Having left Hejira in Torquay Marina for a month while Paula and I took holidays in the Caribbean and Italy (what an indulgent summer!), I took the train back down to Devon on the Bank Holiday Monday to sail her back. I had long since harboured an interest in ‘single handing’ and had taken Karisma, my 31 ft Parker (which I kept in Port Solent for 5 years before the Jeanneau in the Med), out on my own before, but only in the Solent and only overnight.

The forecast was for fine weather with light and variable winds, mainly from the North so most of the available anchorages would be viable. My departure before dawn the next morning was very straightforward but although I carried the full main, there was insufficient wind to make the necessary tidal ‘gate’ at Portland Bill under sail alone so it was necessary to motor until safely past the Bill.

Dawn crossing Lyme Bay

Dawn crossing Lyme Bay

Worbarrow Bay, just past Lulworth Cove was busy but there was plenty of space and all except two other yachts left before the evening.m_Steadying I was expecting little wind and intended to motor gently along to Studland Bay from late morning with the first of the tide. I was surprised to awake to a steady F4 from the North which was too good to waste so, despite the adverse tide (useful back eddie inshore) I got under way and had a cracking sail which sped us along at over 7 knots at times and the progress induced a change of plan. With a favourable tide and wind, we made straight for the Needles and the great sail continued into the Solent where the wind strength dropped and  it moved around to the NE. In that I was in no particular hurry and with no crew to appease, it was wonderful to have a languid beat up the Solent, weighing up the options to anchor for the night. Motoring the last hour or so, I decided to slip into Chichester harbour and tuck behind East Head. The anchorage was busy but by lifting the keel and slipping behind the other anchored yachts I was able to find plenty of room and with the neap tide, managed to stay afloat overnight. After a leisurely breakfast and very little wind, we motored at little more than ‘tick over’ and almost reluctantly edged up the Emsworth Channel back to our berth in Northney Marina.

My ‘single handed’ experience had been tremendously satisfying. It was so enjoyable, I will rise above the taunts of ‘Billy no mates’ and certainly do it again. As with sailing in general, the weather plays an enormous part in one’s enjoyment and I also have to come to terms with entering a strange Marina and coming alongside but, you never know, this could pay back with even bigger doses of satisfaction!

As you will know from previous crew ‘missives’, I have experienced a series of weird co-incidences this summer. There was another to come on my holiday in Italy while Hejira was in Torquay. Before buying the S135, Paula and I had a tour of the Northshore factory and we saw a new 135 under construction as a special commission after the model had been superseded by the later generation of Southerlies. It had been ordered by a discerning Australian whose wife had tragically died while the new yacht, Number 30, was under construction. Later, I happened to sail into QAB, Plymouth on a friend’s Vancouver and it was 3 berths away. The owner kindly showed me over her and this was the first time I had viewed a series III. You can imagine how surprised I was when going ashore off Positano in the rib from another friend’s motor yacht, to see the same yacht, ‘Viking’ anchored just off the port. With more tropical sailing a future probability, I was keen to understand the heat issues in the saloon with the large windows. Having had the Jeanneau in the Med for 14 years I am very well aware of the oppressive heat, especially in marinas. His confirmation that it is a problem prompted me to arrange to meet Ivan from Arun Sails back in Northney and he measured up to make reflective screens for the outside of the saloon windows. Ivan is also making a replacement yankee jib, a new ¾ battened main sail and is supplying new jib sheets and a replacement spinnaker halyard.

Being concerned about the untreated keel and grounding plate and thinking longer term, I am keen to have them blasted back to bare metal, epoxied and treated with copper coat. This does, it seems, present a problem for the yard (and all other yards it seems) in that ordinarily with a fixed keel yacht, the weight is largely taken on the keel so the props/cradle are mostly to keep it upright. In that for the keel treatment, the keel needs to be fully down, the weight needs to be taken by the props/cradle as the keel is free to swing. This presents a problem for the yard, particularly as the 135 draws 3 metres. The only way the yard will support her that high with the keel down is if the mast is removed to reduce the windage so, on Monday, all the mast electrics is being disconnected, the mast is being craned off and Hejira is being taken to the ‘blasting area’ and propped up high for the 10 days required for the treatment. It is necessary to be done sooner rather than later as the temperature must be higher than 10 degrees and the weather is on the turn.

This will also present the opportunity to re copper coat the rest of the hull and do some of the other jobs I have identified before re-launching for some winter sailing.

I am considering the options for next year, mindful that Paula will want to go back to Canouan to se Becky and Mark and that some accessible school holiday destinations are necessary for Paula’s involvement. This is, of course, subject to change but I am currently thinking that another year of UK based sailing is required to fully shake out any issues before heading off for warmer climes. Easter in a London marina may help to head off Paula’s ambition to have a London pad and then take in the East coast rivers, my old haunts in North Norfolk then a leisurely cruise up to Inverness for the summer half term where Paula can fly up to join the cruise along the Caledonian Canal. I did this in the Parker (without Paula) and it is spectacular. The half term week should allow a quick stop in Tobermory then marina in Oban so Paula can return on the overnight sleeper. I should then be able to take in some of the Irish Lochs which eluded me this year. Just a germ of an idea at present but that is how it is shaping up for next year.