Saturday, 22 December 2012

Boats make friends

My newest contact on LinkedIn is the grandson of one of the partners in the boat building yard in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead which built Robinetta. In researching his family history he came across this blog. I'm hoping he will share more of the history of the Enterprise Small Craft Company. We know from Wikipedia that they also built Seabird Half Raters. I also came across HMS Conway which mentions that they built the 36' water boat of HMS Indefatigable, called the Arthur Bibby.

A very merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mending and clearing

Took the "new" mainsail to Brightlingsea today to get the damage repaired. They were very busy in James Lawrence, and did not get the sail out to have a look, but the white patches are obvious. They will replace them with matching and properly fixed patches. There is no deadline on when this will happen, since they are, as usual, extremely busy, but I did say we wanted it back before Easter.

I talked to Mark about the gaff saddle, and he wondered if maybe the mast tapers too much, so that the saddle does not fit snugly enough by the time it gets up to where it slides round. That could mean replacing the mast is one way of getting round the problem... Seems very drastic!

I then headed to Mersea to take the fore sails off Robinetta, together with the seat cushions, bed infill,sleeping bags..... It was another cold day, 2C, and when I took the floorboards up to check the bilges the water in them was an icy slush. I mopped them out as best I could, since the water in the electric bilge pump tube was too solid to flow. Hopefully the tube is okay!

Today's refurbishment task was to finish dismantling the galley, which I did. The available space looks impressive without the cooker in the way, but I like our cooking capability too much to want to go for something without an oven. It's going to take a lot of thinking to make the most of the space.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

End of year totals

Robinetta came out of the water on the 4th December, and I've just been on board today to start clearing her out. It was a lovely bright day, but cold. There was ice on the cover and foredeck when we got to the yard, and the temperature never got above 4C.

A quick look at the outside showed various minor patches of bare wood, but it was too cold to paint, even though the hull was dry.
Alex came with me, and between us we've made a good start on preparing her for the winter ashore. She's got her foredeck cover on, and her main sail off, and a car full of cabin contents are now at home. That includes the charts, which gives me a chance to total up our miles for the season.

We used our engine for 60 hours, covered 431 miles (mostly under sail) and spent 25 days on board. That means we averaged just over 17 nm per sailing day. The engine hours were pushed up by a couple of longish passages under motor, but the wind does not always oblige!
Not bad, given we also spent 10 days sailing out of the Hamble this year! (255nm, in three trips)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

End of the Season

Decided we'd sleep on Robinetta on Saturday night, since the OGA AGM was at the West Mersea Yacht Club. Seemed like a good idea since we would not need to drive home, so could drink.

Didn't seem like such a good idea when we came out the yacht club at gone 2200 and saw the frost on the ground, but we were expecting it, so well prepared with extra sleeping bags and plenty of warm clothes. I rowed us out, in bright moon light, with plenty of stars over head, and we were soon tucked up in Robinetta.

Putting our light weight summer quilt sleeping bags outside our normal ones, and wearing lots of layers of clothes plus our warm sailing hats, worked fine as a keeping warm in bed strategy; getting out of bed to go to the heads, not so great!

We woke up to ice inside the port holes, but bright sunshine and a good sailing breeze, so after a fry up we got the sails up, and headed for Tollesbury. The aim was to get fuel to top up the tanks before Robinetta comes out of the water. My 'phone rang as we sailed past the Packing Shed; Mike McCarthy had seen us as he drove off the Island!

We waited until until we were sure we had enough water to get over the sill at the marina (high tide at 1410 West Mersea), and tied onto the fuel dock by 1303. Then we discovered that the chandlers closes at 1300 out of season on a Sunday. They had already cashed up and shut down the computers, so there was nothing they could do to sell us fuel (although they were apologetic).

We went and had a drink at the Cruising Club, being too full of fry up to want a carvery dinner, then headed back to Mersea just after high water. We got the sails up again, but the wind had gone very light, so we put the engine on by Little Cob Marsh Island, and motored back home.

A gentle day's sailing, our last of the season, but very enjoyable despite the cold.

Unexpected delight

Gavin Atkin says of Francis B Cooke:

"Francis B Cooke was one of the great yachting writers of the 20th century and more – a long-lived man, he was first published in 1883 and was still writing in the early 1970s, by which time he was in his early 100s". Read more here

Alison and I were therefore over the moon last night to be presented with the Francis B Cooke trophy for the best log by an East Coast gaffer.

Thanks everyone!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Been wanting to go sailing for a while, but Julian had too much to do, what with work, and his OU course. The weather's not been too good for it either, but when I checked on Friday the forecast said bright sun on Sunday. Not much wind, and only 5C but even a row out to check on the bilges would be good.

Got to West Mersea at 1030, and there was still enough water at the hard to launch Worm there rather than the pontoon. The sky was clear and blue, and there was more wind than expected, certainly worth going for a sail!

The bung closing off the sink sea cock was firmly in place, and after checking Robinetta over we hoisted sail on the mooring, and sailed off at 1200. By 1235 we were passing the Nass Beacon, heading towards Brighlingsea on a run.

The wind was very light, but the tide was with us, so we went over the ground at a reasonable speed. Since we were running there was no wind chill; Julian took off his outer wear and ended up helming in his tee shirt! In November! He had to put a couple of layers back on when the sun went behind a cloud bank, but the weather stayed lovely.

We rounded to the Inner Bench Head buoy at 1437 and headed back to West Mersea. The tide was against us now, but slackening, and we made decent progress fine reaching across the river until the wind died just after the tide turned in our favour. We had to put the engine on at 1520, and motored home, watching the sun set behind Bradwell power station.

We were back on our mooring at 1700, with just enough light left to let us pick it up without problems.

A little more wind would have been good, but days like today are why we don't want to to haul Robinetta out for the winter just yet!

Flexible working

A lovely day on the River Blackwater is not incompatible with keeping an eye on work.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

It was still raining on Sunday morning, rather than the mist promised by the forecast, and there was a little wind, which increased through the morning so we could have gone sailing. The weather discouraged us though, sailing in the rain is rarely enjoyable, so we decided to tackle some maintenance instead.

The work surface beside the cooker feels really wobbly at the back, and we can not access the sink through hull easily to turn it on or off. Because of that we have never used the sink. We decided to remove the work surface to check its condition, and that meant taking out the plate rack to make it easier to get at. I had done this before, the first winter we owned Robinetta, and knew it was not that difficult.

All the pans, crockery and glasses got put away in the cupboard over the port berth, then we got the plate/glass rack out. I had forgotten that the wiring for the galley and compass lights ran through the work surface, so we had to undo then re-run them, and then we prised out the tacked in beading that held the work surface down. It was nice and solid, but came off cleanly once I had unscrewed the tap surround that held it in place.

The formica that forms the actual work surface was not in too bad a state, but it was not glued to anything by the hull; Julian pulled it off the ply, and then pulled off a layer of ply, then some fragments of ply, then a layer of ply... Each layer of wood that went to form the ply came up separately, the glue had failed all the way through.

At one point we had the sink held up by its pipe work, with no wood around it. The nut holding the sink in place was too large for any of our spanners to move. Trying to access a screw half hidden behind the sink meant wriggling the pipe work enough to loosen the nut though, and Julian managed to get the nut undone so we could remove the sink. Unfortunately the nut that loosened up was the one holding the pipe to the thru-hull, and shortly after Julian lifted the sink away I had a look and realised that the thru-hull was slightly open.

The toilet thru-hull spanner fitted, but we could not get the thru hull to close even after encouraging it with a hammer. It was not a dangerous situation, the thru-hull is just on the water line and it was only slightly open, but we could not leave the boat unoccupied with it like that.

We have a set of wooden bungs on board, so after we found them where they were hiding we hammered in the one that fitted best, then sealed around it with mastic, aluminium foil, hose clips and electric tape. It sounds like over kill, but we really don't want the bung working loose if there's a storm! At the top of the tide even our sheltered mooring up the Ray can get quite rough, and we're not sure when we'll next get back to Robinetta.

We left just after lunch, with a bucket full of bits of rotten ply and formica to throw away. We've also brought the anchor winch home. There's not much point giving it room on the boat if its going to fall apart when we need it!

Next task is thinking how to replace the galley area we've just destroyed! The racks above will go back without problem, but first we have to service the thru-hull (when we are not in the water!). We want some way of accessing it, and using the dead space beside it. We'll have to re-site the tap and sink too...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A quiet evening

It was my birthday on Friday, and when Julian asked what I wanted to do for a birthday treat I decided to go to lunch at the Company Shed, then spend the night on Robinetta so we could get a full days sailing on Sunday.

The plan was always weather dependant, and the forecast was for not much wind, so we did not have great expectations. The lunch was excellent, and then we dropped by Keith and Julie's to give back the clothes we borrowed. After a cup of tea or two and a natter I suddenly realised it was getting dark! We rushed back to the pontoon and jumped into Worm, which we had launched while waiting for our space in the lunch queue (even on a dank Saturday on October the Company Shed was full up!).

Rowing out to Robinetta in the gloaming on a very still evening was relaxing, but quite slow as the tide was against us and I was full of lunch. By the time we reached the mooring it was nearly full dark, and it was only after I boarded Robinetta and found a bundle of cloth in the cockpit that I realised that the sail cover was there, rather than over the sail. Ii must have come off and been put on board for us, but I don't know who by. Whoever it was, thanks! (turns out Rob Williamson saw the problem when he was checking Maid of Tesa. It was high tide, so he rowed straight across the Ray spit and rescued the cover for us.)

It began to spit with rain, so I got the sail cover back on, and then Julian and I spent a quiet night on the boat, listening to the rain. It's strange how enjoyable just being on the boat can be!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

All Safe

Drove to Marconi sailing club this morning, with Julian and Alex, hoping we would find Worm and Robinetta safe in their temporary homes. Worm was certainly there, but we could not see Robinetta! Luckily the vice-commodore of Marconi was there on hand, and said she was still afloat. He got the Marconi boatman to give us a lift out to Robinetta with Worm in tow.

Everything was fine on board, all though she was pitching quite a bit in the swell. The pump started up almost as soon as the Marconi launch left us. With three of us in the cockpit it had taken a couple of minutes for the water to run back to lift the float switch. That makes me think that Robinetta is letting water in at the bows, not the stern.

The engine started up fine, and we cast off the buoy at 1115 to go look for our anchor. The sea state was a bit rough, with wind over tide, and there were white horses on the wave crests. Not the best conditions for finding a small white fender! We had no luck, so headed back to Marconi, where Julian dropped me off on the pontoon at about 1230 to collect the car and drive round to West Mersea.

Julian and Alex headed back down river in Robinetta, and almost motored over the fender! They got it, and all the chain and the anchor on board, then continued on to Mersea and put Robinetta back on her nice sheltered mooring up the Ray.

They were ashore on the West Mersea pontoon by 1530. Julian told me it was the first time he'd ever rowed Worm with two people in her!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Thanks to everyone!

The wind increased steadily through the afternoon, and by 1500 Robinetta's keel was back in the water; by 1530 the we were still lying at the same angle, but the waves were pounding on the windward side and we could feel the timbers shake. She felt very solid though, with no leaks, although the waves breaking across the foredeck did drip through the hatch and bits. Some of that was rain though, it was pouring down!
The migraine had gone off by this point, no more nausea and the head ache at manageable levels, so I crawled out of the sleeping bag where I'd been ever since we settled on the sand and got dressed in full wet weather gear and life jacket. I suggested putting the radio on, and Julian did. The RNLI visitor at 1230 had asked us to call the coast guard with an update, so he did so now. Turned out they had tried to call us earlier, and had no reply, so had sent an observer to the shore, and asked the life boat to drop by at 1630 when we expected to be afloat.

She began to come upright at 1545, but was not afloat, and soon started to lie over on the other side with the force of the waves. After ten minutes of that we had five minutes pounding on the shell sand (well I'm sure it was more sand than shell after a minute beneath our keel!). This felt nerve racking, and I was really glad when she suddenly swung round to her anchor. I could see a four wheel drive vehicle on the north shore, and was certain it was the coast guard watching. A welcome back up!

It should have been plain sailing after that, but it wasn't. The wind had really got up, at least the forecast F7, and try as I might I could not motor up to the anchor to help Julian pull it in. I began to wonder if the engine was even driving the prop! The stay sail cover had come off, (Julian says the reflecting strip on his oily jacket caught on the velcro and pulled it off) so he was fighting with the stay sail too.

Julian struggled to haul up the anchor by hand, but ending up laying out even more chain as it got away from him, I suggested using the anchor winch. We'd never used it before, but had tried fitting it, and knew it sat on the bowsprit. I went up and got the bowsprite out (we'd not bothered running it out after reeving it at Maldon), then we fitted the chain into the winch.

A combination of Robinetta pitching, and the wave height meant that the bowsprit was being almost completely submerged by every wave, the solid bulwarks gave the foredeck some welcome shelter though, allowing us to use both hands to work, rather than needing one to hold on. I needed both for holding on going to and from the cockpit though! I tried motoring up to the anchor again, but it made no difference, and then the anchor winch fell apart.

Julian came back to the cockpit too, and we sat there for a bit, recovering. It was 1625, and I spotted the RNLI boat on its way. We weren't in any sort of immediate danger but we'd certainly reached the end of what we could do without help and I was really glad to see them.

It was a three man Inshore boat, out of the West Mersea life boat station. We could not talk over the wind noise even when they were along side, so one of them came on board and we talked about options. Them towing us to West Mersea was out. The sea state there was so bad that they had been airborne several times on the way to us, and they were pretty sure they could not tow us against the wind and tide any way. We already knew that Robinetta's own engine could not make progress to windward from trying to reach the anchor. The coastguard reported that the wind was a steady 30 knots on shore by us, and the forecast was for it to increase even more later.

The sensible thing to do was to head down river and pick up a mooring at either Stone, or Marconi, and the lifeboat headed over to check availability. We suggested Marconi as the better bet, since Nick from Letty May, who has a mooring there, had told us yesterday that their visitor's mooring was definitely free.

Meanwhile I dug out a fender to tie on the end of the anchor chain while Julian went down into the cabin to free the bitter end. Since we could not haul the anchor up the sensible thing to do was let it all out and recover it later. I went up to the foredeck to help the life boat man, and we got the stay sail off and back to the cabin.

Julian and the life boat guy were both on the foredeck sorting out the anchor, so I went into the cabin and tidied up a bit in the warm. I'd left the engine on, so the cabin felt toasty, and I was soaked though despite the oil skins. They're five years old now, and I'm going to replace them!

The life boat came back, and reported the sea state at the moorings at Stone was very rough, but it was a bit better at Marconi, and there were a couple of vacant ones. We agreed to go to Marconi, and leave Robinetta there. The lifeboat crew advised against us getting a lift to Mersea with them as it would be extremely rough, and we agreed that they would take us from Marconi across the river to the waiting Coastguard vehicle.

They took us in tow and we caste off the anchor. I put Robinetta in gear, as well as the tow, but even with that it was obvious we would never have been able to head down river. I hardly noticed the trip to Marconi as I was in the cabin, packing essentials into one bag to take off the boat. I even began to be a bit hungry, and had a glass of apple juice and a dry scone, while offering our life boat man a caramel wafer.

We were on the mooring at Marconi about 1715 and suddenly became aware of a problem. What were we going to do about Worm? We needed her ashore for getting back to Robinetta later. At that moment Julie called, having seen Julian's facebook and blog posts about events, and offered us a lift from Marconi. After a moment to think about it, and a chat with the lifeboat, we decided that would be the best thing to do.

I checked things down below, and turned off all unnecessary power. Only when the whine from the depth gage stopped did I hear the bilge pump stuck on. We weren't pumping, the pump had only run once during the whole adventure, and the float switch seemed to be in the down position, but the pump stopped when I pushed it lower. I only hope it doesn't get stuck again and drain the battery.

The lifeboat took us and Worm to the pontoon at Marconi, and left us there while they returned to West Mersea. I hope it wasn't too bad for them on the return trip. There are only three secure seats on the lifeboat, and while it felt comfortable at low speed on the short run to the pontoon from the mooring I dread to think what it was like entering Mersea. Average wind speed at the time was 23 knots, but it was certainly gusting higher.

Marconi Sailing Club was deserted (not too surprising with a force 7-8 in the forecast), but we hauled Worm up onto a grassy bank where we were sure she'd be safe. There was plenty of outside shelter beneath an awning, so we waited there until we though Keith and Julie would be close, and set off walking to meet them.

It was wonderful to be in a warm car, and then a warm house, borrowing dry clothes and having tea. After we recovered a bit Julian drove us home. We were there just after ten.

Thanks to everyone who helped and gave moral support through phone and Facebook; special mention to Kalinda for recovering Worm and trying to pull us off, the coast guard for standing by, the West Mersea Inshore Lifeboat for all their help, and Keith and Julie for picking us up from Marconi and taking us back to West Mersea.


Had a knock on the cabin - local inshore lifeboat on their way back from a call stopped to see if we were OK. Offered to take an anchor out for us. I said I was going to do it myself but got good advice where to put it. They have told Coast Guard we are here. I promised to radio an all clear once we are off.

High and dry

I don't often blog in real time. Post are dated as the event they describe, not when they are written. Not much else to do at the moment though. Alison is feeling distinctly under the weather. Robinetta is distinctly up amongst it! The forecast gales are threatening, shaking the rigging as we sit high and dry on the only shingle bank for miles around us. Quite an achievement, going aground so hard, so close to home. We knew it was shallow and I was heading gently back towards the channel. Too gently. Something cut Worm's painter - could have been our prop but nothing is wrapped round it. The good ship Kalinda came to our rescue and brought Worm back but their best efforts were not enough to pull us off the shingle. The water was gushing out of the river and we were hard aground in minutes.

Getting off this evening should not be a problem.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Maldon Regatta

Headed up to West Mersea on Friday evening, to go to a pre-regatta meal in the West Mersea Yacht Club. It was organised by one of the Maldon regatta committee, rather than the gaffers, which made a interesting change. Nice meal, nice people. There were some gaffers in the bar, and we had a chat to them too before heading out to Robinetta. It was low water, but there was still water at the pontoon. The Maldon regatta is often at extreme springs, but was at the tail end of them this weekend.

We cast off the mooring at 0845, after Julian had a good go scrubbing off Robinetta's weed with the broom from Worm. The forecast was bright sun shine, and no wind, and they were right about the sun, but there was wind, a rather cold North Easterly.

We passed Emma Hamilton with Sue and Howard aboard in the Thornfleet, and asked her to take Worm to Maldon for us. We had her with us in case Suman Rei, a friend of Julian's, wanted to come sailing with us on Sunday and needed picking up.

There were about 70 boats at the start, and a lovely sight they made!

I messed up our start, hanging too far back and not getting the jib out soon enough, so we crossed the start line last boat but one. The one behind was Swallowtail, Kit told me later they'd decided to do the same as us since I'd been starting well lately.... They soon passed us, and came third in the class.

We did manage to pass two boats, and nearly caught Moonstone by the outermost mark, but the wind was dying and soon we began to drift rather than drive up river with the tide. At least we had rounded the marks first!

We had not even reached Thirslet by 1430, the end of the race, and Advent the Committee boat was talking about starting the Parade of Sail early in view of conditions, so we put the motor on and headed for Osea. We got there at 1520, and turned the motor off. The wind was picking up a little, enough to give us steerage way, but we're had enough of finishing last, so decided not to wait for the Parade of Sail to start officially. We told Advent what we were doing, and headed for Maldon, 15 minutes before the Smack Race started.

We had a great sail sail up to Maldon, watching the boats passing by, and being hailed by various friends. The commentator got our name right as we sailed past the Hythe, then it was down with the sails in a very busy channel, and into our pre-booked mud-berth at the chandlers. I tidied up while Julian went to get Worm and meet up with Suman. She had a look at Robinetta, and liked her, but decided not to sail tomorrow, since the forecast was rather miserable.

We had the normal great time at the Sail Locker and in the Little Ship's club, then headed back to Robinetta. Unfortunately she had settled badly into the berth, and we had to sleep on a slope. Such is life in a borrowed berth!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Up the mast

Today was the day to head up the mast, with very light winds forecast, and low water around 1115. Julian and I got to Robinetta at 1200, and found that she was afloat, so there went my idea of going up while she was aground!

The wind was as light as promised though, with no waves, so heading up the mast still made sense. We ate lunch, then Julian hauled me up to see the damage.

The strop that goes round the mast to hold the upper peak halyard block had totally lost its centre serving, so the block was free to move too much. I pulled the centre of the strop together with gaffer tape while Julian created some serving wire from electrical wire we had on board, then I used it to hold the gaffer tape in place. Then there was more gaffer tape, another set of copper wire, more gaffer tape, and then a layer of serving. Hopefully that will hold it together!

The mast had suffered damage from the gaff saddle not sitting properly, so I sanded down the rough wood, and put on a layer of varnish to protect it. It won't last long, just being one coat, but it's better than nothing.

Every now and then I had to stop and wave at people coming towards Robinetta in powered boats. Everyone cut their wakes down to nothing when asked, which I was very glad of!

I was up the mast for nearly two hours, and the wind was beginning to get up by the time I came down. The weather was absolutely beautiful though, bright blue sky, and not too hot. I could not ask for better weather for the job!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Heading home

Woke up to a still morning, but by 10 am the wind was whistling in the rigging at the Suffolk Yacht Harbour. We were pretty committed to going home though, and Julian checked the wind speed readings coming off the AIS in the harbour. They read 15 knots, so we set off as planned at 1115.

It was on the nose coming out of the Orwell, and very rough, but we motored through and got the sails up in Pennyhole Bay. It took us until 1330 to get everything set, (part reefed main and no 2) and we motor sailed out beyond Stone Banks. We kept seeing another gaffer heading in the same direction, and caught up motor sailing eventually. It was Duet, the Cirdan Trust ship, that Julian and I last saw in Yarmouth, IofW!

We headed out until we thought we could clear Walton Pier when we tacked, at which point we parted company with Duet who headed straight on. After that it was engine off, and long tack, short tack all the way down the Wallet. We did not have fun.

At least the wind direction was good, at south, south east..... but I've just checked the wind speed graph for the day at West Mersea, and by 10 am it was averaging 20 knots, which went up to 23 knots half an hour later, where it stayed until it started climbing again until by 1818 the average wind speed was 29 knots. After that it dropped like a stone, to a lovely gentle 15 knots by 1900. It all found us in the Wallet, but just that bit earlier.

One minute I could not hold Robinetta on course so we reefed the main right down, and the next we were hardly moving even though we shook the reef out. I'd had enough, so we put the engine on, and had a really nice motor sail across Colne Bar in practically flat seas.

What a day!

Safe on the mooring by 2000 in the last of the light. We tidied up, and got into Worm to row ashore at 2100, when the heavens opened and it started to rain. No noticeable wind though!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

President's Race/Ladies Helm/Junior Helm

Today is the last day of racing, so yesterday's cancelled race was added to the President's race. This led some boats to have a choice of three races to enter! After some discussion it was decided that boats could choose which race they had entered by putting it on their declaration forms....

The wind was still rather strong in the morning, so the start time was moved from 1030 to 1200, and the shortest course, up the Stour to Stour no 1 and back selected, since the forecast was for the wind to go really light in the afternoon. We put the no1 jib up, and as Julian hoisted the main I decided to shake out yesterday's reef straight away. We were racing after all, and starting on a run!

The start line between Avola and the Suffolk Yacht Harbour Line seemed quite narrow with lots of boats running down towards it, and it was an exciting start with My Quest and Robinetta crossing the start within seconds of each other and the start time. Luckily both were the right side of the line at the start!

I was helming, and really pleased with our start and performance. We rounded Collimer still in a good position, and even made on Charm at one point as we headed for College!

By Shotley Horse we had slipped back a good bit, but we kept our position on the beat up the Stour, even re-passing Witch at one point! (Well, she had run aground....) We tussled with Katy and Reverie for a while before both passed us close to Erwarton Cardinal, and it was not until we rounded Stour no 1 and began to run back that Maryll got past us.

Crow was the first boat we noticed heading past us in the other direction, but Fanny of Cowes passed closest to us. I want one of those big down wind sails too...

I wanted all the sail we could get, so got Julian to rig the old staysail under the boom as a water sail. It was a bit of a palaver getting it set (Julian had not done it before) but once it was there I could feel the power in it and we kept it all the way to Shotley Horse where we hauled in the sails and began the beat up the Orwell.

The wind had gone very light by then, but the tide was with us, and Maryll and Rely were still in sight, so we kept racing, and got across the line at 1620, about five minutes after Maryll.

The only boat we were aware of behind us was Kajan (who retired), but when we heard the results we learnt that Snoopy was last boat to finish. Hurray! We weren't last!

Dirty Girty was the boat to beat all week, and the Presidents race was no exception. Her handicap went up with every race (from a waterline/sail size  calculated one of .82 at the start of the week, to over 1 for the last race), and she managed to bag both the President's race, and the Young Helm honours. Hurrah for the Young Old Gaffers! They're hoping to take her to Cowes next year!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Shifting ballast and sailing for fun.

Today's race was cancelled due to the weather forecast. Force 5-6 is a bit much for gaffer racing!

Julian and I decided to do some maintenance work. Julian started shifting ballast to check that there was no water coming in under it. (We've never had the ballast out, because it's very tightly packed and difficult to move.)  We now know that that part of the hull is fine, and that the internal ballast is definitely lead....

After that going for a sail in the afternoon seemed a fitting reward! Racing in winds above force 5 is hard work, but even with her new sails Robinetta likes a decent amount of wind. We hoisted the no2 jib, put a roll on the boom and came off the mooring under sail, to head down river.

Beating out of the Orwell with plenty of wind and no time pressure was great fun; it took two hours from Pinmill to Fagbury, and I started thinking about doing the laundry and having a shower at Levington before the 1800 briefing. It seemed a bit tame to head back up the Orwell as soon as we'd beaten out though. That's when Julian suggested going to Harwich for an ice-cream.

I had to think about it a bit, but by then we were past College, so we just carried on to Halfpenny pier, dropping the sails just before turning into the shelter of the pontoon.

We rafted up on a motor cruiser and went for our ice-creams. A short stop, but enjoyable.

Running back across the harbour on reefed main and stay sail was like being on a roller coaster. Forty minutes after untying from Harwich we were dropping sail to enter Levington marina.

A great afternoon's sail.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pennyhole Bay Race

The Pennyhole bay race was supposed to start at 1100, but the start time got pushed back to 1200 to have a little more depth to get past Stone Point. The channel has got rather shallow despite being dredged last month, and some of the deeper draft boats would have got stuck.

We did not get a very good start, and I did not really have my racing head on. We managed to keep up with the Walton Charm for a while, but by the time we were past Pye End we were the back markers. We persevered and passed the finish line at Pin Mill hard by 1550.

Julian wanted to pick up a buoy under sail, and we tried, but the wind and tide conspired against us and by 1635 I had had enough and insisted we put the engine on so we could get on the buoy. Five minutes later we were tied up securely and I jumped into Worm to try to get to the shop at Chelmondiston before it shut.

Not a great day on the water, but the evening barbecue at Pin Mill Sailing Club went well. Unfortunately Julian fell off the hard on the way back to Worm, getting his waterproof jacket and last pair of clean trousers covered in mud. We'll have to use the laundrette at Suffolk Yacht Haven tomorrow!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ramsholt to Walton

We set off early from Ramsholt, casting off the mooring under sail at 0800 and taking the ebb down to the Deben Bar. The wind was quite light and we did not want to fight the tide, but by 0830 we put the engine on to give us steerage way.

Low water was at 0930, but we passed West Knoll by 0905, without reading less than 5' on the depth gauge. The latest chartlet showed enough water for us (or we would not have tried) but it was still a relief to get through!

We turned the engine off after West Knoll, to drift with the tide towards Harwich. There was no wind at all, but we were not in a hurry, and it was forecast to come back. We had enough to sail by 1000, and headed off shore to catch more tide push. We went right across the shipping lane since there was nothing in it, and only tacked towards Pennyhole Bay when we reached the Cork Sands.

One long tack took us right to the Walton Channel no2 buoy (Pye End remained elusive) and then we tacked up the channel to buoy no11 before turning on the engine at 1245.

We were on a vacant mooring close to Stone Point by 1300 having had a relaxing sail in light winds and bright sun shine. A good day!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Woodbridge and Ramsholt

Spent the morning playing with a new lug sail for Worm that John from Tab Nab had for sale. Need longer spars. Lovely sail from the Tide Mill to Ramsholt. Picked up the buoy under sail easy peasy. Food good as usual. Less said about the shantymen the better.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Scandinavian Seaways Race

The Scandinavian Seaways Race was due to start at 0900 from Wrabness, just after the flood began. The wind was fine for a run down the Stour, but so light that Julian and I did not think Robinetta would make against the tide, so we decided not to try.

Several other boats called up Avola to say they were not starting either, and the fleet split in two. We started off at the same time as the racers, but had our engine on and soon left them behind. I kept looking back, and they looked really good with all their sails out, but by the time we reached Harwich Shelf at 1030 there was no sign of anyone behind.

The wind stayed really light all morning, and we motor sailed to the West Knoll buoy at the entrance to the Deben. The wind began to pick up as we reached it, and with the tide now with us we unrolled the jib, turned the engine off, and had a cracking sail all the way up to the Tide Mill.

We were past Ramsholt by the time any of the racing boats passed us, (Crow, under motor). The wind had totally died in Harwich harbour, and none of the boats could make against the tide. Roy Hart in Greensleeves put out his anchor, but everyone else resigned and put their engines on.

We dropped our sails by the entrance to the Tide Mill Marina, and had our engine on for only five minutes. (If you don't count the four hours from Wrabness to West Knoll!)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Beer on the Beech

The moorings at Wrabness were pretty full by the time we got back from Mistley so we anchored under sail behind Bona. Bev' took this picture of us.
Roy Hart (Greensleeves) donated a polypin for us to consume on the beach so we rowed over for the evening. I'm sure you are supposed to let these things settle for a day or so but it tasted pretty good. The beer was brought ashore and then transferred via wheel barrow to the beach where it took pride of place on the upturned barrow. That's what I call practical engineering.

Thorn Race

The Thorn race followed on directly from the two rivers race with the finish of the one being the start of the second, with a handicapped self-timed finish at Mistley. Boats that would be late were encouraged to resign and motor to Mistley to get fed before the tide left us stuck there.

We expected to be in that group, but we weren’t far behind Janner and they were still sailing and it was so nice we couldn’t make ourselves stop. We said “we’ll stop by xxx o’clock” and then we were so close to the finish line that we carried on. There was so much water in the Stour that we could make really long tacks into the shallows of this beautiful river on a perfect day. Once past the finish line we banged the motor on and dropped sail – the channel was dead head to wind. A boat was aground on Swan Island with a rib and Swallowtail trying to pull her off. We thought about helping but decided that any boat assisting ought to be shallower draught than the boat aground,

Once ashore we discovered that the ‘hot buffet’ was to be plated and served in the Thorn and they hadn’t started. We were really pleased we hadn’t abandoned the race. We handed our declaration in, but the real beauty of the race was the sail itself.

The lunch was wonderful. The Thorn at Mistley is a fine place, professional and friendly. Great ale, great food and a great welcome. When Geoff from Swallowtail and the crew of the grounded boat finally came in after successfully rescuing her the staff made sure they were fed and watered and supplied with packed versions of any of the food they didn’t have time to eat, or were too stressed to enjoy.

Apparently, when the first boats arrived they found one of the fence panels had been removed. People from TWL soon turned up and put it back. I’m told they then welded it in place. According to the Article 4 Direction they need planning permission for each and every maintenance action they take on the fence, so this should be interesting.

Once the panel was in place, our committee put ladders either side of the fence so the rest of us could come ashore without touching it. TWL called the Police who immediately started asking questions and decided we were behaving perfectly correctly. More on this story here and here.

Two Rivers Race

Monday started warm and still. The two rivers race was to be run from Pin Mill to Wrabness as a pursuit race with a handicap based individual start time, both start and finish self-timed. Unsurprisingly, we started first. There was a bit more wind than the RHS race so we did actually start, but having Dirty Girty running rings around us (literally) as we started was a little disheartening. Still, we didn’t fall behind nearly as quickly as we usually do. Once we were beating up the Stour we actually gained on a few boats and nearly caught Janner and kept ahead of Deirdre. It was a fun race

Sunday, 19 August 2012

August Classics Ipswich Regatta

We didn’t bring a flubber this time but we did try sailing Melvyn’s smacks boat in a race and came last. It was so tiring in the heat that we didn’t compete in anything else. We did fill the water tanks though, so at last have running water on board!

We vacated the Marina to make room for the flubber football and moored against the quay. It gave us an opportunity to go shopping, and, gluttons for punishment, we bit the bullet and did our first 1GM10 oil change.

The best boat dog competition was as silly as ever, with a performance by Pete the Knife as a ‘sort of St Bernard’.

This year the Last Anchor provided a barbecue which was excellent.

No mention of the day would be complete without a huge thank you to Pete Thomas, who with everything else he was organising, made time (his welding kit must be capable of fabricating that too) to go home and make us a saddle stirrup to try and fix the problem.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Passage to Ipswich

Excellent weather for the trip up the Wallet but we couldn’t make use of it. The gaff saddle was really bent out of shape. I used the anchor windlass as an anvil and bent it into some sort of shape but it took most of the distance from the Nass beacon to Walton pier to do it. I had lots of rest breaks – the sun was incredibly hot.

We finally managed to start sailing and made our way into Harwich bay before being passed at a rate of knots by Keith on Maryll. The wind died around Levington Creek and we both motored up.

The Ipswich Maritime Festival fireworks started while we were in the lock and continued as we came into our berths. Clearly we were being specially welcomed!

Alison and I dashed round and sampled the beer festival and had some food. Didn’t try any beers, just ciders and Alison was not impressed – I think the discerning people of Ipswich had drunk all the best varieties.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Busy day on the posts

While I was working in London and then having fun, Alison and Alex did a fine job touching up the paint and varnol and scrubbing Robinetta on the posts at Mersea. They got home about 1:30 this morning, tired out. Heading up the Wallet tomorrow to join the fun at Ipswich.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Back on board

Alison and Alex are off to Robinetta this morning to put her on the scrubbing posts so she's clean for the August Classics. Weather is looking OK for next week but almost no wind on Monday or Tuesday.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Down the Wallet

Woke up to a perfect sailing day, bright sunshine and a nice fresh breeze. I thought the wind was a bit too fresh for our no1 jib, but Julian thought we'd be okay, and he was right.

We sailed off the mooring at 0930, just before high water Wrabness, and were past Harwich Shelf cardinal by 1100 after a gorgeous sail down river. The wind felt stronger once we rounded the Naze and began to fine reach, so we dropped the stay sail once we passed the tower at 1200.

We put a reef in and changed down to the no2 jib (with the staysail up again) to have lunch in comfort, but the wind felt more on the nose all the time, and we were beating to no effect by the radio tower at New Holland for a long time before we gave up and put the engine on at 1415. We normally try to work the tide in the Wallet, but the timing would not just not work for that today.

Despite keeping the stay sail up to steady us Robinetta rolled uncomfortably, and the engine at full tilt is not restful. We unfurled the jib, and motor sailed with the foresails only as they let us sail closer to the wind than the main.

Both the engine and us had had enough by 1600, so we put the full main up again and began to beat against the tide again. We saw Deirdre well inshore of us, motor sailing with the main up. She pulled ahead of us before we reached North Eagle where a gust made us decide to put a reef in the main again.

We got round Colne Bar at 1815 and began beating up the Blackwater, but we were both tired having been on the go for nine hours, so at 1905 we gave up trying to sail, put the motor on, and got the main down. The parel line had worn through at some point, and Julian only found one of the beads (although I found another later hiding in the staysail folds). We need to make/buy some more.

We got onto the mooring at 2030. I'd done a fair bit of tidying up while Julian helmed us past the Nass Beacon, but it still took another 45 minutes to pack, get the sails stowed, and put the covers on before we were ready to leave. We won't be back for three weeks, so I took most of the food off with us. Our preserved chorizo, which is supposed to be good until September, had gone mouldy, so we'll need a new one.

Worm was very full of baggage, but with only an hour to go before high water we headed for the slipway rather than the pontoon and soon had everything in the car.

It felt like a very long trip home, especially compared to the lovely fast sail on Friday.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

RHS Race

IMG_1488 by Dick Wynne
IMG_1488, a photo by Dick Wynne on Flickr.
No, honestly, we were racing. Charm and Robinetta got a bit close and we had to fend off. I had to walk right to the end of the bowsprit to push their bowsprit away. All at a speed of about 0,1 knots.

The amazing thing was that we were first over the start line, and actually held the lead for 15-20 minutes! All the other boats overtook us before we passed Holbrook cardinal though.

The whole race was SLOW. Only Transcur managed to finish, making Shotley Horse and back to Wrabness in over 5 hours. We got just beyond Erwarton before giving up, and Charm had just reached Parkeston Quay. Apparently Bona got to within 20 yards of Shotley Horse, but just could not get round it with no wind as the tide turned.

It rained almost all afternoon, but cleared up in time for the barbecue in the evening, and a great time was had as always!

RHS Rally

IMG_1486 by Dick Wynne
IMG_1486, a photo by Dick Wynne on Flickr.
Dick Wynne took this lovely shot of us from Charm

Racing without wind (with rain)

Robinetta's hatches leak. We always knew the foredeck one did, but we've never slept on board in the rain without the cockpit canopy on before. It's disconcerting to hear water gurgling over the ribs from the cockpit into the bilges when the boat rocks.

We got up early and put the cockpit cover over by 0800. The sail was sodden though, so drips kept coming in.... Julian made porridge, and the winter breakfast went with the dank weather.

We gathered on Wrabness beach for a race briefing, and the rain decreased to drizzle, then stopped. It stayed dry as we returned to Robinetta and raised sail on the mooring. We tried to sail off, but the wind was so light we had to put the engine on to get to the right side of the start line. After that it was a case of a carefully timed drift down with the tide.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Up the Wallet

We meant to go to Robinetta last night, but it was dark, and raining, by the time we were ready, so we slept at home instead. We were out of the house at 0600 in daylight with no rain, and the tide was right to let us float Worm off the slipway which is much easier than using the pontoon.

Julian stuck a couple of small patches on the damaged main sail, then we were off the mooring by 0815. I made bacon sandwiches for breakfast under way, a real boat breakfast! We reached Bench head by 0935, and had a rather uncomfortable run past Colne Bar and North Eagle, but we were very broad reaching before Clacton, and had a fast trip, to round the Naze by 1235.

After our breakfast under way we decided to stop off at Harwich Halfpenny pier for a late lunch at 1430. We dropped sail just outside the pontoon, then motored in and rafted up along side Charm (the Walton one). We had a nice lunch of Bagels and smoked salmon, sharing a bottle of Cava with Charm's owner. He was on his way to Wrabness for the rally too, but waiting for Charm's co-owner to arrive from work.

We left Harwich at 1610, then sailed close hauled up the Stour to Wrabness. We found an empty mooring nice and close the the beach hut and were on it by 1800. Mike motored by in Lillibulero about half an hour later, and asked us to move because he thought we were on the mooring he was supposed to use as committee boat, but he called over almost immediately to say he'd found the real one, so we stayed put.

It was lovely evening, cool for the time of year, but dry and bright. We were lulled into a false sense of security and did not put the covers on. Big mistake when it started raining in the night!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Weather strikes again!

When I checked the OGA website for details of the RHS rally we were meant to be going to this weekend I discovered it was cancelled due to poor weather, with winds forecast to gust over 30knots. The forecast was spot on, so we did not head for Robinetta until Sunday mid morning when the wind should have been lighter.

We dropped into the chandlers before launching Worm, and bought some new rope. Julian wanted to get some for the peak tensioner, and a smaller gauge to tie the stay sail onto its new club foot. I'd given the new spar a couple more coats of varnish during the week, so it's had enough to last the season now.

The weather's been pretty wild recently, and after our last abortive trip I've worried about the way we left Robinetta. It was dark by the time we tidied her up, and we only meant to leave her for a day, not over a week. As I rowed towards her I could see that the cockpit tent that we tied on as a sail cover had vanished.... Julian and I started talking about claiming it on the insurance, but we realised almost immediately that it was still there, just not covering the sail as we expected.

More damage became obvious as we reached the bows; there was no sign of Robinetta's bobstay. Julian investigated, and, like the cover, it was still there, just not where it should have been. The brand new shackle holding the chain to the ring had vanished, but the tricing line held, and held the chain up out of sight.

We lost another shackle too, the one holding the stay sail halyard against the shrouds. The halyard had wound itself round the rigging, but was still in easy reach, so no real problem there.

What with restoring the shackles, replacing the peak tensioner rope, and bending on the stay sail there was no way we could get to Tollesbury for high tide at 1145, which had been our tentative plan. We got Robinetta sorted out instead, and watched the dinghies coming past to race in the shelter at the top of the Ray channel.

After lunch on the mooring we headed out for a short sail. The wind had eased, and the sun was shining as we headed down the Ray, and we got the main sail up before we reached the packing shed. We flew the No. 1 Jib, and were sailing soon after we passed the Mersea Quarters cardinal.

I made tea as we reached across to the Bradwell shore, with the sea so smooth I almost forgot to put the fiddle bar round the hob, and it seemed like we were in for a pretty idyllic afternoon sail.

We tacked up river to beat against the tide, and the wind increased as the sun went behind a cloud. We were close hauled on that tack, Robinetta began to heel, and our speed became exhilarating. So far, so good. I was glad I'd remembered the fiddle bar though!

She felt a bit heavy on the helm, and every now and then the jib would flap horribly as there was a lull in the wind. Julian took the helm, and had the same problem. We decided to change down the jib, so I went forward to do it.

By the time the No. 2 jib was ready to fly the wind had increased still more, and the sky ahead was black. I took the helm while Julian put in a reef, but the wind in just the stay sail was enough to give us steerage way against the tide.

Looking back we could see sun shine over the wind farm, while there seemed no fun continuing up river. We turned to broad reach down river, and Robinetta flew with a reefed main and stay sail. We never did fly the No. 2 jib....

By the time we got level with the Nass beacon we knew we were never going to catch the sun, and with a strong blustery wind sailing felt more like hard work than pleasure so we decided to head home with plenty of time before low water. The sea was kicking up a bit in the Mersea channel with wind over tide, and I began to regret not dropping the main before passing the beacon, but the sailing felt quite good again...

Dawn had anchored close to the Mersea Quarters cardinal and her guests were watching us sail in, so we decided to give them more of a show, rounding up just past them to go head to wind and drop the main. Julian got the sail down beautifully in less than a minute, and then we sailed off again on just the stay sail. I don't know if they could tell we also had the engine on!

The wind was so strong that most boats were lying to it, rather than facing into the  falling tide. The long keel boats could feel both, so lay across the channel, making picking our way up the Thornfleet more challenging than normal. Most of our power came from the  stay sail, and I kept the engine in very low revs, just enough to keep us safe if the wind dropped.

Passing the piles I put the engine in neutral, wanting to get a feel for how the tide would slow her as we neared out mooring. The answer? Not a lot, we were making against the tide with stay sail alone by at least two knots...

Worm lay on our mooring heading into the wind, and the channel felt too narrow to turn round in at that state of the tide, so I decided to go straight for the buoy rather than rounding it. Julian headed forward with the boathook, and I dropped the stay sail as we passed the motor boat on the mooring closest to ours. We could always use the engine to reach the buoy if the tide stopped us short. In the end I had to use quite a lot of reverse to stop us over running the mooring!

Julian and I put the new sail cover on. It turns out I should have put on more tapes, so we used some sail ties as well. We do not want a repeat of last time! While re-flaking the sail for a proper stow Julian discovered something really annoying. Our brand new main sail now has a rip in it. Not a big one, only about 2cm long, but still... It looks like the same high winds that almost took the boom cover off made the shackle on the gaff span chaff persistently against the sail cloth. This time Julian tied it down separately.

The wind was up again, and I dreaded the row back to the pontoon, but it was not too bad in the end. The tide was right out, so no taking short cuts across the shallows, but Julian hunkered down in the bottom of Worm to reduce windage, and it was surprising how much difference that made.

Not a great day's sail, but it blew the cobwebs away. Fingers crossed next time will be better. I need to mend the main sail first though....

Friday, 8 June 2012


Got up at 0500 to get to West Mersea before 0630 so we could row over and move Robinetta to deeper water before low tide. We then intended to head over to Brightlingsea for the East Cast Race tomorrow.

Julian had spent yesterday making a new club foot for the stay sail, while I did some more work on the sail cover, and we were going to fit both on the way. We knew the weather would be a bit dodgy (it was why we headed straight home from the Swale) but it was not until we reached Mersea that I realised how bad it actually was.

The strong wind and rough chop off the pontoon made launching Worm a major undertaking, and trying to row out to Robinetta unsafe. We left the dinghy on the car, and drove over to Brightlingsea instead.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Flushed through the Swale

We worked out that low water would be between 9am and 10am and that we could take the first of the flood into the Swale and maybe stay in Harty Ferry overnight then sail back to the Blackwater on Thursday. This was a slightly risky plan. We didn't know the Swale and there was a chance of grounding. The forecast was OK but with F7 in the future. We decided that if the 13:00 weather forecast didn't look good for Thursday we would carry on, maybe through the night and get back across the Thames before the bad weather started.

Alison went ashore to get some milk and ran into Yvonne from Kajan. We really should have told her we were coming but we didn't have her number. Yvonne is lovely and dashed over to Robinetta to lend us her tide tables and give us some piloting advice. She really wasn't confidant we would make it so close to low water.

When we got to the Kingsferry bridge the bridge-keeper thought we might get under without a lift. We chickened out at the last minute and the bridge openned for us.

Once through, and round the corner we put the mainsail up, although we kept the engine on in case.... After a minute we reefed - not quite all the way down. We shot along the channel at between 5 and 6 knots until we got near Elmsley Ferry where there is an old causeway which dries to 20 cm. We scandalised the sails and tiptoed over, with the engine in reverse...

... and made it without a bump. Further on it is very shallow near Conyer Creek, but we slid over that danger too.

We got to the entrance to Faversham Creek at 1145 - hours before we expected. With the weather so favourable and the outlook so bad, we decided to carry on for the Blackwater. The wind was really strong and we reefed down as much as possible - including untying the first hoop. We made it across the Thames at about 4 knots over a rolling sea with only a couple of not quite intentional gybes.
The run continued up the outside of Foulness to the Spitway which we reached at 1715. A barge over-took us there and passed through and up the Wallet towards Harwich. Perhaps it was returning from the Pageant to Ipswich. Turning into the Spitway it looked like it touched the corner of the Buxey sands. Maybe just the leeboard.
Once in the Spitway we had the tide strongly against us for the first time all day. We slogged up the Blackwater against it with really strong winds under the rainclouds but we were now sheltered by the sands from the Thames fetch and the seas were really gentle.

Unfortunately we got to West Mersea bang on low tide. We thought about picking a buoy up and waiting but instead we edged up the Thorn Fleet passed the Gut and went gently aground at the entrance to the Ray at 2040. Alison rowed over to the nearest buoy and tied us to it and we went below for some food and waited to float off. About 90 minutes later we inched up to our own bouy in the Ray and put Robinetta to bed, rowed ashore and drove home after a fantastic sail.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Through the Havengore

We always considered the Havengore to be impossible for us but today was a really big tide and Trevor thought we might be OK. Alison thought a trip up the Roach might be nice anyway so I suggested we have a look. We had a lovely sail down to the entrance to the Roach and then motored in against the wind. A bermudan ketch Sea Orchid caught us up under motor and then anchored outside Yokefleet creek. We rang the bridge and they said there should be enough water for us at 13:00. We crept towards the bridge, going aground in soft mud for a couple of minutes once.

The bridge lifted for us and we went through, trying to follow the instructions the lady controlling the bridge had given us. The sea in Havengore Creek was quite choppy. Sea Orchid came out behind us and overtook, looking like they knew what they were doing so we snuck in behind them. A few motorboats came in from the sea giving us more indications of the right route.

Going over the Broomway was scary - even with the high spring tide we were not sure we wouldn't bump but we got over it without mishap. It seemed to take forever to get across the Maplin sands into deep water but it all went well. We motored all the way, to make it easier to back off if we grounded, but we had the stay sail up to steady us a bit.

We hadn't really planned what to do next. We had a choice of going down river and back into the Crouch or Blackwater or hopping over to Queenborough. Once we could see the chimney on the Isle of Grain it was too tempting. We set sail and turned the engine off for a choppy but safe journey across the Thames, and arrived right by the wreck of the Richard Montgomery, an obstruction we hear about all the time. We sailed most of the way in but it started raining and we decided to motor to Queenborough.

We rafted up against two big yachts from Canvey on the pontoon and went to the Flying Dutchman pub for a nice dinner.

Monday, 4 June 2012


We had the Crouch/Fambridge rally race scheduled for today. Wonder of wonders the weather was dry, bright and a decent amount of southerly wind and the race went ahead at 1500.

Five boats raced, us, Otter, Mary Richie, Baldric, and Greensleeves, on a course down to Cliff Reach and back. Wonder of wonders we had a reach down, and a reach back, with no beating against the tide!

The new sails did well and Otter, who we have raced on the Crouch before, and lost to, couldn't get near us.

Otter did look good finishing.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee Regatta

Got up early to make bagels. Robinetta is not the ideal bakery but everthing worked and our picnic was set. Smashing bacon and egg roll breakfast courtesy of the Fambridge Yacht Club. Mike McCarthy gave us a lift to the station and we set off for our prime viewing location on Chelsea bridge.

The regatta was really great. Got back and had a beer with Barry and then turned in.

We went to St Katharine's dock first. I fell in love with Suhali. There were huge TV screens showing newsreel footage from the Queen's reign. Great stuff. Then we made our way to Chelsea Bridge and found a nice spot to plant the stools right behind the press enclosure. They blocked the view a bit but were very accomodating and it spoiled the photos more than the actual view.

The rowed boats were fantastic. My next favorite were the small steam powered pleasure launches. The sea cadets held their diamond formation very well - Red Arrows beware. The rain held off until the narrow boats section. The narrow boats had their headlamps on - very atmospheric.

Afterwards we went to look at the avenue of sail. This was disappointing. I'm not sure I know how to make it better though.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Crouch Blues

Rubbish weather - too much wind to race, too much rain to enjoy the outdoors. Only good thing the company.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Flaming June!

We cast off our mooring at 1130, and headed down the Ray under engine while Julian bent the staysail onto its mended clubfoot. The weather was dull, with very little wind, but we raised the main once we were clear of the Nass, and motored towards the Spitway buoy.

We saw another gaffer over on the Bradwell side, and as she seemed to be heading for the Spitway I thought she must be going to the Fambridge  Rally too. By 1230 the breeze had freshened enough to let us make 3 knots (with the tide under us) , so we turned the engine off and sailed. The other gaffer pulled away from us steadily after that! (turns out to be Deirdre, and they were motor sailing)

A bermudan yacht, called Chantilly sailed up and past us, hailing Julian by name and taking photos. We didn't recognise them but it turns out it was Julian's colleague Dave who raced with us on the Crouch in 2010 on his friend Bernie's boat. They sailed with us to and through the Spitway, which we cleared by 1415. They then sailed past us and disappeared.

The wind went even lighter, and died by 1430, and with the tide now against us we turned the engine on, and headed for Ron Pipe. Julian went below as he was not feeling well, and it began to spit with rain.

The channel to the north of the Swallowtail is buoyed now, but the visibility decreased, and I was very glad of the cockpit mounted GPS and the depth gage to help with the navigation.

The wind began to freshen again and I loosened off the main sail. We were running at 3 knots, so I turned off the engine at 1505. Having it on had warmed the cabin up nicely!

We ran all the way to Burnham, gybing occasionally to stay on course between the buxey sands and Foulness. There were seals hauled out on both, and we saw one in the water. We were making 6 knots once the tide turned and the wind got up a bit. A lovely sail, marred only by the weather. Poor visibility, drizzly rain, and cold for the time of year.

The gaff span jumped out of its lower cleat position at some point, possibly on one of the gybes. It was not a huge problem as the span was still held at the top, but we could not set the sail well, so once we reached Burnham we went head to wind, got the sail down, re positioned the gaff span, and raised sail again for the reach/run up to Fambridge. We tied up on the pontoon at 1900, fitted the half made sail cover I've been working on this week, and went to get something to eat. 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

New sail shakedown

The new mainsail, gaff and halyard setup means a few changes to how Robinetta should be handled. The clew sits much higher, and this means putting the topping lifts on before raising the sail is a must. The gaff exerts a much stronger force on the saddle than before. This is a combination of the higher peak angle and the span being cleated nearer the peak. Because of this, the gaff needs to be kept a bit below horizontal while raising the throat to keep the load off the saddle and the saddle free of the mast.

Lowering is also very different. keeping the gaff almost vertical pushes the saddle down and the sail drops very naturally. Then the gaff can be dropped and with any luck, the sail flaked as it comes.

Once up, trimming is a very different experience too. Gone is the unsightly deep belly and the tell-tales make one instantly aware of the aerodynamics. The most surprising thing about the peak adjuster is that it seems pretty obvious when to use it. I'm really pleased with the arrangement of the fiddle blocks. They sit above the horse looking like they had always been there. The only problem is that the peak halyard falls are fouled by the gaff and look pinched between the gaff and the topping lift.

I had to splice an extra length on the peak halyard and being lazy, I did it with a short splice. This splice acts as a stopper, preventing the fiddle blocks separating. It turns out that this means its possible to let the peak adjuster off and un-cleated and know one has the maximum available adjustment. Something of an unexpected safety feature.
Peaking-up and slacking off the peak is a piece of cake. Like nearly all lines, the adjuster comes back to the cockpit and you just uncleat it, play it and recleat.

Reefing was a little more difficult than it used to be. Some practice required.
We also practiced changing jibs. Putting the snap shackle actually into use made this quite easy. As did the strop to make off the wickham-martin Alison had installed on the stem-post.

Lots to learn, but it all seems to work.

First Sail!

Julian had a OU day school on Saturday, but luckily the place where it's held isn't too far, and it's on the way to Robinetta, so we headed to West Mersea on Saturday at tea time.

Bright blue skies, and a cooling breeze  made for a lovely evening, but a stiff  row out to Robinetta again. I ended up with blisters on my right hand, a first for me! Almost the first thing we did was move Robinetta down the Ray to the deepest vacant West Mersea Marine buoy. I'm almost sure it normally has a motor boat on it...

Julian spliced a new becket onto a second hand block we acquired at the OGA AGM last January. I had refurbished and re-varnished it earlier, and we intend to use it on the bowsprit tensioning rig, but the original becket was too long when we tried it. We'll fit it later. Then I rowed us back to the pontoon and we went to the Victory pub for dinner, before turning in for an early night.

We left Worm on the mooring at 0820 next morning and motored out to the Blackwater eating  breakfast on the way; I wanted plenty of water for our first raising of the sail in earnest. We avoided the Nass Beacon and its adjacent wreck by heading for Bradwell by the no4 channel marker.
The wind was blowing about force 4, and I decided we'd try the no2 jib first. It's not a bad balance for the main, but when the wind got up a little more the helm felt heavy. One roll of reef balanced the rig up again.

We beat out of the Blackwater with the tide beneath up, making about 5 knots. With one reef and the smaller jib we weren't exactly pushing her. Julian's not very well, feeling unfit after suffering from a feverish cold for two weeks that's left him with a debiliting cough, so I decided stopping for a lunch time rest was a good idea. The wind was going a little lighter, so we unrolled the reef, and headed for the Colne. By 1120 the wind was light enough that Julian thought trying the no1 jib made sense, so we headed away from the Colne again, while he changed sails. It took ten minutes, not bad for a first go under way, but not exactly race speed!

We sailed into the Pyefleet, and Julian tried picking up a buoy under sail. He nearly made it, but the tide was running a bit faster than expected, and he needed to use the engine a bit. We were on the buoy by 1210 for a nice long lunch time rest.

Having failed to sail onto the buoy Julian was determined to sail off, and did so perfectly at 1400. We beat out of the Colne against the tide and wind making 3-4 knots. Lovely job!

Very broad reaching, and some jib-staysail winging brought us back to the Nass by 1600, then we rolled the jib away and gybed to sail up the Thornfleet. Slackening off the peak tension slowed us down to 4 knots as we sailed through the moorings, but a wind lull at the start of the piles made me put the engine on to be safe. It went into neutral again almost immediately, and we sailed close hauled up to our buoy.

I missed it on my first attempt (I haven't practised picking up buoys under sail nearly as much as Julian), but got it on the second, almost I used a burst of engine reverse to stop us, which is definitely cheating!

While we were getting the sails away a motor boat came past, setting up a nasty wash that made Julian lose his balance. He fell against the club foot, and it broke; an unfortunate accident at the end of a really good day.  Bright blue sky, hot enough for shorts, and plenty of wind for sailing.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Toplac all done

Alex and I went back to Robinetta today to finish the painting. There was no rain forecast, and the temperature looked good, so we went, even though the wind speed was higher than ideal.

I had the tide with me for the row, but the wind was against me, and the wind had the advantage; 16-17 mph NNW is hard work to row against! It took so long that Alex had a snack, and accidentally dropped some cellophane wrapping in the water. We had to chase it down and recapture it, which added a fair distance to the row!

Alex rubbed down and washed the bulwarks, then painted what he easily could from on board.  We had realised as we left Robinetta last time that the white stripe on the cabin sides were not nearly as well painted as the rest, so this time they would be finished off from Worm; it is much easier to see what you are doing that way!

I did a final touch up of the blue, and checked my design for the sail cover by fitting a tarpaulin mock up of the mast end. Very instructive! I had it nearly right, but in such a way that I had to recut the whole thing in situ.... The way I work making a mock up is essential!

Fingers crossed there is no more painting to do this season, and we can go sailing at the weekend!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

More painting...

Alex and I went to West Mersea and found Robinetta had been moved to her mooring up the Ray. She's further up than last year, and there are empty moorings in deeper water, so I'll ask if she can move a little closer.

I measured up the boom and gaff in their harbour stow. The idea is to finally make a new sail cover. I also measured up the stay sail. The cover there is looking shabby and it would be smarter to have one that matches the main sail.

Alex washed the bulwarks then painted them with a coat of Toplac, she'll need another coat before she's done. I cleaned the cabin sides then gave them a coat of Varnol. We also got the cabin top and cockpit washed and painted with a layer of masonry paint. All of a sudden she's looking much smarter!

It was cold though, with no sunshine, and a brisk wind. Roll on the summer!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

New Sails

We got to West Mersea a little after 10am on Saturday morning. Robinetta was still on the mooring in the Strood where she was left on Thursday. This made it a nice easy row out from the pontoon in Worm.

Alison had wanted to paint the bulwarks but I vetoed that, “You’re not getting paint on the new mainsail!”. I put a pair of hose clips round the gaff to act as temporary hooks for the span. I hooked the throat up as she used to be and raised the gaff a little. We got the mainsail draped over the boom and pondered how to attach it.

The hoops were still around the mast, but one less than of old – I removed a rotten one last season. The old gaff lacing was obviously going to be too short, and anyway was currently acting as the bob-stay tensioner. I found the old boom lacing and we had a nice new length of soft buff three-strand Mark had put in with the sail.

Options included using lacing instead of hoops and ro’bands or lacing for the gaff. Tom Cunliffe swears by ro’bands in Hand Reef and Steer. Sailing on Prospero last weekend had convinced me of the benefits of a loose footed mainsail and I wondered if this was possible on Robinetta but decided that the round-the-boom roller reefing dictated a laced on foot. Everyone says a roller reefed main is an abomination – almost as bad as in-mast reefing. But it’s such a useful feature, and in its original condition, that I’m loath to change it.

I knew I wouldn’t get things right first time and wanted to see the sail in situ. I used the new rope to lace the head to the gaff and the old braid to lace the foot to the boom.  I tied the hoops to the luff starting at the throat, mostly to get them out of the way. We pulled the sail up. It was awful. The sail needed to be much nearer the mast at both the foot and the peak.

The strangest thing was that only one luff cringle didn’t have a hoop! I started wondering if the luff was short. We measured it and it isn’t. The sail must be fewer cringles than in the old one.

As previously, the bottom cringle has to be left untied for reefing. I think I might make a plastic hoop with a quick release mechanism.

Bringing the foot forwards was reasonably easy. The second hoop up is still a little tight but OK. Lowering the sail is easier if the boom is topped up, reducing the luff tension. It proved impossible to understand the throat geometry without having the throat lowered to eye level but the peak at working angle. I judged the correct angle by levelling the sail numbers. We really are peaked up high now, but not “gunter high”. The whole throat attachment needed to be re-thought. I’ve had this in mind all winter, but knew I wouldn’t get it right except on the boat.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Happy Birthday

Robinetta went in the water today, 75 years after her initial launch.

There is still a lot of work that needs doing, so I went along in the morning, and finished painting the transom that we had to abandon because of the rain yesterday. I tidied up a bit too, then folded up the ladder, and waited for the tide to come in so the yard could launch her.

She went in an hour late, as the yard's work-boat came across a small motor cruiser that was about to sink on its mooring. She'd been left there, ignored, for a couple of years, and there was at least six foot of kelp dangling off her hull. The time taken to haul her out safely meant that there was no time to take Robinetta to her own mooring so she was left on one right by the yard.

I had hoped to stay on board for a little to check whether she as taking up at all, but there was no time. She's in view of the yard though, so they won't let her sink!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Looking like a sailing boat

Robinetta's mast was fitted when we arrived this morning, and the re-inforcing on the bob-stay bolt got done before lunch as promised. Weatherwise the day really couldn't make its mind up, and we got the odd bits of rain every time Alison and Alex picked up a paint brush. But we got just enough done for the rest to happen on the water.

I spent the day rigging. The biggest part was the new peak adjuster. We hadn't really worked out how to attach it, but in the end it fitted really nicely where the peak halyard block had sat on the horse, while the existing block moved one place outwards to share with the reefing block. They don't argue at all there. The new fiddle blocks are a little small for the rope we use for halyards. I used the redundant topsail down-haul as a temporary measure. It all fits really nicely, but there are a couple of things we will need to think about. Firstly, there is no pin for the extra rope in the cockpit. It currently shares with the reefing line but I don't think I'd want to be messing with both when reefing. Secondly, its closed the gap that we reeve the bowsprit into. We might just leave it poking forwards. The picture shows the new fiddle blocks for peak adjustment, and the new gaff; we'll get the sails on once we've launched.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Slow progress

After an excellent weekend cheating on Robinetta in the Solent we had planned a full day today. We hoped the mast would be in and I could de-winterize the engine and rig her while Alison and Alex finished the painting. Then Alison got a call and needed to work at a school in Harlow. Alex and I got there about noon. No mast, no welding. We have been promised it will be done by lunchtime tomorrow. I got the engine done and loaded everything up. We did a little painting and Alex sanded the blue parts of the hull ready for the final coat. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, but the weather is set to be rubbish again. Had a chat with Rob Williamson and his mate Wayne.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Recaulking the bits

This is what I've been working on while Alex painted the hull.

We noticed last season that the bits were not as firm as they should be, and water was leaking in around them. Once I took the foredeck cover off I remembered that I meant to do something about it, and had a look.

The trim around the bits was a bit soft, and when I tried to undo the screws holding it down they sheered.Using the screw driver as a chisel to ease the wooden trim off its bed of mastic worked well, but none of the wood survived intact as it turned out to be totally rotten.

The bits themselves were still sound luckily, so I re-caulked around them (the only caulking I've done since going on the course!). I used Nigel's recommended brown mastic rather than red led putty as my stopping,and no rain has come down round the bits since.

The foredeck was in need of a good tidy up, so I got rid off all the loose paint, and filled the holes with plastic padding before sanding it down and giving it a coat of Pre-Kote. After that I made and fitted some new varnished hardwood trim around the bits, gave the deck another coat of Pre-Kote then finally, today, a coat of masonry paint.

The foredeck looks better now, but the varnish on the forehatch needs some TLC too...

I went alone today, just for the morning since rain was forecast for the afternoon, and as well as the masonry paint on the foredeck, and a coat of primer in the cockpit I put on a second coat of anti-foul.None of those should be affected by the afternoon rain. The forecast predicts rain every day for the next week, and the car needs an MOT so I'm not sure when I'll go to Mersea next!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Colour returns

I've been to Robinetta every day for five days, taking Alex for four of them.

We wanted to take advantage of every suitable painting day, and got on as fast as we could. The first non primer was a layer of International Pre-Kote which acts as an undercoat before the toplac. It's only available in white, and it's very strange to see Robinetta anything but blue!

Robinetta now only needs one more coat of toplac and anti foul on the hull. I don't really want to put that last coat of toplac on until the bob-stay bolt is reinforced, since I was warned it might damage the paintwork.

Julian came along on Saturday and Sunday, so now the mast is dressed, and waiting for the yard to put it in. Really feels like we're getting there!

I'm still working on getting paint layers on the cockpit, fore-deck, and bulwarks, but Robinetta's looking like herself again with the hull red and blue.