Monday, 11 November 2019

Calstar: June 2018

Note that the post that follows was written in June 2018, and has been languishing in my "Drafts" folder ever since. Why I never finished or published it I don't know; too many other distractions I imagine.

I was just going to delete it, but reading through put a smile on my face, and in two days time Calstar will have been ours for five years; we bought her 13th November 2014.

Time has flown. We've had a few good trips out with her this year, but not as many as I'd wanted. Band commitments, more than anything else, really get in the way. By the end of this year we will have done 41 gigs; a little down on 2018 and 2017, but not by much. I guess the real difference is that she's now two and a half hours down the motorway in Plymouth. A five or six hour round trip does limit the day sailing opportunities somewhat.

There is always a small temptation to bring her back to Cardiff or Portishead. But then we wouldn't have adventures like the Fowey and Falmouth I write about below. Another reason to share an old, unpublished post, instead of just hitting the delete button.

Ten days away on a boat and only four days sailing is a little bit shocking by my usual standards, but is about the pace we usually end up setting when Nik joins us, and admittedly is a pace Dad's really very comfortable with these days.

Remember what I said about journeys and destinations?

It was always our intention to loiter in Fowey for the first weekend. It was the 8th annual British Moth "Sea Championships". That has to be taken a little bit tongue-in-cheek. The Moths have always been an easy going, humorous fleet, at least those I've associated with, and the British Moth being a definite inland boat originally intended to catch the light, fickle airs between the high-sided banks of a river, a salt water event is always going to be amusing.

I'm not sure it's actually a part of their official calendar, though I might be wrong.

In any case, I raced at the first, those many years ago, and have been to each since, with the exception of two. So the intention was always to make this one and catch up with old friends.

In return for taking him out for a a crash course in asymmetrics with his Topper 14 on Saturday, New Boy even lent me his Moth so I could  join in with the racing on Sunday afternoon whilst Nik "went shopping". I didn't do too badly, all things considered. And it was a great reminder of what I love about these boats; close racing, fun to sail, and they try to kill you if it gets too windy.

I might even have managed to secure the loan of a boat for their Nationals later this year. But we'll see, much as I'd dearly love the chance to race at the Nationals again, I won't hold Gary to that.

We ate ashore at the Fowey Gallants on Friday night, had the skinniest grilled mackerel in the world at The Galleon on Saturday night; my favourite Fowey pub, beer and view highly recommended, food not so much.

Friday night we spent on the pontoon at Berril's Yard. Easy access to the shore, and (and this was the clincher for Dad) shore power available for £2.50 a night, the theory is you're not supposed to be on the pontoon before 1600 and off again by 1000. So Saturday 1000 we duly moved off and over to one of the floating island pontoons on the other side of the river, intending move back later in the afternoon.

By lunchtime somebody had beaten us to it, with another yacht rafted up to them, and everybody settled in for the night. The two hour restriction that's supposed to apply between 0800 and 1800 isn't particularly enforced by the Harbour Master (as one of the harbour patrol cheerfully confirmed to us the following morning). The deal seems to be get on as soon as you can, and if you're willing to pay the extra for a shore-connected pontoon, stay there.

Dad elected to relax aboard Saturday, so I ferried Nik to shore in the tender. We timed our return to the boat later that afternoon disastrously, the heavens opened and she and I got an absolute soaking.

To avoid the perils of my ferrying both Dad and Nik back to the boat drunk and in the dark on Saturday night, we forked out a fiver each for the Water Taxi to ferry us across and back. We ate (in my case the afore mentioned skinny mackerel) on the patio of the Galleon and, just as we finished our food, the wind suddenly started whipping down the harbour, heavens opened up once again, and we were treated to the unexpected twenty minute spectacle of an almighty thunder storm battering Fowey.

And better to watch it from the pub than the boat, we all agreed.

The following evening, the boat back on the shore power on the Berril's Yard Pontoon, we ate with the Moths at the Rashliegh Arms looking over the beach at Polkerris. A lovely pub in a lovely setting with lovely company. And lovely food and lovely beer.

It was a still, hazy evening. Would've been perfect for sailing around and anchoring off for the night. A note to keep that in mind for the next time.

The passage from Fowey to Falmouth, and perhaps the lunchtime meal and beer we awarded ourselves with at a harbour-side pub on arrival, wiped Dad out. So Monday evening, Nik and I left him snoozing on the boat and snuck up to Falmouth town for romantic meal for two. I can't remember the last time we did that. After some time spent walking and down the main street trying to decide where to eat, we settled on a South African restaurant called Amanzi. The food was delicious.

On Tuesday, Dad suggested we revisit an old favourite for lunch, The Pandora Inn in Restrongeut. Whilst I was still pondering over tide tables, trying to decide where to drop anchor and ferry the crew in by tender, Dad summarily cut through the logistics and booked the Falmouth Water Taxi to take us.

We enjoyed a couple of hours, and a couple of pints or so, on the pontoon outside the pub before the taxi returned to ferry us back.

Tuesday evening we ate at a restaurant called The Bosuns Mate. One of the specials was a hand made steak burger plus a pint for a mere £7. I don't really do burgers if I have any choice so opted for the fish, but did volunteer to take care of the pint for Nikki. At that price, I wasn't expecting much of the burger (a beer alone was £4.50) but was, hands down, very impressed at what actually turned up on Nik's plate.

Mind you, the fish I'd opted for was also good.

Wednesday was a rain day. We stayed on the boat and read. It really wasn't such a bad deal at all, very relaxing. I got a lot of reading done this holiday, working my way through most of Bernard Cornwall's Warlord Chronicles.

Thursday back in Fowey, Dad, Nik and I ate at Sams. There was an hour's wait to get seated at that time of the evening, but the beer made waiting at the bar a not unpleasant experience, as did the wit of the proprietor, serving behind the bar and managing his staff and customers with flair and good humour. I had bouillabaisse, a rich fish stew, and it was delicious.

After eating, both Nik and Dad retired to the boat whilst I headed over to the Galleon to catch up with New Boy, Olga and the die hard Moths that hadn't yet gone home for the last night of their week away in Fowey. We spent the evening on the pub's patio veranda, overlooking the harbour, slightly damp because of the light rain, but not cold.

Good company, and we drank rather a lot.

[11/11/2019: And the rest remains unrecorded]

Snapshots of a weekend

Friday 8th: Nik finished work late, so I cooked supper. Found a bottle of red wine in the kitchen that had, somehow, escaped my attention since last Christmas. They don't tend to survive more than twenty-four hours in this house.

Saturday 9th: Canvassing in Gloucester in the pouring rain and howling winds. There is a reason winter elections are not common. Given how I often spend my spare time, you can imagine I'm not a stranger to being cold and wet. I can't say I've never been as cold and as wet as we got on Saturday, but I can say not often, and not for a while. Saturday night, by contrast, was a warm affair. A lively, fun gig at the White Swan in Downend, Bristol.

Sunday 10th: Was, of course, spent racing. Albacores at South Cerney. More than twenty boats out on the water, various classes. I've decided this is the way to go for next year, so am now looking for an Albacore of my own. Amanda has joined South Cerney with me, so I have my regular crew once we get a boat. It's not going to be a wooden one.

Monday, 4 November 2019

In precis of the weekend

This is as political as I will get on this site; the world is a broad church and whilst I feel very invested in the result of the upcoming general election on 12th December, politics seems to suffice every other aspect and avenue of our lives at the moment.

I know I have friends of many and diverse political opinions, some right to my way of thinking and some really quite wrong. But we'll still be friends long after the 12th is over, and would save my arguments with them for more appropriate forums.

This is not a political blog (not that I'm sure it has any coherent, consistent theme at all) and I've no wish to alienate anybody here.

But I did really like the above photo, and it was what I was doing with my Saturday afternoon.

The lady centre frame is Ash Sarkar, one of a few guest speakers at our local parliamentary candidate's campaign launch. Another of the guest speakers is sat in a blue shirt frame right, a couple of rows in front of me, next to our candidate herself.

After the campaign rally I went home and cooked supper for Nikki and Sam.

I am fond of cooking with wine, although hard won, occasionally painful and sometimes quite bloody experience has taught me to try and make it a rule not to open the bottle until I've finished all the cutting and chopping.

Of course, rules were made to be broken. And I still have all my fingers intact, so no harm, no foul.

Sunday was my turn at Frampton as race officer.

It was the last set of the nine Club Championship races at Frampton. A lovely day to be sat on the committee boat, even if the conditions did make it a little challenging to set an appropriate course over the three races of the day.

The weather did pick up as the day progressed however.

The Championship at Frampton is now over. The reigning champion Pete Dalton convincingly held on to his title. Mike Crowley squeezed in clear by one point into 2nd place, and Rob Cyphus took 3rd. Despite a strong start at the beginning of the year, I failed to keep it consistent, and so Rob beat me quite convincingly into 4th place by two points.

I'm especially pleased that Mike beat me. I've frustrated him quite enough in various other matches over the last season. I find it's good to keep him on his toes, I think he enjoys it really.

So I'm not discontent. Despite the ups and downs and nagging, persistent injury to my shoulder and arm, racing the Laser this year has been really very good fun. 4th place in the Club Championship is, I think, my best result yet, and I've picked up the odd good result or two in the various other of the club series to earn a respectable piece of glassware again for myself once this season is finally over.

And hopefully, I can give that damned Capsize Trophy back!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Freefall: Saturday night at The Pilot

Some video taken at our gig last Saturday night at The Pilot in Hardwicke, Gloucester.

I'm curious to know if this works, as I've not tried embedding a video posted onto Facebook before. The preview on Blogger suggests it shows a picture but doesn't like to the video, so we shall see if that's the case once I hit the publish button.

Time was we'd post our videos up to YouTube and share them from there onto the band's website or anywhere else we'd like, but these days Facebook seems to have inexorably taken over as the band's social hub.

Whatever your views of social media, it does what it does very well.

If the video does play, please be conservative with your volume slider, and if the nature of the noise we create isn't your thing, I hope you can at least enjoy the spirit of the performance.

Saturday's gig was a lively one. This track was the second song of the second set; a Simon and Garfunkel number, Mrs Robinson, but in the style of the Lemonheads cover of the same. It was always one of my Mum's favourites. It was her birthday a couple of weeks ago, she'd have been 71 and furious with me for telling you that.

She'd have loved last Saturday night.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019


I upgraded my mobile last week. Previously had a Samsung S8 Plus, now have a Samsung S10 Plus. There are a few interesting and convenient differences, but the new model is mostly an iterative improvement on the old rather than a revolution in design or technology.

Which is fine, because I was quite fond of the old.

The most marked difference is the camera. Not so much the picture quality, which to my amateur eye is no better or worse than the previous offering, which in itself was more than satisfactory. But the latest has a wide angle option. Which I have to admit I'm quite enjoying playing with.

The photos here were a couple of snaps taken from the weekend, Saturday down in Plymouth with Dad and Calstar and Sunday back at Frampton; we got back from Plymouth in time for me to get to the lake and take the Laser out for the second of the two afternoon races.

Monday, 14 October 2019


Friday night, southbound on the M5 motorway; a snap from the passenger seat taken on the trip down to the boat. A forecast was as grim as the weather.

Friday, 11 October 2019

South Cerney Sailing Club

This time of year always puts me in mind of Groucho Marx, and his reflections on club membership. Specifically, that he wouldn't want to join any club that would have him as a member.

It's renewals season.

Aside from obviously renewing my membership at Frampton, I've just submitted my application to South Cerney Sailing Club. Racing at Frampton last Sunday pretty much convinced me.

That, and an invitation to crew again in an Albacore at South Cerney in a couple of weeks time. It'll be my third visit, and there's only so many times you can sign on as a guest before you start to take the mick.

Of last Sunday, we capsized and I had to swim, so the lack of any subsequent rash suggests that either the wetsuit is working, or the lengthening season has subdued the flesh eating tadpoles that were plaguing me earlier in the year. If it's the former, fine. If it's the latter, then that means next spring and summer is going to be a problem.

I've got no way of knowing which, though I suspect the latter.

Any in any case, my adrenaline levels shot through the roof the second I touched the water. After this year, I think capsizing at Frampton is never going to feel the same again.

And, despite my unblemished skin (at least, no more blemished than it was before my swim) and despite the blustery conditions last Sunday that should've made the sailing an absolute blast and a joy, the weed was an utter, utter nightmare.

As I can't quite bring myself to part with Frampton, I'm just going to have to juggle membership of two clubs for the coming year. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

FOSSC: Summer's light fading

The Wednesday evening racing is done for the year. Actually, it's been done for more than two weeks now, but this is now the third Wednesday evening that I'll find myself at a loose end, and my weeks feel strangely adrift without the pivot point of a mid-week evening sail to anchor them.

I hadn't intended to compete in the Laser fleet. In my absence, they seemed to be getting on fine without me. The Autumn Class series is a set of seven races, of which you have to sail four to qualify. I sailed the first two, but then missed the next three; a week away on Calstar, a Wednesday evening racing the Ent with Amanda, which had been the original plan all along, and then a funeral to attend.

In my absence, Mike won all three races and was sitting pretty at the top of the results table.

Then Amanda had a migraine on Wednesday 11th, so despite intending to race together that evening, she couldn't make it. I ducked out of work early to grab my foils, and raced the Laser instead. Mike had a very bad race, just unlucky I guess. I didn't have a bad race, got lucky, and won.

The following and final week, Amanda was away on a course, so I turned up at the Club that evening with my Laser kit to find a flat calm and Mike with a very disappointed look on his face when he found me rigging my Laser. It was at that point I realised that I only had to sail that one last race to qualify. And if Mike was going to keep his top spot and take the Cup, he had to beat me.

It was a good turn out for the last of the summer evening sailing, despite the lack of wind. The Wednesday Class is split into three fleets, Solos, Lasers and Handicap. So despite the plethora of boats littering the lake, all of whom you have to avoid, there were only five of us in our fleet to worry about competing against.

I got a good start, all things considered. Mike broke off to the left hand side of the course, I tacked onto port early and went right, sneaking just ahead of the others.

Light wind sailing in a dinghy is all about keeping the boat moving at any cost. You scrunch yourself as far forward as you can reach to try and lift the transom clear and reduce drag, and heel the boat to leeward to help set the sail; then any drift of wind that you find can move the boat and not first waste energy having to shape the sail.

It takes surprisingly little wind to move a dinghy. Not enough to ruffle the water. You also have to hold yourself exceptionally still, braced in an uncomfortable crouch, and every movement or adjustment has to be breathlessly smooth. The slightest ripple of movement out of place risks shaking the wind out of the sail and stalling the boat. Cramp is a constant companion, and you know your body is going to punish you for it the next day.

I finally reached the layline for the windward mark, drifting in on starboard. Mike was laying the mark against me on port, just ahead. Perhaps. The wind lifted, bringing me up onto a course to hit Mike's beam even as it headed him. I bore away slightly to pass astern. It seemed unfair to hunt him down and force him to tack. He commented, nervously I thought, that I was being very kind.

I wasn't. I just wanted the extra speed trading that little bit of height would gain me, and to be in a better position when we came around the mark for the next leg. I didn't want to force him out and leave him to sit on my wind.

Light wind sailing in a dinghy is all about keeping the boat moving at any cost. It's also about clean air. Clean air keeps the boat moving.

I tacked and rounded the buoy just astern of him, now sat smugly on his wind. Pete, racing his Comet in the Handicap fleet, was to Mike's leeward, giving him no space to sail clear from me. We were moving, but none of us moving very fast. The rest of the Laser fleet had fallen behind and were still struggling to windward as we crept together down the run.

And then there was a slight thump, a moment of distraction, and Mike laughed in delight. My boom had eased out, I'd dropped too low in my course, and it had just tapped his hull.

Gritting my teeth in frustration at such a stupid mistake, I hardened up to clear space between us and took my penalty turns. Tack, gybe, tack, gybe, try desperately, desperately to make everything smooth and flowing, keep the boat moving at any cost, don't hit anybody else, they're all coming around the windward too now.

And then I settled back onto my run, now upwind of Mike and Pete by three or four boat lengths. And in the time it had taken me to do my turns, they'd mostly sat becalmed and were now covered by the rest of the fleet coming around windward.

I, on the other hand, had gained height through hardening up to take my turns, and now found myself in clean air, separated from the other two and clear of the rest of the fleet, and still blissfully moving.

I slowly edged past them and gradually left Mike and Pete clearly behind. The rest of the race remained tense, my legs cramped, desperately trying to avoid any stupid mistakes, trying not to sail unwittingly into any unseen holes or patches of weed, or otherwise squander my now growing lead.

The beat from the leeward mark out to the wing of the figure of eight course was tricky, the dying whisper of breeze left in the fading evening light shifting continuously.

The Race Officer finished us after just the one lap as the light was going. As I crossed the line, I could see that a good number of the Handicap Fleet hadn't actually made it to windward yet.

Completing the race meant that I'd qualified for the series. Winning meant that I matched Mike overall on points, and having beaten him in the last race we'd sailed against each other, it meant that I'd stolen the series out from under his nose and the Cup was mine.

I almost felt bad for him.


The Laser fleet at Frampton isn't large. Half a dozen boats out for any one race is pretty typical. But we're all quite evenly matched. Mike, Pete, Rhonwen or Jon can easily beat me in the right conditions, and on any given day, in any given conditions, if I sail my best and don't make any stupid mistakes, I've got a good chance of beating them if they don't do the same.

The racing is good. You don't find that very often.

I've been sailing at South Cerney a couple of times over the last month or two. Good open water, no issues with weed or depth, and a lovely Club with lovely people, a few of whom are good friends I've know and sailed with for a long time. I'm definitely going to join there for this next year.

But I can't leave Frampton behind. The water is terrible. Small, shallow, weed infested, and across the summer it was, of course, positively toxic. Cercarial Dermititis. I never want to go through that again.

But the company is so good, and the racing is such good fun.

So for the next twelve months I guess I'm going to have to juggle the membership and commitments of two clubs.

We'll see how that works out.