Wednesday 27 August 2014

That would be Wednesday almost done

Great evening's racing with Ben. 4th place out of 15 in the handicap fleet. Rubbish start, recovered admirably and quite unexpectedly on the second downwind leg.

I've really enjoyed crewing for him across the summer, going to miss it when he goes back. Couple more Wednesdays to go before then however.

Hump Day Wednesday

Of course, we cheated getting here. Was a bank-holiday weekend, so had Monday off, resulting in only a four day week to get through. So, technically, you could argue we're still on the uphill climb at only two days in, and don't reach the summit till this evening. But that would be splitting hairs whilst you danced on the head of a pin, so we don't need to go there.

Was a great weekend.

Started Friday night with a gig in a new venue. Weddings and Birthdays and the like are often new venues, though we get a fair few repeats at some of the more popular ones, but it's been a while since we've had a new, garden-variety pub venue, so The Trident in Downend was a bit of a treat.

A few friends of the band local to the area turned up to cheer us on, and Dad and Aunty Ann came down to see us, but otherwise lots of new faces in the crowd that hadn't seen the band before. First time Dad's been to a gig in an absolute age, and first time ever I think Aunty Ann has seen us perform "in the wild". We did do a party for one of my cousins about eighteen months ago, but that doesn't really count, fun though it was. This last Friday, Bean, the band's drummer, was away at a festival elsewhere, so one of our regular standbys Dan stood in on drums. As always, he did a fantastic job.

It was a great gig. Turned out to be a lovely venue. We're back there a couple more times before the end of the year (next time, we've got our friend Eddy standing in for Matt on guitar) and a promise of gigs into next year, so good result all round, I think.

Saturday, I actually convinced Nikki to come out sailing with me at Frampton. We took one of the Club's Wanderers out. A Wanderer is very similar to a Wayfarer, just a little shorter overall in length at 14'. Whilst I wasn't able to persuade her onto the helm, Nik said she quite enjoyed it. After she'd had enough, I dropped her back on shore and played for a while longer with the Wanderer whilst she went for a walk around the lake with my usual crew Hels and their dog, Frankie.

Before they got back, I surrendered the Wanderer to one of the other instructors at the Club that wanted to take his grandchildren out and took an RS Feva out. Had fun single-handing the boat with the asymmetric. That bit was easy, and something of a laugh in the gusts. Unfortunately, the jib cleats on boat sides were broken, which at times left me wishing I had a third arm.

Sunday we took off sailing, and instead went out for a pub lunch with Dad, Nikki, the boys and Ben's girlfriend who'd come down from up north to stay for the weekend. I'm usually racing on a Sunday, so it was a bit of an unusual treat; there was no racing scheduled at the Club because of the bank holiday.

Rain was forecast for Monday, with a squally start to the morning, with the wind fading into the afternoon. So Dad and I did the sensible thing, and took Ondine out for a play on the lake. We took Bruno out with us. Previously, he's been a bit like a gazelle on ice, paws slipping and sliding on the fibreglass deck. This time, we fitted him with slippers, and he instantaneously transformed from newborn Bambi-impressionist gazelle to German Shepherd shaped mountain goat.

Despite there being a bit more wind than the last time we took him out, with his boot on he was quite settled, even with the boat heeling in the gusts. Not sure I'd want to trust him out to sea in the Lugger though.

Dad's seriously thinking of trading in the boat for something with a hutch. He'd originally set his eye on a Drascombe Coaster, which we could do for next year, but the more he's talked about it, the more he's convinced himself he'd really like a Drifter 22, which might take an extra year of saving up. Which is fine, as long as his health holds out. On that score though, at the moment he seems bullishly confident.

It occurs to me that with a the additional shelter of a Coaster or the shelter and space of a Drifter 22, Bruno coming out to sea with us becomes a much more realistic prospect. Wonder how you manage the, um, "mechanics" of a German Shepherd at sea? All very well keeping a bucket around for the bipeds aboard, but although he's arguably better house-trained than some of my children, the bucket might be a bit of a stretch for poor old Bruno.

Though that's a puzzle for another day.

Today is Hump Day Wednesday. Downhill to the weekend from here. Meantime however, Ben and I are racing this evening. Not many more Wednesday evenings left before the boy goes back to Uni, so best make the most of it. Currently knocking the trees about in a south-easterly F4. Not our prevailing wind direction, it's funny having it come the wrong way down the valley. Hope it holds into the evening. Forecast to fall a little, but you never know.

Friday 22 August 2014

Today I felt the first chill of summer's end

So I figured I'd cook a vegetable soup for me and the boys for supper.
Fortunately, the recipe said cook with wine.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Regarding the afore mentioned gig

Some snaps from last night, lifted from various unsuspecting sources, all associated with the band so I feel at liberty to assume permission.

Sound-check. Drummer is concentrating. Insofar as drummers concentrate.

Bean (above) is our only full time musician. Aside from his other band interests, he mainly carves his living out of teaching drums and session work. Some time ago, he was asked to drum for a 6th form (last year of high-school for those of us not familiar with the UK education system) school band at some kind of festival.

Bean had other previous commitments later that same evening, so they went on very early in the afternoon and, I understand, as a result played to next to nobody. By way of compensation, Bean invited them along to play a set at last night's gig before we went on.

It has to be said, a Saturday night in Fishponds is something of a baptism by fire. They did good. As far as I'm concerned, they'd be very welcome to support us again any time.

The rest of the evening wasn't quite so civilised or picturesque, but we had fun. I do love the Railway.

And so ends a fine weekend

Great day yesterday playing about with the Lugger, followed by a brilliant gig, followed by a day's racing today with Hels and the Enterprise, took a first and second place out of around twenty boats, but more to the point, loved every second.

Now cooking spaghetti for supper for me and two of the kids.

Sadly, not for Jack. You can read the disappointment in his face.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Today's crew

Dad has accompanied Aunty Ann away for the weekend to visit her poorly mother. In his absence, I went to the Club this morning to launch Ondine myself to help our with the Sailability mob. We had a lovely morning pottering around the lake.

Home now, feet up on the sofa with a book and cup of tea, trying not to nod off but otherwise chilling for a small while before I head down to Bristol for tonight's gig.


Fraternising with the natives

Thursday 14 August 2014

Sunday Incoming

The forecast for this coming Sunday. Still a way out, but most sources
seem to agree it's going to be at the top end of F4, with the Met Office
predicting accompanying gusts pushing through to F7 or 8. Though they're
always prone to over exageration.

Ben's off to Chorley to visit his girlfriend for the weekend (who today
found out she'd finally been accepted into Glasgow Uni this autumn to
study vetinary medicine, way to go Emily!) so no slacking off for me up
the front of the boat.

Instead, I'll be on helm and, as Hels is now back, she'll be crewing for
me. We're going to be grossly out of practice. Fortunately, it's a the
end of a novelty "personal handicap" series which we won't qualify for
anyway, so it's effectively a fun, nothing to loose kind of race for us.
Perfect really for getting back into the swing of things.

I rather suspect we may spend a good part of it swimming. I'm a bit
worried for that shiney new burgee I installed at the top of the mast
some weeks ago.

It'll just have to take its chances. I honestly can't wait.

Launching a Drascombe

Back in July, I wrote about our most recent trip out on the Severn, the weekend before Dad and I took Ondine down to Cornwall. A fellow member of Lydney Yacht Club, Graham Chrisford, took some photos from atop the Breakwater of our launching from the slip that morning and setting the sails, some of which follow below, with his kind permission.

Photos rarely capture the somewhat perilous angle of the slipway. The photo does catch how the lower reaches of it were covered by an inch or two of slick estuary mud, left there by the previous tide. In the photo you can hardly see where the edge of the slip is behind me, and the mud bank begins.

Thankfully it's a bit more obvious on the ground. Step off into the mud, and it'll be up over your knees.

The idea of launching with the kids aboard, whilst not entirely health and safety conscious, was to keep them out of the mud and so the mud out of the boat. Dad and I are both pretty proficient at washing our feet off in the water as we slide aboard. Sam (in the bow) has never mastered this, and Ollie (port side) was on his first ever trip out in Ondine, or under sail of any kind for that matter, so it seemed an unfair expectation.

The real trick was in not letting go of the bow warp as I pushed her off the trailer. It's not something I'd do anyway with 7kts of tide ripping past the breakwater, but with the two kids aboard . . . . Well, have you ever stood at the edge of a really long drop and listened to that voice at the back of your head saying "Go on, jump! You wanna jump! Jump! You know you want to!"? It was a bit like that.

We do all get that same voice, don't we?

Once Dad's aboard, the launch routine is involved, but pretty fixed in sequence.

He gets the outboard deployed and running, and I jump aboard the bow as he backs out astern into the tide.

Once clear of the slip, which is pretty much by the time I'm aboard, centreboard goes down, deploy the rudder, unfurl the sails, deploy the bumpkin and rig the mizzen.

Unfurl the jib, make sure the mainsheet is still free and secure the clew of the mainsail, I take the helm, and, now we're under sail, Dad finally kills the outboard and lifts it clear of the water.

All this only takes a few minutes, but invariably, by the time it's done and I look up, Lydney Harbour is already fading into the distance and the tide has pushed us up and past Sharpness.

Ondine is such a pretty boat.

The cruiser off our port bow is a very unusual sight around these parts. I think they locked out as the tide brought the lock into operation, motored up to the old dock to have a nosey around, then went back into the lock at top of tide to return to the sanctuary of the docks and Sharpness canal.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Sunsets are too easy

But irresistible. On way home from the Club, view out to my left, across the River.

We sailed badly tonight. Didn't hit anybody, but that's the best can be said.

Actually, no.

Best to be said is we sailed tonight. Race might have been rubbish, but I've still got that silly, happy, at peace with life and the world feeling I always get after I've been sailing.

Monday 11 August 2014

A chessboard for a dancefloor

Not really. But didn't really get how striking last night's stage looked until I was thumbing through the snaps on my mobile this evening.

James and Chiara's wedding; lovely couple, lovely evening, they danced the night through.

In twenty plus years of doing this, first time we've ever had an Elvis song requested for the first dance.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Another weekend, another cup of tea

Sat in my favorite spot, drinking tea, watching my son and young cousin play in Ondine's new tender.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

A Severn Bore

Mention of the Bore in my previous post led me to conclude I probably
ought to post a picture of it by way of illustration for those reading
that might not be familiar with these parts.

Then it struck me. I've lived here twenty years now. And I've troubled
to go watch the Bore once.

How we do ignore the treasures on our own doorstep.

Credit for the photo, taken from the banks of Elmore Back in 2006 I
believe, is due to Hayley Roberts.

Gloucester Ring; a planned return, 2014

Feeling a little bit excited.

The "Gloucester Ring" is a 46 mile journey; leaving Lydney to follow the tide 28 miles up to Gloucester, crossing the weir at Llanthony and entering the Docks, 16 miles back down the Gloucester Sharpness Canal, then wait for the next tide to lock out of Sharpness and cross the couple of miles back over to land home at Lydney again. You need a tide high enough to top the weir at Llanthony, typically 9m plus and you need to NOT miss the brief window for crossing the weir at top of tide or you'll find yourself in something of a pickle. It could well take a couple of tides to make it back down.

The upper reaches of the "unnavigable" Severn, and by that I'd suggest I mean anywhere above the Old Crossing some miles below Lydney, are not somewhere to get stuck between tides. Every tide on this stretch of the river pushes a bore up in front of it, but with the springs, of which you need an especially high one to clear the weir, the Bore is potentially very violent.

It's not for the purists. The constraints of the tidal gate at the weir means that if there's insufficient wind, you have to use the outboard. And, of course, the 16 miles back down the canal have to be under power as well. But it's still quite the adventure.

We last did it in the company of quite a few other boats in September 2012, and had a great time. The photos accompanying are from that trip.

A friend, Steve of Green Bean, has said he's going to try it again this coming October 11th and asked if we fancy joining in. A spring tide of 9.4m is predicted for Sharpness at around 10.30am. That gives us plenty of water, if only a little bit of time, to reach the weir and cross.

I think we're on.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Teabreak revisited

A couple of weeks ago, whilst sat in my favourite spot by the lake at the Club, I took a snap and posted it here under the title of Teabreak. Unbeknownst to me at the time, whilst mulling over my tea, the view and the company that had joined me, I'd been shot from behind . . . .

photo: caroline woodhouse
To my right is my son, Ben, whilst to my left is the lady responsible for organising the Club's annual Junior Week this year, and has done so for some years running now. She's a dinghy and powerboat instructor at Frampton; I've run a number of junior sail training courses with her over previous years and she has always been an absolute delight to work with.

I often wander down to sit by the water's edge with my cup of tea, between races or other spells on the water. I enjoy the solitude, the moment's peace and quiet, but find you're never alone for very long. Somebody inevitably wanders over to sit down with you, even if it's only to share in the peace and quiet themselves. They're good folks at the Club, all of them. Their company is always welcome.

The Junior Week itself is quite a sight to behold. It's not a training course, or a race event, but just an excuse to get the Club's kids out on the water and enjoying themselves for five days during their summer holidays. We have in the past hired in a coach from the RYA to run it, but for the last few years the coaches have all been home-grown, the Club's own kids that grew up, came back and just wanted to pass on what had been given them. And, of course, to carry on enjoying the magic.

The following video was put together by one of those coaches, Dan Callen.

Monday 4 August 2014

Sunday 27th: Fowey, Polperro

Slightly cooler, a little overcast, but with a building southwesterly promised.

At last a day for some proper sailing. Rain was forecast for Monday, so we decided if that were so, we'd haul out and head back first thing. The day was looking to be the perfect conclusion for our long weekend. On previous visits, we've always turned right leaving the harbour to explore St Austell's Bay. Turning left, aside from Lantic Bay, there wasn't much else in reach. Except for Polperro.

As we were preparing Ondine alongside the pontoon, a lady ambled over from her boat and struck up conversation, remarking on how lovely Drascombes were. She was from aboard a lovely Cornish Crabber 22 that was moored alongside the pontoon a little behind us. Retired and now in her early sixties, not that you would guess, B kept the Crabber on a mooring in Plymouth, and had sailed up single-handed on the previous Wednesday.

As we were sat in the cockpit of her Crabber discussing the various merits of Drascombes, Crabbers and Cornish Shrimpers, she mentioned that whilst she was in no rush to head back, she'd not left the mooring since arriving the previous Wednesday because, it being high season and a popular spot, she was anxious she'd loose her place on the pontoon. Dad said we were heading out to Polperro and back for the day, and if she was happy downgrading from the Crabber to the discomfort and confines of a Lugger, she'd be very welcome to join us.

With the wind on the nose, we motored out of the harbour. As soon as we were clear, I set the sails and silenced the outboard, then with the sea burbling beneath her nose, set Ondine a course to take us further off shore and out of the shadow of the cliffs. The wind filled in as we left the shore, the sea becoming a little more lively. My sunglasses, perched on top of my head, went overboard in a moment of inattention, but the retaining band I'd fitted them with kept them afloat despite its failure to keep them on my head, which was an unexpected bonus. B kept her eye on them for me, whilst I hardened up to a beam reach, tacked around, then sailed back down below them to come up and stop alongside with an RYA textbook executed man overboard drill, trying not to look too smug. Or surprised that I'd pulled it off apparently so well.

Sunglasses restored to top of head, I eased away back onto a broad reach, keeping it as deep as I could go before the lack of boom on the Lugger became problematic, angled slightly away from the land. Ondine skipped along enthusiastically, picking up beautifully with the occasional gust, giving just a hint of wanting to surf. We gybed once to get further out into better air, before gybing back to our intended course. The wind built up consistently as she ate up the miles. Our new friend B was suitably impressed at how well the small boat handled and performed, noting that we seemed to be keeping up happily with a couple of bigger yachts a little further out, heading in the direction of Plymouth. In advance of Monday's promised rain, viability was crystal clear; we could see as far as Rames Head, unreachable to us on the distant horizon.

We came abreast of Polperro within a little over an hour and a half, the snug little harbour revealing itself from it's sheltering cleft in the steep cliffs of the shore. Only a couple of hours beyond low tide, I knew the harbour would still be dry, so toyed with the idea of pushing on to Looe as the going was go good. B encouraged us to head in for a look however, so we did, dropping sail and starting the outboard as the winds became fluky and unreliable under the shelter of the cliffs.

We navigated around the few boats moored in the outer entrance, and a large, expensive gin-palace with a bevy of passengers that was trying to pick up a mooring buoy whilst keeping off the rather uninviting rocks in the narrow entrance. A sleek, white RIB stood by patiently to pick up the punters and ferry them ashore. I vaguely noted it had black wheels at the bow and stern held on struts out of the water, similar in theme, I incredulously assumed, to the wheels you get built into the back of some purpose built tenders to make dragging them up the shore a little kinder.

We found a shallow, gritty beach uncovered by the tide below some steps up the harbour wall on the left hand side of the entrance. Ondine slipped up the sand amidst the curious tourists paddling, sunbathing or scrambling enthusiastically on the rocks. The entrance was so sheltered by the cove that there wasn't the slightest swell on the water. Ondine grated to a stop, and I pulled the anchor up the beach to secure her. The RIB we'd previously noticed nosed onto the beach alongside, lowered the wheels fore and aft, then drove up the sand, before curtseying down to off-load its passengers and finally returning to the water.

We climbed the steps into Polperro. A classically picturesque Cornish fishing village, but thronged with sightseers as it was the height of season. Fortunately, the Blue Peter pub was only a short step away way from the harbour wall. B refused to let us buy her a drink despite Dad's attempted insistence, and instead offered us one. Hot and thirsty, I asked for a lager.

The landlady enquired which, and in quest for something simply cold and wet, I nonchalantly replied "Any old lager will do".

"We don't do any old lager. You'll have a pint of Korev. That's a proper Cornish lager!" was the prim retort.

Duely chastened, I settled down gratefully with my pint. It was quite lovely.

The sail back was bracing, and everything I love about sailing the Drascombe. With three of us in the boat, I didn't bother with a reef as she stayed quite stiff despite the wind increasing steadily into the top end of a F4. Old hands apparently advise never to cruise upwind in a Lugger, but I've got to say that close hauled is my favourite point of sail with the boat. She doesn't point exceptionally well, and doesn't stay at all dry in even the moderate swell we found ourselves facing. But heeled over with waves crashing across the bow, the boat feels alive; as playful and as madly enthusiastic about life as our Jack or Lilly in full spate charging after a ball.

Having a couple of crew sat as a spray shield between yourself and the bow also helps with the helm's good humour, it has to be said. The sky was beautiful. The sea was beautiful. It was exactly what we needed. Morphine for the soul.

The beat back to Fowey took a little over a couple of hours. Entering the harbour mouth, the wind once more became fluky and unreliable, so we dropped sail and motored back to the pontoon through the Sunday evening peace and quiet of the harbour.

Back in Penmarlam, we rafted up alongside B's boat, and made Ondine good for the night. We then retired back to the Old Ferry, joined by our new friend for supper. B mentioned to Dad how handy it was that he had such a useful assistant for his boating and offered to buy me; not the first offer he'd had all weekend, it has to be said. When Dad said that would be fine, but in addition to food and a little space in a cupboard to sleep, my prospective new owner would also have to cover my bar bill, she, like all the other prospective buyers of the weekend, withdrew her offer.

The following morning, the rains came in as predicted, so we hauled out and headed for home.