BURNHAM TO PLYMOUTH
 

We moved on board Kelly's Eye on April 14th, this was about a week later than originally planned but we had realised in mid-March that we weren't going to 'make' the earlier date. To anyone reading this who is thinking of doing something similar, don't underestimate the time it takes to organise everything - whether it is letting a property, sorting bank accounts, inoculations, notifying relevant parties of a change of address or chasing pin numbers for cards! We did start organising some things, such as passport renewal last autumn and we're very glad we did. It all takes longer than you think. Once we were no longer committed full time to our jobs, we worked solidly on this for two months, only taking one day off to do a couple of things we had promised ourselves before leaving London.

We've been really lucky with where we lived in London and our neighbours saw us off with a great nautically themed Leaving Party, which also allowed us to introduce our new tenants to everyone. Thanks to Simon and Candy Waldram for that, especially as they were about to go on holiday. Our belongings went into storage the Tuesday after Easter and we then spent a relaxing and welcome evening with Mike and Jacque O'Keefe (also neighbours), it was great, so thanks also to them. The next day we cleaned the house and packed the Jeep with the last of the gear for the boat. There was a bad moment when we thought we wouldn't fit everything in but Mike's packing experience, gained when he skydived, solved the problem, just.

The next ten days were spent settling in, unpacking the car and stowing everything in the space left from previous car loads. We also had a meal with Mike's parents, Desmond and Winnie, and his sister Angela and brother-in-law Ian. The four of them also came and saw us on the boat just before we left. Angela and Ian left with the Jeep, which they very kindly undertook to sell for us. Then we were ready to go. We split the passage into three legs: Burnham to Ramsgate, about 40 nautical miles; Ramsgate to Portsmouth, 120 miles; Portsmouth to Plymouth, 130 miles. Mist, fog and not much wind were the themes, including thick fog going through the Goodwin Sands. We had thought long and hard about adding radar and in our view it has already paid for itself.

Burnham to Ramsgate
A pretty uneventful passage across and round the sandbanks. We only had to contend with one big ship in the main shipping channel - we turned 180 degrees and let it go past. A while later we had a big contact come up on the radar. It didn't really make sense because we were out of the big ship routes and it appeared to be stationery. As we approached it became apparent that somebody had very thoughtfully parked their ship right on our course, in the middle of nowhere. Mike practised what I took to be his French - words beginning with F and W. Ramsgate was pretty quiet and the weather wasn't brilliant but we had a good time, saw Dan who runs LateSail (who told us the equipment needed to catch mackeral, so off to the fishing tackle shop we went!) and had lunch with him, caught up on emails, managed a visit to the Royal Ramsgate Yacht Club and generally felt pleased that after so much planning, talking and hard work we were actually beginning the journey!

Ramsgate to Portsmouth
At 120 miles this was our first night sail in Kelly's Eye. Once we had cleared the Goodwins, (and a very fast power boat that tore past us in the fog - we had him on radar), the visibility cleared and we had some good sailing past Dover and Newhaven. Then the wind died as we approached Dungeness and night fell to give us the most beautiful starlit night, with a nearly full moon to light the way.

Using the engine at night is always a little disconcerting because of the risk of picking up fishing gear in the propeller but all was well and we were rewarded just before dawn with the most amazing moonset. We hadn't seen one before so we were both on deck to watch as the bright orange disc disappeared below the horizon, really quite spectacular.

After the peace and tranquility of the passage (we saw one fishing boat and not much else) arriving in Portsmouth was something of a shock. It's a fairly narrow entrance and we arrived on a sunny bank holiday Sunday so it was mayhem. Yachts, power boats, small local ferries plus monster ferries the size of blocks of flats, all charging in and out. Anyway, safely tied up in Haslar Marina we had a few drinks, a shower and collapsed into bed. Our time in Portsmouth gave us an opportunity to see Jane's mother and brother. They came to the boat a couple of times and Jane also spent a day in Chichester with her mother (also managed a final trip to Lakeland!). Simon, Jane's brother has very kindly taken on the task of being our contact point in the UK, so it was also a chance to go through anything that had come in to him since we left London. Adrian and Barbara Kelly (KE's previous owners) came to see us and we had a great evening including dinner on the Lightship in the Marina. Also we saw Paul Davies and his family, they keep their boat in Haslar, as well as Paul and Sarah Brown, with whom we had lunch. The two Pauls are friends from the radio industry. Oh yes and we managed to tour the Submarine Museum in Gosport which was fascinating.

Portsmouth to Plymouth
Our second night sail and this one was to be entirely different. We left early in the morning in no wind and the tide spat us out past the Needles. Then the wind arrived and we had some great sailing right through the night, until the wind died just before Start Point.

Once past the Needles, Dan's recommended mackerel gear got it's first swimming lesson and Mike caught one. Well let's put it this way: Mike was on watch alone when one of the BT Challenge (round the world race) boats appeared out of the mist; the BT boat had right of way and was on a collision course; at this point a mackerel decided it's future lay in our frying pan; while trying to reel it in and change course at the same time, Mike lost it. That's his story - there were no witnesses!

A couple of hours before sunset, when we were off Portland Bill, a swallow (absolutely beautiful) landed on the boat. It was clearly exhausted because it went below twice but each time it allowed Mike to pick it up and bring it up top. Then it would swoop behind the boat for a while and then land again. Eventually Mike made a nest out of sail ties under the sprayhood, trying to keep it warm but we feared the worst. Sure enough it was dead in the morning - very sad.

Then along came the dolphins to cheer us up. We spotted them in the sunshine, just off the entrance to Salcombe and they came charging over towards the boat. The pod included the largest dolphins we have ever seen plus at least two babies. The babies were in the lead to come and play on our bow wave but one of the big adults got between the babies and the boat and shooed them away. Disappointing but amazing to watch.

Motoring into Plymouth was rather mundane after that but we tied up in the Mayflower Marina, tired but happy, had a few drinks, showerered and collapsed into bed. I sense a pattern developing here. The weather since we arrived has been glorious, sunny and warm, so Tee shirts and shorts have been the order of the day on most days. We've aired the boat out each day, and been going through lockers reminding ourselves of just what we stuffed into them and trying to re stow them more sensibly.

The reason we are here is that we decided to join World Cruising Club's Rally Portugal which starts in Plymouth and ends in Lagos in southern Portugal. Joining the Rally gave us a deadline for ensuring the boat and we were ready, otherwise we knew it would be easy to keep delaying moving out of the house and all that goes with it. There were a couple of boats in here when we arrived that are also doing the trip to Portugal, Heller West whose home marina this is and Trillium Wind a Canadian boat. Gradually more boats are arriving every day and the World Cruising team arrived today (27/5).

We've been seeing the folks from Trillium Wind, Cedric and Janet, sharing a cab into central Plymouth to shop - have to make sure we've got sufficient supplies of M & S tinned steak and steak and kidney! - and also we went with them to look at the Transat boats moored in another marina and readying themselves for their start on Monday. Amazing machines. We had a great day on Sunday with David and Annie Wright. They kindly drove to collect us and took us back to their house near Newton Abbot. We sat under a canopy of wisteria to eat (stunning) and generally had a great day. The next few days will be busy as we prepare to leave on Sunday. A number of friends have said that they are coming to see us at the weekend before we go and a final big shop and a haircut are on the list of things to do quite apart from everything else. Next update from the other side of the Bay of Biscay.

So, been on the boat for six weeks and are pretty settled, although I sense we will continue to rearrange lockers for a while!