Sunday 30 November 2014

A single-handed drift

Arrived at the Club this morning to find the lake enshrouded in still, damp fog. No sign of my promised crew; as I was pulling out the boat, I received a text message from him saying sorry, that he'd missed the reminder I'd text'd him last night, and he'd subsequently forgotten and overslept.

Sam, on the other hand, wasn't given the chance. Bleary eyed, I'd dragged him mercilessly down the Club with me, and camera slung around his neck, handed him over to the safety boat crew, who generously agreed to let him tag along with them to take the photos he needed.

With the utter absence of wind, it didn't look like they were otherwise going to be very busy.

In the absence of my crew, given the ghosting conditions, I figured I'd race solo. Couldn't resist, truth be told. Not technically legal within the class rules, nobody seemed to mind too much, and I suggested to the OOD that if anybody protested, he simply disqualify me. It wasn't so much the attraction of the competition that was dragging me out, as the lure of drifting around in the fog.

photo: Sam Gribble

It's the first time I've single-handed the Ent, which was an interesting experience in and of itself. Unlike a Wanderer or a Wayfarer, the boat is quite twitchy and tippy without the body of a crew member to counterbalance the helm. One unfortunate roll tack very nearly saw me tip the boat over top of myself, which would have been embarrassing, but, as I'm sure one or two of the spectators would have pointed out, unsurprising, given my past record.

photo: Sam Gribble

The start-line was, unusually for Frampton and unintentionally as I think the drifting wind swung around unexpectedly on the race committee, downwind. I made a complete mess of it, tangling myself in the control lines, finding myself over the line early, and the thirty seconds it took me to get back behind the line and restart, saw me starting a mere breath away from the Lasers.

A Laser has the performance of a breeze-block in weather like this though, so had left them behind by the time we'd reached the first mark. Not long after that, I caught up with the gaggle of Solos and Moths ahead. The light air didn't give many options so it took a while to eventually sneak past them.

Finding the marks in the fog was tricky. The racing marks at Frampton are colour coded to their position in the lake, so you know Red will always be in the far quarter off the beach, White is over by the house, Green is by the big tree, or if the OOD is feeling particularly malicious, further down beyond the elbow in the lake, and Yellow is back over by the Clubhouse.

Between each of the main colours, you have the intermediates, Red-White, Green-White, Green-Yellow, etc. Not all the marks get used all the time, and in this instance the course ran Green, White, Green-Yellow, Red, Yellow.

It's surprisingly difficult to find them when visibility is down to about thirty feet.

photo: Sam Gribble

Once I broke free of the main gaggle of boats, this turned to my advantage. With only Pete in the Comet and Chris in his Moth left ahead to catch, Pete rounded White some way ahead of me, but lost his bearings and headed off in the direction of Red. By the time he'd realised his mistake, I'd caught him at Green-Yellow, stuck on top of him around Red and then Yellow, and then eventually left him behind on the beat back up to Green (the wind had swung back around by then to make it windward once more), to finish 2nd overall.

photo: Sam Gribble
Not a bad result to finish a day when I hadn't originally intended to sail. I hope Sam got what he needed. The boy was beginning to look chilled, so I skipped the second race, put the boat away and took him home, stopping on the way for a late lunch at McDonalds. By way of disclaimer: aside from the one at the top, taken from my phone, these photos are Sam's, but I've tweaked the contrast on them, cropped one or two, and cloned out some dirt spots on the lens that became apparent with the increase in the contrast (suspect it was condensation from the fog). I've left Sam with the (unprocessed) originals to take to school and do with what he will.

[edited: had to rethink the title of the post as I've already used "Ghosting" not long previously, which I guess sums up the trend of the year's weather. But in any case, recycling is one thing, but such lazy unoriginality quite another!]

Saturday 29 November 2014

Tonight's venue

All the dog stuff done with a lucky rescue delivered safe to her new foster home in Somerset. All that's left of the weekend now is to gig tonight and sail in the morning.

Hopefully this fog will clear and a little bit of wind will fill in.

Mind you, I do like racing on the lake in the fog.

Friday 28 November 2014


The lull originally forecast for Sunday has moved forward to Saturday.
Sunday isn't that much better, but at least there's the tease of some
movement in the air. Probably just as well. Whilst I'd entertained
thoughts of a day off sailing, walking dogs, catching up on the thousand
and one little jobs around the house that I typically neglect in favour
of escaping to the boat, I was reminded this week that Sam (boy_v2, my
youngest) needs photos of sailing dinghies for school by Monday.

Apparently, I'd mentioned it as a possibility to his teacher when we met
at the last Parent's Evening as she said Sam needed photos on the theme
of "movement" to work with, and she's got little sympathy with the idea
that the wind has since not seen fit to blow enthusiastically enough to
make the photos worth taking whilst Sam's been around with a camera.

So Sunday it is, and the boats will have to perform for the Sam's lens
wind or no wind. Not that I mind; you don't exactly have to twist my arm
to force me out on to the water, and in the absence of my usual crew
this week, Ben (boy_v1) has offered to drive home from Uni on Sunday
morning to come sailing with me.

It should be a fine day.

Of course, that's only the accumulation of a whole weekend.

I have no plans for Friday evening, but once I've walked all the dogs,
that'll be an irrelevance because Friday will be all but done for.
Saturday morning has a further dog theme. We're picking up one of our
rescues that has been living in kennels for a few months and moving her
to a foster home. Hopefully the penultimate step on what has proven to
be a long, long journey to a home and family of her very own.

Once all the doggy themed travelling has been done, I'm back off down
the motorway to a gig in Bristol. Nothing fancy, just a good old
fashioned pub gig in what's proving to be a lovely venue to play at; The
Trident in Downend, Bristol. This will be our third time there, and I'm
quite looking forward to it.

Gig done, then it's the afore mentioned racing at Frampton on Sunday

In other news, Calstar has been out on the hard for a little over a week
now whilst our man in Swansea, Pete, works on her bottom. He's scraped
back the antifoul and found a couple of layers of epoxy that he's also
removed. The lower layer proved to be really manky, a total "bodge job"
in Pete's words.

With the antifoul and epoxy removed, a week later and the moisture
readings from the GRP below the waterline match the readings above, and
according to Pete, the hull looks exceptionally sound. It's going to
take a little longer than originally planned, but it's all really,
really good news.

The picture at the head of the page is of Ondine, moored outside
Polperro harbour during our last visit to Cornwall, back in September.
I've stolen it from Dad's iPhone (and cropped and prettied it up a
little) as my own phone at the time had, if you'll recall, met an
untimely death on the pub floor the day before this.

We've been visiting Cornwall regularly since about 2008, and I've grown
to utterly adore this part of the coast. With Calstar, we're going to be
exploring different waters next year. I'm going to miss Cornwall; i
wonder if the Bristol Channel, Somerset, North Devon and South Wales
coast will have left as indelible a footprint on my soul in the years to
come as Cornish waters have till now?

I hope so.

Wednesday evening

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Wednesday morning

Over to Dad's this evening to work through the week's navigation exercises in preparation for tomorrow evening's class.

Almost half way through the RYA Day Skipper Theory course now, and only a couple more sessions before we break for Christmas. Enjoying it, but am quite looking forward to getting my Thursday evenings back.

The other problem with all this theory is that it leaves you really wanting to go out and put it into practice.

Autumn has about had her fling now. A few stubborn trees still cling to their russet coats but most are now bare. Dank and misty this morning, but warmer than the start of the week when we had our first real frost of the year.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

All is quiet, all is still

The forecast for Sunday, that is.

I find myself in an unusual position.

That aside, Calstar is currently on the hard-standing in Swansea having her bottom scrapped clean. A necessary evil however unwanted the delay. She's also going to have her hull polished and her woodwork oiled, so she's going to look quite peachy when she finally goes back into the water and we're set to sail her over to Portishead.

Downside to the work is now that she's out, I can't see how we're going to get her home before Christmas. We've got a friend to help us bring her the 60 miles home to Portishead. Once she's back there, then she's ours to play with. That fills me with a combination of anxiety and impatience.

Anxiety, in that she's bigger than any sailing vessel I've ever handled on my own before, getting her in and out of the marina involves a lock and dodging lots of other boats, and the Bristol Channel is not a forgiving place; 14m tides, brutal currents, and sandbanks, rocks and shoals aplenty. Oh, and down below the bridges around Portishead, plenty of heavy shipping to avoid.

Impatient, because until we take her out ourselves I don't think she really belongs to us yet, whatever the paperwork says.

I really can't wait.

That's not the unusual position.

The position is the forecast for Sunday being pretty much a flat calm, combined with the fact that Hels has decided to go away for the weekend with her husband, leaving me without a crew for Buffy.

The unusual is that ordinarily, in the face of such news, I'd find myself hunting around frantically for somebody else to step in, flat calm or no.

Instead, I find myself looking at the forecast and wondering if I should bother. Maybe I'll spend Sunday walking the dogs instead.

Odd, much as I love the dogs, there is normally no contest for my affections on a Sunday. I just don't seem to be able to drag up the enthusiasm to go and drift. Might be because I'm a little under the weather.

Still, early days. Plenty of time before the weekend. I may yet change my mind.

The mutt in the photo at the head of this post is Luna, our current foster dog. She's settling in well. Still not quite worked out her place, which causes the occasional bit of friction with Lilly, who is quite certain of where she stands. Boo and Bear have yet to accept having her around, so it's hard work at the moment. But she's a lovely creature, quite full of life, and Jack has decided he utterly loves her to bits.

Monday 24 November 2014

This is why I love rehearsing at my brother's house

Just to clarify, my brother is the bassist in my band, and his lovely wife has a compulsive need to feed anybody that turns up at their house.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Whilst not exactly accepted yet....

....I think we're getting there. This is Luna, our first foster since Mum's funeral.

Monday 17 November 2014

How ever much you want to cry for help....

Some (many) decisions you just have to make yourself, and accept the possible consequences.

I should add; as I don't want to scare my wife; I'm thinking sailing!

On a different note, I sometimes worry that I'm far to prone to a semicolon or two.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Loopy Luna

Two gigs down; all that's left is to race in the morning

Probably ought to go to bed. Haven't quite wound down yet though. Probably ought not to rely on alcohol as a prop for winding down after a gig. Then again, life's too short to worry about probables. Then again, again, the hours are too short. If I'm to be to the club in time tomorrow, need to be up in six.

Actually, that's almost a lie-in. May yet have another beer then.

Two great gigs this weekend. Dad came to the gig tonight. Stole the photo above from him.

Friday 14 November 2014

The inevitable waiting

Believe the speeches are done, just waiting on the staff to clear the tables before we can get in and set up.

Chilly night. K

Enter the weekend

After the rain and wind of the last couple of days, today turned into one of those vibrant late autumn afternoons, saturated with blue skies and gloriously burnished leaves.

Despite the lateness of the season and violence of the week's weather, the latter still cling stubbornly to the trees, for the most part.

I'd mistakenly thought them mostly gone a few weeks ago, but it seems this year's autumnal display advances upon us in persistent, many hued waves. I can't say I mind.

Wedding gig tonight. They've had a nice day of it weather-wise. Let's hope it's left them feeling like they all want a bit of a dance. Unusual, though increasingly less so, getting married on a Friday.


Now I stared at the stars as a kid, I do so still as an adult whenever I get the chance. I know the names of more than a handful and their constellations, and, like old friends, almost instinctively where to
find them in the sky. I feel the poetry in the realisation that the starlight we see is ancient history by the time it graces our eyes. I understand the pull of the moon on the tides I sail, and I understand
that this ancient starlight can tell me where those tides have taken us, even if I've yet to learn how.

That's pretty much it for me and astronomy. However admiring I may be from afar, I'm a complete layman.

We, the human race, have in this last week just reached out four billion miles across space to land an object the size of my washing machine on a rubber duck shaped lump of rock hurtling through the void at 40,000 mph.

Tell me that isn't pretty damned cool. Whatever the cost and whatever else we might or might not get out of it.

Thursday 13 November 2014


An interesting article on the BBC.


Taken playing with Jack and Lilly in the park last night. The two balls have LEDs that light on impact. Lilly is out of shot with her own ball.

Perfect toys for those dark winter evening walks.

It's so nice to have a replacement phone. Funny how much I missed the camera. It did take two calls over a couple of days and the threat of escalating into a complaint, but the phone company came good.

Calstar; it's official

She's now ours. Bought and paid for.

Wow. That's just a little bit scary.

But in a good way.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A (re)learning experience

I learned, re-learned or simply had reinforced a few valuable lessons
over the weekend. Stuff I already knew, but should have paid better
attention to.

Sunday's was simply that with an increase in scale, it is ever so easy
to get intimidated into forgetting what should be the instinctive
basics. Such as putting the boat head to wind before hauling up the
sail, watching the main as you haul to make sure it rises clear and
without snag or tangle, the same when deploying the jib, that sort of
thing. I once almost capsized a Troy keelboat because, overwhelmed at
taking the helm for the first time of a boat so much bigger and heavier
than the British Moth dinghy I was sailing back then, I forgot that I
could simply spill wind from the main when a gust hit.

I say "almost capsized". By my usual standards, it was nowhere near.

The lesson here is to take things slow, keep a clear, calm and attentive
mind, do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by events. Essentially all
the things sailing has been trying to teach me about life throughout
this last decade, I guess.

Previous to Sunday, Saturday's lessons were more direct.

It was an early start; a dawn tide from Lydney up to Newnham-on-Severn
for breakfast, then sail back. I single-handed the club's Mirror
"Custard" in the company of friends aboard the sailing canoe "Green
Bean", the Wayfarer "Clubbar" and the club's safety boat to watch over us.

1. If you're going to put to sea, and for the purposes of this argument,
I'm counting the upper reaches of the Severn Estuary as "sea" in sheer
terms of simple brutality, make pretty damned sure it's in a seaworthy
and well maintained vessel. Sailing our Lugger "Ondine", it's easy to
get lulled into the security that the boat is a lot tougher than me.
Really must remember that isn't always the case with every boat,
especially a boat you haven't looked after, maintained and prepped yourself.

2. Water belongs on the outside of a boat. I know that sounds obvious,
but sailing our Enterprise "Buffy" is a very wet affair. Capsizing her
is generally a non event. She comes back up utterly swamped, with the
gunwales below the water, but you just balance her between yourself and
the crew, move back to trim the bow up, and bear away on to a reach.
With a bit of wind (and if there is no wind, why did you capsize in the
first place?) the water rushes out the transom flaps at the stern and is
sucked through autobailers in the floor, and she emerges back out of the
darkened grasp of the murky depths like Nautilus rising.

The same cannot be said of a Mirror with dodgy bungs on three of the
four bouyancy tanks and no autobailer in the cockpit floor.

We did fine on the way up, wind with tide. But the wind increased, as
we'd been expecting, when the tide turned, and the seas became very
vicious and confused. Beating into the wind over tide, struggling with a
jib cleat that wasn't man enough to hold the sheet in, and trying to
hike without toestraps, I got caught out. Hit by a big gust, the boat
bore away, the nose dug in, and she capsized to leeward.

No great shakes. Already hiked as far as I could, I simply rolled over
the high side and onto the daggerboard, and had the boat back up within
thirty seconds, didn't even loose the burgee, I didn't really get wet.
Well, no wetter than I was already in the driving rain, with a now quite
swamped boat.

3. If you're not sailing Buffy, always carry a bailer of sufficient
volume to assist in putting the sea back where it belongs, smartly.
Anticipating such an eventuality, I'd meant to bring a bucket. But on
the morning of setting out remembered that I'd put the bucket at the
bottom of my drive on the night of Halloween, full of sweets with a sign
asking the local kids to help themselves but not knock on my door and
disturb my dogs (and so disturb my neighbour). Somewhere towards the end
of the evening, with the sweets mostly gone, somebody helped themselves
to the bucket.

I was therefore left bailing the swamped Mirror with the somewhat
crushed and worse for wear half a plastic milk carton that had been
placed in the boat to serve such an end. I did manage to get the
daggerboard slot clear of the waterline, which stopped the water coming
in from below, but not over the top, and was almost winning as we
reached the Noose. Once hand for the tiller and sheets, the other for my
sorry excuse of a bailer, weight well back to try and get the
waterlogged boat to ride the confused seas, it was blowing a steady 5 or
6 with gusts upto 8, and we were winning.

Then the clip holding the rudder onto the lower pintle snapped and the
rudder came away in my hand.

Steerage lost, boat completely awash, I struck sail.

I wasn't especially concerned. The Mirror is beamy enough to be pretty
stable even with the port, starboard and stern bouyancy tanks flooded.
The bungs on the bow tank were more robust by design, so we were in no
danger of sinking and only little risk of over turning as long as I was
careful. I had oars and rowlocks, and the tide was still carrying my
along at a good 5 knots in the direction I wanted to go. Lydney was only
about 6 miles away.

However, at this point, seeing me strike my sails, the safety boat took
that as capitulation, and came back to take me under tow.

For once I didn't resist. They had a really big bucket, and it was nice
having the luxury of both hands free to bail.

4. Just because a mobile phone claims it's waterproof, doesn't mean it
is. I can only guess the protective, supposedly sealed flap covering the
slot for the mini-SD card failed. Very, very annoying. What is the point
of having a waterproof phone if it isn't proof against a little splash
or two?

The safety boat cast me off a couple of boatlengths away from Lydney
Slip and I rowed the rest of the way in.

Everybody else made it back in once piece. It was, on balance, a great
morning. Even if the damnable mobile might prove it an expensive one.

The photo at the top of the post was taken a year ago last summer during
a walk with the dogs on Brean Sands. I had wanted to post a photo of a
Troy in keeping with the opening paragraphs, but those pictures are on
my other PC. So Brean Sands it is. Can't remember if I've posted it here
before, if so, my apologies for the gratuitous duplication. Off to the
right of the picture is Steep Holm. We'll sail past that and the beach
we were stood on, from left to right, in a few weeks time when we move
"Calstar" back from Swansea to her new home in Portishead.

I can't wait.

Monday 10 November 2014

Motivations and misapprehensions; a new adventure

We took "Calstar" out to sea this weekend. Very briefly; the spring tide closed Tawe Lock at lunchtime, delaying our departure to the afternoon, so restricting the light left to play in. We didn't get much further than the mouth of the river, but enough to get the sails up in the little wind that was on offer. And Dad got a fair bit of time at the helm under power in the marina, so got a good feel for how well she handles under power amongst what's essentially an expensive obstacle course.

In all, it was more than enough time with her to make a decision. Just got to sort out the paperwork now. Exciting times. Calstar is to be our next boat.

I have, in my less certain moments at points over the last few weeks, worried that I've led Dad astray. Truth be told, were it not for my obsession with sail, Dad wouldn't even entertain the idea of anything with a mast intended to haul canvas. He's an engines man, and without my malign influence, were he still motivated towards finding a boat at all, I suspect a little cruiser on the canal would suit him just fine. Even a little boat like Calstar is a big commitment to take on, especially if you're not doing it for your own reasons.

Then again, Dad's always done things for his own reasons. And he's never been exactly easy to lead astray. I think this new boat is going to be a grand adventure, for him and me.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Lydney Dawn

Just set the alarm... get me up in time for tomorrow's tide. Boo is actually laughing at me right now, it's just that you point the camera at him and he can't help but lapse into cute.

I've got to be up in just over three hours.

Time for bed.

Friday 7 November 2014

Whitethall RFC

Fireworks night at Whitehall Rugby Club, and we're the after sparks entertainment.

I love playing here. It's a real family oriented club, always loads of small, enthusiastic kids enjoying the spectacle.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Funny old thing

My elbow, that is.

Two weeks of consciously resting it (ie. skiving off karate) and if
anything the pain was getting worse. Last night decided to give up on
that idea, doped myself up on ibupofen and paracetamol, strapped the
elbow in a neoprene brace and went back.

Made an appointment with the docs for Friday, mainly just to spite Hels.
I don't imagine there's much the doc can do; aside from physical breaks
they can splint, bloody tears they can stitch, or cancer everything else
in medicine seems to be to be an educated guess.

I'm being unfair.

Anyway. Didn't even flip a coin. Not flipping so many coins at the
moment. I seem to have broken that system by over analysing it.

Did take it easy. Avoided press-ups, and tried very had not to over
extend the arm. Felt great after, but figured that was probably the
drugs, and fully expected to suffer in the morning.

It's the strangest thing, but the arm still feels great this morning.
Slight twinge if I fully straighten, but only if I really concentrate on
feeling it. Best it's felt in an age. It's probably got nothing to do
with karate, and everything to do with the fact that I've finally booked
a doctor's appointment to have it looked at.

Enjoying it so much, I'm presently living in terror (well, relatively
so; forgive the amdram overstatement) of jaring it and bringing all the
hurt back. Guess it's a bit like the car breaking down, or a fixing
pulling away on the boat. Once the confidence goes, takes a while to
forget enough for it to seep back.

The image at the head of the post is of the breakwater outside
Portishead Quays Marina. Took the picture on my phone, it got backed up
to Google, and I played with the editting options they give you up
there. The main thing was adding a HDR effect, which did dramatic things
with the clouds.

I wonder when a photo has had so much manipulation that it ceases to
qualify as a photo?

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Tuesday night; Randwick Park by sodium light

Thursday comes

Survey booked for Thursday, she'll get hauled out and hung in the slings
for a short while to give us the chance to have a good look underneath
her. So glad Kathy has agreed to do the survey for us. Whilst she may
have suitable qualifications coming out of her ears, and years and years
of experience to back up her opinions, some people you just
instinctively know you can trust with a job.

It's not so much a question of safeguarding any investment, but more a
case of wanting some certaintly that the mast isn't going to fall down
or worse, the keels fall off in the middle of the Bristol Channel.

So survey Thursday, and if all well, sea trials to be confirmed, then we

I think we're determined to keep her at Portishead. It's a lovely
marina, 45 minutes down the road from us, with better than 50% tidal
access, which is the important bit. A good place to get used to her and
a new stretch of interesting water to learn. I can't pretend I don't
feel just a little bit intimidated. But that's a good feeling.

It's 60 miles from Swansea to Portishead; Dad's been talking to another
friend at Frampton in the hope that we can persuade him to help us get
across. Like I said above, some people you know you can just
instinctively trust with a job. I've been pouring over the charts of the
Channel between Swansea and Portishead. Whenever I spend any amount of
time looking at a chart, I'm always struck by how many wrecks they
inevtiably show, especially around these parts.

Each one must have a story.

Bringing the subject back away from wreck and ruin, I almost didn't want
to jinx the whole process by posting too many photos of "Calstar" ahead
of her being ours. She may still yet not be the one.

But I couldn't resist.