Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Sunny Sunday

The lock at Shotley is due to close for its annual fortnight of maintenance tomorrow, so today was our last chance to sail for a while. Coupled with that it was an absolutely beautiful day, with just the right amount of wind forecast (12-16 mph). Only one problem; it was cold, very cold. Forecast was 1-2°C at Ipswich, so less at Shotley, plus wind chill on the water....

When we got to the marina we could see a skin of ice on the water round the edges, and thick frost made the pontoons slippery. Robinetta's foredeck cover collects water when it rains, and the top two inches of those puddles had frozen solid. It was only 10:30, so the frost on the cockpit/boom cover had not had a chance to melt in the sun either, so I discovered how difficult it is to fold up frozen canvas while Julian created mini ice bergs in the marina out of the foredeck puddles.

There was obvious wind over tide on the Stour when we arrived, so I had a look at the Orwell entrance which seemed calm and decided that was the way to go. We'd have a couple of hours of flood to help us up river against the wind, then we could run back with the ebb. Going out to sea would have meant the tide always against us, and greater wind chill from the wind. Getting Robinetta ready to sail warmed us up, but I put a lot of layers on before casting off!

We called up the lock to ask to lock out, and they told us that the fender pads had already been taken from one side of the lock prior to the maintenance, so we would have to tie up on the control tower side. This is not a problem, but it made me realise that given a choice we always tie up on the other side; habit is a strange thing!

We were out on the river by 11:30, and heading up the Orwell as planned. Apart from the temperature it was indeed a perfect sailing day, and we saw four other sailing boats on the Orwell, plus the same number of motor cruisers. None of them were going the same way as us, oddly enough.

There was still a little snow on the hill from Friday night's fall.

Robinetta looks fine in her bright varnish but there is really still a lot that's a bit ragged.

We picked up a buoy on the other side of the river from Pin Mill, and Julian cooked swordfish steaks for steak sandwiches. Very nice. We didn't bother bringing our dinghy with us so there was no chance of rowing across to the Butt and Oyster for a drink, but a cup of tea is just as welcome on a cold day (for me at least!).

We sailed off the buoy and headed down river with the tide, the current and the wind with us. Since we were running for the first part we did not bother to unfurl the jib, and even when we went onto a broad reach after Levington there did not seem much point getting it out. There was enough wind to take us home at a comfortable speed, and faster would have been colder... The sun went behind a cloud just before we reached Shotley and the temperature seemed to plummet. We were only out for three and a half hours, but it was time to go home.

We put Robinetta on her pontoon stern first, (Julian has really got the hang of doing that,) and re-rigged all the covers. Our car's external temperature gauge showed 1°C when we got there, and 2°C when we left, so it won't have been above that on the water, but we had a thoroughly enjoyable sail despite the cold.

Hopefully we'll have another sunny day next time we get a chance to take Robinetta out!