Sunday, 21 March 2010

Spring Equinox

I spent three days last week cleaning painting and varnishing, so I was quite desperate to actually sail this weekend. Luckily the weather on Sunday looked promising, so Julian and I headed to Shotley with a car full of things that came off Robinetta in the Autumn. We sail through the year, but it's been too cold to sleep on board, so we emptied her out.

We got to Shotley by ten, and our pontoon was already really busy. I don't know about the rest of the marina, but it felt like everyone who had a boat in the water was there today! It was warm, and sunny, and although not much wind was forecast it seemed like a waste not to go out. We did the normal "whose skipper ?" and decided it was my turn.

We had Robinetta ready by eleven (it took longer than normal because of getting the crockery etc., on board), and headed out for the Walton Backwaters. We'd missed the last of the ebb and the wind was really light at first so we only just stemmed the tide even with the top sail up, so we motor sailed until we were well past the Harwich breakwater. Luckily the wind picked up a bit then, and we had a good sail out to Pye End. At that point I asked Julian to put the GPS on. We've only been to Walton once before, and as skipper I should have reviewed the pilot (but hadn't...). Last time we were here is was really busy, with lots of yachts anchored at Stone Point, but today we had the place nearly to ourselves with no one to follow.. I was helming, and feeling a little stressed at having to tack in the narrow channel, but Julian navigated well and we made it into the Walton Channel.

The wind had picked up nicely, and we were doing over three knots, with our destination (Stone Point) in view, when Julian suddenly asked if we should get the top sail down. I had forgotten all about it (I was not a good skipper today!), but luckily we were on starboard, so down it came, and we continued up Walton Channel, past Stone Point, until we got all the sails away.

It was nearly high water when we dropped the anchor, and with no other boats to guide us we anchored a little too close in. Julian cooked us a nice lunch, but we had to eat it quickly, and get the anchor up sharply in order to avoid going aground. We managed it though, and will know better next time.

We had a nice fast run out of the Backwaters, with main and stay sail goose-winged, and the tide with us to Pye End. After that we were stemming the tide again and our speed halved, but the wind stayed constant and it was a lovely sail back to Shotley with Julian on the helm. We got the jib out once we turned onto the broadest of broad reaches, and felt no need for the top sail. Our speed over the ground hardly topped two and a half knots, but it felt much faster through the water and we were in no hurry to get home. Today is the equinox, and there was still some light in the sky at half six, when Robinetta was tucked up in the berth.

I've still got more painting and varnishing to do, and the ensign mount needs mounting, but days like today Robinetta repays all the labour, and gives us a great day out.