The Orion Fleet

The Orion fleet assembled in Lowestoft on 9th May.    The boats were


Alan and Jackie Birch                                                 Kurrawong

Alan Emmett                                                               Cloudberry

Richard Gapper                                                           Bonaventure

Derek Greenwood                                                      Elizabeth Tudor

John Howes                                                                Dream Catcher

Iain and Penny Kidson                                               Rainbow Catcher

Bill and Anita Miller                                                   Marika

John and Pat Negus                                                    Sweet Surrender

Frank and Jill Trew                                                     Den Njord

Peter and Marion Doyle                                              Insieme


We had a temporary addition when Steve and Karen James, CA members from the US joined us for the activities in Lowestoft.


There were some members of the group unable to make Lowestoft including Chris

Potarzycki in Dorran who had taken the boat ahead and left her in Edinburgh, and Colin and Elspeth Iskander in Scarba and Geof Doggett in Carronade who hoped to catch us up.    Well ahead was Mike Dixon in Gellie who sails from Stonehaven and would join us there.     Unfortunately, Mike Bell, who has done much of the arranging of Orion, and his wife Greta were unable to join because Greta was ill.


We spent some time getting to know each other including an excellent dinner before setting off North.     As an omen of things to come, most waited a day for a strong Northerly to abate before leaving.     The format of the rally provided for “Rendezvous Ports” where we would all gather with free sailing in between.    This has worked well, with a cohesive group.     As we have travelled round we have criss-crossed tracks and met up, often unplanned and by chance,  in groups big and small, at ports and anchorages along the way.     Sometimes it has happened, as at Amble, that we have all come together in the same port.   At other times the fleet has been widely dispersed but we have kept in touch by VHF, mobile phone and text message.


The first rendezvous was at Blyth, where we were made most welcome by the Royal Northumberland YC.     We already had one casualty with Cloudberry, the smallest boat in either fleet, held up in Whitby with gearbox failure.    The natural next stop was Amble where we were made welcome by the Coquet YC.    Our second casualty was Rainbow Catcher, holed on a rock in the river, her crew hitching a lift north on Den Njord.    The Northerlies which plagued us so far were replaced with Easterlies as we went North but the fleet assembled in Peterhead for a Parade of Sail and a Dinner/Ceilidh arranged by Peterhead Tourism and hosted by Alex Salmond, the local MP.    This took the form of a combined Burns Night/Trafalgar Dinner with an haggis appropriately addressed and slaughtered by a kilted local doctor wielding a sword.     Mike and Greta were able to join us for the dinner.    We were joined in Peterhead by all the stragglers except Geoff Dogett who had to pull out because of work commitments and gained another boat, Tulameen with Phil and Frances Dockerill who had arrived direct from Limehouse, stopping only at Southend Pier Anchorage.


The fleet then went on to Orkney, some making rapid progress and spending more time in Orkney, others dallying in the Moray Firth.    Rainbow Catcher’s crew dashed South to collect her, now nicely repaired by the Amble Boat Company.

Our visit to Orkney coincided with the Orkney Festival and many crews combined sailing with visits to the Festival events and touring the Neolithic and Viking sites on the Islands.     We were well supported here by the HLR Sean Milligan.     We linked with the Ajax Fleet for a pontoon party hosted by David Buckpit on Nefertiti of St Helier, for a presentation on Pentland tides arranged by Sean and for the splendid dinner organized by Barry Smith at the Stromness Hotel on Midsummer day.    On the day the boats made a splendid sight, dressed overall.


The fleet then headed for the West Coast Islands, some preferring the Outer Hebrides and others the inside route.     Once again we crossed and re-crossed.    On the first weekend of July we were threatened by a severe gale and much discussion took place over VHF and phone as to the most secure hiding place.    All boats weathered the storm successfully.     We all greatly enjoyed the islands, marred only by very persistent drizzle and chill weather.    As 17th July approached, the date of the Craobh Haven Rendezvous, more and more boats were within VHF range.    Den Njord had dropped off in the Western Isles as planned as they wanted more time there.    Gellie had come via the Caledonian Canal after breaking off for a classic boat rally in the Moray Firth.    John Negus arranged dinner in  the Restaurant adjoining the marina and we had another very happy evening.


The fleet then explored a breezy Sound of Jura before crossing to Ireland.

Tulameen had to leave us at to return to Limehouse via the Caledonian for the new school term.    The next rendezvous was in Howth where we were well looked after at the Howth Yacht Club Marina while a gale blew through.     Much mutual support was given in fendering and tending lines.     The marina was sheltered from the sea but exposed to the wind.     Many crews took the opportunity of touring Dublin.    We had an excellent carvery at the club organised by Peter and Marion Doyle.    Mike and Greta Bell were able to join the crew of Sweet Surrender here.


From Howth to Milford Haven some took the direct route while others ambled down the Irish coast, some as far as Wexford or Kilmore Quay.     Most took some time to explore Milford Haven before going to the Milford Docks Marina for the Rendezvous which took the form of a party on Sweet Surrender hosted by John and Pat followed by an excellent dinner at the Chart House Restaurant organised by Bill and Anita Miller.     The casualties on this side of the country were due to family problems rather than boat difficulties and neither Alan Emmett nor Colin and Elspeth Iskander were able to make this rendezvous.


At the time of writing on 7th August most boats are in Padstow, some having come via Lundy, en route for the last Rendezvous in Plymouth on 13th.


It is difficult in a short review to express the camaraderie and joie de vivre which the rally has engendered but it has been a memorable trip, with shared pleasure and adversity and enhanced by the many changes of crew on different boats.