England's South Coast

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In the wake of the forefathers

England's south coast is beautiful, challenging to sail, and filled with reminders that the notion of a new sort of democracy in America was born here. We started our travels in Plymouth, the point of departure for the Pilgrims, and watched naval history unfold before us: the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the voyages of Captain Cook and Charles Darwin, and the departure of troops to storm the beaches of Normandy. We then traveled eastward to our winter storage place, in Lymington, near Southampton.

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founding fathers
There are monuments all over the place in Plymouth, and this one recalls that the American Pilgrim fathers waited for favorable weather to embark on their voyage to the New World. Plymouth Gin is made in this building, and this venerable spirit was once valued in the Navy because it could entice sailors to eat a wedge of citrus to avoid onboard scurvy (that's why they're still called "Limeys".)
Britannia Royal Naval College
This grand structure is the Britannia Royal Naval College, which outgrew its location in two retired ships in the harbor and moved into its new digs in 1905. Though it's too new to have trained such notables as Lord Nelson, he is well represented in sculpture, painting, and mural.
crabbing in Dartmouth
Everyone in town isn't there to become a naval officer. Lots of people just spend the day lying on the quay, dangling chicken bits for the local crabs to grab. All day, kids lie there pulling up tiny crustaceans, ending up with a haul that wouldn't fill a mushroom cap. At the end of the day, the parents dump the bucket's contents back in the sea, to be grabbed by someone else on another day.
docking in Dartmouth
One of the curious aspects of travel by sailboat is the variety of docking situations to encounter. In Dartmouth, you tie up to something that is neither a mooring nor a dock. It's a pontoon with cleats, and some of them even provide electrical power. But they're not connected to shore, so you go ashore in the dinghy, as if you're out at anchor.
steam train
We took the steam train to Paignton, a nearby beach town to Dartmouth. The journey is 6.5 miles (10.5 km) long, and was opened in the 1860s. It's easy to imagine the people of Dartmouth retiring to the beach community in days gone by.
Weymouth harborside
Weymouth boasts of the sunniest climate in the United Kingdom (kind of like being the warmest place in the Arctic), and the Georgian architecture continues to attract tourists. Nearby Portland is known for its stone, displayed grandly on London's St. Paul's Cathedral, and for its harbor, which will host the sailing events of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Weymouth beach sand sculpture
Weymouth's beach takes you back in time, with colorful bathing cabanas, a Punch and Judy kiosk, and the continuation of a tradition from the 1920s of sand sculpting. This one is an homage to the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie.
Haunted in Poole
A walking tour in the town of Poole took us by several places believed to be haunted. This pub is said to harbor the ghost of Emily, a landlady who took her own life. Disembodied footsteps and a female voice have been reported by visitors.
Cowes chain ferry
On the Isle of Wight, the city of Cowes is divided by the River Medina. This chain ferry takes people -- and vehicles -- from East Cowes to the main town in the west. It operates about 18 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it's known, poetically, as the Floating Bridge.
Lymington
The winter home for Second Wind is a boatyard in Lymington. The town itself is charming and very livable, busy on the weekends even in the fall. For us, the yard has the services we need and the town is teeming with restaurants, shops, and good supermarkets.