Other PicoMicroYacht

Friday, 29 June 2012

Training in the fog

On Wednesday I rowed from Salcombe to Dartmouth. There was fog so I had to keep very close to the land to avoid larger boats running me down. So I rowed along with the sound of the waves pounding the cliffs to my right (rowing I was facing backwards), frequently looking round to see where I was going. The fog would roll in off the sea, which a local man called a sea fret. At one point a small yacht motored past about 50 metres to my right appearing out of the fog and disappearing quickly again. We waved to each other and his crew were peering intently into the murk.

Out to sea I could hear the fog horns of ships and the lighthouse at Start Point. Then the fog cleared and I was chatting to some canoeists who were out watching seals. They told me where to go to see a seal, but I was more interested in pushing on to Dartmouth, the total row 20.02 miles, by the time I had moored up by the town quay.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Salcombe estuary is about four miles long with some beautiful wooded creeks. Well, technically it is a ria, a drowned valley caused by rising sea levels. Yesterday, I rowed up to the head of the estuary accompanied by my police constable brother in law who took some photographs from his motor boat.

Then I had a look outside the entrance.  A large residual swell against the ebb tide meant that it was a bit rough, so I  carefully worked my way out so as to avoid the difficult bits. Out in the open sea, with just the swell and little or no wind, things calmed down and I went along the coast for a while. A number of open decked fishing boats were at sea  and a 13 foot sailing dingy was buzzing around using his engine. I was towing our inflatable canoe as a tender.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Solent Training

On the 18th I set out from Westlands, near Itchenor, Chichester Harbour for the Solent. The idea was to cross to the Isle of Wight and then back again to the Beaulieu River, with a three day trip.

As I got ready I chatted to two yachties who had landed in their inflatable dinghies. One of them was asking me about my boat. I said I had converted it from a sailing boat as a bit of fun - he told me that is what sailing should be about and it had taken him a while to realise it - he was in his 70s!

I hoisted the red ensign, my massive flag, which I use as a safety feature and set off. The boat was loaded up with two dry bags on the back.

As I headed down the estuary there was a very strong head wind and it was rough out at sea, so when I got to the entrance I decided not venture out, but row within the estuaries and worked my way round to the entrance of Langstone Harbour. I stayed the night in Southsea. The marina were very friendly and kept offering to help me, although I didn't need any help!

The next day I set off to Cowes, about a 15 miles trip. Close to Cowes I saw a fleet of Pico's being used to train children to sail. They ignored me, focusing on their own fun.

In Cowes the yachty experts were very curious about my boat and told me that the designer lived in Cowes. I was offered a sail in a large racing yacht in the evening, but reluctantly had to turn the offer down because I needed a restful evening (and England were playing Ukraine!).

I berthed  in Shepards Marina, in amongst the bigger boats.

I was  a bit worried the wind would get too strong and I would be stuck in Cowes, but the weather was kind and there was a following wind to the Beaulieu River and I was quickly near the entrance.

The river is so well managed and the row up to Bucklers Hard took me past some beautiful places. I was quite glad to reach the finish and have a good rest.

Google records my route - 36 miles in all

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The PicoMicroYacht - technical information

This is the PicoMicroYacht, beached at Sheerness. It has two short masts and two sails which keep it even in a sea and provide some propulsion in strong winds. There is a dagger plate (shown lifted in the centre), which I keep down when rowing so that if I capsize I can use it to right the boat. The oars are pulled in. They are training oars used in conventional racing rowing craft.

The boat has what is called a stretcher, where the shoes are attached - with old fashioned rowing shoes. Just above these is my GPS system, which provides my position on a coastal map and also speed and direction and estimated arrival time given my speed (I can put waypoints into the GPS). In front of the shoes is a small battery which can power a tiller pilot (a mechanical device that keeps the boat steering in fixed direction in absolute terms, adjustable depending on the course). This is just to the right of the GPS system. I use this system to steer a more efficient course in calm weather. Here the oars have been taken off the riggers and are stowed either side of the stretcher.

Saturday, 9 June 2012


The view of criss-crossing ferries outside Dover during my last voyage. I was trying to describe to a friend the hazard of a ferry size ship to a small boat. Imagine a car coming towards you at 20 miles an hour in a straight line. You would quickly get out the way. Imagine if the car was 50 metres wide and you could only go at 3 miles per hour - then it becomes more difficult. Also imagine if the car starts changing direction and you don't know when the direction change will stop. So I keep well clear of large boats!

Another hazard is the sea state. On a recent voyage I set off from Broadstairs to go to Kingsdown. This was the view from the car park, with waves from a residual swell creating regular flumes. But the sea was not breaking, and the wind was light so I set off.

Friday, 8 June 2012

It is blowing a gale at the moment but I think by Sunday things will have calmed down and I will have a sea row practice, probably at Chichester. More rowing machine training for the next two days. A week ago I was able to row from Kingsdown to Dover port, a head wind equalling out the tide, with beautiful views of the cliffs, including a recent cliff fall, with pristine chalk. Dover is interesting to enter in a small boat because of the strict control of craft movement, but the port authorities were very helpful. My next trip will be from Dover to Folkestone, selecting a neap tide so the exit from the western entrance is easier. Strong tides and a swell can make it quite bumpy just outside the entrance.