25 May 2016 | Sainte Marine
23 May 2016 | L'Aber Wrach
21 May 2016 | Port Pendennis
05 April 2016 | Northwood
28 January 2016 | Hemel Hempstead
17 December 2015 | Boxmoor
01 September 2015 | East Coast
01 June 2015 | Ostend/North Sea
31 March 2015 | Leverstock Green
23 February 2015 | Leverstock Green
13 January 2015 | Leverstock Green
14 October 2014 | Leverstock Green
19 September 2014 | Leverstock Green
15 September 2014 | Levington, River Orwell
Mad dogs ...
26 December 2011 | Northwood
December's been a mixed bag so far. Either too much or not enough wind, wind from the wrong direction ... When this wasn't the case, you could bet your cotton socks that it was blisteringly cold. Who goes sailing in weather like this? Mad dogs and...
Our last sail - over a week ago - seems like it will have been our last family sail of the year. Weather was borderline: too much wind, too cold and short fuses all round. Father - son clash of characters duly followed. Maybe I'm not the easiest person to live with. Still, all was resolved by the time we tied up. Sailing: balm for the soul.
Brigitte and I are working over X-Mas and the year end is less than a week away. Chance would be a good thing, but another family sail in 2012 doesn't seem to be on the cards.
Winter refit is proceeding apace. Only one item left on the 'to-do' lost. We have pressurised water once again - for the first time in 3 years and the heater's been fixed. We're as good as ready for the next year.
Bit disappointed with 2011. Far less sailing than I had hoped for. Two main contributing factors: the weather and the lack of crew. Describe the 2011 weather in one word: crap. Losing the eldest to Uni severely reduced available crew.
Lots of activity on other fronts too - as yet, with little tangible result. But this is hopefully about to change in the very near future. Fingers crossed.
Even though we managed to sail whenever the weather allowed, my frustration is that we hardly ever went anywhere. A quick cross-Channel dash in April (taking in Ostend, Nieuwpoort and Ramsgate) with my eldest and an ever quicker one-day stay in Ostend with Brigitte was as good as it got this year. This left us with daysails - and they are losing their attraction very, very fast.
So, this has pretty much summed up our ambitions for 2012 very nicely: I want to actually 'go' somewhere. And, I want to shift our sailing boundaries - overnight cruises should become part of our routine. We should be able to manage 2 or days/nights in a row without a problem.
If everything works out, I will have 4 (maybe 5) weeks off work this Summer. If the weather allows, I would either try to get to Norway (as far North as we can get) or dash to Brittany in one go and then explore/daysail that area, before heading back. A big family cruise seems out of the question, but with crew mustering on/off at various points, it should be achievable. If not, we might just revisit our old stomping ground of the Channel Islands and Normandy. Plans are vague, and are likely to remain that way till the time actually comes.
2011 will go down in history as the year of crap weather and painfully slow progress. But progress all the same.
Better sign off now - work to do - no peace for the wicked.
05 December 2011 | Hemel Hempstead
What did these last 6 weeks have in store for us? Not much, especially on the sailing front. We’ve had a cocktail of ‘bad weather’ and ‘work’ – liberally laced with ‘bad back’.
Winter refit is proceeding apace. Though that pace could be a bit/lot faster. Boatyard: please take note. I will be along to prod you into action – again – shortly.
The headlining turned out really well. Very pleased with it, and I’m notoriously hard to please. Great job, people.
The heating has been fixed/serviced. Once again it’s toasty warm down below. Though I have been advised that it will need replacing eventually as the thing is pre-Thatcher and spares are no longer available.
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We might even be cruising warmer/sunnier climes before the thing decides to head for the great scrap yard in the sky.
The calorifier and breather hose still need to be replaced/fixed. More prodding into action soon.
Two small forward hatches are to be replaced. One is totally bent out of shape and beyond repair, the other cracked and leaking. Since the former needs replacing, I'm going to replace the cracked one as well.
I’ve also been preoccupied with that other big family project: the house. Things like mortgages, 'notaires', electrics, and drains (I ask you: drains!?!?) all have loomed large recently.
I’ve resisted buying a house for a long time for fear of being tied down. As long as we just had a boat; the world was our oyster.
But, reality is a bitch. There is my health to consider. My biggest fear is that my body will give out before we can realise our dream. I increasingly feel like a young man trapped inside an old man’s body. And a good skipper plans for every eventuality.
No-one gets out alive.
Not everyone truly lives.
With the above in mind, we went sailing this weekend. my other half was away on the Continent, visiting relatives. However, eldest home from Uni ‘dad-sitting’. Three, and a dog, made ample crew.
The forecast was dire; sevens and eights, with sprinklings of nines. However, soup is never eaten as hot as it is served. I’m not spending the rest of my life in fear of what might happen: a sail could just be what the doctor ordered.
A bracing sail downwind and downriver. Genoa only. For a couple of hours at least life was good and we knew it. Steaming cup of soup in the pale Winter sun, whilst Steps kept track of the abundant wildlife that surrounded us. The crew took charge of all the sail trimming, I just had to sit back and keep us on course. Once we started to head back, things got ‘interesting’. A relative wind consistently over 20kts – gusts up to 26kts – meant we made good speed. Understatement. Boat speed touched 10kts at one time. Only casualty: 1 wine glass (empty). By Levington we got all the sails down as none of us really felt like tacking all the way up river.
The rest is history: tied up and went home. Tired and basking contentedly in that warm, post-sail glow.
We have to do this again – soon.
21 October 2011 | River Orwell
Well in truly in ‘winter-mode’. Dehumidifier and portable electrical heater ready to resume duty. Day sail every weekend the weather allows and not much more than that. But we’ve been lucky weather-wise so for: Indian Summer a gogo.
Looking forward to this weekend, as for the first time in a while, we’ll be sailing with a full complement (eldest home from Uni for a day or two). And weather willing – again – might sneak in the odd day or two with the youngest. Mid-term holidays and it’s good to drag him away from his computer once in a while.
That will have to be it for a while. Work: the curse of the sailing class. And this week I agreed a work order with the yard. Might as well take advantage of the half-price labour offer while it’s going. Every penny counts in the end.
So, our plumbing is getting an overhaul. Long overdue. By X-Mas, we should have pressurised hot & cold water again and the Eberspracher is being overhauled. ‘It’s cold on the boat’ will no longer be a valid excuse. Finally, the leaking forward hatches and drooping headlining in the forward cabin is also being tackled. Just a bit more and she’ll be as good as new. No: better!
Things are getting better all the time.
29 September 2011 | Off Harwich and on the River Orwell
It seems we're about to be granted another go at Summer – weather's looking quite good for the next week or so, and this family is planning to take maximum advantage of it.
It's not going to be much, but beggars can't be choosers.
Since the last entry, we've had a few successful day and weekend sails. Bit blustery – a reef in the main – but very exhilarating. The old girl has got quite some moves on her. They just don't build them like this any more.
On the Orwell there's only one boat (same era, racer/cruiser) which consistently outsails her. Not counting big, fully crewed, purpose built racers with go-faster sails. Everything else: watch our wake.
We don't race competitively, but when you catch up halfway down the river with a boat that locked out before you, you experience this warm glow accompanied by a big grin. Well, I do anyway.
The hoped for last Channel crossing did not materialise – time and weather conspired against us once again. But apart from that, we've had a pretty good time.
After the last 'Summer Sail' of the year next weekend, I'll think we'll start settling into our Winter routine: at least a daysail every weekend I'm not working. More during school holidays if the weather allows.
Details of the Winter refit to be finalised next Monday. The project is going to be downscaled somewhat. We'll do what needs doing (very little) and all the 'blue water' items will have to wait for another year. We'll play it by ear. On the shortlist for this Winter are:
1. replacing the calorifier
2. fit the radar dome
3. replace the masthead tricolour
4. sort the forward hatches leaks
5. fit the new windex
And that will be us for a couple of years. Gone are the days of endless worrying, fixing and emptying of wallets. Time to go out and enjoy the boat.
This family certainly intends to do just that.
08 September 2011 | River Orwell
... when you're having fun. It also seems to fly when you're not having fun. Or not having a Summer. This year we seem to have gone straight from Spring to Autumn. And this has affected our sailing in a bad way.
So, what's happened since my last posting? Not much - again. Work mostly. A week off in France - annual visit to the in-laws. That was actually the closest we came to a Summer holiday (sun, blue skies, temp in the mid 30s C). Went dinghy sailing with Yanni on nearby Lac de La Crégut. Just chilling and relaxing, drink within easy reach.
Back home we also took Guapa on the odd day-sail, whenever work and the weather-gods allowed. Some 'rather sporting', others just perfect. Last Saturday was one such perfect sail. Ten/fifteen knots of wind. Beating, reaching, downwind bits with the chute up ... it had everything. More sails like that urgently required.
Another positive note: we seem to have gained another crew member with a lot of potential. Evita's boyfriend (the 'Natural' as he referred to himself) seems to be proper sailing material.
Plans for the (near) future: working next week but a few weeks off work coming up after that. And Brigitte has a couple of days off due as well. The weekend after next will be our last chance to go 'foreign' this year. Once it's October the weather gets to be too unpredictable. We'll see.
Been reviewing the plans for this winter's refit too. Scaled down plan now is: replacing leaking calorifier, deal with deck hatch leaks and fit the radar dome. Barring a Euromillions jackpot and revised financial priorities being what they are, everything else will have to wait.
Most of the items outstanding are 'blue water' items and we'll now get those sorted closer to the off.
The 'off sailing' date will now almost certainly be Summer 2017. Retirement date pretty much set in stone now - it'll either be November 1st or December 1st 2016. Being able to put a date on it certainly focuses the mind.
There we are, onwards and upwards. Signing off for now. Some work to take care of - no peace for the wicked.
06 August 2011 | River Orwell
A week without sailing, time had come to remedy that. Forecast halfway decent, no excuses required or accepted. Rounded up the entire family for a day on the boat. Even 'the boyfriend' was dragged along.
Nothing special was planned. Downriver to Languard and take it from there. If conditions I planned to get the gennaker up, but apart from that...
We arrived around LW, so we had to hang around for a bit while the lock turned. Lots of visitors, not that used to the lock meant we waited slightly longer than usual. Hey-ho, sometimes I need reminding that I'm still on leave.
Once locked out, I waisted no time getting the main up. Once we cleared the Orwell Bridge out came the genoa and we started 'proper sailing'. Jason (aka 'The Boyfriend') did a pretty good job at the helm. Unphased, even when Guapa tended to round up. I think he might be right when he said: 'I guess I'm a natural'.
Wind proved too fickle to warrant getting the gennaker out, but apart from that I think we had a great day. Steps was her usual boisterous self, though I think Jason & Evita managed to wear her out by the time we headed back.
I planned to lock in on freeflow, so this meant we had plenty of time to spare for a sail-past and photoshoot off Levington in company of Jolie Brise (world's poorest Oyster owner skippering).
All done – in on freeflow as planned. Tied up. Done.
Rain scuppered the plan to have dinner at Fox's. We had Steps along and no pets are allowed in. Bugger. Trip back earlier than planned, but altogether another very enjoyable family day.
The last day sailing for a couple of weeks now. Back to work soon. Hopefully we'll manage to squeeze in the odd day here and there. Brigitte's got a couple of days off in September, so hopefully we might manage another cross-channel jaunt then.
Easy does it
29 July 2011 | Ostend - North Sea
Yet another 5 o'clock wake- up. Who else – apart from Germans putting towels on deckchairs by the pool – gets out of bed this early when they are on holiday?
Sailed Ostend just prior to the ferry rush-hour. Wind a bit 'off' – we were sailing too close too the wind to stick to our usual track. Withdrew below to consult the almanac. Surfaced a couple of minutes later to adjust the course. We could afford ta back away for a bit, over the next few hours the tide was going to push us the right way again.
Set sails, adjust course, autopilot on, sit back & relax. Guapa tends to be a bit more comfortable beating than sailing downwind so Brigitte was a lot happier too. Quiet day lazing in the sun (when it did show).
Not much happened. At sea boring is good and exciting is bad.
Ostend – Landguard (82NM) in just under 11hrs, our second fastest crossing ever. However, once we cleared Landguard winded dropped away. We reluctantly fired up the engine and stacked & packed the sails away. More boring motoring upriver followed. Locked in, tied up the boat, cleaned a bit, the usual...
Drink and a meal at Fox's. That was it. None of it epic stuff, but good enough to be getting on with. Off to France for a couple of days next week to find our (still illusive) place in the sun. As for sailing, we'll see what the weather does. So far, pretty content with what we have had. Not what I had hoped/planned for, but it was better than nothing at all.
Pretty much perfect
27 July 2011 | North Sea - Ostend
Alarm set for 05H00. As usual in these circumstances as was awake way before it went off. Quick rounds of the boat. Everything still ship-shape. Good.
A few scereal bars and a cup of tea for breakfast and we were off. Slipping a mooring went so much faster than picking it up. Hoisted the main - in very light airs - just off Shotley Spit and continued to motorsail downriver. A hint of a breeze by Landguard and it continued to pick up once we rounded Cork Sands. Enough to warrant unfurling the genoa. Gear in neutral - SOG 5 kts - that should do it: finished with engines.
The rest of the trip was remarkably uneventful. NE 3-4 as predicted, though at times touching 5 once we had cleared the Sunk TSS. SOG consistently over 6 kts. Autopilot steered a steady course. Time to relax.
Westhinder Anchorage - when it came - looked like the M25 at rush hour. Ostend loomed in the distance. Not long now. Breeze picked up a bit more, we were making good time.
Slalomed through the racers off the harbour entrance and proceeded in to look for a vacant berth.
Easier said than done. The place was packed to the rafters. Rafts 6/7 boats deep. Didn't think so, it only needed one idiot leaving at silly o'clock in the morning...
Proceeded towards our usual refuge - a few berths only known to the locals and a few choice visitors (grin - wink). Parked, tied up & secured. Decided to let the RNSYC HM sort it in the morning.
Booked restaurant - mussels - drinks at the club - off to bed. Good day.
Caught up with Robert in the morning - big grins and lots of back-slapping. 'That berth just became vacant, fancy it?' says he. 'Yes please' says I. 'I'll keep it for you - you've got 10 minutes to be in it. I'll run you over to your boat'. One rib ride, an XO emergency wake-up call and 5 minutes later we were indeed in our new prize berth. Brigitte returned to bed whilst I went off to by croissants and cake. Civilised breakfast followed in due course.
Later that day, whilst I waited for General Stores (duty free) to arrive I enjoyed the ultimate spectator sport: watching boats park in the Montgomery dock. I'm surprised Robert does not sell tickets. I love the sound of bow-thruster in the morning. Not to mention the frantic activity and the looks of sheer panic.
Rest of the day was standard Ostend fare: drinks with old friends, shopping for food and a nice meal out. Holiday feeling.
We had planned to stay for two days but all forecasts indicated that the wind would be backing NW in the next few days. Motoring into the wind did not appeal. There was that, and the fact that we would be leaving the dog at the mercy of the kids for a couple more days... so we decided to head back in the morning. NNE 4, should be another comfortable crossing.
26 July 2011 | Levington - Ipswich
Earlier than expected, a suitable window for a trip to Ostend and back. NE 3-4 for the next three or four days. Consulted with the family, bags packed, and we were off. A mum & dad only trip – kids staying behind to doggy-sit Steps, work (Evita) and to be annoying on the Internet (Yanni).
We left home mid-afternoon with the intention to be in Ipswich around 17H00. The M25 – for one – cooperated. Quick stop at Fox's swindlery to purchase a fender to replace the one that went AWOL in April and off to the boat. Locked out without much hassle and made our way to Levington.
I wanted to pick up a mooring off Suffolk Yacht Harbour and then sail for Ostend at the crack of dawn. It's a convenient starting point and has served us well in the past.
Picking up a mooring seems to be a lost art on our boat. Finally managed it fifth time round. Skipper on the bow, XO at the helm didn't work, swapped stations and that seemed to do it. We need to practice this more often.
Once all secure, Brigitte rustled up a hot dinner. Paella – that was about as summery as the day was going to get. Washed down with a couple of glasses of plonk and I was pretty much ready for bed.
Great British Summer
23 July 2011 | East Coast
Summer hasn't materialised – on the contrary. Overcast skies, rain, wind gusts, ... This feels more like October or November than the heart of Summer.
Will we set off regardless, or take each day as it comes? Don't fancy sheltering from storms in some dreary marina for days on end. We've done that plenty of times in the past, and fun it is not.
Revised Summer plan: maybe a repetition of the family North Sea Triangle Classic (Ipswich-Ostend-Ramsgate) or the other way round, or Ostend and back. Whatever...
Once I 'let go' of whatever schedule I had in mind previously, it always feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Boats don't run on schedule.
For today, family daysail to Landguard, Cork Sands, Sealand, Medusa and all points in between. Maybe get the gennaker up, maybe not.
And in the mean time, I'll watch weather sites for a suitable window. Not what we/I had hoped for, but when life hands you lemons...