18 November 2010
Sailing schools are commercial enterprises and margins are extremely tight, so they typically buy training boats that provide sufficient accommodation for the maximum of 5 students and one instructor at the lowest possible price. These are usually European (as opposed to British) built and on large production lines.
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this. True the boats will fall to pieces in years rather than lasting decades in the way that hand-built, quality yachts do and that's fine if we can eventually come up with a solution to disposing of fibre-glass wrecks BUT WHY ARE THEY DESIGNED WITH THE SAILING QUALITIES OF A PLASTIC DUCK?
I once had the displeasure of teaching on such a craft in very high winds. The boat was 37' overall and had somehow got itself a RCD Cat A Certification, which is the highest you can get and should mean that it could cross an ocean. The problem was that, even with 3 reefs in the main and a pocket handkerchief of headsail set, it became uncontrollable when the wind gusted over about 35kts. And I don't mean that it rounded up into the wind, which would at least be a fail safe. No, this mother's bows would blow off DOWNWIND and nothing you could do would convince it to do anything otherwise.
That's not all.......the detailed design of some of these boats tells you immediately that the designer has never, ever sailed a boat in anger. In fact I suspect that they're all caravanners.
Typical example. The fiddle round the chart-table (that's the little fence that stops things sliding off when the boat heels), is often so shallow and rounded, it won't even stop a single chart from sliding off when the boat heels more than 10 degrees. Let alone a plotter. And, because there's nowhere convenient to store books or dividers or pencils and a rubber, these all get left on the chart table and end up on the floor.
Of course these boats aren't really designed for sailing schools, they're designed to sell to people who know little about sailing and boats and who are easily seduced by acres of space below and shiny wood (which is actually MDF covered in a plastic veneer). They imagine themselves snugged up in a picturesque harbour, quaffing a bottle of Dom with a bird that looks like Claudia Schiffer and forget that they're going to have to sail home tomorrow into the teeth of a gale.
18 November 2010
I positively hate jet skis, the people who use them and everything to do with them. As far as I'm concerned they're ridden by men with small willies and without the balls to ride a motorbike. And I mean MEN. When did you ever hear of a woman stupid enough to buy a jet ski? Am I being unfair. No. Do I have an issue with other powered recreational vessels (motor-yachts, ribs, ski boats)? No. The problem with jet-skis is that the idiots who ride them will ride round and round and round what, should have been, a quiet anchorage. This is akin to somebody riding a noisy motorbike round and round a park where everybody else is trying to enjoy a quiet, whatever you do in a park (I wouldn't know). If I could legally buy a bazooka, I'd buy one and blast all the jet skiers to kingdom come.
Big Boats , Small Boats
18 November 2010
Once upon a time, maybe 25+ years ago, a typical first boat was a Mirror Dinghy, then a Wayfarer, then a small Westerly, then a Contessa 32, then a 40 footer. All this over a lifetime of sailing. Experience was gained slowly. Nowadays too many people go out and buy (yes you've guessed it) a shiny new white, European built 36 footer as their first boat. Even if it did handle properly, they simply haven't got the experience to manage it.
I see them all the time. Dad in cockpit, hopelessly out of his depth, blood pressure off the scale, shouting loudly. Mum on the foredeck, chocking back the tears. Kids listening to their iPods, wishing they were somewhere, anywhere, else.
So what happens? Well, after a few weekends, the kids simply refuse to go anymore. Mum takes up a keen interest in tennis (nudge, nudge), Dad decides to try his hand at golf and the boat sits unused on it's, very expensive, marina berth. Then when it's sold, it's worth £50k less than it was new.
Moral of the story. Your first boat should be less than 25' overall and cost less than £10k. It will be easy to handle, cheap to run and, if you decide you don't like sailing, you can sell it for what you paid.
Back to Work
18 July 2010 | Lymington
Back to the day (and sometimes night) job after the (excitement) of the 2-handed RB&I race. And guess what? I'm enjoying myself more working than I was, supposedly, taking some R&R. It's one Hell of a lot more varied and stimulating.
Last week we voyaged to: Cowes, for an excellent breakfast at The Fountain; to Studland Bay, to get some miles under our keel; to Newtown Creek, because it's the most beautiful anchorage in The Solent; to Hamble, because I need to buy a new hinge for one of our cockpit lockers and to Yarmouth, because it's by far the most attractive harbour in The Solent and because the meals at The King's Head are awesome in the quality and quantity. Steak & Ail Pie, especially recommended.
Now I'm teaching Day Skipper Theory in our classroom on picturesque Lymington Quay, which means that I get to sleep in my own bed for a few days, before getting off to sea again on Wednesday morning. Hoping to get to Weymouth, Chichester Harbour, Portsmouth and Yarmouth on the next course. Then I'm off down to Dartmouth on Kipper, for a few days to attend my son's passing out parade.
So life is pretty good really!
Final thoughts on the race
06 July 2010 | On our way bsck to Lymington
Now it's all over, I've had time to reflect on the experience and to report on what worked and what didn't.
First, if you've been enjoying this blog, perhaps you'd consider making a small donation to our chosen charity, EducAid India, which is very special for me because two of its founders are my sister and brother-in-law, Joan & Bill Bond. After many years of service in charity work in India they decided to set EducAid India, in 2009, focussing principally on education and community development. The education of girls, not often readily available, is seen as particularly important. EducAid India at present operates in West Bengal and is assisted by the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission, which has many stations throughout the state. EducAid is very small and very focused. I know that virtually very penny donated goes direct to India and, even more importantly, is spent wisely and properly accounted for. Because this area of West Bengal is extraordinarily poor, donations go a long, long way. You can read about EducAid India at www.educaidindia.org Let me know by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and send your donation direct to EducAid either: By cheque, payable to EducAid India, mailed to: Joan & Bill Bond, EducAid India 30 Fallows Road, Northleach, Gloucestershire, GL54 3QQ, UK. Please write "Kipper" on the back of the cheque. or By bank transfer to: Account: EducAid India; HSBC; Sort Code: 401725 Account: 31522000. Please use reference "Kipper/your name"
And so, to the race. Overall, I'd say that I feel a sense of satisfaction at having completed the course but, didn't enjoy the experience and have few good memories; it was much too much off a relentless upwind slog. We sailed for just under 21 days and, in all that time, only had the wind aft of the beam for around 8 hours and were hard on the wind all the rest of the time. The rumb line distance, if you take all the corners pretty close, is 1,925 miles. We logged 2,468 miles at an average speed of 4.9kts but this equated down to only 3.83kts on the rumb line. We had the spinnaker up 3 times. The first time was on the leg from Plymouth to Kinsale, running dead downwind, north from The Scillies in a wind that built to 30kts. This was the only thrilling sailing in the entire race, with Kipper maintaining 9kts and surfing to over 11. In fact we hit our top speed of 11.8kts after we'd chickened out and the wind peaked at 35kts, while we were running under full main and boomed out yankee. The second time we had it up was ghosting around Muckle Flugga, at the northern extremity of The Shetlands. There wasn't enough wind to keep it filling in a sloppy sea and, in the end, we took it down in favour of a boomed out yankee. The final time was for a very brief period off Cromer on the north Norfolk coast, before the wind died completely and we had to put the anchor down.
We did have one good day's run, of 170 miles, off the north coast of Scotland, towards Muckle Flugga, but even that was almost hard on the wind on port tack. Most days we were happy to make 80 miles. Kipper rarely exceeds an upwind VMG over 3.5kts, so 24*3.5=84.
The reason for all this is a very unlucky progression of high pressure systems over the UK. By contrast, boats at the front of the fleet enjoyed much fast downwind sailing and it was, for example, depressing to depart Lerwick into light headwinds when we knew that faster boats had left with a gale of wind behind. Our friends in Ding Dong, who won Class One, sailed down the Northern North Sea at speeds of up to 22kts and, of course because they were able to point straight down the rumb line, that all translates into VMG. By contrast our VMG for the fist 24 hours of that leg was only about 2.5kts.
Our slow progress also meant that we continually arrived at all the stopovers after Kinsale, long after the party, which was a bit depressing, however we enjoyed the company of the skippers and co-skippers from other slower boats and were brilliantly looked after in Lerwick by Ian and Rene Fraser and at Lowestoft by the flag officers and members of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club.
Aside from problems with our water tanks, batteries, cooker and propeller, reported in earlier blogs, Kipper performed brilliantly. She is so easy to sail, inspires great confidence and is really, dry and really comfortable in even the most unpleasant seas. Yes, we'd have undoubtedly done much better if she was equipped with new, much flatter, sails, that would have enabled us to point higher than 55 degrees to the wind and reduce leeway, which meant that our true tacking angle wasn't much better than 120 degrees. But we knew this before we started as Kipper was optimised by the previous owner of downwind sailing in The Trade Winds. Had we had what we'd hoped for, which was a predominance of reaching, we'd have enjoyed ourselves much more, taken significantly less time and might have even done better in the race. Yes. I suppose with 20:20 hindsight, we were a bit naive, thinking we might be, even remotely competitive in an out and out cruising boat but had the shit really hit the fan and, or we been dealt more reaching conditions, it might have been different.
The new radio modem in conjunction with the HF SSB transceiver worked brilliantly, enabling us to keep in touch with our loved ones, blog, receive reports on competitors' positions and download GRIB (weather) files throughout the race. We'd definitely recommend this to others, in favour of a satellite phone. OK the capital outlay is more and you don't have voice comms, not that they're really necessary, but it is very reliable and very cheap to use.
The new chartplotter, HD digital radar and Class B (active) AIS, performed very well, although we still question the need for active AIS. We were however less impressed with the associated Navionics charts, which are difficult to use for long-distance passage planning, lacked detail, compared to large-scale paper charts, in some of the more out of the way places and were well out of date, despite being the very latest, 2010 release.
George, our third hand, worked tirelessly. We didn't really hand steer at all. We did however use a lot of power with this, the fridge-freezer, 12 chartplotter, Class B AIS and VHF running continuously and the PC, SSB and radio modem running from time to time. We ran the generator for 30 minutes every 4 hours and learnt that a generator isn't a particularly good way to charge batteries. The problem is that it can only pump in high (around 80 amps) current for a relatively short time (about 20 minutes) and then reverts down to a lower current (20 amps). Which means that, running the generator for, say an hour, only puts in about 45 amp hours. And because it eventually drops down to less than 5 amps, you'd need to run the generator for hours and hours in order to fully charge the 2, 110AH domestic batteries. Hence the need to charge every 4 hours. Before I do another long passage, I'll invest in some solar panels to maintain a trickle charge.
Our victualling worked very well, based on a balance of non-perishables in packets and tins, together with fresh food purchased at each of the stopovers. Emma's fruit cakes and flapjacks sustained us until Lerwick and we wished we'd persuaded her to bake more. Roast chickens perked up the tinned curries, Waitrose Sardines in chilli or lemon oil, made a tasty snack and Uncle Bens microwave rice is a real winner. We also caught several mackerel, although towing the line slowed us down a bit, and there's absolutely nothing like a fresh Mackerel fillet sandwich in brown bread with real butter.
Up around the north of Scotland, especially on our way out to The Shetlands, it was bloomin' cold. I was only just warm enough I my Musto 3-layers system and 4 seasons sleeping bag, sometimes both at the same time. Nasher got very cold at times. He's done most of his sailing in warmer climes. We ran the heater from time to time to boost our morale.
I thought that Nasher and I worked very well as a team. As far as I was concerned anyway, I thought we got on pretty well, which is pretty good as we only came together as a team for this race, and each supported the other when, inevitably one gets a little downhearted. He certainly fulfilled my most important criteria, which was that I could sleep soundly in my bunk when he was on watch, secure in the certain knowledge that, not only were we safe but that he was making an excellent job of keeping up the pace.
So in summary. Did I enjoy it? No. Would I do it again? Not unless somebody paid me. Would I do anything different? With 20:20 hindsight, I wouldn't have wasted my money on a spinnaker and spinnaker gear that we hardly used but, then, it could have been the other way around. Oh, and maybe delaying our start from Lowestoft by 8 hours, so that we could enjoy a good night's sleep and an excellent port wine breakfast, in company with the other back markers, cost us a couple of place but, hey ho!
That's that then.
05 July 2010 | Finished
Finished at 10:13:40.