Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Aurora Sky-Lite distress flare

This popped up on my Facebook feed today, Yachting Monthly posted...

Another live product launch from METS! The Aurora Sky-Lite distress flare from Crewsaver is available in January and can propel two red stars to 60m by hand held launcher. Comes in at £13.95 and lasts four years - ideal for your kit bag! Read more http://bit.ly/ym-mets15 ‪#‎metstrade‬

A flare for under £14? looks good on the face of it, I look forward to reading a review

Friday, 6 November 2015

Sarah Outen Completes Circumnavigation

British adventurer Sarah Outen set out from Tower Bridge in April 2011 on her London2London: Via the World expedition. Her goal: to row, bike and kayak around the northern hemisphere, inspiring children and fundraising for charities.
Sarah has overcome huge obstacles and endured extreme conditions in remote environments, often alone for months at a time. A typhoon on the North Pacific forced a mid Ocean rescue from her rowing boat in 2012 and a hurricane on the Atlantic this summer forced a pre-emptive evacuation after 143 days at sea. She has also kayaked some of the most treacherous waterways in the world and cycled across North America during one of the harshest Winters on record.
Finally, after 4.5 years and over 25000 miles, Sarah is now back home. The final leg of the journey saw her cycle and kayak from Falmouth to London, paddling under Tower Bridge at midday on 3rrd November to complete her journey.
Her book Dare to Do about her expedition will be out in May 2016.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Bringing the blog back to life

I never set out to update the blog every week or even month but somehow  not posting for 4 months seams to have let things slip, I have written and back dated my last two outings on Quest and hope I won't leave 4 month gaps between my posts again...

In the mean time here is a video of a couple of trips on the Orwell and Stour.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sailing the Stour: overnight aboard Quest

It is actually November now and I have let the blog slip, this post is written in
retrospect but back dated for the date of the sail.

As the title suggests I have completed my first overnight trip on Quest. But just to clarify, when I say overnight trip, I mean a night tied up on a mooring bouy on the Stour. However being alone on the sea in my little boat overnight was a considerable achievement for me and something I have wanted to do for a long time. 

I arrived at Suffolk Yacht Harbour at 1030 and my plan was to sail to Holbrook Bay, anchor near to Harkstead House and dry out overnight, I had reasonable apprehension about launching from SYH after my last trip although I had a plan to make launching easier:

1. with the boat rigged, park at the top of the slipway, chock trailer wheels and unhitch.

2. attach the trailer winch strap to the car and winch the boat off the chocks

3. slowly lower the boat down the slipway on the winch 

4. once the 5m winch strap is all the way out chock the boat and remove strap,

attach the SYH slipway wire to the car and drive the car so the other end of the slipway wire is level with the top of the trailer.

5. attach the winch strap to the slipway wire and repeat the process untill the boat is in the water

Following the above plan allowed me to get Quest into the water in a controlled manner but it took far to long and on busy days I'm sure this method would not be tolerated.  Furthermore my trailer ramps only seam to work when the trailer hitch is on the car tow ball otherwise the nose of the trailer lifts when the boat is being slid off and the bow grounds on the trailer (Roger Barns does offer a solution to this in his book in the form of to drop down wheels on the back of the trailer to stop the front from lifting). The other solution is not to use the ramps and lower the trailer further into the water so Quest just floats off. 

Quest departed SYH at 1230 (2 hours seams far to long to get the boat on the water and I really want to get it cut down to half of that), I headed off towards Felistowe Docks with a light Force 1 on the port quarter.

It really was amazing sailing such a small boat past the mammoth container ships tied alongside at Felixstowe. The top of my mast wouldn't even clear the waterline limit of the ships waiting to be fully loaded, I have a new found respect for the masters of these giants and a more realistic understanding of how much water they draw, I merely need  to look at the height of my mast....

At 1354 I past between Shotley Horse and Shotley Spit south cardinal mark. As LW was at 1440, I sailed into the last of the ebb as I turned into the Stour. I skirted along the outside of the shipping channel whilst maintaining a listening watch on Harwich VTS and an average speed of 1.8kn unfortunately by 1504 I had reached Parkeston lateral mark the wind had dropped completely and my speed dropped to 0.3kn. Progress continued as I fired the little Honda BF2 into life, such a good little engine simple regular maintenance and it hasn't let me down once.. yet. 

Thankfully the iron sail was only needed for 40 mins because at 1545 the wind had filled and I was sailing again and by 1600 I had reached Holbrook South Cardinal and I was looking for an anchorage.

Maybe now is the time to admit that I haven't exactly been looking forward to this trip, I have been extremely nervous about launching and recovering the boat and finding somewhere to spend a night disturbing thoughts played on my mind:

what if it turned rough, what if I dryed out at akward angle, what if Quest toppled over onto one side or grounded on something that would damage the boat, what if I stayed afloat and my anchor needed resetting when the tied turned at 0300, what if a thief fancied my little honda outboard whilst I was sleeping?

You get the idea, so when I saw 2 of 4 moorings available in holbrook bay I decided to cut myself some slack and take one. I knew I wouldn't dry the boat out which is something I wanted to try but at least I would have a secure birth for the night. By 1630 i was tied up and starting to get organized sails stowed and tied, lines pulled away from the mast, waypoint of mooring set, nav light ready if required as was the anchor in case I was asked to move.

Whilst I was prepared from a seamanship prospective I wasn't from a
housekeeping, my homemade meths cooker (a tuner tin with holes init) nearly set fire to the cabin, chuck it in the sea was the method to turn it off. Furthermore a restless night of cold in my 1 season sleeping bag and nervous checking of the surrounding lights and GPS ensued. Im not even sure what I was scared of by this point, maybe it was breaking free of the mooring or the weather deteriorating but I was out of my comfort zone. The presence of dawn at 0622 allowed me to get a couple of hours of restful sleep.

I left my mooring at 0842 the following morning, despite a poor nights sleep I had a
smile across my face and a fantastic sense of achievement, I had done it! A door had opened, I no long am limited to day sailing, Quest really felt like she was being used for the way she was designed and I had modified her, sailing in estuaries and along coastal waters for 2 or 3 day trips.

I was keen to get back to SYH slipway, HW was at 0951 and I wanted to get back with as much water on the slipway as possible to hopefully make my life easier. I was sailing against the wind and tide and with this in mind I decided to take down the sails and motor up the Stour to avoid a lengthy beat. In hindsight I wish I hadn't the SYH slipway has full tidal access so recovery of the boat is obviously concerning me enough to affect my sail which is a real shame. 

It wasn't time wasted though, I continued to enjoy the beautiful scenery and
decided to practice following a depth contour which had the added of advantage of keeping me in shallower water and out the worst of the foul tidal stream. Furthermore, it is an invaluable skill to learn if it ever turns foggy or you loose GPS. The NASA echosounder made this an easy task, although i presume you could also master the skill of using a lead line. 

By 1000 I had past shotley radar tower and as I past shotley marina enterance I decided to cut the motor raise the sails and had an enjoyable reach back down the orwell in a Force 2 with the sun shining. Before I knew it I was at the SYH safe water mark by 112o and I managed to recover Quest onto her trailer using a long warp to pull her out without incident. What was all the fuss about?!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Day Sail Rutland Water

It is actually November now and I have let the blog slip, this post is written in retrospect but back dated for the date of the sail.

Owing to my bad memory the details of this trip are some what vague, however I do remember this is the first time Tux our cockapoo had been on quest since the refit.

We launched on a weekday from Rutland Watersports at whitwell, for the respectable sum of £16, there was very little activity on Rutland Water due to kids being back at school so launching was simple. A light force 2 was blowing from the west and it was slightly overcast but very mild.

Tux donned his new lifejacket and we headed upwind along the north arm, the aim was to sail to barnsdale creek which is just before the "limit of sailing" line on Rutland. We managed it but the light winds ment a lengthy sail. We dropped the hook in less than a meter of water and had some lunch, later weighed anchor as a trip ashore was required for Tux to have a run. Barnsdale Creek shelves so gently that after a few meters of paddling we were aground but still 25 meters from the shoreline, fortunatly the new carry handles on Tux's lifejacket came into there own and we were ankle deep in mud in no time.

An uneventful and relaxing sail downwind back to Rutland Watersports saw the end to an enjoyable day.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Daysail from suffolk yacht harbour: River Orwell

Exploiting a week of fine weather and a favorable spring tide,  I headed off to the River Orwell to try a new local sailing spot. To clarify, Suffolk Yacht Harbour is a 100 mile drive from my house, but it is the nearest coastal slipway to me with full tidal access and secure parking facilities. I'm not sure if this highlights my misuse of the word local or the lack of decent slipways with in the UK. Regardless, the trip took 2 hours and I arrived at 8am.

It costs 25 to use the slipway at the marina, which includes your parking and trailer storage costs. However the berthing office doesn't open until 8am and the last staff leave around 7pm, so you would be unable to launch/recover your boat outside these times. 
Upon my arrival, a member of staff kindly showed me where the slipway was, but as it was only an hour after low water he advised waiting a couple of hours for the tide to come in. I challenged this, as the slip is described as full tidal access not 1/2 tidal and he didn't offer a reasonable explanation, just that it would be easier to wait. I think this advice is probably more pertinent for  boats with a much bigger draft than Quest (0.4m). When I inspected the slipway there was ample water to launch my boat and didn't appear muddy. Another member of staff from SYH has advised me that there is a yellow line now painted at the lower end of the slipway and if the water isn't covering this, launching is discouraged. 

The slipway is very steep, and SYH has a cable and pulley system operating on the slipway. Essentially this entails a 50m long wire with an eyelet on each end which passes through a pulley block which is anchored into the ground at the top of the slipway. The idea is you attach one end of wire to the car towball which is on flat ground and the other end to the trailer on the steep slipway. You then reverse back in the car gently lowering your boat down the slip until it is in the water, the main advantage being your vehicle stays on flat ground and doesn't struggle for traction. 

Unfortunately, there are a couple of significant problems with this system for the single handed sailor:

*The slipway is so steep and the wire so long that when your lowering your boat down the slipway you can't see it.

*you have to walk 100m whenever you want to check progess on your boat down the slipway.

* If you have no one to guide the trailer down the slipway, your boat can quite easily end up
off course and hitting the metal wall that run along both sides of the slipway.

*You have to guess when your boat is near the edge of the water if you don't want to get your trailer bearings wet.

All 4 of the aforementioned things happened to me, despite locking out the jockey wheel straight the boat still went off course and went into the wall, despite counting paces up the slipway the trailer bearings still ended up getting wet. A much better option for the single handed sailor is to leave the car at the top of the slipway and use the trailer winch and strap to lower the boat down the slipway or use a 4wd car to launch the boat as you normally would.

2 hours after arrival (I need to drastically cut down my rigging/launch time) Quest was
motoring out the SYH channel into the Orwell. I headed up river with a favorable tide and the wind on my stern. 

Dylan winter makes the comparison of the Orwell as the River Hamble of the East Coast and I can see why. There is so much more to see on the Orwell than the wash, old traditional boats, new sailing yachts, classic barges, motorboats and more the effort of the journey was finally paying off.  Hundreds of moorings line the shores of the Orwell, many of them free, I'm sure you could pick one up for lunch and maybe the night. Although the anchoring possibilities are also good but probably better in the River Stour away from the moorings.  

I continued downwind and sailed under the imposing Orwell bridge which carries the A14 towards the container port of felixstowe. I had made better time than I had anticipated up the river so started to beat back upwind against the tide.  Progress was slow despite short taking outside the main channel to keep out the worst of the tide, but it was enjoyable nonetheless but after an hour or so the sails came down and the motor went on so I could nip back into SYH at  a reasonable time. 

I would certainly recommend the Orwell as worth a visit and I will certaintly be going back, I just hope I can work out how to use the slipway!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Sailing on Rutland Water in 38C

As the post title suggest, it was a hot one! 38C  fas been by far the hottest day of the year
so far but a Easterly F3 - F4 took the edge off the heat on Rutland Water and made for some fantastic sailing conditions. 

I enjoyed a  leisurely downwind sail on the north arm of Rutland water in the barmy conditions. Despite wearing shorts and t-shirt and the factor 50 suncream, I felt like  I was sailing in front of a fan heater. After a lunch of fresh pasta at anchor, I jumped in and went for a swim. 

I had the opportunity to try out my lazy jacks, which I have decided are one of the best modifications I have made to the rigging to date, it is so much easier to handle the mainsail on the water, I wonder why I have never fitted them to my previous boats. 

I tried to get some video footage detailing some of the modifications on Quest but the audio of the GoPro is poor in its waterproof case and I think I am going to have to film something on the shore instead. 

The wind picked up later in the afternoon to a solid Force 4, I didn't reef and purposefully pushed Quest as hard as I could with full sail whilst going to windward. She heals over but not so much that the cockpit takes on water, the windward keel breaks clear of the water and then Quest luffs into the wind. Much as I expected, although a game did ensue, sailing with the keel out the water for as long as I could!

Monday, 8 June 2015

First sail on the sea

In my previous post I mentioned that my plan was to take Quest on Rutland water a couple more times before going out on the sea. However a chance look at the tides for Fosdyke and an ideal forecast tempted me to have a go. 

Fosdyke is the nearest coastal slipway to my house, unfortunately its not the ideal location for a second sail on a small boat, as I have previously written about here. The tidal streams can run upto 7 knots on the Welland and the slipway can only be used at HW. 

Due to it being my first outing and the associated risks I knocked together the following brief  plan:

    Sunrise 0442 / Sunset 2113

    Tide times at Tabs head:  
    HW 0749 7.3m
    LW 1536 0.9m
    HW 2015 7.1m

   Weather Forecast: 
   8 - 10mph S backing to SSE 14mph at 1400 Sunny 20C

   * Leave at 0800 from fosdyke slip
   * Arrive at black buoy by 1100 (Avg. speed 2.7kn)
   * anchor at clay hole from 1100 - 1200
   * 1230 head NE towards Boston Deeps
   * 1500 Turn for home
   * leave black buoy no later than 1830
   * Arrive Fosdyke slipway by 2030

I pleased to report my passage plan was successful, it was however a long day, 15 hours from leaving home to arriving back. None the less, it was enjoyable. I have wanted to get out sailing on the wash for at least the last 3 years and it feels great to fore fill an ambition. 

Below is some notes from the log for the day:

0650 left home
0810 left fosdyke slipway
0940 past tabs head (avg speed 4.2 kn)
1020 Refueled engine. 1 liter lasted 8nm
1039 anchored in clay hole at 4.2m
1213 past foxtrot buoy
1245 past echo buoy, sailing towards scullridge buoy (60 T)
1357 Turning back to home. Bearing 69 T at range of  0.86nm  from Scullridge buoy
1433 past echo buoy
1500 past foxtrot
1531 anchor set in clay hole, wind speed increased to 14 mph
1751 left clayhole for fosdyke slipway
1930 Arrived fosdyke slipway
2006 enough water to remove boat
2200 arrived home

Gps log: Total distance: 26.3nm in 8hr 54 mins. Moving Avg: 3.3kn

I am very much learning as I go, in relation to navigation. I know my log isn't textbook by any means, I should include course, wind strength, wind direction and position whenever I make an entry. But these notes are useful for me! Looking back, most used items included GPS, compass, binoculars, echosounder and chart. I also overestimated how long it would take to do complete the 8nm leg from slipway to open water, I allowed 3 hours at 2.7kn but I actually did it in 2 1/2 hours with an avg speed closer to 4 kn. 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Quest is back on the water!

My last update on Quest was back in February, Since then a lot of work has been
happening on the boat including:

* center of cabin fiber glassed
* frames and boards made for berths and epoxyed
* all interior fittings sealed and through bolted
* main hatch converted to take watertight lewmar hatch 
* inside cabin painted
* all  new deck fittings which were sealed and through bolted into place
* hull and deck painted
* new running rigging and pop rivets renewed on fittings
* rigging modifications (tiller tamer, reefing lines, topping lift, cockpit bags, compass bracket ,etc)
* 12v electrics installed (50ah battery, charger, led lighting, aux socket, voltmeter, vhf, echosounder)
* outboard motor service

Whilst it was never my intention to write regular updates on the progress on the boat, I have let the blog stagnate recently. So sorry about that! However the good news is that Quest is back on the water.

A "float test' and outboard run was undertaken a couple of days ago and confirmed that not a drop of water leaked into the bilge (horay!) and the outboard worked perfectly.  Yesterday I sailed Quest for the first time in nearly 2 years on Rutland Water, which was fantastic. All her modifications worked better than expected and I already have much more confidence in the little voyager 14. 

I will aim to get a post on the blog detailing the aforementioned modifications at some point soon.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

RYA Dinghy Cruising Videos

Following on from the RYA Dinghy Show, they seam keen as ever to encourage dinghy cruising having released videos on the talks from the show. Enjoy. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

RYA Dinghy Show 2015

In March I was fortunate enough to go to the 2015 RYA Dinghy show at Alexandra Palace, I have been previous years but this year has been the most enjoyable yet as there was a particular focus on dinghy cruising.  There was loads to see and do. 

A segregated area of the show refereed to as the  dinghy cruising corridor included a stand by the Dinghy Cruising Association featuring Roger Barns boat Avel Dro, having read Rogers book "The Dinghy Cruising Companion - Tales and Advice from Sailing a Small Open Boat''  it was really good to meet Roger in person and chat to him about the DCA. I also met a couple of other DCA members and hope to join them on some rallies in Quest when she is finished!

Also featured in the Cruising Corridor was Hafren, a 16 foot wayfarer which sailed around the UK in a record time of 32 days. I met the skippers Jeremy Warren and Phillip Kirk who were very enthusiastic about dinghy cruising and more ambitious passages in small open boats, coining the term 'adventure sailing' to describe such trips. 

I also had the opportunity to speak to Ralph Roberts who sailed his wayfarer from London to Helsinki. But if all that wasn't enough I also got the opportunity to listen in to some talks from the above sailors, seeing how they had modified there boats and listening to there experiences was very informative, I hope that other listeners were as inspired as I was to take to the water and see where your boat takes you.