Thursday, 6 December 2018

Year end totals

Just a quick round up of Robinetta's 2018 season.

We spent 9 weeks, plus 4 weekends sailing, and in that time covered 1306 nautical miles, taking 403 hours on passage. This gives us an average cruising speed of 3.25 knots. As I have said before Robinetta is a slow boat!

The engine was on for 248 hours.

We visited three countries (England, Wales, and France). Our plans for next year are undecided at the moment, but we will certainly be sailing Robinetta again!

Sunday, 25 November 2018

November Sailing

Julian and I decided we would sail Robinetta to the OGA AGM since it was being held at Brightlingsea on a Saturday when spring tides would give us plenty of water to let us get on and off our mud berth. We did not even need to take Worm. The harbour master at Brightlinsea provides a winter water taxi service until 16:00, and Colin Stroud had promised to give us a lift back to the harbour pontoon after the meeting.

We were on board by 10:30, ready to strip off the winter covers and load on all the things we needed for a weekend on board. These included plenty of warm clothes and double sleeping bags, since the forecast was for a cold damp weekend. There would be wind though, force 4-5 ENE, so we could easily sail the 8nm to Brightlingsea in daylight.

Robinetta floated at 11:20, earlier than we expected, and after an interesting time getting clear of the berth we raised the main sail in Tollesbury Fleet at 12:05. We kept one reef in the main and used the no.2 jib, which was a comfortable sail set for the conditions. The engine stayed on until we were clear of the Leavings, but we were under sail alone as soon as it felt safe.

We were not the only sailing boat out and about. We saw at least 7 other boats taking advantage of the best weekend wind conditions for a month. The weather was not too bad either, although cold enough that the three hours it took us to beat down the Blackwater and into the Colne were enough time on the water. We did have a great sail though!

The long harbour pontoon that holds the visitor berths was almost deserted. A very rare state of affairs, and due to the fact that all boats had been asked to vacate them while new piles were put in. These were now in place, but the boats were not back yet.

The harbour master came by once we were moored, and we agreed to pay in the morning before we left. Once Robinetta was tidied up we headed ashore, for a convivial evening at the Colne Yacht Club which was hosting the AGM.

Broad reaching along the Mersea Flats
To our surprise the night aboard Robinetta was easily warm enough, and Julian had the best night's sleep he had had in weeks.

The sail back to Tollesbury was as enjoyable as the one out had been. Possibly more so since we saw a tiny bit of blue sky. It was also a little warmer with the wind behind us, a little wetter since it did rain briefly, and a lot faster! The tide and wind saw us nearly touch 7 knots over the ground as we very broad reached along the Mersea flats.

We had plenty of time to get to our berth, so Julian decided we should sail as far as we safely could. We furled the jib away at we passed the Mersea quarters buoy, which slowed us down to 4 knots and simplified our gybing in the wriggling approaches to the South channel. Then we ran on goosewinged stay sail and main, past the moorings in the Leavings.

Normally we would put the engine on to turn head to wind to drop the main sail well before reaching the turn to port that would take us into Woodrolfe Creek. This time we continued under sail until we were just past the turn before ducking head to wind and dropping the main. Then Julian turned us toward the creek while I set the jib, and we entered Woodrolfe Creek under head sails.

A yacht came overtook us under engine just inside the creek, but were careful to give us space, as was the yacht heading out from the marina.

We made the turn into the Saltings (just before the lightship) under sail, but were making too much lee way for comfort in the narrow channel, so Julian reluctantly turned the engine on (although not in gear) and I furled the jib. We carried on under stay sail power until we gently grounded on the mud in the final narrow gut way leading to our berth.

We had expected to ground. High water was not for another 1.5 hours! Grounding was no hardship. It gave me time to stow the bowsprit and get the head sails away, while Julian stayed on the helm and kept us heading for the berth whenever Robinetta floated off the mud.

We were back in our berth by 12:30, after a lovely 24 hours getting reacquainted with our local waters. We knew this would be our last sail of the year, so we tied Robinetta's covers on securely and brought all her sails home with us.

Friday, 23 November 2018

New Blog Book. Bristol to the Blackwater

This year's book of the blog is now complete and ready to buy from Amazon.

This is the first year that I have simultaneously published print and e-book versions. Publishing a 160 page book in full colour remains an expensive proposition. The paperback book is available at £14.99, but the e-book is only £3.90. The e-book is also available from the other outlets on the side bar.

The two formats are slightly different, in that the e-book has a couple more pictures, but the text is identical.

The book is not just a straight rip of the blog, but carefully edited to make a flowing text. This one is in Julian's voice, and I hope you find it interesting. If you do decide to buy it would be lovely if you left a review!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

At Tollesbury Saltings

I have been to see Robinetta a couple of times in the past 2 months, to run the engine and check over the boat. Today Julian came too. We had been thinking of going out for a sail, leaving at lunchtime on Saturday, then returning at high water on Sunday. The weather was lovely on Saturday morning, but we had been looking at the forecast, and with heavy rain forecast over night, and the wind gusting to force 6 we decided against it. Instead we put the foredeck cover on, and just enjoyed the morning.
Robinetta seems very at home at Tollesbury, and it is lovely to be able to spend a couple of hours on her without a long drive.

Sunday, 9 September 2018


I got to Tollesbury about 10am and met Paul, the manager for Tollesbury Saltings and Max, a friendly  Labrador who is, I think, really in charge. We looked at several berths but with Alison's broken toe the one on the path near the car park was the obvious one for now. I rang Alison and explained how to get to it.

Alison got Robinetta off her mooring at Salcott at about 11am and motored the 3 miles round the corner. I waited by the entrance and when she got near she called me on the phone and I guided her to the entrance.

I walked along the decking towards the gut, paralleling Robinetta.

There is a narrow gut to get through marked by leading marks. I shouted over to Alison and she guided Robinetta through the gut and around onto our berth.

 We got her secured and unloaded most of what was to come off and then went for a fine lunch at the Cruising Club. That meant we could go back and see how she went down into the mud. Less than an hour after high water we were aground. I'm not sure we can get in and out of this berth at neaps!

This is the gut at low water.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Ramsgate to West Mersea

We got down to Robinetta yesterday afternoon. Separately as Alison wanted to get there early and I had to work in the morning. We had a nice dinner at the Thai restaurant near the Royal Temple and an early night.

Our destination was Tollesbury but we can only get in there around high water which this weekend was around noon and midnight. So we could try and leave about 3 am to get to Tollesbury around noon or we could go somewhere else today and have a shorter journey to  Tollesbury on Sunday. We chose the second option and decided Brightlingsea was a good idea.

The tidal streams dictated a departure around 8:30 am and we got off on time with several other yachts. There was very little wind until we got past North Foreland but then it filled in to a really nice broad reach so we turned the engine off. With the tide under us Robinetta was doing 5-7 knots over the ground. The other yachts were much faster of course and seemed to be heading further north through Foulger's Gat towards Harwich.

We got to Fisherman's Gat an hour before high water and were at the Sunk Sand with so much water under us we just ignored it.

Of course it couldn't be perfect all the way and once we were in the Barrow Deep and trying to head back west towards the Spitway we had to fight the strengthening ebb. The wind was due west by now too so we put the engine on and slogged for about an hour into the wind and tide at less than 3 knots, sometimes much less.

But we managed to get over to the Gunfleet side out of the worst of the tide and picked up speed and the wind backed a little and we were up above 5 knots again so after 90 minutes motoring we turned the engine off again.

It was still above half tide and we know there is a lot of water over the west end of the Gunfleet sands so we cut the corner from the south west end of the wind farm to the Wallet Spitway buoy. Robinetta was back in Essex waters!

We saw another yacht coming through the Spitway from the Spitway buoy and they gradually overhauled us at the Eagle, just east of the entrance to the Colne. They called out to us as they passed - a friendly 'You went the right way!' - I looked more closely and recognised the sail mark as a boat we had seen go past us outside Ramsgate. They must have come a very long way round!

In the mean time I'd been looking at public transport. Tollesbury on a Sunday was a non-starter. So we decided I would go home tonight and bring the car to Tollesbury in the morning while Alison stayed on Robinetta and single-handed her round in the morning. I looked at getting home from Brightlingsea and it looked complicated. West Mersea would be easier and a shorter trip for Alison the next day.
Nass Beacon with Bradwell power station beyond

So instead of turning into the Colne we carried on up the Blackwater. We got the sails down by the Nass beacon and called up West Mersea Yacht Club and they allocated us a buoy in the Salcott Channel.

We got up the channel at about dead low water. The buoy was a long way up and when we turned to pick it up we went hard aground about 10m from the buoy. I got into Worm and tried to row over to the buoy with a line. But one of the rowlock mounts came off. We hardly ever row Worm with only one person aboard so this pair of rowlocks hardly ever gets used. Another repair to put on the list.

My sculling skill were not up to the task so I used an oar as a paddle and managed to get to the buoy and got a line on it. Luckily it was possible to pull the buoy back to Robinetta so once we floated we would be moored properly.

Back on board we called up the yacht club again to get a lift ashore. The launch was hard aground on the hammer head! It really is a low, low tide. Lunar perigee at the dark of the moon - a 'Super New Moon'. It didn't take too long before they were afloat and they came and got me. Three buses later and I was at home.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Broken toe

Due to a stupid accident at home, (catching my little toe on the skirting board) I now have a broken toe... Hopefully I will still be able to sail, but I learnt from last time I broke a toe that I have to stay off it if it is to heal quickly.

If there is a hiatus on the blog this is why!