Monthly Archives: August 2014

Log Entry 30th August 2014

During our stay at Lowestoft we enjoyed some walks and it was clear coastal erosion was an issue, and a not so subtle reminder of the awesome power the sea has.

Lowestoft i S

Lowestoft ii S

It was time to start planning the final leg of our passage back to Grimsby. After many years of having to get back to work and often setting sail in not ideal winds – we now had the luxury of waiting for a fair wind, the 25th looked good with an easterly / south-easterly wind force 5 / 6. Provisions were topped up and we were ready to go. Actually departing the pontoon was a worry. Having been ‘clever’ putting the boat in the berth stern first, departing meant making a turn against the prop walk and then turning the bow through the wind. If the boat had been put in bow first we could have walkd her along the pontoon and pushed the bow off, another lesson learnt in that going stern first is not always best. The day before the boat was moved (after getting permission to do so) with warps to the adjacent pontoon which gave a better angle to exit the pontoons.

The distance between the pontoons was measured with a rope there was nearly room to turn the boat, and so if we moved the boat along the pontoon before departing the bow could then be snubbed with a line and the stern would then swing out and if the line was kept in place the wind would actually take the boat through the wind. It all seemed good in theory – did we have the confidence to execute the plan, the alternative being to hope that we could get the boat out into the space beyond the pontoons to make a wide turn.

A lunch time departure would give us the fair tide from Lowestoft. The night before we had another walk which led up to an excellent decision – ‘something’ just made me review our plans. The prevailing winds are westerly, and so easterly winds are uncommon. Force 6 is a strong wind and being easterly meant we would be sailing on a lee shore and the seas could build up – that said a beam reach would be nice sail. Why set off in a sea that could be quite unpleasant – no reason our departure was postponed. That night I had difficulty sleeping and looked up the wind reports to find 43 knots of wind reported in the Wash – gale force 8, likely to have given dangerous seas and not just unpleasant – we had won the lottery in terms of a safe night in the marina.

The following day we had another walk, and although the wind had dropped the sea was quite rough as the picture shows.

Lowestoft  iii S

The 27th was the next date chosen with a SE wind 4 / 5. The berth adjacent to us was still free, so a deep breath was taken and the berth departure plan executed, it worked a treat sadly no one was watching. It felt after years we were finally worthy of sailing a tradwind35.

We had a pleasant sail up to the cockle buoy, and the wind was actually east then veered SE as forecast. With the wind behind us it was a bit rolly but we were sailing. When the tide turned we were only making a couple of knots over ground, How I wished we had the confidence to use the spinnaker or had even hanked on our double Yankee. Neither of which would have been sensible at night if the wind had got up. Thoughts of purchasing a smaller double Yankee were considered in the hours of darkness. Eventually dawn came and the wind had also dropped so the engine was started to give a helping hand.

The plan was to anchor at Haile sand and wait for the tide so we could get back into Grimsby at free flow. It seemed like a lifetime before we spotted land and the light houses at spurn head but they eventually came in to sight – we were nearly home.

Of course when we came to anchor the wind picked up, and there was ‘ickle’ surprise for us, for when the anchor was to be freed from the stem roller the pin that holds it in place would not shift .. it had obviously been bent in Ramsgate – whilst I had checked it would rotate I had not actually pulled it out when checking for the damage. A large spanner was used to try and straighten the pin but to no avail – so there was no option but to use a hacksaw to cut through the pin, all this whilst having to keep clear of the shipping channel. Once cut the anchor was free to be deployed when we got to Haile sand fort. We had now been sailing for over 24 hours and it came quite a relief to drop the anchor. We were also quite proud to call up the lock keeper and confirm when there would be free flow through the lock rather than as for a pen. It turned out that I would only get 20 mins rest before we needed to leave our anchorage.

We made it through the lock and knew that the marina was being dredged and there was a boat on our pontoon that we would have to raft up against. We usually tie up bow first on the end pontoon and then turn the boat with warps but there would not be space to do so now. With little or no wind and inspired with confidence of my boat handling skills we would turn the boat round under engine – all went well in making the turn, until the final part when the stern drifted towards the dockside, and the magnetic properties of the gelcoat found the only piece of rusty metal on the wooden post which gouged out two large patches of gelcoat. With the crew in tears – I reminder her that the responsibility lay with the skipper who was at the helm. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but after 30 hours without sleep it was probably not the best idea to make that turn when we arrived. Oh, and of course there was someone watching now.

We were, however, back safe – and gelcoat can be repaired whilst a crushed hand has a more lasting effect.

A safe arrival drink was called for, the question was would the car start (had the solar panel installed worked). The first attempt did not bode well, but the second time the engine just turned over and we were in business. Moreover we were reminded of the friendly nature of Humber Cruising, for Brian had spotted our potential dilemma with starting the car and offered his jump leads.

Again feeling quite good that I had left the handbrake off which meant the breaks were not ceased onto the drums we set off for wine – and guess what there was a large twanging sound – the suspension spring had broken. undeterred we pressed on to ASDA where Wine was purchased and consumed before finally dropping into our bunks.

So back safe after a fantastic trip – with a corresponding job list for the winter to hopefully do it all again in the future.

Log Entry 18th August 2014

We survived the high winds in Ramsgate on the 10th August 2014 and have a video clip to remind us of the effects in the outer marina in the inner basin.

The snacking of the pontoons in the first part of the clip perhaps gives best indication of the swell.

Our thoughts turned to where we might next go, and Harwich seemed to be a fair option, the direction of the wind was not fair, the weather unsettled, so there was no rush – other than the Ramsgate marina fees which were in excess of 30 pounds a day.

We decided to explore by land and took the bus to Margate.

Margate_S1

There appeared to be little Margate could offer in terms of refuge for a deep keeled yacht but it was a pleasant town to visit.

The crew had a taste for land (cant think why), and a 5 mile sea walk to Broadstaires and back was presented as a plan. The walk was comfortable, and there was some kind of celebration at Broadstaires.

Broadstaires_1S

It always good to see how the other half live on the land side of a beach, though not one that appeals on a regular basis.

Having walked the five miles we anticipated the effects would have most impact the following morning, and thoughts turned to how we would get out of our bunks with the aching muscles, a night-cap would help.

It was so nice to be in a bunk which was still and facilitated sleep.

The following day arrived, and strangely there was no problem in rising from the bunk – for a large crunching sound shuddered through the boat – we were hit – the command of the English language faltered, and the fore hatch opened to see a yacht reversing back.

Clothes were thrown on and an inspection made of the bowsprit – the only obvious problem was the anchor was now wedged into the bowsprit. The owner of ‘Esprit’ a Moody 31, approached – it’s an awful feeling when you bump a boat – so there was no point in shouting – so I invited the skipper to see the problem from the deck. He tried to free the anchor, but it was wedged solid – he suggested it might be shifted with a crow bar – he then looked at my face – and offered his name and address – I said that would be a good idea.

He returned with his piece of paper and I thanked him for his honesty.

Our resilience to challenge was to be tested further – for ‘Esprit’ was set to depart again. It is no exaggeration to say the boat went full speed astern and then full speed ahead. To be clear this was full speed ahead, not full revs ahead and astern to turn the boat within its own length. Each time the boat moved to and fro it came within centimeters of boats on each row of pontoons – it was a fifty chance of which row was going to take the hit – and yes it was us again – crunch. Screams from the wife of the skipper and glass flying everywhere from a shattered navigation light – a change of luck is was not ours but his. I am not sure what happened next but it was some relief to see the stern of Espirt disappear off to sea, minus a nav light. I dug deep and consider it was fortunate I had managed to put Cariad into the berth stern to else there would surely have been fibre glass damage rather than scrapes to stainless steel.

The rest of the day passed without event – and a serious night out was called for and enjoyed.

We planned our passage to Harwich, and had two options an early start for a day light arrival or an afternoon departure and a night arrival.

The afternoon departure was chosen because the wind was forecast to be from the west backing southwest, which gave us a fair wind until the last couple of miles.

Before departing the marina filled with boats for Ramsgate Week, It was interesting watch how boats with crew (3 +) struggled to moor up, and one might think a boat flying a blue ensign which was not defaced, might be humble about their mistakes – but no. Anyway now was not the time to comment as it was our turn to leave the berth – dividends for the stern to berthing were reaped – we gently motored through the gaps and sought permission to leave for sea.

The wind was a force 4 – 5 south-westerly, which meant we were on a broad reach. Not to worry it would make Harwich fairly straight forward. We had a reef in the main, the smaller Yankee and no staysail as the wind was forecast to be 5 to 6.

As we headed north up the minor shipping lane, the wind veered W and increased. The next weather forecast now suggested the wind would be west 5 to 7, and possible gale 8 later. This should still allow us to get to Harwich.

The wind increased and Cariad seemed to be quite hard pressed, though we were making over 7 knots over ground. Time to swap the Yankee for the Staysail – a crawl along the deck ahead – I looked at the small Yankee and reconsidered my thoughts of buying a third Yankee in between the large and small one – the small one looked quite large – that being because it was the large one – ‘b**** ***l’ its a bitch taking this large sail down in anything above a force 4. It was not the most elegant sail change with the crew safe below. It was interesting seeing, from the foredeck, the bowsprit disappear into the waves, but once sailing with just the staysail and the single reef in the main Cariad was much happier.

With the westerly it was not possible to sail the next leg of 18 miles to Harwich, having promised the crew Harwich it was time to put pride aside and try motor sailing closer to the wind. Cariad was to assert her will to sail, as motor sailing only achieved about 2 knots given the sea state. Coming off the wind gave 4- 5 knots. 20 nautical miles 2 knots 10 hours – with the possibility of stronger winds – I don’t think so.

The route for Lowestoft was already in the chart plotter from the outward passage, so it was just a case of adjusting to the revised destination – and informing our land contact of the change to the passage plan – there was no phone signal in the middle of the Thames – so the HF radio and ability to send an email came into its own.

The wind did gust force 7, and if I was honest we should have put another reef in the main, but I convinced myself it was better to have the extra speed and get safe into Lowestoft before the gale.

It’s clear a tradewind 35 only really starts to sail in winds above a force 4. I now have the confidence of sailing in a force 6 – 7, and am not fearful of a gale 8 – though most certainly respectful of the same. That confidence assumes no problems, which hopefully is the reward of putting the work into the boat.

I find the worst hours to be those between 01.00 and 04.00, especially as the nights grow longer. Morale is raised with things like hearing Humber Coastguard, a packet of wine gums and last but certainly not least the sound bytes that come from the crew including the offer to provide some respite – alas the stronger winds and amount of shipping preclude the feasibility of accepting.

We approached Lowestoft at 8 knots over the ground at some points, and whilst pleased to get there before the winds got stronger, making passage through the entrance was interesting with the strong tide, and the possibility of engine failure does not bear thinking of. Whether we should have reefed earlier and arrived closer to slack water is a possible alternative, if the winds had reached gale force 8 we might have had to stay at sea – but the water is not always deep in the North sea. I suppose Holland might have been a possibility.

Those who do sail single-handed may truly understand the benefit of having crew that come to life to put fenders out, turn the boat into the wind to drop sails – and I should add can now take a sail down in lighter winds.

Anyway we enjoy Lowestoft – so we have time to reflect and plan for next year.

Log Entry 10th August 2014

We departed anchorage off Dungeness on the 4th August and arrived safely at Ramsgate, the marina was full but we were offered a berth on the East breakwater, We took the berth which was easy to moor alongside, the only downside appeared to be being surrounded by seagulls and a long walk to the shore.

On the morning of the 6th August the wind had got up and was giving us quite a hard time against the pontoon, so we put all the fenders down the port side. We considered trying to get off the pontoon but the wind was pressing us hard against it, and whilst the obvious thing to do was to spring off and find another berth, we were moored against our prop kick (i.e. motoring astern would have a tendency to pull the boat back onto the pontoon). We decided to move the boat along the pontoon towards the other end which looked calmer. we rigged additional lines, started the engine and put it in forward gear on tickover. Slowly we moved the boat along the pontoon, always leaving two lines attached.

We were obviously the entertainment for the morning as the crew of the windcats watched on – but offered no help.

As the tide rose the situation got worse, it was now difficult to keep your balance on the concrete pontoon, and the boat was rolling dangerously against the wood of the pontoon. We were unable to move to the calmer water as the wood that is fixed to the face of the concrete had come away which meant there was every danger the fenders would not be deep enough to give protection against the concrete.

One of the fenders went ‘bang’. That was it, we had provided the entertainment so it was pay back time. I found the skipper of one of the wind cats and asked could we borrow some of his larger fenders – the reply … no sorry all of ours are in use, followed by I should get off that berth its a ‘B*****d’ berth ….
I replied yes I can see that, is there any chance you could give us a pull off (thinking of his twin props)- no sorry , not with that buoy so close to you and off he walked.

Even if we could get off, the marina was still full. I was highly impressed with the crew who said ‘ would we not be better out at sea ‘, a tactful reminder of the line I have always recited – ‘deep water does not kill you’ The words of wisdom could not be faulted and right at this moment being tossed around in deep water felt quite attractive.

My mouth was so dry from fear my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. If we stayed the boat was surely going roll over onto the pontoon and be badly damaged. I thought of the insurance claim, and if we stayed and holed the boat I would have to explain why we made no attempt to move, if I scrapped down one side the repair bill would be cheaper. Pontoon and boat rolled, and getting back on the boat was not easy, and of course I slipped in trying to get back on board, thinking of falling between the boat and pontoon gave incentive to fall over the guard rails with a plea to push my legs over the guard rail. I was on, four lines attached, crew kindly uncleated three and threw them aboard, leaving the fourth as a spring The crew asked if they should come aboard, I suggested it would be more helpful to release the remaining line when it became slack.

I motored hard against the spring and the boat surged forward, the engine put astern with full throttle with the helm hard over, the spring was released. Predictably she blew back against the pontoon and slid along its edge. There was no going back – there was no time for praying …. the bob stay caught on some of the wood on the pontoon and splinters flew everywhere. Mercifully this encouraged the stern to swing out and with the stern way, the boat pulled out. The next challenge was to turn it around to face the entrance, she did turn … there had been no time to turn the radio on so I had to leave the helm and turn the circuit breaker on. It’s difficult to describe – but even now the boat was off the pontoon, there was a sand bank to port and lots of expensive plastic to starboard. I needed time to think, so called up the port control, and explained my position, asking for permission to enter the outer harbour. At last it felt like someone understood our position – the reply came back ‘request approved’ I responded by saying I would listen on 14, but would need to switch to 80 to call the marina. I called the marina who indicated port control had contacted them, although they had a berth – they doubted I could turn the corners to get to it. I was asked to wait (not that I had to many options), and then came a reply the commercial dock have found a berth – I was given the instructions. I made my turn in the outer harbour, and returned to the inner harbour, even the berth the commercial dock looked tight – and of course the lines and fenders were all on the wrong side. Fortunately it looked as if there were fixed fenders already placed. In fact when I made the turn into the commercial dock, it was not tight enough to make the allocated berth, but there were two empty berths ahead of me – and on the 9/10ths basis I took the berth I could get to. I advised the marina we were on a different berth, and was told in no uncertain terms we would have to move if the wind cat came back – I responded, of course – but I may have to request a tow, I will be happy to pay. There was an element of displeasure in the response – but the boat was safe and crew back on board. Now we were neighbours to a windcat the crew, actually spoke and said you should be okay they are not due back for a couple of days.

In the afternoon the wind dropped and we moved to a space on the western breakwater of the leisure marina. Although no close inspection has been made to the topsides, there does not appear to have been any signficant damage done – just the spliinters of wood remain as a reminder.

Later that day we met John off Ellen Grace (Barbican 35). John came over to admire the (intact) lines of the boat and ask if it was a tradewind. It is one of the pleasures of sailing a tradewind, in that people often take the trouble to ask about her class. John was also kind enough to let us have a copy of the Harwich Harbour and its Rivers. Such hospitality gave rise to the offer to help with his lines the following morning, which we did and he and his crew were safely on their way to the river Deben.

As more boats left (we were still recovering), we decided to move deeper into the marina for more shelter. We even managed to get onto a berth stern to, which would hopefully make our departure easier.

We looked at the weather, and whilst it looked like we could leave the following day, the day after had force 7 – 8 winds forecast – on the basis they might come early we stayed put.

The winds came and even a berth in the marina started to become uncomfortable, so we put out more lines to pull ourselves between two finger pontoons which helped.

As I type we are now sat in a force 7 with a promise of gale 8 – the mooring lines tight with the stresses giving rise to various squeaks – it does not look like we will be going anywhere for a couple of day yet.

So if you ever visit Ramsgate, on no circumstances take refuge on the East Breakwater it is unsafe, in on shore winds above a force 4.

On a more serious note, as someone who always wears a life jacket – I found myself in a quite challenging situation with no life jacket – so if you see me wearing a lifejacket and tending my mooring lines you know why and may give consideration to doing the same.

On a lighter note we had an excellent meal at the ‘restaurant 66’ on the front – whilst the menu was expensive they had a steak deal for 10 pounds with a glass of wine, and if you ask for well done you get well done, and if you ask for medium you get medium.

Log Entry 3rd August 2014

From Lymington we were bound for out little spot off Hayling Island, however, there was quite a breeze so we decided to press on to Brighton, and of course the wind died on passage.  We motored part of the way, hit by a squall followed by some favourable wind … ‘ so engine off ‘.  The sensible thing to do of course would have been to anchor off brighton in the off shore breeze but thoughts of a warm shower gave motivation for a marina berth.   On approaching Brighton we heard people calling up to be told they were very full.  We anounced our intentions to enter the marina to be told you will have to raft up – okay where would you like us to raft we replied.  “You need to find a boat larger than you for preference”,  yes I understand that we are a 35 yacht could you advise of a specific berth,  ” try pontoons 11 &12.  We carefully motored past to see four boats rafted out with little room to manouver.  Tension between skipper and crew developed, there was nothing for it but another call to the Brighton Port Control indicating we were sorry but could not find a berth and being a long keel yacht with no bow thruster did not want to motor between the yachts rafted only to find there was not berth,  ” please wait came the response ”   We waited …..  ” try the pontoons on row 25″   We did and eventually found a berth at the so called ‘Premiere Marina’.   It had taken the best part of an hour and it was now 1.00am in the morning.   The skpper politely indicated to the crew the advanatage of anchoring.  We called Brighton control to let them know we had found a berth …. ‘ No reply’ ….

The morning brought sun and opportunity to shower, alas we had no fob to get into the showers and because we were on a berth holders pontoon it was quite a walk to the office.  Blood pressure was rising as on the way there were more marina staff than you can imagine,  cleaning, triming the flowers,  and in the office there must have been 6 people.  I have to say the lady that dealt with us was so  polite and because we had arrived at 1.00 am we were not charged that night.  I guess marinas have the same problem as the NHS, staff that work 9 – 5.

Today 3rd August we departed Brighton, bound for Rye Bay, the SW wind came as forcast so we have ended up anchored just off Dungeness,  a little bouncy but okay, and a first class meal was served by the crew.  Tomorrow we may move on to Ramsgate marina, hopefully, in office hours.