A sailor's yarn related by

Sifta Sam


Queen Elizabeth 2

Seen here leaving the Solent for the USA and New York, A three day cruise each way. Dinner is being served at this time as the ship passes out through the Needles Channel and into the Western Approaches. The best ship I have ever sailed on.

Five German Diesel engines are brought into action automatically in sequence as power is requested. A thirty knot cruising speed is usual. You can eat your dinner in the engine room - it's all bright & shiny, but noisy.

Sailed 9,000 nautical miles on this ship

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SS Canberra - P & O Line

Built in the 60's and of 44,000 grt this ship took part in the Falklands war. Reputed to have 500 tons of concrete in the bows to get her to sail on her marks. Her usual cruising grounds were based in Europe. Cruised at 22 kts but suffererd vibration at speed, particularly pronounced at church service in heavy weather. Visited Greece, Spain, Portugal, Maderia, North Africa and the Canaries in this ship.

Sailed 6,500 nautical miles on Canberra

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RMS Oriana - P & O Line

Built for the Med this ship sailed on short haul trips to Maderia, Canaries, Spain Greece and North Africa in the days when the Ocean Terminal was still in place at Southampton. Cruising speed about 22 knots, she was a relatively small ship as cruise liners go. Sailed on her to Spain and Greece. Catering not uyp to US standards and the bulk mixers were always tainted - spoils the G & T don't you know.

Sailed 1,500 nautical miles in this ship

TS Miller

TS Malcolm Miller

A classic replica British topsail schooner, designed to recreate life in the days of trading sail, complete with hands forrard and officers aft. I signed articles (yes) and shipped out for sea in February 1980, following a refit in West India Dock London. This was a shake down cruise, complete with a force eight in the channel. We ran up and down La Manche with steel storm boards rigged and with scraps of canvas showing and getting etting pretty cold and wet.

After piutting a few hundred miles on the log, the skipper at last decided to put into Cherbourg and we sailed in to the Ocean Terminal in a squall. Three cables off the stone quayside the skipper had the mate let go of the starboard anchor, which went out with a roar and a cloud of rust. The chain paid out as we sailed onward to the quayside - all eyes were on the skipper. He waited until the last moment to issue the order for the mate to turn up the brake on the windlass. The ship stopped with the bowsprit overhanging the quaywall. It was an easy throw for the hand with the heaving line and a round of applause broke out on deck. I think the french dockside mateys were also pretty impressed by this stunt.

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TS Sorlandet

TS Sorlandet - Square Rigger

Sailed on this ship down the London River in 1981 following a Tall Ships rally in the London Docks. Built in 1927, 186 feet loa with a grt of 560, she carries 70 trainees with 16 officers and crew. Preserves the old heirarchy of sail, with the officers aft and the men forrard. As we towed out to the Blue Bridge from West India Import Dock, (Canary Wharf) the towline slipped on the tug capstan and a strong westerly breeze heeled the ship over. One of the lifeboats hanging in the davits made a dent in the new tin Ladkarn office building on Wood Wharf Quay - I suppose the claim would be described as "impact by square rigger".

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TS Hoshi

TS Hoshi - Salcombe

Sailed on this yacht down in the West Country from Salcombe. A well maintained ex Edwardian "gentleman's yacht" owned by the Maritime Trust and operated until recently by the Island Cruising Club, Salcombe Devon. Take a trip in this quality classic and step back in time.

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OYC Ketch - Spirit of Boadicea

Sailed many miles on this and other identical 72 foot ketches in the fleet as mate. In the channel, we did a MOB with a large dan buoy. The drill was to keep the crew in the dark and test their reactions. This time they were too slow to tack the boat and the "watcher" got fazed by the change of direction and we lost it in the waves and swell. The skipper was not impressed & went up on the cross trees to try and spot it in the waves. We gave up hope after an hour and shaped a course for Holland. Later that day we ran down the buoy in the waves by chance and picked it up - skipper was delighted.

In Sir Thomas Sopwith after leaving Honfleur and about three miles offshore, the boat slowed to a stop and we could see a huge floating hawser had fouled the prop or rudder and stretched as far as the eye could see. The skipper donned a wetsuit and went over the side with a rope attached bowline style, armed with a bread knife. We were clear of the hawser in about five minutes and under sail again but the skipper took about an hour to warm up. The hydraulic shaft brake failed on this trip, causing the prop to rotate and make a severe racket. The brake consisted of a large automotive disc brake on the shaft, complete with caliper and traditional brake pads, operated by a hand wheel. The emergency solution was a large timber wedge and a hammer which cured the problem and stopped the shaft rotating. Rather a hazardous operation down in the bilge, hammering sqealing awedges between the caliper and the disc, wreathed in wood smoke.

On Master Builder to Calais, we picked up a visitors buoy in the outer harbour. The tide was falling steadily while we waited for the locks, but the Skipper missed one lock as the bridgeman was too quick for us and we touched the ground. We then practised sailing up and down the harbour and when the gates and bridge finally opened again, the skipper sailed the yacht in through the lock backwards, holding the wheel and looking out over the stern. The crew were most impressed, but the locals pretended not to notice this skilful bit of sailing. Sailed West Coast of Scotland, West Country, East and South Coasts on these boats plus Holland France Belgium etc.

Have clocked up about 2,300 nautical miles on Square Riggers, Tall Ships and OYC Ketches, Spirit of Boadicea, Master Builder, Sir Thos Sopwith and Taikoo.

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Yacht Charters - UK & European Waters

Chartered a variety of yachts for trips all over the UK and near waters, including Holland, Channel Isles, France, Belgium, West of Scotland, Scillies and West Country. Boats chartered include most makes from 27 foot to 45 foot - the best, in my view, being a Jeanneau Sunfizz from Brighton to St Vaast and Brtittany. Five consecutive charters on the West Coast of Scotland. Two week trip down to Brest Scillies and Brittany, with a crew change at Roscoff ferry port.

Sailed about 6,500 nautical miles in European waters on 15 charters, during the last 30 years.

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Spark - 15 Foot Catamaran

A great little boat when you've got no crew, but tends to hobby horse in choppy seas. Best on flat water in a sheltered estuary in , say, a force four - Blackwater at low water. Sailed No 139 round Osea in 1988 and round Sheppey in February 1991. Had a problem under Kings Ferry bridge and had to "walk" it though due to lack of wind and an adverse tide. Took four hours in all with the help of a cobbled together "spinnaker" using the toe loops as blocks. Also sailed No 139 from Felixtowe Ferry to Woodbride and back in a day using the tide both ways. Sailed No 223 along the South Coast, Worthing to Brighton. Sailed 1114 extensively in the Blackwater from Osea Island, up to Maldon and down to West Mersea. Also sailed from Sheppey to Whitstable, Sheppey to Thorpe Bay and the Medway.

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Dart 218 - "On Er Ear"

My first Dart, based at Worthing Yacht Club in about 1975. Did a Dart Nationals event plus general racing and a bit of cruising. Sailed No 218 on the South Coast, Worthing, Brighton, Shoreham, Ferring etc. Round the cans can be a bit restrictive and the horizon always beckons when the boat effortlessly eats up the miles.

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Dart 18

Dart 18 Catamaran - Out To Lunch

Sailed No 1868 all over the east and south coasts including across the Wash and back to Hunstanton twice. Also sailed W. Mersea to Harwich and back in a day. Sailed most of the east and Norfolk coasts on this boat. Sailed 4870 from Gosport to Selsey and back in a day, plus most other Solent areas including Yarmouth, Newtown,Sandown, Bembridge, Langstone, Chi, Pompey and Hill Head.

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Dart Wight

Dart 18 - The Solent

Sailed round the Isle of Wight as part of the race 1992. left Stokes Bay at 0900 and returned at 1700. Dry land and a hot shower was a welcome sight. Took a short cut through the Needles to avoid the fleet of yachts. Wind about four and sailed in company with a Hobie Tiger until he went offshore for more wind. Then he turned on the turbo and left us behind when he hoisted his 'chute.

Have sailed some 3,500 nautical miles on Darts during the last 30 years in cruising mode.

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Totting up all the miles sailed in a variety of craft, makes a grand total of some 29,000 nautical miles. However, I still have trouble tying a bowline behind my back with one hand, in the dark - must work on that.

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Last Updated: November 2000