Wednesday 23 May 2018

FOSSC: overindulged

A trio of photos from last weekend.

The Club's training fleet are primarily Gulls and Toppers, but we have a handful of Wanderers and RS Fevas as well. Helping out with the junior sail training on Saturday, the kids were on their second day and my job was to take them out individually in the Feva to give them a taste of a different boat to the Gulls they were learning in.

Despite a drifter of a start to the day, enough of a wind filled in enough to set the asymmetric, but was light enough to leave the newbie students on the helm, with a little bit of coaching, whilst I trimmed the sail. I think all agreed I had the best job of the day.

Payback came at the end of day when I took responsibility for running then each through the capsize drill. Fourteen capsizes in total. We only had thirteen students, but despite an utter lack of superstition, we decided thirteen was an unlucky number so one lucky pair got an extra dunking.

I think it was just an excuse.

It was a good day to be on, and in, the water.

Straight home from the Club, time for a quick shower, then down the motorway to Bristol for Saturday night's gig. A new venue, but the landlord and landlady have known the band a long time, and the Fishponds area of Bristol has, over the years, very much become a home from home for the band, so the gig couldn't help but be a good one.

Sunday morning I overslept, so was half an hour late getting to the Club, where I'd volunteered to run the Safety Boat for the morning as there had been some sort of screw up with the scheduling. The Club had a number of visiting British Moths for our Moth Open, along with our couple of locals. I raced one of these boats for a number of years, including a couple of Nationals, before I moved on to a Europe and then not so long after an Enterprise, and, aside from a couple of Enterprise Opens at Penarth and Bristol Corinthian,  the Moth is really the only class I've ever travelled with.

I still have a real soft spot for them.

Somebody has very kindly offered me the loan of a boat for their Nationals this year in August. Think I can squeeze the time off work and band (though only for three days out of the four, as I'll need to be back for a gig on the last day); I just have to negotiate furlough with my exceptionally patient wife. We shall see.

Meanwhile, we'll be seeing a good few of them again this coming weekend when we sail down to Fowey.

So I was sailing last Saturday, sailing Sunday, did stay home to fix a fence Monday evening but was back out to karate on Tuesday, and then, of course, will be sailing again tonight before heading down to Plymouth Thursday night to sail first thing Friday.

I suspect I'm a little over-indulged.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Follow the dragonfly

Sunday marked the 4th year since losing Mum.

I say marked, but although I was aware of the date approaching, I spent Sunday afloat on the lake at Frampton, running the safety boat in the morning and racing my Laser in the afternoon. Dad spent the day working in his garden. I'm not sure either of us truly noticed the anniversary until the next day, when my daughter posted something up on social media.

Tasha did call me Sunday. I missed the initial call because I was out on the water, didn't call her back until the evening, when she and I had a lovely long natter and catch-up. She didn't mention her Gran, although I'm guessing now she was on her mind.

I thought, for a moment, that perhaps I should feel bad for letting the date go by unremarked. But truth be told, I'm not particularly good with dates, neither was Mum and neither is Dad. By way of an amusing aside, and it really does make me chuckle now and (eventually) did then, I remember they forgot my 17th birthday. It fell on a weekend and went unremarked until about 1900 that evening, when they finally realised why I'd been "sulking" all day. Although for the record, I don't sulk, regardless of what my wife, brother and late mother might otherwise claim or have claimed on occasion. Although I will confess it could be argued that I have an occasionally unfortunate weakness for wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Not good with dates. But then I don't feel the need to be. I carry those I love and have loved with me, they are never far from my thoughts, no further than the shadow of a smile, however distant in place or time.

Four years on and the sting has faded a little. The hollow made by the gap she left in our lives achingly remains, but that's okay for it marks that she was there.

On Friday morning I sail for Fowey with Dad and Nik. We'll spend the long Bank Holiday Weekend there with friends, and then decide where to go after; probably on to Falmouth. We won't need to be back in Plymouth until Sunday the 3rd.

Monday 14 May 2018

Laser: snapped

Slipped down to the lake to play with the Laser again for a couple of hours on Friday evening, nice bit of movement in the air at first, but then predictably faded as evening drew on. One of the perks of a single-hander is that I can, if I wish, sail any time I have the time and inclination to do so. And for four out of five evenings in last week, I did just that.

A little over indulgent, some might say. I wouldn't disagree, but remain unashamedly unrepentant.

The weekend was warm, sunny, and without too much wind. Would've been perfect for a trip out to Fowey and back with Calstar, but I dutifully skipped the chance and took Nik out on Saturday night instead. A reasonably low key gathering in a reasonably quiet bar in town with good company, it wasn't as horrific an experience as I'd feared it might be.

Three races Sunday, two general handicaps and a pursuit. Bright sun, but almost no wind. My knees have taken quite a hammering of late, as keeping the dinghy trimmed and balanced in drifting conditions involves a lot of shifting about on your knees.

The first race was tedious, very little wind, and the little we had blowing in from random directions. The pursuit went well, a little more wind filling in, and I held my position well until fouled by another boat that gybed on top of me as we were boat running by the lee neck down to green. I dodged his boom, so no damage was done, but it cost me three places, of which I only managed to claw back two before the end of the race.

On the last lap of the third race the wind suddenly filled in. I was on a close reach as it happened, leading a pack of Solos and Pete in his Comet. I hiked out hard to keep the boat flat and as she leapt up onto the plane, accelerating in the gust, the toe-strap snapped with a loud pop and I tumbled backwards out of the boat.

Although it came as something of a shock to suddenly find myself underwater looking up at the hull, I fortunately let go of the tiller extension but manged to keep a hold of the mainsheet. Resurfacing, I porpoised back up over the gunwale feeling very much like a half-drowned cat, picked the tiller extension back up and carried on sailing.

I didn't lose my place. I did, however, lose my sunglasses.

Replacements are in the post, needed of course for the next race on Wednesday evening. Shame about the shades, one of the more comfortable pairs I've had. I was really quite fond of them. Took the opportunity to order a new friction brake for the dagger-board, the original being very worn and not up to the job anymore of keeping the board down on the beat.

[22/05 footnote: just noticed that I wrote but never published this. Hitting the button now, somewhat belatedly. Shades, toe-strap and replacement friction brake have since arrived, been fitted and all worked very well thank-you when we last raced on Sunday]

Thursday 10 May 2018

Laser: class racing

One of the pleasures of class racing is that when you cross the finish line, if everybody else is still behind you, you know you've won.

Wednesday evening was lovely. A little cooler than it's been the last few days, but the threatened rain spotted briefly but never actually came in. Light southwesterly wind, not enough to plane, but just enough to make it interesting, to keep the boat moving and let me hike out with the occasional gust that came through.

Had a lucky race. A good start at the favoured end in clean air got me around the windward mark ahead of everybody. Jon and Pete then kept me on my toes, taking turns to snap close at my heels throughout the rest of the race, but without any major screw ups on my part, neither found the opportunity to quite squeak past.

One of the pleasures of one design class racing is there isn't a lot of difference to be be had in the speed of the boats.

There was a bit of congestion picking our way through the Handicap fleet and the Solo fleet's back markers. One poorly timed arrival at a gybe mark that meant I had to slow down and sail wide, letting Jon, not so far astern, gain precious ground on me, before cutting back in and squeezing past the inside of an Enterprise that fortunately took the mark too tight in and too wide out. Aside from that, it was relatively painless.

Then a fluky bit of pressure found me on the last beat but seemed to miss the others, and in clean air once again, gave me the chance to break clear ahead for the final lap.

Couldn't help but pause once I was over and done to take a photo of the finish line (it's between the chap in the red coat and the buoy visible afloat just off his right shoulder) whilst waiting for the others to cross it.

Forgive me if that sounds indecently smug. My first win in the new boat; I don't think they're going to let me get away with it that easy much more often.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Laser: over indulgence

I did it again Tuesday evening after work.

Sloped off to the lake to drift about on the Laser for an hour or two, that is.

A lovely evening, and a bit more wind to play with. On Monday I accidentally sheared the rivets holding the plug into the foot of the top section of the mast. Nice thing about a Laser is that the purchase of a rivet gun and a couple of rivets later and all's well again. Obviously had to take the mast section back to the lake and check it all worked before we race on Wednesday.

Also replaced the aluminium tiller and extension with a second hand carbon fibre set. Main difference is the tiller extension is longer, fatter, and has a proper universal joint attaching it to the tiller, as opposed to the old fashioned metal swivel that the original tiller had.

Makes such a difference in the handling of the boat. At some point I'll replace the tiller with a new, decent carbon fibre one. The tiller extension is perfect though, so that can stay.

Of course, Tuesday evening I really should've gone to karate, but the cough and fever still hanging on from the weekend, and doubtless aggravated by the three gigs, simply sapped the will out of me. An hour's sailing on the lake seemed a fair compromise.

Racing at the lake this evening. That will mean I've sailed the Laser three days in a row, which almost feels over indulgent, so the plan is to take Thursday evening off and go make up time back up in the dojo (posh name for the hall in Cinderford Leisure Centre) before heading back to the lake to sail again Friday evening.

Really had hoped to head down to Plymouth to sail Calstar this weekend, but apparently I have to take my wife to a friend's birthday party in town on Saturday night. I can't say I'm best pleased, which I know is horribly selfish of me as a) the friend concerned is a lovely bloke and you're only 40 once and b) my wife is generally very patient with my many and varied distractions, sailing included.

I shall therefore do my best not to sulk the whole weekend, at least not too visibly. I, of course, would vehemently claim to never sulk, but my wife has on enough occasions in the past stridently begged to differ in her own assessment, enough to make me doubt my own convictions on the matter. But even so, town on a Saturday night, and not sailing on a weekend when I could've done as I have no gigs . . . .

Let's just hope for a decent bit of wind tonight. And Friday night. And Sunday, when I'll be back at the lake again to get over a Saturday night out on the town and the effort of not sulking all the way through my friend's birthday party.

I'm really not a party person. In terms of my least favourite things to do, it's well up there with grocery shopping. I really don't do big crowds of people unless I can hide behind a guitar and microphone stand.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Laser: on a whim

In case you missed it, Monday was, apparently, the hottest May Day Bank Holiday on record.

There wasn't a lot of wind to go with it, so ordinarily I'd consider that to be rubbish weather for a holiday. However, voice shot and plagued by a hacking cough and accompanying temperature, I was very happy to distract myself by taking the Laser out on to the water for a few hours Monday afternoon despite the rubbish weather.

Although a public holiday for most of us, my wife Nik works in retail, so public holidays don't count for her. She had an 11 to 6 shift so wasn't going to miss me around the house. At least not so long as I (read: Dad) fixed the garden tap.

There was enough of a wind to make for a distracting sail, mostly practising roll tacks and gybes, holding station and then accelerating for the start, all quite different in a Laser compared to the old Enterprise I've grown used to these last half a dozen years.

There is something strangely satisfying, almost poetically so, in the balance of a good roll tack. The feel of the boat tipping over on top of you and then smoothly powering up as you switch to the other deck and roll her flat onto the new tack; the Laser seems almost designed to make the entire movement feel sweet.

You get it in an Enterprise too of course, but in a Laser the manoeuvre and feedback is almost instantaneous by comparison, the acceleration is obvious, and there is no crew to coordinate with, or for that matter, to screw it up for you.

Not that my crew ever did, to be fair. Any issues with Buffy's roll tacking was usually down to the loose nut on the tiller.

There was no racing on, but the Club was still a gentle bubble of activity, with three or four families and their kids and dogs also enjoying the warm sunshine and cool water.

One of the motivations for giving up the Ent, aside from the obvious and previously well documented issues with repairs and maintenance that were building up, was to be able to just drop down the lake on a whim whenever the mood so took me and sail by myself for a few hours.

So Monday afternoon I did exactly that. And it felt good.

Tap vs. dog

Bank Holiday Monday morning. All the gigs done, which was something of a relief this time around.

The one job I had to do before I could legitimately slope off to the lake on my own for the afternoon was to replace the garden tap that had seized up over the winter.

Not entirely trusting me to "remember" to do it before I headed out, my wife had a word with Dad, who duly came over Monday morning to help. Which meant I essentially got to watch him replace the tap for me.

I do sometimes have to wonder how on earth we'd cope without him.

It turned out to be a relatively straight forward job, once we applied enough brute force to remove the old one. Of course, aside from Dad's able assistance, I had two furry clowns who were very eager to help out . . . .

Freefall: nostalgia ain't all it used to be

Just before I was about to go on Sunday night, a lady in the audience came up to me and asked if I used to be in a band called Anastasia. Yes, I did. And didn't you used to play a song called Last Man Standing? Yes, I wrote that. Aw, she said, that used to be my favourite song!

Aside from being obviously touched, I was also quietly amused by the coincidence that a band that I'd started back in 1992 and effectively ended in 2004 would come back to nudge me out of the blue twice in one weekend. And flattered that the music we made back then touched at least a couple of souls in a way that has obviously stayed with them ever since.

Sometimes I do like people.

In the end, the third gig went fine. Our friend Paul Mullen of Panik Events was running the sound desk and worked miracles. Being the third gig in as many days, I honestly thought it was going to be the hardest on my voice. I hadn't actually been certain there was anything left of my voice aside a croak until the opening song. But it all came back in those first few bars, and vocally, the third gig turned out to be the strongest.

Could barely speak yesterday and definitely croaking today though.

Aside from the very first snap, most of the photos accompanying this post were taken the night before when we played for the Gloucester Civic Ball. One of the two charities it was raising money for was for a local dog shelter, which pleased me.

Nice thing about a Civic Ball when it's held in a posh hotel is that, whilst there is always a lot of hanging around after the soundcheck whilst the guests eat and then various dignitaries speak, it is always a comfortable environment to hang around in.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Freefall: one more for the road

Gig three. On in an hour, up on that stage there. Voice is in tatters, have developed a nasty hacking cough, think I should just have the one gig left in me though. 

Conscious that for anybody else, it's just a bit of a sniffle. For a vocalist losing his voice its laryngitis, flu, hacking cough and bubonic plague all rolled into one.

Melodramatic? I am certainly being a bit of a baby, forgive me.

All will be well when we're done in a couple of hours. And I'm definitely heading to the lake to play with the Laser in the sunshine tomorrow morning.

Saturday 5 May 2018

Long weekend

Last night's gig was fun. Hard work because I've picked up a bit of a cough and cold and am losing my voice, but fun.

A lady in the audience said to me afterwards we were the first live band she'd seen in about twenty years.

She then went on to say how she used to regularly watch bands with her friends at another Stroud pub, now long turned into a housing estate, called The Junction.

I remembered it well, used to play there often.

Do you remember a band called Anastasia, she asked.....

Um, yeah. That was us, that was me, that was my band.

Amazing how paths separate and then reconverge as this funny old life moves on.

Have another gig tonight, then one more tomorrow; missed the chance to go play with Calstar, though Dad's down there on his own this weekend. Feeling too rough to do much but try to recover between gigs, so no sailing at the lake tomorrow.

Monday is a bank holiday for us all though, so gigs done, fully intend to sneak away to the lake to play with the Laser for a few hours in the afternoon.

Weather's lovely. Looking forward to the chance to enjoy it then.