It must be spring! A tin of varnish is out to spruce up the woodwork, the parrell beads are out of their soak in linseed oil, ready for re-threading, and there is also the customary innovation or two afoot (more of that in a later post). The recent cold snap in the UK put paid to any early season Easter sailing, but the time for the first “wet” of the season approaches. This season, I will again be concentrating on quality rather than quantity, with a trips to new waters planned, as well as a return to familiar anchorages. Here’s to the ’18 season!
This blog is named Traveling Aurora for a reason; this is the first season we’ve not trailed her from place to place, but instead kept her on a mooring. The plan was for more weekend trips, exploring the Solent instead of towing her to a variety of cruising grounds. Sadly though, work and family pressures have kept the sails furled more often than I would wish.
However the trips we have made were memorable nonetheless and I have learned much, particularly about mooring matters. Aurora’s mooring was one that dries at spring lows and is about 8 mins tender drive from the slipway.
One recurring problem had been one of a stuck centre plate. I spent quite a bit of time trying to free it during our week in June, culminating with fitting an access hole on the top of the centre plate casing to allow (the blunt end of) a chisel to be applied to the centre plate to “persuade” it down with a hammer. Despite enthusiastic walloping, this has met with no success.
The next stage was of course to haul the boat out and work on the centre plate from below. I spent a (perfect sailing) Saturday trying to free the plate. By inserting a hacksaw blade between plate and casing, I could feel numerous small stones wedging the plate stubbornly in place. A number of them were removable, but others were impossible to winkle out because of the rollers on the trailer and the limited access working under the trailer. When the boat was returned to the water, my hopes of the plate dropping were still denied.
Finally, I was left with no alternative but to pay for Aurora to be lifted. Chris Haddock of Gosport Boat Yard (www.gosportboatyard.co.uk) was very helpful and waved away any doubts that my troublesome plate would pose any difficulty to free off. Indeed he was quite right and, after a quick jet wash, the back of a hand saw inserted between plate and casing popped the remaining stones out surprisingly easily and the plate dropped like the proverbial sword from the stone.
Now, though Chris did me a good rate for this job, I don’t want to have to lift Aurora regularly. It seems that everyone who had had a boat on any kind of drying mooring has a story to tell of stuck centre plates.
I had assumed that raising the centre plate fully when mooring was the order of the day, but advice from Bob Steele (Irene) was that it is better to pay out an arm’s length of plate halyard so that the plate moves up and down a little each time the boat takes the ground. This certainly helps, but does not prevent the plate sticking still from time to time.
It seems the only solution is a deeper mooring and I am very glad that the was a spot close by with a couple more feet of water and Aurora will not need take the ground on a regular basis.
With the Yarmouth Gaffer festival in full swing, we had to reluctantly depart. As soon as Alice had raced her Log boat, with the help of the Berthing Master’s RIB, we swung free of the rafted boats and dodged the incoming ferry. We left at that time to catch the flood tide which, combined with the stiff F6 W breeze, swept us along at over 6kts on staysail only. As we passed Cowes, we made directly for Gilkicker Point, which not only was the most direct course but took us out of the main shipping channel. We watched gigantic Cunard liner Queen Victoria wove its way towards Southampton and no less that three more made their way out. The wind was less by Gilkicker Point, so we put upreffed main and sailed into Portsmouth. All in all, a very pleasing end to our trip and we were in plenty of time for a walk into Gosport for a very welcome meal out.
Thanks to Steve Mitchell (@BlackJacksGaff) for our departure shot.
18.4nm in 3h40min; avg speed 5kts
We were fortunate enough to find ourselves in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight this weekend, during the annual gathering of gaff-rigged boats from the local area. We were one of over a hundred boats rafted in the harbour; it was a wonderful sight with all the boats dressed with flags, pennants and bunting. A festival was taking place in the town itself, with market stalls, live music and entertainments all weekend. The OGA, who organise the waterside events, laid on many activities and it was great fun to meet other boat owners to compare notes. Alice in particular had a great time, being called up on stage to join the band on Friday night to play ukelele and entering the “log boat” competition with enthusiasm. In this event,she was given a wooden hull, a keel and a rudder, along with some simple tools, and the brief to build a toy boat to race across the harbour. She was at the screwdriver within minutes securing the parts. She cut, decorated and attached sails and had a wonderful time with “sea trials” adjusting her design so that it would reach in a straight line across the harbour. She was rewarded for all this effort when she won the race and I think we have a budding designer in the family…
After a lay-day in Cowes, we caught the ebb tide down to Yarmouth. This involved an early start (ropes off 7.30), but we got away in time to catch nearly two knots of West-flowing tide. This was just as well because the wind did not fill in very much, so we had a very quiet and gentle sail past Newtown Creek. As Cowes slipped behind us, we could see a number of other gaffers making their way to a large gathering in Yarmouth (“YoGaff”).
We trailed a buoy on a warp and Alice enjoyed a swim alongside the boat; although we were making over 3kts over the ground, speed through the water was slow enough for Alice to easily swim against. It became a gloriously warm and sunny day, as the sun broke through the early morning mist, so made for a most enjoyable sail. We arrived at Yarmouth with plenty of time before lunch for pottering around the beach; initially we were placed in a visitor berth, but we soon made arrangements to join in with the gaffer event. Formailities over, we wandered around the picturesque town, as the large fleet of gaffers assembled.
Over 100 boats were arriving, each decked out in colourful pennants. The central part of the harbour was taken over, with boats rafting 3 or 4 deep. The boats ranged from modern gaffers (our Cape Cutter, Crabbers and Shrimpers, Yarmouth) to genuinely old gaffers. Time for welcoming beers and a barbecue, followed by a perfect sunset and an early retirement before the events begin tomorrow.
This was a trip of several firsts. It was the first time we arrived at Gosport with Aurora ready on her mooring. It was also the fist time I have been to Cowes, but more of that later. We arrived at the club about an hour later than we should have done, and there was some doubt in my mind as to whether there was enough water to get Aurora off the mooring onto a pontoon berth. So, there was a comedy dinghy episode, in which the under-inflated Aurelia was rather more bendy than she should have been, almost leading to me losing the oars whilst the outboard tilted the dinghy transom to an interesting angle. I also spent about 10 minutes trying to work out how to tilt the new outboard engine. The final challenge was my discovery that the centre plate was jammed. No amount of tugging or rattling would convince it to drop. I left it cleated with only a little slack, so that if it suddenly decided to drop, it would not whack the centre board casing. Aurora was eventually on a pontoon berth and we went out for a Chinese meal- surprisingly few options in Gosport at 9pm on a (Bank Holiday) Monday evening. Alice and I spent the night on the boat, whilst Niki and Aimee preferred to sleep in the van.
Our plan for this trip was to work our way West to Yarmouth, but this didn’t fit easily with the Southwesterlies forecast for the next few days. However with little wind forecast for tomorrow I decided we should take it on the nose. The mouth of Portsmouth harbour was busy as usual with its complement of ferries, hovercraft, power boats and yachts. We missed a trick and sailed out towards the channel- there was enough water for us to have kept close to the shore, which would have saved us from a couple of large tacks, as well as the foul tide. We beat our way along the shore, past Gilkicker Point and as far as Lee-on-Solent, before we tacked away. It was only at this point that we were committed to the Island; till we tacked, we could have continued to Southampton or the Hamble.
The crossing was rather wet, as the F4/5 SW picked up a chop, and we used Henry Honda to keep out momentum up. I had hoped that the centre plate would drop down at some point, as the motion of the boat shook the plate. I tried jerking its line too, all to no avail. We eventually arrived at East Cowes with the plate still stuck up. It did not affect the handling of the boat too much. With lass weight down, she heeled a little more and heeled in gusts more quickly. I dare say we also slid more to leeward (or was the struggle to wind more to do with my helming?). I was quite grateful that the approach to the marina berth was straightforward, as manuevering under engine (especIlly in reverse) is much more difficult without the centre plate. That will be a job for tomorrow…
Distance travelled 15.4nm. Avg speed 3.5kts
10th April 2017
Today was launch day for a new season. This year is a new departure for us and rather than launching and recovering after each trip, we have taken a mooring in Gosport to see if we can get more weekend trips. We still plan to travel with the boat too, but our new mooring will give us a chance to explore more of the Solent area.
Last season was distinctly thin, with a lack of tow vehicle, but with our new “bus”, we are back in business!
Today’s launch went really well, with enthusiastic help from Alice, and we had the boat in the water an hour and a half after arriving at the club. We will be needing some new kit, not least an outboard for our dinghy, as the mooring is some way from the slip.
Tomorrow’s project is to fit the mooring gear to the buoy…