The final leg home

There are grey skies outside today and it would appear that our luck with the weather has held out just long enough to get us back home safely. This morning, the BBC weatherman said that the first autumn storm will strike on Sunday bringing with it 60 miles per hour winds. So as much as we’d love to still be out there on our journey, the elements seem to have decided that its about time to leave Amalia in the harbour and to return to our land based lives for a while.

This last week has really been a long slow wind-down for us. We spent a couple of days in the Solent getting jobs done on the boat and then headed back fairly quickly along the south coast to Ramsgate where we’ll keep Amalia for the winter.

We passed the needles under threatening skies and arrived in Cowes last Saturday, the 7th September, meeting up with my son Ed and his girlfriend Jenny who are both studying at the university there.

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We were in early and moored up in Shepards Quay marina. There were three end of season regattas in the Solent that weekend so after a few hours we were well and truly pinned in by the other boats that had rafted alongside us:

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The next day we crossed the Solent and moored up in Hamble, an overpriced marina in the arse-end of nowhere but with excellent facilities and workshops that we could employ to get the boat back into tip-top shape. Two days later, all jobs completed, we set off again with Ed on board, passing the old Solent fortresses on our way:

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We spent that night at anchor in Chichester harbour and set off the following morning, passing Beachy Head and planning to stop for the night in Eastbourne marina.

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There are a number of different tides in play along the south coast and the timing of their currents changes as you round each major headland. When travelling from west to east, as we were, it is possible to catch one favourable tide after another if you get your timing right.

Eastbourne was in sight as we rounded Beachy Head, but it was also clear that we’d timed it just about right to catch a good tide from there to Dungeness if we wanted to. Taking this option meant that we’d be able to pass Dungeness and arrive in Dover some seven hours later, at about 9pm. Arriving anywhere (let alone Dover) in the dark can be tricky and was something that we’d avoided doing anywhere on this trip, but it would put us a day ahead of schedule with deteriorating weather forecasts.

So, with Eastbourne in our wake and a new route to Dover plotted, we pressed on. Avoiding the busy traffic lanes and the ferries, we arrived dead on 9pm and crept into the marina for the night. Here we are passing the huge nuclear power station at the tip of Dungeness along the way:

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The next day was a short hop on to Ramsgate where we completed our circumnavigation, and were greeted home by Alan and Vanessa with their son Alfie. Once tied up on the visitors pontoon, we celebrated in the local cafe with bacon rolls and champagne, a combination I can highly recommend:

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Completing the circumnavigation has given us a big confidence boost in regard to our seamanship. It’s a huge achievement for us and I suspect spells the start of a more permanent lifestyle for us a little further down the line.

As ever, if you’d like to see more photos of our journey, then take a look at the albums on our Facebook page.

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The Cornish Coast

We arrived in Penzance from the Scilly Isles on the 29th August and from there we sailed the next day around Lizard Point to meet my Dad in Falmouth. We spent a lovely evening there sampling yet more fish and chips and later, the delicious local beers.

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The next day turned out to be a day for reacquainting with old friends from Uni. We shared tea and biscuits on board with John Salter and his parter Claire before setting sail for Fowey.  After a windy sail, we arrived in Fowey, and I received a FB message from Ian Utting and Sally Fincher who spotted us arriving in the harbour from the flat they rent there each summer. We joined them for drinks later in the evening, and they showed us around. It was a pretty impressive place, and even had its own landing jetty for us to moor the dinghy on.

We then set off for Cawsand Bay, in the entrance to Plymouth harbour, a major naval base. Along the way we tried our luck at fishing and once again, caught a couple of great looking pollock for the pot.

We spent the evening on anchor in the bay watching the warships coming and going, before settling in for the night.

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My Dad had seemed to bring the wind with him, as we enjoyed a third successive day sailing on to Salcombe. Helena and I came here when we first chartered a yacht years ago. It was lovely to return to somewhere that we had great memories of only to have them reinforced the second time around. The mooring fees were reasonable, the harbour staff friendly, and as we were nearer the end of the season than on our last visit, the place was just a little less crowded and all the better for it too.

Our second guest for the week, Rob, joined us in Salcombe and we continued on to Dartmouth the next day. Rob, spurred on by my dad’s success with fishing, spent a fruitless day trying to catch us something for dinner – luckily we had meatballs on board so we didn’t go hungry. I guess he could have tried blaming it on the sunstroke that had caused him to collapse exhausted on the sofa that evening but I have proof that this was all faked:

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After being teased endlessly by my dad for being a crap fisherman, Rob gave it another go the next day as we headed for Lyme Regis. This time, with a change of lures, he managed to hook in nine small mackerel that we fried and ate with a fresh salad for dinner that night. Even Buxton seemed impressed:

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The last day’s sailing for this week was around Portland Bill and The Portland Race, a notorious stretch of water – this comment is straight out of the Shell Channel Pilot book and had what I expect is the intended effect on this reader:

Portland Race is the most dangerous extended area of broken water in the English Channel. Quite substantial vessels drawn in to it have been known to disappear without a trace.

After a lengthy study of the area’s tidal charts, some very careful planning, a full crew briefing, and a dose of seasickness tablets for all on board we set off to round Portland Bill. It would take us around four hours to get there, which should coincide with slack water. Our plan was to head further offshore if the conditions looked too rough. As it turned out, we needn’t have worried as the waters were benign enough for us to head much closer inshore than we had initially expected and we had a great view of Portland Bill as we rounded its southernmost point:

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I’m currently sat in what seems like a much bigger, and a significantly quieter boat writing this blog. I ferried Rob and my dad ashore in the dinghy earlier this morning, and they’ll make their respective ways home from there.

Helena and I are now planning the remaining week or so of our journey. We will be in the Solent area getting a few maintenance jobs completed on the boat for the next few days. We will then head on along the south coast to our home port of Ramsgate to complete our circumnavigation some time towards the end of next week.

I think we both have quite mixed emotions right now. It’s a great feeling to be on the home straight, but its equally sad to think that this fantastic journey must soon come to an end.