The Story Of Venture II - Part One
Tony Fleming Commissions Venture II, An All New Fleming 65
Just five days after completing our 9,500-mile journey during the summer of 2008 in Venture we took her to Trawlerfest in Solomons, Maryland. Here, many visitors came aboard and were impressed by how pristine she looked so soon after completing her amazing journey. Some even thought she was a new boat.
We had originally planned to continue using Venture as a test bed for new equipment and ideas and then take her to Europe for further cruising, but when the recession made a hull available we decided instead to build a new boat. Venture II would be built to meet European regulations and specifications, would include all the changes already incorporated into the production boats as a result of our previous cruising, and would allow us to install the new systems we were anxious to try. We could then ship the completed boat directly to England from Taiwan.
A list of the major changes being tried in Venture II include:
-A shaft system which, like the Aquadrive, isolates the propeller thrust from the transmission but which goes one step further and also isolates the rotating propeller shaft from the water flowing past the hull until aft of the strut thus eliminating both the cutless bearings and stuffing box.
-An electro/hydraulic power steering system which greatly simplifies installation while providing more precise control so often lacking in many hydraulic systems.
-The latest generation of LED lighting throughout which drastically reduces power consumption and - finally - has solved the problem of providing lights of a pleasing color temperature.
-A system described as Ultrasonic Antifouling in which transducers installed on the inside of the hull transmit sonic waves to prevent marine growth. This technique is already used to good effect on large ships.
Electronics include the latest generation Furuno Navnet 3 with dual radars.
-An active radar reflector which enhances the size of the target seen on other radars. These are common on European boats but seldom seen in the USA.
-AIS transmit mode has been added to make it easier for commercial shipping to pick you out of the clutter.
-A ship's status display center to provide information on all the major systems.
Of the many items already available on production boats from previous feedback provided from Venture, of especial importance was the bi-fold door dividing the pilothouse from the salon and galley. We would have loved to have had this feature in Venture but it, along with several other refinements, was too difficult to retrofit.
After sea trials in Kaohsiung in May 2009, Venture II arrived in Southampton in Southern England on July 4th 2009. Most of the electronics had been "cut in" at the yard in Taiwan but we went through the usual commissioning process which was not helped by the steady downpour of rain that fell on every day but two during the month of July.
Our initial sea trials were out in the Solent, a famous and busy waterway crowded with yachts along with container ships and numerous cruise liners including the new Queen Mary. Southampton has a long history with transatlantic liners and it was from here on April 10th 1912 that the Titanic sailed to her doom. One third of all the lives lost on that tragedy were people from the city of Southampton.
The activity on the water reached a crescendo with Cowes week, and we had a close up view of the start of the Fastnet Race on this, the 30th anniversary of the event in 1979, when a sudden storm descended on the fleet and 25 yachts were sunk or disabled with the loss of 15 lives.
A few days later we set out down the English Channel and along the south coast of England for our maiden, shake-down cruise. Cruising in England is not a casual affair and requires a much higher degree of competence than might be necessary in other parts of the world.
The first factor are the tides which are significant. With a tidal streams running along the coast of three knots - with six knots or more in places - it is important to plan ahead so as to have the tides working with rather than against you. However this has to be balanced with the effects of wind against tide which we encountered on the first leg of our trip from Southampton to Portland. We had timed our departure to make sure we had the three knot tide in our favor but a thirty knot head wind generated some of the most unpleasant conditions we had encountered during all of our cruising in Venture. We tied up that first night in the new marina at Portland happy to escape the short sharp seas. This has been a long-standing Naval port for many years but is now in the early stages of being converted to civilian use and will be the venue for the sailing Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
Just south of Portland is the headland of Portland Bill which forms an obstacle to tidal flows resulting in a phenomenon known as the Portland Race. The Race is something to be taken seriously as the following quote from the Admiralty Sailing Directions would indicate.
"The race is most violent, and dangerous, to boats and even small vessels, in heavy weather at the times when the streams are strongest, especially with a gale blowing against the direction of the stream; the whole area may be covered by overfalls and heavy breaking seas."
The weather the following day was slightly better and our next port of call was Brixham in the county of Devon. In the middle ages this was the largest fishing port in the whole of Britain and it is from here that the famous Brixham trawlers get their name.
We had now reached the scenic part of the coast where verdant hills, so typical of the English countryside, drop steeply down to the sea and small towns, barely visible from offshore, are tucked away in craggy indentations known in this part of the country as "combes". Salcombe, which first appeared in the records in 1244, has a bar at the entrance to the harbor which can be dangerous under certain weather conditions.
There are many wrecks off this rugged coast including one dating from the bronze age. The most famous is the Herzogin Cecelie, a magnificent four masted barque built in Germany in 1902 which ran aground in fog on Jan 23 1936 after a record breaking trip of only 86 days carrying grain from Port Lincoln in South Australia.
In September 1943 the Advanced Amphibious base for the US Navy was set up in Salcombe and 86 ships plus some smaller vessels set out from here on June 4th 1944 for Utah beach in Normandy for the D Day landings.
The only hazard we faced during our arrival in this scenic harbor was threading our way through flocks of sailing dinghies battling it out in the races associated with the local regatta. Later we had a front row view of an impressive fireworks display.
We continued west to Fowey (pronounced Foy - rhymes with toy) in the county of Cornwall. This tight little harbor is a major exporter of china clay and, as recently as 2008, was exporting one million tons annually to countries all around the world. The associated loading wharves are hidden around a turn in the narrow river out of sight of the town and it was an impressive sight to watch a large oceangoing freighter making its way past the traditional houses and the parked yachts to disappear around a tight bend apparently into rural surroundings.
Our furthest point west was Falmouth, the last major town before mainland Britain (if that's the right term for a rather small island) came to a stop at aptly named Lands End. Its geographical position, plus being the 3rd deepest natural harbour in the world, made it a natural point of departure and the first landfall for vessels returning from long voyages overseas. One of these was HMS Beagle which called here on Oct 2nd 1836 on her return from the Galapagos Islands with Charles Darwin on board.
British seaside towns are thronged with holiday makers in the summer months when their population doubles or even triples. It was much easier to find an ice cream or a kiss-me-quick sun hat than a screwdriver or, in our case, a pressure gauge. But the towns themselves were genuine and had a charm which stemmed from the narrow winding streets and small alleyways whose steps had been worn down by the feet of countless generations. Many of the houses had been around for hundreds of years and most were decorated with hanging baskets of flowers.
Returning east we visited the city of Plymouth. The original settlement dates from the bronze age but due to silting of the river upstream the port was moved to what is now the historic Barbican area in the 11th century. The port was mentioned in the Doomsday book in 1086. We visited the Mayflower steps from which the Pilgrim Fathers left for what was referred to as the New World where they founded the Plymouth colony.
Plymouth Hoe overlooks the approaches to the harbor and it was from here that Sir Francis Drake sailed to take on the invading Spanish Armada having, according to legend, insisted on completing his game of bowls before boarding his ship.
In World War II Plymouth was subjected to 59 bombing raids which destroyed over 3,700 houses and killed more than 1,000 civilians. The city was pretty well flattened and was rebuilt following the war according to a master plan developed by a leading architect. I don't know where he got his inspiration but I can only say that the result reminded me of places I had visited in the old Soviet Union. Car parking was a nightmare as vehicles had to be moved to a different spot every couple of hours - a policy diligently enforced by armies of attendants who would issue a ticket if proof of payment was not displayed exactly in the required location even if you were present and could show them that you had indeed paid and displayed. I'm afraid that the message the city fathers managed to convey to visitors such as ourselves was "part with your money and then leave as soon as possible". As I overheard one local visitor proclaim in the rich Devon accent "Highway robbery is alive and well". However, despite the drawbacks, we met up with family and friends and celebrated my birthday in a charming converted mill house on the fringes of nearby Dartmoor.
Our last port of call before returning to Southampton was the lovely little town of Dartmouth where we stayed for three days rafted up on a mooring buoy in the middle of the harbour alongside a GB Aleutian and, by pure serendipity, one of the only other two Fleming 65's on this side of the Atlantic.
Dartmouth is famous for its Naval College which was established in 1863 although the present buildings only date from 1905. This small port has been historically important for centuries. It was the point of departure for the crusades in 1147 and 1190 and huge chain resting on barges was strung across the harbour mouth during the 100 years war (1337 to 1453). Dartmouth Castle, still prominent at the entrance to the harbour, was built in 1481. In more recent conflicts, Darmouth was another base and training ground for American forces in the build up to D-day and the landings at Utah beach.
Despite less than ideal weather, we really enjoyed our time in Dartmouth and the company of our companion boaters tied up alongside us. We sampled restaurants and pubs ashore, drove the tender up the River Dart to a waterside pub called the Ferry Boat Inn (FBI for short) and took a ride on a coal-burning steam train. The chuffing of the engine, the clickety click of the wheels and smell of the smoke really took me back to my childhood. Our visit coincided with the week of Dartmouth regatta. Unfortunately the weather prevented the fly-past of a Spitfire and Hurricane fighter plane and a Lancaster bomber.
During our two week shake down cruise I was struck by the sheer number of boats we saw all along the coast with the vast majority of them being sail boats. All the boats we saw were well prepared and well equipped to deal with the conditions encountered on a daily basis around the coasts of Britain. Boating is taken seriously over here - as it needs to be.
We had to get back to Southampton to prepare Venture II for her debut in the Southampton Boat Show. This in-the-water show took place between the 10th and 20th of September. Attendance was slightly up from last year, and the atmosphere was definitely upbeat with most visitors taking an optimistic view of the future. Most power boating in Europe is done in fast boats with limited range and European styling, so Venture II was almost unique in the show and opened the eyes of many people to a different style of boating in which the pleasure lies in the journey not just in reaching your destination. I was able to point out that we can go directly to Gibraltar, gateway to the Mediterranean, instead of following the coastlines of France, Spain and Portugal and stopping at every fuel dock along the way. There is no doubt that the days of slower, more comfortable, cruising are coming back in vogue.
South Hampon Boatshow
The show is now over and we are preparing to get underway for our trip up the English Channel to Dover and thence across the North Sea to Hamburg on the River Elbe where we will display Venture II in another boat show. From there we will go to Düsseldorf via the North Sea, the canal system in the Netherlands and the River Rhine. We will then bring Venture II back to Southampton in February where she will stay until we start our real cruising in spring 2010 which will take us to the Western Isles of Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
Meanwhile, original Venture remained under the care of Burr Yacht Sales for the winter of 2008/2009. The decision has just been made to make her available for charter for selected clients primarily to people considering the purchase of a Fleming to provide them with the opportunity to cruise on a Fleming before making their final decision. She is now based in the Pacific Northwest. Further details can be obtained by contacting Fleming Yachts through our website.