Sheiken, not stirred…

© Richard Corbett 2014

 El Gouna

As we stepped off the plane at Hurghada airport in Egypt, a hot wind hit us full in the face. Imagine the heat that comes from beneath your car when you step out of it on a boiling hot day and you will have some idea of what I’m talking about.  El Gouna, which is where the Predator 53 called Skyfall lived, was only a half hour drive away and it wasn’t long before we were ensconced in our rooms.

I had it in my mind that we would leave the next morning for Suez, make our way up the Canal the following day and whiz across to Limassol the day after; how wrong can a man be?  In Egypt, there is a very particular way of doing things and this mostly revolves around paperwork but also involves helping some of the aforementioned countrymen who seem to have very dry palms, which need constant lubrication – I guess it’s the sun, it was awfully hot! Oh well, when in Rome…

The weather played a huge part in our quest to get this boat to Cyprus too.  Our first attempt was thwarted by some huge waves, which bore no relation to the amount of wind.  Admittedly, it was gusting over 30 knots but these waves were massive.  After 30 miles of determined but very slow progress we had to accept the fact that returning to El Gouna was our only option.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned here.  Boating is not a good way to show off how ‘manly’ you are.  If the conditions are too bad then turn the boat around and go back, this is the most intelligent thing to do.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Skyfall being refuelled

Fortunately, our second attempt proved to be more successful but not without it’s own troubles, I would add.  Again, we had massive waves, which also were far bigger than the wind would normally cause.  Nevertheless, we plodded on, falling off wave after wave even at the very conservative speed of 6 knots that we were forced to run at.  This time, however, we had smartened up and managed to find a ship to hide behind.  Once we were in his wake the journey was much easier and we were now able to make 11 knots.

The trip from El Gouna to Port Suez is 160nm.  Yep, that’s 16 hours at the speed we were travelling at!  We desperately, needed a faster ship to follow if were to avoid spending a huge chunk of our lives looking at the stern of a not very pretty ship. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when, in the distance, we spotted a tiny speck that gradually got bigger and bigger.  This was the answer to our prayers, a large ship catching us up meant that we could ‘jump ship’ and tuck in behind a faster vessel.  I took a picture and by zooming in could see the name of this ship, ‘Atlas Leader’. Then I was able to call them up on the VHF, requesting permission to sit on their tail.

© Richard Corbett 2014

 

At this point, I would like to say a huge thank you to the Captain of Atlas Leader out of Tokyo who, bless him, even offered to slow down and come across to us.  If it wasn’t for this man’s generosity, I reckon we would still be trying to get to Port Suez behind that other vessel (OK, slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean).

Finally, at around 8pm that evening, just as it had gone dark, we made our way up the channel that leads to the Canal and into the marina in which we were to stay overnight.  A very enthusiastic man came out to us and guided us in to our berth and then proceeded to fuel us up from his boat which was berthed on the opposite pontoon.  Not your average fuel barge this one – more of a cabin cruiser with the guts taken out and a huge fuel tank inserted in their place.  It wasn’t until the following morning that I noticed the two large, grey plastic pipes poking out of the cockpit sole at a jaunty angle – enterprising lot, these Egyptians.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Skyfall in Port Suez – can you see the grey tubes poking skywards on the ‘fuel barge’ behind us?

Another day’s worth of hanging around whilst the bureaucratic wheels turned and more dry palms were lubricated was our prize for pulling in here.  But Sunday morning soon came and the first of two Suez Canal pilots appeared.  After plenty of shaking hands and exchanging big smiles we were off on the next leg of our journey.  In order to make it through the Canal in one day, we had to meet up with the second pilot at the half way point before 13:00, so we took off like a ‘Bat out of Hell’.  I thought we would only be allowed to do 10 knots but then, what do I know?  What was really worrying me now, was the fact that I had only fuelled for 90 miles at 10 knots. No matter how much I tried to impress upon the pilot and our Egyptian captain that consuming fuel at 300 litres an hour might be good fun and it definitely wasn’t likely to last the whole 90 miles, they had an agenda and that was that…

© Richard Corbett 2014

Trying to get to the midpoint before 13:00 – yikes!

As it happened, the second pilot was much more sensible and the last leg of the Canal was made at a much more sensible 10 knots. There was even time to look at the scenery and snap some shots of other Canal users too.  For those of you who have not transited the Suez Canal, it is quite a broad stretch of water, with a couple of areas that open out, around the middle section, one of which appears to be like a rather large lake.  Lots of huge freighters and tankers loiter here whilst waiting to make the next leg.  It was quite something to see all these massive ships congregating like this.

There was a very noticeable military presence along the canal and a number of areas set up with what appeared to be floating bridges ready to launch at a moments notice.  I guess this is a hugely important conduit from the Med to the Red Sea and a massive asset to the Egyptian nation, hence the fact that it is so closely guarded.  My heart went out to the poor guys standing sentry duty in little concrete huts, spaced regularly along the length of the Canal – they must have been quite miserable standing with their weapons across their chests in this most mercilessly hot environment.  With the exception of guards and a few outposts along the route, there seemed to be nothing except mile after mile of desert, stretching away from both sides of the waterway – these must be very special people to live in an environment such as this.

© Richard Corbett 2014

© Richard Corbett 2014

 Finally, we made it to Port Said just as the sun was setting.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Our berth, euphemistically called ‘The Yacht Club’ was a ghastly place, in which we bounced up and down all night.  Huge rubber bumpers all along the dock walls were clearly designed for much larger and heavier built vessels than ourselves.  The fenders I placed to protect the boat from the bumpers, were black as soot in the morning!

© Richard Corbett 2014

The fuel barge arrived just after 8pm.  As a special treat for us, they had liberally painted the hose with old diesel – lovely!  Guess what?  Yes, these guys had dry palms too!!!

The next day, we were up early and after getting permission to depart, we were on our way by about 6am.  We bimbled out of the port at 6 knots and then once clear opened her up.  200 nm lay ahead of us and we had enough fuel to do 220 nm if we took it steady.  So, I set the throttles for 170 litres per hour, which gave us an average of 20 knots and at 4pm, almost to the minute, we arrived at Limassol.

I would caution against making a trip like that with so little reserve, unless you know precisely what weather conditions you are going to get and that these conditions are perfect and also that you are completely certain that the fuel consumption and available fuel is exactly as anticipated.

We were absolutely certain of our calculations and as it was proved, we were spot on. Nevertheless, there was a noticeable levity in the air as we tied alongside in Cyprus – relief is probably what you’d call it…

© Richard Corbett 2014

The next day was consumed with more paperwork, Greek style, and preparations for getting to the dock and getting the boat onto a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2014

© Richard Corbett 2014

Once out of the water and tied to the trailer, my work was done.  All that was left for me to do now was fly home… oh, and put some more cream on the blasted mosquito bites!

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.

 

Scilly Adventure

St Mary's harbour, IOS
St Mary’s harbour, IOS

Ever since I took the brand new Sealine F46 to the Isles of Scilly for a photo-shoot, I’ve had a hankering to go back.  These beautiful islands, just off the tip of Cornwall, are about 3 hours away from Falmouth if you get a favourable sea and you’re in a boat that can happily cruise at 20 knots.  Finally, a few years now since my first visit, the opportunity arose to go again.  So it was, that we set off from Guernsey, aboard a Sealine F42, on a fresh but not too lumpy Sunday morning, to make our initial passage to Falmouth.

Isn’t it disappointing when you look at a weather forecast and it says the wind is going to be light and the sun will shine all day but it doesn’t?  Well, that’s what we got.  By the time we arrived in Falmouth the wind had really freshened, the sun had been replaced by clouds and the rain was building up to lash down the moment we stepped ashore with the mooring lines.  Even worse, the near perfect conditions for the rest of the week had now become two days worth of lightish winds and F6 to F7 thereafter.  In fairness, the rain never arrived and the sun did come back out for a while but our plans to stay a couple of days in IOS (Isles of Scilly) had to be adapted.

The view across Falmouth harbour from Mylor
The view across Falmouth harbour from Mylor

The next morning, after a superb evening spent eating fine food and quaffing even finer ales in Castaways, we were up early, fuelled up and on our way.  As we nosed out of the harbour and moved up to speed, Falmouth coastguard gave a message out on the VHF, alerting everyone to the fact that there was some unexploded ordinance in an exclusion zone, which we had to keep away from and worse still, in my opinion, a large swathe of fishing net floating around, abandoned.  What joy!  Just what you don’t want to hear when your headed away from the Cornish coast in the general direction of America.  OK, so I’m exaggerating, the IOS were in between.

An hour from the Lizard and we swept past White Rock.  Actually, I’m exaggerating again.  It was a little lumpy, with a F3 to F4 on the nose and we were actually only making about 17 knots but it was comfortable at that speed and by the time we got to White Rock lighthouse we were over half way.

White Rock lighthouse, with Land's End in the background
White Rock lighthouse, with Land’s End in the background

There are absolutely loads of little bays and beaches amongst the IOS but other than picking up a mooring buoy in St Mary’s harbour, nowhere even comes close to being in a marina.  So, if it’s protection from the elements, somewhere to plug into, running water and the ability to walk ashore you are after, forget it.  This is a real adventure, for real adventurers and real adventures, so it turns out, involve getting a rib on and off a bathing platform that is going up and down like a whores drawers, spending the night rocking and rolling on a mooring buoy and waking up the next morning feeling like you’ve gone 3 rounds with Bruno!  Do you remember the comment about weather not turning out to be what was forecast?  Well, this, it seems, is what happened for the second time to us.  We were supposed to be protected from the wind, waves and swell by the harbour wall.  We’d laughed off the cautionary note about the harbour being awful in NW winds, on the basis that the forecast had it coming from the WSW.  How were we to know it was going to move around to the North during the night?  Do you know what was even more annoying? As we set off to return to Falmouth, the wind moved back around to the South!!

Calm before the storm - looking out from the mooring we took for our night in St Mary's
Calm before the storm – looking out from the mooring we took for our night in St Mary’s

In actual fact, when we first arrived it was quite calm, as you can see from the shot of the Lifeboat above.  We couldn’t wait to get ashore and as soon as the rib was off the back of the boat we wiggled our way through the moored boats and tied up in the dinghy park.  Walking around the streets of the ‘town’ felt like going back in time.  Everything was so ‘quaint’ and even ‘naive’.  I saw a sign attached to the harbour railings and simply had to take a picture of it.  Does anyone remember going around to friends for an exciting evening spent looking at holiday slides?

Slideshow!!!
Slideshow!!!

and this was a delightful moment captured, as someone walked up and leant their bike against the shop window…

Take no notice of the notice, it's only a notice!
Take no notice of the notice, it’s only a notice!

The following day we were up early again and soon on our way.  It wasn’t all that bad really and with the wind behind us we were whizzing along on our way back to Falmouth, the previous bumpy, sleepless night fast becoming a distant memory.  It seemed like no time at all before we were ‘tip-toeing’ our way through the minefield of fishing buoys which appear to have been purposely laid on the track of any vessel navigating from the Lizard to Falmouth.  Tied alongside in Mylor once again, we broke out the umbrellas and headed ashore for some lunch.

During the remainder of the day we relaxed and faffed about, as you do when you’ve got a little time to yourselves.  After all, this was supposed to be a holiday.  As most of you will have gathered by now, I’m a bit of a one for taking pictures, so I set to recording some shots of Mylor (one of my favourite stopping off spots) and the amazing calm we were experiencing.  Worryingly, this calm suggested that we were likely to be in for something quite different the next day and this was to be the day we were heading off on our next leg to Dartmouth…

Mylor
Mylor
Mylor
Mylor
Moored boats, outside Mylor
Moored boats, outside Mylor

Yes, I’ve got a bit of a Black & White thing going on at the moment.  I think it highlights the moody weather quite nicely, don’t you?

Wednesday morning turns up and the wind came with it.  Happily, the sun put in an appearance as well and this was our chance to prove the theory that lumpy, sunny days are easier to deal with than less lumpy miserable days.  One crew member disappeared off to catch a flight and Philip and I were left in charge of getting the boat to Dartmouth.  Having refuelled the boat and having had a hearty breakfast ourselves, we nosed out of Falmouth for a second time and headed East for Dartmouth.  It appeared that the abandoned fishing net was no longer a threat and the unexploded ordinance had been exploded, so our only concern was the frisky F6.  On the basis that it was going to be from the North and therefore coming off the land, we anticipated hugging the coast and ducking into Plymouth if we felt it was too bad.  However, once we got going, the ride was quite comfy and the biggest difficulty turned out to be climbing up the back of the larger rollers. You know, it did feel better with the sun out!

Eddystone Rocks lighthouse
Eddystone Rocks lighthouse

A bit bumpy around Start Point but then Dartmouth soon came into view and what a lovely sight it was.  I do like Dartmouth: so much history and so picturesque.  This really is a wonderful place to keep a boat.

Entering the Dart
Entering the Dart

We chose to go for Dart Marina, on the basis that the wind had some North in it and this would give us a flatter night on the berth but you know the way our luck has been running? The wind howled down the river, funnelled by the high sides to the river valley and as we approached the mooring someone turned the ‘full blast’ switch on.  Good job we had IPS that’s all I can say at this point.  Scarcely believable but true nevertheless, the moment we tied the lines to the dock the sun came out and the wind turned into a whisper.  If I hadn’t been there myself I wouldn’t have believed it.

Kingswear
Kingswear

We had a lovely fish dinner that evening, in a place right on the front called Rockfish.  Give it a try, I can recommend it.  Strolling back I was moved to take this shot of a rather calm and serene River Dart – simply beautiful.

Calm evening on the Dart
Calm evening on the Dart

The next morning we left the boat, caught the ferry across the river and made for the train station – our Scilly Adventure complete, we now have to figure out where we’re going next.

Our ferry awaits
Our ferry awaits

Keep your eye on those dodgy weather forecasts shipmates,

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.

 

What price a life?

My most recent adventure has been a bit of a long, drawn out affair, forcibly punctuated by high winds and many hours spent looking at weather forecasts.  This time, I’m going to break from my usual method of chronicling the trip on a daily basis and instead, I’m going to consider some of the more pertinent points.

The brief was to deliver a Beneteau Swift Trawler 50 from the factory where it was constructed, on the island of Noirmoutier in the Pays de la Loire region of western France to Southampton docks, where it was to be put on a ship bound for Turkey.  A simple three day trip, with the first leg planned to take us from Noirmoutier, up the Brittany coast to Brest.  Then from Brest, around the peninsular to Jersey and finally a quick hop across the Channel to the docks at Southampton. On the face of it nothing out of the ordinary, unless you consider that the Bay of Biscay is a notoriously hazardous stretch of water during the winter months.  As it happens, we encountered a period of continuously bad weather, the like of which I have never seen before.

Incidentally, it has been suggested to me that the long line of depressions, tracking across the Atlantic one after the other and totally disrupting our plans is due to the extraordinarily prolonged and fiercely cold spell of weather that is currently affecting North America.  It seems ‘Global Warming’ manifests itself as extremes of weather rather than the new found ability for those living in Newcastle upon Tyne, to start cultivating Olives and having terracotta tiled roofs on their white painted villas.

So, to the first point of interest on our adventure.  We arrived at the Beneteau factory on Noirmoutier just as it was getting dark.  To make life just a little more interesting, the heavens decided to open at the same time and we got thoroughly soaked as we made our way to where the boat was moored.  After going through the paperwork and getting used to the layout of the boat we made our way back to the hotel.  Then, naturally, we had to find somewhere to eat.  The port of Herbaudière is on the northern tip of Noirmoutier and at this time of year seemed totally uninhabited – hardly surprising as Christmas was only a few days away.  It soon became obvious that Herbaudière was shut!  In fact, the more I think about it, we were really lucky to find a hotel. Nevertheless, the pressing problem was where, in this one horse town, were we going to find food. 

Finally, we stumbled across a bar that was open.  I’m going to do something which I don’t normally do in my Blog and that is, make a recommendation – actually, two.  The bar we walked into is called ‘Le Mistral Gagnant’. It was quite busy and full of cheery banter, right up until we appeared and then a hush fell over the place.  We’ve all had this happen at some stage I’m certain but on this occasion a feeling of ‘Deliverance’ instantly came over both Lynn (Welsh name for a chatty bloke) and myself.  However, I quickly pulled out some of my school-boy French and as soon as the glasses of red wine turned up in front of us, the conversation started to come back to life.  In a mixture of French and English we started asking the lady behind the bar if she knew of anywhere we could get something to eat and were there any taxis available.  It soon became apparent that all the taxis on the island had chosen to take the weeks running up to Christmas off and the only restaurant still open was 5km away.  Lynn is not exactly what you’d call sprightly and a 5km walk was definitely out of the question…

I would like to take my hat off to the folk in that bar.  Within 10 minutes and after many calls to taxi answerphones, we had secured a lift from the restaurant owner to his restaurant, been given many words of advice about our impending trip from the fishermen at the bar and made a whole raft of new friends, who almost understood what I was saying in my best Franglais!  

Artur soon arrived to pick us up and after working out what we wanted from his menu whilst en route, we eventually found ourselves sat in his lovely restaurant, with a nice Bordeaux open in front of us.  If you are ever in Noirmoutier, make a point of going to visit Artur at ‘Le p’tit Noirmout’.  The steak was stunning, the wine exquisite, the dessert to die for and the lift back to the hotel a massive relief.  Best of all though, the gentleman that he was, he made us some food and gave us a bottle of wine to take on our trip the following day!!

Deliverance!  How utterly wrong can one be?

The only way I can properly describe the trip we made the next day is that it was rough!  So rough, that we gave up on any thoughts of getting to Brest and ducked into Concarneau instead.  The boat was too big to go into the marina, so we ended up on a pontoon in the fishing port and there the boat stayed all through Christmas as depression after depression tracked its way across the Atlantic and lashed Western Europe with an unprecedented series of storms.  At this juncture, I would like to say a few words about the assistance we received in Concarneau.  Sadly, for one reason or another, I never got the name of the man from the port office who bent over backwards to help us but I would like to say a big thank you to him.  Without his help we would have struggled to find a berth and we would have been fretting all the time we were back on Jersey, about the state of the boat during the storms that we had over Christmas. I would also like to extend my heart-felt thanks to Guirec Soudee, who was moored on the boat a few places down from us and thankfully spoke excellent English and without whom we would have struggled to get fuel and water for the next leg of our journey.  Guirec is intending to do a solo passage on his steel-hulled yacht. he starts of by going across the Atlantic and then heads up, as far north as he can go, into the regions where ice is a normal occurrence – brave man.  Apparently, you will be able to follow his exploits by searching on the internet for ‘Voyage d’Yvinec’.

Finally, a big enough gap in the weather appeared and we rushed back to Concarneau. Having brought the boat back to life, we set off for Jersey at 08:30 on the Wednesday morning. We had a bumpy ride going around the Brest peninsular and 100 nm later moored up in St. Helier harbour at around 20:30.  After a comfy night’s sleep in a real bed, we set off again the next afternoon at 15:00, getting into Southampton at 23:00 on Thursday night.  Then a short ride from Ocean Village marina to the docks the following morning meant that it wasn’t long before we walked away from the boat as it sat in its cradle waiting to be taken onto the ship for Turkey – three long, rough days at sea made this particular trip more of a trial than an adventure but we’d done it.

This brings me to the second point I’d like to consider.  What price a life?  We studied the weather long and hard before putting out to sea and we considered the risks to be acceptable.  Despite the fact that we were under some pressure to get the boat to the docks for a specific date, we had made the decision to leave the boat tied up over the Christmas period when the storms were at their worst.  Commercially, this was a hard decision to accept.  Booking a place on a ship and getting a boat to its destination on time are obviously important to shipping companies and their clients but there comes a point when you have to stand back and look at the bigger picture.  Losing the boat, not to mention possibly our lives, by putting out to sea in ‘stupid’ weather would not have been a sensible move.  If the boat had ended up arriving late, which incidentally now it won’t, it would still have been a far better result than the alternative.   During my time as Principal of Sealine Sea School, I told students time and time again, that this is a leisure pursuit and there is never a time when you can justify going out in rough conditions; if nothing else, it’s simply not much fun.  Now that I am working as a freelance skipper, I have to balance the risk of not putting out to sea because it’s a bit lumpy, against the need to get the boat somewhere at a specific time.  These days, the pressure of meeting a schedule means that I am more likely to go than not but nevertheless, there are times when just slowing down and taking twice as many hours to complete the journey isn’t going to prevent a catastrophe.

My advice to you, as a leisure boater, is still going to be: This is supposed to be fun, if it is forecast to be F4 or more and the wave heights are going to be more than a metre and building, go to the pub instead.  There is no room for machismo in boating – always think of the weakest member of your crew and base your decision to go on that person and not yourself.

The other thing worth remembering is, it is always going to be worse at sea than it is on your mooring.

 *************************

The weather was so bad and the sea so rough that I didn’t bother trying to take pictures this time.  I did snap a couple of shots of a pod of Dolphins that raced up to the boat at one point but they came out blurred so I deleted them.  I do have a couple of pictures I took as we motored round to the docks on the last morning of our trip, so I’ve posted them here.

10 01 14_0024 low res

10 01 14_0025 low res

*************************

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.

Seeking Sun in the Med

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Genoa, taken from Marina Molo Vecchio

It was a miserable winter’s day on Jersey when we set off for our Med delivery trip. Nevertheless, we were all charged up and ready for an exciting few days delivering a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa.  The weather forecast for our trip was quite unbelievable;  all the weather sites I was watching indicated little or no wind and possible temperatures in the high teens.  Given that it was December and winter had arrived with a vengeance in the UK, this was going to be a very enjoyable few days.

After a short hop from Jersey to Gatwick we met up with Tony, our fourth crew member and stayed overnight at the airport hotel for a ‘crack of dawn’ flight to Mallorca.  When we arrived at Palma the sun was out and it was definitely milder than the UK – it seems weather forecasting is improving these days.  The taxi dropped us in Puerto Portals and it wasn’t long before we’d found our vessel and were crawling all over her.  We’d arrived early on the Sunday morning and were planning to depart at 8 o’clock the following morning, so we spent the time we had checking that everything was working, planning the route, fuelling the boat up and making sure the heating was working – as the sun went down it became a tad chilly!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Puerto Portals, Mallorca

So, the next morning we set off.  Our route took us around the SW corner of Mallorca and up the channel between Mallorca itself and Sa Dragonera, a beautiful, uninhabited island, which is almost in the shape of a dragon, if you squint a little and have a good imagination for mythical creatures.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sa Dragonera

As you can see, the water was like glass and coupled with the gorgeous hull on the Sunseeker 82, it was like gliding through butter – this was definitely going to be a glorious and most enjoyable trip.

It was approximately 170 NM to our first stop on the Spanish mainland, Palamos.  The crossing took us almost exactly 8 hours, running at around 20 knots.  You know, it’s surprising how quickly 8 hours passes by when you’re in good company. We all got along famously and everyone did their bit.  I especially like the fact that Davide is a dab hand at cooking – you all know my penchant for food!  That first day, Davide prepared us pasta and salad ‘on the hoof’.  Not only had he cooked lunch at 20 knots but we all took it it in turns to sit at the dining table to eat – this was pure cruising luxury.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Flat seas as we head away from Mallorca

By the time we’d arrived in Palamos, organised re-fuelling and berthing for the night, it was getting dark.  I have to apologise for the lack of pictures of Palamos but there’s not an awful lot to see in Palamos when it’s dark and besides that, we just wanted to get our heads down for an early start the next day.  Just before dawn, the local fishing fleet appeared from South of the marina and glided out to their fishing stations in the darkness.  I had every intention of beating them out and as such, had arranged to depart at 7 o’clock.  Incredibly though, the fleet still managed to beat us out.  At the precise moment we started the engines, I noticed the first fishing boat pass the harbour entrance.  Then one by one the others followed, until there was huge mass of red and white navigation lights passing the marina entrance and heading North.  It seems the next time I go into Palamos I’m going to have to get up even earlier.

We slipped the lines, left the dock and headed out into the mass of boats.  Our next stop was going to be Beaulieu sur Mer in the South of France but first we had to cross the Gulf de Lyon.  A word of advice for anyone attempting to cross this body of water; wait until it is calm.  Anything more than a F3 and it is like being in a washing machine.  The winds can be very confused and as such, the waves will be too.  I remember one trip on a Sealine T60, when we had to pass right around the inside of the bay, hugging the shore as we went. However, this time, the wind was so light that we wafted along at 20 knots, with barely any indication that waves even existed.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Some down time

Normally, in the Med, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see Dolphins and I once saw a whale, which, as regular readers of my Blog you will undoubtedly know but this time we actually saw a shark!  I glimpsed it from the helm but soon lost sight of it as it passed down the side of the boat.  The others reckoned it was about 9 or 10 feet long and was simply snaking it’s way across the surface of the water at a leisurely pace.  I was really pleased to see a shark in the wild.  I know, simple things please simple minds and all that but I’m not a huge fan of zoos, despite what they do to preserve endangered species.  I prefer to see my wildlife in the wild and this was my first ‘real’ shark!

This leg of the journey was a long one.  Eventually, we got across the Gulf de Lyon and started to head up the French coast. As we approached the Pettite Passe we were interrogated by French border control but they seemed happy enough with who we were and where we were going.  I would like to say at this point, well over 300 NM into the journey, that the boat hadn’t missed a beat. The engines were purring along at 1900 rpm and by now, we were doing a steady 21.5 knots. The autopilot had us on the perfect course and it was simply a matter of keeping watch.  With a schedule in place, we all got an opportunity for some time at the helm.  The lower helm can be a little claustrophobic on some flybridge boats but on the Sunseeker 82 it was comfortable and roomy, the visibility was great and all the controls were within reach – well done Sunseeker.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Lynn at the helm and Tony keeping watch

As the sun was dipping into the sea we made a sweeping turn to port around Cap Ferrat and slowed down to enter the harbour at Beaulieu sur Mer.  George was waiting for us on the fuel berth and we ‘quickly’ splashed 2000 litres in to get us to Genoa the next day.  I have to say, Beaulieu sur Mer is gorgeous.  The locals call it ‘Little Africa’ because of the fabulously mild micro-climate they have here.  Do yourselves a favour, if you are ever in the locality, whether on a boat or on the land, drop into the port and enjoy the surroundings.  It is so pretty and there are a host of wonderful restaurants to while away some hours in.  You might drop into Sunseeker Beaulieu and say hello to Mary too – tell her Richard sent you!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Still waters in the marina

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sunseeker 82, with Lynn doing some seamanship stuff!

© Richard Corbett 2013                              Wednesday morning, looking towards Italy

When we arose the next morning it was another stunning day in paradise.  After a quick tidy up, dealing with the berthing dues (France requires original paperwork remember, copies won’t do!) and sorting out the route planning for the passage to Italy, we were off on the last leg of our journey.  This was the shortest run of the trip, only 80 NM to Genoa from here.  Yet again the sea was super flat and it wasn’t long before we started to see some large commercial vessels heading in and out of Genoa.  The port is huge and there is a lot of commercial shipping moving between this part of the Med and the rest of the world.  Do make sure you know where you are going when you arrive in Genoa, as ‘Genoa Traffic’ and the port authorities take a dim view of leisure vessels passing through the commercial areas of the port.  We had arranged to stay in Marina Molo Vecchio and a quick call on VHF channel 71 caused a rush of helpers to see us safely onto our berth.

© Richard Corbett 2013                  As soon as the lines were on and we were plugged into the shore power, Davide set about cleaning the boat

If ever you are in Genoa on a boat, try and get a mooring at this marina. Fabrizia, the lady on the other end of the VHF was so helpful and she speaks excellent English too!  One tip though, make sure you give her all the crew details to pass on to Italian Immigration or you will be getting a visit from some very disgruntled officals, so I hear!

It was here that we encountered our only hiccup of the journey; a delay with the loading of the boat onto the cradle on which it was to sit during the voyage to her final destination. So the decision was taken to send half the crew back, which left Davide and myself to complete the last job of getting her around to the docks and into the slings.  It was sad to see Tony and Lynn leave us, as they had been excellent members of the team but it didn’t really make sense for all four of us to hang around in Italy.  We dropped them at their hotel and joined them for a last crew meal before saying our goodbyes and waving them farewell.

The following day, Davide and I set about making the boat look gorgeous and I have to tell you, there is a lot of boat to work on.  It took us the best part of the day to get her spruced up and ready for shipping.  All the potentially ‘flappy’ things had to be removed and stowed as did all the fabric seating and chairs from the outside areas of the boat.  When we’d finished she did look a picture and in fact, here is one to show how magnificent she looked as we set off for dinner that night…

© Richard Corbett 2013

Friday morning, armed with a piece of paper authorising us to travel into parts of the docks that are normally forbidden to leisure craft and the VHF channel numbers for ‘Genoa Traffic’ and ‘Genoa Pilots’ (why we had to call both, heaven alone knows – you’d think they would talk to each other!) we headed for the dock.  A bitter wind was blowing from the North and despite the cloudless sky it was absolutely freezing on the flybridge as we arrived at Ponte Libia for the lift onto the cradle.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were tied alongside and then began the wait to be lifted.  I must say, they have a strange work ethic in Italy.  Clearly, it works for them but I fail to understand why less than half an hour after having a tea break, the port crew changed shift, ho-hum…

© Richard Corbett 2013                                The strops passing under the boat

Finally, things started to happen. Lifting strops, held by the truly giant crane, were passed under the hull, positioned and then checked by the diver.  Then all of a sudden she was airborne!

© Richard Corbett 2013

This was essentially our part done.  We had safely moved her from Mallorca to Italy and it was now, simply a matter of helping out with straps and making sure the boat was shut down for transport.  After a couple of hours of aligning, switching off, strapping and checking, the job was finished and she was ready for her next big adventure.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Big, isn’t she?

I am very impressed with this boat.  She is extremely comfortable and feels very strong and safe at sea.  Admittedly, the water was supremely flat but you can tell when a boat is going to perform well whatever the weather chucks at you.  This is a perfect cruising boat and will comfortably accommodate 8 people plus crew.  The cabins are spacious and well laid out. The socialising spaces are equally well thought out and one of my biggest gripes with modern motor cruisers, the number of spaces at the dining table compared to the number of berths is well attended to.  I believe the new owner of this magnificent vessel is going to have many, many happy hours cruising on her.

***************************************

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.

Zeelander 68 – When a boat becomes a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2013

I recently had the opportunity to visit Holland as a favour for a friend of mine.   My friend is seriously considering buying this vessel and he asked me to check it out for him – so I did!

The weather on my arrival at Amsterdam airport was unseasonably sunny and warm – perhaps an omen.  Bob Fritsky from MarineMax, who are selling the Zeelander motor yachts, was waiting for me in an open top car would you believe, yes, it was that sunny!

On the drive down to where the Zeelander 68 was moored, Bob was telling me about her and the more I listened the more excited I became.  This is no ordinary 68 foot boat.  It seems the boat is actually owned by the man who founded Zeelander, to use as his own boat.  This man has a reputation for fastidious attention to detail, which apparently is reflected in the 68.  By now I was champing at the bit – Bob had done his job and I couldn’t wait to get on the boat.

Finally, after an hour, we arrived and there she sat, in all her splendour.  It’s funny, but from pictures taken of her, you don’t get the feel that she’s nearly 70 feet long but as I walked up to the dock I could see for myself how majestic this boat actually is.

Now, I’m a pretty cynical chap and I’ve been in the boat manufacturing industry long enough to know what to look for.  I immediately set about searching for flaws in this ‘amazing’ boat.  In the end I have to admit that I was disappointed and elated all at the same time. Disappointed, because I simply couldn’t find anything to speak of which was wrong with this boat.  Elated, because this boat was amazing after all. The attention to detail is on a different level to anything I’ve come across previously.  Simple stuff which you would take for granted, you can take for granted – unlike some boats I’ve been on before, when you come across things that stand out like a sore thumb and you wonder why somebody hasn’t picked up on it and fixed it; it’s not rocket science guys!

There were some lovely touches on this boat too.  The master’s cabin was truly excellent and the en-suite had a bath – a must in my opinion, although, not to everyone’s taste.  There was also a ‘walk-in’ wardrobe – nice touch and plenty of room in front of and around the bed for dressing and undressing.  The VIP cabin forward was well appointed, with plenty of space and a roomy heads area.  There were also two other double cabins, sharing a ‘day-heads’, which again, was nice and roomy.

Also on this deck was the entrance to the engine bay.  It was like walking into the engine room on a ship and this gave me my first clue as to what I was dealing with here.  The systems in the engine room were clearly designed with a professional and knowledgeable approach to long distance cruising.  I’m not going to go through everything in detail but suffice it to say that the equipment and layout in there was a level above your normal motor yacht and more in keeping with Atlantic crossing vessels that go to sea in extraordinary conditions without batting an eyelid.  Moreover, with the door shut, it was absolutely silent throughout the rest of the boat and with the measures taken to reduce vibration it was almost impossible to tell if the engines were running.

The next deck up has the saloon, galley and lower helm.  The lower helm position afforded a good view forward, all the equipment necessary to control the boat systems and a comfy seat for whiling away the hours when on passage.  For me though, the most impressive area on this deck was the saloon.  Immediately aft of the helm position is a table capable of accommodating all the passengers and more.  It is so nice to see that this has been thought through.  I dread to think how many times I’ve been on a vessel that sleeps 8 and has the space to feed 4.

By now you must be wondering if there was anything I didn’t like about this boat.  Well, in truth, there were a couple of issues.  For one, the boat seems to be missing a giant fridge.  There is a good size fridge in the galley, a large wine cooler and down on the lower deck, opposite the entrance to the engine room is a cavernous freezer.  Nevertheless, I think given that the whole point of this boat is it is designed to be self-sufficient and more than capable of making extended passages in huge comfort, the chilled storage space could be more extensive – 8 people consume a lot of food and drink in a day, especially when they are sat around relaxing.

The other issue I have with this boat is the lack of hand holds and the low height of the rail running around the deck.  This boat is designed to move comfortably through rough seas – stabilisers of course!  If you are out in rough weather, stabilisers or not, there is always the chance of being swept overboard and low rails and lack of hand holds shows up as an omission to me.

Also, and this is a personal preference of mine, the decks had fake teak on them – I am not a fan of this product and you will have to decide for yourself which is best for you.  I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist but there is a lot to be said for having this finish instead of real teak.  Firstly, the finish will always look the same and simply doesn’t weather in the same way that real teak does. The other real benefit is therefore, that maintenance costs are minimal compared to the scrubbing and teak oil application required for real teak.  There is one down side;  the fake teak does get hotter than real teak and some will find this uncomfortable under bare feet.

Now the really interesting bit – how does she perform at sea.  Well actually, we didn’t go to sea but headed out into a small inland waterway instead.  This is when I discovered that this is not a boat but a ship.  The Royal Navy, apparently, define a ship on the basis that a ship leans out on a turn and a boat leans in – this is why submarines are referred to as boats; they lean in.  This ship, leant out!  That is not to say it was disconcerting.  In fact the lean was barely discernible and that was without the stabilisers.  No, far from it, this is probably one of the most comfortable vessels I have been out on the water on.  It was windy enough for the water to be choppy but with a little encouragement and some nifty work on the wheel I made some waves of our own and the Zeelander just cut straight through everything. There was a good view all around from the flybridge and plenty of space for socializing too but I did think the seat could have been more supporting for those longer passages!

In conclusion, I suggest that this is the perfect ship to make long, interesting, sociable, comfortable, safe and confident adventures on.  Do not expect to go whizzing along at break bank account speeds as this is not designed to be the craft for that type of cruising.  Instead, enjoy the peace and tranquillity, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the company of your friends and family and enjoy the economy as you waft along at a graceful 11 knots consuming minimal fuel.

Here are some links to check out if I’ve whetted your appetite for a Zeelander:

http://zeelander.com/

http://www.marinemax.com/

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.

Grand East Coast Tour – Final installment

Day 6

We gave ourselves an easy day on day 6.  We reckoned we’d deserved it after the particularly long previous day – another 12 hour day if my calculations are correct.

For day 6 our target was to be Charleston.  This was a short hop of 120 miles, which should take just under 6 hours.  The sun was peeping over the horizon, the sea was flat and we motored on, singing away to the iPod for all we were worth.

I particularly wanted to stop at Charleston as I had been once before and was really quite impressed with the place.  The French influence on the architecture is plain to see and refreshingly different too.  The food is equally novel, although shrimp & grits at dinner that evening was most definitely something I’m glad I tried but I’m not in a hurry to order again.

Sadly, we didn’t venture into town to see the lovely architecture as yet again we wanted an early start and felt an early night would be prudent.  Therefore, I don’t have any pictures of Charleston for you but I do have one of a fishing boat that looks as though it should have starred in a Hitchcock movie…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Day 7

Another trip down the ICW, was the decision we came to the following morning.

As much as we both wanted to keep going down the outside, the weather had turned and it was just too rough.  However, what should have been a fairly uneventful trip suddenly became very exciting!

I spotted a Sealine F44 moored up in a marina!  How fantastic is that?

© Richard Corbett 2012

We slowed right down to take the picture and then after a big smile and a wave we were back on our way to Beaufort, which was to be our stop for the night and most likely the last stop in South Carolina; State #8.

Day 8

Early start again, would you believe and we’re off down the river.  No coastguards, no tree stumps, no shallow channels, just a wide, fast empty river – 20nm later, we pushed our nose out into the Atlantic.

I wish there were all sorts of exciting anecdotes for this penultimate day of the trip but sadly it was an uneventful cruise.  8 hours on a heading of 185 degrees and we came across the entrance to Ponce de Leon inlet.

The most notable incident of day 8 for me, was the return of the dreaded ‘Noseeums’.  I was positively eaten alive as we tied up to the pontoon – my legs and arms were covered in little red dots for days afterwards.

As much as day 8 was unremarkable the start of day 9 was much more exciting.

Day 9

© Richard Corbett 2012

This is turned out to be a Delta IV rocket with a GPS IIF-3 satellite, launched for the U.S. Air Force from Cape Canaveral – only 40nm down the coast from where we were in Ponce de Leon

Yet another calm day at sea meant we were on course to reach Fort Lauderdale before sunset.  It was going to be a long day, given that Ponce de Leon to Port Everglades is 200nm give or take, so a midway stop at West Palm Beach was required.

You should know that you can get the most brilliant cheese-burger from the restaurant right by the fuel dock at the Riviera Beach marina!

Yes, another non-event trip – except for the cheese-burger of course…

OK, boat full of fuel, stomach full of cheese-burger and we’re off again.

40nm and we pulled into the Port Everglades channel.  The 4 red and white striped chimney stacks, which have now disappeared as they were knocked down in early 2013, are hardly the prettiest sight in the world unless you’ve just done 1392nm, consumed 2433 US gallons of diesel, averaged 16 knots, passed through or around 10 US States, run for 92 hours, over 9 days… and then they are more than a brilliant landmark seen from miles out to sea; they are manner from heaven in fact!!!

© Richard Corbett 2012

I bet you’re wondering about the boat?  Bloody marvellous!  She looked after us the whole way – protected us from the weather, hot or cold, windy or wet.  She was comfortable and spacious, light and airy.  The engines?  The engines never missed a beat, not once!  This boat gave us the confidence to set out into the Atlantic, knowing that 6, 7 or 8 hours later we would arrive at our destination.

Do yourselves a favour, if you are into cruising and you get a chance, take a look at a Sealine!

***

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.

Grand East Coast Tour – 3rd installment

Day 4

As I suspected the weather was less than inspiring.  We crept out of the Waterside Marina in the rain; rain that got steadily worse and worse.  Fortunately the wind wasn’t bad and as we were driving from inside – which the huge windows on the F48 make it a pleasure to do – we were all snug and warm so it really didn’t matter too much at all.

There were going to be a number of bridges to negotiate on this section of the ICW and thankfully the kind folk at Waterside Marina had furnished us with a list of bridges and locks, plus the opening times, VHF call-signs and the distance between them.

It wasn’t long before we got to our first bridge.  There was a flotilla of boats drifting around, trying not to bump into each other and waiting for the bridge to open.  As if by magic, as we pulled up the bridge opened.  This was the way it worked all the way down this stretch of the ICW.  Bridges just opened as we approached, our timing must have been absolutely perfect.

Not long after we passed through the first couple of bridges I noticed a sign saying ‘The Great Dismal Swamp’.  Apparently, this route is regularly travelled by those making the trip up and down the east coast but generally only by those hardy folk who don’t mind brushing away overhanging trees as they pass by and who also don’t worry about the odd snake falling on the deck – I breathed a sigh of relief as we steered to port, away from what should be renamed, ‘The Trial By Death channel’.

We snaked (sorry) our way down the channels and bit by bit covered the 35 or so miles to our next stop Coinjock, which was for fuel.  Handy tip: Don’t use your last drops of fuel getting to Waterside Marina in Norfolk…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Coinjock is in the middle of nowhere.  There’s a long straight stretch of the ICW, with a high bridge in the distance (if you’re going south, that is) and a huge line of moorings to tie up to.  I guess this is a well-known and equally well frequented stopping off point.

As well as that all important fuel, there’s also a small shop and a restaurant.

The shop sells Coinjock t-shirts, would you believe.  I was sorely tempted to get one but then I remembered I’d already lashed out $25 on a Stars & Stripes hard hat I found in Home Depot, that was enough reckless expenditure for one trip:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It wasn’t long before the tanks were full and we were on our way again.

Mile after mile we wound our way south. Then all of a sudden the channel started to widen and open out into the North River, closely followed by a huge expanse of water which turned out to be over 40 miles wide and 15 miles across.  This massive ‘lake’ is known as Albemarle Sound.  I still find it weird to be almost able to touch the trees at the side of the channel one minute and then to be on a body of water so large that it has an horizon the next.

On the opposite side of the sound is the start of the Alligator River.  I’m not certain whether there were alligators in this river and I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to find out but one thing I can tell you for certain, the water was the most amazing colour.  I pondered on this for a while and came to the conclusion that it must be to do with the process of decay and petrification that was happening to all the fallen trees in the river.

© Richard Corbett 2012

The great hazard on the ICW, that nobody seems to mention, is the tree stumps lurking just beneath the surface. These must surely be the result of the clearing that took place to create the waterway in the first place – never go too close to the edge; stay in the middle!

All of a sudden the river becomes a canal.  Straight as a die for almost 10 miles and then, after a sharpish left, straight as a die again for nearly 10 more miles – surreal!

Eventually, we came out into another ‘ordinary’ river, the Pungo River.

A short distance down the river and we had arrived at our night stop, ‘Dowry Creek Marina’.  We had a lovely welcome, made extra special by the free bottle of Black & Tan beer which we had thrust into our hands.  The ‘marina’ backed onto a wood of epic proportions.  It seemed to me that these kind folk were the only human beings for miles but apparently we were welcome to borrow their car and go into town if we so desired – TOWN!  There was nothing there; we might as well have been on the moon!  Well, that’s how it looked from the dock.

© Richard Corbett 2012

Fortunately, Chris knew the captain and crew on another boat which was just behind us and they were stopping here for the night too.  We had an invitation to dinner and this was one invitation we were not going to turn down.

After a wonderful evening swapping tales of the high seas and the low ICW, we dashed back to our boat – raining again – and went straight to bed.  We had an early start and a long day ahead of us if we wanted to make some decent progress the next day.

Day 5

And here’s the sunrise that greeted me as I stepped onto the dock the next morning…

© Richard Corbett 2012

And another shot for good measure!

© Richard Corbett 2012

Our new friends had left early.  Yes, even earlier than us!  The best speed they could make without using a serious amount of fuel was 9 knots, so it’s only to be expected that they were keen to get going.  We knew we’d catch them up and over take them again – it had become a mutual challenge!

It wasn’t long before we’d left the marina and were heading towards the end of the Pungo River.  Part of the way down another amazingly straight stretch of canal, we came across the RE Mayo Co, Inc.

© Richard Corbett 2012

They don’t seem to sell much there but the signage advertises the fact that you can buy fuel and seafood; unlikely bedfellows I reckon, but hey-ho.

The Bay River eventually came into view and ordinarily there wouldn’t be much to say about this stretch of the ICW, just another bit of river.  However, as we rounded the last bend we saw our friends stopped in the middle of the river and hanging around at the stern of their boat was a US Coastguard boat with its blue light flashing.

This was too funny.  There had been some friendly banter going back and forth between our two boats, as you might imagine and this was going to be material worth its weight in gold!

© Richard Corbett 2012

As we glided past, exceptionally slowly of course, trying to disguise huge grins and nodding sagely at the same time, the VHF came to life, “I wouldn’t go too far, you’re next”, came across the airwaves.

DOH!

© Richard Corbett 2012

As it turned out, the Coastguard officers were stopping everyone for a routine safety check; which we passed with flying colours of course!

Mind you, Chris couldn’t believe it when I stopped them getting off our boat to take a picture!

Once we had said our goodbyes and waved a hearty farewell to the USCG, who Chris insisted on giving our last Snicker bars to, we quickly made our way down to Morehead City.  A short fuel stop and a bite to eat and we headed out into the Atlantic once more.

Cape Fear is notoriously rough, in much the same way as Cape Hatteras is.  However, the sea was virtually flat and this was an opportunity not to be missed.  Frankly, any more driving through ditches would have driven me nuts.

Chris was determined that we needed to go around the bottom of the Frying Pan Shoals and I was happy to defer to his local knowledge but as we got closer it became apparent that the sea was so flat it wouldn’t hurt to go across the shoals; so we did. We stayed out quite away – far enough down that we wouldn’t fall foul of any underwater obstacles but high enough up that we could claim to have defeated the ‘monster’.  OK, it’s not really a monster but it’s surprising what banal conversations you have when you’ve just spent 4 hours driving in a straight line at 20 knots!

Anyway, we rounded the cape and headed into Bald Head Island Marina.  This is a beautiful and exclusive island, only reachable by water. Everyone drives around in golf carts and looks as though they are having the time of their lives – what a splendid place to pull up for the night.

So, a quick re-cap:  Thus far, we had travelled from Connecticut, passed through New York, along the New Jersey shore, skirted Delaware, stopped in Maryland, run through Virginia and now we were moored up in North Carolina – 7 States in 5 days and we’re feeling pretty smug!

I don’t have a picture of Bald Head Island marina as it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left but as we’re celebrating how about a picture of a very colourful house where the owners look as though they like to celebrate too?

© Richard Corbett 2012

Into the Carolinas and onwards to Florida – check back in for the next exciting installment!

Grand East Coast Tour Part IV

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.

Grand East Coast Tour – 2nd installment

At the end of the channel, waiting for us, was the Atlantic Ocean.  From where we were sitting it looked fairly flat but as we got closer it soon became apparent that the rest of the day’s journey was going to be less ‘spectacular’ and more ‘bouncy’.

In actual fact, it became very bouncy indeed.  We soon adjusted our plans and decided Ocean City was a none starter and Atlantic City looked a much better prospect besides which, there is a very nice restaurant in the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City – mmm, food!

A few hours later and the mountainous waves started to get smaller.  We eased the throttles forward a tad and managed to get to 18 knots for all of 10 minutes!  Then, for an unfathomable reason, they suddenly got a whole lot bigger and we had to back off to 9 knots.  Our planned TTG (time to go) suddenly shot up to 3 hours.

Chris and I glanced at each other and our plan changed yet again.  There was no way either of us relished the thought of rattling around inside the F48 on a sea like this for the next 3 hours, that was for sure!  Thankfully, just 5 miles to the right was an inlet, which lead onto the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway).  The inlet was the Barnegat Inlet and the feeling of bliss as we entered the channel and the pounding stopped was palpable.

There was another feeling now though, a new and equally tangible feeling, one of apprehension and uncertainty.  The depth gauge seemed to be telling us that we had less than a metre under the props! This issue was easily solved, we adjusted the depth instrument to read in feet – these figures were much bigger numerals and made us feel a whole lot better…

Atlantic City was still 30 miles as the crow flies but as anyone who has travelled down the ICW will tell you, crows tend to fly in reasonably straight lines and they don’t have to keep stopping every time the depth sounder says 0.00 feet – aaaargh!  I’m not sure how long it took us to get to Atlantic City as we were both concentrating like mad on the channel, the markers, the plotter, the depth sounder and watching very carefully for birds standing up in the water.  Apologies for the lack of pictures but we had other things on our mind.

When we finally arrived in Atlantic City we both virtually collapsed with exhaustion.  We had been motoring for 12 hours non-stop and the only thing we wanted to do was eat and sleep, so we did!

Day 2

Today we were definitely going to get to Ocean City.  It was to be the first stop on my planned route and come hell or high water (apt, don’t you think) we would make it before the end of the day.  The sea had subsided enough for a run down the outside and so after re-fuelling we headed out of the channel.

The distance to Ocean City wasn’t huge and within a few hours it came into view, the buildings appearing as silhouettes against the moody sky.

Ocean City

We made our way in and tied up at White Marlin Marina for the night. This was where I first encountered ‘Noseeums’.  Please excuse the spelling if I have it wrong but as far as I am concerned the correct spelling of the name is irrelevant.  These invisible little monsters set about munching their way through my arms, legs, face and any part of my body that was exposed as I stepped off the boat!

Alongside in Ocean City

Here we are tied up in White Marlin Marina

Fortunately, the ‘Noseeums’ weren’t the only wildlife in the Ocean City inlet.  We glimpsed a brief but beautiful sight of some dolphins making their way against the fast flowing tidal stream that runs past the marinas.  In fact, during the trip I saw quite a few dolphins and porpoises.  I also saw a whale and even a turtle, swimming for all it was worth just under the surface.  But these were all glimpses and in accordance with ‘Sod’s Law’ I only had a camera in my hand on one of these occasions and that was for the whale.  A whale which happened to be so far away that it appears as a small hump in the middle of the picture I took.

Here is the shot – don’t laugh!

Whale

I’m no authority on whales but I do know that Right Whales migrate along the east coast of the United States at this time of year, so you have to wonder if this was a Right Whale.

 

Day 3

It was an early start today, as we had a good distance to cover.  The sea was flat enough for an ‘outside’ run, which was just as well because our target was Norfolk in Virginia.  Norfolk is one of the US Navy’s bases. It supports a staggering number of ships and planes and takes up what appears to be miles of waterfront.

The trip down was pretty uneventful and after about 5 hours running we turned into Chesapeake Bay, we could see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ahead of us and the gap we were going to pass through.  This gap runs over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which excitedly for me, I have driven through!

It seemed to take for ever to get to the gap in the bridge.  From the moment we first saw the bridge, it turned out to be over six miles distant, it took us nearly half an hour to reach.  Distances at sea can be so deceptive, especially at night.  If you’ve ever tried to approach a buoy at night you’ll know exactly what I mean. (Maybe I should have re-phrased that – ho, hum!)

Once through the bridge we made a left and aimed the boat in the direction of the Naval dockyards.  Obviously, we were careful not to aim too directly at the warships and we slowed down in very good time – let sleeping dogs lie.  These particular sleeping dogs have guns and some of them are huge!  Creeping past at 6 knots we were in awe of the size of these ships and the activity going on all around the dockyards.  I thought that the military area would finally come to an end as we headed down the river towards our stopping point for the night but it just carried on and on.  Finally, we arrived at the Waterside Marina, which is on the Norfolk side of the river and would you believe, we were still in the heart of the military zone.  Exactly opposite was a dry dock with a massive ship in it…

Dry dock in Norfolk

The marina was only small but right on the edge of the city.  We ‘parked’ next to a lovely couple on their home built yacht, which they had sailed all the way down from Canada.  They too, were ‘en route to Florida’.  I had a sneaking suspicion we would make it before them.  To my embarrassment, I uttered a derogatory comment when retying the lines to the dock – something about the knot being unconventional, a ‘Canadian Snow Hitch’ I believe I referred to it as… this was before I noticed the Canadian flag flying on their backstay.  They took it well and we made amends by showing them around the F48.  You know, everyone says the same thing, “Are you sure this is 48 foot, it feels so much bigger?”

Moored in Norfolk

The highlight of the early evening was a free concert playing in an adjacent park and actually, the music was pretty good. The highlight of the late evening was a splendid bar on Granby Street called Mo & O’Malleys Irish Pub.

The live entertainment was very enthusiastic, almost as enthusiastic as the audience at times!  One little tip if ever you find yourself in this establishment, when the clapping stops, don’t be the last one clapping…

After we’d finished clapping and singing (mostly out of tune) we made our way back to the boat and hit the hay.

The next leg of journey would take us down a part of the coast which is notorious for being rough and worse still, there would be no ducking into the ICW and therefore, little in the way of assistance if we had a problem.  Instead, we intended to pass Cape Hatteras on the ‘inside’.

It was going to be a long slog down the ICW and the weather was going to be ghastly too.

Keep checking in for the next instalment of the Grand East Coast Tour and some more of my world famous ‘Skipper’s Tips’

Grand East Coast Tour Part III

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.

 

The Grand East Coast Tour

Well here it is folks – the one you’ve all been waiting for, I hope…

This is the closest I’ve ever got to being a fully paid up member of the explorers club!  I know that for some this adventure is just another average summer trip but for me it is the longest journey I have ever made by water and the memories of this journey will live with me forever.  In fact, if I had any grandchildren, I would definitely sit them on my knee and tell them all about it, again and again and again!

This journey epitomises what having a boat and going exploring is all about – do it now, is my advice!

I’m going to serialise the adventure, as it’s too long to put up in one hit, so keep popping back to make sure you get the latest instalment as it’s posted.

 **********

© Richard Corbett 2012

‘1000 miles’ that’s what I was told.  Take the F48 from Norwalk in Connecticut down to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, it shouldn’t take long, 5 days maybe…

In the end it took a little longer than that and it was a few more miles too.

Much planning and preparation later, the day finally came to set off.  It was a little bit of an anti-climax actually.  There was only Neil left to see us off and we nearly took him with us. I thought he was off the boat as I pulled away from the dock we’d occupied during the Norwalk boat show but after much shouting and gesturing I realised we had a stowaway! Once I was certain he had left the boat we motored out of the mooring and waved goodbye.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to start our epic journey.  The sun was shining, there was a light breeze on the nose and as Long Island Sound is fairly well sheltered from the west the waves were hardly noticeable.

New York City was our destination, as we had a journalist with us, who was trying the boat for an article he was writing about cruising.  The trip to New York City would be the perfect opportunity to get all the experience he needed.  There was just one small hitch… The UN Assembly was in town and our ‘best laid plans’ had to be changed to plan B.  The East River was closed and we had no choice but to pull up short and wait for the next day to pass through the city.  A stuttering start if ever there was one – hopefully, not an omen of things to come!

The World’s Fair Marina in Queens found us a berth for the night and we bade farewell to our journalist friend.  He was quite sanguine about being dropped off short of his intended departure point but I did feel sorry for him as I knew the trip down the East River was going to be spectacular –  if only those folk from the UN knew how they’d inconvenienced us, I’m sure they’d be suitably contrite…

Well, here it is; the view that greeted us as we made our very early way down the river the next morning.

© Richard Corbett 2012

Chris, also a skipper, although in the States they would call him a captain, was on the VHF checking with the USCG (United States Coast Guard) that the closure was no longer in force and we could, in fact, transit the river.  Whilst he was doing that, I was up top clicking away for all I was worth on my camera.

Sadly, we had to go down the east side of Roosevelt Island, as the police were still preventing people from getting too close to where the UN Assembly was being held.  Mind you, it did prevent my camera from almost catching fire!

Even so, I managed to snap a few shots of the sun’s early rays painting the Manhattan skyline.

© Richard Corbett 2012

And the odd iconic piece of advertising too

© Richard Corbett 2012

But this shot of the ESB really took the biscuit for me

© Richard Corbett 2012

The next shot I wanted was of the Statue of Liberty as we left the city and from this angle, which could only have been taken from on the water, this special landmark looked spectacular…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Then finally, after all the picture taking we picked up speed, headed out into the channel and set our sights on Ocean City in Maryland for our first overnight stop.

One last look over our shoulders, one last shot and we were off…

© Richard Corbett 2012

At the end of the channel, waiting for us, was the Atlantic Ocean.  From where we were sitting it looked fairly flat but as we got closer it soon became apparent that the rest of the day’s journey was going to be less spectacular and more bouncy…

Keep an eye out for the next instalment, when we work our way down the New Jersey coast and end up having to go inland!

Grand East Coast Tour Part II

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.

Sealine’s in the Mist

© Richard Corbett 2012

“Grab some food and something to drink, we’re off to Jersey!”

This is what I said to Tim when I called to tell him he was going to be crewing for me.  I had a handover to do on an SC35 at the weekend and the weather window to get the boat there from Southampton had just opened up.

As it turned out, this was exactly the right decision – the water was a little lumpy when we went through the Needles Channel but by the time we’d got to the shipping lanes it was flattening and the Alderney Gap was like glass.  In the end it took us precisely 5 hours to get the boat from the Hamble to St. Hellier harbour.

This must sound like a perfect start to glorious few days in the Channel Islands.  Well in some respects it was; excellent run across, wall to wall blue skies forecast and the prospect of some fabulous boating.  The ‘downer’ came in the shape of a fender line attached to the tender which, it turned out, was dangling in the water.  Thinking back, it must have been the first time I’d been in astern since leaving the Hamble River.  Yes, you guessed it, the rope got caught around the port props.

Fortunately, mooring an SC35 with only one engine working isn’t too much of a drama, even if the mooring was really tight at only 36 feet long!  Once we were tied up it only took a quick look over the back to see where the rope had gone and to decide on a plan to get it off.

The moral of the story – check for dangling rope.  I guess I should have known better and as much as I’d like to blame the rush to get across the Channel in time to get over the marina sill and the fact that the rope was only visible if you stood and looked at the boat directly from behind, I cannot.  As skipper you must check and re-check, especially when your trip takes you so far from land.

Anyway, enough self-recrimination, let’s get on with the story.  The handover was a riot from beginning to end.  To illustrate this I’ll just mention that we ended up toasting the arrival of the new boat with a round of bacon rolls!

© Richard Corbett 2012

I told you it was a tight fit!

Finally, having opened every locker, pressed every button, switched every switch and taken copious notes the handover was complete.  Well, actually, we still had to go out for a sea trial and once we’d had a bite to eat this is exactly what we did.  Everyone had a go on the controls as we went around and around like possessed madmen (and women, although I’m certain I’ve been told women are always fully in control).  We had to try her at full speed of course and somebody called Mandy had to go one step further and try ‘stop to stop’ turns at full speed too!!  In truth, it was at my bidding, as I wanted everyone to see what the boat was capable of.  I know it will never happen again but it does boost your confidence to find out that you will ‘give up’ long before your boat does and if you get caught out in bad weather, your elegant, stylish Sealine SC35 will also get you safely back to harbour.

The next day we mooched around the marina as we learnt how to control ‘Calma’ at close quarters.  Incidentally, the name ‘Calma’ is derived from Karma as in peace and well-being, coupled with calm as in not out at sea in rough conditions – clever, isn’t it?

By the time we’d finished for lunch we were getting pretty competent and the neighbouring boats were getting pretty fed up – the admiring glances and rounds of applause had changed to piercing looks and under the breath mutterings.

So over lunch we hatched a plan to go on an adventure the next day.  This meant that Nick and I would spend some time learning about the chart-plotter and the others would go and buy all sorts of scrummy things for the picnic.

Eventually, the planning was done the picnic was stowed and we sat ourselves down to relax and enjoy and evening on the boat.  This is one aspect of boating that all folk enjoy, irrespective of how good your sea-legs are, sitting on the back of a boat, sipping a chilled drink and discussing the day is an exquisite pleasure and one I would heartily recommend everyone to enjoy if the opportunity arises.

 

***

 

When I awoke the following morning and peered at the curtains I realised that even though my clock said 06:30 (lie in) it was still dark outside.  This didn’t bode well for our fabulous adventure and less still for the BBQ on the beach, which the picnic had now become.  When I looked out, the island was shrouded in mist – this was destined to become more significant than it seems right now.

Not to be daunted, I was soon breakfasted and on my way to the boat.  In my experience as Sea School Principal, with a whole host of theory courses under my belt and hours spent teaching Meteorology, I was certain the mist would burn off.  After all, we were in the ‘sunny’ Channel Islands, it was August and we were going to anchor off a beach at the top of the island and have a BBQ on the beach – mist was definitely not allowed.

It all became quite ominous when we received a call from one of Lucy’s friends asking if we could run her to Guernsey as the flights out of Jersey were cancelled.  “Cancelled!”, I blurted out.  “You do know I have to fly back tonight?”

© Richard Corbett 2012

During our lunch on the boat – the beach was looking a little forlorn by now – we checked on the fast ferry back to Poole and the status of flights leaving Jersey and the mist rolling off the top of the hillside above us and realised that all looked to be lost.  Normally, it wouldn’t matter too much but I had another handover to complete and this was due to commence at 9am the following morning.

Suddenly, we noticed blue sky appearing above our heads and all was well with the world again.  The lunch on the boat turned out to be great fun, especially the bananas cooked in Baileys!  Soon, it was time to head back and with the anchor stowed we headed back to the marina.

Now, if ever you are in Jersey and you get a chance to look at the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Marina just as the sill drops, do.  You might consider getting a chair and a drink and perhaps even something to eat, as there are hours of fun and amazement to be had watching the boats coming screaming through at upwards of 7 or 8 knots – some even manage to turn around unscathed!!

I made my farewells and left for the airport, all the time watching the disconcerting sight of a fog bank sitting close to the western shoreline of the island.  It seemed quite menacing, I guess as a boater the significance of being enveloped in fog is so much greater than when you are in a car.  Even though the sun was shining brightly, that blessed fog was just hanging there, threateningly.  By the time I checked in, I had forgotten about the fog and was readying myself for the flight back.

At 11pm, 3 hours later, I walked back out of Jersey Airport and into a taxi as the flights had been cancelled…

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.