Friday 24 September 2010

Two Old Gaffers in an Old Gaffer go sailing ( with more Old Gaffers)

Getting There.

A while ago I said I'd report back after my sail with Cee Dubbs in Tit Willow. So here as promised is the unexpurgated story. I'm sorry to say there are no photos, my old camera got a dunking at Cobnor, made a brief recovery after a few days in the airing cupboard, but the conditions out with Cee Dubbs just finished it off, which should give you a hint of how things went. 
Thankfully I had the sense to leave my new camera tucked up in its case at home. 

I met up with Cee Dubbs and Tit Willow at Dell Quay in Chichester Harbour around 5.00pm on the Thursday evening. TW is kept on a yard trolley the wheels for which Cee Dubbs keeps at home, they originally came off a light aircraft and are worth a bob or two so he leaves her jacked up on blocks.  Cee Dubbs had the wheels on by the time I got there so we reversed her down the slip and waited.
At a ton and a quarter you don't launch TW you sit and wait until the tide lifts her off, so we had a cup of tea and gradually but surely up she came, we were away by about 7.30.

It was a very gentle evening with the wind in the south so we were able to sail all the way down the channel, past Itchenor to East Head where we anchored for the night. It was getting pretty dark by the time we got out by Furzey Island, the infamous site of the camera dunking but there was just enough light to see the channel posts and keep out of trouble. TW doesn't have any nav. lights, technically she is too small to need them so long as you can show a light when needed. I presume there must have been a torch somewhere. 

Once the anchor was safely set, and Cee Dubbs had stopped fretting that we were too close to the boat next door the boom tent was raised and we settled in for the night. As guest of honour I was given the only bunk. TW's cabin can only be described as bijou, apparently there is a second cot but you have to get married before you can get that close, so El Capitan elected to sleep in the cockpit on his air mattress.   I'm not sure who got the best deal but I now know how the apollo astronauts felt.
 As TW swung on her anchor rode keeping head to wind as all good boats should the rising gale whistled in through the front of the boom tent which acted like a wind tunnel, Cee Dubbs spent most of the night with his pullover round his head.

Due to a myopic malfunction which read 06.05 as 06.55 we were up bright and early!

Thankfully Cee Dubbs likes his coffee in the morning. Proper coffee! so after a couple of mugs the world was beginning to seem O.K.  A fried egg sandwich ( this man knows how to live) and we were off.
The weather gods had promised a blustery force 4 from the south west and they didn't disappoint. First Reef in and away we go, out across Chichester harbour towards Hayling Island, hang a left, keep as close to the western shore as you dare and out to sea. 

Hayling Bay is shallow so the rollers build up especially when the wind is in the South, it also means that the marked channel goes quite a way out before its safe to turn west for the Isle of Wight. We bounced out over the bar punching into the waves which TW took happily in her stride, she really is quite a remarkable little vessel. She is very dry although we did get the odd dunking just to keep us awake. Once out of the channel and heading west it was a broad reach out between the twin forts protecting Portsmouth. 

Southampton is one of the busiest ports in the world and this combined with the proximity to Portsmouth, ferry traffic to the Isle of Wight, and the sailing hubs of Cowes and the Solent  all combine to make this stretch of water one of the busiest anywhere. Its very important to keep a good watch and we had to make a tactical manoeuvre to avoid a tanker coming out of Fawley oil terminal. 

As we came close under the lea of the island the wind dropped a bit so it was a very comfortable sail.  Ah the calm before the .....
As we came abeam of Cowes, our destination, the wind was funnelling right down the river, estimates vary between Bloody Hell and Strewth! We needed to tack upriver to the marina, keeping well clear of the ferries and other river traffic as well as the rows of boats swinging on their moorings.
Cee Dubbs elected to get the outboard out, I agreed.
The outboard thought otherwise. The locker was swimming in six inches of water, and consequently it elected not to bother starting.

We hove-to while Cee Dubbs put a second reef in. 
Composure was maintained at all times and swearing kept to the occasional curse. 

We kept out of the channel down to the east, and dodged amongst British Sailing Academy Lasers which were capsizing around us.
We tacked up amongst the moorings, almost under the bow of the ferry and like a hedgehog trying to cross the M25 made a run for it across the channel and into the marina. 

We had arrived, tomorrow the race!          
To be continued.............................. 

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