Monday 30 November 2009


Talk about coincidence, I posted “Love and Sailing” last Thursday in response to Tillerman’s writing challenge, about the sailing trip Erica and I made in 1997 from England to the Caribbean. Then on Sunday I was reading Micheal’s Dory Man blog and noticed a link to Bill’s Log where he describes owning a Van de Stadt Pioneer 9 Aziz and his trip to La Corunna in north west Spain.
I wrote to Bill as in late July or August of 97 we had just crossed the bay of Biscay and were anchored next to Aziz in La Corunna. I recognised the boat having read “When I put out to sea” by Nicolette Milnes Wilson – her account of a single handed Atlantic crossing in the boat. Our yacht Blue Clipper was also a Van de Stadt design, a Legend 34.

Blue Clipper

I recall rowing over to talk to the owner, who I suppose must have been Bill. At the time my normal opening questions were always about water capacity, as it was something which preoccupied me, and about which I asked any and all the offshore cruisers we met.

I do recall however that Aziz had just come back from an attempt to sail to the Azores, in his email Bill confirmed that he had struggled with calms and lack of fuel.

We have seen Aziz a couple of times since then, once in the west country – Falmouth I think ,about 5 years ago and more recently ashore in Hamble Point Marina.

Isn't blogging great - as a PS Bill has some great posts on small boat sailing, including my favourites Sopranino and Nova Espero.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Winter Weekend

The weather turned cold for the weekend, well at least cold for this unusually mild part of the south coast of England. The early morning blue skies and fresh breeze, which had almost tempted me to go for a sail, were quickly replaced by low grey clouds and still air, with the prospect of rain to come.

Down at Shore Road work has begun demolishing the old boat sheds, but the dinghy park and public hard in the foreground, have been spared from this development of marina flats and houses.

Sadly the development will put an end to boat building on the site, the sheds to the left of this picture will be coming down next.

Further down in the pool at Bursledon, the boats are laid up and have their winter covers on.

On a cold and wet winter's afternoon, there's not much better than a brisk walk for some fresh air and then retire to the Jolly Sailor.

And watch the boats in comfort with a roaring fire and a pint of "Pickled Partridge" - apologies to any non English readers who don't understand our taste for warm beer!

Thursday 26 November 2009

Love and Sailing

Tillerman challenged the sailing blogger community to write a story about "Love and Sailing" this month.

Our story started twelve years ago. Erica and I had known each other for just over a year, when I had the crazy notion to put my career on hold and sail across the Atlantic and back. We were fortunate, as I owned an old, but tough Van de Stadt 34, Blue Clipper which was up to the task.

Erica's longest sailing trip at that time, had been 50 miles, downwind from Weymouth to the Solent in near perfect conditions. So, I was even more fortunate that she had no hesitation to coming with me.

We spent the winter preparing the yacht, buying equipment and extracting ourselves from our shore side life. People often tell me how lucky we were, I always recall the dark December day when I hung upside down, cleaning 27 years of dirt from the frozen bilge, with nothing more than a 2 hour drive home to follow - plus our course Erica's company to keep me going!

We left Portsmouth in June 1997 sailing down the western approaches and out into the Bay of Biscay with it's awesome reputation. Biscay crossed, we made our first trip 500 NM out into the Atlantic, finding the island of Maderia roughly where it should be. Then on to the Canary Islands, Gambia in West Africa, before crossing the Atlantic, arriving in Barbados just in time for Christmas.

Sailing the islands was wonderful, south to Trinidad and then north to the Virgin Islands with all the Windward and Leeward islands in between.

It wasn't all plain sailing, we had storms and huge waves, the odd shark had come too close. Equipment had broken a thousand miles from land, in light airs we'd hand steered for ten or twelve hours a day, day after day, under the tropical heat, trying to maintain our speed. Through it all Erica never faltered, she was always there, punchy and positive. Her trust in me was implicit, that trust might have been a burden, but it wasn't, I just grew to love her all the more.

A mountaineering friend joined us for the homeward leg, between the Virgin Islands and the Azores. It was nice to have an extra hand for the 24 day crossing, especially during the night watches. But it was an intrusion, the yacht, our journey and our life together had been so complete, that having someone else share didn't seem quite right.

When 0ur crew flew home from the Azores as arranged, Erica and I wandered those magical mid Atlantic islands hand in hand, for a few weeks, before heading off for the last leg of our trip back to Falmouth and home.

In 2000 we got married, for some reason a television company had got hold of our story and made a short program of our trip, it was a pilot for a series called "The Things we do for Love" hosted by the late John Peel and went out on Meridian TV. Our honeymoon - of course we went sailing.

This year Joesph was born and we're still sailing, maybe not as much as we used to or as much as we like, but of course I still love Erica just as much

Sunday 22 November 2009

Winter Lay Up and other Thoughts

I've been kidding myself recently, that the weather would be nice and that I would have the time for a last winter sail. While we've had the odd nice day in between the gales, I've always been busy doing something else.

So on Saturday I bit the bullet and prepared Greta for her winter lay up. Despite the strong winds (and worse forecast) I rowed down river to take the sails off, run the engine, make sure the cover was secure and generally hunker her down for the next few weeks, before we haul her out.

Greta always looks a bit sad at this time of year, I have to keep on reminding myself that she will look great come the spring, polished and with a few coats of touch up on her varnish work.

Despite the wind and the grey skies, it was good to get out of the office and onto the river. As I rowed past Brooklands (below) I couldn't help noticing how splendid the house looked, with the last of the autumn leaves ready to fall. And for those of you who noticed - yes there are two Bentley's parked in the drive - his and hers perhaps!

Aeolus (below) is a gaff cutter, in the English "plank on edge" type, built in 1904 she is believed to be to a design by Fife. A friend of mine was interested in buying her a few years ago when she came up for sale, but although she was in reasonable condition, the almost 8 foot draft and absence of an engine, at the time put him off. Subsequent owners have installed an engine and undertaken significant restoration and improvements since then, but she still has that deep draft!

With the cost of moorings and the fact that you get charged for every foot including overhangs, a boat like Aeolus at 41 feet on deck, but 60 feet over all must be a harbour master's delight. Just imagine how much they can charge for that boom, which never actually touches the water.

Friday 20 November 2009


One of the major yachting centers in the UK, Hamble is not immediately associated with houseboats. While there are a few live aboards in the saltings between Bursledon bridge and the motorway, below Bursledon pool the river scene is dominated by shiny white hulls and silver masts.

However just downstream of Hackett's Marsh and Universal Marina is Salterns Creek (above), where a small community of live aboard steel barges lie on the mud, waiting for the tide.

If you know where to look there are quite a few more houseboats, hidden away from the main river.

Surrounded by woodland, coming right down to the water's edge and completely invisible from the busy river, one of these would make a fantastic weekend retreat.

Monday 16 November 2009

Haul Out Time

It's that time of year when we yachtsmen prepare for the annual winter ritual, haul out, maintenance and anti foul.

Many of of us do our own anti fouling and grumble at paying £80 for 2.5 litres, but spare a thought for this chap, I hope he had a big roller!

Windy Weekend

The wind touched 50 knots on Saturday morning, that's over 57 MPH or for those on the metric system 84 Kilometers per hour. It was a day for staying in.

By Sunday afternoon things had settled down a bit, so I rowed down to Greta, our gaff yawl, to make sure she was alright, out on her mooring.

It was late afternoon by the time I'd finished, the river was quiet and the sky overcast, when the last of the sun broke through.

What a great day to be out.

Friday 13 November 2009

Winter Outlook

I’m never sure if November is late autumn or early winter, one thing is for sure the season of long nights and cold days is upon us.

Gazing out of the office window, I realised that the trees had shed most of their leaves, to reveal the view down the valley, which has been obscured since the spring. As if on queue, the black horse, who lives in a neighbouring field, walked into view contentedly grazing.

Later a large dog fox walked, confidently and unhurriedly past in full view. I realised that it won’t be long before we see the deer darting out nervously from the woods, or coming into the garden to feed on the last of our acorns, as this one did last summer.

Erica has just ordered up extra bird food, so the garden is busy, the normal tits and finches have been joined but a couple of woodpeckers, a nuthatch and of course the squirrels.

We don't often get snow, being too far south and too near the sea, last winter however it snowed and settled, if only for a little while. Here's one of the local squirrels kindly clearing snow off the bird table!!

This seasonal visitor was a regular, we haven't seen him for a while, so we think he must have died, but he used to come every morning when we called his name "Fat Robin".

There’s a lot to be said for winter.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Local Boat in France

Well OK, actually she’s Plymouth registered, but since she’s a Warsash One Design I consider that local enough.

I’ve always thought of the Fred Parker - Warsash One Design as a Folk boat with a counter stern, which might make me slightly unpopular with the class owners.

Ondine had just arrived in Marseillan, John, her owner had sailed her down the Atlantic coast of France, from his home port in Plymouth, and then from Bordeaux made a transit of the famous Canal de Midi which exits into the Etang de Thau just to the west of Sete.

These 28 foot craft are undeniably tough, Sherman Wright sailed a heavily modified one, Andromeda in the 1996 Single Handed Trans-Atlantic Race (STAR) and again as an unofficial entry in 2000. Another WOD Vacuum with Junk rig, was prepared for the 2006 Jester Challenge but pulled out before the start.

Currently Ondine is laid up in the little local marina for the winter, while John gets her ready for some cruising around the Mediterranean in the spring.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Amble up the Hamble

I joined the HBBR - UK Home Built Boat Rally on Saturday for their "Amble up the Hamble". Setting off from Swanwick Hard, we rowed upriver past the moored yachts which characterise the lower Hamble.

Well most of us rowed, but it was good to have a support boat standing by. I was really taken with this Selway Fisher design "Penny" - I'm thinking she would make a really nice yacht tender.
And one of us had wind assistance

What contrast between the lower and upper Hamble, the upper Hamble features wooded shores which come right down to the water's edge. Here the fleet is making our way up to the Horse and Jockey pub, we were a bit early on the tide, so in the narrow confines of the last stretch we carried the flood, rowing seldom and grounding often.

Arriving well before high water, made getting ashore a sometimes tricky and sometimes muddy experience. Having gone to all that trouble, the pub was closed!

Undaunted by the pub with no beer, we rowed up the alternative creek which took us to Botley where the well stocked Co-op provided sandwiches and refreshments.

Friday 6 November 2009

Rocket Ship!!

I spotted this rocket-ship while walking through the marina back in the summer. Essentially it’s a 35 foot very high performance, trailer day-sailor. Produced by CPY in New Zealand it’s constructed in high tech composite.

There are some really nice features, it has a retractable bulb keel, which lifts vertically much like a Laser SB3 making it a relatively easy boat to trail. The rudder is an especially neat solution, to make the balanced spade rudder removable, the entire rudder assembly fits into a well, set through the hull.

With a beam of 7’3”on a 35’ LoA, and an all up displacement of 2.4 tons, the boat is a flyer.

Monday 2 November 2009


It was one of those days, we were just having a cup of coffee down by the port, enjoying the sunshine. You look over and you see an interesting looking boat at the quay.

It's a slow day, so when you eventually finish your coffee, you might as well walk over to have a closer look.

These big trimarans were popular with the offshore racers in the 1970's and 80's, and that curved bridge deck looks very familiar.

The name on the stern is unmistakable, but is this really the same boat?

Moxie was and is a Dick Newark designed trimaran, which skippered by Phil Weld, won the OSTAR - single handed trans Atlantic race in 1980.
Dick has been designing fast sailing craft for more than a few years and is famous for saying "People sail for fun and no one has yet convinced me that it's more fun to go slow than it is to go fast".
To prove the point there's a great clip on Dick's web page showing Moxie doing 16 knots. There's also a great section with someone sitting on the steering quadrant (pic above) while she scoots along under self steering - fun but not reccomended!!
Currently she's based in the delightful port of Meze in the Languedoc region of France and operates as a charter boat.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Wet and Windy

The weather fax for Sunday was grim, it was clearly a day for staying at home in front of the fire.
The Solent was predicted to take the worst of the southerly winds as they lashed the coast. We opened the curtains to see rain streaming down the windows and the garden full of leaves and branches, blown down overnight.
Checking on line, down at the western end of the Solent they were seeing average wind speeds of 40 to 45 knots with gusts as high as 55 knots, this was a serious blow.

And of course our curiosity got the better of us, so it was on with coats and waterproofs. Waves were coming over the breakwater and flooding the road, over at Hill Head. Further east, the local authorities had actually closed the road down in Stokes Bay, not that a few traffic cones were going to stop anyone!
And of course there were a few mad windsurfers out!

More Jolie Brise

Ed Hughes A Silhouette Called Misty kindly sent me a couple more pictures of Jolie Brise under sail.