170 year losing streak

In the absence of any personal sailing adventure stories due the lack of access to Hejira moored in France (it is nearly a year since I last clapped eyes on her) and with the America’s Cup action shaping up to be ‘a cracker’, I hope you will forgive me a little indulgence. To whet your appetite, here is a brief explanation of some of the history and an assessment of our (British) position in this, the pinnacle of sailing competition.

The America’s Cup was first contested in 1851 making it the oldest trophy in international sport.

The Trophy known as ‘The Auld Mug’ is huge at 1.1m high and weighing over 14Kg!

In August, 1851, the yacht named America, representing the New York Yacht Club,  beat the best the British could offer to win the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 100 Guinea Cup in a race around the Isle of Wight.  The trophy would go to the United States and despite many expensive attempts, it would be well over 100 years before it was taken away from New York by the Australian yacht, ‘Australia II’ in 1983. The cup was named after the winner of the original race, the yacht America but legend has it that America did not complete the course correctly, missing out the final turning mark. The Royal Yacht Squadron, presumably out of a gentlemanly sense of fair play, conceded the race because America was so far in the lead – I doubt that would happen today! Queen Victoria asked at the time “Who came second”  the famous answer being “Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second”.

The yacht America

In the 170 years since that first race, no British yacht has won the cup.

The America’s Cup has been so keenly fought over, it has often spilled over into acrimonious litigation with the  ‘Deed of Gift’, which governs the cup, examined and interpreted in great detail in the law courts. This lead to the slightly cynical quote ‘Britain rules the waves, America waives the rules’.

Over the years, many notable people have been involved in the America’s Cup, either as a skipper of the yacht or as a source of funding for the craft. Notable people involved include J. Pierpont Morgan, Sir Thomas Lipton, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Ted Turner, Alan Bond, Peter de Savary, Larry Ellison and now, billionaire businessman Jim Ratcliffe, who is the founder and CEO of Ineos and is funding the 2021 British challenger ‘Britannia’, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie.

The holder of the cup which is currently the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron hosts the defense of the cup and must accept a challenge for the trophy. They become known as the ‘Challenger of Record’ and in this case, it is the Italians. The cup holder and the ‘Challenger of Record’ decide the design parameters for the competition (giving them a head start) and where and when they will compete for the cup. The America’s cup is raced on a ‘match race’ basis which means that there are only two yachts sailing against each other in a series of races. Since 1970, there have been multiple yachts challenging for the right to race against the holder. This has necessitated a challenger series which is a ‘race off’ (in this case called the Prada Cup – the Challenger of Record’s privilege) between the challenging yachts to decide which has the right to race the defending yacht (NZ) for the ultimate prize.

There are 3 challengers for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021. Italy’s ‘Prada Pirelli’ team with ‘Luna Rossa’, the USA’s  ‘American Magic’ team with ‘Patriot’ and the UK’s ‘Ineos Team UK’ with ‘Britannia’. The Prada Cup started on Friday 15th of January at 2am (UK time) and is covered on Sky Sports Mix. Decisive races will apparently be shown on the BBC and content can be found on the internet – I have included a link below. The final (winning challenger vs NZ) will be the first to win 7 races and runs from February 13th to February the 22nd.

The design specification for the America’s Cup usually represents the leading edge of yacht technology and for this, the 36th cup, the yachts are AC 75’s. They are 75 foot long foiling monohulls and they quite literally ‘fly’ above the water supported on foils. They are made of carbon fibre and are incredibly light having no ballast, the righting moment being generated by their geometry. They are capable of sailing at speeds of up to 40 knots (46 mph) upwind and 50knots (57mph) downwind. They are quite simply spectacular!

Running a campaign is hugely expensive as, particularly when there is a fundamental specification change, it is necessary to experiment with smaller scale ‘test beds’ to help guide the design process.

Small test bed dinghy

Then a full scale prototype is developed before fixing the design for the production of the final yacht that is to be campaigned in the series.

Full size prototype

The British yacht ‘Britannia’ (known affectionately as Rita) was only launched in October and raced for the first time in the Christmas series, not winning a single race and coming an ignominious last. Anyone familiar with the statistics surrounding Sir Ben will know never to write him off and, with the backing and resources of Ineos who have a big tie up with Mercedes F1 and are utilising some of their expertise, will be looking for great improvements for the Prada Cup.

The British Challenger Britannia

Sir Ben Ainslie declared that there were a lot of changes required and she has performed infinitely better recently. The New Zealand yacht had something of a fright  when it capsized so it is not all plain sailing for the defenders.

I will be updating the videos of the races and events, click on the picture (s) below:-

Prada Cup Sunday 17 January: Course A / Watch Live / Follow Updates

PRESS CONFERENCE: Update on American Magic

This is not the first time there have been big issues with yachts competing in the America’s Cup. Take a look at this incredible footage from 1995 off San Diego when ‘One Australia’ broke in half and sunk – VERY quickly!

America’s Cup: Sinking of One Australia

Quiz Answers

  1. What was the name of the ship commanded by Captain Pugwash ?

The Black Pig

  1. In the Navy, what was a loblolly boy ?

Surgeon’s assistant

  1. What Island inspired Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island ?

Norman Island BVI – off Tortola

  1. In Nelson’s Navy, what element was used to treat syphilis?

Mercury

  1. In Gerry Anderson’s puppet series ‘Stingray’, Marina was modelled on a film star of the period. What was the film star’s name ?

Brigitte Bardot

  1. In the Navy, how long was a single ‘dog watch’?

Two hours

  1. What are US Navy Commandos called ?

Navy Seals

  1. Who was God of the sea in Greek mythology ?

Poseidon

  1. Where did most of the ‘Bounty’ Mutineers settle ?

Pitcairn Island

  1. How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the Ark ?

None, it was Noah’s Ark

  1. What is the meaning of the nautical term ‘avast’ ?

Stop

  1. Which two Disney animated classics take place under water ?

The little mermaid & Atlantis

  1. In the nautical term ‘freeze the balls on a brass monkey’, what is a brass monkey ?

A rack for holding cannon balls

  1. What was Moby Dick in Herman Melville’s novel of the same name ?

A whale

  1. In March 1967 Britain suffered its worst ever oil spill when a tanker was wrecked on rocks off the Isles of Scilly. What was the name of the ship ?

Torrey Canyon

  1. Which big budget movie was set in the future when the World is completely covered in water?

Water World

  1. In diving, what does the acronym SCUBA stand for ?

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

  1. Name the four oceans of the World

Atlantic, Pacific, Indian & Arctic

  1. Tidal waves can be set off by underwater earthquakes, what are they called

Tsunami

  1. How much of the Worlds surface is covered by sea ? Answer within 5%

70%

  1. Off which island group was the ship Mary Celeste found with no one on board?

The Azores

  1. In December 1981, the Penlee Lifeboat was lost in its efforts to save the crew of which ship ? What was the name of the lifeboat ?

Ship:                      Union Star

Lifeboat:              Solomon Browne

 

  1. In Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows and Amazons, what was the Blacketts’ uncle James Turner’s nickname ?

Captain Flint

  1. On board ship, what is housed in a binnacle ?

Compass

  1. Winston Churchill’s is quoted as saying “Don’t talk to me about Naval tradition, it’s nothing but …………………….. This description was used as the title of the Pogues 1985 album. What is he supposed to have said ?

Rum Sodomy and the Lash

  1. Where on a ship would you find a skyscraper and what is it ?

At the top of the mast, a sail

  1. Which shipping forecast area is immediately north of German Bight ?

Fisher

  1. Square rigged ships would ‘wear ship’. What is the modern equivalent manoeuvre know as ?

Gybe

  1. Who is Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron ?

Prince Philip  (The Queen is the Patron)

  1. The America’s Cup is the oldest International Sporting trophy and has never been won by a British yacht. What was the name of the first Yacht to win the trophy in 1851 and what is the colloquial name for the trophy.

Yacht’s name:    America

Trophy name:    The Auld Mug

 

Picture answers

1: Captain Jack Sparrow

2: Captain Pugwash

3: Christopher Columbus

4: Ellen MacArthur

5: Joshua Slocum

6: Lord Nelson

7: Pete Goss

8: Sir Ben Ainslie

9: Tracy Edwards

10: Sir Robin Knox Johnson

11: Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey

12: Sir Francis Chichester

13: Tony Bullimore

Knots Answers

1: Rolling hitch

2: Bowline

3: Figure of eight

4: Reef knot

5: Clove Hitch

6: Round turn and two half hitches

I hope you enjoyed the quiz, let’s hope that our waterborne activities can resume soon !

Lockdown Nautical Quiz

With the third lockdown stretching into the future and no prospect of visiting Hejira in Nice or even getting afloat in the baby T/T Hejira dinghy on the Thames, I thought that a Nautical Quiz might give a little welcome yachty diversion.

I prepared this quiz for a ‘Bon Voyage’ party I threw for the original Atlantic crew and friends some years ago. In that some attendees would not have appreciated it being overly ‘bilge’, it has some more light-hearted and easy questions to try to keep everyone engaged.

 

 

 

 

 

The party was in a tent in the Thornleigh garden in October 2015 with 30 people enjoying a curry delivered by the local Indian Restaurant.           My son Ollie has very kindly started an Instagram site entitled ‘My dad’s shit photos’ and, needless to say, some of these pictures feature !

Apologies in advance for question 9 in the picture round, I couldn’t resist it!

Enjoy it and let me know how you get on in ‘Leave a Reply’…

Questions

  1. What was the name of the ship commanded by Captain Pugwash ?
  2. In the Navy, what was a loblolly boy ?
  3. What Island inspired Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island ?
  4. In Nelson’s Navy, what element was used to treat syphilis?
  5. In Gerry Anderson’s puppet series ‘Stingray’, Marina was modelled on a film star of the period. What was the film star’s name ?
  6. In the Navy, how long was a single ‘dog watch’?
  7. What are US Navy Commandos called ?
  8. Who was God of the sea in Greek mythology ?
  9. Where did most of the ‘Bounty’ Mutineers settle ?
  10. How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the Ark ?
  11. What is the meaning of the nautical term ‘avast’
  12. Which two Disney animated classics take place under water ?
  13. In the nautical term ‘freeze the balls on a brass monkey’, what is a brass monkey ?
  14. What was Moby Dick in Herman Melville’s novel of the same name ?
  15. In March 1967 Britain suffered its worst ever oil spill when a tanker was wrecked on rocks off the Isles of Scilly. What was the name of the ship ?
  16. Which big budget movie was set in the future when the World is completely covered in water?
  17. In diving, what does the acronym SCUBA stand for ?
  18. Name the four oceans of the World
  19. Tidal waves can be set off by underwater earthquakes, what are they called
  20. How much of the Worlds surface is covered by sea ? Answer within 5%
  21. Off which island group was the ship Mary Celeste found with no one on board?
  22. In December 1981, the Penlee Lifeboat was lost in its efforts to save the crew of which ship ? What was the name of the lifeboat ?
  23. In Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows and Amazons, what was the Blacketts’ uncle James Turner’s nickname ?
  24. On board ship, what is housed in a binnacle ?
  25. Winston Churchill’s is quoted as saying “Don’t talk to me about Naval tradition, it’s nothing but …………………….. This description was used as the title of the Pogues 1985 album. What is he supposed to have said?
  26. Where on a ship would you find a skyscraper and what is it ?
  27. Which shipping forecast area is immediately north of German Bight ?
  28. Square rigged ships would ‘wear ship’. What is the modern equivalent manoeuvre know as ?
  29. Who is Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron ?
  30. The America’s Cup is the oldest International Sporting trophy and has never been won by a British yacht. What was the name of the first Yacht to win the trophy in 1851 and what is the colloquial name for the trophy.

Picture Round

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knots Round

1
2
3
4
5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

The answers will follow in a subsequent blog.

If you have enjoyed the quiz, why not send this link to your nautical friends and suggest they pass it on:  http://hejira-sailing.com/lockdown-nautical-quiz/

 

Scuppered !

With plans all made, equipment ready to pack and supplies all purchased, the adventure started to implode. First the new lockdown meant that the second and third nights had to be aborted much to the apparent disappointment of the crew – or was it relief? Assuming we would be okay before the lockdown came into effect, a precautionary telephone call to the Thames Lock, the gateway into the Wey Navigation where the licence was to be purchased, was met with the news that no new licences were being issued and we would not be able to pass through onto the Wey. A hastily convened ‘conflab’ agreed that the much anticipated and planned adventure was not viable in it’s original form and all that we  could salvage was a day on the Thames with suitable destinations for refreshment.

Thus it was that an Uber collected us from Sunningdale and took us to the Shepperton mooring.

Peaceful mooring in the morning mist – the best pictures are, as in this case, not taken by me!

Pumping the rainwater from T/T and readying her did suggest that it would have been a (not impossible) squeeze with all the gear for several days camping. We also had to be careful with the trimming and balance as two fatties and one child had to be carefully distributed. The river was running very fast after the rain but not threatening and the 6hp outboard pushed us along very satisfactorily over the current. Heading ‘upstream’, we decided to motor until we stopped for our first refreshment, then we would row with the current on the return leg.

I feel completely justified in saying that Toad likes the idea of boating but has absolutely no nautical ability and really no inclination towards learning. He paid ‘lip service’ to rowing with Chief Weasel and put little effort into the exercise, dipping his oars only occasionally and then managing to clash and disrupt the more fluid strokes of the Weasel.

Rowing not Toad’s forté

What is more worrying is that he seems intent on making a motorboat purchase, not starting as most enthusiasts do with a manageable small 20 something foot ‘starter boat’ but going ‘big balls’ at over 50 foot. This is totally in character with the Toad and all we can do is advise (ignored), watch and wince.

An example of Toad’s impressive knot tying – will it ever be undone?

One of the planned features of our Wey trip was to be the fishing. This was not to have been the traditional hook and bait type of fishing for real fish but the towing of a bleedin’ strong magnet behind the dinghy intending to catch treasure. This would have been fine on the Wey with little current but with the Thames in spate, it presented a problem when we caught a whoppa. Our progress came to an abrupt halt but pulling ourselves back against the stream, we lost our catch and we will never know what valuable hoard we might have landed. In the event, the sum total of our fishing activities was a tin lid, a NOX canister and lots of rust.

Catch of the day – a tin lid and a NOX canister

To avoid repeating ourselves in this account, I will leave it to the other two to ‘put the flesh’ on the bones of events but please bear in mind that Toad is prone to immense exaggeration and if he had a motto, it would be ‘Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story’ – I wonder what that is in Latin?

 

Toad writes:-

Firstly; Verum ne impediant et bibamus is the answer to Ratty’s question, secondly ‘Scuppered’ doesn’t even come close to the ‘Omni Shambles’ that Mr Mines oversaw on Tuesday.  Because he had not applied for the Wey license until the 59th minute of the 11th hour; we were all dressed up (especially him) but with nowhere to go.  He had considered continuing to camp but with the pastures beside the Wey Navigation now replaced by a verge under the flyover at Junction 13 of the M25.  This was soon dismissed by the crew.

You will notice from the photo showing Ratty at the rear of the boat, that he looks to be sat in a wheelchair and wedged in place in what Alan has now named the ‘Sunshine Boat’.  We appeared to the casual passer-by to be a ‘care in the community’ day-out or acting a scene from Little Britain with Nick playing Matt Lucas to perfection and dressed like him too.

Matt Lucas in Little Britain
Two carers taking a senile old git out for the day in the ‘sunshine boat’.

So having dialled back our expectations and cancelling all the previous restaurant bookings that we had secured for a waterway we were going nowhere near, we set off with Captain Calamity in control of the outboard.  All was going well for the first 20 minutes until we reached a Lock.  As you can imagine Nick leapt, well crawled off the boat and up the steps of the lock to show us landlubbers how this is done.  Carl and I would remain in that Lock for the best part of an hour chatting to some casual observers (who are now very good friends due to the time we spent with them, see photo below) that were too polite to walk away and even gave us a cheer as Nick finally managed to work the (automated) lock controls and we were off again.

Shepperton Lock with an audience

At this point he informed us that we weren’t going to go through any ‘more bloody locks’ and that would mean we could go no further than Chertsey; a total distance of 2.4 miles or a 6 minute car ride and I’ve taken a whole day off work for this ?????.

I have to admit that I don’t think I have ever laughed so much (for all the wrong reasons) in one day and by the time we chugged gently back to the Shepperton mooring we were ready for beer as the sun was setting on an eventful day.

After a long day, equilibrium is a  bit of a challenge.

Chief Weasel writes:-

Many of you sailing types whom partake of Nick’s watery missives will be already aware that the saying ‘ship-shape and Bristol fashion’ refers to a bygone age when ships entering the Port of Bristol, at the time the second highest in the world due to the dramatic tidal range of the Severn estuary, had to have everything safely stowed away and secured, or at low-tide the cargo would fall violently to one side as the vessels ‘keeled-over’ and everything could be ruined. In the interests of bringing this quote up-to-date, I would like to posit a slight tweaking: Ship-shape and Sunningdale fashion.

The true tale of mini-me-Hejira’s maiden voyage was not one of the sharp frost that greeted us on the morning, the necessary pre-requisite River Wey licence not being obtained, the gathered audience at Shepperton lock spontaneously breaking into applause when we finally navigated through, or the lovely, warming Young’s Special bitter at The Bridge. Nor was it defined by the coxless pairs superbly synchronised rowing stroke, surely reminiscent of our very own Sirs Redgrave and Pinsent, or Toad giving it large on the throttle and performing the boating equivalent of a 200m wheelie. It could almost have been given meaning by the fisherman’s adage of ‘the one that got away’ but even the suspected supermarket trolley sadly got the better of us at the net. No, the tale of this voyage can only be told within the context of Captain Catastrophe’s clothing, his jumper, his pullover and the garment from Hell.

Not overly known for his suave sartorial elegance, our erstwhile second-hand skipper really went to town and arrived in an article of apparel that I genuinely hope the photos do alarming justice to. Pregnant women and people of a weak disposition need to be forewarned.

This is the offending or offensive jumper depending on your point of view. It is by ‘Siochain’ which is of Gaelic origin and means ‘Peace’. Knitted in Co. Wicklow, Ireland and was bought from a craft shop (at considerable expense at the time) in Kilmore Quay when stormbound there, circumnavigating the UK about 25 years ago. It’s very warm and thick. It is a favourite and my ‘go to garment’ in the cold. I will let the readers decide!

Firstly, it was so large that Toad initially mistook it for the night’s tepee covering, only with slightly less shape. Secondly, exactly what colour was it, as to our eyes it comprised every colour known to man, not to mention a pattern of stripes, circles, blobs and all manner of indiscriminate form? Thirdly, had the belligerent bosun, who had obviously dressed in the dark, actually parted with ‘hard-earned’ for it or had some benevolent handcrafter charitably knitted it for someone three times Admiral Ahab’s already considerable size? And what exactly was it made from? Certainly not wool and my best guess would be shipwrecked, recovered and recycled ships’ twine or perhaps an angler’s unscrambled ‘bird-nest’ of twisted line. Imagine turning-up at the office on Christmas Jumper Day and being sent home for going just too far, and you’ll get the picture.

Notwithstanding, three were counted out, three were counted back and tremendous fun was had by all. As Josh McRae once sang ‘With the wind in your face there’s no finer place, than messing about on the river!’

What goes on tour, stays on tour! 😂😂😂

Wind in the Willows

In recent years, in my home village of Sunningdale, there has evolved a group of similarly obtuse, irreverent, but like-minded chaps who enjoy each other’s company, yarning over a pint and the occasional lunch. We have identified with the Kenneth Grahame classic ‘The Wind in the Willows’ as the individuals involved are very well suited to the various characters in the novel. So, those of the ‘Willowers’ that I have coerced into my next little adventure are my next-door neighbour, ‘Toad’ who fits the character perfectly being an effusive, impulsive, gregarious parvenue, given to hyperbolic exaggeration, flights of fancy and outright lies; ‘Chief Weasel’ is a small, hyperactive character who I think you will hear more from if you stick with this evolving blog sequence. I, of course, am Ratty for obvious reasons.

The casual observer would be forgiven for assuming that this is a rather childish, decadent excuse for the consumption of alcohol, gluttonous consumption and the exchange of ‘no holds barred’ banter. They would be right in many respects but as we always have such a laugh, I have decided, in the absence of any genuine ‘Hejira’ adventures this year, to include an account of our imminent, probably ill advised, November cruise under (camping) canvas, along the Wey Navigation in my new (to me) twelve foot dinghy, ‘T/T Hejira’ – pictured here.

Tender To Hejira moored at a good friend’s house in Shepperton. A beautiful still morning on the river Thames. Wonderful autumnal colours and reflections in the still water.

The crew will be 2 ½ Men in a Boat, the half being ‘Chief Weasel’ who does not actually qualify as a fully grown adult because of his diminutive size and the fact that he has never paid VAT on his clothes. He is often solicited for racing tips and has been known to be asked for his ID. ‘Chief Weasel’ crewed on the full size ‘Hejira’ last year with his son ‘Wee Tom’, joining her in Malta and leaving in Corsica via Tunisia and Sardinia. Anyone who followed the blogs for that period will remember that, between them, they added greatly to the entertainment and humour, if largely at my expense.  ‘Chief Weasel’ is an old friend and squash opponent who is, annoyingly, super fit, competing in ‘Iron Man’ events and is no stranger to roughing it having taken himself off on his own, cycling around France. In some ways he is a typical Northerner (he is from Lancashire) holding mis-guided socialist views and hating Margaret Thatcher despite having had huge success in business. I do however share some of his environmental and egalitarian opinions which is at odds with ‘Toad’ who had no shame at owning a gas guzzling Bentley and ‘selfish’ is his middle name. The contrast will become clear as Toad does not really know what he is letting himself in for. Working in the travel industry, he is used to staying in the very best 5* hotels and travelling first class. Up until now, he has never slept in a tent so this will be completely outside of his comfort zone – I understand he is really concerned about defecation! I really do not know where we will stow all of his suitcases.

We have now had a planning meeting (a few pints in the Nags Head) and I have asked them both to write some words by way of introduction: –

 

Toad writes:

It is perfectly true that I have had to invest in a tent, waterproof shoes, a sleeping bag and a lamp for the upcoming adventure as I have previously owned no such items.  I have also been informed that there will be no option for me to ‘dress for dinner’ and my pyjamas and dressing gown are not included in the allowable ‘cargo’.  However, slightly at odds with Ratty’s description of me above; is that I am often assumed to be his (and the other willower; Badger’s) carer.  It has been known for me to watch films at the cinema for free when they spot me with 2 absent minded, elderly buffoons and assume I work for Social Services and am taking them out of the ‘home’ for a few hours.

I have to say my nervousness about our ‘passage’ increased somewhat a few days ago when we went to ‘launch’ T/T Hejira into the Thames at Walton just 10 miles from our homes in Sunningdale.  Leaving, with Ratty at the wheel, we proceeded in completely the wrong direction for approximately 5 miles.  I had previously consoled myself that a chap who can find his way from Gran Canaria to Antigua, under sail, would be fine on a 15 mile long ‘canal’.  I now have my doubts !

Toad checking his erection in my conservatory 🙄 It went up in a couple of seconds, took him ages to pack it away. The complete opposite of his usual experience !

Chief Weasel writes:

Guilty as charged, your honour (words never uttered at Toad’s infamous trial). However, there’s an even more relevant literary classic that shall bear witness to both our travels and our travails.

The original tale, ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome tells of three friends rowing their way along the Thames toward Oxford. The pals consider themselves capable outdoorsmen, though they have trouble with simple outdoor survival skills and tend to find themselves holed-up in local hostelries a little too often. Setting up a tent flummoxes them and cooking on a camp stove proves way too complicated before they eventually ditch the boat and take the train back to London.

Though occasionally at odds with one another, their loyal friendship is shown in the way they are willing to not only share a room at an inn, but also sleep three to a bed when necessary. Along the way, author Jerome K, single, young, and a member of London’s middle-class metropolitan elite (no parallels there then), tells meandering, whimsical and often tipsy tales of the places they visit and sights they see.

Sitting comfortably? Then we will begin…

 

Postscript from the editor:

You will not be surprised that, given Toad’s sensitivities and phobia about defecation, he is insisting that our adventure does not extend beyond a one-night limit. This is totally in line with his character but, with the Thames lock closing half an hour before dusk, it will impose such constraints on our ‘adventure’ as to undermine it even being called an adventure. Chief Weasel has expressed a solidarity with Toad, borne out of some sort of ‘all for one and one for all’ Three Musketeers (how many books will be invoked on this trip?) philosophy. I do, however sense from more recent conversations that Chief Weasel may capitulate and ‘stay with the programme’– a priceless Passepartout!

Clearly being made of more sterling material, I am exploring whether any of my hardy Atlantic crew (we should have been preparing in the Canaries for our Atlantic crossing at the moment) would be prepared to step ‘Unto The Breach’ – and extend the trip into something more worthwhile.

T/T Hejira ready for the adventure on her Shepperton, Thames mooring. The outboard engine belies the intention to row the route.

Hurrah! The doughty Atlantic crew have come up trumps (sorry Stephen, no room for a ship’s doctor on this one) with John Coe and then Richard Cracknell both committing to 24 hours each. This then extends the adventure into something almost deserving of the description with me doing four straight days. I think I may then need a bath!

An account will follow – what could possibly go wrong?

Sandstorm

With France regressing into more stringent Covid restrictions, there is no imminent prospect of paying Hejira a visit and she remains as I left her, halfway through preparations for The Atlantic Project. I have however managed to secure a more formal ‘babysitting’ regime which should provide some comfort and help smooth my sleep patterns.

I have been lucky in that I have several friends with yachts, and they have kindly humoured me with various sailing trips. I have been out with John Coe on his Sadler 26 ‘Selkie’, a couple of times with Richard Cracknell on his Halberg Rassey 31 ‘Esmeralda’, a West Country cruise with Peter Hoade on his Vancouver 32 ‘Firebird’ and with Nick Bullen on the sister Southerly 135 ‘Sea Spine’. They have all been very much enjoyed and I am very grateful for their kindness and indulgence.

On Monday however, I sailed with John Goodall and his son Cyrus on their Series 2 Southerly 135 ‘Istana’ out of the Hamble. We enjoyed a spirited sail on passage to Ryde and John recounted his experience in Ryde Marina a few weeks ago when Storm Alex blew up overnight. The wind was easterly off the sands and he woke in the morning, slid open the hatch and was confronted by this incredible scene.

Istana’s cockpit after Storm Alex.
Sand everywhere

I have never seen anything like it and the sand had permeated every conceivable nook, cranny, and most of the equipment. We struggled to deploy the sails as the tracks had filled with sand and it was like smoke as it was shifted under extreme tension. The winches sounded very gritty and the deck was treacherous as it was recoated with sand dust displaced from elsewhere.

I guess the moral of this story is to always be mindful of one’s surroundings and the possible implications of changing conditions.

I know this is not strictly about Hejira, but I thought it worthy of a post and it was about the experiences of another Southerly 135.

I have previously ‘banged on’ about a ‘3 men in a boat’ type of river trip on a friend’s boat in the absence of any of the planned adventures on Hejira. Unfortunately, extraneous issues have repeatedly scuppered embryonic plans. I can now disclose that I have purchased my own, very elegant, 12-foot dinghy for just this purpose and I am in the process of preparing it for an adventure in November, camping alongside the Wey Navigation.

The pretty little 12-foot dinghy currently being prepared for ‘adventuring’ and to be named ‘Tender To Hejira’.

To maintain the theme (and with good reason) she will be named ‘T/T Hejira’ (Tender To Hejira) so I feel comfortable blogging about it on this website. The writing (which should be embellished by my two crew – warts and all) may have to wait for the circulation to return to our fingers!

Abandoned Plans

My sign off last year was ‘wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year’ having just escaped France (Hejira being moored near Nice) before a crippling strike in December. How very apposite this has turned out to be!

To bring you up to date, Hejira was collected from her berth in January and taken to Antibes for some keel work. During the course of the work, the contractor went bust (I had paid half up front) and I had to accept the work being handed over to another contractor that I had not briefed or vetted. Subsequently the yard itself plunged into liquidation with Hejira in their compound so I had to dash out to Antibes, accept and pay for the work which had been done completely wrong and very poorly. I had to supervise a re-launch and rescue Hejira, sailing her back to Baie des Anges single handed in a gale. There continues to be ongoing issues as a result of the ‘botched’ job and it has been a worry having Hejira just floating unattended for all these months unable to check her over as a result of the Coronavirus crisis lockdown.

My plans to cross to the Caribbean this winter are now in tatters and the thirty plus flights booked into and out of destinations en-route are of no use. The prospects of getting refunds appear to be very bleak but I am hoping to salvage holidays using the flights to Antigua just before Christmas.

I am conscious that circumstances are a lot worse for many sailors stranded around the world and finding themselves in limbo with weather windows closing on them and with little chance of escape. I have corresponded with a couple on a Southerly stuck anchored in a bay off Panama for the last 10 weeks. Now that would test a relationship and one’s appetite for adventuring under sail!

In the meantime, I hope to do some sailing on friends’ yachts in the UK when the restrictions allow and I have the germ of an idea to travel the length of the Thames, from Cricklade to Teddington with crew mate John Coe in his 12 foot Tideway dinghy, camping overnight and just ‘getting away from it all’. If this comes together, I will blog an account (it will involve a lot of rowing – is the spelling the same whether with oars or arguing?) as it should be entertaining.

I happened upon this article in the newspaper last week and it may be of interest. It is about the Joni Mitchell album ‘Hejira’ which largely inspired the naming of the yacht:-

Hejira Album

 

Winter Talks

Preparations for the 2020 sailing season have stalled for the time being. The bad weather in the Med and the strikes which have brought France to a standstill (I was lucky to escape back to Blighty!) have contrived to prevent me moving Hejira to Antibes for a little TLC although neither factor can last forever – can it?

In the meantime, there is an outside chance that you might be interested in attending one of the talks that I am giving covering my adventures last summer.

The publicity for the talks state:-

Nick Mines’ talk covers his single handed non-stop (nearly) 1100 mile passage from Nice to Venice last summer. The highs and lows and the telling effects of undertaking such a voyage alone. He then covers the continuation with various crew through Croatia, Italy, Corfu, the Ionian, Sicily, Malta, Tunisia, Sardinia, Corsica and finally back to Nice. He reflects on the 3000 mile, 3 month adventure with candid admissions and telling observations.

They are as follows:-

Monday 6th January 2020 at Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club, Mill Island, Sonning, RG4 6TW. Access is slightly obscure as you have to take a lane alongside the Sonning Mill car park. The talk starts at 8pm and is hosted by the Reading Offshore Sailing Club. Visitors are welcome at a cost of £5 and there is a bar at the venue which opens at 7.30.

Tuesday 18th February 2020 at Bourne End Community Centre, The Centre, Wakeman Road, Bourne End, Bucks. SL8 5SX. The talk starts at 8pm and is hosted by the Cruising Association. Visitors are welcome at a cost of £5 and there is a bar at the venue which is open all evening.

It would be really good to see some of you there!

My plans for 2020 and beyond are coming together with a probable return to Africa, the Canaries and another crossing to the Caribbean. More about all this when things begin to crystallise.

Happy Christmas to one and all and let’s hope for a healthy and happy New Year.

Tranquille

I really thought that the holidaying of Paula and her two friends would be the end of anything interesting to ‘blog about’ but I think I may have been wrong – you will be the judge…

We had taken a berth in St. Laurent Du Var as our winter berth in Baie des Anges was not available until the 1st of September. The only redeeming feature of the temporary berth (which the Capitainerie wrongly described as ‘Tranquille’) was that it was confirmed until I returned from my short trip home to leave the ladies alone. I couldn’t expect Paula to shuffle Hejira from berth to berth according to daily availability. The mooring was right at the end of the breakwater at the entrance to the marina.

Not the best berth at the entrance to St Laurent Du Var marina.

It was therefore a very long walk to any facility or beach. On the other side of the entrance was a nightclub which pumped out loud music and flashing lights until 4am and the water pressure on the dock was little more than a dribble. It was so close to the airport that I walked there on my departure and return which, as you can imagine, was a mixed blessing. Surprisingly, however, the ladies seemed to have had a good time in my absence with the sun and sea in plentiful supply. There was also the added pleasure of watching the comings and goings in and out of the marina, the interaction with their neighbours and the entertaining manoeuvres on and off of the fuel dock opposite – they were quite the experts by the time I returned! The formula of having a short sailing (?) cruise before I left them to their own devices also apparently met with their approval – we shall see.

So, it was me and Paula adrift for 4 days until we could take up our berth in Baie des Anges and I could begin to plan and brief the winter jobs and projects. Aware that I had spent the summer being excessively ambitious and overdoing things, I had not enjoyed relaxing on board and chillin’ out as maybe I should have. It was therefore easy to make our first destination the delightful anchorage between the Lerins Islands of Ile Sainte-Marguerite and Ile Saint-Honorat which was a mere 12 miles away. This is a very popular destination for local boats being just off Cannes and we chose to anchor in deeper water among the larger boats.

Anchored in deeper water amongst the ‘bigger boys’.
Decadence? A slide for the children!

As a result, we were not troubled by the uncomfortable proximity of the ‘day boats’ at anchor. We took the dinghy ashore to the smaller island of Honerat, leaving it in the very convenient and free tiny harbour near the anchorage. The island is home to a Monastery and the monks make rather expensive organic wine which is for sale in a small shop. The walk around the perimeter of the island is a delight with the shaded woodland path providing glimpses of the foreshore and azure sea.

Delightful shady walk around the island of St. Honerat.

There is a charismatic castle and the public have access during the day to the rather spartan church and cloisters.

The Castle on the Isle Sainte-Honerat
Monastery Cloisters

Ile Saint-Honorat is only served by infrequent boats provided by the monks so the visitor numbers are subdued and the island has an almost serene aura as a result. It is apparently possible to stay for a week long retreat – if you are that way inclined…

The spartan monastery church.

Returning to Hejira, we took a dip but, unfortunately, Paula had a close encounter with a jelly fish which came up in a swelling like a giant painful nettle sting. I offered to pee on it as this is reputed to relieve the symptoms but the liberal application of vinegar and anti-histamine cream was preferred – I can’t understand why and was rather disappointed!

Dinghy lifted overnight for safety and security

After a very quiet overnight at anchor, we reviewed our options for the following day and surprisingly agreed to stay put and visit the other island of Sainte-Marguerite. I have visited this island on a number of occasions but always from the north and never ventured beyond the restaurants and the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ Fort. The Cruising Association app. suggested that landing from the south was something of a challenge and so it proved. The only viable places were cordoned off for swimming so we resorted to stopping and raising the outboard, rowing into the rocky shore and pulling up above the waterline amongst the thankfully rounded rocks.

Snug dinghy landing to the south of St Marguerite.

The island was significantly busier than its smaller neighbour with regular tripper boats supplying it with visitors from Cannes. Despite its visitor numbers, the island retains a charm and the peaceful perimeter walk provides a stunning new vista at every turn and this is all despite its relative proximity to the Riviera conurbations.

We have all heard the incessant cicada cacophony and I have often tried to find the insects without previous success. You can see from this picture that they are very well camouflaged against a tree. It is apparently only the male cicada that actually makes the noise in an effort to attract a mate and it is not from rubbing its legs together.

A well camouflaged Cicada

The sound comes from an organ in its back called a tymbal which is a sort of sound box and contains a series of ribs that buckle one after another producing the clicking noise.

In the evening, many of the anchored boats return home, the surface of the water ceases to be churned up and the anchorage becomes delightfully tranquil.

Sunset over the Alpes Maritime.

With the weekend encroaching, the prospect of the ensuing bedlam in the popular Lerins anchorage suggested that we should move on and with no chance of actually sailing in the calm conditions, we chose to investigate and possibly anchor in Golfe Juan.

You can order a ‘Take Away’ delivery in the Lerins anchorage!

One of the villages on the Golfe is Juan-les-Pins, immortalised in Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 (you have to be a certain age) number one hit ‘Where do you go to (my lovely)’. So the prospect of ‘carefully designed topless swimsuits’ was quite appealing – to me at least!

Reviewing the coastline as we slipped into Golfe Juan under engine, we were not attracted by the apartment block density at the head of the bay and opted for an anchorage at Abri de L’Olivette tucked inside Cap D’Antibes. The vista was undoubtedly more attractive but our trip ashore into a tiny harbour, despite a walk, failed to reveal any bars, just very sumptuous gated villas.

Paula relaxing with a drink on the aft deck with the residential coastline in the background.

There was however plenty of entertainment in the anchorage which was also favoured by some of the ‘big boys’ who seemed very happy to put on a show with their toys.

Boys toys.
Showing off !

As the evening progressed, the anchorage thinned out and it turned out to be a wonderfully still, calm and quiet night. Sound travels over water but there was nothing heard from any distant disco, it was wonderfully tranquil. Clearly the affluent residents of Cap D’Antibes don’t tolerate any disturbance to their expensive seclusion.

Huge house on the tip of Cap D’Antibes, rumoured to be part of the settlement for one of Roman Abramovich’s previous wives

I have been told that the aeroplanes approaching Nice Airport are not allowed to overfly the Cap and the flight path diverts around it – this is something that even the Queen doesn’t seem able to achieve over Windsor!

The morning dawned to a cloudless sky and it was with mixed feelings that I realised that my adventure started exactly 3 months ago on the first of June and I would be returning to my point of departure, the marina at Baie des Anges.

A short motor took us to the marina which will be recognisable to anyone who has flown into Nice Airport with its strangely attractive pyramid apartment blocks such a dominating feature of the landscape.

Entering the marina, The ‘Pyramids’ in the background.

Fuelled and back on our berth, it’s time to prepare and plan for the future adventures of the good ship ‘Hejira’. I must remember to resist being excessively ambitious as with our son Oliver getting married next August, it will be pretty busy domestically next year.

I will do the occasional update as and when there is anything of interest (?) to report.

Paula vetting my blog entry before publication.

I hope that our missives have been enjoyed by the readership as much as I and my various crew have enjoyed writing them. There may have been some insight into yachting, particularly the unique nature of Mediterranean yachting, which has either inspired you to get involved yourself or convinced you that it is the very last thing you would want to do. Your comments on the blogs (best put them on the blogs, not email) are always appreciated and it seems to have been the forum for some philosophical, ecological and political banter if I can call it that. Please keep the comments coming and spread the word!

Now it’s back to the realities and perversely, the attractiveness of the cold and wet British seasons – next winter, the Caribbean maybe………….?

Crews over

The approach to Calvi provides a stunning view of the impressive Citadel
Approaching Calvi marina with the Citadel to starboard.

Having booked a berth in advance, the Calvi marina staff saw fit to place us on the premium ‘A’ dock right next to the ‘action’.

Paula getting ready with the telescopic pick up hook. Girls briefed and ready.

This was all very well but the loud music went on until 2am and rather took the gilt off the convenience.

Too close to the ‘action’ and the  loud music until 2am.

The visit ticked all the boxes for the ladies and a turn around the Citadel was followed by a swim off the beach.

The entrance to the Citadel with much of the old crumbling masonry now rendered compromising the charm.

Since my last visit, the Citadel has had something of a makeover with many of the crumbling buildings and ramparts having been rendered thus losing much of the charm and character but presumably preventing further deterioration.

More steps in the Citadel. I let the girls explore while I nursed a glass of cold rosé
Calvi marina viewed from the Citadel before the marina filled to capacity. The swimming beach is beyond the marina.

The ladies particularly enjoyed the ‘people watching’ from their vantage point on deck with all the coming and going from the large vessels surrounding us – it must be a girl thing.

Having to leave our berth by noon, the 100 mile overnight passage to the temporary berth in Saint Laurent du Var marina required little more than a ‘bimble’ under an idling engine over the mirror like surface of the windless sea.

Hitch Hiker. It had at least half a dozen friends.

This was very much to the liking of the crew and in the late afternoon we stopped the engine, put a polypropylene floating line over the stern with a fender tied on the end and we all had a swim.

Mid passage swim. They didn’t appreciate the ‘Jaws’ theme music!

With the girls reluctant to sleep in their cabins, the saloon was transformed into a double bed and they dozed while watching a succession of DVDs through the night.

DVD Fest.

It is always interesting to eavesdrop on the VHF radio exchanges of the authorities and the superyachts. We marvelled at the disclosure that ‘Ocean Victory’, on passage from Portofino in Italy to Monaco had 51 crew and 11 passengers on board. We have looked it up and it is the tenth largest in the world at 140m long. It has six pools and its tender is larger than Hejira! Needless to say, it is owned by a Russian oligarch.

Timing our arrival for just after 9am, we hoped that the marina office would be open and able to instruct the staff of our reservation and berth allocation.

This is the final blog of my 3000 mile (far, far too many!) summer adventure and I have a long list of jobs, repairs and additions to undertake over the winter which will keep me busy and justify regular trips to Nice. After leaving Baie des Anges on the 1st of June, I have visited the following destinations: Ostia (Rome), Vieste, Venice, Rovinj-Croatia, Pula, Cres, Punat, Simuni, Dalmacija, Vodice, Trogir, Milna, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Otranto-Italy, Gouvia-Corfu, Lakka-Paxos, Gaios, Mongonisi, Marzamemi-Sicily, Valetta-Malta, Blue Lagoon-Camino, Kelibia-Tunisia, Villasimius-Sardinia, Santa Maria Navaresse, Costa Smerelda, Bonifacio-Corsica, Porto Pollo, Ajaccio, Girolata, Calvi and finally Saint Laurent Du Var back in France.

I am leaving the girls on board for a week while I return to the UK. They will no doubt find a favourite beach bar and enjoy a relaxing dose of sun and sea.

 

Paula, Marie and Kate write:-

After the euphoria of the previous days badge collection for knot tying we were unfortunately stripped of this accolade due to poor fender attachments and warp rope coiling which left us feeling in the doldrums!

However, our tank emptying and pumping prowess was tested once again and we gained level 3 with commendation for accurate and skilful release.  In the galley, badges were awarded for the variety of skills involved in preparing meals, snacks and drinks throughout the 20 hour crossing.

Captain Underpants was very grateful for his restful crossing and therefore promoted us from Level 1 Watch Team skills to Level 2.  A thrilling evening enjoyed by all, with beautiful sunsets and sunrises, following a few wonderful days visiting picturesque harbours and gorgeous beaches.

All round the experience of sailing our floating hotel has been a very positive one and one that we look forward to repeating and gaining more badges in the future.

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