Sarky Sunday!

OK, so it’s Sunday, there’s a gentle breeze wafting across the island from the south, it’s a little over cast but the forecast is for sun later, what do you do next? Well, let me tell you – you get on a boat with seven other people and you go to Sark for lunch of course!

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It was a little lumpy on the way up to Corbiere but nothing we couldn’t cope with and then, once we turned the corner it was an easy run straight up to Havre Gosselin.  This is a super little bay on the West coast of Sark, just at the point where Sark and Brecqhou meet (actually, there’s a small channel that separates them but you know what I mean).

Picking up the mooring buoy was a breeze, as was getting ashore on the jet-rib but climbing up the zig-zag path to the Pilcher Monument at the top was not such a breeze, especially if you are as unfit as me it seems! It is definitely not the sort of hike to be attempted if you have heart issues but most people could make it to the top with a few stops to get their breath back I’m sure.

From the moment it flattened out, we broke into a brisk walk, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of an island devoid of mechanised transport (except for the tractors of course). In fact, we reckon the most noise came from our footsteps and the wind – how delightful.

It’s only a ten minute walk to the high street which, compared to previous visits, was looking a tad quiet.  Mind you, it was early May, so perhaps it’ll pick up later in the season.

There’s a visitor centre just before you get to town and Mandy simply couldn’t resist looking down the barrel of the canon…

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There’s always one who has to do this, isn’t there?

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We also needed a comfort break by now.  If ever you go to Sark and you need the loo, they are this way…

After a brief stroll down the high street, we headed for the hotel where we were meeting for lunch.  The Stocks Hotel is an oasis in the centre of the island, providing top notch accommodation and exquisite food to go with it.

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We tried the locally caught lobster and enjoyed every single mouthful. Sitting in the afternoon sun, sipping Sancerre and chatting with some lovely friends, has to be the most wonderful way to spend a Sunday.  Anyway, all good things eventually come to an end, so we took a leisurely stroll back towards the boat.

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Here’s a tower we saw en route.

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and here’s a cat!

At the monument, we started our decent and it’s at this time, every time I visit Sark by this route in fact, that I’m glad the return journey is down hill and not up!

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That’s the boat we came on – the one in the bay there, next to the other ones… long way down isn’t it?

Once we’d all got back to the boat, we strapped the rib on the back, untied the mooring line and we were off.  An hour later and we pulled onto the berth in Elizabeth Marina and that was us back in Jersey.

The next time you’re wondering what to do on Sunday…

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.

 

Alexio Buchanino’s crazy adventures in Italy!

This is a special post in my Blog to demonstrate how, in the course of my every day job, I am forced to rub shoulders with those elusive people not normally in the public eye.

Here is but one example: the infamous and as yet, still not quite a Double ‘O’ operative but nearly there, secretive agent, looking suave and sophisticated as usual…

In the picture below, in order to maintain his anonymity, he has been cunningly disguised to look like an angelic young lad, who couldn’t melt butter in his mouth, even if he tried…

aka Buchanino, Alexio Buchanino (MI5)
aka Buchanino, Alexio Buchanino (MI5)

Perhaps we should have a look at some his exploits now, starting with, ‘How to drive a RIB in circles’

Then, when you’ve finished going around in circles, you need to learn how to go in a straight line and maybe get some ‘air’ too.

…and now a little practice before the wake-boarding competition, the one that actually never happened as it was top secret and nobody knew about it and those that did had to be shot!

Then some practice eluding the ‘bad guys’; all secret agents need to know how to do this!

and finally, learning how to avoid capture using any available means of transport!

A word to the wise, if you are an aspiring secret agent, you must be able, like Alexio can, to do all of the above, otherwise HM Government is never going to accept you.

Live long and prosper, as someone from Star Trek once 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 adventures.

Big Boy’s Cruise

Marina d'Arechi

As many of you will know by now, I am Captain of an Elegance 76 which is currently resident in Italy.  The first cruise of the year is always a male only affair, close chums of the owner get to do the ‘warm-up’ cruise or in this case, move the boat from her current base to the new one for the forthcoming season.

So it was, at the end of May we set off on the first leg of our journey to relocate from Cala de Medici in Tuscany to Marina d’Arechi, near Salerno, just south of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast.

The weather was perfect, a light breeze and sunny skies with a smattering of fluffy white clouds.  After a winter of fixing bits and bobs, cleaning, servicing and general touching up, which a boat of this vintage requires in spades, this cruise was as much about proving that we’d found all the issues as it was about having a ball sailing down the western side of the boot.

It wasn’t long before we passed our first group of islands and our first notable landmark.  Elba was the place where Napoleon spent 300 days, it’s the 3rd largest island in Italy and today is a tourist hotspot famous for it’s wine production.

Elba

As we motored south and Elba came onto our starboard beam, I noticed the sun made the water sparkle and I simply couldn’t resist this picture, shame about the ferry!

36 nautical miles to go to our first stop for the night, which meant 3.6 hours of trundling along at our leisurely pace.  She’s a big old bird and thirsty too if you push her.  We tend to run at about 10 knots which returns a fuel consumption of 65 litres/hour total – comfy and frugal all at the same time.  The other idiosyncrasy of our cruising style is to avoid marinas like the plague.  Every night, if possible, we’ll anchor off in the best bay we can find.  In fact, if there are other boats around, we’ll pass by and find an empty bay all of our own – this is the one we found for our night off Giglio… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isola_del_Giglio

Cala delle Caldane

Cala delle Caldane, off the east coast.  Fancy waking up to this view?  Not bad is it?

Day 2 was only a short hop due east to Porto Ercole. Again, the protocol was to anchor off, so with the wind in the south but due to change overnight to a north-easterly we headed into a beach immediately west of Porto Ercole.

Port Ercole

I was up with the birds on the 3rd day.  With a few minutes to myself I had a quiet time watching the world come to life and snapped a couple of shots of the distant mainland hills folded upon each other – this is my favourite and works really well for me in black & white.

Eventually, we were all up and ready to roll, so off we set on our last leg of the first BB cruise to Rome.  This was going to be a long old day but thankfully the sun, as always it seems, was out and the wind was on the port quarter.  This approach to cruising is very relaxing.  I’m so used to whizzing along at 900 mph, that it took me a little while to get my head around going so slowly but once you slow down yourself you soon get into the rhythm of the waves and the slight rolling of the boat.  What was so nice, was the ability to fix a drink or some food and not having to run the risk of throwing it all over yourself every time you hit a wave.  Mind you, by the time Rome came into view the wind had picked up and we entered Porto di Roma with a 6 on our beam.  Thankfully, the berth they’d given us was shielded from the wind by the shipyard and at least 8 very large boats lined up on the hard. making mooring up simplicity itself.

Well, that was it, part 1 of the Big Boy’s Cruise complete.  Let’s move on to Part 2 immediately…

On the 9th of June we set sail for Marina d’Arechi but not before we’d had an evening in Rome – how can you be 45 minutes from the centre of such a famous city without spending some time wandering the streets?  This city is truly amazing, it reeks history.  Everywhere you turn there are historic buildings or what’s left of them and right in the middle is, of course, the Colosseum.  Built nearly 2000 years ago, between 70-80 AD, you just have to admire how smart these guys were.  Apparently, the dust, found under the city and mined to provide the building materials for ancient Rome is a waterproof version of concrete that allowed the Romans to build underwater structures long before anyone else in the world – little wonder the Roman Empire became so vast, so fast.

Historic ruins - Rome

But smart Romans still exist… we found a particularly intelligent girl when we were having dinner.  We’d found a suitable spot to eat in one of the ‘al fresco’ back street eateries and were immediately enthralled with our waitress who spoke excellent English (always a plus in my book) and spouted energy too.  She proffered a few words of wisdom, music to the ears of any mature male, such as myself, with a penchant for good food – apparently, “A man without a stomach is like a sky without stars; so keep your stomach!”

Enough frivolity – back to the cruise!

Anzio was chosen as our first stop on this 2nd leg.  It was a handy couple of hours away – the previous night ensured a late start was inevitable but also because of it’s historical significance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Anzio).  As it happens, there was nothing to write home about when we arrived at Anzio.  We anchored just off the main beach and spent a calm night on the hook.  On the plus side, the food that evening was glorious and we did have a couple of shots of Limoncello to finish the evening off!

Anzio

Ponza was much prettier!  The next morning we set off for our half way point.  Ponza is part of a group of islands that are the last remains of a caldera rim of an extinct volcano.  Whatever it is, the bay we ended up in was lovely and the water so inviting that we simply had to get the diving gear out!

Going down!

So inviting...

And finally to our last day and it turned out to be another long one.  We left Ponza at 8am, took a last look behind us…

Ponza

… pointed the boat at Capri and settled in for a 10 hour trip to Marina d’Arechi.  This wasn’t exactly what we’d intended to do.  The intention was to spend a night in Capri but on arriving at the chaos and madness that was taking place just outside the harbour we decided discretion was the way forward, turned east and sailed on.

Capri ahead

Ischia, Capri and the Amalfi coast should definitely be on your ‘bucket list’ but be warned, they are overcrowded and over-priced.  I have since been told that a boat was recently charged €1500 for a one night stay in Capri harbour.  This news made me wonder two things – how long was this ‘boat’ and how did they manage to find a place?

Despite what I’ve just written, the Amalfi coast, like all coastlines worldwide, looks amazing from the sea.  The sheer cliffs, speckled with houses and villages was a sight to behold.  As we cruised past, silence fell amongst us and all that could be heard was the clicking of shutters as we took picture after picture.  I’ve put a few of my favourites below:

Positano Perched Church on the edge Precarious Bridge Lookout towers Hidden houses Amalfi

An hour later and we entered the marina and were shown to our new berth.  What a trip!  Cruising around here is going to be brilliant.  Even better than you might imagine though, as we have subsequently found out that south of Salerno is an area unspoilt by tourism, supremely pretty and dubbed by the locals as the Italian Caribbean – can’t wait to see if it lives up to the claims…

One last shot I reckon – the following morning and the view as I had my early breakfast before everyone else got up!

Breakfast in Marina d'Arechi

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.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.