Friday, 25 June 2021

Back Home!

I left Bonita at Gosport for a few days while the NE winds blew over  and went back aboard on Wednesday night. Luckily our friend Jane agreed to come as crew.
 Jane has done lots of sailing here and in Australian waters and has sailed on Bonita many times before. We set out at 1.30am to catch the tide. Such an early start seemed a bit bleak, but we had a a still night with a full moon. We motored to the Looe channel just off Selsey Bill, arriving just as the east going tide was starting.. Soon a light SW wind came up and we spent the day gently running up Channel keeping a few miles offshore. We heard many warnings on the VHF about illegal migrants crossing the channel, and we saw some military activity, but we saw no overloaded  dinghies full of migrants. Very likely many slip in unnoticed by anyone. 
As night fell we were concerned to see that the Varne lightship  marking a sandbank in the middle of the English Channel, whose light has always flashed once every 20 seconds was in fact flashing every 5 seconds. Usually the characteristic of major navigational lights stays the same for many years. None of the charts we carried could explain this. However it appears that this change has been made as part of converting from diesel generated electricity to a solar powered LED light. Very few lightships show a red light, which requires much more power as the red filter absorbs the majority of the light. Its possible  some of our charts might not be completely up to date, and perhaps its time for a new chip for the chartplotter.

  By midnight we were passing Dover harbour with a brisk fair spring tide.  There is plenty of anxiety in passing Dover at night, with its frequent fast ferries entering and leaving, and the array of dazzling shore lights can make the process more stressful. Immediately after Dover there is the contrast of the calm and unclutted waters of East Kent. Daybreak saw us off Margate, and we had a brisk tack into Swale against a freshening SW wind. D met us in the car, and we had the abrupt transition from old gaffer sailing into the real world. Ds picture shows Bonita back on her mooring with Jane and myself sorting out the covers intended to keep the worst of the rain off.

This was our second year attending the Falmouth Classics, which we enjoyed a lot, although it is a long way to go from the Thames estuary.  Maybe next year we will be freer to cross the English channel and North Sea, although I am always anxious that we might meet an official demanding proof that VAT has been paid, or certification that Bonita complies with current boatbuilding regulations.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Haslar marina, Gosport

It may be midsummer, but we have  persistent easterly winds, grey skies, rain and very little summer warmth. No risk of sunburn today! However the easterly wind was less strong than yesterday and I felt there would be advantages in moving the boat to Portsmouth harbour. I was a bit anxious about this as, with her quarter mounted propeller,  Bonita can be difficult to manoeuvre in a marina and there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong for the single-handed sailor. Many times my boat handling in port has been saved from embarrassing disaster by a quick witted and agile member of my crew. 

Leaving Yarmouth required a bit of patience- there was a steady stream of motor boats, most of them broad in the beam negotiating the narrow harbour entrance. Bonita needed to turn to port under motor to get out of the harbour, and that needs a great deal of space. Once out we had a pleasant tack to windward up the Solent with the tide. There were lots of boats out racing with their colourful spinnakers.

I wanted to come to Haslar marina in Gosport as I know it quite well, it has plenty of space and very little tidal flow. Also the staff are sympathetic to the problems of handling old boats. Fortunately all went reasonably smoothly and Bonita is now securely tied up in one of the inner berths. We may stay here, like Mary Poppins, until the wind changes.

As is often the case with seaside towns, Gosport seems to get rather less interesting the further you walk from the harbour. It is still claimed to be the ' Millennium town' as it was on our visit in 2013. It's no clearer what that means. 

The picture shows the old Cowes chain ferry which crossed the Medina river for years, now moored off the seafront and looking very sorry for itself. Presumably there are people who buy and sell old chain ferries, but this one can't have much of a future to look forward to other than a trip to the breakers yard. It's more modern, much more expensive and rather more glossy replacement in Cowes still seems to be plagued with teething problems that didnt seem to trouble the old ferry.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Heading back East

After Falmouth comes the Helford rally, and with Justin and D as crew we sailed to Helford on Monday. On a rare warm day with gentle breezes we anchored off Trebah beach, swam, and rowed ashore to visit the gardens and buy ice cream. On Tuesday we had  racing for the rally. With an easterly breeze making for an exciting start to windward in confined waters, we raced out into Falmouth Bay and back. This was followed by supper at the Port Navas yacht club. Susan J came second in her class: Bonita got the prize for having come the farthest ( by far).
The next morning D went ashore with Dave and Julie to go back to work by train. Justin and I set out to return up Channel. The pictures show a view of Helford river on a still evening, and D's photo of Bonita heading back east in the early morning.

 In a day of light winds we motored almost all the way to Start Point. We then had a reasonable fair wind overnight as far as Portland Bill which we passed about 8 miles off. 
The waters around the Bill can be dangerous with strong tides. For centuries cargo boats under sail collected huge pieces of stone quarried at Portland for use in building works in London and elsewhere. Many must have got into trouble in these difficult waters. There are records of Sir Christopher Wren visiting Portland to sort out some of the problems with the supply of stone for St Pauls Cathedral. The stones were cut to shape at the quarry before being loaded into the ships, with only final finishing of the stone being carried out on site in London. There are records of some stones - and therefore presumably ships- failing to arrive but it's surprising that the system worked as well as it did though there must have been many frustrations. One ship with its cargo of masonry was captured by the French, who sold it on to the Dutch. The captain eventually paid up the price the Dutch demanded, and sailed her complete with cargo of stonework back to London.

After Portland Bill our wind died and we carried on under motor. Approaching the Isle of Wight I became concerned partly due to the met office forecast which referred to the possibility of strong NE winds ( the internet weather sites we looked at did not mention this), and partly because if the weather remained calm we might run short of fuel. We therefore headed north east at the Needles going inside the Isle of Wight. We passed Hurst point at the end of the east going tide, and berthed at Yarmouth in calm weather. I did wonder if we should have stayed out and carried on up Channel. However as compensation we were able to enjoy an excellent fish and chip supper in the Royal Solent yacht club. On Friday morning we woke to heavy rain and a strong NE wind, so we were grateful not to be out in open water. Sadly Justin who has been such an excellent crew on this trip has run out of time and returned to the mainland on the ferry. The next few days weather forecast looks unpromising so Bonita may be staying at Yarmouth for a little while.

Back to the Helford

We spent the night at Falmouth, but most boats that attended the Falmouth Classics have left, or left this morning. The first picture shows a boat that perhaps might have been considered a classic but did not attend the festival. Scaled down rigs often don't work as well as might be expected, and sometimes hardly work at all. She was coming up to the fuel berth, and we suspected she might rely more on engine power than sails to get from A to B.
With D and Justin as crew we sailed the few miles to the Helford river for the Helford rally that follows on immediately from the Falmouth celebrations. It was a bright sunny summer day with light winds, and we anchored off Trebah gardens and rowed ashore. D is a life member of Trebah, with its magnificent sub- tropical gardens and the picture shows her enjoying the scenery with the river in the far distance. 

 The weather was so warm that some of Bonitas crew felt the need for a swim. In the evening we rafted up with Susan J for supper aboard with Dave and Julie. A jolly time was had by all discussing the problems of the world in general, and in particular the problems of looking after traditional boats....

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Falmouth parade of sail

Sadly Allan had to return home by train this morning so missed the last day of the Classics rally. There is no racing on the last day, but a Parade Of Sail past Pendennis point near the town. Over 100 classic boats took part, led  by a couple of Royal Navy patrol boats and some lifeboats. There were plenty of spectators both ashore and on the water. We had warm weather, blue skies and virtually no wind. This year's Parade marks 150 years since the founding of the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners in 1870. This was the  ceremonial parade thst would have happened last year but for the coronavirus. We were encouraged to turn out in Victorian style clothing. A few did  but several just had a suitable hat. On Bonita we had a brown felt top hat suitable for doffing to acquaintances, a hat of the type that a victorian gentleman might well have worn on a gentlemans yacht. The whole proceedings were recorded by Jacobs team from Vitamin Cornwall, and we look forward to seeing the pictures on their website. A couple of our pictures of the parade are attached. Most people had a lazy day but there were several rowing gigs with the crews working hard. One had the benefit of being able to hoist a sail, even it seems when rowing to windward.
We are staying at Falmouth tonight as we await D's arrival, and hope to move on tomorrow.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Racing in light airs

Today was sunny with a light variable breeze. We lent Allan to crew on Susan J and I had Justin and Tim, who came down from Surrey this morning. We made a good start in light airs with Justin at the helm, but as a mass of boats approached the downwind mark they all became very crowded into a small area. There were multiple minor collisions at slow speed, fortunately without any major damage, although we lost the block from Bonita's mizzen boom, removed by someone else's bowsprit. It was one of those situations for which everyone can see developing in slow motion, but no-one can do anything to prevent. The Vitamin Cornwall film crews were there in their ribs, and the attached photo - taken from a video sequence- gives some idea of the congestion. Undeterred by this mishap, we carried on to have a fine race, although perhaps all in all with more excitement than we might have wished for.  We haven't heard the results yet.  It seems that we came 3rd in our class for both of yesterday's races. 

Sadly the planned Classics supper ashore had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus among the catering staff. We went off in Jacob's rib to a fascinating waterside restaurant, the Pandora Inn, which has tables set out on a floating pontoon stretching out into the harbour.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Racing at Falmouth Day 1

The day started with light rain but soon cleared up with a moderate SW breeze. The Classics had two races today, with a large variety of old and old- style boats sailing different courses with different start times. Falmouth harbour presented a fine sight with masses of traditional sail everywhere. With a fine crew of Justin and Allan we felt we had done well, making one very good start, avoiding any major mistakes and generally Bonita seemed to be going nicely. We don't get the official race results till tomorrow, and while it would be nice to know the results immediately, sometimes it is better to wait in hopeful optimism. With handicap racing it's always hard to know how well-or badly- you've really done.  Jacob and his Vitamin team were here in two ribs and very busy as they are now the official photographers for the Falmouth Classics. We are hoping that Bonita might perhaps have got some favourable coverage.
The picture shows a number of classic boats astern of us trailing in Bonitas wake- always a happy sight when racing.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Falmouth Classics 2021

With Justin and Allan aboard we spent last night on the Helford river and enjoyed a jolly supper with Dave and Julie Patuck. Today we sailed the few miles to Falmouth to join a large gathering of Gaffers and other old boats for the Falmouth Classics. There are lots of interesting boats here, old and new friends, and I spoke to someone who remembered an article I wrote for Yachts and Yachting in 1972!

There is real live shanty singing on the marina pontoons to compensate for the problem that the usual shanty festival is virtual this year.
The photo on the right shows Bonita and other boats dressed overall in flags for the occasion.

During all this festivity the harbour is being closely patrolled by police on jet skis, keeping us safe from any threats that may be associated with the G7 meeting, so we are feeling especially well protected.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Exploring Falmouth harbour

When we woke this morning at Helford there was no wind at all, but this soon developed into a moderate SSW wind. We sailed in Falmouth Bay a few miles to Gull rock and then into Falmouth harbour where we anchored off Turnaware point for lunch. We then tacked back to Falmouth marina to meet Justin who arrived from Kent by train. Although it wasnt warm, there were lots of boats out in the sunshine in this magnificent natural  harbour.
There is still plenty of activity related to the forthcoming G7 meeting in Cornwall. We have seen lots of sinister looking police launches driving round at speed with black clad figures huddled aboard. There is much more helicopter traffic than would normally be expected. And this Baltic cruise ship has been hired and is in port and is rumoured to be full of security staff covering the event. 

Monday, 7 June 2021

Helford river

Allan arrived on the train last night, and on a sunny day with light winds we sailed across Falmouth Bay and in the Helford river. The picture shows Bonita anchored off Tremayne quay, deep in the Cornish countryside.

Not all improvements made during the winter turn out successfully, but Bonita's revised mainsail roller reefing gear does seem to make things easier. Any purists reading this will be pleased to know that the screw threads on the ironwork are British Standard Whitworth. Now rarely seen but in common use when Bonita was built, this was the first standardised thread for nuts and bolts, introduced by the Victorian mechanical engineer Joseph Whitworth and in general use for about 100 years. Like so many engineers of his time he introduced a range of inventions including, sadly, an improved rifle for sharpshooters. Very accurate but too expensive for the British army, it was much used by the Confederate army in the American civil war. The Union general whose last words were 'they couldn't hit an elephant at this range' was the victim of a sniper using a Whitworth rifle.

More peacefully, we are spending the night on the Helford and need to return to Falmouth tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Cornish weather

Last time we were in Falmouth the visit was greatly enlivened by the singing groups in town for the International Sea Shanty festival. Sadly this year the festival, like so much else, has gone virtual. I suspect virtual sea shanties may be a poor substitute for the real thing. One thing that hasn't gone virtual is the G7 summit, which has come to Cornwall to sort out the world's economy. We haven't seen any world leaders yet but the town is full of police and security staff with various roads blocked off. There are one or two suspicious looking characters around however.
Much of the day was spent working on the boat, with an unrelenting drizzle which revealed a few new leaks to add to the list of things that need fixing.

Supper was a much jollier affair, in the dry with Jacob, Louise and Ossie in their house in Flushing.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Falmouth harbour

While we're in Fowey the wind switched round to SW after many days of easterlies. However we felt it was time to move on. So we left at the beginning of a favourable tide on Thursday afternoon. After many hours of rather tedious sailing into a moderate head wind we finally arrived in Falmouth harbour at about 11pm. Not wanting to try manoeuvring in the marina after dark, we picked  up a buoy at St Mawes, on the east side of the harbour. This morning at first light we moved to a marina in Falmouth as Justin needed to get a train back to Kent.

Readers of this blog concerned for our hygiene will be relieved to know that the restrictions on showers due to Coronavirus enforced in Fowey do not seem to apply in Falmouth. Here, happily, showers are readily available for all the marina's customers.  After doing some general boat cleaning we were joined by Dave and Julie on Susan J. She has had many improvements over the last few years. The picture shows Susan J rafted up next to Bonita on the marina pontoon.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021


Easterly winds are too good waste, and 58 hours and 352 miles after we set out from the Swale we are now in the picturesque little Cornish port of Fowey. The picture shows Bonita on one of the visitors' moorings. 

This, like many seaside towns, is perhaps better appreciated from the  water . We went ashore and found crowds of people everywhere. Few seemed to be wearing masks. Presumably many of those who might normally have spent half term relaxing on a foreign beach (or maybe in an airport departure lounge)  are discovering the bracing delights of a holiday at home. 

Some shops sell so many things of no practical use at such high prices that you wonder how they balance the books.  The showers in the yacht club are closed due to the risk of coronavirus, but we were unsure about whether this was truly evidence based. Many of the pubs and restaurants were fully booked so it was with some relief that, notwithstanding our unwashed state, we found a very welcome meal in the Royal Fowey Yacht Club.