Planning the shakedown cruise

Before setting off on the planned Atlantic adventures later this year, I feel it prudent to run a few shakedown cruises closer to home. I’ve mentioned some of the anticipated destinations in earlier blog posts, but this is the first time I’ve started to actually get the charts out and plan the trips.

The idea is, on the whole, to avoid marinas where ever possible and live “on the hook” making the most of dried provisions, our new (yet to be installed) watermaker from Spectra (ordered at the 2020 boat show and delivered at the end of December).

The mission of the shakedown cruise is to work out the best camera angles, and to get a load of b-roll for my upcoming documentary series, to work out what does and doesn’t work on the boat and find ways of fixing / re-modelling what we can, and to train the crew ahead of trips where we may be out of sight of land for 2-3 weeks at a time (instead of 2-3 hours or worst case a day).

The UK West Coast leg

The planned excursion totals roughly 2,200 nm – which is quite a trip, and would take 18 days if we were to sail it none stop. The actual plan is to spend between 1 and 2 months doing it, starting on the South Coast, working our way up the West Coast until we hit the Isle of Man, spending a week or more exploring the Isle of Man (and seeing my mum) before heading up to Scotland to explore some of the Islands there and then heading South again, ideally down the West Coast of Ireland (weather and seas permitting) before making for the Scilly Isles, Guernsey, Jersey and then back up to Weymouth or Portland – or South to Gibraltar depending on how well the shakedown went.

Current plans are to dip our toes in the water with small overnight trips during February and March before heading off on the longer trip towards the end of March/beginning of April – although as with all things sailing, there is no hard and fast schedule as we are always at the mercy of the weather (and technical issues).

Gibraltar

Route to Gibraltar

If all goes well then the next journey will be roughly 1,450nm to Gibraltar via the Channel Islands, and a number of ports and marinas en route as we bimble along the West Coast of France, Spain and Portugal until we arrive in the Meditteranean and the Straits of Gibraltar. The anticipated journey time is 3 weeks (although, again, we could do it none-stop in 8 days – but where’s the fun in that?!)

Following Our Travels

It is my intention to try and post fairly regular updates on YouTube both on a special channel for SV Pamela C as well as on my own channel SeaSwabJon as we progress around the West Coast, detailing the issues encountered as well as the sights we have seen.

I am also encouraging Jack to write a book on the Gibraltar leg, along with details of ports and routes, which we will then “fact check” en route and hopefully have more YouTube exploits for your viewing pleasure as we undertake what will inevitably be one long pub crawl from Brest to Gibraltar – checking out the marinas, the restaurants and the bars as we go!

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Impossible Journeys

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin ..

unknown

As we start a new year, we reflect on what was and then we look forward to what will be, always remembering that our past does not equal our future!

These past 3 years since I quit my job and started on a journey of self-discovery, I have come to realise that so much time was wasted in the never-ending rat race, working to live but actually living to work.

I had been mildly successful and had a couple of lucky breaks, but like the gambler who always thinks they’re on a winning streak and who keeps going regardless, I didn’t know when to stop, walk away and say “enough is enough”. I kept ploughing on, re-investing the money I’d made into new ventures, only to find those fail one by one and my cash reserves disappearing rapidly as a result.

More than ten years of my life was spent trying to replicate the accidental successes I had in the midst of the dot com bubble. Instead, I should have walked away and banked my winnings. To be honest, I did try to do this when I was in my late twenties, but without life experience or any real idea of what alternatives were ahead of me, I just carried on doing what I knew best. I think I lacked the imagination or had already had most of it beaten out of me in the early years (I had pitched a number of ideas for services such as YouTube, Netflix and the like only to be rejected so many times, I started to believe these things really weren’t possible)

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally began to appreciate that there must be something better – an existence that doesn’t involve working 100 hours a week, sleeping on the floor of the data centre because I was too tired to drive home or even walk to a hotel nearby. I had truly gone from one extreme to the other with work, but I was addicted, I couldn’t let go or switch off. I was hiding from life in my work.


Middle Age:

That time when you finally get your head together and your body starts falling apart

Unknown

Five years later, however, I have finally managed to switch off – possibly a little too successfully – as I am now living almost full time on my boat, slowly starting to explore the coast of the UK and planning my next “impossible journey”. Money is running out, but my inner peace and mental well being are better than they have been in a very long time.


Your past doesn’t equal your future

In the past, I was guilty of doggedly holding onto a losing cause, whether it was the failing business, my failing relationships, or just the fact that I needed to work no matter what. I still exhibit some of those “addictive personality” traits, but I am looking forward to ways of continuing the journey and not looking back at the quicksand that had become my career – the more I struggled and fought against it, the faster I sank into the sand.


I love asking kids what they want to do when they grow up because I’m still looking for ideas!

unknown

The Future

Initially, I plan on learning my new boat inside and out. I need to work on my personal fitness (I was unfit before spending 18 months in lockdown!)

I need to find a small crew who can help with general handling, ideally, someone to share the experiences and the costs with, but primarily someone to spend the cold nights with and stop the cabin fever setting in!

Once general handling is second nature, then we set off on one of those “impossible journeys”. Heading off in search of warmer climates and exotic foods, golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.

Life is a journey, and just as in Life, I don’t want to get there and complete the trip quickly, I want to enjoy the experience and make new memories, travel and make new friends along the way. Gibraltar (for example) is 1,000 nm away. We could do the trip in 5 days, but where is the fun and adventure in that – instead it should take maybe a month, as we meander down the coast stopping off at little villages and ports along the way, dropping the hook and exploring. The same with the Mediterranean, spending just one season exploring the Med seems short-sighted, ideally, this should take a few years (if funds permit). No more rat race, no more rushing to the finishing line travelling at Mach 1 with my hair on fire!

There is a lot to be said for travelling at 5 knots. You see the world in a different way when it passes by so slowly, and there is so much to see out there!

Exploring the World

One of the beauties of owning a boat and sailing is that you can move your home to a new location without any fuss. The feeling of waking up in the morning in a new location, opening the hatch and looking out at a different neighbourhood every few days, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures … is truly priceless.

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Getting Ready for New Years Eve 2021

After sitting on tenterhooks waiting for the UK Government to announce a lockdown and cancel New Year’s Eve, we were overjoyed to find that no new restrictions are being imposed this side of the New Year!

Finn’s NYE Gig

Back in October a group of friends and I sat in a pub and said “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to worry about getting a taxi back to Portland at 3 am” … and from that, the idea was hatched to move SV Pamela C to Weymouth Marina in time to ring in the New Year!

A good friend and great musician, Finn, is going to pipe in the New Year at the Old Rooms in Weymouth, which is another good reason to make sure we can enjoy the celebrations and not have to walk 5 miles home in the cold afterwards (or wait 3 hours for a cab!)

This week, however, the weather has been decidedly unpleasant and we’ve had winds gusting over 40 knots – which makes manoeuvring in Portland marina a little tricky (as I don’t have a bow thruster, and if we get caught by a strong gust on the beam, we go where the wind takes us – no matter what we would rather do – and in the narrow alleyways of a marina, that’s not a good look! Having just about decided that we were onto plan B and going to have to try and book a cab for a pre-determined time and place, there was a break in the weather and the wind died down to a more manageable 15-20 knots without the gusts. This means moving the boat is doable!

Alex

A quick call to potential crew to see who was free to handle lines and Alex volunteered. 30 minutes later at 16:05 we were slipping lines and heading out of Portland marina and on towards Weymouth. I got on the phone to the Weymouth harbour master and booked the bridge lift for 18:00 (on the basis that we weren’t going to be there in time for the 16:00 lift).

Weymouth Harbour

We arrived in Weymouth harbour at just after 16:45 and tied up at one of the port side pontoons. There we had a great view of the bars we were going to be visiting New Year’s Eve – it was very tempting to tie up on these visitor/temporary moorings and not even venture through the bridge to Weymouth Marina, but it was decided that as the berth was already booked, we should at least go through tonight and see what it was like – we can always come out again tomorrow if we really want to.

moored outside the pub

At exactly 18:00, the Tower Bridge opened and shortly afterwards we were making our way through having received a green light. Then on to find our berth in the dark. Despite trying to contact Weymouth Marina staff from 16:00 onwards there was no answer, and we didn’t actually know where we were supposed to tie up, but we figured worst case there were the alongside visitor berths and we would be fine there overnight. Tomorrow, they may ask us to move to another slot (especially as Alex is talking about bringing his 54′ Trader into the marina, which would need to tie up where we are currently)

The view of Weymouth at night is amazing. Check out the video above and some of the photos we took on the way in.

Wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Jon and the crew of SV Pamela C

Weymouth Bridge

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End of a season, but not the end of the road!

“When you sail for the first time, you have one of two experiences. It becomes a one-time, bucket-list thing you check off your list, or it becomes a part of your soul forever.”

Michelle Segrest.

For me, sailing has been in my blood since my early days at school. When I first discovered I could go sailing Wednesday afternoons instead of having to play either rugby or hockey at school, I saw the appeal, but once I was on the water I was completely hooked!

Over the years I’ve progressed from small sailboats to larger yachts, and for years had wanted to sail and to explore (more than race). I have always been of a mind that the journey is almost more important than the destination, whether I was flying a plane, going on road trips across America, Europe or even the UK, or jumping on a yacht and sailing. Sadly, most of the people I would sail with were more of the mind that a quick spin out into the bay or a potter out for an hour (or two), then turn around and come home. There wasn’t much of a “journey” and certainly no real adventure – but it served to develop my skills and show me some of my many weaknesses.

For years, buoyed on by the experiences of SV Delos, La Vagabond, Hugo the Sailing Frenchman and more I wanted to go explore, to adventure, to live the dream on a sailboat!

Having worked hard for most of my life and taken very few holidays, eventually burning out, I finally found the time (and the money) to buy my first real yacht. She’s a 1977 Moody 39CC so not exactly anything “flashy” but she’s solid, and she will get me from A to B and hopefully all the way to Z!

But first comes the maintenance and repair work. Being almost as old as me (I was, after all, born in 1971, so the boat is just 6 years younger than me!) she needs some work. New rigging was a must and that ended up meaning a new boom too. Original estimates were that we’d be done by July 22nd, but due to delays in the supply chain, miscommunication with the company doing the rigging, additional works being required to strengthen/repair the mast and just the fact that everything “boat” takes twice as long and costs twice as much, it was October before the critical upgrades were completed. There are still essential jobs that need to be done tuning the new rigging, resolving issues with friction on the furling line for the headsail, we need to look at ways of bringing the reefing lines and sheets back into the cockpit so that I can sail the boat single-handed more easily.

Ventura 200T

There are also some ongoing issues with the hot water system which will only really be addressed by replacing the existing water heater with a calorifier and accumulator. All of this is an additional expenditure that I hadn’t originally accounted for this year. I’ve also ordered a water maker, which retails at about £7,500 – but means I will be able to make my own water whilst at sea, thus being more self-sufficient. I’m in the process of installing Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries and an inverter so I can still have 240v power whilst at sea, charged by solar panels, wind and/or even the engine depending on where we are in the world.

Some of these jobs were slated for next year, but as the boat wasn’t going anywhere and as I managed to find some deals at the boat show, I decided to start them now. All of this does mean however that I’ve spent considerably more money now than I had a) budgeted for and b) actually have, which means some creative financing. I’m also trying to sell off some possessions that I quite frankly don’t need and were an extravagance when I bought them 20+ years ago (thankfully it turns out they’ve become collectable, so could be worth somewhat more than I paid for them – we shall see)

Canary Islands

So, what’s next? Well, I need to find a source of income that will enable me to continue to chase my dream. My current income sources are drying up and whilst I had hoped to have enough saved to last for 3-5 years, it is looking more than likely to be 6 months before I run out of money at this rate. That said, I’m not yet ready to give up on my dream of sailing to Lanzarote and on to the Bahamas just yet!

By now, I should already be in the Canary Islands, but thanks to the monumental delays and additional expenditure (some £10,000) of additional essential works and another £6,000 in mooring fees, that just hasn’t happened.

The start of the journey is not easy, we have to cross the Bay of Biscay, and doing that in the winter is a very bad idea. Rough seas and strong winds make the crossing risky, to say the least. The boat’s insurers specifically state no crossing Biscay after September. Doing so is like playing Russian Roulette with the weather. One day it is calm and the next day you’re running from a force 9 gale and 6-10m swells. (just 3m swells can capsize a yacht and can also be most uncomfortable!)

Today, for example, there are 35kt winds and 6m waves in/around Biscay. It would not be a pleasant place to be just at the moment.

Mother Nature can be cruel
Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay bathymetric map-en.svg

Before setting off across Biscay, I wanted to log several hundred miles sailing around the UK first, dropping the hook and staying overnight in coves and anchorages along the way. To date, I think we have managed to log a total of just 30nm and the only time we tried dropping the hook the windlass failed and I ended up having to drop and retrieve the anchor myself by hand (which resulted in a bruised rib – not the most successful of shakedown cruises).


Some successes and upgrades though, the new diesel heater for example is amazing – I had the boat up to 24C inside while it was just 4C outside, so nice and toasty!


Lithium-Iron Phosphate Battery 12 Volt 170Ah

I am also tempted to replace the gas cooker with an electric oven and an induction hob. There were some cheap Black Friday deals on Amazon so I’ve ordered an induction hob and I’m looking at combination microwave ovens currently. They should run off the new bank of LiFePO4 (340Ah) batteries (another Black Friday deal) and the 3KW inverter which I bought from Renogy this month. Fingers crossed anyway!


So, the UK sailing season has ended and whilst I’ve already spent more than 145 days onboard, I’ve only actually managed to sail 30nm so far. We’ve dropped the hook and had a swim and a picnic (water temp was 8C so the swim was short, but we did see mermaids!)

The plan early next year is to circumnavigate the UK, stopping off in the Isle of Man to celebrate my mum’s birthday, and visiting a number of childhood holiday spots on the way including seaside resorts such as the following bucket list which amounts to more than 18,000nm travelled if I see them all!

Destination Bucket List

DestinationVisitedOvernight
Isle of Man (Laxey, Douglas, Peel)
Lulworth Cove
Swanage
Torquay
Paignton
Polperro (Cornwall)
Falmouth
St Ives
Padstow
Weston-super-Mare
Port Eynon in Swansea
Brighton
Watermouth Cove (Ilfracombe)
Blackpool
Morecambe
Scotland and Scottish Isles
Channel Islands
Northern France
La Rochelle
Bordeaux
Bilbao
A Coruña
Lisbon
Huelva
Punta Umbria
Rota
Barbate
Bolonia
Tarifa
La Linea
Gibraltar
Mediterranean
Nice
Cannes
Tangier
Rabat
Casablanca
Lanzarote
Canary Islands
Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic
Bahamas
Bermuda
Azores
Mexico
The Caribbean
Curacao
Grenada
St Lucia
Guadeloupe
Antigua and Barbuda
Trinidad and Tobago
Bucket List Destinations

If you fancy more regular updates and would like to support my adventures then you can always become a Patreon supporter and make one-off or regular donations towards the operational costs of cruising life. If there is a call for it then I will start making videos showing the delights of the locations, the problems encountered whilst underway, and anything else (within reason!) you want me to do or highlight.

To date, this journey would not have been possible without donations and emotional and physical support from the following generous human beings! – signup today to pledge your support and join me on my journey of discovery as I rebuild my mental and physical health!

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Missing in action

On the evening of Saturday 16th October, I had a few guests over for dinner. The night was fun and Vesta was happy sitting on people’s laps and being loved. Then one of the guests jumped up to take a phone call and rushed out of the boat.

I had already asked everyone to make sure that they kept the hatches closed, primarily to keep the heat in, but also the cat as the weather for the week was not looking all that promising (40+ mph winds were forecast).

Before I noticed that the guest had not, as previously instructed, closed the hatch, it was too late, Vesta had run up the ladder and out of the companionway! Now normally, this isn’t a problem. I would leave the boat open when I’m out and Vesta would come and go as she pleased.

Vesta stayed out all night, despite my leaving the hatch open just in case she came back (yes, it was bitterly cold and wet that night).

The following night I found some signs that she may have been nearby (fresh poo on another boat) but other than that, there was no sign.

We’ve put posters up and have posted to every missing cat group I can find on Facebook that covers the Dorset/Portland/Weymouth area. Less than a week after Vesta went missing, these posts have been shared more than 100 times!

The marina has very kindly agreed to put posters up on the gate and noticeboard, but so far there have been no sightings. One of the marina staff has been round in the workboat looking in all the “usual” spots in case she fell in and was washed up somewhere, but (thankfully) no signs of her there either.

The search continues …

Missing Cat Poster

November 10th

It has been nearly a month since Vesta went missing and despite dozens of suspected sightings, she has not as yet been found. I have personally walked miles and miles in the local area checking out suspected sightings, and have even collected and taken stray cats to local vets so that they can be scanned and reunited with their owners. I only hope someone eventually finds Vesta and does the same.

December 1st

We have had several storms, winds topping 80mph and still no sign of Vesta. At this stage I’m beginning to give up hope and can only assume she has either stowed away on another boat and is sunning it up in the Bahamas somewhere, has found another loving home where it is warm and there is a fire and she is being fed and cared for, or that she has met Davy Jones and has learned to swim with the fishes 🙁

I keep hoping that someone will find her and take her to a vet so they can scan her chip and we can be reunited, but at this stage I’m about ready to accept that she isn’t coming back 🙁

The Seven Stages of Buying a Boat

So, you’re thinking of buying a boat or you’ve just done the deal! Now prepare for the seven stages of grief boat buying!


  1. Acceptance and Hope
  2. Reconstruction and Working Through
  3. The Upward Turn
  4. Depression
  5. Anger and Bargaining
  6. Pain and Guilt
  7. Shock and Denial

Sold Stock Illustrations – 31,858 Sold Stock Illustrations, Vectors &  Clipart - Dreamstime
  1. Acceptance and Hope

You’ve bought the boat and everything seems full of promise!

  1. Reconstruction and Working Through
Boat Repair: How to repair cracks and scratches in 8 easy steps | Norton  Abrasives

You start the repairs and upgrades. You want to replace the old lights with energy-efficient LED lights, maybe the battery charger needs upgrading/replacing, solar panels or a wind turbine. Things are looking so promising!

  1. The Upward Turn
2009 Pixar film Up

You’ve installed a few upgrades and are so full of excitement. But then you realise that there are a few issues that didn’t get picked up in the survey. Maybe the rigging wasn’t quite as solid as you first thought or the boom has hidden corrosion and needs replacing, the new rigging is delayed due to supply shortages and two weeks turns into six.

  1. Depression

The delays continue, the costs keep on increasing and you now realise the £10k you budgeted for repairs and upgrades is closer to £20k

  1. Anger and Bargaining
Is Your Bargaining Perpetuating Your Anxiety? 5 Things to Try. — Eileen  Purdy LCSW Is Your Bargaining Perpetuating Your Anxiety? 5 Things to Try.

You’re now (rightly) annoyed at the continuing delays and costs. You start trying to negotiate discounts and cost savings, you may even begin to look to negotiate finance so that you can still afford the dream. You start to cut your cloth as you realise that it’s either rigging on the boat or food (well ok an extra bottle of wine) on the dinner table tonight.

  1. Pain and Guilt
How to save yourself another pointless guilt trip | Psyche Guides

You start to realise that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all. You’ve spent way more than you budgeted and you’re still no closer to actually being able to go sailing. You think about all the other things you could have done with the money, the good that could have come from it (the mortgage payments, starving children, credit card bills).

  1. Shock and Denial

The sailing season is now pretty much over, and you’ve still not actually made it out under canvas. Then the “final” bill arrives. You don’t believe for one second that it has really cost THAT MUCH! You wonder if you could maybe sell the boat, a lot of the work has already been done, she would be a bargain for someone who just wanted to start sailing when the season gets up and going again.

Why did I buy a boat? (Part 2)

The trials and tribulations of buying a 1977 Moody 39CC and moving from a desk job and into the cruising lifestyle – or “Welcome to my mid-life crisis”, as I like to say 🙂


“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”

André Gide

One thing is for certain; I had lost sight of my reason for living for a long time. I’d had a failed marriage, my business was about to collapse (some would say it never really ever got off the ground), my physical and mental health was in decline, and I was still struggling to come to terms with the death of my father at the age of 66 from lung cancer. One of my biggest regrets is not spending quality time with my parents, who had moved to the Isle of Man about the same time I moved to London to work at Demon Internet in 1995.

We’ll have plenty of time once I retire and you’ve grown your business“, he said. Well, we never managed to get that time, sadly.


David Morby 1946 – 2013

After my father died in 2013, I started spending more quality (guilt?) time with my mum, and we went travelling a little bit, as our schedules would allow. We would eventually go away for a month here and a few weeks there visiting Greece, Lanzarote, Mexico, South Africa, etc. I would sometimes go to the Isle of Man, or mum would come to London, and we would see a show in the West End (or whatever). We started to get to know each other again, and it was great! And then COVID and we’ve been unable to see each other for 18 months. Thank God for Skype and FaceTime!


Through all of this, it became apparent that I loved to travel and to explore countries like a local (not doing the mundane touristy bits). I had been travelling for work for years, but never really getting to see any of the places I visited. Running 14 companies in 9 Countries for a UK PLC, you see lots of airports and hotels, but very little of the actual country that you are in 🙁

Film School

Raindance logo square.png

To get me out of my funk, in 2017, I signed on to an HND in Filmmaking with Raindance in Trafalgar Square,

2019 Cannes Film Festival poster.png
Cannes 2019

London. The course was for 2 years, from October 2017 through to August 2019. Graduation was supposedly March 2020, but COVID put a stop to that. I did graduate with a Distinction though! (all be it without the fanfare). We had made over 50 short films; most were classroom exercises, but 7 of them did make it into the Raindance Film Festival, and at least a couple ended up subsequently winning awards on the festival circuit. We even went to the Cannes Film Festival and experienced the delights of the French Riviera…

The following year, I vowed to return to Cannes in my own yacht; and host some of the students as they submitted their films to the various competitions in the festival.

By 2018, it was obvious that my heart wasn’t in running Fido anymore, and I took the radical steps of effectively quitting my day job, finding someone with the will and strength (and time/gumption/faith) to turn the business around. I decided to make some big changes in my life.

Road to Yachtmaster

After a suitable handover period, I was free to follow my dreams. After a week in Zante in September and then most of December 2019 in Lanzarote with my mother, I flew to Gibraltar on 3rd Jan 2020 to start a FastTrack Yachtmaster course with Allabroad Sailing.

Things were going great guns, I was having the time of my life, I’d met some amazing people and I was losing weight! I had lost some 15kg and clothes that didn’t fit me when I went out there were now falling off me!

Then COVID struck, and just 3 weeks before I was due to take the Yachtmaster exam, the world closed its borders. I opted to fly back to the UK to rescue the cat which I’d left with my neighbours (or is that rescue my neighbours from the cat?!) rather than risk the uncertainty of many months in Gibraltar being unable to leave as the pandemic took hold.

Elite: Dangerous PlayStation 4 Front Cover

A year passed, and nothing much happened in my life. I had put an offer in on a 32-foot Westerley near Brighton, but that fell through when Boris announced the 1st nationwide lockdown and we couldn’t get a surveyor anywhere near the boat. I spent months playing Elite: Dangerous and even bought a new PC, partly for Elite and primarily (I convinced myself) for video editing purposes (oddly, a year in, I’ve barely edited any video, but I have played nearly 1,000 hours of Elite)

By this stage, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life; and was going through some fairly dark times. I had been locked away for over a year, hiding from COVID, hiding from life. I had earned some money doing consultancy work remotely. Still, I hadn’t made a film for over a year, the feature film I was going to write “when I had the time” had failed to materialise, and I had put on 25kg in the meantime sitting in front of a computer playing games and not getting any exercise.

I eventually managed to get the first COVID vaccine in March 2021, which gave me a bit of a mental boost, and I started to venture out again. The world was a different place, but slowly getting back to normal, and I too was starting to feel more like my old self again – and this is when the sailing bug came back with a vengeance, and I desperately felt the need to get out/on/near water. I started calling around to sailing schools trying to book refresher courses, mile builder courses, anything just so I could get back onto a boat and do some “recognisable” miles for my logbook, but the schools were all mothballed; they weren’t sure when they were going to be able to operate again and at that stage I knew, I just knew, that I needed to buy a boat and go do it myself.

Mid Life Crisis in full swing

To make matters worse, I had now turned 50 (May 2021). The mid-life crisis was well and truly upon me!

When I was 25 I bought a sports car, 30 I learned to fly, 35 I bought a plane, 40 I got married, 45 I got divorced (and had to sell the plane), so I guess it was only natural that by the time I was 50 I should be looking to buy a boat.

Every waking moment had ended up being either my watching YouTube sailing videos or searching online for boats. However, now the world was staying at home this summer, there were no boats for sale. Brokers were telling me that boats they took on at 9 am were being sold, above their asking price, by 3 pm the same day. It was a seller’s market! I found a 32 foot Moody in Portland but couldn’t view it as the brokerage that had just listed it was closed due to a COVID outbreak. Subsequently, it seems the boat has sold 2 or 3 times, but the buyers have dropped out; I’ve not as yet been able to find out why, though.

Whilst waiting for the brokerage to re-open and re-arrange the viewing, I stumbled across a Facebook marketplace listing for a 1977 Moody 39CC. I had wanted a 38-40′ boat (or even a 50′ boat), but they were out of my price bracket. I did not have £100k to spend on a boat, and even the cheapest I had found was £75k and they pretty much all needed the rigging replacing and other work, so add £15k to the price (as a minimum) for repairs.

The find (of the century?)

Pamela C was listed at £25,000. I could afford that .. barely. She probably needed new rigging, but the sails seemed in good condition, the boat itself seemed sound, and the guy selling her was amenable. He had apparently already sold her once, but the buyer backed out when he realised that, post-Brexit, he would have to pay VAT on her to get her into Ireland, where he lived.

I engaged a local firm of surveyors, and they found a few minor issues, no show-stoppers (sadly, they missed the issues with the mast, which has cost me about £2,000 more than budgeted so far). Still, they did find enough for me to get £2,000 off the list price and get the vendor to include about £2,000 worth of items that he was trying very hard to unscrew and remove before I saw them. (AIS, Hydrovane wind vane, courtesy flags, etc.).

Now the real work begins!

So that was it, I had, all of a sudden bought a boat! Now the hard work begins, cleaning, sanding, painting, repairing and then learning to sail her. The last bit is the biggest challenge. I have never single-handed a boat this large, and I’m not 100% certain where all the bits of rope go either .. this is, of course, harder to envisage when the boat has no sails, no boom, no mast and no rigging. This, however, is a story for next time!

What is it about sailing?

What is it that I love so much about sailing? Good question! 🙂


Take everything you own that you can’t live without, put it and yourself into the shower turn on the cold water all the way, stay in there for at least two hours. If you come out with a semi-sunny disposition you’re in the club

unknown

The Appeal


Sailing appeals on so many levels, it isn’t easy to know where to start. The fact that you can travel the world without burning any fossil fuels is certainly high up on the list, as is the fact that you can travel to pretty much anywhere in the world!

Yes, it is slow. Pamela C will cruise at roughly 6 knots (7 mph/11 kph), which isn’t really much faster than your average jogging speed, but the fact that she can go 24 hours a day without stopping means that you can easily cover 264km a day or 1,848km in a week, all pretty much while you’re sitting there reading a book, drinking a cup of tea or eating a cake 🙂

When you get there, you have your entire home with you too. You’re not restricted to 10kg of luggage like you are with Ryan Air. You get to sleep in your own (very comfortable) bed every night, and if you have friends along with you for the ride, then you can chat, play games and generally enjoy the journey as part of the experience, without the rushing and cramped quarters of an aeroplane or car.


Life is about the journey not the destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, there can be bad days, stormy seas and wet weather, but we take the rough with the smooth!

I love waking up on the boat each morning; the fresh sea air and the gentle rocking motion of the boat all lean towards a generally relaxed and happy feeling first thing in the morning. Pamela C has a fairly roomy head with a shower (somewhat larger than showers I’ve encountered in some hotels!) and a gas boiler which heats the water to quite a nice warm temperature.

Since buying the boat, in fact, it no longer feels “right” waking up at home. I really don’t sleep as well as I have been sleeping when I’m on the boat, whether it is the noisy neighbours or traffic zooming past my front door at 3am (the speed bumps just seem to encourage them to go faster in a lower gear between each ramp).

Exercise

Coke Zero 10 X 330Ml - Tesco Groceries

I also love the fact that I’m getting exercise all day, every day, whilst on the boat – without it feeling like I’m going out of my way to exercise. I’m walking roughly 5km a day while the boat is in the marina, compared to less than 1km a day when I’m at home. My core gets an excellent workout when I’m at sea, and the weight seems to fall off. I seem to pick and nibble on sweets and drink lots of Coke Zero when I’m at home. Yes, I have Coke Zero and sweets on the boat, too, as well as beer and alcohol, but I find I’m drinking considerably more water when on the boat and “doing more” every day.

Solitude

Siege is swinging back to being way too strong — Elder Scrolls Online

Yes, some days, sailing on your own can be lonely. I certainly miss the cat (Vesta) and hope that once the boat repairs are finished, I will be able to bring her down to the boat, and she will “cope” with the change of scenery. Inside, I’m a little scared that she’ll get upset, climb the sails/mast and then get catapulted into the sea when a big wave hits the boat, to then be eaten by a shark or similar before I can fish her out of the water. Hopefully, that cartoon scenario of cats being flung into the ocean will never happen, but there is a risk of her getting out and doing something stupid in a state of panic.

Vesta

What about my friends, I hear you say? (Once you’ve stopped laughing at the vision of the cat flying through the air in slow motion). Well, my friends are all more than welcome to join me for a day or a week or longer. Most have day jobs or wives and, as such, can’t get “permission” to be away from home for weeks on end. Yes, they can (and will) come for a day sail or a weekend or whatever, but the concept of dropping everything and sailing for a month or more to Lanzarote seems too alien or shocking for them. Even my last girlfriend decided she couldn’t cope with the thought of me either being away for weeks at a time or that she had commitments and as such couldn’t see how we could even go sailing for a weekend, let alone a month – and promptly ended the relationship. Probably for the best at the end of the day. (I think she could also see that I loved sailing and Pamela C potentially more than I loved her, who knows)

Destinations

Well, as I’ve already said, it is more about the journey than the actual destination, although you obviously need waypoints along the way. I have already come up with a few waypoints while thinking and planning, waiting for the mast and new rigging to be installed. In the short term, I think I’m going to explore the Jurassic Coast of England, then head up to see my mother in the Isle of Man and maybe spend a month there before returning to Portland for the winter (assuming they have found me a berth by then) otherwise I may put Pamela C back on the hard for the winter and dream of sailing further afield in the new year.

Turtle Beach, Zante

I had hoped to be able to sail down to Lanzarote or the Meditteranean for Christmas. With the delays in getting the mast on and the need for some time to do shakedown trips and snagging, it is unlikely that I will be able to get across the Bay of Biscay before September and the insurance company’s moratorium. (No crossing Biscay between September and April). If I manage to get down to Gibraltar before September, I would need to cross to Lanzarote before mid-October to avoid the worst of the weather. Alternatively, I still have a tentative reservation at a little taverna we found in Kiri, Zakynthos, which overlooks Turtle Beach, where we can drop anchor and row ashore for some amazing prawns.

The Views!

Sunset in a marina

The views are also something it can be hard to describe. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing vistas as you sail along the coastline.

another amazing sunset

The Challenge

Not every day is a simple bimble, every time you go out on the water; you learn something new. Something can break, the weather can turn for the worse despite forecasts saying clear skies. It’s how we deal with these challenges that make a difference.


Sailing – Fixing your boat in exotic locations

A sailor

So, what is it about sailing? You decide. For me, it’s all of the above and more. Hopefully, some of this will tug at your heartstrings and perhaps convince you to go to your local yacht club or sailing school and experience sailing first-hand.

Cheers!

Why did I give up my day job and buy a boat?

Well, those that know me well know that this has pretty much been a lifelong dream to buy a boat and explore the world. As a child, I was captivated by tales of sailing and the sea, stories such as Swallows and Amazons, Robinson Crusoe, Hemingway’s tale of “The Old Man and the Sea” and so many other stories I’d read as a child.

In recent years my hankering was made worse by YouTube and watching the exploits of SV Delos, Sailing La Vagabond, The Sailing Frenchman (Hugo Picard), Sailing GBU and others.

not me at the helm

I first started sailing when I was 14 years old on the reservoir behind my school in Birmingham. I was bitten by the bug and enjoyed sailing a small mirror dinghy whenever I could, up until the time I started working full time and then moved to London to work for Demon Internet in 1995. Over the next 20 years I tried to go sailing as/when I could, but it never really seemed possible, there were always too many obstacles, problems finding a boat to crew and my heart wasn’t in balls-out racing – I preferred to cruise and enjoy the journey.

My career blossomed working for iii PLC and Redbus Interhouse PLC in fairly senior positions, which involved lots of travelling and no real personal time. Then in 2001 I bit the bullet and started my own business (Fido), which meant the end of any free time!

Over the years I had managed the odd day here and a week of sailing there, but it was more disappointing than fulfilling; so I pretty much gave up. When I tried to take my (now ex) wife sailing, she openly laughed “You don’t expect me to get involved in this do you?!” and promptly headed to the nearest 5-star hotel to recover.

Then, having finally “retired” in 2018 (selling the business I had spent almost 20 years developing), I decided to spend 3 months “unwinding”, sailing in the Med at the beginning of 2019 and signed on for a fast track Yachtmaster course, primarily to squash the nagging bug once and for all.

It didn’t work, I was just more determined to find a way to sail and in March 2019 I found a 32-foot Westerley yacht that was calling to me, I put an offer in, was in the process of arranging the survey when COVID struck and the UK went into lockdown. The deal fell through, and I spent the rest of lockdown cursing my luck and focusing on playing computer games, making videos and generally ignoring the call of the sea.

Lockdown finally came to an end and I arranged to go to Portland to view a 32 foot Moody. That took longer than anticipated because the broker’s office tested positive and they went into their own mini lockdown, but in the meantime, I found a 1977 Moody 39CC which was abandoned on the hard at the National Sailing Academy, it needed a little work but generally looked sound. I arranged a survey, which the boat passed with minimal findings (problems) so a deal was struck. That was June 30th 2021.

I had finally (suddenly?!) bought a boat! My dream was starting to come true! … Or, as I have often joked, welcome to my Mid Life Crisis!

What to watch?

I’ve been asked a few times to put together a list of films to watch for people who want to see some of the classics, from a film maker’s perspective

So, here’s my list of suggestions

Narrative Feature Films

Documentary Films

Documentary Short Films

Narrative Short Films