messing about in boats

Moderate wind and sun

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on March 6, 2011

The weather man can officially go to hell. A perfect forecast of a force three and sunshine for moving Nervous Tension from Langstone Harbour up to the River Itchen last weekend… Well, it was when we set off, for about half an hour before degenerating into blustery, rainy greyness. By the time we’d reached Portsmouth the sun was back out however. All well and good before the wind died and Calshot disappeared in the blackest cloud I’ve ever seen.

We stuck the reef back in, but nothing quite prepared us for what happened next. Best described as armageddon in hailstorm format. 90 degree wind shifts, massive squalls, clouds black enough to turn the distant streetlights on and hailstones like jagged little peas. It was quite something. The leech of the ageing mainsail tore, the window in the dacron no2 genoa blew out and the end of the tiller exploded. I threw the now useless extension down below and hunkered down on the cockpit floor for the rest of the trip – it was actually remarkably cosy. The really exciting bit was that in this melee of being knocked rather flat repeatedly and trying to spill as much of the surplus power that we could we were heading straight for a moored Condor Ferries ship. Typical.

Weather soon passed though, nothing serious broken and my confidence actually greatly increased in the boat. If she could survive a squall like that with far too much sail up then she was still robust underneath despite her shabby appearance. From then on in, with three reefs in the main to stop it tearing further and with tide and time against us we had the outboard on tickover to just help power through the chop and make some good progress. Even so, the sun was going down as we passed Calshot spit and we carried on in the fading light. Just off Netley we had a stern but fair ticking off from the Harbour Master about being in the shipping lane with no proper navigation lights. He did seem to take pity on us after hearing we’d been out in the squall earlier and we carried on up to Southampton shining our torch at the tiny triangle of mainsail.

So the boat’s now happily on a pontoon at Lauren Marine, and what have we learned?

  • The echo sounder works
  • The main isn’t in very good condition
  • Neither was the tiller
  • Working navigation lights would be a good thing, just in case
  • The boat’s actually quite robust and behaves very well despite the beard on the keel and the lack of weight on the rail
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