So at last, here she is. Bora Bora, a 1974 Victory 40. She is a Van der Stadt design, sometimes referred to as a Tyler Victory regarding the hull design. Big enough to live on and small enough for us to manage.
We bought her in Hartlepool. It was a relief finding a boat in the UK in the end as we’d looked at many in Europe, spending countless hours searching out brokers fee’s, whether you can trust foreign surveys, the tax issues of buying a boat overseas, let alone getting the thing back home. We’d even seriously considered a friends boat in Antigua! It was a great deal, even with shipping costs factored in (we aren’t quite ready for an Atlantic crossing just yet!) but in hind sight it was too much to take on with our first boat.
So the North East it was, and still a long way from the South west regardless. After months of emails back and forth, a couple of long trips up and a test sail we took the plunge. Next was getting her back to Devon. Both work commitments and weather windows meant it wasn’t a hurried process, but we finally settled on a week at the end of April. As I am a novice sailor and Ben felt he was a bit rusty the owners very kindly agreed to help us sail her back as part of the deal. This gave us an invaluable week to learn the boat with their guidance and take advice from those in the know (they had lived aboard in the Med for 10 years).
I however still couldn’t escape work for a few days so Ben hired a car one way and set off. The plan was to do a day sail to Whitby as a shake down so if anything went wrong they had a port planned. As it happened all was fine and dandy so they carried on down the East coast and picked me up from Brighton for the last leg home. We decided to go into Weymouth as some bad weather was forecast, which would’ve made Portland Bill harder than it needed to be. After a day or two of waiting it out the previous owners had family commitments to get back for, so here we parted ways, with an emotional farewell from them to what had been their home for over a decade!
Now we were on our own it really felt like we’d done it! Excitement (and a small amount of nerves!) set in as we waited for a friend to arrive to help us crew for the last leg. More bad weather was forecast so we set off the next day when a window opened up to head around Portland Bill. There are two ways you can do it, on the inner or outer passage, where you have to time it so you’re going with the flow of tide as it rips around so fast you wouldn’t make much headway even with full throttle going against it. The outer means going 3-5 miles offshore whereas the inner is literally a boats length from shore…we chose this one. It’s pretty nerve wracking sailing that close in choppy waters but far worse if you don’t keep close enough in and find yourself dragged out into the race with steep waves to contend with.
We made it around fine and it was an uneventful sail straight across Lyme Bay. The wind picked up as we got closer to our home harbour of Exmouth, it can be tricky getting in here as there are numerous sand bars to dodge. With Southerly winds creating a swell you can enjoy a nasty bumpy entrance but thankfully we made it through before the swell had built up enough. A friend met us in his boat at the entrance of the estuary to help guide us in. It’s notorius for catching people out as it’s so shallow, you really do have to time it at high tide if you have a deep keel (we draw 1.5m) and even then you often see people gone aground. We were due to lock in at Turf locks where Exeter canal meets the Estuary, as we hadn’t yet found a mooring for the season (deep water moorings come few and far between, and ones that are for sale can more often than not be silted up from storms/tides and be much shallower than advertised) so the plan was to lock in and wait for one to come up.
We took up a council mooring buoy to wait for our lock in time and headed to the Turf pub to meet the friends who had come to see us in. Later we had sundowners on deck and toasted the start of our life aboard.
That night the bad weather that was forecast hit. There were 30kt gusts and heavy rain. We were on a swinging mooring and as the tide turned and we hit low we also hit the bottom – and it wasn’t soft mud as we’d been led to believe. The noise on the hull was horrible to listen to and we prayed it wasn’t doing any damage. That coupled with the rusty ring on the buoy we were attached to meant not a lot of sleep.
The next day didn’t get much better and Ben had to go to work. We didn’t want to leave the boat on that mooring, in those conditions, so I stayed on board. We only had one dingy, and Ben needed that to get to work, so I couldn’t get off even if I wanted to! The keel at our aft is lower than the front so the game I had to play was to keep our back end in the deeper waters nearer the channel, so when low tide came we wouldn’t scrape so bad. Ben had a genius idea that if I put the Mizzen up the Westerly wind would help swing it round. Well all well and good but I hadn’t put a sail up completely on my own yet and certainly not in full bloody side wind. My stubborness got me through with a lot of swearing and I finally managed to winch it fully up. It did the job and kept us mostly pointed in the right direction all day, phew! Welcome to what you don’t see in the brochure. The weather continued to be pretty crap that night but cleared up enough by the next morning for our lock in to the canal.
We were put on the visitors pontoon but were told they’d have a shuffle round of the other boats and move us at some point (you’re not technically allowed to live aboard in the canal so we were, on paper at least, storing our boat there for the time being).
It was back to work for me – I had got a job at the Turf pub- and time for us to continue the search for a mooring whilst learning the ways of liveaboards and enjoying the relative calm of the sheltered canal basin…for now.