Circumnavigation – last legs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approaching the Camel River:

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In the estuary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the approach:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

  1. Depressions
  2. Sea breezes
  3. Fog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Breaking news: Sea captain turns hunter gatherer!

Saturday evening, I was round at a friends’ house enjoying a lovely Fabada which I’d made and adapted à la Captain Corbett and suddenly David said, “How do you fancy coming with me tomorrow and emptying the crab pots?”. How could I say no?

So this is us leaving Gorey Harbour on a sunny but slightly fresh Sunday morning at the end of May – I love living on this island!

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David was telling me a while back how he makes his own pots and how he’s been catching crabs and lobsters for years.  I was absolutely fascinated, especially as I’m normally cursing the pesky things when I’m out on a motor cruiser, with eyes peeled, trying to avoid the floats – the fishermen around here call them ‘buffs’; excuse the spelling if I’ve got it wrong! For all I know, they may call them ‘buffs’ everywhere, I ought to find out…

Anyway, David’s pots are less than a mile out of the harbour so we were soon upon them and lifting the first pot.

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I could scarcely believe it, the pot was full of Spider Crabs!  David and I suspect all the other local guys, who put pots out for personal use rather than for commercial reasons, adopt a conservational tactic of only taking the males and then, only the ones over 12cm long.

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Once the pot is cleared, it is re-baited and tossed back into the sea.

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When all the pots had been lifted, emptied and re-baited we headed in. Our total catch was five Spider Crabs, which were going to make a lovely supper with some garlic mayonnaise, some crusty bread, a little salad and some nice red wine.

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Back on the berth in Gorey Harbour – isn’t it pretty?

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What a splendid way to spend a Sunday and free dinner too!

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.

Circumnavigating the British Isles

This is going to be an epic trip, without any shadow of doubt.  Sadly, I’m only going to be able to make some of the legs but nevertheless, I’m going to chronicle the passages I do make and probably comment on notable happenings from the ones that I’m not on.  The last time I made a journey of similar magnitude was down the east coast of America, some of you may remember the Grand East Coast Tour. I think this is going to be just as exciting, if not more!  In order to protect the privacy of the owner of the boat, I’m not going to mention any names, including the name of the boat but I can tell you that the boat is a Botnia Targa. Whenever I’ve spoken with people in the industry about these boats I always get the impression they are the marine equivalent to the Camel Trophy Land Rovers – it appears that people who own these boats seem to wait until it gets rough and then go out!! Fortunately, not everyone who owns a Botnia Targa is loopy-loo and I suspect the ride around England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be a very pleasant and calm affair – at least I hope it will be when I’m on board.

So, the first thing to do is get the boat from Jersey to Southampton and that’s just what we did yesterday.  A suitable day appeared out of nowhere and after making some quick plans on Saturday, we were off at 08:45 Sunday morning.

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Flat enough it may have been but it was also wet and pretty miserable as we left Jersey and headed north for the Alderney Race.  Tripping along at 22 knots, we were soon at the race and swept through at 28 knot SOG with a handy bit of tide under us.  The Channel was absolutely empty.  We didn’t have to change course once to avoid ships and we only saw four in the shipping lanes anyway – the breaks in the conversation were getting longer at this stage.  I reckon there’s only so much you can talk about before it starts to become prying.  Maybe it was time for a game of I-spy…

“Hang on a moment, that’s not a freighter and it’s not going the same way as the other ship in the south bound lane either…I know what that looks like, it’s a forces vessel and it’s headed our way!”

Sure enough, they tucked into our wake as we sailed past and kept pace with us for a short while.  Nothing came over the VHF, so we carried on, assuming they would have seen our name and the AIS signature and done all the checks they wanted without having to stop us…

WRONG!

The next thing we see, they slowed the cutter right down and launched a RIB, which hammered through the sea after us.  Still no call on the VHF and I was beginning to wonder if it was working and at the same time dreading the, “Why didn’t you stop?” conversation that was bound to happen once they boarded us.  So, we thought it might be prudent, at this point, to slow down and let them come alongside.

In no time at all they were upon us and three large and slightly intimidating ‘blokes in black’ got on the boat.  They were Border Force and simply wanted to know who we were, where we’d come from and where we were going.  Actually, they were really nice guys, very polite and we had an interesting chat.  Right up until the point when they spotted the table.  It’s not a particularly remarkable table really, save for the fact that it is suspended by a stainless steel shaft which is attached both at the floor and on the ceiling of the cabin. When ‘underway’, the table is slid all the way to the top of the post in order that it is out of the way and nobody can hurt themselves by striking it when the boat rocks about in a sea. Clearly, this leaves a tall stainless steel post as the centre of attention in the saloon area of the pilot house – yes, it does look as though it is there for ‘pole-dancing’ purposes!  When the Border Force guys spotted it and asked what it was for, they and I found out, at the same time, that it was for me to practice my ‘pole-dancing’ skills on!  Now this came as a shock to me, as you might imagine.  After all, anyone who knows me will instantly testify to the fact that my sheer bulk alone would prevent me from completing any sort of manoeuvre on a pole upside down or otherwise, not that I wouldn’t have given it a go; I’m always up for learning new skills!

Apparently, as the Border Force guys left the boat, they were giggling and I had gone a shocking shade of scarlet – I will get my own back at some stage, of that I’m certain.  Drat and double drat!

Once the ‘giggling’ Border Force had disappeared and we were on our way again, I put all scary thoughts of ‘pole-dancing’ to one side (I could always pick them up again later) and we concentrated on the last leg of the journey.  It wasn’t long before the south coast of the UK appeared in the form of the white cliffs by the Needles on the Isle of Wight. The weather was improving all the time and the sun even put in an appearance.

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We were soon through the Needles and as we went through, we made the call to get clearance on the HM Customs National Yachtline.  N.B. you must let HMRC know when you leave and enter the EU on your boat. It’s a short call, nothing onerous, so no reason not to.  It would pay to have your SSR or other registration numbers to hand.

A short while later and we were threading our way through boats off Calshot Spit, heading for the Hamble.  At this point we called up Solent Coastguard on the Small Ships Safety Channel VHF67 and asked them to let Jersey Coastguard know that we had arrived safely.

As soon as we’d tied alongside and tidied up, I bade farewell to my crew-mate and toddled off to start my journey back to Jersey.  Over the next few months there will be more instalments from the trip. If you enjoyed reading this post and don’t want to miss any of the new posts I will make in the future, simply click on the link to Follow the Blog and you will get notified whenever I post a new entry.

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.

New Beginnings

On a sunny Tuesday in May, I was back to Italy one last time, to complete the handover of the boat I’d been skippering for the previous year.  It was absolute chaos, as the refurbishment had started and there were people, equipment, tools, food, shoes and plans scattered everywhere.  In the middle of all this madness I was trying to remember what needed work doing to it, what needed replacing and all the time I was showing the new owner how his new toy worked.

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Here’s Gary doing his bit with some of the water pipes that had perished.

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And here’s the remnants of the food shopping to be put away and also the impromptu office where we were going through the work details and the handover – the only bit of free space on the boat it seems.

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As most of you will know, I’m a tad anal about keeping things tidy but at the same time as I was stressing about the carnage, it was wonderful to see the boat getting a new lease of life.  When the work is complete she will be back to her former magnificence and ready for the coming season.

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What I certainly wasn’t expecting, was the new owner’s two friends who came along for a spot of sun and to spend some time practising their musical skills.  I had no idea what a treat we were in for when Kim and Billy walked out of arrivals at Naples airport with a guitar each.

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Here they are, giving it plenty on the flybridge!

Time to say goodbye…

It wasn’t long before my visit was over and I was heading back. I just had to get a couple of snaps of the Alps as we flew over and if you ask Dan I’m sure he’ll confirm that you have to get one or more Obligatory Wing Shots whenever you fly somewhere!

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It’ll be sad not being on the boat in Italy this summer but I’ve already got some exciting adventures lined up for the coming season, not least, assisting one of my customers to circumnavigate the UK in his Botnia Targa, now that will be worth reading about, surely?

Giving you confidence

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So, my contract in Italy on the 76 footer has finally come to an end and I am now back on Jersey full time.

Operating as a true freelance captain and RYA instructor again, I am now fully available to offer a whole range of skipper services to anyone who needs help building the confidence you need to safely take your friends and family out boating with you.

  • If you want to brush up on some rusty skills or you simply want a skipper to handle the boat while you enjoy the ride, then I’m your man
  • If you are studying the theory and it’s not making sense, then I’m your man
  • If you need an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) assessment, then I’m your man
  • If you need your boat delivering somewhere, then I’m your man
  • If you want to take clients out to give them a good time, then I’m your man

I’ve recently taught two separate Yachtmaster Theory candidates who were taking distance learning courses and they both tell me that they truly benefited from spending a few days on a one to one basis with me prior to taking their exams.  So whether that’s you or you’d just prefer to learn about the theory behind navigation, safety and etiquette on the water, give me a call and we can discuss times to suit you.

With summer truly on the way, it’s time to get the boat washed off and start planning those trips.  However, if it’s been a while since you were last out on the water, you might be feeling a little low in the confidence stakes.  Spend a few days buzzing around the marina with me and your confidence will come racing back and you’ll be good to go.  If you are intending to visit France this summer and you don’t have an ICC, then I can take you through the requirements and assess you as we go – much easier than taking a test I’m sure!

Perhaps you just want to sit back and let someone else take the strain.  Leave the driving to me and you can enjoy the time relaxing with your family and friends instead of worrying about tide times, mooring on an unfamiliar berth or going to that marina you’ve never been to before.  Impress your clients with a trip out on your boat and let a professional captain and crew make it work seamlessly for you.

I have many, many years of world wide cruising experience and teaching under my belt – let me share this with you and give you the confidence to properly enjoy your boating.

Manhattan in Turkey

 

© Richard Corbett 2014

I arrived in KaŞ, in the Antalya region of Turkey, just as the guys were finishing the technical handover on Wild Thyme Too.  My role was to get Stewart, the new owner, signed off for an ICC and to lend a helping hand as everyone got used to using their new luxury motor yacht.

Crystal clear water, clear blue skies, not a breath of wind and a brand new Sunseeker – now that’s a combination made in heaven.

With the technical handover complete, it was now up to me to add the finishing touches to the new boat experience.  Firstly, this meant an afternoon of drawing on charts and trying to remember the rules of the road.  Poor Stewart, after all the information he’d had to absorb during the handover, I really did wonder if it was all going to be too much but we were soon through the theoretical part of the test and looking forward to our trip the following day.

At 8am the next morning we’d all gathered as arranged and set-to with preparing to go to sea. This meant covers off, engine checks, safety brief and a plan for leaving the dock.  Unfortunately, my plans for testing Stewart on his departure from the dock were interrupted by the marina staff, who insisted on taking control of the lines on departure and as I found out later, on arrival too!  It seems that you just have to get the boat close to your berth and they do the rest.

Is this the height of laziness or a service that every marina should adopt – answers on a postcard please?

© Richard Corbett 2014

Captain Ergun and his first mate Merve (his wife), who run Boat Trip Turkey, are going to help Stewart and his family to make sure their times on Wild Thyme Too are always wonderful and hassle free.  It was Ergun’s idea for us to go around to Simena & Kekova for lunch and I have to concede that as we nipped around the coast, slipped between two islands into a protected lagoon and tied up at a jetty with a delightful restaurant attached to it, I realised that Stewart has found himself a very handy man to know.

© Richard Corbett 2014

There must be literally thousands of amazing bays and inlets and restaurants and beaches and all manner of places to explore on this coastline; this lovely family are going to have many years of incredible boating on their Manhattan 55…

By the time we’d returned to the marina the practical section of the test was complete and Stewart had passed with flying colours. Everyone was feeling really comfortable with the boat; my time here was done and it was time for me to leave.  I said my goodbyes and headed off for the airport but I just couldn’t resist one more look at this boating Utopia.

© Richard Corbett 2014

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.