Our resident marine expert, Rob Carr, takes to the water again for a fun packed trip - the plan being to sail from Torquay to Ipswich and pop in to Cowes on the way. All par for the course here at Arkle Finance!
My nephew Tristan needed to move his Seamaster 925. As Tristan didn’t know which way was up, or which way was Ipswich, who better to skipper the boat than his Uncle Rob with a lifetime of boating experience? I roped in his old school pal and fellow adventurer Mike to add to the fun and buy one third of the beer needed for the trip.
Preparing the ship for sea
The yacht being quite old and unfamiliar to us all, so we had a weekend checking her over. Dirty or contaminated fuel would be a nightmare, so we drained off a few litres of diesel from the bottom of the tank, changed the fuel filters and found the fuel surprisingly clean. We fitted a new impellor and pulley belt, serviced the engine, checked the stern gland and water system, and made sure that all seacocks were serviceable and working. We even persuaded Tristan to go swimming and scrape the barnacles off the prop. We had the sails up, checked out the rigging and the whole boat stem to stern. All good to go for next week and thanks to our thoroughness, the engine never missed a beat and apart from an occasionally sticky roller furling gear, the boat was superb.
We left Torquay early and motor sailed to Weymouth. Wind from the SW 4-6 as it would be all week - perfect. We rounded Portland Bill inside the notorious tide race and looked to celebrate our first day’s achievement, navigational and sailing prowess with a few pints. This was of course necessary every day and in every port.
On to Poole where we all voted to berth on the quayside for the night as we had many times in our younger days. We did avoid the firing range marked on the chart near Lulworth Cove in spite of being told by Tristan, an ex-army man, that they don’t use it at the weekend! I did feel a little guilty when I deliberately suggested we go through the tide race off Swanage as it could be fun. Actually the real purpose of going through the tide race was to give Tristan a feel for rough water and some confidence in the boat. He did not enjoy the experience and said later, with a pint in his hand, that if someone had offered him £20 for the boat there and then he would have taken it and got off. I was trying to demonstrate that the boat is better than the crew and will not fall over “unless the keel falls off”, which became a running joke for the week. If that does happen, the mast thinks it is now the keel and takes on the role enthusiastically. Then you really don’t know which way is up.
Off to Cowes. We were on a mission. Arkle was supplying financing for a beautiful racing yacht for her new owner and Arkle required a quick inspection of the boat so I obliged as I was passing by. She was ashore in the Medina yard in Cowes and I had previously arranged access. We found the yard, berthed, reported in, found the yacht, climbed on board, checked her provenance and identification, took some photos to confirm details and retired to a marine berth for dinner and some beers. This was the most enjoyable boat inspection we have done to date. Going by car is just not the same.
Planning for Newhaven, we put the engine off just outside Cowes and sailed all day to within two miles of the harbour. Skipper was seasick but we don’t talk about that. We don’t talk about taking a short cut through the edge of a windfarm under construction, being called up on VHF and being shadowed buy a large patrol boat until we were clear of the area. We also don’t talk about being gently told off for failing to call up Newhaven Port on VHF channel 12 before entering the narrow harbour entrance with a ferry waiting to come out.
On to Folkestone. SW winds all the way again. I remembered the harbour as drying out and it certainly did. We tied on the harbour wall and showed Tristan how to use the longest possible lines as far fore and aft as possible, cleated off on the outside of the yacht, with springs also as long as possible and all tight. We returned from the pub to find her settled perfectly and leaning into the wall, although very high and dry. We moved around carefully after realising that she was nicely balanced on her own and did not appreciate us getting on board and upsetting that balance. After taking turns to get up and check on the boat and lines throughout the night, we would have had a better night’s sleep in Dover Marina but Tristan would not have experienced drying out on a harbour wall.
A short easy day to Ramsgate which is our stepping off point for crossing the Thames tomorrow. Lovely morning and a police RIB came to see us as we were just passed Dover about three miles offshore. The two policemen were very pleasant and good humoured but quizzed us very professionally about the three of us, the yacht and our trip. They asked how we liked Folkestone and laughed when we said it was a bit grim, obviously believing that we had been there. My phone buzzed and Vodafone said welcome to France! Tristan enjoyed being hoisted up the mast in Ramsgate marina and checking the roller furling, as well as the view.
Off to Felixstowe maybe? After being on a real steep learning curve all week, I suggested that Tris and Mike do all the course plotting and navigation for the next day, sail the boat and leave me to relax and enjoy the ride. It is not the easiest trip across the Thames Estuary and they were brilliant, even managing to dodge the acres of windfarms. In the afternoon I was sleepy and I went below for a nap. The boat was being sailed fast and competently and they were well on top of the navigation without any input from me. I was shouted up on deck much later. They had decided the tide was right for Ipswich and we were flying up the River Orwell, still under full sail and a few minutes from the sea lock and the yachts new berth in the marina. Brilliant!
A great trip and lots of fun. We found the right balance between being safe and still having an adventure.