The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Sailing a New-To-Us Boat Home—What Could Go Wrong?

We last left Colin and Louise sheltering from a long run of adverse weather and chomping at the bit to resume their long journey home to Scotland on their new-to-them, She 36, Sherpa.

Work out of the way and with all relevant systems now functioning, we couldn’t wait to get going on the third leg to Scotland. The Helford River is lovely, we had seen lots of old friends, but all the while the weather had held us back and cabin fever was setting in. 

No Breaks

But getting going was being thwarted by an endless procession of lows: Firstly, a front would go through, bringing strong westerlies, then it would ease a little and back to the south for twelve hours or so, then freshen and veer slowly into the north. This would head us badly when we least needed it in the approaches to the St George’s Channel.

The Wisdom of Patience

I have made this passage so many times in different ways that there are few surprises left but this is just the sort of pattern you don’t want.

You’ll be hard on the wind against strong tides between the Tuskar Rock and the Smalls. And we were at the top of springs…of course. With wind against tide in that bottleneck it can get very rough indeed, far more so than the wind strength would suggest. 

This was, after all, the place where one of the world’s greatest sailors met his end in conditions no worse than those forecast, so we evaluated all the options seriously, for sure. 

But what it really came down to was either go and face the music or sit and wait out another week or more for the next window, and we had both had enough of that.

Finally, The Off

At last, a short weather window appeared and it was time to go.

Late the following afternoon we dropped around the corner to check how much swell was left over. With a foul tide down to The Lizard, it pays to get as close to the Point as possible, to save time for sleep and to avoid pot buoy dodging in the dark.

The Vital Knowledge

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Dick Stevenson

Lou and Colin, Good on you, Dick

Wilson Fitt

Colin, thanks very much for a good tale well told. It reminds me once again of the intense demands of boat handing and navigation in your part of the world compared to our Nova Scotia home waters. Hats off to you and Louise and your new-to-you boat!


Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

It is good to hear that you are happy with your boat selection. Sailing in your part of the world definitely takes a tricky combination of patience and then a willingness to put up with some discomfort. Your anchor story gave me flashbacks of my first solo overnight on our first boat. I knew that the bow roller didn’t capture the anchor all that well but I thought that I had lashed it sufficiently. The waves that kept washing over it proved otherwise and I heard dreaded bangs that took a minute to identify as the anchor hitting the topsides. The gelcoat repair wasn’t too bad to do but the imperfect color match reminded me of this incident for the rest of the ownership of that boat.

Good luck with the rest of the trip.



Great account of a challenging passage. Loved the pace, planning and adaptation to what’s presented. Staying in the present and proceeding forward.

Understanding of the waters and the signs around “The Lizard” demonstrates real seamen ship knowledge/skills that are often missing or ignored by the new breed of boat owners wanting to post their adventures on the internet.

Thank you for sharing this experience.

Terence Thatcher

Great account of your trip, including your judgment getting out of bad weather and dealing with inevitable breakdowns that plague us all. Could you comment on your technique for heaving to? I’ve often assumed that fin-keel vessels would resist a quiet ride and that it would be hard to balance them to achieve stasis. Thanks.

John Harries

Hi Terence,

We have a chapter on heaving to here:

Terence Thatcher

Thanks. I went back to reread John’s post. You evidently have solved his concern with boats lacking a staysail. I have, instead, a reefable Solent jib, which is not as far back as a staysail, but your description is encouraging.

John Harries

Hi Terence,

I’m not that keen on solent jibs, although I certainly don’t hate them. See this in depth article for an analysis of the tradeoffs:

Terence Thatcher

John: Everything is a compromise and I share your views of the drawbacks of the Solent jib, but it has worked for me. When we need it, wind on the nose above 20 knots, it works marvelously. My sail maker knew the stay might sag a bit, so he cut the sail to take that into account.
Ted Brewer designed my Morgan 382 as a masthead sloop, but also drew a sail plan to make her a cutter, with a small staysail. To convert my vessel to a cutter would have required more rigging changes than putting on a Solent jib did when I installed it in 1997. My yard consulted with to Carl Schumacher in designing the rig and its attachment points.
I have owned the ADAVIDA for 25 years and most of that time we have sailed her in Puget Sound and British Columbia (plus trips up and down the Washington coast each year), where winds are often light and where I use a 135 genoa. I have the Solent stay on a hyfield lever and it usually is not used in family cruising (in early years with little kids). The Solent jib, of course, is hanked on. I am not a fan of partially furled jibs, although I have learned, when short-handed, to do it.
When my son and I sailed to Mexico and Polynesia, we were not short tacking, so the Solent was ready to go at all times, with the sail in a easily removed bag to protect it from UV.. But it was not used much, simply because we were most often sailing with the wind on the beam or aft and not in hard conditions. If I were to go offshore long distances again, I would put the Solent jib on a furler to make it easier to use (e.g., running downwind with the jenny and jib both poled out). But in our inland sailing, it mostly would be in the way of running the jenny, as you mention. (If the Solent were on a furler, my storm jib would go on another stay, set further back on the foredeck, which is not now rigged, of course.)
Unfortunately, my family doesn’t want me sailing off alone and my son is getting on with his life, so . . . . I just keep cruising inland waters. I miss the long passages and beautiful night skies. But I love AAC and I keep learning from you and Colin and the others who contribute.

John Harries

Hi Terence,

Sure, I get it. As I say in the post I linked to, there are many advantages to the Solent, but there are drawbacks too. It was ever so with most all things around boats. And thanks for the kind words,

Jim Schulz

Great descriptions, Colin. It’s like reading Adlard Coles. Nice work!

Dan Tisoskey


Great story. Maiden voyages are always fun and I can remember all of mine. I have a Flexofold folding prop and had great luck this year. I have read many stories about blades falling off. Over this winter, I will remove my prop and double check the install instructions during install in the spring.

Gordon Hinds

The prop has evidence of galvanic corrosion so they need to check for current drain in the shaft – maybe from the autohelm.

Andrew Thompson

Lovely story, brought back memories from my singlehanded trip from the Scilly Isles to Oban this summer in my S&S SHE 32C via Ardglass, Glenarm and Gigha. Your description of the swell and cross sea was exactly what I experienced, except instead of the anchor coming loose my Navik windvane failed.

I’ve known Fred in Ardglass for over 20 years and I thought he was old when I first met him then ! it’s a wonderful, friendly marina.

David Courtenay-Clack

Hi Colin,
Firstly thanks for your advice on our trip south from Oban.
Spring tides against Southerlies slowed us up but we had time on our side and being delayed for a day or two in Oban, Rathlin Island Ardglass and the Isles of Silly was no hardship.
We crossed the Celtic Sea motor sailing as the winds were light and blessed the comfort of a wheelhouse!
We are now thinking of heading back to Loch Crerran next spring.We are in need a pint at The Forge!