Posts Tagged ‘Ragdoll’

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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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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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High & dry …ish

November 22, 2016

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On-shore life has been hectic since crane-out, but we’ve been squeezing-in boat related stuff where ever possible. Team Ragdoll have been doing their best to gloat about being afloat while we’re high and dry. Last we heard they made it over to the inner harbour at Dysart.

Me …jealous?

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Not to be out done, we decided to get out on the water too.

Yes, it’s fair to say that our choice of vessel was a tad more compact, and had slightly less in the way of creature comforts [such as cabins and engines]…

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…nonetheless, we made it out on to the river, glided majestically past our Macwester Malin, sitting high and dry on the hard [above], and even ventured over to the Ghauts to upset the gulls, curlews, and oystercatchers.

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Obviously there was some work to do too. We performed our usual winterisation processes, making sure that everything is properly decommissioned for the winter months. This year we also had to winterise the heads for the first very time [above].

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As usual over the closed season we go out on regular reconnaissance missions. I couldn’t help but include this “in-seine” snap I took of a snazzy-kitsch-car on a Parisienne house boat in early November. Who knows, we might make it there some day.

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Another post crane-out-road-recce saw us nip over to Fisherrow, which could be on our cruising to-do list next year. On the way back we dropped into Leith docks to have a look at the Windsor Castle and her de rigueur dazzle paint. This is the boat that we totally failed to see during the Battle of Jutland commemorations earlier this year.

Later the same day, we dropped by Port Edgar to find out if team Ragdoll were around, but they were nowhere to be seen. Instead we bumped into our chums on their brand new Grandezza 33, Tight Fit V. We spent a night onboard Tight Fit IV, a Grandezza 27 back in June. They sold Tight Fit IV shortly after, and had been AWOL over the summer, so it was great to catch up and have a tour of their lovely new pride and joy.

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Another cracking day found us back out in our little dinghy. The river was like a mirror and we gently drifted just off the Ghauts as we enjoyed a leisurely picnic in the November sunshine, before heading over to the local pub.

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By the time we reached the steps just across from the pub, the tide was dropping and the wind had changed direction. We decided to head back round to the club harbour straight away, which turned out to be a sensible precaution. The wind picked up during the journey, and by the time we reached the harbour there were sizeable waves breaking at the harbour mouth. Fortunately the crew couldn’t see them rising menacingly behind her.

Note to self; take life-jackets with us next time we head out.

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As well as a walk along to Peatdraught Bay, a road trip to Dysart, and dropping into North Queensferry, we planned to walk out on the [new but rickety] pier at Culross. That didn’t go particularly well, as can be seen above. We expected a high tide given the super moon, but this was an hour after high water and the tide should have dropped to around 5.8m by the time I took this photograph. So by my reckoning, the stone part of the pier [just visible in the distance] is completely submerged at around six metres. As the pier can’t be all that much more than a metre [maybe a metre and a half] above the putty, I’m not all that confident about our aspiration to visit Culross next season.

We’ll see.

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Double ketch up at the Bay

October 6, 2016

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With just a fortnight until crane-out we were keen to get out on the water at the weekend. We had planned to be sailing on the Friday, but for one reason or another that didn’t happen. Instead we motored east into a light easterly, with Christina II [above] keeping us company on the way to the bridges that cross between North and South Queensferry.

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Our chums from Ragdoll, a Westerly 33 ketch had plans to anchor off Inchcolm overnight and asked us if we would like to join them. Overnight anchoring doesn’t sound like a recipe for a great night’s sleep and there’s not much scope for shorepower, so we decided to pass opting for Dalgety Bay instead.

We moved our Macwester Malin, which floats in just a metre of water, further up the small harbour than usual. We could get to within about five metres of the beach, which looked a little surreal.

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Approaching high water, Ragdoll arrived from Inchcolm to the east, and had no problems getting in behind us, despite having a 1.7m draft and taking a somewhat sub-optimal route in (over some sizeable rocks).

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The weather was really good for early October. The harbour master dropped by for a chat and we enjoyed what was left of the afternoon in the sunshine.

We had dinner onboard our Macwester Malin and didn’t make it to the clubhouse this time around, opting instead to have drinks onboard.

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The following morning, we had bacon and eggs onboard for breakfast, and then went for a walk west towards St. David’s Harbour. By the time we had talked to some of the local club members who wandered along to see the yachts, it was time to get ready for sailing back up the river.

We waited [tum-te-tum, have we really finished all the crosswords?] until Ragdoll had reasonable clearance so that we could sail west together. Yes, there’s no absolutely doubt a fin-keeler is quicker, but then if we were truly racing …we would have been across the finishing line before Ragdoll even floated! In orange text for Ragdoll’s skipper ; )

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Out on the water there wasn’t all that much wind. We were only making about 2-3 knots over the ground, and given that we hadn’t left as soon as we floated [did I mention that we waited for Ragdoll?], I handed the helm over to the crew and started calculating how much time we had to reach our mooring. It was sunny and given that the crew had everything under control, I cracked a cold beer which had been popped into the freezer from the fridge as we were leaving. It was so Jean-Claude Van Damme cold my brain stopped working momentarily.

When I was eventually ‘back in the room’, I managed to work-out that we needed to do some motorsailing, so we switched on our Macwester Malin’s Lombardini diesel engine and doubled the pace.

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By the time we reached Dhu Craig we had reverted back to just using sail power. The shot above shows Erin, the 49ft Jeanneau we spent some time aboard the previous weekend, heading back east.

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With no engine power, our pace dropped back down to around 2.5 knots. Ragdoll passed to our port as she was heading into the harbour at Brucehaven for an hour or two, before heading back to the marina at Port Edgar.

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On the final approach to our mooring, the skipper of Solveig and his son came out to greet us in their dinghy. At the time we weren’t sure what their dinghy was called, so we christened her Smallveig. They were having a great time.

Just one more weekend to go until crane-out, so fingers crossed that the weather holds!

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Westerly breeze to Granton

September 14, 2016

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Our Macwester Malin was left high and dry on Saturday morning as the crew didn’t fancy the early start required to beat the tide. That being the case, we headed over to the chandlers at Port Edgar, before returning to strap on our wellies, walk out on the putty, and perform some outstanding maintenance …or at least that was the plan.

Instead we bumped into our chums from Ragdoll, who were heading for a ketchup-soaked hot breakfast at the marina cafe. One thing led to another, and before long we were all heading out for a short day sail onboard Ragdoll, a fin-keel Westerly 33.

Above; A new section of the Queensferry Crossing was about to be lifted.

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Within a hundred metres of leaving Port Edgar, Ragdoll’s very experienced skipper was in trouble with the crew of Nicola S, for vaguely heading in the direction of “the lift”. Quaking in his boots, the skipper opted to abandon plans to head up river, and set a course east instead.

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After a short spell sulking on the naughty step, the skipper installed me on the helm and the Ragdoll crew threw up their spinnaker. We headed out towards Dalgety Bay, via Hound Point where we shadowed the RS400 race that was underway. From there we changed course and made our way over to Granton at a healthy pace in light winds.

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Approaching Granton, Ragdoll’s skipper took the helm once again, just in time to navigate an irregular course through the VXOne Nationals race that was underway. Above; a close encounter off the stern, but Ragdoll’s skipper handled it well.

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With a bit of manoeuvering, we made it through the pack and continued on our approach. This was a first for us, as we previously hadn’t sailed into Granton.

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The harbour wall offers good shelter from a westerly breeze, and coming alongside the pontoon was uneventful. Just the way I like it.

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We left Ragdoll parked on the end of the pontoon (above) and headed up to the Royal Forth Yacht Club for a late, light lunch. On the way back we bumped into the crew of Wildcat (and dog Stumpy), who had arrived shortly after us.

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The pontoons were much busier on our return and we also met a couple of friends from Elie. It was good to catch up on all the insider gossip from Elie, the East Neuk and beyond.

We set sail into a light westerly, and back on helm duty I was impressed by the way Ragdoll sailed into the wind. Her skipper put that down to Ragdoll being a fin-keel.

Out on the water, Ragdoll’s skipper invited the ladies in turn to leave the safety of the yacht and venture out on to the hull using nothing but a halyard and harness to keep them above the sharks. Second in line, my crew wasn’t overly keen, however the smile on her face when she came back onboard spoke volumes.

With much better weather than forecast, I got a little sunburn. My head was more burnt than a little pink marshmallow that slipped off Beelzebub’s toasting stick. Meanwhile progress up-wind slowed, and by the time a large cruise ship appeared at the bridges, the skipper decided it was time to motor back to Port Edgar. Unfortunately, just as we were arriving back in the marina, we got call(s) alerting us to a family problem back home, so we had to make a hasty retreat rather than shoot the breeze. Nonetheless, we had a great day out.

Many thanks to Team Ragdoll for their hospitality!

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