A bit of data for the yachties…

A trawl through our log over the last couple of years as we made our way round the UK has thrown up some interesting and also surprising (at least to us) pointers about the nature of our trip…

If anyone reading this wants any more information from our limited perspective, we would be very happy to bore for England talk…


We used a combination of navigation aids…

  • charts of course… Imray packs seemed to be the most cost effective way of buying, but together with admiralty tide tables and paper almanacs, we spent over £500 on paper charts.
  • Raymarine cmap…Heydays has a reasonably old (8 years) Raymarine chart plotter and radar system. The cmap charts for this are not at all cheap and UK coverage with yearly updates cost over £600 for the 2 years. Our blog for October 2015 shows our coming together with a sandbank in the Thames estuary as a result of a 6 month old cmap and 8 month old chart. This resulted in us adding…
  • Navionics on both James’ Samsung 7″ tablet and John’s ipad. These have the advantage of being  cheap (approx £30 per year) and updateable wherever we have wifi. This would WITHOUT DOUBT have enabled us to avoid the sandbank which had moved in a winter storm. The small Samsung tablet proved very useful to have directly at the wheel, although the display is at times dull especially in sunlight. The ipad display is ideal, but seemed power hungry and needed an external GPS. The combination of both worked well for us until we have saved enough pennies to renew our old Raymarine.
  • We also made use of Reeds of course both on-line and paper, The Cruising Association Almanac (this tended to be rather more cautious and anxiety causing than the others) and several pilot books. East Coast Pilot, the Clyde Cruising Club books (all of them) and the Irish Sea book were all excellent and we made full use of them both for passage planning through races and past headlands as well as entering new harbours.

Distances and times…

We completed a total of  1944 miles over the ground (although some local cruising on the way round took it over 2000!).

We did 45 separate days sailing with a total of 360 hours at sea. Surprisingly, we had the engine running for just over 75% of the time although much of this was motor sailing. At first we were disappointed with such a high ratio, however this included a canal transit and we also made decisions to use the motor to support overall boat speed, to make tide gates and harbour entrances on occasions. We realise (although purists and Joshua Slocum will disagree) that passage making, often with a time pressure, is a very different kind of sailing than we have been used to previously.  Now back home, we will be burning a lot less diesel. Overall we used about 700l of diesel on the trip round.

Also slightly disappointing, was the fact that we only did around 36 hours of sailing in darkness. Some of this is accounted for by the remarkably short (almost non existent at times) ‘nights’ we encountered for much of the time we spent in Scotland and Orkney.

Of the 45 day sails, we spent the majority (35) in marinas, with just 10 nights at anchor or on swinging moorings. On another occasion we would certainly wish to do more anchoring and it is not for the want of information, as Brian and Anne provided us with an amazing array of great anchorages, of which we sadly used only a small fraction. In our defence m’lud, the east coast provided little in the way of safe anchorages with the exception of the Essex and Suffolk rivers in which we anchored on several occasions, but separately from this trip. We made most use of swinging moorings and anchorages in Scotland and the islands, but weather on occasions helped us to decide for more sheltered berths…OK, OK, pubs and restaurants also played a part! As did friends and family wanting to visit, as well as our need to travel back south for various reasons.


We carried our main VHF set (mast aerial) as well as two back-up hand held sets. The hand-helds proved to be more useful in close approaches for contact with harbourmasters re moorings, pontoons etc. as we don’t (yet) have a microphone for the main set in the cockpit.

We carried phones between us with three different networks. In general ‘3’ proved very good even for 4G up the East Coast and in Orkney, while Vodafone and O2 were less comprehensive. In West Scotland Vodafone was slightly better although all were fairly poor with 3G at best. We got used to sitting in pubs….just for the wifi!!!

The shipping forecast…

If possible, read this bit of the blog with Sailing By playing in the background…

We used three main sources of weather information;

  • the shipping forecast of course. We used the BBC broadcasts as well as listening for coastguard updates, but we found the Marineweather App to be very helpful both for the sea areas and the inshore forecast.
  • Navtex. This was OK, but in truth the display is less helpful (to our old git eyes) than the apps. We did not find any occasion where Navtex was the only option.
  • Windy App. This we used a lot and is very helpful in tracking fronts and depressions as well as for the direct estimates of wind strength, wave height etc. It is also more useful than the shipping forecast in some respects, as it can zoom in to smaller areas as well as providing some guide for up to 7 days in advance. HOWEVER, our experience showed that it tends to under-estimate the general wind strength. This was not consistent sadly and we became used to continual cross-checking with the shipping forecast. Wind direction seemed to us to be more accurate even at quite local levels.

The I-spy book of shipping forecasts showed that we covered in order…

  • Wight, Dover, Thames, Humber, Tyne, Forth, Cromarty, Fair Isle, Hebrides, Malin, Irish Sea, Lundy, Plymouth and Portland. We also used close by areas of Dogger, Forties, Sole and Fitzroy.
  • Lyme Regis, Selsey Bill, North Foreland, Gibraltar Point, Whitby, Berwick upon Tweed, Rattray Head, Cape Wrath, Ardnamurchan Point, Mull of Kintyre, Mull of Galloway, Carlingford Loch, Great Orme Head, St Davids Head and Lands End

We’ll never again lie awake at night listening to the sonorous voices reeling off the headlands without still wishing we were there, watching them slip silently past…..

And finally, the link below should take you to a word table of places, times, distances and main events if you are still reading….

UK tour summary

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