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.