August 1992 - Ipswich to Falmouth

1 August 1992   Fox’s Marina, Ipswich
We motored out of Fox’s Marina and up the River Orwell to check the engine with the calorifier tank connected. Everything went OK.

2 August 1992   Fox’s Marina
We spent the day settling into the boat. There was provisioning to do and we kept re-arranging the contents of the boat. A simple comment of ‘I don’t like these in this locker’ would mean re-arranging two or three lockers - sort of like one of those sliding puzzles where you have one small space and have to move the sliding parts into a picture.

Brett is so weak that we have to carry him everywhere. We are very diligent about not using sea toilets in the marina so we have to keep carrying the poor child to the toilet block every time that he wants to go - which was a lot today.

Setting out at Last

3 August 1992   Fox’s Marina
My dad arrived to help us do sea trials and sail around to Brighton. Brett is starting to get better, and spent the day wandering around the boat yard getting into mischief.

4 August 1992   Fox’s Marina
Sea trial. We left at half past six in the morning, sailed out past Harwich and round to Woodbridge Haven for the day. It was only 10 miles up the coast, but it got us out of the marina and into the open sea. We picked up a mooring at Bog End, had lunch and then sailed back to the River Orwell. It was a very pleasant day, the boat’s equipment all seemed to work and I managed not to kill us all.

Just before we stopped for the day, we picked up a man who “swung” the compass. We had to be sure that the compass was showing the correct direction and not being affected by anything on the boat. We went out into the river and he set up an instrument on a tripod in the cockpit. He asked me to point the boat in this direction and then in that direction while he took bearings of landmarks on his instrument. After five minutes he said, ‘Fine compass this one, it’s perfect’. We took him back to the marina and paid him £80 for his services!

5 August 1992   Fox’s Marina to Levington Marina
Today was a bad day because I had to pay the bill at the Boat Yard. I argued about the charges on the engine rebuild because I thought that the engine overheating was their fault - they had their engineers on board for Christ’s sake. After much wringing of hands, Fox’s reduced the bill by about £1,000. I should have argued for more, but all I wanted to do was sail away from the bloody place. The final cost of buying and refitting the boat was £89,637, only £15,000 over budget!
Finally, with only 35 days sailing experience, my family and I slipped away from the dock at Fox’s Marina and headed for the open sea.

Well, actually, we sailed 4 miles down the river to Levington marina ready to go to Ramsgate tomorrow, but at least we had escaped from Fox’s Boat Yard and we were on our way!

6 August 1992   Levington Marina to Ramsgate
We left the marina at half past six in the morning and sailed out of the River Orwell. Our aim is to have a leisurely three week sail down to Falmouth, hoping to arrive at the end of August. We are very anxious to leave the country in early September, before the arrival of the equinoctial gales, which could make the passage across the Bay of Biscay too dangerous (for us anyway!)

Glenys was busy looking after Brett & Craig and I was rushing around, euphoric that we had finally started our great adventure. Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t at all fair to us and we had to motor most of the way.

I played with our auto pilot. It was an old Neco system, with an electric motor directly connected to the rudder quadrant. The modern auto pilots that I had seen at the boat shows were sleek, sexy designs that would interface to GPS and chart plotters to completely automate the steering of the yacht.

Not so with the Neco. The control panel is a frightening array of knobs on a black functional panel - no pretty ergonomic red buttons and LCD displays here. Labels such as Trim, Sensitivity and Rudder mark the knobs. I read the manual which suggested a complicated procedure to adjust the performance of the auto pilot, but the thing seemed to have a mind of its own. I eventually set all the knobs to their middle setting and we seemed to weave about a bit but at least headed in approximately the right direction. Anything is better than steering by hand!

We arrived at Ramsgate in the late afternoon, refuelled and cracked open a bottle of champagne - maiden voyage completed at last...

7 August 1992   Ramsgate to Brighton Marina
We left Ramsgate at four o’clock in the morning to catch the correct tide. I managed to navigate us safely through the sand banks of Goodwin Sands and we turned west by Dover.

We had a good 20 knot wind from the east which gave me a chance to set up our inner forestay and pole out two jibs. I have installed a new movable inner forestay, which is fixed about a foot from the top of the mast and comes down to a clamp on the deck at the foot of the baby stay. When we want to run downwind, I move the foot of the forestay out towards the front of the boat where it can be clamped tight. I have two sails with hanks - a storm jib and a No.3 genoa. I can pole out the roller furled Genoa on one side of the boat and a hanked-on sail out on the other side, so that we run down wind with two “goose wing” sails.

To my great pleasure, everything worked as designed, and we calmly sailed downwind. All we had to do was to sit there reading in the sunshine while the auto pilot took us to Brighton.

When we were about 15 miles from Brighton, the wind began to pick up from the South East. I decided to drop the twin running jibs and put up the main sail. Unfortunately, it took longer than I expected. By the time we had sorted out the foredeck, the wind was definitely blowing harder and we were rapidly approaching the overfalls off Beachy Head. We turned into wind to raise the main sail and I had my first lesson in apparent wind. We went from a pleasant 15-20 knot breeze behind us to a howling 25-30 knot near-gale as we headed up into the wind. To make matters worse, we had entered the overfalls, so we now had 6 foot waves breaking over the fore deck. I wasn’t a happy bear as I went forward to raise and then reef the main sail. I got wet through while the children hid behind the spray hood wondering what the hell was happening. After 10 minutes of chaos, we had the sail sorted out and thankfully turned back downwind. Amazingly, and magically, calm returned to Glencora and we had a cracking beam reach to Brighton.

Glenys spotted a dolphin and shouted out. We all dropped our books and rushed to the starboard side of the cockpit to stare in amazement at a school of about ten dolphins. I knew that they like to play under the bow of a boat, but I never expected to see them off Newhaven in the English Channel. I took the boys up to the front of the deck so that they could see the dolphins more clearly. We took loads of photographs, which inevitably came out showing dark, half submerged blobs. All too soon they decided to move on and we were left alone.

We went into Brighton marina and struggled to moor the boat on a 25 foot long pontoon. It took all my ingenuity to put ropes in the correct places to keep us in our berth with a third of the boat sticking out past the end of the pontoon.

8 August 1992   Brighton Marina
My Dad went home leaving a nice message in the logbook:

Many thanks for allowing me to be with you on your maiden voyage. Mum and I are very proud of you both and wish you and your family many happy years on Glencora.
Luv, Mum & Dad xxx.

He also left us a mystery package for the boys, but we decided to hide it and open it later.

As the day progressed, the skies became darker and it started to rain - we thought ourselves lucky that we had managed to pick a good gap in the weather for our sail down from Ipswich. By nightfall, we were in the middle of a spectacular thunderstorm with really high winds. I had heard horror stories of boats being hit by lightning and all their electrics being burnt out. I panicked and disconnected all of my expensive electronic equipment. I didn’t know whether it would help but I felt better doing something.

Nervously, we went to bed and tried to sleep with the thunder, lightning and rain pounding the boat. At  two o’clock in the morning, I was awoken by a terrific thump on the side of the boat. I leapt out of bed and, peering out into the driving rain, I found that we were being bashed into the yacht next door by the gale force gusts of wind. The wind had changed direction and my mooring ropes were obviously not in the correct places. Groaning, I pulled on my oilskin jacket and went  outside to brave the storm.

The wind was blowing us straight off the dock and there was a three foot gap between us and the pontoon that we were supposed to be alongside. The ropes were creaking and straining against the wind and the forces were such that I couldn’t pull the boat in by hand. Eventually, I hit on the idea of tying a rope to the pontoon and using our big genoa winch to haul us back to the pontoon. It worked! I retightened the other mooring lines, muttered an apology to the people on the next boat and collapsed back into bed.

9 August 1992   Brighton Marina
Rod & Beverley Hollands and Dave & Sue Marks from Feedback came to visit us. We went out for a short sail but it was very bouncy, making Beverley and Sue sick, so we went back into the marina.

10 August 1992   Brighton Marina
I caught a train back to Ipswich to pick up our car, which we had left behind, and drove to Carol’s house to drop off some things for storage at her house before continuing onto Ceris’ house in Cheshire.