Already Getting into Hot Water

This year’s plan is to go West and North and finally on Sunday, 3 weeks behind our original schedule, we were ready to go .

The first 100 miles (to Start point) is due SW so it was no surprise to find a solid 20 knots coming from that very direction, but if we waited 12 hours the wind was due to back SE for a while. The Sigma fleet were in Cowes for their Nationals (the first we had missed for years!) so we slipped in for a few hours and yarned with our friends and family before slipping out at 1800 to begin the journey. The wind had fallen light so we motored down the Western Solent and timed our arrival at Hurst just as the West going tide began. Better still our predicted SE wind came in at the same time, building to a pleasant 10 knots that had us speeding through the night and taking us just short of Portland Bill before it ran out. We still had an hour of West going tide so on went the engine and I handed over to Lynda secure in the knowledge that she would have an easy watch and we should be able get to Start point by the morning.

It wasn’t to be. An hour into her watch, the engine alarm went off and we were left rolling around in hardly any wind , just to the West of Portland. Moreover the tide was about to sweep us East and into the formidable tide race. Up went the spinnaker and despite the drizzle Lynda managed to eke out a measily 2 knots of boat speed, just enough to stem the tide for the moment , whilst I ascertained that the problem was reduced cooling water flow and a very hot engine. After a couple of hours the wind died completely and we were drifting back towards the race at ever increasing speed in the building tide . We discovered that we could keep the engine below the critical temperature if it was run at very low revs with all the covers off to maximise cooling, but this gave us little more than 3 knots in the disturbed seas off Portland . Still, this was a better option than washing back and forth through the race, or even worse, dropping an anchor and then having to retrieve 100 metres of anchor rode when the tide changed. We have done this in this area before , and the effort nearly broke our full racing crew of young men , let alone two old fogeys still suffering from the after effects of a nasty lurg.

Crossing Lyme Bay from Portland to Start usually seems to go on for ever. At 3 knots it was even more longwinded, but all things come to an end and at 1400 we chugged into Dartmouth to find that every cloud has a silver lining. Firstly, the marina boasts an excellent chandlery where I was able to purchase the wherewithal to put the engine problem right. Next , I was able to marvel at the wonderfully old fashioned pontoon ferry across the Dart; quite simply my favourite ferry in the world with its old wooden tug attached by the bow with a spring rope to each end of the pontoon, which it manoeuvres across the complex tides and traffic of the Dart with consummate ease . Best of all was the fact that our friends Keith and Stella have just bought a house in Dartmouth so we were able to spend a couple of days catching up , nearly a year to the day after we met in dramatic circumstances in the fog at the entrance to the Elbe.
Our final stroke of luck was a nice NW slant that whisked us to Scilly, nosing in at first light this morning to snooze, awaking to sunshine and the delightful realisation that we can potter around here for a few days until the weather suggests the next leg of our trip.

It’s great to be away again.

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