Very early, as it happens. I wanted to be sure of reaching Chichester marina while there was still enough water in the entrance channel for us to float in. I also wanted to have a favourable tide around Beachy Head and Selsey Bill as the water flows quickly around those headlands.
So we left our berth at 0440, in time to catch the 0500 lock out to sea. Hopefully it'll be a while before we next have to get up at stupid o'clock!
|In the lock with the fishing boats. No other yachts for some reason...|
|Sunrise by Beachy Head|
The forecast had suggested there'd be very little wind, so we were delighted when the breeze filled in enough for us to sail.
|We are sailing....|
|That's 0.0 knots of apparent wind. Trim the sails however you like, you ain't sailing today!|
Our route took us past the wind farm that's under construction off Brighton. I'm not sure how many turbines there are, but it took ages to pass them all. The picture below shows the floating hotel for the workers and a levitating ship in the background:
|Floating hotel and levitating ship. Huh?|
|A close up of the levitating ship. Well weird, but no doubt essential to the work|
It sure was hot - hotter than we can remember for a very long time. Maybe since France 2016? Not only did Jo do without her thermals, she even rolled up her trouser legs a bit!
We knew we were nearing Chichester Harbour by the masts. The picture below shows the boats following us in. We hadn't seen so many boats under way since, well, since we entered Chichester Harbour in 2016!
|Boats following us into Chichester Harbour.|
It was absolutely packed inside too, but that's Solent sailing for you.
The Solent's a great place to sail. It's sheltered by the Isle of Wight, there are lots of places to visit within a couple of hours of each other and it's beautiful. Unfortunately this hasn't gone unnoticed and, as a result, it's expensive and very crowded. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true!) as many as 12,500 craft regularly use Chichester Harbour alone! Our preference is to sail there in the winter when we can have it pretty much to ourselves. Visitor's berths are a lot cheaper then too!
|"Quiet" anchorage, Solent style...|
|... East Head, off West Wittering beach|
Anyway, despite having to motor sail virtually the whole way, we made good time and actually reached Chichester Marina at about high water - which was great, as it meant we could pass through the lock on freeflow (when the gates at both ends are open). After showers in the luxurious facilities provided, we settled in for our last night of 2017 aboard Cyclone.
|One of Cyclone's neighbours. Clearly abandoned, but why? Ill health? Bereavement? Sad|
The plan for the next day was simple. I get aboard my "circus" bike, cycle 15 miles back home to Hayling Island (I'm far too tight to pay for a taxi and it's good exercise!) pick up our car and return to unload the boat and collect Jo.
The first part of the plan worked fine. The next part less so.
Unfortunately our car, which had started fine when our neighbour had run it up during our absence, showed me what it thought of being abandoned for 5 months by refusing to start. A bump start with the help of a neighbour (thanks Mike!) got it going, but all was not well. The alternator wasn't charging and I had the interesting experience of watching the car slowly shut down around me as I drove it straight to a local garage run by another neighbour.
First the blower stopped. Then the rev counter and speedo went to zero. Then warning lights illuminated one by one as the various systems like airbags, anti-lock brakes and the like shut down. Naturally the windows wouldn't open (it weren't 'arf 'ot!) and, by the time I reached the garage, the engine was starting to run rough too.
I'd hoped that a jump start using a battery pack would provide the power needed to get the alternator charging again but it turned out that the alternator was, in fact, as dead as a Monty Python parrot. Luckily the garage was able to lend me a car for the afternoon so I could pick up Jo and the essentials from the boat (the wine).
On reflection, I missed a trick there, didn't I? I could have had a quiet few days...
Anyway, we didn't get the car back for 3 days which was very frustrating (but not the fault of the garage, which had a full schedule before I dumped our car on them uninvited!) as it meant we were confined to base. We couldn't unload and strip Cyclone of her sails etc, visit our parents or do any shopping over and above the few items I grabbed before returning the loan car to the garage.
Never mind though, eh? We could have that takeaway we'd been looking forward to, couldn't we?
Well, no as it turned out. Having settled on the sofa with a glass of wine and some nibbles, perused the menu and checked the opening times of our local takeaway, I phoned them at 1900 with our order. Instead of the anticipated cheery Chinese greeting I listened to a recording which announced that, due to unforeseen circumstances, they were closed! Of course, I didn't grumble at all (much!).
So, that's the car in the garage and the takeaway scuppered. What else could possible go wrong?
The dishwasher, actually.
Suspicions were aroused when there wasn't the usual noise of water being thrown around when in use. When it had "finished" it became apparent that its sole contribution towards cleaning our dirty dishes was to bake the detritus on to the various plates etc. with its drying cycle!
Now the same thing had happened when we returned from our 2016 cruise and so I was confident I could fix it. In no time I had the unit up-ended and partially dismantled to give access to the motor which, as previously, had seized solid. A bit of a wiggle (it's a technical term!) saw the motor turning freely again and the unit was soon the right way up and ready for testing. My reward? 5 minutes of sloshing water on the rinse and hold cycle before the motor seized solid once more...
A quick search on the internet convinced me that the cost of a replacement motor couldn't be justified given the age of the machine and so we now have a new dishwasher on order. Oh, and a new washing machine too, as the noise made by our current one on the spin cycle was akin to that made by a jumbo jet taking off in the kitchen!
In need of consolation I relayed this tale of woe to the Roos (our Australian friends who are still sailing in the Baltic) and received the following reply from Phil:
"If the dishwasher and washing machine aren't working - you should feed her more and remind her of the wonderful summer cruise you just took her on".
Clearly I must distance myself from such remarks but maybe he has a point?!
Anyway, what a welcome back to shore-based life. 3 days at home and £1500 poorer. Ho hum...
Having got the car back we were at last able to go and visit Jo's mum and dad. Then it was time to strip Cyclone of sails, sprayhood and contents so she would be ready to go ashore on 7th September.
My plan to service the engine and gearbox over the weekend was thwarted by the Volvo Penta dealer in Chichester failing to open on the Saturday morning - despite the information in the window clearly stating that it would. That job had to wait instead until the following Monday (with parts bought elsewhere as I didn't feel like patronising the dealer who'd let me down...).
|A "Naked" Cyclone. A bit sad really...|
Our trip to Thornham Marina for Cyclone's winter storage was thankfully uneventful (as it should have been - it was only 7 miles within the protection of Chichester Harbour!). The team there came up trumps, as they always do, with the sluice gate open and bridge withdrawn to allow us access to the small pool in which Cyclone could stay afloat until they're ready to lift her.
|Approaching the pool. The entrance is really narrow...|
|See what I mean? I reckon we only had about 6 inches each side of our fenders!|
|Afloat in the pool|
|The lift that will put Cyclone ashore for her winter rest|
|The lift being driven into the water under remote control|
|The lift in place under Cyclone|
|And now Cyclone's ashore! Simples!!|
As in previous years, I've included below some facts, figures and observations relating to the year's cruise:
Facts and figures
Total distance travelled (through the water): 3071 Nm (3534 miles)
Total number of different places visited: 60
Total fuel used: 415 litres (91.3 imperial gallons)
Total cruising expenditure: £6500 approx.
As in previous years, we've used tides wherever possible to speed us on our way, so the actual distance over the ground would have been greater than the 3071 Nm through the water. That mileage compares with 2546 Nm in 2015 (when we were away for a month longer) and just 1466 Nm last year, so we've stretched ourselves a bit this year. At times it felt like it too!
Although we visited 60 different places we actually moored up or anchored a total of 68 times, but stayed in some places more than once.
Once again, we motored more than we would have liked - a total of 359 hours. Quite a bit of this can be explained by the time we spent in the Dutch canals where opportunities to sail were few and far between. However, we also seemed to be kept in port by more than our fair share of strong headwinds and often when these abated we were left with next to no wind! Still, I don't think there's a sailor out there who actually thinks they get more than their fair share of, er, fair winds!
Our expenditure, remarkably, was pretty much the same as last year in France. Mooring fees are a significant part of our overall costs and these are cheaper in the Baltic than in France so we'd expected to spend less. Unfortunately, however, the weakness of the pound did much to negate any anticipated savings. Note that the £6500 is just what we spent during the 5 months we were away and conveniently ignores other unavoidable expenses such as our new sail and winter storage costs! It does, however, include more than £600 worth of wine (at UK prices) that we brought back with us - wine is still about half the UK price in France, even with the rubbish exchange rate - but not the cost of leaving our house and car idle.
Wear and tear
Nothing broke this year! Just routine maintenance required, such as the engine having 3 oil and filter changes. Cyclone is, however, starting to suffer from the dreaded Westerly droop - the headlining coming unstuck from the coachroof (ceiling). That's a job to look forward to over the winter (not!).
The southern Baltic as a cruising destination
Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia don't have the same natural beauty as Sweden and Denmark (although the Estonian islands are attractive). What they do have is history. Recent history at that. It's truly remarkable how places like Gdansk have been rebuilt following the devastation wrought on them by World War 2. And to think that Poland and the Baltic States were suffering under communist rule as recently as the 1990's. We don't know we're born!
Cruising in general
Well, we achieved our objective and made it to Tallinn. We sailed to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and then back via Germany, The Netherlands and France. 10 different countries in just 5 months. Not bad really!
Did we enjoy ourselves? Well yes. At least until we reached Estonia. At that point we felt we'd met our objective and that it was an awful long way home! That doesn't mean we didn't have some good times on the way back though. There are definitely worse ways to live - like working for example!
The sad news
We learned tonight that our good friend Jim had suffered a major stroke. His son Mike informed us that he cannot communicate at the moment and has lost use of the right side of his body. Apparently he's better now than he was, but he faces a long and slow recovery.
Jim is just 65 years old. His philosophy has always been Carpe Diem - live for the day - and how right he is.
We look forward to seeing him in the next few days and will support his lovely wife Del in any way we can.
News like this really puts life into perspective. Do not put things off. You never know what lurks around the corner.
Get well soon Jim.
I write this blog primarily so we'll have something to look back on in our dotage. It also enables our friends and relatives to see what we're up to.
Despite appearances, it takes a long time to produce and it's nice to think it's entertained a select few.
I'm always pleased to receive comments - directly to the blog or via email - and am grateful to those who've made the effort to write them. Honourable mentions must go to my cousin Tim, Philippa (aka Paul), the Roos, Marjolein, Janet and Geoff. One of my favourite comments referred to my waffle as "entertaining ramblings". Praise indeed!
Thanks for reading and goodnight!
Rob and Jo