Mukti’s Diary • October 2007

October

Wednesday 10th October

The Last Day at Sea and A Sail in Company

At 8am a voice called out ?Mukti?? ?Yes?? I replied drowsily. It was Tom Lay, photographer from Sustained Magazine, on time, and ready for what was to be the last day at sea of the tour of Britain. We would also be joined by Rob Melotti, PBO News Editor, and Roger Barnes, architect, president of the Dinghy Cruising Association and journalist for Dinghy Sailing magazine, with his 15ft sea-going day-boat, Avel Dro.

I crawled out of the cabin. A fisherman who had come to my talk passed by and asked if I would like an egg baguette for breakfast. ?Fantastic!? I replied. Tom climbed on board to look round. Rob Melotti turned up, shivering in the morning?s chilly breeze. It was forecast a N4-5, absolutely perfect! We strolled round to the toilets near the beach, and there were Roger and his partner, Shelly, preparing to launch Avel Dro. I introduced Tom, who would be sailing with Roger. Back aboard Chance, Rob Stowed his gear, my baguette arrived, and we cast off at 9am.

The sun shone bright, the breeze cut the air, making it crystal clear, and we set out from the pretty town of Lyme Regis, the pinks and whites of the houses gentle against the lazy hills. Oh, oh, the sea, the sun, the sailing. My last day at sea, and a beautiful one to bid me farewell. At the end of the five-week pilot tour I had cried to say goodbye to the way of life on Chance, but after six months I was fully satisfied. It was perfect, I was not sick of the sea, but ready to go home, to go back to my little cottage beside the sea, to friends, family, and cosy winter fires. To a quiet way of life and a gentle routine, earning a living, walks to the Clovelly gardens for fruit and veg, two-pot cooking and lying in on Sundays. So I wasn?t sad, but glad, and grateful, so grateful to the sea and all the elements, for this wonderful voyage, for so much fun and adventure, and for the return home.

Avel Dro, with her great gaff sail and dinghy hull, was pulling ahead and had to reef to stay with us. It was only blowing a three, and Chance is an all-weather boat, not as fast in light airs. Tom was snap snapping away with a massive lens on his camera, and Rob and I chatted while I ate my baguette.

Later in the morning we passed the famous Napoli, the ship that had run aground and people had come from all over the country to loot the beached containers. There was a one-mile exclusion zone around her, marked by cardinal buoys, and a moored Navy ship near by. Roger sailed right through, but we skirted.

Crossing the mouth of a big bay, the wind gusted to force five and we began to pull ahead of Avel Dro; I noticed that in the gusts we would accelerate, but she had to luff up and spill the wind. Horses for courses, but she was a great looking boat, and I had never seen a dinghy properly set up for cruising before ? she was very well kitted out with compasses each side, GPS, flares, a cooker, and dry storage lockers for clothes and belongings ? a real sea-going dinghy, and probably faster than Chance in all but the stronger conditions.

As we approached Exmouth there was a note on the chart about the firing range. I called them on Channel 16 but got no reply. Since all the ranges I have passed were very quick to respond on the radio, I presumed it was not operational and sailed right on through. A launch was soon racing towards us, and complained that we had stopped the firing. I told the man that I had tried to contact him on 16, and he politely relented, passing over a small waterproof chart of the area and directing us to the nearest perimeter. Once out, I furled the Genoa away to let Avel Dro get well ahead into Exmouth, as Tom wanted some photos from the quay.

Rob and I pulled into the marina lock, where I dropped Rob off to catch his train. It had been good to sail with him on Chance after all our discussions, and he would write a feature for PBO in the January issue, out 6th December.

I sailed over the estuary to where Avel Dro was parked on the beach. Shelly had brought the car and trailer from Lyme and joined us for the sail up the Exe. They launched and we set off again, tacking up the huge estuary towards the Turf Lock - the entrance to Exeter canal - about two miles further up. We reached the pontoon around six, my last salt water mooring.

Once the two boats were tied up nicely and Tom had taken a couple of portraits, he, Shelly and Roger all came aboard for tea and chocolate biscuits. They congratulated me on completing the tour of Britain, and we chatted enthusiastically about sailing and low carbon lifestyles. At seven it was time for them to go, to sail a mile back down river to the slipway at Lympstone. The light was fading now, and the wind barely a breath. Avel Dro slipped quietly away into the gloom, the dark shapes of the sail going up and the figures waving.

I was alone on the last evening at sea. I strolled around the Turf Lock and Hotel, chatted to a man on an aluminium yacht, and then rowed out to the visitors mooring 100 yards from the lock. I tied up, heated some soup, brushed my teeth and climbed into bed for a long, quiet sleep.

Tuesday 9th October

Seven Great Events in One Day

Dave Kelf had kindly lent me his bike, and I left the boat at 0730 to cycle the 6 miles to Seaton. I knew I would be standing, sitting and talking all day so to start with some exercise would be really good. The ride crossed the border to Devon, and it was great to be back in my home county. I arrived at Seaton Primary School, all sweaty at 0830. There were several people there to greet me: Dave Kelf; Alan Simpson, Head Teacher; Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council Environment Executive; Sandra Semple, Mayor of Seaton; her husband, James; and Peter Addie, my co-speaker, and promoter of three and four wheel bicycles.

I got changed into some clean clothes and then gave my talk to the whole school of 180 children. Some of the little ones in the front row were so tiny and wide-eyed; it was a challenge to put low carbon thinking into a child?s vocabulary. But in the rows further back, the steady gaze of the 11 year-olds let me know they were taking it all in. They gave me a big round of applause. Peter Addie did a great little 5 minute act in which he revealed his wonderful 4-wheel cycle, with it?s ultra-low gears, awning and flat-bed carrying platform, in which he could take the week?s vegetables from his garden to market. The children loved it.

After the talks I had a look at the school?s windmill and solar panels, for which the charge information is displayed on a huge board in the main hall. Fantastic.

Then Dave and I cycled on quiet paths round the back of Seaton to the Co-op supermarket. We held a stall there for 45 minutes, giving out flyers about the tour, the Co-op?s Climate Challenge flyers, and selling guidebooks. There were quite a few interested customers.

It was drizzling very lightly when we took to our bicycles again and Dave showed me a wonderful cliff top view of the Jurassic Coast, and a beautiful labyrinth in the park by the cliffs. From there we coasted down the sea front to the harbour, for lunch at Dave?s friend, Pepita?s. In Pepita?s cosy eco-home was a group of dedicated carbon cutters. Claire Wise, who had moved from her small holding into town especially to reduce her carbon emissions while her children were at school, Pepita, the wonderful whole-meal chef, her friend Sarah Williams, Mayor Sandra, her husband, Dave, and myself. Pepita had cooked the most sumptuous three-course meal I had had on the whole tour. After the delicious soup and olive bread there was dish after dish of incredible salads, beans, and vegetables, in exquisite marinades and sauces all made by hand ? including the mayonnaise. I was very hungry, and in heaven.

Over lunch I heard how the group had come together. There was a huge development plan for 500 houses and a supermarket in the middle of the Seaton valley, which would double the size of the town. They were to be built on the flood plane close to sea level, with no provision for storm floods that were likely with climate change. Eight individuals stood for election on the Town Council, of twelve to oppose the plans, and they all got in. Four of them were here, and Dave was an adviser. They were such an energetic, positive and forward thinking group, I thought that after opposing the development plans, should they stay on the council they would help take Seaton forward in the national move towards a low carbon economy. The mood was very up, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in both cuisine and company.

There was just time for Pepita to give me a lightning tour of her new eco-home. It has large, triple glazed windows, green-oak beams, super insulation, wooden floors, low energy lighting, and very low bills! And was a wonderful combination of light, airy and cosy.

15 minutes later Dave and I were boarding the bus to Lyme. As we rolled over the green hills, I made calls to arrange my crew for the morrow, a sail in company and a photo shoot, all combined.

At 1430 I gave a talk to 150, 12-13 year-olds at Lyme Regis Comprehensive School. They were a pretty interested audience, though the chairs in the hall creaked incessantly, which was trying. The teachers who had arranged it were members of Dave?s running club, and knew all about how exercise improves your quality of life.

We got back to Candida?s at 1540 and I just had time for a 10-minute powernap before the grand procession. At four o-clock we strolled down to the Co-op mini market. There was the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Sally Holman. As we warmly shook hands I looked closely to admire her gold chains, and exclaimed, ?There is a little sailing boat in every hoop!? ?Yes,? said Sally, ?Lyme Regis used to be the third biggest port in England.? ?I thought that the houses were very grand for such a little town!? I replied. ?Oh yes, sailing is a very important part of our history,? said Sally. We stood for photos, and then, followed by a procession of about 20 carrying the Low Carbon Lifestyle Tour banner, we proceeded down the high street, while the Mayor told me all about the history and developments of Lyme Regis. We carried on along the Cobb (the name for Lyme?s harbour wall) to Chance. There, everyone lined the quay and looked down at the little boat, while the Mayor and I climbed aboard. Joining me in the cabin, she said, ?This is the best bit about being Mayor.? She knew quite a bit about the sea and boats, and sails herself, and said what an amazing feat it was that I had gone all the way around Britain in such a small craft.

We all walked and talked again, back through the wonderful new park on the sea front, towards Candida and Hugh?s house. This beautiful park is an example of how modern development can be beautiful and make you feel really good if done carefully. A criss-cross of sweeping paths lead round flowerbeds and shrubberies, past viewing seats and decorated lamp posts, all looking out over the huge expanse of Lyme Bay and opening in one a sense of space, calm and cosiness, all at once.

There was a fantastic spread at Candida?s and guests milled around enjoying the delicious fresh flaky pasties, breads, salads and cakes. It was a day of the very best food ? in both tastiness and health giving properties. A local radio station wanted to organise an open mike discussion, but I decided to put my foot down. Enough is enough, and I needed rest between engagements. We talked and ate relaxedly, and then I slipped away for another powernap. During these naps I would feel completely exhausted, hot and shaky, but after rising again 10 minutes later I was full of life and enthusiasm. The guests had mostly already set off, when Candida and I strolled out through the quiet back streets.

We arrived at the Marine Theatre to a hustle and bustle of hushed excitement. The stage looked fantastic ? Polly had set up great banners with colourful designs of sub-marine life on the stage, behind two chairs and a small table with a water jug and glasses. We entered from the back of the hall, and a long table with flyers, guidebooks and information about Turn Lime Green stood to our right, with two attendants. There were already quite a lot of people seated or buying drinks from the bar.

I met Giles Frampton, the environmental architect who was going to chair the questions, and Sarah Stacey, the journalist from YOU Magazine, who had covered the tour. They took me to one side to plan the question session. ?If we need to get things going, are there any questions you particularly like answering?? Giles asked. ?I quite like being asked how can just one person can make any difference amongst so many,? I replied, ?because that gives me a chance to say something empowering for those who feel that their actions are too insignificant.? ?Great? said Giles. I could see that this was going to be a very professionally run evening, and there was a great buzz too.

Candida opened the evening by explaining the format: Introduction by Dave Kelf, one hour talk by Mukti Mitchell, followed by a 20 minute break for refreshments and to look at stands, and then a half hour question session, chaired by Giles Frampton.

Dave Kelf gave a tremendously warm and complimentary introduction, saying that the way Chance was built, the way she was run, her use of space, and the careful use of every resource on board, all tying in to the low carbon philosophy, amounted to a work of art in itself, from which everyone could take inspiration. I was very flattered, and said so.

I thanked Dave, and Candida, and Turn Lyme Green, and said what a wonderful time I had had arriving along the beautiful Jurassic coast, to such a warm and enthusiastic welcome in Lyme Regis and Seaton. Then I gave my talk in three parts: The slideshow of the boat and tour, the environmental situation on the planet Earth today, and low carbon lifestyles - how to lead one and the benefits to be gained. I paused between each part for a sip of water and to let people take a breath. It was great to have a completely attentive audience, whose eyes I could meet, whose expressions gave me feedback, and with whom the energy in the room was circulated. I ended saying: ?I would like to suggest, ask, and urge you, to experiment with low carbon lifestyles, try this measure and that measure, and really watch and scrutinise how it makes you feel; do you feel happier? Are your days more enjoyable? And I feel sure you will find, that the things in life that really make you feel good, are things that are good for the planet as well.? They gave me a great applause.

There was a break for refreshments. The Mayor came and thanked me, and said she had enjoyed the talk a lot, as did others. Giles expertly chaired the question and answer session, which ran for about 20 minutes. Then he gave me another warm thanks, and invited another applause, and brought the evening to a close. We simmered down, chatting and passing cards, as the theatre gradually emptied. Candida brought me 70 for books and 100 in contributions, the best for all the events of the tour so far. And she bought 40 books for Turn Lyme Green to distribute in coming events. I told her it was the best-organised event, with the biggest audience of the whole tour. Polly thought that about 150 people had attended.

We gathered up our things, and Hugh, Candida, another member of Turn Lyme Green, and I, walked slowly along the peaceful sea front from the Marine Theatre to the harbour, under the pretty row of houses and decorated street lights. It was still, and the night was black with a blanket of gentle haze that made it warm. Tiny waves lapped on the beach as we passed by towards the harbour. Along the Cobb, we embraced in thanks and farewell, and I climbed aboard Chance, to sleep.

Monday 8th October

House of Colour and Joy

It was nice to have a day in hand, as tomorrow there were great things planned, in Lyme Regis and Seaton. No less than three talks, one press conference and two meals with two Mayors. I spent the day cleaning the boat, moving to the harbour master's recommended spot, visiting the Lyme Regis Boat Building School (where I made my oars four years ago), and a having a meeting on board with the two regional organisers - Dave Kelf from Seaton, and Candida Blaker from Lyme Regis. Dave is the long distance runner who has joined me at various points in southern England, and is also a governor at Seaton Primary School, which recently came second place in the Ashden Awards for it's renewable energy instalments. Candida runs "Turn Lyme Green", a campaign to ban the plastic bag from Lyme Regis, and work towards making the town greener in other ways. We had a good meeting about all the timings and logistics for the morrow.

After that Dave and I went for a run along the famous "Undercliff" a stretch of coast where the cliffs have all slipped down towards the sea creating a new valley behind them, with its own microclimate and hundreds of unusual species of flora and fauna. It was great to run with Dave, a man in his 50s or 60s who still regularly runs marathons. He has a gentle, strong character and loves running in nature. He organises the annual Grizzly Run, a 20-mile cross-country run that is the third most popular off-road run in the UK. The run includes carbon offsets for runner's travel emissions that are invested in local reforestation schemes, T-shirts designed by local secondary school children, and signs all along the way, with Dave's selection of philosophical quotations.

It was a gentle, warm and sunny afternoon and the air along the wooded coast path was fresh and sweet. We ran over cropped grassy hillocks populated by horned cattle and unaffected sheep, and through the trees of the undercliff, with great sea views appearing and disappearing on our left. At a suitable point we stopped and did a meditation called "Standing Like a Tree" in a wooded clearing that looked out over the water. Afterwards we talked about the amazing sea that lay before us. It had patches of dark and light all over it, in a pattern somewhat like a mackerel sky. There were no clouds above to cause this pattern, and despite the distance I could see that the dark areas were patches of ripples. That the wind should be moving in such a way as to cause a pattern of ripples and stills like a mackerel sky was amazing to me. "It's all moving energy," said Dave, who is a meteorologist. "What we are seeing is a window into the way that the air is moving all through the atmosphere in front of us. And the way the air is moving is caused by patterns of energy all around us." We stood, and I marvelled at the incredible complexity of a system so infinite and ever changing that it could throw up such a beautiful pattern one lazy afternoon in Lyme.

We ran back to Candida's house and I stretched for a while outside. Candida heard voices and came to open the door. I walked in and was filled with delight. The house was adorned with colour and motion. There were things of use and of beauty placed or laid around in a gentle, carefree way. Antiquity and modernity lived in cosy harmony; worn cushions nestled restfully on sofas and wooden benches. There were strong paintings on the walls, sculptures, and open windows through which the outside world seemed to breathe in and out of the house. French doors in the living room gave way to a patio that blurred the boundary between inside and outside. The built-in seating, strewn with cloths and cushions, make the inside daring for being out, and the outside playfully naughty for being in. The garden was full of sculptures, and as I walked forth drinking it in, I felt a sigh of relief at some level way down in my sub-conscious.

What was it? Not a discovery of myself, or the way I would organise my house. But that was it - the great complimentary. It was what I had not in me or around me in these recent months - belongings placed in gay abandon. I, as captain of my little ship, was bound to keep order in every way, and ensure my crew kept order too. Order was what kept us alive - order of mind, order of matter.

Tables, hours, minutes and miles,
degrees, wind strengths, charts and files.
Number of flashes, green, red or white,
port or starboard, drying height.
Preparation, stowage, box and case,
a place for everything and everything in its place.
Order, discipline, state of mind,
Awareness, judgement, patience in kind.

And now all around me were objects placed for the pure pleasure of placing them where they were. I was suddenly, deeply, glad to realise that everything did not always have to be in order - that was the beauty of a house; it didn't rock around or risk capsize (excusing an earthquake I was once in, in Chile). And so a different way of life awaited me ashore as I neared the end of my voyage. A life where things could be done for the sheer beauty, the pleasure, the joy of it, and where order was not always paramount. And this made me very happy.

"Variety is the spice of life" would probably be my motto if I had one. The sea has its special charms - wilderness, power, peace, exhilaration. And six months has been a feast of these for me. But now as autumn approached, under the warm sun and browning leaves, Lyme was reminding me of art, culture, beauty, flow, and the inside world.

Dave had to go, I showered and then came down to the kitchen to meet the artist, Hugh. He was pleased I liked his house and art so much, and we chatted away over a cup of tea at the kitchen table. Then Polly, from the Marine Theatre, took me down to test out the laptop and projector. The high street of Lyme Regis also spoke of culture and creativity, with its pretty boutique windows and somehow very grand architecture for a small seaside town. The Marine Theatre was fantastic. It was very 30s and made me think of Moulin Rouge. The interior was deep blue with a huge velvet stage curtains. It spoke of theatre, music, cabaret, and eons of excited human voices.

That evening I dined with Hugh, Candida and Polly, surrounded by all that colour and joy, eating fresh picked vegetables from the garden and green salad with flowers in it.

Sunday 7th October

Doldrums and Mackerel

There was a bit of wind in the forecast and it was only six miles over to Lyme Regis, so we set off at 1300 with only the last couple of hours of the tide. (I didn't want to arrive too far before high water, as we wouldn't get into the harbour.) But the wind pretty much died on us and we sat around pleasantly chatting and fishing. Richard had picked up some new flights of the local angling shopkeeper's recommendation, and these worked a treat with the mackerel. Once we had run into an area where there were a few around, Richard kept pulling them out one after another. We stopped at 8 - two each for dinner and a few for Richard to take home. Interestingly the bright coloured feathers on my old crab line didn't catch a single fish; it was the little white flights on the new transparent line that worked.

The tide came to an end and turned against us, but right up in the top of Lyme Bay there wasn't much current, so I complacently rowed away, chatting all the while, and by 1830 we were into the harbour at Lyme Regis. It was a slow, pleasant passage - perfect for a Sunday.

Saturday 6th October

From vandals to the founder of CAT

At about 3am Richard and I awoke to some persistent banging and crashing noises. "It sounds like someone's smashing something up," I said to Richard. "Yes" he said and climbed out of the cabin, put on his wellingtons and disappeared up the ladder to the quay. I climbed out after him and followed suit. By the time I caught up with him the crashing had stopped. "It's a bunch of kids," he said, "they were lobbing blocks down onto the dinghy park - ran off when they saw me." There were a load of stone blocks lying around the yard, and an upturned dinghy. Above the yard was a steep flight of stone stairs zig-zagging to a car park above, near the old fort. They had obviously been throwing the blocks from the top of the stairs. "Perhaps I aught to call the police," I said - "The thing is these days, kids like that are known to carry knives." "Happily give chase," Richard replied, - "but they're probably well away by now." We were standing in our Wellingtons, boxers and T-shirts. We walked back to the boat, I called the police and we got our trousers and coats on. We climbed the stairs and the police were there at the top - I was impressed; it had only been 10 minutes.

We explained the situation and the police went off to scan the park in their car. Richard and I found the balustrade at the top of the staircase had been pulled apart to yield the blocks. It was a call for attention I thought - they could have damaged the expensive sailing dinghies, but chose only to bombard a couple of old tenders. We walked down the road to check Richard's car and found a tin of paint had been splashed along the road and on a pub door and window. None of the many parked cars had been touched. Richard's car was fine, so after a walk around the harbour we went back to Chance and slept.

The morning forecast was E3-4 - it couldn't be better. In the event the wind was NE4 - so we would run down the east side of Portland Bill and then reach up the west - perfect. It was bright and sunny, and we left the pontoon at 0715. We tacked out of the narrow harbour channel, round the pier wall and then turned onto a broad reach down across the mouth of the incredible Portland Harbour. The Bill itself was an impressive feature - like a huge slab of land dropped into the sea. The cliffs were hundreds of feet high at the north end, and sloped gently down to sea level at the tip a few miles south. There were plenty of angling boats heading the same way as us, as we sailed down the coast towards the tiny red and white striped lighthouse in the distance.

At around 0930 we reached the southern tip. We rounded it just 50 yards off the rocks, which were teaming with anglers and birdwatchers with binoculars. The tide pushed us round at a gushing pace and then we were in Lyme Bay, calm and sheltered from the NE wind and out of the strong currents. The low beaches of Portland stretched away on our right to the distant yellow-green patchwork hills, still faint in the morning haze. We had miso soup, museli and sandwiches for breakfast.

The steady breeze pushed us north and soon on our right was a stunningly beautiful Dorset coastline, with long sloping hills stretching gently up from the sea. The Jurassic coast, as it is known, sports an amazing variety of rock and hill formations, where a fluke movement in the tectonic plates exposed some 100,000 years of geological history from the age of the dinosaurs. Leaving the long sloping hills to starboard, we headed on towards sandstone cliffs that made me think of Egypt and the Pyramids. Amongst them lay the little harbour of Bridport. As we were a couple of days early I decided to stop there for the night, and visit Gerard Morgan Grenville, founder of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, and a great supporter of the tour. We moored at 1320.

After lunch Richard caught a bus to go and fetch his car, and in the evening we drove over to Gerard and Margaret's place. We had a delightful evening meal full of stories from the early days of CAT, as Richard had also been involved in setting it up.

Friday 5th October

Just in time across the firing range

Today there was a good breeze from the North, so we set off at 0615 for the 20-mile trip to Weymouth. The sun's first rays appeared as we left the mooring, and the starry night gave way to another sun filled day. We had been warned of heavy overfalls off St. Alban's Head, and we took the inside route, right under the cliffs, but couldn't see overfalls anywhere. It was nice, fast sailing, with the North Wind coming off the land and putting us on a reach at 5 knots. A modern Open 40 class high-speed ocean racing yacht sped past against the tide, and then a huge gin palace with a massive foaming wake.

There was a firing range to be crossed which could have re-routed us five miles out to sea, but by making best speed with wind and tide, we crossed the range and just reached the other side by 0930, the official start of firing time. We stopped for a cup of tea and a sandwich in Lulworth cove, a pretty little cove that is just like a little crater next to the sea; you enter through a narrow entrance and it opens out into a lovely wide bay inside. But the North wind dropped down the steep sides, to my surprise, and made it cool and draughty despite the sun.

It was just a half-hour stop and then we sailed on towards Weymouth in the late morning sun. We reached the Weymouth Sailing Club at 1145 - a fantastic, fast run.

As the weather was good the next day, and we had no official engagements in Weymouth, I called the next crew, Richard St. George, who said he would come down that evening. Richard is the friend who first suggested I should get a wind energy company to sponsor me to sail around the UK, 2½ years ago. I was glad he would be able to take part in the tour.

Charlie and I had a nice lunch overlooking Portland Harbour. This huge artificial harbour built in Weymouth Bay behind Portland Bill, is a staggering 2 nautical miles across! It was built to house the British Fleet. Today was the last day of the Amateur Yacht Research Society's annual "Speed Week". Sailing vessels of all shapes and sizes come to compete in unrestricted out-and-out speed competitions. The AYRS had made me a finalist in their 2004 Yacht design competition for the Swing Bulb Keel, so it was nice to cross over with their event, though I didn't have time to go to Portland for a closer look.

I put Charlie on the train at 4pm, and spent the afternoon re-provisioning and tidying. Richard arrived at 9pm in his Smart roadster. This fascinating little car has a 700cc engine that makes it very sporty, being incredibly small and light (made out of plastic), and low to the ground. Richard is 6'2" and 15 stone, but says it's very comfortable. And due to the small engine, it does over 60 miles to the gallon! - The automobile equivalent to Chance.

We had dinner at the sailing club and got some local knowledge about going round the notorious headland off Portland Bill: For the inside route, you want to be between 50 and 200 yards off the headland.

Thursday 4th October

"Summer's Best Day"

We set off from our anchorage under the cliffs at 5am as the dawn was breaking. There were some massive, slender rock stacks standing free in the sea off the headland. The breeze was light so it was very sedate. We reached Swanage at 0645, and as there was now hardly a breeze, decided to stay there for the day.

A magnificent day emerged and we lay to the mooring in balmy sunshine. We slept until mid day, then had a long lazy lunch of many small courses, and chatted. Some guys nearby were rigging a trimaran that they said someone had just given them. After getting the sails in order they set off in barely a breath of wind and nevertheless soon disappeared into the distance.

After lunch Charlie and I went for a swim and raced to the nearest yacht and back. A man paddled by in a Kayak and exclaimed that it was the best day of the summer so far!

In the evening we went ashore for a walk in the green cliff-top park and had chips for dinner.

Wednesday 3rd October

Anchored under the stars

I got up and had a look round at 5am but there was barely any wind, and a damp mist made the visibility poor. I decided to stay put, and went back to bed.

That evening the wind appeared to have got up a bit, so we set of at 7pm, on the second ebb. Poole has two high tides - a very strange pattern - with a small ebb after the first high tide and a very fast (3-hour) ebb after the second high tide, when all the water in Poole harbour rushes out to sea in one very fast rush, like pulling the plug out of a bath.

We only got half a mile before the wind died, so we picked up a mooring still inside Poole harbour. I showed Charlie how to tie off to the mooring and set a secondary line. By the time we finished, the wind returned so we slipped the lines and set off again.

We slipped out through the narrow channel to the sea at 840pm, on a fast flowing tide with a light breeze. It was a beautiful starlit night, and Charlie really enjoyed the night sailing. The tide ran out at 1030pm, and we were in Studland Bay, so we dropped the anchor on a flat, oily black sea near the cliffs. It was dead calm and majestic under the stars.

Tuesday 2nd October

Warm Sea Swim

This morning we had a visit from a local sailing academy with children who officially have behavioural problems. But they were all perfectly well behaved, and quite charming and enthusiastic. Perhaps being around boats and sailing is exciting enough to keep them interested. They came aboard in groups of three and asked all sorts of questions about the boat and the trip. Then I spoke for about 15 minutes on how to lead a low carbon lifestyle.

In the afternoon Charlie went to the beach and later I jogged down to meet her. I didn't find her, but had a wonderful swim off Sandbanks beach. The water was still very warm and it was a still, sunlit evening.

We got an early night, as there was a chance to set off at 5am.

Monday 1st October

A day of rest

We were a day early so spent the day cleaning the boat, getting a few provisions and resting. That evening we had a lovely meal with David Harding and his wife, Johanna. Johanna cooked lots of local and wild fruit and vegetables that were delicious.