28 August 2009

Near gale force winds 15.9nm (203.4)

Last sail before we go away on holiday. I met Nick and Vicki Savage, who are thinking of buying a BayCruiser. I took them out for a sail towards Brownsea Island and back. They seemed to enjoy the sail, but Nick was saying he wanted to sit out and use a tiller extension. Not my kind of sailing, I like to sit inboard with something behind my back. Anchored for the night at Shipstal Point, which gives good shelter from the west. A good choice as there was a gale warning issued for sea areas Wight and Portland (i.e. where I was) from the west. Three Drascombes had anchored in the same area for the same reason I should think. The night was quiet, but the next day got quite wild. Sunny but very windy all day. The Poole Yacht Club weather station recorded a maximum gust of 36kts, which was force 7.

I sailed from Shipstal with just jib and mizzen. When we topped 6kts I was glad I hadn't put anything else up. It got very bouncy in the North Channel, near Brownsea, so I started the engine and motored to the lee of Arne penisula, where I anchored for a few hours and built a mock up galley store unit in MDF to hold all the plates and cups. Next I plan to take it all apart and remake it in decent wood. Should keep me busy.

The photo shows Daisy Grace anchored off Arne with the Drascombe Caboteur Hippo anchored beyond. A couple of other Drascombes joined her later. I think there must have been a rally on. We waved but couldn't talk over the wind.

I am amazed to see I have already covered over 200nm in Daisy Grace since I got her. Almost as much as I would do in a full six month season normally. Just shows how much more distance I can cover in the time available, which was the initial driver for finding a new boat after my Winkle Brig.

23 August 2009

Swanage and new engine 27.5nm (187.5)

Short video of the cliffs of Handfast Point
between Poole and Swanage
Old Harry Rocks

I finally plumped for a new Tohatsu outboard. I chose the 6HP as it is the same weight as the 4HP, so I thought I may as well have the extra power. It only just fits, so I would say that it is the biggest engine the BayCruiser will take. The tiller clears it, but when it is tilted up, it has to be turned on its side so that the stainless steel rudder stock can clear it. I have been delighted with it. The power, when you need, it is great. Having reverse is a God-send, particularly getting onto a loading pontoon which is in the middle of a strong, along-pontoon current. It is also the lightest engine to start I have ever had. I just pulled the cord a couple of times to turn it over before giving it the usual heave, when I realised it was running. Note the basic auto pilot. A knotted rope with a bungy on one end, and an open cleat under the tiller. You can jamb the tiller in any knot position whilst you pour coffee, nip in the cabin for your hat, or just sit back and admire the view if you are on a close reach.

I ran it in by motoring, the next day, down the coast to Swanage. But first I anchored overnight off Cleavel Point in Poole Harbour. A delightful spot, which I shared with a Cornish Shrimper and hundreds of water birds. Terns perched on the navigation marks and wagtails ran around on my spray hood. Anchorages like this are what sailing is all about for me.

Motoring to Swanage was very straight forward. I picked up a mooring and cooked soup for lunch. Then sailed back. Or tried to. I realised after an hour that there was a tremendous foul current against me. Made sailing into Poole practically impossible. In the end I started the motor and by this time had to motor through the overfalls off Old Harry rocks, which was decidedly unpleasant. Once through them I motored into Poole harbour and sailed the last three miles to my mooring.

I have modified the centreboard control lines. Originally they came up through the cabin roof to cleats just in front of the sprayhood. I have added a deck organiser and moved the cleats so that the lines now come into the cockpit. The theory is fine, but the friction is much higher. I will try it for a while and see if it is an improvement or if I should go back to the original layout. I have also added an engine room ventilator over the holes where the control lines come out. This stops too much rainwater going straight down the hollow compression post.

20 August 2009

Cruising in the sun at last 26.1nm (160.0)

Video of a very slow, gentle drift past Brownsea Island with views of Poole and other islands in the harbour.
View up the mast, showing the full length batten giving the sail its distinctive roach.

I am grabbing every opportunity for a sail in this very shortened season. We had two good days forecast so I set off in the afternoon for Poole (a two hour plus drive, so not a minor trip.) Sailed out through a squad of Gurkhas who are having sail training at Rockley. They seemed to be having a whale of a time. I had meant to motor out, but the engine conked out just as I had cast off the mooring chain, so I had to tack out through the Gurkhas in a narrow channel. Managed it with few mishaps.

I passed an anchored Red Fox yacht, with a grinning skipper leaning over the back. As I passed him he called out "I sat in your cabin in Cardigan a few weeks ago!"

After simply sailng round the harbour I anchored between Brownsea and Furzey islands for the night. The 8kg Britany anchor seems to hold fine, and I will be a lot stronger after I have hauled it and its chain aboard a few times (or possibly dead). Very still, starry night and a sunny dawn. That is unusual, dawn is often grey, cold and a bit grim. I set sail in the tiny breeze and filmed the video above as we drifted past Brownsea Island.

The breeze picked up later and I tried two new things.

First I set off across the Harbour on a close reach, lashed the tiller in the middle and sat back to see what happened. I was delighted that we sailed for about fifteen minutes right across the harbour without touching the tiller or a sheet. I really didn't think she would hold her course like that, lacking any keel at all, but she was excellent. Each time she rounded slightly into the wind, the mizzen would flutter a bit and she would drop back onto her course.

Next I plucked up courage and pumped out the ballast. Takes about fifteen minutes and there were still a few litres left that didn't want to go. Sailed for about half an hour and didn't really notice any significant difference in either handling or speed. Then a stronger puff pushed us over to quite a steep angle. Nothing dramatic, but more than I had experienced in much stronger winds. So I ended the experiment, opened the inlet and refilled her. That took about ten minutes, and I noticed that she took on more water than before, filling right to the underside of the hatch. Now we don't lean anymore.

I sailed out into the sea and round to Studland beach. I anchored there and gave her a much needed scrub in the sun. A remarkable amount of gunk comes on board, particulalry from the anchor. So I dug out my little Indian galvanised bucket (they laughed at me when I bought that in Guahati and brought it back as hand luggage, but it is fantastic, far better than plastic) and swabbed her down. Looked good for about ten minutes.

I also experimented with getting back on board using the step in the rudder blade. I can't do it. Standing on the step, the top of the transom is at chest level and hauling aboard would be near impossible. If the top of the steel rudder assembly could be made horizontal, maybe with a couple of wooden blocks, then that could be used as a second step and it would be possible. You would still be dealing with an overhanging transome, so in anything but flat conditions it would still be hard. I think I will install a transom ladder over the winter.

From Studland I reached at 6kts back to the harbour, beating a couple of yachts on the way. Went firmly aground in the hrabour (it was low spring tide) but managed to hop off and haul her into deeper water. Then back home to the mooring.

16 August 2009

Weekend sail 19nm (133.9)

I took my wife out for the first time this weekend. We sailed to a windward beach and put the boat bow on it for lunch. Worked very well except that we got stones in the centreboard case which jambed it. I had to take the table top off to push it down, which freed it easily. A hinged table might be an idea. We reached around the harbour and then went into the local marina for the night. Trying to work slowly into a narrow pontoon berth with no reverse gear was quite a challenge. Spinning a little engine round to go backwards is fine in theory. Doing it to get some immediately needed braking is something else. I think I'll be getting a Tohatsu next week.

I have fitted an 8kg Britany style anchor, with 12m of chain. This should hold me in anything I am likely to encounter, and is the largest anchor size that will go into the anchor locker. 8kg doesn't sound much, until you are pulling it in hand over hand.

We tried close hauled sailing in about force 4 with a single reef in. No loss of speed at all, still 5-6kts, but the helm is much lighter. As I have found with all boats, reefing early is always a good idea. My old Drascombe Dabber was fastest of all with a reef in a force 5. Even 2 reefs didn't slow her down, it just let her sail more upright and therefor faster.

13 August 2009

First single handed sail 13.2nm (114.9)

We had a couple of days of "possible sunny intervals" which is as good as it gets this year. So I took the opportunity to go and try out Daisy Grace single handed for the first time. I also wanted to spend some time sorting out various items which is always easier on your own.
Changes made:
  • small cleats fitted inside gunwhales to hold the fenders. These were very awkward to fit because of the tight space, no room for a drill or normal screwdriver, so a bradawl and stumpy driver had to be used. I beached the boat to do this.
  • Bottom linings fitted to shelves to stop things falling through the slots between the slats.
  • Tiller retaining line fitted, which allows me to let go for short periods to carry out essential actions, like pouring coffee, opening beer etc.
  • Lazy jacks reorganised so now I can control them with a line from the base of the mast, rather than on the under side of the boom. These now seem to work very well.
  • Pictures stuck up to make it look a bit more homey and less stark inside. I'll try to photograph the interior when it is tidy sometime.
  • Bow roller fitted. This is a bit inelegant, but I needed it. I keep her on a mooring with a chain. When this goes through a fairlead, it rubs the stem and damages the paint. The bow roller takes the chain right over the stem
She sails beautifully single handed, which was an essential requirement. The main and mizzen look after themselves when tacking. The jib sheets come to hand perfectly on the cabin top. I tried a few tacks to start, just to see how she managed, and then carried on tacking just for the pleasure of it.
Spent the night at anchor, which was the first time. (I've had four nights on board so far, having owned the boat for less than a month, so not a bad season after all.) I am not sure my current Danforth anchor is big enough, but it worked fine on a thick muddy bottom. (I think I could have phrased that better.) The accommodation seems palatial for a solo sailor.

One final test I carried out this time was to drive her up a beach, to see how she took it and how easy to get off. Very well. When the bow was on the shore, the stern is still afloat. Just walking to the stern lifts the bow off and she floated off. Picnics will be easy again. Didn't have my camera, so this is an earlier photo of her on the beach, to show how she takes it.

10 August 2009

Poole to the Isle of Wight 55.8nm (101.7)

My daughter and I went abroad this weekend, to the Isle of Wight. Gentle wind from a good direction both ways so we sailed the whole route, about 60nm in total. We spent the first night in Poole Quay marina, where it rained... Sunny in the morning so we didn't go home but set out for Christchurch instead. Good breeze so we sailed the whole way except for the final entry into Christchurch, where we used the engine. The tide was just starting to run out, and any delay would have shut us outside. The ebb tide from Christchurch harbour is fierce. We picked up an empty mooring and watched the beach huts as we had our lunch. They seem a strange way to spend a holiday to me, but I suppose they were looking at us bobbing on our boat and thought the same.

After lunch we looked at The Isle of Wight, so close. Checked the tidal atlas, which said the tide would run into the Solent in about two hours, and we decided to go for it. Three hours later we entered Yarmouth harbour. The berthing master boat met us and guided us to the prime spot, as far as I could judge, on a pontoon just by the harbour office. We had a rib moored alongside, which was a bit noisy during the night.

After breakfast next day we set off back to Poole. The current was against us and there was no wind in the Solent, so we motored for an hour, out past Hurst Point. A sea breeze caught us then and we tacked to the North Channel buoy and then a long reach for two hours back to Christchurch. Then a couple of tacks around Hengistbury Head (very choppy tidal overfalls there), followed by another two hour reach back to Poole entrance. Full spring ebb tide roaring out and we needed full sail and full engine to get back in over it. It runs at over 4kts. Quite scary. Then a few tacks down the harbour to our mooring. Feel like real sailors now.
Note of interest. I have bought two long flat foam fenders which are excellent. Hung horizontally they protect the boat on a pontoon berth perfectly. They don't role out of the way like conventional fenders.

2 August 2009

8.1 knots! 18.6nm (45.9)

Third time out and a really good sail. Sunny morning with the wind in the south, so we headed for Studland. This meant going out through the harbour entrance and going into the open English Channel. Then south to Studland, where we anchored for lunch before sailing back. On the way out we hit 7.1kts surfing down a wave. On the way back we re-entered the harbour and had a long broad reach, in amongst all the returning yachts, when we shot up to 8.1kts in slack water. Very exciting. Then long tacks the length of the harbour back to our mooring. I noticed after a while that most yachts were reefed, or sailing just with genoas up. We had full sail the whole way and never felt over pressed, although the helm does start to get heavy in stronger winds. Reefing may just make things a bit lighter.
Altogether a lovely sail. About 18nm in total.
My faith in my little anchor was dented. We anchored on a very sandy bottom at Studland, in about 1.5m. We started out about 20m outside a buoyed off swimming area. By the time we had finished lunch, we noticed that we were just edging into that area. The chain had wrapped around the anchor and just lifted it out of the sand. I reset the anchor much more carefully, making sure the chain lead off from it in a straight line and we didn't move again. Technique is just as important as technology.

1 August 2009

Second day out 16.8nm (27.3)

We went for a second sail this week which was very successful. Gentle winds and warm sun, which is my kind of sailing weather. We still hit over 6kts and cruising speed seems to be between 4.5 and 5.5kts as a norm. I was scrambling back and forward to the fore deck to anchor, fiddle with the foresail and just soak up the sun. The handrails on the roof are essential and work well. It also shows how you have to get used to a new boat. I just hopped up and down on the cabin of my old Winkle Brig. When I did that here I nearly broke a leg, it is a lot further down and you do need to use the side decks to go forward. They are wide enough to do this easily afloat.
While we were anchored off Shipstal Point, a Swallow Boats Storm 17, Little Grebe, sailed by to say hello. The ivory sailed ketch rig is surprisingly distinctive from a long way off. I had spotted her about a mile away.

I am still impressed by the way the little Danforth anchor holds, but it may be that we have anchored on mud, with very good holding properites.