The jobs to complete at East Cowes included fitting the electric bilge pump and refitting the switch panel below the engine controls, tidying up some wiring and adding some labels, and sorting out the heaps into something resembling ordered stowage. In between jobs we had a bus ride to Newport, Ventnor and Ryde and a walk to the East Cowes castle. The beach was stony and seaweedy, but the children’s park was creatively furnished and boasted a sparkling blue paddling pool. Unfortunately we had no toddlers to give us an excuse to go in. At the nearby café, we had our final cream tea:
- Yarmouth, café by the pier : good standard & liveliest location
- Royal Hotel, Ventnor – who charmingly fitted us in after hours -high class ambience and scones, with price to match
- East Cowes prom café – decent tea, friendly staff and outstanding value for money.
On Thursday we crossed to West Cowes for a rather rainy walk, collecting a take-away curry along the way. Until Thursday we could not get to West Cowes because of the Floating Bridge. This had recently replaced the old chain ferry, but suffered from teething problems, such as a tendency to get stuck on a falling tide. The MCA actually withdrew its operating licence for a time, but despite another grounding on Wednesday, it was back in service, much to the relief of locals, and persons in need of a curry.
As we settled aboard that evening, the sounds of the Isle of Wight Festival reached us from up the Medina valley, through the pouring rain.
The forecast being less daunting, we set off in the morning and tacked down the West Solent, punching the tide. But it was still gusty and as the ebb started the waves increased, so we stopped once again at Newtown, this time picking up a mooring near the West landing. It was a dry afternoon at least, so we applied some paint to the cockpit floor. More curry for tea!
Along with several other yachts, we headed for the Needles channel at what passes for slack water. The wind was still SW around F4, but we managed to set a reefed main and motored on to Portland harbour, arriving in time to avoid the next weather front, and to have a walk to the incredible Chesil Beach. Next day we caught a bus to Portland Bill, watched a couple of intrepid yachts round the point close to shore, heading West, then walked along the eastern cliff path most of the way back to Castletown. But the path ended and we had to back-track a mile to a steep path, and round the prison wall to find a bus stop. In fact we had two such detours due to losing the path, which is not well marked at the SE, so it was quite a long walk!
Monday was still a bit windy, so we spent the afternoon in Weymouth, exploring the beach front and harbour, and taking the rowed ferry across the river – well worth the £1 fee for the experience.
The tide being slack off the Bill at 13:00, we set off at midday and rounded close-in, following several other boats.
Portland Bill lighthouse
There was enough south in the very light wind to set the main, but with 55 miles across the bay we motored at around 6 knots, and made Salcombe in the fading light. Along the way we were called on the VHF by a nearby yacht who turned out to be from Shoreham yacht club, and had recognised Ambition II. We were both heading for Falmouth via Salcombe and hoped to meet up, but we ended up in different places so failed to meet. We anchored that night east of the rocks near Sunny Cove, just inside the harbour, and set off early for Falmouth. The wind was now in the NE so we tried headsails, but again found it necessary to motor all day, passing south of the Eddystone and coming into the Carrick Roads in the early afternoon. We checked into Mylor marina, where we were booked to have the engine alignment adjusted. After discussion with the engineers, we arranged to dry out on the slip wall next day, to draw the prop shaft and re-set the rope-cutter (which was chafing) and fit the new bearing seals R had brought from Essex. This was all done, and we were back on the pontoon after refloating in the evening.
Mylor has a beautiful setting on the Fal estuary, with river beaches, muddy creeks and low green hills all around. The nearest shops are in Mylor Bridge, a little over a mile as the crow flies and rather more if you miss the correct footpath and go up the steep hill by road and then miss the path a different way on the route back and lug your bike up through woods, puddles etc to the top of the hill (again). J does not like to cycle up or down hills so was not amused. However, we had a peaceful walk down through the churchyard, stopping to reflect at the memorial to HMS Ganges.
The engine alignment was adjusted next day (the mounting nuts were actually loose!) so the job was done. The prices at Mylor Yacht Harbour are quite high, but the boat facilities are very good and the attitude friendly and helpful.
We met up with J’s Cornish relatives, H & H, who live nearby, and they kindly gave us a lift into Falmouth to collect some Euro and USD currency, and a last big supermarket shop. Later we filled up with fuel and water, and concluded that the forecast for the week ahead was as good as we could expect for a Biscay crossing – light winds with elements of north and east. We rounded off the evening by finally following the easy and pretty route along the river to Mylor Bridge, with an optional low tide shortcut over the stepping stones.