Thursday, 5 May 2011

Getting home across the Raysand Channel

Julian and I headed back to North Fambridge after work on Wednesday, to spend the night on Robinetta before sailing home on Thursday, but she was no where to be seen when we got there! It took us quarter of an hour to find her tucked in between two larger boats in a different part of the marina!

Low water was at 0900 next morning, and there is a sill at the marina entrance that is too shallow to cross an hour either side of low water, so when we woke at 0530 we left and went to tie up at the yacht station pontoon for another couple of hours sleep. It was so peaceful there that after breakfast Julian tried climbing up the ratlines and onto the mast hoops to reclaim our lost top sail halyard. He got onto the first hoop but decided against trying to climb higher, and came down again.

We set off down river at 0905, on a rising tide, with the wind on the nose, but unlike last Sunday today's wind was only forecast East, or North East f3-4, and so not too rough. We had the main and stay sail set, but were relying on the engine to go anywhere, and we had a timetable to keep. By 1130 we were past the entrance into the Roach, and motor sailing to keep up a speed of 4 knots against the tide.

Normally heading home from Fambridge we work with the tide, and head all the way out to the Spitway, but today we had decided to use the shortcut across the Raysand channel, (pronounced raisan) so wanted to be at the Outer Crouch Bouy by 1230, two hours before high water to cross the drying sand bank with enough rising tide in hand to back off if we grounded. I was extremely nervous about this passage, but we had planned it carefully, and taken all care we could, so after we passed Outer Crouch and reached the narrowest part of the Buxey sands, with a least depth of 0', we left the Whitaker channel and sailed over the sand.

This was a good point of sail, a very pleasant reach, and we put the engine in neutral, but kept it on in case of problems. I was helming, and concentrated on following the "deepest" path shown on our GPS charts, while sailing Robinetta in the slight swell. I asked Julian to watch our depth gage, so I wasn't worrying about it, and he kept up a constant and reassuring report of "no change" after an initial "5 foot". Once the GPS showed us in a non drying area I turned the engine off and relaxed, and let Julian look up again! He said out least depth had been about 3', which gives us 2' beneath the keel. Not great clearance but enough given the sea state.

We were clear of the sand with 1 1/2 hours of rising tide, so stayed in the shallows, taking the most direct course to clear the end of the drying area of the St Peter's flats. Julian made lunch, in a suddenly rolling sea, while I sailed Robinetta, then after we ate I gave him the helm, and we sailed all the way up to our mooring, picking it up under sail at 1540, after nearly a fortnight away.

Worm towed beautifully all through out expedition, but something definitely happened to her, possibly when the North Fambridge marina staff moved her. When I went to get in to head back to the pontoon at West Mersea Julian noticed that the front thwart, where I sit when rowing or a passenger, was only attached on one side. Not good, and I was glad the outboard was working as I held my seat in place for the trip!

Robinetta's bows are now dry, but she is letting in water somewhere, as we pumped on a regular basis on every passage. Julian had a look, and he thinks it is coming in through the stern gland; stopping that, and reclaiming our top sail halyard are our next maintenance tasks. I also want to put another layer of varnol on the cap rails in the cockpit. The sadolin wore just as quickly, but the varnol looks so much better that I want to keep it smart!

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Fambridge Rally

We picked up a buoy at Burnham overnight, then used Worm to get ashore for some shopping on Saturday morning. Ben was due to join us for the weekend, so we waited until he joined us for a late lunch before running up to Fambridge.

The wind had picked up again, and it only took us an hour to get there, even against the tide. Given the high winds over the past week there were a lot of boats on the yacht club pontoon. Aussie II, Baldrick, Gwenilli, Mole, Robinetta, Quiet Days, and William. Janner was only just back in the water, but stayed in the marina while her crew joined us at dinner at the Ferry Boat Inn.

Robinetta draws too much to make it to Battlesbridge, so next day Mick King gave us a lift up river in Baldrick, his Memory. We had a nice run up there on jib alone, with the centre plate up, and Mick desperately hoping he could remember how to find the deepest water. There was only just enough space with sufficient depth to turn Baldrick, and too little water to get to the pontoon to tie up, so we rafted up on a friendly barge, as did Mole, Quiet days, and William. Aussie II did make it to the pontoon, but only just!

Coming back down river after lunch was a graphic demonstration of the difference wind over tide can make to a situation. We were motoring for a start, since the wind was on the nose, and Baldrick has a small outboard, mounted beside the rudder, which it can foul unless both are steered at the same time. The prop is shallow, and with waves over 2' high and closely spaced the prop was out of the water more often than was healthy for it. Then there were the moored boats...

Heading up river with the wind and tide the boats on their moorings had all lain the same way, without moving noticeably. Coming back they formed a moving maze that had to be navigated with extreme caution; not all the moorings were properly spaced and we saw at least two boats colliding with each other on their moorings. Thanks to Mick's skill we made it through without touching a thing, but it was very hard work for him!

The rally plan was to pick up the larger boats (Gwenilli and Robinetta) from Fambridge, and continue down to Burnham for dinner, but the trip back from Battlesbridge had been such hard work that only William continued on. Quiet Days went straight into the marina to join Janner, while the others just tied up on the pontoon, and had dinner at the Ferry Boat Inn again. We had hoped that the forecast for tomorrow would show a decrease in the wind, but it still predicted NE f5-7, so we decided not to go. Ben caught the train back home, while Julian and I stayed on Robinetta.

We regretted staying on the pontoon after the tide turned again after midnight. Robinetta was plunging up and down, constantly snatching at her mooring lines. When we listened to the 0600UTC forecast there was a gale warning, so we ended our rally by motoring Robinetta into the marina, and tying up next to Janner, while we headed home by train.