Windy Weather

I have just got back from a few days down on our boat. We hadn’t been there since before our month away on the continent so we felt we should go and check it out. We went down last Wednesday which, after a cloudy start and some rain on the journey turned out to be a continuation of the recent heat-wave.

There were one or two little jobs to do – not least mend the sea-toilet, which had acquired a small leak on the inlet valve (clean water I hasten to add!). First we had to find the boat as we had been told by the marina that they might have to move it.  (You may recall we had given up our marina berth as we were intending to leave the boat in France. You can read the sorry tale of that adventure here.). Out first point of call was the Office to discover where they had put the boat; we were told it was still in the same place and we can probably stay there. This was good news as it would be a nuisance having to look for it every time we visit! Hubby then set to mending the loo.

That night the wind got up and it hardly let up over the next four days! There were a few lulls but it was also very squally and we had some thunder. Nobody much was going sailing and nor did we. The people in the boat next to us sat it out as well – they were supposed to be off on holiday! Fortunately there wasn’t a great deal of rain and it was mostly warm, just very windy.

So what did we do? Well we couldn’t do any varnishing as we couldn’t be sure it would dry before it rained (we did get some and it frequently looked as if it might even when it didn’t). We read a lot, books, magazines, etc. I wrote a short story for my next Writer’s Group meeting, we played cards a bit, went for a few walks. We had taken our watercolours with us and both did a bit of dabbling. I just did a couple of little scribbly sketches, nothing worth sharing! We also visited the Burnham Art Trail which began at the weekend and lasts for a week. We didn’t see it all but I was a little disappointed as I didn’t think it was quite as good as last year; I’m sure there were more open studios then but even so it was an enjoyable day out.

Today of course, because we were coming home, it was a wonderful day. Our neighbouring boat was finally able to get away for their holiday. It would have been a great day to go out for a sail but sadly we had to couldn’t stay any longer as we have things to do tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll go again in a few weeks time and go for a sail then, after all there is still the varnishing to do.

Sorry!

Sorry, no proper post today. Having been very busy publishing ‘Simply Elfje’ before taking a break to go sailing I am now spending all my time compiling the magazine that I edit twice a year for a sailing association we belong to. The Spring/Summer issue should be out around now, so I’m having to prioritize – I must get the magazine done. Then maybe I can concentrate on issuing the e-book version of ‘Simply Elfje’ – I promise you it will be worth the wait!

The Best Laid Plans…

Barbican 33 yachtMy regular readers will know that I have been away for a couple of weeks. The plan was that we would take our sailing boat, a Barbican 33 called ‘Red Dawn IV’ (a 33ft family cruising yacht pictured) across to Calais, where we would get the mast removed and stowed along the cabin top before entering the French canals. We were intending to leave the boat in Lille until after our return from our forthcoming classic road race bike rally in Spain next month. Then we would return to the yacht, take it through the Belgian canals into Holland where we planned to leave it over the coming winter.

So we went, via Ramsgate and Dover, to Calais. As we went through the swing bridge into the marina we passed two boats coming out on their way to the canal entrance. One was a motorboat from Ramsgate, the other was a yacht crewed by a group of young Australians, who had also had their mast removed. We booked our mast removal and began the preparations for doing this. We took the sails off the boat and I hoisted my husband up the mast so he could remove the Radar dome and some of the ‘yachting string’ ready for the mast to be lifted off the next day. That night the two boats we had passed returned to Calais.

They had paid for their inland waterways licences and as mentioned the Australian foursome had paid to have their mast removed. They had been allowed to lock through into the canal and travelled a couple of miles up the canal to the first bridge where they came to a standstill. After some time and several phone calls they discovered that the canal bridges were all closed and they could not proceed down the canal. Nowhere had this been explained or the information displayed. The Australians had paid – a lot of money I might add – for a month on the canals, to get to the south of France where they planned to sell the boat before returning home to Australia. They had also done thorough research about their trip and nowhere had this closure come up. It was not mentioned on the French inland waterways website.

After many phone calls over several hours the girl in the marina office in Calais was eventually able to confirm that this was in fact the case and the canal would not open for another 10 or 11 days. The motorboat couple had only paid for a week (and that was expensive enough!) so there was no way they could get into the canals. They decided to return to the UK and try to get their money back since they had been sold a useless licence.

We considered our options but at the end of the day decided that we hadn’t got sufficient time to wait and then get to our chosen destination. So it was up the mast again for my husband to replace all the detached components and on with the sails once more – we too would return home. Meanwhile the Australians had little option but to try to continue. They chose to motor up to Dunkirk and enter the canal system there. With no mast and sails and a fairly rough sea they had a lumpy journey but last we heard they had made it safely and were in the canals. We wish them good luck for their onward journey.

We were annoyed and disappointed but at least we hadn’t removed our mast and paid for our licence. We crossed back to Dover and then on to Ramsgate where we met up with the aforementioned motor-boaters to lick our wounds. Here strong winds blowing in the wrong direction kept us in harbour for several days before we could finally make our return to our home port of Bradwell in Essex, where we had cancelled our marina berth. We had to phone ahead to see if we could have a berth for the season after all and fortunately they were able to oblige (we have been there many years and they know us well). We then had to wait a couple of days until our son could come to pick us up as we had no car there – we weren’t intending to return! It’s a good thing we had the folding bikes so we could at least get out and about while we waited.

It seems that the French left hand doesn’t know what its right-hand is doing. Why on earth did they sell people canal licences and let them into a canal that wasn’t open? As I say, at least we had not involved ourselves in this wasted expense, but I wonder what real hope the couple on the motorboat have of getting their money back. Our plans for later in the summer are now completely upset and we shall have to do a lot of re-thinking. To be fair though, we did have a couple of lovely, relaxing weeks away on the boat, even if the WIFI was frequently unreliable, but then it is good to have time away from that too!

Sail or Sale

I have probably mentioned before that we have a sailing yacht. It is a Barbican 33 designed by the late Maurice Griffiths, a naval architect and long-term editor of Yachting Monthly magazine. Her name is Red Dawn IV, the previous owner having also owned Red Dawn’s I, II and III. It is considered unlucky to change the name so we kept it. She has been pictured on this blog before but here she is again:

Barbican 33 yacht

We have both been sailing for many years. I learned to sail in dinghies as a teenager and my husband spent some of his childhood holidays on board his uncle’s yacht. After we were married we lived on the Essex coast where we first owned a Tideway sailing dinghy and then, when the children came along, progressed to family sailing cruisers. There were a few years that we didn’t have a boat, when we had moved inland due to my husband’s job and while the children were growing up and into other things, but eventually the bug bit again.

We have owned several yachts since returning to boating and have owned Red Dawn IV for about 12 years now I think. We have always kept our boats on the East Coast, despite now living a fair distance away in the north-west midlands. We love the sailing there, it is less crowded (and cheaper) than the south coast and it is handy for crossing to Europe where we have enjoyed the French and Belgian coast and cruising the Dutch inland waterways.

Many people carry on sailing until they reach a ripe old age, but by then their sailing activities slow down and they struggle to keep up with the boat’s maintenance. Indeed, go to any marina and you will find a quite ‘graveyard’ corner where boats go to die, their owners no longer fit enough to sail and the boats in unsellable condition. The longer they lie there the more unlikely it is that they will be sold as they deteriorate even more. Anxious to avoid that fate for Red Dawn IV, a couple of years ago my husband decided it was time to sell the yacht while we were still fit and active, after all we are not getting any younger. Besides we had other interests we could move on to and we could satisfy our wanderlust with a motor home. We put the boat on the market.

The boat is in excellent condition and is maintained and equipped to a high specification, but it didn’t sell. In with plan B. This was to sail the boat through the French Canals to the Mediterranean, where we would leave it somewhere near where our daughter lives in Spain. We took the boat off the market, checked out some marinas and fully prepared the boat for this trip. However, due to various circumstances, not least the fact that we couldn’t find a marina that we felt offered what we were looking for bearing in mind how infrequently we would be able to visit, that plan went by the board.

We had given up our home marina berth and its annual fee in preparation for the trip so now we decided to put the boat on the market once more. To avoid the costly expense of having it put back in the water and pay a monthly, rather than annual fee, we left the boat high and dry on the hard. This time we really would sell it! With the boat out of the water we did not sail at all last year but enjoyed several trips away in our motor home instead, including a longer trip for about six weeks in the autumn taking in France and Spain and able to visit further afield than is possible when you are confined to waterways.

Again the boat didn’t sell and we are now on Plan C. We have taken the boat off the market once more and have decided to keep her a bit longer. We are returning to the idea of taking her into the French canals, but not through to the Med. Having spoken to friends who juggle their time between boat and motor home, often leap-frogging the two around together on the continent, it seems like a tempting solution. We now plan to return the boat to the water and cross over to France in the spring. We are no longer interested in heroic sea voyages  so we will cruise around the French and Belgian canals and perhaps into Holland, overwintering wherever we chose and then returning to do the same the following year. We will follow the boat around with the motor home and also use the motor home to visit other locations and to cross into Spain for visits there. At least that’s the plan.

Busy Boy

Busy boy,
sailing on Grandpa’s boat,
playing pirates,
fishing for crabs;
to tired to eat dinner.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We are down on our boat for a few days. Our son, daughter-in-law and grandson are with us, taking him sailing for the first time during this warm and sunny spell of weather.

Sea Sprites

Sea sprites chuckle and play
in the foamy bow-wave spray
pushed aside by our boat
as she steadily ploughs her way
through the waves.

Boat

The curving sails
gently cradle
the breeze that blows
our boat along.

No Time

Printing off photos
for the sailing club competition —
no time for words today.

Another Party

Getting in the Christmas Spirit;
another party tonight.
Sailing Club ‘Bring and Sshare’ buffet.
Sausage roll mass production underway!

Windswept

Windswept, dishevelled and weary
we brought the boat back to port
having tested the new wind-vane steering gear,
making sure it works as it ought.
The day was cold and misty
til we tied up against the pontoon,
then the sun smiled down on us briefly;
but went in again all too soon.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For the non-sailors amongst my readers, in simple terms, a wind-vane steering gear is a clever gadget to enable the boat to steer itself. It is fixed to the back of the boat and consists of a wind-vane sticking up in the air with a secondary rudder down in the water. The pressure of the wind pushing on the vane operates the rudder in the water and by means of a system of strings an pulleys attached to the steering wheel or in our case, tiller, causes the wheel (or tiller) to adjust the main rudder.

The system is used by single-handed sailors to allow time for sleep, preparing meals etc. and is useful on long passages to relive the time spent at the helm. It is not usually used for playing around in the river as we did to test it.

My husband has always been fascinated by this steering system and spent yesterday, a lovely warm and sunny day, fixing it temporarily to the boat so that we could test it…today…a cold and misty day…. He is now removing it again to make a few adjustments and will fix it permanently when the boat is hauled out for the winter.

We do have an electronic ‘autopilot’ but this can be unreliable when used for long periods, cannot cope well with rough conditions and needs auxiliary power. The wind-vane system on the other hand uses the wind, which is free, it copes well in rough conditions but doesn’t work well when there is no wind!

The next step will be to fix up the autopilot to the system so that in combination we can get the benefit of the autopilot’s link to the GPS while the autopilot only needs to operate the lighter wind-vane, which in turn will operate the heavier boat rudder – at least that’s how I, a non-engineer, understand it!

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