…Elizabeth Windsor’s platinum jubilee…

Some of the people on board are determined to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne and Heydays ends up being decorated for the occasion…

After a leisurely morning we plan to catch the ebb down Southampton Water and head where the wind best suits. Presumably in celebration, the marina staff appear with a trolley full of free drinks and we relieve them of a few glasses of prosecco and a beer…not too much as we are heading out on the water.

A couple of us want to pay some different respects and we turn briefly upstream under the Itchen bridge to what is surely the most glamourous of places of dreams…or nightmares!

Actually this part of the Itchen brings back some memories of our friends Graham and Madeline who completely rebuilt their boat My Foolish Heart in a small yard just opposite the Saints stadium. Some of the yards seem to have an odd way of coping with flying boats…

The wind is very different from the forecast and as we turn to head out it is a good F5 gusting 6 from the SE. With two reefs in the main and a couple of rolls in the genoa, experience has shown that Heydays will tack really well and take what the weather has to offer in her stride. The sailing is glorious…

Given the wind direction (which had originally been forecast as having some west in it), we opt to head back to the Folly for another night on the Medina instead of Chichester as planned. Tacking down Southampton Water and we dodge the various ferries, tankers and other assorted boats. We’re not racing…but we manage to outperform several others. Ha!

Although we are on a falling tide, with just 1.4m draught, we can pinch a little more out of each tack than some of our deeper cousins. With hot tea and coffee on the go, it is really joyous to be out even if the reverie is broken by unreasonable helms shouting “ready about”, followed by a general hauling and winching before we can settle in for another 10 minutes or so.

By the time we reach the the Medina, the ebb is now running across the entrance at over 2kts and we join a throng of others motoring steadily up stream. Lots of boats are already tied up and the various clubs etc have bunting and flags…

We head further up and out of the mayhem to the relative calm of the Folly reach. This never fails us and we spend the evening just chilling, eating and watching life come and go…

1st June…summer is here?

Waking up to the sound of birds looking for breakfast on the mudflats is always one of the joys of the creeks and rivers, even if we are sharing it with a dozen other boats. It is easy to forget that this is still a commercial river in many ways until a remarkably long ship makes its way upstream.

The name is both explanatory and funny….there is a wind turbine factory in Newport.
True to form as we leave the river and just as we pass the Red Funnel ferry, it gives a loud blast to say that it is leaving…they really take no prisoners, but we are well clear and head off out into the Solent heading east past folk who work for a living!…


…in order to poke our nose into Wootton Creek to see what it is like. We have the main up, but there is almost no wind to even fill it and so we motor-sail along the north east coast of the island past the various remnants of what were presumably royal landing stages and boathouses attached to Osborne House. This was one of Victoria’s favourite retreats with Albert and also where she spent considerable time in relative isolation after he died.

The rocks off Wootton are not to be taken lightly and we keep a cautious distance off before heading into the creek.


There is not a huge amount of room for moorings or anchorage and the yacht club has a drying pontoon, but ferry aside it looks pleasant enough.

Just as we decide to head out again, our peace is disturbed by three black police ribs powering into the creek. They carry out a boarding exercise on the ferry…not initially successful as their ladder isn’t long enough. Presumably any villains on board would wait until the police got the right ladder.

Back out in the Solent, the wind has filled from the south west and we enjoy a single tack round the east side of the Bramble Bank and up Southampton Water where we plan to pick up Chris from the train. A few other yachts are out including a design/paint-job which provides a disturbing optical illusion…


We have company up the water with a small tan sailed gaffer and it is great just to be sailing free.


Southampton Water is another strange mix of the heavy industrial on the west side…

…and the old and more leisurely east side, including Netley Abbey and the old military hospital which saw thousands of wounded troops arriving by boat from France in the first world war.

We round up past the car and boat commercial handling dock….and meet Chris in Ocean Village. We are 50m from the Harbour Lights cinema and take in an ‘old’ Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. A rousing utterly American movie in terms of themes, dialogue, story line…and (sshh) lack of any sublety!!

…and another hectic day…

Anchoring in Newtown Creek is always a delight. So little to disturb the peace except a few quarrelsome birds and the very occasional rumble of the anchor chain as she settles to subtle changes in the tide and wind. No tide to catch until much later in the morning, so a cup of coffee in bed sets us up nicely for the day.

The early sun sends dappled light across the cabin roof, but there is a chill to the wind even this late in May.  

As we heave up the anchor (OK…so we’ve got an electric windlass!) we seem to bring half a ton of best Newtown mud with it. Heydays breaks herself free and we push out into the Solent for a short hop round to Cowes for lunch…and then a squall comes through. Fortunately, we saw it coming and were already in our wet weather gear…ha! John and Yee Tak bravely face the weathery maelstrom!!

The showers continue like this for the rest of the day, but it is just wonderful to be out on the water again. Cowes is its usual busy self and the Red Funnel ferries give no quarter. Some unlucky (or incautious) souls get madly hooted at for their troubles and we feel like being back in school with a cross teacher. Once you know it is not you in trouble but one of your mates, you can sit back and enjoy the event!

We pass by the posh places and head for Shepherds  Marina for a short stop. Years ago it used to be free….it can’t be more than forty…but the very pleasant and friendly receptionist smiles very pleasantly and friendly as she takes £21 for 4 hours! Lucky we didn’t go posh.

Cowes is of course very nice and quaint and still has a decent range of very local shops with polished brass steps and old bells over the door. It must be expensive keeping all that brass polished as they wanted over £20 for a deck brush.

However, a couple of pints and a prosecco later and all is well again. Lunch by the river watching the activity is very therapeutic and we finally head off up the Medina to the Folly Inn. The river is a strange mix of faded Victoriana, modern steel and glass and old industrial. All interspersed with some lovely countryside.

We moor on the pontoon and discuss important stuff like when to go over to the pub for a drink, when to have dinner…or snooze as the tide gently recedes….

The water taxi picks us up at 6.30 and we have a lovely 15s trip to the bank. Only £12 for a return journey, however, the boatman has a lovely smile and it is a lovely (albeit short) ride….

The Folly Inn is itself a bit of an anachronism. Set miles from anywhere, it is something of a party place and it brings back memories of John’s stag do years ago when he was seen dancing on the table with a ‘few’ ladies….just sayin’.

Dinner back on board as the sun provides a colour display to end the day…


Simple stuff…

So, this is not the most adventurous of starts to the sailing season, but for us it is a milestone. Lockdown did the old girl no favours, but we are reasonably proud of her after some gutsy work over the winter. Just laying alongside the harbourmaster’s pontoon we feel that once again we are ready to take on what the sea has to offer…OK OK….the Solent then!

Even the simple act of trundling round the supermarket to get some stores in feels like we are off once more and evokes such happy memories. The ‘essential stores’ turn out to be a bit heavy on the booze side, but… plus ca change.
We fill up with diesel and with our new super-size water tanks we are ready to take on whatever the south coast can offer. Oddly we had wondered whether we were out of practice in general boat handling, but while not quite the well-oiled machine we once were, we feel that we are still not too shabby in that department.

With South Westerlies for the start of the week and Easterlies at the end, we wisely head east. Newtown creek is only an hour away and we keep the engine ticking over to get the tonic and white wine cool in the fridge. But it is glorious just to have the sails up and to hear the water chuckling under her keels once more. This is what she (and we?) were made for.

It is not the adventure into the unknown, but Newtown never fails to delight…and it is right on our doorstep…we are so very lucky. The entrance at low water is always interesting (and tight) and a long keeled German boat almost on its beam ends shows the pitfalls. We drop the hook into a couple of meters…she holds fast in the mud and within a quarter of an hour we are at the gin! Smug or what?
An evening just chatting, listening to the birds and the sounds of the mudflats…plus some oysters as a starter and a late rum…how lucky are we to be born into a stable, tolerant and prosperous part of the world. With a sunset and showers elsewhere, we head to bed humbled and grateful.

Post Covid…an improved Heydays?…

So, here we are. May 2022 and Heydays has just been launched after what turned out to be an extended period ashore. Our last post suggested that the old girl had suffered from a lack of proper use during the almost 2 years of stop-start lockdowns and reduced ability to get out. Once ashore and with everything out, the jobs seemed to mount.

The first issue was the interior woodwork…don’t read on unless you are endlessly fascinated by other people’s DIY and boaty exploits. The original joinery fitted by Moody’s is a laminated ply. The problem is that inevitably the laminate is thin and doesn’t take kindly to any real sanding to get old varnish off…it is all to easy to go right through to the bare ply. After a few successful and less successful sorties with the loo door we settled on a mix of scraping and mild heat. Too much heat lifts the glue on the laminate (don’t look at the back of our loo door!). Our best friend in all of this was a complete revelation…the mighty BAHCO scraper…brilliant. A remarkably simple but fantastically effective scraper. With a lot of patience we got through around 5 or 6 layers of varnish and then the next issue was what do we put back. We didn’t want to varnish as we wanted something which we could easily touch up or recoat. In the end we settled for Osmo Polyx Hard Wax Oil. This is used for laminate floors and is hard wearing, reasonably shiny in a satiny kind of way and hopefully easy to give a quick titivating coat to in a couple of years if needed. We are pleased with the results so far and will bore you all with updates after a season sailing. We were on a roll and decided to do the cabin floor as well and to reconfigure it to make easier access to the bilges to dry them out.

We knew that we needed to replumb the water tanks as we have suffered from ‘water anxiety’ ever since the old ones were cut out and replaced with plastic when a previous yard replaced our keel bolts. A close inspection and a look back through the original Moody specs showed that, far from our lack of water being simply a pipe issue…the new tanks were less than half the original capacity, even if the plumbing actually enabled access to it!!! We took the plunge and ordered purpose made tanks from Tek Tanks and were assured that they were the original spec. 10 weeks later we collected them. 10 weeks and 4 hours later…they don’t fit! We assume that, like most boats, tolerances in original build are quite big and we decide that with a bit of judicious sanding and cutting we can get them in. A little bit of sawing and then a largish chunk of plastic ‘comes off in me ‘and’. It turns out that this is the rim of the original tank….and was designed to be removed not hacked out. The yard who did the repairs to the keel botls (and who will be nameless) did a real bodge job. With all the old rim removed…surprise….the new tanks fit like a glove and are over 2x the capacity of what we had. Hot showers on board here we come.

Other stuff we have done….a self-tailing winch on the mast for the main halyard to help increasingly arthritic hands, a new aerial on the rear arch for future AIS and some repositioning of the GPS aerial (this turns out to require a new one after some overly enthusiastic treatment of the old one). All old incandescent lights replaced with LEDs and USB charge points in all cabins. We even have ‘new’ carpet on the fore and aft cabins although it turns out that carpet fitting is not a major skill on my (James) part! Oh…,and probably more importantly, we checked/tightened all the keel bolts.

It just leaves the engine battery to be rewired, but where is the bit of paper which showed where the 5 leads connected??? Enthusiastic tidying has evidently consigned it to a great dustbin somewhere. A happy hour spent tracing wires and checking voltages and we are back to what appears to be normality…and we haven’t set fire to her.

Sails bent on, superstructure and topsides rubbed back and polished, anti-foul applied and we hardly know the old girl. Still stuff to do (new cushion covers/upholstery, shot blast and re coat the hull) but hopefully ’22 will see us actually sailing and giving Heydays the continual TLC which old ladies need.

This is always a slightly anxious moment even though we know that the yard have done this a zillion times before…

They hold us in the water so we can check for leaks, of which there never are any…until this time! A small weep around another old redundant transducer and we are lifted out again and placed on the quay. Old one out, cleaned, resealed and tightened….lifted back in and hey presto, all’s good.

…and off we go. It’s always great to be back on the water, even under some threatening skies. We slip away from Keyhaven and inch down the chanel with just a cigarette paper between us and the mud at times (but we’re on a rising tide so all is well). With a gusting F6/7 on our tail, we reach Lymington in less than half an hour with just a scrap of genny flying…happy days.

Post script

Back on the mooring and we tidy up and pack the dinghy. The outboard has been run up and checked so all is …..*******. It doesn’t start! Investigation the next day proves to be the new E10 petrol causing problems. We clean carburettor, tank and all the fuel lines. New petrol (E5) added and all is well…until the next post?

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.