Busy time in Plymouth

When I was stopped on the pontoon last week by a complete stranger and told ‘Your boat looks gorgeous’ it made me feel really proud.  The look of surprise on his face when I told him that Velvet Lady will be 24 next week made all the hard work we have been doing on her seem really worthwhile!

He was right – Velvet Lady looks gorgeous at the moment.  She has spent the last 10 days out of the water being worked on by the great team at Dicky B marine in Plymouth.  We have had lots of work done that you can’t see, and also plenty that you can see.  Hidden under the floor boards we have done lots of plumbing – replaced all the skin fittings with new blakes seacocks and all new piping.  These deteriorate with age, and it was a ‘peace of mind thing’.  The prop shaft was showing signs of wear so we have had a new one fitted for the same reason.  Outside,  Dicky B’s team have spent hours cleaning and polishing the topsides, which is what is making her gleam.

Whilst all this was happening Richard and I went to the boat show.  It was a bit like taking children to a sweetie shop, and we had to be very careful to budget our spending money.  Nevertheless, the navigation station is now full of new toys!

Those of you that regularly read my blog will remember that in April this year a big wave wiped out our auto pilot.  We have tried having it fixed, but that hasn’t worked so we have bought a new one!  Fingers crossed it will be delivered to us before we set off across Biscay.

More recently, just as we left Norway, our radar stopped working, and again because of age we were told that the spare parts were not available.  We have been toying with the idea of fitting AIS for a while now, so whilst we were at the boat show and looking at replacement radars, we decided to really splash out and buy a bigger chartplotter which can be overlaid with AIS data and the radar picture.  Richard is busy working at the moment fitting it all, and on Monday there will be a rigger up the mast fitting the new scanner.

We are certainly managing to squeeze an awful lot into our short stop in Plymouth before heading south to the sunshine for the rest of the year.  As well as all this new work we are continuing with our preparations for heading south and not returning to UK until April next year.  As usual we will be heading for the Canary Islands in a series of legs, which are all detailed and on line, available to be booked.

Coming up soon – 2 – 12th October, The Bay of Biscay crossing is nearly full, with only one place left available, which has now been discounted to £895 per person.

This is followed by a 10 day Blue Water Adventure from Sanxenxo in the Spanish Rias to Rota on the Costa de la Luz
21 – 31 October 2010, 10 nights, also reduced to £895 per person

This trip give the opportunity to mix day sailing and passage making.  With quite a few miles to cover we will spend at least 3 of the nights at sea

I mentioned earlier that Velvet Lady is 24 this year.  We are not sure what date she was first launched but we took possession of her on 2nd October and always think of that as her birthday.  This year to help celebrate Velvet Lady’s birthday why not sail with us.  All our our trips are fully detailed in the Schedule part of our website. We are really pleased to see  bookings now coming from customers for their fourth holiday and look forward to welcoming old and new friends on board later this year.

A few days in Bonnie Scotland

Bergen to Plymouth is one of the toughest trips of our season, as we expect a proportion of it to be against the prevailing SW winds.  Not for the faint hearted it says in the description on our web site – and how true that proved to be.

Our aim is to get to Plymouth, and with the expectation that we might encounter bad weather we build extra days into the schedule.  If the weather is nicer than expected this gives us time to stop in the Outer Hebrides, but if not we just have to keep on going.

After a very fast sail across the North Sea we were getting ready for a stop in the Outer Hebrides when we heard the forecast for SE 8 and 9 in the next few days.  As we couldn’t afford to get stuck so far North we needed to press on south whilst we could and dive into Oban to shelter from the Force 8 and 9 winds.

We ended up spending 3 nights at the small marina on Kerrera Island, whilst it blew over 40 knots in the shelter of the harbour.  We managed to see a good bit of Oban, including the distillery and sample some of the product.

As well as sampling whiskey we decided to try out some other Scottish favourites.  Dick downloaded some bagpipe music from the internet, and Richard – our Scottish guest, taught us Highland dancing in the cockpit.  We followed this with Haggis for lunch accompanied by a reading of a Rabbie Burns poem, again by Richard in his very Scottish accent.

A Man’s A Man For A’ That

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that

This ode to Scotland, must have worked its magic, because after lunch the weather cleared and instead of 40 knots and rain we had 10 knots and sunshine, time to leave and head south.

We caught the tide south down the Sound of Islay, and headed towards the Mull of Kintyre.  As always the wind goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and by midnight we were motoring in flat calm.  Having used up our share of tide going through the sound of Islay, we arrived at the Mull with the tide against us and for an hour even went backwards – Richard described it as slogging around McCartneys Point and we were treated to a rendition of the song Mull of Kintyre!

Finally, the weather cleared and for our last full night at sea we had a beautiful starry night as we sailed south across the Bristol Channel and on to Lands End.  The night was made by a group of dolphins who frolicked around the boat for an hour just before sunset.

Despite hold ups for the weather we arrived in Plymouth on time, and ready for our September lift out.  Velvet Lady is now out of the water and on the hard, with workmen swarming all over her, preparing for our Autumn and Winter programme

As they are not too far away now we have reduced the price on the Bay of Biscay crossing from Plymouth to Sanxenxo, and our first Blue Water Adventure from Sanxenxo to Rota.  Both are now 10 nights for £895 per person.  For full details follow the links to the Schedule pages of our website.