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Sailing with another owner to the E Coast WOA 50th

Posted: Mon May 21, 2018 3:48 pm
by Jolly Roger
Normally I sail singlehanded, so sailing with anyone else usually means someone who does not sail.

I had planned to sail singlehanded to join the 50th Anniversary of the East Coast Branch of the Westerly Owners Association at Harwich. Some weeks ago John, our Chairman, asked if he could sail with me, as the 60 mile journey in his Griffin would be difficult as he could not get a crew. Not a problem I said. In reality I have not sailed with another owner before. So Thursday morning he duly arrives at 10 at my marina in Chatham. After storing his gear, we just missed the 11 o'clock lock, so had to wait until 11.30. Once in the river, John took the tiller whilst I removed warps, fenders, etc and then hoisted the main, later unrolling the genoa.

The forecast was north north east about 14 knots and it was a spring tide. I decided due to the bad timing of the tide to leave at half tide before high water and punch it out of the river. With full canvas and a reasonable wind it took slightly longer than expected to reach Sheerness, but it was great cheating the tide at every bend in the river. We sometimes differed as to the best time to tack due to wind shifts and where to pick up back eddies, but I left John on the helm as he had never sailed a Fulmar before. Finally we headed cross tide towards the Essex shore on a rough 030 course. By this time the tide was just turning in our favour.

The easterly tack was a great making fetch, but the wind was gradually increasing as it became wind over tide and kept backing by up to 50 degrees. Once it reached 20 knots over the deck, I suggested reefing, but John was enjoying steering, so we held on for a while. When it increased to 24 knots, it was definitely time for a reef, but I put in a double reef, but kept full genoa for extra drive in the rougher Thames chop. As we approached Maplin at the start of the Foulness Sands, the tidal gate meant very rough water. The change of course to a more northerly course meant the tacks became fairly equal as the wind was straight on the nose. Eventually 4 rolls were put in the genoa as the wind speed started hitting 28 knots. It was turning out to be a tough long beat.

As we approached to cross the end of the Crouch, we had to free off slightly to get to the Swin Spitway. We stayed about 50m east of the buoy and sailed due north, rather than straight towards the the other buoy on a north west course. It is a wide flat channel with a chart datum of at least 1.3m. The tide still had 2 hours left to drop, so there should have been plenty of water. However 150m past the buoy we only had 0.3m under the 1.5m keel! It soon rose to a clear 2m, it was worrying for a short while, but we got through. Once we could harden up slightly we sailed close to the Clacton shore and tacked out. By the time we needed to tack back from the Gunfleet Wind Farm, the tide was turning against us. We had been tacking at just under 90 degrees with the tide under us, but this opened to 120 degrees. So the velocity made good started dropping, as did the daylight. It seemed every slight turn in the general course, the wind made it more difficult.

By the time we reached Walton on the Naze, we were trying to beat into nearly 2 knots of tide. The wind started to drop and the reefs were shaken out. Although Concerto could handle the conditions, hand steering was essential due to the confused sea and we were only making 3½ knots over the ground, so our VMG was almost zero. We were both getting tired, I made the decision it was time to motor towards the lights of Harwich. The course now was due north and the wind had become due north. It took 2½ hours to reach Woolverstone Marina, arriving just before 2am. No one at the marina answered the VHF, so we just moored to a hammerhead. The log had stopped working for part of the journey, but we estimated the 60 miles was nearer 90 to 100 miles. It was a very long hard day, but John was a trooper. We chatted and kept each other occupied to pass the long hours.

Needless to say we were not early risers as we had finally hit the sack at 3.30am. So we decided we were too tired to join the main party at Stone Point in the Walton Backwaters. After a shower and cooked lunch we had a lazy afternoon. We moved Concerto into a finger berth and John was impressed at how precise I was able to position her in a very tight berth. Then off to the Royal Harwich YC for a quick drink and see if anyone had arrived. Only Neil on Trumpeter was there having a meal. We then took the shore walk to Pin Mill for an evening meal and a few more drinks. It was nice to have company and boy could we chat whilst enjoying a good meal. A gentle stroll back as it was getting dark was enough exercise for the day.

On Saturday morning, John decided the cockpit could do with a good scrub. This encouraged me to start cleaning the sprayhood and scraping some of the muck off the teak toe rail and rubbing strake. John certainly got stuck in and the cockpit looked a lot brighter, but he decided to continue with the rest of the deck. Who turns down help like this? As a reward I suggested we had a late lunch in the restaurant, before a stroll over to the Royal Harwich to meet the others in the group who had now arrived. Chatting with some of the members and I even helped move a boat as the berth holder had not told the club he was returning that night. Off then to get changed for the evening celebratory dinner.

The pre-dinner drinks were friendly and amongst those I chatted with was Mary Buchanan, our WOA Commodore and David Jibb, our WOA Vice Commodore (who I know quite well). The meal was fine and the company on the table was entertaining, John was doing his Chairman job on another table. It was a good evening and as usual I found many WOA members did not use this forum. After explaining how interesting it can be, rather than just for asking questions. For the forum to work, questions have to be answered, so someone has to be looking with the knowledge to answer them. Hopefully my prompting will make the forum a better place and when the new web site, which is still being tested, replaces the forum and existing web site, this will be even better as more members will become engaged.

Sunday morning arrived early as we planned to leave by 8am to catch the last of the tide down river and then the flood into the Thames. The wind forecast was looking promising with east backing north east and rising from 7 knots to 11 knots. So it looked like a nice long spinnaker run. Despite having the sails up and ready to set the spinnker, the apparent wind speed was in low single digits, so the iron sail remained engaged at a cruising 2000 rpm. From Harwich we chose a course of just east of south to clear the Gunfleet Sand and then head further south to the Kings Channel, to keep East Barrow Sands on our starboard. Neither John or I had used this route before, but the deep water looked tempting for faster tide. The visibility was only about 3 miles, but sufficient to spot the buoys in plenty of time so we did not rely completely on the chart plotter (what are waypoints? we could not be bother to use them). The monotony of steering was taken over by the autopilot. John could not believe how smooth and frequent small changes were made by the autopilot, the advantage of having a very modern autopilot. With little to do enroute, we either were eating or chatting and pulling each other's leg. Then the competitions started. Who could see a buoy first or a ship approaching. The final competition was how far off which bow the next buoy would be whilst about a quarter of a mile away, measured in boat lengths. It was quite fun and certainly increased our skill in allowing for some tide. Most of the time our speed was between 7 and 8 knots over the ground, so much faster than Thursday. I started thinking we might arrive and have only an hour and a half of tide against us after the tide had turned. The further we motored, this started reducing and we might arrive even earlier. Keeping in the deep water of the shipping channels was certainly helping us get the best tidal advantage. It started to look like we may get lucky and get almost home on the tide. Entering Gillinghm Reach, we started listening on channel 80 and heard free flow was in operation at Chatham Marina. It was still 2¾ miles to go, the sails needed to be dropped, fenders and warps brought out, etc. So just off Medway YC I called the marina as they had already told another boat that free flow was ending in 5 minutes. Could we also enter on free flow? Well the bridge was just about to be lifted and we could follow the other boat in if we were quick. He seemed to take ages to get in position with his new graceful Spirit 45, but we made it through. It was 15 minutes before high water! So we had taken 9¼ hours to arrive. An almost perfect mooring up, but with the gentle breeze catching in the sprayhood meant I had to use reverse to stop in the berth.

John and I both decided it had been a wonderful 4 day trip. We had both enjoyed each others company and would like to sail together again. So from John being some one I knew, he has become a good friend. No doubt we shall make other trips together in the future, but my singlehanded days are not over.

Re: Sailing with another owner to the E Coast WOA 50th

Posted: Tue May 22, 2018 1:20 pm
by TyroSailor
Sailing with others is a great way to get to know them, whatever their level of expertise.

I, too, usually sail singlehanded (almost literally for a few days last summer when I had a septic thumb!) but do enjoy both the company and the more relaxed ambience of having a crew/mate on board. Which reminds me - anyone fancy a few days in a Centaur somewhere between the Solent and Cornwall?

Re: Sailing with another owner to the E Coast WOA 50th

Posted: Tue May 22, 2018 6:04 pm
by Fulmar433
Sounds like you had a good weekend. I was thinking about going, but have been doing some major redecorating at home. I still had a few things to sort out before a new carpet and furniture arrives.
It's interesting what you said about the Swin Spitway, 50m further East than the buoys is the recognised best water. I went through there during the early May Bank Holiday weekend at fairly low tide, I can't remember what the prediction was, but never saw anything less that 1.7m under my 1.2m keels. It's possible there's an obstruction out there. Could be worth mentioning it on the YBW East Coast Forum. Roger Gaspar aka Tillergirl will be very interested. He may even get out there and do another survey.
I also normally sail single handed, but a few weeks ago we had our club Round the Island (Sheppey) race. A fellow club member whose boat, a Hanse 34, based a Chatham was still out of the water asked if he could sail with me. To cut a long story short, due to lack of wind we ran out of water round the back of the Island and had to retire. We had dropped the main and the wind had picked up. After getting through the bridge we sailed with a reefed Genoa. Alan was shocked how fast a Fulmar is with just a partly rolled Genoa. We were doing between 6 & 7 kts.

Re: Sailing with another owner to the E Coast WOA 50th

Posted: Tue May 22, 2018 11:18 pm
by Jolly Roger
PM was sent to Roger Gaspar on Monday about the depth.