Adventures closer to home

2017 will be remembered as a compromised sailing year with Hejira spending too much time on her mooring. This was as a result of building an extension to the house (yes after the children have left home, we need more space……), the death of my wife’s father while she was away and several big family holidays. I have however salvaged some sailing time and enjoyed single handing on a number of occasions out of season when crew have been harder to find. I am finding this most enjoyable and rewarding and the experiences have confirmed that I relish doing some more ambitious passages on my own in the future.

When attending (single handed of course) a rally to Lymington earlier in the year, I made a reconnoitre by bicycle to Keyhaven and had a meeting with Alison and Nick Boxall, the Southerly Owners Association Magazine editors and local residents. Alison is actually secretary of the Keyhaven Yacht Club with local knowledge and useful contacts. Over lunch we discussed the prospect of taking Hejira up to the Quay and ‘drying out’ over a tide. Despite Hejira being 45 foot long and considerably bigger than the usual visitor, the notion seemed feasible for an overnight when it is quieter out of season assuming the right conditions and tides. The idea was filed to the back of my mind pending the right circumstances and a review of the bottom at low tide where I intended to dry. Peter Bell who lives in Lymington and organises the SOA rallies had explored with me by bike and, with his yacht inaccessible in France for the winter, he offered to crew for the ‘entry’ and photographed the bottom at low tide.

The bottom looked clear

Plans came together leading up to the weekend of 10th/11th of November when I was to be banished from my house as my daughter Rebecca was hosting her ‘hen weekend’ for 20 ladies as she has moved to live in Dublin. They didn’t want me around and I didn’t really want to be there.

Hen night frolics in my absence

Fortunately, the weather was perfect for a reach from Portsmouth to Lymington in sunshine and a good F4 on the beam.

Reaching in the November sunshine.

Sailing at this time of the year can be really enjoyable with fewer yachts on the water and, although crisp, given sunshine, it is as good as it gets so long as you dress for the conditions. Because of dredging work, the visitors Dan Bran pontoon was out of service  and the Harbour Authorities kindly allowed me to go up to the Town Quay pontoon where I was the only yacht. I took pains to hang over the end and not to encroach over the red line mindful that my length exceeded the stipulated limit.

‘Hanging out’ on the deserted Lymington Town Quay.

I had not moored on the Town Quay for over 20 years since I had a 31 foot yacht which was within the usual mooring criteria. I was reminded that Lymington is a wonderful destination, especially out of season and I could not resist stopping at the ‘Kings Head’ to sample the HSB (my favourite) followed by a surprisingly good meal in the ‘Ship Inn’ on the quay. Whether it was the tranquil setting or the quantity of HSB, I had the most sumptuous night’s sleep as Peter and his son Dom were not due to arrive until 11.30 the next morning for our passage on the flood up to Keyhaven.

Progress on AIS

None of us had previously entered the small drying creek but with some advice from Nick Boxall, a good paper chart and what turned out to be an accurate Navionics chart on the plotter we slowly ‘conned’ our way down the tight channel in between the moored boats and buoys with enough keel down to give a gentle warning when we strayed offline.

Narrow channel up to Keyhaven Quay

Nick and Alison had followed our approach on the AIS web site and were at the quay to kindly take our lines.

Nick and Alison on hand to take our lines.

Lunch in the welcoming Keyhaven Yacht Club (or Yatch Club as denoted on the Navionics chart) gave us time to catch up and ‘yarn’ or, as my wife puts it ‘talk bilge’!

Convenient for Keyhaven Yacht Club.

After lunch, Peter and Dom set off to walk back to their home in Lymington while I busied myself on board and prepared my corned beef hash for one.

Reflection in the mirror water – before it disappears.

The local pub ‘The Gun Inn’ is slated on trip advisor but given a more favourable review by Nick and Alison, I found it cosy and welcoming with an impromptu jamming session laid on by local musicians. Fellow sailors who had moored on a buoy just inside the spit and taken their apparently leaking dinghy up to the quay provided interesting conversation as we recounted our respective adventures – and more ‘bilge’!

The south side of the quay is all that is available as the boat yard and fishing boats continually use the longer east side. There is therefore only room for one yacht that can ‘take the ground’ but it is level and unobstructed although my mission to clean the hull around the log impeller which was clearly fouled, proved to be a very muddy exercise.

Badly under reading log.

I was surprised to be able to pick up shore power and water on the quay, the water proving invaluable in hosing down my filthy clothing after my ‘mudlarking’.

‘Dried out’ on Keyhaven Quay.

To ensure that I didn’t encroach on the working side of the quay, I had pulled up the slope and was consequently delayed in my departure, finally floating off at 13:45.

Dawn over the marshes.

I crept out in plenty of depth but missed my new friends in their fin keel yacht who had already left their overnight mooring. The wind had backed to the west and picked up to give a satisfying broad reach against the ebb for some time but backing further and falling away, the resulting run dropped to a pedestrian pace necessitating some engine assistance.

Dusk approaching on the passage home.

Soon after the Bramble Bank, the early dusk descended and this presented its own challenges. With only one pair of eyes, it was difficult to spot the increasingly obscure pot markers. Fearing the time required to drop and stow the main sail in a busy crowded Portsmouth Harbour, I chose to use the flatter water between Gilkicker and the inner swatch channel so as not to be unnecessarily distracted through the entrance and up to the Port Solent channel. Aware that there are a number of massive but unlit ship mooring buoys dotted around the harbour, for once the shore-side light pollution was welcome in that the menacing shapes stood out against the background and were thankfully avoided. Locking in to the Marina and taking up my berth could not have been easier given the excellent manoeuvrability of my Southerly having added a central third rudder behind the prop, perfect for single handing when the tight boat handling is actually the most daunting aspect of the whole experience.

This just goes to show that you don’t have to cross Oceans to experience an adventure, equally fulfilling experiences can be enjoyed closer to home !

Cruising Association talk

Notification of a Cruising Association Winter talk on Tuesday 10th of October 2017 at The Upper Thames Sailing Club, Coldmoorholme Lane between Marlow and Bourne End, SatNav post code SL8 5PT.

Talk starts at 20.00, bar opens from 19.15 Entrance: CA Members £3, Guests £5. All welcome.

Fingers crossed !!!!!


As featured in the August 2017 Yachting Monthly ‘The Confessional’ –  ‘Unconventional mooring methods’ Special mention of Dave Cooke who was an innocent victim !


Yo Ho Ho

Yachting Monthly Letters May 2017

Well, it won a bottle of rum as the ‘Letter of the month’ but the picture they used for the instruments was clearly just an ‘archive instrument picture’ and I am not sure if those old instruments even had software to update!

Here is a picture of my instruments so the article makes more sense.

Later Raymarine instruments

Single handed insurance

Following my ‘Change of plan’ blog, the question of insurance cover for single handed sailing has been raised by correspondents.

I had already discussed this with my insurers Pantaenius and their helpful and positive response follows:-

Dear Mr Mines,

It was nice to meet you at Southampton, and I hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you for your follow up email. I think perhaps I was not as clear as I might have been when we spoke.

Single handed sailing is not excluded under the terms and conditions of your policy. Indeed many of our competitors do apply caveats, often limiting single handed sailing to daylight hours only, which we do not do as we consider this to be impractical, given the need to amend / extend passage plans in accordance with circumstances and conditions, which could take you into night time sailing conditions.

Pantaenius cover for single handed sailing can then be extended to ocean crossings, subject to underwriters approval. Underwriters will consider factors such as the nature of the ocean crossing, type of yacht, experience of the skipper, cruising area, time of year. This is not an exhaustive list and underwriters will consider the individual circumstances in any given case. Claims experience has shown that even if a skipper is highly experienced, an increased risk remains, simply by being alone on such passages, and the underwriters must consider this prior to a crossing, as would other insurers in the market.

If a cruising area is provided on a policy which includes an ocean crossing, the above information needs to be provided to underwriters ahead of the planned crossing, which has resulted in the application of the clause on the policy schedule that relates to the approval of crew for ocean crossings

If singlehanded cover is a requirement for a planned ocean passage, please do let us know, and underwriters will consider this.

I recall that you are planning to cruise in the Baltic and you asked, when we spoke, whether an additional premium would be charged for this. I can confirm that this is covered within your existing cruising area and no additional premium is charged for this.

You also raised some points about the Named Tropical Storms Clause that was in place on your policy when your vessel was in the Caribbean. Hopefully I was able to clarify this for you when we spoke, however if you do have any other questions about this or indeed any other aspect of your policy, I will of course be very happy to answer these.

I hope that this is helpful.

Kind regards,


Simon Bowen | Operations Director

Marine Building | 1 Queen Anne Place| Plymouth | PL4 0FB | United Kingdom
Tel +44 1752 22 36 56 | Fax +44 1752 22 36 37 |

A change of plan

My original plan for the 2017 season was a cruise through Holland, Keil Canal, Swedish Archipelago, Gota Canal, over the top of Scotland, Dublin and back to the south coast.

I was facing some adjustments to the plan as two of my regular and dependable crew have unfortunately ruled themselves out until further notice on health grounds. After nearly 15 years in the Med with the Jeanneau, I am very familiar with trying to dovetail crew flights and destinations and it aint easy. I have ‘single handed’ before and found the experience both enjoyable and fulfilling but clearly, the Canals need crew. It would also be prudent before committing to a five day solo passage across the North Sea, to have at least tried sailing single handed overnight and probably several consecutive nights. Having twice ‘cheated’ through the Caledonian Canal on UK circumnavigations, the prospect of going over the top is still compelling but I am thinking this will have to wait and the Baltic will still be there.

Several other factors are also suggesting an attenuation of my plans.

Firstly, for my wife’s special 60th birthday she has requested another cruise on Fairbird in the Mediterranean. This being 90 foot long, fully crewed and staffed and having two V16 diesels, poor little Hejira doesn’t really match up. Couple that with guaranteed sunshine and the Italian coastline in prospect, the Baltic wasn’t really cutting it! So, I was already trying to adjust my schedule to accommodate a break mid-way to take in this Med cruise and this was proving to be a challenge.

The other significant factor is that I made an undertaking to catch up on overdue work at Thornleigh and while much of this can and is taking place in my absence, a major building project to extend (yes, with the family dispersed, we need more space…….) seems likely to be in full swing over the summer. It would really be prudent not to absent myself completely during this work as there will inevitably be decisions to be made during the course of the building project.

With our daughter Rebecca now living in Dublin, it has become a regular and very enjoyable destination and on recent visits, I have been ‘checking out’ the berthing options with several marinas having great links to the Airport. The plan currently gestating is to sail to Ireland in May while Paula is holidaying in South America and the Galapagos Islands, leaving Hejira in the Dublin area while I return for the Mediterranean cruise. I will then pick things up again however building works, appetite and inclinations suggest, probably returning to the South Coast for the winter although leaving Hejira in Dublin might be worthy of consideration with regular winter visits inevitable. This itinerary should present opportunities to lose my solo overnight virginity and present less of a logistical challenge.

Not an epic but it promises to be a busy year and, unusually, prudence seems to be the better option.

A Salutary Lesson

If one of your winter jobs was to update the software of your instruments, you would do well to note my recent experience.

Having been pleased to have navigated the myriad of menus within my instrument system and successfully updated the software through an internet connection, I was a little smug about having the latest ‘all singing and dancing’ instruments on what was already an impressive system. I consequently looked forward to a quick overnight trip to the Isle of Wight to attend a talk at my sailing club.

It being the first of March, I found myself single handing which is usually an enjoyable experience. Solo sailing does rely more than usual on the Auto and I know I should not have used it in the marina but I just needed to make an adjustment in preparation for entering the marina lock…………..

Hand steering all the way I was relieved to successfully re-commission the system at my destination.

RVYC on an earlier, crewed occasion.

It seems that all of the settings were lost in the update and I will always check this and more in the future.

Thankfully, my return passage was incident free and a delightful sail.

The churned up and uneven bottom at the RVYC. The ramp for loading the larger IOW ferries can be seen in the background.
The RVYC pontoon used to be an ideal location for drying out
Big squeeze leaning against the pontoon at the RVYC.
Soft but uneven bottom with the skeg buried in the mud. This is the peculiar but brilliant Bruntons Autoprop which self pitches and is extremely efficient when motor sailing.

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