Friday 30 September 2016


"If you're not paying, you are the product" has the feel of a pejorative statement, but I can't believe it's always necessarily a bad thing. Google and Facebook may well have now evolved into powerful, super-secretive, unaccountable, imperial super-states intent on taking over both our world and our realities, but I confess I'm an avid consumer and therefore willing product of both.

I also drink far too much, knowing it may one day do me ill, and used to smoke with the dedication and enthusiasm I apply to most of my passions. Although I comprehensively kicked that "20 a day habit" more than ten years ago, I did so for the short term, immediate gains, rather than any fear of what such an indulgence might be contributing to my long term fate.

I mention the latter two vices only because they might put my somewhat laissez faire stance on Google and Facebook into some sort of context.

One of the services I avail myself of on Google is Google Backup, by which means I grant the super secret empire pretty much unrestricted access to any and all photos I take so they can make copies that will be forever safe in their cloud. Every so often, Google will do something clever with them, like stitch them together in a panorama, or apply special effects to prettify an image, or string a sequence together in an animated GIF, like a flick-book animation of old.

Which reminds me that whilst Google may be super secret, the secrets I entrust to its keeping are not. Little Google robots spend inordinate amounts of time prying sneaking through the illustrative journal of my life that is the unedited output of my photography in return for their master's vague and unbinding promise to keep my snaps safe.

I take lots of sequential photos, disk-space being cheap, and that being a good way to ensure you get at least one moment in focus, framed well and with everything and everybody looking photogenic. I therefore get a lot of Google animations thrown at me for excited, "look what I've done, daddy!" type approval and wish I could turn the function off, as I find short, repetitively looping animated clips very, very irritating.

More recently, Google has taken to flashing up "Rediscover this day" notifications, an idea they've clearly robbed off of Facebook's Memories function, although I guess Facebook would have stolen the idea from some hapless app-writer in the first place, so it just reinforces the truism that it's a shark eat shark world out there.

Of course, whereas I tend to only upload properly curated, post-processed, cropped and tweaked snaps to my Facebook albums that I think might be of interest to others, I actually take photos of just about everything, and Google Backup has access to it all so has a much richer seam to mine.

Apparently, it was five years ago that we took our Drascombe Lugger "Ondine" out of Lydney and up through the Noose to Frampton Pill. I think it was the third time we'd made the trip, the first time we'd made the trip alone, and the first time we'd taken the Drascombe Lugger up; the two trips before being made with our previous dinghy, a Wanderer called "Hibernia" and in the company and with the support of friends from Frampton.

Whilst it wasn't the last time we visited the Pill, it was the last time we made it all the way to the top; subsequent trips we landed at or just within the mouth of the Pill, the tides (and perhaps will of those involved) not being high enough to carry us further up.

Looking back at the photos, I'm struck by what a lovely, late September day it was, and amused by how narrow and winding the Pill is. I remember it feeling a little like the nautical equivalent of caving as we pushed up through the narrow, high banks. The belief that there would be room to turn around at the top and get back out before the tide turned and left us both stranded and unfortunately neaped was an act of pure faith.

It has occurred to me a number of times recently how much I've come to define my geography by the Severn Estuary and how everything positions against it. Stood out on Haresfield Beacon last weekend, looking out over the Severn Vale, I was surprised by how much I could recognise in the distance, and realised I was referencing everything relative to the Severn's banks. Driving out to karate in Cinderford yesterday evening, my progress was mapped in my mind through glimpses of the River alongside which ran the road I was driving down.

This evening, Dad and I are heading down to Ondine's successor, Calstar, currently in Portishead. We have a lock out booked for 0530 tomorrow morning, when we plan to follow the tide up to Lydney. The forecast looks like heavy rain, and two thirds of the trip will be in the dark. I'm hoping for a beautiful sunrise as we cross beneath the Old Seven Bridge. It'll be a different kind of weather to that which we enjoyed aboard Ondine five years ago, and we certainly won't be pushing on beyond Lydney and up in to the Noose. Frampton Pill is, these days, a destination left only for littler boats than ours.

The reason, not that there needs to be one: there is a party at Lydney Yacht Club Saturday night, by which time the rain should've stopped, with lots of beer, music and lots of old friends involved. We then have a not so brutally early start Sunday morning when we lock back out of Lydney and follow the ebb back to Portishead.

Once the rains of Saturday are done, the forecast promises sunshine all the way home.

Monday 26 September 2016


Too much wind to risk the Bristol Channel this weekend, and a Solo class Open Meeting at the lake, which, lacking a Solo of my own, meant I couldn't race there either, so on Sunday I took Lilly for a long walk out to Haresfield Beacon. It's a lovely spot, with fantastic views over the Severn valley. Nearing the trig point I was struck by the thought that more than three quarters of my life has so far unfolded within sight of this place.

If you'd told me that was going to have been the case thirty years ago, I'd never have believed you, but the compromises that have kept me here have carried their own rewards. I've no cause for complaint.

Saturday was spent at the lake all day, taking visitors out sailing in the Club's Gull and Wanderer dinghies. A warm, bright, exceptionally gusty day. I paused briefly between swapping guests to bolt down a cooled to tepid cup of tea that one of the shore crew thoughtfully brought out to me on the pontoon, and snacked off a handful of Swedish meatballs that I'd secreted in the pocket of my buoyancy aid, but was otherwise kept busy on the water all day. The things we do in the name of enjoying ourselves. It was a lovely day though, perfect weather for my tastes, even if I did finish the day hungry and dehydrated with no time left to grab anything else to eat before rushing off to the evening's gig.

photo: roger gribble
An odd thing; too warm for gloves, I inevitably picked up a few rope-burns from playing the mainsheet through the gusts to keep us upright. But all the abrasions are on my left hand, despite not favouring any one tack over another. My right hand thinks my left hand is a wimp and should "man up".

Thursday 22 September 2016

Just a Whisker

New toy turned up in today's post.

In the absence of a spinnaker, I want at least the option of polling the genoa out and goose-winging on a downwind run.

We do have a spinnaker pole, but it's terribly heavy compared to this.

3m of 41mm extruded aluminium. Hopefully man enough for the job. All we need now is a bit of gentle wind to try it out with.

Doesn't look like that's going to happen this weekend, with F6's and 7's in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday when I last checked yesterday evening.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Locking in

Strangest vertical

A different kind of sailing for the run home today.

12 to 15 knots free on the starboard bow over a wind-smoothed flood tide, veering to a broad reach once we passed Clevedon, but never falling much further astern than that. I started with a reef in the main and put a roll in the genoa to ease the boat out a little whilst Dad fried bacon for breakfast, but otherwise the sailing was fast and flat (relative for a Westerly Griffon!) with the little yacht often touching just shy of 5 knots on the (known to be under-reading) clock. The sun shone bright, the sky blue with scattered fluffs of cloud, and even the wind lacked any hint of chill.

Quite blissful.

Strangest thing, on the smallest neap tide of the year (the tidal range today was 4.9m, almost unheard of in these parts) we only had 2-3 knots of flow at peak, even through the bottle-neck that seems to always form off Clevedon.

Consequently, all the many navigation buoys were standing strangely vertical, and lacking their habitual bow waves.

Quite disconcerting.

Saturday 10 September 2016


From a becalmed start off Portishead at HW, to a Force 5 gusting 6 at the end; a maximum wind speed of 25 knots clocked by a boat just astern of us, 'Azora' also out of Portishead.

A 22 mile beat, taking just over 5 hours, but now safely alongside a pontoon in Penarth and thinking of supper.

And a cold, cold beer.


All this fresh air and salt water appears to have worn him out.

Thursday 8 September 2016


The forecast for the weekend so far.

I've noticed the forecasts have been terribly changeable right up to the last minute over the last month or so.

If it holds as promised however, looks like a trip to Penarth for the weekend. As long as the horrid stuff blows through Friday night, it'll be a hard beat into (and, funnily enough, in) a westerly to get to Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, and a potentially energetic run back, possibly under headsail alone, to get back home to Portishead on Sunday.

The tide is very "neap" so wind over tide shouldn't be too brutal for Saturday's trip down with the ebb.

It seems we didn't put him off with the slightly bumpy ride over to Ilfracombe a few weeks ago; when I asked him last night if he wanted to come, my youngest lad Sam laconically replied "Ooooh-kay?"

At this rate the boy will be able to legitimately add "Sailing" as a hobby to his CV.

Wednesday 7 September 2016


No racing for me tonight. Trying to fix the leak from the centreboard case. Rather suspect it's going to to take more than a bodge with marine sealant.

Drying out for a couple of weeks in a garage and epoxy most likely. Bit beyond my present resources.

Monday 5 September 2016

Calstar specs

For personal use only....

I  needed these measurements the other day. They were in my logbook. My logbook, of course, was not with me.

The Internet nearly always is these days. So I'm going to post them up here against the next eventuality.

By the by, the reason I needed them is that I want to procure a whisker pole for running downwind. Apparently, the required length is 'J'. Of course, the ideal length would depend on the cut of your jib. 

The clew of ours is cut high, so I'm thinking we could get away with a little less than J.

3 meters, perhaps?


Just reluctantly turned down an offer of a gig because I'm away sailing with Dad this weekend. Really hope the weather comes good now.

To balance out the karma of the thing however, I did, albeit very reluctantly, agree to skip the Holms Race this year because the band was offered a gig on that same date. It's tough being the only person in the band that's irreplaceable!


A gratuitous photo of Dad and Calstar, taken some time in the last few weeks. Has no other relevance to this post. Except, of course, it's about sailing with Dad. And Calstar.

Spent the last weekend ashore; a gig Saturday night (I try never to head out into the Bristol Channel, for however short a period, if I've evening commitments with the band, in case I can't make it back) followed by a trip out to London on Sunday afternoon to spend a lovely evening with an old school friend I hadn't seen in twenty-five years.

So I can't begrudge not sailing, and it should feel like all the time I've spent afloat last month should've made up for the slow start to the summer and apparent the sparsity of the weeks before. And I did get to race Buffy around the cans at Frampton last Wednesday. We had a fantastic start, beating the fleet to the windward mark by at least half a leg. We held our lead for most of the race, but our sad neglect of Buffy's maintenance is beginning to tell. She's developed a bit of a nasty leak around the centreboard case, and her old sails are, these days, pretty much blown.

Geoff and Sue aboard Ghost appeared to have had a bit of a shocking start themselves, but valiantly clawed their way back up through the fleet between us to chase us down, finally catching up and overhauling us at the gybe mark on the lap before last, forcing us to settle for 2nd place.

Ghost hasn't had it all her own way against us of late, so I can happily wish them the joy of that well earned win.

And, clearly, I have no call to begrudge a beached weekend.

But I can't help but feel a little twitchy.

No matter. I have no gigs next weekend. Nikki's sadly working, so can't come with us, but now she's a sailor she's ever so understanding of these things, so has kindly said she'll look after the dogs whilst Dad and I go away sailing.

Actually, being eternally patient with me, knowing me better than I know myself, she's always been understanding of these things and I try very hard not to take it for granted, but I'm pretty sure this time around she actually felt a small twinge of regret at not being able to come with us. I feel for her, poor thing.

So, down to the boat Friday evening. Don't know where we're going yet, but high water is around lunch time, so it's either an early morning sail up channel, or, more likely, an early afternoon sail down.

Weather permitting. And I so hope it does.