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.