Saturday 7 July 2012

0935 Lydney

All rigged, 30 minutes at least till tide. Three boats sailing to the pill.

0730 Frampton

Collecting boat. Was dry when I got up an hour ago. Rain set in just, expect it's here to stay. Oh well, at least the new waterproofs will get a good road test!

Sunday 1 July 2012

How NOT to win races!

Two minutes and thirty seconds to the start, off Penarth in the Bristol Channel in a force 6 and heavy chop yesterday; capsized to windward and lost the mast in the recovery.

Monday 25 June 2012

Modified Drascombe Lugger Mainsheet

[Disclaimer for the traditionalists, I'm not suggesting this is a better arrangement than the original setup, only that it works well for me!]

The original John Watkinson design for the Drascombe Lugger mainsheet:
  • End of the sheet attached to an eye on the aft deck starboard of the mizzen
  • Sheet runs up to a parrallel double block at the clew of the main
  • Back down to a single block on the traveller back up to clew of the main
  • Down to an upright singleblock on the aft deck port of the mizzen
  • Sheet led forward through fairlead under traveller track to fairlead on base of tiller
  • Cleat, if used, is further up on the tiller
I found this unnecessarily complicated, and with all points of resistance given to the mainsheet, spilling wind became a bit haphazard, especially as the centre falls from the clew to traveller had a nasty habit of twisting. I also found that leading the mainsheet back to a fairlead on the base of tiller interfered with the helm.

On Ondine, we've converted the mainsheet to an arrangement I was already used to from our previous Wanderer, and seems common to aft-sheeted dinghies.

Essentially, we replaced the parallel double block on the clew with an inline double block, and replaced the single block on the traveller car with an inline double-block and becket. The fixing and upright block either side of the mizzen are redundant:
  • The mainsheet runs from the becket on the traveller block
  • Up through the top wheel of the clew block
  • Down to the top wheel of the traveller block
  • Back up to the lower wheel of the clew
  • To the lower wheel of the traveller block
  • Out to the helmsman's hand
More than sufficent purchase for the sheet, but no danger of it twisting and little resistance so it's easy and instantaneous to spill air from the sail in a gust. We've got a jamming cleat on ours, and found early on that it was essential to set the angle so that it required a definite action to set and would release on pressure from the helm without thinking of it in a rush.

We've been sailing with this setup in some, at times, quite boisterous conditions for over a year now, and haven't found any disadvantages to it.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Time & Tide

1412hrs, water is now just at the bottom of the slip.

Note to Self

7m tide, high water was 1138hrs. Time now 1345hrs. Still sufficient water on the slip to recover.

Monday 18 June 2012

All Fall Down

Saturday came with a blow, with gusts touching 38kts, which even on a small lake like Frampton-on-Severn can be a little hairy.

We're right in the middle of junior sail training at the sailing club at the moment, and I'm running the Level 4 course, which is about developing the kids' skills in double-handers. I've got half a dozen lads, all halfway competent sailors already, and pretty resilient, as only teenage boys can be, so despite the bluster of, at times, near gale conditions we sailed anyway.

More a day for heavy weather survival skills than any hope of covering off anything in the syllabus, despite numerous capsizes the kids did well. No casualties and no breakages; I've got a good bunch this year.

Only downside of the day was that I spent most of it in the coach boat when I would much rather have been sailing myself!

Friday 15 June 2012

The Weekend Cometh

Decision point. Double tide out on the estuary on Sunday; high water around 7am and 7pm respectively. Which means we could explore down channel from Lydney and still get back before dark.

Downside is that we've not been that way before so, whilst exploring unknown waters elsewhere isn't really a worry, dealing with the huge tides of the Severn Estuary on a 19' open sailing boat is not a challenge to be taken on lightly or in ignorance.

High water Sunday evening for the return is an 11.58m rise to deal with. And, of course, the thing with springs is that the high tides are HIGH and the low tides LOW, do there will be shoals and sandbanks galore to navigate.

In our favour is the weather forecast. It's going to blow like buggery tonight and tomorrow, and tomorrow brings the rain. But by Sunday it's supposed to drop off to a relatively moderate F3 southwesterly, a warmish day with sunny intervals. Perfect, in many ways, for a down-channel adventure.

We've discussed it, Dad and I, and have decided the decision will swing on whether or not we can convince any other boats out of Lydney to come down with us.

It's not looking promising so far.

However, the alternative plan is for H and I to race Penny in the Frampton Paddle, which is part of the club's Dave Evans Championship series. I don't normally sail enough of them to qualify, but this year looks like it may prove the exception.

We're currently ranked 5th out of 52 entries so far, but that's going to change as the series progresses and more boats qualify. If we can finish with a top 10 result by the end of the year then I'll be very happy as that will be a very satisfactory conclusion against what it usually a very strong  field.

But I digress. Bottom line is that I don't know what I'm doing on Sunday but whatever it is, it's going to be fun anyway.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Saturday 9th

Late on the evening of Saturday 9th June 2012, our beautiful Jasmine died.

Our gorgeous German Shepherd, a bolt out of the blue completely unexpected, she was barely three years old, and the picture of happiness and good health.

On Saturday evening she suffered some sort of catastrophic bleed on the spine that rapidly progressed to something akin to a stroke and was rushed to the vets.

We held her in our arms in the surgery and comforted her as our vet worked for hours to do all he could to save her, but by 11.30 that night she slipped quietly away and it was over.

All far too soon, and we are left distraught and confused.

A Long Weekend to Remember

Ship's Dog
On the evening of Thursday 31st May, I took our tent down to the Club at Frampton and, after crewing for H in the beginners race that evening (she too a deserved third place over the line, possibly taking second from the Laser 2 ahead of us but loosing to a Solo, however both boats were crewed by coaches, so don't count!) I then pitched our tent and moved the family and dogs to Frampton for the long weekend.

Light winds and, at times, heavy rains, but there was no better place to be, even if our old [and now replaced] tent leaked like a sieve.

We worried how our dogs, Jazz and Lilly, would behave, their first time camping, and with so many other dogs, children and other sundrey distractions about. We needn't have, they were both magic, spent the time living in our pockets, long walks, fresh air, chasing sticks and swimming in the lake. Saturday morning, I even managed to introduce Jazz (the bigger of our two German Shepherds, and Lilly's mum) to Dad's Lugger and took her out for a light sail on the lake, with H's help. She absolutely loved it.

"Can I fetch? Can I? Please?"

Sailing-wise, we ran a three hour race on Saturday and a beginners race on Sunday, but the highlight was a two hour midnight race; the winds were inconsistant and the rains poured down thick and heavy, but it was an amazing and uniquely new experience for all of us land-locked, pond-hopping dinghy racers, only enhanced by the adversity of the weather and the good humour of all involved.

Though a close second for the position of "hightlight of the weekend" came on Monday, bright and sunny with a light breeze, when many of us had our first race of team racing in the Club Toppers.

That afternoon, Nikki and I took Jazz and Lilly for a long walk exploring Frampton Village and over down to the estuary along part of the Severn Way. In the evening we made supper out of an Indian takeaway with friends by the side of the lake.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and sunny, the tent dried out in time to get packed away, and then just as we loaded the last bag into the car, the heavens opened, the winds rose and the rains came down in an angry deluge, almost as if by appointment.

It feels like a lifetime ago now.

Monday Night Supper
"Night Fighters"

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Notes for a trip to Frampton Pill

Brian says:

9.3m to make the top slip tenable [B]
8.8m to make first landing area on second bend [A]
7.5m to clear sandbanks in river
7.2m for tide to make the mouth of the pill

Frampton Pill
Sat 7th July, 8.7m at Sharpness for 11.16am
Sun 8th July, 8.2m at Sharpness for 11.53am

Frampton is Sharpness + 15 minutes
Therefore HW Frampton 07/07 is 11:31am

The Noose
Distance LYC to Frampton Pill is approx 5.75nm
Tidal flow "3 to 8kts through Shoots"
Closer to springs than neaps
Estimate worst case 5kts VMG
[4kts tidal + 1kts boat speed]

Pill entry viable after 11am

Launch latest from Lydney at 10:30am
Lydney slip viable to launch from 09:45am

Might need to rope off the landing area to prevent livestock interfering with boats.

Frampton Estate happy for us to land. Frampton Sailing Club happy for us to avail ourselves of their hospitality and facilities.

Transit for Entry [Pylon & Conifer]

Mouth of the Pill on 8.2m Tide

Wanderer entering Pill in 2009

Frampton Church Tower (from within Pill)

Navigating the Pill

Top of the Pill on 9.3m Tide

Weather the Whether

After close on two weeks of glorious summer, forecast looks like it's
cooling off and clouding over. Not that I'm too bothered. One more day
of grind tomorrow, then I'm packing bags and moving the family to the
sailing club for a long, long weekend of idling by the lake. No rain
would be a nice to have, everything else is a bonus. Not even overly
bothered by the lack of wind, as we're not racing and I want Nikki and
the dogs to enjoy themselves as well. Getting either or all out on the
water would be a definite plus!

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Of Blue Skies and Warm Winds

The weekend just gone turned into the perfect end to a week sweltering in the office, staring out of the window at gorgeous, cobalt blue skies and the rustling trees, watching the glory of a British summer pass me by, tantalisingly close but just out of reach beyond the self-imposed prison bars of weekdays 9 till 5.

Friday hit, the weekend came crashing in, and miraculously and completely out of character, the weather held.

Saturday was an Open Day at Frampton Sailing Club, so we spent the day on the water giving joy-rides to visiting members of the public in the Club training boats; Gull Esprits and Wanderers. A stiff warm breeze and bright sunshine, it was everything sailing should be and a perfect advert for our sport and the club. We usually snare a handful of new members out of these events. I'm pretty certain from the feedback of the day that this one will turn to be no exception in that respect.

It was also the first day of the year of sailing in shorts and T-shirt. Hope there are many more to come!

I then had a gig that night in Bristol. Unusually, my wife Nikki had the night off from work so was able to come out to the gig with us. We had the full band, all members present and correct for a change; they played well and the music went down a storm with the crowd. A late night, but fun.

FOSSC Open Day
Sunday was the last day of Race Training for H, so she wanted to race single-handed again for the same reasons as before. Although that left Penny and I crewless and grounded, it's a small loss for a significant gain. The boost to her self-confidence, boat awareness and handling skills from both the course and the time spent sailing racing solo has been significant and marked, and is gaining us places when we do get to race with Penny.

Perfect Weekend Weather

I had the option of racing the Europe, who is, it must be said, weathering very well despite my continual neglect, but the forecast was for the strong Saturday blow to drop to a force 3 northeasterly by Sunday, and it remained a constant prediction through the week, and my friend Hayley was game for another blast around the Severn with her Wanderer again. No contest really.

"I've got no strings to tie me down" [FALSE]

Sunday was a due relatively small tide of 6.6m, nearing neaps, high water expected at Lydney for 12.27hrs, so we agreed to meet up at the yacht club for 10:00hrs. There was more wind in the morning than I'd expected, a definite force 4+, but still from the northeast as promised, so we erred on the side of caution and put a reef in the mainsail. Hayley's only just returning to sailing after some very serious surgery to her spine at the end of last year, so to risk any kind of upset on the water would have been irresponsible.

Drying Out

We launched with the vague plan of seeing how far up river we could get before the tide turned. With the wind set against the flood tide, the tidal flow of the Severn added 5kts to the windspeed, pushing it up another factor to a clear F5 and setting up a steep, breaking chop over the tidal races in the river. Peter and John were manning the Club rescue boat 'Braveheart', James was launching his Enterprise behind us, and there were a couple of SARA RIBS (Severn Area Rescue Association) out on exercise, one of them ambling over to us in curiosity to watch as we launched.

Admiraly Chart 1166

Despite the many witnesses we launched without mishap, got the foils down and set off across the river on a close reach towards Panthust Pill, waves crashing over the foredeck, thoroughly dowsing us in brackish spray. A double-masted motorsailor, tender in tow, was approaching Sharpness in the channel so we tacked away before we got too close and confused them with our intentions and headed upriver in a series of loose beats and close reaches, footing off for speed rather than height and letting the rush of the tide push us up river as much as our point of sail.

The third beat took us past Old Sharpness Dock where we saw the SARA boys preparing to recover one of their RIBS over the wall. Our next tack took us out towards Wellhouse Rock in a short beat before we tacked away again before getting caught up in the chop of the overfalls below the rock. A couple more tacks and we were past Purton, with the GPS on my mobile topping out with a maximum speed (VMG) of 9.36kts at one point. Not bad for upwind against a gusty F4 in a reefed 14' dinghy, and more credit to the flood tide than our sailing I suspect!

Past Purton and Tites Point, the centreboard began to ground out on the sandbank off The Royal Drift, a reminder that despite the ferocity and height of the tide we were close to neaps and vulnerable to, as the Admiralty Chart so sweetly describes this area of the river, "Changing Depths". The time was a few minutes before midday, so another half hour before top of tide, but rather than push on with the river and our luck we tacked and then bore away, reaching back across the river against the flood, surfing down the steep, breaking swell still being kicked up by the wind over tide.

We spent the next forty-five minutes tearing along on the plane in a series of broad reaches, the boat speed exhilarating but the actual speed over ground low and making them last forever with the tide now punching against us. Eventually the inevitable happened and the tide turned (again, as the Admiralty Chart relates, "There is practically no slack water" in this part of the world) and with the ebb the wind died to a whisper and the churning waters smoothed out to flat. We dropped off to a run and, goose-winging the jib, headed back to Lydney Harbour.

10.76nm covered in 2:20hrs afloat, 4.81kts avg VMG

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Rosemunde Cup

Well, the forecast started out promising at the beginning of last week, with the tease of a lot of wind for Sunday's racing. Then, as the week progressed, the weathermen in their wisdom revised, and by the time the day itself arrived, we were sat looking at a muddled and shifty F2/F3 out of the northeast. Then again, a bad day on the water pretty much beats a good day anywhere else.

The first race of Frampton's Rosemunde Cup was a general handicap that saw 26 boats a the start line with what seems to be becoming the usual distinctive port bias. With such a congested line, we decided to pick our spot early and wait, going for a conservative mid-line position. It almost ended badly as all the smaller, lighter single-handers accelerated away, rolling over us as we struggled to find our wind. However, as we dropped out of the back of the mosh-pit, we took advantage of the space for an early tack onto port to find clear air, picking up the shifts just right and soon fought a little way ahead of the gaggle to round the windward mark with the front half-a-dozen boats.

Frampton uses a colour system for identifying the racing marks, with Green, White, Red and Yellow set in each of the north, east, south and west corners of the lake respectively, and intermediary Green/White, Red/White, Red/Yellow and Green/Yellow marks between them. 

The windward mark set for the first race was Green, and is notorious because of its position around a dogleg corner of the lake, the air heavily shadowed by the surrounding foilage and macliously interfered with by a large tree on the inner corner of the elbow.

I tend to think of it as the Frampton Oubliette.

It was exactly this situation that saved us in the first race of the Enterprise Open a couple of weeks ago when all our visitors sailed into it and we sailed past, gleefully giggling like mad, demented things.

This time it bit back.

The few boats ahead pushed through the wind shadow and out onto the run down to white. We followed, and just as we goosewinged and trying to find our wind, the rest of the massed fleet rounded behind us, blocking our air. We stalled and they rolled over us, heckling as our happless burgee spun in witless circles at the top of our mast.

It could have been worse. Once recovered we did what we could to repair the damage, careful to avoid any more holes in the pressure, and finished with a mid-fleet position, but at 14th place this one was to become our discard. The OOD improved the course for the pursuit race that followed, and the wind picked up, but then, inexplicably, restored the original race order for the final handicap just as the wind was fading again, so we were reduced once more to dodging holes and wind shadows in the lee of the windward bank.

Our final result of the day was 10th place out of 27 qualifying boats, so I'm quite content. There were three boats ahead of us in the results that I feel 'Penny' should be beating by now, and one or two further ahead that we can now beat on occasion. The conditions of the day with a F2/F3 northerly however are, looking back over the logs, proving to be our most challenging. In a blow, Penny's weight is less of a disadvantage against the rest of the handicap fleet, and once we're reduced to a drift we just seem to be able to switch a gear and conjour pace out of nowhere. I suspect our relatively light crew weight and my few years of racing a British Moth probably helps.

Of course, all this means that what we really need to practice for consistancy is exactly these sorts of conditions. And, ironically, they've been the prevailing conditions for this season so far, which is showing in our results overall. So much for the promise of spring gales.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Weekend plans

Had hoped to join the Lydney mob with Dad and Ondine for a down channel cruise and overnighter at St Pierre Pill between the Severn bridges this coming Saturday, but my long suffering, gorgeous wife Nikki has vetoed the idea, fairly pointing out that this will be the first Saturday night we've had in together since the beginning of February. It's a pity to miss the chance, but I can't argue with that and there will be other such trips later in the year.

It does however mean I'm around on Sunday to race for the Rosemunde Cup at Frampton. I very nearly won this last year in the Europe, loosing out only after at tie on discard to an Enterprise (I think the scoring system used sucks!) There was so much wind it was all but blowing dogs off their leads on the day. I still vivdly remember the second race in particular, and the shock of seeing most of the Laser fleet ahead towards the end of it, having thought I'd gotten well clear of them ages
earlier. I fought hard to pass them, managed it and then finished assuming I was therefore somewhere in the top third of the fleet; only to discover I'd actually lapped them and was at least three quarters of
a lap clear of the nearest competition.

I love sailing the Europe. Really going to have to think about selling her though, as my time on the water these days is completely absorbed between Penny and Ondine.

Anyway, the forecast for Sunday is looking like it'll be fun with Penny. Although we've proven it's not impossible to win races with her, for reasons I can't really fathom our best results seem to always come in a drift, which this weekend will be not. However, I would rather sail Penny in good company with my crew and struggle to better a mid-field finish than sail the Europe solo even if that could give me a shot at the front of the fleet.

And looking at the rain in the forecast, camping on the banks of St Pierre Pill this weekend would have been a damp affair anyway.

On the subject of pills however, I'll be lacking a crew again a week on Sunday as she's planning to race a Topper to complete the Race Training course she's spent the last six weeks on. There will be a 6.6m due on the Severn around lunchtime however, so might try and get up to Frampton from Lydney with Dad and Ondine to take a look at what the mouth of the pill looks like on a neap tide. Dry mud, I suspect. But the Noose is always an adventure.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Muddy Sundays

I got stood up by my crew this weekend, and Dad was busy jet-washing a caravan, so left to my own devices I managed to snag a sail with a friend in her Wanderer out of Lydney. I've got a soft spot for Wanderers, but also have an unfortunate habit of falling out of them as the toe straps are tricky to reach in the helm's position of you're hiking. That's my excuse, anyway.

The wind was in the southwest pushing past the top end of force 4, but the tide was on or nearing neaps, so only about five or six meters in it; slight for the estuary. All the same, it had the promise of being a little lively, especially once the tide turned to the ebb and started to run back against the wind.

It was an unusually busy day for Lydney, with two Wayfarers, an Enterprise and an Osprey joining us on the water. We launched an hour and a half before top with no mishap, and crossed the river, punching against the tide in a series of close tacks and tight beats along the far bank to enter Berkley Pill, just behind one of the Wayfarers.

It was then lots of tacking close hauled with the occasional bear away to a dead run and gybe or two within the claustrophobic and meandering path of the pill until we reached the top. The only real drama happened when I misjudged the bank on one tack, had the centre board pop up as it hit ground, and the resulting lack of steerage saw us indignantly pinned to a muddy lee shore. However, we managed to push ourselves back out with a paddle until deep enough to get the board back down, and were soon underway again.

Back out of the pill with another forty minutes until top of tide, we spent the time reaching back and forth across the turbulent river between Sharpness and Lydney; pure, unadulterated joyride, plain and simple. We were treated to the unexpected but pleasurable company of an old double-masted tall ship leaving the Sharpness Dock to head down channel. No idea who or what they were, but she was a gorgeous sight all the same.

Shortly after, surfing down the swell on a beam reach, I hiked out hard to pump the mainsail in as another gust hit, and missing the toestraps just as the next wave picked us up, tumbled inelegantly out of the back.

In such circumstances, I find it best to just cling onto whatever you've got. Better the crew joins you in getting wet than have them sail away without you. Not sure the crew would agree but you rarely have time to consult on these occasions!

I came spluttering back to the surface, mainsheet in hand, to the sight of the Wanderer beginning to heel hard as my dragging weight pulled the boom in and forced her to turn up into the wind. All the while the boat was still tearing along at a fair rate of knots in the blow.

Dragging myself up the mainsheet, I somehow managed to get a hand onto the starboard stern quarter before she heeled to far, hauled my face up above the gunwale and politely requested my crew take the tiller and hold it steady for a moment. Their face is always a picture when they turn around and realise you're gone; yes, this has happened to me before. Then as the next wave surged under us, I hauled myself in to the surprise and amusement of my host and crew. She later told me that as I slid aboard over the transom that I looked like a performing seal.

The rest of the day's sail went without mishap and we were back ashore at Lydney within the hour, washing the boat down before retiring to the bar to recharge and refuel.