Sunday, 3 June 2012

Setting Sail and Engine.....

This time last week I was sat in Ramsgate Marina with a sailing buddy of mine (also called Steve to add confusion) in the process of bringing Brown Eyes from the Hamble to her new home port of Ipswich.
We had planned to make the journey in 3 days, but had allowed 4 just in case we came up against any bad weather or other problems......and it was in Ramsgate that we came across the largest obstacle.
The last night on the Hamble

Before setting out on this epic voyage I arranged for a Yachtmaster instructor to give us a little tuition aboard Brown Eyes, as the yacht was new to both of us and as she has a ketch-rig (2 masts) which neither of us had any experience of sailing before.  Clive, our instructor, was the bee’s knees when it came to preparing us and he took us through all the different systems on board before we went sailing.  I’m pleased to say she was quite maneuverable for such a beamy boat and responded well in the light winds we encountered as we headed out of the Hamble into Southampton Water.  The lines, ropes and sails on Brown Eyes are all a little tired and require some attention to get the best from them, but for a 30 year old yacht, she handled well.  After a late lunch at anchor we headed back to Mercury Marina via the refueling pontoon, confident we had done all we could in preparation for the trip around the South East coast of England.
Steve at the Helm on the Hamble - 5 am
On Friday 25th May we were up just before 5 am and soon motoring down the mirror-like Hamble towards the Solent.  Unfortunately the wind was on our nose for most of the day, so once again the Volvo Penta 40hp diesel engine was put to work as we headed towards Newhaven, our first planned overnight stop.  As the day progressed we made good time and decided to push on a little further and try to get as far as Eastbourne, thus giving us a shorter second day.  Along the way we were entertained by porpoises and diving sea birds, which made me realise that I would need to brush up my ornithological identification skills.....amongst others.  The only other boats we saw for most of the day were fishing boats, one of which we came quite close to, as it was hidden by our foresail for some time, reminding us to maintain a proper watch at all times - however, we pass each other unscathed, offering the normal nonchalant wave as if we had seen them all along.
Our route from the Hamble to Ipswich
We made Eastbourne in good time, however, as we took the sails down we noticed that there was a problem with two of the hanks and also that a small section of the main sail’s stitching had come undone......the joys of owning a yacht!
Beachy Head
Entry into the Eastbourne marina is through one of 2 locks and once in I headed off to find a chandlery (a ‘boating-shop’ to the uninitiated) to buy the appropriate items for repair as Brown Eyes did not have any real spares onboard - something else to go on my “to-do” list.  With the spares obtained (just as the shop was closing) we managed to make good the sail and then headed off to use some of the other local facilities

The Lock into Eastbourne
 A later start the next day saw us departing the lock at 8 am and heading back out to sea, this time Ramsgate was our destination with the challenge of passing the Port of Dover, notorious for its busy shipping lanes. Once again the wind was on the bow and the ‘donk‘ was put to use to keep us on schedule.  Passing Dover turned out to be somewhat a none event as we only saw a handful of cruise liners in the area, but it gave me a chance to run up Brown Eye’s radar and see it in action. Using the Raymarine system reminded me of my Rapier days, especially as there is an ‘allocate target‘ button: but in this case I was presented with information to help avoid a collision, rather than shoot the target.
We entered Ramsgate early evening and found the marina particularly full and we later found out it was a long weekend for Belgium, so many of them had decided to head over to England (why Ramsgate???).  As we headed towards one of the few remaining berths I suddenly realised that the engine had stopped and I was no longer in control of Brown Eyes!  Luckily Steve was quick to pick up on the problem, fending us off hitting another yacht and then securing us to that same yacht to stop us drifting anywhere else. The other yachtsmen soon all came to watch and, as always, came to the aid of their fellow sailors and Brown Eyes was soon passed from yacht to yacht until she was alongside the pontoon where we could safely tie-up.  At that point I was pleased that they had all headed over from Belgium and chased Ramsgate to visit!
Trying to find someone to help with our mechanical problem is a story in itself, but if I remind you that this was a Saturday evening and England were playing at Wembley under their new manager for the first time, it will not surprise you that finding a mechanic to help us was impossible and fixing the engine was going to be down to us.....or we would have to wait until Monday.
Sunday morning was spent first reading the maintenance books I had put on board and then the engine manual before squirting diesel at each other as we cleaned and bled the fuel system.  We also had to tweak the throttle system before we finally decided it was all fixed and ready to go - I have to give full credit to Steve on this, I’m not sure I would have completed the repairs without him.  We were now well behind on our schedule but decided to make a dash for it with the tide and hoped to arrive at the River Orwell by last light.
We set off soon after 1 pm that Sunday afternoon and this time the wind was a little more favourable, but we still used the engine to give us a little more speed, along with the sail, in order to help us reach our destination before nightfall.
Crossing the Thames Estuary was a new experience for us both and we were surprised to see just so many wind-turbines out there, both in use and still being constructed.  I do wonder how much energy is used to build them out there compared to the energy that they will provide back to us in their lifetime - but that’s another soapbox rant, best left for another time.  The other encounter we had was with one point we had less than a metre of water under our keel and this was just about at’s lucky we left when we did or we could still be out there trying to find our way through!
The welcome sight of Felixstowe Docks
The Felixstowe docks were a welcome sight (I’m not sure those words are said very often) and putting the sails down as we entered the Orwell gave us a chance to catch our breath and realise that we would be in Ipswich just as it got dark, but having completed the voyage in the 3 days we had been aiming for.
Under the Orwell Bridge
We were treated to a sunset behind the Orwell Bridge as we covered the last few miles of our journey and entering the marina through the lock was our last-but-one challenge.
That last challenge was getting into the berth I had been allocate for Brown Eyes.  After a few practice turns within the marina we headed in and I soon realised that the turn into the berth was tighter than I had imagined, however, after a practice run we made it and, as always, there were fellow yachtsmen on hand to take a line and help us make Brown Eyes secure.
The Lock at Ipswich
We had covered over 200 nautical miles during our 4 days onboard and our experience as sailors had certainly grown.  I would like to say a massive “thank you” to Steve for his company and help last week and I look forward to sailing with him again in the future.

In the meantime, Brown Eyes is now getting a bit of a spring clean and lots of maintenance and TLC before her next trip. 

Sunset Over the Orwell Bridge

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