Noel (Desmond) Morely and Brian Smith travel to the Isle of Mann in ‘Pilgrim’

Friday 14 June
The best laid plans etc. Our plan was to leave the Creek two hours before high water at about 9.30am. punching the tide to the mouth of the Medway to catch the flood along the North Kent coast down to Ramsgate or possibly Dover. As we waited for enough water to float Pilgrim the wind increased making the forecast look marginal. After some deliberation and yet another coffee and ‘kit kat’ in the club house, we decided to leave it a day and spend the time finishing off odd jobs. Not much progress made, but in the style of the gentlemen sailor their is
always tomorrow.

Saturday 15 June
The forecast was not much better than Friday, but we set off anyway at 11.00am. As soon as we had a little river space raised the mainsail from its NEW stack-pack. Slight hiatus as we sorted out the first reef and then with sails pulling well soon settled to six knots. In what seemed a surprisingly short time, reached Garrison Point and turned West to run down the North Kent coast. The wind began to increase to 15 knots, gusting to over 20 knots, and on a broad reach we tramped along at a steady 7 knots. After the Spile headed for the channel at Reculver and on an almost straight line course reached the Longnose buoy. As we rounded the North Foreland it
became very very rough indeed. At this point we decided our destination was Ramsgate, not Dover. Brian made one long tack out to sea until we had a good angle to tack back almost to the harbour mouth. I had the novelty of dropping the the main neatly into its NEW stack pack,
which was a change from wresting with tapes and armfuls of canvas. We then motored-in to battled the cross winds to nearest pontoon. Glad to be moored up we celebrated the start of our trip with fish n’ chips and a pint at the The Royal Pavilion. The casualty of the day was the masthead wind sender, which after beeps and strange readings gave up the ghost off North Foreland. The forecast for tomorrow does not does seem that good but we will see.

Sunday 16 June
Woke to squealing fenders as Pilgrim crushed them against the pontoon. High winds from the S/SW means no movement towards Dover for us today. Its seems we are storm bound and have to wait for the forecast for tomorrow.

Monday 17 June
The morning gave us the complete opposite of yesterday, absolute calm with hardly a breath of wind. We packed up quickly and although we had a few knots of wind against us it was a glorious bright sunny day motoring down the coast towards Dover. We had to wait at the East entrance yellow buoy for the ferries to clear, but were soon through to Granville pontoons. We were surprised to be in the old Granville dock, as the smart new marina looked complete, but it seems all work has stopped. A miscalculated on the degree of tidal swell has made the new marina pontoons unusable. This expensive mistake is now back with the designers. Three 60ft ribs of the Border Force are now stationed at Dover to combat the increasing flow of illegal immigrants crossing the channel in inflatables. There were two impounded inflatables moored on our pontoon that had carried 40 people. They appeared to be ex-military with new outboards and strewn with abandoned life jackets, some new and unworn. I think Brian showed too much interest in them,
because when we past again, boats, outboards and life jackets were gone.

Tuesday 18 June
Arriving at the Granville we did not realise we had gone through wide entry gates and these gates would be shut until 10am the next morning. This delayed our departure to the Royal Sovereign at Eastbourne, until 11.00am. The forecast was nondescript, variable winds 4 to 5, possibly 6 later. Possible heavy rain. It turned out to be almost flat calm with some following wind and no tidal assistance. We tramped along under engine and main at 6 knots arriving at the Royal Sovereign at 8.00pm just before being hit by extended period of torrential rain accompanied by the noise
and fireworks of an intense electric storm.

Wednesday 19 June
And it rained and rained all night. We started looking at our next move, wanting get in some longer hops, anything up to 100 miles in one go. At the moment the wind is all in the wrong direction. As we do not want to motor all the way to the Irish Sea, we need something with East in it and below force 6. This looks like Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So we stay at the Royal Sovereign until the winds improve for us.

Thurs/Friday 20/21 June
Bit boring waiting for wind.

Saturday/Sunday/Monday 22/23/24 June
Saturday gave us a forecast which seemed Ok. Not perfect, but OK. We left the Royal Sovereign lock at 11.00am and set a course for the St Catherines Head, the most southerly tip of the Isle of White. We had been hanging around Eastbourne for four days and were ready for a long run to Weymouth almost 100miles hundred miles or 20 hours away, which meant sailing through the night. As a one-off we did not intend running watches, but be up for the entire 20 hours. Initially all went well. A following light wind with all sail set gave us a constant 4 knots through the day. The increase in wind went unnoticed until it began getting dark, when it was a barely sailable force 6. It was too late to reef, but for all that were making good progress and thought the wind would die in late evening as it had done over previous four days. It was dark as we approached St Catherines Head and after a series of involuntary jibs, things were getting very unsafe. The best option was to get the main down into it’s stack pack and run on jib alone. I let go the main halyard at the cockpit, but the sail did not drop cleanly into its stack pack, so I clipped on and went to the mast to pull it down leaving it bagged, but unzipped. It was was very rough, but I got back to the cockpit safely. That is when we heard the thud as the goose neck gave way and boom rolled on its side onto the spray hood. Little to be done in the dark, so Brian secured it as best he could while I pulled out the jib and started the motor. In the darkness it was not clear what had broken so we needed to get-in somewhere safe to sort the rig out. Yarmouth was nearest, but the wind and tide would be against us in the Needles Channel and it was not on our route. Pool, more on our route, was the next option and the one we chose. The tide would be initially with us, the most comfortable and safer running under jib and motor. Sunrise was an ominous blood red sky, but we could at last see the problem. The heads of the rivets holding the goose neck had given way and the whole boom assembly had rolled onto its side, held by the stack pack and the solid kicker strut, which might or might not be bent. We eventually arrived at Pool at 8.00am. The damage had looked worse in the dark and on review we decided it could be fixed by renewing the sheered rivets. The solid kicker strut proved not to be bent and its strange angle was just the flexibility in its linkage. Feeling better that with repair our trip could continue, we went and had a full English at Witherspoon’s and returned to get some rest. I slept for four hours and was woken by Brian, the insomniac, knocking out rivets and aligning the boom. We had monel rivets in the tool kit, but no rivet gun. We had to wait until Monday when I found a local sailmaker who agreed to lone us a gun for a £5 donation to the RNLI and within an hour had Pilgrim back in business.
I pay every thing by plastic, but to pay the £5 donation to the RNLI I had to draw out £20.00 from a cash point. As I swung my leg over the wire to get on board Pilgrim, a slippery new plastic tenner dropped from my pocket into the water. A Swan thought it was food and hampered efforts to recover it with a boat hook. Soon out of boat hook range it began to drift across the moorings. Brian was determined he was going recover it, waited on the far pontoons with the boat hook, eventually managing to capture it as it floated by. Good result and he could feel satisfaction that he had stopped one more piece of plastic littering the ocean. All this was watched with some amusement by a couple in a Baveria moored alongside us. They proved to be from the Medway and kept their boat at Chatham Maritime. Small world.


Monday 1 July
While we waited for news about the sail, we had a full English breakfast at Yates Bar and used the free WiFi. The Marina offering is very poor, disconnecting after what seems seconds. I rang Sean who said the work was complete, and he would bring the sail from the Dartmouth loft to the Brixham club at 5.00pm where he was running an under ten’s sailing class. So that was the plan. We caught the bus and did a tour of the local villages, picked up the sail and bused it back.

Tuesday 2 July
Always easier to take sails off than to put them back. The only problem was the new slider was a little too tight for the foot bolt rope guide, but a little sanding had it sliding into the bolt rope groove nicely. It took the morning to reassemble the stack pack and get it back, fully adjusted and functioning. Not difficult just a little time consuming. On to the next problem. Torquay, like so many Marinas has no refuelling barge. It seems the regulations are now so tough and the amount sold so little, they all are giving up. We are mainly buying from car filing stations. A 10 litre can fits into my rucksack and not too heavy to carry, but amazingly filing stations are also becoming
less common near marinas. So reviewing the fuel situation is made daily. If the forecast wind fails to materialise and we are slowed to a point where we run out of tidal assistance the most disliked situation of all arises. The tide is against you and running on engine gives only 2 knots over the ground. Apart from being frustrating slow, it can also mean destination port entry is made in the dark. A stress we both dislike.

Wednesday 3 July
With the repaired sail fitted we set sail with a comfortable wind down to Start Point. In the past we have called in on Salcombe and Dartmouth, but leap frogged them in favour of Plymouth some 45mile on. Getting a little disappointed with absence of wild life, no seals, dolphin or whales. Last years we saw something interesting everyday, but never-the-less it was a good sailing day and we made Plymouth Sound in good time. We have been there in the past and always stayed at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina. We cruised around to look at the alternatives, but ended up at QAB anyway. It is very smart and shared with the Single Handed Ocean Racing Club. It is also home
to thousands and thousands of large mullet over a foot long. At times the waters are broken by the fish fighting over what must be a choice piece of weed. QAB was always good for Diesel, but the refuelling barge failed an inspection and was condemned at the beginning of the season, so it is off to the filling station with the rucksack. On past visits we have noticed an over-the-top Indian restaurant with an amazing interior of chrome, scarlet veiled chairs, blue led lighting and Bangera music. It seemed so extraordinary we had to give it a try and found the food much better
than the design of the interior.

Thursday 4 July
It was scorching day as we set off for Falmouth 45miles away. Initially keeping up 6 knots under sail for half the day, but the wind died during the afternoon and we were back to motoring with the tide giving us less and less advantage. We got into Falmouth Haven during the evening and grabbed the last alongside berth on the visitors pontoon. It was also the furthest away from the WiFi and showers. After a meal of soup, toast and cheese it was time for bed.