Tuesday 21 November 2023

fair weather sailor: reprise

It was a two gig weekend just gone, Friday and Saturday evening. Both at the same venue, The Whittle Taps in Cheltenham, both very lively, very hard work, and exceptionally good fun. The kind of gig that reminds us why we do it.

I could've gone sailing Sunday morning,. I'd meant to. I'd been planning to race the Laser around the lake at South Cerney, but the forecast was for rain and strong winds gusting into the high 30's. 

I got up Sunday morning. A little later than planned, but still in time to get to the club if I rushed. Even go so far as having packed my kit into my bag. Then decided I really didn't have it in me after all, put the kettle back on and had another cup of tea, followed by a very lazy morning.

Later, as the rain eased a little into the afternoon, I took Lottie for a nice, long walk.

Monday 13 November 2023

Petrella: fair weather sailor

I've just had a rare weekend without any gigs. Intentionally; we originally had a booking pencilled in that fell through, but once it did I decided that was providence and turned down a couple of subsequent offers to keep it free. I don't now have another weekend free of gigs until after the New Year.

Dad, seeing the weekend free, decided he'd take the opportunity to go visit a friend on the east coast. A lack of joined up thinking - he timed it so he wouldn't miss any gigs, not appreciating that I'd kept the weekend intentionally free of them so that we could go sailing.

However, my friends Mark and Amanda were kicking around at a loose end so were happy to join me.

We met up at the boat in Brixham at around 2000hrs and wandered into town to find a pub and a beer, settling on a table in the back room of a cosy harbour-side place called "The Blue Anchor". A very good duo was performing in the bar; from our table we could hear it and enjoy it all but were enough out of the way to still enjoy our catch up chat.

The original plan was to sail out on Saturday, overnight in Dartmouth, then back on Sunday. But sat in the bar looking at the forecast on Friday night, Saturday looked lovely but Sunday grim; a fresh storm was blowing in for Monday, but was to be presaged on Sunday by rain and squalls potentially gusting up to 30 knots. 

So we settled for a day sail. There's no point or fun in taking chances with the weather at this time of year.

With no particular plan or agenda, we had a slow start on Saturday, as much, I expect, due to the over-indulgence of the late night before as lack of any ambitions for the day's sailing, but we told ourselves we were waiting for the wind out in the bay to fill in a little for the afternoon. We cast off at 1400; only the second time I've taken Petrella our of her berth myself, but all, more or less, went to plan. I was a little too cautious reversing her out, so didn't get enough rudder authority to turn as I'd intended, but a little bit of shuffling ahead and astern on the throttle let me correct my misjudgement without any mishap. Luckily our berth is very sheltered.

I'm still not entirely confident with slow speed manoeuvring under power and was, perhaps, guilty of being a little over cautious with the throttle. But we are slowly getting to know each other better, so it's getting easier all the time.

We made a quick stop at the fuel berth to top up our half full diesel tank. The bill for that was a bit of an (albeit not completely unexpected) eye opener. Calstar's 20hp Beta Marine diesel engine was served by a 38 litre fuel tank. Petrella has a 55hp Volvo, with a correspondingly larger 110 litre tank. So she costs more to refuel than my car, although hopefully we won't need to do it as frequently. It's certainly an incentive to sail more!

Watching the harbour seals languorously basking on the marina wave screen in the autumnal sun, we made our way out past the breakwater. Leaving the shelter of the harbour, we turned into the wind and hauled out the sails. The day was benign, with blue sky, calm sea and about 8 to 10 knots of wind blowing in from the south west. We set a course close-hauled for open water in the hope of finding the cleanest air out to sea and were not disappointed. With 10 knots of wind Petrella barely heeled but her big genoa pulled her along very nicely at around 3 to 4 knots over the ground.

With no particular aim or ambition, we tacked back towards Berry Head for no reason other than the last time we were out we'd instead sailed all the way across to the other side of the bay. The sun continued to shine, the sea remained calm, but the wind as we approached the headland did pick up to a very pleasing 11 knots. Under Berry Head, we tacked back again, then bore away onto a reach, the boat speed picking up as we did to occasionally touch more than 5 knots over the ground, helped a little perhaps by the flood tide.

To our delight, we were briefly joined by a couple of porpoises. Once they'd fallen astern, hunting their early evening supper and not particularly interested in us, with the sun now lowering over Brixham, we gybed. Heading back towards the harbour, we crossed just ahead of another yacht heading in from the headland and over towards Torquay, sails elegantly goosed wing on wing, and then followed the restored 127 year old Brixham Trawler "Pilgrim of Brixham" as she made her way back into harbour ahead of us.

The engine started beautifully on command, and dropping the sails was simple and quick in such light conditions. I'm still not convinced by the whole roller-boom arrangement with the main, especially with regards to the reefing options and the way it'll undoubtedly compromise the kicker, but with somebody tailing the main halyard from the cockpit as I wound the sail back onto the boom from the mast, dropping the main was an exceptionally quick, easy and very tidy affair.

So jury remains out.

We put her back into her berth without mishap, a light wind astern pushing us in but presenting no real complication in the shelter of the marina. As I began the final turn I did, briefly, worry I'd left it too late, but careful handling of the throttle kept just enough rudder authority to bring her bow around and bring her in alongside our finger pontoon, with only a brief twitch of astern to bring her to her final stop and let Mark step off and secure the stern spring.

As the last of the light faded, we secured her lines and made her safe, putting the cockpit tent back up and reconnecting the shore power, then headed into town for supper at a very nice harbour-side restaurant "Simply Fish", just across the road from the pub where we'd spent the evening before. I had the fish soup, which was delicious, but the plain old battered cod and chips that Mark and Amanda both went for looked absolutely magnificent.

The following morning dawned bright, sunny and calm, leaving me to wonder if, perhaps, I'd misjudged the forecast. Then at 1030, the rain settled in, thick and intransigent. The drive home that afternoon was uneventful, but the road conditions quite filthy..

Thursday 2 November 2023

under pressure

I was vaguely disturbed twice yesterday evening by an unexpected buzz on my wrist and a message that flashed up on my watch saying "Storm alert". In the five years I've owned this watch I don't think it's ever done that before. 

I checked the settings on the barometer and, apparently, it's set to trigger the alert if the pressure drops 4mb or more in a 3 hour period.

I tried to check the various Brixham webcams first thing this morning, but until a few minutes ago, they were down, presumably as a result of what was essentially the equivalent of a DDoS attack from a collective of concerned boat owners all trying to check on conditions in the harbour.

I did a few minutes ago finally (and briefly) get access to the camera overlooking the marina, and all looks well; as expected, the wind is coming in over the headland, so the sea is blowing out of Torbay rather than into it. So situation pretty much normal, except all the trawlers are, understandably, packed like sardines into their own harbour.

On the home front, the worst of it seems to have blown through overnight, though the day remains grotty outside; about 10°C, persistent rain, grey skies, and a blustery autumnal breeze. Could've been a lovely day for playing with the Laser (albeit with the Radial rigged) on the lake if I didn't have other commitments.