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Fist Singlehanded Trip out to Sea

After the crossing to Barry with Ian (*) I was full of confidence in Lena's ability to behave herself in 25 kts and very short steep sea. We had had no real problems tacking her - apart from a spin pole badly stowed catching the lazy sheet.

So I was quite confident in being able to handle her on my own - given, as a starter, somewhat less testing conditions.

Last Sat and Sun had been avalable as an all day out option, just getting in to the mooring 2 hrs before dusk. They were also glorious balmy days - light winds from the south. The prospect of ten hours out as a first singlehanded trip was a bit daunting. In fact - taking the boat out on your own for even an hour or so is a bit daunting - especially when its only your second trip out in a boat like this.

Anyway - kicked myself up the ass a bit over the weekend, put it off Monday, then Tuesday - with a great forcast for the day and Wed, tides HW at 10.40 and 11.00 - I thought I would go out Tuesday for an hour or so - stay the night on the mooring again - then could also have a good spell out Wed if I wanted.

I float about 2.15 mins before HW on the mooring - depending on the direction of the wind before she settles down in the mud - anything W of S is a bonus as she blows out into deeper water while on the ebb, hence floats off earlier.

This time on the mooring overnight - I pulled in the painters on each buoy as the water was nearly gone - taking in all the slack. Once settled, you can then put them back to the length needed when she floats again.

This worked fine - and when she grounded Tuesday afternoon I had just 10 degrees of heel - which is comfortable. Its just a problem if the times of HW means shes going to settle down at a god forsaken hour !

I was down Saturday morning - on the top of the 14.4 m tide at Avonmouth. That means 13.2 m at Weston - we are talking metres here not feet !! - I had to let out extra slack on the stern bridle, as the buoys were beginning to pull half submerged.

Generally - the painters are about right for most large tides - we only get 13 m a few times a year - and you can pull them in a bit on the neaps - so long as you are going to be back before the springs to let them out again.

I can get her back on 2.30 after HW easily on depth - but the ebb is running pretty strong then - and you have very little time to get it right before the water disappears.

I go to Uphill yard for about 8 am - mainly to beat traffic - HW was at 10.40. Looking to get the dingy launched about 8.30 on - disaster ! - one of the huge old 'liveaboard' steamers has mysteriously moved off of its mooring into the main channel, turned turtle and sunk - hence severly blocking Uphill Pill.

The story, as it emerged, is of a dispute over rent - a crazy attempt to move the vessel - which had no power and was about 55 foot and probably twenty tons - on the big tide to the floodbank area, beyond the Yards own land. It had then slipped on the low water - the stern falling the thirty odd feet into the river channel - lodging into the opposite bank. Next high water she flooded.

Managed to get through about nine - carefully avoiding debris. This time down at the boat I was going to leave the inflatable on the mooring - too much hassel stowing it - so quickly sorted Lena for sailing. I left the one reef in the main ( I figured it easier to stow the main with a reef in - an drop it out if you don't need it )

About 10.00 I dropped the bow line - she was swinging around a little in the SE wind - so her stern was facing down midstream - dropped her off, reverse engines and with the tide still making up the river she swung around facing downstream in a flash.

There is something very graceful about a sailing boat under power in calm waters. Not sure why - something of the swan about it, with the mast, maybe. Anyway - I was heading to the open sea, on a beautiful day, in my own sailing boat, on my own - it felt good I must say.

Really - I just wanted to take her out - hoist the sails, try the tiller pilot, tack on my own etc. The sea was very slight and wind about 10 kts SSE.

The marked channel was no problem - one other small fishing boat was ahead but did a u-turn just short of open water. This is the bonus of such a tidal sailing area - its a glorious day and I have all Weston bay to mself ! Just a s well I thought to myself.

Trying to set my tiller pilot proved awkward - I'd figured on trying it under engine - then once set get the sails up. Its an old model, no lcd's etc - but a good size at it came off a 26 footer.
I subsequently found it easier to lock the tiller off with my 'patent' tillermate ( the Huntingdon helm impeeder ! -see here) then set the tiller pilot up. Anyway - it seems to work fine, and I'm sure I will get to know its strange habits a little better.

The cam cleat mounted on the mast for hoisting the main initially form the cockpit works great - so no problems hoisting sails. The furler is working really smoothly - very easy.

The boat actually holds well just on the tiller lock - its tension is adjustable with a jam cleat and bungee arrangement - I'm finding it very useful. I can lock the rudder on the mooring - its better straight when the boat goes into the mud, in line with the keels. I lock it off when motoring out and wanting to get sails - and coming in I dropped the main up on deck with the motor on and the tiller locked off. I used it while taking the pics here, approaching Axe Estuary. Half on - you can just make it stiff, so it stays wherever you put it - so great for tacking on your own.

What I'm pleased about is that she seems to 'fly' into the wind - really comes to life. Maybe she just sails better with some heel - or its my crap technique trimming the sails downwind. With 10 or 11 kts of wind and a reef still in the main - she seems to take off when I pointed her close to the wind - compared to downwind. Maybe I need to improve my technique downwind. But its nice to feel she goes well into the wind.

The main problem, which must be sorted, is the old V cleats for the genoa sheets after the winches. They're not secure enough and are also a long reach from the opposite side. I have two teak jam cleats I made for now, I can put on the sides of the cockpit, below the lockers - reachable form the windward side. Even in the 25 kts the other Sunday - we found no real need for a handle at the winches - so if you can lock it off nearer the better.

Ideally it wants a cam style cleat with a lead before it just after the winches - so you are able to trim the sheet from sitting opposite - not having to reach back over to lock it off. I'm pondering that one !

Altogether I felt very much in control - so much so I took a few pics.

I headed back in fair time - with the tide now on the ebb and a S wind against me. I had to get her on the mooring on my own for the first time - so didn't want to be too late. I probably could have stayed out an hour longer.

All went ok mooring up - the S wind an asset there, drifting me in to the guest line.

Altogether a great day - not a long voyage, about an hour and a half - but one I'll remember a while. I was going to say until I'm old and grey - but I'm sort of that already !

pic here of me on the mooring after first trip out.

Geoff - 12th Sept 06.