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....