Swallows flock to Mylor – it must be summer

My loyal readers (there are at last two of you) will recall that Riff Raff had arrived at Mylor, after wild ride on Terence, late on the Wednesday evening in the middle of the first week of July.  We parked “up the valley” and Riff Raff was rigged before dark. We stayed up the valley all night and launched after breakfast. Several other Swallows were launching too.

We had all arrived early for the Swallow Yachts “raid”* on the river Fal. Over the next couple of days more Swallows arrived, launched, sailed and tried to moor in the same small stretch of pontoon provided by the Mylor habour master. Tents were erected at the campsite, cottages and B&B’s occupied and the important code for the shower block was learnt by heart. Charts were perused, the racing rules for the week were examined and hulls were polished with secret concoctions.**

We met together in the local restaurant for the “welcome” meal, where we hailed people we recognised from previous years and welcomed new comers with ribald remarks. And, eventually to bed, to wake for breakfast and the briefing for the fist race. Riff Raffs chat plotter decided that racing was not for it, so failed to “initialise”. The snag is that the chart plotter is a single point of failure in the instruments. If it doesn’t work, there’s no depth sounder, so not only do you not know where you are, you also don’t know if you’re liable to run into the hard stuff. So, whilst the fleet went off racing, I spent an hour or so on the Garmin help line only to establish that the software needed updating. ‘Just download version xx to your PC, save it on a USB stick, transfer that to the plotter and turn it on – the new software will load itself’ said the helpful help desk.

But no PC was available.

To my great surprise, the Marina office allowed me to use one of their PC’s for this purpose and we were back in action by the middle of the afternoon.

I won’t bore you with the detail of the next few days – suffice to say that Riff Raff rapidly acquired the mantle of Vagabond and acted as “back marker” for the fleet. I took a few photographs but they were all pretty rubbish as you can see from this example:



Fortunately, there were other photographers present and you can find some of their work at http://seatern.uk/raid2018/ 

There are even a few of Riff Raff!

At the end of the week, we recovered the boats to their trailers, derigged, packed up and drove out. Riff Raff was back at Northney by mid July, rigged and ready to go again. But first I had to get her tent and that’s another story.


*  For the uninitiated, a raid is a series of races under sail (rowing is allowed) for small boats, followed by periods of deep discussion, bragging and much quaffing of various beverages by the skippers and crew. Points are won in the races and w all know what points mean……

** Well, not the last part.***

*** As far as I know.

Motoring to Mylor and Martina reveals hidden depths.

A week ago last Wednesday, after an exciting academic meeting in London, a train journey interrupted by power failures and expanding track, some trailer repairs and a little domestic R & R, the skipper (aka your scribe) returned to Weymouth, in Martina, towing Terence and carrying clothes for a fortnight * and a set of Italian Carp waders. The intention was to haul Riff Raff up the town slip and onto Terence so that she could be taken to Mylor by road.

I had originally intended to sail her all the way – the interruption caused by the meeting had allowed the wind to change and what the forecast thought there would be was light Westerly for the next few days. “On the nose” as they say. The Italian Carp waders were (as I was advised) essential as the town slip in Weymouth is not flanked by a floating pontoon and there might be a need to wander around waist deep in water whilst persuading boat and trailer to get acquainted.

In the event, the Italian Carp waders were not required – the town slip had useful railings to which Riff Raff was secured whilst Martina manoeuvred Terence into position (in line with Riff Raff and just far enough down the slip for his tyres (but not the brake hubs) to get wet. Terence’s winch wire was wound out, hooked on to Riff Raff and the up button pressed** – hey presto! – up she rose onto his back.

An hour later, with mast lowered and all the bits of associated string made fast we were on our way westward, into quite a strong head wind. This proved a bit of a problem as the dreaded trailer sway kept occurring at ridiculously low speeds – only just over the speed limit for a car towing a trailer. During one particularly vicious bout, Martina suddenly applied her brakes in anti skid mode, first on one corner and then on another. The only control I had was through the steering wheel.

‘WTF’, I thought, ‘the bloody ABS has chosen to fail at this precise moment’. However, once we had slowed enough, Martina returned full control  to me and we carried on. It happened a few more times and I concluded that, somewhere in her software, she had found that she was towing a trailer and had invoked some anti sway routine. Do I trust it? Perhaps I should read the manual.

We evntually reached Mylor before dusk, parked”up the valley” and set about rigging Riff Raff again. The Ninja Warrior facilitated raising the mast and Riff Raff was ready for launching. But it was now dark so we spent the night on the hill.




*  two weeks for any US readers

**  Despite his agricultural appearance, Terence is quite sophisticated. He is fitted with a solar powered electric winch which goes by the name of “the Ninja Warrior”.

To Weymouth (3)

By now, my reader(s) must b wondering if Riff Raff has disappeared into myth, or perhaps turned into the Flying Dutchman. The discerning one will have noticed that my typing skills have returned to their normal state and misspellings and typos are returning to confuse you all.


The last post told of our sail to Poole; now we have to recount the voyage to Weymouth

We motored out of Poole early on a sunny, windless morning, passing the chain ferry without incident and along the entrance channel with no interference from Ferries. A sol fisherboat was entering the channel, with its usual escort of hopeful gulls. I was hopeful too – that a sea breeze would spring up so that Freddy2 could be silenced. Past Old Harry, breasting a little tide, hoping to get to St Alban head at slack water to avoid the overfalls from the off shore leadge.

Pas the yachts still dozing in the anchorage by Old Harry

P1020752 then on past Swanage, we crept along the coast, parting placid waters with our bow and shattering the peace with Freddy. A couple of Gulliemots passed overhead but no other wildlife appeared.

No sign of the tide when we approach St Albans point so we kept even closer to the shore, taking the inside passage (keep within 50 feet of the shore, say the pilot books). Still calm water – ahead and to port were the ominous very  swirls of the beginning of the tides rush to the west. Riff Raff twitched a few times but we were through. The bulk of Portland was ahead,so Weymouth must lie in the valley a little East of that. Now we can head straight for it.

It’s Monday. It means the Army is at work. Up comes the guardboat, urging us to head away to the South for half an hour to clear the range. In theory there’s no legal requirement to do this but I thought discretion was the order of the day and complied until they were out of sight, whereupon I resumed my course and speed for Weymouth.

Still no sign of a breeze, so Freddy 2 hammered away.

Away to the south west an ethereal shape started to emerge from the haze.P1020756 It hardened into a 3 masted sailing ship, with the yards all brailed up, making about 8 knots against the tide.

Then the guard boat rushed up again to give it (and us) our marching orders.

Thirty minutes later I resumed course for Weymouth – we didn’t see the guardboat again.

We inches our way to Weymouth, lunchtime came. Freddy 2 was shut down for a few minutes as I listened to the one o clock news (how traditional) and ate the sandwiches I had made the night before (cheese, marmite and tomato, if you must know).

We drifted in the hot sunshine, on a glass like sea (I was reminded of the verse from the Ancient Mariner):

“All in a hot and copper sky, the bloody sun at noon”

but I couldn’t remember having killed an albatross.

Freddy 2 was set to the task again. I called up the harbour master at Weymouth to ascertain that the Bridge would lift at four and we chugged on.

We sighted the mole and turned round it’s eastern end.

I was enchanted by the sight that met us:P1020759

I could almost imagine the harbour as it would have been at the beginning of the nineteenth century – the customs house on the right, ready to assess my cargo and examine my ships papers, the forest of masts of the various cargo and fishing boats on the wharves, the warehouses bulging with goods and the rummage gang already to pounce on suspect boats.

But it was a summer day in 2017, so we made our way unmolested and untroubled to the waiting pontoon. Soon the harbour bridge was lifted to let us through into the marina and we settled in silence to the heat of the afternoon.

As I had to go to London for a meeting the following weekend, this seemed a good place to pause the trip. I covered the cockpit with the purpose built cover, paid in advance for a weeks mooring and left by train the following morning.


En Route to Weymouth (2)

Younger readers* will recall that Riff Raff has arrived at Cowes, just in time to for the Isle of Wight festival. Our next stop would be Yarmouth or even Poole. It meant using a west going tide. We had delayed in Cowes for a day so that the morning west going tide was not quite  too early, so Sunday found us in the offing of Cowes at 0800 (breakfast and coffee having been scoffed and sandwiches prepared before cast off) waiting for the tide to run westward. There was a breath of wind** from the North East and the sails were up. Freddy2 was on too as we moved ponderously towards the Needles channel. By 08:30, the wind had disappeared and the tide and Freddy were carrying us along at just over 5 knots. In no time at all (or so it seemed) we were passing Yarmouth, noting the enormous motor yacht moored outside the harbour. Well, it couldn’t have got in.

We kept well clear in case some officious “guard boat” full of gents in black balaclavas came to visit.


Woosh. That was us through the narrows past Hurst castle and then jiggling to the West to take the inshore passage.

Now the tidal current deserted us. There seemed to be some wind. An on shore breeze, possibly of the sea breeze varietyUp went the sails, off went Freddy2 and we sauntered past Christchurch and Bournemouth at a sedate 2 knots, taking in the sights and bathing in the sun (or the shade of the mainsail) depending on P1020747how the wind felt.

Brownsea Island  hove into view and we sailed along the small ship passage to within spitting distance of the obnoxious chain ferry, before cranking up Freddy 2, lowering the main and breasting the outgoing tide into the harbour to look for a space to park. A marina took us in, and sandwiched us into a corner between some rather large things.


The sunset was great.


What shall we do on Monday. The forecast looks hot.



* e.g. those who have unimpaird short term memories

** Force 2, if you really want to know

En Route to Weymouth (1)

Riff Raff is currently resting at Weymouth – at least she was last Thursday when I had to dash for a meeting in London. It all seemed so logical when it was planned in the winter but I had reckoned without the sun…..

I digress (as usual).

Riff Raff slid off her trailer a week ago last Wednesday evening, into the murky waters of Northney Marina. We left at crack of dawn (about 08:30) to dash down wind to the entrance to Chichester harbour and catch the tide west along the Solent (we’ve done this before, it’s easy). We didn’t make the mistake of passing the wrong side of the fort and were soon (or so it seemed) amongst the throng of traffic. P1020732

This time the navy had joined in the fun. I realised that the big green buoy off to starboard was the one HMS Montrose and the cross channel ferry were going to turn round – we were safer on the “wrong side of it”. And, to miss-quote Captain Kirk, we made it so.


It was just about lunch time as we approached Cowes. There seemed to be an awful lot of boats about and it was only Friday. I thought I’d better see if we can find out what’s going on and if we can find a berth for the night. There are at least three marinas in Cowes – they all use the same VHF Channel, as do several on the mainland. This weekend, each marina seemed to have a similar sounding young woman (I have to be careful here, dear reader, I wouldn’t want to sound sexist) on the airwaves. An old buffer like me gets confused ‘Cowes Marina, Cowes Marina, this is Riff Raff’. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Cowes Marina, stand by’. It’s a bit like being put on hold but at least they don’t play you music of indifferent quality. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Gosport can I help you, over” Hnag on, I was on hold of Cowes, why is the girl there now pretending to be from Gosport – then the penney dropped – it’s all because they use the same channel. So I abandoned the VHF and used the mobile phone. It sounded like the same girl answered but at least she was now speaking for Cowes. The found me a berth amongst the confusion explaining it was the Isle of Wight festival weekend. We were perched on the end of a pontoon amongst a throng of larger boats. As you can see from the picture, they certainly crammed them in – I was gald we were on the end, it meant we could get out when we wanted to go!


Cramming them in at Cowes Yacht Haven