Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Yarmouth to the Folly

We had so much room on the pontoon this morning that I could get the bowsprit out and the No 1 Jib on before we left. Alison backed out of the berth and then we had space to head straight out. Susan J had just come in and they said Carlotta and Ariana and Minx were just behind.

We raised sail out in the channel and turned onto course just as Carlotta stormed past - they weren't stopping at Yarmouth after all.

It looked like we should be running but a broad reach across towards the mainland left the tide pushing us back onto course. Much more comfortable and faster!

A tall ship was anchored at the western end of Gurnard Bay so we gybed and went over to get a closer look. It was Tenacious and there were dozens of Sea Scouts on the yard arms. We went in front of her, being careful not to be washed down onto her by the tide and ran alongside waving with the scouts waving back and then gybed back behind her stern.

As we got near the Gurnard cardinal we decided we could carry on sailing past West Cowes and drop the main near the small craft moorings and come in near via the East Channel.

Alison spotted a yawl putting her sails up. It was the lovely Nobby yacht Bonita.

But our plan wasn't to be. The fast Cat went out in front of us and then the wind hit hard. With full main on a broad reach it was suddenly hard to control. We swung right round into wind and dropped the main quickly and put a sail tie on and resumed our course on fore-sails with a little engine in case.

It looks like they are making wind turbines in Bembridge again.

This had put us into the channel so we pottered along with the other boats. We had to keep well to the island side to let the big ferry out and then we were ready to turn into the river.

Several small gaff and lug dinghies were beating in. The wind was very variable and it veered 60 degrees in the gusts. So we gave up any idea of sailing up to the folly and just motored gently.

We were waived onto a pontoon berth in the river behind Molly Cobbler. The last time we saw her was in Gighe last spring. Both boats have done a few miles since then! Witch, Plum, Transcur and Emanuel are on the same pontoon too so we have several East Coast boats here now with more smaller ones.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Into the Solent at last

After a convivial evening in the pub with Susan J’s owners, followed by a drink on Robinetta I was not sure I would be up for leaving at 07:00 in the morning. However I actually woke at 6, before the alarm sounded, and we were off the pontoon in good time.

Castle on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour
The weather promised fair, with bright sun and a gentle breeze. It was only an hour after low water, but the tide was already flooding into Poole harbour and we had a knot of tide against us as we entered the main channel. Luckily it was much slacker as we turned towards the North Channel. Julian got the main sail up on the run, but the wind was so light it was not a problem.

By the time we reached the curve of the North Channel where it rejoined the main one we were hard on the wind, and making 4 knots. Unfortunately I could see the water flooding in through the narrows, and doubted we would make much progress once we joined it. Julian kept trimming the sails for the wind, and with the engine on full revs we crept towards the narrows at under a knot. The chain ferry set of across the narrows and we sped up a little as it provided some shelter from the tide. Once it docked we slowed right down.

At times the chart plotter showed zero progress, but we were just about making against the tide.

We had nearly reached the line of the chain ferry when it set off again, and we had no choice but to turn away, letting the tide sweep us back towards Poole. I did as tight a circle as I could, and aimed Robinetta at the ferry’s stern. The chain stretched tight, but we were going so slowly, at ½ knot I knew it would be below Robinetta’s keel by the time we reached it.

Once clear of the ferry the tide slackened slightly and we made 2 knots. I wondered about using the Looe channel, but Julian had not plotted it, so it felt safer to continue out along the main one where we knew there would be enough depth. Once clear of the confining sand bank we turned due east and headed straight for the Hurst Channel into the Solent. We had to be through it before 13:00, and really 12:00 would be better as the tide would still be with us.

The wind was behind us, and it was difficult to keep the foresails drawing, but we now had the tide with us, and made a steady four knots under main sail alone. Calm sea, blue sky, and a steady force 3 westerly made for nearly perfect conditions. (Of course a broad reach would have been better than a run ….)
We got to the Hurst Narrows with three knots of tide under us, and were swept though some rather uncomfortable overfalls. Too bumpy for me, and I wanted the engine on to get through them faster, so we shot though at 7 knots.

Bumpy seas off Hurst Castle (taken from the shore later)
We were moored up in Yarmouth by 12:30, after a very pleasant sail from Poole. Not every journey is a tale of danger and near misses!

We went for a walk in the afternoon, and when we got back to the pontoon Robinetta and Worm had gone, to be replaced by children trying to catch crabs. We could see Robinetta on a pontoon in a different arm of the marina, but having made our way across a crowded pontoon to our berth we now had to go back through the crush to get onto a different pontoon. It also had a different gate code to the one we had been given before. Worm was jambed under the bow, her gunwales rubbing Robinetta’s paint work, the main sheet had been used as a mooring line... The berthing master did come and apologise for having put Robinetta on the wrong berth initially, but it did spoil our impression of Yarmouth.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Weymouth to Poole

I decided the best time to leave for Poole was about 1pm to fight the last of the weak inshore ebb to St Alban's Head and get the flood over the bank and round into Poole. Alison asked the Harbour folks and they said the tide was stronger and to leave early. We compromised.

Shadowfax inside us on the raft left around 9am, exiting the raft skilfully with the help of the Hilyard 8 tonner on the inside and the old GRP sloop inside us. Very skilfully done.

We popped up to the chandlers and bought a replacement rope for the jib furler. We got ready to go while I chatted with the chap on the Hilyard and Alison bailed Worm and we were off.

We raised sail outside the harbour and then the rain came! I got my oilies on and took the helm while Alison did the same.

But the sailing was OK. I did some more tide research and decided we would be at St Alban's head two hours early for a nice passage so we decided to have lunch in Lulworth Cove.
Durdle Door

We passed Durdle Door and Stair Hole - very impressive and crowded with sight-see-ers on the shore and then we were at Lulworth.

We were early and the second yacht in so there was plenty of room. We anchored in about 1m on the chart and had lunch and then I got to work trying to get the AIS and depth display back. I found that there was no 0V reference on the NMEA link to the chart plotter - maybe it had broken - there was no loose wire. I wired it to the main earth and everything started working. Luckily it told us we had enough depth!

We motored out and continued. The wind was strengthening and we reefed down but ended up putting the jib away. That got us a nice comfortable close reach to St Alban's head. Now we shouldn't have had a close reach - the forecast was for a broad reach. Oh well.

We took inshore passage and did get some overfalls on the west side of St Alban's head but nothing to mention and only for a few minutes. Then we had the flood with us and flat water.

The only problem was that we had found ourselves on a line of crab pots. Some hard to see. And the wind died. We put the engine on to get round the crab pots.

Out to sea we spotted Cine Mara and Susan J. They must have left a couple of hours later and caught us up. They went outside St Albans's bank but they still nearly caught us up on the run in to Poole.

The sun tried to come out as we passed Old Harry.

For us, the rest of the trip was uneventful. We passed the Ferry while it was loading and headed to Poole Quay.

Cine Mara got caught by the cross tide past the ferry and went aground in the entrance to the harbour. Hopefully they will get off at high water.

Alison had phoned ahead and booked a berth so we picked that up and put Robinetta to bed and Alison went to mortgage the house and use the money to pay for the berth while I cooked burgers for dinner.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Visiting old haunts

We don't often post for days in port - its Robinetta's log. But today we visited on foot her home between 1946 and 1949. Audrey Parker's Once Round The Land ends with Robinetta arriving at her (new) own mooring in Castle Cove Portland so we wandered round there on foot. There are many moorings there administered by the Castle Cove Sailing Club and there were people there so we had a chat.

A smashing chap called Brian (I think) was the club historian - born in Castle Cove and the second secretary (the club was founded in 1921). But he didn't remember Robinetta or the Parkers. He phoned a friend and he didn't recall either so being Navy folk based at Fort Southwick they probably didn't interact strongly with the local community.

Later we were chatting with Rik and Celeste and a broad Cheshire accent asked from the quay whether Minx was wooden or one of the GRP ones taken from the mould of the William Priestley. Minx' owners were not about (we still haven't met them) but I'd read Minx' entry in the OGA boat register so I was able to confirm she was one of the William Priestley boats. The chap on the quay turned out to be an expert on nobbies and we had a lovely chat about the different surviving ones we knew about.

Then Rik and Celeste invited us to dinner on Cine Mara and we had a lovely evening,.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Unreliable forecasts and heavy weather

When I looked out at the surrounding yachts in the light for the first time, at 07:30, I was surprised by our position. We had definitely dragged the anchor and were now on the starboard side of a Westerly we had dropped anchor to port off... Luckily there had been no bad results.

What with the rolling and the wet weather we decided not to stay the day at Bray. This meant we needed to leave as soon as possible to avoid the tide trying to take us back to Jersey. The anchor might have dragged, but it did not want to come up now. I got most of the chain hauled in, a foot at a time, but could not shift the anchor. Julian came forward and used the purchase on the jib halyard to help. All of this was under the watchful eye of the couple on the Westerly. (I had asked them to keep watch in case we failed to notice we were getting too close). Rain started pounding down, and I was getting damp and cold.

Suddenly Robinetta came free. Julian stayed on the foredeck to finish raising the anchor and stow it, while I motored slowly away. I spotted a large Beneteau much closer to a Dutch yacht than it had been last night, in fact they looked about to collide. I headed towards the immanent disaster, yelling the boat names, and managed to get crew of both yachts on deck before any damage was done. I did not hang around to see what happened next as Robinetta had a tide to catch.

Robinetta made very slow progress away from Alderney. Julian did all the deck work to get her back in sailing trim while I helmed. Moving around warmed him up nicely, but I was getting steadily colder; when he finally settled in the cockpit for a rest I had to ask if he could do it while helming. I needed to go below and warm up. Luckily I was soon feeling better, and offered to make porridge, which was very welcome.

We were too late to make use of any favourable tide and we had to motor sail all morning. We let the set of the cross channel tide bring us far enough off the wind to use the sails, but since it was mostly northerly and we wanted to head north we were still very close hauled, not a good point of sail for a gaffer. We discussed changing plans, and heading for Cherbourg rather than Weymouth, but the French town was not that much closer, and we would still have to cross the channel later. We decided to stick with the plan, as the wind was supposed to go west and increase to force 4 in the afternoon once we closed with the English coast. We did decide to go onto a watch system though, 2 hours on and 2 hours off, so both of us had a chance for a good rest after the bad night.

By the time we were in the middle of the down channel shipping lane the rain clouds had cleared to leave a sunny day and the wind had picked up enough to sail. In fact soon after we turned the engine off we put in two reefs, although we still had both the no 2 jib and the stay sail flying. After lunch the wind fell again and we shook one reef out and put George to work. I retrieved a melon we had bought in Morlaix from the bilges, and sliced it up for a snack. The rind had got a little mouldy in places, but the flesh was beautifully sweet. We were running low on provisions though, not having been shopping since Tréguier.

After eating our melon we relaxed a bit too much, and before we noticed the swell had got up too much for George, so the tiller pilot mount broke AGAIN! I caught the Inshore Water's forecast for the evening. West, backing South West 5 or 6 decreasing 4 for a time, increasing 7 later. 6 would be a bit much, but we would be at Weymouth long before "later".

When I came up to helm at 17:10 I wanted a second reef, and 20 minutes later I needed the jib away and the final reef. Robinetta was heeling so much that water kept swirling over the gunwales. It is times like this that remind us that Robinetta actually has very little freeboard. The promised westerly had arrived with a vengeance. The sea state increased with the wind and I had an unhappy half hour on the helm, trying to hold the course into the waves. I needed the engine on to make any progress.
Julian had another look at the tides on the Weymouth approaches and decided we were better off going round the east end of the Shambles Bank. This was a big relief as it meant I could turn off the wind and have the waves on the stern quarter, not the bow.

Now wind, waves, and tide were more astern our speed rose dramatically. 5-7 knots, rather than 3. I could steer directly for Portland Bill, knowing the tide would sweep us past it. I relaxed on the helm again, no longer worried about the waves I had to steer though and able to feel the roll of the boat first and compensate after.

Julian took the helm at 19:30 and decided jib out, engine off. Looking at wind speed records later this was during a slight lull when the wind was 15 knots, gusting 22. 10 minutes later he reversed the decision. He saw speeds of over 8 knots and Robinetta stayed above 7 most of the time. Some of this was tide, but a lot came when coasting across the waves.

A lot of the time we had 26 knots, gusting 32, as recorded on the North East Breakwater of Portland Harbour. This is a top end force 6, gusting top end 7. Not something we would ever take Robinetta out in deliberately. I stayed on deck, and warned Julian when a big wave rose behind us. This let him steer down it rather than have it roll Robinetta too far over. We had to mostly steer across the waves though, or we would be carried off course away from Weymouth. I watched Worm swooping and twisting in the swell, heavier than normal with rain water from the previous night, and knew that if a wave broke into her we would have no real option other than to cut her loose. Luckily it did not happen.

It began to get dark, and we put on the running lights. It became easier to steer as the navigation lights of Portland Harbour gave Julian something to steer for, and eventually we were in smoother water. It was my turn on the helm again and we motor sailed across Weymouth bay, finally getting the sails down just before we entered the harbour,

We found a berth on the visitor pontoon across the river from the harbour office. It meant rafting 4 boats out, but had a nice easy boat to come along side that already had fenders out. Once we had set shore lines and moored Worm along side we got out the half bottle of wine left from the night before, and celebrated our safe arrival.

“This was a good day,” Julian decided. “We did what we meant to, and kept safe doing it.”
We had heard a lot of Pan Pan calls on the radio, including one from a larger yacht than Robinetta whose rudder broke. I was very glad our only gear failure was the tiller pilot fitting.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

St Helier towards Alderney

The alarm went at 1 am, and Julian got dressed. I didn’t, waiting until I heard movement. Nobody stirred until 01:45 and when I stuck my head out an apologetic Frenchman said he had discovered there was no room inside, so they were staying put. I told him we intended to be off at 05:00, and asked him to excuse our feet on his deck, since most of our lines were made off on his cleats.
I woke at first light, wondered what time it was, and checked. 05:11! The alarm had failed. Julian was up instantly, and by the time I had my clothes on Robinetta was motoring away from the raft of boats. It turned out the skipper had been waiting since 5 to help us with the lines....
We zig-zaged slowly down towards the harbour mouth, preparing as we went, and by 05:30 we were clear of the inner harbour. We got the main sail up in the outer harbour then set off towards the Northwest Passage. A passenger ferry came in past us when we were only just clear of the outer harbour, but there was plenty of room.
The wind was almost directly on the nose, but we had the tide with us (the reason for leaving so early). This resulted in quite large overfalls, that we could not get through under engine alone, so we tacked, with engine on. I am not sure I approve of a buoyed entrance channel with such bad overfalls in it! We tried going inshore to avoid them, but the island has plenty of outlying rocks, so we had to keep tacking away, back into the overfalls.
Once we were past the Passage Rock cardinal we were clear of the overfalls, and could turn onto a better heading for sailing. The engine went off for a while, but came on again to help us power through the next set of overfalls, off La Corbiere lighhouse. We only needed it for a few minutes, then we had a lovely sail up the north coast of Jersey towards Sark.
The tide turned foul for us just after 10:00 and progress under sail became very slow There was no point arriving at the Alderney race until 15:00 as we would make no progress against it, but we had to put the engine on as the wind had also got very light. We tried using George, but the swell was too much for him after an hour, so we went back to hand steering. Luckily the wind also picked back up and we managed to sail our course in the afternoon.
Despite much searching of tidal diamonds on the chart plotter, which implied we would not get fair tide until 16:00, the CA almanack tidal stream diagrams proved reliable and we began to pick up speed at 15:00. We entered the Alderney Race exactly on time, and were suddenly being overhauled by a fleet of yachts coming from Guernsey and Sark and heading up channel; none of them followed us in our turn towards Bray.
There were overfalls building off Race Rock, but we got through them without trouble, although we were too early on the tide for the back eddy towards Bray, and the last 2 miles became a slog under motor to get to Bray. As we entered harbour 4 yachts appeared from the north, sailing/motoring through the overfalls at the end of the harbour wall.
We played “hunt the vacant mooring” with the other newly arrived boats, but in vain. All were taken.
We motored over to the anchorage and had a good look round. In the end it took three goes to get the anchor down and holding in a good spot. Not what we wanted at the end of a long day’s sail. It was Julian’s turn to drop the anchor and at the end he admitted he was too tired to go ashore, despite the convenient water taxi so we ate on board, our boat standby of chorizo and tomato sauce with pasta.
The anchorage did not feel very sheltered; all the boats, including those on moorings, were rolling in the swell. Julian and I decided not to get the bed out, but to sleep long ways in the bunks as it would be more comfortable. Even so I woke every hour. Worm kept knocking into us, and I wanted to check our position relative to the other anchored boats and make sure the anchor was holding. It began to drizzle at 1 a.m, and by 5 it was raining. Not a good night’s sleep by any means!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Light airs and Yachtsman’s Gales

Light airs and yachtsman’s gales is what we called our 2014 account of sailing up the east coasts of England and Scotland. It applied even better if possible to today.

We left Treguier late on the ebb and had a nice motor down the river. For once there was no fog and we got to enjoy the scenery.

We exchanged compliments with a big Guernsey registered Bermudan sloop as we left the river. They asked if we were going to Paimpol. They must have known about the traditional boat event there this coming weekend. We had pretty much abandoned the idea of going there - it leaves too little time to get to Cowes for the OGA55.

The weather did look a bit threatening but there was nothing bad in the forecast.

As we made our way out it got rather nice.
Now we had to decide where we were going. It was either the Isles de Brehat or the Channel Islands. The wind seemed fair so we set a course for Herm. We turned the engine off and set the No. 1 jib and all plain sail.

Then the wind dropped and we had to motor. The seas were calm so George the tiller pilot took over. After a while that seemed like a slog of a motor sail and Alison worked out that the winds and tides looked more favourable for Jersey. That looked good and was about the same distance, although it would mean a long trip to Alderney the next day. We changed course and were able to turn the engine off and sail.

Around noon the wind went light and we turned the engine on. After a while we started feeling rain drops. They were big and heavy but only one at a time. There had been no rain in the forecast.

Then the wind got up and we put a reef in. We were doing 5.7 knots on a broad reach.

Then the wind and rain came in hard. Sheets of it. Alison went below to get full oilies on. The wind blew the rain into my back so I didn’t get very wet even without salopettes and with my jacket open. We dropped the jib and reefed down hard.

Then it stopped and so did the wind. We shook the reefs out but still had to put the engine on. We motored on for a while in flat calm and sunshine.

We should have been able to see these fronts coming but the next one caught us too. Back in went the reefs and this time I untied the bottom hoop so we could reef more if we needed to.

We kept the reefs in until we were in the Western Passage to St. Helier - it was reasonably comfortable with the wind on the quarter but we saw a yacht bouncing towards us from St. Helier and realised we were in quite a sea!

We shook the reefs out and put the engine on once in the lee of the island. Even now, the seas were 'interesting' with some wind-over-tide.

We knew our way into St. Helier having been there in 2015 on Ariel of Hamble so we made our way to the waiting pontoon where we rafted outside a small French boat that had sailed from St. Malo. We chatted with young lad with excellent English - they had had a wild ride too and had not expected it.

We got secured and went ashore for fish and chips. A good end to an excellent day.

We had done 55 nm in 13 hours with the engine on for only 5 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever changed sail configuration so frequently. Apart from changing jibs all the reefs were put in and let out from the cockpit. Robinetta is good for that!