Ship’s Log: Provident #1

15 Jul

Content warning – strong language

Saturday July 13 12:15pm
My vessel, the 95 foot Provident, is moored in Brixham marina, Devon, tied up alongside two other old wooden trawlers. Built in 1924, Provident was a sailing trawler (no motor) off the English coast until the 1950s. She was then converted into a private yacht. A Mr P Pensabene endowed it to the Maritime Trust in 1971. Then in 1993 it was purchased by the Island Trust and refitted with funds from the Provident Appeal Group. Trinity Sailing not for profit organisation based in Brixham took it over and further restored her with funds from a sports and arts council grant. More about Provident at http://www.trinitysailing.org/vessels/privident/

Cat, the young cook, greets us. She’s readying the galley for a week of food preparation. Can’t believe we’ll eat our way through so much food. Two pallets of mushrooms?

1pm is boarding time so we stroll off to Berry Head Hotel on the far cliffs of Brixham for a last drink watching the sail boats and sea kayakers float by.

The hotel is hosting a wedding, lots of local folk in their glad rags trying not to perspire in England’s heatwave. We are stuck in the fifties with brown velour arm chairs and nautical prints inside and white metal filigree garden furniture on the cliff top terrace. The hotel’s drinks prices are similarly frozen in time. £1.50 for two soft drinks.

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Brixham

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Provident has the green hull

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Brixham Beach

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Berry Head

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20130715-103721.jpgOn our way, Susan at the helm.

Time for a first goodbye to Stuart and hello to my fellow sailors for the week over late lunch of onion soup, salad and three cheeses (I will not be losing weight this week!). Captain Toni works a fishing trawler locally but switches to captaining Trinity cruises in the summer as the glut of summer fish makes the prices less attractive. He’s readying his own old wooden boat for a circumnavigation. First mate Katie is an an experienced affable sailing teacher. Cat’s been working on the boats for six weeks with a view to making a career of it.

Seven of the other eight guests come from all over England and one woman from Belfast. Average age fiftyish. One chap, Martin, is celebrating his 63rd birthday today and has come with his partner and friend. This is his second trip with Trinity, he clearly loves it. Several others have also done similar trips.

Come 3:30pm we’ve been given the life jacket drill, man overboard, how to use the heads/toilets and decided our itinerary for the week, weather permitting. Tonight we slip around the coast and tie up at Dartmouth jetty in the river mouth, then on to Alderney Island, the most northerly of the Channel Islands, and hopefully across to the Brittany and back by Friday.

No dramas leaving dock despite the busy waterway and we all heave to, getting the four very heavy, red sails up. Nothing mechanised on this boat apart from the motor, a sturdy Gardiner diesel 6LX.

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Katie explains the terminology: two ‘sweaters’ use their body weight to pull down the sheets/ropes to raise the sails while a third person ‘tails’ i.e. eases the rope along and maintains the tension then finally ties off. We have eight sails but today hoist four. The wind is so light we need the motor as well to move us along.

By 6pm we’re in the mouth of the river and proceeding under full sail to the dock. Toni uses the sails to help turn and push us into the dock. It’s a classy manouevre. We are definitely in good hands. Stuart is photographing us from the dock as we come in. He’s staying a couple of nights with his brother James, just forty minutes up the coast and will leave for Australia Monday. He is gutted that his ill health has robbed him of this chance to sail the Provident, this was his idea after all, but there will be other opportunities.

By 7pm sails stowed, drinks and canapes appear and we enjoy the warm, sunny evening on deck until Stu leaves for dinner with James. Dartmouth has a progressive council, they have free, clean, public hot showers in the waterfront park and don’t lock them overnight so we pop down for ablutions before reconvening for dinner at 8:30pm.

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Cat has prepared salmon steaks, new potatoes, peas and broccoli and special portobello mushrooms topped with goat’s cheese and onions for me. Delicious. Martin’s chocolate birthday cake with candles follows.

I am the first to retire at 10:30pm. Wake up is 5am for a 5:30am departure.

Sunday July 14 05:00hrs
There’s a little light breeze and it’s chilly when I waken to the sounds of Cat boiling the kettle for tea. By 5:35am we’ve extricated ourselves from the yacht rafted to us and nose out of the harbour. Sunrise is creeping over the Devon cliffs as we haul the sails up. Hands a bit sore from unaccustomed rope pulling. Muscled and joints ok. By 6:40am jib and mainsail set nicely in a steady force breeze we tuck into brekky; bacon butties for the rest, my special fried egg butties and lots of black coffee.

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Toni explains the watch system for our twelve hour journey to Alderney; shifts of three hour watches for two groups. I choose second watch group to catch up on this blog and a bit more sleep.

On my watches I perch just behind the bowsprit in the pointy end scanning the sea for boats and debris that might pose a problem. Lunch is roasted sweet potato and pepper soup. I spot two black dolphins at separate times, a few fishing boats and we pass eight container ships and a high speed ferry as we cross through the shipping channel. It’s like a motorway with one lane going southwest and the other heading northeast. I feel like the little old lady on the zimmer frame negotiating the zebra crossing as huge trucks bear down on me.

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My view on watch.

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My lunch on the bowsprit, which by the way is a bugger to pull out. Takes all hands!

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Katie on helm.

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Cat’s cradle.

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Susan and Fiona off duty.

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The huge, fast catamaran car ferries are scariest but you can hear them coming.

The gannets are lovely to watch as they fly in formation skimming along the ocean, silvery wings glinting.

We make Alderney Island by 4:30pm. Our mooring is a metal bouy in the harbour. We spot the one we believe it is and prepare to pick it up. A few metres short of the bouy the harbourmaster comes over the radio and says, ‘Your bouy is the one behind you’, bloody hell, how are we going to turn this hulking vessel without a bow thruster and all these little yachts around us? Toni keeps his cool and we hoist the foresail to blow the bow around. Just then two fishermen on their small motorboat arrive in harbour and say g’day to Toni, a mate. They tell him to take the original bouy as they’ll square it with the fisherman who has rights to it. He asks if they’ll push us around with their bow and voila! We turn smoothly and are back on the bouy in a jiffy.

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Fishermen’s Friends.

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Drinks and bruschetta on deck then ashore for a hot shower, beer and wifi in the tiny yacht club. Dinner is freshly baked pies, pink pepper corn mash and minty peas accompanied by talk of fishing rights and union power. Can’t fit in dessert…

Red sky at night bodes well for tomorrow. Blokes’ turn to wash up so women banished to stern to enjoy the sunset. Toni announces new rule, no talk of politics or religion at mealtimes. Seems discussion of unionism not suitable conversation. Still he hasn’t banned sex as a topic!

Lights out 11pm.

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Duty free anyone?

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Expletive harbourmaster

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Provident

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Katie’s water taxi

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Real men do dishes – well!

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Tony-captain and gatekeeper.

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2 Responses to “Ship’s Log: Provident #1”

  1. Tony Keeble July 22, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Reminds me of the week I spent aboard Leader attending the Binic cod festival. Sailed Brixhan – Dartmouth – Salcombe – Binic (Brittany) – St Peter Port (Guernsey) – Dartmouth – Brixham for 8 days. What an amazing time. Thanks

    • Sharon Tickle July 22, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Tony,

      That sounds like a great itinerary! And what fun to be part of a festival. A few more days under sail would have been perfect for me. We were a bit pressed for time with just six nights. Now I know how cool trawler sailing is I would go for longer if possible.

      Still, like you, happy memories for a lifetime.

      Cheers,

      Sharon

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