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!