Captain Corbett’s Adventures

Rock hopping for lunch!

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So, picture the scene. It’s 06:30, the sun’s been up for a couple of hours and there’s not a breath of wind.  We’ve untied the lines and we’re motoring out of the harbour at the start of our day out to îles Chausey.  I was simply bursting with excitement! There was just one little problem; this time I’m on a 37 foot sailing yacht and no wind means we’re going to end up motoring the whole way.  It’s been an awfully long time since a day at sea with no wind hasn’t put a smile on my face.

Never mind.  We are on a boat, the sun is out and our destination is a collection of tiny little islands just off the coast of Normandy and lunch is booked for 12:30, French time; does it get better than this, I ask myself? Definitely not!

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I can’t remember the last time I was out on a yacht but it was most certainly a while back.  I’d forgotten how serene it can be.  We ghosted along at a sedate 6 knots through the water and the tide added a couple more to help us on our way.  Slicing through the waves instead of feeling every little bump made a lovely change. We chatted and drank coffee and chatted some more and watched the Condor ferry come past at 9 million knots as it made ready to swallow the yacht in its path…

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Then we rounded the first of our waypoints and started the second leg of the route. Once we’d passed the NE Minquiers cardinal we headed south to pass west of Chausey before turning east along the bottom of the islands.

IMGP1830hi resLooking back towards Jersey with NE Minquiers in the foreground

Gradually, we got closer and Chausey started to become more defined through the high- pressure haze.  I guess it should have come as no surprise that it looked to me just like the Minquiers and the Ecrihous but I was still superbly excited nevertheless.  There is something magical about sailing to a group of rocks barely clear of the surrounding sea, with a few houses, a restaurant, a couple of shops and precious little else.

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The last leg along the south of the main island, Grande îletook no time at all but before we reached the bay where we’d decided to anchor, we got a distant glimpse of the house built by the Renault family many years ago.

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Finally, nearly 4 hours after we left the marina in Jersey, we pulled up and started choosing a suitable spot to anchor.  In short- order the pick was down, the dinghy inflated and a serpentine row later we were on the shore with soft white sand underfoot.

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We had surely arrived at paradise. I know the weather plays a huge part in making places that ordinarily seem average, look like they’ve been crafted by planet manufacturers to appear flawless but I reckon this little island would be special even in the pouring rain. On the other hand, it might just be that I’m so excited…

Lunch was over an hour away, so we set off on a tour of the island.  I’m not going to describe what you can see for yourselves, I’m simply going to put some shots up.

Enjoy!

It really isn’t a huge island and it wasn’t long before we’d done the tour and were sitting at a table with a view in the restaurant/hotel (Hotel du Fort et des Iles).  You’d imagine a business with little or no competition might rest on its laurels but the food was excellent if mostly fish dishes.  Incidentally, the desserts were to die for!

Soon after lunch, we headed back to the boat.

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By now the wind had picked up and we knew we were in for a proper sail on the way back – this day just kept getting better and better.

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What a wonderful way to spend a sunny summer’s Saturday!  If you keep your boat in the Channel Islands and you’ve never been to Îles Chausey then it’s about time you remedied that.  If you normally do your boating somewhere further afield then a visit to the Channel Island has to be on your wish list for this summer and whilst you’re so close, get yourselves down to Îles Chausey.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

Here we go again…

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Just before Christmas 2013, Lynn, my chief number one crew and I headed off to a small island off the Brittany coast. We were going to tackle the obviously impossible task of moving a boat up the Bay of Biscay in a tiny gap in the disastrous weather we’d been suffering for weeks. When I wrote about the trip I entitled it, ‘What price a life?’ as it made me think very seriously about the merits of going out to sea when it is rough.  Well, would you believe it, here I am again to tell you about the same route, the same model of boat but much, much better weather?

One of the things I learned about this trip the last time I made it, was that accessibility to this section of the French coast line is not easy using public transport. I don’t think I’ve ever used so many coaches and trains getting back and forth from a boat.  Fortunately, this time it was quite straight forward but still, more involved than just getting into a car and driving to the marina. I set off on Friday evening, on the ferry to St Malo.  Staying overnight in a hotel opposite the station made it easy to stroll across the road the next morning and virtually walk straight onto the waiting train without so much as adjusting the speed of my step. Less than an hour later and I was in Rennes. The next train got me to Nantes and then a coach took me the rest of the way to Noirmoutier.  Not bad really but when you consider I started travelling on Friday evening at 18:30 and it was now 16:30 the following day, it does seem like a long journey for such a short distance across the globe, especially when we keep getting told how small the world is these days.

So, Bill, the owner of the new Swift Trawler 50, was waiting to greet me when I arrived. As we walked to the boat, we discussed the plan and the weather and came to an amicable agreement that we would go ‘balls out’, given the favourable weather conditions, to get to Guernsey on the second day to collect Bill’s wife.  Jane was planning to come across on the ferry from Poole and complete the last leg with us.  Personally, given the distances involved, I would have preferred to have split the trip into three legs, allowing a day for each but Bill was on a mission and as long as it’s not dangerous, I’m happy to help.

The following morning, at 06:20 sharp, we left the marina on the first leg of our trip.  It was supposed to be 06:00 sharp but neither of us had had much sleep – new boats don’t come with bedding and pillows and rolling clothes up to make a pillow is only slightly successful. It started off fairly flat but as we got a couple of miles off we encountered the standard swell from the SW that plagues Atlantic facing shores and what was left of the previous few days wind blowing at a slight angle across the top of the swell.  This made it slightly lumpy but the semi-displacement keel on the Swift Trawler kept it comfortable.  Our target was Roscoff and if we could keep up a steady 12-15 knots this was going to take us about 12 hours – long day, especially after a night of very little sleep.  As it happened, we had patches of extremely smooth water and made the Raz de Sein just after 13:30.

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Lighthouse & West Cardinal marker at the Raz de Sein

Skimming across the water at 18 knots and over the ground at 15 knots was a little disappointing but we’d had a good run so far and it was inevitable we’d hit some foul tide at some stage. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before we’d passed in front of Brest and made our way around the westerly tip of Finistère. We were now on the home run into Roscoff.  By the time we got in, the sea was like a mill pond and what wind there had been, had subsided. At this time of year, this really should have been a clue…

A tip for any motor yachts thinking of staying over in Roscoff – the diesel pump will only dispense €300 worth of diesel in one go.  We had to go through the process for refuelling eight times before we had filled the boat up!

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Sat on the fuel berth after our lengthy filling up session

Roscoff seemed to be a sleepy little marina – quite clean and contemporary looking but nobody about.  The restaurant stopped serving early so we had no choice but to stroll into town.  In fairness, it was only the 20 minutes the restaurant owner said it was.

Over the hill and down towards the town centre is a lovely and clearly affluent street of houses, punctuated by something I’ve not seen growing in such neatly aligned rows and in such quantities before – a field of Artichokes!

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Past the artichokes and a little further towards the ‘centre ville’ and the vista opens up to reveal the old port (drying) and the town tucked behind it. Here’s a couple of shots of the entrance to the old port.

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The next day we woke up to pea-soup fog! Advection Fog is common at this time of year. The warm, moist winds coming across the Atlantic are chilled as they encounter the waters around northern France and the UK which are still cold from the winter.  (Water takes a long time to change temperature and is at it’s coldest in the early months of the year, not warming up properly until September, October).

In busy commercial waters I would be very hesitant about setting sail in thick fog but this was a week day now and the only craft we were likely to meet were the local fishermen.  We had radar, AIS and two huge plotters to view it all on – off we jolly well went.  I reckon we were the only boat blowing it’s horn out there but it made us feel righteous. After an hour, we drove out of the fog and left it hanging in the air behind us. We had popped out into a sunny day of cloudless blue skies and flat calm waters; how lovely, Guernsey here we come.

Sadly, Jane couldn’t make it in the end, which was probably just as well as it got really lumpy going around the Les Casquets . The tide would have been against us going through the Alderney Race and with a slight wind over tide effect it would have been pretty rough there too, so we chose the Casquets route but honestly, it was rough enough to slow us down to 7 knots at one point and I seriously wonder if the Race might have been a better option.

Once we’d crossed the shipping lanes and made it to half way across the Channel it smoothed off enough for us to get back up to 18 knots.  From there on in it was pretty uneventful and so, just after 16:30 we arrived in Poole. A successful , speedy, slightly foggy crossing and one very happy owner!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

Schoolboy error #1 (there may be more!)

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Nuff said!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.

Skipper’s Tips #16 – Green & Clean

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Well there we go, another year over and a new one just begun… I’m sure I’ve heard someone else saying that!

I must put my hands up and apologise for not posting much recently but it’s been a quiet winter for me adventures wise and I’ve had to resort to sitting in front of a computer in an office just to pay the bills 😦

However, the season will soon be upon us and I’m sure it will bring new opportunities in abundance.  In the mean time I’m going to harp on about the environment and our obligation to be mindful of the impact we, as motor boaters, have on it.

This is an extremely important issue which affects us all. Personally, I feel strongly about looking after the environment.  I know this sounds absurd when you consider what I do for a living but motor boats are here to stay and sensibly we should be trying to mitigate the adverse effects we all have on the environment and not just pointing our collective fingers at someone else. A smokey old ‘donker’ on a yacht, will often produce many times more harmful emissions than that of a modern, efficient, common rail diesel engine. So to all yacht owners, don’t get on your high horse just yet – I bet you didn’t cycle or better still walk to your boat the last time you used it, did you?

As boat users we all have a responsibility to the environment; to the sea, the coastline, and of course, to the natural wildlife. It isn’t difficult to be conscientious and considerate, and by following a few simple rules we can all play a part in helping to keep our waters safe and clean for everyone to enjoy. At the very least we should be aiming to minimise the impact our boating has on the environment around us but if we can actually make improvements, then so much the better.

The following items are all very obvious examples of what should never enter the sea:

  • Garbage of any sort, including bio-degradable food materials
  • Oil and oily wastes
  • Sewage – if it is going to be harmful to the amenity value of the local water
  • Toxic wastes

One way to make life easier for yourself, and easier on the environment is to dispose of as much packaging as possible before you load food and drinks onto your boat. Put food into washable, reusable containers to reduce waste on board and keep rubbish in sealed sacks ready to dispose of appropriately when you next get to shore. Another useful tip is to keep a can crusher on board to reduce the space your rubbish occupies. 

We have all had a bilge full of oily water at some stage in our boating career. Instead of dumping it irresponsibly into the water, carry some absorbent pads to soak up the liquid and then dispose of it later in the oil waste drums which are now found at most modern marinas.

Over the years, the practice of discharging toilets directly into the sea has been seen as normal and acceptable yet, at the same time, we are all very aware of the noxious effects this discharge has in busy marinas, particularly when the tidal effect is minimal. I have noticed that more and more people are fitting holding tanks to their boats these days. Sometimes this is because of a conscious decision to take a more ‘friendly’ approach and sometimes it is because local regulations are getting stiffer – many countries in the Med are now insisting on black waste holdings tanks and some are even expecting us to fit grey waste tanks too – I’ve heard of boaters being fined in Greece for discharging their washing-up water from the kitchen sink into the sea. With more and more marinas offering pump out facilities, there really is no excuse to not manage your boat’s waste appropriately. For those of us without a system to contain waste or if your boat lives in an area where pump out facilities don’t exist, nipping three miles out to sea to empty the tanks isn’t a great hardship – we must be mindful of other water users nearby and the tidal movement or indeed lack of it.  It is not always acceptable to simply flush your waste out to sea like sweeping dust under a carpet.

Its not just when we are on the water that we can have a harmful effect on the environment either.  Every year we scrub the hull off and apply new coats of anti-foul. Where does the old anti-foul that has just been scrubbed off the hull go to? Most often, it gets washed into the nearby marina of course.  It goes without saying that anti-foul paint, scrapings and wash-off must not get into the sea as these are serious contaminants.  Make every effort when removing the old anti-foul to tidy up the debris and dispose of it carefully.  I would urge everyone to make a determined effort to use environmentally friendly products at all times to help minimise damage to the environment in the long term.  More and more environmentally products are becoming available.  They are effective substitutes for the existing products and priced the same too.

Have a go folks!  Its not difficult to do this properly and we all benefit.

GO GREEN for 2017!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

Circumnavigation – last legs

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Where did the summer go?  It’s September and I’ve already heard the ‘C’ word mentioned at least twice now and yet its more than 100 days to go.  I have been unbelievably busy this summer and that is my excuse for not putting any posts up for ages.  Anyway, I’m here now and I thought this post ought to be an update on the Circumnavigation of the British Isles, which started back in May.

Well, despite a couple of weeks of being stuck in harbour due to bad weather, the Botnia Targa arrived in Neyland Yacht Haven at the end of June – that is a pretty quick circumnavigation if you ask me!

I took the picture above as we left Neyland Yacht Haven on the leg to Padstow.  It would have been possible to get from Milford Haven to Falmouth in one hit but we both wanted to take a peek at PadStein and both the timings and weather were perfect to go for this option.  The harbour at Padstow has a lock and the Doom Bar in the estuary of the Camel River can get pretty treacherous in strong westerlies, so the light northerly which pushed us along and a latest arrival time of 4pm, meant we were definitely heading for a Rick Stein supper!

This next shot is us departing Milford Haven with St Ann’s Head in the distance and Thorn Island to left of centre:

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We had a lovely run down, with a slight to moderate sea and a light following wind. Wall to wall sunshine simply added to the enjoyment – I even enjoyed my supermarket sandwiches, which on a grey day would surely have tasted of cardboard!

You know, I can’t remember how long it took us to get down there but we arrived so early that we had to wait for the tide to come up before we could get into the harbour. With this in mind, we slowed right down as we approached the river mouth and pootled along enjoying the scenery – it really is very pretty.

Approaching the Camel River:

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In the estuary:

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… I wonder which came first, the Bar or the Beer?

and here’s Padstow Harbour in all it’s prettiness, with us tied up on the left of centre.

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A trawler which came in shortly after we had finished tying up:

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and here’s the restaurant we ate at – couldn’t get into a Rick Stein restaurant after all 😦

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The next day, we were up with the gulls and headed off on the penultimate leg of the circumnavigation – Falmouth.

We were so lucky with the weather; even lighter winds and more sunshine.  It was going to be a long day but with such good conditions how could we possibly complain?

Running south along the North Cornish coastline, we could see Lundy in the distance. Sadly, too far in the distance for my iThingy to get a decent picture but I did manage to get some footage of dolphins chasing the boat! I’m sorry it’s not brilliant footage but I was so excited I could barely hold the phone steady.

I guess the ensuing chatter about the dolphins helped us forget the miles but whatever it was, Land’s End soon came into view.  After a peek at the chart and a quick discussion we took the decision to go ‘inside’ rather than ‘outside’.  This meant going between Kettle’s Bottom and Dr Johnson’s Head, the promontory upon which the visitor centre is perched.

Here’s the approach:

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and here’s what it looks like from the other side:

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So, Land’s End rounded,  just the Lizard to go round and then a straight run into Falmouth:

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Approaching Falmouth, we had a great view down the south coast to the East:

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What a lovely couple of days we’d had.  Superb boating conditions, great scenery, dolphins, fabulous food and of course, great company!  Before we knew it we were motoring gently through the harbour and up the river towards Falmouth Marina:

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Sadly, I wasn’t able to do the last leg across to Jersey but within the week the Circumnavigation of the British Isles was complete!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

 

 

Skipper’s Tips #15 – Whether the weather is hot…

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This subject is truly extensive.  There are a huge number of books that have been written about weather and there are many, many people far more knowledgeable than I, who can wax lyrical about world weather systems.  That said, I do know some of the pertinent bits and that’s what I hope to pass on to you today. 

It goes without saying that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather.  Nobody wants to be caught out in bad weather and frankly, with so much good quality forecasting these days, it’s almost inexcusable.  Weather forecasts can be found in newspapers, on the radio and on the television, on regular VHF broadcasts, on the internet, but even easier than all these options, try using ‘Mk 1 eyeball’; stick your head out of the window!

Essentially, as boaters, the weather we need to know about falls into three categories.

  1. Depressions
  2. Sea breezes
  3. Fog

Depressions occur when warm, wet wind crossing the Atlantic, picking up moisture as it goes, comes into contact with the Polar Front, which lies generally to the north of our latitudes.  The cold Polar winds will get underneath these rising, warm, wet winds from the southwest and set up an anti-clockwise, upwards spiral of wind.  As the warm, wet winds rise, they cool. Cold air isn’t capable of carrying as much moisture as warm air and so eventually, the moisture is released as precipitation – that’s rain to you and me.  The difference in air pressure from the outer edge of the depression to the inner centre varies hugely over relatively short distances – we can see this when we look at synoptic weather charts showing the clustering of isobars around the centre of the depression. These tightly packed isobars indicate the large pressures gradients involved, which to you and me essentially means strong winds.  In fact, the closer together the isobars, the stronger the winds.  If you can get hold of a print out of a synoptic chart, there should be a scale on it, which will allow you to measure the precise wind speeds.

Here’s something to consider the next time you get a chance to look at a synoptic chart. In the Northern Hemisphere, the wind cycles anti-clockwise around a low and clockwise around a high.  So, if you get a High and a Low next to each other the wind is likely to be great where they meet as you will have two wind systems effectively going in the same direction.  However, when you get two Low’s next to each other, they cancel each other out at the point at which they meet.  The resulting wind, at this point, will most likely be light and variable in direction.

If we know what to look for we should be able to spot a weather system coming and this will allow us to make an informed decision on whether to go to sea or not.  So, what does an approaching depression look like and what are the clues?

The classic timeline of a depression moving through is as follows:

  • Falling barometer
  • Lowering cloud base
  • Rain
  • Reducing visibility
  • Complete cloud cover
  • Veering (clockwise) change in wind direction as the warm front arrives
  • Steadying barometer
  • Easing of the rain to a continuous lighter rain or drizzle, in the warm sector
  • Rising barometer, as the cold front arrives
  • Thunder clouds, often with the thunder
  • Gusty winds
  • Showery rain
  • Veering wind direction
  • Crystal clear skies, with fluffy white clouds
  • Excellent visibility

Keep your eye on the barometer.  Make a regular note of the readings when you fill in your deck log and you will instantly notice a change.  A fall of 6mb in a two-hour period means head for port; there’s some bad weather due soon.

Clearly, given the basic level of our weather forecasting skills (up to Yachtmaster level), I would still recommend that you also compare what the traditional weather sources are telling you with your new found skill of being able to spot a depression – the weather we experience in and around the UK is very varied and subject to quick changes. Weather systems continually speed up and slow down, often arriving early or not at all.  

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Sea breezes occur on sunny, summer days, when rapidly rising air, which has been warmed by the land heating up, sucks in air from the sea, producing the onshore breeze.  The rising air eventually cools, falling back down over the sea and so the process continues until the evening when the sun goes in.

Katabatic wind is the wind that blows out to sea from the land. As the land, which during the day was hot, cools down, it cools the air above it. This, now heavy, cool air tumbles down the hillsides and coastal cliffs, rushing out to sea.  This wind effect doesn’t last particularly long and personally, I’ve only experienced this in the Med. 

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Fog is caused when warm, wet air gets chilled revealing the moisture content as fog. The classic example of this is in coastal UK waters in Spring, we call this Advection Fog or more affectionately, Sea Fog . The waters around the UK are at their coldest at this time. As the warm, moist air coming across the Atlantic meets the cold waters around the UK, the chilling effect reveals the moisture as fog.  It can often burn off by mid-afternoon but occasionally it can hang around for a few days until the wind direction changes and the temperature differential changes.  I’ve seen waves of fog plague islands in the early Summer months and even in August on Jersey one time when I was delivering a new boat to a customer and got fog-bound myself. 

Radiation Fog or Land Fog, as some call it, happens mostly in the Autumn months. After a warm, sunny September day, the land, which has been warming up during the day, will chill down quickly under clear skies.  This chilling cools the air lying over the ground, which in a Katabatic Wind style, tumbles down into valleys and estuaries where it meets warm, moist air lying over streams and rivers.  The chilling effect of this cold air produces the fog – which gives us those romantic looking photographs that people like me love to capture.

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Please don’t base your boating plans on a forecast you had five days ago – 12 to 24 hour forecasts are going to be the most accurate and this is what you should be looking at before you decide to head down to your boat. Then, before setting off on your journey, get the latest forecast as published by the marina.  Remember too, that the weather you’re feeling inside the marina will often bear no relation to what’s actually going on at sea.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

Hamptonne Country Life Museum

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Gosh! These posts are coming thick and fast at the moment aren’t they? Anyway, yesterday, being a bank holiday, we decided to do the tourist thing and visit one of the heritage sites on Jersey.  Jersey Heritage are a local charity who protect and promote the heritage and uniqueness of Jersey.  The Hamptonne Country Life Museum is one of the sites administered by Jersey Heritage and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself on this beautiful island.

I’m not going to rattle on about Hamptonne or what we had for afternoon tea.  Instead, I’m just going to put up a selection of pictures, enjoy.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.