Starting our expedition to the Contessa Rally, we left on Saturday and were headed for Eastbourne, with Rye as a port of retreat. I had never been to Rye and persuaded Woof to make a stop there for the night. He had told many a story of his adventures before he met me, and he has a picture of our Contessa sitting out of the water, beside a grey stone wall in Rye, which is a drying harbour.

We got to Rye  Fairway Safe Water Mark at about 11.30am and radioed the Harbour Master, who advised us to wait half an hour before attempting entry as the tide was too low. We sailed down the coast for  fifteen minutes on a lovely beam- reach in the sunshine. I should have known then that the gods were trying to tell us to continue onto Eastbourne as the conditions were perfect.

When you enter Rye Harbour, you have to stop at the Harbour Master’s office on the right hand side. We had prepared the boat with lines and fenders. I was all ready to step ashore with a bow line when we realised that they had built a new quay since Woof’s last visit which was too tall to step onto. Woof drove past slowly as a reconnaissance. He decided to stop by a point with a ladder whilst pointing down-river, ferry-gliding against the incoming water with the engine. This involved a mad scramble on my part to move the fenders and lines to the other side, then another mad scramble up a slippery, splintered wooden ladder holding a line attached to a boat that could pull me in if the boat lurched with a wave. At the top, I couldn’t see anything to tie onto, and got told to ‘Just tie onto anything.’ So I wrapped it around a two-square post, which meant that the rope wouldn’t run freely. Woof in the meantime had found a ring to put the stern line through. When I came back on the boat, I discovered that they were lots of rings at about shoulder height but Woof would have needed to drive forward by a metre for me to tie a bow line onto one. The pontoon had rubber-covered posts, so the fenders were superfluous.

Preparations for an Expedition to the Contessa rally

The Contessa 26 design is 50 years old this year. We are sailing to a commemorative rally and dinner on Friday and Saturday.
We set out on Saturday at 5am to catch the favourable tide. This is after 4 days of getting the boat ready, which took longer than we thought. We bought charts, replaced our out-of-date flares, bought provisions, ate them, bought more provisions with Tupperware to put them in.Woof spent a day drilling holes and connecting up a 12volt socket ( like the cigarette lighter in a car) for our new electric coolbox, which has meant real milk and thus nice coffee in the morning. This has been a real morale booster, at least for me.

The 12 volt socket has also meant we can charge our iPhones at sea for brief periods. We can also keep the coolbox running, as the socket draws directly from the batteries, which are charged by the engine when we are motoring.

Other safety-related tasks – we replaced the jackstays – lines that you clip onto to keep you connected to the boat if you fall in. Woof got the liferaft serviced, which cost a pretty penny, but it’s one of those things which you hope never to use but you want it to work when you do. Woof made a new washboard which I helped varnish. Boats often have washboards instead of doors – they are planks of wood that slot into the doorframe to build up a door. Our bottom one split after years of UV damage.

Things we didn’t get done – installing clips on the backdeck for the Danbuoy (a floating device that you throw in to help show the position of someone if they fall in. We deprioritised replacing the roller-furler line as the old one still works. We didn’t manage to get the autohelm working reliably – reviewers on the internet report that this model doesn’t like damp very much – a bit ironic when it’s meant to be used on a boat.