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.