Thursday 31 July 2014


And I sit in the lazy, hazy sun by the lakeside, sipping tea and reading, listening to the lapping of small waves.

Back on duty in ten minutes, running safety boat for 43 juniors and their coaches at the Club today.

They've been camping here all week, I'm only here for today. My son, Ben, is one of the coaches.

Might race tonight, if I can find a crew.

For now, I'm enjoying the lapping of the waves. And my tea.

Monday 28 July 2014

Home safe

Great weekend away in Fowey with Dad. Just got back to his place. Looks like the dog-sitter (my daughter, Tash) has done a fine job.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Most odd

Having a great weekend with Dad, weather is amazing. But I'm missing the dogs. What the hell is that about?

Needless to say, I've posted this here rather than Facebook, cause the last thing I need is for the wife to read this.

Obviously, I miss her to. But I'm practiced at that.

Friday 25 July 2014

Sunshine and the deep blue

Afloat and enroute to Polkerris. Sun is toasty, gentle breeze subdues the worst of the heat and puts a bone between Ondine's teeth. The sea carries a slight, soothing swell.

Hooked up and ready to roll

Thursday 24 July 2014

Fowey Moths

In case I hadn't yet mentioned it, I'm off to Fowey tomorrow. Can you not tell I'm a little demob happy?

I first went to Fowey in 2009 as part of a British Moth trip away from our club at Frampton. The British Moth is very much a river dinghy, and racing around Fowey Harbour in one and out into the bay brought quite a different perspective to sailing the boat.

One of the race officers at Fowey Yacht Club was, during that event, overheard trying to explain what a Moth was to the safety boat crew over the VHF; to quote the man, "It's kind of a wooden Topper. With a STUPIDLY oversized sail"

The following two photos were taken of me in my Moth "Atlantic" around that time. The first was, I think, taken by Georgia Honey at a Frampton Open, and the second at the British Moth Nationals at Hunts by a professional photographer called Mike Shaw who was covering the event for Yachts and Yachting.

I love both these photos because they so perfectly capture the character of the Moth and remind me of why she was such a treat to sail. The boat was typically very close, tactical racing, extremely rewarding when you to got it just right, quick to punish you when you didn't. Just to keep me humble, here follows another photo from the Hunts event, one of many on a similar theme (that being my not getting it at all right!) taken during the racing the day before by Georgia.

Time and tide

I've gone from having no watch and therefore habitually comendeering Ben's as it spends most of its time strapped to his buoyancy aid, to having a plethora of timepieces.

It almost costs as much to have a man change the battery as it does to replace the watch, and the latter I can do from the comfort of my chair courtesy of the Internet. And so I have done for a few years now, whenever their various batteries have run low.

Then it occurred to me to look for replacement batteries online instead and try to change them myself. I mean, how hard can it be?

Not hard at all.

A couple of quid and a five day wait on the post for enough batteries to replace the last three watches; a half hour of fiddling, and we're done.

In explanation of last night's brief post, that was the verdict of the coroner, Dad was told yesterday. Degenerative colitis, undiagnosed, leading to sepsis was the cause of Mum's death.

Angry. With her, with us, with them, with it. And sad, desperately sad. So sorry for Mum. What a horrible turn of chance and a terrible thing to go through. Desperately sorry and sad for her.

Car packed in yesterday, needed a tow home. Battery went dead. It's either the battery or the alternator or some black wizardry in the car's electrics that has kicked the can.

Rubbish timing, really frustrating, but what can you do.

I'm going to go sailing. Will sort it out when I get back.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Degenerative colitis

Summer time, and the living is easy

This has to be the longest consecutive period I've ever continually set
off for work in the morning with short sleeves and no pullover to fall
back on, whistfully wishing I could bring myself to wear shorts to the
office. There is nothing stopping me doing so except my own dignity. We
let the staff wear what they please, within reason. Shorts are within
reason, and they're all evidently a lot more sensible than me.

As a youngster out in the Middle East, I was a skinny wretch and
didn't seem to feel the heat, so that doesn't count, but the UK has
never before offered me as much balmy heat and humidity in one go.
Either that, or the middle aged spread that hangs heavy on me now at 10
stone is causing me to feel it more.

I'm not complaining. I'm a creature of the sun and love the warmth. I
resent only that I'm caught stuck in an office, looking out at the blue
skies beyond my window. And that I'm not wearing shorts.

Not sailing tonight, though would have loved to. But have to get
everything set for the off on Friday morning. Which means making sure my
sailing gear is both clean, accounted for and packed ready to go. Still
early days but the weather looks set to continue into the weekend, so
will make certain I have a few pairs of shorts, swimming gear and a
spare towel.

I'll also make certain to pack a fleece or two plus my wet weather gear.
Don't care what the forecast suggests, this is the UK after all.

Tides look great. New moon and spring tides, rising into the evening.
It's hard to take Cornish tides seriously coming from the Severn as we
do, but we shall. The Fowey has quite a tow on it, and even a couple of
knots of adverse flow can make quite a difference when your crusing
speed is what, at a guess, a little under 3kts if that?

Friday has a light easterly, which will make Polkeris a lee shore, but I
don't think there's enough wind to make that too much of a concern, so a
trip around Gribben Head in the afternoon for a pint and maybe lunch at
the Rashleigh Inn sounds like a fine plan.

Saturday has next to no wind, but high tide is just before 7pm. Dad
doesn't have the patience for drifting so I'll have to consign myself to
the drone of the outboard. We've never made it as far up the Fowey as
Lerryn, though that's always been an ambition. So Saturday morning into
Fowey town, followed by a potter up river to the Ship Inn at Lerryn for
the evening. It's an exceptionally pretty river.

Sunday the wind fills back in, veering into the north. Polperro is a few
miles east of Fowey, a proper Cornish harbour and I think the first pub
in that direction. We'll be in the shelter of the land each way, so I
think it's probably achievable; would love to do it but will depend on
how Dad feels as the weekend progresses. His stamina is the arbiter of
what's possible, and it's a thing I find completely impossible to
anticipate or predict.

No plans for Monday. The forecast is suggesting winds light and falling,
but it's a long way out yet. We'll be packing up to come home at the end
of the day, but maybe another trip out to Polkeris or over to Lantic Bay
or even chase the rising tide up river for lunch at Golant.

Anything is possible, can't wait. The only thing fixed is that I have to
be packed, prepared and ready to set off for Cornwall at 7am Friday
morning. Really looking forward to it.

Monday 21 July 2014

A perfect dress rehearsal

Took to ignoring the forecast as the weekend went on. Main concern was the risk of lightning on Sunday afternoon whilst we were out sailing. At Frampton, if you're hit with a sudden storm, you're only ever five minutes from shore, and in any case, the lake is surrounded by trees all a lot taller than your mast.

Out on the Severn, you have lots of flat water around you, few other boats if any for the heavens to target instead of you, and once you launch from Lydney, you ain't coming back until the tide changes.

In the event, the sky was blue and looking benign across the morning, the only disappointment being the seeming lack of wind; but the forecasts I did check before leaving had given up on the thunder and lightning, so all looked good.

The promise of a couple of water-pistols and the company of my eleven year old cousin Ollie were enough to draw my youngest lad Sam away from his video games to come out sailing with us. First time I've managed to drag him out on to the water since Cornwall last year. Lydney Yacht Club were supposed to be holding their Family Weekend this weekend, with a water-fight apparently scheduled for the Sunday tide (thus the excuse for the water-pistols), so I was a little apprehensive as to what we might find when we got there.

In the event, the earlier inclement weather of the weekend seemed to have driven them all home as the Club was all but deserted. Which I've got to say suited me fine. They're lovely people, but I've been trying all year to find a chance to get back out on the River. Didn't really want a "water-fight" getting in my way.

The Safety Boat crew did turn up, but as it looked like we were going to be the only boat on the water, we agreed we were more than able to look after ourselves, and gave them the afternoon off.

We launched just as the tide covered the bottom of the slip. With barely enough wind to give directional control through the shoals, we drifted (or rather, were flushed) up past the gap between Sharpness and Wellhouse Rock. At this point, totally becalmed I gave into Dad's impatience, furled the main and jib and kicked the outboard into life. The boys amused themselves with their water-pistols, I surrendered the helm to Dad, and we took them on an ambling tour of Frampton Sands and the lower reaches of the Noose, showing Ollie the sights and landmarks of the estuary.

We started to bump into the shallows of the Noose a little before top of tide, so used the outboard to stem the flood until it turned. As I'd hoped, the wind filled in against the ebb and we hauled sail and cut the engine, to enjoy an energetic beat back to Lydney. The nice, steady F3 blowing up against the falling tide gave Ondine enough heel enough to show Ollie, his first time aboard a sail boat, a proper taste of sailing, and pushed up enough of a sea to wake up Sam with the spray being thrown over the bow. He'd fallen asleep on the foredeck in the sun, using the anchor as a pillow, strange lad.

Landing at Lydney is a bit like landing a glider. With a 7kt tide, your options for a go-around are limited, so you only really get one chance to keep your dignity intact.

That's not entirely true. It was a neap, so the flow was lessened accordingly, and the breakwater does give a bit of slack in the eddy behind it to let you scratch back up and around the harbour wall if it all goes wrong. In the few short years I've been sailing out of Lydney now I have ended up, for one reason or another, getting washed past the breakwater a couple of times, once in Ondine and another time at the helm of the Club's Wayfarer. I've always made it back unaided, but it is difficult, and the general expectation is that most people won't.

Accordingly, the Club keeps a very long, thick warp in the Safety Boat hut with a lead weight the size of a small cannon ball spliced into the end of it. The accepted drill is you scrape your way back up to the harbour wall in the shelter of the back-eddy by means fair or foul, they lower the weighted warp to you, then they run it around the end of the harbour wall and haul you around.

Needless to say, this time we landed seamlessly and without any drama, recovered the boat to the top of the slip, lowered the masts and hosed her down. Just as we pulled the cover over her, black clouds tumbled in, the heavens opened in a downpour, and the thunder started to roll.

It was a great day. Seems we've sold Ollie on this whole sailing lark. Sam, on the other hand, whilst admitting he did enjoy himself, says that's enough sailing for another year, so intends to return to his video games. You can lead a horse to water . . . .

In four days time Dad and I head for Fowey. This was the perfect dress-rehearsal. So back now to watching the forecast with trepidation. Though I have to say, for the moment, it's looking really promising.

After the Storm

Happens to be a fantastic song by Mumford and Sons, but that's not what
I actually had in mind.

After that very damp start to Saturday, got home in time to dry off
quickly and head out again with Nikki to visit the Bearder family. Back
in March of this year, they adopted a pup we'd been fostering, the
lovely Bella. She was a gorgeous, adorably little scamp, with an
effervescent, fearless love of life.

The skies were still battleship grey and pouring when we arrived, but as
we sat in their kitchen drinking tea, nattering and laughing at the
antics of the dogs, the clouds broke and the sun came out.

Needless to say, Bella is thriving. Growing like a weed, full of
curiosity and mischief, and completely loved by her new family.

The glorious sunshine held on long into the evening. We headed over to
Dad's for a BBQ with the family. Abandoned the car there. Ate too many
burgers, drank too much beer and walked home through the long, warm
dusky twilight.

Saturday 19 July 2014

A damp start

Woke up this morning to find a thunder storm parked overhead and the heavens bucketing down.

Have just fetched Ondine from the Club ready to trail over to Lydney tomorrow.

We're now very wet. Too warm for oilies, too wet to work without because it ain't THAT warm.

Still, nice to be up and outside whatever the weather. Just hope it clears through in time for the BBQ around Dad's this evening.


Not up to catching the lightning on my phone. Funny, the storm made me think of Mum, far from the first time this week.

Will take a while longer to dull, I guess.

Weather is looking kinder now for Sunday. Think she may have brought it all in early for us.

Friday 18 July 2014


There are some photos of last night's lightshow on the BBC website:

The fifth picture down is of Gloucester Docks, in the centre of my
hometown. Overall, they've done a good job of refurbishing the old
warehouses, redevloping the area and putting the place back into use. I
wasn't at first sold on the new residential blocks they put up amongst
them, I thought they were a modern eyesore. I guess they've weathered in
well enough though now a few years have slipped by.

Thunder, lightning; very, very frightning

Lively night last night. Went to bed about 1am, noticed the wind was
picking up madly. Just as I settled into bed with a book a lightshow
started in the heavens and the downpour hit. Lasted into the early hours
of the morning. Most of the dogs slept oblivious.

Except for Jack, who'd bark once, loud enough to wake me, just before
each flash of lightning. Poor lad wasn't so much terrified, as just
anxious, unsettled and confused; think he was just desperate to protect
us from the big, bad storm, but couldn't work out how.

Consequently, I didn't get much sleep last night.

I've tried checking on Buffy via the Sailing Club webcam, but the camera
is down. I expect she'll be fine, she was well tied down in her berth
when we left her on Wednesday.

Dad and I are fetching Ondine back from the Club tomorrow morning,
getting her ready to travel, as we're off to Fowey in a week. By way of
dress rehearsal though, we're going to take her over to Lydney on
Sunday. High tide is 1447hrs, but it's very neap; a mere baby of a flood
at 6.2m.

It'll be lovely to get back out on the River again. I should say "if" as
I've taken a peek at the forecast for Sunday, and the forecasts are
suggesting more thunder and lightning for the area, right across the
period we should be sailing. Will just have to keep our fingers crossed.
The weather's a funny old thing around here. You never really know what
you're going to get until you're out in it.

Wednesday 16 July 2014


Gorgeous sky this evening. There was a rainbow behind me as I took this. The rain just about held off whilst we were sailing tonight, then the shower properly set in just as we'd put the boat away and were heading into the Clubhouse for a beer and supper.

Monday 14 July 2014

The Office Window

One of the things I love about it here is the range of wildlife right on
our doorstep.

The photo is the view outside my office window right now, just beyond
the tree that Sixpence was so fond of using for a perch earlier this year.

Trout turning in the millrace, kingfishers and herons, rabbits and
squirrels are all quite commonplace; even an otter made a visit a couple
of years ago.

This is the first time I've spotted a deer outside though. Typically, my
camera is at home, so the only photographic equipment to hand is my
mobile phone.

RIAT, Fairford, 2014

A few photos from the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford this year. Spent the day there yesterday with Nikki. Made a change from the usual Sunday's sailing.

The Red Arrows, as always, stole the show, but there was plenty of other visual and auditory spectacular to feast the senses on. The Chinook in particular seemed to impress Nik; she said it was like watching somebody do aerobatics in a freight-train.

This year I went with the particular intention of being a little more discerning about what I got the camera out for, and a little more disciplined with the shutter. I'd say I was, at least in comparison to previous years, but I still managed to fill up two 4gb memory cards with, I think, 896 shots.

I've gone through the contents of the first card, and reduced that to around 90 pictures worth keeping. A conversion of about 10%, which is pretty typical for me. Not sure when I'm going to get the chance to go through the second card. Perhaps after Karate tomorrow evening.

I've been struck, on having cause to go through the last ten years worth of my photos a number of times of late, by how many images of boats and aircraft I capture. I love both, but actually, it's the pictures of people, of friends and family, that are without doubt the most valuable to me.

Friday 11 July 2014

Thursday 10 July 2014


And won't expand on that, because it would be unfairly self-indulgent of the humour of anybody else that might read this.

Except to say funny sometimes, on reflection, the life choices we make. We bind ourselves with our own foolishness and nothing more.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Wednesday Rehab

Lovely evening's sailing after work. I took helm, Ben crewed. The boy's a fine second head to have in the boat with you.

Great start, mostly Ben's strategy. Good first beat, second around the windward mark.

Rest of the race went well. Found our way to clear air, closed the gap enough on the boat in front to beat him on handicap, and took first place out of the fleet of ten.

A lovely evening overall.

Church-yards and scrap-yards of broken dreams

Wind is filling in as promised. Just have to hope it'll hold out into the evening for the race.

By way of explanation for the titles of a couple of preceding entries from yesterday, they are lines from a song I wrote on another train journey north many years ago. Then I had only a pen and paper to while away the miles. This time around, I had the camera on my phone to play with. How we ever managed without such gizmos immediately to hand I'll never know.

The song was called "Sometimes", and that link leads to a recording of it; we were young, unrefined, a little out of tune and still very much undamaged by life. Not a bad place to be, and I'm still fond of the song and memories that go with it.

No gigs for the rest of the month now, but four booked for August after I get back from Fowey at the end of the month. Not one to wish away my life, but can't wait for Fowey.


Can't sail Sunday, off to an airshow with some folks from work. Didn't race last Sunday because of the grading.

Solution: Ben and I are going to head to the Club tonight. There is the usual Wednesday evening race, and around 10kts of wind forecast, which is enough to play with.

The above photo was taken from one of my student's Toppers last Saturday. She was in the Safety Boat with my assistant, damp and tired but otherwise fine and happy.

Of course, somebody had to sail her boat in.

Gloucester Station

Platform 2, waiting on the train to Bradford; the beginning and end of yesterday's day at work.

Saturday 5 July 2014

And it's done

Time to go home. Happy Birthday Max, 21 this week, and thank you for asking us to play at his party. Lovely end to a fine day.

Grading tomorrow. I'm not nervous. Not in the slightest.

I'm sure they used to be much easier when I was younger though.

The view from the stage