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.