Friday 25 November 2016

The distractable

Something I read written by Gabby Hinsliff in the Guardian this morning in an article:

"’s such a fundamental misunderstanding of the hole work fills in people’s lives.... Paying people to stay at home may keep them out of poverty but the message it sends is the polar opposite of being needed; sorry, but we can’t think of anything for you to do, so go away and find your own entertainment." - Why shouldn’t the over-50s start a new career?

Sorry, but I can't for a second imagine that if it no longer became necessary for me to work for a living I couldn't find something else to do with my time to justify my existence and keep myself suitably distracted and engaged for the rest of my life.

I've never been short on the capacity to keep myself entertained.

I suspect I'd write songs. Or go sailing.

Or both.

Yes, I think both.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Summer sailing reminisce

I was fiddling around on YouTube last night for various reasons and came across a video I'd posted of a trip Dad and I took from Swansea to Ilfracombe back in July. I honestly don't think I've posted it up here, but if I have previously then apologies for the duplication.

Dad's had a GoPro for quite a while now, but whilst it often comes sailing with us, he rarely uses it and when he does, he rarely does anything with the footage he captures. This was one of those happy exceptions, and afterwards I went over to his place and chopped all the footage down into the clip posted using GoPro's editing software. I like the GoPro, it's the sort of toy I'd play with for hours, but whenever I've thought of getting my own, there have always, inevitably, been higher priorities on the shopping list.

I remember it was a lovely day's sailing; a fast, lively reach through blue seas under blue skies all the way across from one side of the Bristol Channel to the other, to pick up a visitor's mooring in Ilfracombe mere minutes before the tide left us and we gently touched the keels down on the sands of the outer harbour.

It was a good summer, all things considered. Then again, the weather makes the summer and I've a fairly flexible view of what makes good weather; I can't remember when we last had a bad one. The trick to summer weather, I find, is just to go outside and let it find you.

Monday 14 November 2016

A kindling of clouds

Sunday morning, high water Portishead was due for 0542. At 0530 we cast off and motored out into the night through a marina lock in free-flow; a rare treat.

The brightly lit waterfront of Portishead fell away astern. The night was black and moonless, the stars scattered bright and glittering in the inky sky overhead. No wind, the sea was smooth except for the churns and boils of the turning tide stirring the turgid, dark waters.

Mainsail aloft, we motor-sailed down channel, following the building ebb past the Clevedon shore through the darkness on our own apparent wind, the stars above slowing dimming as the first light of dawn began to bleed into the sky. In the beginning, it was just a faint lightening of the gloom, and then a gentle, tangerine hue seeped gradually into the eastern horizon, the quality of light slowly, surreptitiously beginning to change. The air took on an amber glow as the sun crept inevitably, inextricably closer to our horizon, snuffing out the last few remaining, stubbornly resisting stars as it came.

A kindling of clouds above the hilly shoreline now lying astern lit aflame in a gorgeous splash of fiery orange as the sun rose and bloodied the sky about us. And as it did, the waters of the channel ruffled with the first touch of wind, our little boat leaning pliantly to the building breeze as, finally, I stilled the engine and we began to sail.

It was great sailing. A couple of hours of beating into a stiff breeze under full sail, tacking on each lift. The boat was heeled to twenty degrees or so, our speed through the relatively unruffled dawn waters between three to four knots, a not disrespectful pace upwind for an old Westerly Griffon.

We made Cardiff for 0930, entering the Barrage against the tide of a large flotilla of racing yachts making their way out, and moored up alongside Mermaid Quay for a couple of hours whilst we found a somewhat expensive but exquisitely cooked full English breakfast at one of the quayside restaurants.

Low water Cardiff was expected for 1140. We locked out at 1230, Barrage Control advising there were a couple of meters of water over the lock sill but warning some of that would be silt and they expected there'd be less still in the outer harbour. We chanced it anyway, on the grounds that the making tide would lift us off soon enough if we got it wrong, and picked our way out through the mud-banks without any mishap.

The flood tide stole any pressure from what little wind there might have been. We reluctantly motor-sailed, our apparent wind enough to fill the main, the tide doing the bulk of the work in taking us home. Whilst it wasn't sailing, we were afloat, and the sky was spectacular, smeared with broken, wind sculpted cloud and lit with the last of the late autumn sun. In the far distance towards the Holms I could see the myriad, scattered sails of the racing fleet we'd passed on the way in to Cardiff. I was glad, for today at least, we were not racing ourselves.

We made Portishead a little ahead of 1530, loitered in the Hole for a short while before locking back in at 1545 and making our way back to our berth.

A good day to have been afloat.


Tuesday 8 November 2016


Zero degrees C this morning, and despite the still air, dead leaves were shedding from the trees like mid-winter snow. Had to scrape a layer of frost from the car for the second time this week. I miss summer already.

Looks like the rest of the week is going to be a little breezy, which will probably strip the last of the trees, and then it calms down for the weekend. Playing with powerboats on the lake at Frampton on Saturday. It would be nice not to have to break the ice but it's only a PB Level 2 course rather than Safety Boat, so there should be no excuse for me to get wet. Even so, I fully intend to have my drysuit on.

High water Portishead is 0539 & 1804 on Sunday, sun-up and sun-down 0727 & 1633 respectively; haven't decided yet for sure, but a trip over to Cardiff and back is possible. We ought to do something as it'll be our two year anniversary with the boat. Not that she'll care; unlike my wife she doesn't notice when I forget these things.

Friday 4 November 2016

"Dodo's Delight"

A friend from the sailing club sent me a link to the trailer of a film he's just seen called "Dodo's Delight". 

It's a documentary about a Westerly Discus and sailing to Greenland to go climbing. An odd combination I though, and according to Steve, and I hope he'll forgive me for quoting him, an hour and a half "of a lot of pretty extreme stuff for a Westerly to be doing" 

He thought I'd enjoy it.

He was right, loved every second of the trailer. Must try and get to see the film itself. Link to the trailer follows:

the rusting of the year

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Sand Point and back

Overslept the alarm by a shade, so skipped my ritual morning cuppa to make the time up getting out of the house Sunday morning. Dad and I still got to the boat in plenty of time to make the last lock at 1030, so compensated by grabbing a bacon and mushroom roll each from the cafe van outside the marina office once we got there.

Consensus of conversation in the queue as we stood waiting for the bacon to fry said it was a day for motoring, not sailing. The sky was grey and overcast, the air dull and flat but not cold. The flags hung outside the marina office ruffled slightly in the light wind, but hung was the operative word.

We had the lock out to ourselves. The tide now fast on the ebb, the mud-banks enclosing the Portishead Hole loomed large as we picked our way out to the channel.

Any life in the easterly wind was subdued by the swift flow of the tide running with it. Nonetheless, clear of the shore, we hauled up the sails and stilled the engine anyway. At first we drifted at the mercy of the whirls, spins and eddies of the tide. Pushing the boom out didn't help much, although I rigged the preventer to stop the weight of the boom swinging back and collapsing the mainsail. However, once I'd polled the genoa out to a goose-wing with our new whisker pole, the boat's yawing stabilised and she started to edge away on a gentle run, the speed occasionally touching a knot, with the flow of the tide adding up to a very healthy 6 knots over the ground and in the direction we wanted to go.

The peace and quiet were sublime, the sea almost mirror smooth, the boat directionally stable with the goosed sails. Despite the 6 knots, any sense of movement almost felt like an illusion, imperceptible other than in the gradual shift of the south-easterly shore slipping by. A perfect morning and antidote to the late night before; even Dad seemed to relax into the mood of it, and didn't fret once about putting the engine on because of any apparent lack of wind. We had nowhere in particular to go, and no need to get there anytime soon

Visibility was a murky affair, the muddy grey sky hardly distinguishable from the esturine-silted sea. A dark patch out off our starboard beam seemed flat enough to be mistaken for the tell tail ripples of a gust, but was in fact the looming sand-banks of Bedwin Sands and Welsh Grounds. A handful of small boats lay at anchor along the bank, anglers fishing for autumn cod; we were the only sail abroad on the smoothed waters though.

With so little apparent wind behind us, there was no chill in the air at all. Clevedon town ghosted past us to port, the rush of water surging around the Welsh Hook cardinal coming up on us surprisingly quickly for all of our apparent stillness, and then receding again into silence as we slid down channel with the tide, out and on past Langford Grounds beyond. Leaving the gloaming sands and shoals of Langford to port as the tide began to ease, we dropped the pole and hardened up onto a starboard reach, heading in towards Sand Point.

Around 1300, a mile shy of Sand Point, Swallow Rocks clearly visible as too the pier of Birnbeck Island marking the far side of Sand Bay, the tide finally turned against us. We gybed onto port, heading cross-ways to the tide out towards Tail Patch for a while, before hardening up and beginning the beat home. Little pinches of afternoon sun were beginning to creep through the thick murk hanging overhead, but were never quite realised in their potential.

With the slight wind now over an albeit relatively modest spring tide, the apparent wind was enough to let our little boat kick her heels up on the beat, under full sail heeling over on occasion to as much as 20 degrees, just shy of which seems to be her sweet spot, and touching just short of 4 knots through the water at times. The satisfaction of 4 knots really is a relative thing; it was a lovely juxtaposition to the gentle drift of the morning and made for a fine afternoon's sailing, beating all the way home back up the Bristol Deep and King Road, dropping the sail off Portishead and entering the shelter of the Hole, just missing the first lock of the tide back in at 1545 so giving ourselves a forty minute wait at anchor with a cup of tea for the next one.

Overall, a little short of 6 hours sailing and somewhere shy of 30 miles covered over the course of the day's trip. We shared the lock back in with five other boats, the GMT sun just dropping out of the sky as we pulled in alongside our berth.