Thursday, 30 May 2013

Pitsford Water, Drascombe Association Rally, May 29-30

White track: "Robbie's race" afternoon 29 May; red track, further sailing, later in the afternoon, 29 May; green track, sailing with Jeff Kerr, morning of 30 May.
9.1nm; season's total 154.2nm
Gathering on Wednesday morning, 29 May, guests of Northampton Sailing Club on Pitsford Water.
Participating boats (if any participating skippers can help me fill in the missing name, I'd be grateful):
Luggers Pelican, Fiddler's Green, Muckle Flugga
Coasters Daisy II, Bundy Bear, Windsong
Longboats Serendipity, Harry Cockburn (both 'Sailability' boats)
Peterboat Helena
Dabber Dreamer
Jolly Boat Sally Gee
Deben Lugger ?
Weather "grey" and increasingly wet as the day went on.  Winds northerly, F3 gusting F4.

After launching and lunching, "Robbie's race" (white track, above) was the main event of the afternoon.  The race is in memory of Robbie Henderson, a Drascomber of old; the trophy created by Churchouse Boats.  The idea is to race to Holcot, the far end of Pitsford Lake, round a buoy and then sail back.  The race has been run for a number of years, although this is the first time that Daisy II has participated.
Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the hang of this racing lark.  While I rigged the jib and raised the main, most of the field had made it to the first bend.  I was pleased to have caught up a Dabber and Lugger prior to turning at Holcot.
Pictures of Daisy II bringing up the rear during Robbie's Race
Winds enabled a pleasant reach there and back.  By the end of the race, I'd gone past another couple of luggers and an under-powered longboat, but  having failed to cross the finishing line, I was thankfully disqualified!  The race was won by a coaster, and we seemed generally to perform quite well.  Having never been in a race before, this was an interesting experience, but not one I'm anxious to repeat in a hurry.
Robbie's Race in action: everyone else was on their way back!
An interesting side of sailing at Pitsford is that engines are not permitted (except in an emergency).  So, I left mine at home - although most of the fleet still brought theirs in expectation of their emergency.  Sailing without 30kg of motor on the stern is liberating and I managed a top speed of 5.9kts, and was consistently above 5kts.

The other highlight of this event was the bid for freedom made by lugger Fiddler's Green which slipped its mooring whilst its skipper and crew were in the clubhouse.  Fortunately, lugger Pelican was on hand to save the day.
Crewless (clueless?!) Fiddler's Green being rescued by Pelican
After Robbie's race, and a mid-afternoon cuppa, the trophy was presented by Robbie's widow and the rain fell with more menace.  A brief lull gave a later window of opportunity for a further sail, so Daisy II stretched her legs with coaster Bundy Bear (red track above).  Later that evening, a clubhouse meal was enjoyed by all participants, whilst the rain in torrents flowed.

Rain continued most of the night and Thursday morning began with stronger winds; in particular, a squall at around 4.30am as Fiddler's Green made further trouble with a flogging mainsail.  Eventually, I had to go and sort it out but, once awake, was in no position to return to the bunk.
Breakfast in the clubhouse began official proceedings, followed by a 9.30am briefing and a boat jumble, where I picked up a pair of old 'waterproof' trousers, which may come in handy.  I changed the winch strap on the trailer, having noticed the old one had begun to fray and did a temporary repair job on the tiller extension which had, once again, parted from the tiller.  We also had an opportunity to introduce our boats, history, modifications to fellow ralliers.
Comparing boats
A particular favourite of mine was a wooden 5m Peterboat Helena which, regretfully, I didn't manage to photograph properly.  The skipper, Stephen Coulter, had spent the previous winter restoring it - and a brilliant job he made of it.  Superbly finished - a real labour of love.  If only I had the skill and patience!
Skippers and crew admiring a  newly restored 5m wooden Peterboat
For this morning's sail (green track, above), I had company, for once, in Daisy II as Jeff Kerr, skipper of lugger Pelican wanted to try out a coaster.  As it happens, the skipper of Windsong was on shore to capture a short piece of video as we set sail.
Jeff helmed all the way to Holcot and worked on various manoeuvres, tacks and jibes, to see how a coaster reacts.  Winds had changed to a north westerly and were more variable in force than yesterday, with some F5 gusts.  However, we had all three sails up, unreefed and I think Jeff was impressed with the sail and might upgrade to a coaster in due course.
Daisy II in action on second day.
After the morning's sail, it was time to pack up and return to base.  Fortunately, the slipway at Pitsford is extremely easy to use, a gentle gradient with adjacent jetty, and plenty of laying up areas.

All in all, this was a very pleasant rally.  Good sailing, pleasant company and various ideas taken on board regarding future potential modifications.
Pontoon moorings, courtesy of Northampton Sailing Club, Pitsford Water

Monday, 27 May 2013

May 25-27, Duet with coaster 'Windsong'

Daisy II and Windsong on the mooring at Pin Mill
This was supposed to be the weekend of the Drascombe Association River Blackwater rally.  However, for various reasons, not least of which was a discouraging weather forecast, other boats pulled out.  In the meantime, coaster Windsong's Skipper requested the opportunity to tag along, happy to go wherever since "anywhere on the east coast was a long way from Leamington Spa..."  I had been serious about going down the coast to the Blackwater, but wasn't completely sure about the forecast.  This gave me the perfect excuse to stay in home waters, and then to take Daisy II off the mooring for a few weeks in order to attend rallies at Pitsford Reservoir (later this week) and then Wells-next-the-Sea the weekend after next.

So, on Saturday at around noon, Windsong launched at Woolverstone Marina, and then joined me at Pin Mill for a three day, two night cruise.

Windsong rowing away from Woolverstone Marina - the beginning of an adventure!
The Saturday plan was to sail from the Orwell to a remote anchorage in the Walton Backwaters.  We began by motoring upstream to anchor off Freston, whilst Windsong's skipper sorted out the cabin and I made some lunch.
Winds were North to North-westerly Force 3 gusting 4, so we had the wind with us all of the way to the Backwaters.  Windsong's rig has the yard hanging off the mast and creates a square sail - more power up top.  We both had reefed main with jib, but opted to do without the mizzen.
Sailing down the Orwell
We reached Landmere Creek, off Hamford Water at about 5.30pm and settled down for an evening of beer, wine and food, listening to the wildlife and eventually retiring to respective cabins for some well-earned rest.

Sunday morning, winds were much the same as yesterday.  The plan was to motor sail out of the Backwaters, starting at 8am, and catch the flood from Harwich harbour all the way up the Stour to Manningtree.  The plan hatched perfectly and even allowed us to do without any engines: perfect Drascombe sailing.  In Harwich harbour, there were absolutely no container ships at Felixstowe's Trinity Terminal, so we were able to reach across the harbour and then tack back across towards Harwich.  We then tacked up the Stour, reaching Manningtree by 12.40pm.  Lunch at anchor presented an opportunity to exchange experiences with the morning's sail.
The afternoon allowed us a short amount of time, on an already ebbing tide, to motor around Manningtree.  We then set sail for a wonderful reach down the Stour.

Windsong in Holbrook Bay, returning from Manningtree

Pamela Jean caught napping off Erwarton.

Windsong under attack from giant dangling warp

Windsong sailing down the Stour
There was also an opportunity for some video footage as we sailed along the Stour

Rounding Shotley Point, the tide was continuing its strong ebb, and we were not able to manage under sail alone.  So, we decided to motor up the Orwell to Pin Mill, sharing my mooring and further beer, wine, food and conversation.
Daisy II and Windsong at Pin Mill
On Monday, we took a morning sail with the flood upstream, under the Orwell Bridge and into Ipswich, before parting at Woolverstone, both boats taken out of the water in order to attend the midweek Drascombe Association Pitsford Reservoir rally.
Windsong framed by the central span of the Orwell Bridge

Dumper truck, being dumped!

56.2nm; white track Saturday - Orwell to Walton Backwaters; red track Sunday - Walton Backwaters to Manningtree, then back to Pin Mill; green track Monday - Pin Mill to Ipswich and back; season's total: 145.1nm

Sunday, 19 May 2013

May 19th afternoon sail

A brief afternoon sail in low, fickle winds, beating against the tide downstream and then a run back to the mooring.
5.9nm; season's total: 88.8nm

Monday, 6 May 2013

Bank Holiday Cruise, 4-6 May

4th May (red track)
Mindful of the poor but improving weather on Saturday, I waited until later in the day before heading down to the boat, sailing down the Orwell to the turn and then motor sailing to the Walton Backwaters, arriving well after sunset.
Sunset, approaching Walton Backwaters

 5th May (white track)
Today, the plan was to sail up to the Ore and on to the Butley River.  I arose early (4.30am) and was greeted by a lovely sunrise at 5.30am to match the previous day's sunset.

 There being little wind, I motor-sailed all the way up the coast (noisy but effective).  On the way, a container ship wanted to play as it approached Harwich.
Sailing with the big boys: a container ship, with attendant tug, approaching Harwich
We were heading further north east today.  Beyond the treacherous Deben entrance, the approach to the Ore is equally hazardous, since shifting sands keep altering the recommended navigational track.  The previous time I attempted this, three years ago, the entrance was from the far south west, hugging the 'Shingle Street' shore.  This time, the recommended track is from the south east  Things were very calm today and I entered the Ore at around 9.30am, an hour or so before high water.

View of the Ore entrance from the south. 
Approaching the red Oxley buoy prior to turning north east into the entrance
 Once in the Ore, I was able to switch off the confounded motor, and the still fast flowing flood tide whisked me upstream in F2 winds at speeds of up to 8 knots!!

At Havergate Island, I turned left and, after a small bend, the mouth of the River Butley comes into view.  The previous time I sailed this area, the Butley was the one river I didn't manage time to see. More's the pity since it is the best of the lot!

This trip was about making amends and the rewards were rich: sailing in a gentle F2, I found the Butley to be quiet, and totally unspoilt.  Various fishermen, the odd yachtsman and a few hikers were the only things between Daisy II and the majestic scenery and wildlife.
River Butley: potential landing - a disused quay

River Butley - as far as I dared go.  The tide had already turned by this point, and I needed to motor back downstream to avoid going aground for several hours!
Back out of the Butley, I anchored off 'Abraham's Bosom' which was one of my night anchorages a few years back.  Here, I made lunch (at 11.30am - breakfast was at 4.30!!) and caught up on a bit of web-browsing, taking in the wonderful view of Orford Castle.
Orford, and its castle, from Havergate Island
 After lunch, I circumnavigated Havergate Island....
Havergate Island - an RSPB nature reserve.  It seems such a pity that no landing is permitted here.

....prior to beating down the Ore with the ebb and then departing this charming area to which I shall return in later July/early August.
Butley track, detail

 returning by sail to Harwich.  I used the motor to clear the tricky tidal outfalls at the mouth of the Ore but, otherwise, sailed with all sails up, the whole way.

Back in Harwich harbour, a gin palace was leaving...
Gin palace departure: I'd like to explore one of these for a couple of hours and, maybe, go to sea with few other passengers around.  But the prospect of going on a cruise on one of these things, with their shopping arcades, restaurants and leisure facilities, is not enticing.  However, they do look quite magnificent from outside.
...but I was bound for the Stour for the night, finding a remote, drying anchorage near the south shore, midway between Wrabness and Mistley.

6th May (yellow track)
Waking at 6.30am almost felt like a lie-in after yesterday.  Not a breath of wind initially so, with the engine on tick-over, I made my way round Mistley, following the marker buoys showing the correct Navigational route around to Manningtree where I stopped for morning coffee.  I then sailed, in light winds at first, back up the Stour, initially against the dying flood and then with the ebb.  There was just a breath of a north easterly at first but this turned to a much more promising F3 south easterly by the time I reached Wrabness.

I made my way up to Harwich, rounding Shotley point at around 2pm and, with lunch eaten 'on the hoof', continued up the Orwell against the ebb to the mooring by 4pm.
Red track 4th May, White track 5th May, Yellow track: 6th May.  75.1 nm; season's total: 82.9nm.