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!