Category Archives: Solo Round Britain

singlehanded solo sailing around britain and ireland

Shore crew

Little has been said to date of the shore crew led by Erik Archer. Behind the Solo Round Britain endeavour I have a great group of guys  who are manning the six hourly safety check in calls. The team is led by Erik Archer who was integral to the Solo Round Scotland challenge back in 2006. Erik is supported by his 2IC Ken Pritchard who has been managing the rotas and getting info round the team. In addition I have the great fortune to have Fiona Fitzherbert-Brockholes (nee Campbell) as the weather guru providing weather analysis and forecasts.  See Fiona’s web site at http://www.skyeweather.com The full line up is:

Erik Archer Shore Boss

Fiona Fitzherbert-Brockholes

Ken Pritchard Edinburgh

Richard Marshall Perth

Kit Eatock Ullapool

Andy Freshwater Kincraig/Findhorn

Tim Walker Dumullie near Aviemore

Prior to the start of each leg Ken circulates the rota with time slots to each member of the team. Every 6 hours whilst on passage I make contact with the DSM by mobile phone if in range and if not by Sat Phone.

At the check in I confirm key stats that are recorded in the Shore Log that is then in turn circulated around the team.

On each check in I provide: Log reading, Wind Speed, Wind direction, Course over ground, speed over ground, Barometer, Position (Latitude and Longitude) sleep in last six hours, cumulative sleep in last 24 hours, sail plan and distance to run to next port.

In turn the DSM relay to me any weather updates or news from shore. It is also a great opportunity to share and concerns or thoughts with a friendly voice.

I cannot thank these guys enough as they’re manning the phones at unholy hours and giving up so much time. There are Cairngorms Beers a plenty waiting for you boys!

Broad Haven to Stornoway

Well this is the big one, 343 miles, mostly in open ocean and far off from help or assistance.

The two days in Broad Haven has allowed me to prep the boat for this trip. Off came the new mainsail and on went to old less powerful and easier to manage old Dacron mainsail. The old sail is so easy to reef and is much easier to manage in a blow. I also set up the sea anchor drogue on a bridle over the stern. Rather than use cleats as the anchor points to the boat I tied the lines around each aft beam. I had the brakes if needed. I also did a full inspection of all on deck fittings and anything I could lay my hands on. The deck was stripped of all unnecessary bits and stowed below. Below decks was packed up and stowed as best I could. We were ready for the ocean.

I slipped lines at 08.00 on Tuesday16th . I had 15-17 knots of wind from the south west, at last a following wind for Trade Winds to reach north. Out of the flat water of Broad Haven we picked up the swell and with sails set we were off on the 220 mile leg to St Kilda and I said goodbye to Ireland.

The day wore on with no real worries other than; how fast are we going? The miles passed by quickly as did the first day without seeing a single other sight of land. I had the full main pulling and the screecher deployed so boat speeds were up in the 8-9-10 knot arena and it was great sailing. At last Trade Winds creaming along under full sail doing what she does best. We devoured the miles. The screecher was dowsed for the night and as always cleared it off the deck for the night sector. It may be over precautionary to do this but I was and continue to play the percentage game at all times. Similar to a golfer always playing for the middle of the green regardless of where the hole is.

Night one passed without any incident and a grey misty day came in. I nailed St Kilda arriving 10 miles to the west and gybed in to round the rock. At about 4 miles off it was apparent that the mist was so thick that I would not even get a glimpse of the Scottish outpost. I laid a course to the Flannan Isles but it was soon apparent that such a course was dead downwind and was not ideal sailing angle so I came up 10 degrees to fill the jib knowing that 40 miles on I would need to gybe back to go north of the Flannans. All the while a grey rolling swell barrelled up behind us and sent us onwards. The wind as hovering around the 19-20 knots mark and with a reef in the main and jib we remained in the comfort zone. The Flannans were passed without seeing them and onwards to the Butt of Lewis. T was a long hard night as the winds hit 25 knots and sat mostly around the 19-20. It was not on the edge but all the time I was depowering and allowing the sea to roll through and under Trade Winds rather than try to surf on down the front of waves. There were the odd time that I succumbed to speed freak mind-set and hardened up a notch on a wave for speed then set way down the face of it causing that lovely vibrating sound as boat creams off down a wave with spray flying from the bow and leeward float.

Another day came in and the light came into view. The wind had perked up at time but again running with the wind and sea brought some great boat speeds with a top of 12.6 recorded. The Butt Light was abeam at 06.00 on Thursday 18th and I was heading south. A great feeling came over me as I was now truly heading home; it seemed so long since I saw that bearing as I left Lerwick.

The day rolled on and my southerly friend of the last two days remained in place as forecast by Fiona and he now became my challenger. As the day wore on the wind perked up to offer me a 20knot beat over the last 40 miles to Stornoway. I arrived in port at 14.22, hot frazzled and tired, 2 and half days after leaving Ireland. The marina was full so Erik’s efforts to secure me a berth had come to no avail however moored up on a trot of boats were two boats from Loch Broom Sailing Club so I tied up alongside, friendly known faces at last.

Broad Haven

Broad Haven was always going to be a pit stop before the trip north. I had made no plans with any local running groups other than an email that had gone unanswered by a Sligo running club.

IMGP0759IMGP0762IMGP0769I set off on my run not knowing where I was going and made for the lighthouse at the head of the bay. From there I tracked round the coast line of stunning cliffs and drops and back through a farm and back to Bally Glass. To my absolute delight I was 80 meters short when I got back to the slipway. How lucky was that, or perhaps the old body clock had something to do with it.

I then took a lift from a couple of lads back form a day’s fishing and made for the Board haven Hotel where I swam, showered , ate and drank. I returned to Trade Winds by taxi via a garage where I replenished petrol and vital fresh food supplies.

The following day it was all jobs aboard and getting sleep in for the next couple of days at sea.

Dingle to Broad Haven

A flat calm misty start gave way to a nice sea breeze giving a beat out of the sea loch. As the wind evaporated it left me with a waft to get passed the Blasket Islands. It was on with the engine to get moving and to navigate the rocky shore and outlying rocks.

IMGP0715 _IGP0820The Great Foze was left to port, for another day perhaps. It appeared out of the mist and more to my worry where was its little mate Little Foze. Sure enough he appeared out of the mist and relieved that all was well with plotter and location of the hard bits I struck out north on a lifting westerly breeze. Sailing due north  on a close reach for two hours was great and I was happy to on a straight line to Broad Haven however all that was to change and as forecast the wind went north. The whole of the night and  following next day was a beat to windward, I was not having fun. What I did nt expect was the wind strength that came I that evening. By 14.00 on xxday I had 18 knots of wind coming from the north east, where I wanted to go,  and right on the nose. By 18.00 hours it was up to 20 knots over the deck with an apparent wind of 25 knots, I was down to two reefs n the main and 50% jib. The sea stare was hellish with our chop back and I just hated it. I can say that it was looking towards an evening of beating my head against a wall of a north breeze that made me look seriously at the option of bailing out and running back to Dingle. For two pins I could turn and run and it was only after a chat with Erik where he had to deal with a real whiner and I must admit at that point defeated sailor.

_IGP0823The option of running back to Dingle would have effectively finished the challenge as form there it would be too difficult to get going again and muster shore support and of course time off work. The choice was made to keep going as having win 140 miles it would be such a shame to toss in the towel. It was then that a text tinged in. Mobile signal was in and out and when a faint signal connected with my phone I could get random texts, some sent hours ago. The text was from my youngest daughter Katrina who is in a dance troupe on Ventura, a P&O monster cruise ship. Her word shook me and moved me. Irrepressive youth has a great effect when needed and I needed it right at that moment. We managed the exchange a couple of texts over the next 30 mins that did more to bring me back into focus and just get on with things. I am not sure Kat will ever know what effect these few words on a phone screen had on me.

The other highlight of this phase was a visit from a rather be-draggled looking homing pigeon that landed on the deck. At 37 miles out form land she was clearly well and truly lost! Happy with some cake and BIG drink of water she disappeared in the night and I hope she made it home but I doubt it.

IMGP0725IMGP0728Two hours later the wind dropped and I was in for a 15 knot breeze beat into the dark night which by dawn had drifted away to less than 10knots. It was drifty time again and will full ails unreefed it was slow motion passed islands and that great moment when I freed off the course for a beat to a reach along to Mullet peninsula. Within three hours I was entering the Broad Haven bay and under blue skies and stunning sunshine picked my way passed the moored lifeboat to find a mooring.

IMGP0749I called Gerry Riley who I had spoken to on a couple of occasions about a mooring and sure enough he said to use one of the big private bouts. I hooked onto a monster warp fit for Katrina’s cruise ship. Trade Winds was secure in Broad Haven and I was an happy man. After a quick tidy up above decks it as time to crash and sleep. The sleep was in deed deep and restorative. At 15.00 I made for the shore in the dinghy and set off on my 10k run.

 

Dingle

From the very first moment of pulling into Dingle Bay on the Solo Round Britain Challenge there was a feeling that I was going to enjoy the place. The natural harbour and sunshine made it most welcoming and attractive. I picked my way through the buoyed channel,  that had rehearsed many times on charts and screen over the months before,  and entered the harbour. No need for the lonely search as the Harbour Manager Peter Oregan was standing on the pontoon waving me over the long visitor finger.

IMGP0655

I slotted Trade winds in between two big cruising yachts and we shook hands. Peter gave me all the info about the marina, shower pass codes and gate security arrangements. We also had a chance to share an opinion on O’Driscol being dropped for the last Lions test, neither of us really had a theory. This was the start of a remarkable stop over.

Having settled in and showered I was approached by a couple on the pontoons, Gary and Caroline Delaney who advised that Colm O’shea had some terrible family set back and that would not be about and the he, Gary would try to help get things sorted. Well that was the start of a string of events that led to local kids on the street collecting during our 10k run, the West Kerry Fitnes guys Sean and Mark organising the 10k run. We laid a plan for the next day and I headed into town and found the first pub, John Mannys and ordered stew pie, waffles and ice cream and also despatched two pints of Guinness.  As evening came in the harbour took on another life with kids coming to row, paddle and sail. It was great to see so many young people getting out onto the water. The speed and power that some of the curraghs were being propelled by four young girl crew members was impressive as was the technique. Each stroke was very long and right at the end to the pull there seemed to be an extra ‘tug’ transferring that final power down into the water. Standing chatting with Gary and Caroline I was introduced to Eddie who built the Curraghs and in conversation announce that he has a boat in the Vatican that he made for the Pope.

The following morning it was all go, we met at 9.30 and Gary took me on a trip around Dingle and then drover the few miles that offered stunning views north over Dingle and south. Back in Dingle we had breakfast at the Goat Street café and met owner Laurence who I told has on her menu the best omelette ever.

IMGP0686IMGP0689

After that we picked up some plastic tubs from he Reel Fish takeaway and headed back to Gary’s house where he and I made up a dozen collecting buckets and labelled them up. I decided that all donations should go to Parkinson’s’ Ireland. After that it was back into town.

By now it was the middle of the day and it was time to catch up with some blog etc. and to get some jobs done around the boat, the temperature continued to soar. I also had the pleasure of meeting Chris another member of the SC who invited me to have a steak with his family after the run, there was a condition that we had a swim in the sea before dinner.

IMGP0699IMGP0709IMGP0702

At 5pm we had ten youngsters assembled, each wearing day-glow tops and each with a bucket to shake buckets at street corners. We had x together for the run and we set off at a sedate pace to run the town. We looped and back tracked around and through Dingle handing out the A5 fliers to people as we passed them and at strategic street corners the kids were shaking their buckets like mad. What a team effort! We completed the run and reassembled at the marina. Thanks to all involved and after a general warm down chat Chris took me away for our swim. I have not swum in the sea for years and must admit to being a cold water wimp. We motored over the Ventry Bay and went to the old pier. It was alive with youngsters jumping off the pier ends and other paddling around in the warm incoming tidal waters. I joined Chris with a little reluctance and was pleasantly surprised with the water temperature. We were joined by Chris’s wife Jenny and their two great kids Hillary and Adam. After our not so bracing swim Chris and Jenny gave me a great steak salad dinner and enjoyed their company and the antics of Adam who is a dead keen sailor and wee Hillary who can be best described as a live wire. Question from Hillary at dinner: ”Mum how does life keep going? “Answers on a postcard please.

IMGP0711

Chris took me back to the boat and I settled down to get a good sleep before departure with the tide the next morning at 10.00. Before bed I struck up a conversation with Bruce and Barbara on Beejeezus, a Beneteau on the next berth. Unprompted they offered a generous donation and on hearing it was to go to Parkinson’s Ireland Bruce offered up they know someone with Parkinson’s. I really do hope their Euros’ are the ones that make the vital difference to funding  research that finds the answer to rid us of this infernal disease.

Dingle had been another dimension to the challenge where I had a glimpse of a community and enjoyed some very special company.

Ireland ahead

The 277 mile trip from Falmouth to Dingle on the Solo Round Britain passage plan was remarkable for many reasons and time here in Dingle before I must get sorted for the run this evening will keep this entry short.

Falmouth to the Scillies was a dream sail with Trade Winds reaching freely and in her element. On rounding Bishops Rock and making a course for the Fastnet I had an average speed of 7.7 knots, not bad! After freeing off the cross the TSS at right angles I set a course for the long sail over the Irish waters, not before making a note to myself that Bishops Rock and England was now aft of Trade Winds.

 

_IGP0768

The sail was without incident other than a couple of bleeps on the AIS, yet another stunning sunset.

_IGP0758On queue The Fastnet appeared on the horizon and it was when it was abeam that the wind dropped away and I  was in for a drifty and challenging evening. The wind died to a zephyr but being light Trade Winds managed to keep making way on the slightest t of wafts. I had a stunning three hours of making headway on smooth seas with a strange sort of ‘movement of atmosphere’ rather than breeze on the face.

_IGP0796

In glass flat water in 4.7 knots of true breeze we had an apparent of 7.5 knots and that allowed us to silently smooth our way ahead at 4.1 knots. That however ended after and for a spell of three hours I motored in .6 knots of wind. The impressive  Great Skelling came into view in the dawn grey and we moved into a hot morning of lifeless smooth seas.

_IGP0804

 

The breeze dropped again and I succumbed to the engine to make way. Two hours short of Dingle a little breeze picked up and I immediately regretted having tidied away the screecher, mainly because I was bored and ad wanted to do something other than sit and listen to the engine drone on and on.

_IGP0789

The leg was a big one, not just in  distance but was on paper and in my mind a big ask of me and the boat. I had cracked it and all the planning, worry and concerns over horrid seas and weather were consigned to the bin. The easterlies and sun that had been the case could not have been so perfect even if ordered. This was a key leg; done and completed with no damage to boat or crew other than my now regularly bloodshot eyes.

IMGP0642

At 14.00 entered the mouth of Dingle harbour and tied up alongside, met by the ever helpful Marina Manager Peter who was on hand to take my lines and that was the start of an unforgettable visit to Dingle.

Falmouth

My stop at Falmouth was the last one in the company of the Cairngorm Brewery support team of Donna and Ed. Having two friendly faces on hand at each port, not forgetting the other Donna at Blyth and Lowestoft has been a life saver. Having the van has also saved my bacon with getting sails to sail lofts and trips to supermarkets but having the guys on had to help strip and re-rig sails and even forestays has been invaluable. Anyway, Falmouth was the first stop over with NO maintenance issues, so it all about chilling and getting set up at the Front Bar pub for the beer tasting and 10k run.

I arrived at the mouth of the Fal in pitch dark so it was a full concentration required to navigate the channels to the marina. Having safely worked my way on through the flashing nav lights which at night completely distorts the size and scale of a place.  I set about finding a space in what was a busy marina. After a nervous 15 min tour of a still, silent and sleeping marina I pounced on a free berth. Tied up I called Richard to close the log and crashed out into a deep sleep but not before a wee dram of Jura had crossed my lips.

IMGP0616Great thanks also to Mark at Port Pendennis Marina who hosted Trade Winds stay at Falmouth. It’s a busy marina with people queuing up to get in plus they had a big regatta that weekend so greatly appreciated the free berth and hospitality.

Next day dawned slowly and after meeting up with Donna and Ed we had a look around town.

Being in Falmouth I could not miss a trip to the National Maritime Museum and it did not disappoint. Great building and inner space with a really creative approach to displaying boats hanging from the vaulted rafters on wires that you can study in detail on the ramped walkways. Must also mention the great guides who were on hand to answer questions and had just the right level of interaction and did not try to crowd you or bombard you with all that they knew.

Mark Evans at the Truro Hash House Harriers was just great in helping to plan the run but with all the chopping and changing of dates and times because of my delays and due to other competing club events it was just Mark, Kev and myself that took on the mad run in 30 degrees around Falmouth. It was hard going but rewarded by some great views of the town and coastline. The route took me out to Swan Pool and back by Pendennis Castle, but boy was it hot.

IMGP0626

IMGP0631Run done, it was time to chill, literally so headed back to the boat for a kip and listened on the radio to the frantic and jingoistic commentary of my fellow Dunblane man Andy Murray win Wimbledon. It was also time to get ready for the departure. Ed and Donna left for the mammoth drive back to Aviemore, a trip I did not fancy myself, would rather sail back.

 

 

IMGP0620Late that night the familiar shape of Smithy with Di and Dave Broadbent appeared into the marina. They were on their way to the Scillies; the last I saw of Dave was him heading off in search of petrol. So Falmouth was over and it was all eyes on Ireland the following day.

Poole-tastic

Poole

What a place, what people? There is not much time before I get ready to head off tonight for Falmouth on the next leg of Solo Round Britain, so, the Poole update is a list of events that will give a flavour of my time here in this wonderful place.

IMGP0571

 

Tuesday: Van over to Banks Sails to collect the wounded mainsail. Met Daryl the ace man and he showed me the fix he had ‘engineered’ to the head of the sail. Darryl refused to take anything for the fix!

_IGP0668

Back at the boat and attempted to strip jib off headsail but the split in foil would not allow sail to slide down so it was up the mast and dropped the whole sail furled on the forestay. Connections, connections through Daryl brought Harry James into play and Harry was on the case and agreed to come over on Wednesday to look at things.

John Binder of Poole Boat Quay Haven could not have been more accommodating with complimentary berthing and just being on hand to help with anything. What people!

Evening and few beers and plan for the busy following next day.

Wednesday: We unfurled the jib to reveal the damage to the foil and Harry and Les arrived on site. The big bonus was that the sail was intact! After a quick assessment it was clear the original assembly by a rigger in inverness (no names) was short on what was required. Harry and Les broke down the whole Harken foiling system and rebuilt it from scratch. During this it was found that the forestay was kinked and required replacing and it was vanned over that afternoon.

IMGP0582

IMGP0579

 

 

 

Jenna and Jodie from Globaltelesat, sponsors of the Sat Phone came to check out some technical glitches and it as good to meet Jenna having been in email contact for so many months.

IMGP0575

 

Meanwhile old mainsails was stripped off boat and readied for our van. So, on the pontoon we had a forestay and furled being assembled, a rolled carbon jib ready to go back up, a repaired new mainsail and the old sail ready for the van. Di brought me the most stunning lemon drizzle cake. A boat without a decent cake is not worth sailing on!

At 17.15 we had to go, there was a 10K to run. At 7.05 just as Andy Murray was finishing off his challenger we were off with the Wessex Hash House Harriers for a thoroughly entertaining run. 10k done it was into the Old Bush Pub for some beers and a curry. Thanks to Mr Beaky and all the Wessex 3H for being so friendly and welcoming us. Thanks also to David from the local Parkinson’s’ branch for coming along and giving me a Parkinson’s’ UK T shirt to run in.  What a great bunch and as per tradition in a has I did not escape a down -down

IMGP0600IMGP0586

 

 

 

Donna, Ed and I cleared off at 10 and when we arrived back at Trade Winds to find that Daryl had been on site and amended his rebuild after conversation with Harry.

IMGP0567

Thursday; up the mast to reload the new forestay and furled kit and then rig the jib and rig the mainsail to the boom and fit to mast. Many thanks to Dave and Di who came up with a prop to help with the hoist. Jobs almost done, then it was time for Donna and Ed to head for Falmouth. Easy lunch aboard, final passage planning and rest before the next leg.

Poole has been a revelation; stunning place I only wish I had time to explore, great service levels in pubs and cafes and above all people who are just so helpful and supportive of Solo Round Britain. Last big thanks to John Binder for his complimentary berthing of Trade Winds in ‘high season’.

IMGP0564

 

And one further moment to treasure. Rodney Pattisson, double Olympic Gold medallist; 1968. 72, Silver medallist 76 and four times world champion – and boyhood hero came to visit Trade Winds. He imported her and was her first UK owner!

IMGP0573

The visit cannot miss out John Binge. A lovely old gent who takes photos in and around the Quay. John took shots and then very kindly gave me a canvas print of Trade Winds in Poole. Now that will have pride of place when I get home. Thank you John!

 

Brighton to Poole

Brighton to Poole

It was inevitable that I was going to face a beat to Poole as the continuing westerly’s were bringing in a 12-14 knot breeze. I set off at 5am and settled into an easy beat in relatively flat water. The sun was up the tide was with me and spirits were high. I even sent a text to Erik and Ken the leaders of the shore team commenting on it being a pleasant beat!
The day wore on the chop built and by mid-morning it was business as usual of steering Trade Winds through the waves to avoid the alarming banging of underside of the forward section slamming against the wave. At 10.05 I was buzzed by a helicopter that circled overhead and then shot off to the mainland. Apart from that it was a working day getting the boat to windward.

The day wore on and at 11.03 I spotted the Isle of Wight for the first time and felt that progress was being made. However the tide I had enjoyed for the last few hours was to turn and I knew I was in for some tide bashing off IOW.

_IGP0659

BY mid-afternoon the wind has lifted to a good 19 knot breeze meaning it was 22knots plus over the deck with gusts to 26 knots. By now I was had two reefs in the main and when I went to reef the jib I noticed that the furling foil had split as it had at Lerwick but this time it was at the top joint. The air was blue as I cursed and I carefully I furled the sail so as not to catch the cloth on the edge of the split foil. Conditions were not pleasant for a good three hours or so as I bashed into wind and wave and had the tide streaming against me.
IMGP0559
Three of four one hour tacks took me hardly any distance to windward and it was beginning to get to me. With 8 miles to go, straight upwind to clear St Catherine’s Point and with foul sea state I called Erik to consider baling out and running off to cover on IOW. After a measured conversation and the fact that the tide was due to turn we agreed to carry on. I was concerned about wind against tide off St Catherine’s Point which added to the now considerable levels of stress. I had been on the go now for 12 hours and with the latter few being a real effort and battle.

I cleared the headland and right on cue the tide flicked round and I was off down the south shore heading towards the Needles at 8 knots.

_IGP0664

I was now looking at a beat up to Poole. The evening wore on and by 23.00 the wind was getting very light. Contemplating a night time entry to Poole with it being the first time in the area would not be an automatic preferred introduction but there it was. However near midnight the VHF crackled into life, Di and Dave Broadbent on the F31 Smithy had sailed out to meet me. What a welcome and what a relief. By now the breeze was all but gone but I hung on and managed to ‘waft’ Trade Winds to the start of the small ships channel in Studland Bay. I was in and with great relief the engine was started up and I followed my private pilot escort into Poole and around Brownsea Island. We picked our way through the myriad of navigation marks and flashing buoys and tied up Pool Quay Boat Haven at 01.44 with 119 miles on the log on what should have been an 80 mile sail. I was tired but delighted that the conversation with Erik had allowed me to square matters and together we had made the right decision. The shortest leg (other than the sprint over form Stornoway to Ullapool)  had pushed me close to opting out for safety reasons, for reasons to protect the boat but the main reason being that the circumstances had nearly won over me. However I was in Poole and in the very capable and welcoming hands of John Binder at team at the Poole Quay Boat Haven

PENTAX PICS

Here are some random images from the trip so far|

image

 

 

 

 

North Sea

image

 

 

 

 

image

 

 

 

 

 

image

image