Monday, 17 October 2016

Wet Weekend

We spent Saturday capsizing dinghies at Frampton and helping coach trainee Safety Boat crews through their recovery procedures. Given the amount of time I spend capsizing dinghies on Frampton Lake I have a vested interest in making sure the Safety Boat knows what it's doing when it's supposed to be looking after me. It was an enjoyable day, even if I did inadvertently go in a couple of times. First time I've really put the new drysuit to work since I bought it for the aborted (postponed) bid on Lundy with Green Bean, back in May.

The water was much colder than I remember it being previously for this time of year. Or maybe I'm just getting older, and not so practised to being fully immersed in it these days? At least the sun was shining.

After the fun and games at the lake, Dad and I headed down to the boat, dropping his car in the marina car-park in Portishead and getting a taxi over to Underfall Yard in Bristol. The hoped for work had only been partway completed: the deck floodlights hung beneath the spreaders had been replaced with new LED lamps, and the masthead tricolour and the bow nav lights had likewise been replaced with LED's. The steaming light and anchor light remain as traditional tungsten bulbs however; Jay couldn't find suitable LED replacements. And the forward reefing pennants in the single-line reefing still hadn't been replaced, nor the two halyards.

The latter was a "just because you're there anyway" as they're not exactly beyond even my own ability to replace, however I would really liked to have seen the anchor light swapped for an LED.

Jay had kept Dad well informed of progress through the week so none of the above was a surprise. He's going to come down to Portishead to replace the reefing pennants in situ as soon as it's mutually convenient. I couldn't help feeling it was a lot of fuss to have been through to have brought the boat all the way up to Bristol to essentially get a few bulbs replaced. Dad, on the other hand, was absolutely delighted with his new deck floodlights. I'm not sure I rate them as anything more than night-vision killers, but I guess they'll be handy if we ever decide to throw a party on deck. Or something like that.

Supper was a very nice mixed grill from a small cafe-grill in town, down a side street a short walk from the Bristol Hippodrome. To my shame, I can't remember the name of the place, but the food was very good. Then it was a relatively early night ahead of the promised early start the next day. As we turned in for the night, the sky was clear and the water of the docks illuminated by the bright ivory light of a full moon overhead, dulling the stars.

0500 I woke shortly ahead of the alarm and rolled out of my bunk, optimistically noting there was no patter of rain on the cabin roof overhead, at least not as yet. It's perhaps a little unsavoury, but when it's just Dad and me on the boat and we're faced with an early tide, I've taken to going to bed in the clothes I plan to get up in, it makes the oh so painful act of crawling out of my bunk and into the cold and dark just a little bit easier.

The rains began just as I installed the auto-helm onto the tiller and then lowered the sprayhood in preparation for casting off.

By the time we were underway, departing the dock at 0550, it was bucketing down. Shortly before we slipped our lines, the Dad's deck floodlights blew out. Their fuse had gone.

Other than that fuse and the early rain, which had been forecast to hold off until later in the morning, everything else went exactly to plan. We entered the junction in front of the first bridge at 0610 and threw a warp around one of the bollards to hang on the quay wall whilst we sat and waited for the bridge. The man turned up at 0615 as promised, and swung the bridge for us. We entered Cumberland Basin with another yacht following astern, the 60' Hummingbird, an expedition yacht and training vessel, veteran of three circumnavigations. I believe she'd spent the summer up in Scandinavian waters and was now bound for the warmer southerly climes of Spain and Portugal, but for now her numerous crew crowding her deck as she entered the lock behind us were as cold and wet as we were.

We gave them a cheery wave, and had the same returned. Cheery, you'll understand, is a relative term.

We left the lock and entered the Avon at 0645, punching the still very lively, flooding tide, leaving Hummingbird behind to wait for more water and less flow in the river. Our speed over the ground was, at first, little more than a knot as we inched our way through the darkness beneath the brightly illuminated Clevedon Bridge and then out past Black Rock. With only a meter draught and almost ten meters of water in the river, we hugged the insides of the various bends with unabashed impunity, making the most of the slacker water there. Gradually the flood began to ease, our ground-speed picked up and light began to weep into the sky.

Even the rain had begun to east by the time we passed the village of Pill and the clubhouse of Portishead Cruising Club and slipped down river under the motorway bridge.

Calling up VTS as we passed Nelson Point a shade before high water at 0800, a friendly voice advised us he had three tugs in the King Road and a car carrier inbound to Portbury and currently abeam of Portishead Point. We simplified matters by offering to loiter in the mouth of the river until everybody was done playing around. There was arguably plenty of time for us to slip down past the Royal Portbury gates and home to Portishead before the ship reached us, but the rain had now stopped and I really quite enjoy watching and listening on the VHF to them handling the big vessels in and out of the docks.

By the time they were done the tide had fully turned, so it was less than a ten minute hop from the mouth of the river, past the stern of the car carrier and her attendants now inching into the mouth of the dock and then home to Portishead. The wind was still light, no more than 10 knots southerly, coming off the shore, so the sea smooth for the duration of the transit, even with the tide turned and now picking up to a hard ebb. The marina office had the lock gates swinging open as we crabbed in on a ferry glide across the current to the shelter of the Hole, and by 0845 we were safe along side our berth in the marina once again, the morning's work done.

As we made fast the dock lines, the sun came out, the scudding clouds being blown clear by the now building breeze.

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