Jonty Pearce bemoans fixed holiday dates and craves the days when he's free to wander as the weather takes him


There is something comforting about lying warm and dry in ones bunk while listening to steady rain falling on deck, securely moored in the marina whose excellent warm cafe will soon provide a full cooked breakfast. In fact, I think that this might be one of the best bits about October sailing.

We had planned to drive to Neyland on Friday night for our Autumn holiday, but sheer exhaustion after a chaotic week at the Surgery made me realise that the three hour journey should be postponed to Saturday morning – indeed, I did not even have the energy to pack, and as usual the Indoor Dragon was still flying around panicking about all the tasks she had left to the last second prior to departure. In fact, neither of us was ready by Saturday lunchtime (I’m being tactful here – one of us was) and we did not set off till 2.30pm. A further very sensible and enjoyable delay was lunch at the restaurant at Weston’s Cider – two halves of Old Rosie quenched Carol’s overheated furnaces and did her mojo a great deal of good. She even became quite relaxed. Needless to say, we arrived after dark, and thus passed Saturday.

Sunday was a maintenance day – i.e. Carol did not emerge till after midday having maintained her sleep, while I slaved around the boat doing man jobs – fixing the Eberspacher (again), stopping a fresh water drip, sorting the calorifier, and tinkering with the bilge pump before tackling the main job of swapping the genoa winches to nice new 4 speed Pontos Trimmer 40’s. A visit from friends Norry and Hutch happily distracted us, so that job was finished on Monday. But the break of fine weather ended too – the sun vanished and rain, wind, wind, rain started, so up went the Habitent cockpit enclosure so at least I was able to finish my jobs in the dry. To cap the day I forgot my car was still running on BST when the rest of Wales had gone back an hour, so we missed out on the reward of our pub supper after I mistakenly informed Carol that 9pm was too late to be served… at 8pm. Mea Culpa – hey, ho.

And so back to the rain on the deck. The plan had been to fit the winches on Saturday and head off across the Bristol Channel to Appledore and Bideford on Sunday or Monday. The tides were right, the timings good (even with the end of BST), but the requested Indian Summer turned into a monsoon.

Water does not bother us, but this monsoon was coming directly from Appledore, and Gentlemen Do Not Sail To Windward in heavy rain. It was, after all, supposed to be a holiday, and with no change to the forecast wind direction for the foreseeable future, time was running out for our plans. It only took a hint of a gale warning to alter our destination to the safer option of Skomer and St Bride’s Bay – we will cross the marina cill at 3pm and sail down Haven by which time the rent in the heavens will have been sewn up and the skies will be continent again. So soon I will give the Indoor Dragon her waking cup of petrol tea and get her to shake a wing for breakfast before preparing the ship for sea.

Last week was, of course, glorious. I bemoan being tied to fixed calendar dates as opposed to being free to wander as the weather takes us. That time will come, but for the present we have become expert at making the best of what we are given. And, when we are shattered by the hard daily grind of work, we need times of recuperation – and what could be better rest better than lying in bed listening to the rain patter on deck while your pet dragon snores gently beside you?