Day 5… the first rest day since departing Eastbourne.
A day of “must do jobs” and just relaxing from the 4 previous days of continuous sailing. Heavy rain first thing in the morning but a nice sunny afternoon. So paperwork and blog work am, a walk to the Sunseeker factory and a very quick visit to the Force 4 Chandlery… Mike bought a pair of comfortable shoes and a light lunch in the quayside cafe was taken by team of three. Christine sun bathed in the cockpit after luncheon then helped T mend the port quarter main sheet winch which seemed to have jammed. Sleeping noises came from below decks. Finally T did his 10,000 steps on a walk along the harbour front to Parkstone and back…. in warm sunshine. Dinner was enjoyed in the Rancho Steak House… and then beddy byes!!! Such a tiring day.
Day 6….Friday 1st June…. Sailing from Poole Harbour to Portland Harbour.
On waking up at 5am noted that thick fog had enveloped the whole of Poole Harbour…. could not see Brownsea Island at all. Had agreed that, because of the tidal stream times, best to leave Poole at 11am…just before High tide… and in the hope that the fog might have just simply melted away. It did… just about.
So we left Poole Harbour quay marina at 11am promply after writing out a passage plan and preparing the log book day entry. Mike helmed all the way out of the harbour, past the posh millionaire houses on Sandbanks , passed the chain ferry and out into the buoyed channel past Studland Bay.
Harry’s first Sandbanks house was pointed out as was that of Graham Souness… both well known ex-footballers and millionaires. Harry had to move to the other more private side of millionaire’s row… cos folk on the tripper boats could see into his front garden! Harry is of course Harry Redknapp… father of Jamie and bank accounts named after pet dogs.
We saw three other sailboats… two with black sails ( ugh!)…. but they followed the inshore route on motor and with sails up. Suddenly a black rib… almost in silence… raced past us…. full of military looking guys all in black … silently sped past. A knowledgeable Poole sailor had told us the day before…. “you hear the Royal Marines coming, the SBS boys arrive in silence…”. Have to ask brother John about that!
Motoring out to the limestone stacks of Old Harry and his wife… wind increased so sails went up and we managed to sail at 8 knots southwards for 14n.miles until nearly 1.30pm. By now the tide had turned and gave us a big boost when we finally turned westwards to Portland Bill. As the tide pushed us west, the wind died and the fog suddenly came down. Off Saint Alban’s Head, visiblity was down to 100 yards at best.
The final 10 n.miles or so were motored in thick fog…. visibility getting worse all the time. Poli Poli is equipped with a loud speaker hailer on the mast… and through this we are able to blast out a fog horn warning to vessels close by…. it is in fact quite deafening!! You configure the fog signal through the VHF radio and for a motor sailor it is two short blasts, one long blast every two minutes according to the International Collision Regulations. So as we headed west to Portland we blasted out the fog horn.
Approaching Portland Bill we saw traffic on our AIS receiver…. black triangles start flashing on the chart plotter screen in front of you. These turned out to be fishing boats and a big naval ship departing Portland.
We approached the massive harbour wall… the entrance to Portland Harbour… a gap somewhere. So with “blind navigation” we went through the gap ( according to the chart plotter and Navionics charts )…. and followed two red buoys right to the marina entrance. All done by putting the green line ( your course overground ) on the required destination ie a red bouy on the chart…. and manually steering to it with nil visibility. Mike and Christine were eyballing as best they could and would spot the said red bouys when they suddenly appeared in the thick fog. They were first class spotters. Hairy but we made it into Portland Marina by 4.30pm.
38.5 n.miles from Poole in 5 hours 30 minutes. Now 149.2 n.miles from our starting point in Eastbourne. Needless to say we tied up the ship, connected shore power to charge our batteries and give us 240 v power. The team quickly retired to the marina bar/restaurant for a well earned drink and later, welcome scoff…. seafood linguini twice and one battered cod and chips! Very welcome. Somewhat strange day with the fog!
Day Seven…. Saturday 2nd June…. Rest Day in Portland.
Up at 6am…. glorious blue sky and sunshine. Could not believe the change from the fog of yesterday. We did morning jobs…. Mike hoovered and dusted downstairs inside the boat, Christine did repair sewing work to a strap on the spray hood which had chafed badly…. T washed the salt off the boat with a hosepipe and brush.
Mike and Christine had a good walk afterwards up and over the cheese shaped Bill of Portland to the small town near the marina plus the village of Fortuneswell…. but but…by 12 noon the fog suddenly descended… and spoilt the day… well not really, we just made the best of it cos guess what…. the sun and blue sky returned by 4pm. Had enough of fog. T did his 10,000 steps by walking from the boat to the laundry room, the office and facilities…. did a weeks washing plus good exercise.
This evening to the very popular Cove House Inn at Chiswell, Portland for a 7.15pm supper… views over the 16 mile long Chesil Beach. Pub food but the establishment has a very good reputation. We will see….. early start tomorrow for Dartmouth…. 3am… round the infamous Portland Bill.
Day Eight…. Sunday 3rd June….. Portland Bill to Dartmouth.
After a fine supper at the Cove House Inn…. local scallops, new potatoes and salad one example of excellent pub food… retired to bed for a very short night. Team awoke at 2.30am this morning Sunday. Some “boat for sea prep” had been done the night before… first decision whether or not to sail… was to check visibility ie fog. Looking out the aft cabin porthole, the lights of Portland blazed bright and vivid… so yes, we move out at 3am. Much activity on deck…. trying hard not to make too much noise re neighbouring boats all fast asleep.
At 3am precisely Poli Poli slipped her moorings and , again trying to minimise noise… using engine and bow thruster did an about turn manouvere from the berth and headed out into the huge channel inside the harbour walls…. heading for two reds, then a green and a red … indicating the north ship entrance.
Chilly at first, Mike stood on the bow with his powerful head torch, searching for lobster pots and other unknown but deadly objects in the waters ahead. Slipping out of Portland Harbour in the dark…. a waning gibbous moon and attendant planet Mars brilliant on the southern horizon… we sought out the East Cardinal Buoy marking one end of the deadly Shambles Bank that lies to the south east of Portland Bill. Christine identified the 3 white flashes first ( her turn “spotting at the bow”…. the regulation lights for the East Cardinal). The pre-dawn sea…. shimmering in the fading moonlight as Poli Poli roared along at 8 knots. The down side of this was that there was nil wind.
Turning south west to the West Shambles Cardinal… Poli Poli settled down to a long run of some 50 nautical miles across Lyme Bay to the far off Devon coastline. A magnificent sunrise around 5am saw us striking out westwards leaving the flashing light of Portland Bill lighthouse to the north. We had chosen not to do the “inner passage” around the wedge shaped Portland Bill headland re night time and wrong tidal streams…. but take the safe route round the outside of the infamous Portland race and its many dangerous overfalls.
Once on the 275 degree long tack across Lyme Bay…. turns were taken in disappearing downstairs into the warm, snug saloon for a little lie down and dreamland. A keen watch was maintained from the cockpit helm station at all times and the occasional lobster pot was sighted ( and avoided )… even though we were 20 plus miles from land. In the very far distance you could just make out the land…. where you would find such towns as Bridport, Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, Exmouth and Dawlish. Later we could work out Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham… some of these being, of course, the English Riviera.
T made a breakfast repast of baked beans on toast using the gas oven and grill at 6.30am… and all three crew team had his or her fill. As we were motoring, no sails up, Poli Poli was level on an even keel and there was no heeling. Relatively comfortable.
Two very big fishing trawlers were passed close by, moving through the flat, “slight” sea dragging huge nets behind…. hoovering up the fish and with an attendant long stream of sea gulls following the trawl.
At about 7am a huge, massive 650 foot long cargo ship appeared…. heading east to west on our inside… at 18 knots heading on a strange course… miles away from the main shipping lanes far to the south. We were puzzled at it headed towards Torquay, followed the Devon coast around and disappeared over the horizon at Start Point. Most peculiar. We thought a big car carrier out of Southampton. Why was it on such a route?
The Devon coast line slowly but slowly revealed itself, and suddenly it was 9am . We could now see the Mew Stone, a huge brown lump of rock that guards the western entrance of the River Dart… and the way up to our final destination.
Back to pilotage by buoy hopping, Christine on the helm located the South Cardinal, a red and a green and we navigated slowly up river on a falling tide to the beautiful town of Dartmouth.
At 10.30am two lovely ladies took our lines and we moored in a tight berth at the very posh Dart Marina just up river from the Britannia Royal Naval College. Tired yes… but satisfied with a job well done. Lunch was booked for 1.30pm at the Royal Castle Hotel… but first, Poli Poli was put to bed… after lunch…. bed for us too!
58.6 nautical miles from Portland, seven and a half hours duration today. A total of 207.8 nautical miles from Eastbourne.
Day Nine, Monday 4th June 2018.
Just another ‘Rest Day” in lovely Dartmouth. Breakfast on the boat …. bright, warm and lots and lots of sunshine. All team members attended the luxury showers in the Dart Marine Hotel which adjoined the marina.
T persuaded Mike and Christine to take the equivalent of a ‘busmans holiday’ on a tourist ferry boat up the River Dart to the town of Totnes. T remained behind having visited Totnes some years earlier. Brother John, who resides just north of Plymouth, describes Totnes as a town of ‘high hats’ and ‘long skirts’….on return, by bus, Mike and Christine likened the town to ‘Woodstock’… my own personal take was ‘Deliverance.’ The Dart Valley from Dartmouth to Totnes is a jewel …. alongside the Beaulie, the Cuckmere, Salcombe Valley, the Fal and many many more. The homes of Agatha Christie and the Dimbleby’s were spied … the little sail boat moored below their house… ‘Rocket’ ( which featured on a BBC sailing travelogue type programme some years back … when Dimbleby senior announced to the world that he had a tattoo! ).
T met up with Elsie and Roy …. and Rex the lovely dog …sitting on the water front in Dartmouth …. temperature now getting up to 24 deg C! Even Rex was panting … much discussion about a green/black.blue Norwegian flagged 60 foot ketch. Elsie and Roy were touring South Devon in their caravan… and came to Dartmouth to check out Poli Poli. Their boat “Armor” is moored in Sovereign Harbour on the same pontoon as Poli Poli.
The late afternoon was taken up with mending a slow puncture in the dinghy which travels attached to the stern of Poli Poli…. and whilst manoeuvring the dinghy round the stern of our boat, T spied a huge piece of sodden, filthy old rope 4 inches thick wrapped around the port side rudder stock at the top. Obviously drifted down with the tide having been cut off and thrown into the river. Scary … it was removed…. lesson learnt… on a tidal river mooring… check your rudders for flotsam and jetsam before departure!
Evening time …. a very pleasant and different style meal at the Cherub pub in Dartmouth … the oldest inn in the town.. on a steep slope up from the river frontage. A shared sea food platter of crab, crayfish, smoked salmon , smoked haddock, bread and salad was enjoyed by all … washed down by Korev Cornish lager and Diet Coke with no ice!
Back on board … T managed to lose the slip of paper on which the marina WiFi code was written.. so no blogging that night. Apologies, Christine worked out the next day passage plan from Dartmouth to Salcombe … and it clearly demonstrated that we needed to get up at the crack of dawn. So 10pm bedtime for all!
Day Ten… Tuesday 5th June…
A sailing day from Dartmouth to a mooring buoy in Salcome. Poli Poli departed her berth at the Dart Marina at 5.45am and Mike helmed her out to the open sea. The Met Office forecast north easterlies force 4 or 5… and once beyond the Mewe Stone rock at the entrance… the winds of up to 20 knots duly turned up. We sailed and sailed and sailed some more… an invigorating sail , bows cleaving out a path through the white horses… topping 8 knots SOG ( speed over the ground). After about three n.miles we turned south sou east for the Skerries Bank red buoy and watched a 700 feet long cruise ship as it began its entry into Dartmouth… probably a Seabourne round Britain cruise.
‘Our course took us past the dangerous Skerries Bank to a point off Start Point … a major South Devon headland. In crossing over from Dartmouth to Start Point we were in effect traversing Start Bay, a lovely Devon bay with a long arc of beaches stretching from Combe Point to Hallsands in the south.
Realising that today’s date is 5th of June… and tomorrow is D Day 1944… and having visited Slapton Sands many times… I recalled the disaster that struck American soldiers here some 74 years ago.
Slapton Sands had been chosen as a rehearsal location for American landing craft in the days before D Day when the actual invasion of the Normandy beaches in France took place. During the exercise and rehearsal, some 746 American soldiers were killed when their vessels were attacked by German E-Boats out of Cherbourg. Poignant and very sad. There is a memorial on the beach at Slapton.
We sailed to a point SSE of Start Point on a starboard tack, then gybed to make our final tack to Bolt Head, passing Prawle Point in doing so. We gybed at 7.30am and by 8.20am Christine took the helm to take us into the Salcombe River… now very grey and windy. Sails were taken down 15 minutes later, and with the engine on… we motored up the entrance channel, over the somewhat dangerous ‘The Bar’, turning to starboard at the Pound Stone … then north east up the channel to the big yellow visitor mooring buoys immediately opposite the Salcombe Harbour Hotel. After a couple of attempts, Mike and Christine using our untried Duck mooring hook secured Poli Poli to a big yellow buoy… safely.
Breakfast in the saloon below .. out of the 15 to 20 knot wind… quite chilly bearing in mind it was early June. Baked beans on toast, cereals, toast and jam, selection of yoghurts and hot tea! Very welcome. Then T did ‘blogging’ on Mike’s I-pad. Finished at 12.35pm. Boilie cake for late elevenses.
After a rest late morning … looking out and seeing grey, gloomy clouds plus a howling north easterly wind, we decided not to launch our own dinghy to go ashore but to utilise the water taxi service at £1.50 per head. It would have taken ages to prep our dinghy and secure the outboard engine to the transom. A posh water taxi arrived and a folding note changed hands… the water taxi helmsman agreed to help put a second safety mooring line from the yellow buoy……as we did want the boat to be there when we returned later!
A distinctly cold afternoon in South Devon… jumpers and coats , we wandered the one high street … many, many tourist type cafes, souvenir shops and no end of marine clothing shops… Mike took us into only two pubs… the Ferry Inn with amazing views of the estuary was the better of the two. Once outside we walked up the hill to a viewpoint and took photos of Poli Poli in mid stream, bow to the tide, looking resplendent in her Oxford Blue.
After a little shopping for food items and a 12 volt car I phone charger ( from a newsagent )… we duly returned to the boat by water taxi. When moored in a marina you generally have a link to shore power which is 240 volts and charging phones is never a problem. On a mooring buoy or at anchor you do not have such a power supply… we on Poli Poli rely on a wind turbine to charge our 12 volt battery bank… and if you have a 12 volt car charger… bingo… you can charge mobile phones.
Following a feast of hot Cornish pasties, various breads, salad, cold meats and a slice of boilie cake…. we relaxed until early bedtime ( up again early tomorrow for the sail to the Mayflower marina in Plymouth. T now needs to work out the passage plan for tomorrow… we leave at 7am!
Day Eleven, Wednesday 6th June… Salcombe to Plymouth.
Mike got up early … I heard him about 6am’sh…. or was it 5.30am? Anyway we slept the night on the big yellow mooring buoy in the Salcombe River opposite the main hotel… where we spied not a sign of life! Windy from the north east and grey… oh so grey… sadly that will be one memory of the Salcome valley… grey and chilly… in early June for goodness sake!
By all reports the team slept well…. river was fairly calm and flat, no swell and certainly no “like being in a washing machine” ( a Margaret and Lynda observation after a night on New Grimsby Sound off Tresco in the Scilly Isles).
Our standard practice on early morning starts is to wake 30 minutes before the engine starts…. quick wash and cup of tea… and off. 7am arrived and we disconnected the two docking lines which linked us to the yellow visitors buoy ( we paid £23 to the Harbour Master’s deputy…. a young man from Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire… who arrived whilst we were having supper the previous evening … and wanted to talk football… the “Dons” saga re Wimbledon).
Mike helmed Poli Poli back down the Salcombe River channel, heading seawards tot he south. We needed to clear the coast by a couple of miles so as to avoid the “overfalls” off Bolt Head.
Most headlands…. including Beachy Head have “overfalls”… a shallow ledge which extends out to sea from the headland… and fast moving tides across this shallow ledge can cause very rough and dangerous sea conditions… also known as a “race” in nautical terms. Examples include the Alderney Race in the Channel Islands and the Portland Race off Portland Bill in Dorset. Best go round them. They are shown on charts as little wavelets.
So having avoided the overfalls of Bolt Head, we turned north westwards at 7.30am… a single tack course all the way to the entrance of Plymouth Sound. To the north east it was grey and rain threatening. We put up all the sails and sure enough… the wind died to less than 7 knots and the heavens opened… rain! On with our “oilies” not Sou Westers Simon…grey, grey and gloomy….. and wet!
Making good progress under motor… little wind in the sails… but at 3,200rpm we were making 7 knots through the water. Crossing Bigbury Bay at three miles distance we sought out Burgh Island near Challaborough Bay…. an unusual island which has a well known Art Deco hotel and has a strange form of transport … a sea tractor on stilts…to get you across the channel from the mainland. alledgedly Agatha Christie, Noel coward and other pre-war luminaries made this hotel a regular retreat. We could clearly see the island through the Steiner Commander binoculars ( courtesy of Erith School !! )…
Arriving at the two yellow buoys which mark the start of the channel into Plymouth, we had long spied a naval vessel on a possible collision course with ourselves. When seeing the white ensign flying at the stern, we did the decent thing and let the warship pass in front of Poli Poli. We were doing 7 knots, the warship 13… so no contest as to who was going to get into the channel first.
Disappointment followed as we noted that it was only a naval patrol vessel… a letter P prefacing its number and not an F or D… we don’t have any cruisers or battleships anymore…. just an aircraft carrier the size of Portsmouth… or do we? Anyway Christine thought that the pride of the Royal Navy passing us by… rolling us in its wake… was decidedly a scruffy vessel…. stained rust marks at the focsle and faded grey green topsides.
In order to get to our marina in Plymouth, we took a short cut ( but not a risk ) as we had judged that there would be enough water under our keel as we crossed…. the short cut known as The Bridge… a gap between the famous Drake’s Island and the Mount Edgecumbe shore. Christine expertly steered the boat through the reds and greens and back out into the Tamar river. A short distance from here found us in the Mayflower Marina opposite the very imposing Royal William Yard ( an historic Royal Naval establishment for supplying ships of the line )…. now gentrified with so called up market bars and restaurants.
We berthed at 10.20am …. 3 hours and 20 minutes from Salcombe River… 23 n. miles… mostly in the “doldrums” ( as Liz one of our followers put it )… so more motoring than actual sailing. A friendly Deputy Harbour Master Mike, guided us in to berth B2 and took our lines. Once safely tied up…. the gloom lifted, the sun came out… and we headed for Jolly Jack’s cafe emporium for a “big boys and a big girls” proper full English… except that Christine let the team down and had poached eggs on granary toast! This was followed by a couple of hours of inside boat cleaning, dusting and polishing…whilst T got his shoes, socks and trousers sopping wet pretending to wash the salt off the topsides with a hosepipe…. a men and water thing. Good job Margaret was not there to watch.