Monday, 15 September 2014

Frampton Pill 2014; an out and return

The forecast for Sunday was F3 ENE and delivered pretty much as promised. Grey, overbearing skies, but no rain, temperature comfortable as long as you were active or out of the wind. A good day for a sail.

We arrived at Lydney for a leisurely 09:30hrs, the only incident being a very near miss on the road to Lydney when a little terrier type dog jumped out of the open window of a car parked on the verge and charged down the middle of the road towards us. Blessedly, the traffic behind us was far enough back Dad was able to break and swerve, and little Fido's game of chicken missed coming to a sticky end by mere fractions of an inch. The scamp clearly owes a life or two to the local cat, let's hope Felix doesn't charge interest.

The traffic ground to a halt behind us, drivers in various states of panic and alarm, and little Fido took a right and darted off down a lane joining the main road, his rather distraught, frantic owner in terrified, noisy, arm-flapping pursuit. From his red face and generously endowed stature, I'd have to say the man wasn't used to running. I hope it all turned out alright for them in the end.

By 10:00hrs we were rigged, the accompanying boats briefed, and we relaxed, awaiting the tide. It found the slip around 10:30hrs, and after a bit of prevaricating by yours truly, concerned that if we launched too soon we'd be pushed up on to the sandbanks as we were last year, we were off. The fleet consisted of two Drascombe Luggers Ondine and Muckle Flugga, the sailing canoe Green Bean, and the Enterprise Sligo; thirteen souls in all, lucky for some.

The beat up to Frampton was, at times, rough and wild, the air fairly steady in direction and pressure but the water in many places torn and churned by the swift tide pressing it into the face of the wind. Lots of water came in over the bows, for the most part stoicly soaked up by the crew before it reached me. In addition to myself, we had a couple of guests from Frampton aboard and my young cousin Ollie. With her mainsail unreefed and the jib full, Ondine carried her extra passengers without complaint.

We landed at the mouth of Frampton Pill by 11:45hrs. With only an 8m tide at Sharpness, there wasn't enough water to do more than venture into the mouth, and after doing so, we elected to land just outside the pill where the footing of the bank seemed less muddy. "Less muddy" is very much a relative term.

The short time between landing and the tide turning at 12:18hrs gave us just enough space to light the camping stove and cook our sausages and onions, but not to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. By 12:30hrs we'd packed up, stowed the kit back aboard and pushed off to ride the ebb back to Lydney.

The turning of the tide effectively pulled the teeth of the wind. The slide back down-river was gentle and sedate, the only turbulence the usual churning of the water around Wellhouse Rock and the old Sharpness Dock. Even the sun broke out from behind the clouds to warm our trip back.

Our landing at Lydney was not so placid. All seemed lined up for the perfect touchdown, under power with the sails furled and the foils lifted as per our usual practice. Green Bean and Sligo had landed ahead of us, the former still on the slip awaiting enough able bodies to carry her up to the grass in front of the Clubhouse. Our approach under power was too fast, and whilst trying to take way off, the tide caught Ondine's stern and dragged her out of line.

We powered on and turned her bow into the flow, clawing back up river for a bit of space to try and go around. That was fine, and we held our own for a moment, but misjudged how much space we'd need; the centreboard was raised and so the pivot point of the boat was significantly compromised. As the flow caught us once more, we managed to push the bow through the turn and avoid a head on collision, but the aft of the boat swung out and, sliding badly, slammed poor Ondine broadside into the harbour wall.

Naturally, most of the Yacht Club were on the veranda, watching everything unfold.

We were saved by a couple of things. It all happened too fast for any of our passengers to even thing of heroically putting out an arm to fend us off. That would have been a bone crunching disaster. And the harbour wall at Lydney below the tide line is so encrusted with black, slick weed that it makes for quite a cushioned landing really. Shaken but not stirred, we put her nose onto the slip with the second attempt, and on inspection, the only damage was a slight scuffing to the wooden gunwale that will sand out easily.

Drascombe Luggers really are quite bomb-proof. Probably just as well. Drama of our return aside, it was a great day out on the water. The Severn never fails to entertain.

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