And away…

As a postscript to the windlass saga, there was no sign of the new replacement being delivered in time for our departure, due to apparent ongoing production problems at Lewmar, the manufacturers. It would be unthinkable to contemplate an extended cruise without a working windlass, so we had a problem. The decision was finally taken to refurbish the condemned windlass so that it was sufficiently serviceable for this season. This was carried out (at further expense) and the unit was refitted, finally rendering Hejira ready to embark on her adventure.

Another potential spanner in the works was a really debilitating back issue which compromised the shakedown cruise to Cowes. I had suffered a herniated disc, sustained when over enthusiastically  helping with an Atom install. This required an injection, and I thought it might be that the injection had worn off which I had been warned might happen. Not having the time to see the specialist and, on the advice of my wife, I saw the Chiropractor that she uses. After 3 visits, not only is my back a whole lot better, but my niggling achilles tendon issue seems to have markedly improved. The human body seems to work in mysterious ways.

Our mid-April departure was always going to be slightly ‘bullish’ with the weather still rather volatile, so the evolving patterns were studied in detail. Crewing, timing and permutation options had been discussed at length, initially with Richard and John who were to have been on the Covid aborted Trans-Atlantic. Inevitably, nature has the final say in the form of the weather and crew health. So it was that, after some last minute Hejira TLC, a decision was made to convene on board in the afternoon of Tuesday 16th of April with me, Richard and Peter Hoade leaving at dawn the following day, bound for Plymouth where Richard would leave to be replaced by John Coe for the push on to Dun Laoghaire, this being where my daughter and her family live. Incredibly, Peter had not picked up on a final adjustment to the timings and when he was asked his eta, he was walking somewhere in Devon… So, it was just me and Richard Cracknell for this first leg. Richard is a former yacht owner and is familiar with Hejira having crewed (with the absent Peter) from Nice to A Coruna on the Brexit induced return from the Med and I was very comfortable with just the two of us doing this first leg.

With the wind predominantly from the north the passage was going to be cold and the diesel powered Eberspacher heating system made for a very welcome and toasty cabin. The passage west was taken to the south of the Isle of Wight to take advantage of the more favourable tidal stream timings and the initially pleasant sail was only punctuated by a call from the minesweeper, HMS Cattistock, asking us to steer clear of their underwater exercise. From St. Catherines Point to Portland Bill the wind and sea state increased, necessitating two reefs in the main and we periodically used the help of the engine to pinch up onto our course and punch through the chop.

A Costco Carbonara proved to be sized for a crew of four and the leftovers remained on the cooker to tempt us to pick at it, cold, through the night watches. After ‘the Bill’, we sailed gently through the darkness as our landfall off Salcombe threatened to be while it was still dark and there was no hurry to get into Queen Anne’s Battery Marina in Plymouth.

Sunrise over Lyme Bay after a very pleasant, languid overnight sail.

This being  under the same ownership as Northney Marina, there should be no mooring charge having booked in advance, but MDL have not ‘covered themselves in glory’ over the last 18 months in Hayling Island, so this remains to be seen.

It being so cold and with just the two of us, in case of emergencies on deck, we have chosen to ‘kip down’ off watch in the saloon, fully kitted. This was a mixed blessing as Richard has a hearty snore! Amanda is clearly a saint – Paula may be thinking of pots and kettles…

Richard in repose.

Richard writes:

Its good to be aboard Hejira again! Our shakedown sail to Cowes was a wet and windy affair and I was hoping for better conditions for this trip down to Plymouth. Dawn yesterday was delightful, our early start blessed with a beautiful sunrise, a fair wind, flat seas, seals basking and cheese & marmite sausages in rolls, washed down with Nicks tea (which turned out to be coffee!).

The wind picked up to a steady 18 knots giving us a thrilling sail along the South side of the IOW but continued increasing to a steady 24/25 knots, gusting 30 knots at times, The sea state becoming lumpier, particularly around St Catherine’s Point and later, Portland Bill. All in all, quite a roller coaster ride with only a couple of incidents. The first when we suddenly slowed to just one knot, with no apparent reason why. We peered over the side and saw nothing. Only when we retracted the keel and turned the engine on did it clear. Quite bizarre; possibly we snagged a fishing net or a load of lobster pots? Who knows! The second, much more dangerous, when we ran out of gas so had to change the cylinder. This, on a wet deck, heeling at 45 degrees, in 30 knots of wind and waves breaking over us. This involved being sprawled on the lurching aft deck, grappling with all the lines, ladders, gas tanks etc, getting absolutely soaked.

And since the skipper deigns to mention snoring and in the spirit of ‘what happens on board, stays on board’ I have to say that Paula really is the greater saint as it is not only Nicks snoring that I had to cope with!!!

Hejira in good shape, moored in QAB Marina, Plymouth.

11 thoughts on “And away…

Add yours

  1. Sounds like quite a passage!!
    Made very good sog!
    As for snoring and more sounds like business as usual!!
    Enjoy the rest of the trip, enjoyed the Blog. Can’t find the tracker though?? DVS

    1. I am succumbing to the weight of opinion about my snoring – can’t hear it myself… On the home page, click on the ‘Voyage Tracker’ tab, then scroll down to the YB page (you may have to refresh) and that should show our position from satellite. Scroll down another page and it gives the wind…

  2. I am very disturbed by a number of things in this blog:

    1 Why did you not follow Page 144, item 7 of your pre-departure checklist and ensure the gas cylinder was charged for the passage ?
    2 Having been told to leave a ‘restricted area’, where underwater activity was occurring, did you not realise you had snagged MOD mines with your keel ? Either that, or you have just snatched the livelihood of a lobster fisherman from his hands and left him bereft.
    3 How is it that you are bobbing around in the Solent while Hejira’s sister ship is in Fiji, you should be ashamed of yourself !
    4 Crackers actually looks dead rather than asleep in your photo, has he actually stirred since and did your (no expense spared) Costco Carbonara do for him ?

    Glad I skipped this one !


    1. As always, Toad, I enjoy the comedic value of your input.
      Do not deceive yourself, however, that you were ever on the potential crew list for any proper sailing where anything more than the ability to filter alcohol is a requirement.

  3. Hi Nick, I’m glad to hear that you are on your way, As you know,the west of Scotland can be a fantastic cruising destination. When we came through the other way, we particularly enjoyed the Crinan (probably more than the Caledonian). If you want any tips for the Crinan, I can advise that sailing through half of it with a failed starter motor is not popular! Are you planning to come back down the east coast at any point?

    As it happens, the wife and I are shortly flying off to join Francis Ellen in Sardinia. I am hoping to encounter warmer And dryer conditions then we did what we were up on the West Coast of Scotland. Perhaps Our mistake was to expect to find summer in Scotland during July! Ben Nevis still had a solid covering of snow on the peak.!

    1. Thanks for your mail, Brian. Enjoy the warmth in Sardinia – it was bl**dy cold on passage in the northerlies.

      I have done the Crinan and Caledonian twice before, once in the Parker 31 and once in Hejira, both north to south. They are very different experiences as you have to ‘work’ the locks yourself on the Crinan. We have enlisted some local friends who helped my two handed passage last time and hope will do so again in June. We have shipped lots of insect repellent!

  4. Congrats for being ‘on your way’

    Did I read previously that you are heading north for summer? What is your plan?

    The crew and I rejoin Kia Maru, Hejira’s sister ship, in Fiji next week to complete our refit and relaunch in May after cyclone season and getting away too.

    Look forward to following your journey.

    1. Good to hear from you, Vince and that your refit is nearing completion. It must be difficult, being at such a distance. Did you fabricate the bars for the aft deck? Where are you heading from Fiji?

      Our current (always subject to adjustment) plan is to press on from here to Dun Laoghaire where I will leave her for a month or so. Then my wife and I will be joined by my current crew, Richard and his wife, Amanda for a gentle, hopping, flat sea cruise up inside the Mull of Kintyre, Crinan Canal, then the Caledonian Canal for a pause and crew change in Inverness. Then Orkney, Hebrides, Scottish Islands and back for another pause in Dun Laoghaire. I have been round the UK twice before but cheated through the Caledonian Canal on both occasions so, this will tick the ‘over the top’ box. We should finally have a gentle cruise back to Northney later in August.

      1. Possibly one day we hope to sail the same waters. The ‘immediate’ plan is to shakedown around Fiji before sailing East through to French Polynesia then on to Mexico or Panama by the New Year. Like you all plans are subject to change 😉

  5. All sounds good!
    Richard, I feel that your school report must have often read “must try harder”?
    The skipper deserves much more stick than you have meted out!
    I have endured many hours of confinement on board with Nick and I can vouch for the highest decibel level snoring known to man, or woman. He seems to have the ability to snore with a frequency that matches the harmonic of the hull, allowing the whole boat to reverberate and his snoring to be amplified!

    1. Thank you for your interesting comment, Bob. I will rise above your ‘gaslighting’ in the confident knowledge that it is all a malicious fabrication.

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