Wednesday, 2 December 2009

End of an Era

1st. December 2009

Well, we’ve done it. Starquest is sold…and we’re still not sure we’ve done the right thing!

At six o’clock this morning I scraped the ice off the car windscreen and drove to Chichester. The air temperature gradually rose from minus three in the Cotswolds to plus three at the marina. It may have been three degrees above freezing but that did not stop the jetty being icy and treacherous.

I met up with the new owner and Ken from the brokerage. We started up the engine, did the checks, let go the lines and we were off. Well, almost off. The marina would not release the spare set of keys as “Mr. Taylor has not paid the mooring bill.” As I’d visited the marina office less than half an hour before and handed over a cheque I was less than chuffed. A phone call and they ‘found’ the cheque, it transpires there are three ‘Starquests’ in the marina – hence the confusion. But with time slipping away and the destination tide-critical we decided to pick up the keys later.

Quite a current floods in through the lock and Ken advised being locked-through even though free-flow was in operation. Clearly the right decision as we’d otherwise had been bounced all over the place and putting a dent in the proud new owner’s pride and joy would not be the best way for them to start a beautiful new friendship.

The sun was shining, the sky blue, it was a crisp morning with hardly a ripple on the water. If you have to move a boat in December we had picked the right day.

The destination was the Hayling Yacht Company which is tucked up a tiny creek with lots of opportunities to get stuck on the putty. Our delay leaving the marina meant that we now did not have a rising tide but were about to have a falling tide. One touch may mean a long wait. We managed to feel our way up the creek and tied up alongside a pontoon – although it was not at all obvious where we were supposed to go.

Sails were removed, keys were handed over, and I said farewell to Starquest. The old girl now has a new owner… I hope he looks after her.

It was dark when I left home this morning and it was getting dark when I got back. It was a dark day…. but we must look on the bright side. The search now starts to find Starquest II.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Remember Summer?

This was the scene one evening in May when we fetched up in Newtown Creek just to the east of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.

Why are we posting it now? Well, firstly it's a nice picture and secondly we have not been afloat for some weeks and so have no new snaps to share.

Sitting here in chilly Oxford the stillness and silence of the creek seems a million miles away. There is a salutatory lesson to be heeded from this tale.

The following morning we had a cooked breakfast (why is it bacon tastes even better when the smell drifts across a mooring?) and afterwards started the engine to return to Gosport. Well, to be more accurate, we tried to start the engine. It coughed and spluttered and it was pretty obvious this donkey was not for stirring. We did all the usual checks; fuel (60 galls), fuel pump (working), electrical connections (all looked sound). So, we reminded ourselves that Starquest is a sailing boat and as wind is her primary power we'd better sail out. There was a little breeze, luckily from the south, and so we slipped the mooring and with two-thirds of the genoa set we picked our way through the trots and into the Solent. Once out into clear water we hoisted the main, unfurled all the genny and headed east.

At Cowes we lost the wind and by Gillkicker we lost the tide. The donkey was still fast asleep and so we had to rely on the mercy of the marina for a tow in.

An engineer's report subsequently identifed the problem - no fuel. Yes, we'd run out of diesel! How could it happen we are always so careful and we'd checked there were 60 gallons of fuel in the tank. Well, it transpires the red diesel had stained the sight tube and what we thought was a full tank was, in fact, empty. Our peek into the tank gave us a false idea of what was there. A very shallow depth of fuel laying on the bottom of the tank reflected to look like an almost full tank. If only we'd dipped the tanks, but we could 'see' it was full and besides the sight tube 'confirmed' it.

We now have two dipsticks, monitor fuel usage on a trip-by-trip basis and still blush at running out of fuel.

I am so pleased we don't have a motor boat.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Blisters to be Lanced

Afloat off Thailand.

The time has come to break the news to the old girl that she’s going to be spending several months out of the water, those unsightly blisters will have to be lanced and she’ll have hot pads attached to her nether regions and all in the name of looking better. Think of it as maritime cosmetic surgery; on a woman it would be liposuction, or a boob job and would probably cost about the same! But on Starquest it brings all the joy of enhanced looks with a five year guarantee, now what cosmetic surgeon would offer that to ladies who go under the knife?

We now have the written quote from the company performing the ‘operation’ so all that remains is to move her – luckily it’s not far and can be achieved in an hour or so. She will spend the winter being dried out – think of it as detox for boats – which is where the hot pads come in. She will then be given a new coat – the more I do this the more I realise why boats are feminine – and come Spring next year she’ll be in tip top condition and be ready to take us south in search of the sun.

Once launched again next year she really will be in fine fettle. I think just about the only bits that have not been replaced will be the basic hull structure and bulkheads. She’ll be as good as new, in fact better than new, and fit for many years afloat. Now, if only I could do the same for myself I’d be a happy chap.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Solent in Summer

Traditional local boatmen waiting to take crews to the Folly Inn at Cowes.

Autumn is giving way to winter and with it darker, colder nights and fewer opportunities to sail. What better way to cheer us all up then than a reminder of what life is like in the summer on the Solent. Just up river from the popular Royal Yacht Squadron lies the exclusive Folly Inn where intellect meets raw maritime skill across the tables bowing under the sheer weight of alcoholic beverages. The Folly Inn is well known well beyond these shores for its five star food, helpful boatmen (see picture above) and Saturday night cabaret performed by local traditional dancers. Entry to this nautical institution is strictly controlled and it is rumoured that the only way to gain membership is through inheritance; fathers passing on their privileged membership to sons and now daughters. There is talk of strange rituals having to be performed during a complicated, obscure and at times bizarre 'adoption ceremony' which is cloaked in mystery and, some say, dark practices. Former members have let slip mention of breast ropes, bare poles and tackle attached to a preventer. We plan to go under cover to the discover the truth about this secretive establishment and its members. Have you managed to get into the Folly Inn? Why is it called Folly? What secrets lie within? What did you discover? Do let us know. More details in a future bulletin.

I'm now off for a bight before I end up in the drink.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sunset ...followed by new dawn

They say that nothing is as bad as a doctor telling you the worst but once you've accepted the diagnosis and have recovered from the shock things start to look better. Well, that probably applies to boats as well.

Having been told poor old Starquest had picked up the pox we were pretty devastated. Our plans to buy a new, bigger, cat and put her in the Med had been blown apart. The old girl will have to go into a 'home' for the winter and be given a new bottom. Things could be worse. True, it would have been good if she'd sold and we could move "onwards and upwards" in the words of a well known horticultural broadcaster (sorry Eric) but in boating, life is never that simple. We may be playing with the elements but most of the time the elements play with us.

We have spent a silly amount of money on Starquest, much, much, much more than was sensible and now we will have to spent even more but we will have a boat that's virtually new from stem to stern. I have no doubt she's the best Prout Quest afloat and after her osmosis treatment she'll be as good as new. Actually that's not true, she'll be a heck of a lot better than new. True when we set sail next Easter she will not be as big as we'd planned, she'll sail a knot slower, she'll yield to the waves a tad more than her 40 foot cousins but we'll have a well found craft, equipped with every known navigation aid and more comfortable below than any boat coming off the German production lines.

We have grown to have a deep affection for Starquest and to be honest we felt guilty at putting her on the market. But we needed a bigger boat, we needed a boat which could shrug off the worse Biscay could throw, a boat which could entertain eight people and not feel cramped but it was not to be. Well, not this (or next) year anyway.

The sale of Starquest has almost certainly fallen through. It's our fault. We spent far too much on the refit and although we have a boat that's a shiny example of her type, indeed the best of her type, we cannot afford to write off such an investment. We know how much has been spent on turning this boat from a tired wreck into a brand leader. If we'd known how much it would cost to renovate we'd certainly not bought her in the first place, but having now spent a small fortune we cannot give her away.

Fate dictates we are to spend some more time together.

Our plans, assuming the sale falls through which seems more likely than not, is to have the osmosis treatment done asap, and as early as possible next year head south as quickly as possible. We hope to transit the Canal du Midi and get Starquest into the Med for the summer.

As we said the worst news is the doctor saying the prognosis is not good...after that it all starts to look a lot better.

Pass the Med pilot.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Pox

Not the boat but skin - but you get the idea.

If anyone should give you the choice of either owning a boat or having medieval thumb screws applied, opt for the thumb screws, it’s less painful.

Having spared no cost in having Starquest renovated we were proud of her and although we were looking forward to moving on to our dream 40 footer it was going to be sad to say goodbye to the old girl. Imagine our horror, therefore, to discover this Essex girl had picked up a social disease and her bottom was covered in ugly blisters.

The potential new owner had arranged for a ‘doctor’ to give her the once-over, a mere formality we imagined knowing that just about every nut and bolt on the boat had either been replaced or serviced. However, when she was lifted it did not need years of medical training or qualifications to see that all was not well below. She may have a stunning top but down below things were not good. The word Osmosis echo’d all the way from Chichester Harbour to here in Oxford. “Osmosis? How can that be? Her bottom was only given a good seeing to last year, coated in a protection that was supposed to last ten years and only a few months ago she was lifted and given a good hosing down under pressure. All looked well then.” Galloping osmosis has transformed a sleek, smooth, rather attractive bottom into a pitted, ugly, festering mass of pungent ooze.

Needless to say no one would blame a potential new owner for running a mile, that’s what I’d do, so the chance of rescuing the sale were zilch.

Osmosis, largely thanks to scare mongers in the yachting press, is the nautical equivalent of the plague. I hardly dare admit to knowing a boat, let alone owning one, which has the disease. It’s all very well the experts saying “It’s only cosmetic no boat has ever sunk because of osmosis” but who wants to be seen with a boat covered in blisters – even if the only creatures who’ll see it are fish, barnacles and plankton out for a jolly. Imagine the talk at the yacht club “He’s got osmosis you know” Oh the social stigma.

Cosmetic it may be but that does not make it any the more appealing. The hunchback of Notre Dame’s deformities were only cosmetic; Gordon Brown would be attractive except for his looks; take away the piercing and tattoos and Sid Vicious was a nice lad. Yes, just cosmetic veneers all of them. Cosmetic they may be but that does not make them any the more desirable.

So, here we are with a boat which has been thickly sheathed in fifty-quid notes only to discover she’s got a diseased bottom covered in blisters.

Bang go our plans to buy a new 40 footer, bang go our plans to put the new boat in the Med for 2010, bang goes our plans for a summer afloat on our new dream yacht.

But hey, it could be worse. The ‘doctor;’ could have found a terminal illness and given the old dear just weeks to live. In fact, he couldn’t fault anything else. So it’s not that bad. True it’ll take more than a pot of Max Factor to sort out the blistered complexion but a thick application of yet more fifty-quid notes should do the trick and the cosmetic surgeon I’ve spoken to assures me she’ll regain her youthful looks and what’s more he’ll guarantee the work for years to come. Blimey, wouldn’t mind some of that myself.

Here, have the keys to the boat and pass the thumb screws.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Women Drivers

FRIDAY 2nd. October

We hadn't even had a chance to mow the lawn before we found ourselves back afloat. Steve and Margie invited us on board Reflections, a Lagoon 380, for the weekend. This was a double treat; not only were we able to gain some experience of sailing on a Lagoon but we also managed to avoid the gardening. Now, given our recent horticultural history you may think we'd be pining for a dibber, a packet of seeds and a good hoeing but oh no. The sooner someone invents the garden that grows to maturity in a fortnight and then stops the happier we'll be.

We have been on Reflections many time, mainly to help Steve and Margie lower the wine lake which threatened to sink the good ship, but this was to be our first sail on her and as we are now actively looking to buy a 40-foot cat it was to be especially interesting.

We left the Gosport mooring mid afternoon on Friday and had a good sail to Cowes. Lightish winds from the West made sailing a bit of a challenge but she pointed well, much better than expected, and we did make progress towards Cowes but not enough if we were to arrive before the restaurants closed. We dropped the sails, stirred the donkeys from their slumber and zipped along at a very perky 7 knots.

Our first Mayday went out when we were about two miles from Cowes. Not us, you understand, we had not come to grief on the trecherous Isle of Wight coast, oh no, rather embasrrassingly, this was a sail training ship which had gone aground off the west of Cowes and the swell was giving her bottom a jolly good smacking. being an elderly lady she did not like it, nor did the kids on board who had just been given a lesson on how not to do it. Lifeboats were launched, vessels nearby went to the rescue and HM Solent Coastguard were hyperventilating i9n anticipation of the headlines, "Children saved from sinking training ship. Why did it happen ask HM Coastguard." Luckily, the rather sheepish skipper reported that he'd managed to wriggle free thanks to a tow from a passing boat and was now heading for Cowes. We met in the entrance with her lifeboat escort.

Cowes Yacht Haven was surprisingly busy but they found room for us to tie up. Not long after mooring a monohull with a crew of uncertain skill decided they wanted to moor behind us. There was barely room but we shuffled up and squeezed them on the end of the pontoon.

Dinner was taken at China China a splendid restaurant with great views over the Solent. An ideal place, we decided, from where to view disasters, collisions and the odd skirmish between yacht and ferry.

SATURDAY 3rd. October
After a great breakfast we left Cowes for a few hours sailing in the Solent. The forecast was for 25 knots out of the North and the forecasters were not wrong. So, we were in for a lively sail and it would be good to see how Reflections handled in a bit of a blow. Well, the words rocket and train are not usually associated with sailing but this Lagoon certainly gave every impression of wanting to emulate these other forms of transport. With 25 knots of apparent wind, a reef in the main and about a third of the Genoa out we shot along at 10 knots. There was probably a bit of tidal help but even so very nippy. What was also impressive was that Steve could singlehand her if needed and also the champagne glasses in the saloon stayed upright. One day all boats will have two hulls!

Our Second Mayday occurred as we were slicing through the waves north of Cowes heading for Southampton. Two racing boats had been in a collision and one of the crew had sustained a nasty crack on her head and was suffering concussion. This did sound more serious and an ambulance was despatched to meet the boat at Hamble Point. We never did hear if she recovered but reaffirmed our thoughts about racing sailors. Sometimes passing along the Solent is like being in a dememnted dogem race with boats coming every which way and many totally ignoring the rules of the road.

Having got dangerously close to the shops at Southampton we turned round and headed back to Cowes when the next emergency call crackled over the marine airwaves. This time a Motorboat with engine failure. Some day all boats will have two engines. They managed to get a tow and another disaster was averted.

We entered the Medina and Steve fancied sailing up to Newport, our next planned stop. There was enough wind in vaguely the right direction and apart from a quick burst of engine power to get us safely past the chain ferry we sailed right up to the moorings at Newport. It's the first time we've been there and what a pleasant place it is. On Saturday night it was very busy, no pontoon space for us so we tied up alongside a (smaller) monohull. Dinner was taken at the Bargeman pub, pleasant hostelry directly opposite the mooring.

SUNDAY 4th. October
The Lagoon 380 is a BIG boat and attracts attention. The woman on the boat alongside and her friend were keen to have a look round and so Steve and Margie started the first of the boat tours. The visitors were impressed.

We debated where to go next, anchor somewhere perhaps for lunch? The tides were not right for going East so we opted for lunch in the Beaulieu River which had the benefit of wind and tide being in the right direction. A brisk sail across the Solent had us overhauling a couple of monohulls and a rather smart looking gaff ketch. We entered the river, dropped the sails and anchored. Splendid place to stop for a bite.

After lunch we headed East for Gosport and carried the tide right into Portsmouth Harbour crossing via the North Swatchway with just inches under the hull... but it was a rising tide.

We tied up back at the marina having had a great weekend and having learnt so much about the Lagoon and life on a big cat. We had also had a Mayday free day.

Some day all boats will have two hulls and two engines.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Gosport - at last

Well, we eventually got home. For two weeks NE'ly winds, gale force at times and fog, kept us locked up in St. Peter Port marina on Guernsey. Before that head winds had prevented us crossing from North Brittany to Guernsey and before that 'the wrong sort of wind' delayed our passage from Granville to St. Malo. No matter where we wanted to go the winds changed to thwart us. Is this what sailing is like? According to others, yes.

Well, as a small crumb of comfort I'm told that the stationary high over the UK responsible for the latest strong NE'lys is pretty unusual and we were unlucky. We had just a one-day window of westerlies to cross from Guernsey before the winds veered to the north again. As we emerged from St. Peter Port harbour at 7am we discovered we were part of a small flotilla. All the boats had been held up in Guernsey and were seizing this opportunity to make a run for home. There was quite a procession up the Little Russel and we were joined by a couple more boats as we all shot through the Alderney Race. We peaked 11.9 knots through the Race as Jo and I were willing Starquest to nudge into 12 knots but no, 11.9 was the peak.

It was a fast but uneventful passage and the Race threw us out into the Channel and we maintained 10 knots for at least a further hour. This help from the tide early on certainly gave us a good start as we headed for Blighty.

The crossing from the UK was quiet with few ships sighted but the return was different. Although our route did not take us through the large ship separation zone we were crossing as ships position themselves to enter the zone and we noticed that ships behave remarkably like buses... there are gaps when none come along then all of a sudden three or four appear at once.

The most 'interesting' time was when four ships were running east almost line abreast and our track took us through the lot! Thank goodness for AIS which made calculating our relative positions easy and certainly took a lot of stress out of that bit of the journey. I just hoped that whoever wrote the software to calculate 'closest point of approach' didn't have a hangover when he wrote that bit of the program. The closest we got to any ship was 0.6 nm - still close enough when you see this vast block of flats passing astern.

I made sure our SeaMe radar responder was on and trusted that someone on the bridge of each ship was plotting our course. We did think one ship nudged a few degrees to give us a bit more room. God bless you sir. We would not fancy doing that in the dark.

The west-bound traffic was also quite heavy but more spaced out. I remember one of Chloe's friends asking about shipping lanes and I explained that they run more or less, east-west and we cross north-south. "Oh" said Alice, clearly taking in the image. "So it's like they are on the motorway and we are the hedgehogs?" Very neatly put, I thought. I remembered that analogy when we were in the middle of all this heavy-weight maritime ironmongery.

Once past the big ships life got easier and I snatched a bit of a rest as Jo took the helm. There was quite a swell throughout the crossing. It's difficult to measure swell because there are no reliable references but we reckon it must have been around six feet with the occasional 'big one' maybe twice that. The seas were not rough, we didn't have 'green ones' breaking over the deck, far from it, but the beam swell from the west did make it pretty uncomfortable. Neither of us were too keen on going below to make a meal. Jo did, however, manage to produce some hot food by running below, putting things in the oven or one the hob, then rushing back on deck until the next flying visit to the galley was needed. I have to say a jacket potato with cheese and ham tastes mighty good mid channel.

Although we had clear skies for most of the crossing cloud had formed over France as we left and as we approached the UK cloud was clearly visible over the Isle of Wight and Dorset. We could not see land but knew it was there under the blanket.

It was about 6pm that we first caught sight of land, well we think it was land. Sometimes cloud on the horizon can look awfully like land. We needed someone in the crow's nest with a telescope and a bandana shouting 'Land Ahoy' but being unable to press gang a Guernsey donkey in St. Peter Port we were lacking a masthead lookout. Eventually the dark shape of St. Catherine's became clear and almost immediately the white cliffs on the sw coast of the Isle of Wight by the Needles appeared. The St. Catherine light seemed very much like a 'welcome home' signal.

Darkness fell, the lights of the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth and Poole became very obvious as we headed for the Needles Fairway Buoy. We anticipated that the Needles Channel would be a bit lumpy in the swell and as the tide would be rushing through about the time of our arrival I opted to enter the Solent via the Needles North Channel. It's a bit tricky and I've never done it at night before. This was to be a death or glory moment.

We passed the Fairway Buoy, continued for about a mile, turned east and all of a suddent the sea became a lot calmer. The difference between having the wind and swell on the beam and then having both astern was dramatic. The tide on the Solent approach was going to be strong so we thought we'd take advantage of this quiet spot to drop the gib. I released the sheet and pulled on the furling line and it was stuck. I uttered a prayer to Neptune, who totally ignore me.

With safety harness on and full deck lights (we must have looked like Blackpool illuminations) I went up forward to sort out the furling gear. We have a rule that no one goes forward at sea and especially so at night but there was no option. The sail was stuck and we had to free it before we got to Yarmouth and this was going to be our calmest bit of sea.

I made my way carefully forward and I have to say the magic of being up front cruising along at six knots into an inky black sea was quite awe inspiring. When I got to the furling drum I could see what had happened. The gib had unfurled very quickly and the line was caught around the drum. It took half a minute to free and then I carefully moved back to the safety of the cockpit. The only 'drama' of the trip and all resolved in less than a minute. Maybe Nepture was listening afterall.

We arrived off Milford on Sea where a sharp right turn is needed as you sail very close to the shore along the western edge of Hurst Castle to the western entrance of the Solent. We had several tide 'windows' to hit on our trip. Firstly there was the Little Russel out of Guernsey, then the Alderney Race and finally the entrance to the Solent. With luck we'd reach all at the right time but as we were now running ahead of schedule (winds and tides had been kind) I wondered if we might not get any benefit from the Solent tide. I neeed not have worried. We sped along the North Channel at 10 knots and popped out into the Solent approach by Hurst Castle and carried the tide into the Solent and to Yarmouth.

Yarmouth was a blaze of lights and we noticed a Chinese Palace leave the harbour. Now, it's some months since we've been to Yarmouth and I don't remember any floating takeaways operating there so guessed this must be the Yarmouth-Lymington ferry. It was. We then noticed another Chinese Palace leaving Lymington and heading for Yarmouth. Would we beat it, we wondered? It looked as if we would although it was tempting to let it go in first and follow her in. A quick check on the AIS and we were well ahead so we opted to go in and let her follow us. Jo picked up the entrance lights before me and she guided us in. Must be all those carrots she's been eating.

We entered the harbour just after nine o'clock, fourteen hours and 95 miles since we left St. Peter Port, a really fast crossing thanks to some helpful tides and winds. The harbour was very busy although when I phoned the day before I got the impression it was quiet and we'd not have any problem finding a mooring. We tied up alongside a very solid Aquastar which, appropriately, was built in Guernsey. Lovely old boat, solid as a battleship and the sort of motorboat yachtsmen buy when hoisting sails becomes too onerous.

We were in Yarmouth in time to get to the pub which was quite an achievement as we were estimating a midnight arrival. However, we both felt pretty tired and gave the Yarmouth pubs a miss...will Gabby and Eddie ever forgive us?

Next morning we were rudely awoken at 6am when a boat, attempting to leave the harbour, underestimated the tide and almost collided with us. The 'thump' we heard was someone stepping on our deck to fend off the runaway yacht. She was eventually winched back onto the pontoon and three very sheepish sailors went below to work out how to leave without capsizing the rest of the boats on the mooring.

Having been disturbed at 6am we were half awake anyway at seven and decided to take advantage of the early rise and head down the Solent for Gosport. We had the tide behind us, there was nil wind, so we motored and three hours later we tied up at Gosport Marina just as it started to rain. Welcome home Starquest.

It's been fun, it's been an adventure. We have learnt an enormous amount about what we need of a boat if we are to live on board for six months of the year and although the weather has been dreadful we still enjoyed it.

We have met some really nice and interesting people, seen some amazing sights, cruised some challenging waters, had unbelievable highs when things went well and some miserable lows when the weather curtailed our plans.

We can't wait to go sailing next year. Roll on 2010.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Guernsey - again

If there has been one theme to this trip it has been the perverse whim of the weather. Our departure from the South Coast was delayed for more than a week because of strong SW'ly winds. Westerly or South-Westerly winds are the norm so it was perhaps no great surprise although the strengths were seasonally high. We then got holed up in Pontrieux as gales lashed the Brittany coast and now here we are in the Channel Islands where yet again the weather is holding us up.

The one thing we thought was going to be easy was riding a SW'ly home but, oh no. The winds have now been out of the NE for a week, the forecast is for another week of NE'lys and as if that's not enough they are blowing gale force 8. Our plan of visiting the Southampton Boat Show has been blown out of the water, but we have probably saved a fortune on impulse buys.

We are rapidly running out of places to visit (Guersney is quite tiny) and we will soon have worked our way through our culinery repetoire... a somewhat limited menu given the limitations of the boat.

One bonus is that there are many boats here in a similar situation and quite a community spirit develops among the crews forced to spend a little longer on Guernsey that they had planned. We are all in the same boat, so to speak.

I don't think I have ever been to a place where the War is still so much in evidence. Much is made here of the occupation, there are museums, monuments, tourist attractions and countless books. Not sure how the crew on the German boat moored opposite us feel about it all. Awful as it was the the people of Guernsey one can't help wondering if it is not time to let it slip into history and focus more of the future of these islands.

One of the unexpected benefits of mooring here in St. Peter Port is that the harbour master puts catamarans right at the front of the marina. I wake each morning and practically stare into the eyes of the girl on Markes & Spencer checkout, so close are we to the shops. If we are here much longer I think she's probably pass me a paper, a bottle of milk and a pack of smoked back bacon without me having to get out of bed.

On Saturday night a huge TV screen was erected on the pier and the Proms were relayed direct from the Royal Albert Hall. It was very windy, very cold and not quite the balmy evening everyone had hoped for. We had a meal on board with new friends Clive and Mel (wonderful old Gaff Ketch based in Salcombe) and then we braved the icy blast and joined the thronging hundreds for the last ten minutes of the Last Night of the Proms. It rather reminded me of Gibraltar - just a bit more British than the Britain.... but Guernsey lacked Gib's climate. The Proms were followed by a local rock group - an interesting bit of scheduling.

Well, that's us for the moment. We're here for another week if we are to believe the forecast. Now, how best to persuade the M&S checkout to start home/boat deliveries?

Friday, 11 September 2009

New Boat for 2010

It's been one of the hardest decisions we've taken but we have decided we have to sell Starquest.
She's a great boat, we've spent a small fortune on her, but having now lived on board for a few months we realise we need a bigger boat if we are to realise our ambition of spending six or seven months afloat.
We bought her with the intention of creating our 'perfect' boat and fully intended keeping her for 10 years or so. Because of that we embarked upon a substantial programme of refurbishment and cost was spared....if only we'd known then what we know now. Because Starquest is now in such great shape it's been an even more difficult decision to sell. We'll miss her.
However, time moves on and as much as we love Starquest she's just too small to be our home for seven months of the year. So the search is on for Starquest 2.
We need a boat of around 40 feet and the hot favourite at the moment is a Broadblue 385. The BB385 is an established boat and, by coincidence, it's the same boat that Jo completed her Day Skipper course on. There are a few on the secondhand market but we'll probably opt for a new one. That way we can have just what we need. We have yet to discuss the options (and prices!) with the broker but as soon as we manage to get back to the UK talks start.
There are also a couple of other options which are of potential interest. Two French builders, Lagoon and Fontaine Pajot are launching two new models at the Southampton Boat Show (both 40-footers and both appear to fit the bill) and we plan to see them too.
Life is never simple eh?


We have learnt many things since we left our Gosport mooring and the most important is that you can virtually guarantee that wherever you want to sail that's where the wind will be blowing from. Almost without exception we've been kept in port by heads winds. We waited in Weymouth for almost a fortnight for the gale force SW'lys to abate and veer. Our passage from the Channel Iaslands to Brittany was equally delayed by the 'wrong sort of wind' and now here we are sitting in Guernsey being buffeted by F6-7 NE'ly winds. The one thing we thought we could be pretty sure of was a W or SW'ly to get us home but oh no, it does not work like that. We had fog two days ago which, according to the harbour office, was "like a pea-sopuper' on the other side of the island. It swirled around the St. Peter Port side as Herm and Sark went in and out of view. The fog went and then the NE'ly wind arrived...and arrive it did with a vengence. The Little Russell looked like a white frothy torrent as the wind over tide whipped up a right old mess. The forecast, no matter which one you read, predicts even more gloom. SE, F5-7 for the next five days at least. Not only is this annoying but it is also frustrating because we are keen to get to the Southampton Boat Show as there are some new boats we'd really like to see. We've even considered a rather long haul to Devon and then a series of hops along the coast but one of those 'hops' is across Poole Bay which in itself is about the same length as the Channel crossing.
The small crum of comfort is that we are not alone. Here in St. Peter Port marina there is a small flotilla of boats waiting for the weather window to open so we can make a dash for the UK. Although we may be here by press of weather it is creating a certain spirit among the fleet. All in the same boat, so to speak.
Oh well, Southampton Boat Show has only just opened, even if wwe don't make it the new boats will still be viewable after the show and in the meantime we'd better prepare for another sociable (alcoholic) evening.

Moon over Lexardrieux.
Market at Lezardrieux

Monday, 31 August 2009

St. Quay to Lezardrieux

Sailing around this coast certainly concentrates the mind. The tides think nothing of rising and falling thirty feet, the tidal flows are almost the same speed as the boat in places and to add to the fun, piloting around the coast involves dodging huge rocks most of which are submerged and redady to bite great lumps out of your hull.
But the navigation challenges are made worthwhile by the places we visit and the trips we make. The journey from St. Quay was interesting as we ran parallel to the coast for much of the way and then we picked our way through rocks and sand bars creeping into to the river entrance opposite the Ile de Brehat one of the Breton gems and another serious sailing challenge.
We motored up river to Lezardrieux and tied up alongside a marina hammerhead, which is a pontoon not a shark lest you should worry. The yacht club serves a nice beer, the wine is better than plonk and the food is excellent. They were even able to produce a Drambuie nightcap. The town is a short walk up a slightly steep hill but satisfies most needs - butcher, baker, cafe, laundry and once a week a market.
We have found that no matter how well we are intentioned of staying just a day or so in port then pressing on we always seem to stay longer and cover less ground. This port is proving to be no exception. It's easy pace, convenience and welcome and argue against casting off and exploring further - just yet.
Well, supper on board calls so time to sign off for the moment.
Hope all's well with everyone at home - it's good to get your messages.
Trevor & Jo

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Granville is a secret gem. Just north of Mont St. Michael it's a small provincial French town somwewhat off the tourist track and all the better for it. Popular with the locals it's beaches all but vanish under the tides which rise more than 30 feet at times. The marina, which feels more like a harbour, houses 1000 yachts but still manages to feel cosy and intimate despite its size. The boats are kept afloat in the marina by a sill which catches several feet of water before it all sloshes away twice a day. The picture shows the sill at the marina entrance and the vast area of uncovered sand beyond.

The local chamber of commerce provide free, fast WiFi which works very well and the marina staff are helpful and efficient.

Although Mont St. Michael is clearly visible to the south it is apparently rarely visited by yachts presumably because of the lack of a local harbour and the rate at which tides receed.

Our French was tested to its limits here as I had to return a duff mobile phone charger to the Orange shop. Amazing what you can do with a few words and gestures. All very Churchillian.

St. Malo

Just like home! Woke up in St. Malo and thought we were back at Gosport with the Portsmouth-St. Malo ferry Bretagne moored opposite.

The leg from Granville to St. Malo was good. Nice sail, enough wind to make a healthy 5+ knots and a real sense of achievement coping with the tides. Massive tidal current on entrance to the marina which almost caught us out. Had to give the mooring a miss and round-up into the tide to stand any chance of getting onto the mooring with any dignity. British sailing honour only just in tact as we tied up.

St. Malo held little appeal, especially as we had a very exposed mooring, and although it did calm a tad overnight we decided that we would be happier moving on.

Before casting off we did try and find Stephen and Ali's boat, Virago, which was somwewhere ashore in the Etoile boatyard. Failed miserably to find either boat or yard.

Next stop St. Quay Portrieaux in a marina named Port D'Amor which seemed to promise more than the ferry port of St. Malo.

Pass the champagne, cue the accordian and where's Pierre selling over-priced single red roses.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Under Way

Not much to say except here are a couple of shots of us under sail. Given a bit of wind she really does sail well. The big problem with sailing is that it's almost impossible to get a pic of the boat under sail because whenever she's sailing we are on board and not lazing in some gin palace waiting to take snaps. Makes mental note: befriend a Beken.

Sheets and sheets

Just in case you thought it was all cheap plonk, fine food and sun bathing we thought you ought to see a glimpse of nautical reality. And no, Jo has not grown to giant proportions while afloat that really is a mini ironing board. Most of the sheets (nautical variety) are above decks but a few stray below to be pressed.

Unambiguous welcome to France.

20th. August - GRANVILLE

After several stunning days with clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper 20s today it's cloudy with a fresh F6 blowing. So, time to head in land.

We have taken to Granville - hardly any tourists and the marina has more of a harbour feel. The town has everything you'd want in terms of shops and all within a short stagger of the moorings. How long before the word spreads and it becomes overcrowded with yachts breasted five deep?

Rise of tide here is a dramatic 30 feet at Springs which means an almost mountain climb up the gangway when the tide's out. However, to compensate the rapid descent when retrurning to the boat after a snifter causes much amusement.

Starquest is a great home for our trip but lovely as she is she's too small for our 6-month liveabord. So the search is now on for something a little (well, a lot to be honest) bigger. There are several boats in the running and right now and it looks as if we'll be making a swift return to Southampton for the Boat Show to choose her successor.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Lymington - Brittany

Starquest moored under the bows of Tickled Pink, apparently owned by a Jersey resident Russial oil mogul. As you can see from the picture both ships are about the same length!

Now, for reasons which defeat me I am unable to upload text from Word into this blog and having written 3,000 words it's kind of galling not to be able to share them. So, while I attempt to fathom out (nautical term note) why I can't copy and paste text from Word to here I'll give you a thumbnail sketch of life so far.

23rd. July
From Lymington, where we had the electronics tweaked we sailed to Poole and tied up at the Town Quay Marina. Very central but quite noisy with holidaymakers and a rather eccentric mix of 'events', including a classic car rally on the quay.

25th. July
From Poole to Weymouth in a gap in the weather. More uphill, upwind sailing - or to be more accurate motoring as the wind was on the nose. Bumpy slog but nice to be in Weymouth. The town is a classic seaside town- donkey rides on the beach, Punch and Judy man and more fish and chip shops than you can imagine possible in one place. Had two very enjoyable days with Mike and Annie Chaney - Mike was Editor of Today when I worked on the programme and it was good to see him again.

Weather in Weymouth was usual rain and high winds but we did see a gap coming...

4th. August
Moved from Weymouth to Portland, home of the sailing events for 2012 Olympics, all of a mile but being free of the Weymouth lifting brideg we were able to skip across the Channel whenever the opportunity arose. Winds gusting 36 knots when we entered Portland which made mooring an interesting venture. Read all about it in the long version if I ever manage to upload it.

7th. August
Left Portland at 5am and crossed the Channel. Not much wind, big swell so a motorboat trip for most of the time. Poor Jo felt quesy and spent most of the crossing below decks. Tied up in Alderney mid afternoon....knackered. Had nice meal, drinks and slept soundly despite very uncomfortable mooring in Braye Harbour.

8th. August
Left Braye at noon and very happy to leave the choppy harbour behind. Had good sail most of the way to Guernsey and managed to get tides right for Alderney departure (not too difficult given we were moored there) and arrival at Little Russel channel (not so easy but we did it).

Tied up in Guernsey St. Peter Port in prime location right in front of Marks and Sparks.

Met up with ex Hammersmith neighbours George and Caroline Freeman and son Charles. Had most enjoyable supper with them and they joined us on board for a return match..

12th. August
Left Guernsey for Jersey. Not much wind so donkey stirred into action again. Jersey was a pleasant surprise and better than I remember from last (GQT) visit. Met Joyce and Rob on Pink Cloud a stunning 60 foot Nijad. Also bumped into Kay and Chris with a 37 foot Prout, Halycon, which is just like Starquest but grown up.

17th. August
Left Jersey at low water, which meant leaving the marina for a pontoon outside the sill. Left pontoon at 10.30am and had a very enjoyable sail to Grandville. Caught two mackeral on the way which we have just cooked. Can't get fresher than that...and free.

The wind packed up a couple of hours from our destination but we managed to sail most of the way. Granville is a pleasant French town unsullied by hoards of holidaymakers. We love it.

So good to at last hit the French shore. Winds and weather have thwarted our efforts so far but now we are on our way. Next stop St. Malo via Mont St. Michael. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Boffins on Board

OK, I admit it. I bought every toy in the shop and as if from some sort of electronic house of Bable they don't always talking to each other. Here Bob (at the base of the mast) and Mike (looking aloft) replace the cable to the VHF radio. That's the one where you shout for help as you sink not the one where you catch up on what's happening in Ambridge.

The problem turned out to be a defective aerial - water had got into the 'waterproof' moulding and run down the inside of the cable as if it were a pipe destroying its electrical charateristics en route. We were barely able to pick up Solent Coastguard in Portsmouth let alone anything further. Now with a new aerial and cable we can eavesdrop on French coastguards - which at least makes us feel as if we are in France even if secuely tied up in Blighty.

Bob from Greenham-Regis (an electronics company not a port on the south coast) also upgraded the autopilot software and for the first time the Raymarine kit now behaves more like an autopilot and less like a demented helmsman. Why do companies release half-finished software and then let customers discover the bugs?

The replacement Furuno cockpit plotter is now readable thanks to a new 'double-glazed' upgraded screen technology and the chartroom plotter is now talking to it's friend in the cockpit and exchanging 'sentences'. Techies reading this will know what that means - the rest of you may smile and look indulgent.

So we are all set - all systems are go - and as soon as we feel able to leave Mum and dad we'll be off.

Waiting for the Tide

The weather is stunning. Starquest was lifted out at Bucklers Hard on the Beaulieu River to have her bottom scrubbed. It was at Bucklers Hard that the majority of the refit was undertaken a couple of years ago and it was good to meet up with some of the people who worked on her, especially Bernie who is, without doubt, one of the most skilled and talented joiners around.

We bumped into Tom Cunliffe on the quay. Tom gave me my first sailing lesson in 1981. Great experience.

Our departure has been delayed as my folks are not too well so we are taking advantage of the extra time to sort out a few things. The electronics have been an issue - nothing seems to have worked as it should 'out of the box'. Greenham-Regis have spent hours trying to coax kit into working and at last I think all's functioning correctly.....but for how long?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

One Week to Go

One week to go and still lots to do.

The radar/chart plotter display at the chart table has died, the main VHF radio is operating at reduced range and the doors to the engine bay are in the garden shed.

However, looking on the bright side the fridge works brilliantly, the rigging sings and the new Zodiac inflatable is a joy. Added to which this Essex girl is having her bottom scrubbed and polished in a week.

Memo to Met. Office: Southerly Force 4 in a week please.

Trevor & Jo

The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington