Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Cheltenham Open Mic Night

In just over a week's time, on Friday 28th May, Cheltenham Open Mic Night will return live to the floor The Restoration. And I won't be able to be there, as we'll be moving our boat back around the corner of Lands End, from Plymouth to Portishead, weather permitting.

So this is the clip I recorded for their last virtual open mic, which my mate Jack hosted back at the beginning of April.

I left the piano and the classical stuff alone this time, and returned to my old familiar guitar with a couple of covers from the band's set, and one of my own. And still managed to screw a few bits up. But I reckon that's all part of the fun of it.

Three pieces then; Mr Brightside by The Killers, Buck Rogers by Feeder, and a song I wrote back in November last year that I still haven't actually named yet. I guess for now we'll continue to call it Me & You.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021


I have a very good friend who names all of his boats "Woo Woo", purportedly after his favourite cocktail. He is a lovely, kind man, but a simple soul, clearly easily amused.

I once spent a very humiliating five or ten minutes trying to call him up on VHF 16 in St Austell's Bay outside Fowey; "Woo Woo, Woo Woo, Woo Woo, this is Calstar, over?"

The adorably handsome blonde in the picture above is called Boo. We fostered him as a puppy, picking him up a few days before Halloween that year and he came to us already named, and whilst it may seem appropriate, whoever named him could've had no idea that he'd come to us on Halloween, so we can't use that as an excuse, although my wife has tried. 

But I'd sooner rename a boat than ever rename a dog. And I'd only ever rename a boat very reluctantly.  Case in point, I've not yet rechristened my unfortunately named Laser and instead simply refer to it as "the Laser", conveniently ignoring the fact that a previous owner did actually name her.

Like a number of our foster dogs, Boo decided to adopt us and stayed. He's eight years old now. He did grow a little fat and lazy in his middle years but has, for the last six months or so been on a diet and has lost a fair bit of weight and is once again trim and energetic. Albeit he is a master of stealing my bed the second I'm out of it of a morning, and assiduously conserving his energy until the exact moment he needs it later in the day when it comes to time for a walk.

I would say the only experience more humiliating than babbling "Woo Woo, Woo Woo, Woo Woo" over channel 16 on the VHF in an effort to call up a friend's boat, is wandering around the local park of an evening, trying to call your dog back.

When your dog's name is "Boo".

white pyjamas

I'm actually a little bit excited. As of Monday, the prohibition against indoor sports gets lifted in England, so karate restarts again next week. I get to jump around in my white pyjamas again. I expect it'll be strictly non-contact still, so we won't be allowed to resume actually hitting each other yet. 

But fun though that may be, kumite (aka. sparring) is really only a small part of it. This feeling that life is slowly returning to normal is so good.

Of course, it means that the long, lazy evenings and weekends of leisure that I've gotten used to are almost a thing of the past. I don't know yet if I'm away with Dad and Calstar this weekend, or home and sailing on the lake (domestic negotiations are currently ongoing), but the after work, extra curricular itinerary for next week is as follows:

  • Monday: band practice (good to have one every once a decade or so)
  • Tuesday: karate
  • Wednesday: sailing (Laser)
  • Thursday: karate (maybe, if the Cinderford club has space yet)
  • Friday: no plans as of yet, mow the back lawn?
  • Saturday: gig
  • Sunday: sailing (Albacore)

Yep, in addition to letting me redon my white pyjamas and go punch at shadows, pubs are allowed to fully reopen again as of Monday, so the band has its first gig a week on Saturday. That's actually a bigger think than karate restarting, really. But still over a week away, so no sense getting excited about that yet.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Laser: wetwork


Wednesday evening's forecast wasn't pretty. Fine during the day, bright and blustery, but by evening the wind was set to drop and the rain set in. Despite this, a dozen boats still turned up for the evening's Hotdog race.

We rigged in the rain. We launched in the rain. The wind was fickle, light and shifty, but for once it was generally settled in its prevailing south-westerly direction across the lake, which let the Race Officer set a more or less conventional windward start.

I spotted the heavy port bias very quickly, but felt insecure, as everybody else was starting on starboard at the pin end. I toyed and toyed with the idea of a port flyer, but as the final minute counted down, my convictions failed; the wind felt too light and changeable to offer any real certainty, so I hedged my bets and sailed up the line on port, intending to tack just before I met the front of the fleet and start on starboard with the rest of them.

And then in the final seconds, the wind picked up, lifting me on port and I thought for a moment I might just do it. Then in the last second or two it eased, putting me on a collision with the front solo, which I just narrowly avoided by tacking under him, almost stalling the boat, and pinning myself out to port in his dirty air for the first third of the beat.

There are so many ways I could've got that start right. 

And I botched them all.

Regardless, I made it up to windward in the middle of the pack, a starboard rounding as usual, but with only a dozen of us out on the water, surprisingly civilised. At some point over the first lap, the rain stopped and the wind spun around 180 degrees. I spent the next fifty minutes climbing my way slowly back up the fleet over the three laps that were given to us.

I finished 2nd boat on the water, and scored a 4th place after the handicaps were worked out. Not displeasing, but totally undeserved given the hash I'd made of my start.

We put the boats away and got changed in the cold carpark behind the Clubhouse, and then retired to the patio outside the Clubhouse bar for a drink and the requisite hotdogs. A little later, post race dissections and socialising done, I glanced at the temperature on my dashboard when I finally got back in my car to drive home. 

It read 1°C.

Calstar: shakedown 2021

Saturday morning was a relatively early start; Dad and I were on the road, leaving Gloucester at 0700 to arrive at the boat in Plymouth for around 0930. With a big low slowly approaching from out west of Ireland over the Atlantic, the forecast for Saturday was showers and light winds from every which way but loose, Sunday’s was bright sunshine and dry, winds lighter but steadying from the west. 

Both days were expected to be unseasonably cold, as has been the norm here for the past few weeks. The general airflow of late has been against the prevailing, typically north and easterly, dragging temperatures down.

Of course, Monday was the UK’s May Day bank holiday, and true to tradition the forecast was for gales, gusting to 45 knots or more.

The weekend looked good for a shakedown trip out to Fowey and back, but we clearly needed to be back by Sunday and safe in harbour for when the rough stuff arrived on Monday.

Saturday 1st May : Plymouth to Fowey
(23.3 miles, 6 hours 2 minutes underway)

Within an hour of getting to the boat on Saturday morning Calstar was ready to go, and we cast off from Sutton Harbour at 1030. With only just under a couple of hours since the 0843 Plymouth high water, the lock was on free-flow so it was just a simple case of calling up the lock keeper on the VHF to ask him to open the foot bridge for us. We raised the main outside the lock in the Catteswater and then motored more than motor-sailed in the light air past the Mountbatten Breakwater and out across Plymouth Sound. The sun was bright and the sky was blue.

Despite the sunshine, out from the shelter of the harbour there was a definite nip in the air, so before long both Dad and I had put our wet weather gear on, just for the warmth.

A little after 1100 we passed through the western entrance and continued out under engine and main past Penlee Point, Rame Head slowly opening up beyond it to starboard. The chill wind picked up a little, settling from the south and west on our port shoulder.  The sky ahead remained bright and blue for the moment, whereas astern and back over the shore, the sky was darkening. I commented to Dad that at least the mucky stuff seemed to be downwind of us.

As Rame Head fell astern and the Cornish coast opened up to the west, we bore away to lay a course for Fowey, still some twenty miles distant, unfurled the headsail and stilled the engine, settling on to a close hauled fetch to port that seemed to be comfortably laying our destination. Despite having a very grubby bottom from sitting disused in harbour through the winter, the lockdown having prevented us from lifting her out and treating Calstar to her annual fettling, she tickled along beneath the still blue skies quite happily in the light airs at just over 3 knots. It felt good to be out and away again.

Over the next couple of hours as we crossed Whitesand Bay towards Looe, the wind slowly faded. And then around 1300 completely stopped for a moment, leaving our sails slatting, before easing back in again, but now from just north of east, directly astern. The headsail collapsed, and so I gybed it across to a goosewing. The sea remained slight, even as the wind picked up a little again, and so I let the autohelm steer us a course dead down wind with the boom hard out to starboard, and played the genoa by hand on its wing out to port. The air was too light and the sea too slight to worry over much about setting a preventer for the boom, I just eased the kicker off a bit, and the wind direction felt too fickle to go to the trouble of setting a pole for the headsail.

It was pleasant, easy sailing, with nothing more than the occasional need to play the genoa to stop it collapsing. I almost didn’t notice the sun go as the new wind direction brought the gloaming clouds that were previously constrained to the mainland out to sea to cover us.

Over the next hour, the wind backed further and dropped off again, and our pace faded with it. By 1420 had we had eventually gybed the main, put the headsail away, and were motor-sailing again. The wind, mostly apparent, was now just west off north off our starboard bow where, in the cleft of land where the pretty village of Polperro sits, we could see rain.

The squall came in around 1430, the wind veering suddenly backing to the north and picking up dramatically, bringing with it a driving rain. We raised the sprayhood, stilled the engine and set the genoa on a beam reach. Within a few minutes of doing so, the boat speed up and past 5 knots, we’d put a couple of precautionary rolls into the headsail to stiffen her up and, with the icy rain being driven straight into my right ear, I was idly contemplating a first reef in the main.

The squall was short lived though, and blew itself through within the next hour, leaving us with my least favourite kind of rain, the stuff that drops vertically from the sky without enough wind to trouble it’s gravity led course. By 1530 the engine was running again and we were motor-sailing once more beneath now leaden skies through the still persistent rain.

Over the next hour the rain eased and the sky brightened a little. We passed Lantic Bay and then beneath the cliffs of Polruan, more for sake of appearances, turned briefly into the flat wind to stow the mainsail. Outside the mouth of the Fowey we could see a flotilla of Troys and the colourful sails of the Fowey Rivers racing back into harbour.

Turning into the river, Dad took over the helm as we dodged between the two fleets as they tacked their way up through the confines of the harbour mouth towards their finish line off of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club.

We came to alongside one of the visitor’s pontoons on the east side of the river. The sky was still leaden, the air still carried a definite chill, but at least the rain had stopped.

I’d barely finished making the boat fast, tidying everything away and was on the verge of switching off the VHF when a call came through from us from the Yacht Club. It was John, our old friend and the man who hosts and organises the racing for the gathering of British Moths in Fowey each year at the end of May. With the day’s racing finished he, his wife Kate and our friends Andy and Suzy who had been out racing their Fowey River were retiring to the Gallants Sailing Club for a drink, and he wondered if we’d like to join them.

It was a silly question.

We called up the local water taxi, and within twenty minutes were sat with old friends on a table on the patio outside the Gallants’ club house, warm now we were sheltered ashore from the remnants of the chill wind. We were dry with a couple of old sails stretched out as a tarpaulin overhead to give shelter from any residual rain, and in the good company of old friends with a welcome pint of Cornish ale in our hands.

Sunday 2nd May : Fowey to Plymouth
(22.9 miles, 5 hours 59 minutes underway)

We would’ve loved to have stayed over in Fowey on the Sunday, but the intractable threat of Monday's weather forced our return. With high water Plymouth at 0929, the tide would run fair from around 0630, so we roused ourselves first thing for another early start and cast off at 0530, motoring out of the quiet, pre-dawn harbour and then turning east beneath the cliffs of Polruan, heading into the rising sun.

As the sun eased up above the horizon a little past 0600, to my delight it brought with it a brief stiffening of the wind tumbling down off the Cornish cliffs, over the shore and out to sea. For half an hour or so as the sun gradually climbed into a clear sky, we sailed on an easy beam reach, the tranquillity of dawn serenaded by the quiet trickle of Calstar’s bow wave.

As welcome as it was unexpected, it wasn’t to last. By the time we were off Polperro an hour later, with Looe Island and then distant Rame ahead in the milky early morning light, we were under engine and main again. The air still carried a chill, but it was easy to ignore as the ascending sun glittered prettily on the slight sea, the hum of the engine both reassuring in its reliability and an irritant in its disruption of the morning’s serenity.

The morning edged on, and we made slow but steady progress back east along the coast. Polperro fell astern, and then Looe and Seaton and Whitesand Bay, and then finally Rame Head. The wind began to ruffle the waters as we made our way around the headland and passed close in to Penlee Point on the high tide. Lots of boats were out and sailing gently back and forth across the Sound as we entered between Cawsands and the Breakwater, but committed now to making port and looking forward to the marina showers after our early start, we carried on for the last mile under engine.

Two hours after high water, the lock was still on free-flow, so a simple call on the VHF to the keeper opened the footbridge for us to enter, a shade before 1130. A few minutes later, after winding our way down the channel to the back of the harbour, we were home, safe alongside in our own berth.


It was a good little shakedown trip. I would have liked more wind and more sailing, less rain and more sun, but beggars can’t be choosers and it was actually reassuring to give the engine a good run.

And everything worked, despite the enforced neglect of six months of the UK’s last lockdown; Calstar is in good shape. Her engine has been serviced, and the sails and rigging survived winter in the shelter of the harbour in a perfectly fine state. Under sail she moves as well as she ever did, most of the winter growth beneath the waterline of the last few months' inactivity sloughing off quickly enough once we were underway. Under engine however, she felt sluggish; about a knot slower than we’d normally expect for the usual 2000 revs we typically cruise at under power, despite the slight sea and small assistance from the main.

Back in harbour on Sunday afternoon, we put the GoPro on the end of a pole and had a look underneath. The state of the prop gave us our answer. The best we can say is that the anode is still intact on the prop-shaft. It’s not ideal.

In three weeks’ time, we cast off from Sutton Harbour and again head west, but this time to round Land’s End and bring her home to Portishead. We have around 250 miles to cover in just over two weeks, if we can. I won’t take any chances with the weather though.

Our plan is to hop from harbour to harbour, but some of those legs will be up to 40 miles each, with little option for alternative shelter between them. Ideally, we’ll get Calstar lifted out, her prop scrubbed off and her bottom cleaned and antifouled before we go. 

But time is short, and the lifting gear at the Marina in high demand with everybody wanting to be back in the water. Or lifted out for belated maintenance denied to them over the long winter. The best they can offer in the next couple of weeks is the possibility of a short notice lift, if the chance comes up. Which I’m thinking it very well may not.

In which case we may just need to go with her as she is, and deal with it once we’re back in Portishead.









On Tuesday morning we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous Lilly.

Almost 10 years old; driving home with Dad from Plymouth on Monday my wife Nikki rang to say her back legs had suddenly collapsed. I came home to find she was in no pain, just unable to make her back legs work, baffled and frustrated that she couldn’t rise to greet me. We sat with her throughout the night and the following morning with the vet, whilst neither she nor I nor Nik were ready, it was obvious there was only one decision we could take.

I hadn’t wanted another dog; I’d been quite adamant, but despite that had been “manoeuvred” into it by my mum and my wife. I guess sometimes you just don’t realise what it is you need, and from the moment she came into our home and our lives I realised I’d been wrong.

She was a beautiful, fearless, affectionate, bossy, stubborn clown, who loved her ball but would never play fetch, who loved her walks but only so that she could lie in the long grass with her ball and watch over the rest of us as we took our exercise. 

For some years, she opened our doors to a multitude of foster dogs, waywards and stray, and with us nurtured and shepherded them onto forever homes of their own. And some of those we kept, and like us, they became a part of her pack.

She loved people and she loved her family. She was a face licker and a bed stealer, a gift I hadn’t looked for and a thief of hearts, and we miss her.

Ten years is far too short a lease, but I’m grateful for every moment we’ve shared. She leaves a hole in our lives as big as an ocean.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021


Once upon a time a jiff lemon was easy to find and now it's patently not. Putting it with the tea seems obvious to me but no; baking goods, bottom shelf. Obviously, or so she tells me

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Laser: midweek


Another Wednesday night, another race officer with a sense of humour. Although I write that with all the gratitude and patience one has to have for another fellow that's volunteered to take care of a complicated and thankless task so that you can go out on the water and enjoy yourself.

It was a downwind start again, albeit a broader reach than the almost dead run of last week. A necessary expedient with the wind in that direction I guess, if you're set on starting the race from the shore. 

Then a relatively short reach down to the first mark with (again) a starboard rounding. We do seem to like rounding the first mark to starboard at South Cerney. I've been racing for years and have to say that a starboard rounding of the first mark was almost as rare as a reaching start, but we've had both for two weeks running now.

Starboard roundings of the first mark are a recipe for chaos and mayhem as everybody comes tearing in on port and those few on a starboard approach have to make a late tack on top of the buoy, so a port rounding for the windward mark is usually favoured by the race officer when setting the course. But I guess if you're starting out with a reaching start, a downwind leg and therefore no windward mark, the starboard rounding becomes irrelevant. Chaos and mayhem are ready baked in by the start line and that first leg.

So, twenty-three boats on a Wednesday evening, on a relatively short start line, all proceeding en-mass down said short reach to arrive together at the first mark rounding. Needless to say, the first couple of legs of the first lap were fraught, but none so fraught as that first rounding.

Were it not for the fact that we were in open air and in our own individual boats, social distancing would have been something of an issue . . . 

I started at the windward end again to avoid getting smothered by everybody else's dirty air, but couldn't pick up enough speed to break clean ahead, so arrived somewhere in the middle of the pack at the first mark and got completely shoved out by a dozen boats barging in from astern. It's one thing to call water on others that have no right to push in, but these kind of crowds develop a momentum of their own.

The next leg was longer; a very broad reach on starboard and after the bottleneck of the first mark the other boats started to spread out, so I was able to pick my way down through the field to the leeward mark to enjoy a much less stressful rounding. Albeit with a gybe from a dead run onto a close-hauled fetch up to the next mark on the other side of the lake.

The sort of fetch where if you sail it cleanly and don't get hit by any unlucky shifts on a very shifty night, you can lay it in one beat. But if it doesn't work and you have to tack, it punishes you with time lost. The wind bend in the last hundred yards made for a nasty header as it funnelled out of the gap that leads into the little used backwater on the east side of the lake. You could see it in the angle of the boats ahead, so it paid off to sail high at the beginning of the stretch to give yourself some leeway at the end. I didn't spot that early enough on the first lap, but remembered it well for the remaining three.

A tack around the third mark put you on to a broad reach on port back across the lake to the next. The wind was fickle and shifty for that first lap, but for the remaining laps of the four lap race I got lucky, with the gusts blowing through more than enough to put my little Laser up onto the plane for the length of it.

The exhilaration of that ride was almost enough for me to forgive the brevity of the only beat of the race that followed on the next leg. 

The beat is where a small boat like mine makes most of its gains against the rest of the fleet, by picking her course up the leg, tacking on the headers and sailing up close on the lifts. Downwind is more of a procession, at best a drag race, and dead downwind gives all the tactical advantages to the asymmetric, if they're canny enough to take them, as they drive their big kites down the course from favoured gybe to favoured gybe.

So I like a course with a nice, long beat to windward, and this we were denied last night.

But I can't complain. The one thing that's always true of any race, is no matter how much you might not like the course you're given to sail, everybody else has to sail the same one.

I screwed a few things up. Mostly on the second mark rounding, gybing from a dead run, then having to sheet in fast and harden up the sail controls to lay a close hauled course to the next. On one instance, I actually dropped the tiller. I'm sure I heard laughter from the boats behind.

On another occasion, hiking hard against a very gusty beat on the third lap, I actually all but stalled the boat in irons on the final tack. I pulled out of it, but only just, and slowly.

Ultimately, I finished in 2nd place, beating everybody on the water except an Aero (whom I was catching) and an RS300, both of whom being faster designs then lost to me on handicap. I failed to shake one of the Solos, despite my best efforts (and perhaps because of my afore mentioned mistakes), and so he in turn finished close enough behind to beat me on handicap and take 1st place. 

And very well deserved, I should add.

It was a good evening's racing. A challenging course set, quite outside of my comfort zone, but once we settled into it, I enjoyed myself nonetheless. One thing I do love about the Laser; I can have a reasonably inauspicious start (ie. bungle it completely with my "tactical" decisions and clumsy boat handling) and the little boat still has enough guts in her to make the time up and climb back through the fleet, as long as I bully her accordingly and make her work for it.

Of all the little boats I've bought and raced over the years, this one, surprisingly, is most definitely my favourite so far.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Laser: hotdogs

The Wednesday evening Hot Dog series at South Cerney got off to a fine start yesterday evening. So called, it turns out, because there are actual hot dogs, fresh from the BBQ, available from the (outdoors, under present circumstances) bar after racing. That's an approach to sailing of which I can only approve.

It was a lovely evening; blue sky, light breeze, but from the east so still carrying a definite chill and very fickle and shifty. Amanda had to work late, and will do for most of this month, so the Albacore got to rest ashore under cover and I got to play with my Laser for the second time in a week.

The race committee, conscious of the limited light still of an evening, and keen to get things moving opted to run the race from ashore, with a start line running out from the committee hut. By definition, that meant for a "reaching start"; always a horrid, chaotic thing.

They then compounded the drama by setting the most simplistic of courses, a straightforward triangle, with all three mark rounding to starboard.

I elected to start at the windward end of the line, the alternative would've been the pin end amongst the crowd and whilst that would've given me a chance of getting an inside line at the first mark, the mob would've left my laser smothered in the filthy air of a score or more of (mostly larger) boats.

The first lap went exactly as you'd expect from a reaching start with no beat to windward to break up the fleet. I edged slightly ahead of most of the pack, reached the three boat zone with just a Wayfarer beneath me to claim room but an absolute mass of boats just astern. The Wayfarer, for some reason I either couldn't see from my own vantage point or reasons best known to himself, then elected to then give room to the lot of them, pinning me out and forcing me to overshoot by a half dozen boat lengths.

Gybing onto starboard, I hardened up beneath his stern for the next leg and rode over him and the rest of the armada to windward, slowly edging back up through the pack, but now caught to windward of the Wayfarer, with a smaller, lighter Aero just to windward of me.

Which was fine, until we hit the three boat zone of the next mark. I needed enough room to give the Aero space to pass between me and the mark, but the Wayfarer, who in turn owed me room couldn't give it because of the huge press of boats on the outside of him. By the time he'd given me space, he'd pushed me so far up to the Aero (who, in turn, may have taken the mark a little wide but I couldn't tell) that he couldn't bear away without his transom swinging into me. So we touched.

The final leg, for all the fuss and drama and poor design of the first two, turned in to a surprisingly good beat. With an eye to finding clear air and keeping good speed I followed the wind up the course until I had space enough to do my turns. I'm not convinced they were owed and nobody was calling for them, but somebody owed somebody turns and nobody else was offering.

The rest of the race was sweet. I spent it chasing the Aero that had touched me, closing but never quite catching, working hard to stay clear ahead of the Wayfarer that continued to dog my tail for the remainder of the race, and playing cat and mouse with an RS200, whom I generally caught on each beat, but who caught me back every time we settled back down on to one of the two reaches. But when the finish finally came, just as the sun was beginning to set, I caught her one final time on the last beat, and had the satisfaction of beating her over the line.

I still don't yet know how I did. With a handicap race, the timings have to all be kept and noted for the results to be calculated, and as it turns out there was some confusion over this with the race committee. I'm sure they'll sort it, but when I last checked a short while ago, the results still hadn't been published to the Club's website.

These things happen. We're all volunteers when it comes to the organising of these things, and we're all a little bit out of practice. I'm sure they'll get it all sorted. I, in the meantime, had a lovely race, and am really looking forward to doing it all again next week.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Laser: Wednesday evening


I'm racing the Laser tonight; the Wednesday evening series has restarted for the new season.

Amanda's stuck working late so the Albacore can stay ashore under cover. Which is fine. I love the company, but I also love racing the single hander. There's not an awful lot of wind forecast, but I can't find it in me to care too much. I'll be on the water again, and I'm pretty certain I can make the Laser move in almost anything. 

I can't wait.

quinquennial MOT

Received a belated birthday card in yesterday's post from the NHS. I jest; it was an invitation for me to make an appointment with my local GP for "your free NHS Health Check, which is being offered to people aged between 40 and 74 every five years"

Or, as I like to think of it, my quinquennial MOT.

Which is fine. It gives me the chance to feel smug that I'm still pretty active for my age, enough to raise the doctor's eyebrows, and gives the doctor a chance to feel smug for lecturing me about my alcohol consumption which, to be fair, is also enough to raise the doctor's eyebrows. 

It'll also be a chance to get my blood pressure checked, which has always been low enough to spark comment, but the last time it was checked, instead caused comment that it was "a little bit high".

Although at the time I was at the doc's surgery to see about a horrific, wracking cough, so she did concede even as she commented on it that it was most probably due to my chest infection. Which, looking back at the timing and circumstances now, was most likely me suffering the tail end of Covid, although who could tell, because tests weren't yet available and it wasn't, so say, in the country yet, although there did seem to be an awful lot of people around going through the same thing I was. 

In any case, it's not an experience I ever want to repeat.

But I digress.

In order to make the appointment, it was necessary to phone the surgery number they gave me on the invitation letter. Which is fair enough. However, trying to get through to my doc's surgery is always an absolute nightmare.

I hate holding music. It's almost always awful, brain mushing stuff on a short loop, although the other week whilst on hold (to whom I can't remember) I did get treated to a lovely bit of flamenco guitar.

And the doc's surgery doesn't have holding music. It has a beeping tone that lets you know you're on hold and waiting, which is cool. I like that. A lot. You can just sit there with the phone half hanging off your shoulder and only your subconscious listening whilst you get on with something else to productively fill the time in of that interminable twenty to thirty minute wait, knowing that when somebody finally does answer, it'll trigger and you can get on with making the appointment.

Except what I hate. No loathe. No, absolutely utterly infuriatingly maddeningly detest, is when they see fit to trigger a recorded apology for the the delay every ten damned seconds without fail.

Every ten damn seconds, the tone switches as if somebody's going to actually answer your call, and then you get a pre-recorded voice saying "Sorry to keep you waiting, we are experiencing a heavy amount of calls. We will answer your call as soon as possible."

No! If it's pre-recorded then you are NOT sorry. You don't care, or you'd have put enough staff on the phones to answer the volume of calls you were expecting. Except staff cost money and you probably aren't experiencing a heavy amount of calls and if you were the recorded notice wouldn't know because it's the same pre-recorded message we get every time we ring in hours, regardless of date or time of day and I've sat in your surgery waiting room and I know the phone isn't ringing off the hook because I'd hear it and see the panicked frenzy of your reception staff trying to deal with it the chaos. And it isn't there. Ever.

So you are not sorry, you probably aren't experiencing a heavy amount of calls, and it's not only insulting that you try to fob me off with this, but every ten damn seconds seconds without fail you trigger a little adrenaline rush from the boost gained by thing somebody's just answered, I've finally got through, that I've won the waiting game and am about to speak to an actual, real human being, and then  you crash me back down again with the same damned pre-recorded message I've been listening too for the last twenty minutes of my now completely disrupted life.

But at least there was no crappy holding music on a ten second loop to go with it.

Naturally, eventually a lovely lady did actually answer, offered me a couple of options as to what time I'd like my appointment, even had a bit of a laugh and a joke when I commented that asking me to pick a time was like asking me to pick a flavour of ice cream, and I could never make up my mind.

She sounded quite chilled. Certainly not the voice of somebody fielding a heavy amount (and you should have said "number") of calls. But that's fine. She's likely no idea of the aural hell I'd just been through in trying to reach her, so I wasn't going to take it out on her.

May 17th, 1340hrs. Appointment booked. Rant over. Thank you. Who needs a therapist when you've got a site on Blogger?

Monday, 12 April 2021

Albacore: triangle sausage


Having spent Saturday racing the Laser, everything hurt Sunday morning. As long as I kept moving I was fine, but the moment I stopped everything seized up. It hadn't exactly been wild conditions the day before, but I'd forgotten how much that boat brutalises me. Saturday evening had been spent in an exhausted, sore huddle in front of Netflix. Nikki had no sympathy, and only baffled amusement that I'd do it to myself and, furthermore, proposed to go out and do it all again with the Albacore on Sunday.

But compared to the Laser, the Albacore is civilised, almost decadent comfort. And I'd promised to race with Amanda.

It's quite difficult to describe the weather we had on Sunday without resorting to unseemly profanity. I drove through falling snow to get to the Club in the morning, but on arrival found the sun was shining and a brisk breeze was gusting over the water. The breeze then dropped off to little more than a drift as we launched. 

We had a few issues with a twist at the head of the jib that, foolishly, I didn't spot until we were launching, and no time left to take it down and put it up properly if we were to make the start line, which was on the far side of the lake. I had half a mind to abandon the first race to put it right, but we decided to see how the start went and decide from there.

As it turned out, it was our best start of the season. Of course, there isn't an awful lot of competition for the spot yet. But, perhaps more by luck than judgement, we got to to the starting area just as the preparatory signal sounded, and six minutes later, seconds before the start, found ourselves on starboard at the favoured committee boat end of the line, with somehow acres of space to leeward to accelerate into as the gun went.

So we took full advantage. The first beat was a long stretch down the full length of the lake, and with clean air out at the front of the fleet, we easily made the windward mark ahead of everybody else. The pressure of the wind in the jib transferred the the twist in the head of the sail to the halyard, so it gave us no problems. 

The course was an unusual one for a club race; a triangle followed by a sausage. Basically, the first lap was around three marks of a triangle, giving a lovely long beat followed by two reaches, then the following lap dispensed with the second mark, taking us back up the beat and then on to a dead run back to the final mark.

Naturally, by the time we got to the second lap, Amanda and I had both forgotten that and I duly set out for the wing mark of the triangle again, before a very sporting gentleman in the boat that was, until then, just behind us, called out to warn us of my mistake. The minute or so of erroneous navigation probably cost us at least a couple of places and so squandered our glorious start, but after correcting it we still managed to finish with a creditable 5th place out of the fleet of 14 boats.

Then there was a long, cold half hour wait between races whilst the committee shifted the course around to cater for the wind backing through about 90 degrees. 

We then had all four seasons in the space of an hour for the second race. 

A squall came through, and we went from bright sunshine and easy sailing to hard hiking, snow, sleet, hail and rain, back to bright, warm sunshine and drifting conditions for the last lap. We finished middle of the fleet with a 7th place.

Overall, I was very pleased with how the boat went. There's still plenty of scope for improvement, especially as far as the helm and crew are concerned, but it's good to have things to work on and creases to iron out. I love the Laser, and really enjoy racing single handers. But, although I find it's much harder to do as well in a double hander, aside from the appeal of the companionship and camaraderie you get from racing with a friend aboard, there's also a particular kind of satisfaction to be found when you both get a halfway respectable result together.

It made for the perfect finish to a very active weekend, almost as if we're making up for lost time. 

This evening however, I think I'm going to put my feet up and relax.