Wednesday, 22 August 2018

and then there was one.....part 2


The obvious first issue was to get the mast further away from the doghouse and minimise any damage. Easier said of course as whilst there was little wind, perhaps 4-8k there was a swell running of a metre or more which caused the mast to move up and down with some limb-snapping force. The mast was pivoting on the fairlead about 2 metres up from the heel with a similar amount in the water and the bulk suspended between the two. We managed after a lot of effort to slide the mast further out, hampered by shrouds, sheer poles, rigging etc and once clear of the 'house we were able to start on the next stage. It might be worth pointing out that when we'd hove to we'd done so under stays'l alone and on starb'd tack so the tiller was roped over to port. Also we habitually sail with the mizzen tied over to port as a) it gives easier access for us to the hatch and b)the mizzen sheet doesn't foul the wind vane. When the mast fell the tiller was thus out of the way the windvane was also spared as the mast fell to starb'd.
On deck. finally.
It became clear that we were not going to achieve much with the rigging in place and Bee grabbed the Felco wire cutters we'd had on board, unused, for the last 18 years. Nevertheless cutting though the wire, bright shiny steel, took two people considerable effort to do so. Cutting the running rigging a doddle of course but we still needed to separate the spars and sail from the mast if we were to manoeuvre the mast onto the deck. Each move had to be planned, spars had to be lashed to the boat before releasing for obvious reasons and once we had undone the bolts to split up the mast and spars we could do nothing about the latter trying to bash holes in the hull as we fought to get the mast on board using the main throat haly'd and tackles to get it to a position where we could safely lay it along the deck and turn our attention to the other danger. Obviously much lighter it nevertheless proved to be difficult as the sail was now soaked and holding water and the spars had managed to get between the self steerer rudder and the main rudder whilst the other end kept thumping up against the hull. Again the throat haly'd came into play and slowly, slowly we managed to get it aboard and on deck.
 
What was I thinking? We moved it further aft..

Now it all needed lashing down; the mast was moved to where we thought it would do least damage (wrongly as it happened as it protruded to far forward and the lumpy seas we were to encounter meant it would be periodically lifted and dropped, hard, onto the deck by waves coming aboard). Because the radome, blocks and vhf aerial would be in the way we needed to remove those items and get the shrouds off the mast too. Given the radome had been under water for several hours we had little hesitation with cutting the cables to it and the vhf. The sail locker was utilised for all the detritus we'd gathered, the sails being lashed securely on deck, solar panels removed and finally some 10 hours after it all began we realised we'd done as much as we could. We were exhausted of course and whilst we were about 60nm off the Icelandic coast neither of us had any hesitation about what we should do: sail south. No question at all – Iceland was close but we couldn't be sure how much damage we had sustained although we were pretty sure the hull was intact, the engine ran smoothly so no prop damage but repairs might be lengthy plus we had Toots to consider...and we know that area can be inhospitable later in the season, so we began to reverse our miles. Soon after the wind picked up and we marvelled at our luck – that it had been calm and not a gale; that we'd hove to on that tack not the other; that we'd bought those bolt croppers all those years back. I also cursed my stupidity at putting most of our comms on the mizzen, vhf, gps, radar, solar panels. As it happened whilst one panel was intermittently underwater we subsequently washed the circuit board with fresh water and both are still working, albeit with no where to site them. The gps still works and it will have a new home when repairs begin. The vhf uses the same aerial type as the ais so Bee switches cable ends depending upon which we need – a splitter is needed! The radome? Who knows at this stage. Perhaps the biggest casualties have been the very expensive doghouse extension we had made in the winter which used the mizzen as part of its structure and consequently was ripped apart when the mast fell and the simple rope safety rail that stretched between main and mizzen shrouds about a metre above deck and provided a very real mental and physical boost as we moved up and down the deck. The missing mast too as it had been used without thought as something to grab hold of or cling onto when things were lumpy. Now the cockpit seems very vulnerable, well no the cockpit is the same of course but we are very vulnerable. In an effort to make us feel a tad safer we ran a line from the mizzen horse to the doghouse, across the top and back down to the horse. It helped support the old cover we had but whilst it worked when we were sat down, moving across it involved either a limbo dance or going over the top. 
Water pipes instead of a mast..

Neither made you feel particularly safe and using the winches meant it would either catch your eyes or your neck so not the most user friendly change we had to make. We ended up propping the old cover up with water hose pipes that were not needed from our safety lines - not the most attractive of set ups but it worked to some extent and we were the only people who could see it of course.

Our hopes of getting back to Scotland in one go came to nowt as the wind pushed us ever further east and we were caught up in the currents around the Faeroes. A call to Torshavn Radio about forthcoming long term weather determined we should stop there and sit out the two days of light wind and stiff SW that were to follow. Explaining our situation and whether we needed to check in again was met with a request to hold on whilst he checked with customs and the very welcome answer that No as far as they were concerned we were still cleared. More good info followed on the currents and we turned and raced toward the very fjord, Ventsmanna, we had exited some days previously. Now of course surrounded by very thick fog we approached blind, radarless, but with the track of our way though the dogleg. Nothing was visible until breakers could be seen dimly some 50 metres away but, just as it did on the southern entrance , the fog began to clear as we entered the fjord proper and we made our rapid progress down toward the town and anchorage.
Troll's finger

After a couple of days rest and sorting out of various bits we made our way down to Miovagar and made our departure from there. We left about 1am on Mon July 16 with the hope of getting away from the coast and currents. Didn't really work like that of course but we plugged on under engine when the wind failed us before deciding to drift for the night. As luck would have it the tide changed soon after we stopped and we found ourselves heading north at well over 2 knots but little can be done in such a situation and tides do change. Eventually we closed the mainland even though the wind was now heading us and the tide had, once again albeit several days later, turned against us. We made it into Laxford July 19 around 5pm which it has to be said is not our favourite Loch but on this occasion it served perfectly: landlocked; good holding; not too deep and beautifully quiet.

The journey south along the mainland followed the usual; tidal gates, headwinds; some of the usual anchorages but a few we had either not used for yeas or had never used before until we made down to that old standby - Gigha. We've taken to using the southern most anchorage off the ferry overnight terminal as it is quiet and few, if any, boats use it. But this time, after checking the forecast we knew we needed to leave almost immediately if we were to stay ahead of the fronts heading our way. So we left within a few hours and sailed against a foul tide but with a favourable wind along the west coast of the Mull of Kintyre bound for Bangor where we eventually arrived around 5am the following morning. 
After several false starts we left Bangor around 10 on Aug 6th in the company of several boats from the nearby marina including a 50' Pilot Cutter. The day, wet, murky with a stiff headwind proved entertaining as we tacked with the cutter although they favoured long boards and we don't. Nevertheless as the day wore we began to think about where we might stop. The obvious place was Strangford Lough but it isn't ideal as a passage stop as it beset by very strong tides so timing is all and the anchorages are a long way up so we're not really that taken with the idea. We called up the cutter as they seem to have an alternative plan and they did - they were heading direct to Falmouth and we thought "You're on!" All that night and the following day we sailed south although we both had different tactics - they favoured getting closer to the Irish coast whereas we kept plugging on down the centre until we got south of Dublin and closed on Arklow. We then moved across to slide down inside the Arklow Bank and gradually the cutter caught up with us. By nightfall we were almost side by side, worryingly so at times and we were glad when whatever had caused their meanderings was sorted out and they squared away and were comfortably about 1/2 mile off us. I went down to rest only to be called up by a frantic Bee - the genny had collapsed and was flogging. At first she thought the sheet had come off the winch but it was worse than that. The heads'll are pulled out to the end of the bowsprit on a leathered ring called a traveller. You simply pull on a line and out the sail goes...well the line had broken and once we dropped the sail we hove to and set about roving a fresh line. In order to do this Bee has to don oilie trousers and a safety harness before grabbing the new line and sliding along the 3 metre bowsprit, running the line through shackle and onto the sheave and then back on board. Of course whilst this is happening the boat is rising and falling with the waves which were somewhere between 1-2 metres and the big waves would see her up to her knees in cold water... We came out of the hove to and hoisted the genny except it jammed and we realised the line had jammed in the sheave. Sail down, heave to and sort out the line and try again. It jams once more and this time we change the line and this time were successful and we can finally get moving again. All this had happened SE of Tusker Light, in pitch black and drizzle, where, again, tides are a major influence and again with rates in excess of 2 or 3 knots we had lost a fair bit of ground in the 2 hours spent trying to sort this out. The cutter, of course, had long gone.

Because we wanted to get back we opted to keep the full main up which was great for speed BUT it did mean we couldn't get the self-steerer to cope and ended up hand steering for most of the 77 hour journey from Bangor to the Helford. A brief stop over to see mates Nigel and Jude before a final amazing day back to Cawsand - sunshine, full main, genny and tops'l. 

Well for the moment we're back on the quay at Millbrook but not sure for how long. We've started work on the boat - the rigging is with a rigger to be replaced. We think the problem was caused by the guy who did the rigging years ago wrapped electrical tape around the wire before he served it and water got trapped leading to rust which is what actually caused the mast to fall. But many of the changes I thought of implementing: bottle-screws and tabernacle, have been shelved as we thought it through and discussed it with various people, particularly the tabernacle where the consensus was the reason we had so little damage was because the mast wasn't held captive and had it been we might also have ripped up the bridge deck the mast sits on. But also as Bee said - we've had that rigging 16 years and whilst the mast rocked back and forth it had never let us down until that moment so we just need to be more aware.

And we will be. A shame it happened as we really felt we were having our best season for a long time. The self doubt  and lack of confidence I've been feeling over the last few years seems to have quietened down and Iceland was a stepping stone to Scoresby Sound (Greenland) which we had hopes of catching sight of at least but they will both be there next year if we decide to go. 

Two other things have happened since we arrived. We'd drained the water from the radome when we'd removed it from the mast then shoved it below before rinsing it with fresh water a few days later. Once here we opened it up again, leaving it open to the elements, rain, mist, sunshine and wind for 10 days before tentatively plugging a spare cable in and firing up the radar and finding it worked....

And then we decided we'd take the mizzen off the boat and check it over. It took four of us to lift it up and off the boat and me 'n Bee kept looking at each other wondering how on earth had we lifted it - never would have managed it without that throat halyard for sure.

Millbrook



Friday, 20 July 2018

and then there was one...........part 1

We interrupted our move north along the West coast of Ireland to take shelter from a stiff blow from the west, opting to hide in Smerwick which we have used several times in the past...We shared the anchorage with Robin and Rat and, it has to be said, we had the better time of it as a nasty little swell crept in and made life a little uncomfortable for us but we watched Rat roll gunwale to gunwale and could only marvel at his tenacity. He left a little before us once the blow had gone through and we found him happily anchored in Inishmore, our next stop. A remarkable sailor.

We left Little Killary for The Outer Hebrides enjoying a reasonable, if a tad lumpy, passage to Vatersay arriving in time to take shelter from a hard westerly with gusts hitting 40k+. One of our favourite anchorages; it isn't tiny and hemmed in, escape is easy should you need to and depths are good. A white sandy beach adds to the quality of the view and, of course, holding is excellent. We moved on after a day using the time to tighten up the mizzen shrouds which had loosened on the trip over. We pottered through the small islands that guard the bay and turned north. The westerly wind meant we had flat seas and we began knocking off the miles....wind speed rarely exceeded 15k but boat speed settled into 7k and frequently sat at 8k for minutes at a time. It was a memorable day; true the sun didn't shine much and the vis was mediocre but the view of the Hebs as we rattled north was wonderful. At one point we were possibly going to end up in Stornoway but as the wind eased we settled on anchoring in Tob Limorvay as it's close to our northern track, arriving in Stornoway early the following morning. The marina there is busy and we rafted onto another boat for the weekend before catching up with old friends, making new ones and stocking up on booze and diesel...

We headed out on Monday June 25th for the Faeroe's with favourable if light winds forecast. And so it proved however as the first day headed toward evening the vis improved and off to starb'd could be seen an island and we opted to see if Rona could offer some shelter for the night. It could. In westerlies it would be fine but our luck meant it backed to south and east once we were anchored putting us mostly on a lee shore. However it was light and no swell present so we stayed. Rona and the other island have huge bird colonies, a light on each and sheep. Years ago islanders from Lewis would row out to Rona to attend to sheep or whatever they do. As it's 41nm each way it says much for how hardy folks were then. Sheep are still grazed on the hills arriving by a more mechanised means.

The Faeroe's loomed out of the fog after a mixed passage of sailing, drifting and motoring and we tied up to the fishing wharf in Vagur where we were soon cleared in by the local customs guy and visited the following morning by the HM. All very friendly and easy going – the impression, for us, is how similar these island communities are and so different too of course. But we always seem to draw comparisons with the Newfoundland outposts; nothing grand or fancy about the housing but colourful, functional and attractive and fitting in with the surroundings. A small library had 'net access and we had a couple of easy days alongside. A social visit to a 54' boat also headed to Iceland and Greenland gained us some new friends and we headed out the following morning. The HM felt we had enough time to make the tidal cut off but we didn't and anchored in a small bay up the next fjord.

Big tides are not my favourite challenge: great when you get the timing right but a nightmare waiting to happen. 


Well this time I got it right, despite thinking we should change course then reversing the decision and we rattled through the gap between Lille Dimun and Suderoy, through the rips and out before making our way north to Midvaag. All under engine as the wind was absent. Unlike the fog.
Midvaag on Vaagar is a large bay that has had a long breakwater added (as have so many of the harbours in these islands) making it very secure. We anchored, rowed ashore, bought diesel and tried to sort out the sim card we'd got for the phone without success. But a local car hire company gave us use of their internet to pick up weather so things were good. The weather remained foggy. On northwards after a false start via the Vestmanna Sund. We'd hoped we'd see the Trolls Finger but the ever present fog ensured that wasn't going to happen. Of course as we turned into the fjord the fog cleared, the sun sort of arrived and we motored up to the northern exit. Our timing was lucky rather than planned but we were through and motoring along the NW coast which is spectacular. Seriously broody and intimidating; we were, perhaps, 50 metres off shore and the cliffs erupted from the sea in a vertical wall ending several hundred metres or more above our heads. Birds were everywhere and once we'd left the tourist boats behind we were alone with the bird life and the views. An amazing place to see. As we approached the the next fjord we were able to see the protruding land was actually separated by a chasm across which numerous wire ropes were slung. On the island grazed sheep and we decided the wires were how the sheep were transferred from one side to the other. Into the bay we slid, not ideal but attractive with a tiny hamlet at the head. The following day Torshavn Radio announced a SW gale was due and we rang to ask when. “Imminent” was the reply and they asked for our location and destination. They suggested we stay put rather than head off for Iceland as we would experience 3 metre seas on the passage. We complied but as the gale didn't actually arrive until 24 hours later rather than the 6 hours stated we felt a bit miffed. Little did we know how fortuitous that decision was to be.

The time at anchor was rolly, as the seas, as they did at Smerwick, tended to hit a headland and deflect into the bay. True the holding was good but, in an effort to damp down the roll, we hoisted the double reefed mizzen to make life a little more comfortable, disappointed that despite our best efforts the mast continued to rock in the swells. Since we've had Hannah it has been something we have learned to put up with. Deck stepped and supported by four heavy, well spaced shrouds, tensioned with lanyards and deadeyes it has done great service over the years and the rocking to and fro is a feature we have learned to live with...

We left the Faeroe's for the east coast of Iceland on Friday July 6. We'd opted to go from east to west simply because the winds dictated that our first landfall would only be achieved without too much heartbreaking windward work; Reykjavik was out of the question. The passage of sub 300nm was a probable 3 dayer if winds were average. The log shows the trip to be lumpy, squally with some sun but also fog. On the second night we motored for some hours before drifting in a lumpy, swell driven sea – not the most comfortable as sleep was impossible but some sort of rest gained from cramming together on the sea berth and we dozed for a few hours.

About 6am on Sunday July 8 we were startled and alarmed by the very loud noise of something hitting the boat. Twice. We leapt from the berth and rushed to the companionway and lying across the aft deck, undulating in the swell was the mizzen mast, all 28' of it, pivoting on the fairlead with the last 2 metres underwater, radome and vhf aerial included whilst the heel of the mast was trying to batter the lip of the doghouse roof and tear it off. We had a problem.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Adventure before Dementia*

Launch day came after a hectic evening of running out the 'sprit and sorting the outer forestay, necessitated by my messing about with the rigging and a need to change out the plug where the old mechanical speedo had been. Seems the inboard end had got damaged from something or other and we removed it then screwed the original fitting back in. We left the floor up so we could check for any leakage.... Nathan duly launched us, albeit with no one aboard as the hoist tended to slip a bit from a residue of hydraulic oil on the tyre I guess. Consequently when we climbed aboard several minutes later we found a leak but not from where we were prepared for but the sea water filter that I'd cleaned out earlier and not replaced the cap properly with the obvious result. Ah well, easily sorted! A quick call in to a marina in Plymouth for fuel and then down to Cawsand to anchor. Sometimes this anchorage is great, sometimes the pits and this time is was the latter caused by a gentle roll that crept in. Off the following morning for Falmouth to shake ourselves free of the land and an easy night in the town anchorage. I've written before about how you get charged to anchor here but only, it seems, if you go ashore. As we rarely do.....

With easterlies forecast we headed off for the Helford and a promised visit to friends but off the river entrance the east wind over the ebbing tide caused a nasty chop and dissuaded us from entry and we kept going, sliding round the Lizard and up into Mullion Cove for the night. A text message to our friends went unanswered and we later found out they'd changed their phone numbers....

We left for Ireland the following morning and made decent progress for the first 30 hours or so. True we needed to hand steer for much of the second afternoon as winds were around 6k but the big kite we'd ordered proved its worth as we moved along happily at 3-4k. When the wind died we were 40 miles from Baltimore so a quick couple of hours motoring got that to 30 and then we drifted for the night. A fishing vessel kept us company as it trawled up and down, the vis was poor and throughout the night we could hear the moan of the Fastnet Light foghorn as we rolled to the sea motion. Onwards the following day and into Baltimore where we seemed to be in a contingent of blue ensign flagged RCC members.

I like Baltimore as an arrival given it has a big enough harbour with good holding and easy entrance that whatever the weather (almost) it's accessible. Plus there is a second way out on the north that leads through islands and shallows to make for an interesting start for the following morning. We ghosted through at scarcely 2k under main until clear of the scattering of land we were back under the influence of the sea and a swell which completely disrupted the sailing and we resorted to the engine to motor the few miles onto Crookhaven. We were trying to use places we'd never been to before and this was a great anchorage with the visitors buoys laid out in the main harbour whilst the anchorage was away from the village but tucked behind an island and thus land-locked. A neat spot.

The west coast is a great cruising ground but, like many such places, there are a couple of spots where a longish day is needed between anchorages and we had two of these coming up. With light winds, a long, lazy swell running and the winds due to switch to the north within 24 hours we opted to motor-sail the distance to Valentia and wait out the winds until they switched to the SW leaving us a few free days. We plugged on, Hannah running smoothly as befits a clean prop and unfouled bottom. Still a long day though as we passed the majestic Skelligs and then had to fight our way around the Bray Head and into Valentia. For the first time ever we found 2 other boats in the anchorage – another gaffer and a what may have been a Shetland Yoal but by morning the other gaffer had gone and apart from visits from local boats to enjoy the island we had the places to ourselves. This morning, Sunday, the Yoal hauled up his anchor, set his sail and came across to chat before heading to Dingle to shop. Seems he'd sailed from Pembrokeshire, Wales and was heading around Ireland. Possibly. His normal trip was up to the Hebrides but thwarted by persistent N's he'd opted for a change of route. Must be a great adventure really, I guess the boat, called RAT, is about 5m and freeboard to match. Lug sail with a small mizzen. The main becomes the ridge pole for the tent cockpit; the anchor looked to be a heavy stone perhaps with an iron bolt through? Inspiring.

The winter has seen a few changes, as ever, aboard with the staysail being replaced, the last one succumbing to UV and mileage chafe, plus improvements to the genny and the kite I mentioned earlier. I love the attention to detail; the tapered rope; the crossover stitching the JL puts into these sails. The black marks don't come with the sail but from the tarring on the shrouds. A new and improved canvas shelter to the doghouse gives us shelter from following winds and better visibility (and makes Toots life a lot easier as she moves rapidly toward old age). For many years we put up with the shackle banging and clattering on the mainsheet horse whenever the main flogged. For the last few years we tried a simple knotted rope between the horse and the main block that worked although it obviously tended to wear through and had to be checked. This year we've leathered a large bow shackle to see how that fares. So far it's been fine with a good coating of deer tallow(thanks to Howard in Maine) ensuring it slides well and remains silent. 

* A title prompted by a T-Shirt Bee gave me as I stumbled dazed and disbelieving into my 70th year. But there are numerous old codgers out there still sailing around - we met a couple at the yard we hauled out at. They'd completed a 15 year circumnavigation 3 years earlier and had settled for local cruising since, But they'd got bored and we spoke to them the day before they launched and were heading off for Sweden. They were both in their 80's.....

Ventry
Ireland 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Back on track......allegedly

 I wish I could come up with a solid reason as to why we have been silent for so long but I can't. True we haven't actually sailed anywhere; that the doubts about whether we would continue kept surfacing and we tentatively explored the possibility of narrowboats. But. Here we are a few days away from, yet another, re-launch. Topsides spruced up, various sections of wood taken back to bare and then oiled with turps and Stockholm; sails repaired and in two cases replaced. The problem that beset the radar was finally tracked down to the magnatron and we found a replacement second hand radome in the US for a fraction of the cost of a new radome. Plus dozens of other bits and pieces we have sorted, replaced, ditched or improved. The journey continues!

What we have been doing apart from working on our own boat is helping out on a barge - nothing fancy (our work that is) simply cleaning out a hold, sanding and oiling the wood, but it seemed to take up a lot of time. You can see the barge here. Bee, of course, needed far more to occupy her time so got back into running with little or no intention of competing. A tough couple of hours every other day gave her the fix she needed which she supplemented by turning over an allotment for a friend with ME. The allotment is on the Rame Peninsula and overlooks Cawsand so the views are pretty spectacular.


A brief word about the weather....we had toyed with the idea of wintering in Skeld, Shetland but decided the wind and rain would make it a long winter. The weather here in Cornwall hasn't been much better and the rain ensured we have green appearing on warps and wood so the last few weeks of bright sunshine have been very welcome. The bluebells have been spectacular... 


 That's about it - we splash, all being well, at 8am Friday, June 1st and while we have several ideas on where we might go it is still vague and undecided. Turn right out of Cawsand is the best we can offer.

Toots at the healthy age of 16 doesn't mind as long as the fire is warm and food regular..

 ...and at the ripe old age of 70 I would tend to agree, adding only that the alcohol should be equally regular.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

A mid-winter montage

Little Killary


Loch Ranza




West Loch Tarbert




Fair Isle

In Scalloway


Skeld









Burra Voe






Balta Sound, Unst

Harorysundel



Arctic Circle



Sandvik





Orsvag


Steine