Up the River to the Winter Berth

It was time to take Aphrodite up the river to her winter storage on the quay at Topsham. Due to her draft we are always restricted by tide and need to come up on a four meter spring tide.

Neil, who has a boat near the mooring, kindly volunteered to assist me in bringing the boat up as I was uneasy about the behavior of the the engine due to the fuel bug.

With an early 0600 start, spring tides do encourage early and late starts, I picked Neil up and we were rather surprised an early morning traffic jam on the road to Starcross. We were running half an hour late, "threw the dingy in the water", started the outboard and headed to the boat with a nagging feeling in my head that there might not be enough petrol.

Thankfully, the sea was flat and little wind so we went at full throttle to try and make up some time

Jumped on the boat, started the engine, not even time for a cup of tea, and headed with a few other boats up river.

About a half mile from the quay I decided to slow down and see what would happen with the engine on tick over. As anticipated the engine cut, Neil's face turned very pale and I sprung into action to restart the engine quite confident that she would start at the first turn of the key and she did.

Plan B was a "hot approach" to the quay as I knew the engine would do its usual trick and cutout, Neil quickly stepped off the boat onto the quay and tie up to anything that looked like it might not move, with four tonnes of boat moving at a knot and a half he executed the plan superbly and we came to a stop that did not look to ungainly!

I prefer to walk away and leave to the lift to the guys on the crane, as the last thing they really want is a concerned skipper looking on like an expectant father and we headed off to Route 2 for a full breakfast and a mug of steaming hot tea.

Aphrodite was ashore again and set up for the winters work.


A North Easterly

August 2017 was a cold and wet month, not ideal for jumping on the boat and heading off for a sunny trip in the bay and early in September I had visited the Solent to try my hand on a much, much bigger sailing vessel, but finally I has some time and the forecast was good Met Office saying Cyclonic F4/5 and Meteo France saying N or NE F4/5. Meteo France matched our experience on the water.

I arrived at the sailing club before first light and set about getting the dingy on the water for the ride out to the boat. Opps forgot my can of petrol! Thankfully, a friend helped me out. Alex arrived and we loaded the dinghy up and set off towards the boat.

Arriving onboard we prepped the boat for sea and headed off on a falling tide, half way between Springs and Neaps, with enough water to get out of the river for another hour and a half. Just off the mooring we "kissed" a sandbank, perhaps the direct route to the channel was not a good idea! Eventually, in the channel we headed off to sea without further mishap.

Motoring down the channel it looked a bright sunny day with the wind coming in all sorts of directions until we arrived at the open sea. The navigation authority has replaced the safe water mark with a tiny marker, difficult to see, I wonder why they have done that?

We ventured out on a lumpy sea, I'm beginning to learn that when the wind is from the east in Lyme Bay near the lee shore is not a comfortable place to be. We motored out a bit more and set raised the main, unrolled the genoa and switched off the engine, always a magic moment. The plans was to try different points of sail and we started with a beat up towards Budleigh Salterton, we would not be going ashore for ice cream today, and arrived after several tacks - spotting Bob in Erin tight into the shore beyond the reef that comes out along the ban of the river Otter. After several attempts to raise him on the phone, VHF and horn we gave up. Only to hear him quarter of an hour later asking Solent CG if the range at Straight Point was live. Just a tad worrying as they reported that ie as liver, we and several other boats were in the middle of the exclusion zone and no safety craft were to been seen. We finally called Bob and arranged to meet up later in the day. On exiting the exclusion zone shots could be heard on the range, clearly they were checking that the exclusion zone was empty then doing what they do.

We zoomed off towards Dawlish on a training run at about seven knots so spend an hour or so enjoying the down wind sailing, sunshine and a brew. I always find it odd that heading into a sea is much rougher than sailing away from one.

Arriving off Dawlish we headed back to the Exe, after checking that we had enough water to cross the bar. Just as we arrived at the Exe Safe Water Mark we spotted a group of about six motorboat moving slowly in a group passing behind us towards Dawlish then realised they were watching a pod of about 20 dolphins, always good to see.

Arriving off Dawlish we headed back to the Exe, after checking that we had enough water to cross the bar. Just as we arrived at the Exe Safe Water Mark we spotted a group of about six motorboat moving slowly in a group passing behind us towards Dawlish then realised they were watching a pod of about 20 dolphins, always good to see.

We started the engine, dropped the sails and headed in. Then those worrying sounds started again, the engine was dropping revs then picking up - a problem that I though had been fixed! As we continued in I asked Alex to ready the anchor and get a few fender out just in case the engine stalled as we were at a difficult part of the motor up river. Thankfully, she puttered along and we headed for the mooring. I abandoned any thought of doing a few practice pickups - it was really a matter of getting Aphrodite back on the morning and having another look at the engine. About 30 meters from the pickup buoy the engine cut, but we had enough headway to reach the buoy and attach the boat to the chain!

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Alex Bowling

Trip Stats: Distance: 31 nm Moving Average: 4.80 kts Max: 7.1 kts

Weather: Met Office Shipping Forecast Issued 17 September 04:05 UTC

Sea area: Portland Wind: Cyclonic 4 or 5, becoming variable then north or northwest, 3 or 4 Sea State: Slight or moderate Weather: Thundery showers Visibility: Good, occasionally poor


Looking for the Fastnet Race

After a break away from the boat I finally had some time for a sail and early on Sunday morning a scratch crew, Neil, Garry and I set out for a trip round the bay. It was an early start 0700 and with a forecast of winds of F4/5 were looking forward to a good day on the water. In calm air on the river we raised the main, slipped the mooring at 0730 and headed downriver to the sea. There was talk of the Fastnet Race starting today and we might see them - little did we know the start was about noon and there was no way that they would be on this side of Lyme Bay until much later in the day.

A morning of variable winds followed, ranging from a F2 to a lively F5, giving us and the boat a good workout and given the conditions we decided to have lunch at anchor in Ansteys Cove, headed inshore. dropped the hook and spend a hour in the shelter of the cliff, so out of the wind, and enjoyed a relaxed lunch.

With the wind direction we had a cracking broad reach back to the Exe Safe Water Mark where we dropped the sails and headed in.

One of the challenges I have backed away from is picking up the mooring single handedly, but with two other experienced sailors on board today was going to be the day when I had to do it as I had the backup of people who could take over should things go wrong. The past issues where engine cut at very low revs has always given me that nagging doubt, but the engine was behaving, the wind was light and we were almost at high water, and I really, really, had to pick up that mooring on my own.

Garry and Neil stood at the transom as I lined the boat up, went to tick over, and at less than half a knot according to the GPS, picked up the boat hook and "sauntered" up the deck in a relaxed way, reached down and picked up the pickup buoy and pulled the chain onboard. We were on the mooring! A huge tick in the box. While it is something that I need to practice a few times I now know that it can be done! The only comment from Neil was to go into neutral as I left the cockpit next time.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Garry and Neil

Weather Issued 6 August 04:05 UTC Sea area: Portland Wind: West, backing southwest, F4 or F5 Sea State: Slight or moderate Weather: Fair Visibility: Good Distance figures Distance: 38 nm Moving Average: 4.30 kts Max: 7 kts AIS Track


Engines and the Fuel Bug


I've had an ongoing issue with the engine where she would reduce the revs then pick back up to speed, this was more prevalent when doing slow close quarter work, e.g. picking up the mooring. After much research I had found that others have had the same problem and there is some possibility that it there is a clogged lifting pump, but before replacing that I decided to check all the filters!

On opening the primary filter this is what I found!

Primary fuel filter and fuel bug

Looked like a dose of the "diesel bug".

After several hours of twisting, heaving and lots of swearing the new filter was back on. Whoever worked out that the primary filter needed to go under the bunk in the rear cabin behind the engine needs to be asked why! That is going to be re positioned this winter and a simpler system to replace the filter as well.


The Lads Trip 2017 - Lulworth Cove to Starcross

We had agreed that an early start was need in order to have a favorable tide round Portland Bill and set the alarm clocks for 0400 hours UTC! Needless to say I woke at 0330 hours, first light, and roused everybody. Without the formality of breakfast we raised the anchor and set off westward having taken the decision to stand about three miles out of the Portland Bill, but not too far thus reducing our distance sailed.

On leaving Lulworth hot steaming mugs of tea emerged from the galley and we notieced that somebody had stolen all the wind, thus the engine remained on until we passed to the west of Portland Bill and picked up an easterly F1/2. We hoisted the sails and "drifted" westwards at about three knots, thankfully we had a full 16 hours until we had enough water to enter the Exe so there was no pressure and a relaxing day on the water was enjoyed - I really must sort out a spinnaker pole for days like this.

After much playing with sails and fantastic views of the east Devon coast we anchored just off Sidmouth and had fresh mackerel for lunch, rested a few hours and continued our final leg of the trip to the Exe.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Alex Bowling and Bob Watson



The Lads Trip 2017 - Portland, Swanage and Lulworth Cove

After the gentle inactivity of yesterday we made plans to sail along the coast to Swanage and then return to Lulworth Cove to spend the night at anchor.

After a leisurely breakfast we slipped the lines at 1000 and motored out of the harbour, hoisted the sails and headed east. Bob deployed his trusty fishing line over the side and we all looked forward to fresh mackerel for lunch.

Everybody was enjoying the sunshine and perfect sailing conditions a F3 over the starboard quarter and speed over the ground of 5 knots. At midday I popped down to the chart table to update the log and was surprised to hear the boat be called by name; it was the Lulworth Range control advising us that the range was active and to offshore by at least two nautical miles and wishing us a good day's sailing. Preferring not to get a broadside we followed their request and altered course to starboard by 15 degrees and continued our passage towards St Albin head.

On rounding the head we snuck close into the cliffs as Bob had climbed one of the long traverses many years ago and was keen to spot the line they had taken, while Alex and I enjoyed the spectacular scenery.

Passing Anvil Point lighthouse and then round to Peveril Ledge we kept the buoy well to port, as the over falls looked not the place to spend the day, we came into Swanage. Bob was dispatched in his kayak for supplies of milk and bread while Alex and I slowly motored round the bay until we spotted him heading out to sea.

All safely on-board we turned westward and beat into wind for the next couple of hours before the wind died and the engine was turned on for the final hour into Lulwell Cove.

Lulwell Cove has been one of those places I've been wanting to visit for decades and here we were heading towards the mouth and spotting five other yachts already at anchor. In we went, drop the anchor and motored back, the anchor biting in hard in the fastest time I've ever known the sea bed must be super glue. A good five minutes taking transits and it was time to open the beer.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Alex Bowling and Bob Watson

Trip Stats: Distance sailed: XX nm, Moving time: X hours XX minutes, Average speed: X.XX knots, Maximum speed: X.XX knots.


The Lads Trip 2017 - Portland Marina

After a lazy start to the day we decided to stay in the marina, do some jobs on the boat and relax.


The Lads Trip 2017 - Starcross to Portland

I was woken about 0145 (UTC) with the sound of things crashing onto the cabin sole and found that I was sleeping against the starboard hull! Looks like the channel had shifted dramatically from last year and a mooring that we knew was deep enough was not. Still at least I've had the boat on her side, the previous owners said that they had done it to clean the hull, and no damage had been done. I was amazed that Bob was still sleeping soundly in the fore cabin.

I climbed out on deck for a few minutes, the waning moon shone brightly and I soaked in the atmosphere of the river. Not a breath of wind, boats sat quietly on their moorings and a group of men on the shore digging for bait. Then scampered back into the warmth of my sleeping bag and tried to get comfortable at the odd angle.

Alex, our final member of the crew, joined us just after 0800 (UTC) and after the introductions breakfast was prepared as he stowed his inflatable canoe under the dinghy on the foredeck. We must have looked a strange vessel with Bob's kayak, my dinghy and an inflatable kayak peeking out from under it all on the foredeck.

Fed and watered we prepared the boat for sea and started the engine. Off to catch up the rest of the fleet who had headed east and on last reports were enjoying the delights of Weymouth just past Portland Bill. Ironically, nobody on board had sailed past the bill so it was going to be a first for all of us.

Chugging out of the Exe on a sunny morning is always a delight and as we rounded Dawlish Warren we were confronted with a sizeable dredger at the end of the channel "hovering up" sand from the sea bead in order to rebuild parts of the warren that had been destroyed over the last few winters. as ever this will be a temporary measure as nature will do what it wants.

On passing the Exe Safe Water Mark making sure we were well out of the way of the dredger we raised the sails and cut the engine. For the first time in 2017 Aphrodite was under sail in a F3/4, time to sit back, look up at the sails and savour the moment.

Heading east on a broad reach was a great start to the season and by late afternoon we passing Portland Bill well offshore as we had wind over tide and just off spring tides and had no great desire to enter the Portland Race, but we had to turn north to make our way inshore and by this time the wind had freshened to a F5/6.

We heard from Delphi that they had moved from Weymouth to Portland Marina and they had informed the marina that we would be joining them, so our destination for the night was set.

We timed the turn for the last two hours of the easterly flow and turned north. The conditions were "lively" so we changed the sail plan to just a reefed genoa and still making 6 knots through two and a half to three meter waves meeting us beam on. Helming was that fine balance between threading our way through the wave train, keeping the sail filled and attempting to keep on a course of 330 degrees to seek shelter behind Portland Bill.

Crossing The Shambles east of the Bill the race had a sting in the tail and dumped a big green wave in the cockpit. Bob sat under the sprayhood got away lightly, while Alex and I got a soaking - even with my waterproof jacket on the water found its way to my skin.

Finally, the water flattened out and we sailed to the outskirts of the harbour, started the engine and rolled in the genoa. Turning into the harbour through its northerly entrance we were hit full on with the F6 coming over Chesil beach and motored in down the marked channel.

My final challenge of the day was to tie up alongside in the marina, not something I've done since my Day Skipper course! We prepared the boat with fenders and lines and were met by one of the marina staff who took our lines as I did not make too much of a drama out of it. Finally all tied up the chap from commented that he had been watching us on Marine Traffic and that it had been a good line. Praise indeed.

With the boat safely tied up on the opposite side of the pontoon to Dephi I picked up my wash gear and headed for the showers while Bob and Alex started on the meal and opened a beer.

We slept well, at least we were horizontal tonight!


The Lads Trip 2017 - Getting the boat ready

Getting the boat ready for her first trip of the year was proving to be more complicated that expected and George, the marine electrician was still working on Aphrodite on the mooring. After a bumpy ride up the river in the dinghy we got on board, made a brew then I headed off to go food shopping the the "Lads Trip" that we were planning to catch up the other side of Portland.

After the usual round of supermarkets I arrived back onboard and we motored down to the club pontoon, tied up and headed off to the club to meet up with Bob, who was on the trip last year, have a meal and a drink. On waving goodbye to George we took the boat down to Bob's boat Erin so he could transfer his kit, went to pick up a mooring and settled down to a comfortable night on the river.


Splash May 2017

The 2017 season launch had been delayed as the river Exe navigation authority had deemed my and several other moorings to be in the channel and new locations had to be found for all the affected boats.

The mooring authority and Richard, who services the mooring, worked hard to find a location that was suitable, not an easy task when you draw 1.70 meters in the Exe as it is a pretty shallow river.  I needed both depth and swing room, but finally they were successful and Richard called to say that all had been sorted and I was able to book the lift in.

On a warm but overcast Saturday morning, why are spring tides always at the wrong time of day, Mark and team from the yard started the crane, lifted Aphrodite off her cradle and placed her gently in the water with a request to move off in five minutes as they had two other boats to lift in.

Being lifted in.

I always find lift in day the most stressful of the sailing year as all that hard work that you have done over the winter needs to work at once so you can chug happily downstream in search of the new mooring with its buoy waiting to greet you.  Thankfully it all did work, the engine started first time and off we went. Weatherwise not the greatest start down the river, overcast and almost raining but not quite, still we were finally where a boat should be - on the water.

On the mooring.

Alex, who had come out on a few trips last year, and George who was doing some electrical work on the boat came down the river as Alex wanted to get on the water and George still needed to do some work on the electrical system.  As soon as we were on the mooring breakfast was prepared and devoured. The plan was to take Alex ashore so he could meet up with his family leaving George to work without interruption.

The dinghy was put in the water and Alex and I jumped in ready to paddle off downstream to the sailing club.  About 100 meters from the boat I realised that I'd left the petrol for the outboard, at this point still in the engine shed, onboard and we turned back against the tide to collect it.  Happily paddling downstream with the tide I realised about 200 meters from the pontoon that I had left both the engine shed and car keys on the boat!  You could tell that it was the first day on the water and I had forgotten to put my sailing head on.

There was no way that we could easily paddle against the tide so we landed the dinghy and looked for club members with keys.  Thankfully, it did not take too long and very quickly I had the outboard on the dinghy and was slowing making my way back to the boat to collect the keys.  George having a good laugh at my mistake.  The trip with the tide was much faster and I was able to drive Alex back to his car.