Sunday, 24 May 2009

Mistley Trespass

Our trip to Mistley began explosively when I dropped half the contents of the washing up bowl from the coach roof through the hatch and into the cabin. There was broken glass everywhere, including in Julian’s trainers so he had to wash them out while I swept the cabin. Luckily taking the washing up to the car was the last thing to do before leaving the pontoon so it did not delay us too much.

Ellen with Melvin and Julia on board cast off just before us and we shared the lock out of the marina. Melvin hoisted his main and top sail while waiting for the lock to empty, which inspired Julian to raise our main while I got out the bowsprit.

Ten minutes later we had all the sails up and the engine off. The sun shone from a cloudless sky, the wind.... that was the problem. The hoped for 3-4 northerly was at most a 2 (and mostly 1) and we were only making 1.5 knots even with the ride helping us. Half an hour and a cup of tea later we knew we’d have to motor or miss the whole event.

Melvin agreed and Robinetta and Ellen motored together. We passed the Holbrook cardinal at 10, and realised there was enough wind to sail, (just). Out went the jib, ad off went the engine, and peace was restored. Our speed dropped by half, but we were sailing!

We passed Wrabness at the grand speed of 2 knots, but had to put the engine on to make sure we had steerage way round the Lee Buoy. Neither of us wanted to go aground there again! By the time we passed the moorings at Wrabness we were just floating up on the tide again, at 1.6 knots, in company with a lot of other boats. Julian spliced a longer line on our best fender so it was easier to tie at pontoon height, and I made him a paper hat to protect his balding spot against the hot sun!

By 11 everyone gave up on trying to sail and put their engines on. The sails were still up though, including Reverie’s customised top sail with its message “Free Mistley Quay”.

We took our sails down in sight of the Quay, and by the time we arrived several rafts had built up against the Quay. We were fifth boat out on our raft, against Ellen, and then a 38’ Bermudan Avalon asked if they could raft against us. They did so, despite being warned that we were only 22’6”, and it just about worked until Gwenelli decided to come along outside them, with main, mizzen and topsail still hoisted. Neil on Ariel, inside Ellen, told them not to, but they did anyway, and the whole raft began to move. Only the inside boat had shore lines since with only a 2 hour stop and no wind no one else had thought to rig them. Avalon got a bow line ashore and stabilized things a bit, but Gwenelli’s bowsprit took out the ensign from a boat on the next raft forward before her sails were lowered and Graham(as crew) got a stern line ashore. The skipper from Kelpie 2 in the raft forward fell in trying to rescue the dislodged ensign, but Julian managed to grab it from Robinetta’s bows.

When the raft settled down we went ashore and edged along on the outside of the fence to where the ladder was. Passing other people on the way involved using the inner boats of the rafts as passing places, or being very friendly with the fence. There were no problems or accidents though, not even when clambering over the 10’ high metal fence that the whole protest was about. It is a very unattractive barrier, and destroys any amenity to the quay area; I have no idea how they got planning permission for it. Properly presented Mistley Quay could be as attractive as Maldon Town Quay, but the fence ruins it.

The beautiful summer weather meant a long queue for Pimms, but for a non-beer drinker like me it was perfect. Julia got his beer and went off to find lunch while I waited, listening to the band and Pete the Knife reading out the letter he had been sent by the fence erectors about his non-licensed and non-insurable event. A classic legalistic rant about how he’s suffer for organising something that could not be insured while tacitly admitting it was not actually illegal....

I got my Pimms, and Julian brought me a cup of very good fish chowder. He’d signed the visiting boat book and bought a tea towel too. There was a lovely selection of home made cakes and scones so we bought cheese scones to finish our lunch and headed back to Robinetta. The tide had turned and the wind was getting up so we needed to think about leaving.

Gwenelli had already gone, so we waited for Avalon’s crew to return. The raft ahead gained two late arrivals while we waited and saw two boats going aground by going slightly outside the channel. It was only 45 minutes after high water springs! One freed itself while the other was pulled off inside ten mintes. Just as well or they would have been there a long time!

Avalon’s crew got back and explained that they were not worried about the water; despite being 38’ long they have a lifting keel and only need to draw 18”. I resolved never to follow a bigger boat assuming they’d draw more than us. It’s a policy I try to follow anyway, but it is always helpful to be reminded why.

They left, and we followed 2 minutes later, with Melvin pulling our stern right in so our bowsprit swung out to avoid the raft ahead. Ellen and Ariel followed in equally short order. Julian hugged the quay, passing close to the big commercial boats that still use the quay for off loading building supplies and we reached the main river channel without any problems.

There was plenty of wind for sailing, and plenty of water too, since it was still only 1 hour after high water, so we decided to raise the main, only to discover that it would not go up all the way. I was hauling and brought it down again while I tried to work out why; it turned out that the copper pipe that held the radio ariel wire against the mast above the hounds had come off and slipped down to foul the lines. I cleared it and got the main up. Meanwhile Julian had hauled the staysail up. We unfurled the jib, and away we went.... Until the jib sheets came off.

We were trying a new methods of attaching our jib sheets since the shackle we were using ripped the staysail. Julian had discovered something called a soft shackle and made one on Saturday morning. It had worked perfectly in the light airs that afternoon and this morning, but the force 3 we had now was too much for it and the jib sheets pulled loose, Julian fixed it, but it parted almost immediately so we gave up and sailed home on staysail and main. The staysail was not tacking properly on its horse, but that was not a problem while we beat home, and I realised I’d rigged the sheet pulley upside down last time I put it on.

I love the way our little Robinetta forgives our errors and misadventures. We are learning all the time and she gives us a feeling of security every time she’ll sail despite what we do to her.

Mistley Quay Rally

Suffolk Sails repaired the staysail and the jib. The jib now has a much larger ring for the sheets. Not sure this is a good thing.

The Mistley Quay Rally was fun. Climbing over the fence to get to the quay is crazy. Pete the knife read out a letter from the owners TWL Logistics which was laughable.

There is a great set of photos on Flickr

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Crouch Rally

We had a lovely sail down the coast to Burnham on Saturday.

On Sunday morning we started the race quite well. We seemed glued to Otter for the early part of the race but they made the turn much better than we did and we fell further and further behind as we beat back up-river.

Got in a mess later and the jib thrashed about, damaging the foot and the jib-sheet shackle hit the staysail and cut a large slit in it.

The gaffers were made immensely welcome at North Fambridge and the DIY barbecue was great!

Even with no functioning staysail, we had a wonderful sail back home on the Monday.