Google+ Badge

Monday, 31 May 2010

Chinese boats

We've been surfing the net for almost a year now looking at boats that we would like to buy, but knowing nothing about boats it makes our task a bit difficult. Over that time we must have looked at literally thousands and quite honestly they all start to look the same, well not quite, but you get my drift. There's the galley, the heads, the nav table, cockpit, etc. etc. We pour over the specs only just comprehending what we're reading, but slowly, very slowly we start to get a handle on it.

We have dismissed the modern sleek designs, we can't afford them anyway and after all this searching we have come down to a couple of boats that we really like and they're both chinese. The Cheoy lee 36 and a Tayana. Both look a bit back dated but seem to suit our style. There's bound to be issues with old boats like these but what the heck it's what appeals that's important isn't it. It's the vibe.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

First sail by ourselves

We began this perilous adventure some nine months ago when we bought ourselves two pairs of full length deck boots from a chandlers in Bowness on Windermere. Since then, as you know if you've been keeping up with this tale, we have undertaken various courses both on and off the water. Up until yesterday all of our sailing has been with instructors on board big yachts, 36ft plus.
We felt it was time for us to go solo, or should that be duo. Although our ultimate plans are to sail the oceans we have decided that as we live just a few miles from two of England largest lakes, Coniston and Winderemere we would hire a 20ft sail boat and get the hang of sailing. We won't be calculating tidal vectors, or charting a course over ground, and we won't be looking out for Cardinal bouys, we'll just see if we can handle a small yacht on a lake.
Low wood boating centre has a Hunter that has a similar set up to most of the larger yachts we've sailed, it has a main sheet and traveller, a jib sail, although not furling, a kicking strap, main halyard and tiller steering. So all in all a mini version of what we've been sailing.
The forecast on Friday was for rain in the morning but clearing after lunch with winds up to 20 knots. I booked us a two hour session for 3pm on Saturday. It's still pouring down at 2pm as we drive up to Windermere and looking at the trees there doesn't seem to be a breath of wind.
When we pull into The boat yard the lake is devoid of even the merest of ripples and the wind sock hangs limply on it's pole. There doesn't seem much chance of sailing, but on talking to the guys in the boatyard they assure us that there is enough wind if we take the boat across to the west side of the lake. OK, we've pre-paid and were there, so off we go on our first sail without an instructor. There's no questions asked as to our ability, but as it's not exactly blowing up a storm maybe they assume we'll be fine, or maybe we just appear confident that they don't need to ask.

We motor away from the jetty in reverse, do an awkward manoeuvre to turn around and without hitting any other boats and glide out onto the lake. There's hardly a breeze but we cant wait to get the sails up, and although the main momentarily jams we're soon under sail and the engine is killed. We trim the sails and crawl westward at about half a knot towards the distant shore as the drizzle starts to fall. Hey but do we care this is our first time sailing alone and we are skipper and crew of our very own vessel, well our own hired vessel. As we approach the other side of the lake the wind increases to maybe force one and we go for a tack. READY ABOUT cries Jackie, READY, says I, LEE HO, says Jackie and we turn through the wind and head back across the lake. The Rain gets heavier but the wind comes in tantalising bursts of force two back down to zero. At some points we can almost perceive a wake behind us, but who cares here we are sailing and we know what to do with the lines and how to handle the sails, all the training has paid off. We feel quite confident that we know what we're doing, if only there was more wind, but perhaps this is the best way for us to begin, as a force six may have been a bit much in an unfamiliar craft.
After an hour and a half we're both getting a bit chilled and wet through. The wind has almost disappeared and it's time to head back to port. We make a textbook approach to the jetty and tie up the boat chuffed with our efforts. OK so it wasn't the exhilarating sail we had expected but it was enough to wet our appetites to come back and do it again soon. We know what we're doing, we know how to sail. I even said to the guy who came to tie us up that I thought the topping lift needed to be released and he agreed that somebody had tied it off wrong. How about that, hey, maybe we're well on our way to being sailors.
The Lake is not the ocean but if we can gain confidence in handling the sails here then applying that to a larger boat out on the seas will be a great confidence booster so we'll be back to do this again. Hopefully next time without the curse of Jackie and Colin, we don't need still waters, next time we'll be looking for at least a force four, five or six.
So that was it, a soggy and slow start to our cruising life but on the drive home we both wore the smiles of accomplishment, and a knowledge that our mad adventure is not a pipe dream, we really can do this.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Deeper Deeper Deeper, over.

Another trip to the Morcambe and Heysham yacht club for our course on using VHF radio on Saturday. I had a look at Johns email on Friday night and discovered an attachment that I had missed which told us to learn the phonetic alphabet, which we would need for the course. Whoops, so on the way to Morcambe we took turns in spelling out road signs, or anything else that caught our eye. This is the alphabet in words, like Alpha for A, Golf for G, Lima for L, all the way to Zulu for Z. My favourite was trying to spell Leighton Conyers. By the time we hit Morcambe we figured we just about had it off. Oh Leighton Conyers is Lima, Echo, India, Golf, Hotel, Tango, Oscar, November,
Charlie, Oscar, November, Yankee, Echo, Romeo, Sierra.

There were three of us on the course, Jackie and I plus Peter, who I'ld say was in his early 30s'. He is living on a Westerly 33 at Glasson dock. He seemed to know quite a bit about boats, I think he was an engineer, and said he had just recently bought this boat after selling a Dutch barge that he had sailed across from Holland single handed, with no knowledge of how to use a radio, and we thought we were a little crazy.

We learned all about how to use the radio, and all about DSC, which stands for Digital selective calling which is much too complicated to go into but suffice to say that we eventually got the hang of it. Lot's of the course was to do with sending out distress messages in the event of some catastrophe. What is amazing about these new fangled radios is that it can read your GPS at all times and if you send out a Mayday message it will send your exact position to the coast guard, or to any other vessel within range.

We had a bit of a laugh reading out fictitious scenarios to each other and in the end came away feeling that we now knew what we were doing, although that first call for real will be a bit nerve racking I'm sure.
It was a much longer day than I thought it would be, in fact whilst watching a DVD all about EPIRBs which are basically radio beacons, I nodded off momentarily as did Jackie. At the end of the day we had to take the exam. Jakie got full marks 22 out of 22, I got 21 and Peter, our hardy long time sailor got 20. We passed with flying colours and can now apply for our radio licence.

We now need to build up our sea miles before putting in for our coastal Skipper. We have found a company in Largs that do weekend charter hire. So that will be our next step, to take out a yacht on our own for the weekend, probably a Moody 33. Now that should be very exciting.

This is Deeper Deeper Deeper signing off, Out.