Sailing adventure on minimal outlay.

Month: April 2016

Escape from Poole 2

Our second day began bright, sunny and springlike with a few wispy patches of the early river mist still hanging over the water. Having  got ourselves out for our morning walk and breakfast, we decided to have a little tour around the harbour. We dropped the mooring and motored out to the channel heading back towards Poole and Brownsea island.  It truly is a beautiful expanse of water and we could now see it in all it’s glory for the first time. I tried to identify the various little islands and low lying shores in the background as we chugged along, slowly getting a feel for the relative positions and distances. A bit later on we unfurled the genoa a bit as the channel widened and a light breeze came in from a more helpful angle. As  we sailed along the North edge of Brownsea, I thought we might as well get the mainsail up to see how it set. Amazingly well, was the answer to that. We heeled well over and shot off immediately at quite a rate….I put a reef in, we were in no hurry and still had little idea of the area. A very pleasant morning indeed, we soon shook off our tiredness and began to enjoy the sailing.

A beautiful morning to potter about getting our bearings.

A beautiful morning to potter about getting our bearings.

I was gaining confidence in my new vessel and we had now tested all of her main components . She was very different to “Macavity”. She’s bigger, heavier, faster, more tender and she carries her way much further,   but I could see that I’d soon get used to her. As we rapidly approached the chain ferry at Poole harbour entrance, I could hear myself stealing the words of the great Charles Stock “Well, we could just go out and take a look”. Becks looked doubtful as it was nearly midday and the inshore waters forecast had warned of f5/6, 7 later. It didn’t seem too bad though and I had no intention of going far as I hadn’t yet had a chance to prepare a passage plan, I just wanted to check out the entrance/chain ferry/tide combination and maybe have a look at Old Harry.

Turned out she was quite right. It was a bit rolly  outside after a prolonged period of easterly winds blowing down the channel. This, combined with the strong tide, meant that although “Idris” made a very good impression with her dazzling display of wave slicing ability and steadfast course holding, we eventually lost interest and turned around. In fact the only other craft we saw on our brief excursion to Old Harry were the royal marines in their black ribs and the offshore lifeboat storming out to help some poor bugger, I should have known really, my poor crew put up a brave show of it but finally cracked after a particularly harrowing period of retching and demanded in no uncertain terms that we go back. Still, we did get a nice distance out from the entrance and could see what we had to miss when we left for real in the dark.

A full compliment of inappropriate clothing gets dried in the sun after a bit of a splashy excursion.

A full compliment of inappropriate clothing gets dried in the sun the day after our splashy excursion.

As we sailed back past the chain ferry into Poole again, it seemed strangely different in there. In fact there were white horses among all the waves which were now pounding against Brownsea island on our port side. The wind was indeed getting up…. a lot. Unsure as to what our next move should be, we picked up another of the thousands of empty moorings that bounced up and down all around us and had a cup of tea. It almost looked too rough to take the dinghy ashore, this was a problem as it was now nearly five in the evening and Orla was crossing her legs. We were however, quite close to Brownsea island, a place we’d always wanted to visit, so whilst we were already cold and wet we thought we might as well give it a go. A rubber dinghy ride like no other saw us saturated and clinging to the landing platform in front of Brownsea castle, we’d made it. At this point a smartly dressed chap appeared and cheerlessly informed us that Brownsea island was shut and we should not land but rather we should bugger off immediately and remove Idris  from his mooring. The freezing, sodden but mercifully short trip back, was made mildly more fascinating by the fact that although the waves were now breaking over the bows of our dinghy whilst simultaneously submerging the little Seagull on the transom, the determined little thing always coughed back into life just before stopping completely and letting us get sucked back out to sea past the ferry. I love that little Iron outboard.

My Hero!! The trusty old seagull 40+ has extricated us from many sticky situations. I don't know why, but it always seems able to help in some way.

My Hero!! Our trusty old seagull 40+ has extricated us from many sticky situations. I don’t know why, but it always seems able to help in some way…and yes, it always starts.

A tad demoralized, we dropped the Brownsea mooring and headed for the East side of the harbour hoping to get some shelter under the lee of the shore behind Sandbanks for the night. Depths appeared to be quite shallow in that area but eventually we found a spot that would keep us afloat, so we picked up a  Sandbanks yacht club visitors buoy. The stove was lit and we hung our wet gear all around it before again clambering into the ancient Avon for a hopeful excursion to the primest stretch of prime real estate in the south. It was a much easier trip, with so much more shelter from the surrounding town, and soon we were enjoying a twilight stroll along immaculately raked golden sand before a warm welcome and some superb food in the club house bar/restaurant. We relaxed and reflected on our day over a couple of beers, a success in all I felt. I knew what to expect on the way out when we got a better weather window, I knew how well the boat went and strangely I’d completely lost any urge to visit Brownsea Island. We ordered another couple of beers. A little later on, we pondered on the wisdom of always carrying a torch with you when on the water, as we struggled to locate Idris in the dark. All was well though, and we let the dinghy find it’s own sheltered spot, tethered at the end of its painter behind our floating home. Utterly knackered we stuffed a load more charcoal on the fire and lay in our bunks with a cup of tea, gratefully absorbing the heat. The wind moaned in the rigging all night and the boat rocked about gently but we didn’t hear it for long this time.


Escape from Poole 1

My original plan was to wait until the end of March, when my license for Poole Harbour expired, before taking a week off to potter about in Idris waiting for a suitable weather window and the slog back home to the river Exe. I had a rather ambitious, rose tinted dream of crisp sunny skies beckoning me West whilst being wafted gently onwards by a steady north easterly breeze. In this plan Becks could have a gentle introduction to our new craft and the whole episode would be a beautiful haze of hot meals and red wine in a snug, charcoal warmed cabin followed by two sparkling days of progress accompanied by dolphins, sea otters and unicorns.

All ready inside...

All supplies stowed. Warm and cosy inside…

....still working on the outdoor stuff.

….still working on getting the outdoor stuff sorted. Orla in a seagull induced trance.

Needless to say, it didn’t happen like this at all. It wasn’t even a little bit like this. In fact it was pretty bloody horrible. Firstly I was getting itchy about the prospect of a good weather window miraculously appearing just when I wanted it on my proposed week off. What if it didn’t? With my Poole license gone I wouldn’t be able to go back to my nice safe winter mooring in Holes bay. In fact I wouldn’t be able to go back into Poole at all without shelling out a whole heap more money. No, leaving things until the last hour was not likely to work. Secondly, by the end of the first week in March, it was becoming clear that an enormous high pressure system was becoming stuck at the top of Scotland. This was likely to give me those perfect north easterly winds I had planned for…. but a few weeks early. So, after a swift bit of apologetic rescheduling of my upcoming work, I got moving on loading equipment and planning the route.

Orla at this stage finding the whole experience a lot of fun.

Orla. At this stage finding the whole experience a lot of fun.

Becks was determined she wasn’t going to let me do the trip alone and therefore we also had to take our new puppy Orla due to a lack of willing puppy sitters. Besides, we could end up being away for up to five days and we would miss the little pest terribly. So with bedding, provisions, dog food, charts, dinghy, pump, outboard, diesel, petrol and countless other bits and pieces, we set off for Poole.  We arrived at lunchtime. The fine folk of Davis’s boatyard had agreed to let us launch our ancient  inflateable from their slipway. This meant we could then leave my car on the west side of Holes bay for a few days, away from the extraordinary parking restrictions that blight the east side where I normally launch. It took two dinghy trips to ferry everything across and then I had to take the car away and find somewhere to leave it. With our mountains of provisions plus ourselves all safely stowed aboard Idris, we dismantled the rusty winter mooring shackles and back up lines before motoring slowly towards the two lifting bridges that separate Holes bay from the main harbour. It felt great to be underway at last, I’d become quite apprehensive about the whole trip. To sail an unknown boat in a rather sad condition following a long period of little useage, around some of the most notorious tidal nasties in the U.K at the beginning of March suddenly didn’t seem such a fun prospect anymore.

The view out of Holes bay. Perfect, apart from the filthy great road bridge blocking our path.

The view out of Holes bay. Perfect, apart from the filthy great road bridge blocking our path.

Fifteen minutes later, we were tied up again. It seemed we had arrived at the bridges exactly as everyone in Poole was leaving work. They wouldn’t open again for another two hours. We made tea. It got darker. We exercised Orla along the pontoons. It got darker. We made more tea. The bridge claxon shocked us into activity, it was now very dark and the bridge was lifting for us. Fire up the motor (thank god for that inboard diesel), nav lights on, charts out and headtorch on. We gunned the engine to get out and past the floodlit freighters and ferries before they had a chance to move off anywhere.

Killing a couple of hours between bridges.

Killing a couple of hours between bridges.

Out in the main shipping channel a baffling array of lights baffled us in all directions. Luckily during our two hour pontoon break I’d jotted down a rough sketch of which buoys would lead us away and their relative bearings. Having located the first one with some difficulty, we buoy hopped along a completely black and boat free river for an hour until we found somewhere a bit quieter with a good landing beach and a swarm of utterly deserted mooring buoys. It was a bit nerve racking as we were on a falling tide and could see nothing but distant shore lights and the occasional blink of a buoy in the gloom. If we had run aground we would have been left on our side for some 12 hours in the middle of the river somewhere (single long keel now remember). At 19.30 we picked up a buoy in 3 meters of depth, exhaled, lit the charcoal stove and rowed ashore to seek out a pub. A damned good pub it was too, The Yachtsman at Hamworthy. We toasted our own hopes of survival for the coming days and gorged on some amazing fish and chips. That night the wind blew hard from the East, shaking our little boat until everything banged and clattered about relentlessly. It was also well below freezing outside. We got very little sleep but we were in a safe spot and toasty so long as we kept feeding the charcoal burner.

Blue, cold March morning.

A beautiful, cold, blue March morning. Note life saving stove chimney to starboard of mast.

The following day dawned crisp, blue and shiny,  planning  the next step was completed in relative comfort and we had plenty of time to stroll along the beautiful empty beaches around Hamworthy with Orla. This was the best period of our four day “holiday”. It was going to go very much downhill from here on.