The new, updated and expanded edition of Pass Your Yachtmaster is due out on 8 July, the best primer around for the RYA sailing qualification. It’s also the only one with jokes – the serious stuff by David Fairhall and myself is leavened with lots of hilarious cartoons about sailing by the late Mike Peyton.
There’s a new chapter on electronic charts and fresh material on weather forecasting, safety equipment and other aspects of sailing offshore that have been changing in recent years as the technology improves.
We are now pottering happily around the Essex and Suffolk coasts, visiting places we got to know well years ago when we kept our various boats here.
From our rented mooring at Woolverstone on the River Orwell, we went down to the River Colne, spending a night in the Pyefleet, one of the best known East Coast anchorages, just behind Mersea Island. We picked up a mooring buoy rather than having to spend half an hour getting glutinous mud off the anchor next day – worth the £10 we paid to the man from the oyster fishery, who came round on a paddleboard collecting money from yachts.
Finally, we got away, covering 180 miles from Cowes to Woolverstone on the Orwell in Suffolk in one go. Conditions were perfect for a fast passage, with Beachy Head crystal clear in the afternoon sun and the white cliffs of Dover actually shining as we passed in the brilliant light of a full moon.
We abandoned plans to stop in Ramsgate when we arrived off the town at dawn with the tide still under us. We kept going, motor sailing with genoa only because there was hardly any wind.
The virus lockdown rules allow me to drive to the boat from this week onwards, so a day is at last in the diary for moving Spring Fever from her winter berth in Chichester to her permanent mooring in Cowes.
Now we’re hopeful that we might actually make that cruise to the east coast we cancelled twice last year, so I’ve been updating my Thames Estuary charts and pilot book and reminding myself of the different route options around and across the multiple sandbanks between North Foreland and Harwich.
My most recent surrogate for sailing has been to watch You Tube videos from the Sampson Boat Company – an addictive glimpse into a world where something beautiful, functional and powerful is being constructed out of wood, in a project run by an English boatbuilder working in the USA. I highly recommend it to anyone, boat person or otherwise, who wants to wind down from today’s tensions. This is a link. The YouTube viewing figures show that hundreds of thousands of others have found that out too.
After years of trying to work out what Brexit means for yachts, there are still some annoying issues yet to be cleared up, a month into the new regime.
The most vexed question is still VAT. Most of us do have an answer, though not the one we wanted: our boats lost their EU VAT status if they were not moored in a continental port when the transition period ended. That means that in future they can only be temporarily taken to EU countries.
But a minority is still in a potentially expensive limbo. These are the owners who have been away from the UK for more than three years, who may have to pay VAT for a second time if they return with a boat they bought and paid VAT on here.
With the new lockdown – boat and our home both in the highest tier of antivirus restrictions – winter sailing plans are off for the moment.
So the only boating thing getting done here is proof correcting for the new edition of Pass Your Yachtmaster, by David Fairhall and the late Mike Peyton, the cartoonist.
It involved writing a lot more new material than I expected – or perhaps I should have realised, given the speed at which electronic navigation, marine communications, emergency location, search and rescue and numerical weather forecasting have developed during the 38 years the little book has been in print.
That’s that, for the moment: new lockdown, can’t go to the boat for an autumn mini-cruise or even to do some maintenance, so sum total of this year’s sailing is 5 days in the Solent. I try not to contemplate the cost per day.
We have however decided to leave the boat fully in commission in Chichester Marina (above) over the winter and into next season, with sails bent on and engine not winterised. This is because Spring Fever was launched only in mid-September, so gear and antifouling have not just finished a long, hard season.
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.
For multiple reasons, this year’s launch has had to be put back again to 1 September. We haven’t missed much because of the delay, since the weather has been awful.
Essex and Suffolk are still the objectives, and the delay has given some time for preparations, including buying the latest edition of East Coast Pilot. With its predecessor East Coast Rivers, I have editions going back to 1981.
It looks as if we’ll be free to go cruising on Spring Fever from 4 July, the day the renewed easing of Covid-19 controls starts. While we will not be ready for early July, at least we can now plan a sail, possibly to the Essex and Suffolk rivers.
Following the end of the ban on overnight stays on boats, Cowes, where we are at the moment, has reopened to visiting boats that book a berth in advance.