Monday, 31 August 2009

Homeward bound

Monday morning and Suffolk Yacht Harbout are keen to get their berths back. We decide on a short trip up the Orwell to give Amy a bit more of a sail and to see how lovely it is around Pin Mill. We leave at 9am and raise sail whilst still in the dredged channel and have a lovely reach up and down on staysail and a single roll on the main.

A highlight of the trip is a seal in the water right by the boat near Pin Mill. Amy has never seen one outside a zoo before!

We now feel confidant about the flaky winds around the Orwell entrance and are determined to get out without the engine. It all goes well and we are back on our pontoon by 12:30.

Not a great weeks sailing but an incredibly relaxing one. Alison's main goal of not going aground satisfied. Sunday's race told us we still have lots to find out about the boat and how to get the most out of her.

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Pete Thomas sculled round the fleet in the morning saying the weather had lifted and we would do the long course. Fantastic! Lots of discussions around sail plans. I say I'm thinking full main but its skippers call.

We head out at 10:30, desperate not to repeat last years fiasco of running aground on a falling tide trying to get the peak up. All goes well and we stooge around keeping a close eye on Charm as usual - Robert almost always gets it just right!

Alison has decided to stick with the reefed sail plan and we see lots of others (but not everyone) with reefs. It seems sensible as we are going all the way out to Stone Banks.

Bang on 11:00 we cross the line right in the middle of the pack but fall quickly behind. By the time we get to Colimer there is almost no-one behind us. We had been more or less keeping up with Melvyn and Julia on Ellen but they start pulling well ahead.

I make some suggestions and Alison says we are just out for a sail. I kind of lose it at this point. She hasn't discussed this at all. I say I don't mind coming last but I don't want to hold the committee boat up for hours and I don't want to let Robinetta down when she's been so kind to us all week.

Alison relents and changes mental gear after Nancy Blackett screams past us joining the race from Wolverstone.

We shake out the reefs and unfurl the jib and she picks up. We see other boats heeling but Robinetta stays fairly upright. Its very clear that she needs much more canvas in strong winds than other boats, and that she can take it. We raise the topsail too. Revere had hers up from the start, but on top of a double reefed main. That blessed topsail sheet seems to jam again so its not as tight as we'd like but the speed picks up noticeably and the balance is OK.

We're keeping up with the fleet now, but about 10 boat lengths behind Ellen and Nancy. Amy make sure we honor the right buoys. We put a couple of tacks in to get to Pye End and Alison says the topsail isn't helping - shes remembering Southwold when Charm took hers down and we left ours up and it was a bad idea. The topsail does look like its backing.

We take it down and lose 2 knots! It goes back up again and we find we're overhauling Nancy and that Reverie has appeared from nowhere not far ahead - they must have made some bad decisions. (Pete told me later they'd taken their topsail down and shaken out one of their reefs before raising their topsail again during the race. That might have been why we caught them up here? AMC)

We catch Nancy up but then the wind backs and we make a couple of bad tacks to get to Pennyhole. The top sail is backing again so we take it down while on the last starboard tack before rounding Pennyhole buoy. It's a good decision as Robinetta feels overpowered once we go onto the broad reach after the bouy. She's making nearly six knots and we're just getting near Nancy again when we see her retire and run back to Harwich - we find out later her forestay has failed.

Reverie has pulled ahead again - boy does she heel compared to the long keelers. We follow her line to Stone Banks. The sea's rather rolly, and windy out here. Foxes is really hard to keep in sight - there is quite a lot of swell and the line is parallel to the coast so there are no landmarks. Alison is getting tired and can't keep track of our course but refuses to give up the tiller. We drift out to sea and lose further ground to Reverie.

The next buoy is Outer Ridge - there are lots of candidates. We work out which one to go for and I manage to get Alison to take a rest once we reach it. Its all simple now - just follow the small ships channel back to the committee boat and get the finish klaxon. We give Amy the helm to take us across, and she does it in fine style. Several boats including Ellen are still milling around, so we weren't so far behind the pack.

We cross the finish line at around 15:30 and are back on the pontoon at Levington by 16:00.

When it comes to the prize giving they give the Bowlocks Maximus to Rick & Kelpie II for some rigging misdemeanor on the way to Ipswich. We get the Bitter End trophy for coming last in the Presidents Race. I consider this promotion!

Another great closing dinner to the cruise, although a little more subdued than last year and the food at the Lightship was really pretty poor.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Still Windy

At the beginning of last night's Pin Mill barbeque, the Pete's had been hopeful of running two races today and we'd worried we'd be late because of picking Amy up from the station at Ipswich. By the time we had the briefing the latest forecast was predicting wind force 6 or 7 so everything was cancelled again. We just needed to get round to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for the evening. Recommended we be there by 15:00.

Amy turned up at Ipswich 5 minutes early after a train/bus/train trip from London. The weather forecast was not too bad so we decided to try a short sail up the Stour. We got the boat ready in a leisurely manner and slipped from the pontoon just after 11:30. A big bermudan stole our position on the fuel dock so we did't get into the lock until noon. Took on 9.47 litres of diesel.

We reefed the main right down and left the jib furled. The wind felt really strong but the sea state was slight and we beat up the Stour in a very gentle manner. I felt Robinetta wanted a bit more canvas. Passed Gwenilly coming back down. Quite a few boats were out. I suggested we do the seamanship challenges (man overboard and leaving a mooring under sail) but the skipper decided not.

We turned round onto a run by the Erwarton cardinal (blank looks from Neil and Mike when we described this to them at Levington afterwards but they were just taking the mick of our lack of local pronunciation skills - Mike says "Urten").

Rounded the Shotley Horse onto a smashing reach and had a fun ride into the Orwell. Heard boats being turned away by Suffolk Yacht Harbour - "Sorry we're full of old gaffers tonight". Quite surprised to be given a huge pontoon berth to ourselves - presumably because we had our names down quite early. Lee shore though - needed a bit of reverse to keep station whilst we tied up. On the pontoon around 15:00. Hate the metal "staples" they have on the pontoons instead of proper cleats.

Big party on Transcur and surrounding boats to drink all the booze we should have had at the Stone Point and Wrabness barbecues - not really a tough job for the gaffers. Plan is to do the short course for the Presidents race in the morning.

Walked up to the pub at Levington for dinner - really great food.

Music session around Reverie when we got back. Mike doing great stuff on his banjo - really good to hear him again, not sure we've heard him since the RHS Rally in 2008. Keith from Maryl also doing lovely things on the guitar and Pete & Sarah with some songs. I gave them Fred Wedlock's "Early one Evening" with impromtu banjo accompaniment. Went OK.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Easy Passage

Away at 03:50 in the dark. It was eerie to see lights behind us as other boats followed us down river, and a huge relief to realise there were two boats ahead that we could follow! (Much easier than following our GPS track back) We copied Charm and took a buoy at Felixstowe Ferry to wait for sunrise and have a cup of tea. By the time we'd finished it we were at the back of the fleet leaving the Deben but it was really easy getting over the bar just after high water. We motored to Landguard as the wind was virtually on the nose but we used the staysail to steady her as we had down from Southwold.

Raised sail once in the little ships channel and had a nice sail into Shotley, Rosemary at the helm.

On our berth by 09:00 am having avoided the high winds forecast for later. Three boats in the fleet, Kajan, Constance, and Tabnab (?) decided not to leave the Deben, and motored back to Woodbridge instead.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Lazy Day

Spent the day on the boat nursing Alison's cold.

Used the new micro-inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter socket to power my 15W soldering iron and put the VHF antenna plug back on properly. Works a treat!

We hitched a lift ashore for the barbecue in the evening. Everyone's a bit anxious because of the forecast; it looks as though we have to catch the first high water over the bar because the wind will be too strong again by the afternoon and might not drop again for a couple of days.

Joined after the barbecue by Rosemary who had being crewing on Kajan since Ipswich. Yvonne (Kajan's skipper) was not keen on risking the passage tomorrow so we said we'd take Rosemary instead.

Early night for the whole fleet as we need to get going about 4 am to catch start of the ebb over the bar.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Sliding down to Ramsholt

Motored down to Ramsholt with the tide at 3pm. Got a lift to the pub in Transcur's smack boat. Good food from the Ramsholt arms and lovely music from the gaffers but Alison has a stinking cold.

Weather going pear-shaped. Too windy for the Scandinavian Seaways race to Walton tomorrow and the forecast is such that we might get trapped in the Backwaters if we go there so Stone Point barbecue is moved to Ramsholt.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Passage to Woodbridge

An uneventful trip.

Left the marina at 7:30 and got the mainsail up almost as soon we we left the Ipswich Wet Dock lock. We got a little help from it as soon as we were past the Orwell bridge, so we got the staysail and jib up too, but we mainly motored down to Pin Mill. We need to keep our speed up at 4 knots to make the tide window over the Deben Bar. We could not make it under pure sail but motor sailing worked really well - the forward motion shifted the apparent wind so we could point down the river and put in a series of long tacks. We did switch to pure sail after passing Levington Creek, but gave up trying to tack around Colimer and motored to Landguard and then across the big ships channel.

We had left in the first lock out, and motor sailed to keep up our speed, but once across the Big Ship Channel we turned off the engine and ran along the coast. We could see the larger and faster boats coming up behind us so we raised our top sail to try to keep ahead.

The fleet converged on the West Knoll buoy in an amazing way! It seemed like every boat on the East Coast - not just the gaffers - were coming in at once! We took our topsail down before going onto a run to pass West Knoll, and came past East Knoll with Random right behind us, a big plastic boat to port and Nancy Blackett on the starboard beam. It felt like there were inches between us.

We nearly got washed down onto the Deben buoy but Alison touched the engine and pushed us past it.

We had a perfect run up the Deben with the last of the tide and dropped the Main sail in Granary Reach before going practically into the Tidemill on staysail alone.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Fun & Games

No sailing today but we did motor over from the marina to the town quay to make room for the rugby. Really hard work getting out past the bowsprits but it worked quite well.

Tried the all comers race in our flubber - blades kept coming loose!

Got a duck in the duck hunting - but only because our score was zero. Chased one duck round the harbour but our wash kept it squarely out of reach. Most embarrassing flubber ride ever!

Had more fun in the rugby (distinguishable from football in that the ball was a rugby ball and the goal was Transcur's bowsprit and a line across the entrance and scoring was over, not under it.

Got totally soaked but made one goal.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Passage Race

Left Shotley at 10.

Alison decided to go up the Stour rather than to Landguard. Passed Reverie and Ro an Mor coming down, neither racing.

Were passed by Rick in Kelpie II at Pin Mill but he had some problems by the bridge and turned back.

Topsail halyard came off as we lowered sail and got jammed on the sheave at the mast head.

Had to avoid a big ship just passed Foxes and locked in around 3pm.

Friday, 21 August 2009

August Classics kicks off

Went up to the boat after pizza. First time we have slept three - Alison, Ben and me. Passage race tomorrow but only to Pin Mill so we will probably go out to sea a bit first and start at Landguard.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Sailing again!

We've been busy doing other things the past few weekends, so it seems like ages since we went to Shotley. However today the weather was perfect, (blue sky, wind force 4-5) so we were determined that we would sail, and we did.

Getting Robinetta ready to sail took longer than we expected because when we went to bend the new staysail on we discovered that there were no cringles to run the rope through to lash it to the club foot! We'll have to take it back to be re-made. So much for using the same sailmaker and asking for the sail to be the same as the previous one.

Once the old staysail was back in place we headed out, and ran down from the marina entrance posts to the Shotley Horse on jib alone, then turned back up the Stour to raise the main. The wind was strong enough that we put a reef in as we raised, and once we had the main up we furled away the jib and ran back to the Shotley Horse then turned up the Orwell. We tried to put the staysail up, but that was too much sail so it came down immediately.

We broad reached on reefed main alone until we got past Orwell no 2, then let out the jib as we headed closer to the wind. We were a bit overpowered, but furling it away was not easy, so we stuck with it as we reached up the Orwell. Had to put a couple of tacks in as the river winds round to west of north. By the time we got to a point about half a mile past Levington Marina we were sailing very close to the wind, and definately overpowered, so decided to go onto a run and get the jib furled away. Once we had headed down the Orwell to do that we decided we had gone far enough anyway and did not turn back up the Orwell, just broad reached down on reefed main and had a lovely sail back towards Felixstowe. Once the river turned so we were reaching we put the staysail up, and by the time we got to to Trinity quay the wind had dropped and we needed the jib too to fight the tide.

The jib got put away as soon as we were past the Shotley horse as the smooth sailing we had enjoyed on the river got rougher, and we went back into the marina after a short but enjoyable afternoon's sailing.

Bosun's log

Bought 5m of 6mm Hardy Hemp to replace the frayed line holding the staysail to the club foot. Almost exactly the right length but a little bulky - 4mm would be nice.

Still need to replace the staysail sheet and the jib furling line.

The mast boot is coming apart at the rear - not a good job by the yard. At the front it was fouling the staysail traveller badly. Removed the self-amalgamating tape at the front and added some whipping to pull it in as much as possible.

The staysail now tacks properly but the boot is getting rubbed at the front and needs sealing at the back.