Mukti’s Diary • September 2007

Sunday 30th September

Standing Still at 4 Knots

After three very enjoyable weeks at Kit and Jessie's it was finally time to leave. I picked up all my gear and Charlie and I cycled down to Lymington at 10 o'clock. We stowed everything away on the boat, Charlie went shopping, and I did some chart work.

At midday Jeremy and Fiona came down to take us for lunch. The Royal Lymington Yacht Club is a very popular Sunday lunch venue. Jessie brought all the children down too, though Kit was away giving a talk about his walled garden project to the British Walled Garden Association in York. We all had a good feed in the elegant clubhouse restaurant with its wonderful glass walls that look out over the river. Then Charlie and I went to get the boat ready. We set sail at 2pm and the Rogers family and some other supporters stood on the yacht club pontoon and waved us goodbye.

It was an easterly 4 to 5 - perfect for a fast sail to Poole. Charlie had only sailed to windward the whole week she was on board in Scotland, so it was novel for her to have the wind behind and all this fast, easy sailing. We sped past the needles and out of the Solent at a great rate, and it was grey but warm - I needn't have put on thermals. Charlie took the helm at four. I spent half an hour studying the charts and actually felt quite queasy. "The competent crew book says don't eat greasy food before going to sea" said Charlie. "Wow, greasy food, I didn't know that." I replied. "And after three weeks ashore, I've lost my sea legs."

Charlie woke me from my nap at 6pm. We were just outside Poole harbour entrance. Poole has a vast natural harbour, a bay with several square miles of water, all connected to the sea through a very narrow gap, so the tide runs out from it at a tremendous rate. I would never have tried to go in early, but the marina staff on the phone from the Dolphin Haven said that the tide drops off a lot towards low water, so we had a go. There was a good strong breeze and we were doing 4 knots through the water, but at times we were standing still compared to the land as the tide rushed against us.

The coastguard called us up to see if we were ok as a bystander had reported a small yacht having trouble getting in. But although we were going very slowly at times, we were not in trouble as such. Luckily we had enough speed as we passed the chain ferry to get safely out of her way. We would move forward a few yards with every gust of wind and then come to a standstill as the wind eased off. But we were not in any hurry, and we knew the tide would ease off in an hour, so we just carried on and chatted.

A beautiful sail-training schooner motored past and everyone on board waved down at us with big smiles. I called David Harding, who happened to be at the Parkstone yacht club, and he arranged a berth for us. He also gave us passage information on the channels into Poole, so we took the smaller North Channel between the moored yachts and into the bay. Once we were away from the entrance the current eased and we sailed gently into the haven as darkness fell. We found the lit channel to Parkstone and David came out in his photoboat to guide us into the marina.

It had not been a long sail, but I was tired from the last days of late nights and talks, so we got an early night.

Saturday 29th September

The Low Carbon Fair

In the morning I gave a talk to a small but very enthusiastic group at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. There was a very good feeling there, and it was to be able to show everyone round the boat afterwards as it was right there on the pontoon.

After lunch I gave a talk at a low carbon fair in Brockenhurst. This was organised by Rachel van der Meeren, of the New Forest Carbon Footprint Project. This great project is leading the way to a low carbon lifestyle by encouraging people to take eight steps: Reduce car journeys by 20%, turn off standbys, switch to green electricity, change to low energy light bulbs, draught proofing, double glazing, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.

There was a bubbling atmosphere in Brockenhurst village hall. Rachel brought the event to a close at 430pm and invited me to speak. It was a very receptive audience, and I enjoyed the talk. Afterwards Kit came to pick me up and said that he had got very good feedback - stall holders had said there were not that many customers but it had been worth coming just to hear my talk. Jessie said that because I wasn't trying to persuade anyone to do anything, just offering my views for those who wished to hear them, it was very refreshing and all the more powerful.

Charlie hitch hiked from Cornwall in four hours and arrived in time for dinner.

Friday 28th September

Talk to Teeny Tots

At lunchtime I gave a talk to students at Ringwood Specialist Language College. It was a nice group who came along in their lunch break due to a real interest in low carbon lifestyles.

In the afternoon I gave a talk to Jonah's primary school, South Baddesley. There were around 80 children from 5 to 11 years old. I gave a half-hour talk, starting with slides. I stood there looking into the faces of the tiniest little ones, whose bright little eyes looked up at me as they sat in neat little rows on the floor. "Manufacturing emissions from toy mass production?" my brain would say, and seeing their little faces, I stopped for a second and re-phrased it to 'the gas that comes from making toys'. It was a very endearing experience, and I managed to get a good round of applause. That evening we were off to a party, and our baby sitter was the mother of one of the six year-olds at South Baddesley School. "Yes, he told me all about your CO2 talk" she said, "he said that even the factories that make our toys produce it". It was really nice to hear that I had managed to put it in a way they could understand. "What struck me was that he said we all have to move through it all the time," she said.

Kit, Jessie and I, and a friend called Lucy, all dressed up as hill-billies (interpreted some what loosely in my case as paint-covered overalls and a blonde wig) and cycled off down the lanes to a birthday party at Warborne Organic farm. It was a night of good conversation, fantastic food and wild dancing, spiced up by a knockout-tournament on amazing 2-wheel electric craft, the likes of which I've never seen before. They consist of a foot-platform with a wheel either side and a handlebar-joystick. You stand on them (unbelievably not falling over forwards or backwards - I've no idea why not) and move the joystick in the direction you wish to travel - forwards, backwards or to either side. The craft magically swooshes away in the intended direction, magically slowing down and stopping when you stop leaning forwards. The effect is rather surreal: Human beings gliding silently and vertically across the ground at breathtaking speeds. It is an example of the fantastic engineering that humans are capable of if they put their mind to it.

Thursday 27th September

A Golden Sunset Sail

I lay in until 0930 in Kit and Jessie's caravan. Later I did some email correspondence. After school, Jessie and her eldest son, Jonah, came for a little sail on Chance, from the yacht club down to the sea and back. The late afternoon sun burst through from the horizon, sending shafts of golden light across the river and onto our sails. We tacked all the way home, and Jonah got the hang of sheeting in the Genoa. "I just love sailing a boat with no engine" Jessie said. "It's so satisfying to get home under sail alone."

Wednesday 26th September

Record Attempt Sailor On Board

The forecast was Northerly 6-7 occasionally gale 8 later. It was a sheltered inshore passage through the Solent so there would be little sea, but gale 8 was a bit much to head out into. However, I couldn't work out where it was going to come from. The synoptic chart of the north Atlantic showed no low pressure systems near the UK and the isobars were not close together. The BBC area forecast gave N 22 knots and Windguru gave N 14 knots. I even called the coastguard, who thought the gale might come through the following morning. I could not see how gale force winds could be generated under the circumstances, so decided to set off.

My crew for the day, Jake Frith, RYA Website Editor, joined the boat at midday and we set off at 1230. Jake had made an attempt at the record for solo non-stop round-Britain, back in 2000, when, surprisingly, it had never been done before. He set off from Liverpool, sailing anticlockwise in a Hurley 22. Unfortunately he was knocked down off Bridlington where his radio equipment was drenched through a leaky window and put out of order. Communicating with the coastguard was the proof of his voyage, so the record attempt would not be possible. Jake gave up the non-stop attempt, but continued around Britain after fixing his equipment. He had sailed a lot of small yachts so was in a good position to comment on Chance's performance, which he did favourably. He said most light-weight yachts even up to around 22ft would have broached several times that day, as we zipped along on a beam reach in a force 5 under full sail. His final words were that Chance "Sailed better than I thought was possible for a 15ft boat".

It was a great sail in sunshine and wind. Jake brought some tasty pasta-meals and we chatted about the tour, the boat and sailing in general. We tacked up the river to Lymington in the wake of the beautiful fleet of X boats - wonderful wooden long-keeled dayboats - that had just finished racing in the Solent. We arrived at the Lymington Royal Yacht Club pontoon at 1630 and the race officer and secretary came down to give us a warm welcome and invite us for tea.

We tidied up the boat, had tea and scones at the yacht club, checked Jake's train times for Southampton, and found a pub for dinner. We were recommended the King's Head, and had a very pleasant meal, talking about the possibilities for stretching the Explorer concept. The Open Fifteen, Jake suggested, could be an exciting boat. Combining the dinkyness appeal of a 15ft boat with the tremendous performance of the open class (Ellen McArthur's famous Kingfisher was an Open 60, and the smallest of this type are the Mini Transats - 21ft in length, 10ft beam, with canting keel, for single handed transatlantic racing at speeds up to 20 knots). "15 ft and 15 knots would be very appealing" said Jake.

Saturday 8th September to Tuesday 25th September

the Southampton International Boatshow

The Southampton Boatshow ran from 14th to the 23rd September. The previous days were spent getting the boat out of the water, cleaning her up for the show, and catching up diary and email. I stayed with my friends Kit and Jessie the whole time, taking the train in the morning and evening from Lymington to Southampton, just a half hour journey. I would start the day cycling down from Norleywood to Lymington Pier, through the pleasant countryside of the New Forest, which always put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

The boat was in pretty good shape. Kit's father, Jeremy, gave me some epoxy resin and I bought some touch up paint. I wanted the boat to show the wear and tear of the voyage so mainly left her alone, but there were one or two knocks that needed preservation, so I patched them. The Southampton Boatshow provided us with a good-sized stand including a small marquee and some wooden planters, which looked very nice.

Kit was on television that week as part of his Eco-schools walled garden project. He and children at Priestlands Comprehensive School in Lymington had been renovating an ancient walled garden at the school. They had got some pigs in to clear the ground, and soon piglets appeared to which the children became very attached, giving them names. When the time came for them to be butchered locally and provide quality, organic meat with low food miles, the school was divided about whether it was ok to butcher and eat piglets they knew so well. Whilst half the school admired Mr. Rogers (Kit), others made their feelings felt in the words: "I hate you Mr. Rogers." The story hit the Lymington Times and went from there to the BBC1 Breakfast Show as the nation joined the debate.

At the boat show I received a pretty steady stream of customers interested in the tour and the boat. Three separate television crews interviewed me, and the Low Carbon Lifestyle tour appeared as a four-minute feature in the 22-minute boat show programme, as well as on the local news. I was particularly pleased that ITV Meridian had been able to use quite a bit of the footage I had filmed on the way round the UK. In the following days people came up to the stand and said how well I had come across on the television - that I looked like I was having the most fun of everyone.

I gave a talk at the National Oceanographic Centre on Thursday 20th, and Caroline Lucas came down to give a talk after me. It was great to be shown round the centre afterwards and see the incredible remote controlled craft that explore the ocean depths and discover wrecks like the Titanic. They were exquisitely engineered, and the mobile control centre was like a television editing suite (walls of screens, keyboards and joysticks), built inside a shipping container.

There were three other interesting vessels at the boat show: The first was the 100ft 'Gaia' a 4million super yacht built very tastefully entirely out of wood by Spirit Yachts of East Anglia. The 2nd, the 35ft, £100,000 MD35, with just a 7ft beam - very long and slim indeed - with a massive deep draft bulb keel. And the third was the Artemis 20, another long and thin boat with bulb ballast - 20ft long and about 3ft in the beam - designed by Kit's elder brother, Simon Rogers. The latter two boats were interesting to me because they were stretching yacht design in the direction the Explorer (Chance) has taken - a long slim boat with ballast stability. This makes for a generally seaworthy and fast vessel that will look after the crew - ideal for performance cruising.

The day after the show ended I gave a talk to 600 pupils at Priestlands School, on Monday 24th September. On the Tuesday the boat was craned back into the water. There were now just a couple of weeks left of the tour; the south coast from the Solent to Exeter. That night I stayed on board Chance again in the boat show marina for the first time in over two weeks.

Friday 7th September

The Inspiration for the Explorer

ITV came down at 11am and we did some filming of me rowing into the boat show marina. After lunch Rowena packed her stuff and I cleaned the boat. We went to the station and caught the same train ? Rowena to her mother?s in Christchurch, and I to my friends Kit and Jessie in Lymington.

It was Kit who gave me the inspiration to build the Explorer (Chance?s model name) in the first place. I had crewed for him back across the Atlantic in 2000, when he told me of an old Russian engineer he met in Gibraltar, who built a 12-foot yacht entirely out of scraps and sailed around the world. Kit and Jessie subsequently became great friends and I established a tradition of staying with them every year when I attended the Southampton Boatshow.

I arrived in Lymington at 6pm and Kit and Jessie picked me up at the station. They had just been dinghy sailing with their two elder sons, 7 and 5, and two-year-old twins, and were off to a barbecue. We spent a lovely sunny evening at their cousins, George and Kate, in the gardens of their organic farm.

Thursday 6th September

A Yacht Aground

The Cowes Yacht Haven kindly gave us a complimentary berth, but due to the Little Britain Challenge starting today, we were not able to stay. I found out that the boat show wanted to lift us out by the weekend, so we set off for Southampton despite there being little wind.

The tidal currents in the Solent are quite complex with the flow moving in different directions in different parts of the area, so I did quite a detailed passage plan including data for the various tidal diamonds on the chart. I worked out that if we left at 1100, we would be swept west for a while, then east for a while, then pick up the early flood in the entrance to the Southampton Waters and finally use the ?second flood? further up the river to get us the last few miles to the boat show.

The plan worked reasonably well. We didn?t really get swept west much, as we were tacking out to the east in a northerly 2-3. We got swept further east, and the wind died for a while so I had to get the oars out for an hour or so. There were hundreds of sails all around us, which was fantastic. We passed a large yacht that was aground in the middle of the Solent, which made me reflect on the convenience of a drop-keel. Rowing got us just far enough to pick up the flooding current in the mouth of the Southampton estuary, which pulled us in. From there it was slow but pleasant progress up the river in a light northerly, chatting, snacking and napping.

A nice breeze picked up as we approached the south end of the city of Southampton, so I did a piece to camera for ITV. The wind then died completely, and I rowed the last half hour against the start of the ebb tide. We reached the boat show marina just in time, at 8pm. The security guys were really nice, and dropped us down to Margarita?s for dinner.

Wednesday 5th September

At the heart of British Sailing

The tide was an early one again so I got the boat underway at 0445. There was a light breeze and we covered the six miles to Cowes in a couple of hours, pulling up at the Cowes Yacht Haven at 0715. We slept all morning.

After lunch Rowena and I tidied the whole boat up and gave her a wash all over, ready for the press. Our local event organiser, Nette Robinson from the Green Party, came down at 330pm. She had done a good job on the PR front, and the PBO news editor, Rob Melotti, came down to do an interview. Rob and I got on well and talked until 6pm, when I had to get ready for the evening talk. He said he was planning a feature article on the tour and the boat, which should appear in the November issue of PBO, out 1st October.

At 730pm I gave a talk in the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club, just five minutes from the marina. There was a nice group, and I was pleased to give a talk in Cowes, the epicentre of the British sailing world.

Tuesday 4th September

We reach the Solent

There wasn?t much wind in the forecast and we were due to be in Cowes the next day, so I decided to catch every tide. I got up at 3am and got the boat underway, leaving Rowena to sleep. It was lovely sailing down the coast with the stars above and lights along the shore. At 6am Rowena took over and we entered the Solent. We were aiming for Chichester but there wasn?t enough wind, so we anchored at sea again at 10am, half a mile off East Wittering ? about 2 miles short of the entrance to Chichester Harbour.

At 3pm the tide turned in our favour and we set off for Cowes. It was quite exciting with all the sails of the Solent around ? we had finally reached the centre of yachting in Britain. The passing ships, too, kept us on our toes, and we nearly got sucked into the Chichester estuary by the pull of the flooding tide. At 6pm I called the Queen?s Harbour - Portsmouth - for permission to cross the busy shipping lane, which was granted. The wind had died so I was worried about being swept across the lane with no control, but the wind returned before I had to get the oars out. We crossed the Solent to the Isle of White and moored at 8pm of Ryde House. We were just six miles short of Cowes, which I knew I could row in a tide if necessary, so I was comfortable that we would make our destination in time and be able to meet the press and give the talk. We settled down for another quiet night on a mooring.

Monday 3rd September

Moon and stars at Middleton

The wind was right, and there was an afternoon tide, so we set off at two.

The tides and ports were not conveniently timed or spaced, so in the light forecast we planned to simply anchor for the night. We were close hauled, heading west in a NW2-3, but the sea was flat so we rippled along gently, chatting and gazing at the shore. Night fell, the wind dropped to a breath, and we anchored off Middleton at 2130 under the moon and the stars.

Sunday 2nd September

Eight aboard Chance

Jacob, Helen, Rowena and I took a picnic to their allotment for lunch. It was so nice to sit on the grass amongst the apple trees and blackberries, with the sun shining down, a fresh breeze ruffling the trees and fluffy clouds speeding across the sky.

At 5pm we met some of the BCC crew down at the boat in Brighton Marina. We got eight people on board and the transom was just 6 inches from the water! I put up the boom tent and we cooked dinner for six on board! (It was do-able, but not really comfortable.) We had a farewell drink ashore before saying goodbye. What a great time we?d had in Brighton.

Saturday 1st September

Big day in Brighton

Today was the big day in Brighton. Jacob and his team, Brighton Climate Change, had organised three events in one day, all out in the streets in different parts of the town. We met at 1030 in George Street, Hove. I was immediately impressed by a team of very together looking young people in black T shirts saying Brighton Climate Change, putting together a small stage with a solar powered PA system and three wooden frames flying the BCC banners on either side and the tour banner in the centre. The atmosphere was very cool, calm and collected, as well as being up-beat and positive.

It is a challenge speaking to a transient audience in a busy street, but some people stopped to listen for the whole talk, and several hundred more saw the banners and picked up the theme. Labour Councillor Les Hamilton, former Mayor of Brighton, opened the proceedings and there were talks by Caroline Lucas MEP, and the President of Sussex University Student Union, Daniel Vockins, before I gave the Low Carbon Lifestyle talk.

We relocated at 2pm to the city centre in front of the Brighton Pavilions.

The afternoon event was fantastic, with a sizable crowd gathered, and several speakers and performers. The compare, Martin Grimshaw, was really great; very up beat and positive, with a voice that draws everyone in to listen. Two brilliant rap poets, Angry Sam, and Dizraeli, gave moving performances, weaving a tapestry of sound and meaning that brought a tear to my eye. They were followed by Daniel Vockins and then Aisha Hannibal from the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre. Finally I gave the Low Carbon Lifestyle talk, and it was more upbeat and enjoyable thanks to the positive energy of the previous performers

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Brighton Climate Change volunteers attended the crowds throughout the day with neat trays hung from their shoulders, distributing flyers and guidebooks. There was a man dressed as a planet and another as a polar bear. And two ?info-trikes? ? three wheeled cycles flying tour flags and listing the day?s schedule of talks - while playing music through a portable sound system ? roamed the streets pulling in listeners.

At 6pm the third talk took place on the sea front. The Mayor of Brighton, Carol Theobald, came to give the tour an official welcome to Brighton with a very touching address. She was followed by Councillors Denise Cobb, Gill Mitchell and Keith Taylor who all talked about Brighton?s achievements and plans to reduce CO2 emissions, and praised the message of the Low Carbon Lifestyle Tour.

I gave the low carbon lifestyle talk, and towards the end there were some very vocal hecklers. A man shouted, ?How did you get here, then? Did you row here?? I replied that yes, I had rowed and sailed here. He raised his eyebrows and asked more calmly about how the sound system was powered.

?By solar panel? I replied. I asked him to wait just five minutes until I had finished the talk and then there would be time for questions. After the talk he asked about how my clothes were made, and didn?t that involve CO2. I thought he had a very good point and explained that the way forward is not no-carbon but low-carbon. I could see that he was very understandably checking my carbon credentials, probably because many people who talk about ?saving the planet? emit large amounts of CO2 travelling to their talks. So I sympathised with him entirely, answered his questions, and he seemed calmed down. I went on to answer the rest of the questions and then it was time to pack up.

The super-efficient Brighton Climate Change crew, a group of 20 or more who had dropped in for shifts at different parts of the day, whipped down the stage, packed up the PA and disappeared in different directions to deliver 3,000 video cameras, solar panels, info-bikes and other equipment to the places from whence they came. What a cool crew; I thought I would love to be part of such an organisation. We all met for a drink in the pub in an hour, and then went for a tremendous Indian 5 eat-all-you-can buffet. It was one o?clock in the morning by the time we returned to Jacob and Helen?s for a well-earned rest.

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