Friday, 20 December 2013

Collected Blog on Kindle

Once again I have collected the year's blog posts together, edited it, and added a little, (like my side of what happened at Rye). It's now available to buy from Amazon for reading on Kindle and/or Android devices. Since its only about 26,000 words I've priced it at the princely sum of 77p including VAT, so if anyone wants to be able to browse the blog off line, please buy!

Robinetta, There and Back Again, the 2013 log (Robinetta, the collected blogs)
Just search for Robinetta, There and Back Again, the 2013 log, and it should pop right up! It follows on immediately where the first volume left off.

About 20 people have bought Robinetta: her five year mission to seek out the places everyone else says are good, and we got a 5 star review off one of them in America, which is very pleasing given it is very basically formatted.

I've changed the cover, so it matches the second volume a bit better.
Robinetta: her five year mission to seek out the places everyone else says are good. Being the little adventures of a small wooden yacht on the East Coast of England  2007-2012

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Tidal Surges and ongoing work.

We went to Robinetta today since it was our first chance to check on her after the tidal surge flooding last Thursday. Everything was fine, it almost looked as though nothing had happened until I found fresh seaweed caught in the sail cover which I had wrapped around the boom which is currently stored under the boat. The cover was a bit muddy too, but since there was a 2metre tidal surge we got off very lightly. Talking to people who live on Mersea, and were up overnight to keep an eye on their property, its obvious that lessons were learnt from the tidal surge of 1952; all buildings constructed on Mersea after that had to be raised above the level of those floods. The chandlers made sure to seal up their letter box, and had five layers of sandbags blocking the door. The water got up to the fourth one before retreating. The surge peaked before high water at Mersea, and the wind had dropped too which helped minimise the damage.

It's always difficult getting the winter work under way, but luckily this year it's not just me doing it. Paul has been getting on well with the things we asked him to do, and the boat is looking smarter already.

When Paul took a good look at the sternpost he found the bolts in the lower end were corroded away. He has replaced them with galvanised coach screws that refasten the stern post to the dead wood below the sterntube. He also fitted a stop water, which is a large dowel fitted to intersect the joints of the keel and sternpost. This stops water creeping up the joint and inside the boat. He then used bitumin mastic over the whole area, and fasted copper tingles over the whole thing. This will prevent damage to the area when we scrape off weeds and barnacles, which tends to take the anti-fouling paint with it.

He has also re-caulked the area of garboard seam under the mast which was leaking, and refitted a copper tingle over the engine bed bolt... little things that came make a big difference to the amount of water in the boat.

The rotten iroko capping where the cockpit seats meet the transom has been replaced by a lovely bit of teak, but the most striking teak is the new rubbers to the cabin top. I shall have to work hard to get the teak grab rails and the varnolled pitch pine of the cabin sides shiny enough to match the rubbing strip!

The floor in the forepeak is also back in place, so I'll soon run out of excuses for not getting on with Robinetta's interior.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Paul starts work

We ended up not going to the boat on Monday 28th  as it was a bit too windy (gusting 60 m/h). We went on the Tuesday instead and met Paul to discuss what we wanted done. He did not give us a start date, but when we took advantage of a sunny day to go to Robinetta today he had already got a good start.

We had decided that the stern post should be pulled in at the stern, to stop the movement that is probably causing the leak at its base. That means removing the rudder (which is in the way), and screwing a very long screw through the stern post and into the keel to pull the two together. We were planning to take the rudder off today, but when we got there it was already off, with the area to drilled marked up.

Paul has also cleaned out the stopping and caulking that had failed, to let the seam dry out before he recaulks, and taken off the leaking tingle to check beneath.

We also wanted him to replace the teak strips that hide the join between the cabin roof and sides. They have been rubbed quite thin in places, and were no longer tight to the joint. He has removed the old ones, probably to use as patterns.

Inside the forepeak we wanted him to check the iron floor just beneath the bits. Its bolts were not replaced when the others were due to access issues, so we thought it should be done. That's gone too. Ever since I first looked hard at where the lowest plank in the bow met the floor it had been crooked. I had always assumed it was the plank, but now that the floor is gone so is the crooked joint. So it must have been the floor.....

He has not drawn the stem bolts yet but he's certainly made a very good start!

Julian had been planning to take the rudder off, but instead he got on with clearing loose paint off the bulwarks. He's never done that before, but soon got the hang of it. He also planed off the top of the port bulwark to make it a better fit for the cap rail, and screwed it in tighter on the joint with the older portion of the bulwark.

I washed the inside of the "wardrobe" locker, then cleared off the loose paint. The hull inside the locker has never been painted by me, and its down to bare wood in places. Once its dried off properly I will paint it!

We managed to get in to the Company Shed for lunch (by turning up at 12). One more couple made it, then the next were put on the waiting list and told to go away for an hour. We only had one dish each (delicious crab cakes), then headed back to the boat. It's nice to be able to eat there once in a while, and you don't have to go mad and pig out!

We brought the tiller and rudder home to work on, and the seat cushions too. That's the last of the things I expect to have in the house over the winter. The cabin's looking very bare.

Most of the things I want to do for Robinetta now are best done at home, or after Paul has finished. She's looking a little sad and shabby tucked away in a corner of the yard, but by next spring she'll be all spruced up again.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Emptying the anchor locker

Went to Mersea with Julian today, not nearly such a nice day as Thursday; it was raining when we got there, and felt as though it would stay that way all day despite the forecast. Luckily it soon dried out, and we got all the things done we wanted to.

The forepeak is now empty of its anchors and anchor locker, with the bolts though the stem finally accessible for checking. The floor bolts that were not replaced in the bow when the ones in the main cabin were done back when we first bought Robinetta can now be reached too. I think we'll ask Paul Drake to check them and replace if needed, he's coming to have a look at Robinetta on Monday.
Julian did some epoxying at the stern where the cap rail had been pulled up, and he also removed the rotten strip of iroko that covered the gap between the fibreglassed deck and the transom. That will have to be replaced, but its a simple enough job once we find the right bit of wood. After that he sanded down the mast where it had been damaged by the gaff saddle.

A good days work once the weather relented. The more we can get done this early in the maintenance season the better!

The diesel leak has been traced by Olly, when he winterised the engine for us. The fuel lift pump diaphragm is leaking. We've decided to get a new pump rather than just the diaphragm as the costs are pretty similar once the labour is factored in. Julian will buy it, then Olly will fit it when he gets the engine ready in the spring. He's pretty sure that that is the only leak, but time will tell.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Where the water comes in

Today was my first chance to get to West Mersea for a while due to work and weather, but it was a great day to go. Bright warm sun shine, and only a little breeze. The yard had moved Robinetta again, as the car park had been shrunk to only fit about ten cars, and she should not need to be moved again this winter. That meant I was able to get the electric hook up in place, so now I'll be able to brew up with the electric kettle.

The decks were damp with dew when I got there, but since I'd brought the heat gun and now had power I could burn the loose paint off the foredeck bulwark, which dried out the wood before I smoothed it down with the sander. I last painted this area before we left Shotley, and its not in bad condition overall, so I did not try to strip it totally. It's got a coat of grey metallic primer on all the bare bits now, and I'll probably leave it like that until the spring.

There is a distinct gap between the deck and the hull on the port side of the foredeck. The stopping has failed, and the caulking beneath is very loose. This may well be the source of one of our leaks this summer. 

As the wood of the hull dried out in the sun it was possible to see where a couple of areas stayed damp, as water trapped inside the hull leaked out. Paul had packed the one at the stern with bitumen when he recaulked it, but it looks as though it will need more attention this winter.

With the weather so perfect for it I sanded down where the mooring had abraded the antifouling down to bare wood and gave it a coat of underwater primer. The wood was in good condition and dry, so it made sense to get paint on it.

The old cooker had to go, so that went in the car to take to the dump, then I put the cover on the foredeck. There's rain forecast for tomorrow, and I want to keep it out of the boat as much as I can.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mast out

We heard that the mast had been taken out on Friday, so headed for Mersea. Julian got on with undressing the mast, while I weatherproofed where the mast goes through the deck.
It was sunny and warm for the time of year, so we got fish and chips from the Oyster Bar and ate in Robinetta's cockpit. Very pleasant.

While I was emptying the fresh water from the tanks (which needed draining) I used it to clean up the foredeck and wash the cabin sides and remaining cockpit cap rail, all of which were in dire need of Varnol. They got one coat, which will give some protection over the winter.

Next time I go I must remember to take the foredeck cover. That will make the boat a whole lot drier inside!

The electric bilge pump was not working, so Julian looked at the fuse which seemed fine to both of us. He then renewed all the electrical connections, but it would still not work, and when he looked at the fuse again it now seemed broken.... Grr. A new fuse, and it worked, but the pump was not sending the water up the pipe any more, just spraying it around. Julian fished around in the bilges and found the missing 0-ring, mended the pump, put it back in position, then declared himself done for the day. I don't blame him!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Spilt Diesel

The smell of Diesel in the cabin had not gone away in the weeks since we last used the engine and it became obvious why when I lifted the floorboards to see the bilges. There was a nasty film of diesel on top of the bilge water, and moping out the bilges was unpleasant. I did not know what to do with the contaminated water in the bucket (just tipping it out is not an option!) but the yard advised me to use container with a tap at the bottom to separate it out, then take the diesel bit to a proper disposal facility. I sacrificed our water carrier, and it worked well. The water settled out below the diesel within ten minutes, and could then be run off and tipped away normally. I'll wait to get rid of the diesel container until the leak has been traced and repaired and I know I won't need to do it again.

Meanwhile Julian had been taking off the boom and tying all the shrouds and halyards to the mast to make it easier to get it out.

Taking stuff home

All the sails, the bowsprit and the gaff are now safely at home. Looking around the hull, there are a few obvious places where the water is trickling out of the bilges. As expected it is all around the garboard strakes. Especially at the front where there was a huge gap between the keel and the garboard which Paul filled with bitumen. I think that needs a spline. On the starboard stern there is a lot of wood missing from the garboard and screws are showing. A tingle is also dripping. There is no real evidence of any problem caused by the incident at Rye. I took off the port cap rail above the bulwark in the cockpit. It is rotten at the back but the half ribs seem ok. One is stretched but I don't think anything needs to be done. I will see if the cap rail can be repaired. Apart from the last 6" it's fine. Maybe I can scarf a new end on. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Out of the water

Robinetta was lifted out today, so it seems like the right time to post the season's stats. It felt like we started the season nice and early, in April, and had a lot of sailing over the summer, but having her hauled out for a couple of weeks in May, and out for the winter in early September has given us a shorter time afloat than normal. It was a challenging year, with the trip round to Cowes, but an interesting one.

Robinetta sailed 595 miles, in 34 days, which once again gives us 17.5 miles a day on average. We spent more time on the boat than that, with days ashore, and regattas though! Our engine use was higher than normal, with 98 engine hours since the full service, and 9 hours before. That's a total of 107 engine hours for the year which reflects the motor sailing we did on passage.

It's been four weeks since I hurt my left hand and everything is healing at an impressive rate. I've just been given the go ahead to use it fully, but it will be a while before my index finger is back to normal, and it still needs physiotherapy to get full use back. Winter work will be slow! 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

End of the sailing season

Robinetta is now safely back in West Mersea which is a huge relief. I've been aboard for the last two trips, and I did helm for a fair amount of time coming across the Thames, but I can only do that under ideal conditions, when there is not much wind, and trying to handle the ropes is a bad idea. It gets frustrating! Rather than trying too hard and risk overusing my hand while sailing, we're going to get Robinetta out of the water earlier than planned.

The trip round to Cowes was quite hard on the boat, and she's letting in more water than we like. Also there was a strong smell of diesel in the cabin on the trip from Ramsgate that we want to investigate. The mast has sustained some damage and could do with sanding down and revarnishing, so we're going to get that out (which will make it easier to redo the masthead light and fit a new ariel). The cooker needs changing which means all my work on the galley will need redoing... In other words there's a lot of work waiting, so we might as well get on with it.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Ramsgate to West Mersea

I've been watching the wind forecast for Ramsgate and Brightlingsea for weeks now. Every few hours it looks different. Last weekend there was a clear window on Friday but we got stuck in Dover when the swing bridge broke, locking us in to the Wellington harbour. This week has looked Ok all week but Alison had hospital appointments and work and I had work. By Thursday, Friday was looking calm with light westerly and southwesterly winds, Saturday had strong southwesterly winds and Sunday was calm again. Calm was what I wanted as we would be using Alex as an extra hand and boats are not his thing. We drove to Ramsgate and fitted a new main sheet cleat and left at 11 when they opened the gate and bridge.

There was a strong smell of diesel when we got to the boat, most unusual, but the engine started without problems.

It started lovely. Just as predicted. By Fishermans Gat it was raining and the wind got up but the sea state was still only slight. By the time we got through the Spitway the sun was out again and we had a lovely evening.

We aimed straight from the Wallet Spitway buoy towards the Nass beacon. On the plotter at most zoom levels, this looks OK, but there is a little ridge just south of the Eagle and it caught me out. I was chatting with Alex and not keeping a good enough lookout. Suddenly the sea was breaking in front of me and before I could do anything we were bumping along the sand. We headed north and got off without too much trouble but it really is worth pointing at North West Knoll.

We got to West Mersea bang on low water so we picked up a buoy in the quarters and had dinner and then motored up to our buoy at 10:30. Home at last.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

And more Ramsgate

Had a lovely meal at Patogh last night. Winds no better this morning. We would probably get home.  The winds are light and may be westerly but also may be northerly. Little tide assist so we would be motoring upwind and unlikely to do more than 3 kts. We only managed 2 1/2 yesterday, with the tide but against wind and waves. None of us want to do that for 16 hours.

So we have moved onto the heritage pontoon and are preparing to leave. At the moment, Wednesday looks favourable. We will see.

Saturday, 31 August 2013


I called the marina early this morning and there was less than 9 kts of wind at the east pier. We agreed to go. 7 hours later we have refuelled and are safe on a pontoon in Ramsgate. Finally on the east coast.

The wind is not looking good for getting back to West Mersea tomorrow but at least we are now a day sail from home and should be able to stay in the inner harbour if we need to finish the trip later in the week.

Passenger not crew

I was under strict instructions from both Julian and Yvonne not to touch any of the ropes, which was quite easy to obey since my index and little fingers are both partner splinted to their adjacent digits and I have no grip. I was put in charge of the radio instead, and told not to come on deck until we were clear of the harbour and any temptation to help!
As we headed through the lock we got a call from Dover Harbour Control. The marina wanted to talk to us, so we tied up on the waiting pontoon and Julian headed up to the office. Turns out he had forgotten to pay....
We were soon off again and heading out of the western harbour entrance. Harbour control asked us to dawdle once we were clear of that entrance, to let a procession of ferries enter through the eastern entrance. so we motored slowly along the outside of the breakwater. The wind was in our faces and there was no point putting the sails up. It was a real slog getting round the South Foreland, and I stayed below dozing almost the whole time while Julian and Yvonne took it in turn to helm.

Friday, 30 August 2013

But we are staying put

25 knots of wind at the end of the Prince of Wales pier. Looks really rough out there. We will look again 1st thing in the morning.

Hurray! They got the swing bridge open

It looks like we will be able to leave this evening and get to Ramsgate at least.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Fair winds but ...

Alison, Yvonne and I got to the boat around 6pm so we could move her to the tidal harbour and be ready for the favourable currents in the morning.

A notice on the gate turned our plans to dust.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Waiting for a fair wind

I got up in time to get the 7:45 train to London, but dawdled and missed it. I caught the 8:45, changing at Ashord International for the Brighton train. It was really easy and efficient. I still wanted to move Robinetta to Ramsgate but talking on the phone with Alison convinced me that the wind over tide option was not a good one. Alison spoke with Dover Marina and they offered us a week in the Wellington dock at an affordable rate but I would have to come back and move her at about 1pm. I had a fine cooked breakfast at the Strand Quay Cafe and a lovely walk around the town, taking in the Church, the Ypres Tower and the local artists exhibition before driving back to Dover along country lanes and through Hythe, Sandgate and part of Folkstone. I knew I would get enough motorway driving on the way home.
Back at Dover I got the boat ready for a single-handed departure from the tidal basin and arrival in the Wellington. The Marina manager had allocated me a berth with a windward approach - its great when people think of these things. It all went really smoothly and a nice chap in the Wellington came and took my lines and we had a chat about Robinetta.
For the first time in ages I was now without a deadline. I could take my time sorting the lines out, putting sail covers and crutches on and emptying Worm of the gallons of rainwater from the previous day. As Robinetta was head to wind on the berth I could also raise the main, let it dry out, take the reefs out and flake it nicely on the boom.

Drying out the spinnaker took the longest. The sun and wind were great but its big and maneouvering it around to get all the bits dry took ages. And every now and then, the wind would take an edge and it would go in the water and get wet again. Grr...

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Spring Tides

As we neared Dover our speed dropped again. The tide had turned. I knew the last leg would be against the tide, but I hadn't really worked it out in detail.

As we got near to the western entrance it hit us like a brick wall. There was no way we could make any decent progress to Ramsgate. We called up Port Control, dropped the sails and made for the entrance. Through the breakwaters we were doing 1 knot at full throttle. Once inside we got back up to 4.5!

As we motored gently in we discussed various options. The traditional option was to drop anchor in the outer harbour by the beach and wait for the tide. We could wait out a whole tide and get to Ramsgate during daylight or we could go in the small hours. We could do the same thing in the tidal part of the Marina. Or we could stop at Dover. Pete needed to get home by Sunday lunch time and had really had enough. The forecast said the winds would be stronger, not lighter, so our choices for continuing were a headwind over favourable tide or wind and tide against us. Two bad options.

So stopping it was. We had already missed the last train to Rye but Pete could get a train to London so I packed him off and settled down for a nice sleep. Pete made the train with 9 minutes to spare. I should have given him a cup of tea. Then he would have needed to run for it...


When Pete asked about the weather on Saturday I had said "pissing it down and no wind". The rain was very heavy at times, but did let off for long spells and there was a light NW wind, ideal for getting from Rye to Dungeness and possibly as far as the South Foreland.

I went forward and put up the loaned spinnaker as a gennaker. It drew well and added a knot to the speed we were getting from the engine but was not enough on its own. It got us around Dungeness and I put it away, soaking wet from the rain.

The wind strengthened and still seemed behind us. Either there was more west in it than it had seemed, or it was backing. The inshore forecast said cyclonic. I set up the No 1 jib and we raised the reefed main. It drew nicely and with all sails working we were doing 5 knots so we turned the engine off and had a proper sail at 3.9 to 4.5 knots. The visibility was very poor and with nothing to aim at and being out of practice, Pete found it hard to stay on course so our track gently drifted west into East Road.

The wind dropped and our SOG with it until we were doing 2 knots. I shook the reef out of the main and we carried on but then it started raining heavily and the wind got up under the cloud until I could not hold the course. It was a bit too exciting really. I got Pete to put the engine back on and we accelerated to reduce the apparent wind and got her head to wind and put all the reef we had in. Problem over. We set up the purchase on the tiller in case of future gusts and soon found the wind was in our face. The lull had been a warning of a wind shift and I hadn't spotted it. We hauled in and were close reaching. The clouds lifted and it became really nice.

We sailed on towards Dover.

Departing Rye

Yvonne (Kajan) had kindly offered to help get Robinetta to Ramsgate where we would be only a day from home. When Alison's brother-in-law Pete wanted to come, Yvonne asked if she was needed as she had meant to go to another rally.
The revised plan was to pick Pete up in the car and drive to Rye, sail to Ramsgate, have some sleep and then move onto the heritage pontoon in the inner harbour when the gate openned. Then we could go back to bed until the trains started running, get to Rye to pick the car up and go home.
We got to Rye in good time and went to the harbour where we bought a VHF antenna to replacd the one that mysteriously disappeared somewhere near Beachy Head. I set it up in the cabin and it worked well.
I helmed us down the river Tillingham while Pete took pictures. When we got to the Rother I gave the tiller to him and put the bowsprit out and stowed the warps and fenders. We got into the bay at 13:45, 22 minutes before high water. Perfect. The flood had stopped and exit was easy.

I was sorry to leave Rye, with the International Jazz Festival in full swing and the Raft Race due to start and a great looking fair on the green. If Alison had been with me, we might have left it another day, or week, or ...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Another Visitor

Another Kees, this time Kees Brooshooft on Vlieter, another RBC boat, came to Rye today.
He was kind enough to take a photo of Robinetta and to let us know she is Ok.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

On her holidays

We got back to Robinetta about 4am after the Hospital had done what they could for Alison, tried to find her a bed, failed, send us to the Premier Inn which was full, failed, with brilliant help from the Premier Inn staff to find anywhere in Hastings and got a taxi back to Rye.

Rik and the Harbour Master and I had put the lines on OK but in the wrong place so she sat on the mud with the nearest ladder about a foot in front of the bow. I managed to scramble aboard but there was no way Alison could manage it. She went and looked in the boat owners' shower block and it was warm and clean with a nice bench to lie on so I handed her up a pillow and sleeping bag and she went off to sleep. I slept on board.

I got up around 6:30 and went to see her. Given the pain she had been suffering at the hospital she was quite comfortable. I went off in search of a cafe and found one that opened at 7am. We went off and had a light breakfast. Alison was not supposed to eat after 8am in case she needed an anaesthetic and we just made it. We had a nice little walk round Rye and then went back to the boat. I phoned around and found us a taxi to get to East Grinstead where the plastic surgeons could look at her hand. Leaving at 10:30 would get us there in time for the appointment and let us tidy the boat a little.

As we waited for the tide in the sunshine Alison noticed the VHF antenna was missing and the cable dangling on the mast. That explained why I'd had to use the phone to talk to the Harbour Master yesterday. I wonder when that happened? A family came past and the mother said - "Look at that - Thats's a proper boat!" When she realised it was ours she asked about her - I hope she manages to get her kids as enthusiastic about sailing as she wants to! It's a real privilege having an interesting boat.

At 9am the tide started coming in and by 9:30 Robinetta was afloat. I pulled her forwards and moved the lines one post upstream, bringing the ladder to the cabin roof. Now Alison could get on easily and safely, one-handed. We tidied up the boat and made her secure, changed into clean clothes and packed a few things in case we would not be coming back. I left a voice mail for the Harbour Master and said farewell to Cine Mara, on her way to Dunkirk, and we were ready to go.

The consultant at the hospital advised against sleeping on the boat as it would increase the risk of infection so we went home.

Kees brought Snoopy in during the afternoon, so Robinetta is not without gaff company, on her holidays without us.
Snoopy is even smaller than Robinetta and Kees has single-handed her round Britain as the only anti-clockwise boat in the RBC. He has less than 300nm to go.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Learning the hard way

We had another fine sail from Brighton to Rye, including trying out the genaker we have been loaned. It worked really well.

Cooking dinner was not so successful. Although the winds were light and behind us, the roll was too much for our ungimballed stove. The pie went down the back of the oven over the flames. I rescued it and everything was edible. In the cockpit, it was nice. Much calmer than down in the galley where the storm had been raging from the chef's mouth!

Lesson 1: never cook on an ungimballed stove in a following wind.

Closing on Rye Harbour the tide really pushed us forwards and we sailed on staysail only with the halyard slackened to slow us down.

Once at the SWM it took full throttle on the engine to fight back upwind and up-tide to the river and we got to the entrance exactly 2h before HW, the earliest recommended time. The flood was still running hard. The harbour master had asked us to meet him at the office and we turned round and fought back against the flow to the office. The only place to tie up was to the launch but it was easy to ferry-glide up to it, hold station and get lines on. I kept the engine in gear against the tide.

Then it all went wrong. The stern line got in a huge tangle. The bow line was not a return and we were tired. Alison tried to undo the bow line and the tide pulled the rope out of her hand and it got stuck on the bollard, catching her fingers and trapping them. The stern line caught too and we were stuck, unable to fight the tide as it tried to swing Robinetta down river while the rope crushed Alison's fingers.

Lesson 2: take enough time to sort the lines out and check each others work.

Lesson 3: Neither of us had a knife to hand, PTK is right. You need a sheath knife to hand.

Alison saw a fishing boat and hailed it. He pushed Robinetta back to the launch and Alison got the rope free of her fingers  and tied off again. The harbour master called an ambulance and helped me secure the stern again. Things settled down.

The ambulance came and stabilised Alison. She wanted me to stay with the boat and I knew that abandoning it would just make her more stressed.

The harbour master offered to lead me upstream to the mooring. The flood had stopped and it was really easy, but now pitch black.

Lesson 4: 2hrs before HW, if the tide is too strong, wait. Slack water is coming soon.

At Strand Quay the water was calm and moving lines and fenders over was not hard. But even better. Cine Mara was there and Rik was waiting to take our lines. I felt so relieved.

Lesson 5: Always have a Dutchman in front of you.

The Harbour team waited until I was tied up and then offered me a lift to the hospital in Hastings.

Alison is Ok. The fingers are bad, but will heal. But we won't be sailing together for a few weeks at least.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Surfer Chick

She may be an old bird but Robinetta was a surfer chick today.

Storm left early so we could move to the end of the pontoon.

We left Cowes at 10am and motor sailed past the forts. When our speed got to 5kts we turned the engine off and had a lovely, if a little rolly sail to the entrance to the Looe channel. The tide turned in our favour about mile out, proving Alison's hard work with the tidal stream atlas had been spot on.

Once in the channel we were sheltered by the sand and it went flat calm. Lovely. 

A couple of hours out from Brighton the waves started building. They got about 2m high with a few larger ones. Robinetta was sailing really well. We didn't really catch a wave and surf but we got a lot of lift. Worm, being towed behind really did surf, and overtook us a couple of times!
It was tiring but fun. We had fully reefed down as the wind got up but the tiller was still heavy so I rigged a purchase using Worm's mainsheet. It helped a lot.

As we got to Brighton, lots of the fleet caught us up, further vindicating our passage plan. Plum, Transcur, Maid of Tesa, Hussar, Drum of Drake and Gwenili all came in. Outside the harbour the seas were really bad and getting the sails down was very unpleasant, as was the horrid rolling motor in to the outer harbour. As each boat came in, those already in helped the next boat tie up. I spent a while helping Gwenili tie up. She is a heavy boat and the wind was pushing her in all the wrong directions. 

Alison and I had a lovely Chinese dinner and then a drink and a chat with Martin and Barry from Gwenili in the pub before turning in around midnight. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Super Saturday

According to the 1937 Yachting Monthly, Robinetta's waterline length is 18'4". But the same article puts her draught at 3'8" and we know its 4'6" so she sits lower in the water than she was meant to.

Little did we know that the little boats would be divided into two sub-classes on waterline length and that boats under 20' would start 20 minutes after those over. 

We measured our LWL and it came out over. We wanted that 20 minutes to give us a better chance of completing in the time limit and sailing with the other boats, rather than behind them. 

Luckily we were allowed to change to our actual class instead of our theoretical class. Many thanks to the organisers.

Getting out of the marina took a little thought as neither of the boats in front or behind us were going to move. We waited until the other boats who were going had made space and then, with a little help we let the wind push her out and I used the engine to wiggle the stern into the gap left by Plum and we then motored out easily.

Stooging around before the start was sometimes tricky as the big boats like Pioneer need lots of room to turn. We must have missed the radio notification of the course but I managed to hail Ben Collins boat Betty 2 and find out the course was J. I programmed it as a route in the gps. 

 We got a really good start and a good line for the first mark. Alison was helm and sail trim and I was skipper and navigation. It felt great. Alison said it was perfectly balanced with no. 1 jib, staysail and full main. The wind was strong but Ok and the waves were making it bouncy but not knocking us back.

Then I noticed the gaff saddle had slipped around to port. We were on port tack so that was bad news. The peak sagged a little and I pulled up on the hardener. The saddle swung round further. I tried tensioning the luff with the reefing roller and it helped a bit but the gaff sagged again. Every time I looked up, the peak was more saggy than before. Then I noticed the gaff was bending outwards and downwards. It looked about to snap. 

I had three choices, carry on, retire, or reef and carry on. We need to sail home next week so breaking the gaff was not attractive. We had started, so we had upped the numbers participating. We wouldn't win anything so retiring seemed sensible.

We got the sails down, radioed in and headed for the marina. We heard lots of other boats retiring as we went.

Friday, 16 August 2013

East Coast Day

Robinetta did nothing today. Her crew took part in the smack's boat racing on Papa Stour, where we were not rubbish, in the blind dinghy rowing with Mary from Minstrel, where we were rubbish, and in the ladies rowing race in Worm. Worm was so impressive that the skipper of the smack My Alice borrowed her and won the men's rowing race.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


We motored gently to Cowes this morning. Safely in the marina with a huge number of other gaffers for the OGA golden jubilee festival.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Solent at last

The Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth came into view as soon as we got past Selsey Bill. We motored on towards it until we had to leave it to starboard to make No Mans Land fort. It makes entering the eastern Solent a very different experience than it would have been the last time Robinetta was here in 1949 when Nigel Heriot bought her from the Parkers. We saw two gaffers, probably coming out from Chichester, one a Memory and the other a white yawl. When it came closer I could see an OGA number on the sail - 1007. I found it in the handbook - Hanser owned by Fabian Bush, the Rowhedge shipwright who also teaches at the Nottage and built Constance and helped build Molly Cobbler. Hanser is unusual in having a spritsail mizzen.

Fabian took our picture too. His are the best we have of the new sails and they were setting nicely. Here is one of them.

Once past the forts the wind came in nicely from the south west and we had a fine reach, punctuated by lulls, towards Cowes. I phoned Dave Pickthall on Ariel of Hamble and it turned out they were just leaving Portsmouth and we could see them. Unfortunately we got our lines crossed and I thought we would see them on the water and Dave thought we would meet in Cowes. When they went off ahead, we thought we weren't going to see them again and we decided to anchor in Osborne Bay for the afternoon and night. Then I got a missed call and voicemail. Too late. Sorry Dave.

Crow and Kestrel were already here and Bonify, Rosa, Windbreker and others came in afterwards.

Sheltered from the wind, Osborne Bay is a bit open to wash from big ships in the channel. But it's nice to have a quiet night, just the two of us, before the concentrated socialising of the OGA Golden Jubilee Festival which finally starts tomorrow.  

Selsey Bill!

As planned, the alarm went off at 4am. Neither of us had slept well and it took a while to get going. Crow up and went. Sue popped her head in and said they had heard the midnight forecast and didn't like it and were going back to bed. I looked it up on my phone and the main Met Office page still showed the 1800 forecast. The "text only" version showed the new one. It looked Ok to me and xcweather still showed almost no wind. We left. The dawn broke with a nasty crimson glow, I was reminded of the eye of Sauron over Minas Morghul. Alison said "red sky in the morning, sailor's warning". Nelson-like, I said that was just for shepherds.

Like yesterday, it was a smooth sea and xcweather was right. No wind. It was like that all through the Owers and into the Solent. Finally. We are here.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Selsey Bill - almost

We left Brighton about 8:30 after filling up with diesel. The crews of Charm and Bonify were in Bonify's cockpit as we left and they said they were waiting until tomorrow. Outside the harbour it was lovely. Smooth water and a light breeze. I texted back in case they wanted to come out.

We put the sails up but the wind was too light to give us enough speed to make the tidal gate for the Looe channel so we motor sailed.

The seas were calm enough to have a lovely cooked lunch of new potatoes, bacon, egg and beans. 

But the tide was setting hard against us and the wind came round to the nose and freshened. Before long we were only doing 2-3 knots and it got slower and slower. The GPS ETA was getting later and later.

Around 3pm, when I was having a rest below, Alison said she didn't want to go on. Littlehampton should have been well behind us by then but it was 3 miles away on the starboard bow! We headed in and met Crow and Victoria there and had dinner with them in Weatherspoons. I think if the OGA do another festival we should get Wetherspoons to sponsor. They certainly get enough custom from the crews!

The weather for the next day looked better. Perhaps no wind at all. A 4am start was agreed and we turned in for an early night.

It took us seven and a half hours to do the 16½ nautical miles to Littlehampton. Not a bad days sail really, but hard work, and the pumping was worrying. It was the most we've pumped since getting her re-caulked, and a reminder that we really are pushing our old boat quite hard to make the OGA 50 timetable.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Beachy Head

After a lazy Sunday in the Sovereign Harbour, Plum, Kestrel and Cum Annexis got an early start this morning while the rest of us decided to leave after lunch. We locked out last at 1:30 with Crow. We both tried sailing but gave up. We thought the inner channel past Beachy Head would be Ok but the wind and sea state were worse than we hoped. After battling the waves for ages we could see breakers across the spit and gave up and went outside everything. It was better but we still had a nasty headwind and 6ft waves all the way to Brighton. We got in and had a drink and dinner with Robert, Lorna, Mike, Mick, Trevor and Tony.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dover to Eastbourne

We left Dover at 5am to be sure of a favourable tide to and around Dungeness. This was Colin and Bernard of Plum's idea, based on the information from the tidal stream atlas. We didn't have one for the Downs, only for west of Dungeness. Colin's showed that the current in the Downs is much stronger than that in Rye bay. The wind was really strong on the starboard stern quarter and too much for me so we put a reef in the main. After a while I needed a rest and Alison took the helm. Luckily, the wind dropped and it wasn't a problem. The waves meant that we didn't get the kind of speed we got passing Herne Bay, even though the wind was similar. The wind slackened and we shook the reef out and decided that to avoid missing the tidal gate we would motor sail. 

As usual, most of the fleet passed us. 

We dithered a bit in Rye Bay, not sure if we wanted to head directly to Eastbourne or head inland and try to escape the tide. We ended up going well in. We saw a red sailed boat we did not recognise further in. It turned out to be Bonify. Near Hastings we were passed by Crow, motoring. The wind was very light by now and as we passed a small fishing boat I suggested we try the mackerel line. We played with it for a while but got nowhere and as the wind died completely we gave up. 

We motored on, knowing we still had nearly 10 miles to go. Then suddenly the threatened SW started. Before long we were beating, crashing into the waves and needing to reef down again. We went down to fully reefed main, furled staysail and no 1 jib. And engine.

Then on a tack, the starboard sheet came untied. I got the jib furled and we put the staysail up. I went forward and tied the sheet back on, in case we had a problem later with the staysail. I got drenched. 

We then had several hours of struggling against big waves and a strong headwind. Definitely a top end F5, possibly F6. Sometime around 5pm we dropped the main and became a motor boat. The 1GM10 doesn't really seem to be enough for these conditions and at times we were only doing 2kts. 

Eventually we made it into the Sovereign Harbour at 6pm after 13 hours. We were met by several friends and had a fine dinner and an enjoyable get together in the yacht club.

Friday, 9 August 2013


We left Ramsgate as planned at 7am and caught the morning forecast on the VHF. The previous 3-4 had been augmented by 'occasionally 5 or 6. Oh well, it's only 15 miles. The wind felt a little strong but we thought we would see how it went with full sail and immediately shorten if needed. We got the main up no problem and it seemed ok but the peak needed to go up a bit. As I pulled on the hardener the sheet bend on the end of the thin rope through the blocks came undone and the upper fiddle block went soaring up the mast as the peak came gently down. No more sailing for us until we can retrieve the peak halyard.

Then it started raining and I went below to put my oily bottoms on. A wave pushed me up as I sat and I bumped my head on the oil lamp. The glass flew up and down and smashed on the floor.

Just to prove that problems come in 3 s, one strand on the main sheet parted due to the constant motion of the boom on the horse as we rounded the South Foreland. The sea around there was not nice. Too choppy and rolly. We need to visit the chandlers.

But getting into Dover was really simple. We saw Great Days at anchor in the inner harbour and they, and Charm who had been behind us, went into the Marina. Safe and sound. Once in we met up with Avola, Hussar, Plum, and Cumannexis. A proper gathering of Gaffers!

We were all sorted out by noon, including a visit to Sharpe and Enright for the new main sheet. They are conveniently sited on the way into Dover itself. We had decided we had to come to Dover to see the Bronze Age Boat in its dedicated gallery at the museum. Well worth the visit.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Strengthening wind predictions

Off to the boat after work today, and, as feared, the SW winds have gone from 9 mph to 16 mph for our trip to Dover tomorrow.

I spoke with Christine at Ramsgate Harbour yesterday and she thinks the gate from the Inner Harbour to the Royal Harbour will be open just before midnight. So we should be able to move to the Royal Harbour and then get a good night's sleep before the tide turns in our favour in the morning.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Scratch Rye

The tides don't work for getting in to Rye in the afternoon and out in the morning. We will probably do Dover to Eastbourne as a long leg.

On the plus side, the tidal streams on Friday are perfect for a morning passage to Dover. Winds are currently forecast in the wrong direction but less than 10 kts. A gentle motor with the current will be Ok.

Of course this is Tuesday. It could all be different by Friday.

Monday, 5 August 2013


I did an hours work sitting in the sun in the cockpit this morning before taking the bus to the train station. I'm now waiting for the 10:05 to Victoria to leave. I have my return ticket to get back on Thursday after work and then we can concentrate on sailing until after the bank holiday!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Lazy Sunday

The planned schedule for today was a parade of sail outside the harbour followed by fun and games in the afternoon and a 'formal' meal in the evening. The parade of sail was frankly, hard work. The sea was rolly, the tide was strong and the wind was light, variable and often not there.

We bravely beat about motor sailing and trying to look like we were actually sailing for an hour or so and then came back in as the tide turned. We had to fight our way in to the outer harbour. I wouldn't want to try it in the same conditions at springs.

It was a very hot afternoon and I don't think the games ever happened but the evening was delightful. Brandaen, Morgaine and Raven arrived during the evening, bringing the total of RBC boats at the event to 13 and the total number of boats at the event to at least 24.

Jan and Robert Holden (Emanuel) did a great job organising it and I'm really glad we had a good turn-out. Now that Ramsgate is part of the OGA East Coast Area it makes sense to have it on the event calendar.

Saturday, 3 August 2013


A fine evening at the Royal Temple Yacht Club meeting old friends and new ones. We have 11 of the Round Britain Challenge fleet here, Bonita, Capraia, Cine Mara, Cygnet of London, High Barbaree, Moon River, Syene, Toucando, Vlieter, Windbreker and Witch. We also have East Coast and Dutch OGA boats heading for Cowes, including Barbarrossa, Black Rose, Blackwater, Emanuel, Jacinta, Orm, Step Back in Time, Tab Nab and Transcur.

Lovely Sailing day, honest!

Overnight there was an amazing lightening storm, with heavy rain and gusty winds. We were snug down below, and well anchored, and by the time we woke up the rain was over and the sun was out. The forecast was SW 4-5, occasionally 6 at first, and it certainly felt like a 6 when we got the anchor up at 1100 to watch the race start. Julian put a reef in the main while we were at anchor, but we sailed down to the line on just the stay sail. We had the tide with us, and were doing 3 knots rolling along with the wind and tide. It was a much rougher situation when we turned into the wind to avoid boats at the start.

After the race went off we got the main up, but could not control the power in the sail, so immediately reefed right down. We then had a run on staysail and fully reefed main until we reached the Whitstable street buoy and could turn into a very broad reach and unfurl the jib (no2). Sailing became easier then, once we were not worrying about accidental gybes (we can't rig a preventer when Robinetta is reefed, there's just nowhere to tie one with the sail rolled round the boom). Meanwhile the boats that were racing had gone out to the Columbine Buoy and were on their way back in and crossed our track so we had a great view of them crashing through the waves. Julian helmed virtually all the time, I just took it for a little while to let him take pictures.

We checked our course carefully, and talked ourselves into the knowledge that it would be safe to take the Coperas, Gore, and South Channels along the coast to the North Foreland. So many other boats were heading into it that we could just follow their track, checking our GPS position and depth gage all the time just to be sure. We had a delightful sail along the coast in the shelter of the Margate Sands, it was a perfect time to eat lunch so we did. We had a cup of tea, then Julian asked me to take the helm as he was getting pretty tired. Another gaffer had been creeping up on us, but slowly enough for it not to be embarrassing. Turned out to be Tab Nab, heading from Faversham to Ramsgate. We had a chat as they passed, then followed them round the North Foreland.

No sheltering sands here, and we had to beat, but very much a long making tack, then a short one back in shore. The sea state was moderate, but at the North Foreland that means closely spaced six foot high swell. Tab Nab looked like she wanted to take off as she reached the top of the swells, and Robinetta buried her bowsprit repeatedly. It felt good though, She might have been plowing through some of the waves, but the wind was strong enough to keep her moving and the tide was still with us so she did not lose way. The foredeck got a good wash to get rid of the Swale mud from the anchor. Helming was hard work in the gusts, but the rest of the time she felt beautifully balanced and easy to handle. I handed the helm back to Julian reluctantly two mile out from Ramsgate and he brought her in the rest of the way.

We entered Ramsgate Harbour just on low water, got fuel at the fuel barge, then went on to the waiting pontoon, ready to lock in an hour and a half before high water. There were other gaffers waiting to lock in with us, so we all went up to the Royal Temple Yacht Club for a drink before going back to move the boats.


What an amazing sail. We hit 7.5 knots over the ground with fully reefed main and no 2 jib passing Reculver. We left the Swale with the race and then carried on to Ramsgate, being passed by Tabnab on the way.

 Now we are waiting for the tide to be let in to the inner harbour.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Sailing to the Swale

Sailing would be the wrong description of our trip across the Thames Estuary. It would be much fairer to say that we motored with the sails up. The engine got turned off once, for about half an hour, after we got the sails up near St Peter's Flats until we realised the tide was washing us up the Wallet and past the entrance to the Spitway. After that it was motor all the way. We wanted to be in the East Swale before dark, and that meant keeping our speed up around 4 knots which was impossible with the glassy seas and zephyr's of wind that were all the weather gave us. The inshore waters has been much more optimistic, with a 3-4 SW, but that must have been somewhere else in the area. We got hardly any wind. It goes make navigation easier; stick a course to steer on the GPS and follow it, but it's pretty dull, especially in haze with the occasional rain shower where the drops bounced off the water. Julian expressed an interest in a new autohelm for the first time in ages.

Being neaps we were not too worried about the tides, although we only had them in our favour coming out of the Blackwater. We might have tried to sail more if we 'd had the tide with us though. There was just enough wind to sail without the motor if we hadn't had a timetable.

We got to the East Swale in the end and found lots of boats there. We dropped the anchor quite close to the Faversham Cardinal buoy, within easy sight of the Responsive buoy, on the advice of Yvonne who was there with Kajan. We first spotted her on Windbreker though, where she had been invited for dinner.

After eating we rowed over to Kajan in Worm, and Yvonne gave us a lift up the creek to Hollowshore where the Smack and Barge Race briefing was being held. We had a couple of drinks, then headed back to Robinetta, with Worm getting a tow from Windbreker's inflatable.

West Mersea to the Swale

It's about 40 nm from West Mersea to Harty Ferry. At Robinetta's normal passage planning speed of 3 kts, that would be 13 hours. We knew we needed to do better than that. We got an early start from home and got off the mooring before 8:30am. We managed to maintain a good 4 kts motor sailing, or often just motoring. At times we had a nice sail and at other times the Thames was like glass.

In the Spitway, the Dutch gaffers Orm and Blackwater passed us, probably heading for Ramsgate. We turned down the Middle Deep, through the West Swin and over to Whitstable Street, getting to Harty Ferry at around 5pm. Kajan and Windbreker were there and Yvonne suggested we anchor between her and the Faversham Creek cardinal. We joined them at the race briefing at Hollowshore and met a number of friends there. Raven, Greensleeves, Crow and Cygnet of London were all going to race.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Off to Cowes

Our adventure with the round Britain fleet continues tomorrow. We hope to head to the Swale to watch the Barge and Smack match on Saturday before joining the end of the Ramsgate celebrations on Sunday. I suspect an early start on Sunday morning!

I'll travel in to work from Ramsgate on Monday and back to the boat on Thurday evening.

Our outline passage plan is as follows. We would love to have company on any of these day sails so get in touch if you would like to join us.

9/8 Ramsgate to Dover to see the Bronze Age Ship
10/8 Dover to Rye
11/8 Rye to Eastbourne
12/8 Eastbourne to Littlehampton
13/8 Littlehampton to the Isle of White
14/8 possible trip up the Hamble
15-18 Jubilee Festival in Cowes
19-23 Cowes to Burnham
24-25 OGA Crouch Rally
26/8 Burnham to West Mersea

Of course the weather is likely to play havoc with these plans.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Home, for a bit.

It was still windy but not as bad as yesterday. We were well reefed down and had a lovely sail back to our mooring at West Mersea. We took our time getting the boat a little sorted and deciding what to take home and what to leave on the boat for the trip to Cowes.

When it came time to leave, the wind was very strong and we (well Alison) would be rowing into it and against the tide. It wasn't going to work. We called up Lady Grace on the radio and she came and picked us up and towed Worm back for us.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hog Roast

The Wivenhoe Sailing Club held their traditional hog roast this afternoon. We have been several times but we had a very different and enjoyable experience this time. Clytie wasn’t going and Jo Masters accepted our invitation to travel up on Robinetta. Then David and Julia (Amphora) called over from the other pontoon and asked for a lift too. Five people is the most we have ever had. The cockpit seats four as long as they each work the rope nearest them! Alison stayed below or in the companionway, while Julia took the pictures you see here.

We had to fight a strong breeze and the tide leaving Brightlingsea but once headed up river we were with both and it was very pleasant. We were doing nicely, but a little slower than the fleet with just the staysail so I let the jib out and we goose-winged. Inanda’s crew tried raising the main and found themselves overpowered.

David and Julia jumped ship and went back by car with relatives and the three of us came back down. We tried fully reefed main but it was too windy for it in the narrow part of the river. At least Jo got to see the roller reefing. Although she is a very experienced sailor and a dinghy instructor, she hasn’t seen very many different rig configurations on bigger boats.

We tried just motoring but the head wind was so strong the little 1GM10 wasn’t managing to make progress even thought the tide was with us. We put the staysail up and beat with staysail and iron topsail and that worked. It was windy, force 5 gusting 6, on the nose.

Another difference was that I had Monday off, so we didn't have to go all the way back to West Mersea.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The East Coast Race

Having spent weeks scrutinising old programmes, then writing a new one for the anniversary (which was full of typos when I saw it printed, for which I must apologise) actually seeing the boats I had researched milling around behind the start line was a wonderful sight.

Course 7, up the Blackwater to Thurslet and back via some of the West Mersea Yacht Club racing buoys, was chosen due to the wind strength and direction, but the deeper draft vessels like Pioneer and Witch objected. They would run aground if they tried to follow the course which turned at the Inner Bench Head buoy. After some discussion the course was modified to turn at Bench Head instead, a mile further out into the Blackwater.

Robinetta's start was less than dignified. The very light winds meant we had the kedge ready, but it did not come to that, as the tide was trying to push us over the line in the right direction. Knowing that all the boats were bound to come past us I was determined to get over the line as soon as possible, and not fall victim to having Robinetta's wind stolen. Because of that I kept her very close to the start line, at the far end of the line away from Bateman's tower. All the other boats were well behind the line, and Julian kept saying we were over it. I didn't think so, but wasn't sure, so turned away to try and sail up the line. Because of the wind direction I ended up sailing very slowly up river, with my back to the line.

I could see the tower perfectly, so when I saw the puff of smoke from the cannon at 0900 I turned back to the line and was over it in the right direction by the time I heard the bang. They could see the truth from Bateman's though, and when I asked they promised I had been on the correct side of the line when the cannon fired, and had been first over the line, but I had been sailing backwards at the time....

As usual in light winds our good start have us a good view of the fleet sailing past us, but we kept going with the ebb tide which gradually carried us down the Colne, while pushing us slightly towards Colne Bar. This was a good thing, because as the tide turned it began to carry everyone up the Blackwater instead. The extra distance from Inner Bench Head to Bench head meant that the slower boats had the tide against them before they reached the mark and boats which tried to aim directly for Bench Head ended up having to tack towards it.

Julian had programmed the GPS to show our required track to the buoy, and I did my best to stay on it, even though it looked as though we were pointing very high, and our tactics worked; we sneaked round Bench Head without needing to tack for it, and gybed our sails round to run up the Blackwater with the tide just as the wind died.

The next hour was quite relaxing in a frustrating way. The only two gaffers behind us retired as they could not make Bench Head against the tide, and the slower bermudans, who started later than us, also fell by the way side. We had very little to do apart from watch the boats ahead get further away, and listen to the chatter on the race channel.

The decision was made to change the race finish. The first suggestion was to end it at Thurslet, but it was decided to get everyone to pass WMYC 5 to port, then head for a finish line between WMYC1 and Tempus Mike McCarthy's new motor boat which had been acting as race watchdog. The decision made the wind rose a little, just enough to let us sail rather than drift, and suddenly we were back in the thick of the race.

The faster boats had to beat against the tide to get back to no 5 buoy, and once they rounded it their track was directly across where we had to go. They were on starboard tack at this point, while we were on port, so the rules were clear, but once we were across that line of boats we had to find a way round a suddenly crowded shallows as we rejoined the tail end of the fleet. I had to do proper race tactics! I cut cross Swallowtail forcing him to tack(Robinetta was on starboard tack), then got pushed down river of the buoy when my wind was stolen by a larger boat.

It was annoying to have to go around for another go at passing the buoy, and seeing the other boats getting ahead again. Julian was sure I was not going to make it this time either, but we did, with at least a metre to spare...

Otter stayed on the Bradwell side of the river, tacking in the shallows there, but I decided to go straight across to the Mersea Flats where the finish buoy waited. The wind was getting up and shifting, beginning to raise a swell, we were sailing well, and we had Otter to race against. Exciting stuff!

We crossed the finish line 9 seconds behind Otter, to win Old Harry, awarded to the last boat to finish the race within the time limit. It was 1445, and the time limit was 1500.

The wind settled down and we had a brisk sail back to Brightlingsea, tacking out a couple of times to make sure we did not touch the sand on the Mersea Flats. I was probably being over cautious since we were near high tide, and Otter certainly did not bother, but if felt good to be sailing at a decent speed, and I did not want to have to keep checking the depth gage.

We moored up in good time to get to the Smack Dock for beer and cider. Lovely stuff!

Friday, 26 July 2013


We get ashore at Brightlingsea and meet Rik Graham on the phone to his wife at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Rik is extremely frustrated, having been prevented from joining either the cruise or the festival by work difficulties. He has a lovely little canoe hulled boat called Kelpie II.

We don't have time to eat before the prize giving and the briefing for tomorrow's East Coast Race and we discover by the time it is over everything but the Indian is closed. I'm not in the mood for Indian. I want chips. The best thing about the prize giving is that Lena is there, and she is Ok.

We decide to experiment with oven chips from the Spa. It is not a great success. Not a disaster though.

Two Rivers Race

The Two Rivers race is normally either from Suffolk Yacht Harbour to Wrabness or from Wrabness to Pin Mill but because we wanted to be in Maldon to celebrate the founding, we are having it from Osea to Brightlingsea. All week we have been taking it in turns to be skipper and this is my second race, following the Seaways race. Alison has had more difficulties in hers, the Pennyhole Bay race when we retired and the Ladies Helm where neither of us were at our best.

It is a self-timed start and finish, but those of us in Heybridge Basin, can't start until about an hour before high water.

We spend a lazy, windless morning. I'm reading a novel, something very rare for me these days, and its nice to have some time. We walk along the sea wall to Herrings Point and back and have a lazy picnic in the shade. Often, at this point in the week I have lots of boat maintenance to do, but this year, all seems well, so far.

Once through the lock, there is wind and we sail to Osea where it dies. It is so hot that we put the ensign up and the motor on, just to get some air moving over the boat. As we turn the corner we come out of the wind shadow and hurriedly turn the engine off again and take the ensign down before we pass the pier, which is the race start.

The wind gets better and better. We have to beat a little to keep the right side of Thirslet but from then on it is a lovely reach out past the power station.

Daisy, Steve Pegley's surprisingly fast little Hillyard comes out of Goldhanger Creek and we 'race' her for a while - she is reefed and not racing of course, having missed the start line, but its a lovely experience and Robinetta hits 7.1 knots SOG at one point - possibly the fastest we have ever been in her. Daisy's reefing line gets loose and Steve has to heave to and fix it. We manage to keep a good line but not quite good enough to round Inner Bench Head and head into the tidal stream of the Colne to help us out to it where Vlieter passes us. Once round it and running into the Colne Cygnet of London catches and passes us, Simon call out that he is determined to catch and pass Vlieter. He doesn't manage it.

We pass Bateman's tower and I text our elapsed time in, late, but it is accepted and we are 5th. Our best result so far.

Alison will have to watch out. I might be getting the hang of this.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Heybridge and Maldon

The lock keepers at Heybridge didn't have a list of boats planning to come in, so it was a bit of a free-for-all once there was enough water to get in. Still it all worked OK, and the lock was able to go to free-flow which helped a lot. We ended up rafted outside Romelda, one of the boats I had researched for Alison as part of preparing the East Coast Race programme.She is interesting, having been built in Guernsey in the 19th century.

Trevor Rawlinson, skipper of Aussie II, was the driver of our double decker bus round to Maldon. I think this was an instance of the gaffers taking DIY to extremes as Trevor then had to miss the dinner as he didn't have anywhere to leave the bus and, of course, couldn't drink. Trevor - we missed you and would gladly have paid for a driver so you could join us!

The barges always make a fine back-drop to an evening at the Little Ship Club. The catering was simple and effective, the beer excellent and the company outstanding. After the meal was over we vied with each other over who could do more washing up. Many hands make light work and I only dropped one plate. The only thing marring the proceedings was that Lena Reekie was taken ill and spent most of the evening in the ambulance being monitored by paramedics. We all hope it is nothing serious.

Ladies Helm

We always feel a bit of a cheat doing a ladies helm race, as Alison is our main racing master anyway. If we can enter, I think Hugo and Toby should be able to as well.

Not for the first time this week, Alison misjudged the tide at the start, and the winds were so light that neither of us really knew what they were doing. So we were slow over the line, but still better than many, and got a good line to the first turning mark, over on the Bradwell shore.

It all went pear-shaped on the next one though. I had put all the buoys into the chart plotter and slipped an extra zero after the decimal point on one. This wouldn't have mattered if there wasn't a buoy of roughly the right aspect where the plotter suggested we needed to go, and if Simon, Sharon and Matilda on Cygnet of London hadn't seemed to be going for the same mark.

We did better after that and it was a self-timed finish at Osea so, unlike the Maldon Regatta, we didn't have to worry about being abandoned by the finish boat.

A little frustrating, but still a beautiful day, a beautiful river and the sort of sailing experience one just doesn't get any other way.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

West Mersea

After the passage race we motored to our mooring up the Ray channel and put the boat to bed then Alison rowed us back to the Packing Shed for lunch. We were a bit late but still had a great time. Mike Mitchell took some wonderful pictures earlier in the afternoon when the tide was at it's highest and I can't resist sharing one of them here, although we were not there to see it. From left to right, Jenny Wraith and John Banton (Tab Nab), Robert Burke, Maisie and Lena Reekie (Crow) and Nick Holman (Lettie May).

Alison and I then got two busses and a train to Ipswich. It was horribly, temper frayingly hot. We fetched the car back down to the Victory boat yard and joined the party at the West Mersea Yacht Club.

Seaways Passage Race

This race is usually from Wrabness/Harwich to the Deben but for the Jubilee Cruise it is from Walton No 2 to the Nass beacon, with a Packing Shed seafood lunch to follow. The wind was unpredictable and with a latest finish of 2 pm and 20 nm to go at Robinetta speeds we needed a good 7 hours in hand for the passage. Starting at 5 am would give us an hour of ebb to get out of Hamford Water and round the Naze to pick up the flood down the Wallet.

But this also meant coming out of Walton at low water, and Pennyhole Bay almost dries, and we were coming up to a super spring tide.
If we sailed all the way out to Pye End before turning we would be safe. We would also be travelling an extra two miles compared to turning at the No 2 buoy. According to the chart, we would be aground if we did that. I programmed a turn into the chart plotter about a third of the way between the No 2 buoy and Pye End and then out to the Pennyhole race mark. That should have seen us clear.
We left right behind Witch and Bona. Both have Titchmarsh as their home port and both draw more than us. Witch draws 8’ and did, indeed head for Pye End. Bona draws less and turned straight for the Wallet. I hung on for a little and then followed Bona out.

Alison kept watch on the depth and whenever it dropped below 2’ we turned to port a bit. It worked a treat and we got out past Walton Pier without difficulty.
For a while it looked like we would be able to reach down the Wallet but the wind veered a little and it turned into a long beat. The lift we got from the tide made each tack really long. The first one took us past Holland on Sea before we got close to the Gunfleet and the second one got us past Clacton.
Another two took us into the Blackwater. There, we tried keeping in the river to get the most lift from the tide, which made the tacks shorter. We got to the Nass beacon at 1:45pm, with 15 minutes to spare, so we were last, but our judgement of how long we needed to allow was pretty good.

We headed in to West Mersea and motored up to our own buoy. It was a little annoying to pass the Packing Shed where people were already eating.

Jib-booms and bobstays! Secret Water galoots

The alarm went off at 4:30 as set. I wasn't as rested as I'd hoped. The water around us was much more crowded than when we had anchored - most of the boats who had gone to Stone Point had moved over to escape the difficult Walton Channel.

I got the anchor up and ended up with my hands covered in mud. Alison motored us round towards the outbound channel and offered me a bucket to wash my hands. She lifted the cockpit hatch to get the bucket out and the folding seat she had been using flew overboard.
It floated and she did a 360° turn to catch it. I said “you are miles away from it” and she said “the tide will take it down”, which of course, it didn’t as the tide was taking us down equally quickly. Something we should have taken more note of at the time.

Alison went round again and missed it again.
The third time, I gave explicit instructions and Alison followed them to the letter and we brought up with the seat by the cockpit and I lifted it in.

And we heard a clunk and a scratching sound.
The tide had taken us down onto Transcur’s bow, and we had both been so intent watching the seat that we hadn’t been looking to port at all. The sound we had heard was her bowsprit running gently along the cabin roof and the hatch.

The bobstay was fending us off her bow.
Pete was up in a moment, followed by Claire. Inanda was rafted on Transcur’s starboard beam and Pete got Claire to drop her back out of the way while he reefed the bowsprit, freeing us up and letting us drop round to where Inanda had been where we could motor off again.

It was all over in about 2 minutes and no real damage done to either boat, but we both felt really stupid. I was the day’s skipper and Alison was helm, so we shared the blame for not keeping lookout pretty equally. As Nancy would have said, galoots, both of us.
We headed out of the channel and I washed my hands in the bucket and we got the sails up. We turned the motor off as we passed the No 2 buoy and were officially racing.