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Sail 2008

Another years disappointing sail. It could really be summed up in several lines. But no such luck. I am going to say in several pages what could be said in several lines.

wp0832e1f5_0f.jpg Weather in Swansea was what is becoming the norm. Windy and all from the south west. Swansea’s geographical location means that to get to the warmer climes, a day’s sail is required in a south westerly direction. Prevailing winds and all that. Usually (70% of the time) June and July are good weather months. However, with seasonal fluctuations, global warming, Gulf Stream fluctuations, Gordon Browns economic prudence, the last two years are not following the pattern. Weather in our latitude and longitude is predictably unpredictable.

Plan 2008 was the Channel Islands, as was 2007 and 2006! Not a great deal of planning went into the years cruise, as it had all been done before. Basic plan was to get to Padstow, a 77 mile trip, done in two tides. A day in Padstow, which is always good. Then onto Penzance or Newlyn. Not much there so after a nights rest onto Salcombe. We were due to meet friends there, so three nights were scheduled. And after a refuel, a final leg to St Peters Port, Guernsey.
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That was the plan. The return journey would be the reverse, with more time spent in Salcombe and Padstow. We did not achieve.

We finished work in the 21st June. As it had been a hard month at work, we were not due to leave Swansea until the Monday. Just as well, as the weather on Sunday excelled itself with winds gusting to over force 9. Stay in port weather undoubtedly. The racing boys went out to Lundy, and one or two were somewhat battered on their return.

However the forecast for Monday was good. We upped and left Swansea’s hilly shoreline at 7am, on passage to Padstow. Despite the previous days battering, the sea was calm, with the slightest of swells. An oily surface told of no wind whatsoever. Triton, our Sadler 32 chugged happily across the Bristol Channel, with the main sail in place to fool anyone from afar. Actually the mainsail hoisted does give boat a little stability, which we all appreciate.

The sail was to be an interesting one. Disasters happen in three’s, so they say. We had none! But the line between a disaster and an ‘incident’ is small.

The first incident was when the engine overheated. Triton’s old Bukh engine is always a bit tender where it’s operating temperature is concerned. This is due to an indirect cooling system, added at some stage in her 28 year life. Hot water is great when on board. Really makes our lives liveable, with a touch of luxury. Anyway, the alarms went off, a blaring electronic noise, striking a terror into the heart. The well rehearsed and practised routine went into action. Engine off, engine compartment open, torch shone into the dark depths to see if there was any smoke or smells. Fortunately none. The cooling water level was checked. That was OK. The ignition was switched back on to check the water flow and electric circulation pump. That was OK.  The sea water impeller was taken out undone and checked. Not obvious problem there. After several minutes of rechecking the possibilities, and wracking the brain as why the overheating had happened, the engine was restarted. The water temperature quickly descended to normal, and we motored on without a hitch for the next 11 hours. Can only assume a plastic bag or jelly fish had got sucked in the salt water cooling pipe. A bit of a mystery!

wp98794c92_0f.jpg Whilst the overheating incident was underway, the second incident showed itself. Water in the boats bilge! Twenty miles out, it’s not a sight that brings any joy. I had emptied a bilge full before we left. I had put the water down to rainfall. It was another ‘problem’ with the Sadler that had become a used to. To find out where the water was coming from, I used the torch in the dark engine compartment. Too my horror the water was coming in quite big gushes from the rear of the space. Engine was off again. The water was coming in from the stern locker. The locker was opened, and emptied. The stern locker is where the warps and rear anchor are stored. The water source glared up at me. A pipe had come loose from its skin fitting. The pipe came from the gas locker. With the weight of the warps and anchor the pipe which was only just long enough had parted company with its fitting. Every time we had a fairly large wave rose on the stern, a gush of sea water entered the boat.

The tube was re-attached, and the locker was carefully packed to avoid any stress on the pipe and fitting. As wewpfa579d72_0f.jpg restated the engine and made way towards Padstow, I realised how lucky the boat was. With the gas overflow pipe detached, any gas leak would have been directly fed into the boats bilge. The thoughts about that were not good. Even worse, I soon realised that water in the bilges had gone on for at least a year. A mental slapping of the wrist was made for not checking these skin fittings after what were tell tale signs of something amiss.
Not wanting to dwell too much on my shortcomings, we made good time across the Bristol Channel. Arriving off Hartland point is always a tricky time. The sea bed here must be torturous. Whatever the weather, it’s always lumpy here. The tidal race churns the water upwards, resulting in short sharp waves, never very pleasant. We continued south west, and encountered our first dolphin pod. These lovely mammals sped towards us, under the boat, round us once then sped off towards Lundy. Obviously had better things to do!

 We had a show from the Fisheries Department. They had three of their sporty grey vessels flashing across the sea, one from the south, and two from the north. They met, and had a chat, and soon two of them headed straight towards us. The third, with a huge Union Jack sped of back towards the north. The two vessels soon changed course, and headed off in different directions. How wonderful it must be not to have to pay for diesel.

The long plod to Padstow continued, another pod of dolphins sped past us, almost ignoring the boat. The weather was good, the sun shone and there was a gentle breeze from the west. The genoa was hoisted, the engine was throttled back, and reasonable sail was had. For while anyway. A bang and a clatter came from the front of the boat. The baby stay has become detached from its anchor point on the foredeck. The stainless steel fitting snapped. Thank-goodness the third incident was not too serious, and that the sea and wind were in a forgiving mood. The stay was pulled as tight as could be and lashed to a bollard.

Lobster pots came and went. Several seemed to appear from nowhere. I played with the radar and noted that the pots were visible when on the shorter ranges. Not a worthwhile exercise as the eyeball made a better job of spotting these hazards. Newlands Island soon came into sight, and a grand entrance was made into the River Camel estuary. The sun was setting and gave some terrific photo opportunities.
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Padstow was reached, and we moored up alongside ladder no. 16. The harbour master greeted us, it was good to arrive safely! The next day was glorious in the Padstow greenhouse climate. The harbour walls are twelve foot (or so) above the water level whilst the tide is out and gates are closed. Most of the wind goes overhead, leaving the boats in trapped warm air. We cleaned the boat and engine compartment, and then looked at the weather forecast.
For the next two days, force 8 gales with rough seas came as the forecast had predicted. Three large sailing boats moored against each other, waved their masts in the wind above them. Surprisingly there were not many visiting boats in the harbour, a result of the windy weather. In the meantime, thanks to having a computer on board, with an Internet connection, we were able to replace the broken forestay pin.

wp2ef94b14_0f.jpg Several more boats arrived, one with a net around its prop, another with a broken down engine. Despite their problems, the boats had arrived safely, and were able to sort themselves out for their onward journeys. A credit to their skippers and crews. Almost all of the boats had crews of two, family members. The skipper would be the enthusiastic one who had put money and training into his or her hobby, and the faithful crew came in support of the loved.

wp7e24632e_0f.jpg Padstow harbour opens at 2 hours before high tide. The local boats come in and collect holiday makers to either whisk them around the bay and great speed, or to go a bit more slowly, and view the local marine wildlife. We took great pleasure in seeing and hearing the banter. Seagulls earnt their living by stealing chips and whatever was to be had from the feeding tourists. Dogs were attacked, boats were bombed with ukavi (Welsh). The youngsters crabbed for all they were worth. A young girl sitting on the harbour steps was surprised when a large mullet took her crab bait. Her Dad rushed down the steps to knock off the offending fish!

After several days of bad forecasts, we realised that we would not make Guernsey. But we still hoped to reach Salcombe where we had planned to meet friends. But every day, strong winds and rough seas were forecast. We might have braved those, though our rule is not to out in a force 6, but we realised that getting to Salcombe would give us a bigger problem of getting back around Lands End. We decided that we were well off where we were, so settled in to enjoy North Cornwall.

After 10 days in the harbour, we had a forecast of force 4 and 5’s from the southwest. That was good enough for us to make a dash back to Swansea. We paid our dues, filled with water, and got the boat tidied up for the sail back home.

wpd895ab36_0f.jpg 7am saw us sailing out of the Padstow harbour. We motored down the River Camel, hoisted the main sail, and unfurled the genoa. As we approached the doom bar, we saw the seas. Not sure they saw us, they were too busy tossing and falling over each other. Actually not as bad as the previous year, but enough for the crew to go below, and leave me too it! Triton turned towards Lundy, with the wind on her port quarter. We picked up speed, and I began to look forward to a spirited sail back home. The ride was not comfortable, but at least we moved under our own steam.

There were several of the dreaded lobster potters around. We navigated around one who was directly on our course. He gave Triton a wave to thank us for giving him room. How he worked in that tossing sea, was educational! As we headed north, I looked up the wind strength in Mumbles, using the mobile phone. The actual wind was 26mph, and gusting 36mph. So much for the forecast! Whilst our wind was a lot short of that, I looked at my sails, a full main and a full genoa!

A very dark cloud was approaching from behind, with very heavy rain coming from it. I thought that the wind in thatwp1b315f2c_0f.jpg cloud night give us a surprise or two, the same thought that made me go and reef the main. Our new Kemps sails were very easy to reef, thankfully. As it happened the dark cloud went in land and missed us. However Triton appreciated a lighter load, but we did drop a knot in speed.

That was my excuse for a Gemini catamaran to very slowly overhaul us. It took him up to Lundy to come abreast. He had no reefs, and looked very uncomfortable. The Cat, called Ngusa Ngsusa had been in Padstow with us, but turned towards Cardiff at Hartland. Coming up the coast of Devon the tide had been against us.

We made 15 degree change of course to Swansea. The tide now turned, and gave us a knot or two in speed. Once we had Hartland behind us the waves became longer and less torturous. We were now averaging some 7.5 knots.
Soon Swansea was in sight. The 76 mile trip had taken twelve and a half hours, not bad run. Not the most comfortable either, but the boat and equipment had all performed well.

Maybe we will get to Guernsey next year!