The final installment! (At last.)
Day 10 Southampton - Plymouth.
The last day! Well hopefully the last day. Checking out of the hotel early we viewed the weather with some trepidation. There was a fair breeze but we began to convince ourselves that there was definitely some "North" in it! Arriving down at the pontoons we found a hive of activity with people preparing to go. We were keen to get across to Yarmouth to get fuelled up so Spirit set off and we followed a few minutes later after rounding up Andy who was intent on interviewing all and sundry, JUST when I wanted him to get on the boat! I think he got the message when I started the engine and started casting off the lines!
Running across a smooth Southampton water and a fairly smooth Solent we caught up with Cyanide and were first in the queue for the fuel berth at Yarmouth. Soon the rest of the fleet joined us and those yachties stumbling bleary eyed from their yachts were confronted by a bunch of unshaven, Ribsters merrily filling tanks with petrol, spilling diesel etc etc. A slight delay in departure, caused by Mark losing a lifejacket and we departed Yarmouth and headed West. Our plan was to run deep inside Poole Bay to gain the maximum shelter, although Spirit seemed determined to make the straight line course irrespective of sea state! After an almost too closer encounter with what seemed like a maze of pot markers/nets Cyanide also head further out to sea!
We soon caught up with the bulk of the fleet and were able to give Andy a chance to get some up close and personal footage of a number of RB4 RIBs against the backdrop of Old Harry! The sun was out, the sea was choppy but more comfortable than yesterday and we were having great fun! Running along the Dorset coast past familiar haunts such as Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge Ledges we eventually closed Portland Bill. Stopping just short of the Bill we had a teabreak, with the freshly backed bacon and cheese pasties from Yarmouth going down an absolute treat!
Soon the main body of the fleet headed off but we lingered a little longer to await Bangor Challenger and see them around the Bill safely. Heading close inshore we rounded it in the usual steep and nasty sea's. No problem in a 9.5m RIB but I would imagine, more than a little daunting in a 4.8m one! Safely around with Bangor Challenger plugging along behind us, we opened the throttles a bit and hugged the coast around Lyme Bay. By now the fleet had largely split up. We could see RIBS on the horizon to seaward of us, Challenger was behind us and somewhere ahead of us were Team Ribex & Grey Seal who we overheard on the VHF planning a stop at Lyme Regis. We caught up with them there but alas the photographer they had hoped to meet wasn't there and we didn't even manage to get to shore for an ice cream!
From then on it was a relatively simple run along the Dorset & Devon coast in brilliant sunshine and calm seas. Entering Salcombe - Mark's home port we found the bulk of the fleet tied up alongside the visitors pontoon, drysuits rolled down enjoying a beer! The plan was to await Bangor Challengers arrival and then travel in convoy for the finish at Plymouth. Having snatched a quick ice cream, Peter and I headed off in advance in Cyanide to run to Mayflower marina in Plymouth, collect Brian and go back to meet the fleet off the breakwater.
After a fairly bumpy run to Plymouth, a meeting with Paul Lemmer in a RIB in the middle of the Sound and a manic dash to collect Brian, from the Mayflower pontoons, we returned offshore to meet the fleet. Spirits were high and Hugo was having a dreadful time trying to keep the fleet together for the final run. We took cameraman Andy onboard again and ran at the outside of the fleet into the Sound. (Whilst trying to steer them away from a Dive Rib, avoid the breakwater, MOD Police launch, Spectator boats etc etc!). A breakneck run amid much whooping and cheering and we were back alongside the pontoon at Mountbatten. It seemed like a lot longer than 10 days since we'd left!
Much hilarity, popping of champagne corks, the obligatory dunking of crew members and team photo's ensued, followed by an evening presentation of awards - for everybody, which was a nice touch. And that was that. We'd done it. Or as I have said, they did it and I did it in comfort! It had been an incredible experience for us all and has changed my perception of horizons for Rib Cruising. As a sceptic that you could circumnavigate Britain safely in a 4.8m Rib I was pleased to be proved wrong. The "spirit" of the whole RB4 crowd was definitely the added extra that combined with a favourable weather window, some outstanding seamanship and a hefty dose of luck to make the event happen. Well done to all.
Team Spirit: Mark Featherstone, Martin Collins, Peter Dickinson.
Cyanide: Brian Elliot, Alan Winnett.