2023 Summer Rally to the West Country

Thursday 6th July – Tuesday 18th 2023

Recent summer cruises have been blessed with very hot weather, the reason why Fairwind was the recipient of a new fridge freezer for the 2023 one. It was fun playing with it tied up in the various marinas/river pontoons whilst sheltering from the wind and rain. Hey Ho.

Mandalay with Martin & Sarah aboard cheated by leaving ahead of the west country rally. It turned out that their timescale for the rally did not match the published one, but great to meet up as intended in Dartmouth.

Rally leader in Moody Moon (Piers Chamberlain, Chris ‘Gorilla’ Rigg-Milner and Paula), Fairwind (Sue & Barrie Pearson) and Lady P (old sea dog Graham Morris and much younger sea dog Pippa the Patterdale Terrier) set out from Chichester on Thursday 6th July at differing times heading for Yarmouth. There was an evening reverie in the Bugle with Chris ‘Gorilla’ R-M leading the toast for a good holiday.

An interesting start to the next day with Barrie losing the positively buoyant head of the hull scrubber (‘Scrubbis’) under Fairwind. Concerned that it was trapped near the S-drive/prop, he entered the water minus wetsuit and in a stream heading inland up the Yar at quite a rate. Quite silly really. Anyway, after some poking around with the headless pole, the item surfaced not far from Moody Moon and finally retrieved by the nice Berthing Master, directed by Piers. Off we all went at 1300 hours motoring in very little wind to fight a couple of hours foul tide before picking up the full westerly going flow carrying us to Portland Marina. Lucky Piers suggested we did this.

Near Totland head, a third the way down the Needles channel, Moody Moon suffered what turned out to be a rally ending engine failure, stopping dead. Piers waved to Graham and Pippa who motored on thinking the wave was a typical friendly Dell Quay gesture. Similar wave to Fairwind provoked a reaction as Sue thought it odd that Piers was on his mobile when mid Needles Channel, with sails now up but flapping about. Turns out they needed a tow back to Yarmouth before the west going tide set in. A first for Fairwind towing a bigger boat but stressful racing against a turning tide. They managed to get to the first middle trot mooring buoy off Yarmouth with Sue telling Barrie that the buoy capture had to be right first time as the tide was now hoovering west. Luckily, all went well after Sue told Chris that no, she was not going to find them a less wobbly buoy! Moody Moon was secured to the strop still holding Fairwind. Barrie lassoed the buoy independently of the strop and then released said strop leaving Moody Moon secured to the buoy; Fairwind peeling off to port. ‘Gorilla’ CRM was then left to haul Moody Moon onto the mooring buoy with a line some 10 metres long!

(Piers WhatsApp sometime later: ‘have investigated, heat exchanger refilled and engine working, so will study tides etc. with a view of getting to Portland tomorrow’).

Fairwind resumed the motor sail west with a now strong westerly going tide to chase Lady P into Portland, which fortunately was an easy target and saw both boats tied up well before dark. The overfalls off St Albans Head were reasonable, but still a bit bumpy of course and Graham in Lady P said the they had confirmed that there was a leak in the forward hatch.

(Piers WhatsApp even later that day: ‘Losing coolant so in Yarmouth tomorrow. Hope to catch up with you sometime’).

Eating late, dehydration and the alcohol in celebration of a successful towing was an issue for Barrie who suffered one of his vertigo episodes until 0130 the next day. Not good.
Mandalay had sailed from Portland earlier missing us by 10 hours and bound for Dartmouth but decided to bear off to Teignmouth to be able to sail, making port just as light failed.

On Saturday, Fairwind and Lady P spent a quiet day in Portland recovering. At the end of the day a large dolphin entered the marina and gave us all a fantastic display, swimming on its back, jumping, head down waving tail in the air and finally, splashing a boat of divers with its tail. Children watching on the pontoons whooped with delight. Pippa was intrigued. The same day, Mandalay beached in Teignmouth as directed by the Harbour Master and fitted their new rope cutter and scrubbed the hull on what turned out to be a very uneven Hard. All went well in the end.

(Piers WhatApp Sunday: ‘Engineer can only get here on Wednesday, so hopefully mobile later in the week’)

Lady P West of the Bill

Lady P West of the bill

We started early on Sunday (0415 hours) to round Portland Bill on the way to Dartmouth; there was little wind so we motor sailed. Always a little stressful rounding the Bill, but we managed to keep the overfalls well off our starboard side. Even on a reasonably calm day the waves were breaking big time, maybe something to do with the big Atlantic swell coming in and the Spring tide? The west going tide was strong helping us to get clear of the Bill in good time. After a couple of hours, the wind filled in from a Southerly direction and we were able to sail most of the way to Dartmouth and on one tack. Almost champagne sailing with dolphins sited 10 miles out from Dartmouth. Fairwind and Lady P rafted out on the mid-river pontoon.

Martin and Sarah enjoyed Teignmouth with its mid river pontoons and were warm for the first time on their holiday. The small town was interesting with many small rather bijou type shops, one providing Sarah with a bespoke pair of shoes due for delivery by end August. On the part of the town facing the pontoons they had crab and lobster at the Crab Shack which was excellent. They left Teignmouth to join Fairwind and Lady P on the mid river pontoons in Dartmouth. So, a rally of 3 out of 4 boats by late Sunday afternoon.

(Piers WhatsApp later Sunday: ‘ex-club member came up trumps with an engineer, heat exchanger replacement required plus other bits and pieces. Here until Friday now’)

Dart Valley Railway

Dart Valley Railway

The weather turned foul with crews remaining on board the next day. The usual get-together on Mandalay early evening when it was discovered that Mandalay has five drinks lockers, with Sarah insisting that two were for non-alcoholic beverages.

Tuesday’s weather was reasonable and all five of us with Pippa headed off on the one hour plus walk to Coleton Fishacre, the wonderful Art Deco country home of the D’Oyly Carte family designed by Oswald Milne, a student of Sir Edwin Lutyens. The walk was very hilly and after walking round the house and gardens, the party decided to get the bus back to Kingswear. Unfortunately, the walk to the bus stop was much longer than anticipated and the bus was going to be missed, so a diversion was made still on foot back to Kingswear. The group got split up a little along the way and then Martin and Sarah passed by in a new electric BMW courtesy of a local; Sarah giving the ‘royal wave’ as they passed. Sarah said the lift was because her foot was painful, which was a decent excuse. Drinks at the Dartmouth Yacht Club followed by fish and chips on the quayside looking over the lovely sunny Dart provided a suitable ending to a very good if not exhausting day out.

We were all watching the weather forecasts with great interest trying to find a window to get back around the Bill, which looked like Thursday. Sarah suggested we all ‘pop’ round to Brixham to achieve a better angle back to the Bill from there. This worked well and gave us a taste of what was in store for Thursday. Strong breeze and a lumpy sea. Brixham marina had proper ‘raindance’ type showers which was such a luxury after Dartmouth. Sarah booked us all a berth in the Cove in Weymouth for the next day.

(Piers WhatsApp: ‘Friday out now so likely will be in Yarmouth until Monday or Tuesday’)

On Thursday 13th in anticipation of a big following sea and fairly strong winds, the three boats hatched a plan to go around the Bill together, with Lady P leaving 50 minutes earlier at 0430 hrs. All boats converged about 24 miles out with less to go. The trip was actually quite good with seas usually more benign in Lyme Bay. Three pods of dolphins were sighted, all on a mission heading for Dartmouth maybe for fish and chips? The wind and sea picked up as we sailed closer to the Bill. The waypoint aimed for was 3.75 miles south of the Bill, which was the gybe mark. It turned out that the overfalls were not that evident although the waves on the quarter rounding the Bill were quite interesting. The lesson rounding the Bill is that Neap Tides really help.

Rally in the cove Waymouth

Rally in the cove Waymouth


Weymouth was fairly quiet, possibly something to do with the weather forecasts. We had our own section of the Cove pontoon which was nice. The plan was to sit there until Monday when the weather looked better to go east. The Cove is incredibly well sheltered and the 45 knot winds were hardly felt. Crews did their own thing in the main.


(Piers WhatsApp: engineer came today Sunday and we are repaired but with some get you home fixes, so back on tomorrow’s early tide’)


On Monday, the three boats left Weymouth; Lady P very quietly indeed at around 0400 hours to get to Yarmouth. Fairwind sailed around to Studland and Mandalay to Swanage. Sue and Barrie were astonished to find Studland completely empty and Sarah reported that Swanage had a lot of space too; something to do with the recent weather no doubt.

image4The many (free) eco mooring buoys in Studland were a delight, each with a really good pick up. The buoys were very lightweight, seemingly on a ‘bungee’ riser screwed into the sea bed to protect the eel grass beds and the sea horses that live there. A charity raised £66k to lay the buoys. They have a lovely big ring on the top, but catching one with the Mooring Hook was a challenge as the buoys are so light. Interesting watching the boats coming in later, none picking up the strop for some reason but all fighting trying to get a line through the rings. One boat must have rounded 5 times before a successful capture.  Our approach was to pick up the strop, have a beer and then put a line through the ring when the afternoon breeze had died down.

On Tuesday, the tides allowed for a more leisurely start for Fairwind to get to Yarmouth to join the Round the Wight rally and earlier for Mandalay to get to Cowes, their final ‘fill up’ stop before home. For all practical purposes, the Summer West Country Rally terminated in Yarmouth. 220.5nm logged through the water by Fairwind.

Thanks to Piers (and commiserations on the engine failure) for organising the Summer Rally.

Barrie Pearson

P.S. Yours truly is organising the Lymington rally on 2 September, so why not sign up? Spaces have been booked in anticipation and all the HM needs is a list of boat names. Look out for further details