we motored to the marina. The charge was £25.00 for the night, and you have to pay extra to use the Internet on your netbook! The facilities were quite luxurious and after a shower and using the laundry we did a big shop at the Sainsbury’s nearby. We then walked to the town and visited the art gallery.

August 3rd. We left Falmouth Marina and explored the upper reaches of the river Fal. Large ships are moored here, which is quite a surprise for most people to find in the upper reaches of a river.

There is also a café called Smuggler’s Cottage. In it are found historic photos of the place and a room especially dedicated to the old B.I. ship “Uganda”, well known for becoming the hospital ship during the Falklands war after being laid up on the river nearby to. Usually there is a display of lots of memorabilia on display, but they were cleaning and polishing up at the time, so there were only the photos and newspaper articles to see. They were nevertheless interesting enough to read. Andrew was particularly interested because the ship was very much like the B.I. line ships he used to work on during his sea going days. Originally a passenger liner, the Uganda had been converted to a school ship and finally to hospital ship. It had then been sent to back Falmouth before being scrapped.

We moored alongside a pontoon and met a couple in a boat nearby. They invited us for a drink that evening. Their names were Don and Penny and their Colin Archer boat “Ring Fire”. They were interested in our boat because it is junk rigged and they had wanted a junk rigged boat. They also belonged to the JRA. The following day we had intended to leave for Fowey. Don had mentioned the there could be nasty swells around there and told us a frightening story about some one who had sailed around the world but on returning and attempting to enter Fowey had been caught in the huge waves and drowned. I read as much literature as we had on the subject. Reeds said that Fowey was not a good place to enter in SW or SSW'erly gales. The weather forecast seemed to suggest force 5- 6 and NW backing SW with showers. I did not think a SW force 6 was a good way to enter Fowey, so we sat still for another day.

The following day the wind was not quite so strong and so we left for Fowey. On our way out, we spotted another junk rigged boat and waved, but they didn’t seem to notice us. It was fine day and we had a good sail, sometimes seeing 7.5 knots on the log. The entry to Fowey was quite straightforward and we moored on the Penmarlan pontoon, having moored beforehand at Albert Quay to get some provisions. The following day we took the dinghy ashore and went for a circular walk around the river. We saw Daphne du Maurier’s house by Boddinick (Ferryside House), and walked towards Polruan. We took a ferry back to Fowey and then walked to where we could take a ferry back to Boddinick from where we walked back to the dinghy. Somewhere along the way I missed a turning and lost Andrew. I stopped where there were a few people hanging around. Andrew had told them he had lost me, so one of them then went to search for Andrew.

Some other yachts people had given us the advice that it was better to head towards Newton Ferrers instead of Plymouth. However, we needed to leave the boat in a marina so that we could make a train journey home and then return the following week.
The following day we sailed for the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth. Since coming around Land’s End and the Lizard we had had favourable winds and were sailing a lot more. There had been a problem, however, with the motor. Sometimes it would not engage ahead. So the engine would have to be running some time before we could have certainty. Andrew had managed to control the situation for a while after he had put in some gearbox oil. But the situation did not last and we wondered if there was a leak somewhere.

The Mayflower Marina was usually quite crowded but the harbour master usually managed to fit people in. But as we had difficulty in controlling the motor, Andrew could not manoeuvre the boat properly into the tiny space we were allocated. It ended up with him running towards the bow of the boat and jumping off with the mooring line while I ran back to the cockpit and handed him the other. Somehow I got a nasty gash on my shin, which took a long time to heal. We went home by train and returned the following Friday. We visited the museum and art gallery. We walked along the Hoe, where we saw the statue of Drake and Smeaton’s tower. And then walked to Mount Wise where we saw the Antarctic Expedition Memorial and a statue of Robert Falcon Scott. From there we could also catch a glimpse of a statue of William IV who was responsible for opening the docks.

August 15th. We left Plymouth to make for the river Yealm. It was a good sail and took us only four hours before we were in Newton Ferrers and had picked up a mooring. People seemed very friendly and helpful here and there were lots of children canoeing or messing around in the water.

We left the following day towards Salcombe. Here people also seemed very friendly and helpful. The harbourmaster came racing towards us as we went into tell us where to moor. We had to raft next to another boat on a pontoon. Unfortunately, the directions to locate the pontoon weren't altogether helpful and at some point Andrew got lost and grounded us on a shallow near an RNSA mooring. We waited for half an hour and had a cup of tea before the tide lifted us off again and we went to our allocated pontoon. The man in the adjacent boat was very helpful and gave us some advice about where to go when we went to Dartmouth. We had a shower in the ICC headquarters ship. Later that day, we took the dinghy and visited the Town itself and the Salcombe Maritime museum with its paintings of ships.

August 18th: We left Salcombe and made our way to Dartmouth, sailing most of the time. We worked our way around the race at Start Point, although it appeared that some other boats were sailing closer to land but were getting a very bumpy ride. The wind was force 3-4 but with gusts of 5-6 and it felt a bit wild as we came towards Dartmouth.

Dartmouth was a crowded place and there were no helpful harbourmasters here. I had previously called the marinas to find out if there was a place for the night, but all the marinas were full. Regatta next week. There was a space on a river pontoon and we were lucky enough to find a helpful person to take our mooring lines as the strong winds would not allow us to get close to the pontoon.

Following the advice we had got in Salcombe, we decided to motor further up the river Dart and do some exploring. We picked up a blue ringed mooring. I made my first attempt to use the special pick-up for ringed moorings that we had bought at the Boat Show. I wasn't very successful. More practice needed. We took the dinghy and went ashore in the pouring rain and hoped for a nice meal at the Ferryboat Inn. Unfortunately it was full as there was a quiz night that evening. We left feeling a little dejected and felt they had not a very friendly attitude. We made our way towards the Red Lion, a nice, friendly pub that provided us with a good meal. The pub is also a grocer's shop, newsagent and post office and offered free WIFI service.

August 20th: We are kept in the river Dart by the weather. It is another wet and windy day, but at least I have time to do some writing. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, nothing but high winds and rain. We are in a bit of a quandary because we needed to be home by Monday. I had to go to work and needed to prepare for our forthcoming party. I called the marinas again but there was still no room in any of them. I called Dartside (Galampton) Quay and the harbourmaster told us there were two fore and aft moorings available. When we arrived, we found that these moorings were also attached to boats and we were expected to squeeze between them. I picked up one mooring, but Andrew had to get into the dinghy to get hold of the other one. The moorings were an untidy tangle of ropes and Andrew struggled to untangle them in the pouring rain and the wind. He also put shackle some chain to one of them to protect our aft mooring lines. “Dennis”, a local yachtsman approached in his dinghy while Andrew was in ours. Dennis was very friendly and helpful. He told us that he had used these moorings himself, but thought they were very close together. He offered to help us if we needed it and offered to keep an eye on our boat while we were away. We returned home, and shortly afterwards received a call from Dennis to say that it had been very blustery that day, had gone to look at our boat and seen that it was OK. My son and family came over from Australia that weekend. They stayed with the in-laws at first in Leicester and then made their way down to Kent. That week I was working very hard, first preparing the house for their stay here, then preparing for the party on Sunday. Celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary. Twenty-four people were expected to come. The party went off very well. My son and family stayed over for a week and then we arranged to meet them in Brixham where they could have a chance to see the boat and visit the Golden Hind 'replica'.

September 7th. We left Galampton, no wind and so motored around to Brixham. We met our son, his wife and the three boys and invited them aboard our boat. We had lunch and then took the boys to the Golden Hind. The boys found the ship very exciting and thought of if as a pirate ship. We then had dinner together and then bade our farewells.

September 11th. We left Brixham and prepared to make our journey across Lyme Bay. Andrew had spent a lot of time the previous day trying to work out how best to make this crossing. There was a nasty race outside Portland Bill, so we had to work out the best way to sail around it. It proved very difficult to work out the best time to leave Brixham in order to arrive at Portland Bill at a time when there was slack water. In the end, it was decided that we would make for Lyme Regis or West Bay, either of which would be close enough to Portland Bill for us to get around it the following day. The day we set sail was a fine day, but soon there was no wind. We motored on and off for most of the day occasionally putting up the sail to catch the small amount of wind that arose. We managed to sail once without the motor for an hour. But then it was back to motor sailing again. Sometimes when we looked at the engine panel it appeared that the engine was not charging the batteries. I was puzzled because I thought that our electrical problems had been sorted out in Swansea. Why was that orange light flicking on and off? At about 6 pm we dropped the sail as were only one mile off West Bay when we noticed that the engine was overheating. It showed on the temperature gauge, but there was also steam coming out from the engine compartment. The engine had to be switched off and we drifted along. Andrew investigated the engine and found that the alternator mount had broken, leaving no tension on the water pump belt. Andrew called the harbourmaster. Nobody there, but we were overheard by another yachtsman who said that it would be impossible to sail into the harbour because there was a heavy surge and the channel was very narrow. A fisherman also overheard us and offered to tow us in. We accepted his offer and he took us in and we moored alongside the visitor’s pontoon. West Bay had a wall and we were thankful for that, but it was still open to the surge. The long pontoon snaked sideways, up and down. It was a bumpy night with us occasionally touching the bottom of the harbour. The following day we called on the harbourmaster and he arranged for an engineer to visit us. Later he came, took the alternator mount and made an excellent job of re-welding it. The assistant harbourmaster, as he proved to be, then helped us to tie-up alongside a fishing boat in the inner harbour. We left our boat and returned home. Andrew had to go to an RNLI branch meeting on Monday night and after which we had to check the weather forecast and tide tables in order to work out a day to return to West Bay and continue sailing eastwards. We left home on September 15th to go back to West Bay. We arrived early enough so that we could do some walking. So we did the coastal walk to Golden Cap and back.

The following day was a fine day with plenty of wind. We managed to sail the whole day making an excellent passage past Portland Bill with the wind and tide so much in our favour that we raced along towards the Isle of Purbeck. We had already been told that Poole was a very expensive place to moor and Studland Bay was an exposed place to anchor, so we turned back and went to Swanage. As we came into Swanage, where we were expecting to anchor, a man on a sailboard indicated a mooring we could pick up. He also told us we could use the shower in Swanage Sailing Club. We picked up the mooring and took the dinghy ashore to the club. We ordered some drinks and each had a shower and then found ourselves talking for hours to these two keen yachtsmen. Time flew by and somehow supper got forgotten, but I did feel rather hungry and a little food would have helped soak up the wine. Andrew reckoned that as it was 23.30 it was too late to eat. The following day, we went ashore again in order to get some provisions. I noticed several restaurants around that opened until 1 am. I could have had my supper after all! I told Andrew that I was going to make up for it that evening.

September 17th.We left at 14.40 and motored across Poole Bay and reached Yarmouth at 19.00hrs. We had been told that this was the cheaper option of places to moor. We also chose a floating pontoon, which was also a little cheaper. We called the water taxi and went to a pub where we ate a good steak dinner. Next day, we travelled home again as I had to work a shift on Sunday. Andrew had to work in the garden and pick some produce, which included a large marrow. I made some marrow and ginger jam. He also picked the last of the runner beans, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes and some sweet corn. In this way, Andrew managed to combine two main hobbies, which are boating and gardening. I keep my hand in helping out in the nursing home, and giving aromatherapy treatments to my clients. We returned to Yarmouth the following Thursday. On Friday, it was very windy, so we decided to do some walking around the island. We walked as far as Needles Battery, first following the old railway track from Yarmouth to Freshwater Bay, then past the Tennyson Monument and on to the Needles Battery and Alum Bay. We visited the Marconi memorial in the Alum Bay pleasure park before turning at Totland Pier to pass by All Saint’s Church and walk back on the other side of the river Yar. It was a 14-mile walk in total on a cold, grey and very windy day. At Needles Battery we visited the rocket exhibition, where rockets were tested before sending them to be launched from Woomera in Australia. Only one satellite was successfully launched, called Prospero, and it still circuits the earth today, sending faint messages. The whole project was then scrapped during the early ‘70s in favour of Concorde!

Our next plan was to sail to Dell Quay in Chichester harbour. The question was, would we be able to make our way there in one day, or would we have to anchor or moor on the way at, perhaps, Gosport? We were a little anxious the night before, wondering how far the winds would take us. As it turned out, Sunday 25th was a fine day with plenty of wind, NNW force 4-5, and we sailed across the Solent in plenty of time, with the tide in our favour. So by 15.00 hrs we were at Itchenor in Chichester harbour, where we picked up a mooring for the night. The following day, at around 12,.30 we motored into Dell Quay with the tide. The water was flat calm as we motored towards the mooring. There would be plenty of orange visitor’s moorings, we were told. We saw plenty of pink moorings and decided that someone at the boatyard was colour blind! As we approached the mooring, I wondered how I was meant to pick it up. It was just a large ball with nothing attached to make picking it possible. We approached it with tow boat hooks and Andrew poked the hook into the chain underneath. In the meantime, the boat hook got stuck in between two links of the chain and could not be freed. After much struggling, the hook was freed and we found a piece of rope, which must have been attached at a pick up float at one time. Andrew later attached two empty plastic milk cartons to that rope. Obviously, nobody had been using this mooring for some time. The boatyard came out to visit us and arranged for the engineer see our boat in order to deal with some of the problems we had been having. One was the difficulty in starting the engine when it was cold. The other was the gearbox, which did not always engage. We motored our dinghy ashore and met the engineer who said he would test the engine before they took the boat out. This job was carried out the following day. We went home and our sailing adventure was over for this year.


Dell Quay boat yard had the advantage over Lawrenny in as much as there were no trees close to the boat, so that meant no leaves to clear out each time we visited. It also had the advantage that it was not as messy as the boat yard at Watchet. However, it did have the disadvantage that the toilet facilities were rather inadequate. The ladies often got blocked. There were no shower facilities either. We met a Scottish couple that wanted to sail around the coast, but in the opposite direction to us. Andrew offered some of our charts, the set for the Bristol Channel and the associated guidebook. They exchanged emails, but we then didn’t hear from them for some time, even though Andrew kept bringing the charts and guide with him every time he went down to the yard. Eventually we met up with them again, Andrew didn’t have the charts with him this time having given up! Andrew went back to the boat yard again, this time with the chart and guide, and met up with the couple, who bought the charts from him. They had a drink together at the “Crown and Anchor” pub during which the wife said she was a little anxious about the trip, having read “ A summer’s grace” by Libby Purves about a round Britain trip she took in a boat in 1988. The couple told Andrew that they used the shower in Chichester Marina, and that the boat yard manager had given them the code. I visited the yard sometimes and we managed to use the Chichester Marina facilities too. We were never sure if this was at all “above board”, so always tried to look as though we had a boat in the marina!

In January, we had been to the Boat Show and had seen a marine gas cooker that we liked. Our Taylor’s paraffin stove was very old, and we tired of having to go out into the cockpit and pump up the paraffin tank every time I wanted to cook or just boil a kettle. The area around the stove was also very black (soot). Eventually we visited the company (in Essex) and after much thought about the price and convenience of having it, decided to buy it. A lot of re-fitting had to be done in the boat in order to accommodate both the cooker and the gas cylinders (new gas locker) to go with it. As expected this took a lot of hard work and time. Our journey back to the Medway was therefore delayed by this factor, but two other factors began to come into play. Firstly, with the engine: the engineer had changed the gearbox, removing the engine in order to do so, but created many problems. Secondly, early in the year I had somehow or other managed to get a gastric problem, so was quite unwell for quite some time. When I began to feel fitter, I went to the yard to help prepare “Joleta” and did some sanding, cleaning and oiling. Finally, no more varnish! In the meantime, Andrew wanted to replace the shaft seal only to discover that the engine mounts had not been properly tightened up when the engine was re-installed. This was the first of several occasions when the yard engineer had to be summoned to correct his poor work.

The boat was ready towards the end of July and we were moved to the top of the slipway where we would be able to test the engine. More problems. Firstly the engine wouldn’t start, so once again he had to ask the yard engineer to help sort out the problem. It was the wiring. The loom had been damaged when taking out the engine. Once they had got that sorted and the engine started, there was another problem. The batteries were not charging. A whole day was spent with the engineers trying to find the fault. It appeared to be a fault with the alternator and it ended up with them fitting in a new one. Later on we were to find out that this was not the case. Finally, we got the boat into the water, only to find that the engine control lever did not work correctly. The “ahead” and “astern” actions of the lever were reversed! The yard engineer had changed the gearbox, but had not connected the gear lever correctly. They had to correct it, and apologised for the embarrassing situation admitting that it should have been checked when the engine was re-installed.

July 29th: We finally left Dell Quay and after a brief sail in the harbour headed for Hayling Island and Sparkes Marina. Imagine our frustration to notice that the batteries were again not charging! At the marina, the yard engineer gave Andrew some of his time and offered some ideas as to the cause. Andrew then spent a whole day working on the problem replacing some of the wiring. Replacing the whole of the engine wiring loom is now a priority for the coming winter lay-up.

August 3rd: We left Sparkes Marina towards Brighton. We had a good sail with a SW wind most of the way, arriving at 20.00 hrs. We had to progressively reef down during the late afternoon as the wind rose in order to control our speed. At times we had been doing 7 knots on the log and steering was quite difficult. We spent a night at the marina, which although very large and expensive, had rather inadequate toilet and shower facilities. They were like portaloos and the pipes often got blocked. The following day they were dredging just the other side of the main pontoon. It was blowing and raining hard and so we decided to return home. I noticed that I had a lot of messages on my mobile phone, but hadn’t been able to hear them due to the noise of the engine when we had arrived, and now noise in the marina, traffic and railway station. So I didn’t listen and reply until I got home. There were messages from the GP and consultant’s secretary. I had to go for further tests.

August 16th: We left Brighton and made for Sovereign Harbour Marina, near Eastbourne. It was a fine day and we had a good sail with plenty of wind. We passed by the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. I took a picture with my mobile phone: Andrew’s camera was not charged. As we were about to approach Sovereign Harbour, Andrew found that he couldn’t start the engine. More electrical problems! The engine instrument panel had lost power. I contacted the harbourmaster to discuss the situation. They didn’t want us to enter the outer harbour under sail and so we sailed back and forth near the fairway buoy until assistance came out by way of a workboat. They were very helpful and also arranged for an engineer to come and look at the engine. A bolt that should have been connecting the battery cable had been shaken loose from the engine. Sovereign Harbour was very spacious with good facilities: a contrast to the marina at Brighton! Next day we had to return home again and took the bus to Eastbourne railway station.

August 20th: Departed from Sovereign Harbour. We knew that the sail from Eastbourne to Dover was going to be long, so we had to pick a good day to go and with favourable wind. The wind was southeasterly, but not very strong. We passed Dungeness at around teatime and then we motor-sailed the rest of the way. We saw lots of dolphins before passing the power station. We didn’t arrive at Dover until 22.25 hrs. A ferry coming out of the eastern entrance and anchoring ahead of us complicated the approach. We could no longer see the western entrance lights. Shortly after we contacted the Port Control and then marina and found the allocated berth easily. It had been a long day. Supper on arrival was just soup in a mug and bread.

August 21st: We left for Ramsgate around midday. Our departure was delayed by a couple of ferries coming in. Harbour control asked us to stay clear by the eastern entrance and wait for a signal. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the signal from where we were! When I heard that the harbour master complaining that we were hanging around for 5 minutes longer that necessary, we left immediately. We sailed all the way. Leaving Dover the wind was strong but eased when we rounded North Foreland. We arrived off Ramsgate at 16.50 hrs., just as a ferry arrived! Same procedures as at Dover, first contact Port control and then the marina. Ramsgate is an interesting historical town. There was a maritime museum and a steam tug, which could have been visited, but both were closed to the public for the time being. We walked up to the sailing club, had something to drink, and then had dinner in a French restaurant on the terrace below. Next day, we made our way home, again by train, changing at Ashford International station. We knew that our journey to the Medway was going to be quite a long one, so we had to find a day during the following week when the wind and weather would be favourable.

August 24th: Returned to Ramsgate. We left mid-morning the next day. The wind was favourable, and we managed to sail using 4 panels of our sail until the evening. There were two choices for passing Margate. There was an inshore channel and as it was neaps, we could have chosen this shorter route. Andrew, however, was hesitant to take it and so we took the longer route further from the shore. We seemed to be sailing at reasonable speed until we got past Oaze yellow buoy. Just as we got to the wind farm, we found that the boat was going very slowly. We seemed to have some difficulty getting past the wind farm. So we started to motor-sail. We had to motor the rest of the way as the wind steadily died. It was dark by the time we reached the Medway channel and the new (to us!) yellow buoys, which are now there for small craft. We went on a long, slow journey up the river in the dark, paying attention to all the buoys in the dark. For Andrew, the time seemed to pass more quickly because of getting back and forth between the chart table and cockpit in order to identify each approaching buoy. When we reached the marina at 23.00 hrs, I tried to contact the marina by radio, but got no reply. I had to contact them with my mobile phone, but could barely hear what was being said because of the noise of the motor. I managed to pick up that the lock was unmanned after 10 pm., and we were requested to pick up a mooring outside the marina until the next morning. No mention of this in the almanac or marina guide! It was quite difficult to do in the dark especially with such a tiny ring attached to it. The moorings are also too close to one another and one banged against us during the night. The next morning I contacted the marina by phone and radio, so that they would set the lock for us. We were then provided with some sort of plan and told where to find our berth. Andrew wasn’t paying attention and took the wrong way. We turned around with a little difficulty and eventually found our berth. Pile mooring. I had to somehow clamber out over the bow to get onto the pontoon. It was the end of our adventure and the journey from Milford Haven and after clearing up and paying the fee for the month ahead we again made our way home by public transport.

Monica Varney

Date Published 10th Oct 2011