Puffin - a 1937 Hillyard sailing yacht

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  • I have a feeling the captain might have read this classic wonderful text:
    http://www.bluemoment.com/200pm.html

  • Thanks for posting that, very inspirational

  • Haven’t read this, thank you, will check it out

  • The channel!

    We left emsworth at 9.30am on Saturday, as soon as there was enough tide over the cill to allow us to get out of the marina. The timing meant that we wouldn’t get much tide pushing us east, only three hours or so before it turned against us, but as this was going to be at least a 24hr passage, that didn’t matter too much. The forecast was for f3-4 northerlies, swinging more east later, so the plan was to head on a bearing of roughly 110 degrees, in the general direction of Dieppe and see what happened. As it turned out, although there was a bit of breeze for the first two hours, it then died completely, so the motor went on. Having only 10 litres of fuel for the outboard, I was hoping the wind would return at some point otherwise we would be turning back. In the afternoon, there was a bit of a sea breeze and that allowed us to reduce the revs and motor sail, making some distance offshore, then as it got into evening this disappeared leaving the sea oily calm. We had checked the forecast again before mobile reception went and this said wind at 10pm. We hoped it was correct as we’d almost used half the fuel! At around 8pm, we started crossing the first shipping lane, quite a few big ships to avoid. One thing I had forgotten was a hand bearing compass - this allows you to take a bearing on a ship. You then take another bearing ten minutes later and if it’s the same, this means that you are on a collision course and need to alter. Without the compass this is tricky but we managed, mainly by guessing. As the sun set, we celebrated mid channel with a small Aldi beer each! It was very beautiful and I was enjoying the furthest I had been from land in my tiny wooden boat. At 10pm, as it started to get dark, the forecast breeze arrived and started building quickly. Unfortunately it was more east than north and this meant our course would be more southerly, perhaps Le Havre instead of Dieppe. Although the wind was only 10 knots or so, we decided to be prudent and reef the mainsail before it got too dark, this ended up being a very good decision, always put a reef in before dark especially on a small boat!
    I then took the first watch, while Sam went down below for a sleep. We had decided on 2hrs ish per watch and to wake the other if anything happened. That first watch was absolutely glorious, zipping along in the dark, engine off at last, through the shipping lane dodging tankers! It was pretty tricky judging their course and distance from lights alone, but I managed it and we safely crossed the second east bound lane under sail alone. Luckily we had sailed across further west than intended so hadn’t actually been in the traffic separation scheme (tss) where you are required to cross at 90 degrees. After a couple of hours, I woke Sam up and we swapped over. I managed to get my head down straight away and fell into a really bizarre sleep - concentrating on the lights of ships is hard - and when I woke up 2hrs later felt pretty rough and like I’d been hallucinating. Back on watch, the wind had died a bit but not enough to motor, and it was dead east, meaning our course was definitely more to the south. An hour or so into my second watch, it was starting to get light and I was feeling pretty weird. The clouds were making strange shapes and I could hear lots of voices. Then I heard a loud engine noise and a bloke on a jet ski turned up, did 2 laps of the boat and then drove off! This was getting silly. If I didn’t have coffee soon, who knows what could happen. Not wanting to wake Sam and not wanting to heave to (stop the boat) and lose headway, I somehow managed to grab the stove, kettle, cafetière, mug and coffee and stick them in the cockpit with a hand on the tiller still. I then made coffee and I only spilt about half a bag into the sea! The wind had died quite a bit and the waves weren’t too big at this point so I sat there as we cruised along at 4 knots, drinking coffee and watching the sun slowly rise.
    Part 2 to follow…


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  • Awesome read, thanks for sharing!

    I sailed through the channel many years ago on our way from the Azores to Sweden. After 10 quiet days at sea the channel was pretty stressful to say the least. Having 15+ ships on the radar, all of them doing 20 knots or more in different directions, sure made for a few interesting hours. Mooring in Brunsbüttel was a good feeling after that!

  • Haven’t fully quit being a teacher - taking a break!

  • Stove isn’t tied down as it’s handy to be able to move it and it hasn’t been thrown across the cabin yet. Would be good to tie the kettle down though as it’s always getting chucked on the floor. Might make a gimballed shelf for it all to sit on one day

  • Passed through the sea lock and into the Somme today. Got the mast craned off and laid on trestles on the deck, ready to head into the canals. Will now find somewhere on the Somme to keep puffin until the start of the summer holidays when I’ll be back to continue the trip


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  • Amazing and terrifying in equal measure

  • This is a great boat and write up of your trip thanks.

    Really enjoying your keep it simple approach and story.

  • The Somme is lovely


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  • Wow, this is just incredible!! And that channel crossing sounds amazing and terrifying in equal measure, good job! Great to see the bike managed to fit too.

  • What a great thread, thanks for sharing

  • Just further thanks for the write-up and pics and encouragement to keep us updated!

  • Thanks for the kind words all. Puffin is now tied up for a few weeks while I do some work. Will get on and post channel pt 2 soon. Lots of improvements required for next canal stage such as loads more fenders and better mooring lines. Also some sort of solar shower or garden sprayer set up for washing. I’m still amazed that this plan is working and we might actually get to the med, have to keep pinching myself!
    Ride back to Calais for the ferry was wet…


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  • 'Living the life of Riley' as my mother would say. Fantastic stuff, thanks for sharing.

  • Great thread. Looking forward to the updates.

  • Awesome! Just found this thread. Thanks for sharing!

  • Just discovered this thread and devoured it on one sitting. Great read and inspirational stuff.

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Puffin - a 1937 Hillyard sailing yacht

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