Monday 30 April 2018

Laser: postscript

I should add that this morning everything hurts. I feel like somebody put me in a sack with a half dozen bricks then loaded me into an industrial grade tumble-dryer and put it on fast spin for an hour. I've pulled and stretched muscle-groups that I'd forgotten ever existed. Buffy could be brutal in her own kind of special way, but three hours blasting around in a Laser with an overpowered sail is a different kind of punishment all together.

Lest that sounds like an uncharacteristic slip into self-pity, it's a good kind of hurt.

I also took an uncharacteristic tumble on a bit of uneven flooring in the clubhouse before sailing yesterday, landed on face-first, fall duly broken and whatever residual good looks I may still possess preserved and protected by my hands and forearms, but aside from said forearms taking the impact, also cracked my knees on a concrete floor. I've never had the patience to walk and not run, and yesterday that caught up with me a somewhat embarrassing style.

So I'm hobbling around a bit and wondering if I'll be fit for karate this evening. Now that does sound too much like self-pity!

In any case, weather looks fun for this coming Wednesday evening, so I am aching but presently quite content and really looking forward to my next sail.

Laser: 118426

Dad and I drove up to Budworth Sailing Club in Warrington, Cheshire, on Saturday to look at a dinghy I'd found for sale on the Internet. An old 1985 Laser 1, her white hull looked to be in very good nick for her age, and she'd been updated with the XD kit (which, for the benefit of the uninitiated, are modernised, much more efficient and accessible vang, outhaul and cunningham sail controls).

And she included a combi trailer and launching trolley.

We arrived early, a couple of hours before we'd arranged to meet the seller. It turns out Budworth Sailing Club is a very friendly, active place, reminded me a lot of Frampton. Dad and I settled ourselves on a bench on the the veranda of the clubhouse to wait, but within twenty minutes, one of the members had invited me out on the safety boat with him to help start the afternoon's racing, so the couple of hours of waiting passed quite quickly.

We got back to Frampton, new boat in tow, for about 1900 Saturday night.

The following day the wind was a F4 gusting 5 from the northeast. An atypical but nasty direction for Frampton, it gets very disrupted by buildings, trees and the simple geography of the lake and so is exceptionally blustery and shifty by the time it hits the water and splits almost 90 degrees in direction at each end of the lake.

I got to the Club as early as I could to give myself time to work out how to rig the boat for the first time. Aside from attaching the clew of the main to the end of the boom, it was pretty straight forward.

Three races followed.

photo: ken elsey
I'd forgotten how nippy and nimble a singlehander could be. I got good starts in all three races, but outdid myself on the third, beating the pack around the windward mark with lots of room to spare, and leading the fleet for the next lap and a half before Phil in his much faster Aero finally overhauled me.

It was exceptionally good fun. She points exceptionally well upwind and is very quick to plane on the slightest gust, at least compared to my old Enterprise. The boat only came with a standard rig, so lacking the option of the smaller radial sail that the other Lasers racing that day had gone for, I just had to tough out the rough bits and found myself overpowered for a lot of the time. The reaches were a bit of a giggle though; the GPS on my watch recorded a high of 11.4 knots through the water in the third race. We've only ever had that sort of speed out of Calstar when hung behind a 1700hp RNLI Trent Class Lifeboat ......

photo: ken elsey
I squandered the fine start of my third race by screwing up a mark rounding and taking penalty turns and then getting knocked flat by an unanticipated gust on the beat; a simple case of not getting the sail out in time to spill the wind before the heeling of the boat trapped the boom against the water, preventing me from depowering the main any further and giving us nowhere else to go but over.

Already fully hiked out, it was an easy matter to roll over the top and onto the daggerboard, so the boat was back up and racing again very quickly, but the accumulation of mistakes eventually knocked me back to fifth place in the end, out of a fleet of thirteen.

It's clearly going to take a bit of practice to get good at this. And I'm probably going to have to bite the bullet and buy a radial sail at some point if I want to carry on playing in the big winds we occasionally get blasting through.

So three hours of hard racing on Sunday preceded by a good forty minutes of trial sail the day before on Budworth Mere, and I could only find one fault in my lovely new boat.

Her name.

Which the owner before the last had lovingly written on her transom: "Passing Wind"

Thursday 26 April 2018

FOSSC: swapping the blue for red

It seems to be a universal truth of sailing clubs that if you stand forlornly on the shore staring wistfully out on to the water somebody will usually pop up to either a) invite you out to crew for them (or, occasionally, helm) or b) lend you a boat to race them with.

At least that seems to be how it works for me. And I'm grateful.

Wednesday was a lively day, with a boisterous southwesterly blasting up the Bristol Channel and sweeping over the lake at Frampton. I'd asked Amanda if she'd wanted to sail earlier in the week, but the co-owner of her boat, Juliet, was free for a change so they'd already agreed to sail together. Geoff was off to see his daughter in Gibraltar, so Ghost wasn't racing. And Charles and Alan already had their respective regular crews to sail with.

I had to go down the Club anyway to sort out the hand over of Buffy to her new owners. Charles' crew, Hannah, offered to give up her seat crewing for Charles, but that was a daft, if chivalrous idea and we both talked her down from that one.

So there I was, stood on the lakeside, gazing forlorn out over the wind ruffled water.....

Then Hannah asked, "Do you want to borrow my old Topper? It's a bit rubbish but . . . ."

In my mind, there is no such thing as a rubbish boat to a man with no boat. Plus the air was blustery that evening, and Toppers are a bit of a giggle in a good blow. Naturally, I almost bit her hand off. And, of course, I had my sailing kit to hand in the boot of the car even though I hadn't held out much hope of sailing. One can never be too prepared.

It was terrific fun. First time I've raced a singlehander in a very long time. Which I deftly demonstrated when a gust caught me out whilst running by the lee down to the green mark, and the little boat broached violently, surprising me with a sudden, unavoidable swim.

Nice thing about singlehanders is that capsize recovery is a complete non event, so we were back up and on our way again in very short order. However, a failure in the autobailer (easily repaired, but only once back ashore) meant that I sailed the rest of the race with a cockpit full of water.

Boats full of water are becoming something of a personal motif. Hopeful it's one I can now lose.

The rain came in and the wind died down towards the end, and in a Topper full of water, that meant a lot of time sat heavy and seemingly going nowhere; the last lap did seem to drag out a bit. But, being the same for everyone, it wasn't enough to knock me out of the lead. It almost seemed rude to borrow a boat and then beat them with it, but on the other hand, I did snap a very pretty picture of Charles and Hannah running their Enterprise "Boldly Goes" off goose-winged in to a rainbow ......

Monday 23 April 2018

Sold: Enterprise 21870 "Buffy"

UPDATE 23/04 @ 2203hrs: Now sold to a very nice couple at the sailing club. I'm both strangely bereft to be parted from her, and quietly happy she's going to a good home. Now to find myself a Laser to play with ......

Includes launching trolley, road trailer (not a combi) and leak ……

A much loved, heavily raced and admittedly hard-used Enterprise dinghy.

Wooden hull. Carbon fibre tiller extension and flyaway jib pole. Kicker and down-haul controls led aft to helm position, dyneema main halyard, all rigging in good nick, four nearly new, airtight and frequently exercised buoyancy bags. Boom up cover is a bit grimy and has a broken strap but otherwise good condition. Includes a very worn suite of sails, main sail has a couple of taped patches along the shroud line.

Decks very much in need of re-varnishing, white hull needs a fresh coat of paint.

Launching trolley and road trailer included. NOT a combi, but the road trailer carries the boat on her trolley with judicious use of appropriate lashings. Trailer has been stood in the grass in her berth unused for some years; wheels turn but can make no guarantees as to the safety of the trailer or the condition of the wheel bearings.

IMPORTANT: She currently has a significant leak, suspect centreboard case is failing and will need some potentially extensive work to make sound again. I’ve got neither the time nor the talent to do the necessary, hence the price being asked and the reason for sale.

Currently lying in her berth at Frampton-on-Severn Sailing Club.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Weekend accomplished

Friday night's gig cancelled a few weeks ago, so after work I came home via Nik's shop and saw Friday evening out with a bottle of wine in front of Netflix.

Saturday morning I half made up for that indulgence with an hour of karate, by the end of which, whilst sparring, I found myself crippled by the most horrific stitch in my side; I can only assume all this rich living is catching up with me. But it was otherwise good.

After that, I headed down the lake, joined in with the Level 2's (RYA beginners sailing course) who I haven't seen since their first day, and found myself exceptionally impressed by how much they have obviously improved. Bit of a downer with Buffy's centerboard case, but as previously mentioned, she owes me nothing.

Saturday night's gig in Hereford was great.

This morning I begged, pleaded and emotionally blackmailed my wife into giving me a long overdue haircut (I have a bit of a social phobia with regards to barbers, first world problems and all that) then headed back to the lake to crew for Geoff over a couple of afternoon races in his Enterprise, "Ghost". His regular crew, whom I've always viewed as both exceptionally talented (on the odd occasion she's crewed for me, my boat has always sailed flatter and gone faster) and pretty much indestructible (I've yet to see conditions so rough she still won't gleefully launch and race) has sadly pulled a muscle. Whilst collating the results for last week's race, apparently.

The wind was a F4 gusting 5 from the south, the lake crowded with friends. We sailed a couple of great races; fantastic, hard hiking weather. I ache, and have various bruises, scrapes and sundry abrasions. The front seat of an Enterprise is never a comfortable place to be.

It feels good.

Nik's out for the night with her best friend. I'm cooking "spag bol" for me and the youngest (it's not really spaghetti bolognese; the sauce is out of a jar, I'm cooking it in a wok and have sliced a red chilli into it) and I have a couple of bottles of Cornish ale to wash it down with.

Had some sad news about an old school friend at the beginning of this week. Life can be a bitch at times and I grieve for his family and his loss.

But this moment, right now, is good. And he was the sort of guy who would've appreciated that.

In the words of Capt. Jack Sparrow: Take what you can, give nothing back.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Buffy: the time has come

Buffy is leaking.

I spent some time with her this afternoon, and I'm pretty certain it's the centreboard case that's gone again. She still sails of course, and you can still win races with her, but a lot of water leaks in very quickly, so you have to put up with very wet feet.

Of course, with enough wind, the bailers clear the water out. But it's not good for her to get so wet, so she really needs to be dried out and repaired before she's sailed any more.

It's far beyond the time or talent I have available to hand, so, almost reluctantly although I have been considering it for a while, I'm going to sell her.

Of course, she's not going to be worth much, as she clearly needs somebody that wants a bit of a restoration project. I could almost certainly get more by breaking her up and selling the components: carbon fibre tiller extension and flyaway pole, dynema main halyard, restored centreboard, road trailer, all that sort of thing.

But I won't. She owes me absolutely nothing. She's been pure pleasure to race these last six or so years, I've loved every minute of it. Hopefully I can find somebody that has the afore mentioned time and talent and will to rebuild the bits I've neglected and broken and get another decade or two of joy out of her.

We'll give it a week in case any of the new members just finishing their sailing course at the Club take a shine to her, warts and all. Then it's eBay here we come.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Frampton: when it all goes right

Spent a lovely evening charging around the cans at Frampton last night. The weather has suddenly flipped, and gone from bleak mid winter straight up into the twenties, so it was my first race of the year in shorts and tee-shirt. Hopefully, it won't be the last.

The entire day had seen a stiff, steady southwesterly breeze accompanying the sunshine and, like the temperature, tripping up into the twenties. Thankfully, it lasted through until the evening.

We sailed Amanda's Enterprise. The boat needed a few repairs to the kicker and flyaway jib pole, and a replacement burgee, so despite getting to the Club early we were last out onto the water. We made the start line with a few minutes to spare however, so all good.

The wind had backed (presumably) between the race committee laying the course and commencing the start sequence, which put a huge bias onto the line that nobody else seemed to notice. Consequently, they all massed together for a conventional starboard tack start, labouring simply to lay the line itself, and Amanda and I, holding well back from the line and away from the crowd until the last thirty seconds, made a charge on the pin end that came off perfectly, hitting the line at full speed on port tack just as the starting gun granted us the all clear.

I've never actually successfully pulled off a port flyer at the start before. I have to admit I wouldn't have tried it with a larger fleet, and there were a few regulars missing last night who would never have let me get away with it had they been there. But it worked, we were halfway to the windward mark before the rest of them even cleared the line to join us in the race and the feeling was delicious.

We raced for the next fifty minutes in warm sunshine and clean air, never needing to look back; the rest of the fleet never even got near us.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Calstar: winched

I'm the first to confess there's not a lot I know about winches. I'm not of a naturally mechanical bent, you don't find them on dinghies, and despite my logbook showing that by the end of last year Dad and I had sailed a grand total of 2130.5 nautical miles with Calstar now, that's still where I've done most of my sailing over the last fifteen years.

Interestingly, and a complete aside, those 2130.5 miles have been covered over 251 hours and 43 minutes of being underway. That works out at an average speed over ground of 8.5kn, which I think is rather impressive for a 26' bilge keeled Westerly Griffon.

Then again, that's the Bristol Channel tide for you. I expect the average is going to drop somewhat now.

Anyway. Calstar, of course, has winches. They've just worked without any stress for the last three years, except for one brief episode last spring when the starboard genoa winch stopped gripping. I smacked it with the winch handle, and that sorted the problem out. Had meant to look into servicing them, but then other things got in the way and we forgot about it.

I should add we have winch covers for each of the winches, and they are religiously put back on and secured at the end of each day's sailing, so they're not left exposed. That's probably they only reason they've kept going so well despite my neglect.

On Saturday, whilst on the way out towards Eddystone, the starboard winch slipped once more. It took a couple of bashes with the winch handle to get the ratchet to bite again. Sunday morning, as a solid 20 knots was blowing through the Sound and we were packing up to come home, I checked the winch again, and it was slipping under my hand and intermittently refusing to bite. Smacking it was beginning to have unreliable results.

It's a an old Lewmar 30 Two Speed winch, not self-tailing, and probably as old as the boat. It's always looked like a bit of an impenetrable unit to me, with no obvious clips or screws or bolts to effect its disassembly. After clearing out the rope locker and climbing in to get at it from below, I discovered there's no way into it from down there either.

It is good for the soul to clean out the rope locker every once in a while, however.

Then Dad spotted the circlip  that holds the top plate on, and after a bit of finessing the thing with a little screwdriver, it came free and the whole thing lifted apart.

In amidst the grease of the ratchet mechanism were clogs and clumps of what appeared to be dog hair. I'll swear the stuff gets everywhere. No metal shavings or obviously worn gears however, so that was a good thing.

We picked the rotten stuff out, leaving the good grease in place and handling the whole mechanism very gingerly in case we accidentally knocked anything and the whole lot sprang apart in our hands. Then we reassembled it. All appears to be working, although it's obviously well overdue that service.

Now we've unravelled the mysteries of disassembly, I wasn't particularly phased by the thought of servicing the thing. However, back at home and now quite swatted up on the matter via YouTube and Google, Dad has meanwhile had a word with the John at Allspars (the folks that stepped our mast for us) and has now told me they're going to do it for him.

It's like he doesn't trust me or something?

Now it has to be said, playing with grease and diesel and springs and ratchets isn't my idea of a good time; it strikes me that an awful lot can go wrong and if it does, replacing a main winch is going to cost £600+ a piece. Plus I bite my nails (an intentional habit; best way of keeping them to length for the guitar) and discovered on Sunday that grease tastes horrible. However, paying somebody else to do it for us does feel a bit like cheat mode.

A bit like driving the boat over to Plymouth on the back of a flatbed rather than sailing her around. Although on that one, I have to admit Dad was right. If we'd tried to sail her, we'd still be stuck now in the Bristol Channel dreaming of blue water, rather than sailing on it.

So I'm going to give his wisdom the benefit of the doubt on the winch servicing issue. And at least I know how to get into them myself now if we ever find we have to