Saturday, 15 April 2017

Homeward Bound

We spent a lazy morning in Deganwy chatting with Kevin from the 1913 Nobby Phyllis and getting Robinetta ready to leave her. A nice walk provided these pictures of Deganwy, Conwy and the entrance to the river.
Deganwy Marina

Sill at Deganwy

Conwy Castle

The Bar


Conwy Panorama
We got the train back to Holyhead, changing at Llandudno Junction and parting company with Felix at Bangor.

Back at Holyhead we bumped into Pete and Sue Farrer in their camper van. They gave us tea and we chatted about their many trips through the straits. The RNLI were doing a fund-raising car wash so our car is now cleaner than usual!

The drive back was the best we have had - 70 mph through spaghetti junction! We were home by 9pm.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Going through the Swellies

We had originally planned the week as a possible anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Anglesey. We seem to be doing everything in the British Isles widdershins so why stop now?

Then I had the idea of going to Liverpool this week so Robinetta would be there for the 80th anniversary of her launching at Birkenhead. Last night Julian spent hours pouring over the tides and weather. Liverpool looked unlikely with strong north easterlies in the forecast and a tidal gate at the end but there was a chance the wind would go down, and if we anchored at Puffin Island we could leave any time to make the tides come right.

The alternative was to go to Conwy or Deganwy. This would give us easy transport back to the car. We didn't need to decide that until we were through the Menai Strait. The strait is one of the iconic passages in British waters and there was no way we were going to leave the area without going through it.

Also it is where Robinetta spent the Second World War. She wintered at Gallows Point Beaumaris in 1938 and didn't leave again until the second owners picked her up from there in 1946. Julian was keen to see it, at least from the water.

The pilotage instructions make it look really complicated, because of the fierce currents and rocks between the two bridges. The area is known as 'The Swellies'. In fact, from Caernarfon Victoria Dock, if you leave when the flap gate opens you will be just fine. At least at springs.

Last night I had made stew in our new Mr D Thermal cooker. There was enough left for a soup today, so I heated it up again in the morning, and left it to stay hot in its vacuum shell.

This morning the forecast showed a little less wind. XC and the Met' Office disagreed quite a bit about how much (3s or 6s, quite a range!), but both contained north westerlies, not good for heading into the Mersey. We decided we were better off going to one of the Conwy marinas, rather than anchoring.

The sill gate was due to open at ten, and at 09:45 I had just started putting a course into the chart plotter when Felix announced “The lights have gone green!”

The engine went on immediately and Worm was put in the water. Julian cast us off and we backed away from our berth and headed for the harbour entrance only to go aground. The depth gauge said Robinetta had 0.5 m beneath the keel, but we were stuck. Luckily I was able to back off, and one of the local motorboat owners came out of his cabin and advised us that the deeper water ran close to the pontoon by the outer wall. I took Robinetta over to that side and we made it clear of the marina.

I turned Robinetta's bow as though we were going back the way we had come to fight the inrushing tide, and we ferry glided out into the Menai Straits. Even with the engine on full throttle we were swept east, but we managed to clear the cardinal marking the mud by the marina entrance. Once we were in the channel I aimed us straight down the Straits.

Julian had got the bowsprit out while I got us clear of the marina, and he hauled up the no 1 jib.  We were doing 6 knots on the stay sail and engine at only half revs, but it seemed a shame to waste the wind, so Julian hoisted the main on the run. This works Ok in calm conditions, the only problems are that the battens tend to get caught on the topping lifts and the gaff falls off so it's difficult to tension.

Julian had a chat on the phone with Mary Gibbs, who has been keeping Molly Cobbler at Deganwy. We had discussed doing part of the trip in company but Molly is not quite ready yet, fitting out afloat (mostly aground) at Port Penrhyn. Mary persuaded us that Deganwy is better than Conwy. She also said that being early at the Swellies was not a problem.

The engine went off and we sailed east, with Felix on the helm, while Julian finished my abandoned job of plotting Robinetta's course. We gybed several times as the channel curved, but had to put the engine on to keep steerage way when the wind went light near Plas Newydd. This was just due to the high banks, and as soon as we were round the curve the wind came back.
Approaching Britannia Bridge
We were dead running nearly all the time, and it did not feel very safe to be worrying about gybing as we headed beneath the Britania bridge and entered the area of the Swellies. The engine went back on and I centred the main.
Under the Britannia Bridge

Swellies Beacon
Menai Bridge ahead

through the Menai Bridge
We followed the recommended route, watching the depth gauge all the time, and keeping a wary eye on the swirling water. It was quite fun, but a bit nerve racking and I was glad when Robinetta was safely though beneath the Menai bridge.

Another yacht came through behind us, and we took pictures of each other as we passed by Saint George's pier.
I let the main out, and put the engine off, while Felix helmed, as we headed out of the straits. We needed to gybe several times, but Felix and I made a good team on the helm and main, while Julian handled the jib. Having three in the cockpit makes gybing much easier.

As we cleared Bangor Pier Julian entered the course to Deganwy on the chart plotter. The tide was against us now, not very strongly but our speed went down to three knots. That would not get us to Deganwy before the flap gate shut, so the engine went on to help the sails. We put a preventer on the boom as the water was no longer absolutely flat, which made unplanned gybing more likely.

Gallows Point boat yard
The Gallows Point boat yard where Robinetta spent WW2 is still full of boats.

Past Bangor Pier
Julian was helming by the time we turned into Penmaen Swatch. All at once the worry about gybing stopped as we went onto a lovely broad reach. Our speed went up with the change from running to reaching, so we could put the engine off. The waves were gentle, and from behind us, making for a perfect sail, then just to cap the moment off we saw a small pod of bottle nosed dolphins. They came up and swam alongside for a moment, amazing Felix who had not seen them before. Unfortunately they were soon gone.

We got the sails down by the Conwy safe water mark, then followed the well bouyed channel towards Conwy. Where we had to cross the waves we realised that the swell was quite nasty, and yachts coming out of Conwy looked very uncomfortable crashing through the waves. Robinetta rolled quite a bit, but Felix had no problems with sea sickness today.

Entering the river the tide slowed us to less than 2 knots. I had been thinking about asking Julian to get the bowsprit in, but instead he set the jib again, and with both foresails setting goose winged and the engine on full revs we made progress against the tide and reached Deganwy Marina with an hour to spare before the flap gate went up and sealed the marina.

It was beginning to spit with rain as we tied up, and by the time we had everything tidied away the drops were bouncing off the walkways. Julian dashed up to the marina office, and got a card for the electric so we could hook up the heater and dry out a bit.

By now Julian had decided that the only way to get to Liverpool with a tidal gate at both ends was at neaps so we decided that Deganwy was as far as we were going. The marina was happy to have us stay, so next day we packed up and headed back to Holyhead by train to collect the car.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Getting to Caernarvon

Felix joined us on Wednesday night. He wanted to try small yacht sailing, having learned in a dinghy, and only sailed much larger yachts than Robinetta and got in touch with us via the Cruising Association. We should have got an early night, but what with eating and showing him the boat we did not manage to get to bed until 23:00.

The alarm went at 03:35, and we managed to get off the berth by 04:05. There was good moonlight, but picking our way past the moorings, and putting up sail in the dark took longer than expected, and we did not managed to get out of the harbour, with the no 2 jib and a reefed main until 04:50.

The waves outside the sheltered harbour came as a bit of a shock, and we had to tack towards South Stack. Julian's planning had made him want to reach South Stack by 05:00, which was obviously not going to happen, but apparently 06:00 was still good, although later would not be! We kept the engine on and motor sailed to keep the speed up and let Robinetta sail closer to the wind.

We had heard a ferry announce its presence at South Stack to the Holyhead coastguard, so we were not surprised to see one. I tacked to avoid it (I thought) and got five hoots for my trouble. It was much closer than I thought! I quickly went back on my previous course and we stayed well clear.

We were passed South Stack by 06:00 as required, and met none of the dreaded overfalls. We had daylight, and switched off the running lights, but kept the engine on. The sky had clouded over as the sun rose, but it stayed dry from above, although a rather large wave did manage to splash into the cockpit and make the pump run as well as drenching Julian on the helm. Luckily he was wearing full oilies against the cold!
Broad reaching down the west coast of Anglesey

We were now on a very broad reach, with the waves rolling in from behind. The motion was a bit too much for Felix, who was sick a couple of times and he had to go below for a while. Once he felt a little better I made porridge, and he managed to keep a couple of mouthfuls down, but was still fragile.

We reached the Caernarvon Bar safe water mark at 10:20, pretty near perfect timing, and then picked our way along the channel across the bar. Holyhead marina had printed out a chartlet with the new channel marker positions and given it to us, which made our eyeball navigation a lot less fraught than it might have been. We were an hour and a half before high water Caernarvon, and never had less than 4.4m beneath the keel.

The engine went off for ten minutes after we got through the narrows, and soon we were at Caernarvon itself.
Approaching Caernarfon

Caernarfon Castle
We lowered sail to go into the Victoria Dock at dead on high water. We were moored up by 11:55, ready to spend a lazy afternoon ashore, after 8 hours sailing (or motor sailing if you prefer).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Waiting for the weather

Half done Tiller Pilot fitting
The wind on Tuesday night made walking along the pontoon unpleasantly cold, and we were glad of the electric heater in the cabin. Once it had been on for ten minutes Robinetta felt toasty warm, and we were able to leave it off overnight.

The lines creaked as we were blown off all night, and we could feel the frequent gusts. At one point I realised that we had not tied Worm on to the pontoon she was resting on... Julian told me in the morning he had worried about it too, but neither of us wanted to go out into the cold to check on her.

Wednesday morning the wind was so strong and gusty we decided against sailing. Instead we worked on the Tiller pilot fixing which broke last year. Mid afternoon, when the new set up was ready to install Julian looked out and saw it was raining, so we holed up in the cabin until it stopped.

After the tiller pilot mount was in place we realised that the wind had dropped, and the clouds had gone. We actually had sunshine, and going for a little sail round the harbour to check out the sails and rigging after the winter ashore felt like something we wanted to do.

We were only out for an hour, but had a lovely little sail. Everything worked as expected, and we got Robinetta back to her berth in a relaxed state of mind.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

in the water

We couldn't do much this morning- it was mostly waiting for the yard to be ready. We checked the raw water pump and found a new gasket and impeller had been fitted. I did notice that the tiller pilot connection to the tiller was something we had completely forgotten about. I've done temporary fix after temporary fix. It really needs the tiller removed and a new mount for the pin attached.
A narrow gap, for a big hoist
 Getting the hoist to her was tricky for the yard chaps. By the time it was in place you couldn't slide a feeler gauge between the hoist and the boats either side of us.

They moved her without scratching any other boat and we clambered aboard and were driven down the slip. Robinetta swung gently in the slings. The water took her weight and Alison tried the engine. The battery wasn't up to it. I changed to the other side and Alison gave it some throttle and eventually the trusty 1GM10 sprang to life. We backed out of the sling and after some moving around we were clear in about 0.9m of depth under the keel. The echo sounder worked with no fuss.

Alison backed into deeper water and then motored forward to B pontoon. I set warps and fenders. That was when we realised we had left the new warps in the car. We had enough on board.

The wind had backed so instead of blowing off the berth it was blowing onto the port sides of the finger. Alison expertly manoeuvred so the wind pushed us gently against one and I tied us up.

We left the engine in neutral charging both batteries and went to the car and loaded a trolley, and another. I swapped the warps for the new ones and ran out the bowsprit to get its lines sorted while Alison stowed the luggage.

We turned off the engine and checked both batteries. Each started the engine easily now. Lunchtime.

Lunch was a cooked breakfast in the Marina café. We walked it off with a trip in to town and then got Worm to the pontoon.

Alison wanted shore power and our lead didn't quite reach so we warped Robinetta across to the other finger. It was better anyway as we were now blown off.

I set the no 2 jib so I could get the furling line wound onto the drum the right way round and then put the jib away again and we bent on the mainsail.

It feels like we are ready,

Monday, 10 April 2017

Due in tomorrow

I drove Alex home after he got a coat of Toplac white on Robinetta's bulwarks, blue on the hull, and Teamac anti-foul beneath the waterline. 

Next day Julian and I loaded Worm onto the car roof, and headed back to Holyhead to finish getting Robinetta ready to launch. Julian fitted the new dead-eyes he made over the winter, then spliced together a new set of lazy-jacks. After than he checked over the electrics, and the anchor chain, before putting a new rope on to tension the fore stay.
Damage on the foredeck

Cabin top with fresh coat of paint

In the past few days I repaired and painted the foredeck and the cabin roof, cleaned the cabin (thoroughly for a change), and did a variety of small tasks that have ended up with the cabin habitable, the galley usable, and everything put away. I should have changed the water filter, but it turns out that I bought the wrong size. Note to self, buy 15mm filter, NOT 12mm!

Robinetta is still a bit buried behind other boats, but the marina have assured me that the yard manager knows she is due in tomorrow. All that we have to do before launch is refit the impeller so the engine will work. After launch we will head to the marina to finish fitting out by bending on the main sail, and loading stores. What happens after that depends on the weather! 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

ready to anti-foul

Alex and I worked quite late today, but made good progress. We managed to get two coats of underwater primer on to the bare wood, so Alex will be rolling on the anti-foul tomorrow. He put a coat of white Toplac on the bulwarks today, so they now look finished, rather than in need of more layers!

The foredeck progresses, with Deks no1 on the cap rails, and a complete coat of blue Toplac inside the bulwarks. (Last season they were a patchwork of blue and silver). The deck itself still needs work though, with more damage revealed than expected once it was clean. Repairing and painting it is my task for tomorrow

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Shiny new anode

Went to the boatyard today with one week to go before launch day. Alex got to work preparing the hull for anti-fouling, while I got the covers off, cleaned the cabin a bit, and sanded the damaged varnish off the foredeck cap rails. I will put DEKS no 1 on them tomorrow.

Meanwhile the yard had done what I asked them too, and Robinetta has a new anode, the old one having served for a while. Apparently the bolts holding the old one on snapped while the anode was being removed, so she now has new bolts. The engineer who did it came up to tell me what happened, and assured me it's properly connected to the engine block.