We had a bit of a reality check today when we hired a 20ft Hunter from the Low wood water sports centre. The sun was shining and fluffy clouds scurried high above Lake Windermere. The wind speed indicator on the website that we had logged into earlier was reading 18 to 21 mph, so it seemed to us that we had booked ourselves a fun day to try out our new found sailing skills. We had hired this boat a couple of months ago and so felt confident that we would know what we were doing, it would be familiar. What wasn't familiar were the conditions once we were out on the lake.
We met the previous hirers leaving the jetty and casually asked how it was out there. Exciting, came the reply, you just need to back the jib when your tacking. Oh, er OK, we both nodded, not wanting to appear ignorant, but we actually didn't have a clue what he meant by that.
We didn't get off to the best of starts. As we reversed away from the jetty the engine cut out and we drifted towards the launch ramp and ran aground. We had to be pulled off by the centre rescue boat, and then we discovered that the fuel line was detached from the engine, which is why after 10 seconds it had failed. Not exactly our fault then, but we should have noticed that, or maybe we should have waited for a member of staff before we so confidently set sail.
Once out on the lake it was apparent that today was a very challenging day to be sailing, even on a lake. We struggled with the lines, the jib sheets being fouled by a mooring line that we had not noticed was tangled and should have been tided before we left the safety of the marina. I teetered nervously for'rd on a wildly swaying deck as the wind caught our tiny craft with Jackie at the helm trying to tame the beast and head her into the wind. That problem solved we set about trying to cope, as best we could with the battering we were getting. All our best efforts were leading us into more and more precarious situations as the boat heeled ominously, and our ability to keep her on an even keeled were making us both very anxious indeed. We were discovering that we knew very little indeed about sailing. This fundamental knowledge was obviously lacking from our Parthenon of Day skipper practical and theory courses which we had passed with flying colours.
After about three quarters of an hour battling to sail anywhere, Jackie made the call. We don't know what were doing and we both feel decidedly nervous and just a little scared.
We drop the Main sail, let the jib flap about and start the engine to head back for the marina. By now we're both soaked with spray as we beat back against the waves to try and get this bouncing boat back to safety.
We limp into port, struggling, even with the outboard which is difficult to manoeuvre with the wind gusting at 20 odd knots as we drift towards the man waiting at the jetty to take our lines.
We feel very embarrassed, and somewhat stupid, but we have learned a big lesson, and that is, that we don't know how to sail. We might know how to identify a cardinal bouy, how to plot a course, how to read a chart, how to tie a clove hitch, but we don't know how to set and trim our sails so as not to pass that angle of vanishing stability. Luckily we didn't capsize, but I think we came pretty close, and it was scary.
Maybe it's different on bigger boats but it has taught us that we still have a way to before we can be confident sailors. We need to know how to sail.
Maybe I've gone too far now. I said "why don't I put together a shanty band". We're holding a gala to celebrate the re-opening of a monument, which looks like a lighthouse. That's because the man it commemorates was the 2nd lord of the Admiralty in the 1800's, he was called Sir John Barrow, look him up on wikipedia.
Anyway, I called round a few friends and now with 4 days to go I've just got back from the studio with a master of the ten songs we'll be performing on Sunday.
It's been fascinating digging around youtube and the net looking for songs and lyrics. And with this new found enthusiasm for all things nautical putting this set of songs together has been a real pleasure.
There's a joyful vibe to singing them and so it's been a lot of fun. I've got Mike W on mondola and squeeze box, Ash on Mandolin, Jackie on Bodhran, Dapper on vocal, Juliet on vocal, Kirston on vocal, although she missed last nights recording, and me on acoustic and vocals. And we sound good, and we've got all the killer tunes in there. Blow the man down, drunken sailor, whip jamboree as well as some tasty ones for us and a couple of originals too.
So it's all set fair for Sunday at three, and the Monumental gala.
See you all there.
We need to keep brushing up on what we've learned over the last year so this week end we headed off to Conwy in North Wales for a weekend of practical skill building. We were on board a Jeanneau 39i with a lady called Sarah, who was doing the last bit of her Day Skipper, and two guys who were on a start yachting course prior to going sailing in the Greek islands for Marks' 40th birthday. His friend Peter had come along for the sail but it soon transpired that he was not at all interested in sailing.
Mark seemed to get into it, but the weather was not exactly exhilarating with winds barely getting above force four. Our Skipper for the trip was Rob, who was perhaps 30ish, and had just come off a five day sail so was somewhat lacklustre. He was a competent skipper but lacked a little in the commanding stakes.
Never the less we enjoyed the weekend and felt that within a couple of hours of being back on the water all that we had learned in the last 12 months came back. There are still big gaps in our knowledge, but we've got the fundamentals and are now keen to go solo, or is that duo.Its time for Colin and Jackie to charter a bareback boat and sail by our selves.
That has to be the next step, and so we're looking at doing this sometime in September, probably back in Largs.
Conwy was fine but there's an issue with tides there. For instance we thought we had two days of sailing but because the marina has a tidal gate we couldn't leave till nine in the morning of Saturday and we had to be back before 1230 on Sunday so we only had a day and a half to actually sailing. In Largs there's no such restrictions.
We're almost 12 months in from when we started this adventure and we're almost there, almost ready to sail solo, with no tutor on board. That is very exciting, and this weekend confirmed that that is what we now need to do. I can't wait.
We've been surfing the net for almost a year now looking at boats that we would like to buy, but knowing nothing about boats it makes our task a bit difficult. Over that time we must have looked at literally thousands and quite honestly they all start to look the same, well not quite, but you get my drift. There's the galley, the heads, the nav table, cockpit, etc. etc. We pour over the specs only just comprehending what we're reading, but slowly, very slowly we start to get a handle on it.
We have dismissed the modern sleek designs, we can't afford them anyway and after all this searching we have come down to a couple of boats that we really like and they're both chinese. The Cheoy lee 36 and a Tayana. Both look a bit back dated but seem to suit our style. There's bound to be issues with old boats like these but what the heck it's what appeals that's important isn't it. It's the vibe.
We began this perilous adventure some nine months ago when we bought ourselves two pairs of full length deck boots from a chandlers in Bowness on Windermere. Since then, as you know if you've been keeping up with this tale, we have undertaken various courses both on and off the water. Up until yesterday all of our sailing has been with instructors on board big yachts, 36ft plus.
We felt it was time for us to go solo, or should that be duo. Although our ultimate plans are to sail the oceans we have decided that as we live just a few miles from two of England largest lakes, Coniston and Winderemere we would hire a 20ft sail boat and get the hang of sailing. We won't be calculating tidal vectors, or charting a course over ground, and we won't be looking out for Cardinal bouys, we'll just see if we can handle a small yacht on a lake.
Low wood boating centre has a Hunter that has a similar set up to most of the larger yachts we've sailed, it has a main sheet and traveller, a jib sail, although not furling, a kicking strap, main halyard and tiller steering. So all in all a mini version of what we've been sailing.
The forecast on Friday was for rain in the morning but clearing after lunch with winds up to 20 knots. I booked us a two hour session for 3pm on Saturday. It's still pouring down at 2pm as we drive up to Windermere and looking at the trees there doesn't seem to be a breath of wind.
When we pull into The boat yard the lake is devoid of even the merest of ripples and the wind sock hangs limply on it's pole. There doesn't seem much chance of sailing, but on talking to the guys in the boatyard they assure us that there is enough wind if we take the boat across to the west side of the lake. OK, we've pre-paid and were there, so off we go on our first sail without an instructor. There's no questions asked as to our ability, but as it's not exactly blowing up a storm maybe they assume we'll be fine, or maybe we just appear confident that they don't need to ask.
We motor away from the jetty in reverse, do an awkward manoeuvre to turn around and without hitting any other boats and glide out onto the lake. There's hardly a breeze but we cant wait to get the sails up, and although the main momentarily jams we're soon under sail and the engine is killed. We trim the sails and crawl westward at about half a knot towards the distant shore as the drizzle starts to fall. Hey but do we care this is our first time sailing alone and we are skipper and crew of our very own vessel, well our own hired vessel. As we approach the other side of the lake the wind increases to maybe force one and we go for a tack. READY ABOUT cries Jackie, READY, says I, LEE HO, says Jackie and we turn through the wind and head back across the lake. The Rain gets heavier but the wind comes in tantalising bursts of force two back down to zero. At some points we can almost perceive a wake behind us, but who cares here we are sailing and we know what to do with the lines and how to handle the sails, all the training has paid off. We feel quite confident that we know what we're doing, if only there was more wind, but perhaps this is the best way for us to begin, as a force six may have been a bit much in an unfamiliar craft.
After an hour and a half we're both getting a bit chilled and wet through. The wind has almost disappeared and it's time to head back to port. We make a textbook approach to the jetty and tie up the boat chuffed with our efforts. OK so it wasn't the exhilarating sail we had expected but it was enough to wet our appetites to come back and do it again soon. We know what we're doing, we know how to sail. I even said to the guy who came to tie us up that I thought the topping lift needed to be released and he agreed that somebody had tied it off wrong. How about that, hey, maybe we're well on our way to being sailors.
The Lake is not the ocean but if we can gain confidence in handling the sails here then applying that to a larger boat out on the seas will be a great confidence booster so we'll be back to do this again. Hopefully next time without the curse of Jackie and Colin, we don't need still waters, next time we'll be looking for at least a force four, five or six.
So that was it, a soggy and slow start to our cruising life but on the drive home we both wore the smiles of accomplishment, and a knowledge that our mad adventure is not a pipe dream, we really can do this.
Another trip to the Morcambe and Heysham yacht club for our course on using VHF radio on Saturday. I had a look at Johns email on Friday night and discovered an attachment that I had missed which told us to learn the phonetic alphabet, which we would need for the course. Whoops, so on the way to Morcambe we took turns in spelling out road signs, or anything else that caught our eye. This is the alphabet in words, like Alpha for A, Golf for G, Lima for L, all the way to Zulu for Z. My favourite was trying to spell Leighton Conyers. By the time we hit Morcambe we figured we just about had it off. Oh Leighton Conyers is Lima, Echo, India, Golf, Hotel, Tango, Oscar, November,
Charlie, Oscar, November, Yankee, Echo, Romeo, Sierra.
There were three of us on the course, Jackie and I plus Peter, who I'ld say was in his early 30s'. He is living on a Westerly 33 at Glasson dock. He seemed to know quite a bit about boats, I think he was an engineer, and said he had just recently bought this boat after selling a Dutch barge that he had sailed across from Holland single handed, with no knowledge of how to use a radio, and we thought we were a little crazy.
We learned all about how to use the radio, and all about DSC, which stands for Digital selective calling which is much too complicated to go into but suffice to say that we eventually got the hang of it. Lot's of the course was to do with sending out distress messages in the event of some catastrophe. What is amazing about these new fangled radios is that it can read your GPS at all times and if you send out a Mayday message it will send your exact position to the coast guard, or to any other vessel within range.
We had a bit of a laugh reading out fictitious scenarios to each other and in the end came away feeling that we now knew what we were doing, although that first call for real will be a bit nerve racking I'm sure.
It was a much longer day than I thought it would be, in fact whilst watching a DVD all about EPIRBs which are basically radio beacons, I nodded off momentarily as did Jackie. At the end of the day we had to take the exam. Jakie got full marks 22 out of 22, I got 21 and Peter, our hardy long time sailor got 20. We passed with flying colours and can now apply for our radio licence.
We now need to build up our sea miles before putting in for our coastal Skipper. We have found a company in Largs that do weekend charter hire. So that will be our next step, to take out a yacht on our own for the weekend, probably a Moody 33. Now that should be very exciting.
This is Deeper Deeper Deeper signing off, Out.