Well dear reader, this is where it all starts and we see if we had done enough preparation before setting off.
I was joined by my good friend and ex merchant seaman Steve and my aunt and experienced sailor Sue, both willing volunteers/victims (I get those two words easily confused). Once they were aboard I left my friend to drive home and we chucked the ropes off and left Penzance heading east, we were coming home!!! 🙂
We soon got settled into the motion of the boat and the rhythm of the engine. Out across Mounts Bay, so named because of the St’ Micheals Mount monastery on an island in the middle of it. A beautiful afternoon with a gentle westerly breeze changed into an even more glorious evening as we passed by the Lizzard Point and turned up towards Falmouth as I wanted to give everyone a decent night after their long days of travel earlier. We arrived in Falmouth at about 10 in the evening, by which time it was dark and the mass of dockside lights made it very difficult to see the correct channel buoys and even harder to find the moorings! We eventually got alongside another boat, but were the third boat out from the pontoon. Not the best place to be, but it did us for the night. We planned to be away early in the hope of missing the dues man ;-), sadly he must know our trick and still managed to charge us £25 for the night. I did point out we had only been there 7 hours and were nowhere near a pontoon let alone any facilities. This made no difference to him so I paid up but will never return!
On our run up from Penzance we had been taking a bit of water through the stern and a couple of other weeps, although the pump had been dealing with this very well. It is not uncommon for a wooden boat to do this especially when she hasn’t been to sea for a while. As we left Falmouth Steve commented on the leak from the stern saying it was a bit worse although as the pump was more than keeping up with it we weren’t very concerned and decided to monitor it and stay a bit more inshore than going much further out to sea. We continued up the Channel and had all the sails up. she looked and felt fantastic and all was well with our world until I went below to check the chart plotter! The screen was very dark indeed, it had turned itself off. Now before you say we should have proper paper charts etc etc, WE DID and had been plotting our position regularly 😉 I wasn’t concerned about losing the plotter but did delve further into the electrical supply and discovered that we had a collection of batteries that hadn’t been being re-charged by the engine at all and so were flat. They made good ballast but that was it! This left us with a more pressing issue, we were nearly at the western approaches to the Solent, it was starting to go dark and we had no navigation lights. Do we go into somewhere like Yarmouth on the Isle of wight and pay through the nose for everything or do we keep going, staying south of the island and keeping a bloody good look out. We decided on the latter and sneaked past the island under a starlight sky. No one came near to us during the night although I was extremely pleased to see the sky lighten in the east as the dawn came.
The day continued without further problems. The stern leak got no worse and whilst we daren’t stop the engine as we could not have started it again she kept chugging along nicely We passed Brighton and Newhaven, then came to Beachy Head which slowly went astern of us as we progressed across Eastbourne bay. We had spotted a dark gray boat some distance off and we watched them as they watched us. It was a small naval vessel, probably customs or fisheries. We were the only ‘different’ boat in the bay as all the rest were white plastic yachts with white triangular sails, whereas we are big, black and have brown four-sided sails. Talk about conspicuous! Fortunately their interest waned and we were left to go on our way. Much relief all round aboard the good ship OP!
We had made very good time since leaving the Isle of Wight behind and were very early arriving in Rye Bay. We then spent a few hours just gilling up and down, up and down waiting for the tide to rise high enough for entry into the harbour. Steve is one of the Rye Harbour pilots for the commercial side of the port and so I left it to his discretion and expertise as to when we could safely enter between the pier-heads. We entered much earlier and by a different route in than I have ever been before and shot past the pier-head lights like a cork from a bottle! When you come into Rye Harbour the Harbour office is on the starboard side and you are normally required to stop. Stopping was not an option as we went past at about 10 knots and continued up the river towards the town. We turned hard to port into rock channel and ‘nearly’ missed the channel marker buoys. Rock channel is very narrow, especially when only half full of water so we progressed as slowly as we could dragging our keel on the bottom all the way to our mooring. There was,of course the grand welcoming committee all awaiting our arrival with great interest and once we had got the ropes ashore, there was much jollity to be had! We eventually got to put the boat put to bed and retired home Knackered, but very very satisfied!
Then the work begins…