Jon, Anita, Pete and Diane hatched the scheme in September to charter a boat at the start of the season to get some experience without a club skipper in sight. So along with Lee and Julie we organised an Easter weekend break.
The plan was for each couple to have a day as skipper. For the sake of protecting the innocent and well as the guilty I shall not divulge who was in charge on each day.
Last year Pete and Di had a great week sailing at the end of March, so why not go for that again, after all the weather should be fine. Little did we know we would have F 5's and above and temperatures would be as low as -3 degrees!
On the way to pick up the boat at the Hamble, Pete and Diane became stuck in Tesco's car park for an hour due to the pressure of traffic at the roundabout. Looked like we had enough food for an army but then it was to cover 4 days I suppose. We wisely decided to stay in the Hamble overnight and go out on Friday when the tides would be with us to go west. Anita had prepared a delicious chilli which we all enjoyed after a pre-dinner drink at the marina bar.
We had no problems leaving the marina at slack water and sailed happily down the Solent towards Yarmouth with 2 reefs due to the 20 knot winds and wanting a fairly easy time. Anchoring outside Newton River for lunch, was perhaps a little ambitious with 20 knots across the deck, but the anchor went in a treat, so much so, we did wonder if we would get it out again. However, a call from Kate on Purple Mist, who was already in Yarmouth, alerted us that the place was filling quickly. We could see a steady stream of boats heading in that direction but with the knowledge that Kate's best endeavours had persuaded the harbour master to hold a spot for us, if we were quick, we hauled the anchor up and headed off under sail.
When we arrived at the entrance we did the usual “motor in sideways” and danced precariously with a rather large motor boat that was being ejected due to “no room at the inn”. The harbour master pointed us to Kate who was jumping up and down and waving at us. She guided us to our spot, quite a tight space and not without incident, but luckily we missed Purple Mist!
We met up with Kate and her father for dinner at the pub where we were seated in what appeared to be the Captain's mess of the Black Pearl! A quick nightcap onboard before retiring concluded our first lone sail.
Having picked up the forecast of F 4's and 5's for the next couple of days we decided we would brave it and sail to Poole. Skipper of the day planned to get to Hurst as the tide changed and make our way through the northern channel (which we had called the northern passage the night before which caused some hilarity, can't think why) and catch the flow to Poole.
We had been using the jib on its own up to the point of turning for Poole as we had 20 knot winds on the tail and were making 6 knots without even trying. However, in the lee of the land the wind started to drop so we came up with the idea of hoisting the main, on the 2nd reef. However, due to a passing fleet of 10 or more Sunseekers thundering towards Poole, we didn't go directly into the wind before we started the hoist which got into a mess. We decided to drop it and try again when we went up to the wind properly. When we pulled on the main halyard again, this seemed surprisingly easy, but the sail wasn't going up...somehow the shackle had become undone and was now at the top of the mast, minus the sail. Oh how we laughed......!
Diane cooked a macaroni cheese for lunch, which cheered us all up. She wanted to prove it doesn't always have to be pasties and rolls, I think she hit the spot judging by the silence as we ate and no leftovers! Just the job for a cold trip.
So onwards to Poole under jib alone and then finally under engine as the wind dropped further. No real dramas apart from the chain ferry at the entrance to Poole deciding to cross just as we were about to go through, so we did a few loops before going for the entrance. Into the marina and on to our pontoon without too many problems, well we did learn to look in the marina guide to find the pontoon before entering and giving the helm a bit more of a chance.
Then into the bosun's chair and up the mast for Julie to fetch the main halyard. Thankfully Lee, Julie, Jon and Anita had seen it all before during the John Mountain cup and Julie is a mountaineer, so she turned what could have been a difficult problem into a fun exercise!Back to earth and a few drinks later all was well with the world.
Julie's homemade “Ruby Murray”, nice and hot, made a very welcome dinner and after reminding ourselves of the lessons learned from the day's salty experiences we set our alarm for an early start to return to the tidal gate at Hurst.
It was indeed a very early start! Someone had set their alarm for the 6.30 UT start. Except Steve Jobs (deceased) had a laugh and decided to put the clock forward on the iPhone and wake us up at 6.30 BST, which was in fact 5.30 UT. We did wonder why it was still dark, but hey, the iPhone must be right? It was not until we looked at the ship's clock we realised the error by which time we were all suited and booted. Oh how we laughed.... (again)!
Frost on the desk, hurrah for British summer time!
Unintentionally, we feared we must have woken the rest of marina as we left with revving engines and frantic cries of encouragement to the helm, along with the depth alarm sounding every few seconds as we were on low water. We found our way out the marina and out of Poole with no real incident, the chain ferry was kind to us and did not pull out this time as we went through the entrance against the flow.
So off to the northern passage again, sorry, north channel. The skipper had worked out slack water at 1200 so we had time for a good beat against the easterly wind. Great fun in a 18 knot wind with occasional 20 plus. With 2 reefs in and making 6 or 7 knots we had a fairly comfortable ride. Diane and Pete made some bacon and egg butties as we left Poole which went down a treat.
Then into Lymington without any incidents we care to admit. The last 30 seconds was a little frantic but no impending court cases. The afternoon turned cold and windy, we had had the best of the day, even if it had started prematurely courtesy of Steve Jobs.
On paying our £36 for the mooring fees Lee was delighted to receive a free floating keyring, if we had moored here on Saturday night we would have got a free Sunday paper, I wonder if this would be instead of the keyring? We must go back one day and find out!
Sunday night's on board dinner was stir fried sweet and sour vegetables with chicken cooked, followed by stewed plums and yoghurt, then cheese and wine. Another yum meal.
8am start, out of the marina by 9am, 15 knot winds so quite a bit of planning before we left so we reversed out the lane and then into a spot where there was little wind, so we could change to forwards and out. All went to plan and no nightmare nose not going through the wind etc.
Then a bash to windward, 20 knot winds with gusts, so we motored like everyone else on the Solent! We had a funny moment when we had tried the auto helm and it lost its way when the rudder bounced out the water, so steered by hand after that. Nice passage in to Hamble and off to the fuel pontoon. We had timed it so the current would be fairly week (mid low to high, so at a standstill). This made life easier for us thankfully...then the last mooring operation…
So the off to our pontoon, all planned and prepared, down the row of pontoons to our space...blast we have prepared the wrong side, a bit of a panic, we try for a vacant pontoon but overshot it, then drift sideways down the row being blown by the wind. Ha flipping ha, the crew stop damage happening, skipper having learnt by the others, no revving or yo yo. Eventually we reverse out the row, got our composure, got the fenders and warps ready for a pretty good 2nd attempt thanks to everyone. so delighted he wanted to try out this hideous device immediately and had to be physically restrained. Lee
We have done it, 4 days, no maydays or rescues, no fighting...we all ended better friends than when we started plus all these learning points for next time we are skipper.
Training exercises like the John Mountain cup and other events prepare us for when we need to do it an anger. Being confident with the bosuns chair made a fun activity at the end of a sail.
Always make a note of the pontoon you take the boat from and which side too. Also a quick sketch of the whereabouts.
On short finger pontoon get the bow person to get a rope on a cleat quickly and stop the boat going forwards. Mid cleat is good.
Don't rev the engine when mooring, it just makes you hit things faster!
If you start to yo yo with the throttle, put it in neutral and see how it settles. Get the team with roving fenders working!
Have a good brief before you go, use the RBYC passage planning sheets, really good at focusing your mind.
Don't be afraid to ask for advice and listen to your crew. Yes it's not a debating society but a friendly, “ok skipper, take her out the fairway, lets get the boat ready for another go”, really does help remove the pressure.
Laminate, laminate and laminate some more. How useful are pilotage notes that are not scribbled notes in pencil that you cannot read! Make them you own by writing note on them in pen, then rub off when finished.
You can eat meals prepared on the boat, vegetables are good stir fried and you can cheat with sauces, or cook stuff you put in the oven and leave, why not? Financially we did the 4 days for less than 40 quid a each including mooring fees and diesel. Not including booze and Friday night in Yarmouth.
Porridge is great for cold mornings, better than a fry up at getting you warm and moving.
Quotes of the trip.
Jon explained how he kept surprising himself in the shower...apparently it was the mirror...
Lee wanted to try the Northern passage. Must have been the whiskey we had consumed but we found it hilarious at the time.
Pete having realised we were up an hour earlier than necessary kept on about "oh how we laughed".