Sunday, 23 June 2019


Sadly Dave had to leave us at Ramsgate, but luckily D was able to join us for the final leg back to the Swale. The night spent in Ramsgate was useful not only for crew recuperation, but also the wind changed overnight and we woke to bright sunshine and and easterly breeze.

The picture shows the North Foreland under conditions which have been unusual so far this summer - blue seas and blue sky. After a pleasant trip along the north Kent coast with a fair wind we picked up our mooring on the Swale just before high water.

This ends this years big trip, though we hope to have time for some shorter excursions around the estuary. There are a few jobs to be done on Bonita, including some work repairing the long pole for holding out the big jib. This disintegrated as we were passing Dover harbour and one end was lost overboard. As we were in the track of the cross-channel ferries at the time, we did not think it was an appropriate moment for some man-overboard practice to try to retrieve the pole.
We very much enjoyed joining the Falmouth Classics and the Helford rally, and the welcome we got at both of these.The Falmouth Classics is one of the largest events of its type with over a hundred entrants and many interesting boats on the water. We know the Helford river well and for a long time have been looking forward to sailing Bonita there.

This years plans were dictated by the need to leave the boat on several occasions for work or family commitments, and for this purpose, apart from the high marina fees, cruising along the south coast is ideal. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Helford to Ramsgate

With the redoubtable Dave Patuck as crew we set sail from Helford on Wednesday morning and sailed the entire length of the English Channel, arriving at Ramsgate on Friday afternoon.

We had a fair wind throughout - W or SW, varying in strength from nothing to force 7, so that South of the Isle of Wight we took down the mainsail and ran under mizzen and headsails for a few hours.  We had spring tides, which is a mixed blessing.  It's very encouraging when the tide is with you (look how fast we are going, we will be there in no time) but a bit depressing when its against you (I can't believe how slow we are going - we'll never get there).  No doubt it all averages out in the end.

We saw lots of dolphins and I was interested to see them swimming alongside the boat in the darkness at night.  I had assumed that dolphins slept at night, or at least took it easy as presumably they can't see to hunt fish.  However they still are happy to welcome passing yachts.

After this marathon journey Dave and I felt very much in need of a shower, a square meal ( provided by the excellent Royal Temple Yacht Club) and a good night's sleep.

Bonita however seems unaffected by this excitement. Her entire journey up-channel (showing her very variable Speed Over the Ground as tides change) is visible on this YouTube video.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The Helford Old Gaffers Race

Today we took part in the Helford Old Gaffers Race.  This consists of 3 circuits of a course in the entrance to the river.  We had D and Roly as crew - Roly has a small gaffer that he trails around from his base in the Midlands.  We had a light Easterly wind and were able to set both topsail and light jib on the down wind legs.  Bonita however would have liked a bit more wind.  Inevitably we didn't do quite as well as some more modern Gaffers with local knowledge, but we did get a prize for being both the oldest boat and the one that had come the furthest.  After the race D and I went ashore to visit Trebah gardens once again; D is a life member so we thought we should get the benefit from this.

The day ended with a jolly dinner and prize giving in the Port Navas yacht club.

Our tour of West Country old Gaffers events is now coming to a close so we are hoping for fair winds for the trip home...


We left Falmouth and sailed the few miles to the lovely Helford river.  We are here today for an Old Gaffers rally, but we know the Helford well from many land- based visits with the family and dinghy sailing.  This however is our first visit in Bonita, and almost certainly her first time here.  It seems very odd to be seeing this familiar landscape from Bonita's deck.

We went ashore and visited the gardens at Trebah.  Rather incongruously they have installed an armoured car on the beach in recognition of fact that many American troops embarked from here before D-day 75 years ago.

About 15 gaff rigged boats have assembled for the rally - Bonita is the only entrant from the east coast.  In the evening we all went up the river for a barbecue at Tremaine Quay.  The picture shows some of the revellers and the boats anchored in the river.  Apparently the quay was built for a visit by Queen Victoria.  Unfortunately it was never used as her visit was cancelled.  However it is now a popular spot for picnics, camping and water sports.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Falmouth Classics Day 3

Yesterday evening Jacob had to leave to go the work but fortunately D came down on the train for a few days' sailing.  Today was the final day of the Falmouth Classics with a parade of sail in the harbour.  The theory of a parade of sail is that for the benefit of the spectators each boat should progress in an orderly fashion under sail, keeping a set distance from the boats ahead and behind.  In practice there was a fresh breeze and everyone had difficulty keeping their speed down.  On Bonita we just had jib, foresail and mizzen up and were still going too fast.  However the Parade must have provided quite a spectacle even if the boats might have seemed a bit jumbled up.

                                           The Parade of Sail
The rally ended with a prize giving in the Maritime Museum and has definitely been most enjoyable and a great success: we were glad we came.
The second picture shows the 50ft electric launch Constance, originally Victorian but recently extensively restored and kept on the Helford river.

The third picture is of one of the most interesting exhibits in the Falmouth Maritime museum: the 1905 Quay Punt 'Curlew'.  After a working life in the Falmouth docks she became famous as her owners Tim and Pauline Carr travelled widely in her and for many years she was based in the icy Antarctic waters of South Georgia.  She is now owned by the museum and is kept in fine sailing condition.

The picture below is of an exhibit in the museum that is perhaps appropriate for today - the little boat 'Father's Day'. This miniature boat is only 5ft 6in long and holds the record for being the smallest boat to cross the Atlantic. How you could store enough food for 3 months at sea, and why anyone would wish to inflict such discomfort on themselves can only be left to speculation.
                                                 Father's Day

Although the rally is now over, D and I spent a jolly evening in a pub with 10 other Gaffers. In the next room was a party of shanty singers in Falmouth for the festival. We were interested to see that after a busy day of singing they unwind and relax - with more singing.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Falmouth Classics Day 2

Sadly today Justin had to go home as he had run out of time.  On the water there was one race today and I had Jacob on Bonita as crew.  There was a sparkling sea and a brisk SW wind.  We had a fine sail and with Jacob at the helm we seemed to be passing lots of boats.  However many of those were probably in different classes and sailing different courses: the Falmouth Classics is such a large event with over a hundred boats taking part that it's difficult to get an overall view of everything that's going on.

Ashore the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival is in full swing and the town is full of swashbuckling characters. The second picture shows a shanty singing group of bearded ladies - one of many remarkable performances.

We had a prize giving ceremony in the refined surroundings of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club.  Bonita was awarded three third prizes for the three races over two days.  The third picture shows one of the presentation mugs.  While we definitely don't race in the expectation of winning anything, having come so far to take part it is nice to have got something

In the evening D arrived to spend a few days on the boat and generally sort things out...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Racing in Carrick Roads

The Falmouth Classics got off to a good start today with two races in the sheltered waters of Carrick Roads.  There was a good SW breeze, and - most unusually for this summer - there was sunshine.  I had a first class racing crew in Justin and Jacob.

The boats were organised in lots of different classes, some sailing different courses.  The whole event seemed very well organised.  There were dozens of classic boats afloat, all of them interesting and most of them unique in some special way.  We had a fine day and felt Bonita had done well - although we don't get any results for a while.  Here are a few photos of some of the boats taking part, though most of the time we were rather too busy to be able to take photographs.

Afterwards  we met Sian and Ant who had been watching the racing from on shore, and had supper with the crews of Calismarde and Susan J.  As we went to bed the rollicking sounds of the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival were enjoyed late into the night.

The Falmouth Classics

We have come to Falmouth to enter the Falmouth Classics rally.  Though this has been running for some 30 years, Bonita has never previously taken part.  Lots of Gaffers and other old boats appeared today and we had to move Bonita a couple of times to accommodate new arrivals.  Over 100 boats in all are taking part.  Among other arrivals, Calismarde with Geoff & Jane and Susan J with Dave & Julie turned up.  Calismarde had come from Wales, and Susan J from a recent trip to Brittany.

The picture shows the view of the marina filling up with old boats.  The size and number of boats mooring up far exceed the normal loading on the pontoons.  Fortunately, having been well designed by the excellent firm of Beckett Rankine the marina seemed well able to handle this extra load.

In the evening we had pasties and beer served up on the pontoons, and then a convivial evening aboard Susan J.  We look forward with anticipation to the racing tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Past the Eddystone to Falmouth

We got up at 5am and left Dartmouth before even making a cup of tea.  This was worth it as we got a good fair tide round Start Point, which pushed our speed up to 9 knots at times.  Otherwise we had a day of variable winds with much sail changing trying to make the best of what we were sent.  For the last few hours the wind died and we motored. 

The route from Start Point to Falmouth goes very close to the Eddystone rock, with its current lighthouse being the fourth in about 350 years.  The rock itself is a pillar rising from the seabed some 60 metres below to form a low platform continually swept by the waves.  It is no wonder that it wrecked so many ships and that so much effort was put into building a lighthouse.
When we got to Falmouth we found quite a collection of old and old-style boats already here, although the Falmouth Classics don't get going for another day or two.  'Phoenix' (below) looks like something out of the eighteenth century, but was in fact built in 1929, and converted to her old style rig for work in films.  We eventually tied up alongside a French lifeboat built in 1955.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

A damp day in Dartmouth

After our very late night arrival we woke at 5am to find strong wind and rain.  The forecast predicted gales.  We therefore decided that it might be a good idea to have a rest day and explore Dartmouth a bit.

We walked around the town and were amazed at how easy the entrance to the river appeared with the benefit of daylight.  We had showers in the yacht club.  We ate out for lunch and dinner.  We went to Paignton on a train pulled by a steam engine.

We crossed the river Dart several times on the frequent and efficient ferries.
We now feel ready to move on should the weather improve tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Round Portland Bill

Justin and I came down to Lymington on Sunday night and left on Monday morning before the sun was up - at about 4.30.  The Solent seemed strangely quiet at that time.  There wasn't much wind but by using the tides of Anvil point and St Albans Head we managed to get to Portland Bill by the end of the tide.

The notorious Portland Race off the end of the Bill looks innocent and completely harmless at slack water.  We then had a slow and rather frustrating sail across Lyme Bay.  The forecast led us to believe we would have a brisk Northerly wind, but the wind was neither brisk nor Northerly.  We were also told we would have plenty of rain; this part of the forecast proved to be entirely correct.

The afternoon was brightened up by seeing several dolphins, and also the square rigged barque the Europa on her way to France.  Below is our view and a Wikimedia version.

We entered Dartmouth after midnight in the rain and complete darkness, which is fairly stressful although the entrance is very well lit.  Our arrival at the visitors' pontoon was perhaps not as elegant as it might have been, but at least did not cause any damage or wake up any of the other visitors.

The only way to unwind after a difficult and stressful arrival in port is with a tin of beer, of which thankfully we have a small supply aboard.

Sunday, 2 June 2019


Due to persistant SW winds I left Bonita at Brighton for a couple of days, returning on Friday when the situation looked much changed and more encouraging: the sky was blue, the sea flat and the wind a gentle southerly.  In the marina we saw this business-like looking Japanese round-the-world yacht. The japanese dont have a reputation as producing many long distance yachtsmen and I cannot remember ever seeing one of their yachts  in UK waters before.

We found Bonita boxed in by a flotilla of French yachts that had arrived from from Dieppe, but with Chris as crew we managed to extricate her and reverse away from her berth without loss of paint or damage to international relations. We then had a light wind sail in the sunshine along the Sussex coast, through the Looe channel and into the Solent. Here we saw no fewer than five immense cruise liners leaving Southampton in quick succession on the tide: huge steel floating cities with thousands of people enjoying whatever facilities might be on offer and the view from high above the sea.

                                                      Getting away from it all

 The wind petered out in the evening so we anchored for the night in Osborne bay, off the Isle of Wight.
This morning we woke to a brisk SW force 3-6 and had a lively sail to the western end of the Solent. We berthed at Lymington in the Yacht Haven. This is where Chris and Alison keep their boat so a bit of local knowledge when getting in was most useful. There are two marinas in Lymington, but confusingly they use the same VHF channel to talk to the yachts. It was only when I told them I had tied up to a berth which apparently didnt exist that I realised I was talking to the wrong marina.
However it was all sorted out eventually and we left Bonita securely tied up. I now have to leave her for a few days for a family outing to Normandy. However I hope to resume progress westwards with fresh crew and with luck more favorable winds.