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Thursday, 20 September 2012

When not to set sail

Sunday morning we wake to the wind singing in the rigging, and halyards clinking throughout the Marina. We run into Brian again who agrees that the wind is blowing a force 6, although he says it always seems worse in the Marina. We have breakfast and decide to wait to see if the wind is going to drop a little. The Halsberg Rassy that slipped in late last night, slips out at about 7.30 into the teeth of the weather. They looked like a couple of seasoned sailors who would cope very well and perhaps had a long sail ahead of them. Then we realised that they had probably sneeked off without paying as the office didn't open till 8am and closed at 8pm, sneaky, we'll have to remember that one.
Marinas can provide much needed entertainment whilst your passing the time waiting for a weather window. Ours would be provided by a 43ft Beneteau that sailed through the entrance at about half eight that morning. We assumed at first that she had come in to find shelter, although it turned out she was just dropping a couple of people off. There were about six on board all holding ropes or placing fenders ready for docking. The pontoon that the helmsman aimed for was square on to the wind. On the first attempt they just failed to get close enough to the pontoon to leap off and then the obvious happened. The bow was blown away and a little chaos began. With not enough room for her to swing around the helmsman put her into reverse, backed away and came in for another shot at it, the same thing happened this time. Anyway to cut a long story short they eventually landed the couple going ashore but not before changing pontoons and crunching the boat once or twice. Nice to know that we all make mistakes, you just hope they occur when no-ones watching.
I suppose we got our come-up-ence  when we finally decided to chance the exit from Portavadie now that the wind had died back to a reasonable force 5. We had decided that prudence should prevail and had put in a couple of reefs prior to leaving, but what we hadn't considered was to make sure we had cleated off the furling line. Consequently as we hit the full force of the wind just beyond the marina wall our jib started to unfurl with sheets cracking like lion tamers whips across the decks sending us into a mild panic. We were on it though, headed into the wind and managed to retrieve the situation. Luckily no-one was watching, or a least we didn't see anybody, in fact we were much too busy panicking to care.
We could see a few yachts, a couple of miles across the sound sailing in the lee of the land. That looked like a sensible thing to do as out on this side the winds were pretty serious so we motored across before setting just the jib, which seemed to have here sail fine at about 6 knots, and in more or less the right direction for Androsson. The rest of the day passed without incident and as we approached our destination the wind fell away completely so we lowered the sails and motored towards Androsson Harbour. The movement of the boat in very sloppy seas was horrible, to say the least, but finally we were just a stones throw fro the harbour entrance, but the entrance wasn't obvious. We studied the charts and marina guide and finally tumbled into the relative calm beyond the sea wall. Just about then back came the wind, we called up the marina and were glad when they said they had room for us on (A) pontoon. With Jackie at the helm we squeezed through, what appeared to be a very small entrance and into the marina proper. We swapped places and I made a faultless pass into the only small space available on A pontoon being very careful not to bump into the biggest shineiest motor yacht in the harbour. Jackie stepped off and secured the lines like we'ld been doing this fo years. As we secured Kiwi the man from to big posh boat was polishing his fenders, good job we got that right, time for a cuppa tea and a fag. Tomorrow we would sail the short hop north back to Largs.

But when tomorrow came the winds were up to maybe force 7, the seas were crashing over the sea walls and Mr posh boat owner said we would scare our selves to death if we ventured out. We took his advice, called the owner and said we didn't want to sail, it was too dangerous, for us at least.
They were more than happy we had made that decision and came to collect us to drive us back to our car in Largs. The first sign of a good skipper, they said was to know when not to set sail, and we had passed that test.
So that was it, our first bareboat charter, not without incident, but an adventure that boosted our confidence that we can do this, we are now sailors, albeit inshore sailors. The next step I suppose is offshore in a bigger boat, so we went to have a look at a 38ft Ohlson that was for sale in Largs. Nice boat, big winches, big mast, big everything, and just about ticked all the boxes for our sailboat. Sailing something like that, now that would be an adventure, as for now we're glowing with the completion of this stage in our quest to become real navigators, seasoned sailors with the skills to cross oceans. Still some way off, we know but this weekend voyage has boosted our confidence, we just need to keep taking those baby steps, we can do this.