After leaving the Yealm River, I thought I would be able to make it to the Solent, by the Isle of Wight. No such luck. Rocky sailing and on the VHF radio they kept forecasting Gale warnings. I’m still not familiar with the forecasts here but the warning is for within 6 hours. That would hit me before my target and no safe anchorages on the way. I decided to tuck into Teignmouth. On hindsight I should have gone to Dartmouth, but it worked out OK.
Teignmouth is a very small harbour. It’s a circuitous inlet rife with sandbars. I entered on the ebb and and had to steer 70 degrees off my bearing to counter the current. Even the deepest is not much more than I draw and I have to enter near high tide. There is a low bridge 1/4 mile from the mouth that prevents any but the smallest boats from going up river. Most of it is shallow and dries out at low tide. It is full of fast moving water, sandbars, moorings for locals and little room for visitors. Luckily, being past high season the one place I could go was vacant. It’s a pontoon (dock) anchored in the river and it was available. I tied up, a little worried about having to get off the boat in the swift current. If she got away from me I might have to watch her careen down river!! Goldilocks behaved like a lady, I was able to tie her up without a tantrum. It was cold, dreary, windy (Gale warnings after all). Since I was after the high season nobody approached me to pay. I met some very nice people in the pub whilst taking care of my internet needs. I got to overhear an old gent who just moved there talking about the damage in London during the Blitz, when he was a child versus the damage in Teignmouth. Not much longer may we hear first hand accounts of WWII.
A couple nights there and I had the winds I needed to get east. Just.
I sailed from Plymouth to the mouth of the Yealm River, a bit SE of Plymouth harbour, to hide from some strong easterlies. Naturally since I want to go east all the winds are from the E. It never fails!
There is a fairly wide mouth with a long sand bar that dries out at low tide, so the entrance is narrow. Tall cliffs to the E and S give great protection from all but SW-W winds. I draw 1.8m, and of course the depth at low tide is about 1.8m at the deepest. I found myself bouncing off the bottom a few times during Spring tide lows. The other thing here is, there are a half dozen boats and not that much space. The tidal current is pretty strong up and down the river. With the current varying speed here and there, and the wind eddies from the tall hillsides, the boats dance all over the place. I don’t know how I survived the first night without a collision, because the second day three of us were moving all over and had to fend each other off several times. Good thing everybody was on deck and awake. It was a beautiful, sunny day to be on deck, and warmer than usual.
I had met Terry Williams a few days before in Plymouth, and here he was again with his wife out sailing for the weekend. His son, daughter and friend were on another boat, a classic workboat style with a varnished hull. I can’t imagine the work to keep that shiny! I saw it in Plymouth and it really caught my eye.
Jove introduced himself. He paddled by in his canoe with a dog that kept whining. I thought the dog was afraid of being in the boat, but he was upset at not being in the water, and later just jumped/fell in. “Howl, whine, howl, whine, whine, howl, splash!” You had to be there. We had a nice chat about sailing.
One of the guys doing the anchoring dance was John, aka Blond John on “Westerly Dream”. He had sailed to Azores and left his boat there a few years. He loved Azores and we had a good talk about sailing. We also took my dinghy up river to the town and got wifi at the pub and veg at the little Tesco market. There is a concrete walkway across Newton Creek just off the river, and you can walk across it at low tide to another pub, but a couple hours after low you have to walk a couple miles around to get back to the dinghy dock.
At the pub we met a couple, Chris (English) and Oksana (from Estonia) who were hiking the coast from London to Lands’ End, the farthest SW point of England. Being the coast it’s a pretty circuitous path. More at www.takeachallenge.org
During the day there is a small water taxi to take people from one side of the Yealm to the other. It was too late for that and it was getting dark, so we gave them a ride. 200 meters in a dinghy saves many miles, and a chance to pitch their tent outside of town, rather than the middle of it.
I needed about 3 days of winds not-from-the-east to make it to Deal, which represented the east coast of UK, to get around to Walton-on-the-Naze where I intend to haul-out. That’s about 300nm non-stop. I’ve been waiting at least a couple weeks for it and here it was. I had hoped to stop off by the Isle of Wight, but no time. I sailed non-stop to Deal and suffered much sleep deprivation. It’s one thing sleeping on watch when you’re in open ocean and not in a shipping lane. When you are along the South coast of a place like England, with so many fisherman out at all hours, and recreational boaters during the day, and some spot with fast ferries plying to and fro, it’s a whole different story. Paranoia and fear serve you well here.
I got to Deal about midnight 8 Oct, dropped anchor in near complete darkness, put on the anchor drag alarm and slept soundly.
Anchored in Falmouth. Sept 19 used my dinghy to push Paddy ashore to clean the muck off his hull. Paddy sailed this boat around the world a few years ago and wrote a book. It has no engine. He was prepared to sail it ashore, but there was no wind and I volunteered. With dead calm wind, and a current, I would like to have seen him sail, but I couldn’t put him through that.
I have been mostly searching internet trying to find where to store Goldilocks for the winter. Dintelmond, Netherlands is at the top of the list right now!
Wifi is in the pubs. I have to order Ale to be in the pubs, so it’s Ale for internet. Oh, the Humanity! (sometimes I have to buy Pastys)
Sept 24 I sailed from Falmouth to Plymouth. Great conditions, broad reach about 15 kts. I left with David on SV Rustler, who I met in Horta, and Richard on his bright yellow boat. Nice broad reach most of the way. Easy sailing. Netherlands is the goal now and no safe anchorages E of Isle of Wight.
The wind shortly turned E and strong, up to 30 kts. To find a protected anchorage I sailed down to the mouth of the River Yealm. A bit shallow and I bounced off the bottom a few times at low tide, but otherwise nice and very well protected. We did have a dance early on when there were more boats anchored though. With the wind against current boats were all over the place and luckily everyone was aboard to fend off when they got too friendly. Collisions averted only by extreme diligence!
2 October. I plan to sail east tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Wind is finally going S (It’s been E for more than a week) and I can start moving east. It was looking good for several days, but the forecast has just changed. Tue the winds are going to kick up horribly. Lee shore plus strong current plus limited safe anchorages= not happy. I may not make as many miles as I’d like, but I’ll get somewhere. (In the Passageweather graphic, I’m on the south coast of England about 1/3rd along from the lower left tip.)
2015 Sept 9-10, Camaret, France to Falmouth, England
I set off from Camaret to sail to Falmouth in the morning. It took awhile raising anchor, clearing the tenacious seaweed from the chain, so it doesn’t stink up the V-berth where I sleep. Heading across the bay toward the Pointe du Raz, a headland I had to clear before heading north, I found a helicopter in my way! He was hovering over a 40ft catamaran, that had just launched a dinghy.
It appeared they were training, so I turned to avoid them and got out the camera. Sure enough, the helicopter lowered a cable and as the dinghy motored along at about 4 knots, they picked up one of the dinghy crew and hauled them inside. It all seemed to go pretty smoothly, but it was not rough conditions.
After I got the anchor gear all stowed well, I set the mainsail and genoa, and the yankee jib on deck and ready to use. Nice broad reach to the Pointe du Raz. Gorgeous old building and ruins on the point. The current started to take me and speed was great. A nice sunny day, chilly, but very pretty, and beautiful headlands and islands.
After passing the headland the winds increased to about 20 knots apparent. The genoa was way too big, so in it came and up went the yankee jib and staysail. Mainsail was already double reefed. That gave me a good heel, nice speed, not too much sail, and was perfect for conditions.
To the NW of Ile d’Ouessant there is a traffic separation scheme. The big ships use it like a roadway and keep to their lane, to prevent collisions. The English Channel is pretty narrow and has a large amount of shipping traffic. Getting across in a small, slow boat like mine can be a nail-biting experience. My AIS (Automatic Identification System) is wonderful. I only have a receiver, but at least I can see where they are going.
The first one was a 120ft tug towing a 300 ft ship. Luckily they were fast enough so I passed behind and didn’t have to change course. I was on a close reach with the tidal current setting me W. If I went too far west I might have trouble making Falmouth with the E winds. I was expecting the current to take me back E when it changed after midnight, but didn’t want to count on it. A slight backing of the wind, more to the N could have kept me from getting there.
Over night I stayed in the cockpit and looked around every 15 minutes or so, catching what sleep I could. I’m really glad I made it through the shipping lanes before dark. It was biting cold, and hard to sleep. Not such a bad thing when you have to keep watch.
The distance is a little over 100nm, so roughly 24 hours, but with the currents giving me a boost I had to slow it down coming toward Falmouth harbour waiting for the sun to rise. I didn’t have to wait long, and anchored off Trefusis Point. A little rough, but the harbour is full and it’s the only place one can anchor without being charged. I made it in about 21 hrs. A very nice solo transit.
Some big winds were forecast, up to near 40 knots, so I decided to go up the Aulne river to Chateaulin to avoid them, and get my first experience in a French canal. Traveling the canals is one of my big goals; a way to really experience and immerse myself in French culture (and food, and wine)
I anchored inside the Rade du Brest, a big estuary, for the night to get an early start.
When I started in the morning, I didn’t appreciate how far I was from the mouth of the Aulne and it took a couple hours to get there. The flood tide began before light, so I should have started earlier.
The waterways remind of North Carolina, because of the mud flats, the cattails, and all the people fishing. Just upriver from the mouth I passed under a beautiful Cable-Stayed bridge that is a work of art. There is another of similar design closer to Brest but this one over the Aulne curves, so the two columns supporting it come from one side and rise at an angle making it like a sculpture. Gorgeous!
A few more turns up the river I found wet storage of some warships. About 4 cruisers, 2 of something a little smaller than destroyers, and some smaller craft are in mothballs, much like the Liberty Fleet in the SF Bay.
It was ebbing when I was still miles away and after sliding through some mud a time or two, I ended up buried in it a mere half mile from the lock. It was so soft the keel sank 3-4 ft down in it, so I barely heeled at all. I was pretty hungry since I didn’t have time below to make a proper lunch, so I was kind of glad for the respite. After lunch, I took the dinghy up to the lock and explored a little, then setup the camera for a time lapse of the tide coming in.
The flood was pretty late so I refloated not long before dark, and after grounding several more times, made it into the lock. Of course it was too late to pass through the lock so I tied up and slept there. About 0400 I found low water in the lock was well below my waterline and the boat leaned against the wall, the hull high and dry.
It wasn’t until nearly noon the tide was high enough for the lock keeper to pass me through. That all went smoothly and I motored up the river, under a Roman-style aquaduct. Too new to be Roman but a beautiful bit of construction. It was raining like hell, so could have been better conditions for sight-seeing, but the storm was why I came. I passed Port-Launay, a tiny town with one bar and no cafes that I could see. About a mile on was Chateaulin and the end of the line for me. There a low bridge kept me from going any farther. A lock next to a barrage just past it allows the short boats through. If my mast were down I could get through, but my draft, 1.8m, would not let me go far. 1m is the controlling depth farther up, and the book recommends depth sounders to anything drawing more than 0.8m. The barrage allows the fish to swim up river.
The lock is hand cranked, and all free passage. For a 60euro deposit, you get a windlass handle, and can take your boat through the locks many miles up the river. I think it goes all the way to Rennes, and may connect to other canal systems, but my map only shows this, the Finistere Sector. Of course it does connect to Nantes, farther south in the Bay of Biscay.
Mothball Fleet, Aulne River, France
Goldilocks in the mud, Aulne River, nr Chateaulin, FR
5 Aug, 2210 UTC, or just after midnight French time, we finally dropped anchor in a bay off a nice beach in Camaret sur Mer, near Brest. We had forgotten that French time in the summer is UTC +2 hrs. That coupled with a later-rising moon and heavy clouds and mist, meant for near pitch black conditions coming in.
After starting the engine I found it wouldn’t shift. Quick diagnostics showed the cable not attached somewhere. Turned out it was broken at the shifter. I showed Marlein how to shift, but it was pretty awkward. Really glad I didn’t have to come into a dock. We found a nice spot with several boats at anchor and some crab pot floats and I rigged an anchor and dropped it in 35 ft. There is a 6m tide here so should be about 45-50ft at high tide.
Simone made another great tomato sauce for pasta and we ate our fill, and toasted our arrival with a bottle of Champagne I’ve been saving for a special occasion. This was it! Then we slept, with nary a thought to being thrown from the bunk. Ahhhh.
Yesterday I picked up the remainder of my packages, so now I have my EPIRB, dinghy, satellite tracker, Galaxy tablet for sat tracker and navigation, charts, etc, etc. Then I sold my beat-up but very heavy, 70 lbs anchor to some nice folks on “Miss K” who just sold everything in Oklahoma, bought a boat here and are jumping in to full time liveaboard in USVI! They were very happy to have a good anchor, and I was very happy have it off the boat. Great holding, but rusty and too heavy to carry across the ocean. Then I sailed to Charlotte Amalie for the sailmaker and crew pickup.
A batten ripped out of my mainsail on the way up to Virgin Gorda, so I will have a sailmaker here check it over and do some small repairs. Also setting up accounts for the new electronics. Check out my new link that shows my position via my inReach sat. tracker. My new chart chip will not fit as I got the wrong converter, so we’ll see if anyone on island has a Compact Flash to SD card converter. That may throw a wrench into things!! Otherwise things are pretty much according to schedule.
The crew, Two young Danes are flying into St. Thomas this afternoon. They have some experience, but not on a crossing like this. They seem game to learn, young, fit and enthusiastic. With watches 3 hrs on and 6 hrs off, I think it will be a great trip.
I finished my week haulout in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, boatyard, and launched yesterday afternoon. Boatyards suck, but this was better than average. Not too busy so not too toxic-dusty. Nice breeze most of the time and hot, but not hot and humid like Trinidad. For comfort I did wear shorts and short sleeves (rather than Tyvek coveralls) for sanding and painting. Fortunately, I’m past my child-bearing years and any toxic, brain-damaging influence is not likely to be noticed. :}
Work mainly was drilling and epoxying a hole in the rudder for use as secondary emergency steering should the rudder post break. With a full keel and heavy bronze shoe at the bottom the chance of the rudder falling off is near nil, but the wheel, autopilot and emergency tiller all need a full-length rudder post. If that were to break I can rig lines directly to the rudder and, with great difficulty, keep sailing. I hope I never have to use it, but it’s such a simple backup system, why not.
Other than that, it’s checking over the hull, thru-hulls and applying new bottom paint. She was in great need of that and she moves more easily through the water now.
Tuesday I motored back to USVI. Winds were so light it would have taken all day even with a spinnaker, and I had to pick up my new dinghy and EPIRB, so no time to waste. Lovely downwind motor with the autopilot taking care of steering. Only problem was 3 kts of apparent wind from the stern meant I was smelling diesel exhaust most of the trip. I like sailing better.
I spent about the last week by Water Island, near West end of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. It’s a good place to get certain items like propane, antifouling paint, etc. I got to chat with friends there on SV Endless Pleasure: Tim and Stephany, and new friends on SV Blue Moon. Steve and Ellie on Blue Moon are from England, have crossed the Atlantic about 40 times, and gave me some good tips on the crossing. Most of my time was on the internet and phone trying to get parts and supplies ordered, and crew selected (or not selected as the case may be). Today I picked up many items I’ve ordered and will head to BVI tomorrow (Friday) to haulout Monday in Virgin Gorda. Departure date is estimated about May 24, but I may be able to move that up. The target is to depart Bermuda by end of May.
Parts received today: New heat exchanger (to replace the one I repaired in Martinique), spare remotes for stereo!, thimbles (rigging), twine, shackles, impellers, fuel filters, zinc anodes, toilet repair kits, American flags.