Another short hop…and be careful what you wish for…

Just round the two headlands of Bolt Head and Start point is Brixham which two of us visited on the way west. Again, the winds are fickle and we have time to read, mend and generally laze around as the red and ancient Devon cliffs roll past.

This time we end up in the marina, but our first born are mercifully spared and for once it is a pleasant experience. The weather is about to turn and we start to plan more carefully the passage across Lyme Bay. With expected SW (at last!) winds of F4 to 6, the Bill and its race are not to be taken lightly this time. The everlasting debate…do we keep out (certainly) and then do we plug on for Poole or head back on ourselves a bit and into Weymouth or Portland. We resolve to see what the wind actually does tomorrow.

23rd June Brixham to ???

The wind in the morning turns out to be pretty much southerly which means a fine reach (fast) instead of a near dead run (sloppy and swelly). However once we are out there, it is very much a steady F6 and certainly not the F4 to 6 promised. With gusts at the top end of 6, it doesn’t take long for the sea to kick up and be only just aft of the beam. This is a day for keeping at least 5 miles south of the Bill and we are comforted by a couple of others who appear to have the same idea. With two reefs in the main and a couple of rolls in the genoa, Heydays is wonderfully balanced. She always responds well to a slightly smaller press of sail than heeling over on her ear. Only the occasional wave knocks the bows or the stern around. 6 hours sees us due south of the Bill and we can see the breaking water in the race.

We decide to call it a day and head in for Portland, especially as the latest forecast for our bit of inshore waters talks about a strong wind warning. We are certainly right in the upper ends of a F6 with gusts well over. We head for the narrowish gap between the race and the western end of the shambles bank with just a genny left flying on a dead run. Even though we are some way clear, the water is still confused and very choppy, but then, all of a sudden, we are free and enter the relative calm of Portland Harbour. We are intending to anchor but a lot of inviting and empty buoys beckon and soon we are riding out the worst of the weather courtesy of the Royal Navy Sailing Association. There is something deeply satisfying eating a meal on board while the weather does its thing outside, knowing that we are snug and secure.

Saturday 24th June. Decision…or chickening out?

The plan is to leave at 4am to reach the Hurst Narrows on the flood before the ebb starts…don’t want to be there in strong wind over tide! At 3.30am the alarm rings unpleasantly with the wind still howling through the rigging having done so steadily all night. The forecast remains at 5 to 7 although decreasing  to 4 to 6. By 4am we are back in bed having decided to call it a day. The winds for Sunday are no better and with domestic commitments on Monday and Tuesday we pull into the marina to leave the old girl there until Wednesday.


We keep going over whether we have chickened out, but the yachtie magazines are full of stories of people who left on a timetable and pressed on regardless, only to come to later grief…

The harbour is a playground for fit young men and women and these strong winds are like manna to them. There are kite surfers, windsurfers on foiling boards and most amazingly a fleet of foiling dinghies called Waszps…

Some of course are more proficient than others, but we are still amazed at how anyone can control such an unstable and very twitchy platform…

We are content to have hot showers and to wend our way home.

21st June River Yealm to Salcombe

Another glorious set of easterlies (although to be fair, virtually no wind at all) see us head East… The purists along with Joshua Slocum himself, will be turning in their graves, muttering darkly about sailing boats, wind and a modern lack of patience to go where it takes you. Presumably they don’t have grandchildren, around whose little fingers they are wrapped, or other more mundane commitments. However, the motor to Salcombe is very pleasant in an unstressed kind of way and we put the sails up more for show than any real means of propulsion…we have all day after all.

Salcombe is as pleasant as always and we pick up a mooring mid harbour which is served by a very efficient (and cheap-for-Salcombe) water taxi. The town has a reputation for vying with Sandbanks as the most expensive real estate in the UK and it is certainly busy.

Lunch on pasties and dinner of fish and chips sitting on the harbour wall makes for a healthy day of eating…but with another lovely sunset over the town we sit in the cockpit with fat tummies…and the odd rum or two.

Post Script

We decide to stay for another day and make use of the beaches on the east side of the harbour. The water temperature suits half of the crew and they slosh about happily in what the rest of us feel is near freezing. Clearly James and Yee Tak are not impressed with Wim Hoff.

Mechanics and a glorious walk….

Monday sees a completely different river and the early(ish) morning colours and sunshine put us in the mood to tackle the recalcitrant outboard.

The problem we discover is a jelly like residue in the carburettor and the fuel tank. This is a relatively common problem with the more recent E10 and even E5 petrol especially in older engines. We get the tank and carb clean and she runs like a dream finally on the old petrol we have in Heydays. We’ll try to source something better in Salcombe…

We actually make it to the slip in style this time and can’t resist a few pictures of the old girl through the trees as she lies gently to the mooring…

There is a glorious walk around the headland which starts off through sun-dappled woods and gradually climbs up to some stunning views over the Yealm Estuary and the Mewstone Rock.

The skylarks chatter irritatedly at us and a raptor of some description (could it be a Red Kite?) circles lazily below us above the rocks. Oddly the walk ends up back at the Ship for a late lunch ….pint of prawns, fishy nibbles and the odd pint or two.

Back on Heydays the late afternoon sunny snooze is disturbed by a boat coming up river looking for a mooring. They are not exactly steady and seem to be doing everything at too much speed. All our fingers are crossed that they don’t decide to come along side us and we keep our heads well down. The first attempt at coming alongside a catamaran just up stream is both down wind and down tide….followed by panicky shouts of “Woa!” and “Back back!”. He goes back and nearly takes out a pretty boat not far away from us. There is much revving of engine, lots of whining bow-thruster and some shouted directions from the catamaran. They wisely decide to put out every single fender they have (and probably wish they could have borrowed more). Eventually everything is secure, and peace descends once more on the river.

We make Mojitos with lemon juice and lime cordial which work surprisingly well, and dine on prawn risotto washed down with some Picpoul and the odd rum or two with chocolate. The sun sets on what must be one of the prettiest rivers in Devon.

Sunday 19th June…not blazing!

Sunday lie-in is not for us as we take the short hop out of Plymouth and the old gun batteries. We pass the Mewstone rock (and the quaintly named Shag rock) in intermittent showers to reach the Yealm ahead of the stronger winds and around high tide. We were here a few years ago and it has to be one of the prettiest places around.

We have a great but all too short sail across the bay and pick our way across the bar at the entrance and up to a vacant visitor’s mooring for a couple of nights. The rain arrives as we settle down for some morning coffee, snug inside with the heater on in June! Bring it on.

Being old we snooze the rainy afternoon away until it is time to get the party frocks, DJs and wet weather gear on for our dinner date at the Ship Inn in Noss Mayo. The outboard decides not to co-operate and we have a lovely wet paddle to the slip. We arrive at the pub for our Sunday dinner hot, damp and not really in keeping with the rest of the clientele. We raise a glass to John’s Mum and Dad who he used to bring here years ago as their treat.

Plymouth, Saturday and the green boat show…

The event is being sponsored by the University of Plymouth and included a series of lectures as well as the usual commercial stands. Although only small by most show standards, we glean some really interesting ideas about where the future of boating is going. At the moment, the options are still mostly much more expensive than the current mass produced stuff (outboards, antifoul etc) but this is clearly the future. We ponder for a while what we can practically (and economically) do and it seems that the most immediate change will be to the way we keep Heydays’ bottom clean. Coppercoat is clearly the front runner at the moment in terms of avoiding the powerful biocides which are clearly not ideal for marine life. However we were specially intrigued by a material made from short fibre recycled plastic which is then stuck to the hull. The short velour-like fibres stop the usual critters from adhering to the surface and has apparently been used for over 10 years in parts of Europe, specifically the Netherlands….maybe we go down this route instead.

Plymouth is a funny mix of the very old stuff which even Drake might recognise, sat next to 50s and 60s-built blocks built after the horrible destruction left by Nazi bombs in the second world war.

Grumpy git alert…we get tempted into The Harbour Seafood Restaurant for some seafood lunch (oddly). We count 12 staff and around the same number of customers and wait a few minutes to get seated. Menus arrive some while later. Having attracted someone from their own conversation, we order from the menu. Doombar zero is printed in reasonably clear letters (even for old people like us) but are told that they never sell it and they don’t know why it is on the menu. The food, when it arrives is really good though and our mood lifts until we ask for tabasco. The waiter goes off to check…and then gets on with something else presumably more fascinating than us. After a while we ask him about the tabasco to be told “Oh, no, the chef said we have run out”…we are tempted to do the same! In reality of course, they are using staff who have probably never received any training and who are probably on minimum wage with no paid breaks…not their fault. We leave without anyone acknowledging our departure and vow not to return.

After a bit of worshiping in the ultra-modern Drake Circus shopping church…sorry mall, we find ourselves sucked in against our will to the Plymouth Gin Distillery cocktail bar, where comfy sofas and even comfier gin-based cocktails make a great end to a day of odd contrasts.

The thunderclaps as we head back to Heydays herald the predicted change in the weather for a few days, but they leave a spectacular sky in their wake. This must have been what the sky looked like at the height of the bombing.


Friday 17th June…Brixham to Plymouth

In the early morning light, Brixham is slowly coming to life among the brightly coloured houses …

…and in the harbour.

The plan is to sail to Plymouth to have a look at the green boat show…and to pick up Chris and Yee Tak who plan to join us there. We set off with absolutely no wind at all, which is sort of OK, as although it means motoring initially, at least we can bear away and sail once the predicted south easterly picks up and we round Berry head.

We round Berry Head and pick up a light southerly…with a hint of west in it…dead on the nose. We consider just sailing and doing what the wind allows, but sadly we feel that we ought to make some effort to meet our wives as agreed and we continue to motor. Nothing is lost though, as once we round Start Point, we will be able to sail properly and may be pick up a bit of sea breeze as well. The late morning passes happily in the sun and the engine chugs along helped by the early ebb. Start Point looms as we finish lunch and prepare to get the sails up…to find that the wind now has significant west in it! Never mind, Bolt Head will come along soon and then…

Bolt Head does indeed come along and once again the wind god watches us carefully and follows us round. S/he doesn’t get the malevolence quite right as we can at least use the main a bit as we motor sail. Ha! John ges on with a bit of ropework as the red cliffs slide past…

We round the Mewstone rock just off the pretty Yealm and have the wind right where we want it.

At least we’ll have an hour or so of sailing. Engine off and peace reigns…for all of a minute as the wind dies completely. We slat to and fro in the gentle swell and then its back on with the engine to take us up the Sound into Queen Anne’s Battery.

The irony of going to a green boat show in a boat designed to make use of wind power but burning diesel all the way is not lost on us. We’ve come to this marina as it is where the boat show is to be held, but at over £40 per night, we assume that the showers come with a personal masseur and a welcoming band….or are we just grumpy old gits?

It is lovely however to meet up with the feminine bit of the crew and we pass the evening with a few drinks and dinner in the restaurant by the marina office…and the grumpiness dissolves.

Thursday…round the Bill.

We can’t really understand why more boats are not using Portland Harbour as a stopover, or even as a tranquil anchorage. Weymouth clearly has the attractions of the town and restaurants, but almost inevitably it means rafting, or a trip through the lifting bridge. Portland was calm, peaceful and even pretty (looking in the right direction).

Breakfast was leisurely after an early coffee and we were able to attend to some glamourous tasks left over from the winter, such as cleaning the bilges. The work we did on Heydays over the winter seems to have paid dividends and we are once again  reasonably proud of the old girl in her 33rd year.

We set off in virtually no wind, aiming to get to the infamous Portland race around slack water at 12 noon. The place looks better in the sun (despite the forbidding prison on the cliffs…shades of Alkatraz?) and maybe the cruise passengers and the small boat day-trippers think so as well.

Given the benign conditions we opt for the inner passage which means around 100 to 200m off shore and no more. We are in the company of a few others, but they seem to be hanging back waiting for the first one to take the plunge and lead the way.

We can see the race and the overfalls and hug the shore as instructed (we are tempted to try the literal biscuit toss but don’t want to offend the holiday makers…). Our companions are in line astern following closely past the old quary cranes and loading docks, past the light and the monolith…and then we are through…what’s all the fuss??

With the ebb now taking full effect, we head out over Lyme Bay for the rest of the afternoon. The sail does a bit of work, but once again we are motor-sailing simply to make Brixham by dinner time.

With an hour to go we are shaken out of our relaxed stupor by a pod of dolphins who swim for an all too brief while alongside, before shearing off after fish or perhaps the richer pickings from a cruise ship which has just left Torbay. It is always magical to be joined by dolphins and we end the afternoon on a high as we head for the harbour master pontoon making sure not to collect a rather shaky skiff in the fairway…

Brixham is still a busy fishing port, but it is a remarkably welcoming place which tumbles down to the harbour and which deserves more recognition from yachties who almost invariably flock to the cutesy Dartmouth or Salcombe instead.

What is not to like to sit eating fish and chips with a beer not 50m from our own boat…?

As the light fades it shows into sharp relief the modern trawler fleet right next to the last of the sailing trawlers to work out of this harbour.

Wednesday 15 June

So, the first day of our little June cruise to Devon. The plan is to get to Plymouth on Friday so that we can have a look round the Green Boat Show. In the early stages of planning, it looked as though there would be something other than unremitting sou’westers. Sadly, things have changed and while we don’t have F4 on the nose, we have some very variable light airs. We catch the first of the ebb out of Lymington around 1pm and get shot out through the Hurst Narrows like a cork out of a bottle.

The Needles and the light and Alum Bay are always glorious even though we have seen them a zillion times and then we catch the first of the afternoon sea breeze.

The sails fill and we switch off the old lump of iron which we carry around and just enjoy the silence except for the chuckle of water gently running alongside.

Our favourite lunch-on-the-go of avocado sandwich with lots of salt, pepper and olive oil sets us up for the next few hours…and some cake!

The Dorset coastline and headlands pass by with no sign of the overfalls or breaking water which can often be found close in. The sun lights up Old Harry Rocks and it is easy to forget how unforgiving this stretch of coast can be. We even disturb a big flock of gulls diving on a shoal of fish for their tea…

Anvil point, St Aldhelms Head mark the last of the ebb, and by the time Lulworth is abeam we are plugging the first of the flood…and the sea breeze gives up the ghost (almost). There is nothing for it but to make the iron work for its living and we motor-sail the rest of the way.

During covid, Weymouth Bay was littered with anchored cruise ships with nowhere to go and no one to take. Now there is just one gas tanker and a small coaster lying offshore. Portland, with its distinctive shape and slope to the south, looms ever larger with its decaying prison, decaying naval port remains and a few rusty ships.

A very incongruously smart and fat cruise ship sets out in the early evening (not entirely sure what the passengers make of being taken to a prison/immigration detention centre) as John serves up dinner…not quite what the cruise guests are having, but I bet we enjoy it more!

Portland in the evening and it is still light as we anchor peacefully at 9pm…the joys of June sailing with the long daylight hours.

…this is the life…

We plan to catch the early ebb down the Solent and back to Lymington. This won’t start until around 1.30, so another leisurely morning after a late breakfast. The doctor on the boat moored next to us chats to someone on another boat further down. It turns out that his boat caught a gust while they were leaving a mooring in Portsmouth and he had tried to hold on and got a finger trapped. Her description was “…it was just hanging by some skin, so they flew him to a plastic surgeon in Salisbury.” This tale is OK but not especially welcome as we are already experiencing gusts of around F6. We think carefully about the process of leaving a lee pontoon without leaving a finger behind.

In the event Heydays behaves beautifully with a stern spring and we motor away feeling a bit smug. The wind in the Solent is a steady F5 from the East and the sun is shining as we turn the motor off and run back for home with just a genoa. Highly stressful…

So…although we were later than planned to be on the water, the work we have done over the winter means that the old girl is back to something approaching respectability with systems working and a few improvements made. Not the most adventurous of cruises this time, but a great preparation for some trips further afield over the summer.

‘er maj’s jubillee, day 2

We had planned to take the tender up the river to Newport (capital of the Isle of Wight), but as this is really a shakedown cruise, this was not one of the bits of kit that we had previously tested. In the end we discovered a leak around one of the valves and that brought an end to the plan as the special glue for the rubber boats takes around 48 hours to cure properly.

It turns out to be an ill wind as they say, as we take the water taxi to the shore and walk the 2.5 miles or so along the river bank into town. Newport by the river turns out to be OK and once again is a funny mixture of both new and slightly derelict or perhaps just faded…

A ‘lite bite’ turns into fish finger baguettes for 3 of us and smoked bacon and stilton baguette for the remainder…not exactly ‘lite’. But the pub by the river was lovely and served glasses of Jubillee Fizz (English sparkling) and pints of ‘Cheers Ma’am’. All very patriotic…

We heave our pints and lite bites back down the river bank, past the preparatioins for the Isle of Wight Festival, and past the old paddle steamer “Ryde” which someone unkindly suggested was a little project for James…”just needs a bit of welding and the odd lick of paint”…

So… a quiet day stretching legs rather than sailing, but pleasant all the same.