Cruising Logs: 2003
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The problems of a new boat

They started within seconds of launching! The stern gland poured, the prop sounded as if it was trying to rattle off the shaft, and within a day it was obvious there was a leak somewhere aft of the engine. Ben and I spent a week living on the boat, finding and fixing problem after problem and eventually shooting across to Alderney to find that we had taken in 6 buckets of water – but from where? After this it was back to work in the day but every evening we were back on the boat pouring coloured water here there and everywhere, trying to find the source of the leak. The prop noise was solved by changing the prop, the shaft gland was replaced, windows rebuilt, water tanks temporarily bodged, varnish work and water pump repaired; but still it leaked. Finally we traced it to somewhere behind the internal mouldings near the skeg, Derek Morland cut them away, and there was our problem, a leaking skin fitting screwed through the skeg. Phew.

All this had eaten into our holiday, but it did give Ben and I time to race Polly round the Island once more – this time the double hander, another fabulous sail but beaten, yet again, by just three tiny boats. Finally, 3 days late, at dusk on 23/7, we set off in Festina from the Southern, sailed briefly over to Osbourne Bay, and were off on holiday. With a dry boat!

The tide turned west at 0600 the next day and by 9 we were through the Needles and working to windward in 20 knots of wind in order to weather the Lulworth range. Festina Lente seemed in her element, bursting along at 6.8 knots to weather and up to 8 as we cracked off for Portland harbour, where we anchored off the sailing academy in the gathering rain.

It blew hard that evening, but the front passed through at midnight and soon after we were under way again bound for St Peter Port (leaving the Casquets to port) in a moderate Westerly – a fast and pleasant fetch that had us moored up by midday. Yet more rain was forecast until the morning so we planned a lie in – except of course it was Bryony ‘s birthday – which quite rightly put paid to that. Later that day, the next cold front passed through in time for a trip to Belvoir bay on Herm, but with the wind likely to swing into the SE during the night, this was not a good place to be, so we returned to St Peter Port.

This SE wind seemed a good opportunity to get some westing under our belts, although in reality it didn’t last long and was soon back on the nose, but by 1500 the next day we were anchored in the S end of the chenal de Kerpont, a mile or so to the West of our usual anchorage off La Chambre, Brehat, just sheltered from the fresh Southerly wind by a couple of rocky islets. Sunrise next morning was bright and clear in the NW airstream so we upped anchor and took Ben back to the beach that he and I last swum from 17 years ago – Guerzido. The Island hadn’t changed a bit and we spent the day soaking up the sun, walking, swimming, eating and generally recharging our batteries.

The  wind was back in the SW the next day – so off we went, taking the tide via the east coast of Brehat, flying the kite for all of 10 minutes out of sheer bravado, hurtling past the Phare des Heaux and then back on the wind, finally creeping into Ploumenach at low water and anchoring just inside the entrance with 2 mm under the keel. This was fine sailing – warm sunny and comfortable. We began to realise Festina was a formidable windward machine.

The harbour master wasn’t so impressed by our depth though – and despite mooring in the deepest part of the harbour we did ground that night as he predicted. No harm was done and next morning we were once more on the wind into 20 knots and thrashing our way to Batz- accompanied for a while by a shoal of dolphin and anchoring in a tiny low tide rocky cove on the iron bound Eastern shore of the Island. Sadly, we couldn’t stay out as our temporary fix on the freshwater system needed topping up every three days so we decided to take the flood up to Morlaix. When it was time to leave it was blowing 30 knots, so with two reefs and a working jib we blasted up the estuary in torrential rain, but once locked into Morlaix we were treated to a fine night of street theatres and bands of all descriptions playing in the various bars and cafes.

On the way into the estuary, Bryony had noticed that there were terrible creaking sounds coming from the steering pedestal, suggesting that the lower bearing had disintegrated. Closer inspection revealed that this was not something that I could mend on board – and the manufacturers suggested bringing it back to Southampton – from where we had laboriously thrashed, to windward all the way, over the last 4 days! Well, the choice was, sail back or dismantle the pedestal and take it back on the ferry – with all the potential problems that could cause.  A close look showed that the autopilot was connected straight to the rudder shaft – thus by-passing the steering pedestal – so it was decided to head home using the autopilot to steer, after a gentle exploration of Carentac bay.

It took us 22 hours, mainly running downhill with two jibs boomed out in 20 knots of SW wind and – you guessed it – more pouring rain. Once home we whipped the pedestal off- took it in for repair and had it back in place all within 4 days, and on the 5th we were off once more. Settled weather with light Easterly winds and fog were the order of the week so we had a pleasant 4 days exploring the Dorset coast between Swanage and Weymouth, swimming hourly in the fantastically hot temperatures and generally relaxing.

Two handed to Honfleur

Two weeks later Ben and I set off for a long weekend in Honfleur. A moderate westerly on Friday night seemed the ideal breeze for our plans but to my horror, just as we were approaching the first shipping lane we were engulfed in a dense fog. A glance at the radar showed a ship on a converging course so we tacked and headed back to the North – only for the genoa sheet to come undone. We hove to to retie it, but in the darkness I must have switched the autopilot to standby and we started heading into the path of the ship again. I confess to being quite disorientated at this stage but luckily Ben kept his head – and under his direction we tacked once more and the ship went roaring by in the fog, horns blaring and far too close for comfort. Feeling somewhat shocked, we decided to head back to the Wight – anchor under Dunnose (20 miles away!) and wait for the morning sun to lift the fog. In fact it only lasted ½ hour (it was probably cool air pushing across from a small cold front – with much drier air behind it) and in retrospect we should have hove to outside the shipping lanes and waited – it would have saved us 40 miles!

We motored half the way across next day  (another reason to wish we had continued with the previous nights breeze) and finally arrived in Honfleur by 2230, where we tumbled gratefully into bed.

Honfleur -what a nice place this is!  Museums, restaurants and art galleries by the thousand and as picturesque a place to moor as you can envisage. Ben sent a text home saying “So many restaurants, so little time” – but we did our best to do them justice on a baking hot day.

The trip back was a fabulous two sail reach until just off the island, when the Easterly veered just enough to let us carry a shy kite and roar into the Solent just on the edge of control. A marvellous passage in what we now felt was a marvellous boat.


Having a large boat in the Solent often seems a bit unnecessary . Do we really need sea going berths, an autopilot and radar just to go (again) to Newtown creek and back. In years gone by we took the whole family there in an X boat and slept in a tent, which was far more adventuresome and appropriate to the size of the waters. But sometimes something happens which makes all the expense and bother seem worthwhile.  It happened this year on a half term day sail which would probably not strike anyone else as being anything other than mundane; in fact I doubt I can explain why it was so good.

Other than to say it was perfect.

It was a bright autumn morning with a brisk westerly that didn’t fully penetrate into Newtown. We were moored to a buoy just inside the southern arm of the harbour, lying to the flood and across the wind. Bryony took the wheel, I hoisted the genoa, Ben cast off and we trickled out into the confluence of the two arms of the creek. A nod to Bryony who eased her up into the wind. At the mast , Bens arms were a blur and the mainsail shot up seemingly instantaneously. The bow fell off for the entrance, the sheets came smoothly in and Festina heeled to the wind as it funnelled round from Hampstead, accelerating powerfully and surging out of the entrance channel. At the red buoy marking the end of the spit we bore away, eased sheets and up went the kite, down came the genoa, on went the autopilot and we were speeding homewards.

In my memory it all happened silently; all 4 of us working together without needing to talk, whilst the boat changed imperceptibly from a docile floating home into a powerful beast charging down the Solent under spinnaker.

There, I knew you wouldn’t understand.   It isn’t always like that you know. Halyards catch, headsails snag, the wind refuses to co-operate, crew disagree (sometimes loudly) and it often rains.

This time it was perfect, and I felt ludicrously happy.


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