So, we are finally on our way after months of planning, building, fixing, marketing, worrying, more planning, endless e-mails to harbours around Britain, more worrying, cleaning and polishing (well not that much polishing!)
We sailed Snark from Creekside around to Plymouth on the 27th May, mooring up on the mid river pontoon at Catterwater. We had intended to stay at Plymouth Yacht Haven but they told us there wasn’t space, which proved to be a bit inaccurate on the day. Well never mind, being out on the river for a few days was a good way to get back into off grid living.
The next couple of days were spent doing the last-minute bits and pieces and then an exciting run up the river in Boo (our tender) and a short trek overland to the supermarket to pick up the click and collect. Provisions on board, there was time to head to the fisherman’s quay for the day’s catch and then a sneaky ice cream on the quay at the Barbican while waiting for the guests to get to Mayflower Steps.
Our first three guests arrived on time, Val, Carl and Carol. Each with a different sailing background but all excited by setting out on our adventure. Safely onboard, briefed, fed and watered, we all turned in early to be ready for a 06.30 start in the morning, Thursday 2nd June, the first day of the Jubilee w/e.
The wind gods were not kind for the first three days of the trip. Maybe we didn’t pour the right libations into the sea. Strong easterlies had been blowing for several days and continued to prevent us sailing effectively. Day 1 was spent motoring into the growing chop around Start Point and into Dartmouth. After a short stop at the fuelling pontoon and a couple of hours cruising up the river to Dittisham we moored on the Town pontoon for the night. Somewhere a beacon was lit but the guests were already tuckup up in bed. The sea air does that to you.
Leaving at 08.00 we headed north into Lyme Bay to avoid the strongest of the easterlies, finding a hole in the wind and enjoying a gentle cruise around the Dorset coast and along Chesil beach to Portland Bill and the usual nervous passage close inshore to avoid the Race. We anchored in Portland Harbour by Small Mouth Gut, and settled down to sit out the last blasts of the east wind.
Saturday brought NE 25 knot winds gusting 32, definitely not a day for sailing so we opted to stay in harbour. Even there the waves were too choppy to launch Boo to run the guests ashore, but then the incessant rain didn’t make a walk on the beach a particularly attractive prospect.
Sunday dawned sunny and calm, too calm for sailing but perfect for a passage close in to the dramatic Jurassic coast past Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and around St Albans Head. Then into a murky Christchurch Bay heading for the Isle of Wight and through the North Channel and Hurst Narrows with a 4 knot tide pushing us along. We berthed at Trinity Landing in Cowes by 16.00 and sent the guests ashore while we sorted out dinner and other housekeeping.
They succeeded in finding the best pub in town to sit out a passing heavy shower and came back with the emergency egg purchase just in time for the baking of a Tarte de Santiago for dinner. Our old friend Neil, who lives just up the road, joined us for a very yachty evening discussing boats of all kinds, Val it turned out was Colin Archer’s daughter in law! (that’s the guy who designed the Wayfarer amongst many other famous dinghies and cruising yachts).
There was time for a morning walk along the Green before we caste off for Shoreham. Our offerings to the gods the evening before had obviously worked and we were blessed with a fresh SWerly to run down the Solent, through the Forts and on to Boulder and the Looe. Down tide we made great progress arriving Shoreham by early afternoon. Now Shoreham has a leisure marina but their lock is too narrow for Snark so we were sent into the commercial Prince Phillip lock, a craggy place not designed for barges which grabbed one of our stanchions and tried its best to knacker our port leeboard. The wind had risen substantially by now and we spent ages trying to get onto the windward fish quay until the nice men from the Border Force gave us a nudge with their rib.
Getting out the next morning was much easier and we made good time to Eastbourne with a following wind, being regaled by fisherman’s tales from Carl as we entered his home waters off the spectacular Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters ( there are nine!). By the time we got to Eastbourne locks the wind was up to 22kn on the beam and it took three attempts to line up and get in and it seemed the entire office staff of the marina down on the pontoon and work boat to pull warps and offer advice. They could not have been more helpful and eventually we were snug on the RNLI pontoon.
Happy guests were dispatched to the local bus stop to find their way home, Carol and Carl just five miles along the coast to Bexhill and Val all the way back to Totnes. A thorough clean through and the laundry done we headed for the local Thai for a rather dodgy meal, to celebrate the successful completion of our first stage.