23rd May 2016
Just after we arrived in Troon Harbour a nice varnished boat arrived. It was a Vertue called Cilix. She was built in Holland in 1993 from green oak frames and iroko planking. Alan was the owner and he had sailed from her base on the River Fal in Cornwall. Alan will be sailing around the West Coast of Scotland over the summer. The boat has some lovely features including some bespoke bronzework.. She has a bumkin, slutter rig and deck stepped mast. Alan explained how he can unstep the mast by himself, or at least without a crane. Certainly something I can’t achieve with Sumara’s keel stepped mast.
Keep an eye open for her if you are sailing the Scottish Islands this summer.
23rd May 2016
This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!
For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.
Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.
However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.
Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.
Well forget all that!
To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.
Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.
We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.
John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!
However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!
It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times. I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.
The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.
Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!
Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.
It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!
You can track the Scottish Island Peaks Race below:
Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!
We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.
It looks like Southwark Council are going to submit a planning application to build two tower blocks on top of South Dock Marina’s Boat Yard any minute now. Being fully aware that they would not gain planning consent if it meant the boat yard would need to close down they have come up with a cunning plan which they state will actually enhance the boat yard!
This is quite an achievement seeing as how the majority of the area will be covered by the footprint of two massive tower blocks. There will only be a very small yard remaining with many boats being housed underneath the towers. There are so many unanswered questions. Most people fear that soon after the 213 flats are occupied complaints of noise, toxic dust and fumes associated with working on boats will bring the yard to a close. They have failed to consult properly regarding their final intentions. The first consultation can only be described as “secret”. After protests, a public one was held where we were divided into groups of about 20 and given about ten minutes to ask questions – that’s 30 seconds each!
As a result of the lack of proper consultation local residents, boat owners and those with a commercial interest in the South Dock Boat Yard all met in the Moby Dick pub and decided that the best approach to safe guard the boat yard would be to hire our own Planning Consultant and a Planning Lawyer. A brilliant team has been found but of course it costs money so a “crowd funding” site has been set up with the aim of securing the necessary fees.
There is some urgency as the council were originally planning to submit an application in May. If you want a fair hearing to ensure a Southwark Council Project doesn’t get waved through a Southwark Planning Department then please consider making a contribution towards the fund. £10.00 would help but £50.00 would be brilliant if you can spare it. If the £7,730.00 target isn’t reached then all the money is refunded but we really hope to achieve it. Please follow the link below to contribute.
We can then get a fair hearing and hopefully save the boat yard for the future.
1st May 2016
This was the opportunity for all of the Scottish Islands Three Peak Race running team to partake in a hilly run together and have a chat about the final arrangements. After a week of winter weather with frost and hail we found ourselves in idyllic sunshine at Worthing’s Hill Barn Recreation Ground ready for the start. There were about 800 competitors for both the races (there was a tough marathon option). We got there in plenty of time to park up and prepare.
It was one of those well organised non-commercial events that I really like with plenty of smiling volunteers and a great atmosphere. There were some runners with harnessed dogs who set off before us. We started at 1030 (chip timing) and for the first two miles climbed gently to about 600 ft along rough paths before a pleasant decent to about 250 ft before a long slog to just over 800 ft. On top of the Downs the running couldn’t have been better, with sea views and soft short grass underfoot. This part of the course is shared with the Steyning Stinger – another great event. There is then a drop to about 300 ft before climbing again to about 600 ft with a small descent and a final little hill before a two mile fast run back to the finish line. This last descent had a somewhat tricky narrow chalky path which was vee shaped and could have caused a few slips if the ground was wet. Luckily in the dry conditions the entire course was easily runnable. Although it can’t be described as flat there were no really taxing hills, more a matter of endurance rather than strength. It could be interesting in really wet weather!
A big thank you to all the organisers and volunteers (and cake makers) for making it such a great day out.
Any bad points? Only my usual gripe about runners tossing gel wrappers on the ground in the lovely countryside. Maybe a volunteer will pick them up but surely its not too hard to find a way not to litter in the first place.
Results? I finished just under two hours (about 1 hr 58 m) which I was pleased enough with for a hilly run.
Afterwards we all met at the Old House at Home and discussed tactics for the big race over a pint of Harveys and roast lunch. A very pleasant day.
The Arthur Beale project has been zapping up all my spare time so some things are being neglected. Most of all I’m not getting to see all my buddies so that certainly needs to be rectified soon! But I realised the Good Ship wasn’t going to get all the love that she would normally get so I decided to ask Harry Kings Boatyard to help out. I’ve had some pretty mixed quality work done in the past when I have called in the professionals so I was a bit nervous about getting work that I’d normally do done by a boatyard. However I went to the boat last weekend and was very pleased with the quality of the work that Lee had done. So now I can relax knowing everything is in safe hands.
I am partaking in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks race on Brimble at the end of May so I won’t be sailing until June but I like to get her afloat before things heat up on land. Hopefully she will be bobbing up and down on her buoy in the River Orwell in the next few weeks. I still need to varnish the mast. She is all sanded and ready but I need that rare thing a dry still day before I start to varnish. I’m replacing the runners this year too due to finding a loose strand during the annual inspection.
One little job I have proudly finished is the renovation of my 20 year old Aerogen 4 wind generator. The bearings had gone and I managed to snap the hub when attempting to get it off the shaft so I relegated it to the boat jumble. When I was offered £20.00 for it I refused and decided to mend her myself. Now she has new bearings, newly tapped fin holes, a new hub, and a repaint job. I feel very proud, as she looks like new and I reckon fit for another 20 years. The great thing about the Aerogen generators is that they are virtually silent.
Tomorrow we are running the Three Forts Race with the Brimble Team. It will be a team bonding session and a chance to see how fit we are so we can pair up for the Scottish Islands Race. Better get some pasta on the boil!
6th March 2016
It is cold and grey with hail pounding heavily against the window as I write this on the afternoon of the Steyning Stinger but this morning conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for the event. It was cold but the sun was out and there was just a gentle breeze. Underfoot it was muddy in parts but hey who would want to do the Stinger without a bit of mud? On the Downs the views were breath taking!
I think I am willing to stick my neck out and say this is the perfect ever race.
There is a community feel about it and it is very inclusive. If you are not a runner, you can start at about 7am and walk the half marathon course. If you are a runner but a little bit slow then you can start early and still get a time. If you are mega fit then you can even enter the full marathon course – which must be really gruelling. You can even change your mind half way through, but I wonder if any “Halfers” decide to upgrade! You can join the mass starts, or run the race peacefully by yourself.
There is no commercial feeling about this event, it cost less than £30.00 to enter and you get an organisation which is simply the best I have ever encountered. At the end you get a decent looking medal, free photos by Sussex Photography and to cap it all a free full English breakfast served to your table by the local cheery schoolchildren.
As for the run itself it is wonderful especially if you like hills! It is 90% a trail run with just the odd quiet stretch along tarmac road. It is a run you need to train for as the ascents are quite taxing although they are all runnable. That said many runners take the sensible decision to fast walk the steeper parts without really losing any time. I know they didn’t lose any time because I decided to run the whole thing and couldn’t gain on the walkers on the steep inclines. The route takes you on a long uphill path onto the South Downs where it joins the South Downs Way in parts. There are some fast stretches along the top (not for me though) with long views to the sea on one side and inland to the north. The descents are interesting and require some technique. One downhill through the woods follows a chalky hollowed out path which is rutted and covered occasionally in slippy chalk slime, occasionally in leaf mould and sometime loose flint boulders. I would be interested to know how many get injured on these paths. Maybe St Johns Ambulance have some figures. I suspect the tired marathon runners must find these descents even trickier.
I ran the race with my nephew Alex and his partner Kerry who confidently overhauled me after a few miles and finished in about 2 hours 7 minutes. Grit, John and myself all fell in behind. It is not a race for PB’s and you would need to be pretty fit to get in under 2 hours.
During breakfast we clocked a large contingent of German runners and wondered if they had come especially for the run. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves washing down their breakfast with Strongbow Cider!
We were doing it as part of our training for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race at the end of May. Next up is the Three Forts Race.
Will we do the Stinger again? Of course we will!
I’ve signed up for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race on the good ship Brimble so some panic training is needed. Next week we are running the dreaded Steyning Stinger, one of my favourite races. My old Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes are unbelievably still quite serviceable although I fear they will clap out just before the race so I decided to buy some more. This time I decided to buy Speedcross 3. I hate buying online but none of the London shops had size 12.5. I don’t normally take size 12.5 but my old ones were this size and I tried size 11.5 and they were too tight. After a three week wait it transpires the shoes were left in a local sweet shop but no one bothered to tell me. I never have a smooth ride with online purchases. I picked them up this morning and decided to give them a go in Oxleas Woods. The new shoes have the treads moulded to fit the shoes whereas the old ones the tread was cut from a regular pattern sheet resulting in nobbles very close to the edge. They both have a great lace system. It looks fragile but it is really tough. You just pull on the clip to tighten then tuck the excess into a little pouch. The shoes are really well padded, I reckon you could run a half marathon in them from new without any trouble. They are really light and grippy. During the last Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race my running partner was wearing Inov8 shoes which lost all their nobbles on one scree slope! These Salomons will be good for several years. Highly recommended but take care on the sizing.
Once upon a time Southwark Council had a vision of a balanced community but sadly it has vanished now. What happened to all those jobs? Where did the 3/4 million square feet of industrial estates go with the 15,000 jobs? Now they want to build on one of the last remaining pieces of light industrial land by erecting two luxury tower blocks on top of the boat yard. What happened to their commitment to low rise housing?