Sunday, September 21, 2008

August Weekend - Roach almost in Collision

It has not been a great season but I have managed to get a couple of lovely weekends sailing in before Roach is hauled out for the end of the season and a myriad of Winter works.

The second weekend in August was a superb weekend. A friend from Barcelona came over (he is Spanish) for his first ever weekend of sailing EVER. I knew I had to make it a good one. The forecast was not brilliant, but even so, we headed out mid-afternoon on the ebb out past Harwich and I decided to anchor at Stone Point. After beating down to the Pye End bouy we ran into the Backwater juts as the sun was setting – most magnificent. A huge copper disc in the sky rolled out a red carpet for us to come in by, the only problem being that I could not see any channel markers! As we were still fighting the ebb, it took rather longer getting in than I had anticipated and all of a sudden we were sailing in complete darkness and not all the buoys are lit! I went quickly below to my a pilotage plan with bearings to each lit buoy, but in hindsight I should have been prepared and done this already. Even so I almost put her in the mud, as the buoys are not all lit, and I missed one in my rush reading the chart, but I averted disaster by taking my time over the chart. Lesson learnt – don’t assume you will arrive in daylight all the time.

Luckily there was what I thought my usual place to anchor in, and over went the CQR. We held, and after switching off the engine started on making dinner. Said friend brought over some very good Rioja vintages, so the starter of Pate and Cornichons was washed down with that. Very nice. Then I noticed that she was on the bottom, but did not take much notice; it has happened to me before and the keel would only dig in a foot or so – it would be fine. On preparing the Steak and salad I notice her lurch more towards the channel. We were truly on the bottom, and as I was cooking, and the galley is on the Starboard Side and my friend was also sitting in the cockpit on that side we lurched again and again until we were leaning at quite an acute angle. Slowly but surely we tipped more and more till we settled at the rather alarming angle of 45 degrees – my port windows in mud!

I tried to reassure my friend that this was entirely normal and she would come up again, but deep down I was worried. She was leaning into the channel after all. I have grounded her badly before, but usually I had take the precaution of leaning her into the bank. That was she is still comfortable enough to sleep on and she comes up again without any problems. This time though I was not sure; there was a real chance the cockpit could be swamped when she came up again. So after dinner, which was very good I must add, I set about lashing the inflatable to the Starborad shorus in an attempt to give her more “lift” when the tide came back in. I also re-set the anchor and took the opportunity to scrape and brush of the port hull which was covered in slime. The prop was completely covered in barnacles, and I set to work on that too. By the time we were having our manchego and quince jelly she was starting to lift again. The water was over the gunwales, but lurch after lurch she lifted clear. By the time the bunks were made up we were level and non the worse off.

It was a close call, and I am exceedingly grateful to Mr. Dallimore that has designed such a good little yacht for this part of the world. My friend thought it all very amusing, with no real understanding of how differently things could have ended up.

The next day Neptune had give us a very favourable tide. We set sail at 11am after a nice lie-in bound for the Deben. With a soldiers wind behind us we goose-winged all the way at 5knots – almost Roach’s hull speed. Arriving early I, and given the last nights antics, I actually made a secondary port calculation to see if we could get over the bar (I hardly ever do this as I normally arrive much later). It was only LW+1 so it was going to be tight. I got friend to double check the maths, and yes, we had 30cm under keel. In half an hour we would have 50cm under. As there was not much sea running, I decided to risk it.

So I tightened the sheets and we sped past West Knoll at over 7 knots – and was chuffed to see our depth under the keel at 50cm as predicted. At mid knoll we eased off and resumed goose-winging a northerly course towards the Deben PHB – speed now 9 knots over ground. At this point I noticed a blue hulled mobo, half on the plane, approaching us. I held my course on a looser NNE to avoid a gybe, taking a line say 10ft from the buoy expecting him to give way. No, not a bit of it. Mobo altered course to my starboard and decided to pass me between the buoy and myself – which he duly did! I could not do anything. I did not even have time to grab the fog horn and 5 blast him; my hands were full of mainsheet and tiller trying to avoid a collision. Within seconds I was yelling to friend to duck down, the huge wash hit us, we span ontop of it, the boom crashed gybed across and the jib backed on the other tack. Hi missed me by about a foot I would say – I almost lost the boat. We were left dumfounded, and in shock. I tacked the ship through 360 and got her back on course, but my palms were sweating, it was a very close call, and luckily nothing carried away with the gybe. I looked behind to see him open the throttle and plane away.

Sunseeker Predator 45 “EagleHawk” – you’re a bloody idiot, and do us all a favour and learn your rules of the road, and maybe some seamanship too!

My friend was left a little flustered and proceeded to open another excellent Rioja he had brought. A Muga 2004. This calmed the nerves and is if my magic the skies opened and we were sailing down the Deben in glorious sunshine. We then had a glorious lunch on a bouy at Waldringfield. It was wonderful - and after coffee and mini pot au chocolats, we sailed to Woodbridge. The wind had veered so we reached all the way. Went past Eversons and the Tide Mill marina under sail and tacked around on the bend before Robo’s yard; this was real sailing. We could not get enough of it, so we sailed back down the River, and copper sunset again, and moored by Ramsholt in twighlight.

Dinner was at the Ramsholt Arms. Whitebait for starters (great) and the fishcakes (they look like cricket balls) for main. I would not order the fishcakes again, but the whitebait never lets me down there – or the Broadside for that matter! Back to the boat for a Calvados nightcap and toast to Roach, who survived two mishaps in one weekend!


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