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.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Autohelm mod

I had a bit of a problem with my (less than) trusty Autohelm.   The damp had got in an caused it to stop functioning. I was able to get it responding again by taking the top of and spraying wd40 under the flux control thingy. Unfortunately it wound in tight and jammed against the stops.  There was no way I could repair this while underway so I lobbed it in the fore peak and continued on my way. 
This is the second time it has done this and requires a lot of disassembly to rectify it. 
While was apart today I decided to modify it so that it wouldn't leave my in trouble again. 
The main drive screw can be seen down through the operating rod. By slotting it with a hacksaw I can free it off the stops without completely stripping it down. 

End of drive screw clearly visible inside actuator arm. This can now be turned with a flat screwdriver. 

Mange tout Rodney.


A very short post to say... Wow,  we did it and had a great time. I will put a full update up soon but in the meantime here is the track.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Last minute charging problems.

Typical... with two days to go before the big trip the solar regulator on Ciao Bella had packed up. 
I went over on Weds evening to grab the battery and give it a full charge.   I wasn't sure why the regulator screen had failed, possible causes were a short, dead battery or some other super annoying gitty gremlin in the system.
Back in the garage and the battery was showing 12v.. not good but certainly not dead, I put it on charge over night and by the morning it was reading 13.6v, dropping to 13.1v after 30mins.  That'll do.  Thoughts now turned to the regulator.

The regulator on Ciao Bella is no cheap piece of kit and I didn't have the spare cash to replace it.   I took the battery back out yesterday evening and connected it up, still no display, I did bring a Volt meter with me this time, so checked the connection at the meter;   No reading?  
I had a hunt around the electrical panel, expecting to find a lose or broken wire but actually found an inline fuse hidden within the isolator switch.. I had completely forgotten this was here.  I didn't have a 20mm fuse to hand so I disassembled a 1.25" fuse and wrap the wire onto the old blown fuse.  The panel came to life showing 95% Battery, and then when the solar panel was reconnected the little sun symbol appeared, showing that the panel was feeding the battery.. hooray.   Just need to keep an eye on it to understand what made it blow in the first place.
Before heading back I dragged the radar reflector out.. tried several locations and eventually settled for hoisting it on the spinnaker pole up haul, which never gets used,  and strung out to the big cleat on the foredeck.  Looks to be correctly orientated and shouldn't interfere with anything else.
Back ashore, replacement fuses and spares were sourced and then John and I did a quick planning session before traipsing of to the shops to victual the boat. 

Clearly we have the important items onboard and stowed, there is also 2 litres of Meths but I promise to only use that for the Origo stove :)  We just need to load ourselves, our luggage and food for tonight and tomorrow.   The forecast is looking great for a quick crossing.. I can't wait, I'll  Speak from the other side :)

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Arne Picnic

I had a visit from my brother and his fiancé on Saturday.. the trick was how do I fit in sailing with family commitments... I know, convince them it will be fun to join me onboard :)
Julie and Sue packed a picnic and drove round to Wareham while Kev, James and myself headed for the boat with a plan to sail to Arne.

Once aboard, we didn't loiter.  We set off with just a reefed main until I was sure Kev was happy with being onboard.   I then unfurled a bit of genoa and we plodded off across the harbour.  Making our way towards Arne was actually quite hard,  We were beating into the wind and against the tide and all the time I was trying to keep the boat comfortable.  That went out of the window the first time Kev got a salty ear douche :)
It took us about an hour and a half to get to Arne, which wasn't bad really.  First thing, when anchored,was to get the kettle on and have a coffee.   Before climbing into the tender, to meet up with the girlies for our picnic, we had to check and check again that the anchor had held.  In the end it turned out that another yacht had been dragging and then sudden let go a was drifting down the channel. Frantic activity onboard as the engine sparked up and they motored back up channel.
The picnic was spot on, a bit like an Italian style ploughmans lunch all washed down some English style beer.  While sitting on the beach, surrounded by marooned jelly fish, we saw a deer trot down to the water and without breaking step went straight in and swam off.  We're not sure where he went as he eventually disappeared from view.
When it was time to go we found the down side to Arne.  At low tide the beach soon stops being sandy and becomes really muddy... up to your knees, black as ink mud.. yuk.
It was close to low tide and even with Ciao Bellas shallow draft we hit the bottom a couple of times. Eventually through a slight navigational error (I turned too soon)  we went aground and after a minute trying to get off, we settled down for refreshments as we waited for the tide.

Kev took the helm and steered us back to the mooring. He seemed to enjoy being on the boat but turned down the once in a lifetime opportunity to crew on a cross channel trip next week... I don't know why :)
Any way, here's our little scrawl to Arne,  you can see by the angles that it was a hard beat against the tide and my navigational error coming out of the witch channel (just after the 10 mile mark) stands out like a sore thumb.