Phil and Jules Dargavel have just as many fun adventures aboard their 6m Brig Navigator RIB as they would aboard a large motor boat – and for a fraction of the cost.
The great thing about owning and using a smaller boat is that your cruising grounds are not always restricted to the same place. Take us for example. My wife Jules and I own a 6m Brig Navigator RIB called Hurricane, which is good for carrying six people safely and even a few more up a quiet river or estuary, but is also perfect for just the two of us.
We bought her in 2014, service her regularly and do our best to keep her pristine – not easy when she comes back caked in salt! Initially we kept her in a dry stack in Southampton, which allowed us to explore much of the Solent area.
She was well placed for our kids to get to when they wanted to use her (before their own families came along) and not far for us as we only live 45 minutes away along the coast. Plus, the joy of calling up the dry stack and having the boat ready to simply step aboard is super convenient.
Every single moment of being aboard is a pleasure – even going up and down the same stretch of water. However, after a while being on nodding terms with the same seagulls on the same posts can become repetitive and Jules and I started to look at taking Hurricane elsewhere with the help of our trailer.
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Towing the line
Our travels with Hurricane really started when our friends Ruth and Geraint invited us to stay with them in Pembrokeshire and cunningly suggested we bring the boat to have a trip around Milford Haven.
There was plenty of room on their drive they assured us. We accepted, of course, but rather than park the boat at their place (about 30 minutes inland), I booked Hurricane into Neyland Marina and used the slipway next door at the Yacht Club, which also had a pontoon close by to moor the boat whilst I took the trailer back to the marina.
Neyland was perfect for our needs. The weather was kind and we took the boat out to explore Milford Haven, a wonderful stretch of water with fewer commercial ships than I thought there might be against a backdrop of beautiful scenery.
I really wanted to head out to Skokholm and Skomer but it roughed up towards the entrance by St. Ann’s Head, so we elected to stay within the Haven and simply went around the corner to Dale.
This actually worked a treat as there is a perfectly placed pontoon to moor at with steps leading up to The Griffin Inn. I’d not heard of it before arriving but it has won plenty of plaudits for its seafood, which made the day even better. We liked it so much we’ve been back again since.
The following day we headed up river, the silky calm Cleddau, on a rising tide to see if we could make it to Haverfordwest for lunch – for us the destination is every bit as important as the journey!
It was quite shallow and rather weedy as we got close and there was just a single ring to tie to when we got there but the slight current kept Hurricane snug against the quay whilst we ate outside at the Bristol Trader pub, keeping one eye on the boat.
We’re very comfortable towing her behind our car, we’ve done plenty of this with our caravan both in the UK and Europe, so going cross country is quick and simple. Half the fun is researching the best routes, slipways and importantly, somewhere nice to stay.
I’m scrupulous about trailer maintenance too. Last year we moved Hurricane to Poole, keeping her on her trailer and launching and recovering her ourselves from the slipway.
Straightforward enough, but obviously more time-consuming than the dry stack, and it did mean the trailer was dipped into brackish water each time we used the boat. I always make sure to flush the trailer’s brakes (and the boat’s engine, of course) and freshwater hose absolutely everything else after each trip, too.
Most importantly, I have the trailer serviced every year and the light board – they often find a bulb gone on the wretched thing! Either way, the trailer is always safe and road-ready for wherever we want to take her.
I use Boatlaunch.co.uk to research slipways and Google Maps to look a little closer. The combined length of Hurricane and the car is close to 12m and I need to be sure I can articulate the whole lot onto and off a slipway without too much mirth from the locals.
I check tides and currents too. Getting her off and back onto the trailer should be a gentle affair, but if you get the tide or weather conditions wrong it can be quite a struggle.
Where we stay and where we moor our boat is hugely important for us. Ideally, we want to walk from wherever we’re staying to the boat without using the car; a tougher proposition than you might think but all the tools are at your disposal on the internet and makes the research a fun distraction on a miserable winter’s night.
Mind you, we never know what the weather’s going to be like when we book somewhere six months ahead!
For instance, a few years back, we were invited to join some other RIBs going from Salcombe to Dartmouth for lunch at the Sharpham Estate up the River Dart. It sounded right up our street and rather than book into Salcombe, we decided on Dartmouth.
We put the boat in at Blackness Marine and left the car and trailer there for the week then packed our stuff on the boat and travelled downstream to Dartmouth, where I had booked a place on the Yacht Club pontoon.
It drizzled all the way and we were soaked by the time we had secured her and made our way to the amazing cottage we had found.
We were due to meet the other RIBs in Salcombe at 7.30am the following morning for breakfast. We’d never been there before but I had already prepped the boat and my navigation plan, so we popped out for something to eat before hitting the sack.
Next morning, the sun was up, the sky was blue, which made for a stunning trip out of the Dart and along the coast to Salcombe. Breakfast was great, we made new friends and all charged back to Dartmouth en masse and then up river to Sharpham.
It was a very memorable day. When the fleet was ready to return later that afternoon, we said our goodbyes, popped Hurricane onto her berth and made the short walk back to our cottage to prepare for the arrival of friends who were joining us for a few days.
The beauty of towing to a new destination is that exploring new waters becomes the attraction. Our trip to Plymouth last year coincided with high pressure and still waters during our week’s stay, which made a relaxing dawdle up the Tamar to Morwellham Quay as much fun as dashing out to the Eddystone lighthouse for a look.
We stayed at King William Yard in a fabulous apartment overlooking its own small marina but with no room for us there, we booked Hurricane into Mayflower Marina, a 10-minute walk away and launched at the slip just beyond the marina.
The pleasure we get from towing our boat to different corners of the UK is immense. Add to this a comfortable rental property in which to stay and I’d argue that it’s every bit as fun (and a whole lot more affordable) than cruising on a bigger boat.
This summer, we are planning a simple run around the Solent from Yarmouth to Chichester over five nights. Whilst it’s home turf for us, the fun of mooring up and walking to a nice pub for hot food and a warm bed is very compelling.
You really don’t have to go far for a decent adventure, although Scotland is on our radar for next year!
First published in the May 2022 issue of MBY.
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