Google+ Badge

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Novices to Navigators, well almost

Friday, 14th September and its almost 3 years to the day since we bought the full length deck boots, which is where we started with this sailing adventure. Way back then we didn't know a rope can be a sheet, had no idea what a halyard was, and a warp was a very fast speed that the star ship enterprise went into when they wanted to get to the other side of the universe, fast.
Now here we are back in Largs yacht haven, where we used those posh wellies to go on our start yachting weekend all that time ago in 2009, and this time we're here on our first bareboat charter. We've charted a 31ft Moody, called Kiwi from Flamingo yacht hire and we're about to embark on a long weekend sailing in the Firth of Clyde.
We arrive, after a four hour drive, at 6.30pm to find Largs being battered by very strong winds, which have been blowing all day. No boats have been able to sail all day, although now, in the early evening, the winds have died down quite considerably, and tomorrow the forecast looks good.
We meet with the owners of Kiwi and are shown through the bits that we need to know about the boat. Where the flares are, the fire extinguishers, life raft, Nav equipment, sails, engine, etc. etc. We take it all in, hopefully remembering enough to get this sailboat underway in the morning.
We ask about where they think we should explore, given the expected weather over the weekend and they suggest we go around the Isle of Bute, and bid us farwell and happy sailing. As long as we bring her back with the same number of holes in that she has this evening they'll be happy, and that I suppose means the through hulls, a wee Scotish joke there.

It's far too windy, and cold to sit out in the cockpit with a glass of vino and a fag on planning our passage for tomorrow so we decant to an outside smoking area, with tables and chairs that's a sort of posh lean to at the Marina bar. We order a glass of house white, which barely wets the bottom of the glass.  I go back to Kiwi to retrieve one of our own bottles, and sneak our selves an hour of passage planning, cheaply and with the warmth of their patio heater. Well, at £6.50 for two thimbles full what do you think we are, made of money.

Saturday morning at 7am and the wind has died so that the Marina flags barely flutter in the breeze, but out on the sound there's a healthy force four forecast for the day.Poor Kiwi has been trust up with warps and springs and it's now time to untie her and set up some slips. Listen to me, getting all nautical with my rope jargon, but basically we have to keep her moored to the dock, but be able to untie her with us both standing on the vessel. Otherwise the person who unties the boat would have to make a mighty leap aboard as she slips away from the jetty, not recommended, hence the use of one turn around a pontoon cleat and both ends of the rope being on board.
We've been told, by the owner that she has a tendency to want to go to port, going backwards, which is the first manoeuvre we'll undertake. With the engine started, and ready to go we're nervously working our way up to a smooth exit. We don't want to appear like the novices we are, but two people walk passed just prior to our casting off to tell us we're driving hard into the quay with the bows. I've started the engine and put her into forward gear, albeit at the lowest of revs, but  never the less she's grinding the pontoon. Luckily there's no damage and we faultlessly let go slips and move backwards. I go into a mild panic as she moves back quicker than I expect and I throw the lever into forward, push the tiller hard to starboard and around she comes. Again, forward is a bit nifty and by some small miracle we miss the boat moored next to us by inches, and straighten up to glide effortlessly towards the harbour entrance.   A sharp right and were through the entrance and into open water where another five or six boats are raising their sails. So far so good. We give these boats a wide berth before heading her into the wind, raising the mainsail, and then the jib. This goes very smoothly, well with a bit of shouting, and the we turn north, the sails fill, engine off and we're sailing. Sailing all by ourselves, with a passage plan and a fair wind on the beam. Soon we're touching six knots  and were on our way to the Kyles of Bute. The boat feels very safe and stable, we've checked the charts, we know what we're doing, and although the skys are heavy with cloud, and the sea is silky black we're wrapped up well  in our new foul weather gear and we're a couple of very happy sailors,.