Monday, 23 September 2013

Rope Whipping Video

Another Cruising Essentials video. If you use three strand ropes on your boat as I do then you may be whipping ends just like this. If you are not and are using electrical tape nows your chance to master a whipping method of the old ways. This was originally shown to me by a barge skipper and I remember we'd practice it while sipping a light ale or two at anchor. It is very practical in that it does not need a needle to seeze or tie it off. Enjoy, TS

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

More Time On The Water

  Whether working a 9 to 5 day, shift work 2 till 10 or night work, even for the retired among us, with added family commitments and jobs to do around the house such as cutting the grass or decorating the spare room or whatever it may be it can feel as if there is always something getting in the way of simply getting out on the water for a sail. All this is on top of fickle weather and precious time needed to fit out the boat and keep her in sailing trim. To mention a few more I may as well add arranging the lift in or the launch, all repeated for the layup as well. You may avoid this by being on a pontoon or swinging all year round but still may want a lift to anti foul or scrub. And of course we still have to sort out the mooring with a new bit of chain perhaps and keep an eye during the year on wear on the boat while she’s in commission. This could mean new dock lines or halyards to whip and rove or repairs to the trailer or yard trolley maybe. There’s the on-going scrubbing and cleaning of the boat to tend to as well. Filling the water cans and, if you have one, service the engine and getting more fuel - is this in cans or do you need to visit a marina to top up the tank? If your boat demands more than one crew there are those phone calls and emails trying to fit in with oneanother’s calendar.  You might want to fit a new sounder or chart plotter, buy a new self-steering arrangement? Valet the sails, have a UV strip fitted or service the engine. The list of things to do around owning a boat can go on for ever.
  With the above said lets be brutally honest about it and say that for some of us sailing can get a little tiresome at times. All of this effort, and it is effort to get your own cruiser into a seaworthy condition and keep it that way, can seem overwhelming at times. Give the majority of people an easy option or a hard option and I’m quite confident that they will always take the easy route. In sailing that means to avoid the above we become a millionaire and pay someone to do it for us or give it up to escape the tiredness.  If you find that owning a boat is becoming a downward slide on wet seaweed and feel you may fall off the quayside because actually getting more sailing in is a thing of the past, don’t despair as you are not alone. Everyone has down days as well as up. 
  For a start let's remember all the effort that I mentioned earlier does not go unpaid for you know that when the weather, wind and tide do eventually all pull together and you invariably have a great sail that ends with a warm night in a quiet anchorage sipping a favourite tipple all those stresses that came with the preparation seem to fade away into a distant place.

  There is always more we can do to increase the odds of getting us out on the water.  
 A significant phrase that springs to mind is ‘goals move mountains’ as one major factor for successful cruising is to have goals and we'll more likely do what it takes to achieve a goal. Even move a mountain? For the cruising sailor the goal can be as simple as planning a few destinations to aim for during the season and putting a certain number of days aside as ‘sailing days’ and stick them in the diary. Be careful of becoming port bound too as this can creep up on us in various ways. The most obvious is taking a look at the forecast and sea state and convincing yourself that the Force 5 to 6 lifting the spume is far too fierce for your liking so you head back home when in fact it is flat calm in the lee of the seawall and the creek across river where you could be sailing for hours and camping out overnight. The other port bound is slipping into a comfort zone of a mundane routine of cruising the same old handful of passages. Keep pushing the boundaries just a little can keep things challenging and helps keep things fresh. Sail at night, sail for longer periods, sail further, sail when the chop is kicking up. Join another club and meet new friends interested in your kind of sailing. Mooring your cruiser in another area is refreshing and another good way of meeting new people and learning more about how others do things with their boats. If you are long-term paid into an association and have become engulfed in politics get out into the real world. There are many other groups and associations. The barge club at Maldon is just one of them and who have a Thursday gang repairing and maintaining the barges and then sailing in them on weekends.   A couple of sailors I know like to stay afloat on Christmas day. They freeze their bits and came home numb but throughout the year are driven by Christmas to keep the boat in commission and they can say how hardy they are too… I say whatever floats your boat!  The bloke next door may have crossed the Atlantic and it may inspire you but don’t let this concern you too much to the extent that if you can’t do this right here and now then you won’t bother at all. For you the achievement could be in the trip to the end of your local river. It may be to cross that bay or to adventure in the North Sea even. Start with one major trip a month eg - a whole day out on a tide and return on the following tide. Progress to one night, two nights three nights - a week even. Try aiming (not literally) for interesting seamarks, a new river or creek. Here on the East Coast our Thames Estuary rivers and creeks team with maritime history – see some of it... Cruising is an activity that combines well with other interests you may have such as photography, art, fishing, swimming, rambling, naturalist, archaeology, history etc.  

  Cruising objectives such as photographing or painting a certain seascape for example can drive you on for weeks until the shot is in the bag. Places for anchoring can be the focus of a whole day or weekend. By scanning the chart and Ordnance Survey map for new places to anchor before sailing to check them out. I have a whole arm’s length list of anchorages - places I know it is safe to dry in or stay afloat all state of tide in many rivers and areas of coast - so that if you get caught out you always have a place to pull out the bag. Knowing where to anchor will extend your cruising ground trebling or quadrupling possible places to visit. How many waterside towns are there? Some are predominantly fishing ports, others pure yacht stations that have interesting classes of boats that are not seen in numbers elsewhere. How many places are there were you will not see another soul? Visit a new (to you) marina, similar inside wherever you go perhaps but a different journey getting there? If you sail mainly a couple of hours around high water as a surprising number of folk do then make it your purpose to cruise at low water when the place is a different world. Buying a new piece of equipment is another way to inspire you to get afloat as you will want to use it. If you sail big cruisers try a dinghy and dinghy sailors try crewing on someone’s cruiser. If you sail over the soft muds and never run aground for fear of doing so then run aground as it will open up a whole new world to you... For some of us yearning for distant shores a visit to the next creek upstream just may be the tonic for us to realise what we are missing on our own doorstep.  Having a goal means you’ll be more likely to happily tend to the boat with a chirp and whistle and you just may end up spending more time on the water. 

Good sailing, TS

Friday, 13 September 2013

Small Boat Sailors Report

  Thank you to Mike of Swallow for sending in this report of the Small Boat Sailors gathering last weekend.  Before you read it I should apologise for the late notice this year which couldn't be helped. I would also like to thank those that had intended to come the week before, itself short notice, but were cut even more short when I changed the date. I know one of those boats carried out his plans and still made the sail round from the River Crouch and had quite an adventure while here including sliding up against and along Bradwell Creek seawall, from St Lawrence Creek, during the night due to a CQR anchor drag.
  Cruising people are the hardest of folk to nail down to an event being such free spirits and I'm probably more guilty of this than anyone perhaps but there will be a concerted effort to make next years the biggest yet and  in this endeavour I will be setting the date and promoting the event much earlier in the season so that we can all put that day or weekend aside. Even though I get many emails regarding the gathering it is always going to be another matter getting people to attend no matter when a date is fixed, however the 1st year after our initial gathering on Charlie Stocks Ballast Hole mooring  we had three boats, the 2nd year seven boats and this year four boats.  CS will be happy that small boat sailors continue to gather once a year in his memory and as the years pass more and more people will come to know of the Small Boat Sailors Rally. If you can help us by spreading the word or by joining us, I'd rather you done both, that would be great. For next year the idea was put forward of holding a joint rally with the Dinghy Cruising Association - CS was one of the early members - who have held one or two of their own rallies in the creek in the past. I'm open to this in principle but it's to early to speculate on this happening until around March next year when I should know more.

Here's Mike's report:

Small Boat Rally 2013

          The fourth Small Boat Rally took place in Goldhanger Creek on Saturday 7th Sept. 2013. Its timing had been somewhat fraught for various reasons; among them the very late start of decent sailing weather, suitable tides, Creeksailor’s ongoing  adventures and most recently his family holiday. The first date this year had to be cancelled so last week’s event was snatched as a do or die event for this season. Needless to say the hurried fixture caught sailors on the hop and some previous attendees advised of their absence this year. However there were four participants, all be it two being home boats, a Shipmate and a Sailing Canoe, but due to the unpredictable weather it ended up as a rather “tangential” affair, with two of the attendees not meeting each other. With a HW spring at approx. 14.45hrs Creeksailor was aboard early while Shoal Waters was ashore and accessible on foot, accompanied by a well known yachting magazine article contributor. I arrived a little later and met up with Shoal Waters in my dinghy on my way out to Swallow. Old acquaintances were renewed and fifteen minutes of pleasant marine chitchat ensued. It had been blowing a bit during the morning, but while talking with Creeksailor the wind had dropped. So as I pushed-off from Shoal Waters, with kettle whistling and a Fray Bentos can being extracted with pliers from another boiling kettle, no plan for the afternoon had been formulated. In a shouted exchange as I rowed towards Swallow, plans would be agreed via VHF channel 72. 

          While I was getting Swallow ready for sail the wind was up and down, and wanting a leisurely afternoons sailing in company, decided to pull down two reefs for good measure. When first aboard I noticed a Shipmate anchored down river and a dinghy sail in the distance on Joyce’s spit. Creeksailor had mentioned that a Dinghy Cruising Association member was attending, but I was unsure if either of them were “with us”. By the time Swallow was ready to sail, the Shipmate had motored over and moored alongside Shoal Waters. Although I didn’t get to meet her owner, I recognised the boat as it had very recently been converted to gaff rig, following in the footsteps or rather wake of Creeksailor’s old Huffler. The previous Tuesday I just happened into the boatyard nearest Maldon’s Fullbridge to enquire about laying-up and there she was on her trailer. The shipwright had carried out a magnificent conversion and provided her with “spars to die for”, but her hull looked like “work in progress”. The following day she was gone, so I was extremely surprised to see her at Goldhanger so soon after her transformation.

          After VHFing with Creeksailor it was decided to sail for a couple of hours, so I cast off and port tacked over to the Osea shore in very little wind, jybed and headed back in which time sail had been raised and the other two were headed out. We all jollied about for ten minutes or so then I decided to head up river with the flood in virtually no breeze, while the others turned and ran down river. Almost immediately the wind started to puff from the south west and water was coming in over the port coaming, most unexpected. The blue sky was full of white clouds but one in the immediate offing had a dirty grey underside which said wind to me and may be a lot of it. If I was right, the best place would be back on the mooring, so I jybed and all but “flew” back, the wind increasing and going into the south making mooring pick-up more difficult. I was very glad to get the anchor chain looped over the Sampson post. Somewhat out of breath, it had been a very hectic fifteen minutes, I put Swallow to bed and took stock. 
  By now the wind was blowing a good five and Swallow was pitching into a very steep short chop, which was unusual as the tide had turned and the ebb well under way, so the water should have flattened somewhat. Two tanned sails were spied running back from up river, so they must have turned and reached up towards Maldon in the lee of Osea Island while I was getting back onto my mooring. The Shipmate continued running down river from whence he came so we never met, with Shoal Waters crossing to the Goldhanger shore, dropping mainsail and heading for her mooring under jib and staysail. I had also noticed a very small white sail approaching, running before the boisterous conditions and in no time at all, a white splinter of a boat low in the water flashed past, the occupants casually waving as they swooped amongst the waves. They ran into and up Goldhanger Creek, dallied while the windy cloud passed over and in calmer conditions sailed out of the creek and ran back down river towards Joyce’s and disappeared from view. In the mean time Shoal Waters had moored up, but not before raising her mainsail again and displaying her sailing capabilities, including reaching  in clouds of spray before finally picking up her mooring. After ferrying Shoal Waters crew, Creeky Dave, ashore we were joined in the dinghy compound by the intrepid crew of the white splinter, which turned out to be a Solway boat with a rig similar to a Topper rig if I remember correctly. The gentleman and his young daughter belonged to the DCA and had driven quite a distance to launch at Bradwell that morning, “had done the Blackwater” with a copy of Creeksailor's book and were camping overnight behind the seawall at Joyce’s Creek. They’d had an adventurous day too, including losing some belongings during a capsize, and when Dad had time enough to photograph his little girl in the water clinging to their upturned boat. They were both wearing dry-suits but how cool was that; I was starting to feel quite a sissy in comparison. 
  After this introduction, were had to learn more of our new found friends which could only be achieved over a well earned beer, or two. Having put the dinghy away and locking up the compound, we traversed the sea wall in the direction of that well known watering hole the Chequers. It just so happened that the pub was holding a classic car rally and beer festival, so we joined a very animated throng in the beer garden and over pints of Maldon Gold and Adnam’s Ghost Ship, the fourth small boat rally was brought to a happy ending.