Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Too much or none at all

Gary from the workshop at Shotley took 5 minutes to fix the gears - he just decompressed the engine and pushed the fan belt round and it cleared. Keith had suggested something similar but I would still have been nervous about leaving even if we had managed it.

We locked out more competently this time at 09:30, got the sails up and ran out towards Harwich breakwater in company with the Thames Barge Edme under full sail. Once past Landguard point the wind dropped and the cross-swell made everything very uncomfortable. The waves were not big but we had to lash all the blocks tight to stop them banging around and getting damaged. We motor sailed for a while but gave up and got all the sails down somewhere between Pye End and Walton Pier.

A Gaff ketch - probably Gwenilli valiantly kept sailing, much further out to sea. With the motor on, we left Edme behind. After a while I tried heading nearer the Gunfleet and found some ripples and a touch of breeze so we raised the main again. It pulled increasingly well and by Holland on Sea we were able to stop the motor and sail properly, everything set, all the way to the Nass Beacon.

I'd forgotten what gentle sailing was like.

I tried getting the top sail down while on port tack as an experiment. It can be done, but I ended up needing to untie every line to the sail before it could be fully lowered and stowed, so it is not a casual alternative to tacking or gybing onto starboard!

We tied up at the mooring and pumped up the flubber and loaded all the kit into her and then Alison rowed us ashore in Worm, towing the flubber. It was just past high water so we landed at the public hard and Alison got the car round while I stowed the flubber and we backed onto the hard, loaded the boot and lifted Worm straight onto the roof. Much easier than any other way of coming ashore and loading up!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Time to go home

The 7am forecast still said F6-F8 for the morning so we abandoned the idea of catching the morning tide to West Mersea.

I could get a bus and train home and get to work on time for Tuesday or we could try and push the tide or go in the evening and have a very short night.

I managed to get online on the Shotley Wifi with Alison's netbook and check my diary - Tuesday was clear so I sent an email to work saying I'd be a day late.

I'd been worried about the VHF - we hadn't been hearing the Walton MSI broadcasts or Transcur's Sunday briefing so I called Thames Coastguard for a radio check. They could only hear us on high power so I'm sure there is a break in the cable to the antenna. Another thing to go on the list.

We mooched around and had a chat with Neil by his just launched Oysterman 16 - a very nice little boat - and then had lunch at the Bristol Arms.

We finally took the time to go around the Ganges museum. The establishment was huge in its day.

By mid afternoon the wind had dropped and the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. Tuesdays forecast was for almost no wind so we decided to go with the evening tide after all. We had an hour's doze then got fuel and went to lock out. I messed up completely while docking and dropped the aft mooring line, got it stuck round the prop and jammed the gear lever in forward.

The lock keeper walked us round to the working dock where we were found by Keith and Julie from Maryl. They hung around and provided really great moral support while I went into the water wearing my mask and snorkel and freed the prop but we couldn't shift the gear lever. We're really green with marine diesels and I wanted the yard to take a look so we stayed on the working dock overnight.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

More wind, no racing

Sunday morning brought more gale warnings and the President's race was cancelled. We came up with all sorts of tasks to do on Robinetta and Worm but we both felt more like being lazy.

I did decide to give Worm a maiden sail, even though we had no rudder. I got in and found another disaster - the rear thwart had come unglued. It hadn't been the best fit and the wetted area was not ideal but it was a real blow. Luckily we had the cordless drill and it was quite firm with four brass wood screws fitted.

Then I started rigging her. The four parrel beads I had made from the old teak hand rails were not quite enough but worked well with a half-hitch between each one as a spacer. I couldn't remember how the plans used the two sets of holes on the boom jaws but using the aft ones for sail lacing and the foreward ones as a combined parrell line and downhaul worked well. I made a kicker and a horse and a loop to attach the sheet to the boom and it all seemed workable.

The one cleat I hadn't fitted yet was the one on the yard for the halyard as I was still experimenting with how far up the yard the halyard should be tied. Too low and the yard would fall upside-down when raising. Too high and the boom was too low. I compromised with the boom at decapitation height - ducking will be required!

Iain recommends a topsail halyard bend for attaching the halyard but I couldn't find instructions so I just used a clove hitch. It worked fine, partly because Hempex is nice and rough and knots well.

It was really windy so a good opportunity to reef. The only problem is that the eyes are too big so there is no way to easily fix the pennants to the sail. The reef went in really easily but makes it necessary to move the halyard bend further up the yard. At least the boom can be raised more out of head's way.

Next came trying the leeboard. We were surprised how bouyant it still is, even with the lead fitted. This turns out to be a good thing for lifting it out of the water but a bad thing for getting it to stay put. I think a little more lead is best, but not too much.I rowed to the end of J pontoon next to Melvyn's smack's boat. Melvyn and Julia were on board Elen and agreed to give us a lift to the dinner so we told Shotley we would stay another night.

The wind was really flaky there - coming from all directions. It was clear that the sculling notch and oars are not an alternative to a rudder, at least in their current incarnation. Eventually, with some help from an oar - as a paddle and a fender - I got down-wind and out into the open area beyond the pontoons.

I had a play with the leeboard but never got the boat under control enough to see it working. But in its current state its quite easy to move from one side to another. Lots more experimentation and practice will be needed to be able to move tiller, sheet and leeboard effectively when tacking. I guess when gybing the board should be up before the gybe.

The wind was more predictable beyond the pontoons and things became more stable. I won't say I ever had the boat under control, but at least I know approximately what it would do next. When I ran out of room I furled the sails and rowed back to Robinetta. Not a successful sail, but a very good experiment with lots learned.

Furling the rig for rowing turns out to be easy. You drop the yard and raise the boom so its against the mast and tie things up with the halyard. the mast doesn't foul the single person rowing position at all. As it is pretty much impossible to sail other than single handed, this is fine.

After lunch, mostly we stayed in the cabin and read.Around 4pm a huge line squall came over and threatened to take the jib away. We dropped and stowed it, glad not to be on the way to Levington!

Alison got me to make a slide show of some of the photos and we put her netbook on a table in the bar for people to look at before the meal. The food was better than last year and we had some fun prize giving, good craic and a safe journey back in Melvyn's car.

Even the two Pete's are thinking of moving next year's cruise to a different week!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Thorn Race

We carried straight on from the Two Rivers race into the Thorn Race which I skippered. I felt we did OK but we didn't make the leader board. It was great fun going way out near the banks of the Stour and hoping there was enough water. We only fell a little way behind Gwenilli but Martin was single handing the big ketch.

I wanted to sail up to the key at Mistley but Alison wasn't keen and it was a bit close to the wind so we put the main down on the way in an motored. Martin managed to hit Swan Island, allegedly at about 6 knots! It took the combined weight of several committee members and "hangers on" to shift Gwenilli, and earned Martin the coveted Bowlocks Maximus for the year!

We had a fine tea of beer and sandwiches and divine brownies at the Quay and headed back. Brian warned us that the forecast over night was northerly F7-8 and not ideal for Wrabness so we snuck into Shotley for the night.

The Two Rivers Race

We raised anchor at 09:10, then motored down river, raising the main, top, and stay sail as we went. Today was scheduled to be the Two Rivers Race, and it was actually going to happen as planned! The weather had turned dull again, but it was dry, and the wind direction gave us a run down the Orwell against the tide, then a beat up the Stour with it helping us; much better than the other way round!

We had to tow Worm today since we were going to anchor at Wrabness rather than return to the Orwell, and I felt slightly nervous about racing while towing, but people do it all the time and it did not cause any problems although we did need to keep an eye on it.

We got a good start at 10:00. Fourth across the line, and although we immediately fell back from the leaders we kept our place against the other boats with a similar handicap until we rounded Shotley Horse, narrowly missing it with Worm, and began the beat up the Stour.

Starting near the front and being slow put us in the perfect position to snap lots of the boats. Lots of pics here.

Maybe someone took one of us.

We got our topsail down smartly, but forgot to make sure that our gaff peak was fully pulled up so we did not have a good sail shape. That’s when the other boats all pulled away from us again, and we crossed the finish line, the Lee Buoy at Wrabness, last at 13:50.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Scandanavian Seaways Race

Thanks to Julian’s heroic efforts yesterday Robinetta was ready to compete in the Scandanavian Seaways race. We left Levington at 09:40 in light drizzle, tied Worm on a mooring buoy just outside, and were ready to race at 10:30.

We were well back at the start having turned too far up river to put up our top sail, but it was a run out of the Orwell, and we kept up with our little group until we reached the Pye End buoy and began the beat back in. We then fell back, having made some bad tacking decisions (mine, since I was skipper and helm). We were quite slow to get our top sail down, and top sails hinder rather than help on a beat. I gave the helm to Julian (which I should have done before since I was obviously tired) and we crossed the finish line by 14:30, just before the tide turned and made beating up the river a nightmare.

We collected Worm from her buoy, then headed up river to Pin Mill to anchor. We set the hook at 15:00 as the sun came out for the first time today. I rowed Worm all the way to Pin Mill hard rather than face a muddy walk back, then we had a pleasant walk up to the shop of the main road then back to Pin Mill sailing club for the evening’s barbeque and briefing. It turned into a beautiful evening to be on shore, no wind, bright sun...

Worm was too far up the hard when we wanted to head back, but after we had struggled a bit another OGA member came and helped Julian carry her down to the water. I had a lovely row back to Robinetta in bright moonlight with the plough clear in the sky, and once back on board we checked our position on the GPS (which we had left on). Everything was good, and we rafted Worm alongside .

I woke up in the night when a wind shift made Worm start to knock against the hull, so I let her hang off the stern instead, and waited up until we swung with the tide to make sure she did not run up against us again. All was fine, so I went back to bed.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Model Boat Racing

In the afternoon we gathered for the model boat racing. This should have been at Woodbridge but we did it outside the Lightship.

We hadn't had time to build anything - too busy mending Robinetta! But I did take some photos with the waterproof camera placed at waterline level to try to get a "being there" feel. All available on Facebook

Here is the start line


It rained. Julian got Mike to come have a look at the stem head, and at the stern where a mainsheet attachment point was pulling out. Julian then spent the rest of the day mending Robinetta while I did what I could to help.

A coach was laid on to take us to the Ramsholt Arms where we had the usual good meal. Beef stew or chicken curry (many of us had both) and a perfect fruit crumble for pud. There was a huge cheer when Pete announced at the briefing for the next day’s race that it would be shorter than Wednesday’s.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Ladies Race...

We woke to bright sunshine and light winds, such a contrast to yesterday! After a relaxed morning we tied Worm to the buoy, took Janner’s dingy off them and tied it on too, then headed down to Levington to start the Ladies/Young helm race. A third class quickly formed from boats that had no ladies or young people on board, and that was run as the Pennyhole Bay race which should have happened on Tuesday.

We got a bad start as we did not reach the line in time (12:30) and beating out of the Orwell was a disheartening experience as all the other boats disappeared into the harbour. The staysail kept sagging, as though the halyard was slipping, and the third time it happened, by the Dovercourt Breakwater, Julian went forward to see why.

The staysail downhaul ties off on a metal hoop that also holds the furling line blocks. The hoop forms the head of a spike which should screw down into the stem post, only it was waving loose. We immediately got the staysail in and decided to retire. The sun was long gone, and the idea of trying to beat out into Pennyhole Bay without the staysail made no sense; turning onto a run back up the Orwell was a huge relief.

Julian called up Suffolk Yacht Harbour as we went past and booked a berth, then we headed back to Pin Mill to collect Worm. The wind was very light by now, and we were making less than a knot sailing against the tide. Julian put the engine on as it began to drizzle and I got my oilskin trousers and sea boots on as well as my jacket before taking down the sails.

It began to rain in earnest as we picked up Worm, not so easy with two dinghies on the buoy, then we headed back to Levington, very glad we had reserved a berth! Unfortunately it did not really help, as the berth holder came back before we got into it, and we ended up rafted against Quintet.

We had thought of eating out at the pub a mile down the road, but by the time we had the covers on and had a cup of tea the thought of leaving Robinetta to go out into the down pour did not appeal and we ate on board.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Gales and what not.

Weather looked a little better, but too windy for racing, so the fleet set off for Walton Backwaters, not racing. Being at the inside end of the pontoon we were near the back of the group, and needed a lot of boats to move before we could. That meant we were not at the lock out of Ipswich dock until free flow started at 1200; not a problem!

With gusts forecast of up to force 6 we decided to reef more than we ever had before, and untied the sail from the first hoop and reefed all the way down to the second. With that and the stay sail we had more than enough sail up to make over 6 knots down river with the tide, but in the calmer airs we only made 3.

Once past Pin Mill the wind steadied, and we were broad reaching on a lovely point of sail, but by the time we were at Levington we were very glad of the small sail area. We spotted Nancy Blackett heading back up river and shouted over as to why, and were told it was very rough and windy in the bay. She was not the only one returning, and after we saw several other boats turn back we decided to abort our trip to Walton too.

We were just by Fagbury when we turned for shelter, and Bernard from Molly Cobbler said he recorded 37 knots of wind there. I think we had something similar. Pete on Transcur used a hand held anemometer on the deck out in the harbour, and measured 43 knots. Only one boat, Rely, a 20 tonner made it to Walton. Everyone else turned back after experiencing the seas near the Dovercourt breakwater and took shelter.

Beating up the river against the wind and tide was no fun, and once we were mostly headed we got the sails down. We had just done that when we were hit by a rain squall that felt more like hail and reduced visibility to almost nothing. That left us making very slow progress up river on the engine, so we got the stay sail back up, and crawled back up to Pin Mill where we dropped the anchor close to five other gaffers at 1520 and had a cup of tea.

The anchor dragged once in a really strong gust, so we reset it, then cooked the dinner we had planned for Walton. The wind had eased considerably, and the anchorage was sheltered so it felt comfortable. By the time we had tidied up it was nearly low water, and we wanted to wait to see how Robinetta swung on her anchor. After she had swung round, clearing the closest moored boat by a good ten foot, we got into Worm and headed ashore. The plan was to beach the dingy then walk to the Butt and Oyster pub at Pin Mill.

Worm rowed as beautifully as always and we easily reached the rather muddy shore, then pushed her anchor into the muddy sand well up the “beach” near to a marker bucket left by one of the other gaffer’s tenders. Apart from not finding the best way up onto the short path, so getting a bit muddy going round the seaward side of the houseboats everything went to plan and we joined a pub full of gaffers full of their stories of the day’s rather hectic sailing.

We were back on board Robinetta by 2230, and I put on the GPS to do a final check of her position since the triangulation marks I had picked for my anchor drag checks were day marks only. The position looked a little odd, as though she had skipped a couple of meters while the GPS was switched off, but Julian watched it for a while and thought it was just acquisition error. I went down to brush my teeth, and suddenly Julian called me to come see. We were very close to the moored boat we cleared easily before rowing ashore.

We had a lot of chain out to cope with the windy conditions, but we were obviously not securely anchored, so Julian pulled up the chain and found out why we were dragging as he did. A loop of chain had wrapped round one of the anchor flukes and pulled it out. Given how late it was we motored off and found an empty mooring to pick up instead of re-anchoring.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The first set back

We were supposed to be doing a pursuit race to the Walton Backwaters, but the weather report of force 6-7 meant the fleet stayed put. Ben headed home by train and we had a lazy day in Ipswich, with a bring your own meat barbecue in the evening at the yacht club, followed by an Old Gaffers quiz in the upstairs bar at Issac’s, a “Coffee tavern” on the other side of the dock. We won the quiz, together with The Quiz and Quiet Days.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Regatta day

The classics regatta is great fun, but Robinetta only moved from one side of Ipswich Dock to the other and back. Being small we were on the outside of the rafts and had to move first, before anyone else, then we hung around idling on the motor until there was another boat big enough moored up on the quay for us to raft against.

We moved Robinetta back after the fun and found ourselves right inside near Avola and Transcur. Much easier to get to the pontoon!

Alison had a go at the downwind flubber sailing,

While Ben and Julian and Banjo's grandson fought valiantly in the football
There are more silly photos on Facebook.

There was a pay bar and barbecue for us at the yacht club. Highly organised as they fed 100 people in an hour.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Passage Race

0710 Saturday morning we got the weather forecast, South Westerly four to five, perfect for heading up to Harwich, but a very stiff row back to the pontoon to get the rest of our things and move the car! High water was at 1040, so we did some essential maintenance, then moved Robinetta instead, to pick up a mooring just opposite the pontoon. Ben stayed on board in case the owner of the mooring wanted us t move, while I rowed Julian ashore.

After a trip to the chandlers for a new cleat so we could use the jib we got the inflatable dingy from the car, and Julian loaded it into Worm while I took the car round to West Mersea Marine where it would stay for the week. On our way back to Robinetta we were passed by Rob on Maid of Tesa on his way out.

We cast off at high water exactly, and headed out through the moorings, getting ready to get under sail as we went. Ben had the helm through the moorings, but once we got up the reefed main and stay sail I took over while he put the kettle on then helped Julian bolt on the new cleat. Julian needed to re-serve the soft shackle on the jib sheet too, so we were not ready to begin sailing properly until just before the Bench Head buoy. We began our passage race there, at 1206, sailing on a broad reach in rolling seas with a noticeable amount of weather helm.

Once we rounded Colne bar and passed North Eagle we eased the sheets still more to head on a very broad reach. Half way up the coast we were practically running, with the jib doing nothing, so we furled it away, and ran all the way up past Walton pier where we gybed round to head into Harwich. A lovely sail!

We called up Harwich VTS and asked for a wind speed check on Landguard. They told up 18-21 knots SW, and it certainly felt like the 21 knot end of things! Robinetta was getting hard to hold and there was no way to get another reef in while holding our course; there was just too much power in the sail, so I put her head to wind, and Julian and Ben did it in no time! Soon after that another boat asked for a wind check, and got told 21-23 knots.

The wind decreased up the Orwell, so we got the jib out, but left in the reefs. Then it decreased still more as we got into the shelter just before Pin Mill and we had to start tacking, in light winds, to pass the finish line at the end of Pin Mill hard. Janner and Elfrida appeared to this point, then disappeared past us as we carried on under sail until we reached the Ipswich dock lock gates.

We locked through at 1845, then rafted up on Maid of Tesa at Ipswich Haven Marina.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A late start

It seemed like a long time since we had sailed Robinetta when we set off for the August Classics week. Ben came with us for the first weekend, so we put the repaired Worm on the roof, and set off on Friday night with a full car.

We got to West Mersea at about 2200, just forty minutes before high water, and got Worm in the water, but the outboard engine would not start. That meant we had to row, in the dark. There was about eighty percent cloud cover, but with the Colchester street lights reflecting off the clouds, and the occasional glimpse of moon we could see enough to miss the moored boats. Ben and Julian rowed out first with most of the essential bags, then Julian came back for me, and the rest of the things we needed for overnight. It was half one in the morning before we were ready for bed.