First sail of the season:Dartmouth

I’m sat here starting to feel a little queezy as it’s blowing a hooley outside, gusting Gale Force 9, and we’re stuck on the boat as it’s too rough to get to shore.  The poor dog hasn’t had a walk so Ben’s about to take her out on deck and see if she’ll do her business there (one reason for it being called a poop deck?!).  Not ideal.

We got back around 8pm last night from Dartmouth, our first trip of the season and our first with just the two of us.  We left our mooring on Friday around 7:45am, a beautiful clear morning.  We had plenty of water under us for navigating our way out of the estuary which is pretty shallow at points.  The passage to Dartmouth took us around four hours, we only managed to sail a bit of it as there were very light winds, so had to motor most of the way.  After about two hours in Ben went below to check the engine and found water in the bilge argh!  After tasting it and finding it both fresh water and hot, realised it was from our hot water system that had blown the pressure release valve.  Whilst helming I used the hand pump to pump it out whilst Ben tightened and reset the valve.  Panic over, we weren’t sinking.  The autopilot which is a bit ancient and had been intermittingly working since we bought her but had a propensity to keep heading south, finally gave up completely, so we had to hand steer all the way which was fine but will get boring on longer passages.  Another thing to add to the never ending purchase list.

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The entrance to Dartmouth is really deep so nice and comfortble to navigate, you just have to give way to the ferries which are pulled and pushed by tugs,and one of which is cable operated so  you don’t want to go nipping across in front of it!  We realised when we got there that if you want shore access you have to tuck in on the narrow side between the town pontoon and the wall, which means reversing back out,  which our big old boat doesn’t do very well (and no bow thruster).  There was also a fishing boat that had sunk conveniantly in the access, also blocking three boats in, so that was a no go.

We stopped at the fuel barge to fill up before mooring and learnt, when the tank overflowed, that our port side fuel gauge mis-reads, woops!  There is another pontoon next to the fuel barge with a tap and recycling bins so we filled up the water tanks here before mooring at another visitors pontoon on the far side of the river.  We went ashore for a couple of beers and walked the dog.  Dartmouths got a nice atmosphere, some cosy pubs and on the Kingswear side there’s a steam train station.  The first boat we viewed, and offered on but missed out, was in Dartmouth where they lived aboard at anchor.  A great affordable place to live the only caveat being due to harbour regulations he had to be on board at the turn of every tide…working from home was a must!

We left for home around 2pm Saturday, aiming to get to the Exe for high tide.  There was a bit more wind on the way back but still not enough to turn the engine off completely. We ended up coming up the Exe about an hour before high, and there were some very hairy bits where our depth got down to 0.4m below the keel…at least if we ran aground now the rising tide would hopefully lift us off again, however we wanted to make it to the pub before last food orders!  All was good and we took up our mooring around 7:30pm.

All in all a successful first trip of the season, I got to practice helming a bit more and holding her into the wind whilst Ben put the sails up, which was a bit tricky with rolly seas.  We also got to practice coming up alongside pontoons more which made us realise we really  need to change the middle window of the dog house to one that opens.  Once someones on deck and you’re at the helm you can’t hear a bloody thing they’re saying, and hand signals can only go so far.

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Much bigger than it looks here when you’re on board!

We’re living back aboard now and need to move the rest of our stuff on board but it’s still too rough out there!  We’ll give it another hour and hopefully with the tide dropping it should calm down a bit, however the winds are still set to increase until 6pm….

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