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.....