Channel Islands’ Sail

Joining Judith and I on this trip were experienced sailor friends Andy and Nicola. Our original plan was to leave Shamrock Quay at high water at 0300 on Saturday 2 August for Braye in Alderney. However, the Friday evening forecast was for Force 4-5 SW winds developing to possibly Force 7 overnight so we decided to stay put and wait out the passing front.

Leg 1 – Saturday 2 August: Shamrock Quay to Cherbourg

The weather cleared up a little by morning. The wind continued to be south-westerly  so we decided to make for easier sailing by heading to Cherbourg instead, departing Shamrock Quay at about 1300 for the sail to Hurst Point in the western end of the Solent arriving there at about 1700, some one and a half hours after local high water.

As the wind was a strong south-westerly and the tide ebbing, rather than negotiate the Needles Channel we took the more cautious route via the North Channel and skirted  west around The Shingles and Dolphin Bank and headed on a constant course south under sunny but windy conditions. Conditions improved once out of the Solent.

Pleasant sailing south past the Needles via the North Channel.
Pleasant sailing south past the Needles via the North Channel.

All sails – the main, staysail and genoa – were fully unfurled and driving the boat at about 6.5 knots though a swell of about 2 metres on a starry night. When helming became tedious, we engaged the autopilot. The ebb tide continued until about 2100 and an hour later we started to cross the main shipping lanes pretty well at right angles as required. The secondary laptop chart plotter using OpenCPN connected to the ship’s WiFi to receive the ship’s instrument data, including AIS information, showed precise information of closest point of approach (CPA) and arrival times for the numerous ships first travelling west then east via the traffic separation zone. Two or three ships passed silently and almost invisibly at about 3 cables in front of us and a couple a further distance behind. The AIS receiver – at least with passenger ferries and vessels greater than 300 tonnes – made collision avoidance anxiety-free.

Over the 60 nm journey from The Shingles to Cherbourg, we were pushed some 12 nm east by the flood tide until 0200 then west by the ebb to eventually arrive at Cherbourg at about 0800 on Sunday 3 August. Our southerly course to steer was calculated allowing for the tides using Neptune optimization software and backed up by manual calculations and proved to be spot on.

With irregular sleep overnight and with a couple of crew suffering a bout or two of seasickness, Sunday was a day of rest with a little sight-seeing and a nice restaurant dinner in preparation for an early morning departure for Alderney on Monday.

Leg 2 – Monday 4 August: Cherbourg to Braye

Departure was at 0500 amid sunshine and light west by north winds As we were heading west, the motor was called for. The tides were approaching the neaps and, in the light winds, the Alderney Race was somewhat benign. Nevertheless, we steered a more northerly course to avoid being ‘sucked down’ by the ebb towards Guernsey and Jersey by a tide running at about 3-4 kts. [Nine knot tidal currents and dangerous overfalls are not uncommon in this area]. We passed Cap de la Hague at about 0700 and continued until we picked up the leading lights into Braye Harbour at around 0900.  A departing yachtsman kindly indicated that there was a free mooring buoy ‘up front’ which we promptly aimed for and secured.

Can you see the leading light now, Judith?
Can you see the Braye leading light now, Judith?

It was another fine sunny day with light winds and it just happened to be Alderney Week with loads of festivities, timed very nicely for Andy’s birthday.  I took the opportunity of testing my new 3D Tender and rowed the crew to the dinghy pontoon.  We toured the area on foot and stumbled across a carnival procession, including a fair number of pirates. We had hoped to book a celebratory birthday dinner but without success so we returned to Baybreeze for some home cooking – courtesy of the birthday boy!

The water was very clear so I took the opportunity to don flippers, goggles and snorkel to check the hull below the waterline, not seen since Baybreeze was launched last November. Although the hull looked relatively clean and free of marine growth, to my surprise, the propeller was covered in centimetre-thick carbonaceous growth. This was easily removed with a sharp knife over several dives. A nicely done job: a cleared propeller should give us better fuel economy.

Moored in Braye Harbour
Moored in Braye Harbour, Alderney

Leg 3 – Tuesday 5 August: Braye to St Peter Port

Catching a ride on the westward tide again meant an early 0615 departure. Rather than proceeding around the north and east side of Alderney, we decided to head west and south through The Swinge as the weather was calm. Nevertheless, swirling overfalls were clearly visible. Sometimes I had the impression that we were not moving at all, when in fact we were traveling at 5 knots!

Negotiating The Swinge on a calm day.
Negotiating The Swinge on a calm day. The guanoed island in the centre is Les Etac, a nesting site for gannets.

We arrived at St Peter Port, Guernsey, at 1045 but had to wait for half an hour motoring while trying to maintain a fixed position as the tide level rose to give Baybreeze sufficient clearance over the sill at the marina entrance and to allow yachts leaving sufficient clearance. A half dozen other boats were in a similar situation. We were finally in the marina and, as is common in this marina, we rafted alongside another boat.

View of St Peter Port from the fuelling berth.
View of St Peter Port from the fueling berth. The square rigger, ‘Jantye’, is at centre right.

Leg 4 – Wednesday 6 August: St Peter Port to Herm and Sark

During our stay here we received a weather forecast update which indicated that a deepening low (the remnants of hurricane Bertha) was developing and predicted to reach Force 8 in the next few days, so we altered plans, shortening the trip by a day to avoid the worst.

Depart St Peter Port 1330 arriving at Bishop’s Cove, Herm, at 1520 for a late lunch while anchored.

Departed 1645, arriving at Dixcart Bay, Sark, at about1845. A suitable anchorage was found amongst several other anchored yachts and we enjoyed dinner on board as the sun set. Shortly afterwards, we looked round to see  the square-rigged Jantye appear on the horizon. We were then surprised to hear Vangelis’s “Conquest of Paradise” and looked round to see which of our neighbouring boats was being antisocial but then realised that this was Jantye announcing her arrival.  What a spectacle! It was like being on a movie set.

The wind  piped up overnight and I felt Baybreeze was a little too close to cliffs for my liking so I slept sporadically, waking to check whether the anchor was holding. Fortunately, it remained secure.

The next morning, started with a ritual swim followed by a scrub around the boat’s waterline to remove slime and then a climb up the hill for a better view of the bay.

Leg 5 – Thursday 7 August: Sark to Braye

The return from Sark to Braye was fairly uneventful with pleasant, sunny conditions. We departed around 1400 and soon sighted a pod of porpoises swimming across our path some 200 m ahead. They soon dived and reappeared some 200 m astern. We arrived at Braye at around 1900.

Leg 6 – Friday 8 August: Braye to Lymington

We departed at 0530 in glassy calm conditions and motor-sailed to about 15 nm of the Fairway buoy, near the Needles Channel, when the wind picked up and squalls headed our way at around 1600. We passed Hurst Point at 1700 (LW+2) arriving at Lymington Berthon Marina at 1845 where Andy had sensibly reserved a berth in advance. As we were arriving from Alderney, outside the European Union, I contacted the Yachtline to clear customs and filled out and posted form C1331 Part 2.

Leg 7 – Saturday 9 August: Lymington to Shamrock Quay

Departed 1300; downwind sail with genoa only to Southampton Water then gybed up. Arrived Shamrock Quay 1630.

Summary

Our guests, Andy and Nicola,  were purists in using traditional navigation methods with little recourse to electronic navigation aids – pilot books, charts, tide tables, hand-held compass for bearings, triangulation, etc, landmark identification and leading lines – oh, and the occasional GPS position for added security! All this while I continued to have one beady eye on the chartplotter!

All in all, a lovely trip. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, except perhaps on the return Channel crossing  when we had to motor under wet, windy conditions in the Needles Channel. Total distance 705 km or 380 nm. Eight night hours sailing. 36 engine hours.

 

 

Windlass Woes

Not much sailing activity over the past month, I’m afraid, mainly maintenance. The windlass finally packed up. The motor would turn but the clutch wouldn’t engage no matter how much it was tightened. I took it off its mountings and disassembled it. Water ingress in the casing meant it was half filled with a nice brown oil-seawater emulsion. Once the emulsion was removed, it was clear that the pinion gear (the gear attached to the electric motor drive shaft) was totally stripped of any cogs! Also, another larger gear had cogs damaged by metal debris.

A quick search over the internet indicated that the windlass, a Simpson Lawrence Sprint 1500, was no longer manufactured. Would I be able to get parts? Or would I need to install a new windlass with a different footprint – a much bigger undertaking. Fortunately, SL Spares Ltd based near Glasgow airport came to the rescue. They were able to refurbish the windlass replacing all bearings, the pinion and secondary gear and the motor.  It now works beautifully with far less noise.

On the recommendation of fellow Island Packet owners, I decided to varnish the solid teak tops that surround the cockpit with International Woodskin. The washboards were also done. It seems to do a wonderful job and brings out the wood grain. The canvas bimini cover had to be restitched and a broken perspex cockpit engine instrument cover repaired.

Last week, I took the opportunity take Baybreeze out single-handed for a couple of days to test the windlass. I left at high tide about midday on Tuesday 16 July and arrived at Osborne Bay a few hours later where I anchored and remained so for a couple of days. I decided to relocate once in the early stage for fear that I may have misjudged the fall of the tide. The minimum depth turned out to be about 0.9m and with a mud bottom and moderate wave activity I figured the location was safe enough. Another yacht anchored nearby didn’t fare so well.

agroundOsborne201407

However, having relocated, the anchor watch alarm on my smart phone sounded as high tide approached indicating that the anchor wasn’t holding and the boat was slowly drifting. Ah! Not quite enough chain let out! Once another 10m of chain was let out, the anchor held nicely.  (Rule: chain required = 4 x max water depth). Now feeling secure, it was time for a few zzzzzzZZZZ…. During the time spent there, I had no success in fishing but enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the bay. A lovely place.

The final image shows a nice simple  jig that relieves the load on the windlass while at anchor.

I returned on the morning of Thursday 18 July with the fair tide and arrived at Shamrock Quay marina just after midday. I was tempted to berth without assistance by decided to err on the side of caution and called for assistance from the marina. I appeared to be in for a good ‘landing’ but, as the bow line was taken and made secure, the stern drifted away adding a slight complication which was soon sorted. My skills and confidence are improving! The trick, of course, is to make sure the berthing assistant takes and makes secure the stern line first as I can always control the bow via the bow thruster. The stern is always more problematic. In reversing, there is a marked stern-to-port movement due to prop-walk.

Stay tuned for the next installment – a week-long cruise to the Channel Islands!

Island Packet Cowes Rally 2014

IP Cowes Rally 2014 (1)A gathering at the Island Packet Cowes Rally, 16-18 May 2014

Judith and I, together with our invited guests, Nicola and Andy, departed Shamrock Quay 1100 on Friday 16 May for a leisurely sail with a mainly fair tide towards Cowes for the start of the Island Packet Cowes Rally 2014. A VHF radio call to Cowes Yacht Haven gave us our assigned berth. As we arrived, smiling faces and helping hands were there to greet and welcome us.

No sooner had we settled down when we were invited to celebrate, on the Vivamus pontoon, Carol’s birthday with bubbly and cake! The sight of all the Island Packets was one to behold.  Amongst the participants were the Island Packets Amadeus, Andante, Baybreeze, Bounce Back II, Hecamede, Island Girl, Island Swan, Jess, Lady Cressida, Seraph of Hamble, Sonar Too, Starfish and Vivamus. All were beautifully maintained.

The informal evening drinks and hot buffet dinner were held at the Corinthian Yacht Club, preceded by a number of welcoming speeches by the organizers, Celia and Colin. As a newcomer, early in the proceedings, I was, needless to say, singled out for special attention! Quite predictably, dinner conversations revolved around travels, boat maintenance tips and jokes!

We all met up the following morning with the intention of racing around a few marker buoys as was the tradition. However, as the wind proved fickle, several plans were mooted – amongst them was to motor sail eastwards with the tide to Osbourne Bay (NE of Isle of Wight) or beyond, to anchor for a leisurely lunch and then to return with the afternoon tide. We followed a small group to Osbourne Bay.

When all boats had returned to the marina, it was prize giving time! But prizes for what? There was no race! It was a credit to the organizers in devising token prizes for almost every boat and quite a few individuals. There was one for the boat with a crew with the oldest combined age as well as for the youngest; there was one for the newcomer (myself); one for the youngest individual, and the youngest individual to drink champagne; one for the most number of Island Packets owned by a single individual, and so on.  All delivered with great gusto, humour and fun.

The evening was spent at a formal dinner at the New Holmwood Hotel overlooking the Solent just as the sun was setting. The food and  service were excellent and the speeches entertaining and informative. Our table was graced by an expatriate American looking to gain some sailing experience on before, possibly, buying an Island Packet.

The next day a scheduled group photo was taken, one while standing on the Cowes Yacht Haven balcony and the other taken from the balcony with the marina and its Island Packets in the background. After thanking the organizers for their tireless and meticulous efforts and bidding farewells, one by one the boats departed on their homeward journey.

Baybreeze departed Cowes at about 1100 hours for another day’s sailing, then finally anchored in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River for an extended lunch before berthing at Buckler’s Hard for the night. We set off the next morning with a fair tide for the short hop to Shamrock Quay.

[Epilogue: The author would like to convey a very special thanks to the organizers Celia and Colin (in particular Celia) for their dedicated efforts in making the rally a great success. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were particularly touched when, having made it known to the organizers that one of us suffered from a gluten intolerance, gluten-free cake was specially prepared and offered. Not only that, we now have the recipe!]

 

 

 

Hiley Send-Off

Len_on_Scallywag_20140501
Len departing on Scallywag II, 01 May 2014

I had marked 1 May 2014 in my diary to sail out, possibly single-handed, from Baybreeze’s base at Shamrock Quay, to Hurst Point at the western end of The Solent accompanying Len Hiley with his boat Scallywag II as he set off to Plymouth for the start of the Jester Challenge. I went down to the boat a few days earlier to do a few chores, one being trying to figure out why the shower drain pump wasn’t working. [The pump appears fine – somehow the pump was ony receiving about 1v instead of the required 12v, so there must be source of high resistence, possibly due to corrosion, somewhere along the power cable. This is not critical since, as a temporary measure, I could disconnect the drain outlet and let the shower water drain into the bilge and the bilge pump would automatically take over].

In the meantime, I was mulling over whether I would be able to manage the promised journey single-handed as it was my first. Len, with his boat located a kilometer or so downstream, had planned to leave at 12 noon at high water so as to travel with a fair tide. The weather was fair though overcast. I spent the morning preparing the boat and when 1100 hours approached the decision had to be made. I was almost prepared to forgo the trip but I knew a quick call to Len would help me decide. Len sensed something amiss and immediately said: “Are you a little anxious, Cecil?”. That did it! Perfect! I acknowledged that to be the case and, with it, immediately said: “Yes, I’ll be there!”. It was now or never!

I had been preparing for months to be self-sufficient. I had a personal locator beacon attached to my high performance lifejacket and a portable VHF/DSC radio (fully charged!) handy. If I were to fall overboard, I’d have a good chance of being rescued before hypothermia set in, etc, etc. The boat was also in good shape. With preparations made, I had to decide on how best to manoeuvre out of Baybreeze’s marina berth single-handed. Baybreeze, being a long-keeler, had a bow thruster to help. The manoeuver wasn’t the best since, in reverse, the stern prop-walked to port a little which put the boat in an awkward position. With gentle persuasion, I managed to coax her out and was underway.

I caught up with Len as we entered the Solent. The breeze was a light nor-wester and we both tacked a number of times staying as best we could in the deeper parts of the Solent where the tides would be running fastest. I set the mainsail and staysail initially. The wind was sufficiently light to warrant deploying the genoa but when I tried I discovered there was insufficient scope on the furling line as there were too many turns on the furling drum. I then set Baybreeze on autopilot, headed for the bow and rejigged the genoa furling line. I was able to deploy all sail on the final tack as we headed to Hurst Point.

We arrived at around 1700 hours and dropped anchor in the shallows in the bay on the eastern side within 30m of each other and about 150m offshore. [I monitored the depth below keel through spring low water where it registered about 1.1m – more than sufficient]. I invited Len to join me for dinner on my boat after we tidied up on our respective boats. Len said he would do so by inflating his dinghy and rowing across. When the time came his dinghy pump proved defective and so we decided to raft the boats together where they stayed for the night. After a pleasant dinner and conversation, lovely music, a nice rainbow, sunset and calm conditions we parted company at about 2230 hours.

It was my first time on Baybreeze at anchor so I was concerned as to how well the anchor would hold. Len assured me that he had anchored there many times before and that the ground was good. I set the anchor watch on my smartphone for deviations in excess of 100m (although I was only 150m offshore!). As the night progressed the wind picked up to a strong north-easterly and the mast and rigging were starting to howl noticeably. Every bang, scrape and rattle would not go unnoticed, particularly if it was different or unusual. I went on deck several times during the night to check that the anchor chain snubber I had deployed was doing its job in relieving the load on the windlass. I also kept checking the smartphone anchor watch for anchor drag regularly but it always was found to hold firmly. I had to try to put a stop to my overly-frequent monitoring and so set my smartphone alarm to wake me in an hour’s time. I was determined to get some sleep. The attempt failed. Eventually, out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep at about 0400 hours and woke at about 0700 hours. The anchor held nicely, even with the two boats rafted together. Soon after, Len joined me for porridge, a bagle and a coffee for breakfast. He hadn’t had much sleep either mainly because of the cold. His last Atlantic crossing began in August – this one was to be in May and a little colder.

The plan was for me to catch the rising fair tide back to Shamrock Quay at about 0800-0900 hours while Len would wait till around slack water before negotiating Hurst Point westward on his onward journey to Weymouth and beyond. We bid farewell and I gave Len (a fellow Australian) an Aussie boxing kangaroo flag as a parting gift. Len then de-rafted and anchored close by. I was set to go again single-handed. I had the engine started, removed the anchor snubber line and then, while at the helm, tried to engage the electric windlass to hoist the spade anchor. The windlass seemed to rotate, but the clutch wasn’t engaging. Damn! I should have serviced the windlass. It was next on my list! I went to the bow to investigate further. I tried using a winch handle as a manual override but that didn’t seem to work either. To pull the chain up by hand, I’d have to set the boat driving forward on autopilot to relieve the load before trying. And all this with a lee shore beckoning! Fortunately, Len, being close-by, offered to assist. He re-rafted and was soon at the bow trying to sort out the problem while I slowly powered the boat forward. He wiggled the chain whenever it got stuck until it was all in. “Just a little twist in the chain – you need to get yourself an anchor swivel”, he said. I set Baybreeze on autopilot, helped Len de-raft, and was off homeward.

My return passage to Shamrock Quay was along a very similar route to the one I took out. However, the NE wind had strengthened to a Force 4-5 and there were gales forecast east of Selsey Bill due to complicated developing lows. Running the genoa was out of the question. The journey back was fine but the preoccupying question I had now was ‘How would I manage single-handedly manoeuvring Baybreeze back to her berth?’ Preparation was the key. While motoring up Southampton Water on autopilot, I set fenders and mooring lines, three on each side with lines leading aft to the cockpit. As a precaution I called the marina office to ask for berthing assistance. The conditions were relatively benign with a head-on light breeze and no tide. It should be straightforward I persuaded myself. Paul was waiting to assist when I arrived. With the gentle help of the bow thruster and engine, she glided in beautifully. “What were you worried about? Perfect!”, Paul said. I was both relieved and delighted. What a lovely single-handed trip for a first-timer!

PS: Follow Len’s track and/or his blog at Adventures of Scallywag.