Posts Tagged ‘macwester ketch’

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Nearly caught-out at crane-out

October 10, 2017

The commodore suggested that we took our Macwester Malin round to the club harbour the day before crane-out so that we could be lifted out on the Saturday, as we couldn’t attend on the Sunday (due to an impending London trip). Given that it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump, we didn’t bother with much of the usual procedures. Instead we deployed most of our fenders on the port side, threw our strops off, and set off …or at least that was the plan.

What actually happened was that we let the stern strops off first, and when I cast the main bow strop off and got back to the helm, we immediately started to slip backwards towards the promenade, which is not much more than a boat-length from our mooring. It took a moment for me to figure-out that we weren’t caught on a line – we had no forward gear. By then the bow had blown round ninety degrees and I helped it round a further ninety by using our thruster. Now facing directly towards the ominous promenade wall which was growing larger by the second, I calmly engaged reverse …and eased our yacht back from danger.

Disaster averted. Deep breaths all round to suck up the relief …cool as you like.

I was just beginning to think through my next move, as we continued to reverse back away from the promenade when the engine faltered and ground to a halt.

With the countdown to Armageddon back on and just ten to fifteen seconds left on the clock before impact, apparently I wasn’t filling the crew with confidence as I frantically ran through the options in my mind – a bit like the gearbox there was nothing there. A boat-hook wasn’t going to keep us off the wall for long. By the time I moved the fenders …we’d be on the wall. By the time we deployed the anchor …we’d be on the wall.

The crew was doing her best to keep me informed of our proximity to the yacht on the next mooring and the unforgiving promenade. While the crew’s version of events includes a bit more colourful language, my recollection is that with our one and only remaining throw of the dice I calmly decided to walk forwards to the ignition panel and try to turn the engine back on. It started. I calmly walked back to the helm, buzzed the thruster to take our Macwester Malin’s bow away from the promenade, gingerly engaged first gear and …as luck would have it we slowly moved away from the wall, circled around the back of the harbour …and away from danger.

The shot above shows us motoring through the Ghauts two minutes later.

Ten minutes later we made a complete pig’s ear of coming into Capernaum, possibly because I was worried about losing the engine again, but perhaps mainly because we were still rattled by our close encounter with the promenade. Fortunately there were plenty of friendly faces on hand to help.

We had drinks and nibbles as night fell and the tide eventually dropped leaving our twin-keel yacht safely planted on the putty.

As usual it was an early start on Saturday morning, and we craned the smaller yachts into what’s referred to as the ‘dinghy park’. When the tide came in we moved our Macwester Malin further up the harbour and later in the day we ended-up rafted in-between Ramillies and Miss Lindsay.

It was getting late when our time came, in fact we were the second last yacht out on day one. Thankfully everything went smoothly and our yacht’s keels were resting on her blocks within moments.

The image above shows the view forward which will be fixed for the next six months. We didn’t have time to do anything other than make sure everything was tied down or stowed. Organising stuff properly would have to wait for another weekend. Next stop London.

As usual when we’re down in London, we’re drawn to all things boaty. We had lunch in the sunshine at Chelsea Harbour, and spotting Ramillies Street as we walked along Oxford Street momentarily transported our minds back to the weekend. While the gearbox trouble had been stressful and obviously didn’t constitute a great experience, the outcome was a great one although we didn’t feel that way at the time. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, when the outcome could easily have been losing our yacht. Now she’s safely on the hard, we have the time to get the gearbox and engine fixed by a professional, and we’ll be ready for the start of the new sailing season in April 2018. The countdown has already begun!

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Double Bay BBQ (feat. Godzilla)

August 29, 2017

We crammed a lot into the last weekend of August, especially given the tides.

It was mid-afternoon on Saturday before we slipped our mooring. We headed east towards Aberdour, but amazingly the small harbour at Dalgety Bay was vacant for the first time in months. Thanks a million to the harbour master for accommodating us.

It turned out to be a lovely, soft evening and we lost no time getting a disposable barbecue up and running. We’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while, and as we had an early start the next morning to leave on the falling tide, we called it a night not long after dark.

Above; it doesn’t take much to keep me happy.

We were back out on the Firth of Forth pre-9am, but I reckoned that we couldn’t set a direct course to our next destination (which can just about be seen to the top left of the very first picture in this post) as I didn’t want to arrive too early. With this in mind, we turned east again, and circled Inchcolm, which is the island silhouetted on the left-hand-side of the photograph above.

As it turned out, I hadn’t taken into account that we would be sailing into three knots of tide when we turned around to head west from Inchcolm, so in the end we arrived at Peatdraught Bay twenty minutes later than I had planned. This wasn’t a huge problem, but it meant that I totally failed to deposit our Macwester Malin on the beach with the precision that I had hoped for.

Taking the ground and drying out on a beach is something that we’ve aspired to do for several years, but never quite bitten the bullet. [Oxymoron Alert!]: when we heard that there was a club cruise to Peatdraught Bay and the plan was to dry out, we felt compelled to take the plunge.

Ten minutes after we took the ground Joint Venture arrived, shortly followed by Calloo.

Both Joint Venture and Calloo deployed their anchors, but we decided not to bother. In part, this was because we wanted to experiment given that we knew that we would be onboard with our Macwester Malin’s engine running when we refloated, and we weren’t near any rocks or other obstacles.

We waited for the tide to recede, then fashioned a makeshift rope ladder to hit the beach. Collectively we made a beach fire, got the barbecues up and running and cracked open some cold ones. The food was great, with the possible exception of the sandy-like seasoning that our naval architect chum (who was crewing onboard Calloo) sprinkled liberally all over the pakora. Eventually it became apparent that it wasn’t sand-like …it was just sand.

Following our beach banquet, we had a game of rounders with the kids. When my turn came I thwacked a home run and amidst the glory of the moment, and the cheering of the crowd it all became a bit hazy. There was a bit of a disturbance on the horizon to the east. All-of-a-sudden I was back onboard our Macwester Malin. I could hear a distant twisted roar that quickly got louder. I didn’t know what hit me; a freak wave crashed over our yacht throwing me overboard. As the giant wave hit, out of the corner of my eye, I could just see Godzilla over to the east behind Inchkeith. I was confused. It didn’t make any sense to me.

Next thing I knew I came round face-down with gritty eyes and a mouthful of sand. My ribs hurt like John Hurt had hurtled towards me with a chib fashioned from a DVD of The Hurt Locker (you’d think John Hurt of all people would have been a bit more sympathetic when it comes to rib trauma).

It was sore to breathe.

The skipper of Calloo came over to check that I was alright. He apologised, and it slowly sank in that what might possibly have happened is that he (Calloo’s skipper) had a momentary lapse of concentration and thought we were playing rugby rather than rounders …and that I had in essence cracked my ribs by falling over on to some sand.

As that version of events sounds a bit lame, I’m sticking with the Godzilla story.

Our Macwester Malin floated last, and we motored back to our mooring as I didn’t want to be struggling with large sails. I quickly learned not to breathe too deeply, avoid coughing and sneezing, as it was less “achooo” and more “ach-ouch”. As you might imagine if it was sore to breathe, then it was out totally of the question for me to scrub the decks, wash the cars, or mow the lawn.

It seems that the recovery time is about six weeks, so that means we’re going to have to take it easy until the end of the season. I say ‘we’, but I obviously mean ‘me’.

Now where has the crew gone to? I could do with a top up and a foot massage.

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That sinky feeling

August 21, 2017

Our frustration with the weather has been building with each weekend that passes. It hasn’t been particularly bad for day-sailing, as there have been some cracking days, but they tend to be immediately followed by days with 25-30 knot winds, and that makes any cruising return leg more challenging than we would ideally like.

In an act of desperation we sought answers from a drinking den in Burntisland [above]. While the accuracy of Sinky’s Weather Forecasting Stone is yet to be proven, we’re already planning a night raid to seize the wonderous stone and install it in our Macwester Malin’s cockpit.

With day-sailing the most sensible option, we spent time on our mooring waiting for the tide. The shot above shows the view over to our mooring from the Ghauts. Later that day when tide was in we returned to the Ghauts in our dinghy to faff around.

The loose plan for one of our day-sails was to head down to the bridges with Calloo, however on that occasion there was hardly any wind, and we headed to the south side of the river in search of a breeze instead. En route, we were passed by our friend’s youngster whizzing-by on a sailing dinghy …sensibly shadowed by his father in the club rescue boat.

The wind finally put in an appearance, and Calloo followed-through on the plan to head east to the bridges, but we knew we had less time to get back on our mooring, and that we also had stuff to do once our Macwester Malin’s strops were back on. With this in mind we headed from Blackness over towards Charlestown harbour for a bit of a nosey.

We briefly caught up with our chum onboard Joint Venture as we were pulling our sails down. Then on the way back to our mooring, we decided to go for a Ghauts hat trick [above & below].

Our frustration with the weather continues to build, but it’s beginning to look like it’s just one of those years when the weather, the tides, and our free time stubbornly refuse to synchronise. Making the most of the sailing season would be soooo much easier if work didn’t get in the way.

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Summer cruise 2017 – Part 2

August 3, 2017

With no private facilities for marina users, it was intriguing to notice that the local farmers were making good entrepreneurial use of the public loos in Anstruther. At least I assume that’s who was scribbling in the men’s cubicles. There was a telephone number for anyone interested in what must be a new politically-correct alternative to cock-fighting, where the cocks have ‘fun’ instead – that sounds like a step in the right direction for animal cruelty. There was also an animal-lover who seemed keen to have his donkey …let’s use the word “serviced”. I say ‘donkey’ but the chap who wrote it actually used ‘ass’; I’m pretty sure they’re interchangeable.

The Dreel Tavern was open for business again, so we popped in there a couple of times when we couldn’t enjoy a tipple on the foredeck. We also enjoyed walks to Cellardyke and Pittenweem, but didn’t make it to Elie, St Monans, or Crail this year. By the time we reached day eight or nine, we were looking for a weather window with an easterly that would facilitate a less-eventful journey back across Kirkcaldy Bay.

We found one.

Back out on the water, we counted puffins and our count easily surpassed the round dozen that we spotted on the journey east. I also spotted a glimpse of a dolphin as it plunged back into the depths, but other than that the journey was pretty uneventful.

Our next destination was Aberdour. It was bright when we arrived and we knew that the harbour would offer great protection for the high winds and rain that were forecast. On arrival we heard the sad news that our friend Pat had died a week or so earlier. Pat was a lovely older gentleman (and fellow sailor), who used to cycle along to the harbour to welcome us, wearing a sports jacket complete with cravat, before typically inviting us back for gin and tonics at his beach-front home.

He will be sadly missed.

The weather didn’t pick-up much at Aberdour, but we made the best of the dry spells and took shelter onboard our Macwester Malin when the heavens opened. After a couple of days, with the forecast still looking very unsettled (including lightning), we decided to head for home.

We managed to avoid the worst of the downpours on the journey back to our mooring. It was a bit gusty at times, but we had only had a couple of metres worth of genoa out on display. When our shower-dodging luck eventually ran out, we simply closed-over the top section of the cockpit tent roof, which substantially reduced the amount of rain cascading into the cockpit.

The weather in the north of the UK hasn’t felt much like summer this summer. While I’m sorely tempted to point the finger of blame at the tech department for not installing summer properly, I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Right …I’m off to Google Mediterranean sailing holidays!

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Summer cruise 2017 – Part 1

August 2, 2017

The forecast for the foreseeable future was for unsettled weather, so we chose to set sail on a day with marginally lighter winds and sunny spells. Our final destination was unclear, however St. Andrews and Lindisfarne were both possibilities. We left as the tide was receding, so the first leg to Anstruther would have to take over seven hours, or we risked arriving before there was enough water. This meant intentionally making slow progress, as we can typically reach Anstruther in five or six hours. The shot above shows us approaching a wreck to the south of Inchkeith with a following sea.

We started-out with a much reduced genoa, and the mizzen ready to deploy if required. With the tide pushing our twin-keeled ketch forward combined with 25+ knots of wind, we were doing between six and seven knots over the ground. That was way too fast, however I reasoned that the tide would be against us later in the journey.

We tacked as close to the south-east of Inchkeith as we could. That was a mistake; we should have delayed tacking, as the waves caused by the current/tide circumventing the island grew to over 2m. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs, as the crew was a tad unsettled, and politely suggested that I might stop taking photographs.

I say ‘politely suggested’, but in reality she delivered an eclectic unbroken chain of colourful expletives strewn upon the wind, which all but obscured the words “Cecil” …and “B” …and “DeMille”.

We brought the genoa in further, now down to no more than a hankie, and hunkered-down until we were eventually afforded some protection from the island itself. The shot above shows a much calmer following sea as we headed along the East Neuk coast later.

Arriving at the marina on the late tide, we were welcomed with much-needed alcohol by our chums from Pampero, a Moody Eclipse. For my future reference, our Macwester Malin’s 1m draft lets us have access to the marina when there’s 2m at Rosyth. The photograph above shows the view from our Macwester’s centre cockpit over towards the Ship Tavern.

With the crew keen for a break from sailing and the high winds ever-threatening, we stayed in Anstruther and took some time out. We scrubbed the deck and I noticed that the varnish on the foredeck grab rails of our Macwester Malin was cracked, so I gave them a quick rub-down then varnished them. It was an in-season remedial approach, so they will have to be done properly at some stage.

One afternoon a pipe band turned up to the cobbled square adjacent to our pontoon (across from the Ship Tavern), followed by a number of visiting dance troupes. Apparently there was an international dance festival underway. The photograph above shows some of the Croatian dancers.

After a day or two the chap on a small Wayfarer dinghy called Dreamtime, that was berthed next to our Macwester Main, told me that he had decided to throw in the towel. His original plan was to sail around the UK, but the weather outlook wasn’t great and he didn’t fancy the journey up north. Instead he returned a couple of days later and I helped him get Dreamtime on to a trailer, so that he could spend what was left of the summer sailing in Cornwall.

As the days passed the crew and I eventually agreed that we wouldn’t be heading any further east, north or south with the possible exception of the Isle of May …but even that fell by the wayside. The shot above shows the Anstruther lifeboat returning from a rescue mission over at …the Isle of May.

Part 2 up next…

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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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