Monday, 3 October 2022

Amore: Mark's Rock

A sequence of photos taken whilst we were at anchor in a bay near Sivota last week colloquially known amongst the crew of Amore as "Mark's Rock". I remember the weather once we reached Greece as mostly being predominantly unsettled and not terribly warm. But clearly that wasn't the case every day.

It doesn't count as a "selfie" if you give somebody the camera and tell them where to point it. "Photo essay" might be to grand a term however. In any case, credit for pressing the button on the camera (and trusting I'd dive out far enough to miss him) goes to our skipper, Mark.

full mast

It's been a while since I last posted any puppy pictures here, so I thought I should remedy that. These were taken at the pub on Saturday. Lottie is about six months old now. A late developer, her ears have only just begun to stand up, whereas her litter-mates have all been flying their ears at full mast for some months.

She's growing fast, not much of the puppy left in her now I guess. I do still think she's cute as a button though.

backing vocals

Arrived safely back home, 0600 Saturday morning. Once the dogs calmed down, I managed a couple of hours sleep, then took Nikki and Lottie over to my favourite local pub (the Pilot) for an early lunch. Lunch was good, Lottie was immaculately behaved (as was Nikki).

Except for a brief lapse as we'd finished and were getting ready to go. A momentary lapse of attention, and she very nearly had the dinner off the plate of the lady eating on the table next to us. Lottie, that is, not Nikki.

Disaster was averted however, and the lady was very good humoured and understanding; possibly because she still had said dinner on her plate, might have been different had Lottie got her own way before I brought her back under control.

First gig of the day was a short solo spot on the mainstage at a festival in Gloucester at 4pm. It was nice weather and a lovely crowd, really enjoyed every moment of it. It was definitely worth forsaking a bit of catch up sleep to be there.

Standout thing for me was the lady, provided by the organisers, who stood at the side of my stage translating my songs into sign-language as I sang. Never had backing vocals in sign-language before. 

I was both amused and impressed.

Friday, 30 September 2022

Amore: Gaios and done

I've been abandoned.

Actually, nothing so grim. The original plan was for Amore to take me back to Corfu today, then I'd get a taxi to the airport whilst Mark and Amanda would take the next couple of days to move Amore the last 60 miles down the coast to here final destination of Perveza.

But we woke up this morning to find that tomorrow they'd have 20 knots on the nose and Sunday 40 knots on the shoulder. 

Not fun.

So we sailed the 5 miles back around the island from Lakka to Gaios where they dropped me and my bag on the wharf of the ferry terminal and then they set off directly for Perveza.

Only 30 miles from here, and a nice day for sailing.

Meanwhile I find myself kicking around the little town of Gaios until my ferry departs at 6pm tonight.

Does feel odd to be without boat or any other kind of base for the day. Is a lovely day however, and I have my Kindle and a book to read, so we shall be fine.

Monday, 26 September 2022

Amore: Prelude to a night passage


Amore: whether the weather be fine

Landed in Tivat Wednesday evening, met Mark and Amore on the town quay and moved to a nearby marina for the night. Following morning cleared customs to leave Montenegro at 0630 and we were on our way.

Lovely sailing. A bit of motoring to keep the times up, but not much. Wind on our shoulder gave us a fast broad reach all the way down the coast of Albania. Gorgeous sunset, escorted into the night by a pod of dolphins. Mark and I split the night watches into 3 hour shifts, Mark taking the first from 1900 to 2200.

No moon to speak of. The stars were breathtaking. Pretty sunrise with Corfu in sight, more dolphins.

The passage took 32 hours and covered 200 nautical miles.

Now we're just kicking around in the Med, killing time until I fly home on Friday. Tonight we are on a mooring in a small bay near Sivota. We are expecting a lively night, gusts up to 30 knots. We should be sheltered here.

The weather has been a bit unsettled since we got to Greece. It was the right decision to take our chance and go straight away. Hoping the weather clears enough for us to visit Parga tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Amore: wind a howling

Tivat. We may well set straight off for Mandraki, Corfu, in the morning.

Feels like we've only just landed. On the plus note, ear infection feels diminished. Again, I'm having to guess what I'm typing because my glasses are in my bag by my bunk. 


Excited  and a  little bit scared.

Longest passage ahead so far.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Amore: Saplunara

Reminding myself of what I'm missing. This snap was taken on Tuesday 23rd August, on a mooring buoy in Saplunara, a bay on the eastern end of the Croatian island of Mljet. I think my head is more there than here at the moment.

A five day course of Amoxicillin doesn't seem to have cleared up an ear infection that's been bugging me for the last couple of weeks. I'm expecting the flight out to Montenegro to be uncomfortable.

Calstar: Portishead to Cardiff

The plan was to meet at Dad's for 0930 Saturday morning and drive down to Portishead. A 1015 arrival on the boat would make for a leisurely prep and plenty of time to stop by the fuel pontoon before out 1200 lock-out. However, Friday night's gig in Bristol made for a late night, and the 0930 meet up turned into 1015, which meant that we didn't get to the boat until just before 1100.

Time and tide, etc.

Saturday 17th September: Portishead to Cardiff
(19.8 miles, 4 hours 47 minutes underway)

Despite the delays in getting to the boat, we were still ready to cast off by 1130, which gave us just enough time to refuel. The fuel pontoon is just outside the lock gate. They were pumping water in from the estuary as we approached to maintain the water level in the harbour, putting about 3 knots of turbulent flow along the pontoon. It made for an easy landing, but once refuelled, Dad accidentally let slip the stern line too early, and Calstar was swept away from the dock leaving me stood there on the pontoon holding onto her bow line.

It was like holding a big dog on a lead. The flow was too strong for me to pull the boat back in by hand, but once Dad had untangled himself from the stern line and got his hands on the tiller and throttle, it was a simple enough matter to nudge the boat back in to pick me up.

The lock felt crowded with powerboats; there was in fact only three other boats for company but one of them was rather large so the lock out was a cosy affair. Saturday's high water for Portishead was at 1215, a relatively small tide of 10.8m, approaching neaps on Monday, so the lock didn't have far to fall, and by 1206 we were disgorged into the awaiting estuary.

The blue sky had a scattering of cloud across it, and the cocoa coloured sea was ruffled but flat. Out past the breakwater there was a slight breeze from the north west, so at 1216 we optimistically turned Calstar into it, hauled up the sails and stilled the engine.

The first twenty minutes were tricky. As if to complement the chaotic eddying of the tide as it churned beneath the headland and through the narrows off Battery Point the inconsistent breeze backed and veered like a dervish. Too shifty to accommodate the autohelm I hand steered the boat, tacking a number of times as I sought to pick a way out from the shadow of Portishead and into clearer air and water. Eventually, out past Woodhill Bay and the sailing club, things calmed down, and Calstar settled on an easy beat down the King Road under full sail with about 15° of heel.

A number of tacks took us down the channel, past Welsh Hook and onto Clevedon, until a final tack onto port put us onto a long fetch that cleared the English and Welsh Grounds and let us lay distant Penarth. Very early on the tide, we still had 6m of water once we reached the far shore, so cut a corner off our rout by cutting over the spoil grounds rather than clearing them to the north as we'd normally do.

North of the still submerged sandbanks Cardiff Grounds, the wind finally failed us, so we rolled the genoa away and started the engine to motor-sail the final mile or so. Locking in to the Barrage was straight forward, and Penarth Marina was welcoming as ever, but originally directed us down a narrow dead end in the dock to a berth that was already occupied. Turning Calstar back around to make our way back out in a channel that was little wider than her own length was a tricky affair.

Redirected to an alternative berth that was indeed vacant but somewhat tight, we overshot a little and grazed our starboard side along the corner of the finger pontoon before I could step onto it to put enough weight onto the boat to fend her off. But no other damage was done; a scuff mark on the gel coat, but nothing that won't rub out.

Sunday 18th September: Cardiff to Portishead
(17.9 miles, 3 hours 53 minutes underway)

Sunday morning's return was an earlier start to catch the tide. We cast off from Penarth a little after 0630, and locked into the Barrage for 0700 in the company of three powerboats full of hopeful anglers looking to bother the autumn's cod. A long drop down to the outer harbour, and then we were on our way, picking our path down the Wrack Channel to open water as the cod botherers accelerated away past us, leaving us bobbing around in their wake.

We found a light breeze blowing off the Welsh shore, so clear of the channel we turned into it to pull the sails out and cut the engine. Settling onto a gentle broad reach as deep as we could go without covering the headsail with the main didn't give us a course that would clear the sandbanks of the English & Welsh Grounds so we poled out the genoa to goose wing the sails and settled on to a training run that let us lay Clevedon some 10 miles distant on the far shore.

It was nice easy sailing, with minimal work from the crew, save to occasionally tweak the course to ensure the main didn't run by the lee and risk a gybe, or to occasionally ease the genoa a little to keep it flying by the lee when the wind backed and took us off the run onto a broad reach. The sea was very slight, the wind with the tide and serried waves of no more than a foot running with us, although as the morning wore on they started to break lightly, suggesting the westerly wind was building as it carried us across the Bristol Channel.

A big car carried heading up to Portbury passed well ahead of us. Sailing into the climbing sun, we passed close by the clear water buoy of EW Grounds to starboard at around 0830, and then the port lateral of E Mid Grounds half an hour later. Approaching the King Road off Clevedon, we hardened up onto a broad reach, releasing the pole to gybe the headsail over to join the main on a port fetch.

The sea was still flat, but the sky by now had clouded over and the breeze was lively. Across the VHF we heard Bristol VTS inform an inbound vessel passing Welsh Hook that they recorded it at 15 knots westerly. As we passed Black Nore Point it caught us up, a large barge being pushed along by a tug, passing us to seaward as, off Woodhill Bay, we rounded up into the wind to drop the sails.

Putting out the lines and fenders as we passed close into Battery Point, we called up the Marina on the VHF early, taking a few attempts to get through as their aerial was at first still obscured behind the headland. But contact made, they held the 1015 lock a few minutes longer for us, and we slipped in to come alongside, the gates sliding shut astern at 1020.

Early on the tide, there was still a five meter climb for the lock to bring us back up to the dock level, but eight minutes later the inner gates yawned open to let us in and we entered the marina, returning a friendly wave to a small boy watching from the side of the lock.

We landed back at our berth without mishap, the fresh wind blowing us directly onto the pontoon made for a relatively hot landing, but Dad judged it perfectly, and no further scuffs were put along Calstar's gel coat.

I feel like this year, for the first time in the eight years we've owned her, we've seriously underused Calstar. Lots of things have got in the way; not least my daughter's wedding, a stupidly busy band diary and two weeks "seeing another boat", as Calstar would put it had she voice, in the Adriatic. We sailed just short of 38 nautical miles this weekend, over just shy of 9 hours out on the water, we some lovely sailing each way, beating into wind on the outbound leg, and running back.

So that's a small way towards remedying our neglect. Of course, I'm about to compound it again, because early Wednesday morning I board a flight out to Tivat, Montenegro, where I'm going to meet up with Mark and Amore again and help sail that "other boat" back to Corfu.

Monday, 19 September 2022

Freefall: a little more Friday

A little more Friday night. My brother just sent this over to me. Camera work was my GoPro, along with my dad in the crowd and a mate of ours, Tony. All the patching together was done by my brother, Jay. It's a Coldplay cover, possibly a song I've posted before, I'm not sure. It's something of a favourite.

Freefall & Calstar: weekend

Friday evening, Freefall, The Railway Tavern, Fishponds, Bristol. As I might've mentioned, I don't play favourites with venues. But if I did, this place would be one of my two.

Sunday morning, Calstar, early morning run back to Portishead after sailing over the day before. The weekend was a great gig followed by a great weekend's sailing, beat down, run back. Smooth seas and lovely wind each way.