20 July 2010

Beautiful sailing, lots of fiddling jobs and modelling for the media... (23.7nm 260.7nm total)

Two days unexpected sailing due to various changes. Weather glorious, depsite very iffy forecasts. Started out just sitting on the boat as the tide was so low I couldn't do anything else. I had grounded the dinghy twice just getting to the mooring. I was admiring the sea bottom and noticed that some unfortunate had lost his bow roller, which was just lying there on the bottom. Then I noticed that it was just the same as my bow roller. Identical in fact. Fortunately the tide was so low that I could just stick my arm in the water to retrieve it and then figure out how I was going to fit it back on.

I had used embarassingly small screws to hold it in place. I couldn't stick it back on the port where it came from as the screw holes where it had ripped out were now too large to grip. So I had to go ashore, get my bike out and cycle to a chandlers for new bigger screws and a drill bit to fit them. Got back, rowed out and after the usual fiddles managed to secure the roller much more firmly on the starboard side of the stemhead. Now the anchor chain would chafe the jib furling line, so that, with all of its fairleads and cleat, would have to be transferred to the port side. Fine except the space between the cabin and the inside of the bulwark, where the fairleads were secured, was so tight I couldn't get a screwdriver in. So back ashor, onto the bike again to go and get a stubby screwdriver. Finally got the whole lot set up and set off.

After tootling round the harbour set off out to old Harry Rocks (AKA Handfast Point) to rendevous with David Harding of Practical Boat Owner, who is doing a Baycruiser review soon and wanted some action photos. He roared up in his Sailing Scenes catamarran and I had to model for half an hour, sailing up and down and trying to stop the sails flapping. Felt just like a super model. He must have taken scores of photos, of which I expect three will be OK. He uses the most enormous camera. A great big thing the size of his head.

After that I set off back into the Harbour. I started my engine for the entrance, as they ask you to do. The rope recoiled, caught on the tiller, hopped up and there was a horrible grating sound. Engine stopped and the starter rope just hung out loosely at full length. Decided the best place to be with no engine would be back on my mooring, so I sailed all the way back and then picked it up under sail. Very messy as I was going dead downwind into the moorings, which is not ideal. I turned up into the wind and got it wrong, but managed to drift backwards down wind and by the skin of my teeth managed to hook the mooring with the boat hook held out by my finger tips. Good thing I have long arms.

After a very peaceful night I was up with the dawn chorus, literally. There was no one around and the gentlest of on shore breezes, so I risked sailing in to the marina pontoon, which worked. Then even better,  I called into the engineers on site, Yellow Penguin, who said they could fix the outboard and would have it ready by next weekend. Even better, an hour later they rang me to say they had fixed it already. The pull cord had jumped off its pulley and they just had to untangle it. All works again. I would recommend them.

After a morning cleaning the boat and airing the cushions in the sunshine I set off, under sail (only hit one other boat...) and stormed across to Green Island. I have never landed on the southern beach there, so went in this time. There was a tidal stand for over four hours, so little risk of getting stuck. It is very shallow, but very beautiful. The only blots on the view are the signs saying "Private Property, No Landing" There's no one on the island as far as I can see, so that seems mean. I landed and then went swimming.

The only other blots are the kayakers. There are no jet skis in this side of the Harbour, which is a blessing. But they are replaced by squadrons of silent kayakers. You think you are alone with the world and the sea birds, and when you turn around there is a fleet of them gawping at you. Very friendly, but I wish they would keep out of my way. I nearly ran one down earlier. He was just in my blind spot behind the jib. He had no idea how close he had come to being sliced in half.

Tried snorkelling again, which was delightful (yes, even in the English sea) but so turbid you can barely see a thing. I tried out the camera, which really does work under water, but you can't see anything which is more than 6 inches away. The island was sold for several million pounds about three years ago, but it nevers seems to be used. I think it was a trophy purchase by a millionaire who probably never comes.

Then back across the harbour to moor again. Met up with Matt Newland, designer and builder of my boat, who had come to help the new owner of Baycruiser no. 3, who had the sad experience of his mast coming down due to a loose shroud shackle. I've been around tightening mine and fitting cable ties through them just in case.

12 July 2010

Hot summer weekend sailing (and rowing) 28nm (237nm total)

Poole harbour can be quite exotic. I sailed all round the harbour, properly exploring the various channels, and ened up anchored for the night off Shipstal Point. This is a very popular anchorage (rated the best in the Harbour in Yachting Monthly this month). The countryside around it is wonderfully wild, even though it is so close to the town. These herds of deer are roaming the salt marshes all the time, and the water's edge is covered in tousands of waders, geese and ducks. Really a glorious spot. It was croweded, about 20 boats all concentrated off the beach. I rowed up and down the shore line and found there was plenty of depth, at high tide, well away from the crowds, so I upped and moved for a quiet night.

During the row I came across this extraordinary trimaram, moored right in the middle of the salt marshes. It can't draw more than 150mm. It seems to have only the one square sail and no indication of any form of motor. The "China Bird". I know nothing about her.
I bought a very cheap 1W solar panel from Maplins. Cost about £7. I have attached it to my slowly dying Celestron Powertank, and it seems to work. The Powertank only lasts about three outings now before it needs to be recharged. It used to last a whole season. It was reading "needs recharging" when I connected the panel. After an hour of sunshine it was "ready to use". I have left it on on the mooring, so we shall see how it goes. I need very little power, but it saves changing the batteries on the GPS, which don't last long, and I have a handheld VHF which needs to be recharged from a cigarette lighter socket. So hopefully this will keep them all going for weekend sailing.

Sunday morning I had a wonderful sail through the length of the harbour and out to Studland. Again a popular and beautiful anchorage. The trees come down over the cliffs to hang right into the water. It seems more like a river than the open sea. I got my trusty dinghy out and rowed along the cliffs. Grafitti everywhere. Some of it I suspect very old and some quite clearly from the night before. Claire is gay apparently. Good luck to her if she is.

Off Studland Beach I got my flippers and snorkel out and tried out my camera underwater. It is designed to do this and it worked, but you have little idea what is actually in the viewfinder. The water was very turbid with sand. This purports to show the rudder fully deployed. The forward angle reduces the weather helm dramatically. People are concerned that it will catch lobster pot lines, but they will be wrapped around the centre board before they get here. It kicks right up if needed.

After that a fast sail back in the evening. Hope the summer carries on like this.

2 July 2010

Three days afloat 50nm (209.2nm total)

The weather was set to be fair, so I took three days leave and went sailing on my own, mid-week. It is always a nice time to sail in Poole as the harbour is uncrowded. On summer weekends you are never alone. Even in the  narrowest, shallowest creek you are likely to find a couple of kayakers suddenly popping up beside you, or a flotilla of those odd, stand-up-and-paddle surf boards barging into you.

On the first day I tried to get into the beautifully named River Piddle. This is the second river that runs from the Harbour up to Wareham, but it is not much used by boats. I found out why. I could not find the channel, and kept sticking on glutinous soft mud flats. Far too soft to push off from or to stand on. I had to resort to running the engine in reverse through the liquid mud, which is not a good policy, but it got me off and the motor still seems to run OK. On a windless day I may try to row up in my dinghy to see if I can find the channel, if there is one.

Then I stormed back down the harbour. There was a F3-4 southish wind blowing all three days. I generally had a single reef in as the boat just handles better. I was also experimenting with sail balance to see what worked and what didn't. The wind carried on into the night, so I anchored close in to the north shore of Brownsea Island for shelter. Not that quiet as it is directly opposite the Town Quay and there is a roaring from the docks all night, but it is interesting to sit there and watch all the navigation lights coming on on the  buoys.

In the morning I was firmly aground whilst I got breakfast ready, which makes it very relaxing. Once afloat I headed out of the harbour towards Swanage, a couple of miles down the coast. But the weather was odd. Bright hot sun over the Harbour, but I could see fog banks blowing over the  headland beyond Swanage. The Isle of Wight was also completely hidden under fog. On the VHF radio I heard a couple of yachts south of Swanage asking other yachts with radar if they could follow them. I turned tail and raced back into the Harbour, making well over 6 knots most of the way. I passed the little Shilling gaff cutter Margerita, which I saw last year. A beautiful boat. The skipper shouted out

"Where have you been?"
"Nowhere in particular."
"That's where I am going too!"

Hope he didn't get fog bound.

I anchored for lunch in the Harbour off Redhorn Quay, on the inland side of the Studland peninsula. I rowed ashore and walked over to the beach and went for a very short swim. Still cold water so didn't stay in for long. The heathland is lovely, a very unusual landscape. I kept an eye open for Dartford warblers, which are usually easy to see here, but there is concern they will have been killed right back in the cold winter. I didn't see any.

I tried sailing off the anchor just with the mainsail, but with the board up I couldn't steer and ended up on the beach. Unfurling the jib swung my bow round and then pulled me off. Then set out around Green Island, which involved lots and lots of tacking against the current in a very narrow channel. Takes a long time, but very rewarding. I was shadowed by a large French yacht which was motoring slowly behind me, leaving me plenty of room. He eventually dropped his anchor off Cleaval Point. I stormed on to Shipstal Point, which is a lovely anchorage, but again, it is exposed to the strong south wind, so I turned tail and sailed back to almost the same spot north of Brownsea Island as the previous night. Brownsea is the only island which is big enough to give you certain deep water shelter from a southerly wind.

On the second morning I took advantage of my new marina location. It is directly opposite Brownsea Island, so I motored across and tied up to the waiting pontoon to refill my water tank. Then I got my folding bike out of the car and cycled into town to do some shopping and have a coffee at the Lifeboat College.

Back at the boat the wind was strongish F4 so I thought I would try sailing just jib and mizzen and experiment with that arrangement. It is slower, but still acceptable. Tacking is tricky and requires working both sails, otherwise the mizzen tends to stall the tack. But reaching under this rig is a delight. The boat runs like it is on rails. Even going into the cabin doesn't upset the balance enough to knock her off the wind.. This gave me an excellent grandstand seat to a whole series of lifeboat high jinks.

The Lifeboats were out in force. Three offshore boats and three inshore, going through many training activities (Poole is the HQ of the RNLI and the Lifeboat College is the main national training centre). One offshore boat kept pushing up against one of the daytripper boats, so a crew man could jump on board. Then it would back off and around and push up against it again, so the crew jumped back whilst another jumped on. This went on till they had all had a go. One of the inshore boats was capsized and a training crew chucked in the water and told to get it back upright. I was sitting back watching it all as Daisy G sailed herself.

Up near the Harbour entrance a new Drascombe Drifter 22 came out for a sail. It looked like a very new boat. It was sailing well with the jib partially reefed on a roller reefing spar. It looks a heavy boat for the rig, I don't know how fast it sails. I wouldn't like to have to reef the mainsail's gunter rig in a blow. I presume it has to be fully lowered in to the cockpit to refit the halyard. Or does it have three halyards? There are a lot of Drascombes in Poole Harbour, but this is the first of the new Drifters I have seen.

I carried on sailing round the harbour channels. Had the rather embarassing experience of clobbering a starboard marking pole and breaking it off. Not very seamanlike.

I have been using the new Admiraly A3 tough charts and have been impressed. Much easier to read in the  cockpit than the bigger paper ones. They are ring bound into a set and made from a plastic paper which doesn't crumple when wet. And they just fit neatly into my chart holder inside the companion way.

Heading back to the mooring I caught up and overhauled a Cornish Shrimper on a close reach. It had about a half mile lead and it took me about 15 minutes to catch up. The wind was dying so I shook out each reef. I can shake out a reef in under a minute and under full speed. It takes about three minutes to put a reef in, largely because you have to turn up into the wind or heave to first. But it can all be done from the cockpit, which I don't think can be the case with a gunter rig.

Finally motored onto the mooring and I spent half an hour just watching the sun going down before the long drive home. Hope for more days like this during the summer.