Showing posts from 2016

Over to Victoria

As the last post hinted we have a change of plan for the summer. 
We won't be sailing all the way to the Brest Festival in Bonify as originally planned. Instead we are getting our smaller older gaffer Victoria ready to travel there by road.
So Bonify is resting and I've started up a new Blog for Victoria which if you haven't already seen it you can find here: - hope to see you there!

Out to grass?

Not our best ever night at anchor despite the idyllic setting:

1am - We are woken by the harsh metallic grating of chain on chain as the bobstay (under the bowsprit) saws away at the the anchor chain. The wind has got up a bit since those calm photos of the sunset last night. We get up and Howard brings the bowsprit in while I watch him from the cockpit. 
Back to bed.

3am - More sound effects, this time it's anchor chain dragging along the bottom under us. The anchor itself hasn't dragged but the wind is strong enough to blow us back over the top of the anchor and Howard notices that we are now in less than 2m of water - and the tide has 3m to fall. We have no wish to wake up later aground on a sandbank so something has to be done. We don't fancy upping anchor and moving in the dark (in our dressing gowns) so Howard has the bright idea of streaming 2 buckets out astern. They act as drogues and are enough to allow the tide to pull us back to where we should be despite the effo…

Ramsgate to home waters - Sat 4th June

Our Facebook page announced that we had made Ramsgate and friends were kind enough to send "welcome home" messages. It is certainly a psychological boost to have crossed the Channel (or North Sea) and be back in England but there remains one more significant hurdle before we can really claim to be home and that is the Thames Estuary.

There are sailors in the south of England who nip back and forth to France without a care but who speak in hushed tones of North Foreland with its rough waters and the Thames with its strong currents, sandbanks, gutways and wind farms.
And the forecast today, whilst fair in all other respects, does include the threat of fog banks.

At 10.30 am it is indeed very bumpy off North Foreland and the visibility decreases considerably until the ships anchored in the Margate Roads are only visible at very close quarters. We have electronic data (via AIS) and we have the radar but it is still very reassuring when the fog lifts and we have a proper horizon.


Back to Blighty - Friday 3rd May

This film “Dunkirk” had better be good. We hung about until 3pm waiting for the tide and then once we had cast off and were heading out we were asked by 2 chaps in a dory (scrupulously politely it has to be said) whether we'd mind just hanging around for 10 minutes while they filmed some sequence involving 2 warships coming slowly into the harbour. First the warships had to get out of the harbour which meant waiting for some big commercial traffic and then there was some continuity problem involving visible plastic (as far as we could make out on the VHF) so that the ships had to approach in the opposite order to that envisaged...

Anyway I got some close-ups of the hospital ship and of cheerful WW2 characters waving and saluting before we finally got clearance to leave at 15.45 (as quickly as ever we could, pretty please).

Once free we bounced out of the harbour and motor-sailed along in between the sand banks as far as Dunkirk West. We passed another gaffer going the other way and t…

Operation Dymano – Thursday 2nd June

When Mike put in to Dunkirk last week on his way to Ostend he was greeted by gunfire and smoke. His first thought was that the port was under attack by terrorists but a Spitfire being closely shadowed by a helicopter didn't quite match that interpretation and he soon learnt that in fact they are making a film here about the evacuation in 1940. On our arrival yesterday there were WW2 troops lined up on the breakwater and a hospital ship painted white with large red crosses lying alongside – no doubt the film, whenever we catch up with it, will shed some light on what was supposed to be happening.
The wide grey yonder marina is bustling (or bristling) with WW2 gunboats and state-of-the-art catamaran work boats rigged with complex camera equipment. Long-haired Americans with bandanas huddle in groups discussing camera angles and cursing the lighting (or so we imagine). Well, they might in fact be English, but there was definitely one long-haired American with a bandana.

There's even…

The wide grey yonder - Wed 1st June

Not a very pleasant trip south today - this is not why we go sailing, although, on the bright side, at the end of it we are pleased to be in a different port.
Early forecast says "North 4 or 5 then 6 or 7 later". So instead of waiting till the afternoon for a favourable tide we decide to get moving and, after locking out and waiting (ages) for clearance to leave the port, we motor out into the swell at the harbour entrance at about 10am. Only 10kts of wind to start with and visibility not as bad as it was in the dock. One reef in the main and both head sails until the wind picks up. Our speed through the water increases to over 7 kts so we need less sail. Howard clips on, makes his way to the foredeck, furls the jib and then wrestles another reef in. It would be easier if we hove to but we do it without changing course. Sorry - no photos of this action on the lurching deck as I need both hands for the tiller while he does it, and anyway there's too much spray. It's qui…

Still in Ostend - Tuesday 31st May

Yes, still in Ostend.This seems to happen every year we come. It's blowing 6s and 7s in the wrong direction whichever forecast we look at, and we do try a few to find one we like.
My only photos of the day show the dreary conditions:

We hope to head south to France tomorrow and friends have various plans for an early start to get their boats home to ports in the Netherlands. So it's a more subdued dinner together on the old sand barge T'ai (great hospitality!) before an early night.

Party's over, Ostend - Monday 30th May

Back to real life with a jolt now the party's over – it's a grey rainy windy day, forecast no good for going anywhere and the talk is all of when might we be able to leave and where might we head to. We'd like to head straight back the 75 miles to Harwich from here but our course will be 310 degrees and that is pretty much where the winds are coming from – and with some force. Our Belgian gaffer friend Ed wants to get “Drum of Drake” back to home base at Nieuwpoort today despite the conditions so Howard volunteers and 3 of them head off into the cold wet blast. It's only 10 miles and they complete the trip in a rather bumpy 2 hours with winds of 30 knots and minimal sail.

By early afternoon Howard is back (by car) but not before I have managed to commit us to hosting dinner for 11 on board Bonify. I'm not going to cook it as Sotra will be the kitchen vessel, but in this weather we are the best boat to be the gaffers dining room with seating for 9 in the cabin and 2 m…

Festival Day 4 – Sun 29th May

We finally managed to enjoy some of the live music sitting with a beer in the sunshine. Sunny again! Must be a record. A lot of sea shanties we know and a few we don't, and then we had good seats to watch the parade go by. We didn't see the marching band for the crowd in the way but had no trouble seeing what followed.

One hour before the festival was due to end the skies opened (my fault – I was wearing my Monsoon jacket again) and the public disappeared as if by magic. We lurked in a bar (hardship!) until there was a lull and then made it back to Bonify just in time to join in with the chorus of ship's whistles which closes the event.

Dates of next year's Oostende voor Anker: 25th to 28th May.

Festival Day 3 - Sat 28th May

A third sunny day so it's going well for the organisers. Hundreds of visitors milling round on the quay and on the pontoons; the food stalls and bars are doing a roaring trade and the live music is well attended.

We have a quiet time on Bonify as most visitors to our pontoon are more impressed with the “Mutin” opposite – she's a lovely huge old French sailing yawl of a type called a “Dundee” and she's run by the French Navy for cadet training. The boat is quite a draw, and the uniforms too.

There's a 2 hour “Happy Hour” every evening for crews of participating boats on board the Hydrograaf – another lovely ship, once the royal yacht of the Dutch royal family. I'll spare blog readers my poor photos which don't do justice to the excellent meals we have shared on friends' boats and likewise the blurred photos of happy drinkers including ourselves in various boats and bars – we'll leave it to your imagination.

Most of the crew of the “Mutin” join in the crew …

Festival day 2 – Friday 27th May

We have a bone to pick with Navionics. Ostend had some major construction work some years ago to create the 2 big new breakwaters in the picture above – the old pierhead is on the right. We have a paper chart (or as some might say a PROPER chart) dated February 2015 which shows this new configuration and the new buoyage but the update to our electronic charts, purchased at some expense only weeks ago, shows only the old twin piers. What other updates might be missing? Dare we assume this is the only error on our electronic chart?

Castles in the sand There's the beach (above), and then there's special sand for sculpting – an exhibition is being prepared here but almost more interesting is to watch it taking shape. We glimpsed through the windows a busy sandy scene looking for all the world like something from Ancient Egypt.

The reason we are out here looking at the beach and the breakwater this morning is that we are expecting our friend Mike on his 7m motor boat. We know he is so…

Ostend at Anchor Festival Day 1 - Thursday 26th May

No ramblings today, just Festival photos

Bringing coals to Newcastle - Wednesday 25th May

Nieuwpoort to Ostend: 10.5 miles, sailed most of the way.

One particular Belgian gaffer friend has always complained that English beer is weak and boring – all it does is make you go to the toilet a lot, or so he says. So at the recent Harwich Ale Trail we made sure we found some good strong interesting English beer for him to try. Once safely tied up in the Mercator Dock ready for the Festival (which starts tomorrow) out came our contributions from the Wierd Beer Brewery :”Dark Side” at 9.2% is right up Dirk's street but he also enjoys the K*ntish Town Beard.

Let the party begin!

Chilly day in Nieuwpoort Tuesday 24th May

It's a funny thing with boats that sometimes it seems easier to keep water from coming in below than from above. Howard had a go at curing a couple of our drips with Sikaflex. The mast step bolt leaks a drip into the footwell of our double berth and the ring for the starboard backstay drips onto what is known as Owyn's bunk. (A nicer name for it than “the after berth” I am sure you'll agree, though Howard's son Owyn himself is nowhere near and the current occupant is Keith). Howard's also tightened up the screws on one deck prism (drips onto the chart table seat) and the hatch in our berth which drips on Howard's side. It would be very cynical of me to suggest that had it been on my side of the bed this whole operation might have been delayed further. Only the next bumpy passage (or heavy rain shower) will tell what has worked and what hasn't – watch this space.

We felt rather guilty sending Roland and Rex back to their supper of baguettes with dodgy bacon…

Gravelines to Nieuwpoort Monday 23rd

Monday's two challenges were successfully tackled: provisions were lugged round the dock in Gravelines whilst Bonify was still aground on the mud and then once there was enough water we cast off and have left France's oil refinery strikers behind us. There's plenty of fuel available in Belgium and as they are notoriously particular about 'white diesel not red diesel' it could be useful to have a bona fide Belgian receipt for white diesel.
We left at 12.30 with 4 other traditional boats from “Escale a Gravelines”, sailed most of the way in a fresh breeze from the north west under grey skies and arrived Nieuwpoort 17.30, so 5 hours for 24 nautical miles.

Our objective is to get to Ostend by Thursday to participate in Ostend at Anchor – a large public festival of traditional boats. We could have plugged on and got there if we'd needed to as it's only another 10 miles or so up the coast, and indeed our Belgian friends on their gaffer "Theodosia" did …