Sunday, 11 December 2011

Spar diameters

Here is an equation from Skene, rendered by Codecogs. Pretty nice.

I found a Beam Deflection Calculator that uses the same formula for a solid beam. If I put my 14' gaff into it with Skene's rule of thumb of 0.02 L as the diameter I can compare the deflection of a solid gaff with that of various different hollow gaffs.

So Skene says my gaff should be 3.36" max diameter if its solid. This gives a deflection of approx 1.5" for a 10 lb force.

I get about the same deflection for a 3.64" diameter gaff made with 1/2" walls or a 3.38" diameter gaff with 1" walls. So a 10% extra diameter and thin walls sounds like a real plan.

This calculation is perfect for relative strengths but it doesn't help much with deciding if scots pine is OK or do I need douglas fir.

I found a Young's modulus of 13 x10^9 N/m^2 on one site.

TRADA provides the following:

Douglas fir

Strength Properties
t,0,kf t,90,k


c,0,kf c,90,k


of Elasticity
0,meanE 0,05E 90,mean




kr mean



European Redwood

Strength Properties
t,0,kf t,90,k


c,0,kf c,90,k


of Elasticity
0,meanE 0,05E 90,mean





rkr mean




I should be in the garage re-assembling Worm's outboard motor.
I should be in the garage making better rowlocks for Worm.
I should be in the garage.

Funny how centering some text makes one feel like a poet.

I am (sort of) working out the scantlings for Robinetta's new gaff. I started by googling. A forum post led me to Skene's Elements of Yacht Design. Google books has a searchable version and I'm working through the hits on gaff in the book. There are lots of sums and I really want to understand how they apply. On the other hand, the most relevant text is 'The loading of booms is almost impossible to determine and reliance may be placed on the proportions indicated in the diagram.' The diagram says a solid gaff should have a max diameter D = 0.02 times its length. The peak end diameter should be .75 D. The throat diameter should be .93 D. Skene goes on to say 'If the boom or gaff is to be made hollow, a section may be used having the same ratio as that of a circle of diameter indicated for the solid spar.' And there is an equation. I'm going to see if I can get the equation into this blog. Earlier in the book there is some maths about hollow spars. I'll get to that but I'm currently distracted by another hit I got when searching for Skene's book.

One link took me to a review of Skene by Tom MacNaughton. I've not come across him before but he's a Naval Architect in Maine. His website is wonderful and I got completely waylaid by the text on his Yacht Design School. In the FAQ there is a question 'What kind of designs are most often requested?' The answer is this lovely list:
  1. Ones too large for the customer to afford.
  2. Once with too many features to pack into the requested size.
  3. Overly complicated ones.
  4. Ones with features incompatible with the chosen service. (Mostly commonly overly shoal boats for offshore use.)
  5. Ones that sacrifice good performance to chase fashions that are confused with technological advances.
  6. Ones that sacrifice appearance and investment value to ill conceived fashion.
  7. Ones for production boat builders who refuse to commit to even minimally safe scantlings.

Cool huh?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Could be worse

The mast is out, so it was time to look at the problems. We undressed the mast and brought all the rigging home. Its a pain to have to remove the VHF and anchor light wiring to get the rigging off, but has to be done.

The mast had suffered quite a lot from shackles pressing in to it, but nothing serious. We must try to avoid that when we dress it in the spring.

The serving I did a couple of years ago on the flexible wire is holding out well. The only serious chafe was on the peak halyard that had pushed its way down the mast. I hadn't got the screws deep enough into the mast on the new fittings last time, but it is not a serious problem.

Brass screws don't seem to suffer zinc leaching this far above the waves which is good to know.

The mast collar was totally rotten and definitely the cause of the mast moving forwards. It all came off easily, with just one broken screw left in the deck. The deck seems solid with no sign of any movement, so that is a big relief. Making a new collar seems very straight forward and would be a good use of whitebeam I think; it is rock hard and wearing very well on Worm where it is varnolled. Or I could use some iroko we have.

Started looking at servicing the engine. Needs a lot of cleaning and we need to bring a battery back to run the engine to warm the oil up.

Alison found lots of grease squeezed out from around the stern gland. Something is wrong there. Must take it apart and repack it.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Year End Totals

Thought it was time to write up our personal logs, which means totaling up Robinetta's log. This year she has traveled 610 nm in 35 days; that's 17 nm per day on board...

The engine was run for 84.5 hours. With the new propeller it takes 1 ltr of fuel/hour on average, which is useful to know, but I MUST get around to measuring the capacity of our fuel tanks!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Last Outing

Robinetta is due out of the water on Monday, and with the main sail out of commission there was no chance to sail this weekend. We did want to top up the fuel tanks for the winter though, so motored over to Tollesbury. It was sunny on the way there, although chilly with the east wind, and there was more swell than we expected out by the Mersea Quarters buoy.

By the time we were heading back the wind had risen, and the sun disappeared behind thick cloud making it really feel like a bleak November day. I helmed in both directions, while Julian loosened up and greased the shroud shackles so they would be easy for the yard tomorrow, then I ran the water pump while the engine was running to drain the fresh water system down.

Once back on the mooring Julian got the boom off the mast, then we tied up all the halyards to the mast. Laying up has begun!

Monday, 7 November 2011

New sails

We've wanted new sails for a while, and Mark Butler from James Lawrence came today to have a look at Robinetta. The tides were right to bring her to the hammerhead at West Mersea, and very few people want to use the pontoon in November so we tied up alongside at 0955. Luckily the wind was as forecast, and we were able to raise sail there which made Mark's job much easier.

He came up with a number of suggestions, including lengthening the gaff, and raising the peak angle which will give us a much larger main sail area. We've been thinking along those lines, so decided to go with it. Julian will make a new gaff this winter, having had practice with making Worm's spars.

We need larger fore-sail area to balance the new main, so we've ordered two new jibs, a number one, and a working jib which will be cut very differently to our current one. He also thinks we should abandon our club footed stay-sail, and go with one that overlaps the main to produce a better wind slot; we're not quite ready for that so we've not ordered one although he took the measurements so we can have one cut next season if we decide on it.

While standing back on the pontoon to think about things Mark noticed that the hound which holds one of the peak blocks to the mast was coming loose. This is critical to safely using the main sail, so we've decided not to sail again this season. We need the mast out to work on where it passes through the deck, so it was going to come out anyway.

We had a good long discussion, but all the time keeping an eye on the depth gage. I did not want to be stuck on the wrong side of the Gut! Business was concluded just before half tide, then we nipped back through the Gut sharpish. I helmed while Julian kept an eye on the depth. We got through without noticeably touching, but Julian reported 1 foot on the gauge at one point, so we must have been stirring the mud!

We've paid a deposit, to secure a place in the queue to have the sails made, but they won't be cut for a while. This is not a problem since we really want to check how much work needs doing on Robinetta's hull. We've hired Paul Drake to re-caulk her this winter, and don't know what other essential work this might reveal. We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Unplanned delights

We had no plans for this weekend. Alison checked the weather on Friday and it looked good. On Saturday morning we got up decided not only to go to the boat, but to stay the night.

We didn't want to do anything ambitious, and settled on a gentle sail over to Brightlingsea. The weather looked a bit grim when we got to West Mersea, but it soon became obvious that it was clearing rapidly and before long we had a nice breeze under brilliant blue sky.

When we got to Robinetta the bilge pump fuse had blown again. I replaced it and tested it and it blew immediately. I cleaned the pump as best I could and blew another fuse. We thought it might be best to go back to West Mersea and pick one up from Wyatts but we felt more like getting off so we hoped to get to the Chandlers at Brightlingsea.

We had a fine sail over. Close to Cocum Hills a fisherman was harvesting some very clean and new plastic pots. The flags at each end of the reach were uncharacterically large and clear. He looked like he had a decent catch. The boat was marked CK3 (or 2, I forget). I wonder how many boats have carried that number?

An east cardinal beacon on Cocum Hills marks the wreck of the Molliette. We've never seen the wreck itself, but its good to keep clear.

The big ketch Pioneer was also out. She headed off up the Blackwater.

As we entered the Colne we spotted what looked like a Rayner designed Westerly. She had a sail number 302 but no mark letter. It looped back to take a look at us. I tried to look the sail number up in the WOA yearbook but its not there.

We radioed the harbour master and moored up on the visitor's pontoon and Alison rowed us ashore. Keith was on duty at French Marine and sorted us out a new bilge pump. We chatted about sailing up to the AGM weekend after next. Maryll is still in the water and would enjoy a last trip too.

We still had some light to fit the new pump. It wasn't easy. Keith hadn't had a Rule pump small enough and had sold us the same kind he has on Maryll. Its totally different - long and low. It fitted nicely across the bilge but the hose was tricky to fit. I got it all sorted but crimping the wires in without a proper pair of cutters was not easy and I couldn't screw the new pump down. I want to re-do it once she's out of the water and I have mains electric.

We went to the Colne Yacht Club for a good wash and a drink. It turned out to be their Halloween party. They had Spooky Ale on tap and some good (and not so good) records. We ate there but left before the party really got going. We had a nice welcome chat from the on duty committee member, who happens to live in Bishops Stortford too.

Back at Robinetta we read for a bit and had an early night.

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and decided to leave as soon as the mud spit separating us from the town hard was half covered. Luckily, the harbour master came around before it was time to leave, so we got to pay. £9.50 for the night, not bad at all.

I decided to have a go at leaving the pontoon under stay-sail. It worked quite well, but with the tide rushing in, I couldn't get her head around in the space between us and the spit, even with the jib, so I used a little engine. Once headed down river we were just making against the tide so I killed the engine and Alison got the main up. We didn't make it all the way to the Colne under sail alone - once round the corner we were completely headed and after a few goes I put the engine on and we motor sailed out past the cardinals.

We had a pretty uneventful sail back to West Mersea. I sailed up the Thorn Fleet and Ray Channel under stay-sail alone and managed to get onto our mooring without needing the engine. I cooked a tinned pie and some sprouts and potatoes for lunch. It was high water by the time we were ready to leave. The whole spit from the bottom of Ray Island was submerged, making the Ray and Strood channels one.

Alison rowed us all the way to West Mersea Marine, something we can only do at high water. We got Worm on the roof of the car and were home by 5pm.

Its nice to have a completely straight forward sail.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


We were looking at the old Yachting Monthly's trying to find out if Robinetta originally had tan or white sails. I assumed she had originally had white, as she was designed as a cruising yacht, but no, there in the November 1937 issue is a clear picture of her with dark No 1 Jib, furled staysail and mainsail. The article was Rayner's repost to Maurice Griffiths gybe "it remains to be seen how she will sail". Rayner is clearly chuffed to bits with her.

Also in the same article is a name I didn't think we had documented. When Rayner and his wife left her in the Clyde in June 1937 she was used as the honeymoon boat of two of Rayner's sailing companions on his previous boat Pearl. The name was Lieutenant (E) J. S. Carlisle, RN and Rayner quotes him as getting 7.01 knots out of her. We know from Rayner's other description of the summer that his new wife was "the lady who's name she bears"! So the crew were J S Carlisle and Robinetta Carlisle. Some googling came up with a decent amount of information about John Scott Carlisle. A search of,uk found one marriage record for someone called Robinetta marrying someone called Carlisle in 1937 and it was in Devonshire. Now Carlisle was stationed at HMS Drake in Devonport in February 1937 so I think we have a match. Its great to know that Robinetta is named after Robinetta F Cooper, even though we still don't know anything more about her.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

4th Aniversary

I was checking my records today and realised that it is exactly 4 years since we took ownership of Robinetta. She has given us a lot of pleasure in that time, and now it is time for some more major spending on her! She will be 75 next year, and after complaining about needing new sails for the last couple of years we've bitten the bullet and decided to order them. Her 75th birthday present will come from James Lawrence, so I really look forward to Mark Butler's redesign!

She has also been letting in water when sailing hard, so we're going to get her re-caulked by Paul Drake, who put in her new plank last year. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed about the state of the rest of her planking that will be revealed!

Saturday, 15 October 2011


I can't believe how wonderful the weather was today. Alison's dad Robin has been wanting to go out with us and he's down for Alison's birthday next week. I was very skeptical last night. XCweather was predicting 5-10 knots of wind and I thought we'd probably be motoring everywhere. We got to Mersea around 11am and had a lovely row to Robinetta. Dawn, the Thames barge that lives on the piles up the Thorn Fleet, was on her winter berth on the mud near the Oyster Bar and they had raised sail and it was drawing. All the flags were showing a nice southerly breeze. At least my pessimism meant I was happily surprised!

We raised the main on the mooring and left Worm there for a nice day sail. As we left I'm pretty sure I saw Maid of Tesa coming down the Strood. We turned up river onto a really nice reach, hitting 6 knots SOG occasionally on the flood. There were a good few boats out but nothing to match the height of the summer. We got up past Osea Island, and had our pasties and turned around and came home again. We put the motor on to get back around the west end of Osea as the tide hadn't turned and the beat was a bit slow going. All day we kept getting buzzed by a P51 Mustang. I wish I could have got a picture of it and some part of Robinetta.

Mersea is a fascinating place for boats. I'm sure it has a much more diverse set of rigs than almost anywhere else. We saw two junk rigged boats as well as other gaffers and of course the sprit sailed Dawn. Even some things with funny pointy sails. OK, actually quite a lot of them.

Never let it be said that the OGA is not inclusive. I've yet to see a junk with an OGA pennant but today we saw/met:
  • Rob Williamson and Maid of Tesa, a bermudan Vertue
  • Mike McCarthy and Emma Hamilton, a classic motor cruiser
  • Bernard Patrick and Molly Cobler, a clinker-built gaffer launched in 2000
  • Phil and Wendy Wetherill on Spare Rib, a ... RIB
  • Pioneer, a 68ft fishing ketch, built in 1864 and rebuilt 1998-2004
Wendy called over as we were lowering sail by the Mersea Quarters cardinal, saying that she must have seen half of the East Coast OGA on the water today!

bilge pump

The 5A fuse in the switch panel for the bilge pump had blown. I replaced it and all seems well but given that we do take up water, it would be nice to know why.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

October? Really?

The weather this year has certainly been variable! We are in the grip of a real Indian Summer right now, and being on the water feels like the best option for a hot and sunny weekend. Unfortunately Julian has too much to do revising for an exam to spend the whole weekend on Robinetta, so we checked the tides and headed to Mersea on Saturday night, aiming to arrive an hour after low water and launch Worm off the pontoon.

Everything went to plan, and I had another delightful row out to Robinetta. We expected her to to aground when we boarded, but she had just floated off. We went straight to bed, aiming to be up early before she grounded again, but left the cover on to keep the dew off the seats in the cockpit. It was so warm that we kept the hatch and doors wide open over night.

The sound of boat diesels woke me up at 0600, and when I went to look out visibility was really bad. I could see the boat on the closest mooring, but the next one down channel was invisible in the fog. The sun was just coming up, and I was wide awake, so I got the cover off, woke Julian, and we caste off the mooring to head for deeper water where we could sail off at any time. It was eerie, and beautiful, watching the sun rise through the fog; by the time we reached the end of Ray Island the fog had vanished.

We ended up going along side one of the pontoons lying between the piles. The owner had left a helpful note saying they were returning at high water that afternoon, so we tied up properly, had a cup of tea, and went back to sleep.

After a lazy breakfast, and chatting to the owners of the boat opposite us on the pontoon, we decided to go for a sail and caste off the pontoon at 1000 which was low water. We promptly ran aground, and stayed there for an hour and a half. There are worse places to be aground than West Mersea on a bright sunny day. It was shorts and tee shirt weather, and I slapped on the sun cream! We got the main sail up, (since there was no wind to speak of) and Julian did some revision.

When we finally got clear of Mersea we got all the sails up, including the topsail, and headed towards Bradwell. There was very little wind, and we drifted up the Blackwater at 2 knots on what was theoretically a run, but the tide was doing all the work and we barely had steerage way. It was a good thing we were not actually trying to go anywhere....

There were a fair few boats out, taking advantage of the sunshine but most were motoring. There were even water skiers taking advantage of the flat water. Luckily the Blackwater just upriver from Mersea is wide enough that they did not bother us.

The wind got up to F3 just after lunch, and instead of running up the river we were having to beat. Love those windshifts! It was strong enough for us to make against the tide, so we turned back down river, having not even made Thurslet, and had an enjoyable sail back.

The wind rose steadily, and with the tide under us we sailed up the Thornfleet at 5 knots, faster than we ever motor up it! I rolled away the jib as we reached the piles, then Julian sailed us onto the mooring on main and stay sail. He turned very close to the mooring, but the tide was running too fast and we stopped almost immediately, well short of the buoy. Julian had started to drop the main before he realised, so had to put the engine on to make it.

We picked up the buoy at 1520, an hour before high water. I was not really looking forward to the row back this time. The wind would be on the bow, and if we waited for the tide to turn there was enough of it to make for a bit of a chop. In the event it was fine. We went at slack water, and I rowed all the way to the West Mersea Marine dock, scrambling out close to the Oyster Bar, then pulling Worm up over the wooden staging as easily as she would have come up onto the pontoon.

I'd have traded the heat for a bit more wind in the morning, but I'm sure by the end of the month, when I'm shivering in my thermals, I'll look back on today and think the conditions were perfect....

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Putting things right

An awful lot of things had gone wrong yesterday, and while we could have gone off on the early tide like Cormorant and Kajan it made much more sense to fix them in Maldon with easy access to the chandler. Besides, there was the promise of a cooked breakfast and company in the Little Ships club....

We headed there after showering, and had a great time as usual. The sun was shining, the food was plentiful, the company was good.... Then it was time to head back to Robinetta and begin work. Only we bumped into Geoff and Kit from Swallowtail and had a natter and a cup of tea first...

Julian undid the tensioning ropes for the port side forward shroud, and that let him free the halyard block and lower the jib fully. He then re-tensioned the shrouds, and wound the roller furler so it worked properly. We bought a new block for the stay sail sheet and rigged that, so both foresails were back in commission.

A long time ago, the first season we had Robinetta, we had attached the jib sheet blocks to the cabin roof on metal plates. The port side one had pulled free not long after and we had returned to the method Mike used, which meant tying the block on to the grab rails. It worked well and we had not bothered to restore the metal ring, but when we looked at it this morning the thick whipping twine we used to tie on the block had cut between the grab rail and the cabin roof. It was time to sort it out.

The battery in the electric drill had not held its charge (it was a very cheap drill), but Julian had always meant to rig it to work from Robinetta's battery, and did so. After that it was very simple to screw and bolt the plate back in position and shackle the jib sheet to it.

We had a cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch, and raised sail while waiting for Robinetta to float off. We had hoped to sail off the pontoon, but the wind was too light to do anything but dry the sails. Robinetta floated before 1500, but we were still held by the mud fore and aft until 1515 when we managed to power through it on engine and leave.

We motor sailed until Hilly Pool Point, then turned the engine off and tried sailing along Mill Beach. The tide was still against us, but we managed nearly 2 knots; not fast enough to get us home to our mooring at a sensible time but a nice change for a while. The engine had to go back on before we got to Osea though as the wind dropped away again.

The tide turned in our favour just by Osea pier and by the time we reached Thurslet there was enough wind to sail again. I made a cup of tea and washed up while Julian helmed. We had a lovely peaceful half hour in bright sun shine, but we could see rain ahead at Brightlingsea, and the rainbow over West Mersea looked spectacular.

I cut across the Nass Spit to the Mersea Quarters cardinal keeping a close eye on the depth while Julian stowed the stay sail and jib, then Julian helmed while I put the cover on the main while we headed up Thorn Fleet. It began to spit with rain while I packed up the cabin, but it had stopped again by the time we reached our mooring.

It felt odd to be so organised. We had Robinetta cleared and locked and everything loaded into Worm only ten minutes after picking up the mooring. Then the row to the pontoon at sunset was just as easy and peaceful as Friday night's row out to Robinetta...

The contrast between the strong winds on Saturday morning and the calm of Friday and Sunday was extreme and the bright sunshine and heavy showers throughout the weekend added more uncertainly. You never know what the weather will do when planning sailing event, and being in September the Maldon regatta is always challenging. That, and the friendliness of the Old Gaffers, make it an event not to be missed.

Back to bed

I slept lightly and heard the unmistakable beat of marine diesel engines going past in the dark, so I got up at 0400 and was dressed when Steve from Cormorant knocked on the cabin side. Cormorant has no engine, so we had offered to tow them off the pontoon since we had to move anyway, but Yvonne came up with a better offer. She was leaving at the same time, and offered them a tow down river which they gratefully accepted since there was hardly any wind.

With a half moon and clear sky we could see really well, and it was no hardship to go for a little motor in the moonlight while Kajan left her mud berth and got the tow on Cormorant. The only incident came when someone flashed a torch at us; we had forgotten to turn our navigation lights on and they did not have a clue what we were doing. (I had not seem them until they flashed the torch, just heard what sounded like an anchor being raised.)

We tied up alongside the motor boat where Cormorant had been, and had a cup of tea, then went back to bed.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Parade of Sail

The parade of sail started at 1440, and we went across the line with all the other yachts, getting a much better start than the first race. I had done a temporary fix on the stay sail sheet, so we had the use of the sail and within half an hour of the start we had shaken out our reef too as the wind dropped.

As normal we were soon at the back of the fleet, and had lost sight of everyone as we beat up Collier's reach. We checked the time, and decided to put the engine on and retire since the tide was about to turn against us and we might miss the free beer and cider at the Sail Lofts...

It began pouring with rain almost as soon as we made our decision, and the sails were soaked before we could get them down. There had not been enough time to get the roller furling back in operation, so I had to lower the jib onto the foredeck instead of rolling it away first, and somehow the halyard purchase got jammed in the shrouds. It would not come all the way down, so I tied it in as best I could. Julian got the main sail down without problem while I helmed.

Yvonne from Kajan called on the radio, and said to watch out for her waving when we reached Maldon as she would be on the hammerhead of the pontoon where we had booked our mooring. She stayed there in the pooring rain and helped us moor alongside Cormorant on the outside of the hammerhead. There were berths inside, but taking one would have restricted when we could leave much more.

The beer and cider went down very well, and we had a good natter with the other racers about the horrible conditions in the morning. Then we went to the prize giving on the Hythe, before retiring to the Little Ships Club for the traditional Old Gaffer's Dinner. It was as great as ever, but we left quite early; Cormorant wanted to be away on the early high tide, so that meant being up at 0410....

Maldon Regatta. Race One

The moon and stars were out on Friday night when we got to West Mersea, and the sea was totally flat, which made for a lovely row out to Robinetta. We got the cover off then headed straight to bed since we needed to be up at 0630 to move her to a deeper mooring before she grounded as the tide went out.

We ended up on the same mooring we used when I rowed to the Packing Shed last time, but this time we had left Worm behind on our own mooring. There is no need for a dinghy in Maldon. Once we were on the new mooring we went back to sleep, which was a bit of a mistake since we did not reset the alarm...

I suddenly realised it was 0840, and the race started at 0900, (although our own start was not until 0920), so it was all a bit of a panic to get things ready and be at the start line. I set up the jib, which is something Julian normally does, and did not realise that the roller furler line was not made off in the cockpit. The sail unfurled as soon as I raised it, which meant we would have to drop it when we were done with it rather than furl it. The top sail halyard jammed in a block when Julian hoisted the main, and there was no time to retrieve it, so that meant we could not use the top sail. None of the other boats had theirs up, in fact most of them were reefed. The forecast was SW 5-6, going W 3-4 later.

We were doing the short course this year, having failed to finish within the allowed time for the long course last year, and it seemed like a good idea when we got out to the start. The wind was strong, I felt a bit weedy having not had time for breakfast... For the first time this year we did not get a good start, and crossed the line last in our class.

The beat to the first mark felt like hard work, but we managed to keep up with the two Cape 19s, Stormy Cape and Swallowtail, and a couple of Sailfish, small cruising Bermudan rig boats who had the same start and course as us. Once we rounded the mark and went on a broad reach down river against the tide they went away from us, although we did keep them in sight. I had failed to print out the course map, so had to follow them or not know where we should go! We had flapjack and a banana each on this leg, and some ginger beer to drink. Putting the kettle on is never a good idea when racing!

We gybed round Gosling, then ran across the river, almost back to the start, before rounding the next mark and beating back up the river. The only other race marks were Thirslet and the finish line. I knew where both of those were so I could stop following the other boats and pick my own course. The boats doing the longer course caught up and passed us as we began the beat. A gorgeous sight, especially since we were not in the same race!

Wind over tide made the centre of the river rather rough, but we made good progress until the stay sail lost its sheet. The end tied to the fore-deck had come undone somehow, but we'd also lost the block and shackle on the end of the staysail boom. I had to go forward to pull the sail down and tie it securely, and got very wet in the process as Robinetta was consistently ducking her bowsprit into the waves.

Once I was back in the cockpit Julian suggested a reef in the main. It would balance the sail plan with the staysail out of commission, and the wind was increasing all the time. I agreed immediately; he was helming and if he found the steering heavy I would find it impossibly so when it was my turn! We would normally furl the jib rather than drop the stay sail when reefing, but it works the other way just as well.

We put a single reef in, and Robinetta did not lose much speed while becoming much easier to handle. The wind was gusty. Mark Butler (of Jimmy Lawence fame) reported a gust of 35 knots. At least two boats doing the same course as us retired. We finished the race at 1300, and headed over to the shore opposite Osea Island to drop the anchor for lunch and repairs.

The main sail did not want to come all the way down, so I lashed it away as best as I could then went forward to drop the jib and get the anchor out. We keep the anchor lashed down so it took a little while, then I had to measure out the chain.... I had a horrid headache and felt nauseous so did not want lunch but Julian made himself a bacon and egg sandwich.

I made a cup of tea and had an ibuprofen while Julian sorted out the jammed main. Something to do with the top sail halyard I think.... The anchorage was a bit rough and I was not in the best condition!

When we saw the results we had come second behind Stormy Cape. Mind you, there were only four entries in the class, and Bernard and Molly Cobler didn't start and Geoff and Kit Platten in Swallowtail didn't finish.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Oyster Dredging

The annual oyster dredging competition at West Mersea happened today, so we decided to go and have a look. Our outboard motor is having a crisis (again) which means rowing Worm out to Robinetta. It is much easier to do that when the tide helps, and almost impossible when the tide is against you in the Gut, which it it when the tide is rising which otherwise helps us up the Ray...

Low water was at 1100, which was when the dredging match started. There was no way we'd get off our mooring then, but it was the ideal time to get through the Gut and a none challenging time to get out of the house, so that's what we aimed for. We got on board Robinetta at 1115, and had to wait an hour before we floated, so we had a cup of tea, scrubbed off bird droppings, and checked the running lights. The starboard one had not worked when we needed it coming into West Mersea, but if came on as soon as Julian wriggled it....

We floated off at 1215 and motored out to see the smacks at work. We did not want to get in the way so stayed clear until they finished dredging, but they were still washing their catch on the way to the packing shed so we got quite close to that.

We picked up a mooring as close to the packing shed as we could, but it was still a stiff row against the tide to get there. Worth it though, to see the weigh in.

Rowing back to Robinetta was easy enough with the tide assist, and we went back to our own mooring for tidy up and rest before another long row back to the pontoon.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Home again

The original plan was for me to drive to West Mersea while Ben and Alison sailed there. But Ben was gone. And the wind was westerly. We caught the 04:10 forecast and it was claiming north westerly sometime during the morning. Winds were strong too. The next tide window was 3-4 pm so we sat around and fixed a leak in the heads inlet and thought. Chatting to Sue and Howard, Sue offered to drive the car down for us. They were taking Spare Rib to West Mersea so it was a big help to us and not a huge problem for them - thanks Sue - that was wonderful! So in the end, Alison and I sailed happily home.

Farewell to Felixstowe

Sunday, 28 August 2011

President's Race

After the problems with the tide, no-one wanted to go into the Stour again so the course for the President's race was set out from Suffolk Yacht Harbour to Pye End and back. As usual, we got an excellent start, in the first three over the line.

Taken by Sue Lewis from Victoria
 The fast boats looked magnificent.

We kept them in sight, but only just, and by the time we got back into the harbour the tide was running again. We managed to beat it by staying over Harwich shelf but as soon as we got past the corner we got washed back out to sea. After what seemed like hours we realised we couldn't get past guard (a red channel marker bouy) and retired.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ladies Helm

We woke up early, not sure if our anchor was dragging or not. It probably wasn't, but it did last year, and rather than worry about it we pulled it up and across the river to a vacant mooring before having breakfast. We were close to Gwenili there, and the way the both boats moved on the moorings made me glad we'd been anchored peacefully close in shore all night!

We left the mooring under motor, and raised sail in the river. The top sail sheet escaped and went half way up the mast, so we had to get the sail down again to retrieve it. I was not intending to use the top sail, but I did not want to rule out the possibility since the forecast was all over the place W or NW, backing W or SW 4-5.

We made the start on time, once again first over the line (I think). Julian and I have both been working on our starts. We might have the slowest boat in the race but that shouldn't stop us getting the best start we can!

We made good time to the entrance to the Stour, with several boats still behind, but our first attempt to round the Shotley Horse failed. We had to go well past it as the tide was running against us, and we held our starboard course, with Ro an Mor just behind on our port side, into the line of boats who were coming back to try to clear the buoy on port. We had right of way, but the boat bearing down on us had nowhere to go because of boats on his other side. We could not bear away because of Ro an Mor, so the only thing that could be done was to tack round. Ro an Mor did the same, and the three of us ended up running back towards the Orwell, having not managed to clear Shotley Horse.

Robinetta was sandwiched between the two boats so I deliberately slowed her down, then headed back towards Shotley Horse but I could not get round it after that; not matter how far I tacked across the Stour I could not get Robinetta sailing fast enough to beat the tide. Marie of Itchenor was in the same posistion and the two of us tacked helplessly back and forth until we both decided to give up and put the engines on.

We made the buoy with engine assist then headed up the Stour to see how the other boats were doing. Many of the smaller ones retired, not able to beat the flood with the available wind, but then the wind got up again.

Soon after the wind got up to started to rain, then there was hail, and thunder, and a squall. We had to turn onto a run to furl the jib, and once we were heading back down the Stour with the wind and tide in our favour (and the hail on our heads) it felt insane to turn back around and follow the race.

So we headed back to the Orwell, where the sun come out. We picked Worm up from the mooring where we had left her at the start of the race and went into the Suffolk Yacht Harbour where we had a pontoon berth booked and could get a hot shower....

We headed to the Light ship at 1800 for a scheduled briefing. The race end cut off was 1900 though, and we knew the race was running late so were not really surprised when no briefing happened! We had a good natter about the amazing weather changes during the day, and ate with a lot of other gaffers..... a good evening!

Ladies Helm

We didn't make it into the Stour

Friday, 26 August 2011

Pin Mill barbeque

We anchored Robinetta then rowed up to Pin Mill. Ben had all his gear with him as he had been called home to Leicester. By the wonder of the internet we found a good way to get him there - last bus (1920) from Chelmondiston to Ipswich, connection at Ely and home.

The Pin Mill barbeque started at 1900, so Ben just had time to grab a couple of burgers before Mike McCarthy drove him to the bus stop - thanks Mike!

The barbecue was excellent as always, with plenty of bread left over for tomorrow's lunch!

Two Rivers Race

When we passed Shotley Horse Alison went below to make lunch. Ben and I took her into the shallows over the spit and managed to pass four boats. We made good progress for a while and had a little duel with Marie of Itchenor. In gaffer racing fashion PTK gave us water when we needed it and I did the same for him. Unfortunately this led me into the tidal stream and we never recovered, spending hours fighting to stay in the Orwell. One boat anchored on the spit.

Eventually the wind picked up enough for us to get into the Orwell proper and we fought our way up to Pin Mill.

Two Rivers race

It was raining when we sailed off our mooring at Wrabness, and there was not a lot of wind, but we made it to the start. Julian was skipper, and I promised to try to be good crew (not wonder aloud what he was doing, forgetting what he wanted me to do in the process....) while Ben was good anyway!

Julian took us right in close to Avola the start boat, and we crossed the line just as the "gun" went to be first over the line. We were soon overtaken, but we put up all the canvas we had, including improvising a water sail out of our old stay sail. It was the first time we used it, although we'd tried rigging it before for the East Coast Race, and it worked surprisingly well, letting us keep up with the middle of the fleet for longer than normal.

The rain stopped as we passed Parkeston Quay, but so did the wind, and we were practically becalmed by the time we got to College Buoy. Luckily the wind came back (unfortunately so did the rain) and we got to the finish, last as usual.

It took us nearly six hours to do 11 nm, which is ridiculously slow.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Pursuit Race

An alternative to a handicap race, with group starts. Robinetta was in the first group. We went hard aground by the start at Island Point and had to be pulled off by the photographer in his rib. Rushed the sails back up and made the start on time. Destination Wrabness.

The wind died completely by Trinity Dock and the tide was pushing us into the big ships channel so we really felt we had no choice but to turn the engine on for safety.
Lots of boats hung on, everything up and going nowhere. Eventually the wind came back and the fleet hurtled in to Wrabness, a glorious sight.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pennyhole Bay Race

Ben was sailing with us today, so we made him skipper for the Pennyhole bay race. We left Worm on the mooring when we sailed off, since we were coming back that evening. Despite sailing off we put the engine on to charge the battery as we headed down the Walton Channel, and we needed it to station keep in Hamford Water while we waited for the start.

Ben got us across the line very smartly at 1200, certainly in the first couple of boats to cross. It was a very crowded start, since the entrance to Hamford Water is rather narrow, and there were at least 33 boats competing.

We managed to keep up with the fleet for a while, but we were at the back by the time we were a third of the way round the course, and finished quite a while later than anyone else at 1641. We can see a lot of weed on the water line, and little limpets growing on the rudder, despite it only being a month since we scrubbed her. She's letting in a lot of water when we sail too. Looks like another winter out of the water coming up....
We tried an extra sail for a while

We picked up the same buoy as before, quite close to Ellen. Melvin gave Ben a lift in his dingy, while I rowed Worm (with Julian) up to the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club for dinner; it was quite a long row....

The YC knew we were coming, but underestimated how many people would want to eat. We had to wait quite a long time for dinner, but it was good when it arrived. Melvin gave Ben a lift back to Robinetta too, and towed Worm with us in her. Thanks Melvin!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Stone Point

At the Stone Point anchorage, Victoria and My Quest also arrived and anchored. My Quest's anchor chain did not run out properly, so the hook did not hold. I had to call out a warning that she was about to drift onto Kelpie II, and the skipper hastily pushed the rest of the chain over the side. My Quest stopped about 2 metres clear of Kelpie II, and there was a hasty pumping up of dingy so it could be used to move My Quest, which has no engine.
We went below and made some lunch. After we ate, we rowed  Worm over to Stone Point; the first time we had set foot there.
Ben called and said that he was at Titchmarch marina. Maryll must have passed Robinetta while we were down below getting lunch as we never saw her. We upped anchor and went to Titchmarch, passing Princess Matilda (Timothy Spall's barge) on the way.

Victoria needed fresh water, and Keith had agreed to get it for them, so we collected that as well as Ben, and motored back to Stone Point to leave it on board. We then picked up a mooring and ate on the boat.

...and out again

This year's visit to the Deben is really short. Just the Ramsholt dinner, then out again towards the Walton Backwaters. We listened to the 0710 weather forecast, and it sounded good for going there so long as we went early, the strong NW wind was due to die away before lunch. The OGA briefing was supposed to happen at 1030, but we decided not to wait.

Sue and Howard were heading over to Maryll in Victoria to have breakfast with Keith, so they picked Ben up and took him with them. We sailed off the mooring at 0910, and set off down river. Several other boats came too, since waiting for the tide could mean losing the wind. Baldrick and Kelpie II were behind us at first, but ineviatably overtook us in the river.

Everything was calm on the river, but the wind over tide by the safe water mark was rather horrible. Kelpie reefed, Baldrick headed close in shore on job and motor, and I got Julian to double reef the main and roll the job away. Things got more controllable once we turned onto our course, and an hour later at 11:10 we shook out the reefs and set the jib just before crossing the shipping lane.

We had meant to pick up a mooring but as we sailed past Stone Point and saw Baldrick and Kelpie II at anchor we changed our minds and dropped the anchor there for lunch.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Into the Deben

Julian picked me up at the Suffolk Yacht Haven, and I stowed the shopping while he took Robinetta back out into the river. We motor sailed until we crossed the shipping lane, then sailed up the coast, staying much closer in than normal. The Deben entrance has changed a lot since last year, and we were given a really useful photo map when we joined the cruise, so could see that we did not really need to go as far out as the Woodford Haven Safe Water mark. Unfortunately the inshore course put us in the middle of a lot of crab pots, so we'll stay further out next time!

We headed straight for the Mid Knoll buoy then went into the river. The sand banks after Mid Knoll are really high this year, we went in just after half tide, and they were over a metre clear of the water.

We had a lovely run/reach up river to Ramsholt, where the harbour master directed us to a mooring close to the Pub. We picked it up under sail, which always makes us feel good. Victoria came about an hour later and did the same thing right next to us. Maryll, Transcur and Avola took other nearby moorings. We were right in the heart of things!

We got a lift to the Pub in Spare Rib, and met up with Ben there for an OGA meal before the three of us headed back to Robinetta for the night. Ben is going to crew on Maryll again tomorrow.

Single Handing

Ben had jumped ship to Maryll and we wanted the car moved to Suffolk Yacht Harbour so I single handed her down from Ipswich and picked Alison up on the visitor's pontoon.

Its really easy. I played a lot with the tiller lashing and got confidant enough to go forward and sort some ropes and take in fenders, etc.

Getting into the lock at Ipswich was a bit fun. Pioneer went in first and Andromeda followed her in to raft up outside. I was to be next outside and Ellen outside me on the other wall. It all went well until Pioneer's bowsprit went drifting across the lock. We all got sorted without a bump.

It was interesting seeing Pioneer raising sail by the Orwell bridge. The crew were standing up on the boom sorting the sails out.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Messin' about on the water

Worm competed in her first sailing race! In fact, she didn't do too badly. I've no idea where we came but we went when others went and stalled when others stalled. Alison tried the flubber sailing and Ben and I got wet in the football. We even caught some ducks this year. An innovation was the blind rowing which Ben and Alison had a go at.

We had a wander round the festival. A low key affair, but good fun. Bought some beer and chutney at the Adnams stall.

The evening meal was another barbecue, this time at the sailing club. I couldn't face it so we ended up at the Loch Fyne and had a nice meal before joining the throng for a chat and the briefing.

Forecast good for the passage to the Deben.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Off to the classics

Ben joined us for the classics this year. It was Mersea Week and a fairground was using up the car parking space at West Mersea Marine so we thought about some alternatives. It seemed like a good idea to have a car at Ipswich so Alison drove up and Ben and I sailed Robinetta. The outboard failed us completely but it was a nice row in Worm. We had a lovely sail as far as Walton pier but then lost the wind and motor sailed in. We had some rain as far as Wolverstone then it cleared up. I tried to make it look like we were sailing as we passed as the WOA were having a barbecue there and I wanted to show Robinetta off. I don't know if anyone was looking.

Alex came up in the car with Alison and had a look round the Ipswich Maritime Festival. It feels odd that a town should create a whole event around our silly Sunday regatta. He went home on the train. Alison generated some amusement talking about Robinetta's 'wobbly bitts'.

It was Rely's 100th birthday and the crew treated us as the Last Anchor. A fine start to the week. Happy Birthday Rely.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Rayner's later boats

Kenneth Butterly has started a new blog about sailing the Rayner designed Westerlys. It will be great to see what comes up there.

Fuelling up

Took Robinetta to Tollesbury at high water to fill up with diesel ready for the August Classics. She hasn't been near a marina since Ramsgate across the Royal Wedding and we used a lot getting to Southwold last Friday.

We saw at least four Westerly 22s (or Nomads - not sure I can tell the difference) - including one called Kittiwake. Don't know if they are all local.

A real Rayner Sunday!

Lots of smacks out too - practicing for Mersea Week?

The gap between the front of the bits and the deck is getting bigger and I can wiggle the port bit slightly. Scary.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Perfect Day

Sometimes things go better than one has any right to expect. I had to work on Monday but Tuesday looked good to come home. On Sunday night, Pete and Sarah had given us a lift to Manningtree in their camper van. They offered to bring us back to Southwold too, but we found a decent public transport option. It was a bit critical - 1600 train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich, connecting train to Halesworth and connecting bus to Southwold. But the bus would not wait for the train! In the event everything went like clockwork.

We had a fine meal at Coasters in Southwold and a good night's sleep on Robinetta.

We left Southwold at 0630 and caught the last of the flood towards Sizewell. We got the sails up and had a remarkable single reach all the way into the Blackwater.

We did go head to wind three times - twice to reef and once to shake them out, but the engine went off as soon as we were clear of Southwold Harbour, and did not go on again until we reached the Nass beacon. We made over 6 knots when the tide was with us, and over 4 for most of the time. Such a difference from the trip up there.

We beat up the Blackwater to West Mersea and motored up the Thorn Fleet and Ray channel. We saw a chap on a Laser paddling, proving that the wind had really died!

It doesn't get any better than that!

The only problem was the pumping. She pumped at least once an hour all the way home, and more than that when we were pushing her hard with a double reefed main and staystail (no jib). It seemed to be coming in near the mast step, not a good sign....

Sunday, 7 August 2011

To Blythburgh

The Sunday plan was to take the little boats up to the White Hart Inn at Blythburgh. We wanted to sail up in Worm. Great Days had their Tinker inflatable sailing dinghy, Robert from Charm had a lug sail on his dinghy and Pete the knife and Sarah had trailered their Wayfarer. Trevor from Gromit, Melvyn, Mike and Clive came on flubbers with outboards and Lorna (Charm) hitched a ride on the safety boat.

Alison and I spent some time seeing if Worm would actually take two sailing. With Alison propping her back against the mast it just about worked.

We rowed under the Bailey bridge and put the mast and sail up. It soon became apparent that it would be a hard beat up to Blythburgh and after a gallant effort we gave up and got a tow from the safety boat.

After good beer and craic at the pub we headed back. This time Worm sailed really nicely in the evening sun.

The Nancy Oldfield Cup

should have been won racing on Saturday, but as we chickened out the committee decided to award it to 'the most helpful harbour masters on the East Coast'. The Southwold team had really entered into the spirit of our visit
both front and back!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A morning race

We had come to Southwold to race for the Sole Bay Cup, and the Nancy Oldfield Trophy, so the plan was for two races, on before and one after lunch. There were not many competitors, as a lot of boats that might have been there were stuck in Holland after the Dutch Classic Yacht Regatta. Great Days was not intending so race, so Clive, in Quintet, the only other Bermudan there, decided not to race her, and helped out by helming the undermanned barge Dinah. Charm, Gromit, and Robinetta were the only other competitors, so a rather mismatched four boats began the race.

Mismatched boats are nothing new for an old gaffers rally, and since Southwold is a round the cans race they make it work by having timed laps, and comparing best lap time for each boat, rather than over all elapsed time.

Patient Griselda, the committee boat made one end of the line, with the other being Southwold Pier, and the first race began at 1110. Robinetta soon fell behind Charm and Gromit, but started well ahead of Dinah, and managed to extend the lead to complete her first lap about ten minutes clear. We got the topsail up for the down wind and broad reaching legs, and were effective round all the buoys, so felt quite pleased with ourselves. At that point Patient Griselda announced that Dinah and Robinetta were only going to go round once, while Charm and Gromit completed two laps.

Gromit decided to retire after completing the first race, and Dinah headed back to harbour too. Robinetta against Charm seemed like too much of a foregone conclusion, and the wind and seas were getting up, making Patient Griselda look uncomfortable rolling on her anchor, so I decided to retire as well.

We were all back in harbour by 1345, and we moored up next to Dinah. She made a very stable "pontoon" berth for us; we could not get shore lines past her!

A new boat joined us that afternoon for her first OGA rally. Lodestar is a Stella, that will be based in the Medway area, but her owners are cruising her on the East Coast this year since they bought her on the Orwell, and have fallen in love with the area.

The evening chilli meal provided by the Southwold sailing club was really good, as were the 8 different beers available for the OGA beer festival. More OGA members arrived in the evening without their boats, but I'm not sure we made much of a dent in all that beer...

Robinetta was awarded the Passage Race Cup, for having come the furthest distance (certainly not the fastest, all that engine use....). We also got 3rd place in the racing, with Charm first and Gromit second. It felt good to be going up for prizes, but very odd!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Another Early Start

Getting to Southwold is very weather and time dependant. Julian booked Friday off, and the weather looked favourable (SW wind), so we headed to West Mersea on Thursday evening ready for an early start.

Spring low water tides meant we could not launch Worm until gone 2330, so we left home late. There was only just enough water, and we could not get the outboard prop in the water near the pontoon so I had to row until we reached the Gut. After that the tide was running in so strongly that I could not make any head way, and was really relieved when Julian found there was enough water for the outboard!

The stars were amazing, and I even saw the Milky Way for the first time.

High tide was at 0505 in the morning, and we wanted to make the most of it, so we planned to off the mooring before 0400. We managed to get off at 0350, and made it to Colne Bar, motor sailing, by 0520. We turned the engine off and put the top sail up, then ran/broad reached up to the Deben, getting there at 0915. We went beautifully for the first three hours, with good wind and the tide under us, and the sunrise over Colne bar made getting up so early worthwhile.

The wind dropped after we reached the Deben, and we were not going fast enough to make the tidal gate into Southwold Harbour, so the engine went on for a bit. We tried turning it off half an hour later, but we were falling behind schedule, so it went on within the hour, and stayed on. We took the inside course up to the Orford light house, going inside the Whiting Bank, and with the tide running strongly against us we only managed 2 knots, even with the engine, so decided it might be better to go outside the Aldeburgh Bank. It was, and we managed to get to Southwold and enter the harbour before the ebb began running.

We tied up alongside Charm at 1555, after a 12 hour trip. We could have done with more wind, but at least it was not against us, and the weather was reasonably sunny. Having to make the tidal gate to enter Southwold does not make for a relaxing journey, but having planned it well enough to succeed is a reward of a sort.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Scrubbing Posts

West Mersea Yacht Club maintain a pair of scrubbing posts which can be hired for a tenner. We headed to the boat Monday night and slept until 2am and got onto the posts at about 3am, a little after high water. It was a high spring tide - 5.6m and we had at least a fathom of water under us with only enough of the posts showing to tie up to.

By 6am we were high and dry, but being bed loving folks we didn't venture down until 7. As expected, there was a lot of weed. The new prop and the whole of the lower hull were totally encrusted in barnacles.

Judicious use of broom and car ice scraper and generous amounts of elbow grease resulted in a nice clean hull with plenty of time to spare. We waited until Worm was afloat and rowed to the pontoon and had ham egg & chips at the Blackwater Pearl. Shortly after we got back Robinetta was afloat and we motored back to our mooring.

It was Mersea Cadet Week and we saw the Optimist, Laser, Topper and RS fleets and a miscellaneous group of Mirrors and other dinghies go out and come back. In the afternoon, the Oppies raced right passed us in the Ray Channel.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sailing Worm

We needed to visit Robinetta this weekend to retrieve sleeping bags ready for the Cambridge Folk Festival. It seemed the ideal day for a proper sea trial of Worm as a sailing dinghy. I re-soldered the rudder gudgeon that had failed at Titchmarsh and extracted the old eye bolt from Robinetta’s main sheet attachment that had failed on the way back from the Wivenhoe. For once, Wyatt’s had one in stock and we got everything ready on pontoon at West Mersea.
The rudder fits perfectly now, but floats up out of the fittings. The weight of the tiller keeps it down, but I definitely need to fit a retaining clip.

Rigging Worm on a mooring is fine. The only problem is raising the yard. The halyard is a little short, so with the yard down, the other end of the halyard is in the air. Not a big problem but a bit longer would allow it to be secured to the boat. Once up, the yard slides forwards round the mast. The vestigial ‘saddle’ doesn’t work. The parrel line is too loose, but it can only be tightened so much, as the mast hast a noticeable taper and the yard would not come down if the parrel line were tight enough when its up. I’ll ask Iain about this but I think a slightly more sophisticated saddle will be needed.

West Mersea is a windy spot. When there is little wind elsewhere there is usually a fine breeze for dinghys. Today was no exception. I pushed off the pontoon and turned her down wind towards the Gut and she started sailing beautifully. It was obvious that the previous bad experiences we had had were due to the conditions, not the boat. Both in Shotley last year (when we had no rudder) and at Titchmarsh, the winds were strong and flaky.

Alison went off ahead with the red flubber and the outboard but I kept up well across the Gut. Once we were heading up the Ray the wind dropped and she went off ahead to open up Robinetta.

I gybed gently up the Ray looking for patches of wind and eventually got blown onto the mud. The only thing stuck was the rudder. For Essex mud, I think a lifting rudder will be worth it. Trying to turn the rudder in the mud broke one of the tines off the fork of the tiller. I poled off with an oar and got her sailing again and came alongside Robinetta. Worm’s first sailing passage was complete.

We glued and nailed the tiller back together. It was low water so we decided to have our picnic on Robinetta. The drill’s battery was flat so we couldn’t fit the new eye bolt.

After a lazy lunch we set off again in the dinghy’s for a jaunt up to Ray Island. I recently discovered that Ray Island is a little famous. Sabine Baring-Gould wrote a novel set on the Island. Its funny how some people impinge on one’s life in several different ways. I first came across Baring-Gould as a teenager in a Lin Carter anthology of proto-fantasy-fiction. Years later I became aware of him as a collector of oral history and folk music. I read the first few paragraphs of Mehalah the other week. I should find some time to read it, although it’s not in a genre I favour.

We went as far up the Ray as we dared, and still managed to go aground again. This time it took the full power of the oars to get off the lee shore but I was soon beating back down the channel. For the first time I needed the lee board. It works really well and isn’t too hard to move from one side to the other. The main problem is the cleating cord is slippery and loosens itself. It’s also not possible to cleat it off so that it’s the same tension on either side of the boat. In a decent breeze it reduces the leeway brilliantly.

The tiller failed again – this time the other tine went. We stopped at Robinetta and put a couple of tie-wraps on it and shortened the parrel line.

The tide was flooding strongly now and the winds were light. The trip back to West Mersea took a very long time. I didn’t get Worm to point very well. There are several reasons for this:

• It’s Alison’s first attempt at sail making, and a very flimsy polytarp sail
• The rope horse is too long, making it hard to sheet hard in
• The sheet attachment is too far forward – I need to look at the plans again
• The yard was still not behind the mast, so was not as vertical as it should have been, so the top of the sail was not sheeted in as hard as the bottom
• There were places and times of almost no wind when I just drifted in the wrong direction with the tide
• I need to learn to sail her

Even so, I got there. I tied up on the pontoon and started to get the rig down. Unfortunately I leaned over too far and managed to tip the boat over. No harm done. Much thanks to the guys on the pontoon who helped.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Wivenhoe Parade of Sail

Julian wanted to try "single handing" Robinetta away from the pontoon. Not easy with the way the tide was running, and he ended up getting a lot of help from gaffers on the dock. We did not hit anything though!

We got the sails up ASAP, and were sailing before reaching the Brightlingsea Spit cardinal. After that we hung around on the start line in conditions very similar to yesterday. This time we were going up river with the tide and the wind behind us. Much less challenging!

Charm was the lead boat, and I followed her immediately the gun went at 1200. Second in line on the parade of sail! We were soon passed by several boats, but once we put our top sail up we managed to retain our place behind Molly Cobbler. Meanwhile Charm scandalised her main not to get too far ahead, while we had all our sails up!

We dropped sail once we passed the Wivenhoe barrage. There were a lot of boats doing the same, including several smacks, and it was a little crowded getting our topsail down.....

We were given a fingerberth at the yacht club, which was much more convenient than rafting out, and were tied up by 1320.

The hog roast was as good as ever, and since we were nice and early the queue was not too long.

We left at 1500. Getting out of the finger berth was not too easy. The tide had turned half an hour previously, and Robinetta would just not steer backwards. We got a tug from a motor flubber, which helped.

We motor sailed down the Colne, beating all the way. We needed to keep the engine on all the way to the Colne entrance to make the tacks, but once we got out past no 8 buoy at 1625 we turned it off, and had a nice reach all the way to West Mersea. Watching other gaffers continue beating to get round Colne Bar on their way up towards Harwich made me very glad not to be doing the same!

Sailing up to our mooring felt like a challenge. There was very little water due to the spring tide, so the channel felt cramped, but the wind was useful, and we like to use the motor as little as possible. We broad reached all the way up to the piles, but there was only one place with enough space to drop the main; Julian headed Robinetta into the gut, I pulled the sail down in a hurry, and we were back heading up the Ray Channel using the engine in less than a minute. All that practice dropping sail in the Brightlingsea entrance channel paid off...

Normally we head onto our buoy by following the line of the other moored boats, but today that would have put us aground. Julian crept up on it along the line of deepest water instead and I managed to get hold of the mooring lines without a problem. Robinetta swung to the wind, and stopped against the mud almost immediately but it did not matter; we were home at 1825.

The starboard side main sheet block attachment point has come loose, just like the port side one last year. Julian got it off and brought it home to mend, so that is the next task to keep Robinetta sailing!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

East coast Race

Due to the tides it was an early start for the race this year, 0800, so we were off the pontoon by 0700. The course was decided on as course 5, round Colne no 8 then up the Blackwater towards West Mersea.

We started on time then crossed the line again, and again, and again. The wind was so light that beating out against the tide proved really difficult, and most of the slower boats dropped their anchors for a spell. So did we, but our main anchor was tied securely to our bulwarks, and the kedge (which we used) was half buried in the forepeak. By the time we got the hook down we had been carried three hundred yards up the river.

By the time we did get out of the river we could see the fast boats (who had got out the river before the wind went to nothing) on their way back. Nancy Blackett, the only boat behind us, passed us before we rounded the first buoy. It took us four and a half hours to get out to Colne no8!

From there we did manage to sail quite well out to the next mark, but a stream of boats passed us on their way back, and it made no sense to carry on a race that we would not make the declaration time for. We called race control, put our ensign up, and just had a sail instead.

We were back on the pontoon by 1430, having dropped our sails in the channel into Brightlingsea harbour after the cardinal. It's disappointing to do so badly after the excitement of last year, but Robinetta just could not keep up with the fleet in these conditions. She's got 3 months of weed on the hull and sails that need replacing. She was only making 3.5 knots over the ground even after the wind got up.

The free reception on the smack dock was good. Someone was listening last year, because there was a barrel of cider as well as beer!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Going to Brightlingsea

Last year we missed the Packing Shed Island lunch because we were still working on Robinetta on the hard. This year we dropped out luggage off in Robinetta, then motored down to the Shed in Worm and had an excellent lunch.

We left Worm on the mooring, and sailed off the buoy for the first time since moving to West Mersea. It really is the easiest place to raise the main sail so long as the wind is in the right direction!

The light wind meant we wanted the topsail up, and after a little untangling of lines up it went. We reached Brightlingsea in just over two hours, with the tide under us, and lowered the sails by the Brightlingsea Spit Cardinal. There was a bit of a panic when the engine failed to start and the electrics went dead, but I nipped down and changed over batteries and everything worked again. The battery connection had come loose, but Julian soon fixed it.

We did not know if the loose connection had stopped the battery charging properly from the solar panel, so we kept the motor running after we were moored on a pontoon. Julian upped the revs, and there was soon white steam coming out of the exhaust.

We checked the water inlet filter, clean, and checked the impeller, perfect, so we'll need to keep a close eye on the engine until we work out why its overheating.

Clive from Quintet came over to say Hi. He's singlehanding this weekend, but would prefer crew, so I rang Pete (Fanning). He'd love to sail and will be here for the race tomorrow.