Category Archives: Northern Europe

Spring cruise Part 1- Lymington to Falmouth

I flew into Heathrow on the 13th of March, then rented a car and hopped on the cross channel ferry to go and fetch Jenny and the mutt. We were all overjoyed to be back together again, everyone immediately fell right back into their customary roles, domestic bliss restored.

Rocket Science enjoyed a bit of a pit stop at Berthon’s outstanding yard in Lymington, and she seemed to be as eager as we were to get back out sailing again. We spent a rather leisurely 10 days getting the boat rigged up and provisioned, and finally tossed the lines on the 25th, destination Cowes, a mere 10 miles down the Solent.

Cowes is a bit of a sailing mecca, located on the N. coast of the Isle of Wight. We enjoyed the place a lot, but there was a strong NE wind during our stay there, and the marina was awfully surgey. There was plenty of crashing and banging going on all around us. The tight little yacht haven really doesn’t have any maneuvering room, so we also spent a lot of time helping boats get in and out of their berths. We were grateful to get out of there without getting t-boned by anybody! It was generally mayhem in there. Interestingly, the marina staff never did make an appearance in all this. Everyone was left to their own devices.

We were also boarded by the UK Border Force while laying in Cowes. The HMS ‘Vigilant’ seemed to be making the rounds, checking up on all the foreigners. After a thorough review of all of our paperwork and a rather lengthy interrogation regarding our plans, we finally satisfied the boarding team that all was on the up and up here on Rocket Science, and they went on their way.

I do have to say that they were very professional, and they even wore boat shoes! This is not normal. Usually, we get heavy boots on board. That was a nice touch.

After a couple of nights in Cowes, we carried on to Portland, about 40 miles to the W. This is one of the largest man-made harbors in the world, protected by a truly massive sea wall. Portland had previously just been a commercial port, but a very nice marina was built for the ’12 Olympics, and it’s now a great stopover.

We spent just a single night in Portland, eager to get to Plymouth before a sustained period of contrary winds set in. We chucked the lines right at dark, making a really cold overnight hop. We pulled into Plymouth just as the leading edge of the gale arrived. Perfect timing.

We ended up in Plymouth for a week.

Finally we were catching a break in the weather for the 5 hour hop to Falmouth.We arrived there, found a spot right between two naval patrol boats, and settled in to wait for the right weather window for the passage up to Dublin.

This passage never happened. Stay tuned for the next update. Our discoveries about the many layers of EU bureaucracy have been truly astounding, and we’ll dedicate a full entry to it tomorrow.

Ireland and England

Ireland was just a 2 stop affair for us this time around, but we are
planning to go back again at some point for a closer look. We were
pretty keen to get to England and go fetch Baxter from his luxury
retreat with Jenny’s mom.

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Dingle was a great place for a visit. We got introduced to and became
members of the ‘Ocean Cruising Club’ while in Newfoundland. We’re not
really very into clubs, but the requirement for entry into this one is
to have undertaken an offshore passage of at least 1000 miles.
Consequently, the membership is comprised of some experienced
folks. What the heck, we figured, why not? Our first OCC contact was
Harvey Kinney, the OCC contact for Dingle. He came down and met us on
the dock, and then treated us to a very nice tour of the area to the
west of Dingle, along with tea and cakes. Membership worthwhile!

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We happened to be there for the big rowing regatta, which was pretty
cool to see. They row like mad racing around in a slightly modified
version of the traditional dories that they’ve used forever on the coast
there. Some teams were more successful than others. I think that for the
most part, rowers were assigned to boats at random, so it really was a
crap-shoot whether or not a team would gel. Some went mostly in circles.

We wound up in Dingle for 5 days, getting some well-deserved rest.
There was a bit of a blow passing through, and we were hoping to get
around the SW corner of the island without getting pounded anyway. The W
coast of Ireland has a well-deserved reputation as a bit of a nasty
place, and we got a taste of it upon leaving Dingle. There wasn’t a heck
of a lot of wind, but the seas around the headlands were just
miserable-3 or 4 wave trains all intersecting and breaking, lots of
current, just a crappy ride.

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Once we rounded the corner and got by the Fastnet rock, all was a lot
better, and we enjoyed a decent rest of the trip into Kinsale.

This is a town situated a few miles up a river, which is guarded by
some substantial fortifications dating back to the 1500’s. It’s a
beautiful setting, and the town is apparently renowned for its
restaurants. No offense to the Irish, but we found the cuisine there to
generally be pretty tasteless. Maybe we missed out on the really good spots.
No matter, we usually eat on board anyway.

We spent a further 6 days in Kinsale, again waiting for weather. There
was a big gale on the way, and we didn’t have enough time to make it
across the Celtic sea to Land’s End and around the south of England from
Dingle. So, this wound up being a fine stop.

The gale made the marina quite rough, as there really was no
protection for about 1/2 mile to windward, but we rode it out pretty
well compared to most of the neighbors, which were generally pretty
small boats, with the exception of one very old 60′ or so cutter with
very long overhangs. It was interesting to see our boat and this one
beside each other at the dock. RS, probably thanks to the absolute lack
of any overhangs, bobbed around pretty mildly, with a sea slapping the
hard chine once in a while.

Our traditional neighbor, despite weighing more than double,
hobby-horsed relentlessly, heaving up and down 2 or 3 feet at the bow
and stern at times. It was interesting to watch, for me, anyway.

The neighbor, by the way, was the S/V ‘Overlord’. We had seen her on the
AIS the day before. Jenny asked me who the heck would name their boat like this,
and I guessed that they were probably WWII enthusiasts, as this was the official name
for the D-Day landing at Normandy. It turns out that was the correct guess.
‘Overlord’ had been one of a large class of sailboats built in Germany for the purpose of
training their Naval officers in navigation. This version was in Europe at the
outset of hostilities, and was captured. She was bought after the war by a
club, and re-named. Clever name, I think. The boat is now co-owned by some 200 people, who share time on the frequent cruises that the boat does, and all contribute either time or money into the club to earn these days. Good concept.
In any event, we had a fine stay in Kinsale.

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Finally, the weather cleared, and the forecast showed what was likely to be a spinnaker run
down to the English Channel. It was not to be. We had about 6 knots of wind from straight astern to Land’s End, and then not a breath from there on, and motored basically all the way to our next stop, Plymouth.

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This was just a one night stop for us, and after the rather dreary motoring we were pretty tired, so we had dinner at a middling restaurant on the dock, and went right to bed.

A dawn departure had us on our way to our next stop, Portland. This is
a big commercial harbor, which has a new marina which was built for the
’12 Olympics. It’s a really nice facility, plenty of deep water berths.
A good spot for us of ridiculously deep draft.

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The next day, it was on to the Solent, and we have now arrived in the
yard in which we’ll store RS for the winter. We don’t expect to be back
on board until mid-March, so this will conclude the sailing portion of
the website until the spring. On tap for next year are Scotland and
Norway, and likely a bit of time in the Baltic as well. We’ll update a
bit from time to time on boat projects and our other travels. We’re
liking the exchange rate thanks to the Brexit vote, and it looks like we
can replace the lost code zero for much less than it would have cost
back in the US.

Baxter is happily back home, currently laying on the settee snoring.
It’s good to have the little guy back. I missed him a lot. He’s getting
pretty old, just a few weeks from his 11th birthday. He gets tired after
a short walk, and doesn’t see as well as he used to. Of course, anytime
he sees another dog, that’s all forgotten and he completely flips out,
just like he always has. I’m guessing he’s still got a couple of more
good years in him, but he’s definitely looking pretty geriatric these days.

He’s done well for a rescue mutt, that’s for sure.