Monday, 11 March 2019
Tuesday, 5 March 2019
The guitar I have for going away on the boat is a Luna "Tattoo"; an impulse buy a couple of years ago between sound-check and going on stage (we were playing in town, so I killed the time between by wandering over to the local guitar shop). Very pretty, very lightweight, but not really a guitar but a "guitalele" which means it's tuned up to A, similar to a ukulele I believe, as opposed to the standard guitar tuning of E.
That can be quite interesting, and the nylon strings can carry a lovely, mellow tone. But it's also quite limiting. Something of a one trick pony.
I was in town with Nik on Saturday. Ostensibly to treat her to lunch, but I needed strings so dropped into Gloucester Soundhouse, my local music shop. And this "travel-sized" Tanglewood was just hanging there on a stand, begging to be picked up and played.
Okay, so I knew it was there as I'd spotted it on my last visit a couple of weeks before.
Cedar top, mahogany back and sides, steel strings, very light, very compact; perfect for the boat, a lovely low action that's a delight to play and a deliciously live sound. So she had to come home with me. Obviously.
Not to neglect Nikki, I did buy her lunch, and we also replaced her wedding ring. She lost the original down the back of a piano (we think; don't ask) about fifteen years ago and had been wearing mine ever since, but mine doesn't fit comfortably on her finger anymore, so it's back on mine.
The cost of the ring, guitar and lunch together could've brought me a radial rig for the Laser, which I might regret next Sunday, looking at the forecast, but for now I'm content with the compromise.
The following evening Nik and I went over her mum's to pay a visit after I'd finished sailing. Nik mentioned we'd replaced her ring, and mentioned in passing that I'd bought a new guitar.
"Does he really need another guitar?" asked her Mum.
Yes Lil, yes. I always need another guitar.
It's a bit like girls and handbags. Or my Nikki and her shoes. The answer to that question is always, always an emphatic yes.
Monday, 4 March 2019
Sunday: taken just as the (first) rains had passed, before we launched and it all turned nasty. The two Wanderers moored against the jetty were being used by the latest batch of instructors in training. They all passed, which is good news. I note one couple left their jib flogging in the wind however; personally, I'd string them up from the yardarm for that sacrilege.
Or not. We're too in need of fresh blood to instruct at the Club. And they're all good people, an asset to the Club. I'm really very pleased they've joined the crew.
By the time the second race finished on Sunday, the wind had blown up to the point that waves were breaking against and throwing spumes of spray over that jetty. It was very good fun. Though I caught a faceful of mud off the top of our mast after we recovered from our last capsize. Some of it got into my right eye, which is puffy, inflamed, running salt tears and very sore today. I look an absolute horror.
It was still very good fun. Fingers crossed the eye clears up in a couple of days. It's not my best eye, in any case.
As far as race strategies go, relying on “Storm Freya” to subdue the competition has its merits, but I don’t think it’s one we want to be relying on every week.
Six boats rigged in the rain for the 1200. By the time we got on the water, the rain had eased but the wind was building as forecast. A capsize following a clumsy gybe and an ill-timed gust at the leeward mark at Green Yellow on the first lap left us swamped and at the back of the fleet, from which we never really recovered, finishing 5th place. A squall came through as we crossed the line, so rather than heading straight in, Amanda and I stayed out on the water for another fifteen minutes, screaming back and forth across the lake in a ball of spray and giggles whilst the wind blasted through. It was just too irresistible, and in any case, we were probably safer out there than trying to land in it back on the lee shore of the launching area.
After lunch, the Race Officer changed the course to reduce the number of gybes to just the one, and removed the dead downwind runs of the previous race. Even so, only four boats made the start line; Sue in her Topper, Phil with his Aero, Jon with his radial rigged Laser and ourselves. The conditions were by now beginning to get quite frisky.
We started well, middle of the pack but hitting the line fully powered up and bang on the gun, the Laser slightly windward but astern of us, the Topper directly below us but with her cut-down 4.7 sail not affecting our air to any great degree. We rounded the windward mark at Red White with Jon’s Laser on the outside putting him right on our wind for the reach down to Green that followed.
Almost in a repeat of the first lap of the race before, the teeth of a gust hit us just a few boat lengths out from Green. We rounded, struggling to harden up to the beat, fighting to trim the sails in and keep the boat flat and leaving Jon plenty of room between us and the buoy. Jon, struggling with the same, was knocked flat just in front of us.
We bore away, just skimming the tip of his mast as it sunk beneath the water, fortunately doing no harm to either him nor us.
Fighting to get the boat and sails back under control and get her up in to the wind, we left Jon behind but sloughed off badly to leeward of the layline. Behind us, the Topper tucked in around as neat as you like between the still flattened Laser and the leeward mark, hardening up onto the beat and tanking away, leaving us abashed in her wake.
The conditions continued to build. The white-knuckle reaches across the wind were exhilarating, on one our 13’ dinghy hit just over 13 knots planning between the White and Red marks. The beats back to windward were gruelling, muscle tearing and finger shredding, hiking hard and continually playing the mainsail to try and keep the boat flat and powering into wind. Twice the gusts caught me hiked right out as they passed and a relative lull followed, the boat falling back on top of me, dunking me in the water; both times a windward capsize was only saved by Amanda scrambling up to leeward and, to somewhat lesser effect, my pumping the sail hard, the same way you might launch a kite, to lift the boat back up onto her feet, and me with her.
On each lap at the end of that screaming reach from White to Red there was a gybe, and on each lap we chickened out, instead holding our course on beyond the mark and into the relative shelter of the bank, where we then wore the boat around with a tack before then reaching down to the bottom mark at Yellow. With wry amusement, we noticed the rest of the fleet did exactly the same.
All was going well until the last lap but one. The three single-handers were having a much harder time keeping their boats on their feet; the Topper had retired, we’d left the Laser behind after his capsize on the first lap, and, I think, a similar capsize (or two) with the Aero had at some point let us sneak past Phil. And then we simply got knocked flat. Beating to windward, both of us fully hiked out hard, the mainsail spilling as far as it could go, and still she went over before we could do anything to stop her.
I rolled directly over and onto the centreboard and we had her up again in short order, but a swamped boat is a bit of a challenge to sail to windward. Actually, a swamped boat is a bit of a challenge to sail anywhere, and our gunwales were floating inches below the water, with only the foredeck sitting clear. But we backed the jib to drag her nose off of the wind, sheeted in, and began to carefully, trickily wallow our way onwards, the windward mark, blessedly, not so very far away, and once we were able to turn downwind, the auto-bailers and transom flaps worked their magic. We still held the lead on Jon, although he was now threatening to close, but Phil had swept past and was now powering ahead. At that point, the promise of 2nd place didn't feel so bad.
And then on the last lap Phil decided to gybe, instead of wearing away with a tack as he’d done on every other lap. Too busy keeping our own feet, we didn’t see it at the time, and didn’t realised we’d passed him. But the Shorten Course flag was up, so after the bottom mark, we tacked early and sailed through the line.
In the chaos of thrashing water, wind battered rigging and cracking sails, I didn’t hear a finishing gun. I yelled at the Committee Boat to ask if we were done, but in the mayhem couldn’t hear a reply; I could only see the Assistant Race Officer waving at us, and couldn’t tell if he was waving us to go in or instructing us to continue. Behind us, we could see them finishing now Phil. Perhaps the Shorten Course flag had been for him? I’d been sure he was ahead, but didn’t think he’d been that close to lapping us, despite the capsize.
We were damned if we were going to risk getting scored an inglorious “Did Not Finish” after all of this, so resigned ourselves to a final lap.
Ten minutes later we were deep in the throat of another squall, the boat on her side, Amanda in the water and me on the centreboard, the Enterprise beam on with her mast submerged and being driven by gale force winds into the soft mud on the bed of the lake; we were completely pinned by the wind and waves.
The Safety Boat was hovering like a concerned mother hen, struggling to hold station in the chop. With the race clearly over and outside assistance no longer a bar, I passed them our painter and asked them to pull our nose into the wind, dragging our mast around and free of the suck of the mud. We were back up, and squinting to windward could see line after line of white crested waves marching down the length of the lake towards us. Jon’s Laser was on its side against the leeward shore, so we reassured the Safety Boat we could look after ourselves and cast them off to let them tend to the other casualty.
Head to wind, we untangled the lines and then lowered the main to prepare for a lee shore landing back at the clubhouse. We wallowed our way back in with the jib for the most part flying loose, pushed along by our bare poles; with her gunwales submerged and only the foredeck above water keeping her upright was a challenge. We landed back at the shore, Pete, the duty Race Officer catching us in the shallow surf, and he and Phil helping Amanda and I pull the boat up on her trolley and hold her clear enough to drain.
When I asked if we’d got back in time for the start of the next race Pete laughed in my face and Amanda came as close as she’s ever been tempted to come to full mutiny.
The rest of the day’s racing was cancelled.
Back ashore, the Club’s weather station reported that the wind had across the afternoon averaged a mere 21 knots, but had peaked at 45 knots. After the ignominy of almost finishing last in the first race, we won the second, beating Phil into 2nd place by a mere 10 seconds and leaving Jon to take 3rd. Our 2nd and 5th gave us 2nd place overall for the day’s racing, so with the event being one of the Club’s championship races, that will mean a bit of glassware for us both at the end of the year.
Not a bad start to the racing season.
So the “Storm Freya” strategy (otherwise known as the "Last Man Standing" play) is not one we should necessarily rely upon in our playbook, if only for the good of the boat and moral of the crew, but it appears it’s quite effective.
The day was brutal, but the sailing was stupidly fun.
Friday, 1 March 2019
I have a free pass.
Because Nik has this coming weekend off work, I’d offered to take her out to lunch after sailing on Sunday, thinking it was just the one race at the Club, 1100 start, done by noon. Then I realised I’d run out of February without noticing, and the Icicle Series was now over. This coming Sunday the official racing season starts again, kicking off with the first of the club championship races; a three race day, two races to qualify, with 1200, 1400 and 1545 starts respectively.
I had been looking forward to spending the day with Nik. It doesn’t happen very often. And obviously I wasn’t going to stand her up. Yesterday evening I mentioned my mistake, said the 11am start was actually a 12 noon, but I’d only sail the one race so lunch would just be an hour later. She was cool with that. I was conflicted, after all I am what I am, but I kept that to myself; I was looking forward to lunch, disappointed to miss sailing, sure, but determined not to let her down.
And then a phone call this morning, just the usual call to say good morning and check she got to work okay, and she said, without any prompting from me, that I should sail all three races on Sunday, and instead she’d stay home and cook a roast for supper. It was like my birthday and Christmas all come at once. She actually sounded amused.
I think maybe she's planning to go out with her friends Sunday evening, so is angling for the moral high ground, but that's okay; good for the goose is good for the gander.
I’m actually really looking forward to the weekend. I’ll still take Nik out for lunch Saturday instead of Sunday, then a gig Saturday night. Then come Sunday, the current forecast looks like the day’s racing could be very entertaining.
18 knots, gusting 30+ from the south-west. It almost certainly won't come in that hard or that clean, south-west is straight in up the estuary, but if it does, it's going to be an absolute blast. I'll be sailing Amanda's Enterprise with her; I love sailing double-handers in a blow, especially when you've got a crew that's as tough as nails and afraid of neither hiking hard not getting wet when all the hard hiking in the world proves to be not enough.
Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Got down to Plymouth too late in the evening on Friday to eat out, so called in at Sainsbury’s on the way down to pick up some olives, humus, salami and biscuits and Dad and I enjoyed them over a bottle of white wine aboard the boat. Also treated myself to a bottle of Laphroaig; it was discounted to £25 and whilst the truth is I don’t really trust myself with scotch at home, on the boat the damage I can do to myself (and my wallet) is limited by the duration of my stay.
And I was very restrained. Most of the bottle remains, and is still on the boat to welcome me on my next trip down, which will now be later in March.
After a lazy start and a good breakfast at Sound Bites Café Saturday morning, I really do recommend their omelette, we cast off to head out into the bay. It was a lovely winter’s morning, watery sun reaching through a hazed sky just enough to gently warm your shoulders, a light south-easterly breeze playing over the ruffled blue green waters of the Sound. We motored slowly out to pass the Mountbatten Breakwater to port, before putting her head to wind and hauling up the sails. It felt like an age since we’d last done this. It felt so good to be back.
We beat out towards the Eastern Entrance, the wind freshening, the little yacht heeling happily to 20°, trotting along under full sail. Leaving the Breakwater to starboard, we found ourselves sailing into a swell rolling in from the south-west; big waves occasionally blocking view of the horizon as Calstar climbed up then tipped over to slide down the backs of them. Most were generally around 2 meters or so but the odd group were somewhat bigger, but none of them breaking.
We bore away onto a beam reach, heading west towards Rame Head, just enjoying the day and the liberation of being afloat and sailing again.
We picked our route more or less at random, choosing our direction as much for a different point of sail as any other reason, sailing back in through the Western Entrance and along the inside of the breakwater, watching a mixed fleet of dinghies racing in the sailing grounds between Drake’s Island and Jennycliff Bay. Then closing in on Bovisand, we tacked around, heading back in the direction of Cawsand Bay before hardening up to lay Penlee Point accompanied by the melody of breaking waves on the rocky shore of the headland, then beating away, back along our original path to re-enter the Sound from the east.
Light mist began to rise from the water as the afternoon wore towards evening. A solitary fishing boat was laying a maze of lobster pots just outside the Breakwater. A few of other yachts were out and enjoying the weather with us, but most staying inside the shelter of the sound, only a couple like us venturing out beyond it. The wind eased as the day wore on, and the swell with it. We headed back to Queen Anne’s Battery, lowering our sails and motoring back into our berth without mishap, after some four hours or so hours and just under 16 miles of sailing to take us nowhere in particular and bring us right back to where we started.
We walked into town Saturday evening and ate at The Village. Sunday was breakfast of another omelette at Sound Bites, then a morning doing odd jobs on the boat. The day began bright and still, so I was originally happy not to sail, conscious in part of the long drive home. The jobs needed doing; new dodgers lacing up to the cockpit guardrails and various fittings that needed to be screwed and bolted back on below now the cabin upholstery work has been finished. Then the breeze filled in around lunch time, I suspect just to mock me. It would’ve been a lovely day out on the water after all, and I’d missed the opportunity.
There’s possibly a lesson in that.
Anyway, whilst I laboured with lacing up the dodgers to the guardrail in the unseasonably warm sunlight, and Dad busied himself below decks, the harbour mullet made for very good company.
Anyway, whilst I laboured with lacing up the dodgers to the guardrail in the unseasonably warm sunlight, and Dad busied himself below decks, the harbour mullet made for very good company.
The drive home was uneventful. I got back before Nikki finished work at 1800 so cooked a curry for supper for her and Sam. A good end to a great weekend.
Friday, 22 February 2019
This day, five years ago, apparently. This is Lupa, one of three rescued dogs Nik and I picked up from one side of the country and transported to their foster homes on the other. I remember it as being a long day with a lot of driving.
She was in an utterly wretched state when the Rescue took her in. She was, over the long months that followed, meticulously nursed back to care by her foster home with the help and support of the Rescue and their supporters.
This photo, which I took of her in the back of my car moments after we'd picked her up, kicked off an absolute shit-storm. Please forgive the language, you know it isn't my normal fashion on these pages, but there really is no cleaner way to describe the cesspit of acrimonious politicking, backbiting and bitching that ensued over the months that followed.
I won't go into it further. Except to comment that the world of dog rescue is filled with generous, selfless individuals for whom the entire point and purpose of the thing about the care and welfare of these vulnerable, dependent, often damaged but incredibly resilient creatures. And is filled with a dismaying number of ego-manic individuals who are neither generous nor selfless but for whom the entire point would seem to be about them, and not the dogs they purport to care so much for.
Then again, perhaps that's just an analogy of life in general.
In any case, Lupa's story had a happy ending. The above photo was some months later that same year. It was a long road and convalescence, but she eventually made a recovery to full health, and ended up being adopted by her foster home and staying with them; the perfect place for her.
We lost contact with her and her foster family; the above mentioned politicking and backbiting somehow claimed that particular friendship amongst its victims before I eventually had the sense to bail out of the scene completely; to this day I've no real idea why or how, these things just go over my head, always have and always will.
I hope she and her family remain happy and well however. She was a lovely dog, and although Nik and I played but a very small role in her rescue and rehabilitation, no more than a bit part really, it was a pleasure to have been able to contribute even the little that we did.
The plan. Finish work at 1630, head home, pack an overnight bag (that I should've packed last night) and head down to Plymouth with Dad to the boat. Supper somewhere in Plymouth Friday night. Would be cheaper to eat on the boat, but I bet we don't. We almost never do unless it's just me and Nik, which is very unusual. Dad doesn't like making a mess in the cabin, and is of the opinion that any sort of cooking will make a mess.
Not that I ever need an excuse to eat out.
Forecast for Saturday and Sunday looks relatively benign with the wind dropping off and backing into the east as the weekend progresses. Wave heights of 2m+ seem a bit excessive, but not threatening.
The boat hasn't been off her berth since she went back in the water in December, and has been home to a succession of tradesmen working to Dad's order, so there will be lots of odd jobs to do to get her set up to sail again. So a shakedown cruise is most certainly order of the day. Would like to sail to Fowey, weather suggests it's quite feasible, but we'd be leaving before dawn and motoring back on the Sunday.
Alternative is to stay local. Perhaps head out in the direction of Eddystone then back in the afternoon. My current thinking is in favour of staying overnight in the Yealm Saturday night. Dad may yet veto me on that. Shore-power, iPads, techno-dependent OAP's, the comforts of a walk-ashore pontoon berth and marina facilities. You don't get any of that on the Yealm.
I'm going to take a guitar with me though, just in case.
Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Crawling out of bed and getting to the Club on Sunday was a bit of an ordeal after the couple of late nights and lively gigs of the two previous evenings, but I made it. And beat Amanda to there by about fifteen minutes, so had the pleasure of dragging the Enterprise from her berth over to the shoreline all by myself, which built up enough of a sweat to properly wake me up.
The sun had been forecast to shine, but was proving to be elusive first thing. The southerly wind was blustery, as the forecast had promised.
Another simple figure of eight course, but with only the one upwind beat this week, and no dead run for us to goose-wing down. The turnout was impressive, given that this is only an unofficial, out of season, informal series, not an official part of the Club's racing programme; I didn't exactly count, but there must've been just over a dozen boats on the start line.
Despite my early arrival, we were late getting onto the water, but it turned to our advantage. The wind made the launching area an awkward lee shore which slowed us getting away, but once we were afloat we had time for no more than a quick run up and down the line to get our bearings before the gun went and we were racing.
It was, to be fair, a day for the Lasers and Solos. We invariably gained ground up the beat, but off the wind lost it again and then some, as the lighter single-handers were quick to plane in gusts that were often not quite meaty enough to lift our heavier boat up with them.
It didn't seem to matter though. It was great to be out on the water, the sailing a real pleasure, and we sailed well enough to finish somewhere in the front half of the fleet so we acquitted ourselves well enough.
Next weekend I'm off to Plymouth with Dad. Calstar should be fit to sail at last. Windguru's forecast for Saturday is from the south-east, gusting up to 26 knots first thing then backing and easing as the weekend wears on until it's in the east or Sunday, and less than 10 knots. The waves anticipated are 2m+ however, which makes me feel a little cautious.
Have toyed with the idea of sailing over to Fowey and back, but might simply opt for a day-sail, pushing out beyond the breakwater in the direction of Eddystone before heading back to spend Saturday night in Plymouth. I guess Noss Mayo is also a possibility, although Dad seems less keen on that idea, as there's no shore power and getting to the pub involves a trip to shore with the tender.
The more I think of it, the more attractive the idea becomes however. Especially as the temperature is supposed to be around 11°c for the weekend, so it shouldn't be too cold aboard even if we haven't got power for the electric heater.
It feels frustrating that Calstar has been harbour bound for so long this year, but to be fair, checking back on my journal to last year, it seems we didn't actually get out until the beginning of April, so if we do manage to get out this weekend, this year will be much improved on last.
Thursday, 14 February 2019
My youngest son is learning to drive. He's not exactly taking to it naturally, but he's getting there. Clear that he was going to need more practice than he was getting from driving lessons alone, we picked him up a cheap runabout just after Christmas, and I've spent a lot of time in the passenger seat being ferried everywhere by him, pretty much every day since.
I don't think it's something he actually enjoys (I'm reminded we are not our children; learning to drive was an adventure and liberation for me) but it is one of those "life skills" he is going to have to master. And I think he's figured that out and reconciled himself to that fact now.
And he's much improved. Simple fact: if you sit in the surf long enough, it's inevitable some of the sand is going to get stuck in your trunks. He has his test this coming Tuesday. It won't be his first. Regardless of whether he passes or fails, I suspect I'm still going to spend a lot of time riding shotgun with him in the passenger seat of his little Citroen. And I really don't mind.
Watching him grapple with trying to learn and develop skills and judgement that many of us have had now for so many years we simply take them for granted, in both ourselves and others, I'm frequently struck by just how not a natural environment and endeavour driving a car actually is.
And reminded just how important it is to always show consideration and patience for others on the road, regardless of circumstance.
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
On this day, seven years ago, or so Google tells me. Guess February is frequently icy; we should be okay for the weekend coming though, if the forecast is to be believed, the temperature is supposed to sneak up to 10°c plus by Saturday, so that should keep things happily liquid for Sunday.
Of course, this means Lilly must be turning eight this year. And she's still doing well of course, although sometimes it does quite break my heart as to how time flies.
Monday, 11 February 2019
A collection of die-hard stalwarts have been running an informal "Icicle Series" at the Club since the beginning of the year over what is normally our effective closed season. And, to my shame and chagrin (and frustration), other commitments have kept me away from supporting them and thus off the water until this weekend.
Admittedly, last weekend wasn't my fault. The lake was frozen solid. But by this weekend, the weather had warmed again and the lake thawed.
A pursuit race over a simple figure of eight course, Amanda was equally keen to blow the cobwebs off, so after rebuffing the tentative second thoughts of an initial early morning text from her along the lines of are we really doing this? it looks "minging" out there (in fairness, it did first thing; leaden grey skies, thick, cold rain, no wind) we met up by the lake for 1000 and rigged her Enterprise to race.
By then, the rain had eased off and the wind was building nicely. At one point, the sun even threatened to break through, though it turned out it was only teasing.
A downwind start went well, albeit with no contest on the line as we were the only boat in our class. The conditions were turning blustery, with heavy, shifty gusts rolling in from the northwest. I'd not felt especially ambitious for this one, we were both rusty and had no stake in the overall series, but the rust shook out quickly as, surprisingly, we held our own against the bulk of the pursuing Lasers and much faster Aero, pulling ahead of all but a couple of them and slowly closing down the lead on the Solo and Topper ahead.
Mike in his Laser eventually caught and passed us in the second half of the race, but then we almost made good again shortly after on a beat back up to red. The Laser is a faster boat on paper, but in the right conditions, deftly handled, an Enterprise can beat one on the water.
Laying the mark on starboard, Mike was tied up trying to pass Rob in his Solo, both coming in on port. We tucked a quick tack into the space they left us at the buoy, and would've stolen the lead except at that exact moment a gust smacked into us mid tack. Right conditions, not so deftly handled after all. I blame the loose nut on the tiller (that would be me).
By tacking right on top of the buoy, I'd left myself no room to bear away and, with two boats passing to windward, no room to round up. The dinghy heeled hard over to leeward, scooping a cockpit full of water and clouting the buoy with our mast. We saved the potential capsize, but the penalty turns almost cost us our hard won lead over Jon in his Laser and brought Phil and his Aero to our attention, now coming up fast behind.
The auto-bailers slowly cleared the water over the downwind run that followed, and we gradually edged back away from Jon and began to close up again on the Solo ahead. Mike however left us for dust, giving no second chances now he was free and clear.
We took the Solo on the next lap, but our tenure in second place was brief as, in the dying minutes of the race, I let him climb back on top of us at the windward mark rounding at Yellow and steal our wind for the run back down to White that followed. He took the overlap on the leeward mark and came out ahead for the next beat. We tacked off early, and I think we would have had him at the next rounding, but the gun went before we could consolidate and confirm our lead, ending the race, so we conceded Rob the place, settling for a not dishonourable third place ourselves.
It was, quite simply, brilliant to be back out on the water again. I've got gigs this Friday and Saturday coming, but Sunday's free, so I'll be back again next weekend.
I can't wait.