Royal Vic, back in the day

This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Monday 29th October 2018:-

The RVYC was founded on 24th May 1845 by Prince Albert to give Queen Victoria a Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight near her residence at Osborne House having been denied membership and access to the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on the basis that she was female.

The original Club location was Ryde (see the article from the Daily Telegraph above) and for the Queen’s reign it was one of the premier racing clubs in the land and indeed the world. Members owned some of the finest and most competitive vessels of the time – there are still have some wonderful half-hull models of these on display in the current clubhouse, together with some original stained glass windows and other antiquities.

Between the wars the fortunes of the Ryde based club declined and during the 1950s there was very little activity. Fortunately some farsighted members sought a union between the RVYC and two dinghy clubs – Fishbourne Sailing Club, and Wootton Creek Sailing Club.

In the early 1960s the clubs relocated to its present, more modest position at the mouth of Wootton Creek at Fishbourne, approximately five miles east of Cowes. Since then the club has flourished with competitive racing in several classes and ages all year round.

RVYC 2018

I have been a member of the RVYC for over 20 years and I am proud that ‘Hejira’ carries the special ensign and the club burgee

It’s a start

With the new Polyethylene (HDPE) water tank delivered by courier to the south of France, the task of fitting it has loomed huge and daunting in my autumn eyesight. Looking on the bright side, I am seriously blessed by the very kind assistance of John Coe who is a major technical stalwart who I am so very happy to work alongside. John started work as a BA ground engineer apprentice and graduated to flight engineer then pilot. As such he has a very broad technical knowledge and I could not have a better sounding board and helper. John is one of those who, when you think you need a certain tool with a certain size socket, he just hands it to you having already decided what you need next with a polite helpful comment about his assessment of the way forward. I would not be as happy tackling this project without John’s huge input.

So it was that we arrived on the Monday afternoon with the AC engineer booked for early the following morning to drain the refrigerant and isolate the master cabin AC unit. This was so that it and the adjacent, self-contained, saloon unit could be removed to gain access to the tank area beneath. The water tank is located in front of the diesel tank and the diesel tank has to be removed first in order to replace the tank.

Two AC units needing to be drained and removed

Having photographs of the access required from when the tanks had been replaced in 2012 (another story) we proceeded to dismantle the ‘innards’ of the boat so that the diesel tank could be removed. This involved not only the removal of the two AC units but also all the ‘spouts’ on the top of the diesel tank and the draining of the last 60 litres of diesel from the bottom of the tank. Configuring a lifting device through the level indicator boss, we managed finally to remove the tank and this was a significant milestone. With the tank on deck, it became clear where the persistent diesel smell had been coming from as the drain plug had been leaking badly. Speaking to Tek-Tanks, they explained that Northshore, the builders who had been commissioned to replace the tanks in 2012, had not bought their fittings from Tek-Tanks but supplied their own as a cost saving. Clearly the drain plug they had used was not fit for purpose and I await the recommendation from Tek-Tanks for the correct fitting.

Diesel tank removed

The removal of the diesel tank exposed a heavy ply bulkhead which had been fibre glassed in position and had to be removed. This was a real challenge as the additional screw fixings had been glassed over and these proved to be elusive for some time. When the bulkhead was finally removed, the split water tank was easy to extract. This exercise revealed a major flaw in the previous installation. The tank had only been supported on two sides so the tank, when full, was under stress along the seam which finally split. It is now clear that, although the wedging of the filler hose was indeed very silly, the seam that split was a problem waiting to happen and I actually don’t feel quite such an idiot.

John chipping away at the bulkhead
Both tanks removed

The new tank flew into place but with the requirement for more support and with the necessity to return to the UK for urgent business reasons, it was prudent to take dimensions of the necessary supports and pause the installation.

So we are in the situation that the yacht is in pieces but with the prospect of an infinitely better installation once we are ready with the new supports and drain plug.

Snuffer downhaul

Yachting Monthly Letters November 2018 :-

Snuffer downhaul

Duncan Wells’ article on ‘Mastering downwind sailing’ shows the cruising chute snuffer being pulled down by the crew using the downhaul directly to the snuffer collar. While this is fine in this case, may I suggest that on bigger yachts with larger, more powerful sails, the downhaul should be passed through a snatch block on the foredeck so that the crew is pulling themselves onto the deck and not into the air and off the deck. It is also possible to exert much more tension onto the snuffing line which is often helpful.

Nick Mines

Rain Shields

Ventilation for cooling in warmer climates is always a challenge, particularly at anchor where the Air Conditioning is less practical. Leaving the coach roof port lights open is an option but sometimes a mistake as the 14 on the Southerly 135 open inwards and are angled so that, especially in the Caribbean where a torrential downpour can descend without warning, the result can be a sodden interior. Cruising south once again this year, I was conscious of the issue so I was delighted to meet Charlie Hunter in Vilamoura on his 135 ‘Aurora’. He had sourced rain shields from in the USA and they looked as though they would solve the problem. The ordering could not have been simpler and delivery was prompt although there was additional import duty to pay. I fitted the shields to a dozen port lights in less than 2 hours, it could not have been simpler.

Rain shield with mosquito mesh fitted

One point for consideration however is the jib sheet lead to the track car where it could conflict with one of the rain shields. I have fitted additional track cars mounted at the aft end of the track so the lead can always be positioned to avoid the conflict.

Additional jib track car


So, on my return to the UK, there are a number of issues to understand and address. Among these, why does my propeller anode last less than a month before disappearing? A call to Bruntons to put them on the spot suggested, from their demeanour, that it is not a unique problem and it would seem that the anode degrades from the fixing points which are close to the thinner periphery. The suggested ‘fix’ is to antifoul the anode around the screw area so the screw integrity is more likely to survive the degradation. I have ordered some more (at nearly £40 a pop!) and I will liberally treat them before my next visit. I will report back in due course.

I went to look at the replacement new water tank and it is MASSIVE.

Full of water it will weigh ¼ ton !

I have arranged for it to be shipped to Baie des Anges, I don’t think it would fit in ‘The roller skate’.

The mission to replace the port side water tank which exploded in Barcelona is daunting and a huge cloud on my horizon at the moment. I will have to lift the saloon seating area floor and the keel box surround on the port side. I will then have to remove two AC units and tank braces. I will then have to drain and disconnect the diesel tank and remove it. This should then allow the removal and replacement of the buggered water tank……

With the diesel tank removed, I should be able to locate the source of the diesel seepage. I have obtained from Tek Tanks, a set of sealing washers and I have bought some ‘blow bubble’ liquid so, I should be able to block the apertures and pressurise the tank to locate any leaks.

Flights are booked for mid-October so, fingers crossed – I will report back.


Having replaced the prop anode in Ibiza and tightened the screws with as much force as I could muster, imagine my disappointment when having a dip, to see that the anode was missing again ! So, the mission was to replace it with one of my spares before the prolonged period in Baie des Anges. So anchoring between the islands of Sainte Marguerite and Sainte Hororat off Cannes seemed a good opportunity using my ‘Heath Robinson’ diving gear. The idea was good and late morning there was still space but it soon filled with literally hundreds of boats playing dodgems so, as soon as our mission was completed, we weighed and made our way out of the ‘mad house’ towards our final 2018 wintering destination.

I had taken my old Jeanneau into Baie des Anges 6 years ago from where Andrew very kindly sold it for me. Andrew once again ‘came up trumps’ organising a berth for the winter which is no mean feat on this popular coast where places are coveted and very difficult to come by. Initially mooring on the fuel berth as directed, we were ushered into a superb position between two large power boats.

Snug berth in Baie des Anges

Unfortunately, we touched the bottom at extremely low speed in the fairway so another lesson learned; always lift the keel when entering a new marina for the first time. Hopefully there will be no harm done and we are ‘chuffed’ with the location with sufficient depth on the berth to fully lower the keel and thus ‘relax’ the systems and with room each side for no fender contact. Being here for some time, we fitted our heavy duty sprung mooring warps together with stern spring lines.

Sprung warps and stern spring lines

The beach here is less than 200m away from the mooring and with the adjacent beach bar; Paula is all set to stay on for the next ten days with her friends arriving for a holiday.

Marina Baie des Anges

Since leaving Port Solent in Portsmouth Harbour on the 21st of May, Hejira has logged 2157 miles and I have returned home twice, leaving Hejira in Vilamoura for a couple of weeks and Marseille for 13 days. Since passing into the Med, we have enjoyed very little sailing which has been disappointing and, on reflection, we could have sailed more had we not been on a schedule which didn’t allow for lower speeds – this may be a lesson for the future as I have been prone to making ambitious plans and I will be reflecting on this while formulating my itinerary for the coming years…

During the course of the passage, Hejira has ‘suffered’ four incidents, three minor and one major. I was unexpectedly caught by a big gust when mooring in Chipiona emerging from behind a large power boat and made un-fendered contact with the pontoon. When picking up a mooring buoy on the bow while going stern to the quay in Carry le Rouet, the ‘Hook and Moor’ device didn’t deploy which was just embarrassing and hitting the bottom entering Baie des Anges was a bit stupid. The big incident was also self-inflicted when I burst the water tank in Barcelona and this will haunt my winter as I dismantle the interior to gain access to replace the tank. On the up side, these incidents have all taught lessons and hopefully, by ‘confessing’ here, readers will avoid committing the same offences.

For the record, the places visited are listed as follows:-

Port Solent, Studland Bay, Portland, Dartmouth, Salcombe, Plymouth, Muros, Bayonna, Vianna do Castello, Porto, Cascais, Lagos, Vilamoura, Chipiona, Rota, Gibraltar, Estepona, Puerto Banus, Benalmadena, Almerimar, Alicante, Moraira, St.Antonio – Ibiza, Cala Benirras – Ibiza, St. Elm – Mallorca, Barcelona, Arenys-sur-Mer, Cala SaTuna, Cadaques, St. Ciprien, Cap D’Agde, Saintes Maries, Carry le Rouet, Marseilles, Isle le Frioul, La Ciotat, Toulon, Rade D’Hyeres, Cavalaire sur Mer, Port Grimaud, St.Raphael, Cannes, The Lerins Islands, & Baie des Anges.

Prices have ranged from free to exorbitant with the excellent Cruising Association ‘Captain’s Mate’ app giving useful background information. Bureaucracy has been very varied with Spain and Portugal demanding to copy passports and France mostly interested in the registration document and insurance.

All in all it has been a very satisfying summer cruise although I have largely missed the scorching weather back home. I have to express a resounding ‘thank you’ to all of my crew, I hope they have enjoyed the experience as much as I have !

Stephen writes:-

La Voyage et termine .  Yesterday I was mugged by Mal de mer as number Six insisted I lick the hull clean after he had replaced the anode. One error he forgot to mention in his `confessions` was when he  dropped his Allen key into the depths which he then spent  some time diving down to find (unsurprisingly unsuccessful).  How many members of the `crew` have been `entertained` by `the cat` he has kept a secret so how about # Herjirascar?

We have had mainly wind free weather if not a wind free skipper and the temperature has usually been around the 30c mark so we are well topped up with vitamin D. The fishing has been unsuccessful so I am considering fishing in the marina for mullet (not that you should ever eat one) just to marginally reduce my shame.

Now we are moored up in `The Bay of Angels` having said goodbye to Cannes yesterday( a lovely place with a great marina) and another few billion pounds worth of Gin Palaces one of which is rentable at a modest 380K per week. It has been a very educational passage and how busy the waters were was a revelation.

Bye bye dear reader

Fabulous Cannes

St. Raphael should have been a delightful stop over and apart from being in a goldfish bowl with every mouthful of our dinner inspected by the passing throng, it was looking good. When approaching midnight, the disco struck up seemingly 2 metres from our mooring, we simply closed the hatches, pulled the curtains and with the alcohol and AC doing their job, we had a good night’s sleep. Stephen and Mary suffered however and had yet another interrupted sleep deprived night.

Having booked a berth in Cannes for the night, we expected to be positioned on the outer visitor pontoon which suffers the wash of all the passing traffic. You can imagine my relief (given the above) when we followed the rib into the most tucked away and tranquil position on a new concrete dock in the heart of the Port and helped to moor.

The ‘snuggest’ berth

The reception in the Capitainerie was nothing short of stunning. We were given (by a very pretty and enthusiastic lady) our passes, a discount card for shops and restaurants, a goody bag containing maps, free tourist tokens, washing stuff and a pair of slippers. We were given free tokens for the laundry machines, wi-fi codes, and free use of electric bicycles. Water and electricity on the berth were also provided of course. The new adjacent facilities block contained the cleanest toilets and showers (with whole body air blowers!), vending machines, computer terminals, laundry, book swap and a still and sparkling water dispenser. All this in the heart of the lovely town and for 46 Euros for the night which is one of the cheapest since leaving the UK. Contrast this with 121 Euros in Puerto Banus – without electricity or water, 70 Euros for a mooring buoy in Cadaques and 40 Euros for a lumpy mooring buoy in Cavalaire sur Mer.

We previously spent a night in Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol which claimed to be the ‘Best Marina in the World’! Let me tell you that Port de Cannes is 100 times better !!!

As the afternoon progressed, the tender from a monster motor yacht came in a couple of berths down from us. They clearly had a problem with their engines, two 627HP outboards  (yes really, 2 x 627hp !!!) and borrowed an adjustable spanner. When the problem was sorted, the revving of the engine was was not popular on the dock but they very kindly gave us two bottles of wine for our troubles.

Monstrous outboards

Stephen googled the wines and we clearly did very well out of the transaction and could have bought a socket set for the short loan of the adjustable !

Tender back with ‘Broadwater’, it’s mother ship. Yours to hire at 260,000 Euros a week plus expenses.

Stephen writes:-

So Cannes does live up to its reputation and is well worth a visit. Number six is very happy as there is not a big white ball in sight and he still thinks he is not a number but a free man (don`t tell Paula!). The fish have still had the upper hand so tonight`s meal will be Lamb Shanks not French fish. I realise I have yet to post a limerick  so I shall be prepared to see what I can find to rhyme with Nick and Shanks. We have had a great day and tomorrow will have a relaxing day and hopefully I can catch some fish.

Hope springs eternal

Little and Large

Reluctantly leaving Port Grimaud, we made our way through the manic St. Tropez bay under engine alone in less than 1 knot of wind. We had managed to secure a berth with the very polite and efficient staff in the Vieux Port at St. Raphael which had been recommended. On our approach, the port didn’t look at all vieux as the pristine concrete breakwater and buildings must have been very recently constructed. We took our allocated berth between monster yachts and wondered if they had miss-read our length as thirty, not thirteen metres and braced ourselves for a commensurate fee.

Plenty of elbow room

The berthing staff could not have been more accommodating and the fee was on the cheaper end of our experience on this expensive coast. We made a trip to the Cathedral and the old City and under-sea archaeology museum then settled down to what must be the usual experience for our larger neighbours – that is being ‘gawped at’ by the throngs of passing humanity.

St. Raphael from the church in the old City

Stephen writes:-

Despite the white balls following us we outran them across the bay to St Rafael so number Six is free and keeps saying “I am not a bumbler” but Dear reader we all know the easiest person to fool is oneself. The berthing crew were the most helpful with the slime lines (no not another baby Bob!) and we are next to two very impressive boats who seem very keen to share their musical tastes with us, so I am very tempted to share some Country music with them despite number Six`s horror. I think “It ain`t my fault” by the Brothers Osbourne would be most appropriate

Anything but Grim !

Ever since I spent a summer month in Grimaud with a French ‘pen pal’, I have been fascinated by Port Grimaud. In 1969, (when I was 15 and fell in love with Chantal)  it was still under construction and, it wasn’t finished until 1980. Since then, I have visited several times in various yachts and I always find the place absolutely captivating. Although newly constructed and probably considered by the architectural cognoscenti as an unforgivable pastiche, to my mind it has been designed with tremendous care ensuring (probably at great expense) that every property is individual with varying roof lines, avoiding straight lines and incorporating slips, docks and enchanting bridges. The colours are all pastel with shutters and not an air conditioner in sight. It has a focal square and ‘Eglise’ with numerous restaurants and shops which thrive because there is a vast camp site behind the adjacent beach and the holidaymakers pour into the development to spend their money. On previous occasions I have ‘anchored off’ or been moored in the outer basin but this time, we were escorted into the very heart of the place, following the Capitainerie launch along the maize of canals to a central berth.

Port Grimaud as it opens up
A pretty complex of canals
And bridges

We even spotted Harry and Megan waving from a balcony.

Harry and Megan was ‘ere

Stephen Writes:-

Port Grimaud is the French equivalent of Portmeirion and well worth a visit but beware buying `vegetable crisps’ and humus in the market because they are over 50 euro per kg!! I was surprised that the Master or number Six as I will now call him was not pursued by great white balls despite my best attempt to warn Le Capitainerie about his past employment.

The French fish have defeated me again despite number Six slowing us down  but we shall not give up (even if I have to sneak off to the fish market tomorrow before anyone else is awake) so dear reader please keep this a secret. Bye Bye

Shore Leave

Weighing anchor and heading east, the wind picked up as did the sea but as it was at our backs, the motion was not unpleasant – or so I thought…

The Marina at Cavalaire-sur-Mer was not as dismissive as most and suggested we call on VHF as we approached to check availability. Not surprisingly, they were also full on arrival but allocated a mooring buoy which meant we could venture ashore with confidence and make a rendezvous with Stephen and Mary’s friend Elizabeth. She very kindly and generously drove us to her villa for a swim in her pool and a wonderful meal with a fabulous view of the bay.

View from the pool

Replete in both food and drink, we only had to negotiate the dinghy trip back to Hejira which turned out to be less challenging than feared. Unfortunately, rain and squalls meant that some of the crew had less than comfortable nights despite the anaesthetic and there was some debate as to whether another night at anchor could be tolerated. With the Mistral wind abating, the marinas were becoming less pressured and Port Grimaud, St. Raphael and Cannes all confirmed spaces so, with the prospect of connection to ‘Terra Firma’ and an electrical supply for the Air Conditioning, mutiny was averted and we are back on track.

Stephen writes:-

Last evening we were very fortunate to be met by a good friend of ours and we had a fantastic evening at Elizabeth`s house overlooking the bay so many, many thanks indeed. The Master`s reputation does not seem to extend as far to the East as I expected so we have not been chased out of the marina at Port Grimaud. Today`s trip from Cavalaire sur Mer was the marine version of getting on the M25 at rush hour with a few billion pounds worth of `Super Yachts’ and plenty of motorboats trying to cut each other up. I also have had another incident with fishing tackle being taken out by a speedboat who creamed past  our stern  just for the fun of it so at least I have someone else to blame for my incompetence.

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