A tough passage south – Kristiansund to Plymouth

sunrise-over-scotland

Kristiansund to Plymouth this year turned into an epic.  We expected to have some wind from the south but we didn’t imagine that we would have to deal with 6 separate low pressure system bringing Force 8 and Force 9 gales!  We managed to find shelter from all of them, and enjoy some fabulous sailing in between.
Despite the gales the trip was stuffed full of memorable moments

24 hours motoring in flat calm water amongst the islands in Norway
A pod of Orcas circling the boat as we left the Norwegian Coastline
3 days of champagne sailing between Norway and Shetland
Fabulous sunrises and sunsets
2 nights and 1 day ashore exploring in Lerwick
A shimmering display of the Northern lights between Orkney and Shetland
Glassy sea around Cape Wrath
2 nights at anchor in Loch Dunvegan
Steaming down the sound of Islay at 11 knots with the tide
A night at anchor and a morning ashore in Bangor, Northern Ireland
A night at anchor in Dundalk bay on the Irish border
24 hours beam reaching along the Irish coast in flat water
Chased by a fast RIB and a routine boarding by Irish Customs off Tuscar Rock
A fast sail across the Irish Sea
A starlit passage as we tacked past Lands End
Lizard Lighthouse flashing in the gloom of the fog
Warships exercising in Plymouth Bay
Tying alongside in Mayflower Marina 36 hours later than expected
1550 miles for our log books
Celebrating in Jolly Jacks

To further describe the trip I use the words of our guests

My mind is overflowing with fabulous memories.  I cannot possibly convey how much this adventure has meant to me.  Stunning scenes of natural beauty.  Innumerable sightings of wonderful creatures. Comradeship humour and mutual support. Whatever hardships were endured were repaid a thousandfold

What an adventure. Fantastic voyage with some really great scenery.  Orcas were are ponus. The passage was a real challenge with at least 6 storms on the way all dealt with safely and professionally by Lin and Richard

Learned tons, ate tons, much fun, slept little but did not succumb to tea drinking (our French man!)

Most varied sailing, wildlife and scenery and more tacks that a cobblers bench!

Want to sample this for yourself. Our passages down to Lanzarote are all full now but there are some places on passages in the Spring.  Want to enjoy sailing in a more relaxed environment.  Once we arrive in Lanzarote we will be based there for the winter offering 7 night sailing trips around the islands.  See our Schedule

Mull of Kintyre

DSCF1419Navigation wise getting the tide right around the Mull of Kintyre is hugely important when passage planning.  Not so easy when the starting point is Plymouth.  Nevertheless, after an overnight stop in Dunloaghaire and some fabulous sailing we arrived at the Mull with a fair tide which carried us all the way north and through the sound of Islay. From there it was a quick sprint north to Oban.

DSCF1421

Plymouth to Oban,  512 nm, 7 days, In the words of our guests

“What an adventure. 4 seasons in 4 hours. Dolphins , seals and porpoise. Laughs, challenges and achievements. England, Ireland and Scotland in one week. Thanks Lin and Richard for getting us here safely and happily, but most of all thanks Velvet Lady for being the most amazing boat to sail. Will be back again. Cheers!

IMG_0138

One female place left to sail 19 to 30th July.  Join us and see for yourself how great it is to sail Velvet Lady

Super Special OFFER – sail north to Norway now reduced to £980

2 last minute places available to sail with us from Oban to Bodo in Norway

30% off – now £980 for a 15 night trip, all inclusive once on board

Join us in Oban and sail north for 300 miles to the Shetland Islands.  After a brief stop sail a further 500 miles across to the Norwegian coastline.

We will creep inshore and sail the last 150 miles north amongst the islands.

Cross the Arctic Circle and stop at the Svartissen glacier.

Always hopeful of playing with dolphins on the bow

and in previous years we have seen whales

Before arriving in Bodo (photos from last year)

15 nights on board – join 30th May 1800, depart 14th June 1000.

Flights available from Bodo to London via Oslo for approx £120.  See www.jetcost.co.uk or www.skyscanner.net

More information on the Schedule page of our website

You will be expected to take a full part in the watch system, sailing the boat, and all other routine chores on board.

Booking is easy on line at our website but please remember that you are required to be medically and physically fit to sail with us.

By medically fit we mean that you must not be suffering from
any disability, epilepsy, diabetes, dizziness, asthma, angina or other
heart condition.

By physically fit enough we mean that we require you to be steady on your feet,
able to move around the boat and climb up and down the companionway
steps unassisted, able to climb into a top bunk (even though you may not
be allocated one) and be able to climb in and out of the dinghy (with a
ladder of course). We also expect that you have sufficient ‘grip’ to be able to hold on when the going gets tough.

Our usual age group on these trips is 18 – 65, If you fall outside this age range please contact us before booking.

We hope you can join us and are happy to anwer any questions if you want to give me a call on 07801 627660

Lin and Richard

Ocean Passages – Practicing our Navigating skills.

chart az plymGreat Circle Black, Rhumb line Red, Actual track Blue

We have just completed our longest passage of the year 1200 mile as the crow flies from Ponta Delgada in the Azores to Plymouth. It is not often that the weather allows you to go directly from A to B – so this trip we actually logged 1400 miles on the 10 day passage. So if we couldn’t go in a straight line – how did we choose which way to go and how did we find our way?

If you read the pilot charts and ocean passages for the world they suggest that in April first you will encounter light NE winds North of the Azores and then winds from the western sector from about 45N. It would seem logical to head north (even motoring) until you reach the westerly air flow.

Before arriving – Michael, who owns his own boat, had done lots of planning and brought with him his chart with the great circle route (black) and rhumb line (red) already marked on. We were aiming for an average of 5 knots made good or 120 miles per day and the rhumb line was divided accordingly. We mapped our progress on this chart every day at midday.

James, a Coastal Skipper, was interested to see how near you could get with dead reckoning – that is when you draw on a line for course steered and distance run without using the GPS – his dead reckoning track is in blue and over 1300 miles to Ushant he was only 10 miles out when we spotted the land

John, a Yachtmaster, was aiming to use the trip as a qualifying passage for Yachtmaster Ocean, so he wanted to see how accurate you could get with a sextant. He had never used a sextant before and rapidly found out that it is not as easy as it looks – it takes practice and patience when the boat is leaping up and down – however, we had a good amount of opportunities to practice and in the end the sextant positions were with about 5 nautical miles of the good old GPS.

Paul, a Day Skipper, just loved being at sea and was interested in making sense of the ever changing weather patterns – in fact he had sailed this passage with us twice before in the past.

(please note all names have been changed to protect identities)

To make the dead reckoning and the sextant sun run sun positions work accurately it is important to keep good records of the course steered and distance run – hourly entries in the log book ensured this and gave everybody something more to do on watch.

Our course was always dependent on the wind direction. For the first part of the trip we had wind from the ESE and as you can see from the blue line on the map we managed to sail close to the Rhumb line.   The second half of the trip we had winds from the NE (instead of from the west) and ended up beating. It was important for us to keep track of when the wind shifts would come. For this we downloaded twice daily Met Office synoptic charts using weatherfax and worked out that we had to head to the east before heading north we didn’t cross the Rhumb line again before reaching the Lizard!

We had made such good time on this passage we had plenty of time to spare so we made a stop in Falmouth to rest and recoup before our final leg to Plymouth.

So how did the guests find it

My first ocean crossing could not have been in better hands. Great boat, great crew, great company. Thank you for all your knowledge sharing and a fantastic experience

 My dream of a long Atlantic passage fulfilled, many, many unforgettable experience. A gale as usual, sunrises and sunsets, night skies seen from a new angle. Saw and learnt a lot about weather and passage planning. As a skipper of my own boat it has been a master class in ocean sailing

 Thanks for a fantastic 2 weeks I have learnt a lot and had a great time. Hope to be back with you in the future.

 Well that’s four trips and very nearly 5000 miles on Velvet Lady – looking forward to the next 5000!

If you fancy putting your navigation skills into practice coming up soon are 2 more milebuilding passages – The shorter, 500 miles from Plymouth to Oban which has now been reduced to £600 or the longer, 1100 miles North to Norway, Oban to Bodo

plymouthtobodo

After the refit – ready for the Bay of Biscay.

velvet lady ready to go againVelvet Lady looking lovely alongside in Plymouth

Well, thats it.  Major work over for another year.  This year has been quite an epic.  We lifted the mast out in QAB to inspect for faults and completely change all the standing and running rigging.  This is considered routine maintenance after 90,000 miles and once the rig was out Velvet Lady went into a shed in Plymouth Yacht Haven.  Here we removed all the chain plates – (the bits that the standing rigging attach to) to check, and after 28 years were pleased to find they were still in perfect nick.  Whilst the chain plates were out we removed all of the saloon windows and window frames and replaced with new before replacing some of the wood surround and revarnishing.  She looks a million dollars.  They were the big jobs – we also replaced the aft G and T seats, redid the caulking in the cockpit, replaced one of the loos, replaced the duck boards in the showers, cut new carpet, and to round it off replaced the antifoul and polished the topsides.  Our MCA surveyor came along and gave us a clean bill of health so we are ready for the off.

Biscay first – think we’ll wait a couple of days for a weather window, but the forecast for our Spanish Rias trip is looking good.  Then south to Madeira and further south to Lanzarote just in time for December – Fully Booked all the way.  Our first places are in December and there are 4 left on the real deal sailing holiday starting on 7 December.  £675 per person fully inclusive on board for 7 nights.  Circumnavigate Lanzarote in the sunshine.  I have just looked and flights are still available for about £60 return see www.jetcost.co.uk or www.skyscanner.net

We will also be offering this price on our trips in January, February and March but places are booking up fast.

Passages and Milebuilding

Bob at the Wheel 1 (resized)comp

Our longer passages and milebuilding trips are in effect deliveries as we move Velvet Lady from one location to another.  These trips, as with all of our others, are dependent on the weather – we will not set out into the teeth of a gale, but as forecasting is only really reliable for the first 4 days, once we have been at sea for more that 5 days we have to just take what comes!

It can be cold, windy, wet, challenging and a bit scary at times or warm, calm, balmy and rather less challenging.  We regularly get a mixture of both and our last trip from Norway to Plymouth was no exception.

With gales forecast we stayed inshore for 2 days and sailed from Kristiansund to Gossa and then onwards to Alesund.  The weather was glorious and the wind mainly light – hard to believe that offshore it was howling.

We left Alesund into a steady force 6 and started hard on the wind towards the Shetland Islands.  Velvet Lady was in her element, but those on board who had never been out in these conditions found the motion a bit difficult for sleeping.

On all of our long trips, we work out the trip length based on how long it would take to complete if we had to beat the whole way.  If we are lucky and have wind in our favour we are then able to stop.

After 4 days of sailing Bob asked – where is the next stop – I don’t think he liked the answer, Plymouth.  At that stage we were making very slow progress, beating against a southwesterly wind and battling against half a knot of Norwegian current.  The wind needed to change for us to make progress and bank enough miles to allow us to stop.

That’s the thing with a 2 week trip – hardly ever does the weather stay the same for more than a week and so by our second week the wind shifted to the north giving us great tail winds.  As opposed to battling the Norwegian current we were faced with the Scottish tides and as luck would have it we arrived at the Mull of Kintyre with a great tide which then stayed favourable as we made our way south.  Max speed over the ground 11.4 knots!

This shift of weather in our favour allowed us to stop for a night in Southern Ireland and still arrive in Plymouth on time.

Our final total on the log was 1478 for a trip that measures 1100 by the shortest distance.  Our maximum wind was a good force 7 with occasional gusts of 8 – and we only really had one night of rain.  There were as always plenty of memorable moment.  Fantastic sunrises and sunsets, plenty of dolphins to keep us company and the odd land bird that took refuge under our sprayhood.

White-sided Dolphin (Cropped)comp

If you’ve never tried a long passage and wonder what it is like why not give one of our shorter ones a go.  Our next one is from Vigo to Madeira in November, 700 miles approx 5 nights at sea so we make it a 10 night trip.

It would be wrong to set off straight away in to the open ocean with people who are new to the boat so we always do a training day first – in this case usually sailing from Vigo to Bayona.  We hope to have a day spare at the end and visit the very special island of Porto Santo 35 miles NE of Madeira

Full details as usual on our website.