Restoring Lena-Contact-Sailing Home-Sailing Logs-Uphill photo Tour

Diaries 2007

Easter Sat - 7th April

With the balmy weather we've had, I'd promised myself to get down Thursday Evening - then finish up the alarm box wiring on the evening.

Tides were just right for Thurs eve - then all day friday, leaving the car at Uphill, so was a bit annoyed I didn't get my act together for Thursday night ! Friday was going to be a bit tight for light at Uphill Warf.

Where's the water

Good Friday evening sees me with a dingy and all my gear , very low down on the Uphill slipway, about 7pm - waiting, optimistically - ( the water at Uphill at 7pm was about 1 m wide and 6 inches deep ! ) but my carefully drawn tidal curve showed 8m at 7.50 pm - enough to launch the dingy and get by the wreck

Just about on cue, this muddy swill appeared - this must be yachting at the wrong end I was thinking ruefully, ( don't really mean it ! )

As a bonus though, I had a chance to have a chat with the owner of the 'Kra', a 55' ketch on the moorings at the yard, - great story, the Kra - had it left to him in a will, so did a few RYA courses, etc, then went over to the Caibbean to fix it up,with the family, then sailed it back to Uphill. I heard he had no problems at all, until he got to Weston Bay and Uphill Pill ! - it 'is' a big boat to get up the Pill - and he's got all sorts of problems with the wreck blocking part of the channel. Just got the water at dusk.

Still there

Lena still sitting all intact and dry. So pleased she is so dry - I don't get a drop in on the stern tube - and I've sorted the rain water problem - so everything stays pretty dry - so long as I don't cook too much spaghetti.

God it took me ages to get the bit of wiring sorted - but I did do the new vhf speaker and put in my new led toggle switches - put then on the compass and auto helm for now, but will get some more, especially for the deck flood, which is really easy to leave on and not notice. To use then on the main board would mean a bit of rewiring as the switches are soldered in.

Relaxing, if you are in the mood for it, sorting wiring. I find it relaxing to untangle string - which is probably worrying !

I'm not too happy with the wiring at the rear of the main 6 way panel. Its a bought unit - but the bus wires seem very thin. Maybe rebuild it with these switches. They only pull 20 mA - not really needed on the gps, wind, internal lighting etc - even 5 of them on is only a tenth of an amp an hour, so although its technically a waste of power, its good to see things are switched on. Certainly on the nav light switches - its so easy to knock a switch on by accident and waste a lot of power.

The solar panel is doing a great job - service batteries at 13.5v and the engine is still holding charge well. Time for bed - 2 am, even radio 4 has given up the ghost.

Ist All Day Singlehanded Trip

Beautifully balmy Sat morning - high pressure, no change in sight - this was it. Out all day on my own for the first time - and only my 2nd singlehanded trip, a little scary - the forecast was a help.

Nearly chickened out - but as soon as I let go that forward painter I knew I was going for it.

Lovely morning - about 6 kts Easterly, come NE'ish. Motored out on the normal transit of Uphill Church/ Flat Holm light - then headed off to the S West, south of Steep Holm - figured I would run with the tide, S of the main shipping lanes. I had the seas to myself - and Easter Sat as well !

Winds were so light I couldn't keep the sails full holding the downtide bearing, so 'went with the wind' and headed S towards Burnham - eventually sighting Dz1 range marker buoy - though it was shipping at first, but a quick fiddle with the gps conformed it was DZ1 ( I have most of the local buoys in as waypoints ) then headed back out toward DZ3, tacking back offshore. Wind by now almost dead though - flat calm sea.

Being so calm - I went in close to the DZ buoys and got some pics. These things are great - they have a very eerie presence about them - big too. Quite a privilage really to be able to see them close to.

Gave up on the wind - about 2 pm, and a little concerned I had 15 m on the log, the stream did not turn till 4 pm, and had to be at the Axe for 7.30 - so thought it wise to motor back on the direct bearing for W of Steep Holm - chugged along for an hour and a half, punching a 1.7 kt tide.


Something I had not reckoned on was the visibiity, being such a nice day. It was bad - sort of heat haze - probably down to a mile. I couldn't see any shoreline, no Steep Holm, no Hinckley Point Power Station - and a dead flat calm sea. Tales of the Sargasso Sea came to mind - can see why calms can be more of a worry than rough weather.

6 pm saw me past S of Steep Holm, well of Weston Bay. Flat calm still - not a single knt ! Rolled in the sails, cut the engine - and drifted, sat in the cockpit writing up the log from my little white board notes. Also chuffed today that I actually went below and marked my position on the chart every hour.

Fortunately got the engine up and running when I did - I'd drifted a considerable ways off - my estimation of distance off leaves a lot to be desired. Had to punch the incoming tide now back across to the approach for the Axe.

Crept up the river at 7.45, just before dusk, on the rising tide.

More mooring pactice

Very little depth by my mooring buoys - and with the fast flow messed up really well on the first run in - had to go back downstream. Tried to turn her in the narrow channel- messed that up, so ended up drifting backwards past the mooring - but, with a flash of inspiration/desperation, whacked her in reverse and turned in reverse, into the stream in to the guest lines and got her fast no problem. All good experience - they are not the easiest of moorings, and I am on my tod.

Not bad I think - for only my 2nd singlehanded trip. I've acheived something today.

One advantage of mooring on the Axe - I'll have little fear of Marina berths - I mean, the water is there all the time, no 2 - 3 knt current - but maybe an 'audience' ( hmm ).

3rd Singlehanded. Sunday 8th April 07

10.30 HW - she would be free at 8.30 - again, blanket high pressure, but maybe a whif of some more wind.

After yesterday, all day out, I might have been tempted to not bother today. I could only really go out on the same tide - with HW this evening at 10.45 pm it was too close to dark for me for getting back up in some light.

But I felt a little different this morning - I 'wanted' to take her out - much more relaxed about it. She was afloat at 8.30, I was all ready - but finished my coffee and cig - gliding down the Axe about ten to nine - pleasant morning, pleasant feeling.

A bit more air than yeasterday - the odd spell of 7 - 8 knts. Being Ester Sun, and glorious weather - and a morning tide there were several other boats on the approach channel and around the bay - so I get a little more confident with regard other craft - I have all the theory, etc - but in practice its a little different. Thankfully we don't have Sea Cat ferries blasting around at forty knts here !

So all good practice, tacking around the bay, his way and that for a couple of hours. Made a much better job of mooring up,- much easier at just half hour after HW.

Getting the hang of it

I have perfected the stance with the tiller between my legs - especially under engine. I can roll a ciggy or drink my coffee, with both hands free - makes one look like some erotic bit of classical sculpture though !

The auto pilot is working a real treat I've gotten used to its settings a bit now - it kept me spot on yesterday at 60 deg, coming back up to Steep Holm, with very little activity.

Getting confident at making coffee while underway - best done on the auto pilot, as when you come back up you are still going in the same direction ( oops ! ) - at least I noticed !

I fiddled about with a couple of ways to set a boom preventer - its a great bonus on your own. I've an easy way now, with a couple of lines run down from the kicking strap to the forward stanchion fairlead eye,then back to the, now unused, jam cleats. Its great in light winds - for mooching about on the deck ( I clip on by the way, always ! )

Good to feel I'm getting somewhere now - the all day trip was a watershed, a real confidence booster.

One thing I feel is the need for a viable spare engine, especially in these waters. I felt vulnerable on Sat - no wind, 3 kts tide - just the Yanmar. OK - I have to 2 hp Suzuki on the transom, but it just reaches the water, and would not punch any headway against a current - ok for the river maybe, just to get to 'some' available emergency mooring, if you had problems. It needs at least a 5 hp longshaft, and maybe have to renew the bracket. The happier you are, the more you go out - sod what anyone else does. Its totally to do with what 'I'want and what makes me happy - there !

Buoy oh bouy

Glad I got the pics of the Buoys - I fancied getting some good pics while I'm sailing - but really need to use my Nikon on ordinary film, or invest in a serious digital ( just seen a Nikon refurb D100 for £ 290 - tempted ) - you need to be able to set a fast shutter speed - at least 500 ths, better more, so need a spec digital for that, or fastish trad film stock. The D100 will take my old Nikon lenses but will not meter with them - shame, the D200 will - but they are recent, and still 500 plus used, if you could get one. About a grand new. For now ought to carry my Nikon with some fast film stock.

Make a good calendar - 'Local Bristol Boys' - ha ha.

This has been a really great weekend aboard - and sailing. I've achieved a great deal.

Next on the list - to stop over at another port - probably Watchet, after all I was only a few miles off on Sat - and also to anchor overnight on my own. That will be a bit scary - probably spend the entire night awake in the cockpit, so say gloating over the solitude, but in reality, scared to get your head down. Even with this balmy weather, its surprising how its been blowing up late evenings, and the tides still run.

I was amazed how evil the water was off of Weston Bay, once that tide was running at its peak - and that was with not a breath of wind. Its the juction of the Bay with the main stream which seems to cause it all. Further out it was flat calm, but as you get closer in it was swirling and boiling around - the sort of water I would not like to be in in a canoe !

Strange local birds

Apparently, the strange white bird I saw, that I thought was a stork, was either a great, or a lesser, White Egret. How to tell I don't know, but I thought it looked 'great'. The Great is extremely rare, the lesser somewhat less so in this area ( courtousy of a 'birding' newsgroup - I have to look out for the 'American green winged Teal', which is apparently quacking in the area for a while. Maybe it was him squawking away in the small hours last night. It looks just like a mallard but with all the colours jumbled up. Probably just a Mallard 'gone wrong' ! )

Enough, enough - nearly forty miles clocked up this weekend, very good too-

Geoff - Easter weekend, April 07

Friday 13th April

Didn't even think about the date ! Down to Uphill on the afternoon tide - 9.3 m tide - so not too bad for water at Uphill. Laden down aagain but did have 3 x 5 lts water, 10 lts deisel - took the insulated picnic box - its going to stay aboard as a sort of larder.

Had all day out on Sat and Sun as a poss - but Sat was an early start, HW at 4.50. Light at six so was feasible - Sun was better.

Just bought a new 'used' laptop - where I bought my new pc, he had a pile of old Dells - Pentium 333 mhz, 128 mb ram, cd, usb and Win 2000 Prof installed - only a 4 gig drive, but perfect fro the boat - and the battery is perfect it seems - all for £89 ! Its fine with my digi camera on the usb - put Ozi explorer on, and Photoshop 6, for fiddling with pics. No problems on the serial gps connecton - great. he usb is great as I stick in my 500 mb zip memory stick to transfer stuff. I like the Ozi explorer interface - may but the full product.

Was awake sat, but made the fatal mistake - it will be better tomorrow when the tides are later. It was early ! I could take her out Sat evening on the top of the tide.

Fitted a new mainsheet - ( see pic, sailing logs ) the old was the original and so engrimed with dirt it was like sandpaper in your hands. Tried a better arrangement for the booom preventer.

Still calm waters

Took her out on the afernoon tide. Quite a breeze going earlier, getting up 15 kts, but once out in the bay it all died the death - virtually windless. As many boats as I've seen out yet - being a Sat, Easter hols - prob 6 in all, all going asimilar way, 'very slowly' !

No problem on the water - did about 6 miles, this way and that. Genoa tends to catch the baby stay in very light winds, though no great problem. Mooring up was just on the turn of the tide - virtually windless - what a hash Imade of this one. Managed to get the guest line under the keels. Nearly lost the boat hook - much swearing - eventually grabbed what I could and got her on to the upstream painter - and manage to pull her stern in - the dingy and guest line all now to the port side - somehow mnaged to go right over the lot ! Will get there in the end - but every time seems different - not easy on your own.

Mist out !

Sunday All awake and eager - forecast still blanket high presure. HW 6 am - look out cabin window - can hardly see other bank for mist. Just see the White Rose - and she's only 60' away. I had till about 7.30 - any later going out on a falling tide is a bit tight - and I didn't know what vis would be like near Black Rock. I knew it would clear with the sun up - but didn't fancy the river in that vis. Be different with two of you. Went back to bed - then was punished by her going down on a 20 deg heel !

Really why Iwanted to get out for the day even if it was windlesss - at least I'd be level ! Big spring coming up Wed - 14 m at Avonmouth, 13 here - will let out a bit on the stern bridel when I leave.

Sun pm - out on the Evening Tide

Wow - a bit of learning curve, singlehanded.

Despite an exceedingly calm day, it was blowing up 18 kts going down river. Once out, the bay was cutting up a big chop - now getting up 20 - 22 kts. Cut the engine anyway and tried her with just the genoa - should have stayed that way - but the wind seemed to be dying off - so put up the full main. Halyard was jammed around the spreader end - sorted that up on deck, then a lanyard on the mast caught inthe slugs - so up again to free that. All the times up to now I've been out alone have been pretty calm - but now it was picking up 24 kts, with some steep chop going. You quickly realise controlling the boat in those conditions is 'vey' different to nice calm stuff.

Took the genoa in a bit, but she didn't like that - she needs the opposite, a full genoa and a reef in the main - helm was very heavy at times. I coped, a bit nervy Imust say, with the rail in the water at times ! But Ididn't run for home - I took her right across the bay, then tacked her back, then back over again - not pretty at times, almost some 'handbrake turns'. I should have headed out further to get into deeper water .

Enough's enough

After two hours I'd had enough - getting the main down was a bit iffy, but it's just 'down as quick as you can job' - I'm glad I'm confident with my lifelines. One lesson learned, if you go up to the mast to drop the main, go around the windward side ! Still, did it ok. Even motoring in was rough - what a difference a day makes.

Still made a mess of the mooring - but the wind was strong from the NW. Trying to take it easier in, but kept blowing off at the bow - maybe should have tried it from the bank side - had the depth there.

Had a close call with a power boat and water skier - he must have been some skier to stay up on that water. There was some distant loudhailer stuff going on on the beach in the morning, and further inshore were skiers and crew all in identical red helmets/outfits - so maybe there had been some sort of display going on. They must have been approaching fast from behind, and at close quarters. I tack to port - only to see me on course for the middle of his line. Luckliy he was going fast enough to miss. When I tack a boat again I shall look behind - in the conditions you don't think. Beats me how any body could stay on water skis out in that. Couldn't hear the boat even.

A few more miles on the clock

Trip - 7.9 miles. Max speed 7.5 kts - bit of help there from the tide, but I did see 5.8 on the Raymarine. Should have put a reef in the main - BEFORE I went out. Getting too complacent - its difficult on your own to get one in if its already blowing up. You really need to take in the genoa, and motor into the wind on the autopilot - that seems the safest way, without an extra hand on the helm. Still - I survived ! - All good experience, though after two nights aboard, drying out on a slope, you get a bit tired. I made few gaffs out there, trying to do three things at once, when I'm hardly capable of doing one thing at once. I've a lot to learn yet - today made me realise that - it also took me just over the hundred miles to date in Lena.

Hoprfully it will not make me too cautious over taking her out all day on my own. I really made the mistake of staying too close in in the bay - I was only in 4.5 m of water at times, got the wind all wrong - should have put a reef in straight away. I've set a nice tidy first reef in on the mooring before I packed the sail away - it will stay put for the next trip, until I'm more than sure its really not needed.

And to cap it all

Get home - well tired out after three nights aboard. Start to do these pages and my new pc, with Mr Gates pile of xp rubbish on it decided to crash out. ( Should of upgraded the 98 to 2000, not xp - may still do it, before I 've got too uch stuff on )

Had to do a repair-install of the system - luckily saved all my files and programs, though my html editor didn't survive ( not really surprised on that one ) Then it took me 8 hrs solid to to get McAfee firewall/antivirus working - it had decided to keep working, not let me uninstall it, and give be a blank white screen for every control panel - so I couldn't change any settings. Solved in the end, accidentally - I had installed IE 7, so after the re-install, I was back to IE6. As a hunch I reinstalled 7, and McAfee sparked back into life in all departments. I thought boats were tiring at times.

So I'm back t using a thirty day trial copy of Dreamweaver 3 - now I'm getting used to it, its ok. Not sure what happens in 15 days time though ! Certainly, for this site, I could do the pages in notepad - but its the ftp upload/sync features of the likes of GoLIve and Dreamwaver that make life easy.

Geoff - 18th April 07

Bank Holiday 4th May 07

Down to boat on the evening tide – didn’t really feel like it somehow – but had a hunch Friday looked ‘passive’ enough to tempt me out singlehanded all day.

Always glad when I do go – Uphill is such a strange, quiet, run down place – so glad I chose Uphill to work on Lena – it established me as a part of the place. I still pay for parking there and launch/storage facility for a small tender on their pontoon further down the Pill – its only a hundred a year and gives me the ok to use the main slip for putting the inflatable in and out – good place too to leave the car for a few days if I stay aboard – or whenI feel ok about going off for a few days at a time.

Interesting place

Dingy inflated and all gear on the slip – looked up Br….who was going to sell me a Seagull outboard – nice Silver Century plus – but he’d changed his mind as he’d bought another wreck ( I jest – but he would see the joke )

The one he has serves as his ‘home as well’ – but its only an 18’ cabin cruiser, in pretty rough shape, on the hardstanding. One of the various characters here – all unique in their own right. Likes his drink – but I’ve never seen him too out of order with it. I don’t preach him – what with my being a reformed alchoholic, but I know there’s stuff I don’t see. Alchoholics are like icebergs – nice little quaint white cap above the water but a mass of heavy stuff, unseen below.

He fits the mould for Uphill, taking the evening sun in his folding chair – doubtless rescued form the skip, watching the big brown spring tide creep in – with a mug of white wine or whatever else was to hand.

Nice Evening

Glorious still evening – biggish tide on an 8.30 pm HW. About two weeks since I was last down. Found Lena all intact – it always amazes me somehow – still sitting there exactly as you left her.

Left the solar panel unplugged ! – duhh, don’t know how I managed that – vaguely remember fiddling with the cable – did leave in a bit of a rush last time.

Friday morning

Dipped out on the all day out – just not confident enough for it. Had it been a calm morning – with a similar forecast, I might have gone. But it was blowing some at 7.30 with an unsettled cloudy sky and a cold N.Easterly. I find it difficult to commit myself – especially alone, and only my 2nd time out all day on my todd.

Writing this at 4 pm – quite good really, but the winds still up on the forecast. Potentially could have been a bit lumpy out there, being right on a spring tide.

Its not that the boat wont take it – she’s fine, doesn’t roll at all, even quartering into quite big swells she keeps a steady heel - it’s me, the problem ! – not quite there yet in the confidence stakes. When I’m out there I’m quite happy – you mentally adjust to it – its ‘going out’ I get nervous about – especially all day.

You are committed to ten hours – and there’s nowhere to go. I’m much happier about going out on the same tide – you know you can run in if you want to !

Tidy up

Still – I sorted out all the v-berth storage – found a home for the toolboxes, fitted the new, extra led switches. Tides are only really right for an all day out – being 9 am/ 9pm’ish.

The solar panel is working just fine – when its plugged in ! I split the connector by the control box – so as to bridge it with the multimeter set on ‘amps’ – you can then see exactly what it is putting in. 3pm – May sunshine, UK – 1.25 amps. Just leave it charging the service batteries – and the engine battery gets sorted by the Yanmar. So really, don’t have to alter anything in terms of charging.

Nice to have a clear v-berth – I can go lie down and have a kip ! Its not lazyness – it’s a very important form of meditation. We did it when we were at nursery school – have a midday kip, and all the greeks do it – and look how happy we were at nursery school – and how happy the greeks are. I rest my case !

With the boat on a heel – with the water gone, it’s a relief to lie out somewhere for an hour, anyway.


Dead still balmy morning – not a breath of wind – good forecast ! Does Geoff take the boat out – no ! Why ? – I wish I knew – still, maybe the mood I’ve been in the past few days.

It was a bit murky early on – and an major low was hammering in, but I sort of knew it was going to be ok. It ended up a beautiful, still, warm, cloudless balmy day – but took a positive attitude. My decision, right or wrong, was not going to let it get me down – maybe sometimes if you just don’t feel like it, you should go with your gut feeling.

The weather arrived about late evening as predicted – the morning saw rain and brisk winds picking up. To add to the colour of the morning – I peer out the cabin window about 6am – and see my wind gauge rotor sitting neatly on the mud. Tide is fast coming in. So there am I in blue thermals, 6am – damp and cold with the extending boat hook trying to rescue rotor. Great start to a day – decide to get back to Uphill on the morning tide. Really blowing now – as predicted.

I think the club were racing today – maybe it was tomorrow. Still – had a very relaxing stay aboard – cleared up stuff, even polished the cockpit grp a bit last night – but still really kicking myself for not going out Sat – at heart I know I should have just dropped the mooring ropes and headed down the river – I’d have had a great day then, not just a nice one.
Still – its early in the season – and I have put in 60 miles already, all single handed, so shouldn’t be too hard on myself I suppose.

Sorting stuff out on the slipway had a good chat to the owner of the junk rigged motor sailor up at the pontoons - he gets all around the area singlehanded a lot. Apparently started all his sailing up Nr Lydney - N of the Severn Bridges - a mean bit of water up there, with the fiercest of the tidal flows - 8 kts through the shoots.

I always pick his brains if I can about Watchet, Minehead etc. He's a regular cruising sailor, rather than racing around stuff the yacht club mostly do.
He even had good advice on the Nasa wind vane, as his is the same model - and his fell off too - but luckily I found mine. It would seem to be repairable - I feel a gracefully supreme bodge blossoming - just have to go up the mast to get the thing down. Glad now I put in the Belkin plug at the mast head. It will split - then just two mounting bolts and I can bring it down as a unit.

( it would seem the small spindle that holds the rotor should be captive in the bottom of the unit - mine seems to have dropped out. Just needs some way of re-fixing it back in. It has a threaded end with a tiny m2 nylock on the captive end - so should be easy to epoxy in. The rotor then has a little magnet in it - which would just need to spin close enough to the main unit sensor.

I'm pretty sure I made a note of the wiring on the belkin mast head plugs - so should be able to bodge up a temp connection to the din plug at the coachroof to test it out. Why didn't I put the same plugs on the mast join and the cabin roof join - hmmm, - would have been a lot simpler to test it - ASFIR its only four wires operative - one is screen)

Mon 3rd June

Hassels with the car over the weekend - alarm/immobiliser ( not that I ever use it )playing up and dropping the contact for the fuel pump. A mass of spaghetti under the dash - yeuk. Bypassed it in the end - after downloading the manual for the unit. ( Have you ever tried to get hold of a wiring diagram for a car alarm system ? - I think it would have been easier to get one for a nuclear bomb ! )

Down to boat on evening tide - really light until quite late now. Good vis at nearly 10 pm. From a look at the synoptic charts I'd hoped for a calm few days - all day sail poss for tues and wed - not to be though, sort of NE force 5 - great for experienced crew - not so good for me on my tod all day. Confidence still a bit dented after my last, rough, trip out arond the bay.

An ill wind

I'm beginning to despair over marine forcasting. Swansea coastguard reports are 24 hr generalisations - 3 to 4, sea slight to moderate. I'm sure they are giving windspeeds based on an average - so if its blustery weather it all to pot. Its gusting 20 kts at times on the mooring and they are still saying 3 to 4. Why can't they give max and min wind speeds - and actual wave height data - they ahve the info from the automatic buoys - don't they ? I'm thinking its just a case that commercial shipping does not need to know anything other than an imminent full gale - and they have no interest in giving a service to the leisure sailor - just go through the motions.

So didn't go out on tues - bit too brisk for what I felt happy with.

Wed 5th June

Similar wed forecast - now 2 to 3, smooth to slight - and still a really stiff wind going - don't make any sence to me.

Decide to go out on the tide for a couple of hours - and if it looks better out there - I could have stayed out till 9 pm.

I mean - with a forecast like that you wouldn't expect whitecaps on a chop of nearly 1 m in Weston Bay ! Ok - it is a NE running straight against a flood tide. I tried her with just the genoa - and was getting 4.5 kts even partially furled - so this was no force three.

Nasa Crap

My rotor fell of my nasa wind vane last trip down - rubbish, don't ever bother with a nasa target or clipper wind, the " NASA WIND VANE, Target or Clipper, is NOT FIT FOR PERPOSE" - and will likely not even last one season.( I've put this as the title of the page and in some meta headers - so hopefully google will trawl it out on searches )

Anyway - not much of a sail, but an important little trip - good to get out there after the last "rough" evening trip - not nearly so bad, and actually, if I'd have headed right out, once the tide turned with the NE it would have settled down a bit - and the wind was likely to drop off later, since it was a hot day - so likely sea breezes would be developing form the SW - cancelling things out against the NE'lies.

Most of the days with this easterly airstream, with warm high pressure - have been like that.

She went quite well with just the genoa - a bit funny to tack though, for some reason. She wouldn't go around a couple of times.

Goodbye speaker

Very gusty and upredictable wind - sailing with the sprayhood down left my vhf external horn exposed - so suddenly I hear a "whack"- and something black dissappears over the side - shortly followed by my plastic mobile phone holder. Lazy sheet caught them - but they were "cheap" plastic, no great loss. I sited it there before I got in the habit of sailing with the hood down

Its at times like these I think " force 2 to 3, sea smooth to slight - crap "

Really unusal strong swell running 90 deg across the entrance channel going out and in by Black Rock - never really understand this bay - it seems different everytime you go out.

Get back on to the mooring first try - hurrah - doing something right. Another night aboard - since I have the car at Uphill yard and there is little water up there except right on HW.

Pleasant though, when its warm like this - midges don't seem too bad either - though short on food, will have to raid ships supply - Big Soup, pasta and tinned pineapple does not sound too inspiring - not my ideal choice of food but it store well. ( McVities original ginger cake is a good one aboard - really sticky ginger and seems to last for months in a Addis tub. ( I must sing the praises of the small Addis screw top plastic tubs - amazing things, I've had loose salt in one for over a year and its still bone dry)

Really quite a nice couple of days - boat seemed to sit fairly level on the mud - but maybe I'm jusy getting used to it. Uphill church was leaning a bit last night ! She really is a comfortable boat to stay on - for one !

Took the boat out - thats good even if it was just for a few hours - its all good experience. With the light so good now, should have plenty of chances to get out all day - one advantage of staying aboard is making a really early start - its good light at about 4 am. Hopefully soon a trip to Watchet and go in overnight - I shall fell like I'm really sailing then - with Lena in a "foreign" port ( well, nearly in Devon ! )

Back up to Uphill on the midday HW - outboard seemed a bit dicky, must give it a check out. Fuel mix is about a year old though. Just about used one 4 litre mix. Hoping car will start - after my problems.

Must scrub the boot top again - big mistake, painting the white boot top in ordinary yacht enamel - really picks up lucious green weed growth. Scrubs off pretty easily - just a bit awkward. Nothing on the blue Seago antifoul - just the boottop. Next year it gets done in white antifoul - just feather it in to the underside.


Trying to sort out a downhaul system for the main - means modifying the halyard cleating a bit. Going up to the mast to drop the main is a pain - as its usually when you are just about in and don't have the sea room, so you end up going around under engine and maybe autopilot, to try to keep the boat head to wind or swell, while fighting with a handfuls of sails and velcro ties.

I have to reef the main at the mast, since my slugs need to be removed to set the reefs - dont mind that - its dropping it on an approach that needs sorting, on your own

I can put the main up ok - I'm working on an idea of a downhaul line running up to the leech - maybe running through the existing reef tie eyelets - with a few extra small d-rings sewn in, then one at the leech. It should pull down from the end of the boom, through a block up near the gooseneck - gathering the sail together, and pulling down the slugs.

The halyard I can then put to a proper double clutch on the coachroof - using the other for kicking strap - since I need to be able to release the halyard from either the cockpit or at the mast for setting reefs. I'd really only need one clutch - but the way they are priced, you may as well fit at least a double. The kicking strap needs controlling form the cockpit, anyway - I do it at present with an ingenious double line arrangement, which sort of works - but's not ideal.

The sail is always reefed to port, since the slab blocks are to starboard, so the downhaul can go on the starboard side, so should be unaffected by a reef being set.

Don't like lazy jacks - and they are a bit OTT for a sail this size - a simple line should do it. Its only to get the thing down, reasonably together on the boom, and not blocking my vision.

Would make coming in on your own a lot less hassle - especially approaching lesser known entrances.


( hopefully down tomorow, 12th June - scrub the boottop, then maybe out at 5 am - lovely warm settled light breezes right now - but I know what will happen as soon as a set foot aboard - the winds picking up with me just thinking about it )

Wed/Thursday 19th July

With the disastrous weather of June its nearly six weeks since I've been down. Thats almost as long as over the worst winter months!

The constant high winds sort of put me off a bit - with experience on your side, plus crew, its probably been great summer sailing weather - but a bit on the frisky side for me singlehanded.

Wed evening

Seemed a good weather break for Thurs - so came down on the evening HW - managed to get the dingy in about 8.40 pm.

Grabbing the last of the daylight, went around scrubbing the boot top of the green slime. Next time it gets done in white antifoul - only grows on the white gloss paint strip.


Great forecast - for me at least - NW 3, sea smooth to slight. It had been a very still night.

Left it to HW +1 - 12.00 noon - nearly didn't go, I'm always nervous for an all day out trip ( this would only be my second all day singlehanded ) - so tossed a coin, always a bad sign - heads stay, tails go - best of five. It came out heads, but I ignored the result and dropped the mooring ropes !

There was some breeze up the river - but once out in the bay it was much less. How do you fathom that, that it can be less wind out on the water than inshore on the mooring ? Strange place this.

So glad I set off - smooth sea, light breeze, hardly a 3 - beautiful morning.

With the sea this smooth you find yourself not so picky about the route out - and found I was drifting east into the overfalls off the end of Brean Down - my proximity alarm went off ( set to avoid this area ) - but I just went with it, with such a slight sea it did not matter too much. It was a warning though, to be aware of doing just that in steeper seas - its NO place to be with any sea going. You need to hold your course over the ground right out in a line with Flat Holm - then head west when well clear of Brean Down.

Interesting to go through these overfalls in a smooth sea - you can see the difference. Mass of turbulent ripples and general surface confusion even in nice flat calm this is 'unfriendly water'.

( I'm beginning to sence what is 'friendly' and 'unfriendly' water. Theres a lot of water in sailing - some is nice, some bad. Some is inside the boat, most is outside the boat. I can't really explain any further - perhaps I have water on the brain ! )

Very light air from the NW - but was soon making 5.8 kts right into it. This is the Bristol Channel. 1.7 kts me, 4.1 kts tide !

Uneventful, but very pleasant all the same, right down to 4 miles past West Culver sands cardinal buoy, about 16 miles on the log - 3 or 4 miles offshore off Minehead.

Don't Rain on my Parade

Eirie dead calm off of Minehead - lots of seaweed floating about too - with seemed strange that far offshore. I could see ominous dark blue clouds over the Somerset coastline - and the skies back over Weston area looking evil - the NW was bright though, over S Wales so didn't think too much of it.

Turned for home about 4.00 - tide would slack at about 4.40. Just about held my ground for a while until the stream turned East in my favour.

I was soon grabbing the waterproofs - the skies were rapidly darkening.

The Squall Hits

Really glad I left in the reef on the main. I nearly dropped it out - but with so little wind, and so much tidal advantage, I just left it in. Within minutes the flat clam had turned into a ferocious electrical storm - the wind got up - lightning, heavy rain, virtually no visablity - sea steepening rapidly. Cabin got soaked - didn't really have time to grab the washboards - it was difficult for a while to leave the tiller.

( must sort out some sort of rain cover for the companionway hatch for sudden rainstorms )

Amazing how quickly everything had changed - in the space of half an hour. An eye opener - and just when I was going in close to the West Culver buoy to try and get some pics - so here I am in all this rough squall right alongside Culver sands - not ideal.

Difficult Seas

I'd set a gps go-to for just S of Steep Holm - so that was some advantage. Trying to keep her on a run, saw me doing a full 360 deg turn at the height of the worst winds and rain. Got things sorted - in hindsight I should have gone onto a starboard tack inshore, away from Culver sands - she would have been easier on a reach, rather than a virtuall dead run.

Anyway - kept her on the run, with a heavily reefed genoa. The heavy rain seemed to kill the wind a bit - so after about an hour it cleared the air somewhat, had some vis back to several miles - but the sea sate did not relent. Once you start water moving, it takes a while to stop. Steep swell, with white crests coming in at an angle on the port stern - cutting into the now fast running spring flood tide going NE.

At one point, I thought I would have to alter the course - but by steering the stern into the seas, ie, putting the tiller to port as the sea hit from port, she stayed fairly upright, and didn't seem to get into an ever increasing roll from side to side - which was worrying me a bit. Generally Lena does not roll about much - It was sort of instictive - I seem to be better with the tiller than I am with the sails, somehow.

( My great, great Grandfather was actually the helmsman on the Titanic - he was having a tea break when they hit the iceberg - so I'm told )

The sea was sort of regular though - and gradually I started to enjoy it. Stood up at the tiller seemed to suit the situation. Had I got her onto a reach it would have been easier, but didn't want to go too far inshore nearing Burnham - but really, in hindsight, looking at the chart, I was four miles offshore.

My judgement of distance at sea is really bad - maybe must try the 'thumb thing' or something. Steep Holm seems to look the same at 7 miles as 3. That would suit the thumb test - must check it out next time. See when Steep Holm is 'thumb height'. Maybe a graduated little card might be an idea - held at arms length with a little scale on it ( patents pending - copyright, Geoff 07 !! )

The Weather Eases

Rains stopped and I'm making 6 kts - with a reefed main and a bit of genoa. Wind down back to a 3 or 4 maybe - not that even. Strange to have that much sea with so little wind - but nice to know why !

Got her wing on wing now - and really could have opened up the full genoa, stuck the preventer on the main and I'd have been flying on the flood tide. In reality, I was still somewhat in crisis management mode - happy to be now in control and relaxed about it - speed through the water was not an issue. This was after all only the 2nd time I've ever sailed a boat singlehanded all day - and anyway - I didn't want to be in Weston Bay too early. Couldn't get up the Axe till 8.30 pm.

Really just a matter of keeping a good ground track well out toward Steep Holm - thus avoiding any tendancy to get too close to Brean down overfalls I'd crossed through earlier. Now would not be nice near there.


I have waypoints set to the West and South of Steep Holm - I try to stick to actually going to them, so I can see if it feels ok in all sea conditions - otherwise I'll shift them a bit. You can be quite close to the S of Steep Holm - its a pretty clean side - but not the West end. I think my waypoints down here need to be shifted south a bit once past Steep Holm and clear of Brean Down. I try to take bearings, lines of sight etc - but, quite frankly, for an hour today I could not see a thing - under half a mile I'd say. A gps then is a godsend for holding a reliable ground track.

Singlehanded, in the midst of a squall storm like that - you can't leave the tiller really, so you aren't going to be down below working out vectors and positions. If you know where you are - you have a good idea of the ideal ground track you want to keep - and for that, Mr Gps, you are a hero of modern times !

Running home

Once past S of Steep Holm the seas relented somewhat - and were altogether more friendly as I approached Weston Ledge. Kept her going right over toward Birnbeck as the flood tide runs around the Bay that way. Went into the bay proper, 4.5 metres water at 7.30 - still a fair old swell running in from the NW - but not a steep chop. Had a look over at the Axe approach - rolled the genoa away and tack back across the bay on the reefed main, killing time.
Actually I was really enjoying myself - despite the increasing rain, failing light. After the sea sate near Steep Holm - I was totally relaxed with this. So easy to tack around with no genoa.

I can imagine someone looking out to sea thinking, 'how can they do that out there on such a rainy, rough evening ? ' and shuddering at the thought. How wrong they would have been - in truth, I was relaxing out there after a fretful few hours. We don't always understand just by looking - you see.

Dropped the main at 8.30.

They say there is always a time when you know your home and dry - somehow I feel that when I've dropped the mainsail. Maybe I'm spoiled with having a reliable engine - as its not an easy river with the tide streaming - and getting onto the mooring can be a farce on your own - but somehow I know that once that main is down, in a few moments, whatever the sea state, I'm gracefully motoring up a calm river. Still a few gremlins about engine failiure in a drying river estuary, etc.

Always glad to get the 2nd mooring painter on - usually on the bow samson post. Then I can truely relax - and as I generally stay aboard don't have to rush. I'm not the sort to use and abuse the boat, roughly tie it up, then run to the nearest pub to brag how well you sailed it. The boat does most of the sailing - so I lke to stay with the boat.

The few times I've been out sailing and gone home from the mooring, have seemed all wrong - sort of rush, rush, rush once the trip is done to get back on the tide. Maybe I'm just a sad bastard with nothing to run home for - I hope not. Anyway - I enjoy being aboard the boat, sailing or otherwise - though the heel on the mud will send you packing after a couple of nights !

Aground - Oops !

Ran aground coming in, just past Black Rock. My fault - wasn't even where its shallow. Fiddling with the mooring stuff - drifted off line. Got off after about five mins - backwards.

Absolute mess again on the mooring - it is difficult to moor a boat facing upstream on a incoming flow - especially 2 hrs before, when its strongest. Probably a good 2.5 kts up that river. Ended up with the whole boat the other side of the guest lines and dingy - done that before ! You then have a mess of muddy guest line to sort out with a 8 foot dingy tied to it - yeuk - you could sell this mud for artists pigments - all over my nicely washed eveything.

So there I was - all safe and secure again. Kettle on - fag rolled. ( ok - shouldn't smoke - I know )

As I said - this was an important trip. I'd been getting a bit down that I wasn't making much progress - but the 'squall' today was a needed boost. You're forced to sail the boat in conditions you would not have chosen - so you learn a great deal. After all - I was skipper, crew, navigator, helmsman, out there - all at the same time. No one to advise you, no one to chastise you, no one to praise you, no spectators.

8 hrs out, thirty two miles total - and, one bonus of this formidable stretch of water ( not my words ) - I saw one boat all day - a very distant cargo vessel, making way down channel, on the welsh side - so you could say it was busy out there today !

About 130 miles now in Lena - 8 trips. Two, 45 miles with one crew, the remainder singlehanded.

Does not sound a great deal - not quite a Biscay crossing, or Atlantic adventure - but I'm learning from scratch in a difficult sailing area - and trying to do it in such a way as it does not scare the shit out of me, too much, too often.

Geoff - see pic off Minehead here