Thursday 21st June
Right to Left: Skipper Marcus, Phil & Me
Return leg to Poole crewing for my good friend Marcus Tettmar onboard his Hanse 371 “Csardas”
On Thursday morning the wind had vanished. A slight puff from the North. So after a lazy morning, filling the tank with diesel and buying a few extra items for the ships stores, we headed out of the harbour just before noon.
This would be Phil’s first passage, his longest trip to date Poole to Lymington and back with Marcus – about 20nm in either direction. He took a few anti-seasickness pills just in case. Probably a good job as there was a bit of a swell left over from the recent strong winds. And with only light winds to begin with the waves would often knock the wind out of the sails. So there was a fair bit of rolling around and crashing and banging of sails to begin with but slowly the wind picked up with Phil taking the helm and staying on it to the point where the back of his hands were sunburnt, whilst his fingers were white!
We were all looking forward to Phil experiencing his first night sail and basic tuition on lights was given fully expecting us to see one or two ships and fishing boats. In the event it must have been the most uneventful night ever. It was also incredibly dark. The cloud cover obscured the stars and moon and we didn’t see one other vessel all night!
Friday 22nd June
The wind had picked up on Friday morning and we began to make up for our slow progress. We even managed to fly the spinnaker for a while but took it down when the clouds we had been watching towering up into the sky behind us began to get closer. We weren’t quite sure what it meant but it looked ominous. As it happened the wind picked up only a little and we avoided any rain. We ended up with the genoa poled out instead.
We caught sight of the Isles of Scilly by about lunch time and decided to make use of this wind and get further East. We skirted the northern, rocky shores of the islands …..
…and then headed across the shipping lanes towards Wolf Rock and on towards the Lizard. Crossing the traffic separation scheme gave us plenty to do as we dodged the ships.
Later on, somewhere near The Lizard we noticed a dolphin break a wave on our starboard side. Then more. Phil was down below making tea or something so Marcus shouted for him to drop what he was doing and get on deck. You never tire of seeing dolphins around the boat, and apparently it’s not a daily occurence in the channel as it is further south, so this was special. For about half an hour we had a large pod of dolphins playing on our bow wave and swimming around the boat. What a treat.
The following night was much more pleasant. The stars were visible. We saw several shooting stars and even a couple of satellites and the phosphorescence sparkled in our wake. In the morning, with the wind dead aft we poled out the genoa to stop it flapping around and picked up our pace.
Saturday 23rd June
Marcus had decided to head to Dartmouth as neither Phil nor I had been to Dartmouth before and it is his favourite port on the South coast. So he wanted us to see it and experience the grand river entrance.
We arrived just before Noon. We could see rain lashing down on the land. It was dry out at sea. It was strange to have to put our wet weather gear on because we were heading into a harbour rather than out of it! We got soaking wet as we motored into the river, but we were all impressed at the car ferry. Look carefully and you will see it is only a raft being controlled by a small tug !!
Then, just to give us a bit of a tour Marcus motored up to Ditisham and back before mooring at the marina in Kingswear.
With dripping overalls hanging up in the boat we tried to time our trips to the shower block with breaks in the weather and then went over to Dartmouth on the ferry for a late lunch. Back on the boat the weather began to improve and we were soon sitting outside sipping a beer.
A wooden 50 foot Sparkman and Stephens designed yacht of around 20-30 years old was tied up outside the pontoon and it turned out was being handed over to it’s new owners, a young Belgian couple. They were left by the old owner with just their dog as crew and asked us if we would help them take it to their fore-and-aft mooring in the river.
However, what wind there was was, plus an ebbing tide, was pushing them on to the pontoon and boats of this design and age are notoriously uncooperative under power. A power boat was moored, unattended in front and a boats length behind were moored boats and the boat hoist dock. At first we just assumed the usual role as crew and stood around waiting to be told what to do. But it soon became apparent just how inexperienced this pair was.
The young lady on the helm appeared to want to go full power ahead and hope for the best. Marcus and I both knew that the power boat in front would become a heap of fibres if we tried that tactic. We saw three options – one was to spring off, another was to use a long line across to the next trot of boats and pull the bow off, and the other was to move the powerboat.
We suggested springing off to begin with as that involved less rope and messing about. This presented two options – springing forward and moving out astern, or springing back and moving out forwards. The first would get us further off the pontoon but then we would be putting our faith in the ability of the boat to steer backwards under power, and we all knew that a boat like this would probably make it’s own mind up as to which way it would go when motoring astern, so we decided not to risk that method.
Springing aft would be safest, but wouldn’t get us as far off the pontoon due to the shape of the boat. Sure enough the ebb tide, the wind, the long keel, the shape of the aft section of the boat and no doubt the offset engine all contrived against us. We just couldn’t get the bow to come round far enough. Oh, and the fact that the owners had clearly never sprung off before and the young girl just wouldn’t leave the engine in gear. She finally insisted that we tied the stern line tight and she put the engine in full ahead. We had no idea how that would do anything other than keep the boat on the pontoon, or pull a cleat out of it, but she seemed to think it would pull the bow out. Marcus was beginning to lose patience, albeit he is to much of a gent to show it !!
As he put it – we were here to help not give instruction to unwilling students. Finally the most sensible decision was made – to leave it until tomorrow, get the marina to stand by with a rib and try again with the tide and/or wind hopefully pushing the other way.
Sunday 24th June
On Sunday morning after a trip to the chandlery for some necessary and some unnecessary items, including a bit of “practise rope” that we bought as a bit of fun for Phil, we were again accosted to help move this enormous yacht.
This time the wind was blowing lightly off the pontoon and the marina guy had quite happily obliged with a dory. At the end of the day faced with the option of attending with a launch or the potential for several squashed yachts it is an easy decision for the marina to make.
Of course with the wind now helping the boat left the pontoon easily and safely. We then motored up to the trot of moorings to which the boat should be tied. It then transpired that the new owners didn’t actually know which mooring it was and got on the blower to the old owner.
Finally they discovered that we were to tie alongside a ketch and that lazy lines had been left for us to pick up. Unfortunately the new owners appeared to be in a bit of a hurry and rather than motor around and reconnoiter the situation they made a decision to go port alongside.
The marina guy moored his dory the other side and helped with lines and we were eventually tied up to this ketch after a bit of tug of war against an overzealous helms person. We then discovered that the lazy lines to the buoys were on the other side of the ketch. So we had to cast off and start again, this time the other way round.
Again a simple case of helping out turned into a bit of a chore and we all got covered in seaweed and wet from the lines. Eventually the marina guy, eyes rolling, ferried Marcus and I back to the marina. We were left wondering if this couple had bought the right boat for sailing two handed. These boats were built with no engine in mind, when marinas were scarce and designed to be sailed by 12 crew. But I’m sure they’ll learn about the boat’s idiosyncrasies in time.
Our plan was to leave the Dart that Sunday evening and catch the tide round Portland Bill at 1am.
We motored out of the river in a light drizzle at 1830 into a flat calm with ominous clouds once again looming.
The engine stayed on for about 4 hours until the wind started to fill in. The forecast was for NWly gales later. Later means 12 hours. We should be in Poole by then, but hopefully we’d get the beginnings of the gale and get a fair breeze behind us. We certainly did and were soon charging along at 6-7 knots. Phil seemed to be enjoying helming and ended up helming almost all the way, right through the night, and did a great job, keeping us bang on course and at a good pace. The low cloud cover at night meant we could see Portland Bill lighthouse earlier than expected, and we could even see the light from the RACON buoy marking the TSS mid channel. It was a great night sail and as the sun came up we could see Anvil point ahead.
Monday 25th June
We pretty much sailed the rest of the way by eye, back in familiar waters, hanging a left at Anvil point and rounding Old Harry to head North up to Poole Harbour against the wind, with Marcus enjoying a fast beat into the harbour.
A superb sail back, and what a first passage for Phil, logging 340 nautical miles. We pointed out that many yachts in the marina probably do less than that in a season.
Shame about the weather as Marcus Ange & Ben didn’t get to see much of Ireland due to the poor weather.
But the passages there and back were for me, great fun, in great company. Cheers Marcus.