Friday, 6 April 2018

Calstar: a weather-bound Easter

The original plan for Easter was to head down to the boat with Dad and Nik on my birthday weekend, head west in to Cornwall for the week and then head back at the end of Nik's birthday weekend. Work commitments originally put paid to that, as I couldn't afford the four days away from the office due to various projects in hand.

Still thought we'd make some good inroads into Cornwall across the four day Bank Holiday weekend we would have for Easter anyway, so I wasn't too sore. I'd be quite happy just to get as far as Fowey.

We were defeated by a combination of weather and wiring.

Friday would've been a good day to sail out, but the electrician Dad had been talking to about the birds-nest of wires as the foot of our mast had got waylaid, so instead of turning up to rewire the mast electrics first thing Friday morning, he wasn't able to get to us until last thing Friday afternoon.

And although he got the electrics sorted out, it turned out we had the wrong socket for the VHF aerial, and it was by then too late to go out and buy the right one.

So yes, Friday would've been a good day to sail, but instead we spent it kicking around Plymouth waiting for the wiring to be done. We did find the Plymouth Gin Distillery though. Nik had bought be a bottle for my birthday. Ironically, from her shop in Gloucester. Although the gift was much appreciated, I didn't bring it with me to the boat. Felt a bit like taking coal to Newcastle ......

Incidentally, I learnt that "Navy Strength" is 57% alcohol by volume, and distilled to that strength because it used to be kept safe the powder room and if, by chance or mishap, it got mixed with the gunpowder, at 57% the powder would still ignite.

Saturday first thing we hit the local chandleries to find the right socket for the VHF. Before we were done, the weather had closed in, unseasonably cold with heavy wind and rain; certainly not the sort of conditions you want to introduce your neophyte sailor of a wife to the joys of sailing the Cornish coast in.

In any case, it turned out that as well as needing to fit a pug to the bottom of the mast head antenna cable, the coachroof socket needed replacing, and once we'd removed that, it transpired that the run of cable from the roof socket to the VHF had rotted and had no slack left in it to cut out the rot, so had to be entirely replaced. Which involved removing a lot of panelling from inside the heads and main cabin and some fiddling wire stripping and soldering to fit the new sockets.

It kept us occupied for most of the day, but by the end of it the ship's radio was once more fully functional.

By Saturday night the rain had eased off so we braved a walk out of the marina to find supper at an an Asian street food restaurant called Suphas. A Saturday night on an Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, they were exceptionally busy and as usual we'd not thought ahead to book a table, but the owner took pity on us and just squeezed us in at the end of the evening's service.

Dad had crab and Nik and I both had sea bream. The collective opinion was that it was all utterly delicious. If a little bit on the messy side to deal with ......

There was a small break in the weather for my birthday on Sunday morning, before the forecast promised things would turn nasty again as yet another front moved through in the afternoon.

So we cast off early and went for a sail, eight miles over a couple of hours, out through the Eastern Entrance of the Breakwater then back in through the west. Extra interest was added by the need to dodge a big ship coming in with attendant pilot boat as we were exiting, but there really is plenty of room in the Sound.

The highlight was out beyond the breakwater when something plummeted from the sky and hit the water with a splash. A minute later a very smug looking gannet resurfaced, clearly having had its breakfast, and bobbed around for a moment or two on the building swell before taking to the sky again. I've never really seen one up close before, only distant, airborne and in silhouette; they really are quite graceful creatures, sleek white bodies with streamlined, black tipped wings.

It was an onshore south-southeasterly wind that built steadily through the morning. We were back alongside our berth a little after midday and on our way into town to look for lunch. The rain started quite literally as we left the Marina grounds, spotting at first then quickly developing into a heavy, constant downpour.

We constrained our wanderings to exploring a couple of pubs in the Barbican and fish and chips for lunch, before returning once more to the boat.

Saturday night we ate in the Marina restaurant again, the weather too wet to venture far. We had the place to ourselves.

By Monday morning the conditions were quite rotten. The rain had backed off, but the onshore wind, gusting to 40 knots out beyond the Breakwater, was pushing a nasty, uncomfortable chop into the marina. Although relatively sheltered behind the significant bulk of the wave screen, it's not like the old docks at Penarth or Portishead, and Calstar was snatching petulantly at her warps.

The solution was a belated birthday present by way of a couple of rubber snubbers from Dad, bought from Force 4, the on-site chandlrey, and rapidly becoming a more regular haunt for us than the pub. They made an immediate difference to the comfort of the boat as she rode in her berth. They've got handy plastic inserts that mean you don't need to thread the entire mooring line through them, making them very quick and easy to fit. Can't help but wonder how long it'll be before I drop one of the plastic inserts in however.

I wonder if they'll float? I doubt it somehow.

Having sorted out the mooring arrangements and made the little yacht as snug and as safe as we could, we capitulated to the weather and headed home.

The holiday traffic turned the two hour fifteen minute journey into a three and a half our slog, but to be fair, we've had worse trying to get home just from Cardiff on a bank holiday, so the journey times so far to and from Plymouth have really been quite tolerable.

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