My First Extended Cruise of “Harlequin” in 2016 – By Justin Harley

Having been awarded the Cruising Cup this year at Newport Uskmouth Sailing Club, I felt it was incumbent on me to give an account of my voyages this year.

“Harlequin” is a very unusual 8 metre Trapper 300, being twin keeled.  Only 2 were built.  All the other 195 were fin keeled and based on the highly successful quarter tonner Fred Jn designed by Bruce Kirby of Laser International fame.  She was my 60th birthday and retirement present to myself.

Harlequin

Having spent the previous 2 winters doing a complete refurbishment assisted greatly by my friend Steve (which is another story), she was ready for serious cruising, something with which I was relatively unfamiliar as I have mainly raced yachts.

On 20th May, I motored in no wind over to NUSC to take part in the 50 mile Coxy Cup the following day.  This proved to be one of the most unpleasant races I’ve ever done in my life! 50 Nm of strong winds, torrential rain and fighting the tide around the West Culver buoy. My so called waterproof mobile phone died due to the weather too! I couldn’t get more than 3.8 knots to windward as the old mainsail had far too much draught and so she just heeled.  Despite three Cardiff Yacht Club boats sensibly retiring, CYC still won this team race against NUSC.

Delaying until 24th May to get a loan phone at 08:30 I locked out of Cardiff Bay alongside Boot and Nigel in “Supermac” and then ran under cruising chute alone doing at times over 7+ knots, arriving at Ilfracombe at 14:30, a good 2 hours before “Supermac”. I anchored and had a very late breakfast.  Just after 18:00 I lifted Dr Hook off the bottom and motored away from the shore intending to get some seaway before raising the anchor fully as there was a strong onshore breeze.  However I hooked a keep-pot and marker which then chased me across the outer harbour until I managed to release it, before going into the inner harbour for the night.  A shower followed by fish and chips and a few beers in the excellent Ilfracombe Yacht Club with Boot and Nigel were much appreciated.  We also watched the RNLI recovering the lifeboat into the lifeboat house, which was a precision manoeuvre.

Ilfracombe

At 8:45 the following day I left Ilfracombe but to my chagrin forgot to clip the mooring buoys together!  After the hook incident this just proved my cruising incompetence.

It was a wonderful sail though, running and then reaching until 14:30 when the wind started to drop and I fired up the trusty Yanmar, tying up in Padstow’s inner harbour at 19:10 beside Andy Wills on “High Spirits”, which like “Supermac” is a Sadler 29. The shower ashore was again appreciated followed by a few beers, a Chinese takeaway and nightcap with Andy.

I spent the following day exploring Padstow, sampling the pasties, buying some provisions and generally relaxing.

Padstow

I locked out at 08:10 on 27th May and in glorious sun and totally flat water motored until noon and took the opportunity to scrub all the Bristol Channel grime off the decks.  From 12:00 onwards it was either sailing or motor-sailing in beautiful weather all the way hugging the Cornish coast to Newlyn arriving at 21:10.  In Sennan Cove I discovered that it isn’t a good idea to rely completely on my wonderful chartplotter.  The plotter said I should have had over 8 metres of water beneath me but as I passed quite close to a rock the depth gauge read less than 1 metre so from then on I gave obstacles a slightly wider berth! The cockpit mounted chartplotter was from then on used with some sensible caution and proved to be a fantastically reassuring instrument particularly when single handed.

For a commercial fish port, Newlyn was very welcoming and the night harbour watchman friendly but the shower left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness!

The 28th May dawned beautifully with sunshine and a pleasant light hazy breeze. So I slipped my lines at 10:45 and sailed across the bay to St Michael’s Mount.  It really is stunning and then I sailed east.  The engine was required at 14:50 and I tied up at Falmouth Visitors Yacht Haven after a lovely day at 20:15.  As it happened Fal Week was in full swing so there was live music on the quay by the Maritime Museum and beer and food stalls a plenty, so I decided to spend the following day simply enjoying the atmosphere.  Trago Mills was a must shop and I came away with lots of plastic boxes to tidy up the contents of “Harlequin” and re-organised all my storage!

St Michaels Mnt

Falmouth

On 30th May I departed at 08:20 for a sail up the estuary for an hour and a half and then I turned south and flew the cruising chute to the entrance where, as the wind rose, I put in a reef and hardened up.  At 15:15 the wind started to drop so I motor-sailed for an hour or so until it went completely.  At 20:00 I picked up a mooring at Torpoint Yacht Harbour.  This is an excellent place to leave a boat, which is what I did the following day and took the train home for 3 weeks as brownie points were in deficit by this point and the forecast was for alternating strong winds or no wind for the next few days anyway!

Having ordered a new mainsail and after a conversation with Chris Roberts, I decided that, if Ullmans Sails could guarantee to have the sail ready for 23rd June, I’d enter “Harlequin” in the Round The Island Race as I’d be in the Solent in time and Chris and John Stokes would crew for me.
So on 22nd June I took the train back to Plymouth and spent the afternoon and following day fitting deck organisers, up-stand blocks and jammers for dual line reefing and taking delivery of the beautiful bright red mainsail from Ullmans. “Harlequin” is quite colourful with red, yellow and blue graphics, tiller, washboards and UV genoa strip. I don’t believe that canal boats are the only ones to be allowed a bit of colour and having seen the red and orange foresails of Dylan Winter of “Keep Turning Left” and Roger Oliver of PBO, I thought a red mainsail would be a safety feature as well as being simply jolly!

Colourful Boat

On 24th June at 06:30 I set off from Plymouth and motored for an hour then sailed for an hour but the wind didn’t hold so 3 hours of motoring followed but just before noon the wind came in from astern and so goose-winged and then reached to the entrance to the Dart.  I’d never been up the Dart before.  What a fantastic estuary!  The water is very deep and the valley sides steep and beautiful.  The wind comes from every direction.

I explored to Dittisham and back tying up at Darthaven Marina in Kingswear at 15:00. The fish and chips and beer at the Royal Dart Yacht Club were excellent in the evening sunshine on their terrace. 

RDYC

At 06:30 I left Kingswear and again had to motor-sail but at 08:50 the cruising chute was launched and from then on “Harlequin” romped along at over 6 knots and occasionally over 7 for about 6 hours. Having sailed round Portland Bill, the wind then rose quite dramatically and the dual line reefing for the main proved its worth as I put the first and then the second reef in.  However the roller furler on the genoa jammed, so I switched the engine on and unfurled the genoa and then dropped it on the deck and headed into Portland.  As I entered the harbour two kite-boarders hailed me from the water and asked for a lift as the wind had suddenly gone so I picked them both up.  What a lot of string!  I was also really surprised by how heavy their foiled boards were.  We tied up at 18:00 and had a shower and beer ashore.

The following morning I went to the chandlers and bought some slightly stiffer and marginally thicker rope for the furler as it would be less likely to jam and was off by 10:20 to explore this lovely coast, but before leaving the harbour I was rewarded by the sight of International Moths racing up on their foils.  Quite fascinating especially when they tack as it is all rather wobbly until they are up at speed again.

Moths

As I sailed passed Weymouth, I saw the distinctive dark red sails of several Squibs heading out into the bay and later counted at least 50 of them in pre-start manoeuvres as clearly the class was having a major regatta.

Squibs

It was a gentle day’s sailing downwind and at 13:00 I poked into Lulworth Cove and then continued along the coast to St Albans Head and Anvil Point.  It was such a benign day, I went inshore which proved rather uncomfortable and so I furled the headsail to slow down and rolled and yawed passed. Hardening up off Swanage I sailed by Old Harry and reached towards the entrance to Poole Harbour. Again the dual line mainsail reefing proved its worth as I reduced sail and beat in along the fairway and through the gap between Shell Bay and Sandbanks and then unreefed and reefed again as I sailed all the way meandering along the channel to Poole Quay.  However the genoa furler jammed again so I had to drop it and feeling very tired motored into Poole Quay Boat Haven at 17:35.

I hadn’t been into Poole for about 3 decades so it had changed a lot since the heady days of rafting up along the quay and revelries in the various pubs followed by a chicken phall from the Indian takeaway! Nothing like the charm of the past and the new marina is rather characterless, austere and very pricy.

Having tidied up I took a look at the furler drum and decided that the jam had been caused by too much rope on it, so instead of sorting it out the following morning when I’d have been refreshed I decided to shorten it then and there.  Naturally in my fuddled state I cut it in the wrong place and therefore had two lengths of pristine line that were both too short!  Damn!

So the following morning I purchased another furling line of the correct length.  With the help of a visiting French yachtsman and some Teflon spray we got the genoa back on and up.  The furler then worked correctly from then on.  However as I motored out from the marina the engine alarm came on!  I managed to stop along a jetty and realised that I’d closed rather than opened the raw water intake valve on the engine that morning.  I’d obviously in my tired state the previous evening not shut it as I had been doing at the end of each day.  I decided from then on to shut the valve only when I am not going to use her the following day.

Rather embarrassed I set off again at 10:30 and had a lovely sail with the cruising chute over to the Hurst Narrows in sunshine and a light breeze, arriving at Yarmouth at 16:00.  It too now has a marina.  However the Yarmouth marina is a real improvement for although the old piles and row ashore was very picturesque and old-school it wasn’t convenient.  The marina has been done very well.  For old time’s sake, I had to go to the Bugle.  Sadly, although not badly refurbished, the charming old snug rooms have disappeared!

Hurst Castle

The following day much refreshed I set off at 11:00 and sailed downwind to Cowes Yacht Haven having a look into Newtown Creek on the way.  This had been a favourite picnic spot on the hook in my Gem micro cupper back in the 1980s.

On route to Cowes I was again entertained by watching foiling boats but this time they were “Concept 70” and “BAR Landrover” out practicing hurtling up and down the Solent at enormous speeds.

Concept 70

Arriving at Cowes at 13:15, I had a wander around and after a beer at the Island Sailing Club and a chat with the Race Office turned in for the night.

The following day I sailed across to Hamble and tied up ay Mercury at 10:30.

On 30th June Chris and John came down and we went over to Cowes on the Friday to the lunchtime reception given by J P Morgan and the ISC with guest speaker Dame Ellen MacArthur.  The wind had risen significantly during the day and it was a very fast reach back to Hamble.  John and I went and heard the pre-race briefing at the Royal Southern Yacht Club relayed from the ISC.  Strangely they had the same technical fault as the previous year and we could see the first half of the briefing but not hear it.  The forecast was not good. Much later that evening “J Rider” arrived on her trailer due to a very eventful journey and we assisted her launch with helpful remarks!

J Rider

Saturday 2nd July dawned very windy and we left Hamble at 08:00 and motored against the tide which would turn for the start at 10:10.  The Solent was chock a block.  “J Rider” was out there somewhere but hidden amongst all those white sails but they could see us clearly due to our red main.  With a reef in the main and the genoa partially rolled we made a good start and beat our way west.  We chose the same tactics as last year when I’d joined Chris and Jon on Chris’ Hunter 27 OOD “Hoopoe” for this race: Chris would do most of the helming, I’d trim the sails and call the tacks and John would navigate with his tablet and assist as required in sail handling.  There was plenty of close quarters tacking and we had a very clear beat down towards the Needles.  The new main had transformed Harlequin’s windward performance and we were doing around 5.8 knots through the water: an improvement in excess of one and a half knots.

RtIR Pre Start

John being a more refined person than Chris or myself wouldn’t wee over the rail on such a roller coaster ride so he insisted on relieving himself below but didn’t fancy the heads so asked for a bucket.  Having carefully and successfully made himself comfortable, he started to climb up the companionway with his precious fluid in the bucket when the boat gave a particularly boisterous leap and he fell backwards into the cabin. 

Heroically he managed to keep the contents in the bucket but sadly landed very badly and hurt his back causing him serious pain for the rest of the day and for some weeks afterwards.  Chris and I offered begrudgingly to retire and head back but thankfully John declined and so we raced on. 

Given the overfalls that were obvious as we approached the Hurst Narrows, we put in a second reef and rolled in a lot of the genoa.  The red, yellow and blue bands on the UV strip make gauging the amount of genoa reefing very easy and consistent.  Having got through the chaotic sea in the narrows we sailed close by the Needles Lighthouse and freed off and unfurled the genoa and shook out the reefs in the main.  “Harlequin” has permanently rigged gybe preventers and I clipped them to the end of the boom.  We then broad reached and ran by the lee towards St Catherine’s Point.  At no time did we see any spinnakers and we decided sensibly that it wouldn’t be wise. 

From the Hurst Narrows onwards we had been hearing mayday calls on the vhf and saw one lifeboat racing to a man overboard.  It made the preventers seem very worthwhile.  In fact one boat sank off the Needles, a catamaran overturned and there were at least 6 separate man-over-boards!  Thankfully there were no fatalities as all were rescued. At one point the coastguard radioed us as we had been reported as having a man-over-board but after a bazaar conversation it became apparent that there was another boat with a very similar name.

Before St Catherine’s I had taken the helm to give Chris a rest and we now found it hard to gybe onto port or run because of the wave pattern, so we carried on with full main and very little genoa but still doing 8 knots.  About 17:00 we hardened up onto a close reach towards Bembridge Ledge putting in one reef before Seaview protection area at about 17:40 when Chris and I swapped back to our initial rolls and we put in the second reef for the beat passed Ryde tacking repeatedly on John’s instructions based on our tacking angles and SOG on his tablet to keep out of the deep water as the tide strengthened against us.

As we crossed Osborne Bay, I think that we had all had enough but we carried on until we finished at 20:33 and were able to free off and reach back to Hamble where several pints went down without touching the sides!

RtIR Track

It had been a very exhilarating if exhausting day and we were glad when it was over.

During the post-race euphoria, I mentioned to Chris that the best way now to get “Harlequin” back home was via the Channel Islands and Brittany but that I wouldn’t do the long return crossing from Roscoff single-handed.  So he said he’d come too!  So that was settled.  The following day Chris drove us all home.

On 12th July we met at Newport Station to go back down to the Hamble by train.  After I’d paid the marina William (far too big for the diminutive to be used) for 15 nights, we popped up to Swanwick to get the extra chart folios we needed for Cherbourg to Roscoff and a radar reflector for the night-time crossing.

On 13th my son James joined us for the day and a sail over to the Folly Inn on the Medina and back.  Whilst we were having lunch in the pub there was a downpour of biblical proportions but it had finished when we were ready to leave.  Supper was had in the Bugle at Hamble (nothing like as good as the Victory Inn where we had eaten previously) and then James set off back to Brighton.

On 14th Chris and I leisurely sailed to Yarmouth, popping into Newtown Creek as he hadn’t been there before.

The Needles

At 07:15 the following morning, we motored from Yarmouth and passed The Needles on an overcast but dry day and headed due south. We were sailing by 10:00 and as the wind increased reefed at 11:30.  By 15:30 we had shaken out the reef and were motor sailing on a broad reach to keep up our speed.  As we were approaching the outer harbour we saw a Sunfish; a first for me.  We tied up in the Chantereyne Marina.Cherbourg at 20:40.  The Capitainerie were excellent and they recommended a Bistro and after a shower we were truly in France, having Moules Frites et Des Pressions.  Wonderful and this was at 23:30.

At 08:00 we motored out in no apparent wind and headed for La Cap De La Hague and through the Alderney race and decided to go through the very narrow Gouliot Passage and into the bay of Port es Saies under La Coupée to anchor at Sark. The day had been very hot and so we dropped “Dr Hook” and hung out “Mr Floppy” and had a swim in this spectacularly beautiful bay before getting changed into clean shore going clothes and rowing ashore.  The bay had been blissfully tranquil but at the tiny beach the surf suddenly appeared causing Chris to have a second swim of the day!  I got only damp but Chris was less lucky and sadly his phone didn’t survive his immersion.  Having wrung out his clothes and carried the tender up the beach we climbed the steep path up to La Coupée and then walked to Stocks Hotel for a couple of beers before returning to the boat for supper and an idyllic sunset.

Sark Anchorage

At 05:50 the following morning, 17th July, we retrieve Dr Hook and Mr Floppy, who had ironed out any rolling at anchor, and motored out to the south west for a totally windless and blisteringly sunny day.  At 13:00 we passed Les Roches Douvrés in the haze and entered the Treguier River through its rock strewn entrance at about 15:00 and motored up this beautiful river arriving at the marina at 17:30.  Just before the town we were welcomed by a very large otter swimming and diving beside us.

The 18th July we spent exploring this lovely medieval city and its chandlers across the river and doing some maintenance jobs.  We’d eaten moules roquefort frites at a bistro by the marina the night before and now had a salad in the square at lunch admiring the cathedral opposite.  That night we went to a fantastic poissonniére in an alleyway by the cathedral.  I’d read about it in the PBO four years before and it was a gastronomic delight although probably just a little too much seafood in one sitting!

Architecture

Chandlers Treguier

On 19th July we left Tréguier at 06:00 in company with one of the most beautiful boats I’ve ever seen: a Truly Classic 75, which we had first seen near the Roches Douvrés and then in the marina where we had been granted an audience by her owner.  The yacht was “Braveheart of Sark” and although 19 years old with 90,000 Nm under her belt, she looked sparklingly brand new. She is well worth looking up on the internet!

We spent the day motoring in searing heat and increasing humidity, except for one hour early on when we were able to fly the cruising chute, which was a first for Chris.

Eventually having passed innumerable rocks and islands we arrived at Roscoff Marina at 14:08. For a ferry port Roscoff has to be one of the prettiest: a small medieval village and harbour full of colourful Breton fishing boats with a ferry port far enough away not to impinge on its beauty. 

After Chris had gone to the local beach for a swim and been caught in a short downpour, whilst I’d had a couple of beers at the marina, we went for a walk into Roscoff and had another good meal and watched a magical sunset over the strait to the Iles De Bréhat.  Truly lovely.

Supper 

Sunset Roscoff

It was very windy overnight but by 10:50 the following day, 20th July it had calmed down and we left and sailed under full sail but through rather a confused sea left over from the night’s weather.  At 14:30 the wind was dropping steadily and with it our speed, so we started the engine and motor sailed until 17:15 when the sails were packed away and we motored on into the evening and night.  A night’s passage isn’t long enough to get into a watch system so Chris and I catnapped in turn throughout the passage. Suddenly at dawn we were surrounded by dolphins playing in the waves.  By 09:20 we were passing the Runnel Stone and at 10:40 we were passing The Brisons and Chris conjured up a second breakfast.
After 19 hours of steady motoring we were sailing once again, passing St Ives on a lovely sunny day with flat water.  For two hours we were able to fly the cruising chute but by 17:30 we were motoring again all the way to Padstow where we refuelled and tied up against “Ceol Mor” at 20:00 with a log recording 163 Nm over 33 hours.  Very tired but satisfied we had a meal ashore and then a drink with Alan and Sharon before retiring.

At 06:07 the following morning we were away as soon as the lock opened and we motored in totally calm, windless and sunny weather all day making such good progress that instead of stopping at Ilfracombe, we just kept on going and eventually at 21:40 as the tide turned against us we were 7 nm short of Barry.  Hugging the 5 metre contour, annoying the abusive anglers on the headlands, we motored against the tide arriving at Barry at 22:55 where we anchored and turned in after a log distance of 84 Nm all under motor!

At 06:00 we motored out of Barry into a 3 knot tide taking us towards Lavernock and immediately the engine stopped.  Thankfully it hadn’t happened in the dark the previous night.  Throughout the cruise we had regularly topped up the fuel tank from jerry cans but had forgotten to do the previous day!  So I unfurled the genoa and tried to claw our way off from the shore as the tide swept us along whilst Chris refuelled and bleed the engine and we fired her up just before Lavernock Spit.  We picked up my pontoon mooring at CYC at 08:30 and unloaded Harlequin whilst we awaited Sue to collect us at 10:00 to be chauffeured home.

So ended my first really serious extended cruise in my precious “Harlequin”.  It had lived up to all my hopes and more but I’ve never had to motor so much.  I came to trust and appreciate just how good this Trapper 300 and the Yanmar 1GM10 are and had covered over 1000 Nm and averaged 46 Nm in 9.5 hours each day.  It had been a real bonus to share the third leg with Chris.

THE END.