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.