Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Out she comes

Following our trip to Lymington I checked the forecast for a suitable day to take Ciao Bella out.  As I now have to be a bit more canny with the pennies, the luxury of having a crane out would have to be forfeited this year.
Tuesday 21st Oct was looking pretty good, light Northerly wind and sunshine.. followed by a week of high winds and rain!!  The plan was to drag the trailer to the club, sail across to Baiter, get James to drive me back to the club to pick up the car and trailer go for a swim, drag her out and go home... Simples.
The club was quite busy, it may have been mid-week but the good forecast has spurred the a few people into a late sail.  I managed to blag a lift out to Ciao Bella, which mean't I wouldn't have to go back and retrieve the tender from the mooring.
The weather was perfect so there was no way I was going to motor over to Baiter,  the sails were up in a trice and it was surging across the harbour.
My good friends Roger and Nick were out on 'Big Easy' doing some trials on their Ocean Steer product.  It's an emergency steering device for blue water sailors.  Oceansteer is a simple and effective device which is easy to store on a boat.  I said that I'd swing by and take some photos for them.
After our play in the harbour it was time to head for the slipway, timing was everything today as I had to get the boat on the trailer bang on high water.  I saw James driving into the car park as I was pumping up the coracle.. all good so far.  Trailer retrieved and it was time for a swim, I pushed the trailer right to the end of the slipway then paddled back out to Ciao Bella. Engine on and aimed her slowly at the trailer.  At this point I'd like to say that she floated majestically onto the trailer.
Unfortunately, because I hadn't done this for a couple of years, I'd forgotten to widen the docking arms.. D'Oh!   With the tide starting to fall I jump off and was able to pull her through the posts and onto the trailer, panic over.
After wrestling the trailer back up the ramp, James jumped in the car a pulled her the rest of the way out.   Paul arrived in time to help lower the mast and before we knew it she was on her way home.
Well that's it for this year.. already missing it and looking forward to next year.
Just a foot note, I spent some time last month digging out six tonne of soil from the front garden, hand barrowing it around the back garden and replacing it with six tonne of Crush limestone and Limestone chippings.   It has made manoeuvring much easier as the wheels don't sink into the soft turf and I no longer have to try and cut the grass around it :) I think it looks so much better than it did at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Last gasp to Lymington

With the end of the season racing towards us we organised a last minute cruise to Lymington.  The Tides for the weekend were pretty good,  just a 5am alarm clock this time.  I was at the club for 0540 and made my way out to Ciao Bella.  I got the engine running, and released the mooring and motored about 10 meters before the keels touched down.. this is getting far too common, I will have to pledge to get up really early when there is a morning low or be content to leave as the tide returns.  I had to refit the battery before setting off as it had been taken home to charge.  A replacement solar panel is very high on my wish list.  So at least I had time to fit that, clean the Nasa paddle wheel and have a general tidy.

The forecast was for NNE but only f1 or 2 so very calm, I lifted off and was underway by 8am.  I had a good sail to the entrance before having to start the donk to push me past the chain ferry and left it on through the East Looe channel.
Thermos twins make a welcome return.
When I did turn the motor off the speed remained at around 4 knots, clearly the breeze was a little stronger than forecast,  I had a great sail across the bay and in through the needles channel.  It was all a little chilly so I pressed the Thermos twins into service for the first time this year... The blue one full of Tea and the black one full of Leek & Potato soup.
I caught Paul up just outside Lymington, where we dropped the sails and motored in. It was just Paul and myself for this cruise so once alongside the town quay we tidied up and pushed off to grab some lunch.  Pauls family had driven over so we we settled into the Kings Arms for Bangers & Mash.  On the way out I bumped into Kirk who had decided to set off late, great to have someone new on the cruises. Fully fed it was time to find a suitable venue to watch the Rugby.

The next morning arrived far to early as workmen were bashing the railway bridge around from around 6am.  It was a very slow morning as I gradually came back to life after the previous evening, helped by a runny egg and bacon sandwich. 

Lapwing (Corribee) and Hannah Snell (Seal 22) rafted up

Ciao Bella wedge in between the bigger boats.

Departure time was planned for around 12 noon with a bit of tide against us for the first hour.  We took the shallowish water towards Keyhaven before popping out into the main channel as the tide changed.
Hannah Snell posing in front of the Needles
The wind in the solent had been good but when we got out into Christchurch bay it was the opposite of yesterday.. F3or 4 with F5 Gust were forecast but really it was only F2 at best.  With the tide we were able to maintain 3.5 to 4 knots.. we would most likely need to start the engines at some point.
Nice to be sailing in Company
That point came as the wind just about disappeared as we transited from Bournemouth to Poole.  We pushed into the harbour entrance about 20 mins after high tide and the ebb through the entrance was starting to really go for it.  I kept in close to Sandbanks to avoid the worst of the flow.  The sunset as I arrived at my mooring was just stunning.  It's been a great season, I feel like I have really made the most of Ciao Bella this year.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Newton Creek

Time for a little Catch up.. I'm a bit out of sync with this one :)    A few weeks ago John and myself went for an overnighter to the Isle of Wight.   The Tides were at awful times for us to go, I like to get out of the harbour on the last of the ebb tide when going East. This Meant leaving around 2am.  We had our stuff ready and got to the club at 2am... bugger, As this was the weekend of the Super moon I'd missed the tide by minutes.  The tender was still afloat but I knew it was pointless trying to rush to get out.  Plan B.. Have a cup of tea then have a nap for an hour or so.
With a fresh departure time of around 5am we headed out to Ciao Bella.  The wind was a gentle North Easterly which, after a motor out of the harbour and along the East Looe channel, allowed us to head straight for the needles.  
As the sky started to lighten and the Sun made an appearance we felt blessed to be out here.  Our original plan had been to go to Cowes and find some where to watch the England v Wale rugby world cup match, but with the later start that needed rethinking.  I thought Newtown Creek would make a great stop over while we waited for the next tide to take us to Cowes.
We got to the needles channel as the tide started to slacking so pressed the outboard into service and motored in through Hurst and on to Newtown against an ever increasing tide.  
Once in the Creek we motored towards the Anchoring zone and picked a spot to drop the anchor.  I was at the pointy end while John steered.  About 100 yards from where I wanted to be the engine spluttered and cut out.  John used the forward motion to steer us to a safe area, away from other boats,  and I chucked the hook over the bow.
I had a quick look in the tank and although there was some fuel in there I  assumed it was just too low for the pick up pipe to reach.  
I thought there had been plenty of fuel, clearly we'd run the engine hard getting up the Solent and used it all?   I made us a pasta lunch then we settled down for a kip while we waited for the tide to change and allow us to make our way under sail to Cowes.  
I woke a while later suspecting something was wrong,  because we had anchored without choice we were out of the channel and had taken to the mud as the tide dropped.  We needed a plan B ver2.   
Cowes was now out of the question. We would now wait until she was afloat and either try to slosh the fuel enough to fill the carb or sail or paddle to get us into the channel so we could leave when we wanted.  I would also call on the good will of Liam, who lives on the Island to bring a can of fuel over for me.  Liam was a star and said he'd meet us at the pub after the Rugby.  

Newtown Creek is Beautiful and the amount of wildlife is fantastic.. I know very little about wildlife so I wont try to describe what we saw beyond some birds and fish :)  The unmistakable's were the pair of Kingfishers, giving us a fleeting glimpse of iridescent blue as they flashed past. Eventually Ciao Bella floated and I primed the engine.. only to get a face full of fuel!  The pipe had split and was clearly drawing in air.   If we hadn't been so tired when we arrived I would probably of  checked it,  a lesson there.  Anyway, pipe shortened and working, we repositioned the boat and pumped up the coracle for a paddle up to the quay and a walk up the the pub.
After a belly full of good food Liam came over to give us the fuel and the bad news about the Rugby. Always good to have a catch up with Liam. 

The next morning we prepared to head back to Poole. We left before the the high tide to catch a back eddy which would give us a head start going to Hurst.  This made it interested getting out of Newtown Creek as the tide rush in through the entrance was pretty quick.

The run back to Poole was great, we had the wind and tide with us and flew back.  The excitement started as we approached the Swash channel.  The sea state had been really good all day but with the tidal conditions this weekend there was a huge amount of water coming out of Poole and the wind was trying to blow it back in :)   It was like being off St Aldhems.  We eventually made it in to the harbour, there was no point heading for the mooring as it would be high and dry for a while yet.  I turned left towards south deep, just wondering how far I'd get before running aground... the answer was not far :)
Stuck in the sand again I put the kettle on while we watched the mud islands appear around us.  A great sight, the coastal birds were gorging themselves on the freshly uncovered feeding grounds.
We weren't the only people getting stuck.. Motor boats, a Dinghy?  and even the harbour Master :)  We were in good company.

and this is what caused all the grief :)  Great to see, taken from my bedroom window :)

Saturday, 3 October 2015


With the weather being so nice during the last week, I though it a bit rude not to go for a sail.  Paul was also free today so we arranged to meet around midday and decide from there what we would do.   Studland and the Banks Arms beckoned so off we shot.  There was a good breeze as we left, I had considerer putting a reef in but it was manageable and there were no gusts.  
The harbour entrance was dotted with small fishing boats strategically placed to get in the way :)  I dropped the engine leg in and ran it on idle just in case I had to take avoiding action. One thing I noticed was the anti foul is definitely getting to the end of its life.  My rudder was streaming weed, probably picked up from Newtown Creek, and Lapwing was extremely slow. 
The Easterly wind was great for getting us to Studland but did make the bay a bit bouncy.  It took me three attempts to grab a buoy, and these buoys are easy to grab.   The obligatory Coracle race ensued, fortunately not resulting in us being dumped, unceremoniously on the beach.
We spent an hour or so in the Garden of the Banks Arms before returning to the boats.  My coracle seemed to have deflated slightly, must give it a good check over when it gets home.
The breeze had pretty well died by the late afternoon, we had a little wallow around for a while before starting the engines and motoring the whole way back to the moorings.

Another pleasent afternoon on the boat,  the end of season is rushing towards us so I will try to make the most of what is left :).    Maintenance wise, The battery has been gradually losing charge, as the solar panel is fubared, so that is now in my garage on charge, the coracle will need looking at and it's foot pump is just about ready for the bin.  I may even have to give her bum a quick scrub if I'm going to venture far before she comes out.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Southampton boat show

I was lucky enough to get some tickets for the boat show last week. I'd arranged to meet roger and Nick there as I. Had James with me.  We got there good and early and at 9:30 we were among the first to get in.
The main site doesn't open until 10, poor planning you may say... Fortunate says I. I've never been able to get out on the water at the show before but as we were early we had the pick of the trips. I plonked for a Jeanneau 30 as it is the size of boat that I could possibly aspire to and I wanted to see if James would enjoy it. Corr, not arf,  with just james,me and the two sailing school skips onboard we spent over an hour sailing around the harbour.  James was on the helm nearly the whole time and clearly enjoyed it... What a result.
Back at the show it was time to find a cash point.. wow, the thieving gits wanted to charge £2.50 per transaction, we decided to head outside and find a free machine. Poor planning paid dividends again as we took the opportunity to visit the Titanic.. not the ship but the free house, wherever had a pint. Of Titanic.. you could say it went down well.
We made our way back to the show and met up with Roger & Nick. It has the be said, the show seemed to feel as if it was down in both visitors and exhibitors.  A shames as it is so much better than the Docklands show.
Highlights for me, besides the sailing, were the Spirit boats, they are just beautiful and the Halberg Rassey.. top quality ocean going boats. 
The PBO project boat, Hantu Biru was also great to see,  lots of inspiration there.
Any way, back to the real world.. I'm trying to get some sleep before a 2am sail from Poole to Cowes.. should be great as the moon is really bright.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Fun in the harbour

I had a couple of impromptu trips out in the harbour recently.. The first was a solo sail around the islands.. always good for the soul.  I'd popped to the club to fill the safety boat fuel tanks and as the weather was sooo good and there were other people there just willing me to go out.. well how could I refuse.

I stopped at Pottery pier to have a brew and a nap before making my way back to the club.   What a way to spend a few hours.
Then a friend of mine wanted to come over and have a go on the boat.. well I couldn't say no could I?
We did a similar route, it's the best route to see the best of the harbour.  Richard brought along his new toy.. a GoPro digital camera.  It's pretty cool and the results are fabulous.  Thanks for letting me use the video Rich.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Long week end part two.

So... I managed to grab 45 minutes sleep in the club house before it was time to get out to Ciao Bella for the cruise to Weymouth. It was a glorious day, blue skies beautiful sunshine but barely a breath of wind. Corky the Catamaran was ready and waiting and Lapwing Paul had arrived at the club as I awoke from my slumber. Sails raised and the mooring dropped I sail past Escapade to say tatty bye and continued out towards the entrance. Despite the calm conditions Ciao Bella was making good progress.

Motorboats..  I started the engine, as is normal, to get through the entance and past the  chain ferry.  Unfortunately the breeze was dying again and the engine had to stay on.  Lapwing follow out and we pushed on to catch up with Corky.   With it being a bank holiday there was an excess of power boats heading out of Poole and coming across from the east.  Most were giving us room but some showed absolutely no regard and cut close at speed on both sides.  The wash from one of these eventually dunked Lapwings outboard causing it to fail off handfast point.  With no wind and a poorly motor lapwing had to limp into Swanage and pick up a mooring.
Corky continued onto Weymouth while I made the excuse of sticking with Lapwing.. in all honesty I was welcoming the chance for a nap and secretly hoped we'd be heading back to Poole :)

Refreshed.. I woke up and looked at my watch, 1 O'clock; I wondered if Paul had gone on without me.  No he was still there but I could see he was just putting his cowling back on.  I felt much better for having a couple of hours sleep.  After a bit more tinkering we were ready to go again.  With the delay we would have to motor but as there was little wind that was no bad thing.
We crashed through the Peveril race and took the inside passage past St Aldelms head into the calm waters beyond.

Weymouth was busy, We rafted up along side some bigger yachts outside the harbour masters office and readied ourselves for an evening out.  Unfortunately the harbour master didn't like where we were and push us out across the river to the Cove.  Having motored nearly all day our first job was to walk to the nearest petrol station and fill up some cans.  The nearest petrol station isn't that near when you are walking :)
Chores sorted, we made our way to the local Spoons for a no thrills dinner and some liquid refreshment.  Got to be said, it's a lively pub on a Saturday night.  By 10pm I was jiggered so made every excuse I could to return to Ciao Bella and get some sleep.

Homeward bound.  We left Weymouth around 9am, we knew that we wouldn't have enough easterly tide to get us home so we planned on stopping somewhere on the way.  Chapmans Pool was first choice but that would be a stretch.  In the end we decided on Warbarrow bay, we'd been there before and it's a lovely anchorage.

Lapwing heading East along the Jurassic coast
 Today was so much nicer than yesterday, breeze was good and the sea state calm, perfect conditions for a pair of small bilge keelers.  There was a bit of North in the wind which made us drift away from the shore, as the tide started to turn we had to start the motors and motor into Warbarrow.
Looking back along the Jurassic coast, Lulworth in the foreground
Warbarrow is a beautiful place to stop.  The beach is large pebbles and shelves steeply which means you can get in quite close to the shore... within swimming distance if you want, as we did last year.  Not this time though, we paddled ashore and took a stroll upto the Wartime ghost village of Tynham.
Lapwing and Ciao Bella anchored in Warbarrow Bay
Returning to the beach a chap came over to say hello, I'm terrible at recognising people but Steve (or should I say Sheila) eventually gave me the clues to who he was. We'd met up on a trip to Cowes a few years ago, Steve has a Fantasie 19 called Mudlark.  It's always nice to catch up with people, even if the recolection does take a while for it to sink in to my soggy grey matter.
Fast and Fun.. The return from Warbarrow was fast and fun.  The wind and swell built through the afternoon and we were rewarded with some great sailing.  We got back to our moorings as the sun went down.  A full weekend sailing, not without it's problems but always enjoyable.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The start of a looooooong weekend :)

Friday 28th August 2015 was the first day that I have been unemployed for approximately 25 years... and the first time ever that I have been voluntarily unemployed.  So how should I celebrate this occasion... by going for a sail of course. :)
A friend of mine has a Westerley Pageant which needed moving from Fareham to Poole.  Quite a long trip for a single day but with a strong inboard engine we should be ok.
Agent Orange (Name changed to protect the innocent) collected me early on friday and we made our way to the boat.   We loaded our stuff aboard and set about getting her ready. The keyswitch for the engine was not working and the replacement hadn't arrived in time so I stripped the old one down to see if we could fix it.  After some WD40 and a bit of luck it became operable again.The engine fired into life but wasn't pumping water.
Another 40 minutes and we'd sorted the air leaks on the raw water strainer and primed it.  The engine was now running well and pumping water nicely.  Time and tide wait for no man so we cast off and made our way towards the Spinnaker Tower.

The Pageant seems like nice boat,  plenty of room for a 24 footer and feels pretty solid. Out of the harbour and we decided to raise the sails.  Not a great start, the main didn't have the battens fitted and there was no kicking strap.  Also the Jib, which I'd unfurled earlier, was starting to pull out of the furler foil.  I rigged a temporary kicker and put a roll on the jib to stop it pulling out completely.  The solent was quite lumpy, a good force 4 with gusts and we were beating into it.  Still we where making good headway so we stopped the engine and enjoyed the sailing.
At the entrance to Southampton a Car Transporter was making its way out,  we were over by Calshot so decided to start the motor and get clear.  The engine started nicely but once again wasn't pumping. We stopped it and continued with the sail.. it was still too lively to be fiddling down in the bilges.
As the day moved on it was apparent that we would need the engine to get us through the tidal gate at Hurst.  I went down to address the raw water strainer again.  Even if it had a small air leak, was primed and running it would continue to pump so worth doing.  So strainer topped up and key in ignition, only to hear that soul destroying sound of a starter struggling with a flat battery.
I looked at the battery selector switch a realised it was a single switch.. ie One battery which we'd squandered on the chart plotter, depth guage, and other pointless instruments.  The parable of the midnight oil was edging it's way into my conscience. The engine looked like it had the facility for a cranking handle.. I wistfully asked Agent Orange where this fabled piece of equipment might be but he'd never seen it.  Many words entered my head.

We were past Beaulieu entrance but not as far as Newtown Creek doing tack after tack on almost exactly the same course over and over again.   The smart thing to do would have been to drop back into Cowes but I had commitments for the weekend so we took it in turns to sleep and sail back to Poole.
Gradually the tide came back our way and we made it through Hurst.  Over night the wind dropped to just a whisper making our progress painfully slow.  The sun was back up as we drifted in to Poole and the wind so light that we could not make headway towards the mooring.   Agent Orange suggested using the inflatable and 2hp motor to get us the last half mile.  Surprisingly it worked and a 7am... a mere 21 hours after leaving Fareham we were home.   Now all I needed to do was freshen up in time for a 9am departure to Weymouth on Ciao Bella!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Post holiday checks

After two weeks in the glorious Andalusian sunshine I thought of better go and check on Ciao Bella.  The first job was to bail out the  tender, which was 3/4 full of green crab soup, clearly there had been a drop or two of rain while we where away.
Then out to Ciao Bella. She was still afloat... Check and the engine was still attached... Check.
Onboard the cockpit scuppers had kept her dry, the bucket had about 8" of rain water in it. The bilges needed pumping out but that was just rain water.  I ran the engine for a bit so I could check the VHF and other electrics.  All good. I had a quick look at the solar panel, I just picked at the junction box and it fell off. It looks like it was never properly bonded on. The wires had crumbled, not good. Looks like it'll need replacing. So much for buying quality... The next one will be a fleabay special.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Some harbour bimbling

Since the channel crossing I've only been onboard a couple of times, both for bimbles around the harbour.
The Saturday after our return I needed to get out to Ciao Bella to sort some of the bits which inevitably  break, fall off or wear out.  I've already posted about the Autohelm but of utmost importance was to replace the coracle paddle which went for a swim of Shanklin beach.  Fortunately I had a spare paddle from a former inflatable.. its the wrong length but that was fixable with a hacksaw and some rivets.
The other items which were causing concern were the GPS, Solar panel and the coracle which was still clogged with sand from the Isle of Wight excursion.  All went well apart from the Solar panel.  The paddle cut down and worked nicely, the Coracle was paddled ashore on Brownsea to be washed out (Any excuse for a sail), the GPS came back to life after the connector pins were cleaned and the autohelm seems to work ok.
The solar panel on the other hand had succumbed to the marine environment.... very disappointing as I had specifically paid extra to get the best flexy panel that I could.  Three years service doesn't seem particularly good.  The tracks in the panel are turning black and furring up and when I checked the connection inside the cabin, the silver tinned conductors were also turning black and have gone brittle.
Anyway, the sail was lovely, I had no idea where I was going but ended up towards Hamworthy before turning back, I couldn't decide whether to go to Arne or Brownsea but the Island won in the end.  I had a little paddle ashore to clean the coracle then made my way back.

1st Aug - Wareham and back.

Having not been on Ciao Bella for what seemed a lifetime, Saturday seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  It's only been two weeks but what a couple of weeks. I have managed to persuade myself to hand my notice in without another job to go to.. it will be interesting to see how that develops :)
I wandered down to the club for about 8am, stopping for milk on the way... I couldn't contemplate sailing without a cuppa.  
Once again I wasn't sure where to go.. it looked like I'd be able to get to Wareham and stay for a while so I pointed the bow towards the RoRo terminal and motored away.  I had to moter as there was next no wind.  It's pretty dull motoring so I got the fishing line out, before I'd even let the line out fully I'd caught a Mackerel, this amazed me as I didn't think they came into the harbour, I don't know why I thought that; maybe they don't have the correct paperwork?
I caught the second just as I went past the RoRo terminal which was great timing as the wind was making a tentative appearance.   I put the rod away, stowed the catch and unfurled the Genoa.. The wind, as always, was coming from the exact direction that I wanted to go in.  The breeze was very light at first however there were occasional much heavier gusts which came from about 30 degrees off the steady breeze, causing Ciao Bella to race away in a better direction, but only briefly.
As I got up past Rockley park the breeze strengthened and was much more fun, although the direction meant it was still a bit of a tack fest, trying to pinch as much of the skinny water as possible to reduce the number of tacks.
In the confines of the river I furled the genoa and started the engine again.  Even though the speed limit is 4knots, which I was going, I had a constant stream of motor boats over taking in the river; one playing chicken with a boat coming towards us, then swerving infront of me, the wake causing Ciao Bella to lurch around, just glad I didn't end up with the keels in the mud.
Wareham Quay was packed, I rafted out five deep, much to the annoyance of the local motor boat tour guide.    I held on as I could see a space would be available soon on the next bit of the quay.
Next came one of my proudest maneuvering moments.   There was very little room between the bridge and the rafted out boats and I needed to get Ciao Bella in there.   I worked out that I could use the flow of the river and the breeze, which was blowing towards the quay, to help with the maneuver.

Just kicking the engine into forward and reverse occasionally let her drift gently onto the Rib which was along side the quay.  All done without fluster with a big crowd on hand to judge me if it all went wrong :)
I set about preparing my lunch, pan fried Mackerel in Olive Oil and Chilli flakes.. well it's all I had on board.  Jewels took a drive around and met me for lunch, She's not keen on fish so they were all mine,  supplemented by the lunch which Jewels had brought with her.

After a pleasant few hours it was time to head off again,  I had thought about staying overnight but didn't have my sleeping bag on-board and the forecast for night time temperature was in the single figures!
If getting into this space had been my proudest maneuvering moment, it was about to be usurped.  Leaving this space needed careful planning.  The rib which I had rafted up against had gone and I was now against the quay.  The river was flowing and the breeze was still pushing me against the quay.
  I let off the bow line and rigged the stern line from the starboard cleat, around the bollard on the quay to the port winch.  Now with the engine ticking over in forward gear, I let out some line from the starboard side to let me away from the boat behind, then shortened the port line which made the bow swing out towards the middle of the river.  As soon as I had clearance I released the spring line and motored away.. I felt almost profeshneal.
I ran back down the river under motor, raising the main as I went.  The tide was flowing quickly now and I didn't want to run aground up here.  The mudflats were clearly visible a the birds were gorging themselves on the rich picking now on offer.

I had a really good sail with the wind behind all the way back to the main harbour area, approaching the club I could see that even the Shrimpers near my mooring were heeled over on the sand,  rather than sit and wait for the tide, I went for a bit of a jolly.  At first down towards Sandbanks and then swung around back to the town quay before tacking off towards Brownsea. The wind had really picked up now,  I still had full sail up it was just a tad tippy.  With it being a spring tide the shallow areas were very shallow and I had to really keep to the channels.   This didn't help when I got between the islands, the water eventually ran out and I had to sit at the entrance to blood alley for 10 or 15mins.
Eventually I was afloat again and threading my way to the harbour entrance before turning towards the club.  In my daydream state I nearly didn't notice Dom and Sarah on a rib waving at me. Sorry guys :)
Back at the mooring and another perfect stop under sail to pick up the buoy. Long gone are the days of me desperately hanging onto the buoy as the boat swings back into wind, I'll have to find another exercise for upper body strength  :)

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Across the channel

Friday 10th July.

Stepping stone:

Moored in Swanage
After much preparation, well stopping at the shop on the way to the club, John and I where ready to embark on our adventure.   We got to the club for around 6:30pm and ferried our stuff over to Ciao Bella.  Lapwing Paul and Ron, his conscript crew, rowed by with their tender crammed, it looked like we were ready to go.
Swanage was our first destination.. not far but would give us a good 10nm head start in the morning.  We had a good sail through the harbour but once in the swash channel the wind was on the nose so we cranked up the engine and motored along the training bank.  The sky was starting to darken and the faint rumble of thunder could be heard.  By the time we got to Old Harry, the perbecks had become a the stage for for God's theatrical production.
The race off Old Harry was going well and bounced us around as we pushed.  There were plenty of vacant buoys in Swanage for us to pick up.  An early night with no going ashore was required.  I rustled up a bacon and pasta dish for John and me, which we ate while watching the storm, which had now moved to the Isle of Wight.
A successful evening, we were wrapped up and in bed by 11pm.

Saturday 11th July.

We're off:

Up with the sun
The alarm was set for 4am with the intention of getting away before 5.  I scoffed some cereal and wiped the sleep from my eyes, brushed my teeth, then got Ciao Bella from her slumber.  John remained asleep so that he'd be fresh to take over later in the day.  I had the anchor up and was beetling around the bay while lapwing got ready. 
The sun was just start to peek over the horizon as we left Swanage bay, I set the compass at 160 and let Ciao Bella stretch her legs.  Initially only making around 3.5 to 4 knots, that changed when we were clear of the headlands. Easily seeing 5knots through the water with a steady F4 from the SW.  When John awoke, I used up the last of the bacon to make bacon sarnies, this was the life.
On our way


Almost exactly half way Paul radio'd to say that he'd got a problem with Lapwing.  The rivets which hold the goose neck fitting into the boom had started to shear.  He spent a while trying to secure it but nothing worked.  Ron had keep the boat moving forward on just the Genoa while Paul worked at the mast.  Eventually he conceded defeat and we continued with just the head sail.  To be fair it only cost us a knot and Lapwing maintained 4 knots for the remainder of the crossing.  I furled the headsail on Ciao Bella the try and match the speed but she was too slow with out the Genoa.  In the end I let some out and went ahead, then periodically hove too while lapwing caught up.
Paul at the mast trying to secure the boom.

We made it:

Approaching Cherbourg
Going slower had given up more tidal lee way which mean't our approach to Cherbourg was more East then we had planned for, and the wind had swung round slightly more south.  Fortunately we could still fetch the East entrance to the outer harbour. Once safely inside the harbour, the engine went on for the first time.    The almanac says there are something like 300 visitor berths in Cherbourg.  If there are they were all taken.  We eventually picked up a residents finger berth and Paul's grasp of the language and a couple of friendly locals ensured that we were on ones which wouldn't be required for a while.  It was 8:30pm BST.  A crossing time of 15.5hours.  Not bad with half of the crossing on one sail :)

French hospitality:

Paul also asked the guys who'd pointed out the free berths  about repair facitlies to get his boom fixed.  Mais non!  cr@p.. Tuesday would be Bastille day and everything would be shut on Monday as well.  No wonder all the visitor berths were full.  Unbelievably these guys came and had a look at the boom and said 'no problem, be here at 10:30 am and we'll fix it'.. Probably said it in French but you get my drift.
That just left the small problem of finding food at what was now 10:45pm local time.   Expecting to find only kebab shops and junk food, I was surprised to find a good family friendly restuarnt serving good food and beer with no sign of closing.  Brilliant.
Finger berth in Cherbourg
Sunday morning came and went without the free tools and labour appearing,  eventually we had to go and find some food so we traipsed of into town.  The weather was less than bright and looked like rain was on it's way.  The dependency on WiFi was beginning to show.. no weather reports, emails or social media... how was I going to survive?  More good food and a bit of sightseeing before going back to the boats.   Our wonderful neighbours were busy drilling rivets out of Lapwings boom and cleaning it up.  Unbelievably the poor chap apologised for not coming round in the morning as he'd had to take his wife to A&E!
Welcome help to fix Pauls boom.

Ron had to be back in Poole for Sunday evening so had booked a ferry back,  we all took a stroll to the terminal and saw him off with a pint of something french and fizzy,  they do good food but the beer is not so good :)

Enough, lets go somewhere:

Cherbourg is ok but the weather was pants, by Sunday evening the rain had settled in and we'd seen about all we'd wanted to of Cherbourg.  We'd found a source for a Forecast and started to plan for the following day.  We could go west early to Alderney or East late to Barfleur.  With SW F5 forecast, wind over tide to Alderney was not sounding fun so we voted on Barfleur.

Monday 13th July:

Barfleur or bust:

The tides for going to Barfleur  meant leaving around 4pm.  This gave us time to go and raid the local Carrefour for Coffee beans and Wine... my contraband of choice.
Back preparing to leave, I noticed one of the french guys who had been helping us, at this point, I am embarrassed to say that we didn't exchange names; so I went over to prectice my broken french and say thankyou for his help.   With Barfleur 20nm we thought it would take over 4 hours, I suggested this to my new friend and he scoffed.. something was clearly amiss.  I called Paul the translator over and after much shrugging and peering at Charts we walked away with a gratis French Almanac and a course to steer.  Saving a good few miles and also taking into account the tidal flow we'd be there much quicker.
I planned on having a reef or two in the main but when we got out of the harbour it was obvious that just the Genoa would be plenty.  The wind was a strong F5 from the West and we were getting blown East with the tide.  Although a little uncomfortable, the corkscrew motion which I hate, we were making 7 to 10 knots over the ground at times.
Entrance to Barfleur
Barfleur is preceded by an enormous lighthouse, soon after we were motoring into the harbour.  There is an impressive Norman Church and Lifeboat slipway right on the harbour entrance, a reminder that sea farer's trust in God and practicality in equal measure.
The almanac shows a wall to tie up against or a beach to anchor and dry out on.  We chose the beach as we didn't want to be adjust ropes with the huge tidal range.  I anchored first and Paul followed me in.  A French fisherman was calling too us but was too far away, eventually he came over and explained to Paul that there were rocks on the bottom.. the only clear bits were where locals had set fore and aft moorings and cleared around their boats. We were really losing confidence in the Reeds Almanac.

We moved to the wall were I noticed the local gaff rigged boat had a lump of rock tied half way along their mooring lines.  These keep the boat close to the quay but allow the boat to rise and fall with the tide.. Cool.  I took my anchor off the foredeck and looped it over my stern line. Paul rafted up with us and this arrangement worked really well.
Barfleur is a great looking town, as we tidied up I could hear jazz and blue coming from one of the bars and the was an old fashioned merry go round on the quay.  There were some excellent looking gaff rigged working boats along the quay, some commercial fishing boats and plenty of small, purposeful, motor boats moored in the harbour.  What wasn't evident was the glut of showy power boats which plague the uk south coast and Solent waters.
Moored against the wall at Barfleur

Wednesday 15th July:

Back across La Manche.

Wednesday was looking like a good day to head back across the channel.  With a drying harbour we could get away until about 7am local time.  We got everything ready and settled to listen to the shipping forecast.  The wind strength, direction and sea state were all good.. the only fly in the ointment was potential fog banks.  We decided to go for it anyway.   Paul hadn't been able to dupe anyone into crewing on the way back and our last couple of hopes hadn't come through.  As I have an autohelm is seemed a good plan for John to crew for Paul, heaveing too to refill the outboard or have a natural break can end up losing a lot time time and distance than you'd expect.

Bashing against the tide.

The Barfleur lighthouse

As Barfleur is down the side of the peninsula it mean't that we would be pushing tide as oposed to just getting swept east or west.  The first two hours were very slow going,  I was beginning to think we would never get beyond the light house.  Steering 360 gave me a course over the ground of around 50!  It was all allowed for and would come good in the end.  Eventually we broke free of the south going tide and made some headway.
Unfortunately by now my autohelm had succumbed to the damp and stopped working.  Guess I'd be tied to the tiller for the duration.

I see no ships.

Cargo ship looming out of the fog with Lapwing.

The shipping lanes seemed to be particularly quiet, which was a blessing as the visiblity did start to reduce.  Although at our level we could see several miles, our first encounter had us worried that maybe from the bridge of a container ship, up in the clouds, we wouldn't be visible.. We put our trust in the radar reflectors and our ears.
About midway  the fog really came down. We closed up and pushed on through with the motors on. 
The fog, as forecast was was not long lasting and we were soon in glorious sunshine.. for the first time in a while.

The Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight gradually came into view during the course of the afternoon.   It's a teaser,  it makes you think you are nearly there but must keep moving away from you like a parent encouraging a child to walk. We'd wanted to try to reach Bembridge but there was no hope of that,  I knew there were some pick up buoys off Shanklin belonging to the Fishermans Cottage pub,  thanks for the info Liam :).

The breeze had died and time was cracking on, so the motors went on for the last couple of hours.  The pick up buoys are quite a long way from the beach in about 7 meters of water.   By the time we'd inflated the coracles and ferried ourselves to shore it was about 10:40pm.. too late for food but ok for last orders.. Not here,  we had to take a stroll up to the old Village to get served.  This was followed by the worst Kebab I've ever had.. and that takes some doing.  What a contrast to Cherbourg!
Getting back to the boats was also traumatic.  The waves were breaking over the coracles as we paddled away and the tide was strong, pulling us away from the boats.  I was glad to be back aboard.

Thursday 16th July

Goosewinging home.

Lapwing on Fishermans Cottage buoy.

I was rudely awoken at about 6am by the sound on our boats clanging against each other.  We'd rafted up as it is easier when ferrying with Coracles but with the change of tide and wind direction it was very uncomfortable.  I dragged my sorry ass out of bed and shifted to the other buoy, then climbed back into bed.. were I stayed until 10am.   
We were originally going to come back through the Solent, stop at Yarmouth and continue onto Poole on Saturday; but because we'd only got as far a Shanklin, it gave us the opportunity to go back around the south of the Island and straight to Poole.  
The tide would be good from 11am onwards so we pulled our fingers out and set off.  We pushed a bit of tide around the headland but from then on we had tide all the way back to Poole with the sails set goose winged nearly all the way.  


What a great trip, I've now achieved one of my goals. From the heading of this blog 'a boat that could successfully bridge the gap between the huge fun of being able to explore every nook and cranny of a harbour or estuary and proper sea going ability. I hope this will be the case' well it certainly is. A week on a small boat with someone else is hard work, so sorry to John if I was a bit snappy at times, I hope you enjoyed it all the same.
Ciao Bella performed flawlessly and never felt unsafe.  Sailing in company of boats with similar performance is the most enjoyable way to go as you don't feel under pressure to go faster or feel frustrated about having to slow down.  
It's taken three years to to do this trip, its well worth waiting for the right conditions and have a plan B.  Last years Dartmouth plan B was equally as enjoyable.  What next?  Not sure but maybe west again next year or maybe the Channel Islands.  Well have to wait and see.