Category Archives: Sailing Log book

Thames barge race weekend

So it is the midde of July and we have been out in the boat quite a few times already this year.  This has included a number of trips down the river, anchoring overnight in the stour or Orwell and returning late on Sunday.  On various of these trips we have had guests.  For the Thames Barge Weekend, Lisa and Christine joined us and we set off on Friday evening so that we could get a nice quiet spot overnight.  We were a little late…some people may not have heard the phrase “tide and time wait for no man” (or woman), so we missed freeflow through the lock. We had out and it is a little breezy but quite nice. Unusually we made a little mistake in the lock and slightly marked the hull but cif or magic sponges will get rid of the mark.  We just need to chalk it up to experience.  We decide to pick up a mooring buoy opposite Suffolk yacht harbour which is nice sheltered from the wind and settle down for the evening.

The Thames barge race is run from just down from Pin Mill out to sea and back again on this occasion and we can see the start line from our mooring.  imageIn fact from the start line all of the Thames barges aim straight at us since we are on the inside of the first imagecorner in the river! It gave us the opportunity to put the camera through its paces.

So we spent a few hours taking photos and fishing with wonderful views of the river and fantastic weather, by English standards. The may also have been a small bottle of Prosecco drunk as the girls all caught up having not seen each other for some time.

The sailing vessels look wonderful and completely different to the yachts you generally see so to see a number of large barges coming down together is a sight to behold.

Once all of barges had gone past, we decided to go off ourselves and pop our noses out to the North Sea for a short while before anchoring down the Stour for the afternoon for music, some fine food and “fishing”, where you dip your rod and don’t catch anything…..a bit like a good Saturday night when you were young and unattached  🙂

However, with the weather we agreed that we would try and get onto half-penny pier and caught up with the great guys there with their amazing stories – you know who you are.  On Sunday, we wandered round Harwich and eventually decided to go round the napoleonic fort.

When we returned to the boat, Maria started preparing the cocktails while Lisa and Adam started attracting “randoms” to join us and chat.  Then, Amanda and Mark arrived on their new little (and second) yacht, Bobby. They rafted up next to Mariadz and joined us for a drink.  We discussed the possibility of staying overnight, but Bobby was bumping up and down on the Easterly like Captain Pugwash’s boat, and so they decided to find themselves somewhere quiet to stay the night.  A fantastic nights sleep and then the next day we took our time and meandered up the river.

A fantastic relaxing weekend. 🙂

It’s all about the Bass, no trouble :)

Maria has known her friend Kay for nearly thirty years since they both worked at securicor together with Les, the twins father. Kay and her husband John have been very supportive and good friends and anyone that knows Kay will know that she is ever so slightly bonkers, not dissimilar to Maria then 🙂 however, Maria is quite practical though….
Earlier in the week, Maria decided that her trouble with fishing (she has still not caught anything we could actually eat in two years) was probably caused by inferior equipment rather than poor technique. So she took the rods to our local fishing tackle shop, who have sold us our own body weight in bait, and asked their opinion. I was a little surprised when she came back with two new rods and tackle explaining that she now had the answer to all our fishing problems.
Kay and John imageare due to arrive late morning which is perfect for the tides since we will get through Ipswich lock when they have the level and drift down the river with the tide and light northerly winds (again, we have never seen such a long period with solid Northerlies). 11am and no sign of our guests. The boat is ready and the cats are getting impatient, they know we must be going somewhere so either go or let me off the boat! Half an hour later we get a call and a sorry story of locking themselves out with their phones inside and having to wait for their daughter to let them back in – it can only happen to Kay.image We get everyone on board, including the cats, and set off. A few refreshers for John who is keen to learn and we safely and easily get through the lock and start to sail down the river at a very gentle pace. The weather is gorgeous, in the twenties and I need sun cream to avoid becoming a lobster. We make the turn into the Stour but not before a little hiccup when the wind does an about turn and literally goes from behind us to on the nose. More drifting gently down river before Maria declares that she wants to fish this evening and so can we get there. We find our favoured anchor spot near the cardinal under the Royal Hospital School.
Time for Maria to break out the new fishing gear and to get the ragworms ready. Now Kay is also a little squeamish, and although no vegetarian, she tells us that nothing should die…..including the worms. However, prior to this Maria has asked me to move the rod holders to the stern rail so that they point to the sides. To do so I have to loosen the bolts holding the holder to the rail attached by four bolts. Fortunately, Kay is there and ready to “cup my nuts” as I loosen and move the rod holder, thanks for your help Kay :).
Rod holders realigned and Maria and John imageassembled the new roads and got to catching fish, crabs or seaweed as appropriate. However, after a few hours, John hooked a really nice Sea Bass which was over the size you are allowed to keep, although subsequently we have been told you are not allowed to at this time of year. Anyway a discussion was had. Kay was firmly in the get that hook out of the fish, you are hurting it camp. Anyway, in the end and despite me reminding her how much Sea Bass costs in Sainsburys, Kay told John he had to return the fish to the river :(. Adam wasn’t happy. A few minutes later, John caught another Sea Bass which was much smaller. Despite having pretty much swallowed the hook, we were able finally to remove the hook and having checked the fish was OK in a bucket of sea water, we released it and saw it swim away. You will notice I have yet to mention Maria catching anything….

Anyway, we had a glorious evening of fantastic weather and a lovely sunset (Maria still hadn’t caught anything). imageimageThen just after sunset Maria’s line was being pulled with a heavy weight. We all looked on expectantly as Maria retrieved her line to find loads of sea weed, poor Maria didn’t catch anything else all night. We had been drinking Prosecco since we had anchored and after several bottles, Kay started to doze up in the cockpit while the rest of us chatted. A lovely evening just chatting to friends with music quietly in the background and no troubles.

The next morning, we were up at a reasonable time and Maria prepared a cracking cooked breakfast before we sailed back to Ipswich, slowly…there wasn’t much wind. The first part of the sail up the stour was into Ann Easterly wind so we tacked up river on the main and self tacking stay sail – last sailing at its best. As we turned into the Orwell the wind died even more but we drifted up river for several hours until finally we decided it was time to get moving and return home in time for a nice lunch at the Brewery Tap.

Thanks for coming to see us Kay and John and see you again soon 🙂

Ramsgate for Dunkirk Little Ships weekend

imageOur standard each year is to go down to Ramsgate or across the channel for Easter. Easter was early this year and the weather awful so that put paid to that idea. We have also just had the navigation upgraded and wanted to check this out including the AIS so we also thought that a flip down the coast and across the Thames would be better than trying to negotiate the M25 of large container ships to cross the channel with unfamiliar systems.
We chose the May bank holiday which coincided with Dunkirk Little Ships weekend. As usual Maria called, emailed and reconfirmed on the day of departure! She likes to be sure she is getting her favourite spot.
We were set for Northerlies all the way down so it looked like we would get a good sail down. At this stage the forecast was also for southerlies home so perfect.
The River Orwell is considered one of the prettiest rivers in the UK but at the start of a journey it adds one and a half hours to your journey. To reduce this we decided to leave the evening before and pick up a mooring buoy opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington. The wind and tide are both quite strong but we had become quite dab hands at picking up these buoys even with the high freeboard that Mariadz has. We decide that we will go into the wind as we approach the buoy because it should help us to slow down…..that was my first mistake. The tide was running against the wind and Maria had no chance of stopping Mariadz. Maria has the line perfectly and I am in position with boat hook in hand. I hook the line for the buoy….that was my second mistake. The third mistake was saying it was Maria’s fault we hadn’t stopped dead when she had no chance. So there I am holding, with one arm, a boat weighing twenty tonnes travelling at 1.5-2 knots (why didn’t I wait until the boat had stopped!). Needless to say, using all my strength, I dropped the boat hook which hung onto the line for a few seconds before falling gracefully into the muddy water – a bit like Jack at the end of Titanic! That is our only boat hook so we will need to move on. Maybe halfpenny pier at Harwich will have a space? Nope two boats have moored in the middle and there isn’t quite enough room at either end to fit us in, we could ask them to move but that sounds like a lot of stress at 7:30pm and there was no guarantee they would move for us. Our final option is to anchor opposite Parkeston Quay, there is lots of room (the weather isn’t that nice) but we have confidence in our shiny Rocna and the sixty metres of equally shiny chain I put out and settle down for a peaceful night.

The next day we are up early and set off early and are at Languard cardinal, where we generally consider any voyage to begin, by 5:30. Ramsgate is about 45 miles away via Medusa through Black Deep and Fishermans Gat. There is a slightly shorter route through Foulgers Gat and the wind farm but we have never liked that route, it seems a bit tight especially when sailing, and we generally cut the corner at Fishermans Gat anyway. We put the sails up and we are pushing along at 6 or 7 knots slightly against the tide. Normally we have less sail out than most people. Although Mariadz is a strong boat she is quite happy with less heel and still goes quickly as we had found on our first weekend with her. There is a sudden gust and Mariadz heels a little bit more, we now don’t have the safety margin that we like and so decide to reef in the main and headsail. We reef in a lot and Mariadz settles into a lovely sail as the wind is building over 25 knots. We make the turn into Black Deep and we are now with the tide and a good wind, Mariadz is now hammering along at 9 knots but all is comfortable. Our sailing continues without incident through Fishermans Gat and we are approaching North Foreland. I have been working most of the way down producing a report and answering emails. It is decided I have to join a conference call at lunchtime to help people understand that a deadline is not a moveable feast and we need to make sure we hit it. We are now approaching Ramsgate having achieved an average of about 7knots throughout and I am still on the call so we decide to keep going and double back once I am ready. Fifteen minutes later I am off the call and we can make the turn through the lumpy waters back up to Ramsgate which is a bit of a slog. Sails are down and Mariadz is being readied for the pontoon as we call in to the port control for passage through to the Marina. Having got permission to proceed we speak to the harbourmaster and agree that we are at the end on the outside of the long pontoon, they are expecting a few other boats in so we need to be right at the end. Maria brings Mariadz in and performs a manoeuvre like a handbrake turn when someone skids and parks against the opposite curb or like Captain Ron but she doesn’t leave the wheel or switch the engine off before we’ve stopped. The super fast 180 degree turn is finished and Mariadz ferry glides sideways to the pontoon with a little bow thruster to keep her straight in the strong winds. A friendly Polish crew offer to take our lines and we are nicely settled right at the end of the pontoon. It’s a glorious day but with a strong cold wind so we use parts of the cockpit tent as a windbreak and settle down to finish our work. The Dunkirk Little Ships are starting to come in including MTB102, the last remaining operational motor torpedo boat from the war.image
That night we have booked ourselves into the lovely small Thai Orchid restaurant in the arcade on the hill overlooking the Marina.image To get there you work up an appetite by climbing several flights of steps. We have another lovely meal and return to the boat since we are both quite tired.
The next day we have a leisurely start to the day before heading off to explore town and have an authentic Italian meal for lunch. On our way down the pontoon, we see a Swiss boat that has a small float attached to a line attached to their anchor. Isn’t it always the case that the brilliant ideas are the simplest. Using this float means that you and everyone else knows where your anchor is so hopefully no-one lays their anchor across yours. It also means that if there is a problem with the chain (ours is a little rusty but fine), then you know where your anchor is and can retrieve it. We love the idea. We pop into the alladin’s cave of a chandlery full of really useful new and second hand items rather than a selection of nautical mugs or clothing. I ask about a boat hook. They have a second hand one that is a little sized by salt at the end but the stainless steel tubes move (our old one didn’t) and you can extend it. He also has another one which is less than perfect, but perfectly serviceable. We decide to go for both with our new float and twenty metres of line (20 metres- where are you thinking of anchoring!). We leave it at the shop and will collect on our return. We head into town and see a butcher with lots of offers. Despite the fact that Mariadz has limited refrigeration and freezer capacity we decide to stock up. Since we are heading to the Italian for lunch I suggest that I take all our shopping back to the boat first and sit Maria in a nice pub near the sea front with wooden panels and people for her to talk to. It takes me ages to get back having carried 10-15 kg of meat, two boat hooks, a float and twenty metres of line. A thank you to the baby sitters, quick drink and then off to the italian for a later lunch than we had planned. This wouldn’t be a problem but we have booked to go to the French Restaurant La Magnolia imageadjacent to the Thai that everyone raves about for dinner. During our gorgeous lunch we recheck the weather. The Northerlies are here to stay and although quite strong at the moment are strengthening to 35-40 knots on Monday. Having rechecked the forecast elsewhere we decide that we will go home a day earlier when it is not quite as bad. We eat too much at lunchtime and decide we have to cancel the French dinner (we have still not eaten there yet). We will also leave early on Sunday recognising that it will take a long time to get home and mostly in the face of a strong wind under engine.
On our return to the boat I set about the chores of freeing up the second hand boat hooks using boiling water, lots of cold fresh water and some silicon. It doesn’t take long for me to return the boat hook to new condition but it is not going in the anchor locker with salt water to seize it up!
The return journey on Sunday is the same routing but takes 50% more time against wind and tide for most of it. We get back to our home berth and decide that Mariadz has been good to us and deserves a thorough clean down.

The summer has arrived, let’s hope that isn’t the whole summer!

Over the last few weeks we had a crisis of confidence with the engine due to the overheat in our first shakedown.  As you will have seen from other blog posts regarding the engine and engine room, we had gone through a process of regaining confidence and this weekend was to be our shakedown, sea trial and last of the configuration of the new equipment including the pilot which we are really missing, one doesn’t hand steer if one can avoid it.

We decided to leave on Friday afternoon which was a little delayed by meeting new friends on one of our friendly neighbours boats.  We eventually left the lock and motored down the beautiful River Orwell to our overnight destination of the mooring buoys opposite Suffolk Yacht Harbour.  As we went Maria took some photos of the river…

The pick up for the mooring buoy is uneventful and we settle to our overnight resting place.

The previous night we had arrived at the tackle shop shortly after it closed but they reopened to serve us.  Having recently lost some of the fishing gear through broken lines, Maria was keen to replace it and buy some bait.  The advice from the shop was fantastic, apparently it is no surprise we are not catching anything, we are using the wrong stuff…. So we buy some fancy anchoring weight with twin hooks that I am sure will change our luck!

Back to our evening outside Suffolk Yacht Harbour and Maria baits the hooks with ragworms and then goes downstairs to prepare dinner. By the time she returns, she wants to check her fishing tackle.  This is a regular occurrence when Maria is fishing normally followed by “something has eaten my bait” or bringing up a crab that is trying its best to eat the bait before it falls off the hook with Maria swearing at it.  imageShe reels in to find two whiting trying to wriggle off the hook.   Please note that I think Maria has very cleverly angled the rod towards the camera to give the perspective that the two fish she caught were huge, I don’t recall them being this big!  I then. He led my rod and found another fish, this one had the hook in its lip and it as easy to free it and return it to the after to live another day.  As night fell we discussed anchor lights, we were on a mooring buoy in a known area along a straight part of the river.  The River Orwell has some documented examples of commercial traffic dragging yachts off their moorings accidentally on some of the bends in the river and some people suggest that an anchor light is appropriate. Then, one of the ocean scout vessels that come from Ipswich circled us closer and closer, we decided to help them know where we were by putting on the spreader lights! That left them in no doubt… These vessels have a bit of a reputation unfortunately and although we have never seen a problem, we decided to stay safe. They picked up a mooring buoy a few down from us and left their anchor light on!  We decided that we definitely didn’t need to do so since anyone would see them and know we were there. The next morning was glorious and still. We got up early and enjoyed a hangover-cure breakfast before setting off back up river to collect Olly from Seapower to get the last few things working. We collected him off the fuel pontoon st Wolverstone and spent a happy hour driving around in circles like a family in sainsburys car park on a Saturday morning looking for a space.  This helped us to configure the autopilot, check the forward facing sonar and also for further explanation of image

the fish finder “frogger” screen. She does get excited when the torpedos go across. We also discussed how happy maria was with her lights and agreed some other minor works to go with the solar power we are intending to have installed. We also remembered that the log wasn’t working, a not uncommon experience in the Marina until you free it up manually or by manoeuvring. At this stage Olly mentioned that he generally removed this before lifting to avoid any damage, and it won’t read much speed in the bilge! Olly and I addressed this, more precisely I started it and Olly finished it when I had it the wrong way round in the dark!

We then dropped Olly back and decided to go back out.  One of the targets of the day was to check all of the sails and lubricate anything that needed it.  This was why we were keen to do this weekend on our own so that we could get these chores out of the way without any guests.  We sailed through

imageFelixstowe and out to the North Sea seeing some friends on our way on Tortola and on their way to the Deben. We came out into the North Sea and turned to the North to get some sail up in 8-10 knots of Easterly wind. Getting the sail up was a little problematic and we needed to lubricate, using silicon spray, the track for the main and the furlex drums for the stay sail and the Yankee.  Eventually we have full sail up although Mariadz needs a little more wind than this to really get going.  We decide after an hour to return to the rivers because we will anchor overnight at the anchorage in the River Stour opposite Harwich Parkeston Key. Maria’s step-mum lives in Harwich and so we decided we would drop the rib and surprise her.

We start to prepare the rib for lowering and go to lower the swim platform as our means of access. Nothing, the swim platform doesn’t move and we find that the small hydraulic fluid leak that had not been fixed (absolutely no reflection on anyone currently working on the boat), had now lost enough fluid to stop it working, grrrrh. However, we will think our way out of the problem. Mariadz being a larger Moody has quite a late freeboard, probably four feet (I haven’t measured it!), so clearly getting into a lowered rib is going to be tricky.  In theory we could lower the rib, detach it, walk it around the side and board using our fender step. Still a large step but possible. But….how would we get the boat back on the davits to return home. At this stage I decided that I could be lowered, and walking down the stern like Batman, could then get into the rib, Connie, bring her round and we are ready to go. That sounds like a plan, I have even knotted a rope to help with my descent! We attach the topping lift to my life jacket and start to lower me into the boat, success! I am now in the rib, but I didn’t bring the keys with me, muppet! It’s ok, Maria will find them and pass them to me…..

Who leaves the keys to a rib in their motorhome??? Why would you want rib keys in a motorhome anyway. I don’t either but I now know that is where they are. Maria finds the spare key and also the kill cord that has come from the smaller Tamaha engine that we have. What we didn’t know is that the part of the kill chord that keeps the kill switch in the out position is a different size and will not work with our Suzuki set up. So how can we rig something to work for the kill switch? Maria comes up with a hair band and wonders whether that, bound tightly would do the job – no harm in trying and the engine starts, more importantly it keeps running, were in business! We had already checked the fuel and far from being full, there is more than enough for our little jaunt and a spare can available too.

To be fair, Maria by this stage had made no secret of her apprehensiveness about boarding the rib from the midship gate.  People who know Maria will know that she will not have hidden these concerns from me and we both know whos fault it will be if anything untoward should happen. It is quite a large step. She also has a handy line to help her and gets in with no problems so I live to see another day.  We are ready to go.

At this time of the evening the wind had picked up a little and was in our faces as we head off to Harwich.  The tide is also coming in so we are against both wind and tide. This doesn’t lead to the most comfortable couple of miles in the rib. This is not helped by a stutter and cut out after 100m! There was enough fuel I am sure…..Maria asks if the hairband has slipped and is absolutely right. Removal and reattaching and we are ready to go.  I am trying to make the journey as comfortable as possible but it is difficult in the conditions until we get quite close to Harwich halfpenny pier. We order a taxi and go to surprise Maria’s step-mum.

It must have been a surprise to see two windswept and spray covered sailors clinging to their lifejackets and waterproof bag standing at her door, but I’m sure Jean was pleased to see us and we had a nice time for a couple of hours with Jean, Maria’s sister Natalie and her dog Ginny.  It is getting late and we have yet to get some food before braving the return journey which we would prefer not to do in the dark, although we are armed with a torch to help us find our way.

For food, we decided to try the Alma, where we have had a drink before but never eaten.  The food was amazing, their fish, steaks and lobster are fantastic!vwe leave full and happy as the light starts to go.

Fortunately, we haven’t been out so long for the tide to have changed so the journey back is very comfortable especially as the wind had died down a little too. In the dark we are even able to reverse the procedure to get the rib back up on the davits and me returned to the deck using the topping lift. What was shocking on a beautiful warm night, with little wind was that there was no-one near us, we expected this area to be full for the first good weekend of the year and it was wonderful to have the spot to ourselves.  Maria was so happy she felt the need to sing accompanied by me, I guess it was fortunate we didn’t have any neighbours.

On Sunday morning, we woke reasonably early to find the hoped for wind hadn’t materialised. Our hopes of having a great sail were dashed. A change of plan then! We will take our time and get home early afternoon.  We can then spend the afternoon cleaning the outside of the boat and the rib, boy do they need it. The roast can be cooking while we do all this.

A very sedentary trip back is only broken by having to evade a yacht who tacked and then didn’t point towards the wind at all.  I had adjusted our course so that when they tacked they would pass on our starboard side for some reason, they decided to cross right in front of us and we had to take avoiding action.  They had the look of people who were quite prepared to hit us because they were the stand on vessel. The river isn’t very wide at this point, near the Orwell bridge, and it was annoying to have this happen. I will have to remember to not let us be put in that position again. We dealt with the evasive action quickly but it was an unnecessary stress on a gorgeous day. Still he was probably the only vessel under sail in the whole day that we didn’t photograph so his loss!

We arrived at the lock when they had the level so we could motor straight through and it was nice to see our favourite lock-keeper Clive, who has always been so friendly.

It is such a shame that he was banned from playing music, some of his choices for different boats were hilarious and it’s a shame when people like this who make things fun have to stop.  He has certainly made it a pleasure when we go through the lock.

Once through the lock, we decided to find a nice berth where we could moor stern to so that we could drop the rib, clean it, clean my footprints off the stern (sorry, Mariadz) and do all of this without inconveniencing too many people by blocking a pontoon. Maria has history with cleaning the rib, she once very elegantly fell in when trying to fix the cover on the old Avon rib. That was in August when it was warm, not a feat to be repeated in May. We get everything clean, especially me – note to self, don’t trust Maria with a hose pipe, you WILL get very wet. We finally returned to our home berth to finish off the clean.  At the end of it Mariadz looked great and we felt we had done something for her after she does so much for us.

Then a gorgeous Sunday roast in theimage cockpit for two exhausted sailors.

Somewhat unusually for the UK, we had a hot and sunny weekend and then it rained for the next few days. However, much more expected was, despite using a little sun lotion, both Maria and I had sun burn after Sunday!

Anchoring in the Stour

At the time we didn’t realise it would be our last time out of the year but with a summer holiday to Puglia and a wedding in Cyprus we were running out of weekends.

We wanted to get some time away from it all, which after all was the reason we bought the boat! We also had the rib on board, with our fixed davits, we wanted to have a play. It was a wonderful weekend of weather with bright sunshine and quiet nights. A perfect rest from our daily lives.stour routing We left at lunchtime with a light wind and clouds but it was lovely and warm.  There was unfortunately not enough wind for us to sail at any sensible pace so we motor sailed down the river so that we could get to the anchor spot before it was too late.

The weather was gorgeous as we sailed down the Orwell and into the Stour.  IMG_3097We then went slowly up the Stour looking for a suitable place to anchor overnight.  There is a hole in the bay to the north but we have yet to find it and the tide was getting too low for us to spend time searching for it.  We found a nice spot just outside of the channel under the Royal Hospital School.  Beautifully quiet and with a light Northerly wind.  We lowered the rib and I took some pictures of us.image

Our first time on Mariadz as a Moody 54

It had been a long drawn out purchasing process which had only been made bearable by the cheerfulness and determination of John Rodriguez but after a tearful farewell to the Dufour we finally had our new baby. She had been brought back from the Solent in terrible weather and put into her new berth by our expert skipper.

Then a few hours later, Maria and I were on holiday.

We had to wait impatiently for two weeks until we could return to the boat. We decided that since she was quite a different boat to our Dufour that we would have a little help the first weekend we took her out by a man partially responsible for our choice – Martin Hubbard. Martin had taken us from virtual novices to confident skippers of our Dufour and has become a good friend. We recommend him to anyone and he is particularly good with couples where sometimes one of the people is a little more confident than the other – he makes sure everyone gets an appropriate amount of attention. So we told him our plans to have him on board for some “own boat tuition” on the new Mariadz and he told us to stop being ridiculous, we would be fine. So we insisted that he came out with us for a weekend. He agreed to come for a sail with us on the Saturday but expected that we would be fine by the Sunday.

Nervously we took Mariadz out for the first time. She handles completely different to the much lighter Dufour, with which we had grown confident. The Dufour was a little filly eager to change direction and show what she could do. The Moody was a young lady who was quite happy going in her current direction and needed to be asked politely if you would like her to go somewhere else. She felt purposeful and incredibly safe.

With Martin’s watchful eye over us, we took Mariadz into Ipswich lock and started to head down the River Orwell. A little manoeuvering practice gave us an idea of what we could expect.  It was a glorious day on a beautiful yacht. The wind was blowing about 20 knots. We decided to be safe, we would get the main and staysail up but not the Yankee because it was a little breezy and we wanted a pleasant experience on our first time. Mariadz loved it. imageShe was itching to show what she could do and even with limited sail we were sailing beautifully balanced at nearly 9 knots. At this point I should mention that the speed limit on this part of the river is 6 knots….under power 🙂 happy days. We passed Viking blue, from our pontoon who were out having been chartered. They saw us and took some photos, including the one above.

You couldn’t have found two happier people. We popped our nose out into the North Sea and decided to return to our home berth that night.  Not least of all because Martin was confirming he was right and that we did not need him for a second day to show us the ropes.

The first steps in our dream to sail the world had been taken

Home from Dunkirk (part 3 of 3) – successful

The day after our aborted trip to Ramsgate doesn’t start well from a weather perspective. We check a couple of weather forecasts and also speak to the harbour master.  The morning is a write off but there is an eight hour weather window with a little wind that we will be heading towards. This is followed by another nasty weather front coming in.

Having tested the engine the previous night we start the engine again and it is purring. We decide we will try to make the weather window rather than return to the UK by train and try to work out how we get the boat back – other friends of ours have not been so lucky in the past and it is a nightmare and costs a lot getting the boat back.
We’re making excellent progress motor sailing and the engine is running really well. It is quite an uneventful trip mist of the way home. We turn past Rough Towers, the old WW2 gun platform that is now a principality in its own right. The wind is now perfect and so I decide to have an hour with the engine off, thinking I didn’t want to push my luck.  This was a mistake.
We are now just outside Felixstowe where there are big ships moving around all the time. I decide it is time to switch the engine back on to turn into the wind and head up the river Orwell to home…..nothing. The starter is working fine but the engine won’t catch, I try five times and still nothing. Eventually, I decide to put the gearbox into neutral and start the engine with some revs. It starts but dies in seconds. I try again and it catches. Maria looks at me – this is not the “you’re my hero” look that i was hoping for bit more of I “told you not to switch the engine off” look. Needless to say the engine stayed on until we were back in our home berth!
We head up the river and it is a nice evening but yDSC_0287ou can start to see the first signs of the bad weather coming in. We race up the river at the speed limit (6 knots) trying to get in before the wind picks up. As we approach the lock, Maria takes over so that I can help Lisa prepare the boat. We come into the lock and Clive the lock – keeper is friendly as always. “You wouldn’t believe our weekend, we didn’t think we were going to get back!”. We tie up on B pontoon and everything is tidied up. Five minutes before the heavens opened. This was always a talent that the Dufour had, she could get in just before the rain. Every time.
As we walked away that night, Mariadz got a little tap and a thank you for seeing us safe all weekend. It had opened ours eyes to the dangers out there and given us a few extra things to check as part of our preparation to sail.
but it did get Maria thinking…..
dunkirk route

The return from Dunkirk (part 2 of 3) – pan pan

Our first trip to Dunkirk (part 1 of 3)

We had decided that we wanted to cross the channel again and we asked Lisa Jones if she would join us.  I’m sure that Lisa won’t mind me mentioning that she was in recovery from treatment for Cancer (we will always have everything crossed for her). Lisa has only been on sailing boats called Mariadz but has had some help from Martin Hubbard, our yachtmaster and guru, and understands a fair bit. So our happy crew of three head off from Suffolk Yacht Harbour, where we had stopped the night before, in the early hours so that Dunkirk1we can arrive at Dunkirk, a new port for us, in daylight. We have a fantastic sail over, Mariadz is flying, at eight knots, beautifully balanced and we even get through a number TSS, or motorways of cargo ships, without a hitch.

A number of hours later we arrive off the coast of France and approach Dunkirk. Dunkirk entrance has a large lighthouse with three bands and on the other side we have probably the most famous sea wall in history. We approach in glorious weather with the sea and sky a bright blue. We decide to go into the furthest Marina, Yacht Club de la Mer du Nord (YCMN). On approach, and having consulted our reeds and channel pilot books, we spoke to them on the radio and were allocated berth 6. Maria is behind the wheel on approach.

Stopping there for a moment. Maria and I were married and on our honeymoon we chartered a boat owned by a husband and wife.  We noticed that the wife was generally behind the wheel when manoeuvring and since this is quite unusual asked why.  The response was basically that you should always have the most physically adept doing the lines because inevitably something will go wrong in these situations and you want the person who can limit the damage physically being there. From that point on, Maria and I agreed that generally she would do the pontoon bashing and I would do the lines, anchor or whatever. Of course, Maria is actually very good behind the wheel so I rarely have to do anything exciting but in keeping with our cautious approach, we have stuck by this decision.

Meanwhile, back at the plot, Lisa is keen to help and so we set up lines ready to come in. dunkirk2 We will be coming in astern and so I suggest that Lisa owns the bow line and I will deal with the stern and mid line. Firstly though, we have to find our berth. This is easier said than done, the marina is very tight for a 45 foot yacht although I am guessing the theory is that if you have something that large then you should have learnt how to use it. We cruise slowly down the aisle that we have been assigned looking for berth 6. They are not well marked (and that will be Lisa and my defence til our dying day!). We find a gap between the finger pontoon and another yacht, the only gap we have seen, and both Lisa and I look at it and we see a six.  Job done – “Maria, it’s this one”….then we look again. Looks a bit tight…..he definitely said a six… must be this one! I go towards the stern, my station as we are about to come in, as Maria stops Mariadz in her tracks. I get to the cockpit and Maria whispers to me “Ad, how am I going to get it in there?”

Now, the advantage of Maria being behind the wheel all the time, is that when she asks me these questions I can give an answer without fear of actually having to perform the manoeuvre I have just described.

“Well, darling, just point her at the gap, tick over reverse and the steer her in using the bow thruster”- it was incredibly tight! I then look at her quizzically as if to say “but of course you knew that darling and it is the most natural manoeuvre in the world”.  The aim of this is that she will confidently “throw” Mariadz into the berth with no problems. Mind-games 🙂

Maria looks at me as if to say, “well of course that is the way, I guess I’ll just go and do that then” and I stand behind her a relieved man. The alternative, of course, would be “if you think it is so (expletive deleted) easy, the why don’t you do it yourself, you arrogant (expletive deleted)”. And queue an unhappy crew for several hours irrespective of the result.

Maria pops Mariadz into astern and the Dufour starts to gently move towards the berth. She is perfectly aligned and just giving a little burst of the bow thruster to ease her in. I have taken my position, lines in hand, ready to tie her up – it now looks incredibly tight but Maria has got it completely under control. We ease into the berth, did I mention it was tight. Lisa notices how close we are to the yacht next to us and mentioned that the fenders will hit each other. We decide that we will move ours out of the way as required and Lisa comes amidships to do that. Maria is still in astern but has to put a little more power on because the fenders are providing resistance. It is still a beautifully controlled manoeuvre. At this stage I have seen the number of the berth clearly…….oops!

We are now in the berth and I step off and take a look. We are wedged in resting on our fenders and the fenders of the boat next to us. It almost seems redundant to tie her off but of course we do. Lisa has taken her bow line and done the same and we walk back to the stern together. “Don’t look at the number…..”. Maria is doing her chores: engine off, spray hood up etc. Lisa asked “should we tell her?” And we agreed to wait to see what the harbourmaster said. Lisa and I cheerily mention to Maria that we will just go and report in.  As we walk up the pontoon we see berth 6, a very wide easily accessible berth but a little near the end with a large motor launch opposite – we tried to convince ourselves that it was harder than the one we were in.  In the harbourmaster’s office, I am incredibly apologetic and I use all that experience in the headmaster’s office to good effect. We misread the number, we’re so sorry, what do you want us to do (please don’t ask us to move, Maria will be doing that manoeuvre with Lisa alone having already killed me!). The harbourmaster is very Gallic and relaxed, it is not a problem for me if it is not a problem for you, but I will come and take a look.

The three of us walk back to the pontoon and Mariadz. As we come up to Mariadz, he stops and does that incredibly French thing of frowning with a down-turned mouth whilst nodding sagely. He looks at Maria, there is a nod of respect (how hard-earned are those from a French harbourmaster!). He takes a look at the other side, “I have no problem, if you have no problem” and marches off back down the pontoon.

We have moored at a few places and Maria was clearly surprised to see the French harbourmaster coming down the pontoon so Lisa and I decide we have to come clean. We admit that although containing a six, this may not be the berth that the harbourmaster first had in mind but we’re here now so all is good.

We have a lovely time in Dunkirk, eating lovely food and having a few drinks. If you have a smaller yacht I would strongly recommend this Marina for location and also atmosphere. The weather is glorious and of course I haven’t put any sun screen on so by I now have a large red beacon of burnt skin on the end of my nose.  All is fine and we have a nice meal on the boat and a few drinks the day before we are due to leave.

Of course, the return journey on Easter Sunday was another matter completely…..




Very Easily Led

So we had bought the Dufour and had a number of lessons from experienced skippers. It was time for us to take our first steps across a sea.  But we may have had the training but we certainly didn’t have the confidence yet.

Our good friends Richard and Janet of Easily Led had spoken to us about the next step in our development. We discussed going for a longer trip than our current trips out to the North Sea so we agreed to join them on a trip to Dunkirk via Ramsgate for a long weekend.

Lisa Jones joined us as we headed off on the Friday night to get down the river and stay at Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Here we were meant to be meeting my best man from the wedding, Zimm. It had to be early because we had a really early start the next day. Needless to say, Zimm wasn’t early. And of course we hadn’t seen him for ages so we didn’t get to bed early because we all wanted to catch up.

So it’s 4am the next morning, Mariadz is quiet. We’re due to leave. So Maria and Adam get up in their pyjamas and cast off. Maria is at the wheel, there is a need to check around the boat for lines, fenders etc. As part of these essential checks, Maria  feels a large weight on her head but soon realises it’s nothing to worry about. 🙂 Adam has a slightly different hangover to Maria…..IMG_1076

We set off in the calmest conditions I have ever seen in the channel, but it was our first time sailing in the channel, so that may not be saying too much. The sea was like glass without a breath of wind and so we had to motor all the way to Ramsgate.  That wouldn’t have been so bad except it became clear after a couple of hours that we were not getting enough water into the engine.  There was a minor blockage in the pipe that feeds sea water to the engine, this meant that we had a little steam in the exhaust.  It wasn’t bad enough to stop us on our journey or overheat the engine badly but it meant it was difficult to keep up with the lightening acceleration of Easily Led. The trip to Ramsgate was chilled but does take several hours. We were little more than 30 minutes away from Ramsgate when our “crew” came up to help. “So where are we then and what can I do”. Not masses cos we’re arriving in Ramsgate now. 🙂 it was quite amusing to do the whole journey on on own while our guests slept.

Part of the reason for going to Ramsgate was to try the excellent Thai on the front the Thai Orchid was wonderful. This was our first time but we had heard good things and we absolutely love the place.

So the next day we set off from Ramsgate and the weather is as still as you like. Now the channel is one of the busiest sea areas in the world. Going across the motorway that they call the TSS is like playing frogger – one for older readers (if you’re young look it up! 🙂 ). So we are nicely in convoy with Easily Led in the lead. At this stage, Maria and I are feeling lucky because we have found friends who are prepared to help us in this way when we need it. Like all good friends you never forget what they did.

We are about to enter the TSS with large ships hurtling past, we are literally seeing up to ten ships, every one could be on a collision course. At this stage Easily Led came on the radio, “we have a problem….”. They have crossed a fishing net and it has caught on their propeller, hey that is no problem they are a sailing vessel….except there is no wind! Easily Led is lucky, there is a willing, if inexperienced, crew nearby who can provide help. As a true seaman, Richard is only prepared to offer a line for the tow, you can’t accept a line from the “salvaging” vessel…. We took up the tow and started the long journey back to Ramsgate at a very slow pace with a slightly steamy engine…. All the time,Easily Led are in touch with the U.K. Coastguard who are offering help as required. After a few hours it is clear that the return journey is going to take a while and the RNLI are dispatched. imageAt this stage we are grateful for the Ambassador rope cutter fitted on the Dufour, we knew this had saved us in the past because you can feel it working. Amazing piece of kit. On the Moody we have a circular rope cutter without the teeth, hopefully it will be as effective.


The picture shows how still it is as the RNLI  rib comes along side and takes up the tow. A burly and highly skilled RNLI crew member comes aboard to secure the tow and to make sure that the boat and crew are  safe. The guys are brilliant and are able to bring Easily Led into Ramsgate in double quick time. Our crew may not have made it across the channel but they experienced a great adventure.

Below, a sailing vessel archieves planing speed…… With a little help from their RNLI friends..but still with their French courtesy flag raised, as they head to Ramsgate.


We return to Ramsgate. We like Ramsgate but we had hoped to be eating mussels. 😦

Easily Led is being lifted out to have her prop inspected and so, as any good sailor would do, we offered to take our good friends home recognising that they would then have issues sortimg out the boats problems but this is probably easiest from home.

So we now are now a big crew on the Dufour. We have Zimm, Kirsty, Lisa, Maria, Adam, Richard and Janet.

So where do we go from here. The choices after an aborted trip to France are Burnham or Brightlingsea.

After a lengthy discussion, we decide to head to Brightlingsea. We are now a full crew, at this stage it became clear that we had to have a lesson on the use of our plotter and Richard was our man. Unfortunately, we clearly had a different version of the plotter to the one Richard was used to.  We were able to create waypoints but seemed to be struggling with joining these together.  The problem of course was when we reached a waypoint. It would seem to be simple to move us to the next waypoint but there had been some confusion. Mariadz, did an immediate 180 degree turn. That didn’t go down well with any of the crew. We were able to switch off the autopilot and return our course towards Brightlingsea.  But we didn’t underestand how it could have gone wrong so the autopilot was engaged again – another 180 degree turn, almost losing some of the crew. No more autopilot.

We arrived at Brightlingsea and told Richard Davenport that we were in his neck of the woods. Richard owns a fantastic kitchen company, not cheap but then quality doesn’t come cheap. You can spend a lovely couple of hours just drooling over his lovely kitchens. We met with the whole family and had a wonderful evening,

The next day we flew up the wallet next to the wind farm and arrived back in Ipswch mid afternoon.  On our return to Ipswich, we tidied and cleaned the boat as always. There was ice below and Maria asked one of our guests to dispose of the ice. This was clearly confusing because the question was asked of Adam, cleaning the deck, what should we do with the ice…..I just looked over the side of the boat, it’s water – the ice should be fine 🙂

The end of a wonderful first weekend’s sailing.