Thursday, 20 January 2022

Calstar: rebushed

Dad's been polishing. I think when we relaunch, Calstar is going to be the prettiest, shiniest Westerly Griffon on the Bristol Channel. For a week or two, at least. 

And other than the one trip down to provide the necessary muscle to help him rehang the rudder, he's pretty much taken care of this year's dose of TLC all by himself. I am very conscious of the imbalance in our nautical relationship. Basically, we sail things, I break them, he fixes them.

Polishing aside, the major achievement was replacing the bushes for the rudder.

The old ones were so worn away that we couldn't really see how they were supposed to fit, so I went begging for information from the Westerly Owners Association, and, of course, a wealth of guidance and advice came flooding back. 

Including a drawing. I'm not sure if it counts as a technical drawing, but it looks technical to me. And Dad's eyes lit up when I showed it to him. Turns out you can buy a set of replacement bushes to fit in the gudgeons for about £60, but Dad was concerned that due to the wear, a standard set wouldn't fit properly.

And, between you and me, I think he simply loves any excuse to disappear into his workshop.

With a fresh, custom measured set duly turned up, he had a bit of a challenge getting the remains of the old ones out. He initially designed a puller to try and do it in-situ at the yard, but all he achieved was to strip its thread. 

So he took the hanging straps off the rudder and brought them home to his workshop, where he then turned up what he tells me is called a step mandrel that he used to punch them out.

It worked. And the following week I helped him rehang the rudder, which now appears to turn smoothly on its locking bar.

The true test will be at the end of the month. Calstar is booked for the lift at 1500 on Friday 28th. I have no gigs that weekend and so, weather permitting, we'll lift her back in on the Friday afternoon, then on Saturday take the 1230 lock out and sail over to Cardiff for the evening.

Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

of new friends and the eye of the beholder

I've mentioned her a few times now, but realise that she's not actually been formally introduced. I have a new friend. Back in December, I bought myself another guitar, a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

It was an act that encompassed a couple of firsts. 

First, I've never bought a guitar sight unseen or, and more to the point, unplayed, direct from the Internet before, and found spending that amount of money on something I was intending to invest so heavily in emotionally quite unnerving.

But I was after a specific make and model of guitar for a specific reason, and none of the local shops had what I wanted. All Gibson Les Pauls are made in America, at their company's headquarters in Nashville, TN. So I guess if you're going to buy sight unseen, knowing exactly where it came from is some reassurance. And as they've been making these guitars there since the 50's, you'd hope by now that they'd know what they were doing.

I'd decided I wanted a Les Paul. The idea had been haunting me since early November, but always thought the Les Paul Standard was a bit, well, gaudy. Then I read about the Studio, which is essentially a Les Paul, but retains only the elements of that contribute to tone and playability. This includes the carved maple top and standard mechanical and electronic hardware but not the ornamentation, including the body and neck binding.

In other words, the gaudy bits. I guess beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.

The other first is that I've never agonised over the colour of a guitar before. The version that first caught my eye was the Tobacco Burst finish, and across some weeks of mulling over should I shouldn't I, I was certain that was the guitar I was looking for. And then, in the final few days as I approached my decision, I found myself being drawn more and more to the Wine Red version. 

I found myself completely torn. Over something as inconsequential as lacquer and colour scheme. It was totally ridiculous. 

So, as I do with all matters of taste and style, I resolved the question by asking my wife.

So on 15th December, a wine red Gibson Les Paul Studio turned up on my doorstep, just in time for our last gig of 2021. 

And she is an absolute delight.

Monday, 17 January 2022

of old friends, great gigs and broken strings

Preparations for the weekend just gone began Thursday evening, when I sat down and restrung three guitars. Eighteen strings in total, and takes about three and a half minutes per string. It's a job I've done a thousand times before, although I rarely if ever restring more than one at a time, and all went well until I got to the last string of the last guitar; the high E on my Martin.

And the damn thing snapped.

In the greater scheme of things, it's completely inconsequential, these things happen. Though they don't happen to me very often. I can't remember the last time. My style may be ham-fisted when it comes to actually playing the guitar, but restringing one, I am a consummate pro.

So it was annoying. Very annoying.

The first of the two gigs that followed on the Friday night however was excellent. Our first gig of 2022, The Railway Tavern in Fishponds, Bristol, has long been one of my favourite venues so was the perfect place to start the year with the band.

I have a new guitar that I treated myself to just before Christmas, an American made Gibson Les Paul Studio; this was her second gig, and whilst we're still getting used to each other, I'm really enjoying the adventure, and the challenge of moving onto an electric. I think as I've previously mentioned, for the last thirty-one years (I've just done the maths, and shockingly, that's actually no exaggeration; I originally formed the band in 1991) I've gigged exclusively with an acoustic guitar. So it was about time for a change.

The lack of familiarity with my new rig is leaving me open to silly mistakes however. 

photo: tony bundy

At one point, having picked the guitar back up after having put it down for a song, I found I had no signal and couldn't work out why. Frantic pushing of buttons and frenzied attempts at problem solving followed over the next couple of minutes, eventually unsatisfactorily resolved by re-routing my guitar into another amp. Half way through the song that followed, I suddenly realised I'd forgotten the damn volume pedal, which I'd pushed to mute when I'd originally put the guitar down, as well as muting the signal via the tuner and on the amp.

photo: tony bundy

It sounds like a stupid mistake, and it was. But all too easy when you've got an albeit not unsympathetic but definitely heaving crowd of 150 or so (I'm guessing, but the pub was full) looking on and  all enthusiastically waiting for the next song. I guess that's the joy of live music for you, it comes warts and all.

It was a late night and, very uncharacteristically, I overslept badly the following morning. I'd meant to get up for about 0900 and go to karate, but after hitting the sack around 0430, completely missed my alarm and didn't emerge bleary eyed and baffled from under my duvet until just before noon. A horrible waste of a morning.

Saturday night was our second gig of the year, at The Old Restoration over in Cheltenham. Loki, a friend of mine and regular at the open mic night that runs at the Restoration every couple of weeks, opened for us with a terrific half hour set, and then we went on around 2130 and played through till midnight.

It was another great night. No broken strings, very few cockups of any note. Then, once it was all done and we'd finished a couple of extra songs for the encore, my daughter strong-armed me into playing American Pie for her and the retiring crowd.

So I picked by guitar back up, plugged back in, studiously pushed the volume pedal back up to full and unmuted the tuner. About half way through the second verse, with the guitar signal inexplicably very, very weak, I realised I'd essentially forgotten to turn the amp back on and all we could hear was the feed from the line-out through to the foldback and main PA.

Easily fixed, and it amused the crowd, but another silly mistake. And one I'm not going to make again.

Mistakes aside and easily forgiven, it was a fantastic gig, but another late night. I managed not to oversleep the following morning, however. As previously mentioned, there was no sailing at the club this weekend as they were hosting a Topper Open Meeting. As it turns out, this was a good thing. An old school friend of mine, Bayan, was flying out to Kuwait to escort his elderly mother home to live with him and his sister in Chicago, and the flight out from Illinois involved a layover at Heathrow before he could connect with an onward flight from there.

So I drove down to meet up with him for lunch, along with three other old school friends already in the UK; Vicky, Emma and Becky. Vicky and Emma I last saw at a small class reunion in 2009, but Bayan and Becky I'd not seen since we'd finished school out in Kuwait way back in 1990.

Needless to say, it was lovely catching up. Of course we all change and grow with the years, but in so many other ways we don't really change at all, but remain, fundamentally, the same.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

of Merlin & rockets and gaming the system

Although the Chillidog series, so called because (before covid) the club galley used to serve hotdogs after the racing, started only two weeks ago, this coming weekend will be without any sailing, as the club is hosting a Topper Open Meeting on Sunday instead.

Toppers are boats best suited to teenagers. Which is fine. Whilst I may no longer have a teenager's stature, I'd like to think I retain teenage enthusiasm. And Toppers are an absolute blast in a good blow, say F5+. However, the forecast for Sunday is about 5 knots. 

I had my fair dose of sailing last Sunday though. I raced the Albacore with Amanda in the morning. Two races; I screwed the start up on the first (a whole, unforgivable 24 seconds late crossing the start line) but redeemed myself for the second with a much better start, which took us on to win 1st place.

The Albacore is going well at the moment. That makes it our second win of the series so far, as we followed a similar pattern the week before; ie. screwed up the first race, and then woke up and won the second.

The downside is that for this series (and the summertime Wednesday evening equivalent, the Hotdogs) the club imposes a silly personal handicap system on the frontrunners. So as a consequence of our two wins so far, we now carry a penalty to our boat's handicap that essentially gives the rest of the fleet a whole minute's head start on us. Which in the final result, reduced our win to a 2nd place this week. And if we continue to do well, that's going to get worse.

Which is, frankly, a little frustrating.

A thought has just crossed my mind. We could, of course, game the system. In addition to picking up a penalty for finishing in the top three places, the last two boats to finish get a boost to their handicap. So three races of finishing last would both wipe out the penalty we've picked up, and give us a little bonus left over. There are 20 races in the series, of which you'll need just over half to qualify; the rest of the results can be discarded. 

So we could play our handicap by making sure we absolutely lose the races we discard, as in come last. The first race every Sunday is a pursuit, so that would be relatively easy to do, especially given my track record in the series so far. I'm not sure I have it in me to actually race to lose, but I can't say I'm not very tempted, if only to make a point.

Feels a little unsporting though. And to rant about the scoring system of the current series was not my intention for this post, so I apologise for the digression.

After the racing finished last Sunday and we'd packed away the Albacore, I met up with my friend Mick who took me out for a sail in his new (to him, albeit the boat is 40 years old) Merlin Rocket. 

I've not sailed a Rocket before, but always thought they were exceptionally pretty boats. And they're designed for speed with a wide, flared hull to make for efficient hiking to keep the boat flat. They're one of the very few boats on our lake with a faster handicap than the Albacore.

So this coming Sunday will be a shore day. But I don't think I have too many grounds for complaint.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

it'll only take an hour, she said

As I sat there Monday afternoon watching my wife valiantly struggle with putting together a flat packed drinks trolley that my in-laws had bought themselves over Christmas, I idly mused that IKEA had a lot to answer for.

But then I figured I was probably being unfair to the Swedes, that the construct-by-numbers drink storage utility in question and it's obscure, indecipherable instructions and vaguely aligned screw-holes hadn't in fact come from IKEA and that the Swedes probably hadn't actually invented the flat pack, although they'd certainly perfected the deconstructive art of it. 

And of tempting you in to their cavernous warehouse stores with the twin lure of flat-packed furniture stocked alongside frozen crayfish and Swedish meatballs.

So I Googled "who invented the flat pack"

Turns out it was IKEA after all. Specifically, a chap called Gillis Lundgren, in 1956. 

Monday, 3 January 2022

back to the grind

Holidays are over. Back to work tomorrow. Would be back to karate Thursday, but that's our wedding anniversary so I'll probably take Nikki out for supper instead. Then the weekend, and racing on the lake Sunday. My neck hurts from where I fell over just before launching yesterday. It's a most peculiar pain, like I've pulled the muscles in my neck either side of my larynx. It's far from unbearable though, I think I got away lucky.

It's been a good break. I've drunk too much, eaten too much and not sailed nearly enough.

If circumstances allow and restrictions remain unimposed, we have two gigs booked for this coming month; Friday the 14th at The Railway in Bristol and Saturday 15th at The Restoration in Cheltenham. Then a short break followed by The Pilot in Gloucester in February. If I had to pick three favourite venues to start the year off with, they would be it. Very much looking forward to all of them.

I'm quietly hoping to squeeze in a weekend away with Calstar between the Restoration and the Pilot. We shall see.

The photo was taken on Boxing Day, when a couple of friends from Lydney Yacht Club invited me out to sail with them. I crewed for my mate Annabel aboard her Wayfarer "Ellen". We sailed from Lydney up the Severn Estuary to Brims Pill and back. It was a very small neap tide and light air that didn't really fill in until the last quarter of the return leg, so for the most part it was a hazy drift; some paddling was involved.

But it wasn't cold and the rain more or less held off. The company was good and the river was beautiful as always. I'm actually quite fond of estuary mud. It doesn't smell, washes off easily with a bit of water, and unlike sand, doesn't get into everything and stuck everywhere.

failed at the first post

Thought I'd start this year by trying to post at least one picture a day for January. And clearly I've already failed, as it's gone midnight. Anyway, this was taken this morning; my boat is on the right hand side, the race is about to start in about six minutes, and I'm flat on my back having just slipped up on the wet grass.

Why the first thought that came to me as I regained my senses was to take a photo, I don't really know, but there you go. We launched and did manage to start just in time, barely, but only took a 7th place. Second race we did much better however, and took a 1st.

Not a bad way to start the year, even if I do now have a minor case of whiplash from the fall that led to the photo!

Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Year's Day: Dragonfly

New Year's Day, 2022.

In keeping with the spirit of the age, we had a quiet night in last night. Thought I'd use it constructively though, so recorded a rework of an old song I wrote many years ago when I was still young and idealistic and thought I knew what freedom and liberty were; that we'd gig forever and lockdowns only ever happened in prison movies 😁

So this is Dragonfly, and the images accompanying are a random scattering of my photos from across the year, sort of my 2021 in review, which seems to have been, in the main, sailing, dogs and gigs. I took most of the photos myself, except where I obviously didn't because I'm the subject and the camera is clearly out of reach.

Happy New Year and may 2022 bring you everything you wish for and more.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Calstar: the shortest trip

Calstar comes out of the water today, or rather, will have done already this morning if all went to plan. I can't be there, but Dad should've been for the 0900 lift-out. I've not heard from him, so can only assume all is well.

Not being able to be there to move her around to the hoist today, we did so yesterday. The lifting crew had the day off for some reason, so they were happy for us to move her around to the hoist dock any time yesterday, and leave her there for them to lift this morning.

She's overdue a fresh coat of anti-foul and anodes. We also need to renew the bushes on the rudder. The previous bushes have completely worn away; another Westerly owner kindly provided technical drawings of the bushes, Dad has sourced the appropriate material and will turn a set up in his machine shop.

The rudder is a bit of a beast, being about twice my height, so we'll solicit professional help in dropping it out and putting it back in again.

We could potentially purchase a set of bushes. despite the age of the yacht there are folks that make them, but there's some wear on the gudgeons holding the rudder in place (are they still called gudgeons on a yacht? I've no idea; a gudgeon is also a very small river fish, so whilst the term works for a dinghy, it feels a little incredulous on a bigger boat) so by making up our own, Dad can get measure and compensate for the wear. And in any case, he likes making things.

Her lift back in is scheduled for 15th Jan.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Freefall: American Pie

I'm not sure if this will work, I'm going to try and embed a video that was shared by my Dad on Facebook. Assuming it does work, the footage is a little bit raw, so be judicious with your volume slider.

It's a the final song from our gig last Friday night. I apologise unreservedly to anybody with the slightest fondness for Don McLean; in my defence the crowd were quite wired by the end of the evening and it was hard not to be carried away by their enthusiasm. 

I also apologise for getting confused over the verses. I accidentally repeated the second verse in place of the fourth. I did think about carrying on to correct my mistake by singing the fourth afterwards, but figured the patience of the band wouldn't wear my stretching an already eight minute song out to nine or more.

As it is, they rarely let me play it anyway because of its length, and my refusal to cut it down. But it was my daughter's birthday, who was of course in the crowd because it's her pub, and it was her particular request, so this time I had them over a barrel. 

That's her in there of course, in the foreground, providing the accidental backing vocals for the first verse, happily oblivious to the fact her grandad is holding a camera.

Jack says . . .

. . . every office needs an office dog, even the home office variety.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

summer done

Somehow, it's the end of November. My daughter's birthday tomorrow and then Christmas soon after. The year has flown. As have the months; I'm conscious I've not posted anything here since the Holms Race in September. Such lapses aren't unheard of, but they are unusual.

I've been scrolling through my photos on Google. I'm well, my family is well. Well, aside from a streaming cold that I'm pretty sure I caught from my daughter last week. But that will pass, and mainlining lateral flow tests seems to confirm it's nothing more serious.

On which note, I'm booked in for a booster in a couple of weeks. And a flu jab. I think I've had more needles stuck in me this year than the whole twenty years previous put together. But I guess I'm far from alone in that.

As I, in common with most of the nation, have spent the last half of the summer trying to believe everything is back to normal, there have been lots of gigs. I went away with Nikki and some friends for a weekend back in late September to, of all places, a Butlins holiday camp down in Minehead. My personal idea of purgatory, but the Saturday night's line up of entertainment included a set by Toyah Wilcox

Back in my early teens I was utterly in love with Toyah. It turns out I still am. 

Predictably, after spending a long weekend in a crowded holiday camp, mingling unavoidably with the masses, I came home with a stinker of a cold. Again, lots of successive lateral flow tests reassured me it was nothing more serious than that. But whilst I was fine for the gig that followed the next Friday, by Saturday my voice was completely shot. 

As in utterly. Nothing coming out but a monosyllabic croak. And a gig at one of our most popular local venues, The Pilot, on the Saturday night.

I've never been in that situation before. I've played through colds and sore throats and all manner of lurgies, and always been able to find something. But this time there was nothing there. Perhaps we're just immunologically out of practice because of our relatively germ-free isolation for most of the last 18 months, or perhaps it was just a particularly vicious bug amplified by the damp air of an outdoor gig the night before.

I even briefly thought of cancelling, but I couldn't bring myself to do it and put Rika, the landlady of the Pilot, in that situation. So we turned up, and limped through the first set relying massively on (it has to be noted, some very sympathetic and enthusiastic) audience participation; I croaked the words and they pretty much sang the tunes for me. Oddly enough, it worked.

Then a friend of Dad's, a young lady called Jen, volunteered to step up for a couple of songs. Dad knew her through a choir he used to sing in before the pandemic, she used to sing in a band herself, many years ago. She basically looked up the lyrics on her iPhone and then took her best guess at the tune of each song; we play covers, so obviously most if not all of our set is pretty well known.

She did such a good job of the last couple of tunes of the first set that the band spent their break huddled with her, pouring over the setlist of the second set and picking songs she was at least vaguely familiar with, and she took care of that as well. And to be fair, she did a fantastic job. If positions had been switched, I'm not sure I could have done it myself, so ad hoc and off the cuff, and in front of such a large, albeit exceptionally friendly, crowd.

And I felt totally replaced and utterly miserable. Turns out I'm quite the Prima Dona on the quiet.

photo: tony bundy

That was September. We've had nine gigs since, my voice obviously recovered and I've been just fine. And I remain extremely grateful to Jen for stepping in as she did, despite the battering to my pride and sense of self-worth. I've fully recovered.

Though in the grip of my second cold of the season, I did skip an open mic night I'd been planning to go to last Friday so that I could preserve my voice for the Saturday night gig with the band.

Which was a good one. I bought a new (to me, at least) guitar back at the beginning of 2020, a 1990 Japanese Fender Telecaster. A lovely thing to play, I'd originally bought it just to record with, but quickly pivoted on that idea and bought an amp as well with the intention of maybe gigging with it for a few songs.

Then lockdown happened and nobody was gigging.

When we were finally let back out again and business returned to usual, things felt very raw and out of practice. Loath to risk fiddling with too many variables at once and making life more complicated than it needed to be, I stuck to my usual Martin acoustic until things settled back down again.

So last Saturday, feeling a little apprehensive, I took the electric and my new amp to the venue, set them up under the ambivalent scrutiny of our bass player (who also doubles as both the band's de-facto sound engineer, my brother, and my harshest, most unsparing critic, second only to my wife) and opened the first set with an electric guitar.

And absolutely loved it. I picked the Martin up for a couple of numbers, but then put her back on her stand and went back to the Tele. I should've done this years ago. Electric guitars, and amps, and all the effects and electronics that go hand in hand with them have always terrified me. So much potential noise; the precision, knowledge and attention to detail required to keep it all under control has never been my strong point, and the scope for things to go so wrong is, frankly, a little intimidating.

But, a bit like bashing out the rough edges of a new song to see if it works, the only way to get over all that, I reckon, is with the help, support and pressure of an audience. And, as I think the Pilot gig showed, they'll forgive you anything if they see you're putting your heart into it.

Of course, now I've fallen in love with my Telecaster, I'm sat here idly thinking that wouldn't a Gibson Les Paul or a PRS make a nice addition to my collection? I confess I'm going purely on aesthetics. The merits of single coil over humbucker, independent coil splits, and aluminium Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridges are still something of a black art and a foreign language to me. I think the trick is to just plug the guitar in and play.

Of course, this all then raises the question of how many guitars is too many guitars. Which came up in my household about a month back when I went to the shop in town to buy some strings for the weekend's gigs and came home with a lovely Salvador Cortez nylon strung Spanish electro acoustic guitar. Martin at Gloucester Soundhouse clearly knows exactly how to snare me with these things; encourage me me to pick one up, then leave me in a quiet corner of his shop just to play.

In fairness, I had planned to justify the Cortez by working her into a couple of songs in the set, and did take her along to the gig in Thornbury a couple of weeks ago. But I think after last Saturday the Telecaster has shouldered her back out.

As to how many guitars is too many guitars? My wife and I will just need to continue to beg to differ.

It hasn't all been guitars and gigging since September. There has been some sailing. It feels like not enough of any of it though. There just doesn't seem to be enough time. I suspect I'm expecting too much.

I'd hoped to get a lot more sailing in with Calstar after bringing her back to Portishead. We have been out a few times. A neap tide day sail up under the bridges, then a somewhat longer spring tide day trip down to Sand Point and back. That was especially good fun, and our mate Mark (of the British Moths, Albacores and the trip out to Greece last year) joined us for that one, so the company was good to boot.

And Dad and I did get away for a weekend trip over to Cardiff in October. Nikki was supposed to join us for a long weekend, but she came down with a bug the week before, so being the diligent and attentive husband that I am, I cut the planned three day trip down to two, left her at home, peace fully asleep on the Saturday morning to sail to Cardiff, and caught the tide before dawn early the following day to get home in time for Sunday lunch.

The highlight of the Cardiff trip was probably the outward leg, when I finally managed to rig and hoist the cruising chute I picked up on eBay a couple of years ago. I told Nikki all about it over lunch when I got home on the Sunday.

I have a very patient, understanding wife. I think I might have mentioned this before?

Three trips out over a couple of months with Calstar feels like less than we'd been hoping for. Although Dad regularly drops down there without me now, just to potter. The biggest problem, of course, has been too many gigs. Which is a nice problem to have. And now the summer has gone, we need to find some time to have her pulled out to clean off her bottom and renew the anodes. And the bushes on her transom hung rudder have worn through, so also need to be replaced, which promises to be a beast of a job as the huge barn door of a rudder will obviously have to come off.

The electrics in her mast have also failed; I think the bulb has gone in the steaming light, and the LED tricolour and anchor light unit at the mast head has failed completely. It's inconvenient; it's easy enough to jury rig a temporary steaming light, which is what we did for our pre-dawn departure when returning from Cardiff. And for a couple of the legs coming back from Plymouth, for that matter. But whilst the deck level navigation lights are LED, so battery usage isn't a concern, the mast head tricolour also lit up the wind indicator which made sailing in the dark an awful lot easier, as it's the only wind instrument on our boat.

The trouble is, we haven't been able to find an electrician around here able or willing to sort the problem for us, and Dad won't entertain the idea of letting me shimmy up the mast, even suitably harnessed, to change the bulb on the steaming light half way up. It's kind of ironic, because running wild as a kid I used to climb trees (and cliffs and buildings and anything else that offered itself, and then jump out of them and abseil back down) an awful lot taller than Calstar's mast, and he didn't seem to mind back then.

Perspectives change, and thinking about it, a lot of the time I was doing the climbing, jumping and abseiling in my youth, I was away out of sight at boarding school, so maybe it wasn't so much that he didn't mind, but just that I didn't ask?

Of course, when not away with Dad and Calstar, or away with Nikki (aside from the afore mentioned Butlins weekend, we also snuck away for a weekend together in Ilfracombe at the end of October) business as usual continues on the lake at South Cerney Sailing Club.

I did a little instructing again towards the end of the summer, mostly (with one exception) on a Saturday so it didn't interfere with the racing, and I've been racing the Albacore with Amanda when we've both been available on a Saturday morning, or racing the Laser alone when not.

Such as last Sunday. Had a message from Amanda first thing in the morning to say she wouldn't be able to make it because of a migraine but, and exceptionally considerate of her, given the state she must've been in, she caught me in time so that I could grab the sail and foil bag for the Laser instead.

On the back end of Storm such and such (they have names these days, but I don't care to note them) that blew through on Saturday, there was snow on the high ground as I drove to the Club, and I had to break the ice off the boat cover and massage the mainsheet and control lines back to life before I could rig.

But it was worth it. Two races, and with a pure accident of the perfect amount of wind for me and a sympathetic course, I won both.

So summer is over. And whilst I will miss it I'm kind of fond of winter anyway. The sailing is so often great, and the gigs are kind of cosy. Not a big fan of the cold, but can work around that.

I'm just kind of hoping that, in the developing circumstances, we manage to carry on.