Eileen of Avoca’s refit

Yarmouth Marine Services on the Isle of Wight

Yarmouth Marine Services is currently working on making Eileen of Avoca ready for her Atlantic crossing. The to-do list is ambitious, but I’ve the know-how of the people who originally built Eileen on hand, so I am confident the work will be of the highest standard. I guess I’m betting my life on it… hmmm… looking it it that way, I vow to haunt anyone responsible for cutting corners or shoddy workmanship if it leads to my untimely demise… 😉

How’s that for an incentive?

The job list goes something like this:

  • Fit new 13.5HP Beta engine and ancillary equipment.
  • New rigging
  • Deck and mast fittings acid dipped and re-galvanised
  • Stanchions removed and re-mounted to prevent leaks
  • Mast and teak areas varnished / painted to handle tropical heat
  • Inner linings waterproofed
  • Companionway washboards strengthened
  • Hatch locking mechanism reworked
  • Companionway step reinforced
  • Pushpit lockers waterproofed
  • Fiberglass stress points reinforced
  • Seacocks and cockpit drainage pipes replaced where necessary
  • Second (internal) bilge pump fitted
  • Second VHF aerial added
  • VHF radio tested and repaired
  • Solar panel mounted
  • AIS receiver fitted
  • Life raft serviced
  • Tillerpilot to vane gear fitting in addition to the existing mount.
  • Anodes replaced
  • 3 coats of antifoul
  • Dodgers made
  • Foresails serviced
  • Non slip decking material re-painted
  • Jackstays replaced
  • and more…

If I have any money left over I’ll buy a new EPRIB and some extra anchor rode / chain… ha! big if…
This list will be updated as it changes, and as soon as I get back to the boat I’ll take photos to show everyone how the work is progressing.

Eileen of Avoca returns to Yarmouth

Ramblin' Rose greets Eileen of Avoca

With the high pressure system responsible for England’s mini ‘heat-wave’ weakening, and only 80 miles remaining to reach Yarmouth, my eagerness for an extended stay in Dartmouth was understandably muted, besides, I’d promised friends I’d do my best to reach the Isle of Wight in time for the annual Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival (YOGAFF).

A settling sea (my favourite kind), greeted Eileen of Avoca as she embarked (mid-afternoon) on her decisive leg. With mainsail aloft, and time aplenty, we…

(no, I’m not using Pluralis Maiestatis, it’s just that after all this time sailing, I can’t help anthropomorphising a little with Eileen, especially when I know that she’s the one doing all the hard work…),

anyway… we chugged across Lyme Bay at half speed and on into another fine night…

Ensuring that our 😉 course provided a minimum 6 mile offing from Portland Bill (well clear of the race), I set the solo sailors bane (the mechanical egg timer) to annoy me at 30 minute intervals.

By sunrise it had certainly done its job!

Satisfactorily peeved by egg timer induced nap disruption, I turned Eileen toward the ‘Needles Channel’ on a course of approximately 20º arriving at the fairway buoy just as the tide turned. Unfortunately, the turn was for the worse (an ebb tide), but a quick delve through my tidal atlas revealed a counter-current close to shore! Ah, “Hope springs eternal…”, and the increasing number of small craft escaping the Solent were spared any impending howls of frustration.

Upon reaching the west cardinal buoy marking ‘The Bridge’, I hurried shoreward and within minutes of passing ‘The Needles’ I found my elusive counter current.

It is at this point that I noticed Eileen was being closely pursued by a boatload of tourists. How surreal, but what a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be David Lemonius on Ramblin’ Rose coming to welcome Eileen home. One of his prodigal daughters returns… and who could have asked for a finer welcome!

After a brief exchange of greetings and many a click of the tourist camera as David’s passengers made the most of their unscheduled stop, I said an embarrassing “hello everyone” to his captive audience before turning to fight the remaining tide into Yarmouth.

After three years of wandering abroad, Eileen of Avoca was back at last.

Yarmouth23 Owners Association

Bill Boyall Trophy

Greetings to all the members of the Yarmouth23 Owners Association!

My temporary escape from the deluge in Spain to attend the Yarmouth23 Owners Association meeting at Gins Farm (on the Beaulieu River) was a real treat, and the ‘icing on the cake’ was being awarded the Bill Boyall trophy. Eileen of Avoca; being Bill Boyall’s old boat, made it rather fitting, as it’s really the boat that’s done all the hard work. I just sit there and enjoy the view.

For those interested in the history of the trophy, visit the Yarmouth23 Owners Association site at:


To have such an active group of sailing enthusiasts to compare notes with is a true asset and had I not been ‘dragged out’…., I mean…., ‘gently reminded’….., about my schedule, I would have happily stayed to chat ad infinitum.

Looking forward to seeing you all again at the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival in June!

Eva, sister, and sundry have been busy reserving their place on Eileen so it should be a fun, if somewhat cozy festival, to say the least.

Now I just have to travel the 1700+ miles (coastal hopping against the prevailing winds) to get there on time!

Wintering in Almerimar, Spain

Well I didn’t expect to get stuck in the south of Spain for the winter, but there is no point pursuing a planned itinerary when the weather is so disagreeable. I’ll just have to be fatalistic (quid erit, erit …) and accept that I wont be moving until Poseidon wills it.

My plans must change. Fortunately I have no time limit and few commitments, so it’s easily done.
Crossing the Atlantic will now wait until the 2010-11 season. The new plan has me sailing along the Atlantic coast back to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight where Eileen was built before heading south for the usual jump-off points.

This opens plenty of new possibilities for interesting cruising in Portugal and the west coast of France. I’ll be able to catch up with other Yarmouth23 owners and finally have some quality work carried out on Eileen of Avoca before heading further afield. I’ve not had the greatest success with yards in Italy, Greece or Spain.

For the moment I’ll play the wintering in Spain game and catch up on what boat maintenance I can carry out while afloat. Yay! 🙂

Berthed near Haslar Marina Lightship

Sunday the 1st of April

After a night of howling winds interrupted by a frigid escapade to adjust creaking warps in the middle of the night, I set off at daybreak in conditions that had me wondering about April fools. My concerns were underscored by the conspicuous absence of other departing yachts, but as I was determined to keep to my schedule I set aside these misgivings. A combination of unfavourable elements (wind against tide) and technical problems (jib sheet coming to grief at a most inopportune moment), made my double reefed zigzag to Cowes rather interesting. With relief, I spent a few hours sheltering in Cowes Yacht Haven with the excuse that I needed to refuel and that it was better to wait for the change of tide. After rummaging in a nearby chandlery, I returned to the boat with new running gear in hand and made some rigging replacements. After this, I set about taking a few photos. None are worth showing here but since I thought it unlikely that I would return to the Isle of Wight for some time, the Cowes tourist snapshots were a must.

Haslar Marina

Haslar Marina

My afternoon sail to Haslar marina in Portsmouth was uneventful, though upon arrival I was surprised to be greeted with a cry of “Welcome to tranquility!” from a crew member of a sailing school vessel that had also braved the afternoons blow.

The facilities in the lightship at Haslar were excellent and after fortifying myself with a glass of red port and a hot shower I settled for the night to make passage plans to Brighton in the vain hope that the conditions would improve.

Crossing The English Channel

Saturday the 31st of March 2007



The long term weather forecasts had promised ideal sailing conditions but the high pressure system poised over England and Wales was stubbornly refusing to move south. With the wind blowing from the NE at a consistent Force 6 my planned trip to Belgium was evidently not going to be easy.

I called Yarmouth Harbour on my GSM and reserved a bridge opening for 19:00. Shortly thereafter, and with some trepidation, I moved Eileen from her pontoon at Yarmouth Marine Services to the visitor berths in the outer harbour to ensure a hassle free and timely start the next day.

Shakedown Cruise

Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

We arrived at the Yarmouth Marine Services boat yard at approximately 2am local time. It was a clear night without a breath of wind. The moon provided ample light as we made our way across the jetty to “Eileen of Avoca” sitting quietly at the seaward end. She was such a pretty sight and I regret not having taken a photo. Not that I could have done the scene justice with a picture.

As it was rather cold Arijen and I hurried to transfer the boat cushions from the car to the berths below deck to make our bed. After 12 hours of travel from Amsterdam we were both eager to get some sleep so loading bags of supplies and equipment for the shakedown cruise was relegated to our morning task list.

My Dutch Crew

My Dutch Crew

Fully clothed we crawled into our sleeping bags and spent the rest of the evening in a fitful shivering slumber. Too lazy or too tired to get up and put on warmer clothes, it was a difficult sleep.

At 8:30 we awoke to a fine day, though the magic ambiance of the night before had vanished with the tide. We made short work of preparing the boat and by 10:30 I called the Harbour Master on my mobile phone to book a bridge opening at 11:30. While waiting I busied myself making breakfast (sausage and eggs on fresh bread) in the small unfamiliar galley. Not that this presented any difficulty because before long both skipper and crew had sat down to a morning feast.

Stomachs sated, we started the engine and cast off to start our little adventure. A motor cruiser joined us to queue for the bridge opening but the wait was not long. Within minutes Eileen led the way past the bridge and its operator, through the outer harbour and on into the Solent.



Clear of the pier we set about hoisting the mainsail and unfurling the foresails. Eileen’s sails, a brilliant contrast with the clear blue sky, were quickly filled, and with the engine silenced she set a brisk pace to the northeast running with the wind and tide.

By 14:15 we were passing Cowes close to the buoyed channel and well away from the restricted shipping area. Apart from the scheduled ferry services and occasional large container vessel there was little in the way of traffic. It would appear that the private pleasure boat owners did not expect the fine weather and had made other plans for the day. A sea of masts in the marinas showed little in the way of activity, but as the day progressed an occasional yacht made a brief appearance on the water.

GPS Track of Voyage

GPS Track of Voyage

Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth

Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth

By 15:30 we had set a course to cross the Solent from the north of Ryde Pier to Portsmouth. In the clear weather the Spinnaker Tower appeared deceptively close but it still took a half hour to reach our transit point. A hovercraft plowed its noisy way past on more than one occasion as did the car ferry from Fishbourne to Portsmouth but by 16:00 we were making good time in gusty conditions on an increasingly agitated sea. From the planned transit we turned to port making our way past the number 4 buoy, bringing the engine to life while simultaneously reducing sail. A quick call to Haslar Marina on VHF 80 gave us concise berthing instructions and before long we were bumping against the pontoon opposite the green lightship. I say bumping because in all the excitement and I am loath to admit also because of my lack of clear instructions, we overlooked lowering the fenders, oops! Well at least I know the rubbing strake has been well positioned.

After some fussing over warps and fender heights I made my way to the marina office to pay our dues which amounted to less than 10 pounds as it was still the off-season. Back at the boat over an Amaretto and Port, we celebrated our successful sea trial. A hastily prepared meal followed by more drinks quickly evaporated all intentions of sightseeing and we prepared for an early night. Having learnt my lesson on how cold it can get in March from the night before I put one sleeping bag inside another just to be sure. Being a few centimeters shorter than my Dutch crewmember I was relegated to the V-berth while Arjen made use of the modified sleeping arrangement in the saloon. While the regular coming and going of rather large ferries set the boat rocking and creaking on several occasions we still slept like hibernating bears.