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Tuesday, 31 August 2010


August bank holiday Monday was a wholly different day, the sun streaming out of a clear blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. After yesterdays skirmish with the elements we have decided today will be a day to go and look at some boats that are for sale near Bowness. You'ld think after yesterday that we would catch our breath and have a bit of a rest but not a bit of it. Jackie has found this old tub for just under 6000 that we should look at, and it gives us a reason to have a day out in the Lakes, even if it's the last place you should go on a bank holiday.
We take a leisurely drive up the west side, through Cunsey woods to catch the ferry over to Ferry Nab. Today is the day we should have chose to go sailing, as between the trees we catch yachts gently cruising the lake under full sail in light airs. Ah well, no matter we're still in a nautical frame of mind cause we're going to view a boat.
We have talked ourselves in and out of buying a boat, at the moment we're in an out mode, and have been eyeing up courses. Perhaps what we need is a passage making course, there's one going from Gibralter to Palma, which would give us the experience we lack. Or there's others in Scotland but they cost quite a lot, 6 or 700 pounds per person which ever way we look, this sailing is going to be expensive.
We have also poo pooed the idea of lake sailing as we want to do ocean stuff, but after yesterday we now see that even a lake can be challenging, especially in a boat one step up from a dingy. Maybe if we had a decent size boat we could learn the ropes here in our own back yard.
Maiden marine has three boats that are very cheap, and probably not suitable at all but it's some reason to be out in the Lakes this August bank holiday. David, the brokerage manager points us in the direction of a Jaguar 25 called Windfall. He tells us that if we're looking for something thats got decent rigging and we're not too bothered by the interior we should take a look. She's been in the ownership of a couple of guys who like sailing but are not too fussy about appearances. How right he was, but she is not as bad as we expect. In fact all in all this boat appeals to us in a big way. Ok she needs a womans' touch and some new rigging but overall for the princely sum of 5995 she's a bargain.
We just might buy her, although she doesn't look pretty with her dull brown hull all in all we could learn a lot in this sloop. We just need to weigh things up but looking at what it's going to cost us still in courses Windfall may be the chance to learn what we need to learn and at this price perhaps we could sell her on and not loose money as comparable boats seem to be a few thousand more than this one.
We'll arrange a sail in her and then decide what to do. She's a bilge keel so we could take her to Roa island next year and get some sea miles in as she would rest on the mud flats at low tide which is a real plus for these boats.
I think we have already decided that we'll buy her, that this is what we need to bridge the gap before we make the jump to the Caribbean in the next year or so.
It's what we need, our own boat to play with, when we want to, it's the next logical step and at this price I think it's the right move. It feels right, so if the trials go OK I think we may soon become the proud owners of Windfall.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Angle of vanishing stability

We had a bit of a reality check today when we hired a 20ft Hunter from the Low wood water sports centre. The sun was shining and fluffy clouds scurried high above Lake Windermere. The wind speed indicator on the website that we had logged into earlier was reading 18 to 21 mph, so it seemed to us that we had booked ourselves a fun day to try out our new found sailing skills. We had hired this boat a couple of months ago and so felt confident that we would know what we were doing, it would be familiar. What wasn't familiar were the conditions once we were out on the lake.
We met the previous hirers leaving the jetty and casually asked how it was out there. Exciting, came the reply, you just need to back the jib when your tacking. Oh, er OK, we both nodded, not wanting to appear ignorant, but we actually didn't have a clue what he meant by that.
We didn't get off to the best of starts. As we reversed away from the jetty the engine cut out and we drifted towards the launch ramp and ran aground. We had to be pulled off by the centre rescue boat, and then we discovered that the fuel line was detached from the engine, which is why after 10 seconds it had failed. Not exactly our fault then, but we should have noticed that, or maybe we should have waited for a member of staff before we so confidently set sail.

Once out on the lake it was apparent that today was a very challenging day to be sailing, even on a lake. We struggled with the lines, the jib sheets being fouled by a mooring line that we had not noticed was tangled and should have been tided before we left the safety of the marina. I teetered nervously for'rd on a wildly swaying deck as the wind caught our tiny craft with Jackie at the helm trying to tame the beast and head her into the wind. That problem solved we set about trying to cope, as best we could with the battering we were getting. All our best efforts were leading us into more and more precarious situations as the boat heeled ominously, and our ability to keep her on an even keeled were making us both very anxious indeed. We were discovering that we knew very little indeed about sailing. This fundamental knowledge was obviously lacking from our Parthenon of Day skipper practical and theory courses which we had passed with flying colours.
After about three quarters of an hour battling to sail anywhere, Jackie made the call. We don't know what were doing and we both feel decidedly nervous and just a little scared.
We drop the Main sail, let the jib flap about and start the engine to head back for the marina. By now we're both soaked with spray as we beat back against the waves to try and get this bouncing boat back to safety.
We limp into port, struggling, even with the outboard which is difficult to manoeuvre with the wind gusting at 20 odd knots as we drift towards the man waiting at the jetty to take our lines.
We feel very embarrassed, and somewhat stupid, but we have learned a big lesson, and that is, that we don't know how to sail. We might know how to identify a cardinal bouy, how to plot a course, how to read a chart, how to tie a clove hitch, but we don't know how to set and trim our sails so as not to pass that angle of vanishing stability. Luckily we didn't capsize, but I think we came pretty close, and it was scary.
Maybe it's different on bigger boats but it has taught us that we still have a way to before we can be confident sailors. We need to know how to sail.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Monumental Gala

The Shanty Crew finally took to the stage on a beautiful Sunday. The song here is one what I wrote for the occasion of opening the revamped monument above our town. Not exactly a shanty but the one that opened the show.Sir John Barrow was the second lord of the admiralty in the 1800s and sent lots of explorers out in ships to fill in the blanks in the maps. He came from my home town of Ulverston, hence the song.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Shanty Crew

Maybe I've gone too far now. I said "why don't I put together a shanty band". We're holding a gala to celebrate the re-opening of a monument, which looks like a lighthouse. That's because the man it commemorates was the 2nd lord of the Admiralty in the 1800's, he was called Sir John Barrow, look him up on wikipedia.

Anyway, I called round a few friends and now with 4 days to go I've just got back from the studio with a master of the ten songs we'll be performing on Sunday.

It's been fascinating digging around youtube and the net looking for songs and lyrics. And with this new found enthusiasm for all things nautical putting this set of songs together has been a real pleasure.

There's a joyful vibe to singing them and so it's been a lot of fun. I've got Mike W on mondola and squeeze box, Ash on Mandolin, Jackie on Bodhran, Dapper on vocal, Juliet on vocal, Kirston on vocal, although she missed last nights recording, and me on acoustic and vocals. And we sound good, and we've got all the killer tunes in there. Blow the man down, drunken sailor, whip jamboree as well as some tasty ones for us and a couple of originals too.

So it's all set fair for Sunday at three, and the Monumental gala.
See you all there.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Weekend in Conwy

We need to keep brushing up on what we've learned over the last year so this week end we headed off to Conwy in North Wales for a weekend of practical skill building. We were on board a Jeanneau 39i with a lady called Sarah, who was doing the last bit of her Day Skipper, and two guys who were on a start yachting course prior to going sailing in the Greek islands for Marks' 40th birthday. His friend Peter had come along for the sail but it soon transpired that he was not at all interested in sailing.
Mark seemed to get into it, but the weather was not exactly exhilarating with winds barely getting above force four. Our Skipper for the trip was Rob, who was perhaps 30ish, and had just come off a five day sail so was somewhat lacklustre. He was a competent skipper but lacked a little in the commanding stakes.
Never the less we enjoyed the weekend and felt that within a couple of hours of being back on the water all that we had learned in the last 12 months came back. There are still big gaps in our knowledge, but we've got the fundamentals and are now keen to go solo, or is that duo.Its time for Colin and Jackie to charter a bareback boat and sail by our selves.
That has to be the next step, and so we're looking at doing this sometime in September, probably back in Largs.
Conwy was fine but there's an issue with tides there. For instance we thought we had two days of sailing but because the marina has a tidal gate we couldn't leave till nine in the morning of Saturday and we had to be back before 1230 on Sunday so we only had a day and a half to actually sailing. In Largs there's no such restrictions.
We're almost 12 months in from when we started this adventure and we're almost there, almost ready to sail solo, with no tutor on board. That is very exciting, and this weekend confirmed that that is what we now need to do. I can't wait.