Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category

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Port Edgar quickie

June 4, 2017

The crew and I were down in London for a couple of days in late May, and I took the opportunity to rattle round some old haunts, catching up with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a trip to St Katherine’s Docks, and was really surprised to see that the red-hulled Macwester Malin I spotted back in 2013 when we were down for three months [see here], was still berthed in the innermost harbour. At 32ft long, she looked diminutive compared to the larger boats surrounding her.

It was after midnight before we got back from the airport on the Friday night, but we were keen to make the best of what was left of the weekend, so we set course for Port Edgar as soon as the tide allowed on Saturday. We left a moody, pregnant sky behind us and yet it was remarkably bright by the time we reached the marina. Unfortunately there was a newbie in charge at the marina office and we ended-up having to move three times from our allocated berth due to returning owners amongst other issues. While that was a pain, we accept that the challenges of a new role can be …umm …a challenge. We ended up berthing our Macwester Malin alongside Copepod, a Hallberg-Rassy 43 (see above, lower right of image).

To their credit, Port Edgar subsequently took steps to remedy the situation and we were not left with a sour taste in our mouths. That said, two hours moving the boat around when we had other things to be doing, knocked the edge off our overnight stay, and the inaugural outing of the crew’s newly-purchased disco ball will have to wait for another weekend.

The following day we slowly tacked our way home into the wind, however we eventually chucked in the towel close to Rosyth and pootled the rest of the way back to our mooring using the engine.

Once we had gone through our mooring procedure, there was time for something cold out on deck, while the sun was making a reasonable job of convincing us that summer was on the way.

The following weekend we also squeezed in a quickie to Capernaum. The weather was changeable, but I managed to achieve my goal for the trip which was to construct the basics of a helm seat that will sit on the lower washboard of the campanionway to our Macwester Malin’s aft cabin.

With neepy tides, unfortunately we couldn’t take up the offer to go racing on Calloo, as the window to get back on our mooring was just too tight. That was a pity, as with a noticeable south westerly, the race was very exciting. In the shot above you can see Calloo just this side of Joint Venture. Seconds after I took this shot, a big gust of wind caught Calloo and she momentarily rounded towards Joint Venture. It must have been more than a little bit hairy onboard.

On second thoughts …perhaps it’s just as well that we couldn’t join the Calloo crew afterall.

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Single to Dalgety Bay please

May 25, 2017

As the crew had prior commitments, it was down to yours truly to get our 32ft Macwester Malin to her destination for the weekend on the Friday. I had work to complete on the engine bay hatch (see previous post here), and therefore I set off in the morning so that I had the afternoon to get my head down.

There was very little wind on the journey east, which suited me as this was easily the most adventurous single-handed sail that I’ve tackled. As luck would have it, an unwelcome swell appeared out of nowhere just as I was coming into the harbour at Dalgety Bay. Fortunately things settled a little as I rounded the end of the pier. It was a neep tide and having overshot the stairwell, I realised that the leap up on to the pier was too risky, and so had no choice other than to manoeuvre astern …using the thruster to keep the bow steady. It was all good.

I worked on the engine bay hatch until the crew arrived by road later in the day. It was a peaceful evening, however that peace was shattered in the early hours of the following morning by some late-night revellers intent on revelling. With raised voices for an extended period, I got up and kept a look-out for upwards of thirty minutes.

Saturday was mainly soggy and we didn’t venture out apart from a trip to the local store for provisions. There was a brief spell of sunshine late afternoon, but that was followed by increased winds on Saturday night. Despite this, the weather didn’t dampen our experience too much, as this was the first trip away from our home port this season, assuming that our voyage from Whitehaven to Largs on the west coast a few weeks ago didn’t count.

Sunday morning came around all too quickly. We set sail as soon as we floated and headed west towards the bridges. On passing under the Forth Road Bridge, I presented a wooden boomerang to the crew. She momentarily paused, before throwing the boomerang back towards the bridge in an act of commemoration for a close friend’s son who had leapt from the bridge a few weeks previously.

Leaving the bridges behind us, we threw our genoa up and pressed on with the motor to meet friends from our club at Blackness. We arrived just about the same time as everyone else, which was a pleasant surprise as we weren’t at all sure that we were even going to make it given the neepy tide.

With almost nothing under our keels and the tide falling, there wasn’t time for much more than a handshake and a quick beer at the Blackness Boat Club bar. The shot above was taken from our Macwester Malin’s stern as all the club boats made a hasty retreat.

Thanks to Blackness Boat Club for their hospitality. Hopefully we’ll have more time to spend the next time we visit.

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Irish Sea 2017: Cumbria to Cumbrae

May 11, 2017

Last weekend’s plans to get our Macwester Malin out on the water for a long overdue shakedown sail had to take a back seat, as the skipper from Ragdoll sent me a text telling me he was absolutely crew-less. Our chum needed to get Ragdoll, a Westerly 33 ketch, from the Lake District to Largs. With weather on Saturday the 6th of May the wrong side of sensible, we travelled down to Whitehaven by road and prepped for a Sunday departure.

After a night on board, we were in the sealock at Whitehaven by 7am, and were looking forward to a great couple of days out on the water. First up was crossing the Solway Firth with the Isle of Man to our south. The skipper had planned the journey to arrive at the Mull of Galloway at low water (around 3pm), with a view to hugging the coast and missing the worst of the choppy seas where two conflicting tidal streams meet. The weather was changeable; good enough for shorts at times, but cold enough for a neck gator at others.

We kept look-out for a black 17ft Fletcher speedboat which had gone missing (leaving from Port Logan) on the Saturday. We wondered why such a small craft was out on the water given that they would have had to navigate the Mull of Galloway during what must have been reasonably poor conditions.

We rounded the Mull of Galloway at the same time as Angel’s Share, a large cat with a similar passage plan. There were a number of vessels taking part in the ‘mayday’ search, including ‘HMS Battersea Power Station’ (a.k.a. MPI Resolution) which was the first self-elevating Turbine Installation Vessel in the world,  as well as planes and helicopters. The majority of the SAR activity appeared to be further offshore, which we found a little strange as the speedboat was supposed to have been travelling from Port Logan to Stranraer.

When we reached Portpatrick some 12.5 hours and 65 nautical miles after leaving Whitehaven, one of two lifeboats was exiting the harbour. We later discovered that the bodies of the two men from the missing speedboat were onboard the lifeboat. We also discovered that they weren’t on a leisure trip to Stranraer, instead they were heading over to Northern Ireland on some sort of puppy smuggling run.

We berthed in front of Angel’s Share and popped up to the Crown for a cold one in the remnants of the evening sunshine.

The following morning (Monday), we set off just before 8am and found that it was heavy going for a few hours as we pushed against the wind and tide. Talking of heavy going, the skipper treated us to a rendition of some show tunes, as he sang along to an American musical that we were unfamiliar with. Captive in the cockpit, I was reminded of the Vogan captain in “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by the late Douglas Adams, when the captain reads Vogon poetry as a form of intergalactic torture. Still, we survived without jumping overboard and things got a little more entertaining when we found some useable wind approaching Ailsa Craig (above).

With the wind typically in the high teens to early twenties, we made good progress and buzzed the east of Ailsa Craig, before altering course slightly toward the west coast of Arran. We had planned on circumnavigating Arran, with an overnight in Lochranza, but commonsense kicked in and we changed course for Largs, which was a couple of hours nearer.

By the time we cleared Arran, the wind gradually fell away and we had to resort to motoring. The skipper was first to spot the dolphins (above, looking back to Ailsa Craig), and we lost count of the amount of sightings. The tranquility and warmth of the sunshine was a big contrast to our romping sail just a couple of hours earlier.

On the approach to Largs, the skipper unexpectedly dropped the engine into neutral as the depth log was showing almost no clearance. My first instinct was to look over the side and a couple of feet away a dolphin broached the surface; the closest I’ve been to dolphins since our 2013 cruise [here]. Dolphins beneath the hull seemed to be the most logical explanation for the momentary lack of depth.

The wind picked up again to 20 knots on our final approach to Largs Yacht Haven. Berthing wasn’t too much of a problem as it’s quite sheltered in the marina. On day two we had travelled another 65 nautical miles and it had taken about 12.5 hours again, so our pace was pretty steady over both days.

All in all a cracking couple of days sailing for our first west coast adventure.

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Crane-in 2017

April 13, 2017

With our hard hats strapped on we were at the club for 7 am, even before the crane arrived. I say ‘we’, but the crew had other matters to deal with at home, so more accurately I was at the club for 7 am. Okay, yes. I suppose by that token I should really re-write the first sentence, as ‘our’ and the plural of ‘hat’ is also technically wrong, but lets not dwell on that …there’s boat stuff to be getting on with.

Anyhoo, the weather for the first day of crane-in was fabulous given it was early April (day two less so, but still not bad). This meant that we (‘we’ the club) made great progress, as we (‘we’ the club, again) weren’t fighting against gusting winds. In fact by the end of day one only three or four yachts and the pontoons were left to crane-in.

Indefatigable Banks, our Macwester Malin was in the air shortly after lunch on the Saturday. Everything went according to plan, which is always a relief. No matter how prepared we are (that’s a generic, sailor cohort ‘we’), there’s always the worry that something might fail, somehow.

Thankfully, moments later we (collective ‘we’; the yacht, the crew, and I) were in the water and onboard checking all the seacocks were watertight and there was no sign of any water ingress. As usual, one of my first tasks is to burp our (the yacht’s) deep-sea seal, which lubricates the seal and lets some seawater into the bilges in the process. Then we (collective ‘we’, as above) continued preparations to take our (collective ‘our’ as above, again) yacht over to her home for the next six months.

I think it’s probably best that I stop clarifying what I mean by ‘we’ and ‘our’ …and let you (the reader) figure that out for yourself.

It was truly fantastic to be out on the water again. We (no, I’m not going there) did discuss throwing up a sail or two like our chums on Calloo had managed earlier, but it was after high water and we (nope) still had quite a few tasks to nail before close of play.

Reluctantly we headed into the harbour and having popped our Macwester Malin on the mooring, we shut everything down and waited for the club boat to pick us up.

One of the things we wanted to do before the tide dropped completely was row our tender over to the mooring. We enjoyed the journey, but it has to be said that the pull of the tide against us through the Ghauts was pretty strong, and I had to work hard to make progress.

Once our Macwester Malin was safely ensconced in her summer home, we headed back to the club once more to finish-off a number of other tasks. Eventually, we made it to the club patio; the bar was open and we (I just can’t help myself; a club-wide ‘we’) had a really enjoyable time in the sun.

Season 2017 is here at last!

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Macwester Malin …as seen on TV

March 9, 2017

With just one month to go before crane-in, we got a surprise reminder of the adventures that lie ahead over the next few months, when we spotted our very own Macwester Malin, Indefatigable Banks in a fleeting, background shot roughly 14 minutes into BBC1’s Heir Hunters (Series 11:8) shown yesterday.

The footage was shot by a film crew onboard Christina II on her way back up river, while to the best of my calculations, we were heading away on our last sail of the season.

The Christina II crew did well; coming away with all of the fame …but none of the fortune this time.

Imagery copyright of the BBC.

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Quest for Inchgnome

November 30, 2016

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At the end of November, our chums from Ragdoll a Westerly 33, very kindly invited us out for one last sail. They spent the night at Granton, and we caught up with them at 11am on the Sunday morning. We soon formed a loose plan to track down the mystical island of Inchgnome.

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It was chilly, but the weather was really good given that it was only a couple of days away from December. Team Ragdoll unfurled the headsail, however there wasn’t enough wind to make much progress.

Our first stop was directly north from Granton to Burntisland [above].

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We brought a simple lunch with us and we collectively demolished that while we were alongside at Burntisland, including way too many chocolate brownies on my part (unfortunately, I kept unearthing conjoined brownies that would just not be parted). After lunch we took a quick tour of the inner harbour at Burntisland [above].

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Heading west, our next stop was Starleyburn, which is a privately owned harbour well off the beaten track. We didn’t actually stop off, as we weren’t sure what was underneath Ragdoll’s keel. Hat’s off to the skipper for getting us in as far as we did though.

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After getting up close and personal with the most easterly beach at Aberdour, the skipper pointed Ragdoll’s bow west again to the golden horizon out towards Mortimer’s Deep.

Could that warm glow be the fabled Inchgnome?

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Yes, indeed (apologies for the cheesy vfx; I couldn’t resist it). Although we had previously passed near by, Inchgnome (a.k.a. Swallow Craig) had slipped beneath our radar. We circled the diminutive little island, which sits just a few metres east of Inchcolm, and drank in the surreal miniature world that largely goes unnoticed out in the middle of the Firth of Forth.

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It was pretty dark by the time we reached Port Edgar, and the temperature was falling away quickly. The following day, Ragdoll was lifted out of the water and her first season in Scotland was at an end. Although the end of the season is always a low point, our chums have done well, squeezing in six weeks of sailing after we were craned-out.

Thanks very much to team Ragdoll for sharing their final weekend of the season with us.

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Crane-out 2016

October 20, 2016

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Day one of crane-out was wet, windy and cold. Most of my wet weather gear was onboard, so I had to cobble together an eclectic array of clothing that should have kept me substantially dry.

Like many others, I still got thoroughly soaked.

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By mid-morning I felt something snap on my right hand. My finger didn’t feel broken so I carried on, stopping to check my limp finger tip every now and then. Eventually, I accepted that something wasn’t quite right and went in search of a second opinion. The second opinion I found suggested that I needed to pop over to A&E, and following an X-Ray the diagnosis was something called ‘Mallet Finger’, which means that my tendon had snapped. Treatment was a small finger splint to be worn 24/7 until the end of the year, and then a further month wearing the splint at night. Zang!

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My injury did nothing to prevent the unrelenting approach of the season’s low point.

When the tide arrived the following day, we brought our Macwester Malin over to the harbour ready for crane-out. We had a short 15 minute wait before the dreaded event was upon us.

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The wind had dropped, and the lift went reasonably well. I say ‘reasonably’, because there was some contact between the crane lifting gear, and some delicate equipment at the top of our main mast. At this stage I’m not sure if any remedial action is required.

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Moments later our twin-keel yacht was heading for what will become her home for the next six months. This year we have a slightly different spot, roughly twenty feet away from last year, on more even ground.

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Once our Macwester Malin was safely deposited on her wooden blocks, we stowed some items and checked that everything was present and correct before turning our attention to other outstanding tasks. Above; muddy antifoul paint power-washed a few days after crane-out – it’s a task that’s easier before the mud and paint dry out.

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One of the traditions the crew and I have is rowing our dinghy over to the club one last time, however that was going to be more complicated than normal given the damage to my finger. Hoping to avoid being labelled a finger-malingerer, I was keen to row the tender round as usual …but I was overruled. Instead the club boat did the job for us in a matter of moments.

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As crane-out weekend drew to a close, just prior to heading up to the club patio for a consolation beer, I noticed the view through our sprayhood from our new spot on the hard-standing. In that instance, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I find myself staring out at that view, gently rocking back and forwards on the balls of my feet.

The long wait for crane-in 2017 begins.

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