Thursday, 29 September 2011

Poole Harbour - DCA Rally

Saturday 24th September was the appointed time for DCA members to meet at Shipstall Point in Poole Harbour.
With a favourable forecast I decided to make the most of the season before the short days and winter draws inexorably closer!

Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis

For coastal areas up to 12 miles offshore from 0001 UTC Sat 24 Sep until 0000 UTC Sun 25 Sep
24 hour forecast:

Wind -Variable mainly south or southeast, 3 or 4. Sea State - Smooth or slight. Weather - Mainly fair. Visibility - Good.
Outlook for the following 24 hours:

Wind - South or southeast 3 or 4, increasing 5 or 6 later. Sea State - Smooth or slight becoming moderate. Weather - Mainly fair, rain later. Visibility - Moderate or good.

I was up at 05:30 to prepare myself for the 135 mile drive south to the launch site near Wareham.

I was afloat without a hitch by 1130, and with lovely sunny weather and a moderate breeze, set off for the sail to the meeting point.
The sailing was near perfect, I was reefed down quite a bit but making a steady 5 knots off the wind towards Brownsea Island. I had my first excitement just off Pottery Pier where, tucked in close to shore, I got caught in irons when trying to tack. The wind at this time was fresh and that together with a strong ebb was setting me down onto the pier quite rapidly. I rapidly started the engine and quickly made a little offing before the engine spluttered to a stop! Luckily I was on a favourable tack heading away from the pier, so I just maintained my course  and made for Shipstall Point up the Wych Channel. I hoisted full sail to get a bit more drive, and throughout the beat upwind the boat behaved perfectly after that. I passed close to a couple of DCA boats and we exchanged greetings.

It turned out a lovely sunny afternoon and as I reached Shipstall Point there were already a few members anchored off the beach enjoying the sunshine. Paradox "Little Jim" was there, and Al Law captured my arrival on film as I moored close by.
Arrival at Shipstall Point - Photo A. Law

Photo A. Law

Photo A. Law

Photo A. Law

Photo A. Law
  A pleasant afternoon was spent just enjoying the sunshine and taking in the sights ashore as a steady stream of DCA members and their boats turned up throughout the afternoon. I believe we had 13 members in all throughout the day.

DCA boats

The joy of shallow draft. Anchored in 12" of water.

Night falls

As night fell, Steve, the organiser, lit the BBQ and we spent the next few hours chatting away and enjoying the late summer weather. Eventually it was time to turn in for the night. I hauled myself about 10 metres off shore knowing that within about 2 hours we'd be high and dry as the water receded. Sure enough after lots of slurping and splashing , I peeked out in the darkness and found we were all high and dry on the mud. I woke a few hours later to that now  familiar sound of the water slapping under the hull and not long after we were again swinging to the anchor. About 0600 I woke, unconsciously aware that some thing had changed. Looking outside revealed a grey windy morning, with heavy gusts coming out of the South West.
Blustery morning

The plans for a sail out to Studland were scuppered by the poor forecast, so heavily reefed we all made our own way to whatever destination took our fancy. I thought I'd take a run down the harbour but when I got as far as Brownsea the weather was deteriorating further, with a strengthening wind and dark clouds. I decided an afternoon ashore wouldn't go amiss, so I about turned, and headed back towards the  Wareham Channel.
Before the wind really picked up.

I had a fast reach  back to Arne point, but as I came round into the wind things got slower and more difficult. Once again my destination lay directy upwind and it was a hard beat into a steady force 5 to get there. A large rain squall came bowling up the channel, the water turning white as it approached. I 'd guess the gusts were at least force 6 and Johanna had the lee rail under several times. Items not stowed securely below were wandering around and finding themselves new homes. I also had my first salt water aboard, when a few waves breaking off the bow sent sheets of spray into my lap. I made a mental note to retreat below earlier next time!
It was an uneventful trip up the River Frome to Wareham where I moored for the night. The wind whistled in the rigging of the moored yachts, but the sun reappeared  and a pleasant afternoon was spent exploring the surrounding countryside with a local sailor and his crew who were awaiting the tide to refloat their boat.
Another peaceful night aboard, woken only by the heavy rain early morning.
Monday I just pottered and got back to the launch site by 1100, recovered, packed and was back home by 1530 just as the summer weather hit us in earnest!
Oh well there's always next summer to look forward to.
Not a huge mileage but an enjoyable weekend and my strongest winds aboard Johanna to date.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sea Trials Report

I'd been waiting several weeks since Johanna's launch to put her through her paces, but work and weather seemed to be conspiring against me in putting that into practice. I had a few free days from 6th to 10th of July and hoped that a weather window would open during that time. Alas, come the 6th July the forecast was so:

Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis - Strong winds warning.

24 hour forecast: South or southwest 5 or 6, increasing 7 or gale 8 for a time, decreasing 3 or 4 later. Slight or moderate, becoming moderate or rough. Occasional rain or showers. Moderate or good.

This persisted for the following 2 days with no let up. Monitoring the real time weather at Poole Harbour showed average windspeeds of 24 knots with gusts to 39 knots. This was really not the weather I wanted for a shakedown cruise. Looking at the long range forecast I cold see a window of opportunity opening on Saturday 9th, so with that in mind, I rang into work and told them I would be on leave until Tuesday night!

Poole harbour - beware the green bits!
My chosen launch site was at the Ridge Wharf Yacht Centre which has tidal access to the launch ramp. With the tides on neaps, I'd need to launch either at around 0700 in the morning or 2000 in the evening. With the 120 mile drive to get there, the evening tide won the day!

Saturday 9th July

I arrived late afternoon to a pretty deserted yard. Apparently the office closes at 1600 on Saturday. I talked to a few folks working on their boats and they just told me to go ahead, launch, park and sort out with the yard either in the morning or on return.

Rigging was pretty straight forward and quick. I'd noted the mistakes I'd made on my previous outing, and managed to get the halyard, topping lift and furling line in the right places first time. I was assisted by a local young lad who was keen to study the intricacies of the Paradox design.

I was a bit nervous about the very steep ramp, but in the end my fears were unfounded. I'd somehow lost a wheel bearing cap from the trailer on the journey so I didn't go so far as putting the trailer hubs under water. Johanna slid of the trailer with ease. Moored up at the pontoon I spent the rest of the evening stowing gear, loading water, fixing a meal and getting ready for an early start in the morning.

Alongside at Ridge Wharf

As the sun slowly sank the fresh wind abated and the sunset had the promise of a better day tomorrow. I soon settled down and enjoyed a warm and humid night on board.

Sunday 10th July
Up early and everything is quiet and peaceful. At around 0900 I get a hail from across the bank from one of the yacht centre's staff. After a quick visit to the office to book in officially and pay launch fees, I'm ready to go.

There's a moderate westerly wind already and I'm keen to get sailing as soon as possible. One thing I have done since our maiden voyage is add a small 2.5hp Suzuki outboard. I thought long and hard about this, but felt that the motor would allow me to take maximum advantage of my free time.

The motor started on the first pull, and I let her tick over to warm up as recommended in the "running in" section of the manual. Ready to cast off, I reached over to put it in gear and before I got there it coughed and spluttered to a stop.
Would it start again? Would it heck. Not being able to find anything wrong I loosened the fuel filler cap and as soon as I started to turn it I heard the hiss of in rushing air. Yes, the breather cap needs more than half a turn to open it up!

Lesson learnt, I'm soon on my way downstream on the River Frome. At tickover we're making 4.9knots over the ground, but we have a fair bit of ebb under us helping us along.

Wading birds means NO water.
Once out of the river I cut the engine and hoisted sail. In peace and quiet we continued to surge along at 4 knots. Things were looking good and she was holding a course well on her own. With a wide open estuary I went below and took my eyes of the road whilst stowing fenders warps etc.. This was mistake number one of the day. With my inattention she rounded up into the wind and appeared to stall in irons. No amount of working the very heavy helm, or backing the sail would make her respond. It then suddenly dawned on me, we were aground! I peeked over the side and sure enough we were in about 6" of water. I raised the rudder but we were still sitting on the bottom. Panic set in, the tide was ebbing and I didn't really want to be sitting out here on the mud for the rest of the day.

I hopped over the side and immediately became intimately acquainted with Poole harbour mud! Yes, I sank up to about my knees in thick black gloop. Pushing Johanna back towards the channel we were soon afloat again. I hopped back on board, and what were once pristine clean decks now resembled a newly ploughed field. Attempting to wash most of the mud of my legs, I casually waved at passing motor boats as if it was all planned.

Things were looking up, and soon I was in deep water with a reasonable variable force 3 Westerly wind blowing. I worked my way down the harbour towards Brownsea Island and then started a beat up the narrow channel towards Shipstal Point. Problem number two of the day presented itself. The outboard, which does perform beautifully, is a pain in the rear end when it comes to sailing. Every little protrusion was hell bent on snagging the mainsheet. Luckily with the open rear of the cabin, I was able to lean out and unsnag all but the worst of the tangles. I made good progress up channel and was surprised by the number of boats who motored up rather than sailed.

Approaching the anchorage I noticed I had  quite an audience among the moored craft. I mentally picked my mooring spot and started to plan my approach. Sailing among some rather expensive craft I became aware that I was going to have to put in anther tack as I couldn't weather a moored yacht directly ahead. My problem was that bearing off would put me steaming full ahead into another boat, and if I missed the tack and got  my sheets tangled, I could well end up hitting a motor boat. Instant decision was to drop sail and scull over to my preferred spot. Problem number three! I started furling the sail and all was going fine until it jammed solid about half way down. Searching round for a reason I find the mainsheet and topping lift wound in a mess around the end of the boom. I was drifting sideways towards Long Island and eventually ended up perched on a sand bar beside two sea kayakers who were standing in ankle deep water. Again as if it were all planned, I hopped overboard for the second time today with anchor in hand, and then sorted out the flogging sail and tangled mess.
Aim for the sand bar!
Well the reason for the jam was of course the boom tang was not man enough for the job, just as Alistair had said, and was bent at an angle which meant it no longer rotated and just fouled the end of the boom. After sorting the mess out I waited for the flood tide to lift me off the bank while I prepared some lunch. Once afloat and after some of the audience had moved on, I moved over close to the beach where I'd originally intended mooring.
Anchored for lunch off Shipstal Point
It was time to make decisions for the remainder of the day. There was now a brisk southwesterly wind and this anchorage was fairly open. I could stop here for the night or push further down harbour against the tide and wind towards Goathorn Point for a more sheltered spot for  the night. I also fancied retracing my steps but heading all the way up river to Wareham where you can moor at the Town Quay free of charge. The thought of a nice pub and some food there swayed it for me, so I hoisted sail, weighed anchor and set off downwind to retrace my outward journey. With the tide under us and a fair wind we made good progress north, but when we turned SW to the Wareham channel the wind picked up to a steady force 4  gusting 5 and right on the nose. The boat was now being driven hard, with the lee rail under much of the time. It did instill great confidence, as she really stiffened up the harder she was pushed, and where I was initially trying to sit upwind, bracing myself with my feet against the  sidebins, I found it more comfortable and with better vision to leeward, to sit  in the downwind position. The earlier furling problems were still with us, and I only managed to get about 18" of a reef rolled in before the sheet snagged again. It was an interesting, hard beat up channel; I feel we would have made better progress if we hadn't been pushed so hard. The problems with the furling gear was a disappointment but something that can be resolved.
Heading up the River Frome

Once into the river proper, I picked up an empty mooring on one of the trots to furl the sail and sort my self out. Setting off again under yuloh I wasn't making very quick progress against the wind, so turned to the engine, fired it up, and at tickover leisurely made my way up the river to Wareham Quay.

Wareham Quay and the Quay Inn

Wareham Quay on a sunny Sunday evening is a hive of activity. There was one small motor cruiser against the quay and further up three huge power boats rafted up together. Without a thought I pulled in in front of the motor cruiser and the skipper jumped ashore and took my lines.
"Is that a Paradox?" he says.
This was the start of a conversation or conversations that lasted about two hours! He first called his wife; she explained that her dad wanted a Paradox, how she wished he were here, took photos, jumped aboard and talked and talked. At this point I realised that I was parked on part of the quay which had a white line which said "To be kept clear at all times". However two locals that started chatting with me said it was for the tripper boat, and with the falling tide he would not be back up river tonight.
Moored on the white lines!

The two locals talked for an age, one jumped aboard to have a look around, related his stories of his recent trip to the Gulf of Morbihan while the Quay Inn beckoned me and I got ever more hungry. The locals however were able to point me towards a nearby fish and chip shop which I quickly found soon after getting a pint form the Quay Inn. All very civilized I ate my takeaway whilst supping beer on the aft deck!

Eventually the three huge power boats departed just before dark to return to their moorings less than a mile down stream. I moved Johanna forward, away from the white line, to occupy the empty berth and made fast for the night. Low tide was at approximately 02:00 and I had no idea how far the water would drop. The water was now dropping rapidly, where, when I arrived, I just stepped ashore, I now had a climb of about 3 feet up to the quayside. I turned in at about 2330 and set my alarm for 0200 so that I could check the slack on my mooring warps at low tide. I slept peacefully until about 0100 when I was awoken by 4 youths revving their mopeds up and down the quayside. They soon got fed up with that and left after about five minutes and peace was restored.

I was up early on Monday morning, woken by the bin men (refuse disposal operatives is I believe their proper title). It was a beautiful still morning and a thin mist hung over the river. I made my way into town and bought provisions from the supermarket once it opened at 0800. Back on board I made breakfast, filled my thermos flask, made a couple of sandwiches for lunch and prepared to move off. I made some modifications to the boom tang in the hope that it may relieve the jamming problem until a more permanent fix is achieved.

I slipped my moorings at 0940.
The return journey back down river was in a complete flat calm, but with the engine on tick-over we made an easy 4 knots.

Back down the River Frome in a flat calm
By the time I arrived in the Wareham channel there was a procession of boats in front and behind me, all making for the open waters of the harbour. I cut the engine, hoisted sail and ghosted in a barely perceptible westerly breeze at around 1.5knots over the ground. By 1100, as we got towards the northern end of the Wareham channel, the wind backed and started to fill in from the east. This meant a beat all the way down the harbour if I was going to do my intended circumnavigation of Brownsea Island. Johanna moved along easily in the light wind, although at times the wind dropped right away and we were left wallowing in the slight swell. I made my way along the northern shore of Brownsea island, making a steady 3 knots over the ground. I had to make15 tacks to work my way down as far as Brownsea Castle and was becoming quite proficient at reaching out and feeding the mainsheet over the engine! This was, and still is, a major headache, and it's one thing I need to sort out, if I'm going to keep the engine hanging off the stern.
Brownsea Island Circumnavigation
The good thing about all the beating was that I was now becoming better at recognising when I was pinching too high, or conversely, sailing too free. It was a fine sail, blue sky and hot sunshine, I can't remember the last time I sailed in the UK without a top on! I made some soup and ate my sandwiches as we passed Brownsea Castle, all the time the wind was heading us, slowly but surely moving round to the south!

Brownsea Castle ahead
At last we could free the sheets as we proceed towards South Deep, and with flat water Johanna picked up her skirts and flew off at 4 to 5 knots. We arrived at Goathorn Point around 1330 and I was tempted to put her ashore and rest for a while, but a threatening black cloud hanging overhead and with clear weather northwards, I just continued onwards. The wind had now swung right into the south with a hint of west in it again and I had to put in a tack where South deep swings SW to keep in the channel south of Green Island.

Headed for Green Island

As I bore away to the north the wind came dead astern, and I had my first real taste of running with a decent breeze up the rear. Johanna speed along at 4-5 knots but I had to concentrate quite hard to stop her gybing. I put in a couple of gybes as we ran up Ramshorn Lake but just as a tripper boat came up astern I gybed unintentionally. This lead to the dreaded tangle of mainsheet round the engine leg. Because of the pressure on the sheet the only easy way to untangle it was to gybe round again in the opposite direction. As usual, this was in full view of all onboard the tripper boat! 
It was an uneventful trip back up towards Rockley Point, where the wind fell light and I mixed it with a group of dinghys racing. Now, in the Wareham Channel again, the wind had of course gone right round to the SW meaning I, and the dinghys, were all beating towards the windward mark together. Of all the Lasers, Toppers and Enterprises, Johanna was the fastest by far in the light conditions and I soon left them in my wake!

I had an interesting beat back up the channel, the length of the boards getting progressively shorter as neared the head of the channel. It was approaching 1700 and with a flood tide, I thought I might try and enter the mouth of the River Trent and drop the hook for a short while.

Alas it was not to be. Concentrating on some boat traffic, I held on to starboard tack a bit too long, just opposite the river entrance, and that unmistakable feeling of sailing through treacle was confirmed when I looked over the side and saw we were once again up on the mud. I threw the hook out and went below and made a cup of tea! I sat enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and by 1730 Johanna was swinging sedately at her anchor with enough water under us to make our way back into the channel.

Free from the mud

Turner's Cove
There was a fair bit of traffic moving up stream, mostly power boats and they were mostly all respectful and slowed down to cut their wash. That is, except for one large power boat with three or four lads and an accompanying entourage of girls on board. As the boat came up behind he slowed right down until he was just abaft my beam. There was then a loud roar as he opened up full throttle, creating a huge wash that reared up astern and of course had me bucking like a wild bronco. There was great laughter and joviality onboard the powerboat as I shouted some choice words about the parentage of those onboard. The boat speed off up river at full throttle and round a right hand bend so it was hidden by the reeds. Moments later there was the unmistakable scream of engines with props thrashing fresh air. As I sedately rounded the bend, there to my joy and great surprise, was the boat high and dry on the mud in Turners Cove, bow firmly wedged up among the reeds.  
Three of its occupants were waste deep in black mud trying in vain to refloat her. Did I laugh? Did I heck. Justice seems to have been done. Maybe next time they'll stay the right side of the channel markers and keep to the 5 knot speed limit! With a smile on my face I made my leisurely way back to Ridge Wharf where I arrived at 1800.
Journeys End
I fixed myself some food and then offloaded my water, and went to retrieve the trailer. I didn't have any help this time, but easily managed single handed to get Johanna back on her trailer. Once again I put the trailer in so the hubs were not in the water. She winched on without much effort at all although, had the trailer been another foot lower, it would have been easier still.

I derigged, washed off some Poole mud and made her ready for the road.

Total trip according to the GPS was 37 nautical miles at an overall moving average of 2.5 knots. As this included a lot of faffing around on mud, I expect the average speed to be quite a bit higher when we were moving properly! Top speed of 5.6 knots is very respectable, there were lots of occasions on day one where we were cruising above 5 knots.

There are obviously teething problems to overcome, but that's what a shakedown is all about.
What worked well?
The boat sailed well and I was pleased with her windward performance. Off the wind she picks up her skirts and flies. The engine pushes her to almost hull speed at just above tickover. The stove worked well and I slept comfortably at night.

Issues to resolve.
The furling gear has too much friction and the boom tang is nowhere near stiff enough. This gave me lots of grief on day one, but should be easy to rectify. I need to have a look at improving the mast sheave and using a thicker line for the topping lift which is kinder to my hands. The engine was great but gets in the way at every opportunity to snag the mainsheet. I need to either think of a way to reroute the sheeting, install a horse, or throw the engine overboard! I need more hooks, clips, storage containers, etc. down below to keep things shipshape. Anchor stowage below, to keep mud at bay, needs sorting as does a means to deploy the anchor from the hatchway without going forward. I need some securing eyes for the fenders.

All in all Johanna is a fine boat, I just need to get the crew up to scratch to make her an efficient and happy ship.I had a most enjoyable weekend and am very happy with the Paradox performance. Once I've made a few changes I'll be back for more. Watch this space...............