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.