Part One (mainly sailing stuff)
“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. Water Rat to Mole – Wind in the Willows
True, I have been doing it since 1958.
In the mid 70’s I was employed by MOD(N) working on a research vessel, later I was headhunted and transferred to the Salvage Department, where I became a Salvage Officer. I resigned from that post for various reasons and returned to the Merchant Navy, before becoming a Marine Surveyor in Dubai for several years, this led to me qualifying as OCIMF Sire inspector, carrying out risk assessment of oil and chemical tankers and gas carriers, carrying out inspections for Shell, covering, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Malta, the Italian mainland and islands. Employed by the Dubai marine surveying company, I was a resident of Dubai until I retired.
Up to the time that I went to work in Dubai, I was living in a flat on the Mayflower Marina complex in Plymouth, as I was living in a marina I decided I needed a yacht, why not? Logical to my way of thinking, my wife more or less agreed, a much more of the less. I purchased a Cornish Crabber, a 24 foot, two berth gaff rigged cruiser, built in Rock, Cornwall.
I went to their boatyard, took a look and liked what I saw, however I could not afford a new one, but found a used one in North Wales, I went to take a look and purchased it. It was one of three pre-production yachts constructed from marine ply, they had a nice compared with the plastic ones, production was then switched to GRP. I had in trucked to Plymouth, as I did not have the time to sail it.
I used it for local day sails and long weekends, one or two nights, on the South Cornish coast, Fowey, Helford River, Mousehole, etc. Single handed as my wife liked sitting on it in the marina, but not underway, definitly not living on it, as she could not plug in her hair dryer or rollers.
This was ok, but I needed something bigger for longer voyages, I had left MOD(N) and gone back to sea and later working in Dubai, resulting in six weeks summer leave.
I searched the private adds in Yachting Monthly and found a Bruce Roberts 34. Research showed the Roberts to be cross between a cruiser and racer, a GT in car terms. It was located in Hayle, so I went to take a look. Black GRP hull, unusual for yacht. The deck was teak sheaved on GRP foam sandwich, with GRP superstructure. I had spoken to the owner on the telephone and explained I had a Cornish Crabber as part exchange, he seemed to be interested.
It appeared the builders, a cabinet maker and precision engineer (the standard of the workmanship was to a very high standard), the partnership had broken up. The engineer and his wife had been living in a holiday rental in the winter and a caravan in the summer, his wife who was pregnant and had had enough, it was a case of one had to go, the yacht or her, he choose the yacht. He was interested in the Crabber, so he could carry on sailing. So we did a deal.
I spent the next year ‘finishing her off’, she came with an engine, full set of sails, winches etc, but no instrumentation. I spent the summer cruising locally and on the South Cornish coast and Scilly Isles. She had a Taylor paraffin stove, I put in a Taylor heater with a hand pumped pressurised tank (purchased in Malaysia), feeding both.
I had her registered as a British ship named Morvoren of Kernow, Cornish for mermaid. Necessary as I was taking in abroad, so had to have either proper full registry or SSR, (RYA small ships register, A Mickey Mouse dodge to keep the French happy).
The following summer, 1981. I sailed the yacht single handed to the North Coast of Spain, after fitting an auto-pilot. I headed for Ribadeo, at the idea being to cruise the Rias (known as the Spanish fiords),from East to West finishing in La Coruña, which I had visited and liked during the Tall Ships Race. The conversation on the British yachts at Ribadeo went like this, “where were you aiming for when you arrived here?”. This was in the days before GPS, they had headed south from England hoping to hit the Spanish coast somewhere, few ventured out of sight of land. I said I was aiming for here, I explained I was using sun position lines and crossing it with a bearing from the very powerful consul transmitter located in North of Spain. “Ok, so you know navigation”. Duh!
I went to a concert where a Galician folk group Fuxon os Ventos was playing, I liked them so much I followed them all along the coast calling at various ‘festivals’. I was in the very large catch wise port of Carino, for the Feast of Carmen the patron saint fishermen, a very hectic week where the fishermen and their families adopted me. I could not have been in a better place at a better time.
Another time I was in the small fishing village of Ares in the Ria de Betanos, the squid boat used to go out every night, it was getting late one night and it hadn’t sailed, I asked why not, one two man crew was ill, so I volunteered to stand in for him, so I spent the night catching squid, I was due to leave the following day, but wasn’t allowed to as it was their annual fiesta, it meant I was late getting to La Coruña to meet up with my wife and ‘crew’, (more of that later), but what hell, I preferred the company of the village. I called in on the village in 1982 on my way south, for a rest after crossing the bay, I found out fisherman I had replaced that night had died very recently of cancer, the village was very subdued.
This voyage qualified me for AZAB race 1983, Falmouth to The Azores and Back. A single hand and two handed, my idea was just to do one way single handed and stay there for a months cruising.
I returned to Plymouth via Falmouth where I registered for the race, my log book was inspected it showed I had done the required 500 miles single handed, my entry accepted. However it was not to be.
The following year 1982 I returned to the Rias. My wife contacted me when I got to La Coruña and informed me she was coming to join me and was bringing three yachting ‘friends’ who would ‘help me sail the boat home’. It was hell, they wanted to visit their dream location of L Aber-Wrach located on the coast of Brittany opposite Plymouth. I scared the living daylights out them by going through the Ras de Seine, (islands off the Brittany coast near Brest, it has one of the worlds strongest currents), in pitch darkness, double hairpin bends and all, we could hear the seas crashing on rocks close by. I had one of them taking bearings of the two lights, while I plotted our position on the chart every ten minutes and gave them the course to steer. I guess they related this story for years to come. It must have been a bit scary for them.
1984 – A DISTURBED NIGHT IN THE BAY + LAUNDRY
Usually the trip down through the bay is very quite, ships head on a track from Ushant down a straight line to Finisterre, there is very little crossing traffic, I kept well to west of the track down from Ushant, but this year I had this vessel moving slowly and zigzagging ahead of me, I had a radar detector which bleeped when It picked up a ships radar. In the end, I attached a bright car inspection light to the backstay, switched off the detector and went to sleep. Later that day I met up with the culprit, a RN frigate, due in La Coruña at a certain time, they were just killing time. It turned out they were just as baffled as me, as I was showing up as a large echo on their radars, but they could not see me visually. I had had Firdell Beeper radar reflector installed with the new mast, which returns a massive signal. I met up with the RN party, together with an Australian who owned an English / Spanish language school and his girl friend, we all ended up on Morvoren. In exchange for my hospitality, they took my dirty laundry back to the frigate for ‘processing’.
VOYAGE TO VILLAMOURA & BEYOND
In 1984 I had electronics installed, plus a new mast and rigging, all VAT free as I intended ‘exporting’ the yacht. I sailed for La Coruña, then down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, round the corner at the bottom, ending up in the marina at Villamoura, where I had booked a shore berth for the winter.
The trip down the coast was fairly uneventful. I anchored in a bay at the entrance to the Ria de Vigo, after visiting the Nature Reserve Islands of Monteagudo, Faro and San Martino, to wake up late morning to find it was a nudist beach, it was a weekend, so busy.
At Peniche, Portugal’s premier sardine port I was woken up very early in the morning with a big thump on the deck, a bag of sardines had been donated, I had done a good bit of fishing using a trawl board, line attached to a board which flips and surfaces when a fish (usually mackerel) is caught.
From Peniche I called in at Setubal, Cascais then south I stopped off at St Vincent (navigation interest), Portimao and on to Villamoura.
I put Morvoren to bed for the winter, caught trains to Vigo in Spain, hired a car for the trip to Madrid to fly to Dubai.
I sailed from Vilamoura to Gibraltar in 1985, in the meantime, I had got promoted to master (Captain), which was very good, but sea-going conditions had changed, the British Flag had nearly ceased to exist, I was now sailing on Liberian (the USA flag of convenience) and Panamanian flagged vessels where standards are very low. For example as master I was sent a third deck officer who did not know the rule of the road. He did the 8-12 watch and had to call me every time he saw another vessel. The senior engine room rating had 20/20 vision according to his medical report, but one eye was glass.
It was my intention to sail for the Balearic Islands and base her there, but I realised as that now I had much shorter leaves, she would have to go. Letting her out for chartering was a no no, as I had converted her to single handed and taken out most of the berths, plus no furling sails, 1985 was the year I had ‘chucked out going to sea for ever’ and got a job in Dubai as a marine surveyor. My last sea going job was on a Singaporean vessel trading between China and the Gulf via Singapore, I went ashore in every Gulf port looking for a job and it had paid off.
China was a very interesting place in those days, for example I was walking up Nanjing road in Shanghai, one day, a massive crowd had formed outside a shop, I went to see what the excitement was about, it turned out to be a Kodak automatic film processing machine, each photo was commented up as it dropped out of the machine, lots of oohs and ahas. It must have been the first of its type in China. Then there were the Saturday night dances in the Park hotel. There were very few Europeans in Shanghai in 1984, the first salesmen were beginning to arrive. I am digressing.
I called into the marina in Gib, to do some shopping, buy Brit food stuff that was not available in Spain in those days such as Marmite and Coleman’s mustard. Next door to the supermarket was a sailing school office / yacht brokerage.
Do you know anyone who wants to swap a yacht for property.
Yes I do.