Well – this certainly shouldn’t take much writing!
Let’s see – ah yes, the Merry Month of May. Off we set – bright eyed and full of hope and the promise of a balmy cruise in Scottish waters, long days and light nights, destinations to discover and destinations to revisit.
With antifouling complete and hours of spitting, polishing and buffing, the Boat began to look in aspects, ready for sea by mid May. The weather was delightful whilst all this was going on in the yard at Ardfern. A revamp of the wheelhouse and long needed tidy up of the navigation area were completed and then we were afloat! Happy days. The original intention was to set sail on the first Summer Cruise during the last week of May, however – the Gremlins had stowed away over the winter and come the time to go – nothing would go! Anchor winch U/S is reported in the log along with wipers a dodgy gps connection, a fridge light not functioning, an issue with the shorepower unit which seemed to suggest it wasn’t powering (rigorous testing indicated it always probably had been but you have to trust the lights and when there are no lights – it’s a fairly logical assumption that the bally thing isn’t working.
The first entry for the 2017 log came on 2nd June when we (My friends, the Good Doctor Musgrave and the Hon. Douglas Smith) slipped quietly from the pontoon at Ardfern at around 10:30 hrs – all three sporting the most dreadful headaches after a wee promenade along the Top Shelf in the Galley of Lorne on the previous evening.
We scooshed along on the tide down to the McCormaig Islands where coffee was taken, as was lunch and indeed an afternoon snooze meaning that we eventually arrived alongside the Pier in Craighouse on the lovely island of Jura at around 17:30 having covered 23miles.
Our intention was to wander around to Port Ellen on the morrow and sample the Craic – we Sampled it in Craighouse and felt it couldn’t be bettered but you never know…..
The road to Hell is, as we know, paved with good intentions – On Saturday 3rd June the fairway to Port Ellen was paved with wind, rain and hail. We tried – oh how we tried – but try as we might – the prospect of another hour or two of the same proved to much for the noble Skipper and Crew and so we turned tail and headed back into Craighouse – the Craic was mighty and who know – probably better than the previous evening and far and away superior to anything we may have found in Port Ellen. The Log recorded 20 miles travelled so clearly we had done half the distance – anyway we drank to that achievement – several times if I remember correctly.
Listening to the forecast that evening it was clear that strong winds and rain were to adorn the West Coast for the foreseeable future (probably up to November) so we sailed back to Craobh Haven, then around to Ardfern the following day, got on our ferret suits and legged it home the following day – stopping only so that the Hon Douglas could make a record Bacon Butty eating attempt at the top of Rest and be Thankful. He pitched in with a Personal Best of 4 but believes that 5 is achievable if he doesn’t have breakfast first.
I returned North on Wednesday 14th June for a second Sun-Kissed adventure. This time with my ageing former Colleagues Professor Stancliffe and The Boy Roger Skelton – both loose acquaintances from my time working at Knott End Sea Centre
The picture paints a thousand words as we saw the sun for about 10 minutes – which in 10 days is not a high average really!
We didn’t let this get us down (much) We met up with two Danes in Tobermory. One is a lifelong friend of my Son-In Law and the other sailed for Denmark in the Montreal Olympics – great company – I unblocked their bog – they tried to get me the worse for drink in return. I think I won. We parted after a couple of days – they bound for Mallaig whilst we wandered over to Salen in Loch Sunart. The picture above is of the new pontoon there. Can recommend the pub!
After that we looked into Port Mor on Muck before heading back into the Sound of Mull in thick mist and over to Tobermory for Milk before heading down to Loch Aline – where again we went alongside a pontoon – but this time in glorious sunshine - Whooppee!
From there we wandered slowly back through Oban bay, inside Easdale Sound, through Cuan and back to Croabh leaving a short day on the morrow to get through Dorus Mor and back to Ardfern – again – in Sunshine – by now we were thinking this was all getting a bit much and wasn’t it time for a spot of rain?
Our final sortie has been a very sober and brief trip – Just Liz and myself – where we had a lovely potter around the Islands for a couple of days – again, the sun - whilst not quite shining – made its presence felt as it was warm – Have any of you taken coffee at the café in Crinan – The scones are to die for!
So – that’s us home for a week or two – I said the final trip was a sober one – well, not quite!
Here’s to an Indian Summer and a few decent weeks in September and October before we call it a day for another year.
From Fleetwood towards Pwllheli
During a conversation with one of my usual crew, it was mentioned that someone wanted a Westerly Centaur moving from Fleetwood to Pwellheli. As I had sold my Westerly Fulmar “Tortola” and purchased a motor boat “Why Knot” (as you do). I was missing sailing and thought it would be a great idea to offer my services.
We waited for a window in the weather, during which time we gave the engine a full service and fitted the sails etc. Whilst the boat had been refurbished a few years before, it had not been used for the last two years and therefore needed quite a lot of TLC. Originally there were to be three people on board but as it turned out we ended up with just myself and Tom Bradley (a member of Wardleys Yacht Club). Tom and I have sailed many miles together and know how each other work.
We had decided to leave Fleetwood on Monday 24th July at 01.00am. This was forecast as the start of a three day window in the weather.
The plan was to sail down to Holyhead, where we would spend the first night in the marina, completing the journey to Pwellheli the following day.
During the afternoon of the 23rd July we had a chance conversation with the loch keeper who informed us that it was going to be a bit windy and wet during the night. We told him our plan was to leave at 01.00am the following morning and he said he would listen out for our call. As it got nearer to our allotted time to leave, the wind had increased much higher than was forecast. Due to the change in wind speed we decided it would be prudent to leave the marina and pick up a mooring waiting until the wind eased. At 00.40am there was a knock on the hull and we were informed that we had 20 mins to leave the marina as they were going to start sluicing the gate. At that time we hadn't yet dressed for the occasion. He also informed us that it was blowing around 25knots out on the river.
Leaving the pontoon was the first of many problems to come. As I put her in reverse the bow swung round leaving me no option but to reverse out into the main marina channel, after much ado, I managed to point the boat in the right direction. We left the relative safety of the marina and entered the river and were flattened by a 35knot gust of wind. It was completely black and we couldn't see past the bow of the boat. Making life impossible and it would have been extremely dangerous to try and pick up a mooring buoy, even if we could have found one.
I looked to port as we passed one of the large sea survival pods just inches away. The tide was running around 4knots and we were just blindly going in circles. The only choice left to us was to moor up to the survival pod. This proved to be difficult as we could no longer find it. I have never been out at night when it has been so dark. The torches we had were useless. We eventually found the thing and spent the next half hour bobbing up and down trying to keep the boat on station and loop a mooring rope around the pickup line of the pod. I had drawn the short straw and bounced my way up to the bow on my knees continually moving the safety line to various points. I scrambled back to the cockpit and immediately dumped my last meal into the river. That was only the second time I had been sea sick in over 15 years of sailing. The two of us sat in the cockpit all night fending the two craft off each other in rain and 25-35 knots of wind.
It was not nice to say the least but by 04.00am the rain had stopped and the wind was dropping. Our plan to leave at 01.00am had long gone which left us two choices, we could stay and wait for the lock gates to open and abort the trip or set off and see how the trip panned out. We did the sensible thing and put the kettle on whilst we worked out plan B.
By 05.00 the wind had dropped and the river had settled down a little so we decided to set off down Fleetwood channel turn left at fairway up the Lune deep and away south.
We motored with a little of the main out for the first 40nm in water which can only be described as uncomfortable. As we approached land we pulled more sail out and knocked the revs down to conserve fuel maintaining a steady 5.5knts. However as we approached Anglesey the sea became significantly steeper. Eventually this left us no option but to shorten the sails again.
Holyhead was a new experience for me. Tom however had been in before which helped enormously.
I radioed the Coastguard as I couldn't raise anyone in the marina office, telling them we would be arriving soon. However as it turned out the entrance which I was having difficulty seeing was quite a bit further than I had anticipated and by the time we actually arrived the marina staff were long gone. We moored up in the marina just 14hours 10mins after leaving Fleetwood.
I don't know where time goes, as it was after 22.00 by the time we had showered and sat down to eat. Needless to say we both slept well. Before hitting the sack we worked the tides out for passing through Bardsey Sound only to find out that our late start the previous day would mean another 03.00am start. As neither of us could bear the thought of another all-nighter we decided that Holyhead was the end of the road. I rang the owner who was very understanding and agreed to drive down the following day to collect us.
Even though at some stage during the trip we were both heard to say we would never sail again! I have no doubt we will be going back to Holyhead sometime in the next week or two to complete the delivery to Pwellheli.
Just another story for the Grandchildren.
Russ Tabiner, August 2017
July 2017 - Ian Gartside.
Tom Postlethwaite was a member of our club in the 1970’s. Known as “Poss” to his friends, of whom there were many, he was the owner of a 20 foot Vivacity named “Viva” which he and his teenage son John would sail to Piel Island and the Isle of Man often lagging behind the rest of the B&FYC stalwarts but arriving safely nonetheless with a huge grin on his face and in time for a last pint at the Mitre Hotel in Ramsey.
His voyages, in common with most of us, had their fair share of interesting moments which became the stuff of legend and oft recounted stories told by his shipmates carousing in the dockside pubs around the Irish Sea.
By chance I found this poem written by one of those shipmates, John Spencer, about an encounter with the “Bison” which in those days ploughed its business along with the “Buffalo” between Larne in Northern Ireland and the newly built Ro-Ro berth at Fleetwood. Although neither are with us now, I am sure they will forgive me for letting this particular cat out of the bag.
Returning from the raging main
To friendly native shores again
His nature said “Now Jolly Tar
Methinks it’s time we had a jar”!
And so without further thinking
Made her fast and went off drinking
Not knowing that quite close behind
Was brewing a jar of a different kind!
Big ship’s Captains are seldom petty
And get annoyed when to their jetty
You tie your craft and, with a cheer,
Speed shoreward then is search of beer!
Our carousing Skipper, who ought to know
The habits of Bison and Buffalo,
On board was nowhere to be found
Nearly causing Bison to run aground.
To cries from the bridge midst much confusion
Someone yelled “I think he’s in the Euston”!
The ale he consumed in that short time
Cost this skipper a five pound fine.
Back on board he used swift action
And applying ten horse of forward traction
To hearty curses of “Damn and Blast!”
Sailed under the jetty and snapped his mast!
The moral that follows is fairly true
And could well apply to me and you:
If you wish to avoid such trials and fines
Don’t park on Nautical Yellow Lines!
© J. R. Spencer 1979
I’ve given up on my Silhouette, which now languishes in the shadows. This was due to several things :
I pranged my knee.
It was too small.
Finding a new boat
Anyway, last year I had the misfortune to slip on the stairs. I’m not saying it was my fault, because as will become clear it wasn’t, but I do admit I’d been out for a drink with my two teenage lads; and the band was good so I stayed longer than I intended; then afterwards played pool. I played superbly, my luck was flowing like the beer and I came out 7-0 up. I’m not used to staying out late. Or drinking. No way am I used to winning at pool – it’s unnatural. So this luck had its payback later as I went to bed and couldn’t remember if I’d locked the door. Trying to stagger down the stairs in the dark wasn’t the best idea and I didn’t see some neatly folded washing sitting there. Hence the slip. After a bit of a swear I checked the door. It was locked. A wasted ‘trip’..... (Sorry, I couldn’t resist it). Then went to bed again.
I woke up next morning with a leg that looked a different size and shape than normal. And a bad head too. It turns out that I’d done in some cartilage and ligaments. The previous night’s painkiller had run out too, but at least it was only one leg.
It should be clear from this where the fault lies. It’s with someone else. It’s with whoever put the washing on the stairs. Obviously.
I tried to point out that where there is blame, there’s a claim, I’ve seen those informative ambulance chaser adverts. But I was rebuffed with a sharply raised eyebrow and some comment about scaring the cat. It was also pointed out that she’d always put it there so I should have been used to it.
Well, a leg that doesn’t bend much is useless for getting in boats, squelching in mud or for crawling in small cabins, so since last summer the silhouette has been sitting on its trailer gathering dust and pigeon droppings at the back end of the factory I work in. Becoming single again - completely unrelated reasons, mostly – resulted in my employers panicking that I would move away from the area. Pay-rise, extra coffee, a free pen and an invitation to play golf! The golf has turned out to be easy, until I worked out that the low score was better. There’s even a golf weekend away in November. Should’ve got divorced years ago. Moving into a flat (no boat park here), with even more stairs, next to a pub that has a pool table, real ale and regular bands, could be seen as living dangerously. But no one leaves their booby-trapped washing out on the stairs and I’ve still got a view of the sea, if you squint around the corner of the window.
All the time in the gym strengthening up my leg has given me a body to diet for, and now I’m more mobile again the Ex has been encouraging me to get back out there. We get on really well and she has a point. In the age of the internet she actually used a web site to introduce me to a younger model, quirky but responsive, and that’s who I’m with now.
She’s a Newbridge Coromandel, and I’m now in the process of making it good. A definite upgrade on anything I’m used to. It’s even got a toilet, although I’ve no idea how to work it. Previously being caught short meant a bucket over the side. I can’t do that now, this thing is bolted down. It’ll need some investigation on the web. The silhouette is being stripped of all its good bits to upgrade the new. I’ve even got a four stroke outboard in a well to slow me down now in case the increase in speed scares me. I’ll keep the seagulls though for old times sake. The flat is full of boat bits. The fact is that in the dead of night I can safely walk around all the boat parts lying on the floor on autopilot - even if I’ve accidentally left the window open and filled the flat with a north sea fret to add to the darkness - far more accurately than most could use a garmin navigating up some backwater with some joke sticks pretending to guide you around the mudbanks. This sober sure-footedness indicates the possibility that my initial injury wasn’t totally the fault of the washing.
So it must have been the cat.
The end result is that I’ve unintentionally become one of those absent members. Nothing to do with warm southern climes or pontoons with power. By the time I’ve got the boat ready to go back and see what’s happened to my dangerously squelchy mooring on Skippool it’ll be too late to enjoy the British summer, but part of that trip would be across Scotland and everyone in our Scottish office tells me I’d need some form of cockpit cover, insulation and a wood burner whenever I chose to sail up there, so maybe time of travel would make no difference.
So here’s to getting it ready to go!