To Weymouth (3)

By now, my reader(s) must b wondering if Riff Raff has disappeared into myth, or perhaps turned into the Flying Dutchman. The discerning one will have noticed that my typing skills have returned to their normal state and misspellings and typos are returning to confuse you all.


The last post told of our sail to Poole; now we have to recount the voyage to Weymouth

We motored out of Poole early on a sunny, windless morning, passing the chain ferry without incident and along the entrance channel with no interference from Ferries. A sol fisherboat was entering the channel, with its usual escort of hopeful gulls. I was hopeful too – that a sea breeze would spring up so that Freddy2 could be silenced. Past Old Harry, breasting a little tide, hoping to get to St Alban head at slack water to avoid the overfalls from the off shore leadge.

Pas the yachts still dozing in the anchorage by Old Harry

P1020752 then on past Swanage, we crept along the coast, parting placid waters with our bow and shattering the peace with Freddy. A couple of Gulliemots passed overhead but no other wildlife appeared.

No sign of the tide when we approach St Albans point so we kept even closer to the shore, taking the inside passage (keep within 50 feet of the shore, say the pilot books). Still calm water – ahead and to port were the ominous very  swirls of the beginning of the tides rush to the west. Riff Raff twitched a few times but we were through. The bulk of Portland was ahead,so Weymouth must lie in the valley a little East of that. Now we can head straight for it.

It’s Monday. It means the Army is at work. Up comes the guardboat, urging us to head away to the South for half an hour to clear the range. In theory there’s no legal requirement to do this but I thought discretion was the order of the day and complied until they were out of sight, whereupon I resumed my course and speed for Weymouth.

Still no sign of a breeze, so Freddy 2 hammered away.

Away to the south west an ethereal shape started to emerge from the haze.P1020756 It hardened into a 3 masted sailing ship, with the yards all brailed up, making about 8 knots against the tide.

Then the guard boat rushed up again to give it (and us) our marching orders.

Thirty minutes later I resumed course for Weymouth – we didn’t see the guardboat again.

We inches our way to Weymouth, lunchtime came. Freddy 2 was shut down for a few minutes as I listened to the one o clock news (how traditional) and ate the sandwiches I had made the night before (cheese, marmite and tomato, if you must know).

We drifted in the hot sunshine, on a glass like sea (I was reminded of the verse from the Ancient Mariner):

“All in a hot and copper sky, the bloody sun at noon”

but I couldn’t remember having killed an albatross.

Freddy 2 was set to the task again. I called up the harbour master at Weymouth to ascertain that the Bridge would lift at four and we chugged on.

We sighted the mole and turned round it’s eastern end.

I was enchanted by the sight that met us:P1020759

I could almost imagine the harbour as it would have been at the beginning of the nineteenth century – the customs house on the right, ready to assess my cargo and examine my ships papers, the forest of masts of the various cargo and fishing boats on the wharves, the warehouses bulging with goods and the rummage gang already to pounce on suspect boats.

But it was a summer day in 2017, so we made our way unmolested and untroubled to the waiting pontoon. Soon the harbour bridge was lifted to let us through into the marina and we settled in silence to the heat of the afternoon.

As I had to go to London for a meeting the following weekend, this seemed a good place to pause the trip. I covered the cockpit with the purpose built cover, paid in advance for a weeks mooring and left by train the following morning.


En Route to Weymouth (2)

Younger readers* will recall that Riff Raff has arrived at Cowes, just in time to for the Isle of Wight festival. Our next stop would be Yarmouth or even Poole. It meant using a west going tide. We had delayed in Cowes for a day so that the morning west going tide was not quite  too early, so Sunday found us in the offing of Cowes at 0800 (breakfast and coffee having been scoffed and sandwiches prepared before cast off) waiting for the tide to run westward. There was a breath of wind** from the North East and the sails were up. Freddy2 was on too as we moved ponderously towards the Needles channel. By 08:30, the wind had disappeared and the tide and Freddy were carrying us along at just over 5 knots. In no time at all (or so it seemed) we were passing Yarmouth, noting the enormous motor yacht moored outside the harbour. Well, it couldn’t have got in.

We kept well clear in case some officious “guard boat” full of gents in black balaclavas came to visit.


Woosh. That was us through the narrows past Hurst castle and then jiggling to the West to take the inshore passage.

Now the tidal current deserted us. There seemed to be some wind. An on shore breeze, possibly of the sea breeze varietyUp went the sails, off went Freddy2 and we sauntered past Christchurch and Bournemouth at a sedate 2 knots, taking in the sights and bathing in the sun (or the shade of the mainsail) depending on P1020747how the wind felt.

Brownsea Island  hove into view and we sailed along the small ship passage to within spitting distance of the obnoxious chain ferry, before cranking up Freddy 2, lowering the main and breasting the outgoing tide into the harbour to look for a space to park. A marina took us in, and sandwiched us into a corner between some rather large things.


The sunset was great.


What shall we do on Monday. The forecast looks hot.



* e.g. those who have unimpaird short term memories

** Force 2, if you really want to know

En Route to Weymouth (1)

Riff Raff is currently resting at Weymouth – at least she was last Thursday when I had to dash for a meeting in London. It all seemed so logical when it was planned in the winter but I had reckoned without the sun…..

I digress (as usual).

Riff Raff slid off her trailer a week ago last Wednesday evening, into the murky waters of Northney Marina. We left at crack of dawn (about 08:30) to dash down wind to the entrance to Chichester harbour and catch the tide west along the Solent (we’ve done this before, it’s easy). We didn’t make the mistake of passing the wrong side of the fort and were soon (or so it seemed) amongst the throng of traffic. P1020732

This time the navy had joined in the fun. I realised that the big green buoy off to starboard was the one HMS Montrose and the cross channel ferry were going to turn round – we were safer on the “wrong side of it”. And, to miss-quote Captain Kirk, we made it so.


It was just about lunch time as we approached Cowes. There seemed to be an awful lot of boats about and it was only Friday. I thought I’d better see if we can find out what’s going on and if we can find a berth for the night. There are at least three marinas in Cowes – they all use the same VHF Channel, as do several on the mainland. This weekend, each marina seemed to have a similar sounding young woman (I have to be careful here, dear reader, I wouldn’t want to sound sexist) on the airwaves. An old buffer like me gets confused ‘Cowes Marina, Cowes Marina, this is Riff Raff’. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Cowes Marina, stand by’. It’s a bit like being put on hold but at least they don’t play you music of indifferent quality. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Gosport can I help you, over” Hnag on, I was on hold of Cowes, why is the girl there now pretending to be from Gosport – then the penney dropped – it’s all because they use the same channel. So I abandoned the VHF and used the mobile phone. It sounded like the same girl answered but at least she was now speaking for Cowes. The found me a berth amongst the confusion explaining it was the Isle of Wight festival weekend. We were perched on the end of a pontoon amongst a throng of larger boats. As you can see from the picture, they certainly crammed them in – I was gald we were on the end, it meant we could get out when we wanted to go!


Cramming them in at Cowes Yacht Haven



Stack Packs and Stays (Corsets)

Our readership has grown to three. Keep it up, spread the word etc etc. I can’t remember if I told you, dear reader(s), of the disappointment that I had with one part of Riff Raff’s equipment – the stack pack. I always thought they (it?) were called the lazy jacks and a sail bag but, I suppose, stack pack sounds so much more metro-sexual and therefore coool. Anyway, the one (ones?) supplied with Riff Raff was so tight that it squashed the sail when one tried to do it up. I suppose it should really be called a corset or a set of stays – but Riff Raff already has four of the latter (but, so far as I know, none of the former). But I digress. So I threw a wobbly with the builder: we added a few inches* here and there and, hey presto, designed a new version. It eventually arrived, in the right colour and is now fitted.

The sail can breathe in and out in comfort whilst at rest.

Here’s a photo of the two, with the older one on top. You can see the where the extra inches were added.sail bag


All I have o do now is persuade the lazy jacks to catch the sail.

Now we’re off somewhere and you can read about it in the next thrilling installment. Don’t change channel.**



* Just remember 1 inch = 2.54 cm – it’s a generational thingy  nothing to do with Brexit.

** Another generational thingy to do with broadcast rather than streamed TV stations

Repair and Maintenance

Gosh! Already? But Riff Raff has only been to sea for about 40 hours, so what’s gone on?

Well, to start with it’s the b****y “pre stretched” dyneema stays.

‘They’re fully stretched before we make them’ says the designer.

‘That’s as maybe’ I replied ‘but I want a steel wire forestay. Then at least I’ve a fixed point in the rig, just in case the dyneema does stretch.’

As we were drifting to a light wind back from Cowes the other day, the mast flopped from side to side and fore and aft to an alarming extent. After taking Riff Raff onto terra firma (or at least onto Terence), I went to investigate.

I had to take up about an inch * of slack on both the port and starboard main stays and a similar amount on the baby stays too. Assuming that the steel wire forestay hasn’t stretched, the rig might now be back to “factory set”. We’ll see on Thursday.

I had also to try out the cockpit cover. This had arrived at home just before I left for the trip to Cowes and Yarmouth and I hadn’t had time to play with it. 20180610_125655

Unpacked and fitted (held in place by oodles of lengths of bungee and a couple of car roof rack stretchy things with hooks), I was rather pleased with it. It covers the spray hood and the engine and there’s space under which all manner of stuff can be hidden from prying eyes. It might even stop the cockpit seats from getting covered in atmospheric fall out. All we need now is the tent….


* One inch = 25mm (at the moment – it might equal more (or less) after the UK has left the EU.)

The rest of the Weekend

Having enticed the readers to Cowes (yes, there are more than one of you!), they might be wondering what happened next. Well, after sampling the empty eateries in Cowes, the following morning (just) we caught the tide for Yarmouth. The wind, which promised to be fair and from the North, as usual had not read the forecast and disappeared completely by about three. (I suspect that some sort of sea breeze effect had vaguely materialised) so Freddy2* was called in to push us to Yarmouth. Passing the odd merchantman,  we arrived at the busy (even on Thursday) marina, missing the ferry on the way in.


There’s something about modern ships – shoe boxes with scalloped fronts and backs. The romance of the sea trade is, I fear, dead. I’m glad I never became a Naval Architect, after all!

After a quiet drink at the Yacht Club, I repaired to Riff Raff for an impromptu repast and so to bed, pondering where to go next. Poole? Bembridge (round the South of the Isle of Wight)? or retrace my steps.

Friday morning came and I woke quite late. That, and the tide times determined our fate we’ll catch the tide to retrace our steps. The wind was from the North again, so we lazily tacked up the Solent to Cowes and resumed our acquaintance with the East Cowes Marina.

On Saturday, I intended to go “home” to Northney, rent a pontoon space for a night, and take Riff Raff out of the water on Sunday. Of course, I hadn’t booked any space anywhere.

Up late again (I wonder why) – even at 10:00 the radio was alive with people trying to book a berth for the night (and it’s not school holidays yet). I set sail, more in hope than expectation, and arrived at the entrance to Chichester harbour just after low water. The wind was light from the South and we drifted in with a touch of help from Freddy 2. Suddenly, Freddy 2 seemed to lose power. I checked that I’d undone the petrol tank vent – I hadn’t so rapidly took corrective action – without much effect. There was a lot of weed about in the channel so it seemed possible that there was some round the propeller. This – in the centre of the narrowest bit of the entrance, surrounded by several wet suit clad “young people”. So, the tiller was lashed and off went the engine – the prop was complete wrapped in some stringy species of seaweed. It took a few minutes to clear it as Riff Raff drifted upstream (I suppose that I should have raised black balls to the masthead but there was nothing appropriate to hand….)

With that mess cleared, we continued sluggishly upstream. On arrival at Northney I discovered that a berth was available and we were soon back on the mainland. I then attempted to lift the centre board, only to find it was jammed down. Of came the cabin table and I peered into the centre board slot. Sure enough, it was full of weed which took some time to clear.

Next morning, Riff Raff was dragged from the briny and now sits on her trailer again, waiting the call of the sea. It might come this week.



Going abroad

At last, a few days without social commitments – such is the hectic life of the retired.  The owners agent is having a weekend “jolly” with the local horticultural society, so I can go to sea with a clear (ish) conscience.

To Northney on Tuesday (just as the new cockpit cover arrives – more of which anon).  Half way there I remember that I have left my important navigation tool (an elderly ipad) on charge in my office. Hey Ho. Riff Raff slides off the trailer with ease and is soon moored alongside a pontoon for the evening whilst I go off to the local chandlers (for a boat hook,  a chart of the Solent and the Admiralty Tidal currents book (the last two of which would have been on the ipad) and then to a supermarket for those essentials that have also been forgotten – cup a soups, cheese, bread and wine. Then to a pub for an evening meal and back to the cabin to study tide atlas and chart – just to make sure that my plan still appeared to work. And so to bed.

Up with the lark (but too late for the 05:30 forecast). The smart phone suggests a quiet day with a NE wind, F3-4 at first, dropping during the day to 2 – 3. So it’s going to be a downwind sail to Cowes – fortunately the tide will eventually be with us.

Cast off 11:00. Freddy 2 takes us out of the marina and into the channel towards the harbour mouth. Up go the sails and, after the mess of reefing lines has been untangled, the main fills and we’re sailing down wind and with the tide towards the entrance of Chichester Harbour, through calm waters (forecast smooth or slight). Out of the harbour into the approaches to the Solent. It’s misty and I fail to identify any land marks. The few way-points that I’set are on the iPad in my study so I set a course to the West. We gently burble along. A large fort drifts past to the South. Oer – it’s Horse Sands fort and we’ve crossed the “submerged barrier”, fortunately without damage.

The wind picks up a bit and we turn slightly to the South and cross he entrance to Portsmouth. Three light towers appear ‘they’re new’ I thought and realised they’d been put in place to help these big new toothless carriers that the RN now boasts. I could see a great block of Naval Grey alongside the RN dockyard wall, –  the main “island” of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Now we’re in the land (sorry sea) of noisy hovercraft and boxlike ferries:


Not to mention AIS collision alerts:P1020735

The danger is soon passed (no boats were harmed in this situation, nor were words exchanged between skippers) and Cowes hove into view. The weather had read the forecast and decided to adopt it – the wind dropped to very little as Freddy 2 pushed us along the small boat channel. We avoided a large ferry and, rather than use the flash Cowes Yacht Haven, we snuck up river, crossed the path of the fearsome chain ferry and puttered* into East Cowes Marina. Riff Raff and I were now attached to the Isle of Wight – we’d gone abroad!

* well, not exactly puttered. Freddy 2 doesn’t seem to do puttering. More like a slightly muted roar.