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  • Writer's picturetheblacksprayhood


Updated: Aug 4

As we glided up the River Dart, welcomed by Dolphins springing out of the water and surrounded by pastel coloured houses...

We finally set sail from Southampton on Wednesday 18th August 2021. Our first destination was Poole. As is always the case when you have somewhere far to go, the wind was against us. We wanted to head west and that’s where the wind was coming from. As you can’t sail directly into the wind, you have to sail in a zig zag motion at 45º to the wind. As we left Southampton the wind was a calm 12 knots. We reached the Solent, which is the stretch of water that separates the Isle of Wight from the Mainland and the wind increased to 19 knots. This made for a fast sail as we also had the tide going our way. As we reached the Needles Channel, a narrow strip with fast moving overfalls the wind increased to 25 knots. Pretty strong wind with some white horses playing on the waves. The wind stayed quite strong all the way to Poole. There we headed for a quiet anchorage tucked behind some islands called Goathorn Point. To get there we had to venture down a narrow channel. At one point our depth reader showed we only had 0.3 metres under the keel. The last thing we wanted was to be grounded on our first day! Luckily 30 centimetres was enough to keep us afloat and we made it to the anchorage where we spent a peaceful evening planning the next day’s trip.

Bright and early on Thursday morning we departed for Portland Harbour. To save time we decided to motor in the beginning. We passed through some cruise ships just sitting in the middle of the sea. They’re a little intimidating in the beginning as you want to make sure that they are not actually moving as they would easily mow down our little sailing boat. It was pretty cool to sail through the middle of these stationary giants and appreciate your modest place in the world. Our anchorage that night was the huge dystopian fortress that is Portland Harbour, a man made fortified harbour full of warships and navy barracks, rather different from our bucolic anchorage the night before.

On Friday the winds were very light, too light. We put up our mainsail, but when we tried to put up our genoa (headsail) as well, it stole the wind from the mainsail. As we had a huge trip of 14 hours across Lyme Bay, there was nothing for it but to turn on the engine and motorsail with just the mainsail up. Despite complaints from the cats about the prolonged engine noise, we managed not to scare away all the wildlife, we were joined with several leaping dolphin displays and one cute seal head as we got to the Devon side of the bay. We were headed for a tiny anchorage outside an abandoned fishing village. It wasn’t in the almanac, just online. You can’t trust everything you read online. There were no other boats there when we arrived, again, not a good sign! We tried three times to anchor but our anchor couldn’t take hold of the gravelly seabed. Instead we headed back some way across the bay towards Dartmouth. By this time it was approaching 7.00pm and the cats had been inside with the full noise of the engine all day and evening. Suki, the most vocal cat stood on the kitchen sink where she can see us in the cockpit and meowed her protest as loudly as possible. Chocolate decided to clamber up the stairs to join us in the cockpit. Make the engine stop!!!! It was all worth it in the end. If you have never been to Dartmouth, please go. If you have never entered by water, please do, what a beautiful place. Why was our first choice outside an abandoned fishing village????? As we glided up the River Dart, welcomed by Dolphins springing out of the water and surrounded by pastel coloured houses climbing up the steep hills among lush forests and boats of all shapes, sizes, colours and ages we felt we were entering a sunset paradise. We grabbed our visitor’s mooring buoy just opposite Agatha Christies’s house, switched off the engine and savoured the sweet silence with Suki and Chocolate in the cockpit.

The next day we felt we all needed a rest, particularly the cats from the noise of the engine. We explored Agatha Christies’s house and gardens and then took the ferry down to pretty Dartmouth where we dodged the showers in the oldest pub in Dartmouth. On Sunday it was time to set sail again, or so we thought, but as we tried to put up our mainsail and stretch it along the boom, there was a loud pop and the outhaul cable had snapped! While motoring to Plymouth we also noticed that our automatic bilge pump was not pumping any water out of our bilges. Two rather major things needed repairing and we only left a few days ago!

We arrived in Plymouth on a Sunday and had to wait until Tuesday to get the outhaul cable replaced. We made the most of a day off in on-off sunny weather anchored in pretty Cawsands Bay and took a rinse in the sea - absolutely freezing and then trying out our solar shower. Unfortunately the solar power in England was rather too pathetic to have warmed it up much, but it felt warmer than the sea at least. On Tuesday morning we motored to the marina to get the outhaul cable replaced. Various components also needed replacing that had corroded to sharp edges that had caused the cable to fray and finally snap. At least it had happened before we started crossing the Atlantic. This is what we think about everything that stops working, but there never seems to be a shortage of new things that stop working that you didn't know existed on a boat. While waiting for them to complete the work on the cable we cycled to a boat chandlery to buy a new bilge pump. Of course there is a massive shortage as the factory that makes the superior brand is based in the USA stopped production because of coronavirus. We had to buy an underpowered one and hope we don’t spring any leaks while out at sea. At least the cats were enjoying their time at anchor. Chocolate climbs up into the cockpit on his own whenever he can, while Suki is enjoying exploring up there secure in the knowledge there are no people walking nearby unlike the marina.

Our final port of call in England was Falmouth. We again anchored at a beautiful spot called St Just’s pool. We wished we could spend some time exploring but had to start planning our trip across the channel and enjoy the view from the boat. Our next update on crossing the Channel and the Bay of Biscay if we have crossed by then will be posted next Sunday unless we are at sea and we hope to have updates at the same time each week!

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