#1 2013-01-07 11:22:24

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QUE SERA's Summer Cruiser 2012

QUE SERA's Summer Cruiser 2012
by Sue Doyle

I thought I'd leave early this year. Last April was the best bit of the summer and March 2012 was great, so on April 22nd I left my Ashlett mooring with two friends bound for foreign parts, well Portsmouth for starters.

However the weather soon said otherwise and the next day we returned to the West Solent via a lunch stop in Wooton.

By the time the weather was due to improve the tides would once again allow us an early morning exit from Hurst Narrows. The afternoon sail against a F6/7 was exciting and very wet. The rain was so heavy we could barely see anything in front of us, happily no other idiot was out in it.

Newtown Creek was virtually empty. Plenty of space was a welcome aspect of an early season departure. We put the heater on and settled in.

The forecast of a possible gale later decided me to head for the fleshpots of Yarmouth for the next day. At least we could all find something else to do there. We stayed three nights exploring the island by bus. One day we did a circuit via the 7, 3, 6, 9 and 7 again! Then we had had enough so before the F9 forecast at midday came in we sailed, with just the staysail, back to Newtown for lunch then Beaulieu for the night. Turning into the wind and tide of Beaulieu river's first reach the engine could only just cope.

A weather window for the next afternoon meant we could nip to Poole for a change of scene and still keep our Channel crossing hopes. We had a lovely full sail reach across the bay with Doris, my self steering gear, engaged. We anchored off Pottery Pier. I tried to find a spot out of the channel, avoiding a " dangerous rock" my plotter said was there, but tucked in enough to shelter us against the north easterly F7 forecast for overnight. It did not materialise despite me being half awake all night in anticipation!

The next forecast gave F9 again with F10 coming up the Channel from Plymouth, time for discretion and a move into the very expensive Dolphin Marina at Poole Quay. More bus rides.

Cross Channel

However May Day brought us not a Mayday but a big enough window to cross the channel . We were off. We sailed with Doris in charge for four hours then would you believe the wind dropped so light we had to motor the rest of the way. Exasperating or what!

By now we has used up so much time the plan to sail the two chaps to a drop off in Roscoff and me to return to the Channel Isles on my own to meet up with my next crew, had to be abandoned.

One crew left on the Cherbourg ferry and the following day Mike and I had a good sail over to Longy Bay on the east side of Alderney. It was very nervous making on the final approach, pointing due west at jagged rocks but drifting fast to the south on the tide. At last the bay opened up and we could choose our anchorage. We had it almost to ourselves. Paddy an artist, was out sailing his little dinghy. He came onboard for a beer and gave us the local (artistic) gossip! One installation made by Goldsworthy was a circle of pebbles with a mat of woven wet sea grass over it with another pebble on its centre. As it dried the mat shrunk and lifted revealling the shadow of the central pebble. The shadow was the art!

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Longy Bay

He told us of a gin palace towed in by the lifeboat having had engine problems.It then broke its mooring in Braye harbour and went ashore scattering TVs, furnishings etc all over the beach. It was owned by Dutch guys living in S Africa. They skipped out on a flight and now Alderney may have to pick up the clear up costs.

The trip down to St Peter Port was smooth with a NE3. Mike, who is not a sailor and doesn't really like helming under sail, did really well steering close to a run most of the way.

We stayed there for most of the next few days until Mike had to leave, with just one foray for an overnight in Fermain Bay, because the weather was so poor. It was handy having two to lift the dinghy on the beaches. The tidal range is so great that a long stay any where always involves one long carry. We visited Herm on the ferry and I enjoyed a good walk right round the island. Antony Gormley had one of his tin men on the northern skyline. I felt there are enough people every where without spoiling the views with rusty statues.

Once on my own, I went down to Petit Port in the SE corner of Guernsey for an overnight. The water was beautiful and I enjoyed rowing around in the dinghy. The cliffs were spectacular but I chickened out of hauling myself to the top. It was a bit rolly near HW but not too bad.

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Petit Port

After a spell back in St Peter Port hiding from more poor weather, on 16th I headed for Havre Gosselin on Sark. The mooring buoys were tucked in quite close to the cliffs but looked OK. I rowed ashore. The swell was swooshing up the steps so it was a bit of a work of art to get out dry. I had a long line to tie to the painter and tried to tie the dinghy up clear of the steps. I was a bit worried about damage to its thin skin.

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Steps at Havre Gosselin

A brief walk around convinced me that it was a great island to explore and tomorrow I would pack a picnic and spend all day there. However I had a dreadful night. The swell got worse, the boat rolled and I didn't sleep a wink. I got up with a steaming headache and to make matters worse it was pouring with rain. All I could think of was clearing out. Lots of French boats had arrived on the buoys, did they not mind the rolling?

When the tide was right I put up the main with one reef. I should have stuck to my first idea to just use the headsail, but I was surrounded by French and frankly I think I was showing off! Off course the further out I got the stronger the wind. The dinghy began flying beside me, no idea how I didn't lose it.

At St Peter Port I had to figure out a way to stop. I dumped the main sheet and turned up into wind. I had to let go the tiller to reach in and start the engine, grab it again and set the autohelm. It barely held as I struggled to the mast to drop the main and I had to keep diving back to get her up into wind again. At last it was done and with the boat still leaping all over the place I got a tyer round the sail and turned down wind into the harbour entrance. Boats were coming in from every direction but I had to get on fenders and lines each side. I'd motor upwind to the entrance, dash around and get two fenders on, dash back to the helm and repeat, often turning complete circles whilst drifting down on the locals' pontoon. I got some funny looks but crewed boats weren't having it all that easy.

At last I got a "follow me" from a harbour dory but as I approached the entrance a yacht towing another materialised. I gave way and circled some more. Finally I got a berth albeit at the farthest corner of the marina, rudder worryingly close to the substantial concrete base of a pile. I tied up tight and relaxed at last. Later 5 French boats rafted on me as the Morlaix race finished. They celebrated heartily but I have to say I didn't hear them at all that night. Either they were very considerate or I slept very solidly after my previously disturbed night.

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Running repairs for someone

The new crew arrived.

They didn't bring any sunshine and their first few days involved more circular tours by bus. Though we did once find a gap in the rain to break our journey in the west of the island where there were several field of wild orchids, beautiful purple loose flowered orchids native to the islands but not the UK. And we got a wonderful Sunday Lunch, inexpensive and huge.

The 21st May found us en route for Jersey. I wanted to anchor in St Aubin's Bay. I'd read about the anchorage in Ken Endean's super book "Channel Havens". But it was springs and I couldn't get in far. I tried to ignore the swell but eventually the crew mutinied and we went into St Helier Marina.

However it's an ill wind... while there I asked about someone to help fix one of the forward hatches whose rivet had given way. They had an engineer on site. He did it straight away and charged just £10! I couldn't believe it. Quick what other things could he fix, I couldn't think of anything but the skipper next door grabbed him ASAP.

After a day looking around St Hellier mainly on the Little Train we sailed out through the Demie de Pas the thirty miles to Granville. A fog patch up wind caused a bit of concern but it didn't develop and a few hours motoring were needed. Again a day was spent exploring then it was the highlight of the trip- the Iles Chausey.

These are a tiny archipelago of small islands with lots of rocks at low water between Granville and St Malo. In the channel by the main island Grande Ile, are a set of visitor's buoys. These are picked up fore and aft. With quick crew work we did it first time and settled down to watched a crew of five make a hash of theirs. They made the mistake of picking up the forward one first though to be fair as we were on their aft one it was more tricky. Eventually they agreed to throw us their stern line and we took a turn for them and sent it back. The buoys had "max three boats" writ in large letters, which the French ignored. It became very busy at the weekend despite the early season.

We stayed for three nights.The water was incredibly clear and once at high water I got vertigo looking down through 11 metres to the bottom. We went ashore in the dinghy, lazed on the beaches and ate in the cafe. I did a few walks around the island enjoying seeing large green lizards basking and the spring flowers. We intended to swim but the water was soooo cold. We took the dinghy and explored the exposed rocks and coves at low water.

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Low water in Chausey

Apparently Eric Tabarley the famous French sailor was born here but we didn't find his house. One time returning to the long slipway where we'd left the dinghy we happened upon a wedding party coming ashore. The bride was in the traditional long bridal gown, the groom in a tux and one man in Bermuda shorts carrying her bouquet of white roses. The weather was generally lovely with just one fierce thunderstorm one night.

Leaving the islands I decided to give the channel which cut up through it to the east, a go. It was a bit stressful and I confess I snapped at one of the crew who kept distracting me by telling me about marks we had already passed. We got through safely, it will be easier next time.The plotter was great and the route was well marked.

This time we did make an overnight stay in the anchorage at Belcroute Bay by St Aubin's. It was neaps so I could get quite well in and we had a peaceful night. One more marina night followed then with fresh stores we took the small Violet channel through the reefs east up round Jersey past Gorey to an anchorage in St Catherine's Bay. I was hoping to visit Les Ecrehou, an even smaller set of reefs than Chausey, but on checking it out I realised that as it was now neaps it would not be a particularly good visit. At springs one can stay a while over low water and go ashore at a convenient time.

After a couple of nights at anchor and a walk ashore to visit Gorey we headed north to show my friends Sark. Given the wind direction I had thought it would be a good reaching sail, however once around the corner of Jersey it was obvious that the tide was so strong the offset had to be so big so as not to overshoot, we were headed. Eventually we made the moorings at La Greve de la Ville on the east coast. All the visitors buoys were occupied, what to do? I picked up one that had no writing on it but was pretty substantial. We slept OK but it was quite rolly. In the morning I should have moved to a visitor's buoy which had been vacated but I took a chance and we all went ashore and scaled the steep cliff path amongst flowers and bird song. Coffee and cake, pony trap ride, crab salad lunch, stupendous walled gardens all followed. It was a lovely visit. Coming back down the path a workman was strimming the path. On the coastal path on Guernsey there were big notices asking people not to pick the flowers but leave then for others to enjoy, ironically these were all being clear strimmed too!

As we got lower I saw to my horror that a large motor boat was on the mooring beside Que Sera. The owner had returned. He was not best pleased and made snide, near the knuckle remarks about us being a crew of ladies. All I could do was apologise profusely and move to another buoy.

It was really foggy outside when we left later that afternoon for St Peter Port. I hadn't realised how thick. I didn't want to thread my way back to the La Greve moorings though perhaps I should have. With full revs at times we just kept pace with the tide until at last we turned the corner at the bottom of Little Sark and things got easier. The fog was thick and we sounded our fog horn. My keen (or scared) crew kept answering the lighthouse until I strongly suggested we economise on the limited canister capacity.

The next day, after having a very expensive hair cut, we left for Beaucette marina on the north coast. As well as giving a change of scene this was to be our jumping off point for the cross channel trip when the weather improved. Though only a few miles up the Little Russell it was a bit of a hairy trip. The tide was so fast I was concerned I'd overshoot it and had all hands peering through the wind and spray for the small south cardinal beacon which marked the channel into this old quarry. The entrance is very narrow over a cill. After a bit of circling the harbour dory at last appeared to lead us in. The restaurant meal that night, of scallops and black pudding was delectable!

Next day was Sunday 3rd June, we decorated the boat with the plastic flags we had bought in Jersey, the rained cleared a little and we had a walk out by L'Ancresse Bay then listened to the River Pageant on long wave. Monday we did more touristy things but all the time I was thinking of and checking up on the forecast. It had seemed that an early start on Tuesday was on the cards but I wondered. At the 6pm forecast I suddenly decided it had to be NOW, though I had tried to avoid an overnight trip. We motor sailed most of the way to Dartmouth. My crew found judging the shipping more difficult than I had expected so my watch below generally evaporated.

We made it into the Dart at 7:30am and I made a mess of parking, trying to turn her into the wind in a small space with too much tide. I woke the neighbours. However no damage was done and I slunk off to bed.

It began raining again.

Marian left for home, I rewired the shoreline cable which had been overlooked!! and we went up the river to Dittisham and picked up a buoy. The forecast was dire, SW 10 for Plymouth. We walked up through Dittisham and admired the views. I showed Christine my favourite house, Heron 's Gate, on the Mill Creek then back for a night of howling wind and rolling even in such a sheltered spot. The next day I felt it was too dangerous to use the inflatable so we hailed the Greenway Ferry when the rain subsided and went ashore. I bought a mini bouquet from a child who had set up her "stall" on her garden steps, it made her day!

On Friday we used the ferry again and caught the free bus with four other old ladies and went to Dartmouth for a free shower, shopping, emailing and weather watching. It seemed as if there was a lull in about three days time, though at the moment the inflatable was often airborne!

However things improved suddenly and the next day we were off to Salcombe, though the sea state was very rough at the entrance to the Dart.

I went on up to Kingsbridge when the tide served. I have often wanted to give the wall a go and I had enjoyed this "real" little town and thought Chris would too. However it just rained and rained. Fun was impossible so back to the Frogmore anchorage. Monday was nice and we took the water taxi to town. A bit of a sad place I think unless you like clothes shopping, then early Tuesday we left for Plymouth. I did an oil change there then on Wednesday we went up river to Calstock. I was earlier than planned but Rob And Liz found me a mooring where I could leave Que Sera for a month while I returned home on June 15th to await the birth of my first grandchild.

Thursday July 12th

She was rather late but beautiful and named Ursula. Sadly I left her and returned to Cornwall. I had bought myself an iPad nominally to get weather forecasts but photos of the baby were a huge draw too and I spent a fair time hunting out wifi pubs and cafes in the subsequent weeks to download the next cute photos.

In Cornwall it was still raining solidly. As I sorted the boat I counted 40 snails tucked away under the toe rail and other places and a dead warbler. The hull was very mucky with river scum too. There was a little sun in the next few days, I aired blankets etc, did family errands then on Sunday I left for the Wearde Quay anchorage where the Tamar joins the Lynher, to meet up with Nick on Dolphin. He had just got back from the Jester Challenge, the single- handed race to the Azores. He'd had a hard time and vowed not to do it again but he said that last time. Unfortunately he had too many family commitments now to do a trip in company with me to Ireland in the following weeks.

I had a few myself, and on Friday 20th I took my niece for a sail. We had a good time. I took her out past the Breakwater to show her the coast running east and west. Taking her back to her car, motoring past the Dockyard there was a Big Bang and the engine stopped. Hastily I got the main back up. It took two goes as it was hard to keep her head to wind. With the wind dropping off we crept forward to the buoys off Wearde Quay and managed to pick one up. We quickly got into the dinghy to motor up to the Saltash pontoon and her car, before the tide began ebbing. It runs very fast and I thought my 2.5 hp outboard would find it hard to cope.

From the dinghy I could see the rope around my prop. I poked at it with a boat hook but it was hopeless. I called my friend Jim. Ironically we had discussed this eventuality the day before and I had airily said that it had never happened to me before and I didn't intend it to! He was leading a dive that day but agreed to come on Sunday. He duly arrived and amazingly my little dinghy took us, weights, tanks and other gear out to Que Sera. I set up the boarding ladder, lowered the guard rails and over he went. Ten minutes hard sawing got off a length of about 30mm rope. No other damage seemed to have been done. I kept checking the bilges for water ingress though. Thanks Jim. The Wearde Mooring Association had kindly lent me three days of mooring for free too.

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Jim diving

After an overnight in Mayflower Marina to get stores, water and do laundry I left for Falmouth. The next day was on to Newlyn. When about 15 miles out the wind picked up almost on the nose and thick fog descended. It was a horrible sail but I blessed the chart plotter which I mount on the coach roof when single handing. Newlyn was a bit depressing. On Friday two boats came back in having turned back from their planned passage due to weather and I chatted to another couple who were trying to rebuild their engine after the head gasket had gone off Wolf Rock in a calm. I got thoroughly fed up and decided to return home and not even stop to take up an invitation to crew in Falmouth Week on Fly, another Jester finisher.

Off towards the Lizard conditions were good and for the first time on my own I flew the cruising chute, the autohelm coped while I ran around organising ropes. I anchored up the Percuil River and did some exploring by dinghy for a couple of days. Tuesday 31st had a SW gale forecast so I moved up the Fal to near Ruan Creek. Wednesday was wet and windy too, more hiding from weather. August 5th saw me back in Plymouth where I tried to get my anemometer fixed unsuccessfully then I moved east back to the Dart and Dittisham. Here I met up with another niece and her husband I took them for a jolly. We tried to sail in the very light winds. I gave up at lunchtime and motored the short distance to Blackpool Sands just west of the Dart entrance. I anchored in 11m very close to the shore. Lara had prepared us a lovely picnic but tragically she couldn't eat any of it. There was a slight swell in the anchorage which made her queasy. Her husband and I went swimming though, it was a lovely hot day, the only time this summer. After dropping them off near Galmpton I moved up river and anchored off White Rock. A couple of other boats were anchored up nearer Bow Creek. It was beautifully peaceful.

On Friday 10th I visited Stoke Gabriel by dinghy, for supplies. It was buzzing with kids crabbing, and little sailing dinghies for the sun was actually shining again, then I motored over to Bow Creek for a crab lunch.

The next day I motored Que Sera down river. I tried to get fuel from the barge but was told by another yacht that the operator was also a part time fireman and he had just gone off on a shout!

I phoned Mike, my previous crew, and he returned to join me on the sail home and on Monday 13th we left the Dart at 6am. I put in a reef and once in clear air we had a reach, we made 6/7kts on course!! I engaged Doris, the wind self- steering. It was pretty bouncy, Mike was a bit sea sick and twice Doris tripped out. I was busy making mental calculations about our early arrival at Portland Bill when suddenly I saw we were trailing a rope. Then I saw the Yankee beginning to look slack. Rats, the halyard had gone. Hastily I rolled the Yankee away before it could fall down completely. The speed dropped to 5kts then slowly the wind died. We lost all our gains and I had to put the engine on to ensure we passed St Albans with a fair tide. We anchored off Brownsea Is at 8pm after about 75 miles. We stayed three nights sitting fairly comfortably, though pirouetting, through 30kt gusts and heavy rain. During a lull we put the Yankee back up on the spinnaker halyard.

Thursday there seemed to be a gap before fierce weather again overnight and on Friday, so we went for it, clocking 10.3kts through Hurst. We took a buoy at Newtown, happily, as it blew hard overnight.

Friday 17th gave us a stonking sail with one reef in, up to Ashlett. We had to anchor outside as we were so early but it was good to be back.

What to do next year? I think I am bored with heading west and with my own company. I fear the draw of a first grandchild may keep me near home from now on.

Sue Doyle
Que Sera.

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Que Sera off Plymouth

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