Saturday 15 May 2021

The End....

 Arctic Smoke has moved on to a new owner Jamie. Jamie,will I am sure take excellent care of her and continue to have enjoyable and exciting Adventures at the helm. 

Follow Jamie as he continues Arctic Smoke's adventures on his YouTube channel  (Sailing Plymouth).

I very much hope it's not the end of sailing adventures for me however. Covid permitting, I fly out to Albufeira in Portugal, on the 8th June to take possession of Arctic Smoke's replacement, "Bonny", a Biscay 36. The plan being to return her to the UK this summer via the Azores to prepare her for further oceanic adventures in 2022/23. Quite where we will be headed I do not know yet but that's part of the journey. Bonny, will I think require a new name once I get her back in the UK.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Congratulations to Anthony and Elizabethan Lady...


Elizabethan Lady about to leave Plymouth
Had a call from Anthony earlier - he's made it to 'A Coruna' in Spain. Sixteen days from Plymouth through a mixture of calms and heavy weather. Well done Anthony!

Sunday 28 July 2019

Moon Dust - Reflections on the Challenge

Arctic Smoke's Track (in Yellow - the planned route is in Blue - double click to enlarge)

"We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too." J F Kennedy September 12, 1962.

Now that I'm home, a short Postscript to my Jester Adventure seems in order. 

Ever since taking the decision in Eastbourne back in early June, to continue the Challenge without a working engine, the question of whether that was the right decision has been hovering around. Sometimes far back in my subconscious but sometimes right at the forefront of my mind. One such occasion was when listening into the 'PAN-PAN' from a yacht off Portland Bill, only a mile or so  inshore from Arctic Smoke as we lay becalmed. She had suffered engine failure and was being sucked into the race. Other times were when becalmed off the Traffic Separation Scheme to the south west of the Scillies on the outward leg to Baltimore and off Lands End on the return leg to Plymouth. Previously I had resorted to issuing my own 'PAN-PAN' after the engine failed and I needed a tow into Eastbourne. That was a sobering experience and I was acutely aware of the possibility of similar situations developing should I continue on without a working engine. 

Three main factors informed my decision to continue. The first and over-riding one was simply that I wanted to undertake the Challenge and get to Ireland. The second was that it seemed to me to be entirely within the ethos of the Jester Challenge to overcome such a set back. The Challenge is a sailing event after all! The third was that I was no longer subject to the domestic responsibility of getting home in time to look after the dog that made getting into Eastbourne such a significant consideration and why the alternative of heading for a more distant Port which I could make under sail was so unattractive. In taking the decision however, I resolved to do everything possible to avoid circumstances in which another call for help may be needed.  

Short of deciding not to carry on, that meant ensuring I had plenty of sea room when approaching headlands and the various traffic separation schemes that would be encountered en route. Minimising the number of Ports or anchorages visited would also reduce that risk. That was a relatively easy discipline to keep because by the time I eventually left Eastbourne on 11th July, time was running out to make the Skippers briefing in Plymouth on Saturday 15th July.  I really wanted to get in by the Friday in any case when the first of the social events - a BBQ was to take place. My plan was therefore to undertake the voyage to Plymouth in one leg if possible. I identified a number of potential anchorages en route that I could get in and out of without an engine should I need to take shelter or a rest but they would all entail extra mileage and therefore incur extra time too.

Prior to the Challenge itself, the first obstacle where the lack of an engine would be a significant factor, was Portland Bill. I had cleared St Catherine's Point, the southern-most tip of the Isle of Wight, with a decent breeze and a fair tide which meant, inevitably, that I would approach Portland Bill against a foul tide. I discounted putting into Portland to wait for the tide to turn because by the time I got there I would have to leave again to make the tide. I therefore stayed well out having concluded that even going backwards for a few hours would lose me less time. In the event we just about avoided that but I strongly suspect that had the engine been working it would have been engaged at that point.

The next major obstacles were Start Point and Bolt Head, the headlands either side of Salcombe. The challenge this time was that in addition to a foul tide we were beating into strong winds. I was sorely tempted to make for one of my 'emergency' anchorages at this point. On the evening of 13th June, the fact that Start Bay was only a few miles away significantly undermined my resolve to keep going. I had got so tired after bashing to windward, tack after tack for many hours making only slow progress that I did indeed decide to put in there. Fortunately, having rounded the headland about 3 miles to the North the wind backed and to my great surprise and delight I found I could lay Plymouth and so decided to carry on.

The Challenge formally commenced at 1100 on Sunday 16th June with the start line off the Plymouth breakwater. Bernie and I were both still anchored at Cargreen continuing our battle with the engine and we didn't start until that evening. The first challenge was the beat down the Tamar River culminating in the very exhilarating close hauled dash through 'The Bridge'. On Arctic Smoke, my choice was to either risk it or take the long way round. Bernie had the additional option of motoring through but to his credit he sailed through too. We must have been quite a sight for anyone watching but we made it without mishap.

The traffic separation schemes off the Scillies, when we were sailing the Challenge itself, were the next occasion when the lack of an engine figured significantly in my planning and sailing. Of course, the engine was not supposed to be used during the Challenge but the fact that I knew I could not fall back on it in an emergency meant that I chose to take the long route South and West of the Scillies and the Southern and Western schemes. You will see from the picture at the head of this post (double click to zoom in) that this was not my original plan which was to take the short-cut between the Southern and Western Schemes and so save myself about 50 miles.

The next challenge was the Fastnet Rock. Again I was sailing the Challenge and so would not have used the engine except in an emergency but again without it I had to ensure I stayed well clear of the rock. I could not afford to get set onto it by tides or swells. That meant I sailed a few more miles than I would otherwise have done.

I was very satisfied to have completed the Challenge without the use of or even the option of, using the engine. The lack of such an option certainly added to my challenge.

After the Challenge I had a few close calls getting out of Baltimore and into and out of South Harbour, Cape Clear Island and again off the Separation Schemes and Lands End when we were once more becalmed for extensive periods. The Challenge was over. The voyage to Falmouth took even longer than the longer voyage out from Plymouth - five days compared with four and once again I suspect impatience would have led to use of the engine had it been available. My main concern for a while was the risk of drifting onto Wolf Rock during the long calm period. However, after checking our position and the tidal streams I established that even if we drifted on the current alone for days we would get no closer than ten miles to Wolf Rock.

Tacking into and out of the Anchorage at Falmouth was nip and tuck. At Plymouth George came out in his dinghy and helped me onto a mooring. Getting in and out of Salcombe and Dartmouth was also pretty tight but I had Bob with me then which was a great help. Even with his help it took 6 attempts to pick up a mooring in Poole! The few hours becalmed after rounding North Foreland were probably the most frustrating of the entire trip and I found myself falling into my old habit of loudly cursing the elements for the first time on either the outward and return voyages. Perhaps the most nail biting and exciting experience was beating into Sheerness Harbour against the strongly ebbing tide. Fortunately we had a fresh breeze but even so it was a close call and we had to make use of every square inch of shallow water over the mud flats in order to minimise the effects of the tide. Finally of course, Howard in Latitudes helped us onto Arctic Smoke's mooring at Hoo, but even that was an interesting and challenging operation requiring no little skill on Howard's part.

On reflection, I think my decision was reasonable and justified in all the circumstances but there is little doubt that in taking it I increased the risk to myself and potentially others. However, the only way of not increasing risks is not to bother getting out of bed in the morning. I lived more too. I listened to the recordings and programmes on the Apollo 11 Moon Landings during the trip and I like to imagine that a little bit of moon dust has rubbed off on me, the other Jesters, and all the many far, far, better, more adventurous sailors, than me.


Friday 26 July 2019

More Photos and Videos June - July 2019

To view the videos click on the Page 'Videos from the Jester Baltimore Challenge and return 2019' (see the right hand panel).

Some photos from Salcombe to Hoo are posted below.

Arctic Smoke back on her Mooring at Hoo
Sailing up the Medway towards Hoo (Curtesy of Howard)

The Jester Burgee
Underway after leaving Poole
Yours truly on the passage from Poole to the Medway
Company leaving Poole
Sunset over Portland
Bob at the Helm leaving Dartmouth
Castle guarding the River Dart
Looking up the Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe
Starhole Bay, Salcombe
Bolt Head

Salcombe's Beaches

Cottages on the Salcombe Waterfront
Looking across the Kingsbridge Estuary from Salcombe

Monday 22 July 2019

Poole to Hoo, the Journey's end

Another summary written on my phone.

I started writing this post at Anchor in my favourite spot on the Medway  - Stangate Creek on Sunday night and completed it on Monday night, back on my mooring at Hoo after two months away.

My plan had been to stay in Poole until Monday to pick up Mick and Basty for the final legs to Hoo. However, as Mick pointed out on the phone on Friday, the then currently blowing Westerlies would soon dissipate as high pressure started to dominate the weather and it could therefore take many days to get back to the Medway.

With considerable regret I therefore decided to press on single-handed without my new crew the next morning.

The alarm went off at 0445 and I dropped the mooring on a grey morning to catch the ebb out of Poole. It was a beat out of the harbour in a stiff breeze and I almost messed up big time by accidentally cutting across a mud flat. I noticed  the echo sounder reading of 0.3 metres just in time and headed back into deeper water.  A close call. Going aground on a falling tide means being stuck for 6 hours before the tide comes back up!

The wind initially dropped after leaving the harbour and so I shook out the reef. Then it increased over the next couple of hours and the reef went back in. An exhilarating down-hill sail over the next 24 hours followed that with a brief lull off Dover, took me all the way to the North Foreland.  When we had the tide with us we were clocking 8-9 knots over the ground. Even when the tide was against us our speed rarely dropped below 5 knots.

Mick provided a nice touch as we rounded Beachy Head. A shared location notification appeared on my phone. Mick was up on Beachy Head watching our progress although it turned out that to start with he was tracking the wrong boat. After chatting  on the phone he 'found me' complaining that my boat was very small indeed!

On rounding North Foreland the wind died away considerably and we barely stemmed the tide that was against us for the next three hours. Our chance of making Hoo by high water that afternoon disappeared at that point. That was a disappointment and one which affected me much more than the delays experienced during the Jester Challenge. By the time the tide had turned in our favour the wind had made only brief and fickle appearances and we simply drifted for the next few hours. Finally, with two hours of the flood left, the wind returned - dead on the nose and so we had to beat up the quaintly named 'over-land' route. It did back later into the South West which enabled us to make our final approach to Garrison Point on one tack. By this time I was deliberately sailing across mud flats to avoid the worst of the ebbing tide. Annoyingly, we were forced to slow down to allow a ship to enter the port ahead of us. On rounding the point we met the full force of the ebbing tide which forced us sideways across the narrow entrance. For a while it seemed as if the tide would be too strong to stem. Indeed on occasions we were going backwards. However, we clawed our way in via numerous short tacks seeking shallow water as much as possible to avoid the full force of the tide. It took two hours to cover the two miles to Stangate Creek despite creaming along through the water at a good 6-7 knots.

After a delightful evening in my favourite Medway Anchorage, and a much needed good night's sleep, we beat up the river with a favourable tide. It was a great sail and a fitting end to the trip. As previously arranged with Howard, he very helpfully came out in his boat Latitudes, to help me pick up my mooring. The area is pretty crowded and I didn't fancy risking colliding with moored boats that attempting to pick up the mooring under sail would entail. Nonetheless, rafting-up mid river and threading the two boats through the crowded moorings required considerable skill on Howard's part.

We then spent a most enjoyable afternoon together catching up and yarning as all sailors are prone to do. Lunch and then dinner with modest liquid refreshments were included and by the time Howard and Latitudes headed back to Gillingham, we had sorted out all the world's problems and reinforced our belief that sailing was the remedy for all the ills of the human condition.

Journey over!

Plymouth to Poole

I'm writing this on my phone on Monday morning at 0830 before sailing the final short leg up  the River Medway from  Stangate Creek to Hoo where Howard has kindly agreed to meet me to help me onto our mooring - an operation which may deserve a write-up in the full account. This is therefore only a summary Post. Full account to be written and published later.

After picking up Bob from the Mayflower Steps (ok near them) we sailed over to Cawsand Bay for the night. It was a rolly night in the South Easterly wind blowing into the Sound.

Next morning we got the Anchor up at 1100 and enjoyed a gentle beat to Salcombe.

We spent the next day there and went for a long healthy walk to Anvil Point.  Very beautiful.

We sailed from Salcombe to Dartmouth on Wednesday 17th July. The first challenge was getting out of the narrow river in fickle light winds. We ensured we had the ebb to help us down and made it  albeit with a few narrow squeaks. It was great to have a competent friend on board who knew just what was required. A beat in light winds on a very pleasant day followed and once we drew level with  Start Point we had a great sail. Tacking up the narrow river was interesting and once again it was great to have another pair of competent hands. We found the Anchorage opposite the town and anchored safely.

I'd not been to Dartmouth before and so was pleased to visit this attractive town albeit very briefly.

The next morning we left and had a very similar experience to leaving Salcombe.

A long sail to Studland followed and the first half was in light winds and so progress was slow. We dropped the Hook at 0115.

Next day we had a lively short sail under Genoa alone into Poole and made a right hash of picking up a mooring under sail. It took 6 attempts!  Bob then took the water taxi ashore for the train home.