As H, my good friend and trusty wingman [we share ownership of an Enterprise that we race together at Frampton Sailing Club] so willingly stepped up to the plate as my replacement last time after I inconsiderately broke my foot in the week leading up to last year's foray out of Thornbury, it seemed only polite that we invited her along again as there was room in the boat for three. And she offered to bring coffee and cakes. Likewise, Brian Bailey, the man with the original inspiration for this whole silly thing, said he'd be there to meet us at the Pill if we made it that far; I think by way of a witness to prove we'd been there!
As we were flying solo, unlike previous years we'd have no way to retrieve the boat from the Pill so this time decided we'd sail out of Lydney on the flood, land on the slip at Frampton and then go back with the ebb to land and retrieve back at Lydney Yacht Club. This had the added benefit of doubling our time on the water, but with a somewhat greater risk we'd end up getting caught out by the tide if things failed to go to plan.
The night before, the forecast for the Sharpness area was a southerly F3, though starting lighter and building through the day. With the weather in the throws of the recently mis-labelled (and now much missed!) "Indian Summer" the tempretures were expected to be into the 20's by 10am, so it was promising to be a last fling for shorts and t-shirts.
With high water at Lydney due at 10.32am, the slip would become viable from around 9am onwards. That same water was due a little later at Frampton for 10:46am, so we needed to be nudging into the Pill by around 10:15am, and out and on our way back again by 11am latest. Our last chance to retrieve from the slip at Lydney would be no later than 12 noon. If we missed that, then we'd stand the prospect of being sat there in the drying mud waiting for the next tide around at 11pm, with the membership of Lydney Yacht Club laughing at us in, shall we say, "sympathy" as it was their monthly Club Night and they were planning a wine and cheese evening that night in the Clubhouse.
It was a picture perfect morning, slightly hazy and warm. Despite the still air, the river still threw up its typical maelstrom with the surge of the flooding tide. The sharp chop and usual whirlpools were there over The Ridge Sand off the old lock at Sharpness and around the submerged footings of the old railway bridge. Then, past Purton and Waveridge Sand, offshore from Slimbridge, the river went glassy and flat over Frampton Sand until it hit the channel that divides Frampton Sand from the Noose. There, in a line from around Brimms Pill towards Middle Point, the water surged up into a standing wave of over a meter, stretching three quarters of the way across the river, foaming and roaring like a chocolate serpent.
Once the tide turned, we guided the boat back out with the sweeps, giving Brian a ride to the mouth of the Pill where we deposited him on the bank and said goodbye for another year. The trip back was glassy smooth; unexpected given the forecast wind which never really materialised. The only tension came from the engine failing intermitantly. Whilst we were always able to nurse it back into life, we couldn't keep it running reliably, so in the absence of any wind had the continual threat of having to row back hanging over us.
In the end, the engine didn't let us down and we arrived back at Lydney safe and sound, retrieved without incident, stored the boat away for the following day's planned adventure and were on our way home by lunch time. H and I then headed off to Frampton to rig the Enterprise and spent the rest of the afternoon practicing our roll tacks in a gentle breeze around the sailing club lake.
We'll definitely be back to Frampton Pill again next year. Hopefully with a bit more wind and a few more boats for company.