Wednesday 26 October 2011

Frampton Pill

With about 10 meters of tide expected at Sharpness around 10:30am on Friday 30th September, this was the obvious day for Dad and I to pick for a return to Frampton Pill.  In the absence of a suitable tide falling on a weekend this year, we scrubbed the idea of trying to organise a fleet from FOSSC again and instead opted to do it alone with the Drascombe.

As this would be the third year running we've ridden a spring tide up the Severn Estuary to land at Frampton Pill, you could argue it's becoming something of an annual tradition.

As H, my good friend and trusty wingman [we share ownership of an Enterprise that we race together at Frampton Sailing Club] so willingly stepped up to the plate as my replacement last time after I inconsiderately broke my foot in the week leading up to last year's foray out of Thornbury, it seemed only polite that we invited her along again as there was room in the boat for three. And she offered to bring coffee and cakes. Likewise, Brian Bailey, the man with the original inspiration for this whole silly thing, said he'd be there to meet us at the Pill if we made it that far; I think by way of a witness to prove we'd been there!

As we were flying solo, unlike previous years we'd have no way to retrieve the boat from the Pill so this time decided we'd sail out of Lydney on the flood, land on the slip at Frampton and then go back with the ebb to land and retrieve back at Lydney Yacht Club. This had the added benefit of doubling our time on the water, but with a somewhat greater risk we'd end up getting caught out by the tide if things failed to go to plan.

The night before, the forecast for the Sharpness area was a southerly F3, though starting lighter and building through the day. With the weather in the throws of the recently mis-labelled (and now much missed!) "Indian Summer" the tempretures were expected to be into the 20's by 10am, so it was promising to be a last fling for shorts and t-shirts.

With high water at Lydney due at 10.32am, the slip would become viable from around 9am onwards. That same water was due a little later at Frampton for 10:46am, so we needed to be nudging into the Pill by around 10:15am, and out and on our way back again by 11am latest. Our last chance to retrieve from the slip at Lydney would be no later than 12 noon. If we missed that, then we'd stand the prospect of being sat there in the drying mud waiting for the next tide around at 11pm, with the membership of Lydney Yacht Club laughing at us in, shall we say, "sympathy" as it was their monthly Club Night and they were planning a wine and cheese evening that night in the Clubhouse.

In the event, despite my oversleeping, we arrived at Lydney Harbour and launched in good time. It quickly became apparent that the "lighter and building" part of the forecast meant next to no wind to work with however, so it wasn't long before I capitulated to Dad and we deployed the engine and motored up.

It was a picture perfect morning, slightly hazy and warm. Despite the still air, the river still threw up its typical maelstrom with the surge of the flooding tide. The sharp chop and usual whirlpools were there over The Ridge Sand off the old lock at Sharpness and around the submerged footings of the old railway bridge. Then, past Purton and Waveridge Sand, offshore from Slimbridge, the river went glassy and flat over Frampton Sand until it hit the channel that divides Frampton Sand from the Noose. There, in a line from around Brimms Pill towards Middle Point, the water surged up into a standing wave of over a meter, stretching three quarters of the way across the river, foaming and roaring like a chocolate serpent.

Beyond this, over the sands of the Noose the water undulated with the backwash of the tide hitting Hock Cliff and the banks of Fretherne. Despite spotting our transit on the far bank by Awre, we managed to fixate on the view of Frampton's church tower and initially overshot the mouth of the Pill. Making our way back to it was easy enough despite the flooding tide thanks to the the eddy created by the top of the Noose and we entered the Pill pretty much on queue a little on the back of 10:15am, to be greeted by Brian Bailey waiting for us on the bank.


Brian and a herd of bemused cattle watched us guide the lugger up the narrow Pill using the sweeps as poles to fend off from the bank and keep the boat straight in the channel. At the final bend before the slip we pivotted the boat (and I'm going to maintain that this was ENTIRELY intentional, had nothing to do with loosing control to the pull of the tide, HOWEVER ELSE it might have looked to all other onlookers - though I'm not sure even the cattle are daft enough to really believe me) and we then reversed up the remaining channel to lie against the grass slip and wait for the turn of tide, lamenting the fact that we'd left the coffee flask back at the car, and nattering with Brian about plans for future adventures.

Once the tide turned, we guided the boat back out with the sweeps, giving Brian a ride to the mouth of the Pill where we deposited him on the bank and said goodbye for another year. The trip back was glassy smooth; unexpected given the forecast wind which never really materialised. The only tension came from the engine failing intermitantly. Whilst we were always able to nurse it back into life, we couldn't keep it running reliably, so in the absence of any wind had the continual threat of having to row back hanging over us.

In the end, the engine didn't let us down and we arrived back at Lydney safe and sound, retrieved without incident, stored the boat away for the following day's planned adventure and were on our way home by lunch time. H and I then headed off to Frampton to rig the Enterprise and spent the rest of the afternoon practicing our roll tacks in a gentle breeze around the sailing club lake.

It was, overall, disappointing that we weren't able to sail the whole thing in the end, but still a great morning out on the river, with gorgeous views of the Severn, a warm sun on our backs, good company, and good coffee and cakes once we got back to Lydney. As Dad said later, with what we've experienced of the estuary so far [and to be fair, it's never the same from trip to trip or tide to tide] you just wouldn't be able to credit your imagination that the river could ever look like that on the ebb, glassy, balmy and calm. And so easy to forget [to your peril] that you've still got six knots of tow beneath you, flushing you out in the direction of the Irish Sea.

We'll definitely be back to Frampton Pill again next year. Hopefully with a bit more wind and a few more boats for company.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Good morning Fowey

Sat in a window seat over looking Fowey harbour watching the boats go by. Plan was to sail to Polkeris for lunch but the forecast suggests we're going to be restricted to pottering up the river. Looks so calm for the moment though.

Monday 12 September 2011

Monday Bloody Monday

Week starts anew. Wind is howling like a banshee outside the office window.

What a tease C:

Saturday 10 September 2011


Woke up this morning, no sore throat, the aching in my lower back had gone and I could breath without the irresistable need to wrack my ribcage with coughing. Manflu be damned and behind me, I'm off for an hour of karate and am now really looking fowards to tonight's gig.

Bit of a shame we're not sailing today. The lake looks lovely . . .

Frampton-on-Severn, 10th Sept, 10:44hrs

Friday 9 September 2011

Tapping at the Window

Bet nobody told him the Moth Open tomorrow has been cancelled |-8

(See attached file: 2011-09-09 11.38.46.jpg)

The Best Laid Plans of [ship's] Mice & Men

Whilst still gusty, the promised big wind didn't hold out for Wednesday. With the disincentive of that, on top of a building fever, aches and pains and a sore throat [classic "manflu" I suspect] saw me bottle it and stay at home.

The manflu has built through the week, with a cough developing. The forecast for Saturday is lessened, but still significant, and with the much reduced levels in the lake has led to the fleet captain cancelling the British Moth Open. On the one hand I'm gutted, but on the other I'm quietly relieved, as that only leaves me tomorrow night's gig to worry about in isolation.

My voice is a real concern, as it's getting more and more ragged from the ravages of my throat and chest. But at least it's only one gig this weekend and nothing else to worry about now. Lightweight compared to the usual workload. I reckon I've got the one gig in me. Felt like death when I woke up this morning, but now I've downed a cup of tea, pint or so of water and a truck load of paracetamol and strepsils I'm almost feeling human.

Next weekend I'm away to Fowey with Dad for a Drascombe Ralley. Manflu be damned, I'm really looking forward to that. Hopefully the weather will lighten up a little and not spoil things. At the minute, a ten day forecast [about as reliable as a horoscope, to be fair!] is suggesting Force 4, which could be entertaining.

We're going to berth Ondine on the pontoon at Mixtow Pill with the rest of the Drascombe fleet, and stay at The Old Ferry Inn at Bodnick. The rough plan is a day sail to Polkeris on Saturday, and then Lantic Bay for Sunday, weather permitting. Whilst I'm more than happy I can handle the boat in the conditions, I've got no idea whether or not a northerly F4 is good or bad for what we've got in mind, but then therein lies the advantage of being part of a rally. There will be plenty of good advice on hand.

Can't wait.

Fowey & surrounding area
Fowey Harbour
Mixtow Pill & the pontoon
Bodnick and the view towards the sea

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Doh. Promises, promises.

Wednesday is now a let-down. Still, Saturday looks like it may yet be entertaining.

Though with the plans for the day involving racing a British Moth and then gigging in a marquee tent on a village green, high winds and rain mean that the laugh will probably be on me |-:

Tuesday 6 September 2011


The wind is howling outside the window and forecast to continue through for tomorrow. With the lake at Frampton looking like somebody's pulled the plug I'd pretty much decided to leave my Europe "Blue Moon" ashore until the water levels went up a bit.

Spent the bank holiday weekend crunching centreboards on the bottom in all sorts of unexpected places, and the daggerboard on the Europe is long, pretty, delicate and expensive and doesn't take kindly to being crunched into the floor. But with the temptation of a good blow, I think it's going to be hard to resist.

Feels like ages since I last had a good race, so suspect I'm going to cave in and risk it if the winds hold up till tomorrow night. This could end in tears. But it could also be a hell of a lot of fun :)

Current forecast is for winds of 20mph+ on Saturday, which may be grist for the mill for Blue Moon, however scary with the current lack of depth in the lake, but are silly conditions for a British Moth. Poor Atlantic has been languishing under cover now for most of this year, spurned for the favours of the Europe. Saturday is the Frampton Moth Open though, and she's sat there begging to be sailed.

It's quite clear we need to have one last blast before I move her on, just for old time's sake. Will just have to try very hard not to break anything!

Fun fun fun :-)

Need to find a boat for tomorrow evening!

it's raining, it's pouring

But the wind is blowing like a wild thing.

Sadly, I'm chained to my desk and forced to endure the tease of it
through my office window :(

Monday 5 September 2011

Pink Socks

Habitual Non Blogging

Actually, the very word "blogging" makes me feel a bit squirrely. It's a singularly unattractive sound; given that it's a somewhat modern creation you'd think the collective imagination of the Infernalnet could have come up with something soundling a little less lumpen.

Amazingly, it's been about a year since I last typed at this thing. In two days time it will have been a year since I fractured my foot, which is something of a happier milestone.

That ended well enough. Six weeks to the day of the break the doctors cut the cast off, pushed at prodded at the refusing bones and said I'd be fine, don't bother them again.

"So that means I can return to normal activities again then?"

"Sure . . . wait, what do you mean by 'normal' activity?"

I explain, at which point the caveat is added "I'd give that a few more weeks if I were you" and I'm turfed out to fend for myself. They let me keep the crutches. Whilst definately remaining uncomfortable for a while, the liberation of being free from plaster was exhilarating.

Twelve months later, despite the odd twinge where I broke it and the precaution of now wearing a neoprene sock when I'm in the dojo, I'm pretty much back to normal and I haven't broken anything since!

Sunday 14 August 2011

Ondine & The Severn

The lake at Frampton has over the course of this year become a bit cramped for Dad’s Drascombe lugger “Ondine” so in an effort to find more space and play in some tidal water, we've joined Lydney Yacht Club.

The very first Sunday after our membership was accepted, they held something they call the "Tea Clipper Race", so it would have been rude not to have joined in.

They take their racing extremely seriously over in Lydney, so in the absence of any manner of Notice of Race, the course and rules had to be very carefully explained to us.

Essentially, the idea was to launch from Lydney as soon as the tide allowed, sail [drift] up to Newnham at a leisurely pace, land on the bank by the public carpark and have breakfast; traditionally a mug of tea and bacon butty from the burger van sited there. Hence the name of the, um, race.

Duly sated, the idea is then to relaunch and sail back to Lydney on the ebb. The first boat to land and retrieve on the slip wins the race. The only way to get disqualified is to accept a tow.

It was hardly an oversubscribed event, with ourselves, a Wanderer and a Wayfarer pushing out off the slip to ride the flood up to Newnham. But that at least had the advantage of no queues for the bacon butties to worry about!
05:00hrs - Collecting Ondine from Frampton
05:54hrs - Sunrise enroute to Lydney
06:08hrs - The gate to Lydney Docks
06:13hrs - Sunrise over Sharpness
06:14hrs – Lock gates awash with the dawn
06:14hrs – We’re heading up that way
(might have to wait for a bit of water first!)
06:16hrs – Sun rising, water to follow
07:42hrs – Ondine rigged & waiting
08:21hrs – Away with Lydney behind us
08:21hrs – Frampton Sands ahead
08:53hrs – Overhauled by the Wayfarer
Aproaching The Noose
0948hrs: Safely ashore at Newnham
09:59hrs – Dad and his bacon butty

The trip back once we left the Noose and crossed Frampton Sands, the centreboard frequently grounding and a hard beat into a growing F4 southwesterly over a fast ebbing tide, became quite “interesting”. Too interesting to risk taking my hand off the tiller to capture any of it on my camera.

As we passed Sharpness lock, the Wanderer in the lead capsized. She came back up quickly enough, but with her lines tangled and her crew clearly struggling to bring her back under control and land in the rough water. We struck sail and kicked the outboard into life then gave them a tow back to the slip before the water completely ran out. Not completely altruistic. By giving one of the competition a tow they were disqualified so we gained a place :)

Retrieving the boats back up the slip was a challenge. We pulled the Wayfarer up behind a car, tried the same with the Wanderer, and destroyed her trolly on the uneven ground beneath the lip of the slipway. We finally got her up on the Wayfarer's trolly.

Getting Ondine onto her trailer was simple enough as the cradle design pickes her up from the ground, even on an incline like Lydney slip it proved. However, dragging her back up the muddy slip was a different level of challenge.

In the end, it took two cars and a long rope pulling in tandem to get the Drascombe up the slip and out of the mud. But it worked.

An exhausting and muddy finish to the day, but not such that it put any sort of a dampner on the day’s sailing. It may well have been something of a baptism of fire (heh, actually, flood) but it was a fantastic way of throwing ourselves in the deepend and introducing Ondine to the Estuary and our new playground.

The people at Lydney Yacht Club are a fantastic bunch. Stupidly enthusiastic about their sailing and the River, very welcoming, and exceptionally helpful. Settling in on this stretch of home water is going to be something of a challenge, but it's going to be fun, and the company looks very promising.

12:53hrs – Refuel & reflect
14:30hrs – Boat packed away, peace returned to the Estuary
Time to find the bar.