Wednesday 31 December 2014

True Grit Trophy

Last year's New Years Day race for the True Grit was a blow out. Forecast for tomorrow looks entertaining. Hopefully not boat breaking?

Clown Convention

Monday 29 December 2014

Brean Sands

Gratuitous dog-spam ahead. Nik and I took Lilly and Jack for a run on the beach this afternoon, I took the camera. I took something of the order of 336+ pictures of the two dogs in the space of a couple of hours. Naturally, I shan't bore you with all of them.

Flat Holm
Steep Holm
We've got to sail Calstar up through these waters to get her back from Swansea to Portishead. One of my plans for the coming year is to bring her back down from Portishead and round to port both the islands visible from this shore. Portishead Cruising Club runs an event called "The Holms Race" that follows just that course, and we're planning to join in. Don't think we need to wait till then to have a practice or two however.

Jack Sparrow

Burnham-on-Sea is at the south west end of this beach (it is a very long beach) and that's another objective for the year coming.

Friday 26 December 2014

Boxing Nite

Nikki appears to have fallen asleep on the sofa, all three of our kids appear to be playing a game of charades.

The dogs seem bemused.

It's lovely to have the family together.


It's been a good day. Christmas has been good.

Christmas Eve we went to midnight mass, first time since I was about fourteen. Enjoyed singing the carols, always do. Particularly enjoyed watching my brother-in-law doing his thing. He's training to be a vicar, so had a busy time of it.

Don't much care one way or another for the institution of religion, but I do admire conviction, when appropriately channelled. Jim is a good man who has been lucky to find his calling.

I'm sure he's going to do a lot of good before he's done.

Christmas Day was spent at Dad's with my brother and his wife; good food, lots to drink, lots of dogs underfoot. All as good as it could have been given the year we've had. Mum would have loved it.

This morning I overslept, but we still made it to the Club in time to rig Buffy for the start. Cold, dead calm, about a dozen boats on the water. Ben and I both bleary-eyed but quietly eager.

Ben took helm; he seemed to want it so I was quite happy to crew. We were about six seconds late over the line, but moving. Caught the Solos and a solitary Lightning before the first mark, average speed just over 1kt, water mirror smooth.

I figured the lack of any air would at least kill the Lasers, but could see Tony in his British Moth, late to the start, ghosting up through the fleet.

Surprisingly, one of the Lasers, helmed by a guy called Les, managed the drift amazingly well, and along with the Moth caught up enough to begin to give us problems.

About half way through, we were still holding them off until Tony rounded a leeward mark just behind us, tried to climb above, but in all the fuss, forgot to put his board back down and slid sideways into us.

By the time we'd untangled ourselves from his Moth, Les had capitalised on our misfortune and slid by.

We left Tony behind to take his penalty turns, caught up with Les by the final leeward mark of the course and did a fine job of overhauling him up the following beat. Then sailed too wide of the layline, foolishly heading for the red mark rather than the adjacent red-white.

So Les held on to his lead for a while longer.

By now Phil in his shiny new RS Aero was breaking through the fleet to threaten. It was looking pretty grim by the beat of the next lap.

The wind had filled in, the main pack of Lasers and Solos were abrading our slight lead on them andTony was now coming back hard from his earlier penance with the Moth.

We covered the Moth, the end of the race now getting close, ignoring the Laser and Aero as a lost cause. We tacked onto the port layline, having locked the Moth far out to the left, and checked under the sail to see if the other two were far enough ahead for us to be clear.

And witnessed Phil making our own mistake of the previous lap, busy sailing out to red, blissfully pinning poor Les out there with him.

With only minutes left to run, we gleefully retook the lead, and held onto it easily for the rest of the race to take it and the John Sanguin Cup as our prize

A fine morning's sailing, a range of different conditions and close racing through to the end.

Wednesday 24 December 2014


I love the colours of the Risk board

Christmas Eve

And I'm being forced to play with the family. I'm naturally vocal in my objections, but I don't mind.

I quite enjoy being beaten by Ben. I still sail faster than him. Sometimes.

Cure for "unfestive"

"Walk off the Earth" are a very talented Canadian band with a particular genius for covers and an endearing inability to take themselves too seriously. By that I don't mean to detract from their own song-writing but it was the cover songs they post on YouTube that first drew me to them.

I thought I'd share their version of The Little Drummer Boy, below. It seems somehow apt, and listening to it again has lifted my mood enormously.

Christmas Reading

Re-reading Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. First read it some
years ago; Hels (my crew and co-owner of our Enterprise "Buffy") brought
me a copy as a thank-you after I introduced her to sailing.

On first completing it, for some reason I didn't lay hands on the second
book or carry on through the series, which I think was an opportunity
missed. It was a little while before my first Kindle, so reading
sequentially through a given series of books wasn't so straight forward
back in the day. You actually had to go out and find the book, or order
it from Amazon then wait on the post. None of this "One Touch Ordering"
and instantaneous delivery.

Easy to get distracted into another story along the way, I guess.

With the ease and convenience of a Kindle and Amazon, it's been a while
since I've actually re-read any book. I used to do it all the time,
reading to one end of the figurative bookcase then often starting back
at the beginning if I had nothing new to hand. The house is profusely
littered with paperbacks, they quite drive my wife to distraction.

I should probably do something about that, as they're all now redundant.
I've got at least three different devices I can use as an e-reader, so
even if I drop my mobile on yet another pub floor, I'll only be
temporarily frustrated if I'm far away from home and haven't brought a
backup. In which case, the myriad stacks of books littering my home
won't help me either.

But I find it strangely difficult to part with the books I've read, even
if I've no interest in reading them ever again. It feels oddly like

I am enjoying the O'Brian.

I really want to go sailing though. Which is a little tricky, as Calstar
is sat on the hard in Swansea, Ondine laid up on the drive out the front
of Dad's house, and there's nobody to race Buffy against until Boxing
Day. Oddly, although my elbow was giving me a lot of trouble by Sunday
night (two gigs and a pretty energetic race over the course of the
weekend, I have to admit I'd all but asked for it) it's doing quite well
today; I can hardly feel it.

I'm feeling quite unfestive this year, which could be why Boxing Day
feels like a long way away. Hopefully tomorrow will cure that. Nikki is
cooking, but we're all piling over to Dad's house along with my brother
and his wife to eat. To be honest, I'm not a great fan of turkey, but I
always enjoy the company at Christmas Dinner. We're going to miss Mum,
but it's good that we'll be together.

Keep turning left

"It is bloody marvellous when the noise finally quits"

A link picked up from Webb ChilesKeep Turning Left

It's late, and I have to get up in the morning, so haven't watched it all the way through. But I love the commentary and the video I've seen so far.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Almost all that really matters

"Water is water, whether deep or thin, and the  joy of being on it is all that really matters" - Webb Chiles

Spaghetti South Western

For entertainment purposes only, the above is the track of of the last
race of the Winter Series at Frampton, this Sunday just gone.

As previously mentioned I think, it proved to be our worst result of the
series, finishing 7th out of 17, but it was fun.

I've been reflecting on our sailing at Frampton. If you'd told me eight
or nine years ago when I first came back to this game and joined the
club there, that I'd get so involved with the racing scene, I'd probably
have scoffed. That I did get lured in, and relatively quickly at that,
is very much credit to the inclusive, welcoming racing fleet and the
overall friendly atmosphere at Frampton. The racing is a big part of
what's kept me tied to the Club, but it's been as much about the friends
I've made and the people I sail with as it's been about the sailing.
Actually, that's not fair. I'd say more so; much, much more so.

And that says a lot for the people at the Club, because I think we've
already previously established how I feel about sailing. With Calstar,
we've now got a bigger boat and wider ambitions than can be contained on
the lake at Frampton, but I don't think it matters much where we go with
her, Frampton will remain home.

But I digress.

I thought that racing at Frampton was initially about providing enough
variety to such a small lake to enable the sailing to keep its interest.
You can only cruise past the same old swan, duck or willow tree so many
times before the repetition starts to wear. When you're racing, the
landscape is set my the wind and the other boats on the water, and
that's never the same from one race to the next. It's endlessly
challenging, at least viewed from within, and from the perspective of
somebody at my level of racing. Perhaps in another twenty years time or
so when I'm consistently beating everybody I meet out on the water it'll
finally grow dull.

So I originally thought that the racing was simply about maintaining
engagement. The actual result didn't really matter, and as well, because
for the first year or so pretty much every race was a futile chase and a
study in transom spotting as I struggled to keep up with the back of the
fleet. Of course, I'm only studiously non-competitive when I feel I've
no chance of winning. The result does matter, and the race kept dragging
me back week after week. And so the results improved.

And it's been a study in psychology through each season. In the
beginning I'd have exulted to have simply not been last. By the time I
was catching the back markers, that didn't feel like enough and I
hungered for a mid-fleet finish. For the last couple of years or so I've
usually picked up a bit of glassware with a 2nd or 3rd place overall in
any series I've completed, but even that success, grand by the standards
of the early years, is dulled by the fact it isn't a win. So I get a
buzz from the competition, and that is probably as much a part of the
enduring engagement as the variety racing brings to my sailing.

But actually, I think the greatest attraction and benefit of racing at
Frampton is simply the huge amount of time spent on the water over the
year and the tangible benefits all that practice brings to my boat
handling and sail-craft. Because we're racing, we go out all weekends,
in pretty much all weathers. I know my boat and her limits just as I
know my own, and I get a real rush from exploring them and occasionally
pushing them. I know the waters I sail on, and how they're likely to
behave on any given day in any given conditions.

Whether drifting through the fog taking a best guess at where the next
mark is and trying not to breath for fear of upsetting the balance of
the boat and setting of the sails, or screaming down a planing reach in
the teeth of a gale wondering how on earth we're going to manage the
gybe coming up at the end of it, you feel alive, utterly trapped and
embraced within the moment.

I think we're going to have to find people to race Calstar with. Sure,
she's a cruising boat by design and intention, not a racer, and we
brought her wanting to explore, not chase around the cans. But I'd like
to get to know her as well as I know Buffy, and I want to get to know
her home waters as well as I know my home lake at Frampton.

I think to do that, we're going to need to race.

Monday 22 December 2014

Gig done

Off work tomorrow so no rush to sleep. Watching Vikings on Amazon Prime with a bottle of red wine.

Beginning to feel a bit like Christmas.

Sunday 21 December 2014


Sat in a dark corner of the stage between sets reading. Exhausted but enjoying myself.

Today, my eldest boy asked me incredulously how on earth I managed to function on so little sleep.

The youth of today, I ask you.

Still, nice to have him back from Uni for Christmas. We're racing together on Boxing Day.

Can't wait.

On that note, today's race was an indifferent performance, but we've managed 2nd place overall in the Winter Series.

I'm pleased.

Sailing done; now to head off to tonight's gig

Sunday morning; rigged, ready and waiting

Thursday 18 December 2014

Not just for Christmas

Around the end of November I briefly mentioned Stan and, in passing, his then kennel-mate Luna in a couple of posts to this site when we moved them out of kennels and delivered them to their new foster homes at the beginning of this month. I also posted a couple of pictures of Stan.

I learned last night that Stan has been adopted and is now with his lovely new family, and then learned this morning that the foster family we delivered Luna to have failed completely in that role and fallen utterly in love with her. So she'll be staying with them.

Such fantastic news for both of them. Stan is the handsome fellow at the top, Luna is the lovely girl below.

Wednesday 17 December 2014


Brilliant company, very impressed with their support department.

The GPS on my watch has been resetting itself about three minutes into
any race, which has been very frustrating. It stops the track recording
(but seems to leave GPS draining the battery in the background, but not
reporting that it's still running or giving any information) and, more
importantly, was leaving me lost and guessing as to exactly where I was
in the race time wise because it was resetting the timer.

In a pursuit, the time in can have a big impact on your tactics when
dealing with other boats. Early in the race, you avoid them and go for
speed. Towards the closing stages, you play them off, holding them back
and not letting them pass at any cost. Played right, a slower boat can
make it quite difficult for even a significantly faster boat to get
past, but it comes at a cost to the boat speed of both parties.

I logged a call with their support via their website this morning,
didn't really expect to hear anything back. Within the hour, a guy had
emailed me, asking for further information as to the symptoms,
suggesting a hard reset and providing instructions on how, and a
software update, providing a link to do it.

Always a pleasure when you approach a big, faceless corporation asking
for help and get a swift and effective response from a human being,
rather than an automated response from a robot directing you to more
worthless links on websites you've already spent hours trawling through.

I like dealing with people when I have a problem, not robotic automated
diagnostic systems.

As I said, very impressed.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Promises, promises

Final pursuit of the Frampton Winter Series is 11am this coming Sunday. Handy, because I have to be in Bristol for a gig by 5pm of that same day.

Monday 15 December 2014

A winter's morning

Pictures from our office car-park as I rolled up to work this morning. I took the Pentax in with me today. Not sure why, just idle opportunism. Perhaps because I'd had it out at the Club yesterday, so it was present in my dawn-bleared mind as I readied to leave for work.

The jackdaws are present all the way through the year, but seem most bullishly active in either the early spring or the fading breath of autumn.

Our landlady, Mrs P, is not a fan. I think she not unfairly resents their bullying, mob-handed nature on behalf of the more delicate, less gregarious birds that grace the surrounds of the mill.

I can sympathise, having never been fond of either mobs or bullies. And I have an inordinate amount of respect for Mrs P and her invariably sound and well-founded opinions. But I think even so, this lot have a certain thuggish charm about them.

I likewise have friends that live by the sea that refer to gulls as "aerial rats" and, again, they have a point. But I can't help but watch a gull hovering on the uplift from the breeze against a quay wall, even as he eyes up my supper of harbour-side fish and chips, and not envy him the grace of his soaring.

Racing Face

Matt, my very good friend and husband of Hels, my indomitable crew, was on safety boat duty today, so I leant him my camera (and credit for the photos here therefore rests with him). The forecast was looking frisky, so I thought there might be some interesting pictures to grab.

In the event, the wind came in less than I'd expected, which was just as well, as I'd effectively promoted the safety boat cox to camera-man.

The race proved the hardest of the series so far, if you discount my crew feinting on me at the start of the second race last week, and my need to subsequently retire, sailing the swamped boat back single handed through a squall to deliver her safe to shore.

But that was a different kind of hard.

And she came back looking more than fine again this week, so I clearly didn't handle the situation that badly.

This week, the hard was all weather. Pressure enough to get the lasers planing, not enough to get us up on the plane except for once or twice, but great air for Solos, with their fully battened sails, and there were loads of them to climb through.

It took a good while to catch them up, and longer to weave our way through them. They had us every time on pure boat-speed downwind, but upwind we slowly abraded their weather advantage and snuck through.

For once, our only collision of the day wasn't my fault and had one of the lasers doing turns. Not enough of a delay to catch him, and Jon still beat us by a single place. And well deserved for him, I reckon.

About half way through I'd pretty much resigned myself to a middle of the fleet finish. The wall of Solos seemed insurmountable. But that's the lovely thing about a pursuit race. By design, the format brings everybody together at the end of the hour, so it looks insurmountable, but if you keep climbing, the end is always skin of the teeth, boat on boat climactic entertainment.

In the end, we finished a respectable 5th place out of 17 boats. 

The down side of that is that overall, added to the efforts of previous weeks, it lifts us out of the relaxed obscurity of unqualified for the series and into 1st place with one race left to go. Of course, I've got to hold it for that last race. Which, whilst I'm not normally so well positioned, traditionally I always fail to do.

I've never won a sailing series yet. I did once manage to throw away a 2nd place overall by successfully pinning out my only two challengers through the entire final race, only to loose concentration and miss the finish line on the last leg of the last lap. They took 2nd and 3rd respectively, then were kind enough to yell at me to turn around and come back and finish.

[EDIT: realistically, looking at the boats that have yet to qualify, but could do if they race the final on Sunday, combined with the forecast wind, which is promising to be Laser country, I'm in with a chance at a 3rd overall, if we sail well]

So I shall enjoy the moment of being on top for now. I shall race next week, and I shall try to hold my own, but I shall not take it too seriously, and whatever the result, I shall then head off to enjoy my last gig of the year at the Lion, next Sunday evening.

One last thought. Given that this is one of the many things I love most in the world (and yes, I picked the words of that phrase with both care and honesty), the camera apparently says that if I love it that much, I should smile more when I'm racing:

Saturday 13 December 2014

All shiny, bright and new

Dad and I took a trip out to Swansea this morning to check on Calstar. Pete of Wraymarine has worked magic on her, Dad's very pleased. A very pleasant morning all round, if something of a chilly start. The decks were very icy till the sun spread over them.

Can't wait to sail her home. Won't be till the new year now; the crane shuts for the festive season, so she's going to spend Christmas on the hard. We'll have her lifted back in first thing in the new year though.

My wedding anniversary is in the first week of Jan (I think it's twenty years now, but will have to double check pretty sharpish) but after that, we'll look to sail her over to Portishead as soon as possible. That said, if things get in the way, I've no objection to exploring Swansea Bay and the Gower coast for a few weeks whilst we wait on the perfect timing.

Loopy Lu

Yesterday in the park with our current foster dog, Luna.

Thursday 11 December 2014

An old Cohen cover

Apparently posted this to the Tube in 2008. Can't believe it was that long ago. Stumbled back across it looking for recordings of a rehearsal to advertise a gig we're doing next February. It won't include this song, but it was posted about the same time.

[WARNING: whatever mechanic YouTube uses to share the video below here causes it to run into the next video on my YouTube channel and so on.... so if you do watch/listen through to and beyond full 6 mins+ of the song beware of the volume at the end and apologies for the clown loach ambush]

Always struck me as a Christmasy song, so I'm feeling quite festive now. Possibly because my weekend started some hours ago, as I've Thursday and Friday off to use up some excess leave.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Dreaming of Polperro

The bones

The flame is now stripped from the sides of the valley, all that remains is bone of bared trees; the squabbling of jackdaw, the kiss of a dying year's distant sun; Winter is come.

Lesson of the week

Must put some effort into finding a gum shield that I can wear. They
typically interfere with my breathing and most make me want to gag, so
I've by and large got away without one these last eight years.

Of course, the better plan would be to not get hit in the first place.
But sometimes, that's just where the main lesson needs to be found.

Saturday 6 December 2014


It was very frosty this morning when we picked him up. Which was handy, because it meant the mud in the kennel's run was frozen.


That's the dog transport all done, three dogs shifted to their respective foster homes, happy endings all round.

Home in time to chill for half an hour before heading out for the gig.

The pretty face in the photo is Izzy, sat in the crate in the back of my car after we'd dropped Stan off and picked her and Tatty Ted up.

Friday 5 December 2014

Moonlight over Robinswood Hill

Taken this evening, having turned left just as I reached the park with Bear. Looking east, the name of the star to the left of the Moon is bugging me. Didn't stand out as I took the snap. Bright enough to show despite the spring moon. Possibly not a star, but Venus?

Was a pretty night for a walk through the park, in any case.

Class is out for Christmas

Just over half way through the RYA Day Skipper theory course, and classes are finished now till after Christmas. Apparently, we've got all the navigation related maths stuff done. Just have to remember how to do it all now till we take the exam some time in February, after which I guess we go back to cheating our way across the wide waters using GPS waypoints and chart plotters....

It's been fun, but I can't say it isn't a nice break getting my Thursday evenings back.

Never say never

An interesting read on the Yachting World site: - Elaine Bunting - Never Say Never

Thursday 4 December 2014

First race on Sunday is at 11am....

Stan; The Management; Not a Sunday to Solo

The picture is Stan, taken last Saturday at Droveway Kennels, when we
picked up his kennel mate Luna to take her to her new foster home in
South Somerset, but had to leave him behind; a question of fees
outstanding and no suitable foster home to take him to.

We're going back for him this coming Saturday. The Rescue has, with the
hugely generous support of its friends and members, raised the money to
cover the significant but not unreasonable fees owed to Droveway, and
we've secured him a foster home in Weston. One of the trustees of the
Rescue with lots of experience with shy and nervous dogs has agreed to
take him in.

It's a relief, and a weight off my mind, even if it does mean a whole
Saturday's worth of driving around the South West again for yours truly
before the Saturday night gig.

The gig is a Christmas bash for a Bristol biker's club called The
Management MC, which should be a bit of fun. Ben, a long time, good
friend of mine and the Band's is a member, and was asked to organise
their party, but got let down by the band he'd booked at the last
minute, so asked us. We had nothing booked that Saturday at the time
because our drummer was booked out elsewhere (doing a school musical of
all things, not exactly rock 'n' roll, but earns a living) and the
guitarist had his own work's Christmas party to go to.

But it was Ben asking, so we've asked our friend Jake to stand in for
Bean on the drums (miraculously, he was free) and our guitarist Matt has
forfeited his deposit for his work's party and said he'll come play with
us instead.

I'm looking forward to it, despite the long-haul day I'll have to get
through first.

The rewards come Sunday. Hels is back and will crew for me, so I don't
have to rely upon that wastrel eldest son of mine not oversleeping
again. It's not going to be a Sunday to solo the Enterprise. Windguru is
suggesting 12 knots gusting 23 from the west; seems almost too good to
be true, but I've double-checked with the Met Office forecast and that's
largely the same, so I'm going to cling to the hope.

Temperatures are finally dropping towards winter. We've had a hard frost
or two this week, and the Sunday looks like it'll be a little above
freezing. But the wind should need more than enough work to keep us warm.

First race is 11am, second 1pm, so should be home to walk the dogs just
after dusk.