I Have a Theory…

February 9, 2015 at 9:59 am

I have a theory… It goes like this:

Out of all the yachts that there are, only half of them ever go in the water…

And out of all the boats in the water, only half of them ever leave their mooring…

And out of all the boats that ever leave their mooring, only half of them ever go out of the harbour….

And so of all the boats that ever go in the water, leave their moorings and then leave the harbour; we all know each other.

(Okay, maybe there might be maybe two degrees of separation, but I swear no more…)



Expedition up the Tamar River

August 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm

So boisterous Saturday was about the best day of the Bank Holiday Weekend…

On Sunday I waited out the tide at Cawsand and then headed up the river Tamar with the intention of a trip up, and then back down to anchor again in the Dandy Hole, safely tucked away from an incoming blow.  I managed to sail pretty much all of the way up to Weir Quay (under headsail only as the wind was behind), past the Naval docks and the chain ferries and under the bridge (a bit heart stopping even though I was following a much larger boat with clearly more air draft.  I think it’s the perspective isn’t it?).

I was up well past Salter Mill when I finally put the headsail away.  The wind was starting to gust, and with the flood tide still running pretty fast I knew that once the sail went away I would have little control in the stream. So it was a case of hanging on past the boats on moorings, waiting for an open(ish) bit with empty buoys, turning round to start the outboard as the unattended helm let the boat luff up and then getting her back under control asap.  Luckily the engine started first time, even though it was cold. There wasn’t alot of room in the river!

On the way up I’d decided I didn’t want to go all the way up to Calstock.  But by Weir Quay I was really quite alarmed at how fast the current still was, and the river was really narrowing by then.  But there was no way I would be able to make it back down to the Dandy Hole with the tide against me so I would definitely need to stop somewhere and sit it out. I turned into the tide to try to take up one of the visitors buoys but I chickened out.  The boats were close together, the tide was running fast, and we now had a good 18-20 knots of wind from the same direction as the tide.  Either I would have to go forward to hook the buoy, leaving the helm unattended and the engine in gear to stem the tide, or I would have to pick the buoy up from the cockpit and risk my arms coming out their sockets (or me over the side!) as I held on to it and tried to get it forwards past the shrouds without the boat spinning round on me. Clearly lots of opportunity for mishap.

I decided to keep going with the intention of trying to anchor round the bend at South Hooe, where hopefully the current would be less strong, or at least we’d be sheltered from the wind.  But I was worried that singlehanded in a fast ebb current later on I wouldn’t then be able to get the anchor back up and keep control.  By the time the anchor was in the locker we’d be tens of yards away and potentially pointing the wrong way and in trouble with either depth of water, or the many moored boats.

So when I saw the last buoy on the bend was empty and with no other moored boats nearby I decided that was a better option and made a turn and determinedly motored towards it against the tide with gritted teeth, muttering “You’re mine”.  The wind was easier, and I picked it up first go. It was a long slimey rope loop, with a very long length of slimey blue rope to the pickup buoy.  Once we were on, we sat quietly enough.  It was about 4pm, and a group of people appeared on the bank of the muddy brown river, with a wood cabin behind, and stared at me.  I wondered if it was their mooring but they waved back at me cheerfully enough.  It reminded me a little of Cambodia, and the banks of the Mekong.  And then it started to rain… and the wind got up… So I stayed there the night, with the tide sounding like a waterfall against the hull up in the forepeak while I read Treasure Island on iPad.

Treasure Island Cover

The next morning it was flat calm (the blow had passed) but still raining, and a low mist hung in the trees (very like Cambodia).  I had finished Treasure Island but flattened the battery on my iPad, and decided I needed to leave before I got a fever or Malaria, or blood thirsty pirates attacked me from the rocky shore just 20 yards away (that would be because of reading Treasure Island…) so at 10am, after a good breakfast, I donned full oilies and started the engine.

I set it in gear with the throttle slightly open to stem the outgoing tide, and went forward to throw the rope loop and pickup buoy off the bow.  So far so good.  I then went back to the cockpit and pushed the helm over to turn us and get away.

But we weren’t clear of the pickup buoy and it managed to catch somewhere underneath the boat, holding us fast to the buoy, pointed downstream about 10 feet from the main mooring buoy with nothing visible in the brown water between us.

I tried turning the boat to free us, but nothing happened.  I tried upping the revs on the engine but wasn’t sure even though it sounded ok where the line was caught.  Was it round the engine? But nothing freed us, we were stuck fast pointing downstream, stern to the tide, as the brown river sped past.  I poked about over the side with the boat hook but the rope was nearly a full boat hook length under the water and I could barely bring it to the surface. It was now raining torrentially and it was clear we weren’t going anywhere unless something gave way, so I stopped for a think. Unsure of what to do as this had never happened before…

Luckily, just then, the first boat that I’d seen that morning appeared round the bend from the direction of Calstock.  It was an unusual looking craft In shape it was like a cross between a bigger Robert Tucker Debutante and a classic wooden motor launch, but with a wooden mast.  It was painted custard yellow, sky blue and grass green and looked like something out of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (I am not exaggerating).  There were 3 young chaps aboard, hunched against the rain they waved a hello as they came  near.

“I’m stuck”, I said forlornly. “Oh dear! Would you like a hand?”, said one.  “Yes please.” I said pathetically, with the rain dripping off my nose.

And with that, they spun in the tide, motored back and anchored efficiently 15 yards away in the main stream of the river.  Their dinghy was launched from their rear deck, the outboard was fitted and soon a Barbour clad chap was peering over my dodgers and I had stopped panicking.

We (he) did eventually get it free, after poking around with the boat hook some more, setting out the kedge (it didn’t hold), and then eventually we figured out to put a line back around the main buoy which I hauled to slacken the caught line (this had the double benefit of meaning I wasn’t totally adrift when I was set free) and then poking around with the boathook some more, and turning the engine off and putting first my hand, and then the boat hook down the outboard well.  Suddenly it just freed and the pickup buoy bobbed to the surface. Christ knows where it was caught… I think maybe between the skeg and the rudder? I expect there will be marks in the antifoul when she comes out later in the year…

So once I was free it was a simple matter of slipping the line, while my rescuer kept the pickup buoy and its dangerous line safely out of the way.  Thank you again.

I toddled off downstream as by then we were less than 2 hours before low tide and the current had started to weaken. So back we went past Weir Quay, under the power cable and past Cargreen. Luckily the chaps had overtaken me again, pushing past with their diesel inboard, so I just followed them rather than try to decipher the chart as well. As we reached Warren Point I had to open my revs up to push across the chop and it was nearly a whiteout with the heavy rain and the wind had risen to touch 20 knots, making my eyes sting.

They peeled off and moored up on the short stay pontoon under the bridge at Saltash.  I didn’t join them, but pushed on to a marina berth and its siren call of an internet connection and a hot shower.

There were 2 Police boats guarding the submarines at the Naval Dockyard, even though there were no other boats on the river, but neither of them returned my cheery waves. Then I dodged the chain ferries with the windometer showing steadily over 25 knots. I guessed there would be a pattern, and there would always be at least one ferry on each side, with no side ever empty.  This meant that I knew which one was coming next, like a 1980s computer game.  It seemed to work anyway…

A little further up the wind peaked just before I rounded the green South Rubble buoy and turned the corner, showing 30 knots!  But then through The Narrows and Drakes Channel behind the island I had turned off the wind and it definitely calmed too.  By the time I crossed in front of the Hoe (a bit bumpy), the sun had even come out, and the wind was back to just 20 knots.  It seemed a massive respite.

I berthed with the wind and tide behind me, smacking the pontoon hard of course. In mitigation, it was an unfamiliar berth and I was surprised to find it 3 in from the end channel so had to turn again pretty much immediately to make the berth, without time to take way off (If I could have with the wind and tide) I tried a quick burst of reverse but it didn’t have much effect to be honest. At least though, it was the pontoon, not someone else’s boat.

So that was the story of my expedition up the Tamar.  Seems to me it was more dangerous than going to sea!

Shakedown Week 2 – Alderney?

July 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

So at the start of Duet’s second shakedown week it was looking like a trip to Alderney in the company of Moonlight (a 30’ Jeanneau) and Offcutt (a 28’ Twister) was on the cards.  The wind was from the West and Alderney is actually the same distance as Brixham.

I’d been out a few times, and confidence was up, and nothing had broken… But I knew really I wasn’t ready for that, and would soon be left behind the other bigger, faster boats so needed to be ready.  Also the wind was f4-5 from the west with moderate sea. No good at all for Dartmouth, but better for Alderney, although Alderney has a harbour entrance that needs careful timing, and accuracy of arrival time is not so easy to predict in a 22 foot boat after 60 odd miles.

So it ended up that Bob and Moonlight left alone for Bray after we all rendez-vous’d for the 0530 shipping forecast and fried egg sandwiches, and I went off back to bed.

Later though, I took the opportunity to take a little spin out to the East Shambles buoy where although it was lovely and sunny, it was gusting a good f5 and the sea was looking pretty darn moderate. I got out there on genoa alone and lay ahull before raising up the mainsail which I had put one reef in before I left, and then put the genoa back up with a couple of rolls in it.  However, the mainsail wouldn’t set properly as I’d done the reefing lines wrong and I then careered back downwind towards Lulworth clearly with far too much canvas up: she was two handed heavy on the helm and felt totally out of control!  I thought she was going to broach. It was also very clear that the rigging was far too slack, and the leeward cap and aft lowers were flapping in the breeze.  All pretty scary to be honest. At one point I logged 6.9 knots on the GPS, and I would love to know our speed through the water.  Our wake was fizzing!

I did manage to drop the main, and get some sail ties round it from the hatchway so I didn’t actually have to go forward on deck and as we continued down towards Lulworth I started to feel we were getting too far downwind to be able to get home easily so I tacked towards White Nothe.  But as we closed on it, the sea steepened and the wind rose.  At one point it was regularly gusting 25 knots (apparent wind) on the windometer, a f6.

I did a couple of tacks back and forth but only gained about 200 yards up wind as it was blowing West.

So I put the engine on and tromped home into wind for an hour and a half, but kinda glad I hadn’t gone to Alderney.

In the end, we had some problems but I resolved them pretty easily without anything breaking, and no-one got hurt. On the bright side, I had managed to find the Shambles buoy using my new handheld GPS for the first time!  This is what shakedowns are for…

There are no pictures for this post: I couldn’t take my hands off the tiller.

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