Category Archives: Cruises and Event Reports

Bembridge Rally September 2014

The forecast for the weekend of 13 and 14 September was for Easterly winds force 4 to 5 occasionally 6 – not great for a harbour facing East. However, in the end the winds were generally lighter than forecast on the Saturday. It turned out that the majority of the boats came from Gosport or close by. There were three exceptions Santorini (Nick and Judi Kerr) came from Hamble, Tandala (Graham Bromley & Tim Warriner) from Beaulieu and La Baraka Jean-Pierre Gaillard & Jacques Grandjean) from Cherbourg. Tandala in particular had a lovely sail close hauled all the way to the forts, but had to set off earlier than most which helped. 8 boats in total attended – 2 x D2800s – Santorini and Nina II John & Helen Birnie), a D31 (Luis & Beth Castillo), 2 x D32s – Etain (Isabel & Evan Gregg) and Free Spirit (Tony & Lilah Lidgate), a D34 Tandala and 2 x D36s – Dufourus (Steve & Amanda Ray plus their daughter Sophie and Nephew and Niece Oliver and ……) and La Baraka.

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Rafted Up

The weather was warm and sunny Saturday afternoon and evening. Initially there were 6 Dufours in a single raft, but this was later changed to two sets of three boats. The evening got off to a decent start at 6pm with a gathering of the group on Tandala and Free Spirit for a glass or three of wine and some spectacular nibbles provided by some clearly gifted people in the group. This was followed by a short walk up to one of the new marquees provided alongside a bar-b-que at the top of the walkway from the Duver marina. The tent was equipped with plenty of seating and provided a really nice atmosphere for everyone to mix and relax in each other’s company. The gas bar-b-que was well marshalled by young Oliver. The whole arrangement proved to be really popular with everyone in the group and we were as warm as toast inside the tent out of the wind as darkness fell.

What has been very apparent during all of the recent rallies in the Solent is the easy way in which this group mixes and those new to the group are integrated and made to feel like old friends. It was great to see Luis and Beth Castillo at the rally. I know they were very disappointed to have to missed rallies in 2014 due to family commitments – Luis has put a lot of work into this group over many years, along with the likes of David and Dorothy Eyre and were ever presents for almost 20 years, having organised many rallies with David from their earliest days.

We were delighted to welcome our new friends Jean-Pierre and Jacques from CVD (Cercle Voilers Dufour) the French Dufour Owners group. Their commitment in making the trip from Cherbourg (one of them had actually come from St Malo) was commendable and very much appreciated. Although there were challenges to effective communication, the international language of sailing and a shared passion for these boats saw us through. We welcomed them into the group and presented them with a Dufour Owners Burgee as a memento of their attendance at the rally – this was proudly flying from their signal

Our CVD Friends are presented with a Dufour Association Pennant

Our CVD Friends are presented with a Dufour Association Pennant

halyard in the morning.

The wind during the night was up around the forecast force 6, but this dropped away again in the morning to a steadier F4 to 5 – a perfect sailing wind! The tide restricts entry and exit from Bembridge, so everyone set off for a decent walk before departing for home – eight of us ended up at the lovely cafe ‘Baywatch on the beach’ and strolled back together. The first boats started to depart around 13.30 and all had departed with the exception of La Baraka by 13:50. Our guests set off for home early on Monday morning.

A really nice weekend with really nice people and a well supported event in excellent weather – it doesn’t get much better than that!

(Published in Dufour News Winter 2014)


East Coast Rally 2014

I spent my first 20 years sailing the River Crouch almost every week and at the end of that time I guess you could say I knew the area very well. Two years ago we moved house to Suffolk and I moved my home base to the River Deben. So it was now a bit strange to contemplate returning to the familiar Crouch for the Autumn Dufour Rally which this year was to be held at Burnham Harbour.

We planned to arrive at Burnham by mid afternoon on the Saturday. However as I can only escape from my mini harbour at the top of the tide and it is almost impossible to navigate the Deben in the dark the Saturday arrival time meant that we had to leave with the high tide on the Friday at about 15.00 hrs. The wind was F3 – 4 coming predominantly from the east so we could sail down river and then much of the way westward towards the Walton backwaters where we planned to anchor on the Friday night. Everything went to plan and we had a relatively restful night.

East Coast Rally - Onboard Stargazer II
East Coast Rally – Onboard Stargazer II

Although the backwaters anchorage is relatively deep unfortunately the entrance channel is quite shallow. To avoid being trapped in we decided to leave at 7am on the Saturday morning which should have given us a comfortable 0.5 m clearance but it was on a falling tide. We woke up around 6.30am and all was going to plan till it came time to lift up the anchor. You can imagine the shock and concern when the ‘up anchor’ button on the windlass failed to work. The down button worked fine! Unfortunately last night we had let out more or less all of the 25 meters of heavy duty chain to ensure good holding and a comfortable night. I tried to bypass the switch to get it to work but that didn’t do it. Bob my strong and trusted friend elected to pull the whole thing up manually and believe it or not he actually managed it. Unfortunately this all took some time and it was a significant delay on our planned escape timing. We were now over half an hour late and the water clearance on the entrance channel was now down to less than 12 inches!! The escape from the anchorage is predominantly eastward so it was engine on and make best speed before the falling tide trapped us. Fortunately we made good our escape reaching Pye End buoy – the safe watermark without further mishap.

It was a great relief to turn South – put up the sails and follow the Medusa Channel then into The Wallet –cross the Spitway and up the Crouch. With the wind at our backs and the tide well and truly with us we were making 8 knots over the ground. With these favourable conditions we arrived at Burnham harbour at 14.00 hrs somewhat earlier than we had expected. The other boats, ‘Cest Moi’ and Stargazer ll were both in the harbour before us – so we were still the last in!

After a walkabout in Burnham town and meeting up with some ore of our regular crew members ??? and ?? forgotten we all met up for drinks and nibbles on boards Stargazer ll and time to catch up with old friends:-Before going to evening meal we all decamped to Thistle Dhu where we now have on board our own home movie system that projects onto a large screen – Having recently returned from the Dartmouth regatta we were able to show our videos capturing much of the various activities from the 3 day event. Then it was on to the Swallowtail – the local restaurant – for a pleasant meal.

East Coast Rally - Dinner at the Swallowtail
East Coast Rally – Dinner at the Swallowtail

Although only a small group of us intrepid Dufour owners we enjoyed a good meal, albeit that the service was slow to say the least and the good the company of our friends.

The planned return for us to the river Deben required a 6am start. Ug! The wind was still coming from the east – in fact we were experiencing F5 gusting F6 from the NE which meant that it was on our nose all the way home. And worse still, to avoid the usual banging and shuddering from the oncoming waves our average speed through the water had to be kept no faster than 3.5 kts.

Wallasea Island is on the south of the Crouch and in the two years that I have been away a new quay has been developed to handle the spoil from the Cross Rail project’s tunnelling. It looks like this process now operating is running on a 24 X 7 basis. We had to share the river with one full ship coming up river and another empty one coming out beside us. It is quite a changed environment for those of us that used to know the river well.

Progress was slow and steady out of the river and back through the Wallet with the Gunfleet Wind Farm to our south. With the tide helping us out of the river our 3.5 knots or so translated to about 5 knots over the ground so reasonable progress was achieved. However the tide changed when we were only about five or so miles from the Deben River mouth. Our 3.5 knots then translated to only 2 knots over the ground! What an incredible difference this was compared to the 8 or so knots we had been achieving yesterday in very similar conditions but going the other way of course. Careful planning and recognising the importance of both wind and tides is so important to us sailors. We arrived at the Deben mouth about 30 minutes earlier than the deadline we had set. The river was relatively calm so we were able to set a more reasonable 5 knots on the engine and therefore arrived at my mini harbour still on the rising tide -so could park with a little time to spare. Still light??!!

(Published in Dufour News Winter 2014)