Plymouth and the Mayflower

When we arrived at Mayflower Marina, we had already had a number of things delivered to the office including a new Engel portable fridge freezer, as recommended by our daughter Amie. To be fair, especially since we weren’t even there, we took up far too much of the space for parcels in the marina office. the staff at the marina have been incredibly welcoming and friendly including meeting us to take lines when we arrived. We have also met one of the team that helped build Mariadz back in 2001. Paul Roach from GRP Services, recognised his work as soon as he got on board, little did we know we would be needing his services ourselves but more of that later.

We had spent some time with my cousin and also caught up with most of my extended family in Devon, I’m sorry Michelle that we didn’t see you this time, when we are back in the UK we will come to see you. We had a lovely time though seeing family I haven’t seen for ages apart from last year on our tour in the Motorhome. This included a family game of cards with eight of us playing dirty girty, or Black Maria as others know it. Apart from a number of new rules, that my side of the family hadn’t played, it was the same vicious game with players who had equally grown up with this. It was all nip and tuck with me on a very low score and my lovely aunt scoring in the hundreds until my cousin Gina, who I previously liked, decided that I needed to be targeted. Fortunately this coincided with my unilateral decision to throw the game and let my uncle win…. We had a great time chatting away and everyone made Maria feel part of the family, which of course she is. It was a late evening though and we were tired after the one hour drive back to Plymouth in our hire car.

One of our tasks in Mayflower was to refuel and having seen the fuel pontoon at low tide, we knew we should do this at high tide, hopefully when the water was slack.

When we had come into the marina, they had asked us to come quite a way down L pontoon for visitors with a number of cats on the other side of the water. We had come in perfectly and had already plotted our exit route, we were going to spring off from the bow, go astern towards the other side and then flick her to come straight out of the exit. Easy and we had done this many times. This plan was destroyed by a large brand-new catamaran, a TS5 racer cruiser, coming adjacent to us.

So our revised plan was to come off sideways from the pontoon using the steering lock and bow thruster and then straight astern to the turning point at the bottom. All great in theory. However, there was a fair wind blowing us off and a strong tide running despite being just after supposed high water.

We started the manoeuvre but with not enough revs on the engine to counter the tide and provide drive astern. This was quickly recovered but then as we came out, we hadn’t taken enough of the steering off and were veering towards the bavaria behind us with a friendly couple who we had chatted to a few times. There was a slight touch but fenders and a light push was enough to avert a problem. We were now back on the pontoon two boats behind where we started with the owner of a beautiful classic 120 year old wooden boat looking very worried and suggesting we should stay where we were or at the very least go nowhere near his boat. We started again in the same vein but trying to make sure we didn’t make the same mistake again. That of course if the kiss of death, as we overcorrected were caught by both tide and wind, sending us straight at two catamarans opposite. We don’t have as many fenders on this side and we land on the smaller one with our bow touching a wider one and my cousin Simon trying to use a fender to protect the boat. Neither owner is on board but this doesn’t seem to stop a number of quite angry people coming out. At this stage, Maria’s confidence is shot and I am instructed to get us out of this predicament. Some have suggested we come back and rest on the smaller catamaran but actually that means more manoeuvring, it seems easier to go forward and rest solely on the large cat which then puts us pretty much on the right track to go straight back. This course of action is discussed with the marina team who can’t advise but don’t suggest that it is a bad plan. Despite understandable protestations from the other bystanders, which to be fair with our recent track record we can understand, we come off the smaller cat clear of both before resting gently, with lots of fenders on the large cat. Stage one of the recovery safely negotiated. When I say protestation, one in particular, was shouting vociferously without actually offering anything useful, in fact most of his “advice” was patently wrong. More of him later too! We are resting against the larger catamaran, when I notice some damage, unfortunately our initial rendering before the move wasn’t adequate and the corner of their swim platform had been resting against Mariadz’s hull. It has rounded off the edge of the swim platform by a couple of millimetres and left a nasty mark on our bow. As I look back I can also see some minor damage on the top sides of the smaller cat where the prop of our rib marked it and a wrecked horseshoe buoy holder. I am somewhat apprehensive as, on instruction from I start the manoeuvre backwards, but not as apprehensive as the owners of the currently unmarked catamaran next in line, who are frantically moving fenders. Anyway, ye of little faith, this time we came off the large catamaran sideways and then straight back using the bow thruster to steer. We successfully get out of the spot without anymore drama.

Maria takes over so I can reset fenders and lines as we go to the fuel berth. She continues as we go in negotiating her passage through some thin alleys and then brings Mariadz beautifully in to the fuel pontoon as if nothing had happened.

As I start to refuel, this has taken its toll on Maria who is upset at the damage to us and the other boats. She is reassured that everything will be taken care of and not to worry but needs a little cry to get over it.

Refuelling takes a while since mariadz is half full and I want to fill our spare cans too. This is over 400L of diesel and I also top up the rib fuel so we are now completely full. Some people are waiting as I finish up paying and so we setup to leave, basically the same way we wanted to originally before the cat arrived. We spring off the bow to get the stern off and then go into a full turn backwards with a burst of bow thruster and she is turned 180 degrees in little more than her length. As we head back to our berth, we agree that we will not go all the way in and also that we will go in astern to ease our exit at the end of May.

That all sounds great in theory but the tide is coming through the marina even faster now and I am approaching a Marina with the wind blowing me away from the pontoon and whenever I slow down I lose all steerage because the tide is moving at the same speed as the boat. In retrospect, I should have gone past the spot and gone in forwards or even waited outside until the tide had changed but we had things to do, our confidence and calmness is shot and we just want this boat back attached to land, now. Fortunately, a couple of people have come along to take our lines which is really nice but one of them was the irate person who was barking ridiculous orders earlier. He continues his form by telling me to slow down in astern which of course loses me all control of the stern which drifts off with the wind. I am now at the third attempt whilst having to avoid a large motoryacht and the pontoon in the centre with lots of hull scratching metal poking out. On this attempt there is a loud bang from the bow thruster which sounds like something solid has been sucked in. This operation will be even more difficult without a bow thruster! I get close but again go too slow as I get close to the pontoon, I don’t want to hit it, and we drift off. The fourth and final attempt allows us to get a stern and a mid line ashore and the boys can sweat Mariadz in with a little help from me behind the helm. We are finally there and I say thank you for the assistance, even the obnoxious guy, who just tuts and walks away – and we didn’t even get near to his boat!

I then go to inspect the damage to the two boats we hit which is remarkably light and limited to what I had seen earlier. Earlier Maria had spoken to Paul who had reassured her that these things can be fixed and he would get it done for us. So we go up to the office, before going out for the evening, and ask the marina to give our contact details to the owners of the two boats so that we can apologise and explain how we intend to fix the problems.

A short time later, one of the owners calls and I make our apologies and explain that Paul will come on board and make it like new. He is relaxed, apparently this happens a lot there because of the whirlpools and eddies at different states of tide. I am reassured especially as it seems our mistakes have not caused too much damage and it is superficial.

Unfortunately, it is not the same conversation when the second owner appears. The obnoxious man from the incident is apparently some kind of ambulance chaser and has persuaded her that her entire hull can be repaired because of the knock we have given them. Maria overheard this and suggested I go over and speak to her. Again I start by apologising vociferously and explaining we will repair the damage we have caused. I ask permission to come aboard to show her the damage. After this, she says that the whole side has been damaged by us. I look over to see what she means and she identifies a patch on the hull which she claimed wasn’t there on Saturday. I peer over the side to see a dark mark no more than a foot over the waterline. I take a look at the profile of Mariadz which clearly comes in quite a lot and explain that it is impossible for us to have caused that since it is too low. She is adamant and now blocking my path from her boat. Clearly my apology has not worked and she is upset and has been wound up by someone else. Maria tries to placate her, we are all upset when our pride and joys are hurt and, as we have said, we will resolve it. As we walk away, obnoxious man shouts, if you need a witness… but he is quickly quietened by his wife since we have already explained what has happened.

Anyway, a few days later and most of the damage including ours is fixed and Paul has had the opportunity to work on one of his Moody 54s again.

A week away from the marina is opportune and a chance for Marina to get her Isabella fix and I miss the little one too. We can also deliver the cats to Lisa, who is going to have them for a time, while we get the boat to Italy.

On our return I am disappointed to be required back in London for work, which means I will have to go on Monday night and arrive back on Tuesday night. This doesn’t leave me much time to do the last preparations for the voyage but at least I will get to see My work colleague Rachel and her wife, who have kindly offered me a bed for the night, meaning I avoid the outrageous prices of London in Half term week coinciding with the Queen’s jubilee celebrations. I am just about to leave on Monday when we decide to reset the lines on the boat. As I am dealing with the bow, Maria calls me to point out that the aft cleat is lifting a quarter of an inch from the deck and wobbling around. That’s not good! Something else that needs to go on the essential list before we leave.

On my return from London the next day, the cleat is the top priority but it means emptying one side of the lazarette. It is the last day before we leave and I have a full work day so Maria and I agree to get up early and deal with this. While Maria gets ready, I address a faulty light in the bunk room, although we don’t think they will be used much, best to have everything working.

Fortunately we only have to empty half of the lazarette but this cleat is the same side as the gas locker and is actually behind the gas locker. That is going to be awkward to get out. A quick inspection confirms that the cleat is held in place by two doubled nutted bolts which are loose to the touch, at fingertips. They are also just a little larger than the largest spanner I have on the boat so the variable will be required.

The princess yard team have arrived to work on the big princess yacht and they ask what we are doing. We laughingly mention that Mariadz was built by them and 20 years later I have a wobbly cleat – call that build quality…. They offer lots of friendly advice including explaining that they would cut through the gas locker if access was a problem and then sort that afterwards. Oh no, let’s hope that isn’t required or Mark will want me to drop it a couple of inches so that she can get larger gas bottles in. They also confirm our approach of sealing the deck and tightening the bolts.

The first thing is to make sure the cleat is sealed to the deck so that we don’t get any water ingress, not a huge problem with the lazarette which has its own, very powerful and recently replaced, bilge pump. However, we are nothing if we are not thorough and so I fill it with CT-1, a great sealant that will help the cleat stay watertight and also hold it in place nicely.

I crawl into the smallest part of the lazarette, it’s lucky I’m not claustrophobic since my head is jammed between the bulkhead and the gas locker, my shoulders can’t move and my arms are locked in. That said I take a minute to get used to this position before starting work. Fortunately I should be able to move my hands and forearms enough to add some loctite and do the bolts up. However, I decide to buy new loctite at the first opportunity since this one has been open for a while.

I am able to tighten the first nuts on the bolts first by hand and then nipping up with the spanner and the then the second, locking, nut is tightened to hopefully prevent any slippage. I can now try new extricate myself. A quick check of the cleat, and a clean of the surplus CT-1 and it is solid although we won’t use it for 24 hours to ensure everything has locked down nicely. We will need these in Italy so we need them to work properly.

The lazarette is refilled and we are sorted and my work day is about to begin. One last day of work and Gerald and Richard, our crew for Biscay, arrive late this afternoon.

Now it is time for Maria to go through the last of our provisions and do a whole load of cooking so we are comfortable for our trip.

It’s getting real now.

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