Sunday, 26 August 2018

Robinetta's staying put

Yesterday afternoon's forecast gale is now forecast to arrive earlier, and it will be continuing longer, so there is no point Julian and I waiting in Newhaven. Robinetta and Worm are safe and secure here, but we are on our way home, and will return next weekend to continue moving her east.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Gosport to Newhaven

It seems odd to be weekend sailing! This is a bank holiday weekend, so 3 days long, and we got to Robinetta on Friday evening so have the whole time to sail. Julian even has a smart shirt with him so he can go straight to work from the boat on Tuesday if needed. With this much time we should be able to get as far as Dover, BUT there is a force 8 gale forecast for Sunday afternoon.

The tides are also at unfriendly times, and strong so we have to get them right. Low water Portsmouth is at 04:56 BST, so we needed to be away from the marina at 4 to take the last of the ebb out of the harbour and pick up the flood to take us east. We were clear of the Royal Clarence Marina by 04:10, and motoring towards Haslar marina when Julian suddenly realised we had not turned the running lights on. We did have our AIS transmitting though...

The harbour seemed very quiet, but we kept over in the small boat channel anyway, and were glad of it when a cargo ship, escorted by pilot boats, loomed out of the dark in the main channel.

We turned to cross the channel by the Horse Sand buoy and went onto a course of 120°M, heading for the Looe channel. The wind was almost dead astern, but strong enough to be useful, so we raised the main sail then turned off the engine at 05:30. The sun was rising, but the air was cold. It felt good to be sailing, even though a run with swell coming from behind is not the most comfortable point of sail.

The swell was rather uncomfortable, and got worse as we neared the Looe channel. I had laid the course rather close to the Medmery Bank and sailing a very broad reach rather than a dead run had put us 2 cables inshore of the planned track so even closer... conditions eased as we got back into deeper water.
Ship anchored near Shoreham

We entered the Looe channel at 07:30 and our speed immediately went up to 7 knots from 5. We could see breaking seas to starboard and very short seas ahead, but steering remained easy and both speed and waves soon eased.
By 10:30 the wind had dropped too much to be of use, so we centred the main sail and put the engine on, and George was soon given the helm. We had over 25miles to go on the same course, with very little to aim at except a wind farm and an anchored ship, so the swell moderating enough for George was very helpful. We lowered the main sail a couple of hours later, and kept motoring with the stay sail up.

Occasionally George would start heading for Brighton rather than Newhaven, but the rest of us much preferred our intended destination and made sure George did not take Robinetta astray! The Brighton entrance is horrible, and we wanted to see what Newhaven was like.

I had a look at the CA almanack (2017 version) just to check the entrance lights. I had researched them on the internet but wanted a reminder. What I got was a shock, as the almanack said that the visitor pontoon was only available for 2 ½ hours either side of high water. I had been sure it was all states of the tide.... A quick phone call to the marina reassured me. There was all states access for Robinetta, and plenty of space on the pontoon. I was also reminded to call Newhaven VTS for permission before entering.

The wind freshened again around 14:00, but it was still from dead astern. After our early start neither Julian or I felt up to hand steering for two hours on a dead run, so we stayed under engine.

As we came closer to the shore the swell increased, and George was struggling to cope, so Julian took the helm instead. I went below to call the VTS as we got close to the end of the breakwater, and was denied permission to enter harbour. Apparently a cargo ship was on its way out. We spent an uncomfortable 10 minutes circling slowly in the swell waiting for the ship to appear. As soon as it was clear of the harbour mouth VTS called us up and gave us permission to come in.

Despite this delay outside the breakwater the Newhaven entrance seemed a lot easier than Brighton.

Entering Newhaven
I had given the lady in the marina office an approximate arrival time of 4pm, and we were tied up securely with the engine off by 16:03. Not bad at all! We had taken 12 hours to cover 48nm, which is pretty much the best we can hope for.

We headed up to the marina office to pay and get the codes, then had a walk along the coast then up to the fort. It felt good to stretch my legs.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Folly to Gosport

Our plan for today was to take the tide in the Solent east, heading for the Royal Clarence Marina at Gosport. They give a discount for CA members and we need to leave Robinetta in the Solent for a week since Julian has to go back to work on Monday.
After our late return to the Folly pontoons yesterday we were on the outside of the raft, so it was easy to cast off and set off down river at nine. We left Cowes through the small boat exit to the east of the main channel and once on course the wind came from almost dead astern. We tried running on just the foresails at first, but this made us slower than ideal, so we raised the main with 2 reefs in, and had a lovely sail across the Solent.
On a rising tide, at neaps, the Inner Swatchway channel was perfectly safe although a bit bouncy, and well away from any other shipping until we joined the main channel into Portsmouth harbour. The entrance was quite busy with yachts and not a good place to get sails down, but once we were near the marina the water was much calmer, and it was easy to stow them away.
We were safely moored up by 11:40, after four weeks on board. In that time we have visited two traditional boat events, so have been at sea for less time than normal, but we had a few good sails, one rather too exciting one, and covered over 400 mn.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Racing in the Solent

Last time we were in the Solent with Robinetta was for OGA50. OGA55 is a smaller event, based at the Folly Inn on the Medina River rather than in Cowes itself. There were well over a hundred boats registered, which included some open boats as well as yachts. It was only the yachts that set out to race on Saturday.

The race was due to start at 10:30, but we got ready to leave the pontoon at the Folly around 09:00. We had two yachts rafted outside us, who were not planning to race, and yachts rafted ahead of us too, so it was a bit of a wriggle to extract Robinetta, but with a lot of help from other boat owners we got clear, leaving Worm hauled up on the pontoon.

It was an overcast and windy day, but since we were racing we put up the no1 jib as we motored down river towards Cowes. There were a lot of boats milling around on the start line, as there was only a single start time for 6 classes, and over 60 boats on the line.

We did not get an especially good start. Both tide and wind were against us and in the crush of boats trying to tack towards the line we were inevitably sometimes on port and had to give way. However only clear of the line we made straight for the first mark, and made it without too much trouble, but the majority of the sail was spent in frustrating tacking as we tried to get to the windward mark. We could only make progress by short tacking on the northern shore; the one time we decided to go all the way across to the Wight side again we ended up loosing ground.
Elephantboatyard, the top racing mark

The time limit for the race was set at 5 hours after the start, which seems reasonable for a 10.3 nm course. This meant we needed to be back at the Island Yacht Club line by 15:30. There was also a discretionary extra 30 minutes...

We finally got to the upwind, up tide, mark at 15:41....

Cine Mara behind us on the line.
Did we give up? No!

We were determined to finish, and did so at 16:41

Much to our surprise we were not even the last over the line!

We put the engine on and motored back to the Folly, and made it in time to moor up and get the water taxi back to Cowes for the meal and prize giving at the Sugar Store.   

Friday, 17 August 2018

Lloyds Boat Register 1974

Every now and then we come across an old copy of the Lloyds Register of Yachts. We found this one at Ratsey & Lapthorn, when we went to visit their sail loft as part of OGA55.
This is the first record we have found of Robinetta having an "oil" engine (i.e. diesel). It is interesting to note that it is an 8hp engine, and built in 1965.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Yarmouth to the Folly

We had so much room on the pontoon this morning that I could get the bowsprit out and the No 1 Jib on before we left. Alison backed out of the berth and then we had space to head straight out. Susan J had just come in and they said Carlotta and Ariana and Minx were just behind.

We raised sail out in the channel and turned onto course just as Carlotta stormed past - they weren't stopping at Yarmouth after all.

It looked like we should be running but a broad reach across towards the mainland left the tide pushing us back onto course. Much more comfortable and faster!

A tall ship was anchored at the western end of Gurnard Bay so we gybed and went over to get a closer look. It was Tenacious and there were dozens of Sea Scouts on the yard arms. We went in front of her, being careful not to be washed down onto her by the tide and ran alongside waving with the scouts waving back and then gybed back behind her stern.

As we got near the Gurnard cardinal we decided we could carry on sailing past West Cowes and drop the main near the small craft moorings and come in near via the East Channel.

Alison spotted a yawl putting her sails up. It was the lovely Nobby yacht Bonita.

But our plan wasn't to be. The fast Cat went out in front of us and then the wind hit hard. With full main on a broad reach it was suddenly hard to control. We swung right round into wind and dropped the main quickly and put a sail tie on and resumed our course on fore-sails with a little engine in case.

It looks like they are making wind turbines in Bembridge again.

This had put us into the channel so we pottered along with the other boats. We had to keep well to the island side to let the big ferry out and then we were ready to turn into the river.

Several small gaff and lug dinghies were beating in. The wind was very variable and it veered 60 degrees in the gusts. So we gave up any idea of sailing up to the folly and just motored gently.

We were waived onto a pontoon berth in the river behind Molly Cobbler. The last time we saw her was in Gighe last spring. Both boats have done a few miles since then! Witch, Plum, Transcur and Emanuel are on the same pontoon too so we have several East Coast boats here now with more smaller ones.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Into the Solent at last

After a convivial evening in the pub with Susan J’s owners, followed by a drink on Robinetta I was not sure I would be up for leaving at 07:00 in the morning. However I actually woke at 6, before the alarm sounded, and we were off the pontoon in good time.

Castle on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour
The weather promised fair, with bright sun and a gentle breeze. It was only an hour after low water, but the tide was already flooding into Poole harbour and we had a knot of tide against us as we entered the main channel. Luckily it was much slacker as we turned towards the North Channel. Julian got the main sail up on the run, but the wind was so light it was not a problem.

By the time we reached the curve of the North Channel where it rejoined the main one we were hard on the wind, and making 4 knots. Unfortunately I could see the water flooding in through the narrows, and doubted we would make much progress once we joined it. Julian kept trimming the sails for the wind, and with the engine on full revs we crept towards the narrows at under a knot. The chain ferry set of across the narrows and we sped up a little as it provided some shelter from the tide. Once it docked we slowed right down.

At times the chart plotter showed zero progress, but we were just about making against the tide.

We had nearly reached the line of the chain ferry when it set off again, and we had no choice but to turn away, letting the tide sweep us back towards Poole. I did as tight a circle as I could, and aimed Robinetta at the ferry’s stern. The chain stretched tight, but we were going so slowly, at ½ knot I knew it would be below Robinetta’s keel by the time we reached it.

Once clear of the ferry the tide slackened slightly and we made 2 knots. I wondered about using the Looe channel, but Julian had not plotted it, so it felt safer to continue out along the main one where we knew there would be enough depth. Once clear of the confining sand bank we turned due east and headed straight for the Hurst Channel into the Solent. We had to be through it before 13:00, and really 12:00 would be better as the tide would still be with us.

The wind was behind us, and it was difficult to keep the foresails drawing, but we now had the tide with us, and made a steady four knots under main sail alone. Calm sea, blue sky, and a steady force 3 westerly made for nearly perfect conditions. (Of course a broad reach would have been better than a run ….)
We got to the Hurst Narrows with three knots of tide under us, and were swept though some rather uncomfortable overfalls. Too bumpy for me, and I wanted the engine on to get through them faster, so we shot though at 7 knots.

Bumpy seas off Hurst Castle (taken from the shore later)
We were moored up in Yarmouth by 12:30, after a very pleasant sail from Poole. Not every journey is a tale of danger and near misses!

We went for a walk in the afternoon, and when we got back to the pontoon Robinetta and Worm had gone, to be replaced by children trying to catch crabs. We could see Robinetta on a pontoon in a different arm of the marina, but having made our way across a crowded pontoon to our berth we now had to go back through the crush to get onto a different pontoon. It also had a different gate code to the one we had been given before. Worm was jambed under the bow, her gunwales rubbing Robinetta’s paint work, the main sheet had been used as a mooring line... The berthing master did come and apologise for having put Robinetta on the wrong berth initially, but it did spoil our impression of Yarmouth.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Weymouth to Poole

I decided the best time to leave for Poole was about 1pm to fight the last of the weak inshore ebb to St Alban's Head and get the flood over the bank and round into Poole. Alison asked the Harbour folks and they said the tide was stronger and to leave early. We compromised.

Shadowfax inside us on the raft left around 9am, exiting the raft skilfully with the help of the Hilyard 8 tonner on the inside and the old GRP sloop inside us. Very skilfully done.

We popped up to the chandlers and bought a replacement rope for the jib furler. We got ready to go while I chatted with the chap on the Hilyard and Alison bailed Worm and we were off.

We raised sail outside the harbour and then the rain came! I got my oilies on and took the helm while Alison did the same.

But the sailing was OK. I did some more tide research and decided we would be at St Alban's head two hours early for a nice passage so we decided to have lunch in Lulworth Cove.
Durdle Door

We passed Durdle Door and Stair Hole - very impressive and crowded with sight-see-ers on the shore and then we were at Lulworth.

We were early and the second yacht in so there was plenty of room. We anchored in about 1m on the chart and had lunch and then I got to work trying to get the AIS and depth display back. I found that there was no 0V reference on the NMEA link to the chart plotter - maybe it had broken - there was no loose wire. I wired it to the main earth and everything started working. Luckily it told us we had enough depth!

We motored out and continued. The wind was strengthening and we reefed down but ended up putting the jib away. That got us a nice comfortable close reach to St Alban's head. Now we shouldn't have had a close reach - the forecast was for a broad reach. Oh well.

We took inshore passage and did get some overfalls on the west side of St Alban's head but nothing to mention and only for a few minutes. Then we had the flood with us and flat water.

The only problem was that we had found ourselves on a line of crab pots. Some hard to see. And the wind died. We put the engine on to get round the crab pots.

Out to sea we spotted Cine Mara and Susan J. They must have left a couple of hours later and caught us up. They went outside St Albans's bank but they still nearly caught us up on the run in to Poole.

The sun tried to come out as we passed Old Harry.

For us, the rest of the trip was uneventful. We passed the Ferry while it was loading and headed to Poole Quay.

Cine Mara got caught by the cross tide past the ferry and went aground in the entrance to the harbour. Hopefully they will get off at high water.

Alison had phoned ahead and booked a berth so we picked that up and put Robinetta to bed and Alison went to mortgage the house and use the money to pay for the berth while I cooked burgers for dinner.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Visiting old haunts

We don't often post for days in port - its Robinetta's log. But today we visited on foot her home between 1946 and 1949. Audrey Parker's Once Round The Land ends with Robinetta arriving at her (new) own mooring in Castle Cove Portland so we wandered round there on foot. There are many moorings there administered by the Castle Cove Sailing Club and there were people there so we had a chat.

A smashing chap called Brian (I think) was the club historian - born in Castle Cove and the second secretary (the club was founded in 1921). But he didn't remember Robinetta or the Parkers. He phoned a friend and he didn't recall either so being Navy folk based at Fort Southwick they probably didn't interact strongly with the local community.

Later we were chatting with Rik and Celeste and a broad Cheshire accent asked from the quay whether Minx was wooden or one of the GRP ones taken from the mould of the William Priestley. Minx' owners were not about (we still haven't met them) but I'd read Minx' entry in the OGA boat register so I was able to confirm she was one of the William Priestley boats. The chap on the quay turned out to be an expert on nobbies and we had a lovely chat about the different surviving ones we knew about.

Then Rik and Celeste invited us to dinner on Cine Mara and we had a lovely evening,.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Unreliable forecasts and heavy weather

When I looked out at the surrounding yachts in the light for the first time, at 07:30, I was surprised by our position. We had definitely dragged the anchor and were now on the starboard side of a Westerly we had dropped anchor to port off... Luckily there had been no bad results.

What with the rolling and the wet weather we decided not to stay the day at Bray. This meant we needed to leave as soon as possible to avoid the tide trying to take us back to Jersey. The anchor might have dragged, but it did not want to come up now. I got most of the chain hauled in, a foot at a time, but could not shift the anchor. Julian came forward and used the purchase on the jib halyard to help. All of this was under the watchful eye of the couple on the Westerly. (I had asked them to keep watch in case we failed to notice we were getting too close). Rain started pounding down, and I was getting damp and cold.

Suddenly Robinetta came free. Julian stayed on the foredeck to finish raising the anchor and stow it, while I motored slowly away. I spotted a large Beneteau much closer to a Dutch yacht than it had been last night, in fact they looked about to collide. I headed towards the immanent disaster, yelling the boat names, and managed to get crew of both yachts on deck before any damage was done. I did not hang around to see what happened next as Robinetta had a tide to catch.

Robinetta made very slow progress away from Alderney. Julian did all the deck work to get her back in sailing trim while I helmed. Moving around warmed him up nicely, but I was getting steadily colder; when he finally settled in the cockpit for a rest I had to ask if he could do it while helming. I needed to go below and warm up. Luckily I was soon feeling better, and offered to make porridge, which was very welcome.

We were too late to make use of any favourable tide and we had to motor sail all morning. We let the set of the cross channel tide bring us far enough off the wind to use the sails, but since it was mostly northerly and we wanted to head north we were still very close hauled, not a good point of sail for a gaffer. We discussed changing plans, and heading for Cherbourg rather than Weymouth, but the French town was not that much closer, and we would still have to cross the channel later. We decided to stick with the plan, as the wind was supposed to go west and increase to force 4 in the afternoon once we closed with the English coast. We did decide to go onto a watch system though, 2 hours on and 2 hours off, so both of us had a chance for a good rest after the bad night.

By the time we were in the middle of the down channel shipping lane the rain clouds had cleared to leave a sunny day and the wind had picked up enough to sail. In fact soon after we turned the engine off we put in two reefs, although we still had both the no 2 jib and the stay sail flying. After lunch the wind fell again and we shook one reef out and put George to work. I retrieved a melon we had bought in Morlaix from the bilges, and sliced it up for a snack. The rind had got a little mouldy in places, but the flesh was beautifully sweet. We were running low on provisions though, not having been shopping since Tréguier.

After eating our melon we relaxed a bit too much, and before we noticed the swell had got up too much for George, so the tiller pilot mount broke AGAIN! I caught the Inshore Water's forecast for the evening. West, backing South West 5 or 6 decreasing 4 for a time, increasing 7 later. 6 would be a bit much, but we would be at Weymouth long before "later".

When I came up to helm at 17:10 I wanted a second reef, and 20 minutes later I needed the jib away and the final reef. Robinetta was heeling so much that water kept swirling over the gunwales. It is times like this that remind us that Robinetta actually has very little freeboard. The promised westerly had arrived with a vengeance. The sea state increased with the wind and I had an unhappy half hour on the helm, trying to hold the course into the waves. I needed the engine on to make any progress.
Julian had another look at the tides on the Weymouth approaches and decided we were better off going round the east end of the Shambles Bank. This was a big relief as it meant I could turn off the wind and have the waves on the stern quarter, not the bow.

Now wind, waves, and tide were more astern our speed rose dramatically. 5-7 knots, rather than 3. I could steer directly for Portland Bill, knowing the tide would sweep us past it. I relaxed on the helm again, no longer worried about the waves I had to steer though and able to feel the roll of the boat first and compensate after.

Julian took the helm at 19:30 and decided jib out, engine off. Looking at wind speed records later this was during a slight lull when the wind was 15 knots, gusting 22. 10 minutes later he reversed the decision. He saw speeds of over 8 knots and Robinetta stayed above 7 most of the time. Some of this was tide, but a lot came when coasting across the waves.

A lot of the time we had 26 knots, gusting 32, as recorded on the North East Breakwater of Portland Harbour. This is a top end force 6, gusting top end 7. Not something we would ever take Robinetta out in deliberately. I stayed on deck, and warned Julian when a big wave rose behind us. This let him steer down it rather than have it roll Robinetta too far over. We had to mostly steer across the waves though, or we would be carried off course away from Weymouth. I watched Worm swooping and twisting in the swell, heavier than normal with rain water from the previous night, and knew that if a wave broke into her we would have no real option other than to cut her loose. Luckily it did not happen.

It began to get dark, and we put on the running lights. It became easier to steer as the navigation lights of Portland Harbour gave Julian something to steer for, and eventually we were in smoother water. It was my turn on the helm again and we motor sailed across Weymouth bay, finally getting the sails down just before we entered the harbour,

We found a berth on the visitor pontoon across the river from the harbour office. It meant rafting 4 boats out, but had a nice easy boat to come along side that already had fenders out. Once we had set shore lines and moored Worm along side we got out the half bottle of wine left from the night before, and celebrated our safe arrival.

“This was a good day,” Julian decided. “We did what we meant to, and kept safe doing it.”
We had heard a lot of Pan Pan calls on the radio, including one from a larger yacht than Robinetta whose rudder broke. I was very glad our only gear failure was the tiller pilot fitting.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

St Helier towards Alderney

The alarm went at 1 am, and Julian got dressed. I didn’t, waiting until I heard movement. Nobody stirred until 01:45 and when I stuck my head out an apologetic Frenchman said he had discovered there was no room inside, so they were staying put. I told him we intended to be off at 05:00, and asked him to excuse our feet on his deck, since most of our lines were made off on his cleats.
I woke at first light, wondered what time it was, and checked. 05:11! The alarm had failed. Julian was up instantly, and by the time I had my clothes on Robinetta was motoring away from the raft of boats. It turned out the skipper had been waiting since 5 to help us with the lines....

We zig-zaged slowly down towards the harbour mouth, preparing as we went, and by 05:30 we were clear of the inner harbour. We got the main sail up in the outer harbour then set off towards the Northwest Passage. A passenger ferry came in past us when we were only just clear of the outer harbour, but there was plenty of room.

The wind was almost directly on the nose, but we had the tide with us (the reason for leaving so early). This resulted in quite large overfalls, that we could not get through under engine alone, so we tacked, with engine on. I am not sure I approve of a buoyed entrance channel with such bad overfalls in it! We tried going inshore to avoid them, but the island has plenty of outlying rocks, so we had to keep tacking away, back into the overfalls.

Once we were past the Passage Rock cardinal we were clear of the overfalls, and could turn onto a better heading for sailing. The engine went off for a while, but came on again to help us power through the next set of overfalls, off La Corbiere lighhouse. We only needed it for a few minutes, then we had a lovely sail up the north coast of Jersey towards Sark.

The tide turned foul for us just after 10:00 and progress under sail became very slow There was no point arriving at the Alderney race until 15:00 as we would make no progress against it, but we had to put the engine on as the wind had also got very light. We tried using George, but the swell was too much for him after an hour, so we went back to hand steering. Luckily the wind also picked back up and we managed to sail our course in the afternoon.

Despite much searching of tidal diamonds on the chart plotter, which implied we would not get fair tide until 16:00, the CA almanack tidal stream diagrams proved reliable and we began to pick up speed at 15:00. We entered the Alderney Race exactly on time, and were suddenly being overhauled by a fleet of yachts coming from Guernsey and Sark and heading up channel; none of them followed us in our turn towards Bray.

There were overfalls building off Race Rock, but we got through them without trouble, although we were too early on the tide for the back eddy towards Bray, and the last 2 miles became a slog under motor to get to Bray. As we entered harbour 4 yachts appeared from the north, sailing/motoring through the overfalls at the end of the harbour wall.

We played “hunt the vacant mooring” with the other newly arrived boats, but in vain. All were taken.

We motored over to the anchorage and had a good look round. In the end it took three goes to get the anchor down and holding in a good spot. Not what we wanted at the end of a long day’s sail. It was Julian’s turn to drop the anchor and at the end he admitted he was too tired to go ashore, despite the convenient water taxi so we ate on board, our boat standby of chorizo and tomato sauce with pasta.

The anchorage did not feel very sheltered; all the boats, including those on moorings, were rolling in the swell. Julian and I decided not to get the bed out, but to sleep long ways in the bunks as it would be more comfortable. Even so I woke every hour. Worm kept knocking into us, and I wanted to check our position relative to the other anchored boats and make sure the anchor was holding. It began to drizzle at 1 a.m, and by 5 it was raining. Not a good night’s sleep by any means!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Light airs and Yachtsman’s Gales

Light airs and yachtsman’s gales is what we called our 2014 account of sailing up the east coasts of England and Scotland. It applied even better if possible to today.

We left Treguier late on the ebb and had a nice motor down the river. For once there was no fog and we got to enjoy the scenery.

We exchanged compliments with a big Guernsey registered Bermudan sloop as we left the river. They asked if we were going to Paimpol. They must have known about the traditional boat event there this coming weekend. We had pretty much abandoned the idea of going there - it leaves too little time to get to Cowes for the OGA55.

The weather did look a bit threatening but there was nothing bad in the forecast.

As we made our way out it got rather nice.
Now we had to decide where we were going. It was either the Isles de Brehat or the Channel Islands. The wind seemed fair so we set a course for Herm. We turned the engine off and set the No. 1 jib and all plain sail.

Then the wind dropped and we had to motor. The seas were calm so George the tiller pilot took over. After a while that seemed like a slog of a motor sail and Alison worked out that the winds and tides looked more favourable for Jersey. That looked good and was about the same distance, although it would mean a long trip to Alderney the next day. We changed course and were able to turn the engine off and sail.

Around noon the wind went light and we turned the engine on. After a while we started feeling rain drops. They were big and heavy but only one at a time. There had been no rain in the forecast.

Then the wind got up and we put a reef in. We were doing 5.7 knots on a broad reach.

Then the wind and rain came in hard. Sheets of it. Alison went below to get full oilies on. The wind blew the rain into my back so I didn’t get very wet even without salopettes and with my jacket open. We dropped the jib and reefed down hard.

Then it stopped and so did the wind. We shook the reefs out but still had to put the engine on. We motored on for a while in flat calm and sunshine.

We should have been able to see these fronts coming but the next one caught us too. Back in went the reefs and this time I untied the bottom hoop so we could reef more if we needed to.

We kept the reefs in until we were in the Western Passage to St. Helier - it was reasonably comfortable with the wind on the quarter but we saw a yacht bouncing towards us from St. Helier and realised we were in quite a sea!

We shook the reefs out and put the engine on once in the lee of the island. Even now, the seas were 'interesting' with some wind-over-tide. A couple of dolphins appeared through the waves and kept us company for a few minutes. These were bottle nosed dolphins, and did not play around the bow (I think Robinetta is too small for their entertainment) but it was still nice t get a visit.

We knew our way into St. Helier having been there in 2015 on Ariel of Hamble so we made our way to the waiting pontoon where we rafted outside a small French boat that had sailed from St. Malo. We chatted with young lad with excellent English - they had had a wild ride too and had not expected it.

We got secured and went ashore for fish and chips. A good end to an excellent day.

We had done 55 nm in 13 hours with the engine on for only 5 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever changed sail configuration so frequently. Apart from changing jibs all the reefs were put in and let out from the cockpit. Robinetta is good for that!

Monday, 6 August 2018

Fog and slow progress, Morlaix to Treguier

One of the reasons for braving the fog to go to Morlaix on Friday was the highly recommended Saturday market. We had intended to have a good look around then lock out on the second lock opening at high water.
Morlaix lock at low water

The weather changed our minds. It was grey, and cool, and looked as though there would be more fog down river. We decided to have a good look round the market, then wander down the river to see it at low water, and just relax. Julian decided to have a digital detox day, and did not look at his phone, or turn on his computer all day.

Next morning there was bright sun at Morlaix, and we felt ready to leave. The first lock out was not until 10:58, but that was still earlier than we would have left yesterday, so not a problem. It gave us a chance to properly route plan our trip to Treguier, including all the windings of the river. Even if we made good speed all the way it would be dark before we got there. The pilot book said it was well marked with lighted buoys and available at all states of the tide, so we knew there should not be a problem. We set off down the river in the company of another 3 yachts, carefully following our in bound track as there was less water now than then.

Patchy fog
We reached the river bend where we had left the fog behind two days before, and it was there again. Just as thick and clammy. This was NOT what we had wanted! Luckily we had our in bound track, and route planned out. Other boats were the problem! White boats and white fog are not a good combination.

The fog was patchy once we were in the Bay of Morlaix, then finally gone in the Bay of Lannion. Looking across at Roscoff showed it still shrouded in fog, but every now and then the Ile de Batz was clear.

We had the tide against us, and the wind from dead ahead. From a force 2 it rose to a force 5, and we changed down to the no 2 jib, and 2 reefs in the main. Even so we were motor sailing to try to sail closer to the wind. There was no point just using the engine to power though as heading directly into the waves slowed us hugely. At one time our time of arrival went to 03:15 rather than the midnight we had hoped. This did give us plenty of time to admire our surroundings!
Cote de Granit Rose
We planed an alternative stop, anchoring at the Ile de Gildas near Port Blanc, but by the time we reached where we would change course to head inshore the wind had died to nothing, and the tide was with us. Arrival at Treguier was down to half past Midnight, and we decided to carry on since the sea was now calm enough for George to helm.

The sun set as we passed Ile de Gildas, and by the time we rounded Pointe du Chateau we were in darkness. We could see the Ile de Brehat lighthouse, with its 4 flashes, fireworks in the sky near Pleubian, and a host of lights in the bay ahead. Most were red, or cardinal flashing white; the greens were a lot less obvious.

Following a chart plotter course, with lighted buoys to check positions, is not too difficult, especially once we were in the bay and in totally flat water. It does take concentration though, and although I noticed the stars overhead I could not spare them much attention.

Once we entered the river we had to work even harder. The moon was not up, so there was very little light, and a lot of moored boats, although they were clear of the buoyed channel. We finally reached Treguier at half past midnight, wondering what we would find. It was nearly slack water at high water on a neap tide, so as relaxed as it gets on a tidal river. And there were spaces, lots of spaces, on the finger berths.

We went into the first berth we found, pointing down river in the last of the flood tide, tied Robinetta and Worm up securely, and went to bed. It had been a long day.

The lack of boats was partially explained next day by the harbour master, who thought the weather was so good people were anchoring in the river instead. Yachts that came in throughout the day had another suggestion. There was still fog at Roscoff, and in the Chenal du Four, so few people were moving east.
Small boat on a big pontoon

Friday, 3 August 2018

Towards Morlaix in the fog

Neither of us wanted to stay in Roscoff for more than two nights. It felt very expensive compared to the other marinas, and we did not feel especially well looked after. Julian wanted to go to Morlaix, and did some careful passage planning to allow us to lock in to the wet basin at the top of the drying river. It meant an early start, getting away from the berth by 07:30 at the latest, so I set the alarm for 06:30.

When the alarm went I looked out of the cabin, and my heart sank. Fog. Thick fog, making it hard to see the masts of the boats on the next pontoon over. We got up much more slowly than we had expected, but still prepared Robinetta for the trip, hoping the fog would thin. At 7:30 Julian thought it had, and suggested we go. We had the radar reflector rigged, the AIS transponder working with it’s aerial up the mast, and the running lights on. We could also hear a fog horn. We knew that there would be a ferry coming in to Roscoff, and discharging passengers at 08:00, and I suspected this was it.

We came off the pontoon and set off towards the marina exit, but as I had feared the lights were red, forbidding movement. We station kept for the next ten minutes, waiting for the ferry to finish docking, then set off out of the harbour as soon as the lights allowed.

The fog stayed thick. Very thick, and only the course programmed into the chart plotter told me where to steer. There was very little wind, but we got the main sail up and bent on the no 1 jib. Putting the engine into neutral dropped the speed so much that we would miss the lock in, so the jib was furled away and we carried on under engine.

At about nine Julian pointed out that he could see the sun through the fog, and there was some blue sky overhead. We began to be able to see occasional small leisure fishing boats; white shapes in the white fog. The blue sky stayed, but fog blanketed the sun again. The area is well buoyed, but we had less than 1 cable visibility most of the way.

We threaded our way though the rocky islands, at high zoom on the chart plotter, keeping a careful eye out for crab pot markers. We passed an oddly regular looking island, taller than most, and realised that this must be Château du Taureau. We could see no details, just a shape in the mist. We were not the only boat moving in the area, but it was hard to know how many other idiots were out with us!

As we got to Locquenole, where Le Dourduff river separates from the Morlaix river I almost went the wrong way, despite the chart plotter, as I tried to follow a local boat through some moorings. I could see a bridge ahead, and wondered about its air draft, but Julian promised there were no problems, looked at the chart plotter, and told me to head to starboard, and up the other branch of the river.

My little excursion did mean I was clear of the channel when the Morlaix ferry came speeding past, which was not a bad thing. I put Robinetta’s engine in high revs, to try and follow the ferry for as long as possible, but it was out of sight in less than 5 minutes. It had made the direction to go obvious though, and then there was a line of moored boats that defined the channel on both sides. I could see red and green buoys mixed among them, then I could see the shore line, on both sides, and suddenly we were out of the fog, heading up a river in bright sunshine.

The transformation was startling.

The Morlaix river above Locquenole is beautiful, threading though attractive countryside, with clear bouyage. We passed a line of scum on the water, that obviously marked the place where the incoming tide met the outgoing river flow. It was still an hour to high water, and the current was negligible.

The Morlaix lock came into view, with the ferry that had passed us on the way up just leaving its dock to set off down river again. Between us was a slalom course of red and green buoys in quite a narrow channel. We crossed tracks without incident, but with judicious use of the throttle to slow down.

There was no sign of the lock moving, but a local boat was moored up against a wall, obviously waiting. The wall was well set up, with heavy chains to put lines round as temporary moorings. They were placed for bigger boats than Robinetta, and we had to go round twice to get our lines right.

The lock opened only five minutes after we moored, and we went in with four other boats. It is a big lock, and could easily fit in three times the number. The harbour master is a lovely guy. He helped us moor up in the lock (on ropes set vertically so there is no need to keep adjusting the lines) and gave me a mooring plan, marked with exactly the spot he wanted Robinetta to go. When we reached it he was there to make sure we did not miss it, and he helped take our lines. Real service!

Once Robinetta and Worm were secure we walked into town for an early lunch (not having had breakfast) then had a great walk round the place. The views from the viaduct are amazing and I am very glad we braved the fog to get here.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Paluden to Roscoff

We spent the morning on the boat doing maintenance and blogging. It was another lovely day.

I fitted the new engine cut-off control cable. It is thicker than the old one and both ends needed adapting.

At the engine end the new cable doesn’t fit in the fork on the engine designed to keep the outer sheath still. I cut a piece of plywood with a narrow slit on one side and a wide one on the other and used a piece cut off the old cable to secure it to the fork and then fitted the new cable in the wide slot. It stands off but the angle to the shut-off lever seems ok although it looks tight in the photo.

At the cockpit end I was worried that the larger handle would foul the throttle control. but in the end it fitted in the same place as the old one. The old cable was secured to the wooden panel that holds the throttle cable with a piece of bent aluminium with two counter-sunk screws on one angle and a hole for the cable on the other. The hole was big enough for the new cable but the new cable can’t be threaded through so I had to saw through to the hole and turn it into a slot.

So now we can turn the engine off from the cockpit again!

The accessories panel with a volt-meter, car charger socket and twin USBs hasn’t been working since we got back to the boat. I traced the fault to a broken gel-crimp in Alison’s locker. I hadn’t put enough cable management on it and it was being chafed. I re-made the joint and taped it up out of the way. Now we can charge Alison’s laptop and USB stuff more easily. I still need to upgrade that cable - the voltage drop is too high but I’ll leave that until the winter.

We dropped off the buoy about 12:15 and motored down the river, hoisting sails as we passed the marina.

I’d set the course through the Malouine channel which passes near to large rocks on both sides which the swell was breaking on spectacularly. It saves about 4 nm and the tide flows out through it so we got some ebb in the right direction. The rocks protected us from the swell so it looked daunting but was very safe.

There was wind to sail but we needed to keep the speed up so we motor sailed until about 16:00 when the tide started helping. We got 75 minutes of pure sailing before the wind got too light and we just motored with the tide. There were quite a few boats  heading towards Roscoff by now.

The tie-wrap on the stay-sail traveller failed and I replaced it but I cut the tie-wrap too short and an hour later it failed again. The tie-wrap hadn’t broken, just slipped through. I went forward again to fix it and while I was sitting on the foredeck the stay-sail flipped over and took my hat with it. We saw it floating past and sinking - no time to go back and get it. Then I realised my hat had dragged my glasses with it. Luckily, for once I’ve brought an old pair of distance glasses as a spare. The lost ones were only a year old and expensive thin plastic varifocals. Darn.

The Ile de Batz sits just north of Roscoff and a well marked winding channel leads south of it. The chart shows strong tides in parts of the channel which is why we were keen to go through on the flood. Our timing was spot on and we had loads of water and no strong currents. We were passed by a big gaff-rigged fishing boat from Paimpol also returning from Douarnenez with all sails up but motoring. Just like us!

We radio-ed Roscoff Marina and they told us to moor on D pontoon. There was no space on the north side but we found a space on the south side. Right opposite Gwenili. We took the last of my bottle of Talisker over there for a chat. Martin has been here for a couple of days waiting for crew. He has an old friend and two additional people joining by ferry in the morning.

Today’s sailing against the tide was much nicer than yesterdays. Sailing boats need wind.