Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday 26th April

Nothing remarkable about today's sail.  Just a good opportunity for a gentle sail.
A Thames barge sailing past Trimley Marshes
Winds were light, NE.  Rain threatened but, bar the odd spot, never really materialised.  Setting off around LW, I sailed downstream against the incoming flood (currently neap tides).  Motor sailing was necessary until the turn at Collimer Point, after which I made good progress without the motor against the continuing flood as far as Fagbury Point.  The return trip saw dwindling winds so that, the motor was deployed around Butterman's Bay mainly to avoid commercial traffic.
Good to sea the port of Ipswich continuing to attract business.
  A brief coda saw winds return and enabled me to sail up to Royal Harwich Yacht Club to see the freshly launched Valentine on her mooring.
Coaster Valentine on her mooring, looking good for her winter fitting out - obvious addition is a mizzen boom.
I gather she has also received copper coat antifouling.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Fog and Buoyage: Easter Cruise, 6-9 April

As luck would have it, high pressure parked itself over the British Isles yielding ideal conditions for what seems to have become the traditional Easter sail-away.  With the trailer returned home following launching on 5th April, Monday through to Thursday were set aside for cruising.  Nowhere to go in particular and four days to achieve the outcome!  Actually, there were a couple of objectives which will become apparent...

Monday 6th April (yellow track on final picture, 22.1nm)
Arrival at Pin Mill at lunchtime.  Initial sail upstream to check all was in order - it was great to see coaster Pamela out to play.
Next destinations were Harwich harbour and a brief foray along the Stour, against the tide for a late afternoon anchorage in Holbrook Bay.  A chicken supper later, having watched the light depart, I set off to achieve the first cruising objective which was a night sail or, there being no wind, a night motor out of Harwich bound for the Walton Backwaters.  All went well, excepting a minor skirmish with Crabknowe Spit - I had seen the No2 red port marker but was clearly too far west of this.  Lesson learned: distances can be deceptive at sea, even more so in twilight. Find the buoys and hug them!

Tuesday 7th April (red track on final picture, 34.9nm)
Leaving the Backwaters early in the morning, the plan was to use the flood to make passage along The Wallet ending up somewhere around Brightlingsea.  Winds were pleasant F3, south to south westerly, so this was a lovely beat along the coast.
Clacton on Sea

Once in the Blackwater area, sailing was too good to seek an early anchorage, so I sailed onwards round to West Mersea, before returning to Stone Point for the night.
Twilight images at anchor off  Mersea Stone

Wednesday 8th April (green track below, 44.7nm)
Quick visit to Brightlingsea
Time for the other objective: to rehearse part of the route for the planned Summer cruise (late July, early August) for which the eventual aim will be a raid on the north coast of Kent.  Today, I just wanted to take the route from Brightlingsea, pick a passage around the mouth of the Whitaker Channel, and along the East Swin.  I didn't really know how far I would get, but thought it would be amusing to capture the various marker buoys and cardinals along the way.
Here they are in sequence;
North Eagle, Knoll and Wallet Spitway
Swin Spitway, Inner Whitaker and South Whitaker
West Hook Middle, NE Maplin and Maplin Edge
Having reached 'the edge', discretion was seen to be the better part of valour:  time wasn't going to permit further indulgence.  Interestingly, in the summer, there will be just two more buoys: West Swin 2 and SW Barrow, prior to an 8 mile southerly trip to the mouth of the River Swale.  All being well, with much more besides, this will be the tale of the summer!
For now, the foolhardy plan was to return to the Walton Backwaters via Wallet Spitway and The Wallet.  This was almost foiled by modest to indifferent winds and then the alarming intervention of fog just off Walton on the Naze.  On a sea passage, the latter was a new experience for me.  The fog could be seen hastily blowing in off the sea so that, within a minute, I had lost sight of all shoreline markers.  Sailing in these conditions is best described as being in a garden-sized grey room with no distinguishing features - no visual indicator of which way to go, barely any distinction between 'up and down'.
Survival instinct gained the upper hand - since it was easy to see how such conditions have caused calamity in the past.  Light was fading, it was suddenly much colder and usual visual markers had disappeared.  The first step was to put on all necessary layers of clothing - wrap up warm!  Secondly, eat something and have other supplies handy for regular munching.  Luckily, I was able to count on the Garmin GPS and follow the track set down just the day before when travelling in the opposite direction.
Lastly, all sails were furled and I made steady headway under outboard power alone.
Lessons learned?  Even with GPS, it is difficult to steer a passage and remain on a particular bearing without the benefit of visual markers such as distant waypoints.  I really need to memorise bearings for standard routes understanding the possibility of such events occurring and not having the benefit of GPS.

Thursday 9th April (pink track: 10.8nm)
It was reckoned that a reasonably lazy start would give the sun sufficient time to burn off some of the still dense fog.  However, it didn't and so the GPS method was once again employed, motoring (there being absolutely no wind) to Harwich harbour and back to Pin Mill.  The fog only began to clear once Harwich Shelf was rounded.  Even then, the fog still lingered...
I stopped just north of Shotley Marina to picture the lingering fog - things were, by now, considerably clearer!
Back at Pin Mill, it was a lovely, balmy early summer's day!  Who would have known...?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

...and so a new sailing season begins

The first difference is an obvious change of towing wheels.  The Skoda Superb is a car of real character, nowhere near the quality of drive from the previous Mondeo, but plenty of grip and steel on the road and real quality in terms of build and plenty of toys.

As occasionally befits the need, it was worth paying to use the slip at Woolverstone since Easter Sunday organ playing duties prevented me reaching Pin Mill in time for the necessary High Water.
Launching was typically uncomplicated, the usual back-winching required to shift the boat towards the water.  Once momentum was gained, she slipped gracefully into the sea.
The short trip from Woolverstone to the mooring, under motor, was 1.1nm.

Daisy II looking slightly isolated though, nonetheless comfortable back on her mooring.