Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: May 2015

And So We Wait….

It’s June on Monday. Apparently. I have tried explaining this to my fingers, feet and most other parts of my body. However even ensconced in fleeces, puffer jackets, socks,boots,gloves, and hats they are freezing.

So it’s Saturday afternoon and I am sat in the cockpit looking out at Slate Grey Falmouth, with a sky that is about to spend the next three days doing something Biblical.

Anyway, whining aside. This morning we left Plymouth for Falmouth.

Plymouth was a nice enough place to visit. Oh to damn with faint praise! Typical of many european cities that had been carpet bombed during the war and rebuilt in the 1960’s. The historic part that remained was charming and we spent a couple of happy afternoons eating and drinking in the sun.
However, the weatherman was becoming more somber by the day as he discussed the impending weather. Storms tomorrow, through next week and so on. We only had our berth until this morning as it belonged to a charter boat and it was due to return today.
So at 5am we rose, made coffee and motored out through the breakwater into a Southwesterly chop.
Now sailing is awesome. Don’t get me wrong. I love it, I love the adventure, the freedom and being on or near water. However there are certain times,when I would rather be doing something else. This morning was definitely one of those days.
It was freezing, really cold. The wind was 20kts on the nose and the previously mentioned chop was bucking the boat about. I think that the proper term for chop is “swell period”. Either way, the swell period was 5 seconds, which meant that every 5 seconds a wave came along and made the boat buck. When its on the nose it is uncomfortable. When its freezing cold and on the nose it is miserable.
So by 6.30am, we are both huddled under the spray hood feeling spewy and sipping ginger tea. “Never mind” we reassured ourselves, “it’s only for 6 hours!”. Jaysus! Anyway,we bore away a bit to try and get some wind in the sails and calm the boats motion. So thats what we did, beat 40 miles in the cold.
I did however manage to break up the journey by running up and testing the water maker to make sure it was still working after nine months asleep.
Anyway, we arrived at Falmouth yacht haven, and moored up with a little help from some nice people on the pontoons.Our yacht has a fat arse, and we have to shoehorn her into most berths. The first we found wouldn’t fit at all, so we patiently waited while a speedboat vacated the only other free berth and motored and hauled Ruby into place. A couple of quick thankyou’s to our new friends and we slumped below in the warm, broke out the emergency tortellini , inhaled them and slept. I don’t ever remember falling asleep.

Falmouth is a beautiful city. The Yacht haven is strange though . It is quite small and poorly equipped, yet the yachts here are serious pieces of kit. As Falmouth is the jump point for travel South, many blue water cruisers wait here for a weather window. There are many foreign ensigns on the yachts from the USA and further afield.

We have at least a week here , while we wait for our crew. The long term weather forecast is ummming and ahhing about the weather forecast for our due jump date about the 7th of June. We may be stuck here for a while longer we wait for three days of settled weather in Biscay. However as my friend Neil says ” nothing you can do about the weather”. So its going to be fleeces and gloves for a while longer. Because even the cold, cold ,wet weather is preferable to getting a kicking crossing the Bay of Biscay.

Another Year, Another Ankle Injury

It’s a warm and perfectly still morning in Salcombe. We’re sitting in the cockpit at 8am, drinking our morning coffee and admiring the stunning surrounds. Now, this is what we signed up for! Absolute perfection. We were thinking of leaving today, but now… well, I don’t want to go anywhere.

salcombe

But first- Dartmouth. We visited Dartmouth last year, and sometimes when you return to a place that you have positive memories of, the second experience doesn’t quite live up to expectations. However, this did. It was a short motor-sail from Brixham- we barely had time for a cup of tea- around the headland, then into the Dart River. Dartmouth on one side, Kingswear on the other and a huge amount of activity on the river between. Last year we came during summer holidays and had to stay on one of the island pontoons, meaning a fairly long dinghy ride to Dartmouth town. This year, we were lucky enough to secure a walk-ashore town pontoon mooring, and we had prime position for people watching. Not for the first time, we were glad of our mirrored windows. We could peer out and curiously watch all the people milling on the pontoon, waiting for the passenger ferry. Out of the starboard windows, we had an excellent view of the quayside, and all the activity taking place there.

dartmouth1
On the Friday my friend Kate caught the train down from London, bottle of Prosecco in hand- she’s a good girl. We immediately made a beeline for the pub, where we had beer and burgers to celebrate the beginning of the bank holiday weekend.
Saturday morning, we emerged to warm sunshine. Sitting in the cockpit, in the sunshine, in shorts for the first time this year, drinking coffee and eating our fry-up brekkie, whilst watching the quayside slowly become busier and busier was absolute perfection. Once fed and energised, we all got into the dinghy- miraculously, Kate didn’t fall in the water- and went for a jaunt upriver. The scenery was just gorgeous. Green rolling hills and woodland rose up on either side of the river, dotted with the odd pastel-coloured house or hotel.

Entrance to the Dart River

Entrance to the Dart River

Once back, it was 11:55, which only meant one thing: pub.
In the afternoon, we managed to rouse ourselves to go for a walk- well, two of us did. Nick had a nap. Kate and I walked along the river towards its mouth and the castle that stands at its entrance. We had to pay to see the castle, which was just not acceptable, so we spent that money much more sensibly: on a cream tea in a cafe overlooking the English Channel, which was still as a pool and full of sailing boats. Bliss!
Sunday, Kate returned to London, and Nick and I did very little. Monday, we cast off and made our way to Salcombe, a nearby seaside town which had a reputation for being very beautiful and very busy. Well, it certainly lived up to that reputation, and more: as we entered the stunning river, it appeared to be very similar to the approach to Dartmouth. However, as we rounded the bend and Salcombe came into view, the differences became apparent. One was the series of small beaches to our starboard side, all of which were practically overun by beach-goers. The other was the sheer number of people around. This was the busiest waterway we’d ever experienced. Salcombe itself was beautiful- like Brixham and Dartmouth, a hillside of pastel houses and a teeming quayside. However, we weren’t really able to enjoy the view, since we were busy dodging boats at anchor or on mooring buoys, racing boats, dinghies, paddleboarders, jet-skis, ferries… you get the idea.
We finally found the visiting pontoon- about a mile upstream, which was so peaceful and a world away from the madness of Salcombe town- and tied up. It was just so beautiful, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Perfect spot for a paddleboard

Perfect spot for a paddleboard

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We had a quick lunch, then jumped in the dinghy and joined the throngs of holiday-makers in Salcombe. We explored the town, which was mainly full of expensive nautical shops, and delis or ice-cream shops, not to mention the hoards of middle-class families enjoying the bank holiday and half-term. The yacht club was our next stop, which had an excellent outside courtyard with a commanding view over the harbour. All the tables were taken, so I milled around outside looking for somewhere to sit while Nick waited for drinks inside. And that’s when I managed to roll my ankle.
It was embarrasingly undramatic. There were two steps leading down to the lower seated area, followed by a little tiny mini- almost microscopic- step. It was only about 2 inches high, if that, and, looking around for a seat, I didn’t see it. To the casual observer- and there were plenty- it looked like I’d simply walked down the steps and then froze in place, bent over, and clutched my ankle, effectively blocking the pathway for everyone else. I’m not sure if a spectacular fall would have been more or less embarrassing. A lovely lady helped me to a low wall, where I sat and tried to appear polite and thankful, while effectively telling her to just leave me alone. Nick walked out of the bar and, beer clutched in each hand, spotted me sitting opposite. Needless to say, he was like, “I leave you alone for five minutes…”
My ankle was quite literally ballooning in size in front of my eyes, and so I sent Nick back into the bar for ice. He came back with a glass of water, and some ice in it. Back in he went, this time for a tea towel. Finally, we got an ice pack sorted, the people on the table next to us cleared off, and I was able to sit with my foot elevated on a chair. We were stuck there while the ice and elevation did its thing, so there was only one thing for it… a beer in the sunshine!

Something Fishy

We’re in Brixham, one of the major fishing ports of Devon. Apparently this is very much a working fishing harbour, although the only trawlers we’ve seen have been the ones that take tourists on a jaunt around the bay. Also- only one fishmongers in the entire town! Which is a ten-minute walk from anywhere! Most odd.

Brixham is very pleasant. The town clings onto the hillside, a jumble of pink, blue and yellow terraced houses. The main action is centred around the small drying harbour in which are moored many small fishing boats and dinghies. And, inexplicably, a replica of the Golden Hind. Needless to say, you can’t move for fish and chip shops or ice-cream parlours. On the weekend the place was absolutely heaving, creating a buzzy atmosphere. The sun even made a couple of appearances, which was an unexpected boon.

The lovely drying harbour in Brixham

The lovely drying harbour in Brixham

The high street is less appealing- lots of charity shops and old fashioned cafes. I think the proprietors know their crowd though- I hope it’s not too rude for me to observe that almost every person sitting in the sun enjoying a crab sandwich and cup of tea were also likely enjoying their retirement.

The sail here from Lyme Regis was bracing, but not too awful. We had winds of around 18 knots about 50 degrees off starboard, and were heeled over, but it was only four or so hours. I think it’s also worth mentioning that our mooring was absolutely text book. Nick ferry glided the boat in (sensibly ignoring my calls of, “Watch the bow! Slow down, watch the bow! A metre at the bow!”) with admirable precision. And our bow, of course, was ideally placed half a metre from the pontoon. For my part, I managed to sort out our lines without any major catastrophes. Once again we had an audience, but this was the variety we actually like: sailor-y types who not only come and help with your lines, but then compliment you on a job well done, before clearing off and letting you get on with things.

For the eensy weensy percentage of people reading this who a) don’t know what ferry gliding is, and b) actually care, the best way I can describe it is thus: you know when you’re driving a car, and you find a space along a road which you need to parallel park into? Well, imagine you simply drive up to the park, position your car next to it, then use the current or a strong wind to blow you sideways into the space. That’s what it is. If only that worked in a car, right?

The marina here is full of very well cared for yachts; every time we step onto the pontoon, we pass several people (well, men of a certain age) crouched down beside their beloved boat, with a paintbrush or a bucket, or some other unidentifiable implement used for sprucing up their vessels. The boats are all immaculate.

View of Brixham town from the marina

View of Brixham town from the marina

I was also delighted to discover that we have a new contender for Best Showering Facilities. Brixham draws first with Plymouth (which we are visiting next week, so I’ll come back to you with an up-to-date comparison). You get your own little room, which is quite the novelty- it’s usually cubicles. In your own little shower room there is a shower (obvs), a loo (we all love a private loo), a SINK (we’re getting spoiled now!) and, finally, the ultimate: a hair dryer. It’s clean, you can spend as much time as you want without the water turning cold, or having to listen to everyone else’s inane chatter. You can sing in the shower, shave your legs, apply a 10 minute hair mask, lather yourself in various lotions and potions that are hugely expensive and probably do very little- it’s perfect.

Very pleased about the showers.

Moving swiftly along, we’ve been stuck here waiting out poor weather. Once the weekend was over, the clouds descended and dumped a load of rain on us, the winds picked up and the temperature dropped. Nick has used the opportunity to try out a variety of culinary delights: beef ragu with spaghetti (or spag-bol to you plebs); lemon roasted chicken with stuffing, roast potatoes and greens; plaice fillets with lemon, butter and capers, served with boiled new potatoes and asparagus tips.

You know what, excuse me while I get a snack.

Okay, that’s better. So, apart from napping, switching between Judge Judy, Homes Under the Hammer and BBC 1 o’clock news, and checking the weather forecast with a frequency bordering on obsession, we’ve just been chilling! Catch up with you in a couple of days- tomorrow we’re heading to one our favourite places: Dartmouth.

Pasties, Cream Teas and Fudge

The last few days have been a festival of pasties, cream teas and clotted cream fudge, which can only mean one thing: we’re in the West Country. And what a spectacular part of the world it is too.

Picking up from Nick’s last entry, our first impression of Cowes was a big fat “Meh.” That was upgraded to a polite “Nice” after we went for a bit of a bike ride, but frankly, it’s not somewhere I’d return to. Which is probably a real shame, because the rest of the Isle of Wight is meant to be gorgeous. We did enjoy a bike ride along the river and back, but the real highlights were the quiet mooring- seriously, the boat hardly moved an inch in two days, it was like floating in a still lake- and the Waitrose around the corner.

We rose bright an early on the Wednesday to a glorious morning; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. However, it wasn’t quite time to crack out the summer clothes- the air temperature was bitter, and we were still wrapped up against the cold. My new sailing trousers have been seeing quite a bit of action, which I find extremely irritating. They were meant to stay in the cupboard.

Now, my experience with sea sickness so far is fairly limited. Nick and sea sickness are old buddies- they know each other well. However, it rarely affects me. When it does, it will invariably be on a day like Wednesday was: perfectly calm, the wind gently blowing us down Channel, and bright sunshine. So there I was, curled up on the couch chewing ginger sweets, eating everything I could get my hands on, and knocking back ginger tea. It’s still the beginning of the season.

So, I was glad to get into Lyme Regis, although by the time we were approaching land I was happily sitting on the foredeck enjoying the sunshine.

The coast of Dorset is absolutely stunning. For those who haven’t seen it, well, you’ll have to turn to Google or something, because even though I’ve finally summoned the energy to unpack my camera from its locker, actually taking photos seems to be a step too far. So, sorry, no photos for you. Apparently this stretch of coast, a World Heritage Site, is nicknamed the Jurassic Coast, because the rock that makes up the spectacular coastline is from the, you guessed it, Jurassic period (also the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, but thanks to Stephen Spielberg, no-one really cares about them). Because of this, you can’t move for fossils, something the tourism industry has gone to pains to capitalise on. Fossil walks, fossil museums, more fossil shops that you can poke a stick at. I excitedly imagined myself the discoverer of a new species of dinosaur or something, but no. It’s more fish and those spiral-looking things (called Ammonites, as I now know).

Our destination was Lyme Regis, which I had never heard of, but apparently it’s well known as a holiday spot for British families. I can see why. It’s extremely quaint. It’s small enough to give you the impression that you’ve just stumbled across Dorset’s best kept secret, yet it has enough going on to create a vibrant atmosphere, even mid-week in May. The drying fishing harbour (more on that in a minute- bet you can’t wait!) is at one end of a gently curving bay. There’s a couple of pubs, a convenient shop, the tiny Yacht Club and a row of shacks along the beach selling fish and chips, ice-cream and burgers. Walk along the promenade next to the pebbled beach, and only a few hundred metres away (if you can’t walk that far without stopping for a cup of tea or an ice-cream, don’t worry- there’s plenty of small cafes along the beachfront) is the town. I say town, it’s tiny, with a short high street with yet more cafes, but also a few bakeries, fossil shops and a Tescos. It was very atmospheric.

View of the bay from Lyme Regis beach

View of the bay from Lyme Regis beach

Back to the harbour. We had called up the day before leaving the Isle of Wight to confirm the harbour would have somewhere for us to moor. They assured us that yes, there were the summer pontoons which they had put out in the outer harbour that very day. Perfect. However, as we approached and radioed for permission to enter, they told us that the pontoons weren’t in use thanks to the Easterly wind. We’d have to go in the inner harbour and tie up along the wall.

The harbour

The harbour

Well, it was an interesting experience. Not the first time we’ve had to tie up to a harbour wall, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but we didn’t have a fender board and that presented a challenge. There were several ladders and pipes running down the wall which offered even more opportunity to damage our hull, and we scurried around trying to arrange our fenders and lines so our boat was protected as much as possible until we could make a fender board. Of course, this part of the harbour was also a 12th century wall and a site of interest in itself. So, of course, we had an audience. We love an audience, especially when we’re manoeuvring in very close quarters and trying out a mooring technique we’re far from comfortable with. And this seemed to be of the participating kind. So we were peppered with questions as we tried to work:

“Is that your boat? Is it just the two of you? Goodness me, it’s huge [it’s not, but all the surrounding fishing boats were tiny- it’s all a matter of perspective]. How do you manage it, just the two of you? Do you live on it? Where have you come from? Oh, my sister lives in Kent, whereabouts were you? Ohh, yes, I know where that is, it’s near Whitstable, isn’t it? So where next? Spain? Will you cross the ocean? Oh, how adventurous. Well, I’d better leave you to it. You look busy! Good luck!”

Anyway. Very nice people. And my spirits lifted considerably when, instead of wooden blocks for making a fender board, the harbour master and Nick returned with a fender literally the size of a dingy, which we rammed between the boat and the wall. Finally, after about an hour, we were settled in, secure, and reasonably confident our hull was going to remain in one piece.

It was a sunny evening, so we did what any self respecting person arriving into a seaside village would do: went down the foreshore and got a pint of beer and takeaway fish and chips, which we enjoyed on the beach. The fish had been caught that day, we were assured, and boy it tasted like it. Absolutely delicious.

The next day, Thursday, was a bit of a washout- literally; it was raining all day- but Friday dawned bright and, if not warm, then at least not icy cold. So we decided to go for a walk along the dedicated coastal path. Well, it may have been near the coast, but all we could see was wooded forest. Lovely, but not what I was expecting. The path was sodden, and quite slippery in places, so we returned to town and had a cup of tea in the sunshine on the beach instead. Perfect!

We could have stayed several more days, but sleep was a struggle- the boat swung around madly when the wind got up, and the lines creaked and screeched all night. Once the water was out and we were dried out on the bottom it was fine- lovely, actually- but that only lasted a couple of hours. So we decided to get going and move to our next port: Brixham!

And we’re off!

It’s a Monday morning and Im sat at the chart table looking out at Cowes. It is not quite what I expected, however we have yet to venture out , so I will report back once i’m full of fudge and pies.

Last Selfie in Conyer

In the interim I will regale you with what we have been up to since the last post.

Well, our planned departure date of April 30th came and went. The weather forecast was average to say the least, so reluctantly we put the boat back on the pontoon and watched the tide ebb,leaving our beautiful clean hull settle back in the mud.
It is fair to say however that we have learnt from many years of sailing up and down Channel. Wait for the weather. And so we did.

The following days were strange. It really was business as normal. We carried on as we have done for the last four months. Driving back to London to stay with my parents, while of course making use of their washing machine. However eventually the lows passed through Kent and even the most sceptical forecast gave a couple of days of high pressure.

Exactly one week later we left.

We stayed in London the night before and it gave me the welcome opportunity to mark the anniversary of the passing of my dear Grandmother with my family.

So Thursday 7th May, we headed back to Conyer and said farewell to my parents.

The boat was already well prepared and stocked, so it was a question of pulling off the sail covers and going.
Saying goodbye to friends had mostly been done, however it was lovely to see John before we left. We will see him again in Gran Canaria, but that is six months away.
My last hour in Conyer passed in a haze. Akin to biting into a sandwich with too much mustard in it. A little choked up and not quite sure what to do about it. However, cometh the hour and we duly dropped lines and motored out of the marina. Lots of people who knew what we were doing waved and wished us farewell . And then we were gone.

The trip to Ramsgate was uneventful. We were a little unsure about the boat as we hadn’t taken her from the marina since August. However a little motor sail with the jib out worked well. Similarly our first proper mooring passed fairly uneventfully.

Even at the best of times Ramsgate is somewhat lacking. However as it was election day and Mr Farrage was being stalked by the worlds media, we opted not to venture into town for fear of meeting either party. Instead we hunkered down, ate and slept.

Goodbye Conyer

Friday saw the trip from Ramsgate to Brighton. For once, the wind was behind us all the way, so up went the Parasailor and we sat back and drank tea and Bovril.
We also tested the Hydrovane and it seemed to work well, in so much as it didn’t fall off the back of the boat. Oh well , there is alway time!

Passing Beachy Head

Brighton was a good day to wait out a gale that swept through. We had eight large fenders pressed flat as 40kts winds pushed us against the pontoon. As always we were happy to be tied up safe in the marina.

We spent Saturday exploring Brighton. Saw The Lanes and enjoyed a breakfast out. However as Sundays weather was looking good we decided to move on.

Brighton Graffiti
A good southerly wind blew us on a reach from Brighton to Cowes. We left as Midday and the journey was uneventful until we entered the Solent. I have never had to dodge so many ferries, cruise liners, and container ships. It was far worse than the shipping lanes at Dover. However we tied up in Cowes last night , ate and slept like babies.

I feel far happier now that we are underway . Now the anticipation of leaving has passed, and I am back on the water, all is good with the world.