Sunday, 13 December 2015

Douglas Hopwood

Earlier this year, the Drascombe community lost a stalwart member to the ravages of time.  Douglas Hopwood was a huge inspiration to all of us.  Several of his close friends collaborated over a book in tribute to this wonderful man who will be sorely missed.  It's a wonderful book, a great advert for Drascombing and splendid tribute to a great adventurer.

Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Final sail and hauling out

October half term ought to have been a great opportunity for a cruise.  As is often the case, strong winds and a heavy seasonal cold had other ideas.  There was a bonus, though, in the form of a quick trip over to Harwich - the close season is just about the only time one can guarantee access at Halfpenny Pier.

The next day was hauling out day. Conditions were perfect and the tide ought easily to have been high enough to use the short public slipway at Pin Mill.  The tables suggested we were in for one of the highest Spring tides of the year but, although I had no real difficulty, the 'creeping tide' did not scale the expected heights, just lapping at the bottom of the trailer wheels at the expected HW time.
Locals dining in the Butt and Oyster were treated to a Drascombe double as Philip, owner of lugger Truant, was also hauling out

So, that will most probably be it for this year.  November is looking stupidly busy and any spare time will be given over to the various jobs that need doing.  The annual log record hasn't been broken but then the overall plan is shifting towards cruises and rallies, away from day sailing.  Next season and beyond are already being planned for and, with any luck, Daisy II should expect to venture further afield than ever before.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Further forays along the Stour

Saturday 17th October
Double reefed main with part-furled jib and full mizzen.  F4 gusting 5 along the River Stour.  Up to 6 knots achieved against the last hour of the flood tide.
Last week, there was a plan.  This week was just a 'suck it and see' sail although, in outline, it turned out to be much the same sail as last week, four hours later in the day.  However, as any sailor knows, conditions never quite make any trips the same.

Today, winds were from the north, F4 with some stronger gusts.  It made sense to head back to the Stour and enjoy reaching both ways.  The sailing was terrific, as can be seen from the photograph heading this blog entry.  On the way up the Stour, single reefed main with a few rolls in the jib necessitated a good deal of wind spillage as the stronger gusts came over.  Following a lunchtime anchorage in the lea of the north shore, just beyond Holbrook Bay, I decided to put a further reef in the main, setting the mizzen instead.  This resulted in a much better balance on the return trip and speeds well in excess of five knots against the last hour of the flood and much less heeling over in the gusts.
I had a go at tacking back into the Orwell against the tide but, along with all the other boats around, furled the sails and resorted to the engine.  Sometimes, it's just not worth the hassle!
Motoring up the Orwell
As a result, upon returning to Pin Mill, most sails had been safely stowed and there was even time to hoist a few plastic bags for fending off the local feathered wildlife whilst the boat is kept on the mooring.  Many thanks to a local Drascombe owner for the following pictures!
Returning to Pin Mill, sails already stowed and plastic 'bird-deterrents' already in place!

As is often the case, the linked video footage only shows the 'calmer' parts of the sail since this was often one of those days where concentration was key and it was definitely important to hang on as those gusts pushed their way across the estuary.
So, it is hoped that the half term break, the week after next, will yield mild conditions suitable for cruising if only to push the season's log, currently 679 nautical miles, a further 57 miles or so.  That would, indeed, be a great way to end the season.  Two years ago, during the same week, Storm 'St Jude' had other ideas...

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Trip along the Stour to Manningtree - Saturday 10th October

Sunrise on the Orwell
I've accomplished this trip many times but today was slightly different.  For one, it was the first and only time I managed the full length of the Stour in 2015 - and there have been several otherwise rather feeble attempts.  Most importantly, however, it was a day where all plans came to fruition, where timing and forecast worked out and the outboard motor, the usual 'get out of jail free card,' wasn't troubled at all.
We were on morning neap tides with HW at Harwich expected at 11am.  This necessitated a 4.30am alarm, driving to the coast with intention of leaving the mooring at 7am.  Shotley Point needed to be abeam at around 8.30am in expectation of a splendid run up the Stour, arriving at Manningtree at least by HW.
Gentle winds on the Stour, approaching Ewarton Ness
The forecast was for a light NE breeze until HW when the winds were scheduled to turn full easterly F4 so it was important to prepare for a lengthy beat back down the Stour in strengthening wind over tide conditions, where waves can pitch quite steeply and closely.

In the event, all of this happened.  The run up the Stour could have been quicker and, had it been so, there would have had time to go ashore at Manningtree - it's been a while since I visited an excellent coffee/breakfast shop there.  However, the breeze was steady but light in nature, so I was only making just over 4 knots over ground - steady enough to notch up a brew under way off Parkestone Quay.  The sail up the Stour passed by without incident, past the gloriously imposing buildings of Holbrook School, the moorings at Wrabness on the opposite side, the ever-disappointing Mistley Quay and then on to Manningtree.
 I glided through the moorings at around 11am - HW at Manningtree is usually about 40 minutes after Harwich - and popped round to photograph the lugger Sandpiper moored just off the quay area, with it's attractive burgundy topsides.
Lugger, Sandpiper
She looked a little weary of the year gathering, as she has, most likely a season's worth of weed along the boot line.  
Immediately, Daisy II swung back into the wind and tacked her way out of the moorings, with her skipper eating a packed lunch 'on the hoof', as it were.
Departure from Manningtree
A couple of tacks beyond Mistley Quay, it was time to tie in a single reef in the main, put a few rolls in the jib and furl the mizzen and this was how it remained for the long beat up the Stour.  Past Erwarton Ness, the waves were pitching quite wildly, so I put in a series of shorter tacks remaining in shallower, calmer waters until passing the red light vessel which is permanently moored off the ferry terminal.  The thirty-eighth and final tack helped ease Daisy II past the lengthening shallows off Shotley.  The mizzen was redeployed, rolls shaken out of the jib and, continuing with the single reefed main, the reward was a glorious reach against the ebb back up the Orwell, taking some great video footage with the GoPro and reaching speeds in excess of 5 knots over ground against the tide.

 Finally, I rounded Collimer for a pleasant run back to the mooring.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Early October weekend with settled weather!

At this stage in the season, moments have to be seized: carpe diem and all that...  Saturday and Sunday presented themselves with an established area of high pressure sitting over the UK and the promise of a break in recent settled conditions early next week.  The usual musical commitments not keeping me at home on Sunday morning, I was free to sail on both days, albeit that I needed to come home in between.  

On Saturday, I had company in the form of mother.  In the summer, I like to join her on a river cruise in her Viking 23 cruise Alouette.  Over the years, we've covered many hundreds of miles of the Inland Waterways from the Thames and its tributaries, the Avon and Severn, the Broads and a large number of canals from the Kennett and Avon in the south, to the Stratford canal and then canals up through Birmingham and into Staffordshire, as well as the network in Shropshire and off into Wales.  So, this return trip is an opportunity for mother to join me for a short trip on Daisy II and we've done this every year, albeit in the cold of October.
Of course, Saturday was far from cold although we had to make the most of the little wind there was.

Here's a short video clip taken with the GoPro.

On Sunday, I returned alone and had a longer trip along to Shotley and back along to Woolverstone. 

As usual, seals were very much in evidence, although I didn't expect to see one sitting on the stern of a rowing boat!
let's see what we can sea lion around...
The reason for this snap was purely nostalgic.  In the 1970s, my late stepfather used to own a Dell Quay Fisher Boat just like this one which was pottering around Pin Mill.  I'd not seen it before, and it brought back many happy memories of motoring out of Minehead harbour on the Bristol Channel.

The point of this picture is to highlight the propensity of birds, we think turnstones, to populate some craft at Pin Mill, though not others.  It is extraordinary how some boats are left untouched and others are taken over - there seems to be no 'rhyme or reason' why certain boats are targeted.  Here, they have clearly shown some good taste in choosing a Drascombe lugger although, as mooring owners at Pin Mill will testify, they are a proper damned nuisance.  A thread on the Drascombe forum asks for techniques to dissuade them from choosing a host boat.  I always use supermarket bags although, as from tomorrow they will cost 5p, the regular supply of these will undoubtedly cease.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Seahopper Meeting, Horsey Mere, 26th September

Earlier this season, these pages reported on the latest addition to the fleet, a still unnamed 2.4m Seahopper  - the model known as a 'Nifty Fifty'.  Thanks to the reaches of Facebook and the Seahopper Owner's Group, several fellow owners converged on the wonderful Horsey Mere for a weekend rally.  I was only able to attend on the Saturday and, even then, had to make a double trip over having left half of the kit back home in the garage...  I think an equipment checklist may be in order...

The following video gives a fair reflection of the day.

Winds were light but not inconsequential - probably for the best, since the sailing experience is very different from the Drascombe experience: much more responsive, very unstable but, in its own way, just as enjoyable!

I only started recording the track half way through - as recorded, 2.1nm.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Mooring or Trailer-sailing?

Perhaps today's trip will potentially be significant.  Will it be the final time, at least for a season or two, that Daisy II is launched with the purpose of returning to her mooring home for the past eight years?
For several seasons, I've mixed mooring-based sailing with one or two trailer-sailing breaks each season, breaks usually with the purpose of attending a Drascombe rally.  This has worked well, and, for the greater part of the season, I've much enjoyed having the boat, ready-rigged on her mooring for day sailing or extended cruising.  
So, what's changed?  Well, acquiring a Seahopper dinghy has provided an interesting new dimension.  Perhaps this as yet unnamed boat could fulfil the day sailing function, leaving Daisy II for rallies and extended cruising.  Purchasing a new car, with 4x4 drive and hence much more assurance and capability on slipways, makes trailing more manageable and enticing.  I'd like to attend more rallies in different parts of the UK.  I've also become increasingly concerned about the potential wear and tear on a boat left afloat for such a long time.  It was certainly true that I was slowed down this summer by a barnacle-infested hull, despite having applied the usual anti-fouling paint.  It would be great to scrape off this paint and not to have to reapply it each spring!  It's also good to have the boat at home for the purposes of spending a little more time on modifications.
On the other hand, Pin Mill is such a wonderful location, handy for delightful, varied day sailing and extended cruising to a number of fantastic destinations.
There is still time to think this through and next weekend's Seahopper rally at Horsey Mere in Norfolk will be a great opportunity to see just what the new boat can do.
In the mean time, Daisy II returns to her mooring home at Pin Mill and, weather permitting, there should be time for at least one more cruise prior to the end of the season at the end of next month.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

River Yare - Drascombe Association Rally. 11-13 September 2015

Settling, as we seem to have done, into a three year cycle of venues for the annual Norfolk Broads rally, this weekend it was the turn of the River Yare.  As a cruising river, the Yare demonstrates the Broads at its best - wide reaches with stunning scenery, frequent cuts leading to interesting Broads, varied wildlife and, of course, plentiful pubs along the way.
We had planned, as before, to launch at Reedham Ferry but their plans for a music festival forced us upstream to Cantley.  On first impressions, this new venue is rather dwarfed by the imposing sugar factory but, looking the other way, the old charm of the region is just as evident, the slipway is very serviceable and enjoys everyone's favourite price tag - it's free of charge!
Following a very large, tasty supper on Friday evening at the Reedcutter's Inn, we set off upstream in damp conditions on Saturday morning.  
Cruising this river is something of a pub crawl and we were spoilt for choice.  Our first stop was for lunch at the New Inn at the head of Rockland Broad.
Moorings at Rockland Staithe 

After lunch, we headed back across Rockland Broad, using the more westerly exit back onto the Yare. which point the wind dropped and we enjoyed splendid sunshine.
Jenny Morgan

Muckle Flugga
Following another diversion through Surlingham Broad....
Marsh Magic
 ...we homed in on our destination, The Ferry House Inn at Surlingham, where the process of arranging stern-to mooring was a challenge without a mud weight...
Fleet at Surlingham Ferry
...but we managed in the end!
The pub did us proud once again - excellent food in great company!

Another night's sleep in the peace and tranquility of Broadland and we were ready for the return trip - although the wind forgot to blow...  Splendid scenery, however....

Longboat Cruiser Lucille

Coaster Evelyn

Pit stop for Jenny Morgan

The fleet heads downstream - the Drascombe mafia...!

Returning to Cantley, Broads cruisers were enjoying a very sedate race whilst we returned boats to trailers and parted once again to various corners of the country - Bristol, Kent, as well as closer to home!
Little wind for these Broads cruisers