Friday, 1 December 2017

New Blog Book

This is the time of year when I attempt to pull the blog entries together into a coherent narrative. This year's volume is called "A Strait, some Sounds, and a Sea" and is available from all the usual electronic book retailers:

The book contains maps of our progress that are not in the blog, as I have found it useful to put these in. It is also helpful to have a version of our journeys in a form that reads forward through the year.

I have also published a new edition of the second book in the series, from 2013 "Robinetta; There and Back Again". This should hopefully now read much more smoothly that the first edition, which was a straight rip of the blog. If you bought this previously through Amazon you should be able to update to the new edition without charge should you wish to do so.

I can not guarantee that either book is free of spelling mistakes, but there should be far fewer than in the original blog (although new ones always seem to creep in!).

I welcome any comments and reviews (even negative ones which will help me do a better job next time) and will always endeavour to correct any errors.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lift Out

I got to Robinetta just gone 9 a.m this morning, having left home at 5. She was floating higher on her marks than usual, having been almost totally emptied out on my last visit. Today I took out the toilet, and the toolboxes, plus the last of the ropes and virtually everything else movable.

With the toilet out of the way it was possible to see where water was collecting beneath it. Once I moped this out it did not obviously refill in the next couple of hours, which is a good sign. There were traces of dampness around the thru-hulls though, so they need to be checked.

The end of the gaff needs some TLC this winter. Julian is hoping to change the construction slightly to make the end more robust.

Moving Robinetta with no one to help with the ropes felt odd, but it was easy to set them up ready to use. It was only about 100m from the pontoon to the lift out dock, and with no tidal movement, and hardly any wind manoeuvring was very simple.
The mast is coming out to get stripped and revarnished. It has not been touched since 2014 and unfortunately we had to dress it before the varnish was properly hardened then. At least this time it will be done undercover!

Lifting out was slightly nerve wracking as it would reveal if there was any below water-line damage to the hull causing the continual water ingress.
The Teamac D antifoul worked well, and the hull was reasonably clean. Pressure washing did remove some of the anti foul though, not surprising since it is an eroding variety!

This may be the source of Robinetta's bow leak. Only raking out and re-caulking will let us know for certain.
Underneath the iron keel shows signs of damage. Probably a result of our grounding on Limestone Rock, in Strangford Lough.
One season has not made much of an impact on the new anode.
Every yard has a different way of propping Robinetta up. These bits of timber look huge!

By 15:30 Robinetta was securely in the Bristol Marina yard, in the care of Rolt's Boatyard who will be working on her.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Preparing for winter

I drove to Bristol with an empty car, and came back home with one full of ropes, cushions, kitchen equipment... Robinetta will be lifted out for essential maintenance soon (hopefully) so all that is left aboard is paint. (The sails came home with us when we left her last week.) We are getting the mast taken out and varnished, so I had to undress the mast as well.

Robinetta always looks sad at this time of year with all her home comforts removed. Luckily the oil which went into the bilges has been moped up very effectively by the diesel wick sheets, so although she is still leaking, (the pump ran twice when I was aboard) the water coming back out into the harbour is not polluting it.

I ran the engine for half an hour, which let me use the electric pump to empty the water tanks, then I filled the diesel tanks up to the brim which should help keep diesel bug at bay.

Next time I go to Robinetta should be the day she is hauled out. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Early thoughts for 2018

I've had a little look at the practicalities of what we might do next year.

I know Alison is dubious about part of this but it really does all depend on the weather.

The idea is that we might make the Douarnenez festival, the OGA 55 party and get home to Tollesbury.
The hard part is getting from Scilly to Ushant. The song Spanish Ladies has the distance as 35 leagues and Wikipedia says a nautical league is 3 nm and 105 nm looks about right. We've done nearly that as a coastal passage but this is across open sea, We would need perfect settled weather.

Douarnenez is the 25th to the 29th July so we have a lot of time to find a weather window, work permitting. The OGA event starts on the 16th August.

So there are 18 days to get from one to the other and its about 300 nm, depending on route. So we only need to average 16 miles a day. The longest legs are Paimpol to St Peter Port and Alderney to Weymouth - about 45 nm and 55 nm respectively so even in Robinetta they are day sails. has statistics. There are nice charts of the average wind speed and direction for a given month.

They don't look too bad for May to July

In particular Ouessant (Ushant) has mostly OK north-westerlies in May and July and gentler northerlies in June. It seems to never get south-easterlies in summer. Well, maybe.

The winds at Scilly are lighter but with more west in them. So we should be able to head south-east from Scilly at some point.

Now we need the repairs to go well, nice weather and lots of time off work!

Map for the year

Here is the completed map for 2017.

We started the year in Holyhead and were in Holyhead again at the beginning of August so our southerly progress was, as usual not spectacular.

We went to bits of the inner Hebrides previously missed and I got to see the Antrim coast I missed last year but we missed most of Galloway, Cumbria and Lancashire.

Robinetta and Worm have travelled 864 nautical miles in 231 hours, since launching in April. The engine was on 160 hours. We were on board for about 7 weeks. As Robinetta gets closer to home it has become possible to sail her just for weekends, and we did so twice, so the week count is not as clear as in previous years.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cardiff to Bristol, last sail of the season

The tail end of Hurricane Ophelia is supposed to reach Britain on Monday, but the forecast for today showed SW force3-5, increasing SE later. With enough time to get safely to Bristol we left the pontoon at 08:00, and had a little motor round Cardiff Bay before locking out at 08:30, two hours before low water Cardiff.

With plenty of time to reach Bristol we decided to sail as much as we could. With the tide against us for the first two hours it was pretty slow going, but we knew that when the tide kicked in we would have at least an extra 2 knots, so did not worry. We broad reached across the estuary, since running is much harder work, and were treated to good views of Western-Super-Mare before we turned back north west.

The morning was overcast, and terrible for photography. We did a lot of sail changing, reefing down, then all sail up, then reefing down again. At one point we were doing 7 knots (with the tide), and dropped the main altogether so we would not be too early at the entrance to the River Avon. Once the tide really kicked in we were using just the stay sail to give us steerage way, while the tide just carried up along. Maybe we should have left Cardiff later....

The clouds thinned and sun appeared as we passed Portishead. We saw our first yacht of the day under sail here. He came close, and commented that he not not seen a boat towing a punt recently. Once again Worm attracted as much attention as Robinetta! The wind also dropped, and we needed the engine to give Robinetta steerage way, but we kept the revs very low.

We would see a big ship moving behind a bank near the river mouth. This being our first trip we were not really sure if it could be in the river (which did seem unlikely), or was inside a dock, so we called up VTS to check we would be clear to enter the river. “No Problem” came back the reply, so we headed until the Avon at 14:10. 
Crockerne Pill
There was plenty of water and a good tide under us, so we pottered up the river with the engine in tick-over. Once we were clear of the industrial entrance the Avon became delightful, with little inlets known as Pills, and wonderful Autumn colours in the woods. 

Three trip boats out of Bristol passed us, including the Matthew replica, on their way down river. We knew they would be locking back in to the floating harbour with us. The only other yacht we saw on the way up river was a large gaff cutter, Jan Roelan.
Under the Clifton Suspension Bridge

We reached the lock at 16:10, just as Jan Roelan finished tying up, and were called in immediately. There were two boat handlers waiting to throw us lines, which would then be used to pull our ropes up. Very civilised! When I commented the man taking my line replied that this was Sunday. Not sure if this means that on Sunday the lock is used by people who need more help, or not!
The lock was supposed to close at 16:25, but the Matthew did not arrive back until 16:30, then the other trip boats and some motor boats appeared. The lock stayed open until 16:45, as 2 other yachts had apparently booked places. They did not appear, and the lock gates closed. 
We rose about 2 metres to enter the floating harbour. Once the lock gates opened we had to wait for the bridge immediately beyond to swing before we could leave the lock, then wait another 10 minutes in the Cumberland Basin for the next bridge to swing. 
Matthew entering Bristol Lock
It was a little like waiting for the Dutch bridges, with a variety of different boats, with different ability to manoeuvre trying to avoid each other. Luckily there were not too many boats.
 Once past the Cumberland bridge we easily found the marina, and with the excellent and detailed instructions on finding the berth the marina staff had e-mailed to be we had no trouble finding our berth and tying up.
Robinetta's 2017 sailing season was over.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

On our way again

Tides dictated as early a start time as the lock would allow, so we were awake at 06:00, and had the engine on to warm up at ten to seven, ready to lock out of the marina and the Tawe Lock at their earliest openings of 07:00. We shared both locks with a 40' ketch called Piel Piper, who gave us a thumbs up on hearing we planned to go through the Nash Channel. There was no time to exchange more than a few words though.

Julian had been ready to hoist the no1 jib, but we sailed into the Tawe Lock on bare poles, so decided to bend on the no 2 instead. We raised the main in the harbour, and put a reef in, but once we were out into Swansea Bay we rolled even more round the boom.

The swell and the wind were both higher than we had hoped, but Robinetta loved the course we were on, and we romped along at over 4 knots. Peil Piper raised sail here, and soon disappeared ahead. By 08:50 the wind had eased and we were back to no 1 jib and full main. The swell was still uncomfortably large.

We sailed inside the Scarweather sands, and saw the swells breaking with a roar on our starboard side. The same happened as we headed inside the Nash sands, and felt very disconcerting, especially as the wind went very light, and the sands funnel boats in towards Nash Point, which has overfalls off it. Luckily we had a fully functioning engine, and we used it to give us proper steerage way through the Nash Passage and across the overfalls, which were not too bad, since we were only a day after neaps.
Nash Point
Once we were clear of the overfalls the swell was much reduced, and we turned the engine off and ate lunch as we sailed towards Aberthaw. The contrast between the flat water now, and the swell by the Nash Sands was incredible.

I phoned Bristol Harbour up, to tell them we would be coming in tomorrow. Apparently I should have done it yesterday, to give them 48, not 24 hours notice. This is not for the lock, but for the bridge swing on the Cumberland Basin exit. Luckily the Matthew caravel replica had already booked a swing, so we were okay.

By 14:40 the wind had gone very light, and since the tide would soon turn against us the engine went on to help us past Lavernock Spit. By the time we reached Ranie Head we were on engine power alone, and with the tide against us were only just making 2 knots.

We got all the sails away once we rounded Ranny Spit bouy, and began to head towards the Cardiff Barrage. We called the Barrage up as instructed, and they told us to go in on the 1645 lock in. We were still over half a mile away though, and missed the lock in by 3 minutes.

Twenty minutes hanging around inside the barrage with the engine in idle, waiting for the lock to cycle through, was not stressful. Robinetta just sat there, and it gave Julian time to bring the bowsprit in. We were glad he had done it when another 4 boats appeared through the breakwater just in time to go ahead of us into the lock. We squeezed in on the end, with Worm alongside, then a big rib came in to take the last space in the lock.
Cardiff lock no 1
We headed for the Cardiff Sailing Club (free pontoon berthing and showers!) and tied up at 17:40. Martin, from Piel Piper appeared to take our lines. He was glad to see us, saying he had wanted to tell us to come to the Club when we were in the lock together at Swansea, but had not had time.