Dartmouth to CHristchurch 18 09 10

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Fri 24 Sep 2010 12:37



The Adventures of Dream On – The Journey Home to Christchurch


On Friday 17th, we didn’t leave Dartmouth as planned as the winds would be coming from the N or NE, and would be right in our face. I was relieved as I still had the tummy upset and felt a bit weak and queasy. In the afternoon, I started happily feeling better; it was a lovely sunny afternoon and I walked up into Kingswear for a last look round. I would have liked to have gone to Dartmouth but couldn’t find the energy. It was lovely being out in the sun for a change, with the river sparkling happily below. There was a pretty good sunset too.



 Dream On in her berth at the Darthaven       Last minute bosunage                           Kingswear High St and local pub   



Little houses peeping out of the trees, as at Port Launay.



A late water taxi                                                                      and a gorgeous sunset over Dartmouth.



During the last few days, we heard good news from Sarah. She had been looking at job availability on the Internet at L’Aberwrac’h and had enquired about one at Nationwide by phone. She continued her search as soon as she got back and, after only 2 weeks, had had interviews at Nationwide and another smaller firm, and had been offered a job by both. And I thought I understood that the smaller firm not only offered more originally but upped their starting salary when they made their offer. So well done, Inidsputably-Able Saz, especially in this job market.


The next morning we arose at 6 am again, and this time we did leave, though eventually not till 7.15. It was a beautiful morning, everything looked really pretty and I got the lump I always get when I leave Dartmouth



Dartmouth will soon be hidden as the coast stretches out 2 lumpy        The rising sun hits the channel between the dangerous         

arms, which curve around it and disappear it completely behind            Mewstone and the coast in the Dartmouth Approaches

the apparently unbroken line of undulating wooded hills on the



The winds were NW, but only a very weak F3. We, and a companion yacht going to Poole or Weymouth, both started out with main and genoa up and ended up limping along with main and engine. When we were sailing, we left them quickly behind. When we just had main and engine, they caught us up and overtook us. Sadly we were not going very fast, though even with a bit of tide against us for a few hours, we still averaged 4.9.or 5 knots. Somewhere around 11am the wind really dropped and we were lucky to get F2. The sun was out and we were content with the lovely weather, and being uneventfully lazy, sitting in the sun with the autopilot taking care of everything, except lookout – an easy voyage for a change.


Notwithstanding, at the back of both our minds, was the fact that at the other end of the voyage, we would be having to negotiate Poole Bay, with some pot buoys and lots of ships racing about, or Christchurch Bay, littered with pot buoys, often invisible even in daylight. And if we arrived after dark, we then faced a pretty dark channel up river, snaking across the respective harbours around the many shallows about in both places. Both rivers are dark as the anchorage at Poole sits behind the Purbeck hills, and is bounded by wooded islands on the other side, and Christchurch sits behind Hengistbury Head. We’d hoped to be there before 8.30, when there would still be just enough light to be able to see ourselves down the rivers, to a berth at Christchurch or to South Deep, the anchorage at Poole.. Poole does have lit buoys, but they are quite spread out and boats often anchor very near the channel if not actually partially in it, so it’s a bit hairy. We knew the buoys at Christchurch weren’t lit and we had for that reason never entered at night before, but we also knew it pretty well and knew there would be plenty of depth as we’d arrive between the 2 high waters. Though the moon was on its way to Springs, there was 7/8ths cloud cover, so we couldn’t rely on moonlight to help too much either. If we were in doubt, we knew we could always anchor safely outside Christchurch Harbour, as we had done before. We’d have to decide which option to take as we passed Anvil Point.


We passed the place in Lyme Bay where we have twice seen dolphins before, but no dolphins, though I have to admit we’ve only seen them going, never coming back, At about 2 o’clock the wind picked up to F3 occasionally 4, the tide turned with us and gave us a knot, and we began sailing along at 7.5 knots, occasionally 7.8. This was a great relief as we were getting anxious about the time. Admittedly we still had the engine on, but when we turned the engine off to change fuel tanks, she was still going at 6.2 knots over the ground. We arrived earlier than we expected at Portland Bill, St Albans and Anvil Point.


Just after Portland we saw a navy ship apparently parked just off the coast. We were a bit anxious that they were Customs, and might search us. This was not because we had sacks of illegal booty stowed below in our sparse storage areas but arose from articles we had read about how frightening and unpleasant they can be when they do board pleasure yachts, as if you’re guilty already. We were boarded by customs in L’Aberwrac’h. The chief, a big man, with much gravitas, sat at the saloon table and asked Fred for Boat Registration papers, asked for a few details about the boat and our voyage and for our passports. 4 others boarded too, serious but very civil, and they waited in the cockpit. Two rib-fulls of them had arrived at the marina some minutes before, and several more waited on the pontoon. When the chief had finished, he thanked us, they all politely said goodbye and left. I’ve no doubt if they had become suspicious, they were prepared for whatever may be necessary, but until then they were civil and courteous. The navy ship ignored us to our relief.


We kept our speed up even after rounding Anvil Point, when we thought we might lose either the wind or the tide. But the wind increased to F5 so the sails still carried us along in the high 7s.  We thought we might make it and decided to go for Christchurch. And we made sure our searchlight was fully charged, in case of need. We knew we would have to trust to luck with the pot buoys, but we kept our eyes skinned for ‘em. We had so far kept to the North Easterly course set at Anvil Point for the Christchurch Approaches, and it took us straight through all the pot buoys, virtually right to the entrance buoys luckily without mishap. 3 pot buoys did pass by quite close to us; one clearly had problems deciding which side of our hull to go and just at the last minute chose outside - someone was looking after us. We could just make out the flashing green light at the end Mudeford Quay in the distance, amongst the faint shore lights. It marks the shore end of the channel but we could see no sign of the channel buoys marking the seaward end. The moon kept finding holes in the clouds to shine through, which raised the light level, though, being behind us in Christchurch Bay, it was not much help in finding the channel markers.


The channel moves every year, sometimes quite radically. Fred turned slightly to port, aiming for the caravan site next to Mudeford Quay as he had some idea of where the channel was when we left earlier this year. Suddenly, the first channel marker popped out of the dark to starboard, and then we saw the red cans to port and, going slowly under engine only, soon we were in The Run – perfect. Relief flooded us but we knew it was no time to relax. The Run is a narrow channel running alongside the quay on one side and a finger of land coming from Hengistbury on the other. This finger of land is just big enough to house all the gaily coloured beach huts and encloses the harbour. The Run is the entrance to the harbour, which we had to cross to get to the river.


The channel turns at right angles to port at the end of The Run and runs close to the shore. I shone the light on the unoccupied boats, carrying adverts, always parked along in inner of the edge of the channel so Fred could see where to turn. The channel then bends sharply to starboard in front of the Ferry jetty and between moored boats. With the aid of the moon, now in a good position, and the searchlight, we managed to find the buoys and boats and negotiate between them. Just as we were about to turn, a slim long speedboat with low freeboard came racing up the channel and we let it go by first. Going to sea at that time of night in a fairly small speedboat? Don’t think I would but each to his own.


The channel then bends again at right angles to starboard, before snaking across the harbour. We managed to find the other channel markers, which we were pleased to find out had reflective parts and we mostly negotiated the bends adequately. We may have been not totally in the channel at all times, but as the centreboards and rudders kick up if they hit anything, giving us a draught of 18” and it was high water, we told ourselves not to worry too much.. Nevertheless, we concentrated hard and passed a small motor boat grounded on one of the banks of shallows. Once we’d crossed the harbour, the channel was easy to see; the water and the moored boats on either side of the river reflected the moonlight beautifully. We turned 180 degrees at Chapman’s Pool, following the river down to Rossiters; and then took the left river fork down to our berth.


As soon as I’d finished finding buoys with the torch, I’d had to put out the fenders and ropes pretty quickly, and stood ready to lasso the cleat. Then I saw another boat, a huge motor boat, in our place. Fred then said he’d seen it too; he was going to the other side and I should quickly change the fenders and ropes over to port. I wasn’t sure what it was he was going to the other side of – our pontoon, the finger of land it was on or the other fork in the river, but I just concentrated on changing the fenders and ropes as fast as I could, as I knew it wasn’t far. As I saw him starting to turn the boat around, I realised he was going for the other fork, and probably the moorings by the yard, where boats go for treatment. This involves doing a 3pt turn - there is not the hugest amount of turning room for a boat our size - while avoiding the boats moored on both sides of the river. The other fork is a bit narrower, a bit wigglier and again has boats moored on both sides.


Fred asked me to check he was going to miss the boats nearest the bow as he turned. Running across the deck with a fender, I stopped to check quickly, shouted he would, if he kept on turning and carried on. I’d got 3 fenders down the side, but before doing the 2 stern ones, I thought I’d get the bow line ready, cos the fenders wouldn’t be any use without. I’d just done it when Fred shouted, unknowing, ‘Get the bow line on, we’re there.’ I was glad I had, and after Fred avoided a randomly parked dinghy, and I had checked Fred had finished manoeuvring – which he had done very smoothly – I lassoed a post, tied it off and stepped off to take the stern line while Fred got the stern in and tied on the remaining fenders. And we were home. Whew!


It was now 9.30, a bit later than hoped, partly due to our slow careful pace from Christchurch Bay to the mooring, but not too bad, 14 and a quarter hours, mooring to mooring. Cups of tea, calls to family and sorting out the mooring lines followed and we found the adrenalin needed for our entrance was still keeping us alert - that tinged with our excitement at having come in, in the dark with no problems. Fred realised that when Sally said to go ‘where we were before’, she hadn’t meant our old berth, but where we were when the yard were working on us. Hence, the boat we found in ‘our berth’. As we had been in several different places before, it was an easy mistake to make. After about an hour or so, the tiredness hit us, and we collapsed thankfully in bed, to fall instantly asleep.