Saturday, 9 October 2010

Gaffers Three

And now, despite enormous public demand, what the world has been waiting for;
Gaffers Three........

We got away to a pretty good start, I don't think many boats actually beat us across the line, there were gaffers all round us but mainly to leeward, some ahead and quite a few behind which meant we had a grand view as they all came lolloping past us. 

The start line was conveniently tucked into the lea of West Cowes, so the water was still quite calm and the breeze stiff to moderate for a while after the start, enough to stop you lighting your pipe but, not enough to blow it out. TW had a double reef tucked in, she was wearing a jib maybe one size bigger than required for the occasion, mainly due to the Storm Jib being on the kitchen table awaiting repair.

The course took us across the entrance to Cowes, squeeked down the Island side of Gurnard then on to Saltmead.  The wind was blowing from the south west, bang on the nose, and the tide was giving it a run for its money, so this meant a big tack out towards the New Forest shore. As we sailed out from the lea of the island the waves and wind increased, by the time we'd started to come out into the middle of the Solent the wind and waves were getting up, maybe a 6 by this time.

There's a chart of The Solent here

Away over on the New Forest shore Fawley power-station chimney could easily be seen with its vertical row of red lights.  By this time the larger boats, the ones which hadn't shot away at the start were getting the bit between their teeth, Ocean Pearl came past looking glorious, and very very big.

TW battled on, shouldering into every wave. Now and again a big green one would come, she'd give it an extra hard nudge and the spray would come over the bow, giving the crew a good soaking. Normally I hate wearing a hood, it feels really claustrophobic, but when a bucket of salt water comes at you they are the best thing for stopping it all running down your neck and filling up your wellies.

Once Cee Dubbs had thought we’d gone far enough he thought we’d better put in a tack, there was a fair bit of lea helm due to the slightly oversize jib and it wasn’t certain she’d actually go if asked, but Cee Dubbs waited until there was a bit of a lull and a flattish spot.
"Righto, here we go, ready about, wait for it, wait, back it, back it, back it, right now, Yes! excellent."

We were now on starboard tack heading over towards Salt Mead which was to be left to starboard heading for East Lepe which meant an almost 270 degree turn to head north-east-ward again.
Cee Dubbs thought we might not get round, the tiller was almost over on the rail trying to keep her straight and there wasn't much more helm to give her. "We might have to wear ship, gybe round in a figure of eight,  but with a bit of luck, a bit of a lull and good seamanship meant she sailed round with the mark to starboard, like the amazing little ship she is. 

We were now on a run, and the sound of the wind died away as it always does when you're going with the wind, TW took off surfing down the waves.
I looked behind and saw Pegasus rounding the mark, a few seconds later she appeared to be sailing back towards it.
 "Must've missed it, going round again"

A minute or so later I heard an almighty bang, sounded like a starting cannon going off. It took us a minute to realise what we'd heard but when we turned to look Pegasus had lost her mast. 
When she'd made it round the mark and the wind had come onto her stern the pressure of the wind in her sail must have been too much for the rigging. By this time we were surfing down-wind, the sea lifting us from the stern and catapulting the wee ship forward, looking back the following sea seemed bigger than ever.

That’s when we decided to call it a day.

Fun’s Fun etc, but when much bigger boats start to get into trouble it may be a foolish man who ignores the signs.

We found that mobile phone number and called it in.

It was a straight run all the way home, by around 4.30 pm we were rolling in over the bar into the gentle waters of Chichester Harbour, and maybe wondering whether we should have gone on a bit longer.  

A few days later I noticed on Chris Partridge’s Blog that Ocean Pearl had lost her bowsprit, probably the same day.

I got this e-mail from Cee Dubbs;

It seems reasonable to assume that Pearl lost her prod about the same time as Pegasus lost her pole.  Actually I looked it up on Bramblemet archives and around 11.00 it was blowing some twenty knots, gusting to twenty-seven; it then had a little hissy fit at about 11.50 blowing twenty-five knots, gusting to thirty-seven.  Thereafter, it settled back down to merely grim.

That is top of five going to top of six, with middle six going to middle of gale eight.  Glad we noticed.

I have to tell you seriously that if I had had the storm jib on board, I think I might have gone on trying, but forty squares up for'ard was giving her something of a lee helm when it might have been essential to luff up, or be laid a long, long way over and I don't think she would have tacked without it, or really been able to keep moving through the lumps.  It would have been endless bashing about, wearing ship and scouting for marks in the murk.

Makes me shiver to think about it.    

Me too! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re Ocean Pearls bowsprit......very annoying. This yaer I changed the simple lashings on the bowsprit shrouds to Tufnol blocks and Vectran lines, to get the shrouds nice and tight. The Tufnol double blocks are rated at 1.7t, but obviously were not strong enough! They did look a bit skimply, but 1.7t should be enough? Obviously not!
Well it was quite windy, and the genoa (our only headsail) is about 450 sq ft so I suppose I was asking for it. Fun day though. At some points we actually heeled over a bit!