Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Keyhaven to Ramsgate

Hi everyone,
We arrived in Ramsgate at 1800 this evening after a 29 hour passage from Keyhaven.  We had great weather - sunny with only occasional high cloud.  The passage took us nearly half way towards Zen Again's new home.

Here are the usual plots...

Zen Again track
Zen Again speed
Once again the speed plot shows the effect of tide, and also the effect of the wind dropping out and the engine coming on.  We had a lovely sail through the Solent from west to east, carrying the tide with us as far as Cowes and then working through adverse tide for 6 hours.  From Selsey Bill to Dungeness we had the tide with us and from there to Dover it was against us again.  From Dover the tide was with us once more and hurried us home.

Here are the vital statistics...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 150nm
    • Logged Distance = 157nm
    • GPS Distance = 143nm
    • Duration = 29 hours
    • Average boat speed = 5.4kt
    • Average ground speed = 4.9kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 2 kt
    • Average wind speed = 10 kt
    • Maximum wind speed = 20 kt
    • Apparent wind angle range = 90 to 180
    • Seas up to 1.5m
    • Sunny with some high cloud
  • Engine
    • Total = 9 hours
    • Driving = 9 hours
    • Charging = 0 hours

We spent much of last week travelling around the country to attend interviews and visit family.  Amazingly the first interview yielded a job, so suddenly we needed to get the boat moving towards its new home.  We got back to Keyhaven on Sunday and set to preparing the boat for departure.

Hurst Castle from the mooring on Sunday evening 
Keelboats can only enter and leave Keyhaven close to high tide so we could not depart until the early afternoon.  By the time we got out there was only a couple of hours of easterly current but that hurried us along past Cowes.  It was great sailing down the Solent with yachts, ferries and big ships passing by.

Passing Cowes
We sailed east through Spithead and past the row of old forts which protected the eastern entrance to the Solent.  The tide was against us here, which gave us more time to admire the view.

No Man's Land fort in Spithead
The nice SW wind gradually veered to the NW overnight.  For a while it looked like we'd have to motor but the NW land breeze came in and we had a very pleasant sail overnight.  By 0600 the land breeze had died and our boat speed was down to 3 knots.  The engine went on and stayed on until 1430 when we were approaching Dover.  Happily we didn't need to dodge any of the ferries.

Passing Dover
The last leg from Dover to Ramsgate was very nice with help from the tide and nice flat water.  The last 1/2 mile was interesting with a 2 knot tidal current across the harbour entrance.

In a pen at Ramsgate Marina
We expect to stay here in Ramsgate for up to a week, spending a few days away visiting relatives in Kent.  After that we'll be heading north.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Keyhaven - Week 1

Hi everyone,
We've now been on a mooring in the Keyhaven River for nearly a week.  It's a great place and the moorings may be the cheapest in the Solent.  Entry for keelboats is limited depending on draft and the river is mostly quite shallow.  We're using a stern anchor to keep us in deep water.  We expect to remain here for several more weeks.

It's a ten minute dinghy trip from our mooring to the small village of Keyhaven.  It is so small there's only one pub - The Gun - but it is a very nice pub indeed.  There are two very active yacht clubs - Keyhaven Yacht Club and Hurst Castle Sailing Club.  The former has an immaculate new clubhouse and visiting yachties are welcome.  Hot showers (free) and warm beer (not).  Honesty box tea, coffee and biscuits.  Most civilised!

Keyhaven River
One of many lovely boats on Keyhaven River
Sun descending over the Keyhaven River
Last Sunday our OCC friends John and Chris, who live nearby, showed us around the area by car.  We visited the closest town Milford on Sea and also the bigger town of Lymington.  They also treated us to a home-cooked dinner which was very nice indeed.  It's great to have OCC contacts around the world!

We've spent a lot of our time job hunting.  Plenty of jobs advertised and Brexit doesn't seem to have slowed them down.  We've had several phone interviews and will attend a couple of on-site interviews next week.

When not job hunting we've been removing several items of surplus equipment to prepare them for sale.  The Aries vane gear, Iridium GO! and Icom HF/SSB are listed on eBay.  We're sad to be selling the Aries but it needs refurbishing which isn't practical aboard.  Less attached to the electronics kit which is best sold while still current equipment.   We'll replace them with the latest kit before going blue water cruising again.

We've been exploring the local area too.  On Wednesday we walked to Lymington along the coast, past the ancient salterns where salt was harvested until the 1800s.  Lots of birds including swans, geese, oyster catchers, coots and of course ducks.  In Lymington we visited the local rigger to see how much it will cost to replace our standing rigging.  We also talked to a marine gas fitter about fitting a heater.  We walked back along the more direct inland paths which was also very nice.

XOD class keelboats racing on the Solent
Country Lane
Country Pub
On Thursday we dinghied over to Hurst Castle and toured the site.  The original castle was built by Henry VIII and it was manned continuously from the mid 1500s to the 1950s.  The Victorians expanded it substantially, installing the same type of muzzle-loading rifled cannon we saw in Bermuda.  During WW2 it had lots of anti-aircraft guns but they were never fired since they didn't want the enemy to know the castle was still manned!

Hurst Castle
Hurst Castle
Original castle entrance surrounded by Victorian brickwork
Victorian big gun
Zen Again (right) from Hurst Castle
Hurst Shingle Bank
One of the exhibits in the castle described local WW2 history, much of which was about the D Day landings.  We were amazed to find a model of the corvette HMS Bluebell which apparently escorted the invasion fleet.  I believe the late Max Shean (an ex FSC Cruising Captain whose S&S 34 was called Bluebell) served on this ship early in the war before volunteering and serving in X craft (midget submarines).

Model of HMS Bluebell at Hurst Castle
While walking along the huge shingle bank which extends from the mainland to the castle we were treated to a one-aircraft air show.  A P51 Mustang did very low-level aerobatics between the Needles and the castle.  Nobody knew why but it was a great show!

Impromptu air show by P51 Mustang
 Trust all's well where you are.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Plymouth to Keyhaven

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we departed the Tamar River and Plymouth to sail to Keyhaven in the western Solent.  The passage took 23 hours and was timed to arrive on a rising tide.  We're currently anchored east of Hurst Castle waiting for the tide to rise.  We'll then go into the Keyhaven River to pick up a mooring kindly offered by OCC friends John and Chris of sv Sara II.

Here are the usual plots...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
The speed plot is interesting.  As normal it shows our speed over the ground.  The sine wave isn't due to our boat speed changing - it is the effect of tide.  We sailed through two periods of adverse tide with one period with positive tide in the middle.  This ensured we arrived with the tide flooding into the Solent.  That flood is obvious at the end of the plot.

Here are the vital statistics...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 120nm
    • Logged Distance = 132nm
    • GPS Distance = 119nm
    • Duration = 23 hours
    • Average boat speed = 5.7kt
    • Average ground speed = 5.2kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 10 kt
    • Average wind speed = 18 knots
    • Maximum wind speed = 28kt
    • Apparent wind angle range = 0 to 180
    • Seas up to 2m
    • Overcast with frequent drizzle
  • Engine
    • Total = 4 hours
    • Driving = 4 hours (down the river and out of Plymouth harbour)
    • Charging = 0 hours

Isle of Wight ahead in the murk
Passing the Needles
We were kept busy throughout the passage with traffic - cargo ships, fishing boats and yachts.  All except a few yachts had AIS transmitters which was a big help in poor visibility which ranged from 1nm to 2nm.

As we approached the Solent several yachts were ahead and behind us.  We entered via the main channel which was straight-forward.  We had 2 knots of current with us in the channel.  As we passed Hurst Castle we turned to port, got out of the channel and anchored in 3m over mud.  We're now waiting for the tide to rise enough for us to get over the bar and into the river.


Hi everyone,
We are now anchored off Keyhaven in the Solent.  We'll describe the passage from Plymouth in the next post but here's what we were up to during our week in Plymouth.

We spent only one night at Barn Pool before heading up the Tamar River.  We anchored just short of the two Tamar Bridges and off the Tamar River Sailing Club (web site here).  Motoring up the river was interesting, not least because the adjacent countryside is quite similar to that along the Tamar River in Tasmania.  Very green when the sun came out!

Passing the Royal Navy base at Devonport
Torpoint Ferries
We remained at anchor from Sunday until Thursday.  Then we moved alongside TRSC's pontoon at their invitation.  TSMC made is very welcome throughout our stay.  Amazingly the first people we met there were OCC members Dick and Mary of sv Alacazam who we met in the Caribbean.  It really is a small world.  They made us very welcome and arranged a key fob so we could access the club and its showers at any time.

Anchored off TRSC
Zen Again on the Tamar
View across the river to Saltash
During the week we met with two of my cousins - Janice and Julie.  We hadn't seen each-other for decades.  It was great to see them, meet their husbands and catch up on their family news.  We walked around the sea-front and across the Hoe before having a very nice dinner in town.

We also met our friends Malcolm and Ingrid who live in Luxembourg but were in the UK on holiday. Malcolm designed our previous boat Degrees of Freedom.  Twas nice to meet Malcolm's father again too.  We had a nice dinner together at the excellent Ferry Inn close to the TRSC.

During the week we took the bus into Plymouth several times to get various things done:

  • Took iPhone to Apple Store for free check - declared dead so bought a cheap (dumb) phone
  • Took Macbook Air to Apple Store for free check - repairable and we'll get that done sometime
  • Laundry - three weeks worth
  • Food shopping  - groceries in the UK seems to be about half the cost in Perth

We also dinghied across the river to explore the Cornish town of Saltash.  Nice little town where I had a long overdue hair cut, we posted a letter and did some food shopping.  The bridges over the river were opened a century apart in time - Brunel's railway bridge in 1859 and the road bridge in 1961.  Prior to the bridges Cornwall was almost an island due to the river and the moors to the north.

On Friday evening we joined the TRSC's social evening and met many club members.  We traded a FSC Cruising Section burgee for a TRSC burgee.  The FSC burgee is now front & centre above the bar.

On Saturday morning we had breakfast at Dick and Mary's before meeting our friends Kim and Annette who are in the UK on holiday.  It was great to see them too - amazing that so many people were in the area at the same time as us.

Keeping the boat in the Plymouth area cost us exactly nothing.  Both anchoring in the Tamar and alongside at TRSC's jetty for a short stay were free.  TRSC is a very nice club and makes visitors very welcome.

At midday we cast off from TRSC and headed down river on the ebb tide, bound towards the Solent.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Falmouth to Plymouth

Hi everyone,
Today we day-sailed from Falmouth to Plymouth.  We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 days in Falmouth and got everything done there we needed.  We could easily have stayed for a week but we need to move east to access better rail transport.

The weather today was about as good as we're likely to get for the next week.  It was partly sunny with occasional showers.  There was a perfect westerly wind of 15-20 knots.  We departed at 1000 and arrived at 1900.  The route was 38nm, we logged 50nm and covered 46nm over the ground.

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
There were quite a number of fishing floats in the approaches to Falmouth, as there were when we arrived on Wednesday.  Most of them have flag poles which make them easier to see than those back home in Australia.

Along the way we were visited by groups of dolphins several times.  They were quite playful and it's always fun to have their company.

The entrance to Plymouth is straightforward but a little interesting.  It has a long breakwater running W-E across the outer harbour - isolated from the shore.  The breakwater is barely above water at high tide.  Once inside the breakwater there are numerous marina options for yachts.  We are anchoring so decided to stay overnight at Barn Pool which is a short distance up the Tamar River.  We motored around Drake's Island to enter the Tamar.
Plymouth Breakwater
Drake's Island
Plymouth Hoe
At anchor in Barn Pool on the Tamar River
Barn Pool is a small anchorage on the outside of a bend in the river.  It has a relatively shallow area where anchoring is easy.  A shingle beach is only a few boat-lengths away with a grassed area and woods beyond - very tranquil.  On the other side of the river is Devonport and its large naval base - less tranquil!

Tomorrow we expect to go further up the river, close to the Tamar Bridge.  We understand it is quiet and the anchoring is free as it is here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Azores to UK Passage Summary

Hi everyone,
Here is a summary of our passage from Horta in the Azores to Falmouth in the UK.  We will remember it as a chilly and damp passage, but relatively benign.  It seems we earned some "credit" from the weather gods after the many fronts between Bermuda and the Azores.

First the usual plots...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
Our track took us north of the great circle route in search of wind - the classic route.  We had light winds for most of the passage, only encountering strong winds on the last two days.  A few boats took a more direct route and used much more fuel.  We prefer to sail.

Here are the vital statistics...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 1250nm
    • Logged Distance = 1430nm
    • GPS Distance = 1312nm
    • Duration = 11 days 3 hours
    • Average boat speed = 5.3kt again!!!
    • Average ground speed = 4.9kt
    • Average VMG = 4.7kt
    • Average day's run = 128nm
    • Best day's run = 144nm (6.0kt)
    • Minimum boat speed = 2 kt
    • Maximum boat speed = 8 kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 0 kt
    • Average wind speed = 12 knots
    • Maximum wind speed = 30kt
    • Apparent wind angle range = 50 to 160
    • Seas up to 3m
    • Swell up to 2m
    • Mostly overcast, occasionally clear skies
  • Engine
    • Total = 57 hours
    • Driving = 55 hours
    • Charging = 2 hours
  • Consumption
    • Water = 90 litres (8 litres / day)
    • Fuel = 80 litres
  • Failures
    • 12Vdc charger for Macbook Air laptop (we had a spare)
  • Stars
    • The boat!
    • Pelagic Autopilot ram (steered 95% of passage)
    • Craftsman CM3.27 engine
    • PredictWind Offshore app (over Iridium GO!) for obtaining GRIBs
    • qtVlm GRIB viewer and weather-routing software
It is interesting that we appear to have had adverse current overall, to the tune of 118nm.  That's nearly a day we lost.  We were expecting favourable current but it didn't happen.

The engine had a good run on this passage and almost all the hours were motoring vice charging.  We motored at revs between 1500rpm and 2500rpm.  We're very pleased with our Craftsman engine which we fitted in Malaysia in 2013 and now has nearly 800 hours on the clock.

View of Falmouth inner harbour from Prince of Wales pier
Falmouth from the mooring
Zen Again in Falmouth
Yesterday we cleared in with the UK Border Force.  This was done entirely by telephone.  We also organised UK SIMs for our mobile phones.  Amazingly reactivating a Lloyds bank account which has been dormant since 1986 took only minutes!

Today we have been cleaning up the boat.  The relatively benign passage left little water in the cockpit lockers which made it a quick job.  We have plenty of s/s polishing to do.  We filled the fuel tanks from the jerry cans.  No need to refill the jerries as yet.  The water tanks and water jerries are full again.  We're ready to start moving along the south coast.

Thanks to those of you who have made donations using the Donate button.  We really appreciate them.  The communications costs to write this blog at sea amount to 10 times all the donations we've received.  So if you enjoy the blog and/or learned anything from it please consider donating.  It would be especially appreciated given our current unemployed status.  Think of it as buying us a beer!