Monday 15 April 2024

Petrella: around the Breakwater

Took a day trip down to Plymouth with Dad on Sunday. Forecast for the morning anticipated cloudy but dry, wind in the west, light in the morning but building to around 18 knots by late afternoon.

After an early start, we arrived at the boat for 0945. The wind had started to pick up by the time we got the cockpit tent down and stowed, the engine started and all the lines shortened ready to leave. The shelter of the cockpit tent is a wonderful luxury to have, but taking it down and putting it back up again does suck up time at the beginning and end of the day. We're getting quicker, but it was still 1125 before we were set and ready to cast off.

The close manoeuvring involved in leaving or returning to our berth is still proving to be a bit of a challenge. Leaving was helped by the fact that our neighbour's berth to starboard was empty, giving me plenty of room to swing as I reversed out, but it still took three or four attempts of shuffling backwards and forwards before I got Petrella lined up to reverse down of the aisle and into open water.

The prop walk to port when she goes astern is only slight, but it seems to take quite a bit of water to be running over the rudder before it bites enough to provide any steerage. Out into the Sound, we headed over to Jennycliff Bay where we practiced for half an hour under power, manoeuvring around a yellow buoy that we used as a reference point, experimenting with how she turned and how much room was needed both forward and astern. It helped. But it's still going to be a while before I'm completely confident with this.

Practice over, we left the shelter of the bay, put the sails up, stilled the engine, and spent the next couple of hours enjoying the weather and 10 to 12 knots of nice, steady wind. We beat over towards the western shore before tacking and laying the eastern entrance. Out into the open sea, we held our course until we neared the Shag Stone, before tacking again to round the outside of the Breakwater and lay the western entrance.

Back into the Sound, we ran downwind towards Drake Island, the wind shifting as we headed further into the Sound to lift us nicely up onto a course back to QAB. Finally, approaching Jennycliff once again, we rolled the genoa away, started the engine and turned into wind to drop the main. Fenders out and lines set, we headed back to QAB.

Our neighbour's berth was still empty when we arrived back at the marina. Dad stood ready with the bow line, whilst I nursed her in, aiming to drop the midships spring onto the end cleat of the finger pontoon. I initially misjudged the effect of the crosswind and came in too wide to reach, with the wind blowing us off the finger. Dad judiciously held off throwing his line, so I reversed back out and made another approach. 

Still too wide for me to reach the end cleat of the finger, but Dad managed to lasso the far horn of the front cleat with his line. 36' is a long distance to communicate over however, and clearly pleased with his throw, he then held the line rather than securing it to Petrella's bow cleat. 36' of boat is a lot of weight to hold in your hands, so although the line served to stop the bow blowing back off, I couldn't motor astern against it. I should add, all this wasn't Dad's fault, but the fault of a crummy briefing from his skipper. This was his first time on the bow line in a very long time.

In any case, I nudged her astern just enough for the prop walk to bite then took the way straight off with a gentle nudge ahead. I did this a few times, slowly edging her stern back in. Meanwhile a kind gentleman off a neighbouring boat came over to get Dad's line fully onto the pontoon cleat. Before the gentleman was able to take my stern line I'd already walked the stern of the boat back in enough to get the midship's spring hooked over the end cleat, and we were back home and safe.

So leaving and returning were far from textbook perfect, but we achieved both without any undue panic, and without hitting anyone or anything in the process of doing so. And we had a lovely couple of hours sailing out and around the Breakwater. My ambition is to get my boat handling competent enough to be confident of handling her in and out on my own if needs be. We've still got a way to go with that, but for now I was happy with the day's work.

9.2 nautical miles covered over 2 hours and 40 minutes underway, 1 hour and 16 minutes of that under power (funny enough, 38 minutes to get out, play on engine then put the sails up, and 38 minutes to drop sail, set lines and fenders and come back in).

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