Monday, 12 February 2018

Buffy: First swim

The weekend's weather delivered pretty much as forecast. Wet and blustery Saturday, bright and blustery Sunday.

Saturday was a relaxed affair of karate, tending to the fish tanks, then dinner over at Dad's in the evening. I moved the four new clown loaches that I'd been keeping quarantined in the new tank to their permanent home in the main tank. The two already resident clowns seemed very pleased with the new company.

Having them settled in their proper home is a weight off my mind. Shifting them from one tank to the other was an anxious affair. They're only youngsters, but as long as I don't screw up and kill them, these four fish could easily still be with me in another ten or fifteen years time. The two fish they're joining are each over fifteen years old now. It's as big a responsibility, in its own way, as taking on a new dog.

They don't make quite such a mess of my garden however.

One of the four new clowns spent an hour or so in his new home pretending he was a tiger barb before he worked out which shoal he really belonged to. The tiger barbs didn't seem to mind.

Now the clowns are out of the temporarily assigned quarantine tank, that can become a proper temperate, high water-flow home for the White Cloud Mountain minnows. So I planted some elodea, which I'd been holding off doing until the clowns had moved out, switched off the heater, and introduced another half a dozen minnows into the existing shoal of seven.

Hopefully, with the high water-flow and planting, the minnows will be encouraged to breed.

The plan is to upgrade the lighting (it was intentionally kept subdued for the sake of the clowns) to encourage a bit of green algae onto the back glass and stones, and then maybe introduce a hillstream loach once the tank matures. That's if the 90 litre tank's big enough for one; I'm not absolutely sure of that yet, so will need to research it a bit more.

With 30 knot gusts forecast for Sunday, sailing Calstar was definitely out, so I headed down to the lake to race at Frampton instead.

Instead of getting Buffy out, Amanda offered the use of her own Enterprise. I'd have been perfectly content to crew for her, but she was quite adamant she didn't want to helm, especially given the forecast, regardless of how benign it all looked as we were rigging.

Thirteen boats in total were on the water, which made launching a little bit hairy; the gusts were already beginning to blast in (Amanda's boat in the picture a little way below is sat head to wind on her trolley) and everybody was crowded into the space you can see above between the two jetties.

We lost the main halyard up the mast as we were trying to haul the sail up, so by the time we'd got the boat off the trolley, tipped her over to retrieve it, then finally rigged and launched, we went screaming away downwind from the shore through the entire melee as I struggled to not hit anybody whilst at the same time get the rudder down so we could get some steerage.

I counted three very near misses. But no actual contact, so a minor win. It would have been a horrible shame to have dented such a lovely boat.

The initial excitement over, we got a good start, beating back in to get behind the line then tacking and bearing away on to a reach to take us back over it just as the gun went.

Everything went well for the next forty minutes or so, climbing our way up through the fleet, catching a Solo and passing a few upturned Lasers here and there. The wind was blustery and very shifty. A basic figure of eight course spread over the lake gave a great reach down to the first turn at white, then a beat up to red, followed by a dead run down to green and then another beat back up to yellow.

Doing well, catching up with the Lasers and so somewhere in the top five, we found ourselves being headed on the run down to green. Planing along goose-winged and in the grip of a big gust, we dodged one or two toppled Lasers but realised we'd need to gybe before we hit the bank to get over to the mark.

The gybe was lively, but would otherwise have been fine; except I slipped as the boom came over and lost both my dignity and my grip on the tiller and mainsheet.  I heard Amanda, facing forward and so unaware of my the fact I was currently upended onto my backside in the stern of the boat, comment "That went well" before the boat started to heel and round up, then broached and, with a smack, capsized violently to windward.

I can't say exactly what happened. I'm generally not beyond stepping on the crew to climb up and over onto the centreboard;  in all the excitement they rarely notice and never complain. I once landed back on shore after a hard race with Buffy and my wife's sister-in-law, Catherine, who was crewing for me at the time. I say hard; I think we capsized close to a dozen times in the course of the race, and credit to the lady, she never once complained or gave even the slightest hint of wanting to give up and head in.

But after we'd landed and grabbed a warm cup of tea from the wet-bar, she looked at me in total confusion for a moment, and then asked "How come you're not actually wet after all that?"

So anyway, you can always tell it was a vicious, violent capsize when I find actually find myself in the water along with the crew for a change.

That makes it the first swim of the year. Doubtless it won't be the last.

Needless to say we recovered, but it took a while, and took even longer to get the water back out of the boat, so it put us from within reaching distance of the front of the fleet back to second from last.

It was still a great morning's sailing though.

Fingers crossed for the weather next weekend. It'll be our last chance to get Calstar out to play on the Bristol Channel. I'd ideally like a couple of days of nice weather to sail up to Portishead and back. But would settle for just the one day and a trip out around the Holms, if that's all the weather gods have to offer.

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