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.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

You call this racing?

From the weather forecast I was expecting a re-run of the last time we started a race down the Stour from Wrabness. Then we had drifted across the start line and had to give up an hour later before we got to the Erwarton cardinal as the tide had turned. This time it was a little better. All the boats got moving OK but we missed our customary good start because Drum of Drake got to windward of us and acted like a skyscraper, leaving a huge wind hole. The boats like Reverie, with light wind sails, screamed off down river, leaving us to tussle with Otter, who matches our speed quite closely, despite being a much lighter, very early Cornish Crabber (no 44).

Reverie and her Mark Butler 'special' multi-purpose sail

 Then, near the buoy called Ramsay, the wind went lighter and we were only just stemming the tide. I put this frustrating picture on Facebook.

 It wasn't long before we decided to give up and put the motor on. When we got a little further down river we discovered that the wind had dropped there too, catching My Quest, Rely, Drum of Drake and many other little ships in the tide by Felixstowe. Then we saw Charm heading in to Suffollk Yacht Harbour and worked out she must have finished the course and be heading home, rather than to Walton. We found out later that Robert and Lorna are going to Lil Edwards funeral tomorrow. I'm glad someone from the gaffers is going, I will miss Lil and feel very sorry for Barry, having to manage without her.

We motored out past Harwich breakwater and then the wind filled in again and we had a nice sail into Hamford Water where we anchored again. Lots of crews went over to Stone Point for a drink on the beach but we cooked some dinner and had another quiet evening. We worked out that we needed to get up at 4:30 am to have any chance of getting to West Mersea for the packing shed lunch so we tried to get an early night.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Paradise, almost

I try to keep work and sailing separate, and this is the boat's log, not my blog, but I thought for once I would put in something a little more personal. The weather is perfect, the river is beautiful and today's cruise was idyllic. So why am I depressed and unsociable?

I was forwarded an email today from a friend who works in the department I applied for a job in. The manager announced on Friday that the other candidate would be joining in August. Apart from being about the 26th internal job I've failed to get, this is the second one recently where the hiring manager has not had the courtesy to tell me I was not successful before announcing the outcome in public.

I'm also not happy with the boat. The new sails are setting well and I seem to have reduced the problem with the gaff saddle to a managable level. I think we are sailing her competently. We are still the slowest boat by a large margin. The new larger sails do help. Instead of losing sight of the fleet, we drop slowly behind until we are at the back.

Part of the problem with the boat is the perfect weather. Stronger winds would help. They would also make me work harder and contemplate less.

Gentle Sailing

Drum of Drake
Today was a gentle sail from Ipswich to Wrabness. We beat down the Orwell in the company of the beautiful schooner Drum of Drake and the annoyingly fast My Quest.

It was well worth getting the sail up despite the light winds; much more restful than having an engine thumping away.
My Quest
At Wrabness we got the sail down and stooged around looking for a good place to anchor and eventually dropped the hook bang on low water, right by the drying spit with about 2' under the keel. We still put out over 15 fathoms of chain - we didn't want a repetition of our previous visit.

In the evening we went ashore for the briefing for the Pennyhole Bay race. There was some fine music making going on and a grand bonfire but we were both feeling the need for a little down time and we rowed back to Robinetta for a quiet evening. Our timing was excellent as we avoided getting wet during the overnight thunderstorm

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Silly Games

The Classics' Ipswich Regatta was its normal zany self. The morning was dull and cool. A very welcome change from last year. The marina was really crowded. Many shortcuts were used from one pontoon to another across the rafts of boats.
One small innovation was that the Rubber Flubber Football was an 'international' match, between the Netherlands and the Rest of the World. Amazingly, the teams had orange and yellow armbands indicating which team they were on. Now all we need is for the team members to know which end they are defending and we might have a real competition.

The regatta was very much a dry run for doing the same thing at the big party in Cowes and so some rules were introduced as an experiment. I think we are a little worried the assembled gaffers might not quite 'get' this East Coast phenomenon.

The boat dog competition was also a bit more formal than usual. Luckily, the stalwart crew of Annabel J showed that newcomers could get into the spirit of the event with gusto.

The pontoon party was enlivened by one of the sponsors, Adnams. Free Beer!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Arrival at Ipswich

Rowed out to the boat from the Orwell Yacht Club and motored in to Ipswich. Arrived in the lock with a huge gin palace at the back of the lock and a sailing boat rafted to it and expecting to take our lines. In the front of the lock was Minstrel and the new Moonstone IX, David and Persephone’s grandchildren having outgrown the sleeping accommodation in Moonstone VIII. In between Moonstone and the gin palace? Two boat lengths of unused pontoon! We squeezed around the outside of the unnecessary raft and tied up to the pontoon.

We were given a great spot in the marina, in between Kajan and Moonstone. There was a bit of wind pushing us in towards the quay-side and we were glad of help on the pontoon to warp us in. Robinetta’s high sides are a weak point under these conditions.
I had another go at fixing the sea toilet and it seems good this time. Then I got the bunting on while Alison legged it back down to Fox’s where we had left the car.
At 4pm we assembled in the Customs House for the Mayoral reception. I dressed up a bit – white shirt, pale linen trousers and an old flannel charcoal suit jacket. The gaffers have never seen me so smart! Mary Blake, the deputy mayor was very honest about how little research she had done about the event, it could have gone badly wrong but she got away with it and we had a great time.
I had a good chat with Jay who runs the Maritime Ipswich events. He is very frustrated because ABP keep blocking his ideas for events on the water due to ‘health and safety’. As this included them preventing the Coast Guard from demonstrating a helicopter rescue, it seems yet another example of HSE inspired craziness. I told him about Mistley Quay where there is a serious dispute between the quay owners, the local residents and boaters and health and safety is being abused as an excuse for behaviour reminiscent of 17th century enclosures.

In the evening we had a fine barbecue at the Last Anchor with a great band and renewed old acquaintances and made new ones. It was great to see many boats I had first seen in Belfast and Loch Melfort arriving in Ipswich, having navigated the Caledonian Canal and the east coasts of Scotland and England, or in the case of Annabel J, having been all the way to Shetland via Orkney.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Thankyou Andy Murray

We made some time for a sail today. It is quite a long row from the Orwell Yacht Club to our temporary mooring but it was the perfect day for it. We raised sail on the mooring and sailed off it in very light airs. The wind kept filling in and then dying away. It seemed to veer and back a lot two but I think it was mostly just different in different parts of the river.

By the time we got to Woolverstone it was definately blowing up the river and we had to beat down to Pin Mill. A lovely experience. Alison fancied lunch at the Butt and Oyster so we picked up a mooring right next to Andy and Fiona busy painting Electron's topsides. We found out it is Gladys' mooring, so we made sure we didn't hang on it too long. Gladys is Gus Curtis' Leigh Bawley. Gus runs Harry King's boatyard.

The Butt and Oyster was doing good business but was unusually quiet for a Sunday lunchtime. Almost certainly because so many people were watching the Wimbledon final. It certainly made our lunch very pleasant and quick.

I had a 1/2 pint of Adnams Fat Sprat amber ale with my roasted cod, mash, broccoli and peas. Alison had a cider with her belly pork and sweet potato chips. All yummy.

We saw the Thomases go down to the hard and met Pete as we walked Worm back towards the rapidly receding tide. Pete was carrying my razor around just in case he saw us! (I'd left it at Robert and Lorna's place in Loch Melfort). Luckily Alison also remembered we hadn't paid for the Wrabness BBQ so exchanges were duly made and we rowed back to Robinetta. Must remember to wish Pete a happy birthday tomorrow.
We sailed back up to the mooring on jib and staysail. The wind had got quite strong and we didn't want to get there quickly, it was just too nice! The boat on the left is a new friend from the Orwell Yacht Club who helped us through the gate.

From the mooring to Pin mill is 21/2 miles. Not exactly the longest day sail. But with such light airs it was just right.

The Orwell is a beautiful river and it was a truly beautiful day.

We did a little maintenance and relaxed for a while on the mooring and got back to the Orwell Yacht Club around low water. There really is very little water in the creek and all the boats were aground. We picked our way back to the pontoon and popped Worm back where she lives, for the moment.