28th March 2017
Eager to get back on the water, my boat was re-launched on the late March spring tide. The winter layup gave me the opportunity to fix a few jobs that can only be done out of the water, and one of them was to change the sea cock for the engine cooling water. The old one had seized open which could have been problematic in an emergency, and the replacement was a fairly easy to do.
Other modifications included extra navigation equipment and the addition of AIS, or (Automatic Identification System). This is a VHF radio tracking system used for collision avoidance at sea and is a compulsory installation on commercial shipping worldwide including large fishing vessels. Pleasure craft are excluded from the regulation but many fit it anyway as I have done. The reason I fitted it was...
..following a close call on my way back from the Scilly Isles last year. A passenger liner loomed out of the mist just a quarter mile off my starboard bow which was quite sobering. Luckily on this occasion it was spotted and all was well.
Now with AIS I have set a 360 degree zone around my vessel at a distance of 1 mile, which is a distance I consider to be safe. This is done from my computer and should any commercial shipping enter that zone an alarm sounds to alert me. It also shows the vessels name but more importantly it's speed and heading.
Currently I'm re-fitting my sails and cockpit canopy then I'll be looking forward to my first sail next week.
11th October 2016
Earlier in the week we had strong easterly winds funneling through the English channel creating large angry seas. These winds are known locally as "the beast from the east" which even keeps the fishermen at home. Well "The Beast" has been blowing at 25+ knots for the last couple of days keeping all but the brave and foolish safely on their moorings.
Today however the winds have eased and shifted more to the south east so I'm off out to test the water. I'm expecting moderate seas and it'll be a bonus if they're not breaking!
Leaving the mooring I headed down river to the open waters of the estuary where the waves were short and choppy due to the near gale. Out in the bay the sea was better than I'd expected with waves around 2 meters but the boat was well trimmed and handled them extremely well. Looking round it appeared I was the only boat to venture out which for me is quite daunting, but eventually I did catch site of another sail which lifted my spirits a little. Having had little experience of heavy weather sailing my emotions alternate between excitement and fear so the sight of another sail, no matter how far away means an awful lot when your alone on a cold grey oggy.
With the autopilot in control and a quick scan of the sea I went below to make some coffee which is not easy on a pitching rolling boat. Some might compare it to being in a tumble dryer, but with coffee in hand in my spill proof mug I returned to the cockpit unscathed.
I sailed south for about 6 miles but completely lost my bottle when the wind picked up now gusting at 30 knots. Turning the boat through the now breaking waves I headed home on the tail of the larger yacht I'd spotted earlier. Presumably they'd also had enough!
Safely on my mooring I relaxed with a beer and enjoyed the warm glow of achievement and self satisfaction. Would I do it again?...Of course, I have to!
3rd August 2016
Forecasting a stiff south westerly and the "possibility" of an occasional shower I took the opportunity for a sail in the bay.
Whatever the wind strength forecast on the day, the six miles of channel I have to navigate to get from my mooring to open waters always holds lots of surprises. The surrounding landscape can funnel the wind causing gusts to near gale from varying directions, then in a matter of minutes it's down to a zephyr. It's annoying but always keeps you busy, especially if multiple tacks are necessary at low tide. On this occasion it was a direct course to the Black Rock marker and out in the bay.
As expected it wasn't too long before the sky darkened out to the west threatening one of those "occasional showers", it looked heavy and It was coming my way. With the wind already gusting to 22 knots I prepared for the worst and put a second reef in the main and rolled in some more head sail. I then went below to don my wet gear.
On arrival I wasn't disappointed, the rain came down in torrents and within seconds I had a waterfall gushing from the end of the boom from water collected on the mainsail. To my surprise though the wind dropped under the storm and the sea became quite calm, not what I was expecting!
Onwards and outwards I continued on a southerly course and the storm eventually passed. In its aftermath the wind returned with gusto whipping up the sea making a great sailing experience.
16th June 2016
Whilst continually looking for a weather window to sail to the Scilly Isles, checking the 3/5 day weather forecasts became an obsession. But on the days leading up to the 15th of June the opportunity arose predicting winds at NNW 15/20kts making it possible to depart the very next day. Hoping these conditions would materialize I decided to go for it.
In anticipation of the trip the boat was already to go, so I needed to do was muster my companion Steve who was also eager and on short notice to go. We met at the pontoon that afternoon with our provisions and agreed to sleep on board over night ready to depart at 03:30 the following morning. After final checks and a safety briefing we visited the local pub to discuss the journey over a beer or two. Later we returned to the boat for an early night.
At the unwelcome sound of my alarm at 03:00 I peeled off my sleeping bag and clambered through the cold cabin to put on the diesel heater and kettle. I woke Steve and over hot coffee we discussed emergency contingency plans should the weather turn foul, then fired up the instruments and engine. With all instruments glowing and way points checked we slipped our mooring at 03:30 using the chart plotter for guidance down the dark river channel. Steve stood at the bow with a powerful torch on look out for unlit hazards, buoys and markers.
The half tide status gave us enough water under the keel for a direct passage over the river shallows and we passed Black Rock at 04:30 as dawn broke. As we entered Falmouth bay I caught site of another yacht coming out of St. Mawes and prayed silently that it was heading our way. Thankfully she was and stayed with us all the way to Scilly which provided us and I assume them with a bit of moral support on this dark and lonely sea.
We proceeded carefully under mainsail and motor for the next couple of hours through numerous fog banks lurking on the calm sea. Our anonymous friend was about ½ mile on our port beam as we reached the Lizard which was partially obscured by fog. Gliding over a flat oil like sea in the thick mist with blue sky above created an eerie atmosphere with ghostly shapes looming in the the fog, impossible to capture on camera.
We rounded the Lizard at 07:00, adjusted course to 268⁰ and continued to motor sail to our next way point, Wolf Rock light house. Eventually some wind did arrive clearing the sea mist and allowing the sun to shine on the long rolling blue sea as we majestically skimmed over Mounts Bay. By 11:00 Wolf Rock was on our starboard beam and the wind had increased to the forecast 16 knots, driving us at an exhilarating 7kts through the approaching waves which were crashing over the fore deck. Later that morning Dolphins joined us to ride our bow wave but then "land ahoy". We spotted the low lying island of St. Mary's in the distance and the east channel marker of "The Spanish Ledge" was almost upon us.
As we approached the marker a fast approaching sail boat flying the French tricolour caught up to and passed us with ease. I couldn't make out what his turbo effect was as his sail plan was similar to mine, perhaps he was motor sailing!
Finally at 13:30 we'd arrived in St Mary's channel and navigated to our destination at Hugh town harbour where we picked up a visitors mooring. Exhausted but satisfied with our achievement we sat in the cockpit, congratulated ourselves and celebrated with a couple of beers in the sunshine. It was now 15:00 and I'd been on watch for 12 hours, so for the rest of the afternoon we just relaxed and sank a few more beers too tired to go ashore. We later ate then turned in on a rolling sea which sent me off to sleep in a jiffy, nicely wrapped up in my cozy sleeping bag.
22nd May 2016
Last week I took the opportunity to crew a 1983 Sadler 31 for delivery from Tolverne (Falmouth) to Exmouth in Devon, a journey of around 100mls. With a crew of three we arranged to depart Tolverne at noon on Sunday 22nd May 2016 anticipating an 18 hour passage. The boat was to be marketed for sale by an agent in Topsham on the river Exe. With the weather sunny and winds blowing 3/4 WNW we rounded St. Anthony's head at Falmouth just before 13:00 and set a course of 088⁰ for our first way point 32mls away, "Eddystone Lighthouse".
On route the wind increased unexpectedly to force 5 (16 to 21kts) so we reefed the mainsail. Even so we still arrived at the lighthouse ahead of time at 17:45. The sea state had also picked up and seemed confused with cross colliding waves but as we were travelling in the same direction, it didn't seem so bad. Dolphins joined us for part of the journey on route to the second way point "Start Point", some 30mls further.
As we approached the headland after Salcombe we adjusted course to a more north westerly direction to round the Point which then sheltered us from the lumpy seas behind, now we had a more comfortable sail. At 21:15 the wind fell back to a force 4 so we took out the reef and watched the sun set behind the hills of Salcombe. As we ran into nightfall we were blessed with a clear sky and a full moon which rose quickly in the east lighting up the sea around us. A very cold but beautiful night as we passed the Dartmouth estuary on our port side at 22:15. Continuing our journey we took a wide sweep round "Berry Head" at 23:10 and made a northerly course towards our destination.
We arrived at the entrance to the Exe at low water well ahead of time and decided to anchor in the bay until first light. We dropped the hook at 02:00 on Monday at "Langstone Point" in 1 meter of water and planned to continue the journey up river at 06:00. This plan left us with a couple of hours to rest.
I was first up at 05:00 to make coffee after an uncomfortable and sleepless night. It was a delight to drink it on a freezing deck watching the sun rise in the east and a gentle breeze lapping the waves. With high water due at 08:30 we weighed anchor at 06:00 and headed slowly for the entrance to the river. Great care was needed here to navigate the shallows up to Topsham which was a good 8mls up river. Due to excellent seamanship by all (cough cough) we made Topsham at 07:30, tied up to the pontoon and waited for the harbour master. He eventually joined us and pointed us in the direction of the already waiting crane to lift out the boat. Minutes later the strops were on and she was lifted on to the hard standing. We then found a cafe and waited for our lift back to Falmouth.
All in all a successful and enjoyable trip.
15th April 2016
With a 10 knots south easterly breeze forecast and mainly sunny, today's mission was to sail east to Dodman Point and back, a distance of 38NM from my mooring. Although I got away a little later than planned, I left at 10:20 on a rising tide that allowed me to sail directly over the shallows in the channel which saved me some time. I entered the bay and turned east catching a ride on the ENE tidal flow which was running at 0.9kts decreasing, and would turn at noon. The wind direction was not as predicted but easterly and varied in strength from 7 to 12kts so I re- calculated my ETA to be around 14:00.
The outbound journey was very pleasant on a short choppy sea and the wind did eventually come round to the south east making my journey easier. Approaching Dodman I received a message from my wife who was out walking the coast path with friends, she'd text to say she could see a yacht on the horizon and was it me? Well, yes it was as I was the only yacht around at the time, about 3 miles offshore. She identified me through the zoom on her camera and took a short movie which I've included in my video (well done love!). Reaching Dodman at 13:45 I turned and headed back knowing I had good 4 hour journey home which was equally as pleasing, arriving back at my mooring at 17:50, the day had been long but most enjoyable!
Engine Hours: 298
5th April 2016
Today I decided to attempt a sail to Lizard point and back before dusk, so with an expected 10 knot NW breeze and mainly sunny I slipped my mooring at 10:00. I passed Falmouth ½ an hour later and entered the bay on a south westerly tidal flow which would assist my journey, but I needed to arrive at the Lizard before the tide turned at 13:00. With the wind varying between 7 & 11 knots and a current of 0.9kts decreasing I optimistically averaged my boat speed to be around 5/6 knots sailing on a broad reach. This would give me 3 hours or so to cover the 18 NM distance to the Lizard...
All was going to plan until I rounded the headland of Black Head which is about 4NM miles SW of the Manacle Buoy and around 4NM from my destination. At this point the wind eased to just 5 knots, shifted round to the SW which is where I wanted to go, so now I needed to tack in order to reach my goal which would breach my time limit.
Unable to fly my Code zero on the day (bit like an oversized Genoa), I was dependent on a full main and self tacking jib which was really underpowered in these conditions so I was only achieving 4 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground). With that in mind and the tide already turning I felt I wouldn't make my destination within the time I'd set myself so at 13:10 I headed back.
Although I didn't achieve my goal on the day I fully enjoyed the sail and challenge, plus I learned quite a bit about local weather phenomena and how it can affect your plan. Had I left a little earlier I could have benefited from a longer positive tidal flow, but there again I reckon the wind would have been that much lighter earlier that morning.
Anyway I'll be making many more trips in the coming weeks including a solo sail beyond the Lizard to Newlyn and the Scillies later this year
Engine Hours: 297
12th March 2016
Today with the weather staying fine I motored around Falmouth bay to test my new folding prop and also to fully recharge the batteries. My new "Flexofold" prop is really well engineered and has a much better profile than my original factory fitted prop. As specified it gives much more punch through the water at lower revs and I also expect a much better sailing speed whilst folded. Eventually I went back to my permanent mooring at Tolverne and moored for the night.
Engine Hours: 288
11th March 2016
After a long and miserable winter lay up my boat was finally launched on March 13th heralding the start of my new sailing season. With a draft of 1.7 meters she was slipped on the evening spring high tide and motored to one of the local moorings for the night. It remained a beautiful evening and she looked really well in the evening light.
Engine Hours: 286.3