Thursday 31 July 2014


They say that the passage of time is marked when the policemen look younger.

Likewise the voices of pilots over the PA system of Ryan Air 737-800s have a similar impact. 

No sooner had we almost (but not quite) landed at Valencia last Friday then we were travelling back up again, Apollo 13-like vertically and a youthful voice informed us that it was "not quite right to land". We were up in the air collecting our senses and stomachs and only ten minutes late arriving.

Another pilot's voice, with boyish enthusiasm, on the way home on Monday, massive chatting us through bumps and dips through the air approaching Stanstead. 

One almost imagines the Pilot putting down his GCSE Key Stage 5 Revision Notes to make the announcement to return to our seats.

Ryan Scare: Up, up and away.

Monday 28 July 2014


Sunday  A grey dawn
Sunday dawns grey and the wind is still blowing sharply from the West. The light turns the whole landscape and outskirts of Portsmouth lifeless as if no one wants to get up.

Chichester Harbour near Bar Beacon
We are up and off the mooring by 07:00, tides are kind and we are tearing out of Portsmouth harbour towards our turning point East.

Past Southsea beach and not another craft visible in the Solent; we have this waterway to ourselves and hope it might stay that way for a moment longer as we head East, running parallel with kiss-me-quick Hayling Island beach.

We went east at 'the Dolphin' that takes us through the gap in the submarine barrier. When we got to the entrance of Chichester Harbour we turned North at the Bar Beacon.

Off East Leigh Chichester Harbour
We enter Chichester Harbour, past the super-douper Hayling Island Sailing Club. And then hard round to starboard and we drop anchor off West Wittering’s East Head Spit. The sky has cleared and the sun is out. Across on the sands and shingle we see dog walkers and soon, like flies, tiny motorboats are depositing cargos of families on the beach.

The crew demands ‘brunch’  - eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon and sausages, bread and butter and mugs of hot tea. Our last meal before we weigh anchor and head back round to and along the Emsworth Channel and Northney Marina which is our point of handover to Mark and Liz.

Skipper supervises as thorough clean up of Ragdoll and we are allocated tasks.  (see list below)

I re-pack my chef’s knife and the sharpener and we haul ourselves ashore, gladdened with banter the experiences of another great voyage on Rag Doll.


Rag Doll pack up list – things to do!
1.     Battery off
2.     Engine stopcock shut
3.    Mooring chain tied to anchor roller
4.     Transom fenders on
5.     Anode lowered over transom
6.     Bilge pumped dry
7.     Sink drain stopcock off
8.    Loo stopcocks shut
9.     Spinnaker pole stowed below
10.  Horseshoe, boathook, paddles stowed below
11.  Throwing line – in starboard aft locker
12.  Clip spinnaker halyard and pole up haul forward onto push pit
13. Elastics halyards to shrouds – to stop tapping mast
14.  clean loo (flush through with fresh water, whenever possible, reduces odours!!!)
15.  Wipe out fridge (Tim Baynes)
16.  Wipe black off saucepans and kettles with Dettol wipes
17.  Wipe down cooker and grill
18. Cover on securely – tighten aft & forward webbings last
19.  Ties to lower guard rail (not through toe rails)
20.  Clips to base of stantion posts

Sunday 27 July 2014


A lovely early morning Beaulieu 

A dawn to match the sunset and until the sun is higher the river is a secret deep green.

No rush, because the tide is not going to help the likes of us for an hour to two. Taking ‘Roger’ ashore there is an opportunity to poke round the boat yard and see boats on stilts being done up for later in the season.

Mid morning we are off and out through estuary, yesterday’s friendly seal is not about to wave us off. Back in the Solent the wind has shifted and the state of the tide means westward would be too much like hard work. We turn east towards Portsmouth. Saturday traffic on the Solent is evident and white sails perforate the horizon to the south and north.

Bucklers Hard
There is racing; a menacingly graceful set of J class boats come towards us and we bear away anxious not to give offence. A lovely morning slips easily into a lovely afternoon. Soup is served; Vegetable with Moroccan spices and crunchy French bread.

Portsmouth; hitherto not visited on previous trips so we put this right. Sailing instructions are strict about having to be entering the harbour under motor and rightly so as the tide pushes sideways.

Great ferries tower above us, the Spinnaker; Portsmouth’s new bastion rears up white in the afternoon sun to greet us.  Further along a minesweeper next to a destroyer and then a frigate. This is the home of the Royal Navy.

Late afternoon and against the tide we pass into the backwaters of Portsmouth and Whale Island, once the gunnery school. We head towards Fareham on the coast and tie up in a rather forlorn looking marina at Wicor. We are safe for the evening, however with the expectation of rain during the night, we wonder whether to move on?

White sails perforate the horizon
A meeting is called and we decide to stay put. I encourage the pouring of Gins and prepare Entrecote aux Frites et salad vert.

Given that we are handing the boat over to Skipper’s sister tomorrow afternoon we finish as much wine as we can and I am rumoured to be asleep before the supper table is cleared.

Portsmouth Harbour

Saturday 26 July 2014


Picture a picture postcard tiny port; Emsworth nestles at the base of Chichester Harbour. The Emsworth sailing club is we were loading up our supplies (wine and food) onto a trolley, with a mind of its own and then down the ramp to the tender to the yacht Rag Doll a Honey Bee class, a 27ft. sloop built in the 1960's in Scotland.

Under Skipper Tom, Chris and I were to be on the water for three days, sailing out towards and across the Solent to where wind and tide is favourable and to where we feel going.
Grey skies and a good ‘ish wind and sails set starboard close-hauled

Heading west, our passage parallel to Hayling Island. Wind behind us, sails out, goose-winged, Mainsail on port, large gib to starboard. The other boats the same, like a flock of geese.

Where da’ sun gone Skip?
Into the main channel with grey skies and a good ‘ish wind and sails set starboard close-hauled, a slot of wind to propels us forward.

Isle of Wight in view now and Bembridge, scene of previous voyages and stopovers.

I duck below to rustle up a lunch of fresh bread, ham and a salad.
I am back to cooking, I know my place. This time my menu is planned.

Mid afternoon, Friday, wind and tide not entirely in our favour so we head inland into the inlet of the Beaulieu River, an estuary wedged between Southampton water and Lymington. 

A broad expanse marked by navigation marks. A stray seal plays with a marker buoy. The cries of Oyster catchers taking off, circling round and coming back into land, otherwise very little about.
The Beauleiu River, our home for evening

The Beauleiu River, our home for evening, Rag Doll is tied up firm on a visitors mooring. Afternoon tea is served with a chocolate confection made for the trip by Sian.

Then we pump up ‘Roger’ the inflatable (dingy) and head off to Bucklers Hard and a pint at The Master Builder. We look down the greensward towards the river, an expanse of grass that was once the slipway for King Henry’s ships build with timber from nearby New Forest.

a pint at The Master Builder

A glorious evening in the river’s estuary, oystercatchers and curlews continue to chant. The sun dips and turns the water golden brown. Gin is poured and the dinning table is set for my serving up tortellini with salsa di formaggio and fresh salad and a modest merlot.  We sleep well.