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.
After a very windy night, we awoke to the same NNE f6 breeze this morning. The voyage planned for today was a relatively short hop around the island from Bembridge, past Ryde to Wootton Creek. Niki decided to take the land route with Alice, via Monkey World, and caught a bus. I did not have full confidence in Henry Honda, but he started well and ran smoothly in gear at full throttle on the pontoon, so I was reassured.
Aimee took us out of the harbour and it was nice to hear her shout to me “warps and fenders away please”, rather than the other way around. The wind was blowing straight into the harbour mouth tide, creating rather lumpy conditions. We departed expecting this, with washboards in, but this proved unnecessary. We took a port tack past St Helens fort to give us enough offing, before tacking and allowing the tide to scoop us along the island. Once we were past the outer Ryde sands buoy, we were able to ease off. We carried double-reefed main and staysail the whole way and made excellent time, with Aimee at the helm. There was a fair bit of shipping to avoid, including the fast cat and hovercraft to Ryde.
Wootton Creek is home to both the Wight Link car ferry and also Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the latter being our hosts tonight. We had been warned that the ferries do not give way to yachts and, sure enough a ferry was leaving, just as we entered the channel. Aimee took us head to wind out of the channel and we took the sails down as the car ferry passed us. The wind was blowing straight into the creek and the water was ebbing, so it was challenging to moor on the pontoon, but with many hands the fleet of ten boats were soon moored safely.
Once the housekeeping was done, there was time for a pint in the club and then a walk through the woods before pie night at the Yacht Club.
Yesterday the wind prevented us from sailing, so we had a lay day during which Mike Brooke gave us the benefit of his considerable knowledge of military history as we toured HMS Victory and the Mary Rose mini exhibition (the Mary Rose herself was closed for restoration work).
Having made alterations to the catering, the Cape Cutter week programme had been put back a day. So it was that we made an early departure from Emsworth en route to go “foreign” and visit the Isle of Wight.
As the tide crept up the pontoon, the fleet of eleven Cape Cutters left in turn, as soon as each was afloat. We ran dead downwind on double-reefed main and staysail down the Emsworth channel to Hayling Island Yach club and the mouth of Chichester harbour. We were joined by Moth from Chichester, but sadly not Salty Dog or Halcyon, both of whom had technical problems.
As we entered the Solent and turned further West, we found ourselves in a lovely training run, with speeds of between 5.5 and 6.5 kit for the whole passage. As was usual for running, it did not seem windy until our arrival into Bembridge harbour. With the help of many hands to help, we were soon tied up for a restful afternoon as the squalls blew through.
After some wonderful sun and fair winds, the weather took its toll on plans today. The northerly wind had piped up strongly and was forecast to get stronger still tomorrow. Our plan was a leisurely cruise to Emsworth, with a lunch/swim stop at East Head.
The wind was brisk to say the least and we set out later than intended, on staysail and double-reefed main. The stretch through Itchenor was challenging (almost head-to-wind) and, when we reached East Head, it clearly too rough for a comfortable stop.
With the wind from the North and not enough water to reach the top of the Emsworth channel, we picked up a spare mooring near Hayling Island yacht club and put the kettle on. Fraoch had had a similar idea and we had a hot drink and watched a yacht trying to get off a sand bank. Fraoch slipped her anchor and shortly after, we followed her.
The wind was strong, on the nose and quite gusty, so we did not beat far before giving up and using Henry Honda to push us through the choppy waters. Henry has been earning fresh confidence from us after his mishaps last season and we soon reached the channel’s branch for Emsworth.
We were quite early and there was little water; Ladybird and Vedette were at anchor outside Emsworth and Whistling Rufus, Sapphire and Mary Ann were motoring up too.
Emsworth is a pretty village fronting a large mud flat, through which a narrow channel is marked by withies and a leading line. Deploying our trusty bean pole, we picked our way through and were soon on the pontoon, rafted to Vedette.
Unfortunately Irene caught a rope around her prop, but was towed in adroitly (astern) by Dipper.
The girls enjoyed swimming and paddling with Erin and Joshua from Ladybird, in their inflatable canoe.
We had a lovely meal in Emsworth SC, after which we returned to the boats which were by this time resting on the mud. It felt a little odd to sleep aboard the boat without the customary gentle rocking, but we were soon asleep nonetheless.
The annual gathering of the Cape Cutter 19 fleet is this year centring on Chichester harbour. After a leisurely launch and a very brief shakedown on Saturday, team Aurora were ready for the first formal day of the regatta.
The children were looking forward to the treasure hunt, organised by Mike Brookes. After a bit of a pantomime getting out of the lock (the Cape Cutter fleet numbered 14 and the was a gathering of Drascombes too), we were briefed to find three strategically placed marks with clues written on. The marks were distinctive red marks from the 2012 Olympic Laser races.
The fleet dispersed to visit the buoys in different orders; we chose furthest first and, after creeping over several sand banks and picking our way through fleets of dinghies, had all the letters written down. Alice quickly spotted the words “Cape Cutter” and the completed the phrase “I love my Cape Cutter!” with the remaining letters.
17.3nm; avg speed 4.2kts
The journeys in this blog have made it into print again, this time with a feature in Britain’s best selling Sailing magazine. The article in the November edition of Practical Boat Owner covers our month-long cruise around part of the Stockholm archipelago in the Baltic during the summer of 2014. With the Autumn leaves falling, the nights drawing in and the temperatures falling, it’s lovely to look back over wonderful summer memories.
I’m giving a talk to the Cruising Association next Friday. If you’re in London next weekend, you’d be welcome to come along.