Voyages of Astral Loot

Follow our trip around the British Isles

15 July 2019 | Cawsand Bay
12 July 2019 | Salcombe
04 July 2019 | Dartmouth
20 June 2019 | Brixham
12 June 2019 | West Bay, Bridport
10 June 2019 | Portland
08 June 2019
06 June 2019 | Swanage
05 June 2019 | Poole Harbour
30 May 2019 | Bucklers Hard, Beaulieu River
27 May 2019
24 May 2019 | Bembridge, Isle of Wight
23 May 2019 | Itchenor, Chichester Harbour
18 May 2019 | Lymington
16 May 2019 | Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
13 May 2019 | Newtown Creek, Isle of Wight
11 May 2019
11 May 2019 | Folly Inn, Isle of Wight
10 May 2019
09 May 2019 | Haslar Marina, Gosport

A sneaky peek at Cornwall

15 July 2019 | Cawsand Bay
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
13 July 2019

Leaving our anchorage in Salcombe, we filled up the water tanks at the town pontoon and smugly deposited our rubbish at the waste pontoon as another yacht went aground trying to do the same thing. It only ever goes wrong when you have an audience!

The breeze forecast from the north west came from the south west so what little we had was, of course, on the nose. As the wind picked up a little, we were desperate to see if our sails still worked and so we altered course to overshoot Plymouth Harbour, our planned destination, and enjoyed perfect sailing for a couple of hours. Our new course took us to the south western side of the harbour, which fetched up nicely for Cawsand Bay, one of the many anchorages on Plymouth Sound.

The bay is home to the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, once on opposing sides of the Devon/Cornwall border but now both standing in Cornwall since the boundary was moved to the River Tamar. The community is made up of traditional cottages and boasts a bar/restaurant and four pubs (five if you count the burnt out shell of the Old Ship Inn, which is now under community ownership and opens on high days and holidays as an open air bar). A short walk up on to the Coast Path offers spectacular views over Plymouth Sound and out to sea. Unfortunately, the sea conditions made a second day of anchoring there untenable so we moved round into the lower reaches of the River Tamar, but hope to be able to return when conditions are more favourable. It seems only right to do a pub crawl, especially when you could cover all five establishments in a 10 minute walk!

Anchored in the bay

Tomorrow we head into Plymouth Yacht Haven for general shopping and housekeeping. The XO has a family commitment in Reading so Astral Loot and her skipper will be marina bound for a few days.

Farewell Dartmouth, Hello Salcombe

12 July 2019 | Salcombe
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
11 July 2019

After 14 nights without shore power the batteries were crying out for some TLC so on Monday we headed back downstream to the town jetty in Dartmouth. Being the departure and set down point for the various pleasure trips along the river, and with nobody ever seeming to get in the right queue for the right boat, it was a thoroughly entertaining place to be! We were also able to experience the quirks and foibles of the yacht club showers, all 4½ minutes of which were nevertheless luxurious after showering on board for two weeks.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the Dart on Thursday morning, bound for Salcombe. After several days of perfect easterly breezes, typically we had little or no wind for the trip and what little we had was on the nose! Setting off into a smooth emerald sea, we were treated to a display of frenzied feeding by a pod of dolphins who had managed to bag themselves a school of fish.

As we made for Start Point (the lighthouse being clearly visible as soon as we left the river), we remembered the last time we had been here, when the lumpy sea dislodged our anchor from the bow roller, at the same time filling the cockpit (and the skippers oilies) - the only time we have heard the cockpit drains gurgling as they fought to empty. Start Point was a pussycat today but can be notoriously uncomfortable with the wind over tide. Thank God for the luxury of time to wait for the right conditions.

Start Point

Successfully negotiating the bar which protects the entrance to Salcombe, we arrived just as the harbour was closed off for the start of one of the races taking place for Merlin Rocket week. We dropped our anchor in the outer reaches of the harbour just in time to see the first race of the day and had a superb view of the dinghies as they rounded the racing mark and raised spinnakers for the downwind leg. The entertainment continued after the race as a yacht came in to anchor using an unconventional technique - drop the anchor overboard then motor backwards and forwards until it bites (or doesn't, as it happens). All he succeeded in doing was trawling up most of the seabed and wrapping his towed dinghy around the starboard fairway marker. Eventually he gave up and was met by the harbour master further upstream.

By this time the wind was getting up and the anchorage on the outer reaches was becoming uncomfortable, so we moved further in and dropped anchor close to one of the town's sandy beaches and opposite the yacht club, a rather grand building that dominates the pretty harbour. Here, we were right in the thick of the racing - it was fascinating to watch them all jostling for position on the start line and frankly terrifying to watch 60 dinghies all heading for us at breakneck speed on the upwind leg. Nobody hit us, although we did hold our breath at times and even the ship's dog looked up from her slumber once or twice!

Look out!

Better late than never

04 July 2019 | Dartmouth
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
24 June 2019

A delayed blog due to a suddenly hectic social life, followed by patchy internet access. Firstly catching up with old friends from sailing school days, Tony & Diane, followed by a flying visit from Tracy & Nigel on their way home from holiday in Cornwall, after which we welcomed Hugh & Katie on board to spend a few days with us.

Monday saw us leaving Brixham on a calm and sunny day to round Berry Head and head for the River Dart. There was hardly a breath of wind as we motored along this very pretty stretch of coastline with Hugh at the helm to arrive at one of the visitors' pontoons in Dartmouth, where we found Pam & Moreno on Moody Blue, another boat from Titchmarsh Marina. We knew they were down in this neck of the woods but hadn't planned specifically to meet up - just a happy accident!

With some windy weather forecast we quickly realised we weren't going to be going anywhere soon, so apart from a quick move across the river in order to free up the pontoon for a classic boat regatta at the weekend, we settled in for a few days.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Dartmouth. The setting is beautiful, the river is flanked by lush green fields, woodland and pretty coloured houses and dominated by the imposing Britannia Royal Naval College up on the hillside to the west. We took the Kingswear Castle, the last operational coal-fired paddle steamer in Britain, upstream to Totnes returning by steam train into Kingswear and completing the circuit on the passenger ferry back into Dartmouth. Even just sitting on the boat, there is constant activity with boats going back and forth and a lovely community spirit on our pontoon where most of the boats, like us, have decided to sit out the gales. Fortunately we are very sheltered here, although a walk up the hill towards the river entrance justified our reasons for staying, showing a glimpse of the 2.5m waves reported outside.

Dartmouth and Kingswear

Steaming - by train...
...and by boat.

Having said goodbye to our guests (who had to take a taxi back to pick up their car in Brixham), we sat out the remainder of the weather waiting for conditions to favour our onward journey. In the meantime, two other boats from Walton, (Heron & Bonnie Lass) joined our contingent - what a small world it is!

A problem with our domestic batteries, two of which died of old age, prevented us from moving too far from the town as we waited for new ones to be delivered to the Harbour Master's office. Now fitted, we have been able to move upstream and are currently moored at Dittisham, a picture postcard pretty waterside village a couple of miles from Dartmouth and overlooked by Agatha Christie's house at Greenway. We may move further upstream to anchor off Stoke Gabriel but with the renowned FBI (Ferry Boat Inn) only a short dinghy ride (or swim) away, who knows?

The view from above Dittisham - the River Dart with Lyme Bay in the distance

Bye Bye Dorset

20 June 2019 | Brixham
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
After six days of being tossed around like a pair of drawers in a tumble dryer, we finally made our bid for freedom. The visitors’ pontoon at West Bay is very exposed to the south and made for an uncomfortable mooring in the conditions we had, but with the waves crashing into the narrow and shallow harbour entrance, there was no way out. Fortunately, it’s a lovely place to get stuck and we’ve walked every footpath, climbed every cliff and patronised every hostelry.

One of our mooring warps after southerlies in West Bay

And so it was that we made our escape on a gloomy Tuesday morning to make the crossing across Lyme Bay and into Devon. With friends joining us at the weekend in Brixham, we decided to leave Exmouth for another time (with windy conditions forecast for later in the week we didn’t want to get stuck again) and head straight for Torbay, 6 hours and 30 odd miles away. It really was a damp crossing, with the coastline just a ghostly shape off to starboard. We even had Cup-a-Soup to warm us up. In June?! No wind, although we did hoist the sails to keep the engine revs down whilst still maintaining an acceptable speed.

A radio transmission from the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier alerted us to her presence and we spotted her away towards Plymouth as we closed in on Torbay, a magnificent sight even at a distance.


Heading across to Brixham, we ignored the harbour and headed instead to Fishcombe Cove just outside. Here we picked up our first ever eco-mooring, free to use and laid to discourage anchoring in the delicate eel grass. With a choice of two little beaches to land the dinghy, we stayed happily for a couple of nights before heading into Brixham to meet our guests. Brixham is one of our favourite places and still as lovely as we remember; we’re looking forward to spending a few days here.


Bridport or Bust

12 June 2019 | West Bay, Bridport
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
The Portland Race - the master terror of our world (Hilaire Belloc). We've never had to tackle it before, our trajectory always having taken us outside the race, but today we wanted to take the inside track which requires careful planning and can easily become troublesome for the uninformed skipper. Pilot books and local knowledge advise an east to west crossing at high water Portland +4 hours, not to cross on a spring tide and avoid conditions with wind over tide. And so it was at 6 o'clock this blustery morning we left our berth in Portland Marina to take advantage of possibly the last weather window before neaps gives way to springs.

The early morning fog soon cleared and we enjoyed the view as we goose-winged down the eastern side of Portland to the lighthouse. Rounding the Bill, it was clear that the Race was going to give us no trouble at all and we set our course for West Bay, which was sitting delightfully in a lone patch of sunlight on the other side of the bay. We had a cracking sail, sailing full and by on starboard tack, making 8.5 knots through the water. Despite the cold wind, we were sorry to have to pull the sails in as we reached our destination.

Portland Bill

West Bay (a.k.a. Broadchurch for fans of the show) is the harbour on the River Brit serving the town of Bridport. It's not really set up for yachts but does have some visitors' pontoons and some very friendly staff. So far, we've spotted four pubs, three chippies and numerous tea shops and ice cream parlours, not to mention those stupendous cliffs where David Tennant gazed moodily out to sea!

A lovely walk over the cliff tops to Eype this afternoon, overlooking the bay where Canadian troops rehearsed for the fateful raid on Dieppe in 1942. Returned to the boat to be entertained by the Coastguard Rescue Team, who were training in the harbour. Planning to catch a bus into Lyme Regis tomorrow, we had hoped to go there by boat but it just isn't going to work for us. Keeping a constant eye on the weather forecast, which changes almost by the hour, in order to plan our next leg.

Around West Bay and Eype

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Whatever you do, don't say the R word

10 June 2019 | Portland
Ian & Linda Hudspeth
Today's trip was only ever going to be a short one, a couple of miles from Weymouth to Portland to get fuel, anchoring overnight in Portland Harbour ready to leave at the crack of sparrows tomorrow to catch the tide around Portland Bill to continue our journey.

With the genoa newly patched, we decided to have a sail around Weymouth Bay, just to make the trip a little less utilitarian. After a few leisurely tacks in the gentle breeze, we noticed it was looking rather black behind us and decided to head into the harbour pronto. With the arrival of rain as we fuelled up and F7 newly forecast, we decided to stay where we were in the marina rather than head out again into the harbour. It's now some five hours later, still raining and with the weather forecast worsening almost by the minute, we may be here for some time!

Weather following us into Portland Harbour

Portland is a rather odd sticky-out piece of land off the Dorset coastline, described by Thomas Hardy as 'carved by Time out of a single stone' and joined to the mainland by Chesil Beach. The harbour is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world and was once an important Royal Navy base, prominent in both the First and Second World Wars. The now civilian port was used for the 2012 Olympic Games sailing events.

The 'island' itself is home to two prisons and an aversion to the word 'rabbit'. Look it up for yourselves!
Vessel Name: Astral Loot
Vessel Make/Model: Moody 376
Hailing Port: Titchmarsh Marina
Crew: Ian & Linda Hudspeth
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Astral Loot's Photos -