First blog post

Welcome to Heydays’ blog which hopefully will take us on adventures as we expand our sailing horizons. We will try to share the highs and lows and hope that friends will share some of them with us.

If you want to read some of the stories from our first year (before the genesis of this blog) we’ll write stuff as it occurs to us in the ABOUT pages…

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Tuesday 18 August …and back home

We’ve been eying the forecasts for the last few days and starting Wednesday nothing looks great…plus we need to be back by Thursday evening anyway, so we decide that with a good breeze today (albeit with some showers), we will enjoy the sail back to Lymington.

A boat near us decides to turn around  but the wind makes it very difficult for them…and as always there are plenty of onlookers all of a sudden. So after using up most of our eggs for a last breakfast, it is with some trepidation that we prepare to cast off ourselves. As it happens it all runs very smoothly and we are smugly putting away lines and fenders when we get shouted at by the harbourmaster from the shore. It turns out that we can’t leave as the big barge and tugs are coming in, there is not room for us all and would we mind awfully tying up on his bit of the dock…or words to that effect. There ensues a scramble to get lines and fenders out again, although by this time more people are interested in the tugs than us…

We finally take our leave and head out into a choppy Solent and a nice breeze.

With 2 reefs in main and genoa, Heydays punches along happily, although we have become accustomed to light or no airs in the last few days and have become too relaxed about stowing stuff. The toaster and kettle sprout wings noisily to remind us that sailing boats are supposed to tip!

We round the headland off Cowes and the breeze pick up with gusts over the deck up to 27 kt. Nothing perturbs Heydays and we tack down the western Solent in record time. It has been great to get some ‘proper’ sailing in even if it is only the last day.

We tidy up back in Lymington and scoff the last of the curry for late lunch. The final act of the day is a reminder of our mortality though, as there is an ambulance on the quay waiting for the inshore lifeboat to bring a boat and casualty back in. The lifeboat crews are amazing and doing it for free. It turns out that the yacht had engine failure, but that as they were trying to get a sail up, it too jammed and the skipper at that point had a heart attack.

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This has not been one of our epic cruises, but it was good to be out on the water again in the company of our bubble friends. We got to know a bit more about some of our local cruising grounds and just generally chilled. That, in the year we have had so far is not to be sniffed at.

Stay safe…

Monday 17 August Portsmouth to Bembridge…dog days?

We have managed to book in to Bembridge for tonight…it has been full for the last few days, so after a leisurely breakfast we slip out of Haslar, past old historic Portsmouth and out into the Eastern Solent once more.

The dark clouds overtake us despite there being not a breath of wind, and soon we are looking our usual best in oilies (when were they last actually oilies?) as we motor past the forts once more.

It turns out that these old Napoleonic defences are up for sale at a snip of £1.7m for all three. Horse Sand is derelict, but the other two are reasonably together apparently in a chic sort of way….not that you would notice from the outside…

The entrance to Bembridge is narrow and shallow and we follow the GPS, whilst also being aware that they reposition the buoys regularly to reflect the changing pattern of the sand banks. We count them down assiduously as it is easy to go from one red to another and completely miss an intervening dog-leg.

The scene as we approach is very ‘Isle of Wight’ with the heavily gabled houses and even the horses on the beach…

We were last here a couple of years ago, rafted 4 or 5 deep, but they have made enormous improvements recently and changed the layout to finger berths…reduced capacity, but it means we don’t disturb anyone when we leave.

The afternoon dries up and against the background of a sailing school, we take the little water taxi across the harbour to find a co-op and look at the little shops in the village.

Look is all we do, as the people of Bembridge while having remarkable hair (the numerous hairdressers are open), seem to be able to do without other opportunities to spend cash…even the pub is shut. We assume that the rest of the island must be reached only by rough dirt tracks and boggy impenetrable marshes…judging by the preponderance of big 4×4 vehicles.

As we prepare to return there is a big barge and houseboat with two attendant tugs standing off in deep water waiting to come in.

John spends the rest of the afternoon cooking a curry while the rest of us (except Chris) help by generally lazing keeping out of his way. A very smart and refurbished Moody 33 by the name of Blue Tack ties up next to us and makes poor old Heydays look a bit shabby. Our thoughts turn to the winter works and general refit…and the cash required.

As we are tucking into our marvellous curry, a dog (with owners) decides to relieve himself against our electricity mains cable (and that of the boat next door). Fortunately for the dog, he is short and the socket is high. The owners prepare to move on until we say “sorry, but could you wash that down?”.  Why is it that we Brits say sorry when other people muck up? Anyway, the bloke is ready to challenge but fortunately his wife is very apologetic and hoses it down…the rest of the evening is spent talking through some Ricard, some Reisling and the remains of some red.

Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 August…days of contrasts…

Sounds like we are being churlish, but to finally get on heydays and for the weather to turn after the great weather we have had so far this summer seems mean. We decide that the best way to cheer us up is a full English at the café in the marina. This together with some nice coffee takes up  most of the morning (it’s a tough life) and we finally set of in a mizzle (is it even a word?) for the short hop back to the lovely anchorage at East Head, just inside the harbour entrance. We join a dozen or so other boats in the peace and quiet as the drizzle dries off. There are a few hardy souls on the beach and there is even the ice-cream boat who sees us after much frantic shouting and whistling. The rest of the day passes in a few games and general lazing before its time for dinner…and a few drinks.

A larger motor boat joins the gathering with attendant heavy bass and lots of motorised toys. We try not to be grumpy at our peace being disturbed…everyone is entitled to enjoy themselves…. They eventually leave around dark and we are left to a glorious remainder of the night and even some stars. There is something about a peaceful anchorage which is hard to beat, despite the comforts of a marina.

Early morning coffee looking out over the water, even if it is grey is special and we treat ourselves to some sautéed plums for breakfast (recipe courtesy of our friend Alex), but sadly none of his genuine french brioche….granary will have to do.

We continue the theme of just mooching locally and head out, bound for Haslar in Portsmouth. We manage to sail for a while which is nice, but the misty dampness soon gives way to no wind and a steady downpour.

The Southsea to Ryde hovercraft momentarily thinks about taking us out, but heads away behind us in a cacophony of noise and spray.

We are diligent in keeping to the small ship part of the channel, when we are overtaken by a fast rib on the wrong side. In no time they have been flagged down by a harbour patrol who appears to give them a stern talking to…ha! Some of us consider another rendition of “oh when the saints….” as we enter enemy territory. Everyhting looks grey as we enter and we hunker down for a wet afternoon..

…but as evening comes so does the sun and the spinnaker tower takes on a completely different look.

We decide to head out and treat ourselves to dinner on the old lightship while musing on what a hellhole those things must have been.

Lighthouses were bad enough in terms of isolation on dangerous rocks for weeks on end, but the lightships just relied on an anchor to hold fast and were just as isolated while having the dubious benefit of also being tossed around for good measure. From the deck of the lightship we get a good view of our navy…most of it we assume, as both of our aircraft carriers are in dock. A far cry from the old days of HMS Victory and HMS Warrior moored just a few meters away.

…and the spinkaer tower almost takes on a magical light at night….it would still be better in red!! COYS.

Friday 14 August 2020…just driftin’…

We’re staying in Northney for another night and decide to just explore this end of Chichester Harbour and maybe go up to Emsworth. The marina (as marinas go) is pleasant and reasonably off the beaten track.

We decide, after 6 years to finally get our old tender sailing. The old Tinker has done stirling service over the years, but is showing her age sadly. However the basic design is still hard to beat and we have also carried a mast and sail around with us on our travels, but have never got around to actually using it in anger….today is the day to try it out.

…no wind, but it works. We take a ride in it (minus mast and sails) up to Emsworth which we have visited many years before. Fond memories of Madeline and our friend Graham and their boat My Foolish Heart…

Emsworth has a country sort of feel about it and is still full of independent shops despite the close proximity of Portsmouth and Chichester.

The very best bit though, is a wine shop with a tiny courtyard bar…

Who cares if the weather has turned when there’s a nice bottle on offer…

Thursday 13 August …Harbour hopping

The earlyish low tide requires an early departure to get over the sill….early in these times means up around 6.30…at least it is not getting up at 2.30am to get a tide…perhaps we’re going soft.

We slip the lines before other folk are up and have our first coffee as we slide past the deserted beaches into the morning sun. The only folk around are a group exercising horses on the beach…

The sea is a flat calm with not a breath of wind, but we are happy just to be out on the water. Predicted electric storms have led to us booking yet another marina at the northern end of Chichester Harbour. We had hoped to anchor more, but the proximity of taller masts than us is a definite comfort. By 9.30 we have ghosted into Chichester Harbour…

… and we anchor with a few other boats just off the sandy beach and dunes of West Wittering.

The beach here has no commercial facilities and is wonderfully empty compared to some we have seen this summer. Our faithful tender is pumped up and we spend the morning lazing on the beach and taking the occasional dip to cool off. As we return to Heydays the beach is suddenly filled with a young girl’s birthday party and ‘dressed’ boats arriving to ‘happy birthday to you…’ drifting across the water. Lovely spot made all the more lovely as we finish our lunch, with the arrival of a floating ice-cream seller. We tell him about the party on the beach and he is surrounded as soon as he lands.

The clouds are building and there are one or two rumbles from the north. We hear about some flash floods around the M25 and bits of the west country, and we head deeper into the harbour as a breeze builds just enough to take us under genoa alone up channel. Despite being close to ‘civilisation’ we are wonderfully secluded as we slip, past the marshes and mud flats into Northney marina just off the Emsworth Channel. Our berth is on the ‘hammerhead’ and we can look out over Egrets and Terns finding dinner in the mud and shallows.

We grab some beers in the last of the sun at the little café by the marina office and then head off ‘home’ to cook dinner and while the evening away, as the flashes and rumbles remind us that we are grateful for the large and reassuringly tall mast on the boat next to us.

As a slight footnote…we have a conversation with a neighbour on a motorboat about the amount of fuel he uses. A mate of his pays £6000 to fill his Sunseeker, which takes him from Cowes to Devon, but only as far back as Poole! We feel smug…until the wind dies!

Tuesday 11 August 2020…more than 200m from our mooring!

A red letter day as we set off in sun and virtually no wind for Langstone Harbour…definitely unfashionable. But while not epic, it is good to hear water running under Heydays’ keels and to watch the old familiar landmarks slip past. We have chosen a marina this evening as there are thunderstorms in the forecast and we don’t fancy being the only people around with a long pointy metal thing up in the sky in an anchorage…

We leave Cowes and Southampton in our wake, past Osborne House (built by Albert for his Bride…although to be fair he probably required a chunk of our taxes to complete it) and on to the Eastern Solent. This part of the Solent has more commercial traffic and we chose not to argue with a couple of tugs and a long tow.

The old No Man’s Land fort passes and we manage to get some sail up with a freshening breeze and switch off the old iron lump.

After such a long time away, it is so relaxing to be pushed along by the breeze and to feel Heydays leaning at last to what she was designed for. The beaches of Southsea and Hayling Island mark the entrance to the Harbour and we pick our way up the very narrow and very shallow channel to Southsea Marina.

There is a curious sill here which opens automatically once the water above it is 1.6m…interesting use of passive hydraulics.

By the time we are tied up, we are all bathed in sweat once more and end up lying about like beached whales.

The little café serves up ice cream from which they forget to deduct Sunak’s 50%. She offers a refund, but we each have another ice cream for free instead. Almost worth voting for them!!!!

It turns out this is also a favourite spot for some starlings…who’ve been eating blackberries….

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In the cooler part of the evening we wander in search of what turns out to be an elusive shop. As Southampton supporters we chose not to sing ‘Oh When the Saints go Marching in’ as we find ourselves deep in a large (and presumably Pompey) estate…how feeble is that?

It turns out that starlings are not the only ones who like going to the top of the mast and James is hauled up to sort out a windvane which has presumably been damaged by previous birds…

Our plans to do some more fettling on the old girl are thwarted by the heat of the next day and we head for the beach instead. Much to James’ surprise he swims in UK waters for the first time in forever (as does Chris and John)…refreshing is the official temperature, but great none-the-less. The Chinese member of the party gets her toes wet! By evening we manage to get a table in the air-conditioned Indian as the sun goes down…

…and sweat curry for the rest of the night!

Getting going at last…10 August 2020


It has been ages since we posted, or even been for anything other than a day sail on Heydays. We won’t go into the reasons for this and I doubt that any of us, even in our dotage, will forget the spring and summer of 2020 and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The result for Heydays was neglect over several months and the inevitable build up of mould and mildew. Once we were allowed back on board we treated the old girl to some serious deep cleaning, but as this mini-cruise is showing, we still found plenty of nooks and crannies which haven’t seen the light of day for nearly a year…and a smell to match!
Still, its great to be back on board with a semblance of normality and we are the proud owners of a solar panel mounted across the davits. This has proved to be one of the best domestic improvements so far and we can keep the fridge on (for cold beer) without having to run the engine…our little bit for the environment?
Social media has suggested that with many boats opting to cruise home waters this year, the anchorages and marinas are getting crowded, especially in the west. Indeed, it seems as if there have been some angry scenes in Yarmouth on the isle of Wight. Planning is a rather grand word for our decision making, but we opt to meander east towards Bembridge, Portsmouth, Langstone, Chichester etc and see what we can find in the less fashionable areas. Newtown Creek and Bembridge both heaving, so we opt to stay in Lymington and we sit in the late sun telling ourselves that we would be more than pleased to rock up somewhere like this in France or indeed, anywhere but our home port. What is not to like about the birds calling on the marshes…and the occasional gin…or two.

With local restaurants being booked and our reluctance to do too much in crowded places, we opt to do more cooking on board and have brought a great selection of pre-prepared nosh. Monday sees us dining on Portuguese Bacalao con Natas (fish pie to you). The simple act of just chucking it in the oven reveals yet another minor niggle, of which we seem to have more than our fair share this year…the oven will only work with the application of some mole grips and a casual disregard for health and safety. Nothing will get in the way of our dinner ….

Saturday and Sunday 20 & 21 July… sailing home (ish)

As a postscript to Friday night in St Peter Port…the rain lashed down all evening and we stayed tucked up in Heydays having got wet once already. It was a real shame, as there was a water carnival and fireworks as well. We heard the fireworks and a brave announcer trying to make everything sound as though this was the most fun ever…full marks for trying.

Of the thunder and lightening which prompted our detour to Guernsey there was not a peep!

Saturday morning promises a fine sail across to Cherbourg for some last minute booze and cheese stocks and we leave at 7am BST at the head of a small flotilla of boats all hoping to catch the rapid tidal escalator round Alderney to all points East and North. The BST bit is important as initially we found ourselves working on French time i.e. Central European Summer Time (CEST), but with the added complication that some of our phones and tidal almanacs seemed to be giving us tidal info in GMT, BST and even CET. The fact that so many left with us gave us the confidence that we had finally got it right.

Down the channel the wind was gusty and there was a nasty chop, which to those of us used to sailing in the Solent is nothing (almost). Alderney and indeed any land came and went as the visibility closed down one minute and then lifted the next. The steady procession of boats gradually dispersed as the day went on and we rounded Cap de la Hague with a steady SW F5/6, which, despite having wind with tide raised a nasty little chop which threatened our soup! The rain held off, but we eyed the clouds over Cherbourg with suspicion. The outer forts take on a particularly foreboding attitude in this weather…

The clouds chose to off-load just as we entered the outer harbour…this is the real glamour stuff…

And then as quickly as it came, the clouds lifted and by the time we were moored up we were baking in layers of by then completely necessary clothing.

We planned to do some shopping at Normandy Wines who deliver to the boat, then on to Carrefour, then dinner before a kip and an early morning leave for a channel crossing to catch the last of the flood up the Needles channel and home. It turns out that Carrefour deliver to the boats as well, so we had an early dinner of our final French fruits de mer (for now)… or steak and frites. By the time we got back to Heydays our bags of shopping had been put on board and then the 14 boxes of wine arrived and we were complete. We have not had service like this in too many places at home and we were even more impressed at how much stuff we could buy package free . They stock a great range of pulses, cereals, rice etc etc sold loose….

With the wind now easing to no more than F4 with only occasional gusts of 19 or 20kts we decide to leave in the last of the light and maybe even get most of the way across the eastbound shipping lane before darkness sets in completely. Chris and Yee Tak had both been considering going home on the ferry, but stuck with us on this occasion with the promise of a lovely beam reach in a decreasing wind. We slipped our mooring and left France with real sadness but were treated to a fine sun going down over the old harbour…

We usually put in a reef or so at night and this was no exception if we want our female company on future crossings. With 2 reefs in the main and two in the genny, Heydays was making an easy 6 to 6.5kts. The only thing to disturb the peace was a very busy eastbound shipping lane and a large tanker crossing it on a very similar course to us. We have not seen such a large ship doing this before and it was momentarily alarming as it seemed to be altering course to go behind some boats…just like us!

With the excitement past, we slipped into our usual routine of 2 hours on and 2 off and so the night passed with the loom of Barfleur lighthouse finally dipping below the horizon as a wonderful moon rose to take its place…

The westbound lane on the UK side was equally busy and we did a spot more dodging behind boats and anxiously peering at bearings and the changing aspect of the lights as the boats passed ahead or astern of us.

With St Catherines light now visible and the bulk of the big boats slipping silently well astern, the first lightening of the sky signalled the approach of dawn…

and gradually the Isle of Wight began to take shape together with the familiar sight of the Needles to guide us home….

We passed Hurst Castle once more and joined up the dots so to speak, bringing Heydays home exactly 2 months after we left on our Brittany tour. Our final job is to tidy up, stash the wines and make our way back to our mooring.

Our mooring was taken by, of all things, a motor cruiser when we got back to it. We shoved Heydays onto a vacant mooring belonging to another poor soul and called the Harbour master. They said they will move boats around and sort everything out. When asked whether we get a cut of the sub-letting of our mooring, the reply was that the fees “…go into a pot to reduce the charges for everyone”. After a long night sail our repsonse was “Yeah right”

Welcome home! However we won’t leave it there, because this cruise done in stages with biggish chunks of time spent in France, has been a real revelation. The pride that the French take in their public spaces and their apparent willingness to spend on landscaping, sculptures and public art…even if they need more practice in using the often freely available poo bags! The seeming lack of cultural snobbery which prevents many young people from getting out on the water in this country. There, they have a big supply of mostly public owned marinas and moorings which enable people from all walks of like to be able to afford to moor their own boats….and they have vast numbers of very young children out on the water in all manner of little boats. But most of all, the sheer rugged beauty of the Brittany coast…

Friday 19 July… …decisions

Our original thoughts on our final few days of the cruise are to trundle up the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsular to within a hop of Cherbourg before our final push to Lymington and home. the only snag appears to be a wave of thunderstorms hanging around this evening. The squalls and thunder we can cope with, it is just that we don’t fancy slopping around with a big metal pole sticking up in the middle of the ocean while there is lightening around. Call us old fashioned …

We finally, after much vacillating, decide to head instead for St Peter Port, where we can tuck up next to yachts with much bigger appendages. Size really does matter…

We leave St Malo as the sun rises…

…and after negotiating the St Malo rocks and beacons for a final time…

…we settle down for a broad reach across to Guernsey. The sail is unremarkable except for a few drizzly showers scudding past. One minute Jersey and Sark are there and the next it is as though they have sunk without trace.

The final couple of hours see us using the motor to push on ahead of the ebb which runs very strongly through the Little Roussel. Condor and a big cruise ship are the only signs of life as just as we come in to berth, the rain decides to welcome us back to British territorial waters. Glad to be home!

Thursday 18th July… a free day in St Malo

We have planned to have a day mooching around St Malo….after a substantial lie-in. It turns out that there is a big Columbian sail training Barque in port (3 masts, 2 of which are square rigged!) called Gloria.

We wonder, not for the first time, how people managed not to plummet off the top yards in the southern ocean, whist trying to shorten sail with the mast arcing through 30 degrees. perhaps they did and perhaps there were lots more where they came from anyway.

There is some very loud samba, salsa and marimba music playing, together with some very smart young sailors who seem happy to salute scruffy tourists aboard…

The boat is immaculate with the smallest piece of brass polished to within an inch of its life. We have problems with rope on Heydays…

In town we notice the reaction of many young (and not so young) women to smart matelots in crisp white uniforms. Despite saluting, we don’t have the same impact …not sure why.

Lunch in a very quirky restaurant with multi-coloured loo-rolls, the inevitable celtic/breton buskers and great views from the walls…

St Malo is vibrant and there is what appears to be a kite festival going on…

There is a concert of sacred music in the cathedral and we sign up for Gounod’s St Cecile Mass and Bizet’s Te Deum. The cathedral was effectively destroyed by the allies in 1944 (along with 80% of St Malo itself). St Malo as we see it today appears just as Louis 16 had planned it, albeit re-built in the 1950s. The cathedral was fnished in 1972 and is a stunning setting for the music.

On our way back to Heydays we have what is one of the best ice-creams we have had…and another look at the Gloria…