Going Ashore for the Winter

It is always a day of mixed emotions taking the boat back up river as for me it marks the end of summer. I met up with Mike at 0700 at the sailing club and we went out to the boat on the dingy, the sun had just risen and there was that nip in the air at the beginning of an autumnal day.

After climbing onboard, getting the kettle on and doing the usual checks before taking the boat off the mooring we set off, joining an ever increasing flotilla of boats going up river for the winter ashore. As we chugged up the river looking round and enjoying the still morning the engine began to lose power then pick up again, an issue that we had experienced in our trip back from Sark, and I was beginning to get just a tad nervous as I knew there were a lot of moored boats in the river and I would need to do some manoeuvring to get along side the quay.

About half a mile from the quay the engine cut out, we had plenty of space to restart it, but I knew that we might have a bit of a challenge coming alongside. Holding my breath we went in and joined the queue of boats waiting to be lifted out. Mike on the bow and me looking after the rear, and yes you guessed it about two meters from the quay the engine decided to stop!

Thankfully, there were some other skippers about who took my hastily thrown stern line and made us fast. Time to hand over Aphrodite to the skilled yard people to manoeuvre her into position for the lift out and bottom clean. Time for a coffee and a chat with the other skippers and crew who had brought up their boats and were overwintering at Topsham Quay.


The Last Fling of 2016 - Dittisham to Starcross

I've spent a few nights at Dittisham, it is usually flat calm and a restful night can be had, but not last night.  We were tossed and turned for hours on end as the front passed through as we knew it would.  Waking to a beautiful autumnal morning was a surprize.

We watched the river wake up and drunk copious amounts of tea before preparing the boat for the trip back to the Exe, slipped the mooring and headed down river on a bright sunny morning.

On reaching the mouth of the Dart the sea was in an angry state, a two to three meter confused following chop greeted us and a good F6 behind us.  The next few hours until we got to the lee of Berry Head was going to be challenging.  I decided to motor round to Tor Bay as I knew the Genoa is on its last legs and I really did not want to risk it blowing out in this sea.

Commitment time, out we go and get tossed about like a small cork in a big ocean.  I helmed while Alex enjoyed the rollercoaster ride.  He started saying that there is a big one coming, but it was easier if I just helmed on feel.

We passed one boat heading west with the wind on the nose.  Their main was double reefed and in irons, clearly too risky to drop it given the conditions.

Considering it was the first time I had Aphrodite out in conditions like this I thought I did well in only misjudging the sea twice and being twice rounded up and pointing in the wrong direction!

Once we passed Berry Head the sea flattened and we were able to get the genoa out.  Crossing the bay at between six and seven knots we flew up the coast towards the Exe.

Timing the entrance to the Exe was going to be my next challenge - I wanted to get into the river as soon as possible and the tricky bit is crossing the bar at the start of the marked channel and the wind had backed to a southerly, never an easy wind to enter the river in.

As we passed Dawlish Warren I headed out to sea, much to Alex's confusion.  I wanted to give us some sea room so I could line the boat up with the channel markers safely.   On passing the safe water mark waves were breaking on the sandbanks each side of the channel, which made an interesting entrance!   On passing Exmouth Marina entrance the sea was a confused mass of what Alex, a keen kayaker, described as "haystacks".  After turning west to follow the channel up to the mooring we had calm water and could relax with a beer on the mooring.


The Last Fling of 2016 - Starcross to Dittisham

Determined to get one last sail in before the end of the season I teamed up with Alex.  The plan was to take the boat to Plymouth, let the front that was forecast to pass over us during the night and then head back.

On getting out to the Exe Safe Water mark the wind was right on the nose and we continued to  motor into a F5. with a lumpy sea state and on approaching Dartmouth decided to head in to the comfort of Dittisham.

Arriving at the moorings in the early afternoon we picked up one of them and had a snooze.  On waking found that Wensdy Girl, another boat from Starcross, had also picked up a mooring and popped over to pass the time of day.


The Lads Trip 2016 - Sark to Starcross

We had decided to depart about lunch time and prepared the boat for a 1400 hours departure, slipped the mooring buoy and headed out of the lea of the island only to be hit by a F6 on the beam. I took the decision to return to the mooring and wait for the wind to abate as forecast so round we went and picked up the mooring again and snoozed til 1800.

Off we set once more two reefs in and main and a F5 over the port side. Just as we passed Guernsey the fog rolled and remained with us for the next few hours until we approached the shipping lanes.

As we knew it would be a long passage we had decided to take two hour watches and I took the first one hand steering in big four meter rollers that were coming up la Manche, feeling quite alone in the fog Bob resting for his watch it was also quite a thrill.

I was not looking forward to crossing them in fog, but as we have AIS onboard hoping that the big boats would see us. For some strange issue with the electrical system the radar refused to power up.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Bob Watson


The Lads Trip 2016 - Alderney to Sark

The Lads Trip is a very relaxed cruise and with all the boats safely arrived in Braye the crews met up for dinner after which we were all free to do our own thing. Several boats headed back the the Devon coast, meanwhile I wanted to keep a promise that I had made a few years earlier and visit a couple who used to live quite near us in Devon. A few emails were exchanged and we agreed meet up in their new home on Sark.

After a relaxed breakfast we ventured out of the harbour and into the Swinge at slack water, Bob recounting terrifying stories of the reputation of the channel for swallowing yachts whole, safely through the channel we headed off on the 25 mile hop to Sark.

About half way between the islands we were passed by six people on a rib doing well over 20 knots. The first time I've seen a rib used for any other purpose than fun.

Bob at the helm on passage between Alderney and Sark

When I purchased Aphrodite the previous owners advised me that there was an issue with the engine at low revs where it would just cut! On coming to the mooring buoy it took this moment to demonstrate this little trick and the most inopportune moment as we were just about to pick up the buoy, but with Bob's engineering expertise and careful rev management we picked up the buoy on our second go.

La Greve de la Ville - Aphrodite is the center most boat.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Bob Watson


The Lads Trip 2016 - Starcross to Alderney

The annual Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club "Lad's Trip" to Alderney has a bit of a reputation for not arriving in Alderney usually due to wind direction or weather, but it always takes place. We may end up in Alderney, Falmouth, Cowes or if it is really bad Topsham.

This was my third "Lad's Trip" and during earlier trips had visited, Falmouth, Plymouth, Salcombe and Dartmouth.

For the week before the trip all the skippers and crew had been keeping a keen eye on the weather and when we all met up on Thursday evening for the boat briefing everybody was happy to head off for Alderney and agreed that we would all retire to the bar, then the boats before heading out on the morning tide.

It was an early start 0230 when we finally slipped the mooring and headed off down the river to the open sea. Still dark threading our way down river as the skipper of a boat that I had only just taken ownership of was a challenge, but as we motored down to the safe water mark at the mouth of the estuary I felt comfortable and knew this was the start of a whole new set of adventures.

After the safe water mark we raised the sails and headed south wards towards Braye on Alderney in the Channel Islands. With the wind coming from the north we poled out the genoa and went wing on wing. Looking round it looked like we were the first boat in the fleet to get away as behind us we could see sails being set in the first glimpses of daylight at 0330 UTC and fully expected to be over taken at some point.

As the sun broke over the horizon, always a spectacular sight, an hour later we knew we were set for a cracking day on the water. With daylight we could relax a bit as other vessels were easier to spot.

An informal watch routine started, both Bob and I taking turns to rest while the other kept an eye on the weather and other vessels.

We had planned to do some "sight seeing" the Channel Light Vessel, but the decided to head on a more direct course and allowed the boat to move gently up La Manche before crossing the shipping lanes, always an exciting experience.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Bob Watson


First Sail on Aphrodite

Time to take Aphrodite out to sea and see what is what. Bob Watson a keen sailor and climber was happy to come out and put the boat through her paces.

We took the dinghy to the mooring, climbed onboard, prepped the boat for sea, started the engine, slipped the mooring and headed down the Exe past Exmouth and out to sea.

While I had been out with the previous owners for a test sail now was the time I could put her through her paces and see what she could do. A few things quickly became apparent the sails were bigger, they felt much bigger. She moved faster and accelerated faster than the old boat.

Out at sea, where we had some room, we set about testing her on different points of sail, checking how fast she would respond to the helm and slow down when needed.

For lunch we hove to off Dawlish only to discover that the genoa got tangled with the spreaders and the UV strip separated from the sail! Frank the sailmaker would have a small repare to do during the week!

All in all Aphrodite performed well. She handled well, I could turn on a sixpence, a big difference from my previous boat and was certainly faster.

We had our play and headed back up the Exe to the mooring. I had been told that while the engine was in good order it did have a habit of "stalling" at low revs! On the first approach to the mooring buoy she stalled (we were ready for this) and she restarted at the first turn of the key. Thankfully we picked up the mooring on the second pass and put the boat to bed.


Round the Bay

All times are UTC.

Crew: Sandy Garrity

Trip Stats: Distance: XX nm, Under way: X h XX m, Average speed: X.XX knots, Maximum speed: X.XX knots.

Sunrise: 0542 hrs Sunset: 1931 hrs

Weather: The shipping forecast issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, at 12:30 (UTC+1) on Mon 8 Aug 2022 for the period 13:00 (UTC+1) on Mon 8 Aug 2022 to 13:00 (UTC+1) on Tue 9 Aug 2022

Trafalgar (issued 2315 UTC) Northerly or northwesterly 3 to 5, occasionally 6 in northwest, becoming variable 2 to 4 in northeast for a time. Slight or moderate. Showers. Good.

© Met Office Synoptic Chart 08/08/2023


Aphrodite's New Owner

Saturday 4th June 2016

I had know Aphrodite for some time, she had spent several winters in the same yard as me and I had coveted her from a distance.

Sometimes fate deals you a strange hand and things that you had never dreamed of happening actually happen. Her previous owners knew I loved the boat and had come to the decision to leave sailing, at least for a while, and had called to say that Aphrodite was going to be put on the open market and was I interested. Following several telephone calls and meetings on board she was transferred into my stewardship, you never really own a boat, in early June 2016.

She is named after the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Well she was well loved by all of her previous owners and in a way a gift from my parents as she was purchased with some monies left following the death of mother.

She was lifted into the water in early June and taken down the river to her mooring at Starcross where I would spend the summer beginning to learn her ways and, as every owner does, make her my boat.

It was a very still morning as we took the tide we slipped the from Topsham Quay the previous owners took command of her for the very last time.

Aphrodite at Topsham Quay on the river Exe

I always enjoy the ride down the river at the start of the season as there is always an air of anticipation. This year doubly so as Aphrodite was a very different boat to my last one - she had honed my skills and given me a huge amount of enjoyment, but I had outgrown her and was looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead.