Bringing Anju Home – Part Three

14th - 24th June 2015

We were grateful to have the use of our cruising friends' (Pat and Liz - Catspaw) house at Hythe, just across the water from Southampton docks, in which to await Anju's arrival. We were doubly grateful to be able to moor her on a dock owned by Gareth and Annie (Merlin) in the same marina complex, as they had just left for an extended cruise.

All we had to do was amuse ourselves after being dropped off at their house on Friday, until Anju's scheduled ETA on Sunday afternoon.

This was an easy prospect with the convenient ferry from Hythe to Southampton, served by a Victorian train service along the pier. Saturday was spent exploring both Southampton and the interesting French market in Hythe village.

Sunday found us sitting anxiously, watching the AIS app, to see when our beloved Anju would arrive.

Riding down the pier to the Hythe ferry

Anju hidden aboard HHL Lagos in Southampton water

Finally after lunch, the ship was getting close, so we dashed to the ferry, to make our way to the docks. We had been told she would be unloaded at around 6 pm but wanted to watch the ship approach the docks.

Once we had watched it sail past, we opted to walk to the docks, as we had plenty of time to spare. Our walk turned out to be a three mile hike through industrial wasteland. Luckily we'd stopped at IKEA's coffee shop for refreshments along the way!

Commercial docks were definitely not designed with pedestrians in mind and when we finally came almost alongside the moored ship, we discovered that a railway track and a colossal mountain of scrap metal stood between us and it.

Our options were either to hike another mile or so, to the official vehicle entrance to the dock and then hike all the way back along the dockside to the ship, or (suggested the girl with a gimpy knee) we could hop over the railway tracks, scramble under the crane, around the metal alp and be right there in a couple of minutes. Security didn't appear tight, so that's what we did.

OK, so if you want to get there, don't start from here!

Freedom at last!

Other waiting yacht owners on the quay were somewhat surprised by our sudden appearance. Apparently the Ukrainian crew felt the owners of their cargo were far to great a security risk to be allowed aboard to wait in comfort, so we spent a couple of hours perched uncomfortably on a bollard.

A rebellion eventually ensued, as the frustrated yacht owners decided to scramble up the gangplank to wait, only to be held in suspense at the top by a bemused security guard, until the crew were actually working on unloading their particular vessel.

Finally our turn came and Anju was carefully placed into the slings. The crew were very cautious. With the yachts aboard packed so closely together, a mistake could have ended up in a pile of expensive boats falling like dominoes.

All that remained was for us to get aboard. Climbing aboard with Anju at deck height and being lowered with her to the water was considered far too dangerous. Instead we were instructed to scramble down a massively long rope ladder, swinging alarmingly alongside the hull of the ship. Far safer for a 67 year old man and a woman with a bad knee apparently!

We were glad of the long, light nights. Anju was finally back under her own steam and headed to Hythe by around 8.30 pm. We headed through the lock into the marina and tied her snuggly on our friends' dock.

Initially we had planned to take our time exploring the South Coast on the way back to Cardiff but, on greeting our precious boat (and seeing the amount of barnacles to be removed from her hull), we got antsy to get her home to Cardiff. Monday was spent re-assembling everything we'd had to remove for shipping and passage planning. Early next morning we were headed through the lock gates, to start our journey home.

We set off in a flat calm and made it under motor to Poole harbour, where we took a mooring, ably assisted by the marina crew.

The marina's complementary shuttle service allowed us to head ashore to explore the next afternoon, whilst we waited for wind from a less southwesterly direction to continue our trip home.

Taking the shuttle ashore.


The forecast seemed promising the next day and we resolved to make it as far as we could. However, when the wind picked up from the west, this turned out to be only to Portland Harbour, a relatively uninviting place but one which gave us a more favourable angle on the wind than Land's End. We anchored and settled down to eat dinner, only to learn that the weather forecast had changed, promising a north-westerly wind, which would allow us to make further progress west.

Out came the tide tables and charts again. If we left Portland that night, the tide would be favourable around midnight, we could make Dartmouth the following day. Impatient as always, we didn't want to hang around and opted to leave immediately after dinner. This left us punching against the strong tide around Portland Bill, where we spent several frustrating hours making little progress alongside the lighthouse. We were being given a harsh reminder of the strength of UK tides, which we deserved for our impatience!

Next morning we were approaching Dartmouth harbour, a town neither of us had ever visited. Despite the early hour, we raised the harbour master on the VHF and were instructed, after avoiding one of the town's two cross-river ferries, to tie up on a visitor's mooring. These took the form of floating pontoons, moored out in the river, with no connection to the shore, so you could get off your boat to stretch your legs but not much! Exhausted we took a much needed nap.

Anju resting up on a visitors pontoon in Dartmouth

The harbour was a fascinating place to hang out for a few days, until some bad weather passed. It was nestled between steep headlands, almost invisible from the sea. Brightly coloured houses lined the hills on both sides of the river, giving the town a continental feel.

The following day we hiked back out to the inlet, where a castle, church more curiously and graveyard, perched on the steep hillside. Must have been an interesting job digging graves at that angle, we supposed.

A visit to the local yacht club rewarded us with drinks, hospitality and hot showers.

On Sunday we opted to take our dinghy up the river a few miles to the next village, passing Agatha Christie's home on the way. This we followed up with a walk around on the opposite side of the river to Dartmouth. We ended the day enjoying dinner in a picturesque, ancient pub. It was a fascinating spot and we were glad to have visited.

Exploring up the river

I feel a beer coming on!

The forecast was now suggesting north-westerly winds for a while, followed by south-westerly, timed right for our change of direction at Land's End. We were off early the next morning.

Again we opted to keep going for as long as possible and by the following afternoon, we were rounding Land's End, to be greeted with an total lack of wind. We motored all the way back to Cardiff, sometimes averaging around 1.5 knots against the fierce tides in the Bristol Channel.

Approaching Land's End

The last few miles were particularly painful, with the full force of the tide against us, as Cardiff Bay Barrage grew tantalisingly close.

Our timing meant we'd arrive at dead low water, when normally Anju wouldn't have enough depth to enter the locks. As luck would have it, it was a neap tide and the Barrage Operator suggested we would make it. We just had to try to work out where the deeper channel lay, as our charts were somewhat outdated. It wasn't too difficult though, with high mud banks on either side.

Entering the lock, as we dredged our way in, was like entering a deep canyon, directly into the evening sun.

Exhausted we were finally approaching our berth at the Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, which after fourteen years away might have felt a little anti-climactic, if not for the enthusiastic welcoming Committee of Silke, Dave, Ben and Max.

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