I last saw Sir Francis Chichester’s round-the-world yacht in a rundown state displayed next to the Cutty Sark at Greenwich. Last week we passed Gypsy Moth IV on the Beaulieu River in Hampshire, in fine condition after another circumnavigation.
We were pottering around the Solent after our cruise to the East Coast was abandoned because the forecast was days of strong easterlies and north easterlies. Fighting nearly 200 miles to windward in that would have been miserable for a crew of two.
For a small payment when Gypsy Moth IV was at Greenwich, you could go on board, and visitors saw she was badly neglected. She was rescued and rebuilt after a campaign by Yachting Monthly, and sailed round the world again in 2007 for the 40th anniversary of Chichester’s solo voyage, for which he was knighted.
The new voyage was rather too exciting – stranded on a Pacific reef and badly damaged, she was salvaged and rebuilt in New Zealand, her second restoration since she left Greenwich.
Gypsy Moth IV, now owned by a trust, looks beautiful. But by Chichester’s own account she was a terrible boat for single-handed sailing because of poor directional stability, making her exhausting to manage downwind. Various modifications were made to improve her.
While this boat’s history is celebrated, there’s a yacht hulk moored on Southampton Water that intrigues me every time I pass on the ferry or in Spring Fever, from which I took the photo below. Or rather, I assume from the shape that this derelict vessel was a yacht, because it has the look and size of the J-Class built by the zillionaires of the early 20th century. I may be wrong about that, and will try to find out more.
The leak that stopped our earlier departure to the East Coast turned out to be simple to fix with a little GRP work, so Spring Fever was launched again on 14 September. We ended up spending a week on day-sails battling round the Solent, testing the recommissioned gear in winds of Force 5, 6 and 7. It is never quite as sheltered as it looks in the Solent, especially with the short, sharp chop you get with wind against tide. It made for some exhilarating sailing.
We spent the first afternoon in Newtown Creek – where the water was warm enough for a swim, and the wind had not got up, which it did overnight.
We spent the other nights in Beaulieu River, watching beautiful sunsets over the saltings, and Gosport, across from Nelson’s Victory and the UK’s still planeless new aircraft carrier. Then we headed for Itchenor in Chichester Harbour to leave Spring Fever on a mooring until the end of the month. On 1 October we go into Chichester Marina for a 6 month winter berth, because diaries don’t now allow enough time to get round to Suffolk this year.
We are temporarily abandoning the Isle of Wight because of the emergence of a serious second wave of corona virus nationally and the risk of further lockdowns and restrictions. We were already uncomfortable with using the crowded ferry, given our age and high vulnerability to the virus. The advice is that we should be much more risk averse than younger people.
All in all, it seemed sensible for the moment to leave the boat somewhere where we could drive straight from home without using trains and ferries. We opted for 6 months in Chichester Marina.
In fact, just after we left, we were offered a long-term mooring on a pontoon in the best part of the River Medina, at Whitegates, but we have turned it down, though we have been kept on the waiting list. We had given up our old mooring on the river when we were planning to be in France and Spain for a couple of years – that now seems aeons ago. It is impossible to say now when we’ll be sailing freely to France and Spain again without quarantines.
That leak was because of a fitting to deflect weeds which was apparently on the skeg long before we owned the boat. It was removed, but the filling had dropped out of the old screwholes. With the high cost of lifting out and out and in again, they were very pricey screwholes.