The Voyage of Miss Fidget (page 1 of 6)

This is an account of a voyage by Ron Preedy across the Atlantic in his Seal 26 in 1985.

It is also covered in his book, Sail and Deliver, published by the Partridge Press, 1989, ISBN 185225 0933 - well worth reading if you can find a copy!

The Voyage Of The Yacht "Miss Fidget" By Lieutenant Colonel R.A. Preedy OBE RA (Rtd)

For reasons which should become apparent, I intend to sketch only briefly the first part of this story.

In order to raise part of the £16,000 needed annually to operate our RNLI inshore lifeboat at St Agnes, Cornwall, I was due to leave St Agnes beach as part of the local Lifeboat Day on August 1984 to begin a single-handed double crossing of the Atlantic. The journey of some 12000 miles in my 26' Super Seal lifting keel sloop "MISS FIDGET" was likely to take 11 months via Spain, Portugal, Madeira, the Canaries, the West Indies and thence, via the USA inland waterway, back across the North Atlantic to St. Agnes.

Official start by 29 Commando Regiment

That at least was the plan. But after 6 weeks of unbroken fine weather the 0625 forecast on 4 August had other ideas. "Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, north westerly 5 to 7, backing westerly and increasing 7, possibly severe gale 9". To encounter this when already at sea would be one thing. To leave the relative security of St Ives Harbour and go looking for it would be quite another. So I waited until the weather changed and at 1400 on Saturday 6 August my voyage was officially started from St Agnes by a light gun of my old regiment, 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery.

After two glorious days of beam reaching at 6 knots, frequent visits from dolphins and another from a school of whales, I eventually met up with a north easterly gale in South Finisterre which blew me the rest of the way across Biscay under storm jib alone. So it was that the morning of my fifth day at sea saw the coast of sunny Spain stretching away down the port side, while to starboard a large British yacht under full sail plus engine overhauled me to ask the way to Corunna! Sending him happily off northwards, I was soon lying to two anchors in the little harbour of Los Camarinas on the north west tip of Spain (easy entrance, pleasant fishing village, deep anchorage, basic shopping, no harbour charges).

Thick fog

I spent a full week at anchor, more to establish a proper domestic routine than to shelter from the strong winds. I completed the next leg to Beyara overnight in light airs and steadily worsening visibility and next morning felt my way cautiously in thick fog past the dangerous group of rocks guarding Vigo Bay to an anchorage opposite the embattled Club Nautico at Beyara (fairly crowded; pleasant, friendly club; no charge for lying to anchor, ample depth reasonably clean).

The next leg - to Leixoes in Portugal - was again a short one and I entered the inner marina just as dusk was falling. By next morning, however, I was sufficiently put off by the congestion and by the pronounced lavatorial smell to decide to seek local colour and carry on up the river Douro into Oporto. Together with SEA LARK a Rival 34 owned by a young couple from California, I spent the next three days alongside the town quay (rather dirty river, good security from thieves, no charge for lying alongside). Incidentally, the journey up river had involved negotiating a very narrow, winding sand-bar entrance against a four knot current, a manoeuvre made even more difficult by fog and by a dozen Portuguese boats fishing in the very neck of the entrance!

By now it was the end of August and time to head on south once more. I completed the 94 mile trip to Figuera da Foz in 21 hours and by 0200 was searching in vain for the two red lights that should have led me over the outer bar. Finally I gave up and without mishap followed a small fishing boat into the long, narrow entrance. It was at this precise moment that the entire local fishing fleet decided to leave port - and evidently they were late. For the next 5 minutes about 30 large, powerful, and very fast fishing boats surged past either side of me in the darkness with only inches to spare. Shaken but intact I moved gingerly on into the yacht basin to snatch a little sleep before dawn. In company with SEA LARK and a Canadian Contessa called TILIKUM II I spent the next day shopping and sightseeing. Returning to our boats at 4pm we were appalled to note visible evidence that an untreated sewer emptied straight into the yacht basin and decided to leave the next morning.

From Figuera to Nazare (a small harbour about 20 miles north east of the Berlingas Islands) is only 35 miles and we made a race of it. SEA LARK beat me by 250 yards with TILIKUM coming in ten minutes later.

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