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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Season postscript

We have decided to take Heydays out of the water for a few months to give her the TLC she missed last winter. The old girl is showing her age a bit, which is unsurprising given that she was built in 1989.

West Solent Boat Builders have a small yard at Keyhaven and not only do they charge less than the big ones in Lymington, but everyone there is very friendly and they even let you borrow the odd tool occasionally to help out.

An early start on Sunday as we wanted to make the short hop to Keyhaven at the top of the tide. Keyhaven is delightful and unspoilt…but shallow even for us at just around 1.4m draft. Being a bilge keeler we can take the mud, but would rather not sit in glorious isolation for several hours on a cold and windy day. In the event, the wind was well over 30kt for most of the journey with occasional gusts over 40kt.

We chose just to beam reach with a scrap of genoa and we comfortably made over 5kt through the water.

While the weather over Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight looked fine, we were running away from a very threatening sky over Lymington…

But there are times when even a threatening sky has its own magic against a foreboding Hurst Castle and light…

Keyhaven even at high tide was as tricky as ever but by 10.30 we were alongside with doubled up lines…and coffee on the go.

(Boaty detail alert)…She was not due to be lifted out until early Monday and we needed the time while she was still in the water to trace an annoying leak into the bilges which had developed. We checked all the easily accessible sea cocks but could find nothing except a small weep around one of the transducer fittings…and a steady drip from the stern gland. Hmm! Doesn’t really seem enough. All that is left in terms of holes in our boat are the keel bolts. We want to tighten them anyway as they hadn’t been touched since they were renewed 5 years ago. We can get to 6 out of the 8 sets on the Moody (reasonably) easily, but thery all look good and dry. The only thing for it is to take the water tanks out to get to the last pair…who designs boats…grrr. This turns out to be reasonably easy as we had had them replaced when the keels were done. Good and bad news for us…keel bolts all snug and dry and in good condition, but the plumbing of the tanks! Another job added to the lengthening list….

We leave as it gets dark, having taken the sails off and some dodgy looking tins which have been hanging around for a “while”. The tide is due to drop around 2m overnight (low water at 3.30am. We scope the lines properly, but there is always that nagging doubt. We could have stayed on the boat, but the promise of a warm shower plus the fact that the inside of Heydays has not a single useable bunk due to half the interior being removed, means that we take the easy route…so, up at 3.15 and back to Heydays who has taken the ground nicely (the joys of a bilge keel). She’s not hanging by her cleats from the quay so back to bed for another 3 hours kip.

Early morning inspection, plus removing more of the cabin sole, proves definiively that it is a mixture of stern gland and transducer which are the only points of salty stuff geting to be on the wrong side of ther hull…phew!

The rest of the day is spent on the glamorous side of boating…lift out, scrub down..

…and then finally she is in her new home for the winter. Now the work can really start!

Sunday 28th November….and back home.

The night was windier than expected with the tail of Storm Arwen running past. Again, we have decided leave earlyish despite the foul tide as we need to be back in Lymington with plenty of time in hand to get things off Heydays in preparation for her coming ashore next week. As we have said before, there is something deeply satisfying about hot coffee and toast in the cockpit as we sail into a bright clear day.

With full sails and the wind back in the north, Heydays is broad reaching in a glorious F4 making 6kt over the ground probably against around 1kt of foul tide. Lunch back on the quay in Lymington consists of eating up remains from the store cupboard (yummier than you would think) and some brilliant homemade soup.

These days out on the water are among some of the most memorable and we can at least get her ashore for the winter knowing that while this has not been the most classic of sailing seasons, it has been the best November we can remember.

Saturday 27th November …forced relaxation

The night was rough outside although Heydays was impeccably behaved even in the gusts as wind howled through our rigging and that of the other boats close by. We were got up twice in the night by alarms going off…the first was the tac tic instruments complaining about being left on standby with no power, and the second was the hand-held VHF making exactly the same complaint. We never used to make those mistakes, so it just shows how much we are out of routine and practice on the boat as we make good for the night. The morning dawns bright and clear …and very cold. But the river is beautiful just the same.

What to do when you are on a snug boat with nowhere to go and a pub close by??? This bit is less of a sailing blog, but inevitably part of the general sailing experience. Captain Aubrey certainly spent a great deal of time at anchor waiting for winds and tides so we don’t feel so bad. A relaxed (and late) breakfast followed by a trip to the nursing home and then a late lunch in the Master Builder leaves an afternoon for cards, booze and general pottering while Heydays sits gently with just an occasional lurch in the stronger gusts. We play cribbage and feel like we are going back to the fifties when pubs around the country would be full of old men with pints playing cribbage or dominos.

Friday 26th….Decisions

We have planned to get back to Buckler’s Hard up the Beaulieu River today so that we can be tucked up ahead of the storm and ride it out over Saturday. The tides are not brilliant and the question is whether to wait for the favourable tide and risk the weather coming in, or leave earlier and beat into the westerly and a foul tide. In the end we agree to leave earlier despite the prospect of a beat into the notorious Solent chop. We leave a reasonably calm Portsmouth feeling slightly over-dressed (and hot) in all our wet weather gear and thermals, but as we draw clear of the entrance we get the full benefit of the expected F5. We have double reefed the main and genoa and for a while wonder if we have been over cautious. However, as we clear Gilkicker Point we get the full benefit of the westerly (with a bit of North in it) and we are glad that we don’t have to go up to the mast just yet. Heydays is as good as you can get for this sailing given that we have bilge keels. She takes the nasty chop in her stride with just a few big green ones catching us out.

A fin keeler would have done better no doubt, but we still manage to tack and make good through 56o even taking into account the tide and some leeway.
We keep clear of the southern channel up the eastern arm of the Solent as there appears to be quite a lot of commercial stuff in and out of Southampton and it takes us 9 tacks to clear Egypt Point just west of Cowes.

The wind increases steadily and by the time we are off the Brambles it is a steady 26 or 27kts which puts it at the top end of F6. There have been a few squalls along the way with the instruments reading a true windspeed in the gusts of over 40kt. This is already gale territory!

As we are about a mile off the rather tortuous entrance to the Beaulieu River we see a very nasty squall building and we take the decision to get the sails down slightly earlier than strictly necessary had we been in calmer times. The seas have worsened as we now have a constant F7 and wind over tide. This turns out to be the right decision and the squall hits with amazing ferocity…but only for a short while. It passes and we are left with rainbows and some great sunlight for our entrance to the river.

However, it is not done with us yet, and although the river is sheltered, another squall hits with rain stinging our eyes with what feels like small bullets. Not being able to see while navigating up a narrow river with moored boats swinging wildly around is a challenge….but then it is over again and we moor up at the marina in calm sunlight wondering what all the fuss is about.

With the storm now imminent along the south coast we double up our lines and fenders and prepare to sit out tonight and Saturday.

November 24th…we must be mad!

However, in mitigation m’lud, we’ve had so little time on the water in the last 12 months or more that we really felt the need to get some proper salt-water rushing under Heydays’ keels. Loads of excuses for not getting out more (although the spring and summer was peppered with a few day sails up and down the Solent), some of which revolved around the dreaded covid getting in the way of finishing some jobs we had started and which rendered our poor old boat more like a workshop.
We finally sorted the windows at the third attempt, although again (excuse alert) not entirely our fault. Some of the sealant we had used at the first attempt seemed to have lost all elasticity and had become almost crumbly. Not a good material for keeping out the green stuff. We are now using a two-part seal in the Aluminium channels for the Perspex itself and neoprene to seal the whole frame to the boat. Everything connected to us is now crossed, but some heavy weather may or may not confirm….
We had planned to spend four or five days around the Solent and to visit some small harbours and anchorages. In the event, an increasingly frail 98 year old mother means that we need to be in reasonably quick reach of Southampton. We are also aware that storm Arwen is due on Friday night and Saturday so we are planning to be well tucked up by then.
We got to Lymington for lunch on Wednesday and completed the first stage of the cruise…500m from our pile mooring in the river, to the Lymington Town Sailing Club pontoon for an overnight stay prior to an early start on Thursday to catch the tide going East. Actually, it was great just to be back on board and to start to feel at home again in our separate cabins. Lunch in the Monkey Brewhouse was reasonably liquid and then our attention turned to dinner which was a pre-cooked fish pie to be warmed in the oven. This led to lesson number one and a reminder of the boiling points of Butane and Propane…and the benefit of having an ex-chemistry teacher on board. The oven takes an age to heat and the gas heater on board works intermittently. The standard gas in use in this country is mostly butane with a boiling point around -2C whilst propane has a boiling point of -42C. It turns out that the temperature in the gas locker is cold enough for the butane to produce very little in the way of gas. We don’t have propane on board sadly but a judicious use of a new (warmer) bottle plus warming the old one (not really recommended) does the trick. Now, finally we are really toasty on board.
The alarm at 7 the following morning is not especially welcome but the sun is just rising as we slip our mooring and glide gently out of the Lymington river.

Not another soul in sight…apart from both IoW ferries coming at us from different directions and with not much room to move at low water. There is something wonderful about an early start (once you are started), especially with a warm croissant and a steaming cup of coffee in hand. The morning is crisp and we have set our sights on the glories of Portsmouth for the night. It is good to be out on the water and to have the Solent to ourselves. Heydays ghosts along with lightish winds and the new flood tide helping us out and soon we are off an odd looking Calshot Spit. The Fawley refinery chimney which has been our landmark since forever was blown up two weeks ago and it looks strangely bare without it. We keep out of the way of a couple of ugly commercial boats rounding the Brambles bank and head directly for the beautiful spinnaker tower in Portsmouth. In the summer this area is like Piccadilly Circus with the commercial stuff in and out of Southampton mixing (not always amicably) with the pleasure boats out of Cowes and the Hamble. But today, our peace is not disturbed by the usually incessant roar of the floating pe****s (or Sunseekers as they like to be called) charging about burning diesel as if it is going out of fashion (which we suppose it is).

The entrance to Portsmouth itself is strangely narrow and even quaint given that it is home to the Navy and some of the largest warships afloat, not to mention the ferries and occasional cruise liners.

Haslar Marina is actually in Gosport, but is right next to the harbour ferry and is always very welcoming. With Heydays snug by midday, we set off to look for lunch and take the ferry which lands right in the shadow of the tower.


The Ship Anson is o lovely old pub on the harbour-side and is as warm, welcoming and friendly as you would want….unless you support the nearest team in red.

Yee Tak and Chris decide to spend the afternoon in Gunwharf Quays sorting out Christmas presents, but seem to get distracted by mulled wine along the way (perhaps that was their intention all along…just sayin’).

John and James mooch about the old dockyard and have a great afternoon poking about inside the Victory with almost no other visitors to get in the way. James has recently been reading the Captain Aubery books and it is good to see the reality of what was described as he sailed in Napoleonic times around the globe. Harsh does not even begin to describe it, unless you were an officer.


Back on board we while away another toasty evening as the wind begins to pick up ahead of Storm Arwen which s already making its presence felt in the north west and Scotland.

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!