Archive for the ‘Pilotage’ Category

Weymouth to Swanage and Lymington

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Terry describes the Jurasic Coast to Nicky

Anchored in Swanage

You can see the narrow calm patch of water if you keep close to the St Aldhelms Head. On Terry’s advice – don’t try it West bound!

We weren’t going to waste our biscuits by tossing them on the beach.

Terry said he would sail much closer to St Aldhelms Head if it was his boat but it felt pretty close to me.

Log ??? 15th September 2012
I took the train to Weymouth with Nicky, a good friend of Grits. Nicky had completed her Competent Crew course in 2010 but hadn’t had much of an opportunity to use it after a planned voyage had fallen through. Terry Newman, who built Sumara and lives in Weymouth, would join us in the morning. I normally leave my almanac on the boat so I hadn’t had a chance to check the bridge opening times whilst in London. It wasn’t until 0900 in the morning when I realised that we needed to catch the 1000am opening or we would have to wait until 1200. It ended up a bit of a rush. Sumara attract a lot of attention and I had some visitors. Sadly I didn’t have much time to chat. Arthur Meech who had a nice wooden ketch called Noella in the harbour called over to say hello. A bit later Mike Patrick, who helped Terry with the building of Sumara, introduced himself.  Mike did the planking and made an excellent job of it. He thanked me for keeping the varnish up to standard! We couldn’t chat for long or we would miss the bridge. The forecast was for a sunny day with light westerlies. As usual the actual shipping forecast was for stronger winds.
The tide was not going to start to run around St Aldhelms Head until 1700 LT so we had plenty of time to slowly sail along the Jurasic Coast with Terry giving us a fascinating commentry. Nicky and Terry did all the helming and I made all the tea. We saw a couple of groups “Coasteering”. This was a new phrase to me until Alexander, my newphew, told me of his exploits. He has sent me a link to his very professional video. .

I think you get the idea- it looks great fun.
Interestingly we were a bit early to round the headland but the tide turned about one hour before prediction so our timing was fine. There is a nasty race off St Aldhelm’s but Terry assured me that GOING EASTWARDS it is fine to sail a biscuits toss from the beach and avoid the bad water. We were nearing springs so it could have been a bit nasty to get it wrong. Terry is 81 years old now and has sailed and canoed along the coast all his life so there is a very reassuring feeling as we are whisked past the cliffs at close range. I normally go the long way round!
We rounded Durlston Point and then left the buoy marking Peveril Point on the port and turned up into the wind to head for Swanage Bay. The yacht heeled right over at this point and Nicky was calmly reassured by Terry that this was a normal sailing angle! Sumara does heel rather easily but it is so normal to me that I foget to warn new crew. We rounded up, dropped the sails and pottered over to a nice space to drop the massive Rocna anchor in 4m of water. For some reason I have never anchored in Swanage before even though I used to come on holiday here every year of my childhood. After a nice supper Nicky and I pumped up the Avon dighy and rowed ashore. We wandered out to the fishermans cottages that I used to stay in as a child and then had a pint before rowing back to the boat in total darkness.
The tidal gateway for Sunday was, of course, the Needles Channel. On spring tides this gate is firmly shut if you get there late. We aimed to arrive at Hurst Castle at 0900 LT to give us one hour to spare. It meant an early start. The shipping forecast was giving a F5-7 westerly but it never happened and we needed the motor to assist us most of the way in order to arrive on time. The tide is truly fierce at Hurst Castle and we were swepted past at about 8 kn. Soon all settled down and we headed for Jack in the Basket beacon before mouching up the river to Lymingtom Marina. (about £27.00 per night).
It is really nice that when we arrived a kind man came over to help with the ropes, as it happened all went smoothly and we didn’t need the assistance but I liked the gesture. Futhermore a few minutes later a very kind lady called Fiona and offered to drive Terry to the station! In fact she ended up driving Nicky and me to the station which was a fantastic help. Meeting helpful and generous people like this make sailing so worthwhile.
I hope our little trip refreshed Nicky’s training. I’m sure she must of learned a lot from Terry – I always do!
We arrived back in London early in the evening after a lovely weekend.

Aberystwyth towards Falmouth

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Aberystwyth showing Robin and Rosie waving us off despite Sumara still being moored in the harbour!

Jannicke in Aberystwyth

Log 8498 Distance approx 230nm
Grit and I arrived in Aber (as they call it) on Thursday 17th August to have a day preparing and provisioning before setting off towards Falmouth. We went to the Christopher Williams exhibition again where I was surprised to meet Jannicke (I’ll put up a nice picture of her later). In the morning we were greeted by Robin and Rosie who are best friends of Terry, who made Sumara. Robin said he had seen her as a log cut through as planks and he gave a hand casting the keel. We needed to catch the tide so unfortunately couldn’t spend long with them. Robin saw the Scottish Three Peaks sticker on the hull and said he had done the Tilman Three Peaks three times and I should try it! Mnnn, maybe.
We set off at high water-ish with a favourable tide. Robin and Rosie were at the pier head to wave us off. The forecast was a bit uncertain in terms of wind strength but for sure it would be a beat the whole way. Definitely SW or S winds between F3 and 6. We waved goodbye to Aber, a lovely town with plenty to do, and tacked off away from “The Patches” to get a long board down the coast before tacking again a few times to clear St Davids Head. It was spring tides and they run at 4 – 5 kts off St Davids so we were keen to give it a wide berth. We headed for a waypoint between the Smalls and the shipping lanes. The shipping lanes can be quite an obstruction to yachts adding considerable mileage and spoiling advantageous tacks. In this case a wind shift acted in our favour and we managed to slip past the south corner by using a little bit of engine to assist us as the wind had nearly failed.
Across the Bristol Channel the wind varied in strength but was never too strong, one reef was needed at one point but then the genoa was hoisted.

Grit en route to St Davids Head

I was up a lot whilst we sailed around St Davids so it was good to catch up on some snooze. We were making almost south in the SW breeze and after two days or so we reached a point on the coast near to St Ives.

Sailing Off St Ives

Here I hoped to pick up a sea breeze by staying inshore and also I also wanted to catch a reverse tide which proved elusive.We were going to try to use the favourable tide on Monday evening to round Lands End. We were making 4-5 kn SOG but very little boat speed. I was looking forward to easing the sheets after so much windward work but when we reached Longships to bear away we were stuffed by slack winds and needed to motor. The tide here runs strong, very strong. It shifted against us one hour before prediction and there was no twelve’s rule here. It pretty much stopped us dead at one point shifting sidewards in a fierce tide rip towards the rocks. The little Kubota 12 hp did some sterling work and eventually after a long unpleasant struggle we broke free. The wind returned and we romped towards Lizard picking up a favourable tide. Although we gave the headland three miles offing with this spring tide there was still a very confused sea.


Falmouth Marina

Soon Falmoth was in sight and we moored safely in the visitor marina at 1138 on Tuesday morning. Cost £21.00 per night. Fair price for spotless showers with piped Radio 2 (?)! Log 8710.

Port St Mary to Aberystwyth

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Aberystwyth Mooring

We reckoned the best time to leave would be 1800 but the sun was out so we left at about 1500 with a very gentle southerly breeze. The wind gradually veered to become a westerley generally around force 3-4 but with a couple of light patches which meant a few hours of motoring. We sailed through the night, passed Bardsey Island and had our destination in sight. Sadly, once again, my Lopo light caused radio interference and I had to resort to a handheld radio in the cockpit. This is now my forth Lopo Light and I think I will have to give up. They look beautiful but just don’t work! Aberystwyth only has about .5m of water at MLWS so the pilot books advise new visitors to arrive two hours either side of high water. So it was rather unfortunate that we were going to arrive about an hour before low water with and onshore breeze. Luckily it was neeps. I had a chat with the Harbour Master who was very helpful and basically said proceed with caution. We knew there would theoretically be enough water so long as we found the channel. Care should be taken as you near the north pier  because the leading line of 133 degrees leads you very close to the aptly named “Trap” and a slightly more southerly approach would be advisable. A J29 was lost on the trap not so long ago according to the Marina Manager. The huge floods they had earlier in the year have actually improved the entrance by scouring away some of the banks. If you are thinking of a low water approach (neeps only) I would suggest a call first to the marina or Harbour Master. Waves break on the trap and I would imagine an onshore force five wind would be tricky. The problem is that the next port of refuge would be Milford Haven!

We had about 0.9m under our keel at the lowest point (2.3m deep). We motored up to the marina and found an empty pontoon berth with no trouble. I am leaving Sumara there until mid August so we later moved her in to a snug berth nearer the gate.

The Mull of Kintyre

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Chart Plotter off Kintyre!

By now we knew we were the last boat to leave Jura for Arran. Barbara, who was one of the organisers had politely asked if we were still competing. “Of course we are” was Chatlottes reply. To get to Lamlash on Arran we would have to round the Mull of Kintyre – a notorious headland with fierce tides and overfalls. The wind was now coming from the south east and we couldn’t lay off the course. We eventually had to tack to avoid contravening the shipping lane regulations. Tim had told me how one year a yacht ended up nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland. How I laughed, but guess what? The wind became very light and the tide turned and the good ship Sumara found herself nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland! Of course eventually the tide would become fair and we were able to tack in towards Arran. Rick and I thought it best to grab a couple of hours sleep while Sarah, Grit and Charlotte took the last short watch into Lamlash. Sadly it wasn’t to be so easy. The wind turned and headed them and soon they were closer to Ailsa Craig than Arran. We ended up with everyone rowing as hard as they could. I tried pulling in the dinghy. It took a long old time but we finally picked up a buoy in Lamlash ready for the last run – up Goat Fell.

Rowing Past the Corryvreckan

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I confess that we had been a little worried on-board the ship as the runners had taken longer than we expected. We knew one runner from another team had to be air lifted off and we were much relieved when a text arrived from Charlotte saying they were on the road back. Once the tired but very cheery runners were safely onboard at 7am we heaved up the hefty anchor, got the sails filled and made way back down the Sound of Mull.
The big tidal gateway en route to Craighouse on Jura is the Sound of Luing. The organisers had conveniently chosen a weekend with a new moon so it was to be powerful spring tides (and no moonlight!). The tides can whizz through the sound at 7 or 8 knots so there was no chance if we missed the fair tide. Time was however ticking away and the wind was already slacking off. If we were to arrive too late then we would need to head to the Sound of Islay at the southern tip of the island – but that added miles.
We did eventually arrive at the Sound of Luing in time for the tide but the wind had now slackened of to a very light vesper. We needed to man the oars for although we were travelling at 8 knots we had no steerage and if we took too long the Corryvreckan would suck us in and spit us out the other side.
After a while a breeze returned and the female watch even had to change down sails only to find the wind died again and they had to change back up. Rick and I were snoozing below trying to catch some sleep before running the Paps of Jura.
After 26 long hours and 20 minutes we arrived at Jura at 0839.
Charlotte rowed Rick and me ashore. The dreaded Paps awaited!

Nothing Remarkable

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Position N59,48 x W013,12. Wind easterly force 5
Still making progress into a boisterous sea. We recorded our first ship passing 8 miles away but never saw it. Long dark nights now. Gales still forecast near landfall time and with no gearbox we may hove too at sea for a day or so or make a dash for Tobermory. St Kilda looks pretty unlikely now.

Sent at 04.11 GMT 11th August

Rough Ride

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Position N60,50 x W014,53. Force 6-7 easterly
It is pretty uncomfortable now with two deep reefs and a reefed yankee. The waves are around 10ft and occasionally breaking over the yacht but the sun is popping out between the clouds so it is an attractive view. This weather is set to continue until tomorrow afternoon before easing off a bit but gales are due at the weekend and we are unlikely to make a safe harbour in time. We may hove too and ride the weather out at sea.

Sent at 10.52GMT 10th August

Vestmannaeyjar Islands

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Position N63,26 x W20,16. Heimaey Harbour. Calm
Well we made it, but only just. After we rounded Reykjanes Penisular the wind became light and we needed to motor to make any worthwhile progress. Gradually the wind increased and we were able to sail again but it was an easterly and the sea was more lumpy than you would expect from the lightish wind. Very slow progress was made. A forecast of easterly 18m/s came through on the Navtex for the local sea area. The wind and the sea increased until a very dark line of clouds started to approach just as our lamb diner was being served up. A squally force 6 to 7 hit us and we needed a couple of urgent deep reefs in the main. The sea got up and we were debating the possibility of running off south then heading to Scotland. Under the current conditions with large breaking waves a landfall would have been dangerous. I was pretty determined to get to the Westmann Islands so we opted to tack north towards the Iceland coast for two or three hours and see what happens. As we closed in on the dangerous indistinguishable south coast the wave conditions improved and Sumara made reasonable progress although our velocity made good was only about 1 knot. We plugged on through the night, tack after tack in wet and lumpy conditions until the wind eventually moderated slightly. The rocks around the Islands were now in sight and eventually we saw the lights of Heimaey Harbour between the two volcanoes. So long as the wind remained as it was we would be able to make landfall. After 39 hrs at sea and only a few hours sleep we moored up in Heimaey at 0500 rather wet and tired.
We grabbed a few hours sleep and went into the town for breakfast, which in my case was coffee and delicious but extravagant peppered monkfish, before climbing the brand new volcano.

On top of the still hot Fire Mountain “Eldell”

This was the famous one which erupted in 1973 and caused the whole island to be evacuated by a fleet of fishing boats and ferries. The lava flowed down into the sea and towards the town. Many of the houses were engulfed but the major worry was that the crucial harbour would be blocked.

Lava engulfs a house in Heimaey








The determined islanders found that by spraying the hot lava with sea water it cooled and solidified. Hundreds of large pumps were put into action and the harbour was saved. In fact the new land formed has made it an even safer harbour. The volcano erupted for five months covering the town with many metres of hot volcanic dust. Many believed the island would never be inhabitable again but the islanders were sure they could make it home again. With the help of volunteers from 19 countries they dug out the town, swept up, painted the houses and got back to work. 10% of the Icelandic fishing haul is from Heimaey so it is an important fishing centre. The people here really battle with nature. The south tip of the island is one of the windiest places in the world with only four calm days a year.
The top of the new volcano is still hot and steam ouzes out of the hillside. The view over the town is spectacular with the new land formed by lava clearly visible. After the climb Gudrun and I headed for the swimming pool and hot tub. Ray has sadly got a bit of a cold coming on and is trying to take things easy until it goes away.
We watched a volcano film in the evening!

Ray and Gudrun take coffee while everything dries out.


Beautiful Snaefellsjokull from Reykjanes Peninsular









Now it is 0800 on Sunday morning and the sun is out. I haven’t checked the weather forecast yet but we hope to set sail tonight after doing all the chores.

I think we may have a Plan?

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Sumara moored in front of the fantastic new concert hall

Sarah has caught her flight back to England and Gudrun has now arrived in Iceland. Charlotte flies out on Sunday. Ray arrives on the evening of 3rd August. It’s quite complicated!
The weather doesn’t look brilliant but there does seem to be a small window of opportunity on Sunday to get around the Reykjanes headland (but now Monday may be better). My friend Jon who used to be an Icelandic fisherman came to visit on Thursday evening and we chatted about the sea area. Jon has experienced 18m high waves just off the headland in no wind – gulp. In a strong south westerly it can be really truly nasty. The south going tide is not as strong as the north going one so it is pretty important that we clear it in one hit. It is coming up to the strong spring tides too. The ideal situation seems to be to arrive at the north tip of the headland at high water with a reasonably strong north easterly or northerly wind. That should allow us to clear the 18nm run south to Reykjanes before the foul tide. It looked like Sunday morning would be a suitable time to get underway but the depression is moving west so Monday could be better. Sumara would then stop at Grindavik on the south coast which is near to the airport to pick up Ray. Thembi may try to get to the Vestmann Islands or stop with us. Thembi may even leave today but it is too late for Sumara to catch the tide. More bad weather is due so we will keep a very close watch. The south coast of Iceland is notoriously dangerous. The high mountains are fronted by long low areas of soft glacial sand which is indistinguishable from the sea and doesn’t show on radar. The tide sets heavily towards the beach. Many ships have mistaken the wet sand for sea and abandoned their ships. It is the walk across the sand to the refuge huts which normally claims the lives of the seaman. The ships rarely break up in the soft sand. It is our intention to head south away from this coast before setting our course for Scotland.
We are still hoping to visit the Vestmann Islands but if time is too tight we will at least see Surtsey. This is the new island formed in a recent volcano eruption. Only scientists (and Tillman?) are allowed to land there as they are studying the way vegetation and life get a hold on new land. If Sumara doesn’t leave on Sunday Gudrun will take us for a drive to her birth place and to see her plot of land. We Skippers are being a bit indecisive but it’s a tricky call.

Bare Poles Down the Sundini

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Bare Pole Biding Time

Sumara set off yesterday down the narrow gap between Streymoy and Eysturoy. We had calculated that the mean tide would be at 2037 GMT. The narrows from Torshavn to near the bridge have no tidal rise at all but just after the bridge the rise and fall is 2m. At high water the stream runs at up to 12 knots towards the south and at low water it flows north. It is crucial to hit near slack water even at neaps. We departed from Torshavn about an hour earlier than we should have just because we were ready and eager to go. The wind was about force 3 south easterly, just about perfect. We aimed to sail slowly to arrive on time. After only about half an hour the wind increased and we were sailing at 6 knots with a reef. At this speed we would need to stop somewhere to bide time. Then the wind really got up. I went to put in a second reef but we decided to drop the main entirely and run under yankee alone. We were still making 6 knots and now the idea of stopping on a jetty would be dangerous because of the lee shore. Then the wind increased again, maybe the funnelling effect of the narrows and I went forward to reef the staysail ready for a hoist and to drop the yankee. John was doing a really splendid job on the helm and made an excellent suggestion of running under bare poles. We dropped all sails and Sumara gybed across the narrows slowly at 1.5 to 2 knots. She felt safe and secure and we were able to control our arrival time at the narrow and very dangerous bridge. Eventually the wind eased slightly and we decided to hoist the yankee and go for it. We were about one hour early but slack often occurs 50 minutes early.
There is a small harbour just short of where the current starts to run on the starboard side so it would be possible to lay alongside a fishing boat if necessary. (Not marked on my charts).

Now we were sailing at 5-6 knots under yankee approaching the bridge which has 17m air draft and 25m width. We were picking up a slight contrary current which built to 2 knots against but Sumara was happily making 4 knots SOG. At the bridge the wind fluked but quickly caught the sails again. Had the stream against us been stronger and the wind lighter it could have easily been possible for the tide to catch the bow of Sumara and sweep her onto the bridge piles but we were through and clear. We now needed to find the leading marks, a set of binoculars to hand at this stage would have helped. The white triangles with a red stripe are situated just to the right of a large white building. The second leading marks are easier to pick up on the grassy bank to the starboard and the safe water buoy is very clear. It is probably not really necessary for shoal draft boats to follow these lines but it’s best to do it by the book.
Once clear of the narrows we made quick progress along the last 5 miles to Eidi, a large easy to enter harbour with a long pontoon on the protected south side. The Eberspacher heater soon dried us out and we were eating a hearty meal before midnight. The wind howled all night so my batteries are once again fully charged.
I’m not sure if Thembi will set off in this wind but we have a bit of time to spare so there’s no mad rush. We couldn’t say goodbye to Thembi before we left because they were crewing on Nordlys on a fishing trip. I bet they had fun, Captain Birgir Enni is a wonderful generous Faroese character. Sarah, John and I will spend the day climbing the Faroes highest hill at 887m.

The Approach to the Sundini Bridge