Looking Back at the Spring Rally 2019

Posted by Mary Coles on 25 July 2019

This year the fleet consisted of four charter and two owner-boats. From Fairview the allocated crews took delivery of the chartered Oceanis 37’s - Faux Pas, Femme Fatale, Protégé and Viz-a-Vis. The owner boats were Fullmarks of Hamble, Bernie Blower’s cleverly named Westerly Fulmar, and Sea Myth, a Bavaria 38 jointly owned by Ed, Roisin & Paul, John and Commodore Mike.

Day 1: Friday 24 May - Port Hamble Marina to Yarmouth, Isle os Wight

After a safety brief we slipped lines late afternoon and left the marina to travel downriver, passing the famous Fawley tower to starboard - such a beacon! Earlier discussions between skippers resulted in a consensus to make the short passage to Yarmouth so as to be favourably placed the next day to take advantage of the east going tide going through Hurst point. There was no wind to speak of so we motored all the way. That evening we enjoyed dinner ashore at the King’s Head, and met up with the crews of Faux Pas and Protégé.  After the meal we enjoyed chatting and catching up. I was happy to be there and enjoy the best of the sociable side of cruising life. It was a cracking start to the Rally.


Day 2: Saturday 25 May - Yarmouth to Poole

While having breakfast in the cockpit there was no sign of wind, so we wondered if it was going to be the iron mainsail again. The plan was to make Poole. The only moorings available were at Cobbs Quay, which meant being behind two bridges. It was a Bank Holiday weekend though, so mooring space was bound to be a little tight. We didn’t have to motor all the way, as the wind piped up in the afternoon. The skipper, Paul Russell, encouraged the crew to do some tacking drills, and we enjoyed some fine sailing in the sun.

Later on that day, a cheeky and speculative telephone call by the skipper meant that we needn’t use Cobbs Quay after all, as a late berth had become available at the Port of Poole Marina. Stretching our legs along the Town quay, we stopped at the Lord Nelson for a drink.

Superman, accompanied by some stags, also made an appearance, but the landlord was having none of it and they were asked to leave. It’s a long walk back to Krypton.

We dined across the way from the Nelson, at Rosso’s Italian restaurant.


Day 3: Sunday 26 May - Poole to Portland

We slipped lines at 09.00 and an hour later had set sails and were abeam of Old Harry rocks. Later in the day the wind increased, and was right on the nose. We had both tide (thankfully close to neaps) and wind against us. Oh, and St Alban’s Head.  We avoided the tidal race but there was still a fair amount of slewing and bucking.  We were losing any meaningful ground gained during the tacks, and an hour or so later, two of the crew came down with Mal de Mer, one badly.  We temporarily lost GPS too, but I can’t remember if we got to the bottom of what caused that.  The skipper had been marking our position on the chart at regular intervals, a useful and seamanlike habit to get into, particularly if a visual fix became impossible or unreliable (thankfully not the case here). With the conditions being what they were and with one crew member being completely laid out and the other one very much “Hors de Combat”, the skipper consulted the crew and it was agreed to motor. We would not break speed records but all progress would be in the direction of sanctuary. We later learned that four crew went down on Faux Pas.

We agreed that Sunday would be a rest day for the crew to do with as they wished.

Shortly after 17.30 we came alongside a pontoon in Portland’s large and modern marina, a very cheerful chap from the office being there to take our lines. During the banter he reminded us that there was no “i” in “team”, but there was in “skipper”!

We dined that evening in the Marina’s The Boat That Rocks restaurant.


Day 4: Monday 27 May - rest day at Portland.

We didn’t sail, but we did walk, and plenty of that too! All the way across the Bill in fact, to the lighthouse and visitor centre, where we had lunch. We walked up the steep hill to the top of the Bill were we could look back and down to the marina, way below. Walking across the Bill we saw very few people - only dedicated walkers. But at the Bill itself and the visitor centre, this was thronged with people who had either driven or taken a tourist bus. Adventurous folk could be seen climbing onto the Pulpit rock. After lunch we wanted to take the tour of the visitor centre and lighthouse, but the wait time was too much for our liking. The following is taken from an earlier visit I made in 2016:

I had lunch at the cafe there, and after this went to the Portland Bill visitor centre, and had a guided tour, during which we climbed the lighthouse tower where our guide explained its construction and working. The actual lens and light structure rotates on mercury: Mercury has the density to support this 3 ½ ton unit, and of course being liquid, offers a minimal amount of friction. I never knew this about the workings of such a lighthouse, but was told that this type and age all followed the same design. One could rotate this 3 ½ ton structure by hand, which testified to the minimal friction being offered by the liquid surface (imagine trying to shift by hand 3 ½ tons resting on a solid surface).

We decided that walking all the way back to the marina was a walk too far, so walked up into Southwell were we caught a bus. Back at the marina we also saw Sea Myth, Viz-a-Vis and Faux Pas. Skipper Martin Woods on Protégé was still in Brixham, and Fullmarks of Hamble wasn’t due in until the next day, following their foreign sortie across the channel.

All boat crews dined once again in the marina restaurant.  Earlier that day, after the bus had dropped us off on the way back from our Bill expedition, we had visited the Cove pub which has a good reputation and a cracking view, but alas all tables were reserved.


Day 5: Tuesday 28 May - Portland to Weymouth

With the rally dinner taking place the next day in Weymouth we did not want to venture far, so spent a few hours sailing in Weymouth bay, the skipper again getting the crew to have some hands on experience of boat handling. This time we experimented with handling under full sail, handling under main alone, and handling under jib alone, noticing the different characteristics of these sail plans. We had lunch on the go before making our way back across the bay and into Weymouth. Passing through the harbour entrance we were joined by Protégé, following her passage from Brixham across Lyme Bay and around the Bill. We moored at the Custom House pontoon, the Club having previously reserved these for the fleet. Martin invited us aboard for drinks which we enjoyed in Protégé’s cockpit.

That evening we dined aboard our boat on Pasta before strolling into town for a drink. On our mini pub crawl we again met up with Protégé’s crew in the King’s Arms. Later on Alistair joined us as well. It was a pleasant and chilled evening.


Day 6: Wednesday 29 May - Rally day in Weymouth

Steve did a cracking job with our only cooked breakfast aboard. We had to change gas bottles over as the gas started to run out and consequently the flames got weedier and weedier. With a full bottle plumbed in the flames again became lusty, allowing Steve to finish the cooking. After this feast a look outside the hatch did not encourage one to explore ashore: It was a drizzly day.  Thankfully the weather eventually cleared, allowing a dry stroll for those that wanted. I visited the Nothe Fort, and later on had a half in The Boot, the oldest pub in Weymouth, just across from the inner marina. By now all the fleet had assembled, ready for the Rally dinner at The Ship. The crews arrived at 19.30 for “Commodore’s cocktails” - an on the house welcome drink.  Before dinner was served, following tradition, grace was said. Also following tradition, the Commodore, Mike Veal, thanked our hosts at The Ship, and entertained the diners with notable happenings during the rally, including the odd howler perpetrated by the crews: The victualing of “Faux Pas” was deemed to have fallen short of the desired standard, HP sauce having been forgotten.  Over on “Protégé, a social media gadfly had jammed WhatsApp with picture uploads. The skipper of Femme Fatale had a gentle chiding for failing some onshore navigation - the wrong pub! So much for some of the “official” howlers and happenings. “Unofficially”, I was given the following snippet: For the first time in living memory, Bernie Blower executed completely, and to the letter, a passage plan!

The following day the fleet made their respective ways back to their home ports. Aboard Femme Fatale, we initially planned to overnight in Cowes and carry on to Port Hamble the following morning. However, late in the afternoon, it was decided that as Port Hamble was so close to Cowes, that we might as well head straight for the Fairview moorings at Port Hamble, and enjoy dinner in the village there.   We did this and handed the boat back the next morning.


I really enjoyed the Spring cruise. Amongst the ports visited by the fleet were:

Port Hamble, Yarmouth, Weymouth, Poole, Portland, Lulworth Cove, Brixham,  Alderney, Cherbourg, Braye.


Many thanks to Alistair Kingham for helping to make it all happen.

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