Sunday 26 August 2018

A Coruna

Friday 17 August to Saturday 25 August 2018

After a week spent in A Coruna and with a mixture of sadness and excitement, we slipped our lines on Saturday afternoon and headed to a little bay close by, ready for an early start on the first journey south.  I had a twinge of sadness to be leaving as A Coruna had provided us with all the things we needed to unwind and process our journey- not just across Biscay, but the last twelve months as well.  So much has happened in the last year, you just need to stop and take stock. However, by Saturday we were both ready to leave and excited to start our journey south.

A Coruna is a beautiful town, a real mixture of old and new.  It is very obvious that money has been invested in the town, especially around the waterfront, but they have kept the charm of the old town. There is a lot of history to A Coruna and it is well worth a visit in its own right

After hitting the town on our arrival, we had a wonderful meal in a local restaurant.  We had the biggest plate of meats I’ve ever seen, together with tortilla, prawns, chorizo and lots more. Washed down with 2 bottles of wine, we all slept well on our first night in Port.

After a leisurely breakfast of croissants and cakes, provided by Mark S, we set about sorting Offbeat out.  Chores included cleaning the galley and heads, washing down the decks and doing the laundry (5 loads!).  It was at this point that Mark S decided he should take his leave as he was booked on the early evening flight to London.

Saying goodbye was quite emotional.  Being in close company for 10 days, Mark and I had built up a real friendship with Mark S and we we’re both going to miss him and his quiet calming influence. So, with a tear in my eye, we had a group hug and waved him off with a promise that he will be our first choice for crew if and when we sail across the Atlantic!

On Sunday I got up bright and early and went to Church.  I am not particularly religious, but those that know me know that I am a practising Catholic and attend mass a few times a year.  For some reason I really felt the urge to go to church and give thanks for crossing Biscay safely.  I have to say that I found the journey across Biscay both physically and emotionally hard at times, but I came through it a stronger person.

After church I wandered the streets of A Coruna and fell in love with it. It’s narrow streets with lots of different shops, coffee bars and restaurants all coming to life on a Sunday morning was a joy to behold. I couldn’t wait to get back to Mark to tell him about the town, although it did take me 3 hours!

With my excitement and enthusiasm about the town piquing Mark's curiosity, we set out on Monday to explore.  It was wonderful! We walked for miles around the town, taking in the old with the new; walking the length of the beach, up around the headland to Hercules lighthouse (the oldest one in the world built by the Romans), round by the old marina and back into town.  It seemed a bit weird standing on the headland and seeing Hercules lighthouse from the other side, as the last time we saw it we were lookimg up at it in awe, not really believing that we'd just sailed 450 miles across the Bay of Biscay.  It was also rather poignant that a lone bagpiper should be practicing his playing while we were there too.

Once back in town, we ended up in a little spanish bar in the old town. The food and wine was fantastic, as was the graffiti dominating the walls of empty buildings around us.  Whilst eating dinner we heard the laughter of children, the chatter of adults and the distant sound of music being played.  This was Spain at its best!

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful, except for when we woke up one morning to find a cruise ship moored at the end of our pontoon.  Bearing in mind the average yacht is 36ft, finding a 280 metre ship at the end of your pontoon is pretty mind blowing.  The PA system and cabaret rehearsal got a bit tiresome, but with a hoot and a wave they were gone by 4pm.

So, other than that excitement, we spent our time pottering around, with Mark doing jobs on Offbeat and me taking 4 hours to go and get the bread and milk from town!

Thursday 23 August 2018

The Bit In Between!

Thursday 9 August to Monday 13 August 2018

Some of you will have noticed that there's a bit missing between setting sail at 15:15 on Thursday 9th August and our actual crossing which started on Monday 13th August.

There's a very simple answer, Force 7 storm! For those that don't know, that's 28-35 miles per hour. Doesn't sound much does it, but next time you're driving at 30mph, stick your hand out of the window.  Then imagine that force against your whole body. Bloody scary!

So, we set off Thursday 9th August having done all our weather checks.  The forecast was good, with northerly winds to blow us down to northern Spain. However, what you have to understand is that all the predictions in the world cannot be accurate.  The weather is like a petulant teenager, it can change on the turn of a sixpence!

So, we left Plymouth with fine weather and set our course.  The plan was to sail South, past the Eddystone Light, then South West along the English Channel.  However, by nightime the two Mark's were tacking against Force 6-7 winds from the SW, rough seas and rain squalls. By this time, for the first time on this journey I was suffering from sea sickness. I'm still not sure if it was the journey that made me I'll or whether it was because I was scared witless.  

By sunrise the weather had not improved and on the 06:00 forecast  there were now gale force warnings (for those in Suffolk that's close the Orwell Bridge wind!).  

With this latest information to hand, Mark made the decision that we would head back to England to wait until the weather had passed.

I for one was very relieved.  It had been a very long night for the guys as I hadn't been able to take my turn at the helm and I am forever grateful for the way they both looked after me.  I know it wasn't easy for them as tacking in Force 7 winds is really tough, but they never complained, they just got on with it.

We arrived in Falmouth late Friday afternoon, tired and battered but still in one piece with our sense of humour still in tact. 

And guess what, it was the start of Falmouth week so we did what any sensible person would do in Falmouth, ate fish and got ever so slightly drunk!

P.s. Not many photos were taken on this bit! 

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Biscay. Yeah, Baby

Monday 13 August to Friday 17 August 2018

Manic Monday 13th August: Setting off - Falmouth to Ushant

Setting off on Fridays and 13th days is frowned on by superstitious sailors. But missing out on a fair wind is frowned on even more, so we were up at first light and casting off our lines by 05.30. Had a bit of a moment untying Offbeat from Englands shore for probably the very last time in her life, plus the trepidation and elation about being on the cusp of our first proper blue water voyage. However, the busy-ness of sailing a boat out of harbour soon puts paid to sentimental thoughts.

Just follow the blue line for 450 miles, that should do it

Setting off along the blue line
We picked up a good Westerly wind off Lizard Point and as the sea started to splash under our our bow, the first dolphins appeared, which we took as a good omen. With the sun shining and the sails driving us fast (fast on Offbeat being around 6 miles an hour!), it was a great start to our first big voyage.

The first of many dolphins 

At around 1800 we reefed down (reduced the size of our sails to you landlubbers) to handle a squall that was coming our way, bringing rain and stronger winds. This also gave the three of us time to eat dinner together before the weather and the night closed in – meatballs and pasta that Teresa had prepared the day before.

During the squall, we noticed damage to our brand new sails – two attachments to the mast had come adrift. We found the bits from one lying on the deck and managed to fix the other from my repair kit. I have to say that I'm not impressed by the sailmaker – Jeckells. Offbeat's new sails are designed and cut well but there's too many signs of them not being finished well, of being a bit of a rush job.

Our uneasiness about the sails didn't stop us making good progress though. We reached our waypoint off Ushant at midnight, about six hours earlier than expected, having made 98 miles from Falmouth at an average of 6.5knots over the ground*.

*OK, a note of explanation for landlubbers: Ushant (Ouessant in French) is the very westernmost tip of Brittany and is legendary for English sailors as marking the start of the English Channel when approaching home on the return from a long voyage. A waypoint is just a point on a map that you are aiming for, often because you want to turn there or it keeps you clear of a hazard (ours was keeping us clear of very intense shipping lanes just off Ushant). Six and a half knots – miles per hour, near enough – is pretty fast for a boat of Offbeats size and, not being judgemental, shape. She's a tubby old girl and is carrying a lot of extra weight right now, which slows her down. And 'over the ground' means distance over the seabed rather than through the water. On a boat, the water moves with the tides and ocean currents, sometimes with you, sometimes against you. Today we mostly had tide with us rather than against us, so did more miles over the ground than through the water, which helps a boat get to its destination a bit faster. Here ends your nautical lesson for the day. No need to thank me.

Tiresome Tuesday 14th – Ushant to the Doldrums

Well not those Doldrums, the famous ones either side of the Equator where you can be becalmed for days on end. Just a mini-doldrum in Biscay, where the wind had dropped to a dead calm late on Monday night and we had been motoring through the night, all today and into Wednesday. To show you how calm it was, I decided to give the engine a rest and a thorough check, including tightening the alternator and water pump 9belts and changing the gearbox oil. Yeah, get me, Mr Mechanic all of a sudden, changing gearbox oil a hundred miles away from the nearest land.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight

Flat sea in the morning, doldrum warning

We started to get into a good routine during Tuesday, which was great since we'd got really tired. Teresa and I had gone through a bit of seasickness on the first day and this morning. Luckily our crew-mate Mark S was a tower of strength, taking extra watches at the helm to help us get through. As did his peanut butter on toast treats.

But motoring for hours on end over a calm and empty sea is a bit boring to be honest. Hence Tiresome Tuesday. But, the day was brightened up by our reward for getting to Ushant ahead of schedule – sausage sandwiches and generous helpings of jam and cream swiss roll with custard!

By the evening we were all feeling better and sat down together to have a dinner of Salmon and pasta. We were realising that meals together are a very important part of the routine and camaraderie of being a good crew, not just a way of fuelling the body.

Wearisome Wednesday – the Whale-ful Wednesday. Doldrums to the Continental Shelf

The Continental Shelf. Sounds like a supermarket shelf from the 70s where they put spiced sausage, smelly cheese and garlic. What it actually is is a bloody great cliff under the sea where the relatively shallow waters around southern England suddenly drop off by 4,000m into the oceanic abyss. And 'cliff' doesn't really do justice to just how big a drop it is: imagine three Ben Nevis' stacked on top of each other, think how tall and steep it'd look; well the Continental Shelf is taller and steeper. Am I getting across that it kind of impressed me?

Apart from the underwater topography, the thing that really impresses about the Continental Shelf is the wildlife. Wherever these features appear across the world, they push cold, nutrient rich food up into warmer top layers of the sea. And that feeds the wildlife. Right on cue, three big whales appeared about 3 miles to our right, then 5 medium sized whales, a dozen small whales, scores of dolphins of 3 distinct species and hundreds of seabirds.

Eating to keep morale high

So much sealife lifts the spirits, as do Bacon butties for lunch, scones for tea and Chilli and baked potatoes for dinner. And splitting the one and only can of beer on the boat between Mark and I to celebrate being closer to Spain than England. Yeah, we run a dry boat at sea – no booze to cloud our judgement or make us clumsy on deck. But we get right royally hammered when we get to shore, like all true British sailors!

Its a good job we had clear heads because during the night we had to cross a shipping lane. This means dodging ships that can be a thousand times bigger and heavier than Offbeat. Fortunately, they mostly go in straight lines along the shortest path from known points to known points, lining up like cars on a motorway. Unfortunately we have to cross that motorway at around 5 miles per hour – a brisk walking pace. Fortunately we have electronic collision warning gear on the boat that makes it a lot easier to judge which ship is a threat and which isn't than just by naked eye (which is good, because the ship that might hit you when you are crossing shipping lanes at a right angle is usually over the horizon and out of sight when you should start manoeuvring to avoid it!)

The Thursday Thrash – the wind returns with a vengeance and we get first sight of Spain!

The winds returned this morning – very light at first, just 5 knots or so, but enough for us to set all sail and turn the engine off. What a lovely moment that is for any sailor; the constant rumble and thud of the engine disappears, the unmitigated roll and lurch of the boat reduces, to be replaced by the quiet splash and gurgle of the sea and the inherent stiffness of the boat as the sails resist the effect of the waves. And then the wind increased, and then increased some more, as did the waves....

But before we get into that, a pod of Pilot Whales came close by us. These are very small whales – about the size of dolphins – and this was a family group with at least one youngster. One of the adults decided that Offbeat was too close and made very loud slaps with its tail, either as a warning to the rest of the pod or to us. It felt like a warning to us – a sort of 'right you, come any closer to my kid and there'll be trouble. Now just bugger off'.

As the wind started to build up during the afternoon we decided to heave to and get ready for a bit more challenging night. Heaving to is backing the sails so you pretty much stop still in the water. Its like pulling into a layby off a fast road to have a break. We checked the engine, ate a lovely early dinner (Moroccan Lamb(ish) – soya chunks marinated in lamb stock) and make plans for the landfall in Spain. Note for the sailors among you: the wind was North-westerly Force 4-5 at this point, and the forecast was Northerly up to Force 6. But only 50 miles from our destination was Cape Finisterre the forecast was Force 7, and near-gale warnings were being given. So, running downwind towards a rocky steep-to lee shore with strong winds. Not something you rush into nor without a Plan B.

We reefed our sails down before nightfall in anticipation of the winds strengthening, and altered course to take us away from the strong winds to our West. This took us away from our intended destination – A Coruna – and would add half a day to our trip, but also took us closer to an alternative destination – Gijon – in case the wind at A coruna was too much.

By 20:00 the wind and waves were getting pretty strong. Offbeat was utterly in her element though, cresting the waves comfortably, handling the wind gusts firmly. We instituted 1 hour watches at the helm. Anything longer was too tiring, both physically and mentally – the concentration needed to handle a yacht in strong winds and big waves is pretty intense. For the sailors among you, we were down to 2nd reef, 50 degrees off the wind and occasionally surfing down the swell at over 7kn. In the pitch dark – no moon, 80% plus cloud cover. Gulp!

Friday's Finale!

Around midnight we began to make out the glow in the sky of light from the Spanish shore and by 0200 the wind had reduced a little, making life a bit easier. By 0430 dawn was breaking on our last night at sea and the wind was moderating further so we resumed course for A Coruna. By now we could judge the wave height, the sea state and wind force better than in the dark. The wind was still Force 6 – quite strong – and the sea was full of breaking waves – white horses in sailor's slang. The swell from the north-west was 2m to 3m high, presumably driven by stronger winds to our West, with wind driven waves from the North (and later, north-east) were 1m, sometimes a little more. When these waves met, they built up peaks that were 3m to 4m high – well above Offbeat's gooseneck for those of you that know her. Quite a thing to be looking up towards from deep in the trough of the wave.

By 08:30 Teresa called 'Land Ho!' at the first sight of the Spanish mainland and we turned for a direct course to A Coruna, confident in our boat and ourselves. 

We dropped the mainsail and ran with both foresails wing-a-wing (the yankee poled out by the lee), creaming along at 5kn to 6kn, hitting 8kn occasionally as we surfed down the bigger waves. OK, I know that bit won't mean much to the landlubbers among you; all you need to know is that it was bloody exciting and I sent the crew below to prepare plans to enter A Coruna because there was no way I was letting anyone else get their hands on the steering wheel while it was this much fun!

OK, I relented and let Mark S have a turn at the helm for an hour or so before we reefed down to depower the boat – it was getting a bit too tasty as the waves were heaping up even higher and steeper where the 4,000m deep ocean floor suddenly rears up towards the Spanish shore. But with A Coruna getting closer and clearer all the time, we didn't let up on the speed too much, just cut out the surfing, but only after we were treated to one final sighting of a pod of Dolphins surfing the waves next to Offbeat! 

By 1630 we were 15 miles off A Coruna making excited phone calls to our loved ones.

We reached the shelter of the ria – A Coruna is located in a sort of loch or fjord, called a riar round here - and the wind and waves became reasonable. 

As we passed the Torre de Hercules – the oldest lighthouse in the world – and caught sight of the harbour wall, the mix of anticipation, nerves and tiredness on Offbeat was palpable. We were arriving in Spain!

At 1920 – twenty past nine local time – we berthed Offbeat in the Real Club Nautico, just as the sun was setting on a momentous day's sailing. Teresa opened a bottle of champagne that she had stashed away and we toasted our safe arrival, the boat that had got us here and ourselves as a tight crew and great friends.

Then we went out and got hammered.

Now let every man toss off a full bumper
And let every man drink off a full glass
And we'll drink and be merry and drown melancholy
Singing, here's a good health to each true-hearted lass
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues
from Spanish Ladies – a sea shanty

Flat seas and Fireworks

Tuesday 7 August to Thursday 9 August 2018

It was with excitement and anticipation that we set sail for Plymouth where we were meeting our crew for the first major crossing in our adventure. 

Both Mark and I were thinking the same. Crikey, it was getting real now and in a couple of days time we would be setting sail for Spain. 

Were we ready for such a journey? We still hadn't really put Offbeat through her paces as we'd had either no wind or very light winds on our journey so far. Mark was confident that she would be fine and as I trust his judgement, I was also confident in Offbeat.  

The other aspect of our impending journey was whether we were mentally ready to make that final step and leave England for what will be a good few years? We knew that once we get Offbeat to Spain, the likelihood of her returning would be very slim.

Mark was more than mentally prepared, he'd been waiting most of his life to do this and was very excited by the prospect of sailing his boat across Biscay.  I on the other hand was quite apprehensive as I felt I was leaving behind everything dear to me  and I did go through a bout of homesickness, missing my family and especially my grandchildren. But, with the help of video calling I managed to get through it.

So, with all this going through our minds, we headed out of Dartmouth early on Tuesday morning so that we could catch the tides to whisk us to Plymouth.

We had to put the engine on for the first part of our journey as yet again there was very light winds. By lunchtime the winds had started to pick up, but they were coming from the west and we were heading west so we decided to tack across the bay to get at least a little bit of sailing in.

The journey was quite uneventful, except for my first ever sighting of dolphins swimming alongside Offbeat. It was a truly amazing sight and at that moment in time I felt very blessed to have such a great experience.  Little did I know that it would be the first of many!

We reached Plymouth at about 16:30.  We had already decided which marina we wanted to stay in, so I duly called them to book a berth. I was completely dumbfounded when they said that we could only stay one night as tomorrow and Thursday night were the British Firework Display championships.  I couldn't believe it; we'd yet again managed to rock up at a place with a major event and had no clue. As someone who doesn't do detail unless I have to, I think there's a lesson to be learnt here!

Anyway, they managed to find us a space and with a bit of smiling and charm with the staff in the marina office, we were able to stay until we set off for Biscay.  Kurru, our Gambian friend, once said to us "it's nice to be nice" and we live by this mantra and it nearly always pays off.

Our dear friend Mark Sanderson, who was crewing for us arrived not long after we did.  Mark P and Mark S (I know, it's going to get complicated!) had worked together over recent years and struck up a friendship through their mutual love of sailing.  Mark S has completed the Fastnet race so we knew he was suitably experienced for the Biscay crossing and we were both confident in his ability to help and support us on this leg of our journey. 

After a few beers and a catch up, we headed into town for dinner.  We ended up in a curry house that was furnished like something out of a Bollywood movie.  Quite funny really, two rugged sailors in a garish restaurant with bright red and neon pink trimmings, but the food was good.

Wednesday was a busy day as there were last minute jobs to do on Offbeat: we had to finalise our plans for departure on Thursday and do a major food shop for the journey.  By this time, Mark had moved into Skipper mode and duly organised us and the jobs for the day. Luckily, I got the shopping job so had a bit of time in town although I have to say that Plymouth isn't renowned for its shopping!

Jobs all done, we regrouped back at Offbeat for more passage planning and supper. Weather was checked, the route was planned and plotted on the charts and programmed into our navigation tablet. With jobs for the day ticked off, we headed up to the marina for the firework display.

There's only one word to describe the firework displays WOW! In total there were 3 displays, each lasting about 15 minutes, but each one different.  Mark P captured a tiny bit on video so that we could share it with you.

It certainly was a night to remember and a great send off for Offbeat and her team.

D Day arrived and it was with excitement and apprehension that I set about the last jobs to be done before we headed off into the big wide world in the afternoon.  Mark was completely focused now on making sure that everything would be ready and ship shape before we slipped our mooring.  I have to say, he was a great leader and we we're starting to bond as a team.  I had a good feeling that I would be well looked after by the two Marks! 

Final checks were made, safety equipment was secured on deck and in the cockpit and life jackets were put on.  We had one last job to do before we left, which was to fill up with diesel just in case there was no wind in Biscay (ha ha we said to each other, what are the chances of that!).

So, with diesel in our tanks we sleekly slipped our mooring lines at 15:15 precisely and headed out into the English Channel. 

Sunday 19 August 2018

Steaming Trains and Sun Kissed Seals

Sunday 5 August to Tuesday 7 August

Noss on Dart was so beautiful we ended up staying a couple of days, with a promise to each other that we would spend a bit of time catching our breath before Plymouth and the big departure.

It just so happened that our pretty little marina was set in the midst of woods and through those woods came the Dart Steam train, blowing it's horn as it came round the corners.  We could see the steam through the trees and hear the horn from where we were moored, so we decided to go and explore.

Off we headed along the footpath into the woods where a local farmer had put up a sign saying ‘Beware Basking Adders’. We weren’t sure whether it was a sign intended to put people off walking through the woods or whether it was for real. Either way, we weren't taking any risks so letting Mark go first for a change, we proceeded with caution!

Walking through the woods, we managed to find a lovely spot to watch the train come through, although it did involve going off the beaten track and clambering through undergrowth (we'd forgotten about the adders by now!), clinging onto trees for dear life so you didn’t slip down the bank onto the track.

The clamber, scratches from thistle and slippery slide was worth both the view of our moorings and the view of the train coming through, with steam chugging and whistle blowing.  The grandchildren would love it.

With footage captured and feeling rather pleased with ourselves we clambered back up the bank. Hmm, have to say, going down was easier!

Back at Offbeat we had a restful day, just pottering around as neither of us could ignore the list of jobs that still needed to be done to make Offbeat ready for the Biscay crossing.

Just as we were going to settle down for dinner, there was a bit of commotion on the Pontoon.  Being nosey I went on deck to see what was going on. The local seal had turned up and staked her claim to the landing edge by the side of the Pontoon, which in itself was a sight to behold.   People were scurrying to get their cameras to take photos, but they needn't have rushed, she was there to stay.

Like a seasoned celebrity, Lady Seal turned from side to side whilst having photos taken.  This lasted a few minutes and then she got bored and started hissing at us. I can only imagine what she was saying in seal language! So, after being duly dismissed everybody dispersed and went their separate ways.

Next morning we were up with the birds and heading off to Plymouth, so with a twinge of regret at not being able to stay longer, we headed down the river Dart and back into the English Channel.

Sunday 12 August 2018

We didn't mean to go to sea!

Monday 30 July  to Sunday 5 July 2018

After spending a wet and windy weekend in Gosport, Mark announced that we needed to go to Port Solent as there were jobs needed doing on Offbeat and there was a marine superstore on site.

Oh dear, this was going to be expensive!

As the wind was still against us, we had to motor sail up the river to the marina.  Relatively uneventful journey except for going past the newly launched largest aircraft carrier in the fleet.  It was pretty impressive and was guarded by two police boats which got very twitchy when anyone went to close to them.

It was a very pretty marina and they just so happened to be celebrating their 30th birthday, so lots of flowers and bunting around the marina. The marine superstore was a 5 minute walk away from the boat so Mark was happy and I was happy as there was an abundance of cafes, restaurants and shops.

We even managed a date night, at the same place as the monthly Ferrari meeting.  It made for great people watching, especially at the end of the evening when the cars had to reverse out, there were some nervous glances exchanged by owners!

We ended up staying 5 nights, but there’s only so much Chandlery and shopping you can do (especially when you’re limited for space), so on Saturday 4th August we set of to Yarmouth on the Isle of White where we were going to stay overnight and head off to Dartmouth on Sunday.

It was a beautiful glorious day and we could see for miles. Unfortunately though there was no wind so we were under engine.

Coming out of Portsmouth, we turned right and headed towards The Solent.  After poodling along for about an hour, I saw something unusual on the horizon.  I couldn't quite make it out so got the binoculars out. To my utter horror I saw an horizon full of sails, thousands. It was only the start of Cowes week and we hadn’t realised it! Oh my was this going to make for interesting sailing.

I have to say, that I was rather disappointed when we arrived at Cowes and found that most of the yachts were halfway up river Itchen heading towards Southampton. Still, we got to see Cowes at her finest and managed to dodge the yachts still racing in The Solent. And no, we weren’t going to be able to stay in Yarmouth either.

So, what was plan B?

Whether it was a mixture of sun or exhilaration at being back on the water and moving, we came up with the idea of going straight to Dartmouth. Mark was on the helm, so I was charged with passage planning. Given that there was still no wind and very light winds forecast, we would have to motor most of the way, but should arrive at Dartmouth around 10am the next day.

So, minds madevupbwe steered a course direct to Dartmouth.

Sailing past The Needles was quite a sight to behold, given that they are such an iconic landmark, we felt as if we were truly heading west now.

Our first night sail together without any other crew was just magical. The sunset was stunning, the sea was calm and when the moon came out to keep me company in the early hours of the morning I felt at peace with the world.


I desperately wanted to see the sunrise, but after 4 hours on the helm I was done in so it was with reluctance I went below and slept.

When I awoke a few hours later, the sun was up and the views were stunning.  We had moved inland and we could see the Devonshire coastline. Even Simon the cat was happy!

Entering the river Dart was absolutely breath taking.  Having come from Suffolk we are used to pretty views, but these were something else.

Seeing all the little coves and houses set into the cliffs, together with the castle with a church as a backdrop are scenes that neither Mark or I will forget.

We headed further up the river, past the town of Dartmouth and the grand structure of the Royal Naval College towards our final destination of Noss on Dart where we planned to spend the night.

Gusts and Guests

Friday 27 July to Monday 30 July 2018

I know, I know, I’ve been very tardy keeping the blog up to date, but it’s been a busy few weeks.

After arriving safely in Gosport on Friday 27th, we secured Offbeat into her berth in the marina and sorted the admin with the marina office.  The wind was picking up a bit so we put the cockpit tent up, opened the beer and wine and settled down for a quiet evening.

Ha,ha. Little did we know the next Pontoon was where the party boat left and arrived from. Sitting having a quiet drink in the cockpit, we were rudely interrupted by the party boat arriving back with some very merry people on board, including Saffron who was struggling to make it down the pontoon in platform shoes with 25 knots of wind knocking her sideways! Her friends found it highly amusing and I have to admit it was entertaining watching them all disembark from the boat, in shitty weather conditions and steaming drunk.  I was also slightly jealous of their party trip, it looked as though it had been a good one!

After a bit of a restless night because of the wind, we were up and about relatively early as the first of our visitors were arriving.

Mark went off to do some washing and when he returned he was very excited. “Guess who I’ve just bumped into?” he says, “who?” says I, “”Robin and Dave Tonge are on Carina, moored up a couple of pontoons down”. For those that don’t know, Mark and I used to belong to Adastral Park Sailing Club and Robin and Dave are members and old friends. Carina is the club yacht and they were en route back to Levington Marina and had stopped in Portsmouth for a crew changeover. As they were staying the weekend, we planned to catch up with them on Sunday but it goes to show, you never know who you’re going to bump into when you’re on an adventure.

Jo and Dave, our first official guests arrived at lunchtime and in true Parker tradition, the first thing we did was to head to Portsmouth for food and alcohol. A few hours later we left the restaurant and thought it would be a good idea to go up The Spinnaker.

It just so happens that I suffer from vertigo and Jo hates heights, so I don’t know if it was alcohol or bravado, but we walked across the glass floor of The Spinnaker which gives a bird’s eye view to the ground.  Looking back, I cant believe we did it, but I'm sure there will be plenty more times on this adventure that I will think that.

If you haven’t been to The Spinnaker, it is well worth a visit as the views are spectacular and we could see Offbeat in her mooring in Gosport.

We had a lovely afternoon in Portsmouth with Jo and Dave and headed back to Gosport early evening for more drinking and eating.

It was with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye that we said goodbye at the end of the evening, but with a promise from them to visit ‘on the other side’ very soon.

Saturday night saw the strong winds arrive and whilst we had made Offbeat very secure, the constant pull on the lines was troublesome so early Sunday morning Mark got up and braved the elements to attach snubbers to the lines. It made life as comfortable as snuggling into your duvet in the middle of winter.

There is only one word to describe the weather on Sunday morning, Pants! Not only was it blowing a gale, it was pouring with rain too.

Hey ho, such is life living on a yacht, we had food to buy and a Chandlery to visit. The wind and rain was against us walking into town, but at least it blew us back to the marina with all our bags of shopping.

Sunday afternoon saw the second of our visitors that weekend when the lovely Robin came to visit for a cuppa. It was particularly special for Mark as he and Robin had spent many hours on Offbeat doing the refit and although we had said our goodbyes in Ipswich, it was quite fitting that we should bump into him at the start of our adventure and he would see Offbeat at her finest.

For me, I’d set myself the challenge of cooking a Sunday roast on Offbeat, her and my first one together. After a bit of thinking and planning, the dinner was cooked. Roast beef with all the trimmings followed by Apple crumble and custard.

Bit of a success I think!