When being Last, can also be First

It has been a long winter. Sailing opportunities have been few and far between. Apart from a great trip to Newcastle Marina between Christmas and New Year, Kandula has been safely tied to her pontoon. She had a brief lift out over winter for the usual bottom scrub and anti foul. Other than that, there has been very little to report.

Our ‘Early Bird’ series of races got off to poor start…….actually no start at all. The first two races were cancelled due to poor weather or not enough boats. However, our ‘Wednesday Evening’ series seems to be well supported. We have a growing fleet of Albin Express Yachts at the club now, with more skippers looking to source these fast fun little yachts. They are fun and easy to sail with less crew, and even have space for a kettle should the skipper so desire! I even managed to get myself out on one..as crew / ballast last Wednesday evening. We didn’t win!

I must have bumped my head…although I don’t remember doing so. Why do I think I bumped my head?

Well; in a moment of madness I agreed to race Kandula in Sunday’s race. It would be the first time this year that I had sailed her, and the first race to actually get a start this season.

Sunday morning came bright and breezy, without the brightness. So I trotted off to the club, for the designated 10am briefing.

I assembled the finest crew I could…..me! What could possibly go wrong?

I had agreed to race the biggest heaviest boat in the fleet (Kandula),  in a 3 hour race, in wet breezy conditions with a narrow fairway start…single handed!

The race start time was 11:00

I managed to cast off (single handed) get my sails hoisted…in a fashion…teach myself how to sail….. find my autopilot…. bring in my fenders and warps and settle down at the tiller sweating profusely, with precisely 20 seconds to spare before the 5 minute horn was sounded. I staggered forward in the cockpit, hit the stop watch button to start the 5 minute countdown, leaving the tiller to do what it wanted. After my pre race practice 360, I got the boat back under control and headed in the general direction of the start line.

The fairway (the narrow bit of water between the piers and under the gaze of the horrified harbour master is quite narrow at Blyth) When used as a race start line, it can get a little busy. There were only 5 yachts entered into the race….but believe me, 5 is enough to cause the solo sailor more than a little aggravation.

In order to make headway, I needed to get a little of the head sail out. My manic auto helm was obviously in a huff with me and was doing just as it pleased. So, holding the tiller in my butt cheeks, I attempted to roll out about one third of the Genoa. At this time, I was headed nicely towards the inner jetty, and needed to tack…..quite soon!

Doing my best John Travolta (Night Fever) move, I thrust my hips to starboard, sending Kandula into a half hearted tack. At the same time, I managed to let go of the furling gear, sheet in the main and get two turns on the sheet winch.  Rather than one third Genoa, I had managed to dump the whole Genoa….. we were off….. back up the river. Bugger!

I managed to get the winch handle in and winched for my life, getting the boat back under control once more.  After about three more dodgy tacks, I was heading towards the start line and the open sea. The wind was blowing reasonably strong, straight up the river. I was going to have to tack all the way out into open water before I could get a rest.

fairway copy

In all of the excitement, I had missed the other sound signals, and I watched as the other boats disappeared over the start line and out of sight around the pier head.  I set off in pursuit…of sorts. I was still tacking down the river.

At last, I was fetching the pier ends and could sit down and take stock. Although, after 390 seconds I wasn’t. One more tack would get me out of the river.

By this time I was sweating like a fat lass in the Bigg Market on a Saturday night. My arms had seized into a death grip and I could hardly breathe. I just about coughed up a lung. I persuade Kandula to behave and we were clear of the piers and into open water. I set my course off shore and sat down on the windward side, letting the auto helm do what it wanted. I didn’t care. The sails were poorly set, the course was vague at best and I couldn’t see any other boats. (They had all tacked the opposite way!)

However, I was sailing Kandula in the first race of the season and we were out there…doing it…like proper sailors (racers).


After a considerable time, I managed to get enough breath back, and calm my heart rate. It was time to start trimming and setting course properly. The first mark was the mine buoy (off St Mary’s light house) I was heading off shore, but by more luck than judgement, I was heading in the general direction.  Inshore of me was the rest of the fleet-

‘Silk Purse’ had got a very good (VERY GOOD wink wink) start, and were being chased hard by ‘Fagins Express’. Further back I could see ‘Expresso’ and a little further back ‘Pintail’.

They were tacking in shore up towards the mark by the Astley Arms.

The guys on Pintail saw that I was off shore, and recognising my obvious tactical awareness, decided to tack off shore and see what was going on. I found myself in a tacking duel with ‘Pintail’ and found that we were quite close on the water. I managed to spot the other boats on occasion, but I never got close enough to make out what was going on.

By the time I reached the windward mark, the rest of the fleet had already rounded. (Tactical error by me as usual, let them get away) The wind was strong and the sea was a little lumpy. I set course for the weather tower and away I went. We were managing to average about 7kts over the ground and going quite well. However, there was no chance of catching any of the fleet, some of which seemed to be drying their washing. (I was later to find out that they were flying something called a spinnaker!?).

I decided to take advantage of what Kandula does best. I put the kettle on.

The weather tower was the leeward mark, and as such was also a gybe mark. This was going to be an interesting manoeuvre!

I started to prepare for the event.

I sheeted in the lazy genoa sheet. I took the auo helm off and started to butt steer again. I then started to get the boat as directly downwind as I could whilst centering the main. The main sheet is located behind the helm, so rather than go around the gybe mark facing backwards; I was doing my best impression of Irina Kazakova. (Google it!)

I passed the tower, gybed the boat…managed not to fling myself overboard and set sail for home. It was getting quite boisterous by this time. It was probably time to reef the sails. So I didnt bother!

I made good time and held a good course back towards the piers at Blyth. My hand held radio died, so I was listening for traffic on my main set. I rounded the pier end and was set up for a dead run back up the river. I set the sails, Goose winged.

I crossed the finish line after 3 hours 1 minute and 38 seconds. DEAD LAST!

However, my single handed handicap bonus of 3% meant that I actually finished DEAD LAST!

3% haha…if it had been 33% it may have made a difference.

I had finished the race, had an enjoyable sail and had developed a pathological hatred for fairway starts against the wind!

Although I was dead last (my customary position at the back of the fleet), I found that you can be last and also first. Although I finished last of the fleet, I was the first single hander. I am currently LEADING the inaugural single hander series at RNYC. Do you hear me?…I AM LEADING THE SERIES!

Thanks Clive Griffiths (Sailing sec) for arranging the racing this year. You can come out of hiding now….I don’t want to kill you for making me do that start, anymore.

Well done to the lads on Fagins Express, for the win. Although I was so far behind, you had managed to drink 3 pints in the bar before I had even tied up!


The view from the back of the fleet, but the front of the series!

A Winters Tale

Featuring a cruise down to the Tyne. A Mayday call and a running aground!

I awoke early on Sunday Morning 28th December. Well, early for me. It had been a long slog through Christmas; my party glands had been well tested. My continuing experiment to see if I could make myself immune to alcohol had failed miserably. I had become a first time Grandparent on Christmas morning, giving me even more reason to extend the celebrations.

Sunday morning was one of those cold crystal clear days, where you can see infinity in the sky. There was frost on the ground, and a dog was stuck to the nearest lamppost.

However, despite the cold, there was a warm glow inside. I had already packed my bag, like an excited child awaiting their first foreign holiday, going early to the airport. However, I was not off to foreign climes, my destination will not be found in any holiday brochure (unless there is a really dodgy brochure, perhaps printed in the early 70’s, extolling the virtues of post industrial northern towns in Northumberland?) I was Blyth bound.

Blyth is not the most dynamic of towns. It has its own unique charms. If you like late night booze and kebabs and have a predilection to fight; then Blyth is the place for you.

However, Blyth is also home to the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club. It is hidden away in South Harbour, beyond the hubbub of daily grind. Past the Port of Blyth compound and along a cobbled lane you will find HY Tyne, a trinity house light ship built in 1879. She is the last floating wooden light ship in the world (unless anyone knows different?) and she is also home to the RNYC.


HY Tyne


I arrived at the club at 10:30am my overnight bag and provisions (mainly Morgans Spiced Rum) in hand. I crunched my way over the frost covered car park and made my way gingerly along the old wooden jetty towards the pontoons.  We had arranged an impromptu cruise in company down the coast to the Tyne and up into the centre of Newcastle, for a night at the Newcastle City Marina, in the heart of the city. What started as a drunken pre Christmas conversation had developed into a fully blown cruise, eagerly subscribed to by both skippers and crew. Six boats had signed up and we had enough crew to fill them all.

I could see the hardy ‘racers’ gliding out of the river in a small flotilla. Off to do battle in the gently rolling North Sea. There was a light Westerly blowing, with just enough strength to get a short race in.

I slipped and skidded my way down the pontoon, and dumped my bag in the cockpit of Kandula. She was sitting there on her berth, clean and sparkling in the morning light. The light reflecting off her recently polished top sides. Santa had been….. also sitting in the cockpit was a nice case of Lager, well what a pleasant surprise!

We were due to depart at 12:00 hrs, aiming to arrive at the mouth of the Tyne as the tide turned in our favour.

As zero hour approached, the pontoons started to fill with crew members. They variously slipped skidded and clinked their way to their appointed vessels, unloading a variety of left over Christmas booze, interspersed with a few leftover Turkey sandwiches. The victuals were stowed below, the crew were assigned and the skippers were briefed. Although, by no means was this cruise to turn into a race, the last boat to the Tyne was to buy the first round of drinks!

My crew consisted of-

Mike ‘I have my own boat you know’ Swann

Paul ‘I used to live in that house’ King

John ‘the sandwich man’ Straughan

And me….. Tony ‘ Grandad we love you’ Blenkinsop

Later joined by

Iain ‘let’s have a beer’ Robertson and Nick ‘Cabin Boy‘Brereton

Unfortunately, due to the crewing allocations, my mysterious Lager present was claimed by its rightful owner, Paul ‘That’s my lager’ Warren; who had thought he was part of my crew came and collected it. He did leave a bottle each for the ‘Kandula’ crew though.

The cruise started to assemble at the mouth of the river. We circled each other, warming up muscles, and in my case, trying desperately to remember how to sail.

Our fleet consisted of, Kandula, Lilybelle, March Hare, Emigre, Katrina and Fagins Express . With a call of ‘tally Ho’ over channel 69 (The pleasure channel), we set off towards the Tyne.

The wind was still from the West and was building nicely. The sea was calm with a gentle roll and made for near perfect conditions. Fagins Express led the way, with March Hare in the rearguard. The small fleet remained close, with half a mile separating the boats all the way to the Tyne.

Whilst cruising, we play a little game designed to pass the time. It is quite simple in its concept. Every time you spot a lighthouse, you have a drink. It was quite a clear day!

We arrived at the Tyne in short time. Fagins Express, followed by Emigre. Then came Lilybelle, just pipping Katrina to the line (between the pier ends), then Kandula, slightly ahead of March Hare.

Kandula Tyne

Arriving at the Tyne


We started to beat up river towards herd sands. It had been a glorious but COLD sail down the coast. Mike went below to warm up and put the kettle on. As he descended the companionway steps we heard a ‘MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY’ come over channel 16.

The casualty was close to our position; so we responded to the Coast Guard and made our way towards the reported position.

We tacked immediately, and started the engine. We were once again back out of the river and heading towards the mayday. We were joined by Lilybelle and March Hare, who had also responded to the mayday call.  We were close to the casualty when the Inshore Lifeboat swept around the headland at high speed. These guys were amazing. They were on scene within minutes of the VHF call going out. The Tyne pilot boat was also quickly on scene, shortly followed by an RAF rescue helicopter. The casualty was recovered and we were stood down.

We returned to the river and continued towards Newcastle. We were still a little early and were punching the last of the ebb tide. We had to motor sail to make decent headway. We were monitoring both channel 12 (Tyne VTS) and channel 16.

As we made our way up river, we could see a few small fishing boats enter the mouth of the Tyne. They were motoring quickly up the river, no doubt for some important rendezvous. We were tacking up river against the tide, in a nice controlled and seaman like manner. I then heard over channel 12, one of the fishing boat skippers complaining about the ‘other fucking river users’.

Now these guys are supposed to be professional mariners. It is a shame that they have no idea about how a yacht operates, seem unable to steer a boat other than in a straight line, are unable to talk coherently to other river traffic and were also unable to answer another mariner in distress. Hay ho, Merry Christmas guys, may your conscience be as clear as your disdain for other mariners!

We continued up river, aiming to get to the millennium bridge for the 17:00 lift.  Line astern we cruised up river, taking in the sights and sounds. A ship was unloading. Coals to Newcastle. Another was loading Nissan cars for far flung shores. A seal poked his head above the water to see what was going on. We were the only vessels moving on the river. The light was starting to fade and the cold was intensifying.

It was obvious that we were going to be a little early. The fleet had different ways of dealing with this of course. Lilybelle and March Hare, who have done this trip many times headed for the ‘pleasure craft pontoon’ down river of the bridge and moored up. Fagins Express headed for ‘Bill Point’ and promptly ran aground. Those port hand laterals are a bugger to see in the fading light eh lads? Luckily the river was in the flood, and the skipper quietly extricated himself. (Not quietly enough obviously!)

Eventually we were all rafted up, awaiting the bridge.  Promptly (for the first time ever) the sirens went off and at 17:00 precisely, the bridge started to lift.

We all cast off and headed towards Newcastle City Marina.

Once tied alongside, we changed in to our ‘gannin out’ gear and headed for the bright lights of Newcastle. We didn’t get far. Out first pub was only 50 yards away. The Bridge Tavern (aka Newcastle Arms) was warm and welcoming. It has a great range of real ales (some home brewed I understand). We got stuck into a few rounds of drinks, before retiring to the Rani Indian restaurant, where the arrival of 25 sailors took the staff by surprise. We ate a very nice, if extremely hot meal, washed it down with many lagers and then retired back to the Marina for some home brewed entertainment.


Thanks to Dave and Jackie Gebhard who availed Katrina, for the purpose of drinking and disco dancing. An excellent evening was had by all, especially those of us who had succumbed to the lures of Katrina and had crammed her saloon full of bottles and bodies.


Monday Morning

Monday Morning

Monday morning was cold and came far too soon!

Steve Meakin started the day off by doing his best Torville and Dean across his very icy cockpit. He managed to save himself from an early and very cold bath, by throwing hot coffee into the air and ultimately all over himself. I probably only laughed for about 10 minutes or so!

Some of the crew headed to the Picher and Piano for fried food and Bloody Mary’s, and some to the Slug and Lettuce for the same. I remained on board and had Greggs!

We were due to leave at 12:00 and by 11:00 most of the crews had returned and the boats were prepared to leave. However, the crew of Fagins Express had not been seen since re-enacting the opening scenes from Day of the Dead, as they shuffled off to find breakfast.

At 11:55hrs the sirens went, to signal that the bridge was opening. As we cast off and made our way towards the bridge; we saw the crew of Fagins Express arrive back at the marina. I have no idea how they did it, but they managed to catch the bridge lift and the intrepid fleet made its way back down river with a fast ebb.

The fleet heads down river

The fleet heads down river

We managed to make Tynemouth in record time and without incident! We set full sails and rounded the North Pier with a lovely Westerly wind. Once again the weather was kind. We had a fast sail back to Blyth. Apart from Fagins Express, who found the lure of Fish and Chips on North Shields fish quay too much to resist. We last heard from Jamie Shepherd, as he ordered Haggis and Chips. He must be preparing for Burns Night?

The sail back

The sail back

The cruise was a great success. I would like to thank Steve Meakin for arranging it all. Also thanks to Adrian Waddell and his team up at Newcastle City Marina who as ever were efficient and welcoming hosts. The fleet was met by Marina staff, despite the cold and dark arrival. They were there again in the morning to ensure that we were ready to depart. The bridge lifts were flawless and on time also!

It was a shame that we couldnt stay for the New Years Eve party at the marina, but we intend to go next year.

Well done to all of those hardy souls who skippered and crewed the boats. You were great company!

Same again next year, but in the sunshine?


Once again at the back of the fleet!

The longest day

The longest day, also known as the Castles and Islands Challenge.

The Longest Day – The Film

Released in 1962 with a glittering cast (including –John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum and Rod Steiger) ‘The Longest Day’ was based upon the events of D-Day, the Normandy landings.

Who would have thought that just over 50 years later, there would be such an authentic re-enactment?


John Hodgson (Skipper) playing John Wayne as Benjamin Vandervoort

Tony Blenkinsop (Crew) playing Henry Fonda as Theodore Roosvelt

Iain Robertson (Crew) playing Rod Steiger as Destroyer Commander

Jamie Shepherd (Crew) as Sean Connery playing Pvt Flanagan

Chris Eggers (Runner) as Richard Burton playing David Campbell

Steve Clough (Runner) playing Robert Mitchum as Norman Cota

For the purpose of the re-enactment, Emigre will play the part of the invasion fleet and the Normandy beaches will be played by the Northumberland beaches. The Germans will be played by Chris Burnett and his motley crew onboard C Beagle.

The story line will not exactly follow the plot of the film, and the outcome may also be a little different.

As part of the re-enactment we also had to fulfil a number of race regulations, which if the invasion force had to follow; the outcome of the Second World War may have been somewhat different.

As good as the Durham Light infantry were, I doubt that they would have been up to much fighting if they had run around Château de Falaise and Château de Caen before getting stuck into the Germans.

Anyway, back to the re-enactment; sorry the race.

The Longest day, the challenge-

The Castles and Islands race was first held in 2007 and is based on the Scottish Islands Peaks Race.

Teams of sailors and runners come together in order to attempt a 24 hour challenge.

The challenge starts at Alnwick Castle with a 10 mile run to Amble visiting en-route Warkworth Castle which has to be “circumnavigated” before continuing on to Amble Harbour. At Amble the runners join their boats which are allowed to motor to the affectionately known “sewer buoy”, after which only sail power may be used. Under sail the boats must circumnavigate Coquet Island in a clockwise direction then, in any order, visit Newton Haven, Seahouses Harbour, Holy Island and pass through both Inner Sound and Staple Sound. At Newton Haven, Seahouses Harbour and Holy Island Harbour the runners will complete set runs of 4.5 miles, 6.5miles, and 9 miles.

The boats and crew must return to Amble within 24 hours to complete the challenge.

Basically, the boats need to sail about 60 miles and the runners need to run 30 miles within 24 hours. Easy!

Let me tell you about our heroic attempt.

The challenge started at 19:00 hrs and our runners were on the way to meet us at Amble marina. I think the marina gets its name from the fact that the sailing part of the team ambled down there to get the boat. (Or it could be that the marina is based in Amble, or is this just an amazing coincidence?)

We got onboard Emigre and stowed our kit; which seemed to consist of a large carton of Chile Con Carne (or slightly spicy Bolognese, as Jamie called it) and 2 slabs of Stella Artois.

We put 20 litres of Diesel in the fuel tank and emptied the water tank. After all we had loads of Stella, why on earth would be need water?

We then moved the boat to a more favourable position. It seems like all of the boats had the same idea and we jostled for position around the fuel berth. ‘Sheevra’ got the best spot, despite us threatening to raft outside of her. We then waited for the runners to arrive.

Just over an hour passed and the first runners were arriving at the marina.

‘Trillium’, ‘Sheevra’, ‘ January First’ and ‘C Beagle’ (C Beagle, remember are playing the part of the Germans in this, and are therefore ‘the baddies’)  got away before us, but our runners (The Durham Light infantry) were in hot pursuit.

I am not sure how long I can keep the analogy going, I am confusing myself; and I was there. To recap, I have the DLI running around Amble and Chris Burnett has turned German.  All clear? No…ok, on with the story.

I think we were the fifth boat to leave Amble out of 8 starters. Mid table obscurity. It would appear that all normal maritime regulations are thrown out of the window at times of war, so we motored full ahead whilst making smoke. (This is not artistic licence, this actually happened!)

‘Trillium’ (a rather fast Trimaran) were leading, followed by ‘C Beagle’, ‘Sheevra’ and ‘January First’. Emigre were following and doing quite well.

We reached the ‘sewer buoy’ and cut the engine. We managed a first class spinnaker hoist and the sailing race was on. We were to go clockwise round Coquet Island, before heading north.

All the way to Newton Bay it was Cat and Mouse. ‘Trilium’ amd ‘Sheevra’ were in their own battle whilst  ‘January First’, ‘C Beagle’ and ‘Emigre’ had their own tussle.

The racing was close and the wind conditions were difficult. There were some good gusts followed by nothing. We were getting close to having to make a decision. Do we go into Newton on the way north, or wait until we were coming back down the coast? It depended upon the wind. If there was no wind, we would go in, if there was wind we would continue north with the tide.

The wind died. ‘Trillium’ and ‘Sheevra’ headed in to Newton. They were ahead of us by quite a margin. The wind picked up again and we took a gamble. If we followed them in, we could never catch them; however if we carried on, using wind and tide, we may make up time. We carried on, heading for Staple Sound. It was dark by this time and it was difficult to make out the other boats. However, as we pressed on north, we heard a radio message. ‘January First’ had suffered a complete power failure. They had no electrics and were retiring from the race.

We pressed onwards, powering through the darkness, heading for the Farnes. We needed to make time and distance, before ‘Sheevra’ and ‘Trillium’ completed their first ‘run’.

I know that during ‘D-Day’ the allies had to circumvent tank traps and mines. It turns out, the Germans needn’t have bothered. They should have laid lobster pots instead.

‘Emigre’ came to a sudden halt. (Again! I hear you cry?)

We had managed to pick up a lobster pot in the darkness. The pot was marked by a small floating buoy, and had no flag to show its position, it was invisible in the dark. It was also wrapped around our rudder.

The tide was running fast and keeping us tightly secured on the pot. No matter what, we couldn’t get loose. We watched as mast head lights came north and sneaked past us. There was nothing that we could do.

In desperation and ignoring all health and safety precautions, our bold skipper  John ‘Wayne’ Hodgson leapt into the dinghy. He wrestled the pot clear and got us underway again. We had lost about 20 minutes.

As dawn was breaking, we approached Triton Buoy and the channel into Holy Island. We could see two sails ahead of us, and three behind us, coming through Staple Sound. We couldn’t identify who was who.

At the Triton Buoy we were allowed to motor into the anchorage. As we came in, we saw ‘Sheevra’ and ‘Trillium’ already secured, with their runners ashore.

We deployed our inflatable dinghy and I rowed (heroically) the runners ashore. It was indeed, just like D-Day. If in fact the D-day forces were met by a fisherman and two Labrador dogs!

The runners were away and I returned to the invasion fleet for a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea.

Patriotic Tea

Patriotic Tea

When we saw the runners returning from their first run ashore, I collected them in the dinghy and we set off back south, heading for Seahouses.

We passed through the Inner Farne channel and headed for Seahouses Harbour. It was getting quite busy with trip boats and fishing  boats. Undaunted we carried on. We were sailing fast with the spinnaker hoisted and bearing down on the harbour entrance. The rules exclude us from entering the harbour (imagine if the Germans had insisted on that?) and at the last minute, we dropped the spinnaker, rounded up and picked up a mooring. It was a seamless and (if I say so myself) a majestic manoeuvre.

Of course, we were beaten by ‘Sheevra’ and ‘Trillium’, but we were third boat on the water at this stage.

Jamie, took the runners ashore and went off to spend 20p.

‘C Beagle’ came into the anchorage and got their runners ashore. It seemed like we were a faster boat, but they had faster runners. It was getting close between us.

We knew that we couldn’t catch ‘Sheevra’ and ‘Trillium’. They were ahead on the water and had just completed their last run. We still had to go to Newton.

We had to make as much time as we could, to stay in front of ‘C Beagle’

Our dinghy appeared in the harbour entrance. We let go of the mooring and John ‘not shouty’ Hodgson gunned the engine and at full revs we motored towards the returning runners. Unfortunately, Yachts don’t like going fast backwards. The momentum and force of water over the rudder snatched the tiller from John’s grasp and it swung over violently. It jammed hard. As the dinghy got closer, we managed to free the rudder.

The runners were aboard, the dinghy stowed on the stern and we set off. At this time, we discovered that the rudder and tiller were now out of alignment by about 45 degrees.  We were not sure if there had been any structural damage, or indeed, if we could continue without the ability to turn to port (left).

John, with his expert engineering skills, waggled the tiller back and forth, realised that we could turn to port (albeit rather slowly) if we needed. He then asked me to check below for any water ingress, which showed nothing. He decided that like proper little soldiers, we would press on.

Tiller hard over,but boat is straight!

Tiller hard over,but boat is straight!

We set off for Newton and our last run. Once again we entered the drop off point under spinnaker. We dropped, rounded up and set the anchor in one seamless move. As the anchor hit the water, the runners were in the dinghy, and once more I was rowing them ashore.

The runners returned from a very tiring leg. John had repositioned Emigre, to assist me getting the dinghy back as quickly as possible, and apparently, to remove Emigre from the sand bank she was sitting on.

Once aboard, we set off in a strengthening wind. If the wind could hold, we would get away from ‘C Beagle’ and hopefully close up on ‘Sheevra’.

We were no longer concerned about ‘Trillium’ who we discovered were racing in a different class to us.

We were in second place on the water. If we could get enough of a gap from ‘C Beagle’ we would take second place overall.

We left the anchorage and were making good progress south. We saw ‘C Beagle’ follow us out, but some distance behind. They had made time up on us during the run, but we were faster on the water.

As we got to Boulmer, the wind stopped. I don’t mean it died down, it stopped completely. We were sat in a localised dead spot. There was not a breath of wind. We were motionless in the water.

Behind us, ‘C Beagle’ was still sailing in wind. They were catching us. Then they hit the same patch as us. The patch of dead calm spread out with us at the epicentre. There was no wind anywhere to be seen.

Whatever zephyrs we could catch we did. For the next  four hours, we managed to gain half a mile, only to be swept back the same half mile as the tide took hold of us. We kedged, rowed and drifted for four hours and made no ground whatsoever.

‘C Beagle’ suffered the same fate. They managed to anchor and stop themselves being pulled back north by the tide.

I looked at the same lobster pot for four hours, to see if we had moved. We hadn’t!

Eventually, there was enough wind to sail again. We were making 2 knots through the water.

We were 5 miles from the finish and there was an hour to go. We needed to average over 5 knots to make the finish.  We were struggling to maintain 2 knots. We needed a miracle.

As the 24 hour mark approached we were still 3 miles short of the finish. The wind and tide were against us and we couldn’t get there in time. After 24 hours we could see the finish and smell the fish and chips of Amble.

‘C Beagle’ didn’t make it either. In fact no one other than ‘Sheevra’ and ‘Trillium’ made it to the finish in time.

We motored back to the finish area, where we anchored, in order to wait for the tide. There was not enough water to get over the sill at Amble marina. The race control were kind enough to let us know that the bar was open and the BBQ had started. Once again we could see the prize, but couldn’t get to it.

At Anchor

At Anchor

‘C Beagle’ weighed anchor and headed for the marina. Chris has local knowledge, so we weighed anchor and followed him up the river.

I think Chris’s desire for beer and BBQ may have clouded his judgement somewhat. It is that, or ‘c Beagle’ has grown in draft since he last sailed her.

‘C Beagle’ hit the sill and stopped. Chris got her clear, and with all of his crew hanging from the port shrouds, he had another run at it.

not enough water

not enough water

He hit the sill again. With judicious wiggling and revving, he scraped over and into the marina. We can only assume that he had run out of Stella onboard. He should have taken less water and more Stella!

We followed shortly. Clearing the sill and avoiding any more damage.

We didn’t get a finish.

The event was won overall by ‘Sheevra’

The class 2 event was won by  ‘Trillium’

The running event was won by ‘C Beagle’

It was a great event. The allies won (well done RNYC, for the two winning boats).

I would like to say thanks to everyone who participated.

Thanks to the organisers (CYC)

A special thanks to the Race Marshalls, who were there to greet and time the runners at every stage, and without whom there could not be an event such as this.

Congratulations to those who completed, and well done to those who competed. I hope to see you next year.


Emigre (Nee Kandula) We were so close to finishing second!



The event took all day, took place on the longest day and by the end of it, seemed to me to have been the longest day ever. Other than that, the tenuous link to the film of the same name is at best tenuous. But I needed a theme.

You will also notice there is no reference to ‘Sports Boats’ (Or dinghies other than the inflatable type)

I think I managed to get a ‘heroic’ reference in, for my regular readers.

There is also no mention of kettles, although we did pass close to ‘The Kettle’ anchorage at the Farnes. I missed a trick there.

I also managed to leave out any reference to Jamie and his…..never mind.

The End


Roll credits….. fade to black.

Normal service resumed

Wednesday 18th June 2014. I am pleased to announce that normal service has been resumed.

At least for Kandula.

At 15:00hrs I was at my desk, contemplating the glorious day I was missing outside, and wondering why my office was not equipped with air conditioning, when up popped a message from Steve Meakin (March Hare). He was planning a trip down to Blyth to go for a sail and enjoy the weather. Brian Thornton Lilybelle) piped up too; what a splendid idea. The seed had been planted.

On the ‘B’ of Bloody hell its 4 o’clock, I was out of the door and in the car on my way to Blyth.

Steve must have been keener than me. He was already aboard March Hare, ‘bobbing about’ in the bay. Brian was just leaving on Lilybelle. I raced (a loose term) down the pontoon and prepared Kandula as quickly as I could. By 17:00 we were all out on the water. There was a gentle sea breeze and a slight rolling sea. It was easy going, and just as well; for in our excitement to go sailing, we has all forgotten crew.

We sailed in company, line astern straight out to sea. Close reaching at about 5 knts. The boats were evenly matched and made good progress. The sun was warm and glinting on the tops of the small waves. We were making fast enough progress to throw a little spray in the air. Idyllic sailing. I put the ‘autohelm’ on, and  grabbed myself a ginger biscuit to celebrate the moment. What I should have grabbed was a handhold. My majestic moment was somewhat spoiled by me losing my footing as Kandula crested a small wave. I sat down in a very un-majestic lump on the windward side of the cockpit and tried to regain my composure. I then tried to make it look intentional; like someone who trips up and then finds himself jogging home for the next 3 miles!

Remember boys and girls, the old adage-  One hand for you and one for the boat; there is definitely no mention of ginger biscuits!

I quite like to get me excuses in early,before the punchline. But in this case, my excuses are entirely true. Both Lilybelle and March Hare have been out of the water recently (more recently than Kandula). March Hare has had some sort of space age anti fouling and hydro dynamic polymer based anti coagulant pro biotic aqua enhancer system applied to her hull. (That bit may have been made up). Lilybelle has also had new ‘go faster’ stripes applied, which in my mind is a very base form of cheating! Therefore, Kandula is carrying a lot more weight (me for a start) and needs her bottom cleaning (This boat is getting more like me every day!).

After about an hour and a half of playing, the small fleet turned for home. We headed back inshore, just in time to see another fleet gathering in the fairway, just next to the Harbour Masters office. Of course; it’s Wednesday. Race day!

Dave Gebhard (Katrina) was race officer. He had masterfully passed on the responsibility to Jamie Shepherd, so that Katrina could be in the race. I counted 8 boats carving back and forth across the river. The upwind start meant that the boats would be fighting against the wind and the tide, in a narrow channel, vying for position for the start. What (I hear you ask) could go wrong?

After about a minute of deliberation, the 8 boats became 11. Kandula, March Hare and Lilybelle were late entrants into the race. As we were all short handed, it was agreed between us that we would start at the back and keep out of trouble.

We all got to the back of the fleet, furthest up river from the start line, which was just beyond the Harbour office. Getting into the racing spirit, I dropped my spray hood. This is to increase visibility for the racing start. I also rolled away my genoa. I saw that March Hare and Lilybelle had also rolled away their genoa’s; however as Steve and Brian are not as heroic as me, they had left their spray hoods up. This reduces visibilty, which in a race start environment can become an issue. But surely not in this instance eh? 11 boats in confined water, with little room to maneuver. There wouldn’t be any silly ‘buggering about’ surely.

There was still about 10 minutes to the start, and boats were tacking back and forth, getting a feel for the river start and trying to get into a favourable position for the pre- start ‘chess match’ that precedes most yacht races.

I thought that I would do the same. Although ever mindful of staying out of trouble, I decided to try a few tacks towards the start line. I gybed around and went close hauled on port tack. Steering with my bottom clenched on the tiller and with the main sheet in my teeth, I set off down river, wind in my face and tide against me. I took a quick transit at the end of the fisherman’s jetty, checked to see where March Hare and Lilybelle were and tacked. Across the river I went, I was making headway, but was slow. I was getting close to the pier, but had enough headway to make the tack without stalling. A swing of the hips and round we went, back onto port tack.

What sourcery was this?

I was actually sailing backwards up the river! after two tacks, I was further back up the river than when I had started.

Without any genoa, I couldn’t punch the wind and tide; and although I was facing the right way, I was not making any way. I needed more sail out. There was still plenty of time before the start, but if I couldn’t sort this out, there wouldn’t be a start for me. I was aware of the other boats around me. I could see them in my peripheral vision, but I was now fully concentrating on sailing the boat. I was unconsciously aware of where they were and what they were doing, but I was not paying attention to them.

I rolled out a few feet of genoa and cleated off the furling gear. I set the mainsail for close hauled and still steering with my clenched buttocks, I had a genoa sheet in each hand. Like an aquatic ‘Rooster Cockburn’ I set off for the line. I sheeted in as hard as I could, by hand. I couldn’t  reach the winches and keep hold of the tiller at the same time. This was not the place to be letting go of anything. Unfortunately, the furling gear disagreed andas I approached the right hand side pier, it let go of the furling line and the entire genoa ‘popped out’. It was fluttering about like an angry bed sheet. I needed to get it under control. So I abandoned the tiller and rolled away as much genoa as I could in the very little time I had before impact. Under control, and with the furling line now secure, I was sailing again. I saw Mark Taylor (Krackerjack…welcome back) pass me. He gave me a jolly wave hello, and asked how I was getting on. Luckily I don’t  f*****g swear. “Great”, I said. Or something similar.

At last I was making progress towards the start line. The five minute warning was sounded, and I was in the race. I found that I could steer and tack and make progress down river. However, if anyone was watching, they may have been under the impression that I was in training for some weird fusion sport where ”hoola hooping’ is mixed with ‘rodeo lasooing’

Despite my best efforts to stay clear of the pack, I found myself in the middle of the ‘chess game’. Boats were vying for position, shouting for room to tack and claiming their positions on the water. In the midst of it all, a middle aged man, sweating profusely, hoola hooped his way through the fleet. Majestic!

I decided to clear off out of it and went back upriver. I had a few ‘tacking duels’ with Lilybelle and March Hare. They were also getting involved in the mix up. Despite our assurances that none of us would get involved, we were in the middle of the pre-start. With two minutes to go, the boats were getting closer to each other, as the competition for the best start began.

It was at this time I heard the shout…. “STARBOARD”. The shout turned into a shriek, and the shriek was curtailed by a loud bang. Loud bangs in yacht racing are never good and always expensive. I feared the worst and took a moment to glance towards where I had heard the bang. Two boats were tangled together and trying to separate.

March Hare and Lilybelle…….were not involved.

The two protagonists separated and both retired with damaged boats. You have to feel for the skippers and crew in such situations, sorry guys. As a boat owner you are always, however, quite thankful that it was not you involved. I was relieved that it was none of our little fleet.

River starts are always more difficult, and it is my opinion that extra care is always needed. ‘Gamesmanship’ should be avoided and ‘Gentlemanly behaviour should be encouraged’ I understand that in this instance, there was no ‘gamesmanship’ involved and the collision was a genuine accident. I offer no opinion on the cause.

There were no further incidents at the start. Oh no, nothing. No shouting or anything!

It should be mentioned that handicap racing encourages all sorts of boats to enter.The main fleet in this race consisted of ‘cruiser racers’ of about 30ft. However there was also a 40ft boat and what can only be described as a dinghy. A rather eclectic mix of boats, all racing each other. I am sorry if the dinghy is actually classed as a keel boat, but really?

As the start hooter went, I found myself mid fleet, close hauled on starboard tack. I was not in a bad position, in the fleet, but not in a good position on the river. I was over to the left hand side of the start line and needing to tack away from the pier very soon. There was nowhere for me to go. There were faster (fully crewed) boats coming past me, and the fleet was quite closely packed. I had to stall the boat, get onto port tack and keep out of trouble. It took rather a lot of slow tacks to get clear of the river. As I cleared the piers, I rolled out the rest of the genoa and took up the chase.

The fleet was spread out ahead of me. Just ahead of me was March Hare who had managed to pass me in the river with his last tack. Just ahead of him, Lilbelle. We were all sailing well, close hauled towards ‘Meggies’ our first ‘mark’ to be left to port. I was gaining on them, these were good conditions for old Kandula. Over to my left, I could see the dinghy. They had by this time nearly completed the course and were on their way to finish….what is the point? (Its a rhetorical question, no need to answer)

I reached the ‘mark’ and started to tack around onto Starboard tack. Ahead of me, going nowhere and completely ‘in irons’ was March Hare. I abandoned my tack halfway through and managed to stay clear of trouble. In Steve’s own words, he had ‘lee ho’d, before he had helmed down’ and March Hare had decided to stop head to wind.

We both got underway again and set sail for the ‘South Windmill’ our next ‘mark’

For those of a shallow enough draft (dinghy’s for example) there is no need to avoid the Sow and Pigs reef and you can take a direct line to the windmill. Those with a more sedate and substantial boat need to take avoiding action and sail much further to avoid going aground. (just thought I would point that out).

Once past the reef, I turned directly downwind and ‘goose winged’. This is a bit of a balancing act, trying to keep both sails filled and pulling. There was very little incident from here on in. I could see the fleet (apart from the dinghy, who’s crew had by now finished the race and were in the bar), but I couldn’t catch them up.

I rounded the windmill and made my way back towards ‘Meggies’ and then on to the fairway for a finish.

Should I mention that ‘Meggies’ was to be left to starboard this time around?

As we ran in towards ‘Meggies’ I was slowly catching March Hare, who in turn was catching Lilybelle. I saw that Lilybelle had had a little ‘senior moment’  and had forgotten which side to pass ‘Meggies’. To be sure, he rounded it both ways, did a 720 turn, banged his head with the boom, sailed backwards for a little and then set off to wards the finish.

By this time March Hare was on him. They sailed in very close proximity, ‘goose winged’ into the fairway and over the finish line. It was so close, I didn’t see you got line honours, but both claimed the victory.

What about Kandula?

Well, as the title suggests, I was at the back of the fleet, getting a Kandula’s eye view of the whole event.

It was a good race for some; not so good for others. It was enjoyable and frustrating at the same time (just like sailing). To the winners, I say congratulations, to the ‘crashers’, my commiserations. To the race officer, my thanks and to my fellow competitors, well done. Remember though guys, we do this for fun. If it were not for the losers, there wouldn’t be any winners, if it were not for the sailors, there wouldn’t be any races. Try not to take it all too seriously.

Everything in this blog is true, as experienced from Kandula’s eye view. Some names may have been omitted to protect the innocent. The parts which I made up, may not be true, but you will have to decide which is which.

This is a personal blog and no way represents the thoughts of the flag officers or members of RNYC.

Other than they all agree that it was a heroic and majestic effort by the crew of Kandula (and that was ME!)

Kandula, The view from the back of the fleet.

The strange and heroic journey of ‘March Hare’ and the ‘Rabbiteers’

The strange and heroic journey of ‘March Hare’ and the ‘Rabbiteers’

 The voyage began at 07:55 hrs on Saturday 15th March 2014. Precisely 5 minutes before the agreed ‘cast off’ time.

The’ journey’ however started at 19:00 hrs on Friday 14th March.

The cruise itself was somewhat impromptu. There was not a great deal of planning involved. It stemmed from a desire to watch the last day of the Six Nations tournament; that, and the fact that my good lady wife had agreed to babysit over the weekend. I was offered a life line and took it firmly in both hands. It was suggested that I may want to go sailing ‘with the boys’ over the weekend, whilst Karen clucked and fussed over small humans at our house.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the word went out and the initial plan was put forward.

The outline plan was this-

Interested parties would meet at the club (RNYC) on Friday evening. The boats would be prepared, the crews allocated, gear stowed safely away and then we would have a few quiet beers, before retiring to bed for an early night; ready for an early start on Saturday morning.

I had arranged a 12 o’clock bridge lift at Newcastle City Marina, and estimated that we would need to slip our lines from Blyth at 08:00hrs.

On the way past Royal Quays we were to pick up ‘Bumpi Too’, who would join our little flotilla up the Tyne. Any other interested parties, not involved on the initial sail, would be joining us at Newcastle quayside.

It is testament to the efficiency of a well drilled crew that we had the boats ready to go at 17:30hrs on Friday night. We had thrown our kit into a jumbled pile in the middle of the saloon and stowed our vitals carefully.

We had inadvertently taken the Noah’s ark approach to victualing. It would appear that no matter what it was that we had brought, we had two of them.

Inventory check-

2 x cases of Stella Artois

2 x bags of pre cooked curry

2 x apples

2 x bags of bananas

2x packs of fish

2 x packs of bacon

And a nice bottle of Jura Whisky.

There have probably been better organised cruises, but I wonder if you can guess what we came back with, and what we had to buy more of?

By 18:00 hrs the crew were getting restless, and close to a mutiny. Unfortunately we were not fully assembled. The skipper of ‘March Hare’ had not yet arrived, although one of his ‘Rabbiteers’ had made an appearance.

In order to avert a mutiny; and taking a lead form the great Naval captains of the empire, I opened the grog locker and we got stuck into the first case of Stella.

Crew list at this time-

Tony Blenkinsop

Paul Warren

Jamie Shepherd

We decided to wait onboard ‘Kandula’ until the rest of the crew were assembled. At 19:00 hrs they arrived. We were joined by

Steve Meakin (Skipper and chief Rabbit)

Mike Swann

Kit was stowed in double time and we sat looking at each other, trying to decide a sensible approach to the evening. We decided to get an early night and not drink too much.

BUT, we would go to Blyth first for a quick beer. We would have gone onboard ‘HY Tyne’ the club ship, but she is closed for rewiring.

A Phoenix taxi was booked, and the ‘Heroic Five’ ventured forth into the welcoming arms of Blyth town.

We went to the ‘Wallaw’ pub, converted from an old cinema. It was huge. The beer was cheap, but there was very little atmosphere.  We had a few beers, had a little food and decided to go back to the boat for an early night.

BUT, we ended up going to the ‘Blyth and Tyne’

Now the ‘Blyth and Tyne’ is a strange establishment. On the outide a respectable pub, built in the traditional style. On the inside, a demonic hall, populated by the cast of ‘hellboy’ and ‘the rocky horror show’

It was one of those awkward moments. We were through the door and had ordered a pint each, before the stark staring realisation had set in. There was a group of 14 year olds playing pool. There was a twelve year old picking the ‘music’ on the juke box. He obviously liked a bit of Thrash Metal!

Behind us, covering our escape were a couple who were drinking some sort of ungodly cocktail , served in red plastic buckets and ahead of us, were the doors to hell. Beyond which was a dark hole in the fabric of the universe; which we were too scared to approach, but were forced ever closer, in an attempt to distance ourselves from the inhabitants of this den of Hades.

We drank in silence and we drank quickly. We made no eye contact.

We decided to go back to the boat for an early ‘ish’ night.

BUT, we ended up at the doors of ‘The Waterloo’.

There was a large crowd at the door, enjoying the fresh air and listening to the witty banter of the ‘bouncer’.

As we approached, the scene went deathly quiet. The bouncer stopped us at the door, with a cheery smile. “Alright lads, you can come in, but its a charity night, so I have to charge you!”

Paul Warren in all innocence asks the question, “OK mate, but what is the charity?”

Obviously, the bouncer wasn’t ready for this quick fire test of his initiative. He struggled initially, but once he had a head of steam, the information flowed freely.

Apparently, we were to pay a pound each, in benefit of Blyth Town, under thirteen , Alzheimer’s association! The donations were carefully secured in the bouncer’s pocket!

We entered the pub, and as sure  as William Shakespeare described it, in ‘as you like it’; indeed all the world is a stage!

It was a mix between Dante’s Inferno and The Circus of Horror’s. There was a woman, who was so fat, that not only could you see a VPL through her over stressed leggings, you could see so many cellulite dimples and varicose veins, I thought she was wearing corduroy. It took me back to my childhood; when I had a birthday party, entertained by Bozo the clown. Bozo’s special party piece was balloon animal tying. During his act, Bozo had a sneezing fit. The balloon animal that he produced as a result of this fit had survived against all the odds and was now, apparently living in Blyth.

There was the amazing 1980’s woman, who has obviously found her ‘look’ in 1987; and had religiously stuck with it, despite all of the evidence that she shouldn’t have.

There was a real live ‘meat draw’ going on, which seemed to be won by precisely the people who really should have been entering the ‘salad draw’ instead.

The whole event was being compered by a very poor Alvin Stardust impersonator.  His outfit of slightly baggy, shiny with grease black suit, was elegantly finished by slightly grey, originally white terry towelling socks, with designer comfy slip on shoes.

We decided to retire to the boat and get an not quite as early as planned night!

BUT, we decided to have a little night cap. We opened the bottle of Jura and had one little drink each. In the confusion, we managed to lose the bottle top. We got to bed at 01:30hrs. Nice and early in the morning!

At 07:00hrs we were awoken by a bull elephant seal, which sounded like it was having a heart attack on the pontoon.  As it transpired I was incorrect on both counts. It was Steve Meakin, trying to get his bodily functions in order. We managed to get up and get the kettle on. It was like a scene from the walking dead.

Brian Thornton arrived to lighten the mood, wearing shorts. The crews were agreed. Mike Layden turned up too to join the fun.

 March Hare’s ‘Rabbiteers’ would be-

Steve Meakin

Brian Thornton

Jamie Shepherd

The ‘Kandulas’ would be-

Tony Blenkinsop

Mike Swann

Paul Warren

Mike Layden

We started to prepare the vessels for sea. We would of course be racing to the mouth of the Tyne. Blyth Piers to Tyne Piers.

There was lots of fussing about , as sails were bent on, halyards prepared and shore lines made ready to slip.

I looked over to ‘March Hare’ and asked Brian if they were ready to go. He told me “Two minutes”. I turned to check on the ‘Kandulas’ to see if we were nearly ready to let slip at the agreed 08:00hrs. With five minutes to go, I saw ‘March Hare’ slip her lines and head for the sea.

In a mad rush, we dropped the lines overboard, scrambled aboard and set off after them.

We hoist the mainsail with the first reef in. The forecast was 16kts from the West, gusting to 35 knts. We headed out to see, and saw that ‘March Hare ‘ was waiting just outside the piers. She was sporting full sails.

We sailed out into open water and decided to throw caution and full sails to the wind. I requested that the reef be shaken out. As we did so, I heard Brian over the VHF. “Ready, steady, GO!”


away we go

The race was on, and we had been caught, figuratively speaking, with our pants down.  We go the reef shaken out, reset the main sail and took up the chase. The conditions were blowy and overcast. There were a few white horses developing, but the sea was flat. The sailing fast, and on the edge of being over canvassed. The spray started to fly and we were broad reaching along the coast. ‘March Hare’ was leading, with ‘Kandula’ sailing hard and fast, slightly upwind and behind. Approaching St. Marys ‘Kandula’ was the faster boat. Not much in it, but we were gaining ground.

At St.Marys, we were within water bomb distance. We prepared a large broadside. The ammo was prepared and lined up on the bridge deck. Our fortunes changed and ‘March Hare’ had the legs on us.



She was sailing faster and a little off the wind. We were maintaining our course, but slipping away from her.

At 08:30 we were past St.Marys. We were well ahead of schedule, so I put in a phone call to Ian Peddie, who was meeting us, in ‘Bumpi Too’ on the river outside of Royal Quays. It didn’t sound too promising, as a weak voice told me that ‘The Bumpi’s’ would not be joining us. Never mind I thought, Ian will undoubtedly join us in Newcastle, for the beer drinking. Whatever the ailment was, it must have been serious; as it caused Ian’s phone to stop functioning for the rest of the weekend. I do hope he is OK.

We were approaching the Tyne now, and ‘March Hare’ was still ahead. However, we were much further up wind and sailing fast still. We still had a chance. We trimmed sails for speed and were now sailing close to the wind. ‘March Hare’ trimmed likewise and it was now a sprint to the line. We were faster but had slightly further to go. ‘March Hare’ was slower, but pointing higher than us. They had good boat speed. They were too fast for us, and they crossed the line about 5 boat lengths clear. Despite our efforts, we couldn’t catch them in open water.


March hare slips away

We both continues sailing, tacking up the river against the ebb and with the wind on the nose. We tacked back and forth between ‘herd sands groyne’ and ‘the middens’

As we got to the lifeboat station, the ‘Kandulas’ started the engine and dropped the sails. We motored up river with a strong head wind and ebb tide. At times, we were only making 2.5kts.

up the tyne

We were way ahead of schedule. At 10:30 we were passing Whitehill Point. We had lost our water bombs to miscellaneous onboard incidents  and decided to have a calming beer. We couldn’t see the Sun, so were unable to tell if it had, in fact, crossed the yardarm.

We motored on up the river and got to Newcastle 45 minutes before the bridge was due to open. We decided to tie up next to the trip boats and wait for the bridge. We had a beer whilst we were waiting.

At 12:00hrs the bridge lifted and we entered Newcastle City Marina. Met as usual by ‘Skippy’ the City Warden.

We tied up quickly, got changed into our formal drinking attire and headed for the bright lights of Newcastle quayside.

Iain Robertson was waiting for us. He looked thirsty!

We put a kitty together and went to the’ Eye on the Tyne’, a gastro pub on the quayside which specialises in not selling beer or food. We drank and made merry. We watched a fine performance my England Rugby. We endured the poor beer and didn’t eat.

The pace was apparently being set by Iain Robertson, who despite appearances, turns out to be a bit of a sprinter. We upped out pace to about 3 pints per hour.

Following the match, we moved on to the ‘Akenside Traders’

We got into a singing competition with the Welsh during the Wales v Scotland match. A match in which he Scots sent their under thirteen’s Alzheimer’s  squad, instead of their international rugby squad.

The drink was flowing harder and faster. The drink had tuned strangely pink, and we had turned strangely French!

We cheerd on ‘Le Bleus’ and sang against a large squad of Irish lads. It was great, light hearted banter. Ireland won their match, and in doing so were crowned as winners of the Six Nations. Well done boys.

We decided to go for a curry. It starts getting a little hazy from here on in. I remember wrestling and piggy back races. I remember vindaloo not being hot enough, and Warren demanding a Phall. I remember walking (rolling) back down the hill towards the quayside.  Mike Swann was MIA. Mike Layden was broken. Iain Robertson having done the damage had gone home, Brian Thornton had decided to drop a shoulder and his homing instinct had kicked in. The heroic few decided to retire to the boat for an early night.

BUT, on the way there was trip to Tesco. Another two bottles of Morgans Spiced rum were purchased.

Jamie was induced to perform his famous lamppost hanging trick, where you hold yourself horizontally off a lamppost. Warren ‘the ringmaster’ managed to gather a large crowd, to watch this amazing feat and a loud chant went around Newcastle quayside…..” Jamie…jamie….jamie…”

This was all very well and good, apart from the fact that Jamie had never performed this trick in his life, he had drank about 15 pints of assorted lager and beer and the whole event had been orchestrated by Warren! Jamie was heard to wimper, ‘I can’t do this.’

Undeterred, the crowd chanted on, whipped into frenzy by Warren. Jamie went for the performance of his life.  The crowd were entertained.

We retired to ‘March Hare’

MIA Mike was aboard ‘Kandula’ watching a movie!

Mike Layden was still broken, but had managed to find his way back to ‘Kandula’ too. He was put into the traditional recovery position. (We left him where he was lying, but put a sleeping bag over him) and hope that he would be alive in the morning. The plan was to throw him overboard if he didn’t make it through the night!

Brian had got the Metro home to Whitley Bay.

I had run out of energy by now. It must have been really late, so having lost the ability to speak, or think in joined up sentences, I went to bed. Apparently it was 21:30hrs. I was broken too!

The heroic boys (those who were left)-

Steve Meakin

Paul Warren

Jamie Shepherd

Mike Swann (now recovered and no longer MIA)

They decided to finish off the spiced rum.

The next morning came very quickly. We were awoken by the sound of the market being erected and the force 8 gale whistling down the Tyne.

We went hunting for breakfast and coffee. The departure was planned for 12:00hrs. There was a miraculous recovery by all.

We then heard a rumour on the news. The headlines went something like this-

Man, 52, of Whitley Bay, detained for Metro fare evasion.


Fare dodger

We couldn’t think who it could be; certainly not one of our crew?

Brian turned up shortly after, having got the Metro back to town. Brian is apparently 52.

The crews for the return trip were as follows-

 ‘March Hare’ –

Steve Meakin

Brian ‘the fugitive’ Thornton


Tony Blenkinsop

Jamie ‘the acrobat’ Shepherd

Paul  ‘bring me a Phall’ Warren

The wind was strong and gusting stronger. We raced down the river under a little fore sail. At times we were actually surfing down waves.

We made it to Herd sands in short order, rounded up and set sail. We hoisted the main with one reef. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Two reefs would have been faster and drier!

We raced back to Blyth. It was a fast, wet and exciting sail back. But for the shortest period of time, ‘March Hare’ took and held the lead. It was a close run thing again, and the boats were separated only by the number of times each boat had ‘rounded up’ in the gusts.

We saw a few Dolphins on the way back up the coast, but no other boats. We also saw about 40kts of wind at times, I wonder if that was why no one else was out?

All in all it was an excellent cruise, the first of the season. The sailing was brilliant, the company outstanding. I hope this is an indication of things to come for the forthcoming season. Come along and join the fun. Everyone is welcome to join us. I hope to see you out there soon.


The Bondicar

The Bondicar

My ‘Bondicar’ began at 16:45 hours on Saturday afternoon.

I had arrived back at the club shortly after lunchtime. I had every intention of ridding ‘Kandula’ of any excess weight, in order to improve her chances in the forthcoming ‘Bondicar Race’.

‘Kandula’ was still in full cruising mode, carrying her tender, outboard, spare anchor and chain, tinned food, EXTRA beer and wine rations, library, a wide selection of DVD’s, some random stuffed toys, a dog blanket, a selection of wardrobe changes (snappy clothes for the ‘with it’ man about town), a tool kit, TWO spare batteries and some ‘mood lighting’.

With a little bit of effort; I could probably lose about half a ton of excess weight. Granted, it would look like a poorly organised ‘boat jumble’ on the pontoons; but this yacht racing is a serious business.

However, before I could remove any weight, I needed to find a volunteer to go up my mast, and replace my flag halyard, which had blown away during my daring single handed trip back from the Tyne the previous weekend.

I wandered around the pontoons for five minutes, looking for my victim…er sorry, my volunteer.

Unfortunately, the only person to be found was Steve Meakin. Now Steve is a nice bloke; but Mrs Meakin definitely was not shy when it came to feeding her Kids. Steve is a well built lad. Not really an ideal candidate for going up ones mast!

That left me in the difficult position of having to go up my own mast. Some may say that I am not the best suited candidate; myself included. I am not that much smaller than Steve, currently  ‘bulking up’ for the long hard winter ahead. That; and the fact that I have an aversion to heights. Actually it is not really an aversion to heights, it’s an aversion to falling from heights.

In return for this favour (Steve had agreed to man the winch!), I had agreed to help remove the sails form ‘Jorvic’ (Steve’s highly desirable Moody 27. The Moody is a great boat and just so happens to be on the market. Priced to sell, early bids are recommended!)

‘Jorvic’ is being prepared to be lifted out, in anticipation for the replacement (slightly larger) Moody’s arrival. The terrible twins will soon be reunited.

Now, reader..I am sure that you can understand that the amount of work required to do all of this had left Steve and I in a rather ‘effete’ state.

Steve suggested, quite rightly, that we should re hydrate before we commenced any more heavy lifting. We therefore retired to HY Tyne to seek suitable refreshment. It was precisely 16:45.

I am not really sure how or what happened. I awoke next morning at 09:00 with a race to compete in. ‘Kandula’ was still in cruising trim, and much to my chagrin; was still wearing her Burgee and Ensign.  I prostrate myself before the committee and offer my sincerest apologies

Obviously SOMETHING happened between 16:45 hrs and 09:00hrs the next day. What follows is what I have so far pieced together.

There must have been an issue with the supply of spring water and orange cordial in the bar, as Steve and I had to make do with a pint of Stella Artois each.

There is a certain etiquette involved in drinking in company. The rules are very simple.

If someone offers to buy you a drink, then the favour must be returned. This must happen BEFORE the original drink is no more than three quarters consumed; and is done without consultation with the other party. You may never end with an uneven number of drinks having been bought, and the protagonists must drink at the same rate, in order to avoid being labelled a ‘soft southern poofta’ or a ‘shandy drinking lass’. There is also a twist to the rules. If a THIRD person (or fourth etc) joins the round, then the ‘counter’ is reset and the whole round starts again.

It is very wise to choose your drinking partner with care. There are sprinters and session drinkers. Sprinters will go at it ‘like a dog at broth’ then fade away. Session drinkers can pace themselves and last for hours. Steve is of the rare breed when what initially looks like a sprint, is in fact a session!

Things were going quite well. I had imbibed two pints and was feeling quite refreshed and ready to start work again. Then a random turn of events occurred. Iain Robertson arrived, and stupidly accepted a drink from Steve; thus restarting the ‘merry-go-round’.

Now you may see a problem developing here. There are now three of us in the round, so we have to go ‘round’ at least once. If my maths is correct, that is at least another three pints. You may agree that I had fallen into the classic trap, and found myself out of my depth, with two dedicated and well experienced beer drinkers.

I must have been reasonably perceptible enough to realise that I still needed to get my guitar from the car; But not perceptible enough to remember that I needed to play it later.

Things start to go a little hazy at this point. I may have got unreasonably opinionated or overly amorous or loud or a combination of all three. (Oh no…I have just realised, I turn into Dave Morgan when I am drunk!)...Sorry Dave, no offence meant.

I vaguely remember drifting into the Saloon and setting up for a BaRNYCles performance. I hope the audience enjoyed it.  (Was there an audience? I couldn’t see beyond my fuzzy music book)

I must point out that the BaRNYCles sound much better drunk.

Mike Swann may have made an appearance, on his way to the Osama Bin Laded lookalike conference.

Seven hours of my life had passed me by. I found myself climbing aboard my boat, to go to bed. Unfortunately, it turned out to be ‘Lilybelle’ (Brian Thornton’s Moody 31), and I was clutching a bottle of Whisky.

Oh well, one more little ‘nip’ before bed can’t possibly do any harm. I seem to remember a boat full of people, vaguely swimming into focus and then spinning off into the middle distance, like some  psychedelic experience.

My next recollection is waking at 09:00 on Sunday morning. I had signed up to do the ‘Bondicar Race’

I had prepared a mental check list.

1.Mike Swann was number one crew. Check, there he is passed out below deck.

2. Remove all unnecessary equipment, no check, there it was, exactly where I had left it.

3. Check the course, so we know where to go. No check, follow the other boats

4. Welcome new crew on board. No check, they had already sneaked aboard.

5. Prepare crew. Check, EVERYONE had a hangover.


‘Kandula’s’ crew , all hung-over consisted of me, Mike Swann, Paul ‘Warren’ Warren and Chris Moore; who has sought a crewing position and by some horrendous twist of fate had landed a position on ‘Kandula’

Chris is new to the club (RNYC) and was hoping to gain some sailing time and experience.  He certainly gained AN experience. We shall see if he ever comes back.

We managed to get rid of some weight. The tender and outboard went ashore. We dropped the spray hood and donned life jackets. There, we were prepared to race!

We motored out of Blyth Harbour. The wind was from the West and quite steady. The sea was slight and the Sun was shining. Bacon sandwiches were served and we headed for the start line.

Tony Freeth was race officer. I remember him sitting next to me during the BaRNYCles performance. He must have been as drunk as me. The start line was at a rather jaunty angle, and we found ourselves on starboard tack, close hauling along the line with the rest of the fleet. There were about 20 boats competing for space. As the start hooter went off, the whole fleet tacked, in order to get over the line.

It took ‘Kanudula’ two further tacks and two minutes before we were over the start line and racing.

We took off after the fleet and found ourselves at the first windward mark neck and neck with ‘Silk Purse’ and ‘Selene’

SeleneSilk Purse

‘Silk Purse’ was slightly over canvassed and was struggling to hold a line to the mark. We were windward of them and had to give them a bit of wiggle room, in order to avoid anything un-gentlemanly.

‘Selene’ missed a tack and dropped back a little.

Our immediate race seemed to be with ‘Silk Purse’

They got the better of us downwind and beat us to the ‘offshore’ mark. We turned North for ‘Bondicar’ and the long reaching race began. We were in a small fleet of our own. The fast boats had disappeared into the distance; with ‘Aufweidersein Pet’ (sports boat) leading the fleet.

In our half of the race, was: ‘Silk Purse’, ‘Selene’, ‘Kandula’, ‘Enigma’ and ‘Lilybelle’.


Unfortunately ‘Blue Bayou’ didn’t manage to get over the line and were last seen heading off to St.Mary’s island.

The conditions suited ‘Silk Purse’ and ‘Kandula’. Although ‘Silk Purse’ was slowly extending their lead, we managed to stay in touch. The blustery conditions were quite testing, and we were pushing as hard as we could. We watched as some of the stronger gusts caught out the fleet and some small broaching and ‘rounding up’ was going on.

Steadily the two of us got away from our little fleet. Amazingly, we were starting to catch other boats. Please excuse me, but this has never happened before, and was quite un-nerving. WE WERE CATCHING OTHER BOATS!

Up ahead be saw ‘Pintail’ We were catching them. Ever so slowly we managed to catch and pass ‘Pintail’ then ‘Konga’


‘Silk Purse’ was still ahead, but we were holding station with them. We seemed to come out better after each gust. Unbelievably we were now catching ‘Silk Purse’ too. They in turn were catching ‘Red Haze’ Up ahead we could see the race leaders making their turn at the ‘Bondicar’

We kept sailing as hard as we could. ‘Silk Purse’ had passed ‘Red Haze’ and we were in pursuit. ‘Red Haze’ rounded the mark well. We were just behind them and did a reasonable job of turning the boat around.

Red Haze

Back on starboard tack, we were slightly faster. We got upwind of and alongside ‘Red Haze’ I saw some frantic activity as Iain Robertson tried everything to tweak more speed out of her. He looked askance as ‘Kandula’ in her element, slipped past. It is quite funny to watch as skippers get agitated when ‘Kandula’ surprises them. They immediately start to alter settings in the hope of finding the speed that they have lost.

We sidled up to ‘Silk Purse’ and watched the same ritual again. Allan Smith started tweaking and pulling bits of rope. It was too late. We were past.

We were not going to give this one up easily. Mike Swann was our tweaker and fiddler. He did a great job on sail trimming and managed to keep our speed up. Although I don’t know how he avoided getting his beard caught in the winches!

As we got to Newbiggin, the wind started to drop and get a little fluky. ‘Silk Purse’ started to close the gap.

We managed to hold them off until we reached the offshore mark again. We turned for home. Actually we didn’t. We hardened up as much as possible (about 10 degrees) and tried to get into a position to tack towards the finish, in the river.

A little tacking duel began, but we were just holding ‘Silk Purse’ off.  We entered to river about half a boat length ahead. We had the wind and held the advantage until the line, managing to drop ‘Silk Purse’ in the last dash to the line.

We had an excellent race over all, but the fight with ‘Silk Purse’ was most gratifying.

I think that 17 boats finished, with 15 of them being given a time. ‘Kandula’ finished in 9th. Mid table obscurity, but a lot better than her previous outings. I may have to change the name of the blog. ‘Kandula’s eye view, the view from the middle of the fleet’?

Thanks to Tony Freeth for being Race Officer. Thanks to John ‘ Joker’ Erskine and his girls (including Karla) for feeding us and keeping the beer flowing. Thanks to Mark Phillips of Coquet Sailing Club for laying the ‘Bondicar mark’ for us. Thanks to the skippers who joined in the racing, to make another successful event; and special thanks to my crew for their hard work in the face of a hangover.


Congratulations go to the crew of ‘JEM’ who were overall winners of the event. I would also like to thank Dave ‘Boatyard’ Coussins for acting as fleet support and photographer.

See you out there next time.



A week in Whitby

A Week in Whitby

At 09:30 on Saturday 3rd August 2013, we arrived at Royal Northumberland Yacht Club. ‘Kandula’ was moored in her usual place. I had lifted her out during the week and given her a scrub down and anti foul.

Karen and I loaded up the stores and cruising paraphernalia, immediately doubling the weight of the boat.

On went the food, the beer, wine and spirits. An extra fridge, two large bags of clothes, a dinghy with outboard, my guitar, various laptops and iPads and the other odds and sods that you can’t possibly do without when you are spending a week away from home.

Fully loaded; Kandula weighs about the same as the Queen Mary II.

The wind was from the West and was a little brisk. At 10am we slipped our lines and set sail with two reefs in the main and ¾ of the Genoa set.

Geoff and Suzanne had left earlier in the morning (about 5am, I was to learn later), taking ‘Miss Enigma’ to Whitby also. Our plan was to set off and see how far we got; before making a decision as to whether or not we were going to make Whitby in one go, or whether we would overnight in Hartlepool. In fairness we had left too late for the tides at Whitby. In fairness 5am is too bloody early for anything!

We left the river Blyth and headed south.  It had been a good decision to put in the two reefs. ‘Kandula’ was sailing fast; pleased with her clean bottom. A feeling I appreciate myself. The sea, which had looked deceptively flat as we drove along the sea front, was starting to develop little white horses.

Karen’s fortitude lasted until we were just south of St.Mary’s Island. She started to feel a little tired!

A whole hour at sea, well done, Karen. She muttered something about going below, to check that the cabin was secure. (I next saw her at Hartlepool!)

The wind and sea were building. ‘Kandula’ was handling it well. With the two reefs in, we were flying (relatively) along at 7 kts. We were getting water over the decks and there was a lot of spray flying through the air. It was exhilarating, but a little tiring. I put the autohelm on; and the boat was so well balanced that she almost sailed herself. This allowed me time to trim the sails and take stock of the general situation. There was no way we were going to make the tidal gate at Whitby and therefore I decided that Hartlepool was a far better option for us.

We were starting to charge through the waves, rather than over them.  The sea was getting up a little more. I took the tiller in hand, removed the autohelm and wedged myself into the corner between the guard rail and the pushpit.

I may not have mentioned the fact that we had set sail in glorious sunshine; it hardly seemed relevant at the time. It was ‘shorts and T Shirt weather’.

It was mildly amusing the first time a wave came over the deck and soaked me to the skin. The water didn’t have far to go really. I was after all in shorts and t-shirt!

I was contemplating going below to get some more appropriate gear on. However, the helm needed constant attention; and when I looked below deck, I was met by a scene from the ‘Exorcist’.

Although asleep (and completely unaware of what was going on)Karen was levitating in mid air; surrounded by various personal belongings, soft furnishings and a slightly bemused RNLI teddy bear. Karen, together with the assorted items were dancing around, slightly out of rhythm to the waves. As Kandula dropped into a trough, Karen hovered around the head lining. As Kandula rose up the next wave, Karen descended to meet the bunk. However, sometimes she wouldn’t meet it, as Kandula ducked down the next wave before Karen had a chance to land! It was like a diabolical scene from Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ with a little bit of William Friedkin thrown in. All that was missing was the revolving head and ‘pea green expulsions!’

We (and by we, I mean me) battled on. I went from being warm, dry and exhilarated to – Cold wet and rather disgruntled. This was a very regular cycle. The waves and spray kept coming, but the sun dried me quickly.

At about 3pm we were off the breakwater at Hartlepool.

The wind was blowing between a force 7 and 8. There was a lot of water in the air and Kandula’s bow was going up and down like a Brides Nightie!

Karen came on deck to help. We headed up into the wind and approached the marina at Hartlepool. Karen took the helm and started the engine. I went to roll away the Genoa. A wave took the bow, which was blown off course; backing the sail and causing it to unfurl fully with a loud bang. The furling gear was jammed solid. We had full sail out in a rising wind; amidst a confused and lumpy sea. Karen was fighting the helm, trying to pull her round back into the wind. The furler had twisted round under the force and was facing the wrong way.

I scrambled along the side deck to see if I could fix it. I couldn’t move the furler!

I could however revolve the forestay foil by hand. It was hard work, but inch by inch, I managed to get the sail rolled away. By the time it was rolled away fully, I couldn’t move my fingers, or lift my arms.  Karen bought the boat back under control and we made our way towards the lock gates. Karen sorted out the lines and fenders. I steered with my chin!

It was a massive relief to get into safe water.

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We slept extremely well that night. Karen even managed to stay attached to the bunk.

On a bright Sunday morning, we set off towards Whitby. The wind was still in the west. The sea was a little smoother; I had a jacket on.

Karen was wide awake and took the helm. (I tied her to the jack stays, so that she couldn’t get below decks)

It was fantastic sailing weather. We still had two reefs in. ‘Kandula’ was behaving well. We were hitting 7 – 8 kts. It was a fast and exciting sail down to Whitby. We hit our top speed of 9kts, hard pressed and hanging on in the gusts. As we approached Whitby, we were picking up VHF traffic. The RNLI were having a harbour day. There was a lot of activity around the harbour entrance. We decided to stow the sails early.

I turned the engine battery on and twisted the ignition key. NOTHING. Not a click, whir, cough or sigh. I looked at Karen and Karen looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said in a calm voice (I don’t know how I sounded calm, as I was a trifle worried at this point) ‘this could be awkward’.

Whitby harbour is not the easiest entrance on the East coast. There was a lot of activity, with boats flitting about to and fro. I really did not want to try sailing into a crowded harbour with a lumpy sea and high winds.

I double checked the battery switches, and tried again.

Benjamin Frankilin once said, “Only a fool tries the same thing over again and expects different results”.

Strangely prophetic!

I had three options-

  • Sail into the harbour – Madness
  • Call up the RNLY – Pride
  • Start the engine manually – impossible!

Nevertheless, I grabbed the starting handle, opened the engine compartment and had a go. I couldn’t even turn the engine over.

I flicked over the decompression levers and tried again. I could turn the engine over, slowly.

Karen called down the companion way. The RNLI all weather boat was coming out of the harbour entrance on an exercise. Did I want her to hail the coxswain?

In desperation, I swung the starter handle, flicked over the decompression levers and good old ‘Kandula’ answered. The engine burst into life, and I nearly burst into tears of relief.

We motored into Whitby, straight into the middle of an RNLI showpiece. There were two ‘ribs’ an RNLI jet ski, the AWLB and thousands of spectators. I would have waved, but I couldn’t lift my arms!

We motored straight up to the bridge. Held station in the tidal stream for five minutes and then entered the marina. We tied up next to ‘Miss Enigma’

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I had a beer.

I found out later that my charging system had packed up and a cable had come away from the batteries.

The week was relaxing. There was a glorious amount of sunshine. We shopped and drank and ate. We watched the world go by.

Mid week, we decided to take the dinghies up the river Esk. We slowly motored up stream. There were all sorts of flora and fauna. Some magical sheds and hidden slip ways. Dilapidated boats rotting away, holiday homes and all manner of interesting nooks and crannies. We managed to get as far as the weirs at Ruswarp.

We turned the boats around and started to make our way back to the marina. It was at this point that I noticed that the dinghy was not quite as firm as it was when we set off. There was a gentle hissing coming from somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t being made by a swan.

I didn’t mention anything to Karen, as I didn’t want her to panic.

Geoff was not quite as tactful. He motored over to us and shouted, “Looks like you are sinking”. He laughed and shot off at full throttle. I tried to follow, but as I opened up the throttle, the boat just bunched up like a wrinkly doughnut. I decided that we needed to take our time. I put my finger over the little hole. It made a slight ‘farting’ noise as we chugged our way home.

Historic Whitby is well worth a visit.

Whitby is home to a number of things. Other than Dracula and Captain Cook, Whitby is famous for the most extortionately priced coffee in the Northern Hemisphere.


Whitby is also home to a man with the biggest nose I have ever seen.

If you call me BIG NOSE one more time pal, Im going to take you to the f**ing cleaners!

The council must be wealthy too. I saw 5 workmen at some road works. In true British fashion, of the five of them; two were doing the work, whilst the other three stood watching. Makes you proud!


I decided that it was probably safer to sit in the cockpit of ‘Kandula’ and drink for the rest of the week.

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Karen decided to join me. We were on home ground now. Drinking, we can do that!

We were joined at one stage by Dylan Winter of ‘Keep Turning Left’ fame. We sat and chatted about boating, the East coast, harbours and anchorages. It was most convivial.

We were also joined by ‘the gang’ on ‘Bumpi Too’.

They had sailed overnight on Thursday to join us for drinks and food on Friday.

In a moment of clarity, we decided to rename ‘Bumpi Too’ as ‘Bum Pie Too’, which later became ‘Arse Pasty’ at the time it was hilarious. Maybe you just had to be there.

Remarkably Mike Swann was well behaved…mostly.


I needed to do some work on ‘Kandula’, to get her ready for the return trip to Blyth. I needed to get the electrics sorted, change the batteries (expensive) as I had killed the ones on board.


I would like to say massive thanks to Geoff McDonough of ‘Miss Enigma’ for the time and expertise he gave me. Without his help, I don’t think I could have got everything ready for the long motor sail back home.

Although it took us 9 hours from pier to pier, it was thankfully; without incident.

We are thinking of going for Two weeks next year. It was great!

(We may however go to Greece on a charter; so we break someone else’s boat!)

Why not join us on the next exciting cruise? What could possibly go wrong?