What the actual (sailing)….part 1.

Title photograph : Topsham UK

So where was i  in this series after completely failing to talk about sailing in the last post ?….somewhere in the bowels of a Dutch Tjalk i think and even that was digressing from what i was doing at that moment which wasn’t actually sailing.       I will come back to the Dutch theme later though after a pleasant encounter with Dutch yachties during my east coast trip, that’s likely to be somewhere beyond part 3 of this series if my current state of writing is anything to go by.    The Dutch barge reference/connection from the last post isn’t the barge being rebuilt at Topsham, which is a proper east coast barge, but rather that the town has a Dutch connection which is apparently visible in the architecture.         At some time in the future of this blog i really want to do a visit to the Netherlands and go see some of the really nice boats that i have just caught sight of during my own trips.

Topsham Exe.


My actual sailing this year started off in Topsham on the Exe river and alongside the friendly Trouts boatyard/marina .  Mark the boss had really helped us out by giving us a mud berth at the end of our wet and windy west-country cruise this time last year.  I wintered the Liberty in Topsham, got out a couple of times and then set about working out what to do next.  I had some cold and crisp days and bitter cold nights aboard the boat over the winter and then had to make a decision about what to do come the spring.  It’s worth remembering that the grand plan with the liberty was to gradually sail around the Uk coast and visit as many of the ports, harbours and rivers as possible leaving the boat in convenient places in between passages. Last year we covered a lot of the west country from the Lizard to Torbay and the Exe.  The logical division of cruising on this coast is very much due to the problems of Lyme bay and Portland bill…something i would have to deal with later in the year with the delivery trip.   The logical thing to do was continue that plan by going east : it’s actually logical in the normal westerly to sou-westerly airstream as it creates a downwind trip but it can still be a problem of timing to catch the inshore route around the bill.     It doesn’t work so well when the airstream first goes south and blows 40knots or when it goes straight into the east and blows 25 !


I had a couple of choices although equally i had to vacate my winter berth as soon as Mark started throwing boats back in the water and any choice that i made would have to include planning to leave the Exe as soon as i had a weather slot.          I wrote about the frustrating 2 weeks i had when,  as soon as i had a plan, the weather would go the opposite way to expected.           I was within hours of setting out to cross Lyme bay and slip around Portland Bill in what should have been a 4-5 westerly but which became a force 9-10 southerly !   Can you just imagine a force 9 in my little inshore boat with the whole of  Lyme bay as a lee shore ? and then with Portland race to contend with.  My idea of a cold but fast downwind passage on the newly fitted tillerpilot rapidly evaporated into thin air….enthusiastic, even bold i may be but not insane .   By the time i actually left Topsham without a clear plan the weather was set to go into the east and so i made a decision on the fly to sail back to base and get WABI”’ ashore for a quick refit.  That made a lot more sense because of the number of viable ports between the Exe and Plymouth.   What actually happened is that i cleared the Exe bar in so-so conditions and sailed straight into an unexpected F6-7 nor-easter and ended up surfing into Torbay in a full-on blizzard.   I have to admit that it even made me ‘pucker’ a bit.   The rest of that trip home once i set out again was as hard and uncomfortable sailing as i am up for in such a small boat.

Fast order refit back at Calstock.  Still the best boat i have ever had.


This was all set against the increasing problems i was having in my work life although i didn’t know at that stage that i needed a knee replacement and not just a bit of gentle physio…..although i now have to wonder whether ‘gentle’ and ‘physio’ should go in the same sentence.     Life at work was, to be honest, becoming painful and miserable, life with boatprojects  had already become difficult to the point where i abandoned the dayboat project and quickly sold the boat on.   In the previous year you all saw the development of the thinking behind that project and it was all very logical, i still think it would work well for someone younger and more agile.   Recently i even met the local guy who kind of inspired the whole idea with his own dinghy cruising channel.        What happened next with buying the gaffer was clearly a mistake in retrospect although it did give me a challenging and worthwhile delivery voyage from the east coast.    If there is a theme to the year it is one of constant change and re-thinking plans…..in fact far too much ‘head’ time, far too many conflicting ideas and plans and not enough actual sailing.

The main event of the year did even take me by surprise….that of needing and then having a knee replacement.  It does rather change everything, and not just my sailing,  I haven’t yet been aboard a boat and sailed since the surgery, haven’t been to see any other boats and can’t make any proper plans about work or other boats until i know what the level of recovery will be. As i write i haven’t been back to work yet, have only just done a couple of short walks without crutches all the time and haven’t been able to do any useful work at home.   Any idea of getting a whole load of useful projects done has gone out of the window until i can stand firmly on either leg.

The main sailing event of the year was my delivery trip from Ipswich back to Plymouth with the gaff rigged Inanda.  At first solo and then with Jackie, as sailing goes it was a challenging trip because nearly all of it was upwind and i struggled with the boat. I did honestly think that a small and long keeled classic boat would be a good solution for my sailing needs and maybe it would except that this one was going to need far too much project time before becoming that boat.   To be honest i would much rather be sailing a less characterful boat than working on this one for 2 years and still being dissatisfied with it.

Inanda…..very pretty and string-y, crap sailing boat.  Interesting and challenging voyage.

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I did put the Liberty up for serious sale but didn’t even get a sniff of a hint of a bite on it despite thousands and thousands of views and , i think, a nicely photographed and prepared advert.    Halfway into the gaffer experience i was actually glad that the Liberty hadn’t sold.   The second theme to the year was buying and selling boats : one boat bought and 2 sold….not to mention the buying and selling of stoves !  At this end of the cruising year it is the Liberty that is on my mooring and not anything else.  I’m not quite sure where i am with stoves although i think it’s one boat and one stove…….there is though a very large and heavy anchor sitting on the workshop floor that i can’t quite account for !

Either it’s a boat with 3 masts and god only knows how many stoves or it’s the gaffer and the liberty on the same mooring and both framed by one of ‘2-boat’ Chris’s luggers.


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