Friday, 31 May 2013

Scotland in sight!

This morning we listened to the 0520 shipping  forecast-not much better, NW 5-6. However we had clear skies and virtually no wind; so we turned the boat round and left the cosy little harbour at Ardglass and this blog is written as we motor past
the Ulster coast in light airs. The picture shows Jon more than earning his keep against a background of a glassy sea. We can see both Scotland and the Isle of Man. The tides in the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland sound formidable to a humble East coast sailor, see tidal atlas here, but that is a problem for later on.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Ardglass 2

Ardglass at low tide
N to NW force 5-6 so another day in Ardglass. At its height this little port had a thriving industry with 150 sailing fishing boats. Now the boats are much more efficient, much fewer and the industry has collapsed. We were told that with these persistent northerly winds the fishermen are having to go up to the Clyde to find suitable conditions. 

We spent the day becoming familiar with Ardglass and surrounding area, walking to Coney Island and (nearly) to the lighthouse on St Johns point. We had supper in the Chinese restaurant on the waterfront, which is very good.
We've now had a meal in every restaurant or facility in town and feel more than ready to move on

North to Scotland! ... Carlingford to Ardglass

On Monday we were joined in Dublin by Jon, and D disappeared to see some friends in Belfast. Jon is an experienced sailor but hasn't previously sailed on a gaffer. However he soon grasped the basic principles of 19th century sailing.
The OGA are gathering in Dublin for a big party at the weekend but we felt we should press on to keep open the option of going round the North of Scotland if the weather holds. To achieve that we should hope to be in Scotland by 2 June. Wherever we go there seems to be discussion as to whether these long periods of mostly northerly winds are due to global warming, and maybe northerlies will displace the south westerlies as the usual prevailing wind over the British Isles. 
Jon and I left Dublin about midday and had a good sail with mostly fresh Southerly winds up to Carlingford Lough, on the border between Northern Ireland and Eire. We arrived outside the Lough after dark and for a while waited hove-to outside wondering if we should wait for high tide. I think maybe we were a bit spooked by the fearsome descriptions in the almanac and pilot book: a narrow, difficult rock strewn entrance, and unpredictable strong tides. However we decided we couldn't wait for ever and motored in on the flood tide. Its fine so long as you don't try to cut any corners.
We anchored for the night and in the morning woke in a spectacularly pretty anchorage surrounded by mountains with their tops lost in the mist. We pulled up the anchor and left a little before low water. This was a mistake - we should have left earlier. The tide turned when we were in the entrance channel and a strong flood tide started almost immediately. It took all the power of Bonita's elderly engine to get us out and at times were barely moving.
After this adventure we spent the next few hours in sunshine sailing and motorsailing past a very scenic coast until we arrived at Ardglass. This is a very small fishing and yachting harbour in a rocky inlet in the coast. However it has everything you need (except decent wi-fi) and everyone is very friendly. There were lots of other visiting yachtsmen, some also struggling with persistent northerly winds. D rejoined us there and we spent Wednesday (North to Northwest force 5-6) exploring the town and surrounding area.

Highlights included the seals sitting on rocks in the harbour and the chandlers shop. Fishing port chandlers are always very different from the sort of chandlers you find in yacht marinas and they sell practical looking gear you can put your trust in at reasonable prices.
The weather tomorrow is forecast much the same so we may get to know Ardglass quite well. Maybe the other gaffers were right to stay in Dublin. There are rather more distractions there to compensate for a long stay.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Carlingford Lough

2am. Entry to Carlingford Lough where the Mountains of Mourne run down to the sea. Ably assisted by new crew member Jonathan Buxton. He is an IT expert so understands the new navigational aids. Very useful. More tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Having left Dunmore (nr Waterford) at 3am on Friday we sailed all day with lightish fair winds and a good bit of engine. We wanted to go into Wicklow at about 11pm but when we went into the harbour there were no Bonita friendly spaces free so we left and carried on to Dublin arriving here about 9am on Sunday. I long ago learnt the hard way that it's best not to try to squeeze Bonita into spaces that look too difficult. 

Dublin harbour is a busy commercial port and we are constantly entertained by watching huge ships being skillfully manoeuvered in the river.

We went into the city for lunch. Dublin has changed beyond recognition since Geoff Jones and I sailed here in Young Alert in 1978. There has been lots of new building and pretty Miss Molly Malone would not find much of the fair city that she recognised. Almost the only thing that seems unchanged are the large number of statues of a variety of heroes of the struggle for Irish independence - many frozen for ever in dramatic postures.

There are two Dutch gaffers here; Cine Mara and Vlieter. Strong winds are forecast overnight but should be settling tomorrow.

Bonita's first name was 'Iris', she is Iris No 8 here.
The other news is that I have a research team hard at work finding more detail about Bonita's history. The only copy of Lloyds Register of Yachts that is available from being scanned onto the internet so far is the 1902-3 edition which can be found here but Tim has a friend with a complete set of Registers.

The photo shows Bonita's first entry under her original name 'Iris' in the 1889-90 edition; she was owned by Mr Edwin G Wrigley who was a member of the Royal Barrow Yacht Club. This is also the first time that Crossfield (misspelt here but corrected in later entries) appears in the register as a builder although they appear frequently in later editions. We hope to be able to complete a full account of her changes of ownership, home port etc.

By the Liffey

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Bonita in Dublin in 3D - from Trevor

All the top movies are in 3D nowadays - so why should Bonita's epic be any different?

For those comfortable with technology (or who already have Google Earth installed), please go to this link: If you have Google Earth already, you'll get the same MarineTraffic functionality but with greater resolution and the 3D tilt and rotate facility. If you don't have it, you'll be asked to install it. Don't be scared - it's a piece of cake as long as your device is powerful enough; and easily uninstalled if it seizes up your device.

Here's an example of how I've been looking at Bonita this morning. As with all photos in this blog, just click to see it in full resolution:

Saturday, 25 May 2013

On the move

Off at 3.30am! 

Not much wind at first but eventually a force 3 southerly with some sunshine. 

The picture shows D passing Tuskar rock on the SE corner of Ireland. 

This evening finds us approaching Arklow heading North....

Friday, 24 May 2013


Cine Mara had left before we got up this morning and can't have had very long to savour the delights of the town.

Mary Poppins told the Banks children she would stay with them until the wind changed, and we seem to have had a similar but somewhat less magical relationship with Waterford. The wind hasn't actually changed yet - its still northerly. However it has died down a bit and is forecast to go round southerly tonight.
In anticipation of this exciting event we have moved a few miles and have picked up a mooring off Dunmore harbour on the south coast. We hope to be off early to get the tide. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Cine Mara at Waterford

Strong Northerly winds today; tomorrow it is supposed to be getting better. 

After days of being the only OGA representative in Waterford we were today joined by Cine Mara owned and sailed by Rik Janssen and his redoubtable crew. Cine Mara is a beautifully built new (2012) steel, Dutch owned Galway Hooker.  The Hooker is a traditional design of local craft that used to be common on the unforgiving coast of Western Ireland. Rik must be unique in owning two Hookers, one in wood, one in steel. They have had a number of adventures since leaving Holland which reflect on the toughness of both boat and crew. The picture shows her on the pontoon at Waterford.

After another day spent ashore visiting museums etc. we feel saturated with the complexities of Irish history. In the evening we saw an excellent youth theatre production of 'Miss Saigon' in a packed theatre.

Lets hope for more seamanlike activity soon.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


The forecast is for strong Northerly winds over the whole of the British Isles. Billions of tons of cold air are moving relentlessly southward over a huge area for reasons we don't really understand and can't control.

We decided to take the bus to Cork to see the sites and admire this lively city. The photo shows Parliament bridge, a stone bridge with a remarkably flat arch for the time it was built -1805.  Stone and brick bridges had been built with semicircular arches from at least the time of the Romans and it was only gradually that it was understood that flatter arches could be safe so long as the foundations were sound. This bridge takes motor traffic and was restored about 20 years ago.  

Other highlights in Cork included the English market selling an enormous variety of food, and St Fin Barre's cathedral. St Fin Barre's belongs to the Anglican church of Ireland, which seems to continue to survive in a traditionally strongly Catholic country.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Northerly Winds

We are still in Waterford due to persistent strong Northerly or Northwesterly winds that would make a trip up the coast wearying to both boat and crew.

Any remaining non-sailing readers of this blog might think that there doesn't seem to be much to this yachting business. Hardly any time is actually spent at sea and most days seem to be frittered away in port. However the weather so far this summer has been quite a lot worse than usual and on most normal sailing holidays there is often not enough wind and its possible to spend everyday in shorts and T-shirts. We are still looking forward to this luxury.

The picture to the right shows D with Bonita on the pontoon in the background. The burgee of the Erith Yacht Club flutters bravely from the masthead – an anachronism today as most boats have mastheads so cluttered with electronic gear, radio aerials and lights that its not possible to fly a burgee.

The photo also shows part of the town's flood defences which consist of long lengths of sections of thick glass screen. In most other waterside towns where it has been necessary to raise the flood defences its usual to build a concrete wall. However this produces a visual barrier which isolates the land from the water surrounding it and diminishes the effect of much of the waterside architecture. Glass screens have a much better appearance, and retain the river as an important part of this old port. Will it be strong enough when the floods come? The home of Waterford crystal has put its faith in glass

Monday, 20 May 2013

Day in Waterford

Early this morning Dave left us to get the ferry home from Rosslare. 

We decided to spend the day in Waterford as the wind was forecast NW 6 which could have been uncomfortable heading north up the coast.  Reading some of the other gaffers blogs we were very sorry to hear of the damage to Witch; lets hope for some gentler weather for the old boats soon. 

We looked at some of the culture that Waterford has to offer, which is quite a lot. There is Reginalds Tower,a fortification begun by the Vikings and later strengthened and enlarged. The museum inside gives details of invasions, battles and massacres giving a grim view of historical progress. Elsewhere in the town in fine churches and museums the same events are sometimes retold with an emphasis on improved buildings, prosperity and expanding peaceful trade with distant countries. As so often with stories from history you can find what you want, its getting the balanced view thats difficult. 

We also visited the famous Waterford glassworks and saw glass being blown and engraved. Many elaborate and elegant pieces were for sale, some at astonishing prices, but we did not buy any. None seemed suitable for use on Bonita where the life expectancy of anything made of china or glass is usually short. 

As this is written we hope for better weather tomorrow but the rising wind is whistling in the rigging. Everyone knows that the decision to stay in port can be one of the most difficult to make, but we are all getting plenty of practice on this trip.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Crew Comment

After admiring Bonita last Friday, this week skipper & mate clearly needed to move on. 
I joined them at Falmouth on Friday. From motor sailing in Force 2, by Land's End in a pleasant Force 3 but with confused sea off the Longships. This was followed by Northerlies up to Force 5 (~20 mph/35 kph) all the way to Eire.

Bonita and skipper were fine, but the volunteer crew reacquainted himself with 'mal de mer' - cured by 40 hours of Oxo & ginger nuts.  But despite this, the porpoises, dolphins, gannets etc. were enjoyed by all.

Despite much reefing and sail changing (by Mike) everything in Bonita worked - it has all been effectively repaired years ago or is designed to fail and can be repaired with 'string'!  The only repair needed this leg was the modern autopilot mount which, of course, Mike had repaired before reaching Waterford and where food (thanks M & D) and sleep is about to be replenished!
Wishing Mike and Deirdre some pleasant coastal daysails up the Eastern Irish coast. David

Waterford Update

Dave Patuck and D
We left Falmouth on Friday morning and arrived at Waterford on Southern Ireland this morning after a trip of
some 50 hours. We are pleased to make some progress at last although at times the trip was a bit frustrating plodding into head winds and heavy seas with lots of reefs in and lots of water on deck. Passing Land's End is always a milestone and an achievement. The Longships lighthouse looked bleak and forlorn, and the crew posing for the traditional  photograph as they pass can look much the same.

Dolphins off Southern Ireland
The definite high point was seeing many dolphins playing around Bonita's hull when we were somewhere between Cornwall and Ireland.  At one point there were several dozen all around us breaking the surface and diving under the boat. Though this is usually attributed to friendly playfulness there must surely be some advantage to the dolphins in this sort of group activity. The wind died and we motored the last bit to Waterford which is a few miles up a meandering river. Waterford is a lovely bustling town which none of us had visited before, it has a history as a Viking stronghold going back over a thousand years. After 50 hours of mostly close hauled sailing with very restricted nutritional intake we felt justified in having Sunday lunch in the largest hotel in town - and the one with the most stars. Most of their customers were smartly dressed and I thought they might turn away three salt stained sailors. However we sent in D first to ask for a table and all was well.

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We have arrived in Waterford after a long sail from Falmouth. Winds variable.
When favourable, light; when contrary, strong.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Clearing Land's End 3pm Friday 17th May

Dave and D as we pass Longships Lighthouse - Click for hi-res picture
1.25 miles off Land's End, built 1873 for £43,870.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


D off St Anthony Head, Falmouth Harbour
The photo shows D, now largely recovered, off St Anthony Head at the entrance to Falmouth harbour. We had a fairly calm journey from Plymouth and motored most of the way. Most of the gaffers seem to have moved on, but Furstin is still here having had a boisterous trip yesterday and is doing some rigging repairs.

We should be joined this evening by extra crew for the next leg. Our friend Dave Patuck has many useful skills. He is an antarctic explorer, a trained meteorologist, an enthusiastic small boat sailor, a GP and a father of six daughters. He is therefore equipped to handle almost any conceivable problem.

We hope tomorrow will find us ready to venture further west and beyond. All depends on the (not very dependable) weather.

Commando Cabin Boy (by Trevor)

As Mike, Dee and Bonita finally depart from Plymouth Sound, my mind swings back 30+ years ago to the day I left to head South for the Falklands War. Whether you agree with what happened or not, it was an extraordinary and formative experience. We worked flat out for 4 days and embarked the whole of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, plus all their ammunition, vehicles and supplies, and our new friends - 2 battalions of Paras.  What made it even harder was that we (+ the same ships and equipment) had just come back from 3 months' intense arctic warfare training North of the Arctic Circle ... shall we say that 'not everything was back in its place!'

My old ship - HMS Fearless (now scrapped)
HQ was 2 minutes walk from where Bonita has been moored for too long. The team setting up the logistics (gosh, doesn't that sound easy!) stayed behind as the Commando Assault Ships, RFAs (tankers) and frigates left Plymouth Sound to the cheers of massive crowds on Plymouth Hoe and to the West and East of the Sound. Sadly, I never got to see any of this. We worked flat out until the fleet had reached the range of a Sea King helicopter's fuel tanks.

The 9 core officers who comprised Commando Brigade Tactical HQ then scrambled up to the top of Eastern King's Battery (overlooking Mayflower Marina) and into a Sea King with our huge bergens, skis and a few keepsakes of home - because frankly, we really weren't sure we were coming back. The helicopter took us on one last sweep over our beautiful city.  We soared over where Tim Beckett and I nearly sunk Mike's earlier gaffer on the Tamar River; then we swept over the hospital where the Skipper and Mate did their courting. After a city tour, we swept, very fast and very low, directly over where my mother is buried at sea with full naval honours. My last sight of Plymouth as we banked hard and turned South was Fort Bovisand, where Tim studied for his professional diving qualification.

Is it any wonder I'm looking forward to joining Bonita with Tim on June 8th? - Wherever she is...  
Just remember Skipper - turn RIGHT at the Scillies - don't keep going!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Getting Better...

"Being pestered nine weeks in this leaking unwholesome ship, lying wet in their cabbins, most of them grew very weak and weary of the sea"

The Mayflower departing Plymouth by William Halsall (1882)
The above words do not apply to the crew of Bonita, who remain in good heart. These words appear on the Mayflower memorial in Plymouth, but they must arouse a sympathetic and knowing  response from all who sail around in old wooden boats.

Last night was stormy on the marina. The wind was up to 55 knots, which is the top end of force 10  and is a lot. Today was better, but the Mate (who has been a bit unwell) is still convalescent so we decided it would be wiser to spend the day walking round Plymouth and leave (I very much hope) tomorrow.

The old bit of town around the original harbour is the Barbican and there are lots of brass plaques and monuments reminding us of the various overseas expeditions that were associated with the town, some from Elizabethan times. The Mayflower memorial from 1620 which includes the above quote is one of many. No doubt part of their purpose is to attract Americans and Canadians searching for their roots real or imagined.
However these monuments also remind us that once Plymouth and places like it were at the forefront of world exploration and the town would have been buzzing with news of distant lands and strange discoveries. 
There is a popular view of the sailor of a few centuries ago as something out of 'Pirates of the Carribean' - lecherous, ignorant, evil looking brigands drinking rum in smoke-filled waterside taverns and plotting their next act of piracy. No doubt a fair bit of that went on, but there is another side as well. In the 16th and 17th centuries ocean exploration was at the forefront of knowledge: new and exciting and attracting the brightest, the most energetic and most adventurous.   Great advances in astronomy and mathematics were being made to improve navigation. Like space travel today there were many exciting possibilities and unknown dangers.

Few names of individual sailors have come down to us from those days but the memorials around the old harbour are evidence of the energy and enterprise that this port had in such abundance long ago.

Monday, 13 May 2013


A day for recuperation for both gear and crew. Peggy, another Crossfields Morecambe Bay Prawner from 1910 is also here waiting better weather.

The picture shows the Torpoint ferry over the river Tamar. The new slipways are another elegant and effective engineering project from the office of our generous sponsors, the well known marine engineers Beckett Rankine.

As can be seen, this is a chain ferry, where the ferry pulls itself along by chains laid on the river bed. This is a simple and efficient system where conditions are suitable. Chain ferries however are treated with caution by yachtsmen due to their habit of abruptly starting out from the shore without apparent warning, and relentlessly pursuing their preordained course across the river at right angles to the flow of all other traffic. The fact that this is a triple chain ferry (apparently the only triple in the world) warrants even more caution.

The river Tamar separates Devon from Cornwall and was through much of history such an effective barrier that Cornwall was almost an island, a culture that sometimes still has its echoes in attitudes today. Historically Cornwall did indeed have a degree of independence. It had wealth from highly profitable tin mines, a local legal structure, and in the days before modern roads communication was easier by sea with Brittany than by land with London. Now of course the tin is gone, or at least no longer economic. There is still agriculture and mining for china clay, but today the main industry, fed by this and other crossing points of the Tamar,  is tourism. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Weather a bit better but still slightly bleak with strongish head winds. Most of the gaffers left Plymouth this morning after a parade of sail past the Hoe. Sadly we are still here as there are some problems which will delay us a couple of days. A pity, but there you are. We are hoping for more favorable conditions and better progress next week.

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Saturday, 11 May 2013


Still in Plymouth with a strong west wind howling through the rigging of the yachts in the marina. At least there are things to see and do here. I once spent 5 days weatherbound on the small Dutch island of Vlieland where the only things to do were to walk round the island, and watch other yachts being towed in by the lifeboat.

English cartoon of Napoleon's transport plan. (
Plymouth of course is a fine natural harbour.  A little appreciated aspect of British history is that while we have many large natural harbours on the South coast - from Harwich to Milford Haven - France has none. This made the English coast hard to attack and relatively easy for a navy to defend. The Spanish Armada failed for lack of a safe harbour for shelter and resupply. In 1804 Napoleon had 120,000 men at Boulogne and 3,000 barges and gunboats, but the logistical problems of getting the troops and their kit into small shallow draft craft in a tidal harbour and over the Channel in a reasonable time were too great.

Therefore when the French enlarged Cherbourg to be a major harbour in the 1850s it was seen as a direct threat to England and prompted the building of fortifications at the entrances to Plymouth, Portsmouth and elsewhere which are still in place.

Plymouth is still an important naval base and we see huge warships come and go every day seemingly unaffected by the bad weather. We could perhaps ask what threat these enormously expensive ships are defending us from in today's world, but maybe you can never know when a deterrent has worked - only when it hasn't.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Better weather?

Friday was another day still in Plymouth with strong winds through most of the day. With prolonged bad weather it is tempting to think it will never get better; but surely some kind of vaguely summery weather must come eventually. The day was brightened up by visits from our friends Marie Christine who knows little about boats, and Dave Patuck who knows a great deal about them and owns several himself. With Dave we admired the finer points of the various stormbound gaffers and did some retail therapy in the yacht chandlers. Helping other people spend their money is one of life's pleasures. 
 In the evening the rain came and the wind dropped which makes us hopeful for tomorrow though the forecast remains quite bad. 
Supper in Jolly Jacks. Traditional sing-along.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Another day in Plymouth sheltering from severe gale force W-SW winds. We walked up the hill to Mount Wise from where we could see waves breaking solidly over the Plymouth breakwater. Even in the marina it was quite uncomfortable with a heavy swell coming across the river Tamar and plenty of horizontal rain making everthing wet. No one likes to be confined to port but on the few occasions I have been at sea in these conditions I would have given a great deal to be safely tied up in a secure marina berth. 
The weather is frustrating for the gaffers but it seems to be good for Jolly Jacks restaurant which was busy all day and completely packed out in the evening when lively and much needed entertainment was provided by a female Breton accordion ensemble.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Plymouth Wed 8 May

A wet and windy day in Plymouth with several gaffers arriving through the day. Most seemed to have stories to tell of either strong wind or fog. Some very interesting old boats to be admired. There was a television crew from BBC spotlight taking lots of pictures but the program that went out this evening didn't really do justice to the finer details of traditional boats.

Several boats including Bonita were dressed overall with code flags to mark the occasion, though not all the flags stayed up for long in the breezy conditions.

Apart from the Gaffers the day was livened up by a visit from daughter Emma who got the train down from Exeter where she is busy rehearsing for 3 drama productions at once. In the evening there was a fish and chip supper at Jolly Jacks helped along with entertainment by the Tavy Tars.

The weather forecast doesn't look very good and the general consensus seems to be that we are here until Saturday.

Mayflower Marina's pontoons

Mayflower Marina is unusual in that it has a hybrid mooring system for the berthing pontoons. The pontoons closest to the shore are secured on steel guides supported on frames that are bolted to the quay wall; a team of divers is currently replacing these guide frames as can be seen in the photo. The rest of the marina is secured by a complex spread of mooring chains and anchors. While initially cheaper to install than piled moorings anchors and chains require much more maintenance, which is why the great majority of marinas in the UK use piles to secure their pontoons.

No doubt the designers of Mayflower Marina would have used a piled solution if they could but the conditions here are decidedly difficult for piling. While relatively shallow close to the quay where Bonita is moored the sea bed falls steadily across the marina, at the outer pontoons there is in excess of 12m of water depth which would make for long, and therefore large, piles. Secondly the sea bed here consists of a shallow thickness of soft silt overlying limestone bedrock so piles would have to be drilled and socketed into the rock; a much more expensive operation than normal percussion pile driving.

On the positive side the natural deep water means that most of the marina should not need any maintenance dredging.

Mayflower Marina Plymouth

We are fortunate on this trip to have the benefit of corporate sponsorship and the picture shows us in a cold breeze - yet comfortable in our high quality tops kindly provided by the excellent and well known firm of marine civil engineers Beckett Rankine.

A day spent in Plymouth revisiting the town and watching the arrival of lots of old gaffers. We can't help noticing that most of the boats are larger and newer than Bonita and have more crew. We were also visited by D's mother and brother David, both of whom decided long ago that life is better in the West Country.

Though it looks as though tomorrow should be a jolly gathering of gaffers, the forecast for the next few days is for strong head winds so our stay here could be longer than we hoped.

We took Bonita down to Falmouth a few years ago and personally, I shall not really feel that we have started going round Britain till we have passed Lands' End.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The View from the Crew

Being privileged enough to be one of the crew for the first part of the historic voyage that Bonita is taking around the coast of the UK I thought I would share a few observations ...

Ant Bennett
Bonita, to me, reminds me of an elderly aunt who has kept the lines and beauty of her younger days intact, but has taken on a rather more idiosyncratic nature of behaviour. This is especially true when under mechanical engine power – rather than the originally intended flow of the winds around her sails.

Mike is the dutiful favorite nephew who understands this idiosyncratic nature of his elderly aunt and, due to his gentle and kind nature, cajoles her into more correct behaviour – even when under engine power (at least for most of the time) – since no one else can.
Due to Mike’s position of favoured nephew she accepts his authority and guidance and so a winning and unique combination is formed.

My most memorable moments
Least favoured:
  • Bundled up with six layers of clothes in my sleeping bag and still feeling cold.

Most favoured:
  • Slipping through the water at sunset - along the Jurassic coast to Weymouth. 
  • Sunrise as we approached Torquay harbour in Torbay.
  • All of the above supported by tea and many, many digestive biscuits.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Torquay to Plymouth in the fog

The forecast this morning was for fog patches, but the visibility at Torquay wasn't too bad, so off we went. We had fairly thick fog for the first 3 hours or so, then it got evaporated by bright sunlight and we had a good light wind sail past the unspoilt south Devon coast.

We got inside Plymouth breakwater and suddenly ran into a very dense fog. Its very odd to know that close around you on all sides is land, boats, buoys and exposed rocks and to be able to see none of them.

However with a bit of trial and error we eventually found ourselves where we were supposed to be and tied up at the welcoming Mayflower marina. There are a couple of Old Gaffers here already and we expect the fleet coming up from the Hamble in the next day or so.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Odd jobs and old boats

The rain stopped about lunchtime and Torquay really came to life with bank holiday crowds, stalls selling mostly things to eat and drink, entertainers, musicians etc. On Bonita I spent some of the time doing the sort of minor maintenance jobs which are easier when the boat is empty. Always an interesting feature of new harbours are the old historic vessels of all types of which there are so many in Britain.
A Fairmile B off Mulberry Harbour
during D-Day landings.

The Fairmile B is a wartime fast motor launch. The one here in Torquay looks in remarkably good condition given that these boats were quickly built in the expectation of a short but exciting life. Today she is busy taking passengers round Torbay, but it seems at only a small fraction of her designed operational speed.

SS Shieldhall built 1954

Back in Weymouth I was interested to also see the SS Shieldhall. She is a 1955 steamship, one of the largest steamships still in working order. Big ships today are driven by huge diesel engines. The Shieldhall was built to carry sewage and was doing this until the 1980s. She too has been restored and looks very good.

I remember seeing the sewage ships at work on the Thames when it was still acceptable to dump unprocessed waste at sea. They were elegantly designed ships more ornately painted than usual to divert attention from their unglamorous purpose. Apparently they were originally designed to to carry sight-seeing passengers as well as sewage sludge on their trips out to sea but the dual use was not a success. When passing downwind of them one could not mistake the true nature of their cargo.

When we were in Weymouth the Shieldhall was getting up steam for a bank holiday trip to Southampton; having given up on the sewage she now seems to have plenty of passengers. Keeping a ship of this size in good condition is a huge undertaking  and it is fortunate that there are enough people who care about old ships and think the effort is worthwhile.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Crew changeover

Saturday is a day in port -in Torquay. Apart from missing the festivities on the Hamble I have few regrets about spending the day here since there is a strong SW wind, 6-7 with fine horizontal drizzle.  This morning Ant and Jane, who so stoicly helped get Bonita down to the west country had to leave due to various work commitments. We borrowed a marina trolley and took it down to the station piled high with kitbags. Tomorrow D joins the boat bringing among other things I hope better bank holiday weather.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Round the race to Torquay

An afternoon and overnight sail to Torquay. The main concern in a trip from Weymouth to Torquay is to be sure to keep well away from the tide race south of Portland Bill. This is an area of turbulent water where tidal eddies meet and the sea floor shelves up. It has a formidable reputation as one of the worst races in the world and many ships have been lost in it.
In Anne Davidson's lively book 'Final Voyage' there is a very sobering description of how she and her husband got caught in the race in a 70ft fishing boat with disastrous results. An old pilot book used to say that 'small vessels - eg destroyers- have been overwhelmed and lost in the race'. Destroyers now are bigger than they used to be but nevertheless you have to treat Portland race with respect. We were motoring in a flat calm just before slack water a couple of miles south of the race and saw nothing, but then that's what you hope to see. We did see a lifeboat on trial going straight through the area of the race at 28knots, apparently unharmed, which must give confidence in the product.
We got more wind in the evening and made a slow, close hauled passage to Torquay, arriving just after sunrise and stepping ashore to the English Riviera with its palm trees and tulips.

Arriving at Torbay at sunrise Friday May 3rd

Arriving at Torbay at sunrise
3D view of Bonita's overnight track  - note signal loss in centre (CLICK FOR HI RES VERSION)

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Resuscitating the Avon
A slow sail from Portsmouth yesterday due to little wind. However it picked up in the evening and we had a good sail along the Dorset coast in the dusk and got into Weymouth at 0030 this morning.

I haven't been to Weymouth by sea before and it's always tricky entering new harbours at night. We were puzzled for a bit by a very prominent red flashing light near the north breakwater. I couldn't find this on the chart, chartplotter or almanac, which is always a bit of a worry.

It turns out the light is on a tourist attraction on the seafront. 
We wake up to a bright sunny day in this lovely little town and the wind still in the easterly sector.

Pictures taken by our on-board creative, Jane Giles, with her keen eye and a fast shutter...
Old and New
Weymouth's U shaped lifeboat berth - designed by Beckett Rankine - has some notably large roller fender units on the securing piles which enable the lifeboat to get in and out of the berth in any weather. The berth also has an unusual S shaped brow connecting it to the shore. Weymouth's Severn Class lifeboat, with a displacement of 41 tonnes, is the largest class of boat operated by the RNLI.

Just tied up Weymouth 00.30 Thursday May 2nd

Sailing into the sunset coming into Weymouth Bay 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Heading West

In Gosport last night after a light wind sail from Brighton. We are supposed to be at the Hamble on Saturday for the formal start to the OGA round Britain rally. However we have been seriously tempted by the current unusually prolonged spell of NE winds. Getting down Channel can sometimes be quite a struggle and I have in past years spent days walking around harbours waiting for SW gales to blow themselves out.

So we have given way to temptation and this morning sees us heading westward in bright sunshine south of the Isle of Wight. We shall of course be sorry to miss the gaffers gathering on the Hamble, but making progress down Channel is more important in the overall scheme of things. I shall be particularly sorry to miss the entertainment on Saturday night which will be provided by cousin George and his inimitable band, the Blunt Instruments. I have enjoyed listening to these fine musicians before and can strongly recommend them to anyone fortunate enough to be able to get a spare ticket.

Sent from Samsung Mobile

How to put Bonita on your Desktop

Simply paste, drag or place this link on your desktop or links bar:
If Skipper Mike has whipped the crew in to action and Bonita is at sea and not out of range of shore stations, you'll get to a screen like this:
Click the cross at top right of the info to see more. Use zoom on left side of screen too.

If you're up late (or based in Canada like Trevor our technical wizard), try using this link:
to show Bonita's track so far that day:
There are other OGA50 Round Britain Challenge vessels using the AIS tracking system that you can also follow; to make things easy you can add them to the 'My Fleet' function. Bonify, Cine Mara, Leonora 3 and Annabel J can also be tracked this way and hopefully there will be others to be added soon.