Thursday, 22 September 2016

Work ashore, ready for winter

Robinetta came out of the water on 15th September, and I drove up there on the 21st, leaving home at 5am. It's a five hour drive, and leaving that early gets me past the traffic bottleneck of Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction before rush hour.

I reached Holyhead at 11am and was shown where to find Robinetta by the yard staff.
Start of Day 1
I got to work putting away ropes and fenders, then unshipped the bowsprit before touching up the hull where the paint had flaked off. There are always patches of bare wood at the end of the season. It was just about dry enough to get a layer of varnish on the cabin sides too.
End of day 1, Proped up rather than on a cradle
By 5.30pm I needed a rest, so headed for my B&B for an early night.

I was back on Robinetta before 9am, to find puddles in the yard from heavy overnight rain. Thursday itself was beautiful though, warm, dry, and sunny, and I got a lot done. First came emptying out the cabin and all the lockers, then giving a second coat of grey metallic primer to yesterday's bare wood. After that it was time to renew the Woodskin in the cockpit, and re-paint the fibreglass there. This had not been done since leaving West Mersea, since it is only practicable to do it when there is only one person working on Robinetta at a time.
A clean, rope free cockpit
The cockpit looked great when I had finished, and I left the paint to dry while I sanded down the hatch surround on the foredeck. The varnish there had got quite badly damaged over the last couple of seasons, so it was time it was redone. I decided to go with Deks no.1, like the forward bulkhead, so had to spend a couple of hours sanding it down completely before I could apply the new coating.

After that it was on with the winter covers, to protect Robinetta's topsides from the weather until the next time I could get to Holyhead.
End of day 2
I drove away at 5pm, feeling as though I had got a lot done in my two days.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Map Updated

This will be the last map update of 2016 as Robinetta's sails are now here in Bishop's Stortford.
Click on the image to go to the navigable map.
Robinetta and Worm have travelled 1349 nautical miles this season in 43 days under way. We spend 350 hours on passage, for 249 of which the engine was on.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Holyhead Parade of Sail

Saturday was scheduled for racing but the weather was horrid and only a few brave souls left the harbour.

Sunday was much better and we headed out of the marina with 5 on-board. Alison and I were joined in the cockpit by Mary Gibbs whose own Molly Cobbler was stuck in Fleetwood following engine repairs. On the fore-deck we had two young sea scouts. We send them forward whilst raising the main to avoid any chance of injury.
The idea was to do about two circuits of the harbour, getting close to the crowds if we could. The problem is that the harbour is shallow with groins near where the public can be!
As well as the Severn class lifeboat leading the parade and squirting everone with their huge water canon the Charles Henry Ashley was looking good.

 Scott Metcalfe's Vilma is always a highlight of the show. She and other boats carry canon for the festival and there were also canon on the shore, courtesy of Hearts of Oak the Anglesey Hussars.

We discovered that our Sea Cadet guests were a major benefit. Not only did they attract ribs and other craft carrying water canon and bombs, which made the whole affair more fun, but they also drew most of the fire to the foredeck! In the cockpit we kept (mostly) dry.

After the parade of sail we lent Mary Worm so she could practice sculling. I don't have a good sculling oar - the ones Alison made for rowing are square cross section and float. I borrowed one from a Mirror dinghy and, as you can see, it worked a treat!

Robinetta and Graunuaile shared the prize for boat traveled furthest. I think we should really have been counted as having come from Portaferry, but I'm not complaining!

Thanks to Peter Philippson for the photographs.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Overnight passage, Isle of Man to Holyhead

We had hoped to stay in Douglas for a day, leaving early on Thursday morning to head for Holyhead, but the newest weather forecast made us change our minds. There were winds gusting to force 7 due then, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday even worse. If we wanted to get to Holyhead for the traditional boat festival we needed to go today.

We headed out of the marina at 10:15 and got the sails up in the bay just outside the harbour. Julian had (most unusually) forgotten to attach the peak halyard when he took the sail cover off on the pontoon, so had to do it as we rolled in the swell. Raising sail took longer than normal. We headed out of the bay under sail at 10:40, with the engine off, making best course to windward.

Three boats that came out of Douglas Harbour half an hour after us gradually caught up and passed us. This happened slowly enough that it felt like we were sailing in company until our courses diverged.

We knew that this would be a long trip, especially since we would get foul tides later on, trying to push Robinetta up the Mersey. Establishing watches, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, from the start made sense. The seas were quite big and were coming from the starboard bow, so we pitched quite a bit. Julian and I both hand steered our first two watches, and it was hard work, although as I came up for my second watch Julian commented that the sailing had been gorgeous. 

Before he went below for a rest he tightened up the peak halyard to take a crease out of the sail. When I looked up a couple of minutes later I saw that the gaff outhaul had snapped. Last time this happened we had just left Eriskay, heading for Lochboisdale and we just took the sail down and motored since it was not very far. This time we needed to fix it en-route as we were much further from shelter. Julian came back up on deck and got the sail down while I held us head to wind on the engine, then we pulled the main sheet in as hard as we could to keep the main centred. The boom rolled sideways every now and then despite this, and Julian rolled with it. Retying the outhaul with a new bit of rope meant standing at the stern, tying knots with one hand while holding onto the boom with the other. He was clipped on to Robinetta with the safety strap but it was still a nervewracking time. The outhaul tension was quite loose when he finished, but the sail was now usable again and we raised it.
Robinetta settled down to cut across the waves again under sail and Julian sat down in the cockpit for a breather before heading down to the cabin. He picked up a fragment and wood, and frowned at it.

I looked forward, and saw that the starboard rear shroud lower dead-eye had sheered clean through the middle, meaning that shroud had no tension on it. The entire load was being carried on the forward shroud and backstay. Julian grabbed the rest of the rope he had just used to replace the outhaul, clipped on his safety line again, and crawled along the cabin top to lash the shroud back into service.

Two gear failures inside half an hour was a telling symptom of how hard a season Robinetta was having. 

I wanted to give Julian a longer “off” watch since he had spent half of it in boat maintenance, so decided not to call him at the end of my two hours on the helm. By that time the wind and swell had gone down a lot. We were just making 3 knots and I was guiltily aware that the reef needed to come out. As I was contemplating doing it Julian came up on deck ready to take over, so we shook out the reef together.

Julian had brought George up with him, and set him to work on the helm. Within half an hour the wind had gone so light that the engine went on, and stayed on.

When I came back on watch it felt like the light was going as well as the wind, so with George on the helm I got the main down, then went forward and tightened up the starboard shroud again. With the much calmer seas it was a lot easier to get tension on it.

Sunset in the Irish Sea
The navigation lights went on as the sun set, and Robinetta's track on the chart plotter began to curve left. George was still steering in the same direction as before but the tide was taking us east of the course. We had known this would happen, and tried to get west while the tide was going that way to compensate, but the wind had not obliged.

I reset George, so we would not be carried too far east, but we were only making half a knot towards where we wanted to go. Our arrival time went from a respectable midnight up to 3am. The tide against us eased at 23:00, and was with us by midnight, but we did not reach Holyhead until 02:45.

The marina looked dark, and there were a lot of moored boats to thread through to get there. Both being tired we decided to pick up an empty mooring rather than try and find a marina berth. The first we looked at said “Dangerous, Do Not Moor” in reflective lettering that showed perfectly in the light of my head torch. The one we picked up had a mass of kelp and a mussel farm on the mooring line, but we made it off on the bits, then lashed it in place with our own line then went to bed. 17 hours for a fifty mile passage is not great, but that is what happens with three hours of a 4 knot foul tide. If we had gone on Thursday as originally planned we would have left earlier, and had a much quicker trip.
A little used mooring line