Friday, 26 January 2018

Plans past and present

Of plans past. Of the previously mentioned Passage Planning Exam I sat last Saturday, happy to say I passed. Didn't get a mark or a grade, just a note from the instructor commenting that he'd be more than happy to sail the said passage with me.

Pleased it's done. Pleased I don't have to do it again. I suspect I probably prepared the least out of our group for this exam, but still accrued more than 24 hours of prep and revision on it over Christmas and the New Year. Of which I reckon I probably used about 3%. If that.

I could have probably passed the exam without said preparation back in December, and would have saved myself all the stress and headache had the chance been offered.

But it's still done. And I am content with that.

Of plans present. Too windy this weekend to risk breaking Calstar. However, heading down to the lake tomorrow to help out with inspecting the club's training fleet. Also told Dad I'd help him take Ondine's mast down and wrap her up for the winter. She's not our boat anymore, as the Club brought her off Dad for their Sailability Fleet when we moved on to Calstar. But he still feels obliged to keep an eye on her for them.

Somebody should have taken her mast down and covered her up properly back when the season ended.

Apparently, there are still boats racing every Sunday on the lake despite it being out of season. It's an informal set of races encouragingly called the "Icicle" series. One race, every Sunday, a pursuit starting at 1100.

Looks windy enough for me to want to join them, and I have somebody daft enough to want to crew for me. I can't wait. It'll be the first time I've sailed this year. The first time since the beginning of December, in fact.

That's far too long to be land-locked.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Big Smoke and a Plan Revised

Took a trip down to London on Sunday with Dad & Nik to visit the Boat Show. Really enjoyed ourselves on previous visits. At first I guess it was the novelty and variety, then last year certainly the distraction of trying to buy a new set of sails.

This year, the fact that I have no pictures of the show itself and that the two snaps I have of our trip home through London were both taken in daylight probably tells you something.

Don't think we'll bother with London again next year. Southampton, maybe. If we're not too busy sailing.

In other news, Dad has taken the unilateral decision not to deliver Calstar to her new home in Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth by sea, but rather to have her hauled out, but on the back of a truck and ignominiously driven down by road.

The uncertainties of a delivery trip out of the Bristol Channel in early spring paid a big part in the decision. If we got weather bound somewhere en-route, it could cost us as much as the road haulage in marina fees and inconvenience, so I suppose he has a point, although it's still not the decision I'd have made myself.

I confess, amidst the undeniable relief of not having the planning and execution of this trip hanging over me, I'm pretty disappointed. And it means I really won't make Lundy after all, which is a Bristol Channel ambition I'll now have to leave unfulfilled.

On the other hand, Calstar comes out of the water Monday 26th Feb for some much needed TLC in the yard at Penarth, then goes onto the back of a truck and down to Plymouth on Friday 23rd March. Which means that by Saturday the 24th, she'll definitely be on her new berth in QAB, and a whole new playground will lie open before us.

On which note, I've been looking at the tidal atlas for the new sailing area around Plymouth and the south coast east and west of there. Except for a few obvious headlands, for example Start Point just east of Salcombe, where the tidal flow hits 3 knots running easterly on a spring tide, which to a Bristol Channel sailor has the comforting ring of the familiar, I was hard pressed to find any drift of more than a knot in either direction.

And there is this odd thing they call "Slack". What is this thing called Slack? I really don't understand?

I jest, of course. But this did lead me to wonder a) if I was reading things right and b) on confirming that indeed I was, how on earth anybody actually ever got anywhere?

I guess we'll actually have to sail; it's going to take some getting used to, this odd, alien sensation of actually travelling in the direction your boat is pointing.

On the subject of getting somewhere, I think I've previously mentioned I'm in the middle of an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal course. Passed the IRPCS exam part of it back in December with near enough flying colours, though I have to admit I guess that wasn't really so hard to do. I suspect using that knowledge in anger would be an entirely different kettle of fish however.

Have a three and a half hour "Passage Planning" exam this coming Saturday.

I can't say I'm looking forward to it. In common with everybody else on the course it seems, I've probably done more than 24+ hours of accumulated, direct revision for this exam now, and I honestly can't say if I'm under prepared, over prepared or have prepared altogether the wrong thing entirely.

Which is a woeful state for any formal exam that purports to follow a defined syllabus.

It frankly doesn't matter that this is the first time the RYA have introduced this particular exam subject to the course (it's replaced a previous Meteorology exam), there is no excuse for there to be no "past papers" to base the revision on. A suitable, representative collection of specimen papers or at least representative questions should've been prepared by the RYA to support it. That's not exactly rocket science.

We shall just have to see how we get on.

I really haven't enjoyed this Yachtmaster course, and would find it quite hard to recommend to anyone else. Certainly not in the format I've chosen to do it ("affordably", via a sailing club, spread out over 16 weekly three and a half hour sessions, with the course running alongside the RYA Day Skipper to keep costs down). Perhaps if I'd elected to do it at via a commercial training centre suitably condensed over a couple of long weekends I might have had a different experience. But at the moment, the only thing I feel I've learned additional to the Day Skipper course I completed a few years ago has been secondary port tidal calculations, computation of rates and learning the IRPCS light and sound signals by rote.

It has made Tuesday evenings crawl by at times, which I resent as ordinarily Tuesday evenings would be karate, and I've really missed that (although I've compensated by travelling out to Cinderford on a Thursday evening to train instead)

The only mitigation amongst all this has been the company of my fellow Yachtmaster students (which, to be fair, was the reason I decided to do the course via the club, and rather than the decision having anything to do with the cost savings) and the charisma and obvious wisdom and experience of the course instructor, Trevor, who with his delivery has made the best for us of what would otherwise have been something of a very rum deal. It became very obvious very early in the course that he's much, much more than a classroom sailor.

Whether this is enough to make up for the grind that the rest of the course is turning out to be remains to be seen. Perhaps my feelings on this will depend on the result of this coming Saturday's exam.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Playing catch-up

I have slipped behind, so this is a quick, somewhat random catch-up to bring this journal up to date. It was a great Christmas. Lots of family, lots of food, lots of drink. I missed the chance to sail Boxing Day because I somewhat over-indulged the day before. Which was a shame, as it turned out to be one of my very few chances to actually sail in December.

Both the day job and the gigs finished on December 23rd, didn't go back to the former until January 2nd, and had our first gig of the year last Friday. So a nice, long, peaceful break, very welcome. Found myself a bit under the weather with a cough and sore throat, but somehow being able to be ill when I don't have the immanent pressures of needing to sing that night at a gig is almost liberating, in an odd kind of way.

As mentioned, a bit of a disappointing month on the sailing front though. Generally, if I wanted to sail the dinghy at the lake the air was flat calm (and in one instance, the water also frozen) and if I wanted to sail the yacht out in the Bristol Channel, it was blowing a gale.

So not much was done. We did fit a new tiller extension to Calstar, which was much needed. Haven't yet had the chance to use it in anger however; the weather looks set to get rough again through this week, but this coming Sunday looks like it might be a possible.

I say "we did fit" but what I actually mean of course is that Dad did the cutting and fitting and screwing bits together, and I provided company, witty conversation, the occasional tool-locating service and a steady supply of hot coffee from the galley.

The photos here are a random collection of snaps taken across Christmas. The Domino's pizza box and Champagne cork were trophies of an office celebration in mid-December, discretion forbids me further explanation here, but it was a grand lunch, even if the menu was oddly matched.

We had snow. First time in quite some while. It hung around for a few days. Surprising that it settled, as the weather hasn't been that cold again this year. The bottles of booze were all gifts, with the exception of the Laphroaig, which I confess was a gift to myself.

They are, needless to say, all but a distant memory now.

Happy New Year everybody.