Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday 7th July........... Home

The final day has come. We are so close to our home port that its unbelievable. Time to get back to reality instead of all this jolly sailing!!! (I might add that the jolly sailing is far more appealing)
Ok so for the final; day we rose at 6.30 and set off for the home stretch. The weather was hot which was nice but what it lacked was wind. We motored most of the way back and occasionally the sails looked as though they would give us an extra knot. With the tide eventually in our favour however we managed 6 Knots  which was just as well as we had calculated that we would just make high water at faversham as long as there was no problems en route.

Coming into the Swale was to say the least a little emotional for me as it meant that this was finally the end of what has been the most amazing adventure. There were several gaff rigged boats out in the Swale so it was a welcome sight and once we had moored it was time to reflect. What a trip and what memories. Its difficult to say what has been the best bit of this amazing trip .... but if pushed I would have to say ALL OF IT!!! Thank you Gaffers!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Saturday 6th July............................ Great Yarmouth to Brighlingsea

Tuesday 25th June and Chief Blogger Sharon has left for another short period of work.  Deputy Blogger (DB) Robert carries on and writes…
Sharon left us on  our last day in the Caledonian Canal.  A hasty entry into the first lock at the final flight down to sea level however meant Sharon was swept along with the haste of things and did not disembark until into the second lock.  All  was well  though and Sharon was able to catch the bus with time to spare.
Bus!  Yes bus.  By train her journey to Oban for Dunstaffanage Marina)– where the car was left - would have been four hours and two trains whereas by bus just two hours – and direct with one change. 
 Back to the locks.  Mobile phones, family photo shoots and other non locking activities do not mix with managing a vessel through locks – especially downward.  As was seen on a commercial catamaran immediately ahead of us in the flight.  As the lock level lowered the master of the vessel would engage in phone calls and repeat visits to the wheelhouse making periodic returns to  ease out more line.
About midway down the flight his attention was taken by a family photo session for which he put a half hitch on the Samson post.  Upon noticing this problem it was already too late to unto the hitch and with the vessel already half a meter into the air the only recourse was the sailors knife – kept in this case in the wheel house.  This resolved the matter in an instant and the vessel fell sharply leaving gel coat evidence of it’s passing
Upon leaving the sea lock our gaffer fleet hoisted sail in the light conditions- including topsails – and gave a spectacle tribute to the Caledonian Canal.  The sea lock keeper saying before we left that it was like going back in time to when these locks would have served such vessels routinely – and what splendid condition they were in!
Further downriver we were spat out into the North Sea through the turbulence of the Ness Narrows.  With the long channel cleared course was set for Lossiemouth where we arrived at around 20.00.  Our stay was to be brief.  An early start of 04.00 required an equally early bedtime which at these higher latitudes was still very light at this time.
Sleepy eyed we duly made our departure from Lossiemouth  bound for as far as we could get.  The wind was set fair from the NW and with  topsail set over double reefed mail we were off at a cracking pace.  Passing Fraserburgh and rounding  Ratray Head the wind seemed to follow us – our course becoming just west of north.  Eventually the wind settled back into the NW with variable prolonged gusts that drove the ship up to 10.2 knots over the ground.  Allowing 2 knots for the favourable tide that means Cygnet was doing 8ish knots through the water.
This really was exhilarating sailing and all too soon it had to come to an end as we approached Stonehaven.   93 miles run in just 16 hours!
Such is the perversity of sailing that the next day – Thursday 27th June – gave little wind so the passage to Arbroath had to be done under engine, though a ground swell from the north kept us amused.  Arrival of Arbroath gave just enough wind for us to ghost in under Jib and Mizzen to the delight of onlookers.
Arbroath as many will know is the home of the Smokie and all too soon it was time to leave this delightful place.  Leaving a little latter than intended course was set for a passage across the Firth of Forth with topsail set.  All went well on Simon s watch.  Handing over to Robert – writing here as deputy Blogger – all began peacefully enough.  Sails drawing well we were going along in fine style.  Passing some 10 miles off Fife Ness the wind backed and increased necessitating hardening of sheets and rather more lean of the ship than hitherto.  The extra wind also raised a short sea which put Cygnets bows through the waves putt5ing green dollops across the foredeck, some of which found it’s way down the anchor hawse of the winch.
Off watch Simon had chosen to kip down comfortably upon the mass of sails in the capacious forepeak.  Comfortable that is until he embraced the results of a particularly large green-un.  Abruptly awoken his head appeared at the hatch to ask if everything was OK.
Topsail could do with coming in, said Robert, toe rail is under and – did you know – we are shipping it green over the bow?
Further on the wind moderated so much that we had to resort to the engine to get into Eyemouth in time for the pubs.  A re-freshening of the breeze off St Abbs Head assisted in that endeavour and we were soon tied up to the wall at the head of the harbour and making new friends with the harbour staff.  
Cygnet’s next port of call was to be Whitby.  Dracula country!  To get there at a reasonable hour and not carrying such vampire deterrents as wooden stakes or garlic, our arrival had to be before midnight.  Departure from Eyemouth had to be eye wateringly early.  So early in fact that the seagulls were flying on night flying regulations.  They were though rather less noisy.
Arrival at Whitby proved interesting with the plethora of red and green lights on the piers seemingly pretending to be in some sort of unison.  Next day – and suitably and conveniently moored to the fishermen’s pontoon right next to the life boat – we were able to get our lifeboat station crew sheets signed by those that were there.
A somewhat less than early departure from Whitby was planned for the next day.  Dracula’s bedtime in fact - just before sunrise.
Bound for Wells Next the Sea our course took us parallel with the coas more or less as far as the Humber.  The wind was expected to rise around 10.00 to F5 so a couple of reefs were put in in anticipation.
As is often the case the wind was a little too much on the nose but the sails could be made to draw with a little help from the engine.  Especially so given the chop that the F3-4 was raising.  Then a slight veer in the wind allowed the engine to be turned off.  Robert at it again!  Soon after taking the next watch a sharp veer of the wind from SSW to W and instantly increase to 24 knots – F6.  Abruptly laid over Cygnet shook herself and tore off with water and froth up to the top of the cockpit coamings. 
With the sails trimmed for close hauled sailing DB’s world had taken on a whole new angle.  Auto pilot disengaged, sheets eased, and all the while retaining ones fingers.  That done Cygnet was eased up into the wind for a new course to lean us closer to the lee of the coast.
Simons head again appeared at the hatch to say how comfortable he was sleeping in the lee berth and what was all the noise about?
Arrival at Wells was thankfully in near calm conditions as we were a little late on the tide with a 4ft 3in draught.  Entry is not at all as charted but was easy enough with the channel very well buoyed indeed.  Greeted by7 the Harbour Master we were offered a pontoon berth very close to the harbour offices and spectularly good and hot showers.  Hot really does mean hot.
Having acquainted ourselves of the meanderings of this popular and ancient boating town – it even acts as a small base for wind farm vessels – we retired for an early night, for the morrow yet again required an early start to catch the tide.  Now knowing the channel exit was swift and smooth.
Passage down the coast to Great Yarmouth required an unremitting sharp look out for lobster pot buoys.  They were to be seen in large numbers all along the Norfolk Coast.  Indeed Simon called yours truly at one point concerned that the prop may have been fouled by a floating line some way from one of the pot buoys – his call precipitated by the buoy beginning to follow us.  The line soon came out under the stern and the buoy resumed it’s position.  Be warned some of these buoys are half submerged!        
Great Yarmouth was made without further engagement with pot buoys.  Motoring all the way way up to the town quay we were able to moor alongside the historic Steam Drifter Lydia Eva – fully certificated this coal burner keeps active giving trips down the river and locally along the coast.
It is here that Sharon (Chief Blogger) rejoins the ship.  So it is over to Sharon for the last leg of our voyage of the OGA50 RBC…

Thanks Robert............ So.......Friday evening saw me finishing work and then heading off on the train to Great Yarmouth. I spent yesterday evening planning how I was going to meet up with them but this was all dependent on where they got to so several contingencies and travel itineraries were planned for. As it was I received a text during the day Friday to say they would be heading for Great Yarmouth. The easiest travel option for me........ less changes.

I arrived in time to see them moored up against the Lydia Eva Steam Vessel by the Town Hall with two very pleasant young men fishing off it. It was good to be back and it certainly was warmer than when I left t6hem to go back to work. This was to be the final trip as it was time to get back to reality. I intended to enjoy every last moment of this epic adventure!!! After a bite to eat and a drop of liquid refreshment we retired to bed to try and get a restful nights slepp before the 11 hour leg the next day. The sea gulls had other ideas however and much of the night I could hear them making the most of the fact that no humans were about and they were going to have fun!!!!! Bless them
At 7 am however I finally dragged myself out of the bunk and got ready for the day ahead. The sun was shining gloriously and we knew it was going to be a good day. Just one slight snag......... the distinct lack of wind. Oh dear. Here comes the engine again. It is now 2.30pm and we have been motoring since 7. 15. With a mizzsen, staysail, main sheet and mizzenstaysail we managed an extra half a knot (well, it all helps with a 11 hour journey does it not!!!!!) The weather is however glorious and we are looking forward to getting into brighlingsea for fish and chips later.
Its hard to believe we are almost home. Its gone so quick and really sad that our trip with 'the gaffer family' is almost complete.  We would have loved to have joined the rest of the fleet in Newcastle but commitments have prevented us. Still we will be meeting up with them for the Jubilee Classics on the 20th so not long . In the meantime will be great to hear that all the other boats have got home safely too, so shall be watching all the blogs with interest.

Oh well back to the cockpit .......

Thursday, 4 July 2013

4th July 2013. The Final Leg......................... and finally we get some significant sailing without the engine!!!!!!!

Returning to join the boat at Eyemouth was a relatively easy journey in comparison to some of the other logistical planning. But it was all the more poignant as I knew that this was the home stretch and I wanted to savour each and every moment. I was effectively only with them for one full day before returning to work until friday when I  rejoined them to share the last sail.
Arriving in Eyemouth was a bit of a shock in terms of the temperature but with the opportunity of a days sail ahead it was soon forgotten. Eyemouth harbour was everything I imagined a fishing community to be full of trawlers but it had a warmth that enveloped you.
After a good meal and a drink in the local pub we retired early to get a good nights sleep before heading off at 6am the next day. Leaving the harbour we were treated to a farewell display from a few friendly dolphins that escorted us safely out in the waters beyond. And the day just got better after that!The wind was finally in our favour so after raising as many sails as we could we were soon screaming along at a rate of 6.5knots on average. The weather was relatively warm which just added to the experience. So there was one novice lady on the helm with a huge grin on her face for quite a bit of time that day. I am sure that there are those amongst the gaffers who will know what I mean when I say it was awesome to see the boat hit 9 knots!!!!

We soon arrived in Whitby. A beautiful town which I remember from my childhood. But to sail into her harbour was just the best feeling!!! After a good nights sleep I then returned to work leaving Simon and Robert to carry on with the miles. I shall be rejoining them on Friday for the final stretch. I am counting the hours to my return

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Wed 26th June 2013.......... the journey continues

Having decamped myself from the boat to head home for workafter the weekend,  Simon and Robert have continued in the challenge, so am updating blog from a distance with the wonders of modern technology and the odd text from Cygnet.  You may recall in the previous blog I mentioned that they were planning to turn right at Inverness, which they did and as a result managed to sail as far as Lossiemouth last night before mooring up for a few hours rest and refreshments. (I am reliably informed that this consisted of a Pot Noodle). They didnt rest long however as to catch the tide they were up at stupid oclock (4am) so that they could get wind and tide in their favour. They certainly seemed to have succeeded as a recent update from them was with much delight to say that they were sailing at 10.5 Knots. Having past Peterhead at that speed they are hoping to make Montrose tonight which will have meant they have covered 120 miles since 4 am!!. What a days sail...........................................

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Monday 24th June 2013

The Round Britain Challenge logistics continues unabated with the current tally of modes of transport to complete this adventure currently standing at:

Gaff Rigged Boat, Plane, Train, Motorbike, Coach, Taxi, Car, Shopping Cart (Long Story!!), Foot.

Each of the above modes of Transport with the exception of Cygnet has meant that Chief Blogger has been able to join in with the challenge as much as possible whilst continuining the day job which is funding it in the first place. Great fun to be had ...............and this weekend was no exception. After our filming experience with Ade,  we set off through the Caledonian Canal. It is such a pretty place to visit and one in which I wish I had done so before. With a spot or two of rain, which when you have such beautiful scenery to look at one doesnt seem to notice, we headed through and soon the sight of Ben Nevis came into view. With snow still on the top one could be forgiven for thinking that it was still spring what with all the rain showers. The lush green colours are a marked contrast against the heathers and gorse. Mother Nature at its best. Not much sailing to be had as we motored through the lochs whch meant we could really admire the landscape.    Soon however we arrived in Fort Augustus our next port of call. It reminded us of a pretty toy town. So cute and with such character. We met up with Witch and Moon River there who had also just arrived and also a few ofd the Dutch fleet which was fortunate as one of the crew on Leonora III handed us a fleece belonging to Howard on Bonify. I had tried to collect it from Milford Haven last time I headed home but to no avail. I quickly text the Crew of Bonify to let them know. Howard would be very pleased to be reunited with his fleece even if Sue wasnt!!!!. Anyway once moored up and settled our stomachs were rumbling loudly. The Loch Inn was recommended to us as a nice place to eat  so we thought we would give it a try.We certainly were not disappointed both in terms of the quality of the food and the ambience. A great evening.

The next day saw us depart for Loch Ness. Here at last we were able to get all the sails up and have a great blow around across the Loch. At one point Robert jumped in the dinghy and began filming Cygnet as we tacked across the lake. We had such a great day's sail and grabbing these opportunities to get all the sails up is essential as wind and tide wait for no man!! (I think that's how it goes)

Having got through Loch Ness and Lochend it was time for Chief Blogger to jump ship again and head back home which consisted of a coach journey from Lochend to Fort William (2 hours), pick up next connection from Fort William to Oban (1.5 hours) collect car and drive home (8.5 hours) A long day but worth every moment to be able to be part of such a wonderful adventure.

Cygnet continues on her journey having turned right as she came out of Inverness. I shall rejoin her on my next days off as she heads home on the last leg of this journey. I do sometimes wonder what the original craftsman and owners of these beautiful wooden boats would say if they knew that a century later these boats would still be sailing and undertaking this challenge with such grace and beauty. All I know is that I have such wonderful memeories as a result of their work......................

Friday, 21 June 2013

21st June 2013 The longest Day.......... Caledonian Canal...... Corpach Loch

What a day we had today. We set sail from Dunstaffnage heading off to meet the TV Crew with Ade Edmondson'Around Britain programme. He was keen to hear about the OGA challenge and the adventure and Cygnet was lucky enough to be chosen as the boat he spent the afternoon sailing up to Fort William on. The day started off not very promising with an overcast feel about it but soon we were on our way with a tail wind behind us. We had almost every sail out today I am pleased to say with the Main, Mizzen, Jib Stay sail, Top sail and Reacher.  At one point we managed to get up to 6.5 knots before the wind dropped .

We were joined in the afternoon by Witch and Moon River. I am in awe of the skipper of Moon River because her skipper is sailing single handledly around britain all by herself. What an inspirational lady she is. So when Ade and the film crew arrived it was great to have some of the fleet with us to join in with the filming. Ade spent a few hours on the boat finding out about the OGA. He was particularly interested in the challenge itself and wanted to hear about the highlights of the trip. For the crew of Cygnet it was a great afternoon as Simon was able to tell Ade all about what the OGA stood for and why we were having just the best time. The Film crew spent a couple of hours with us and they have captured lots of footage of not only Cygnet but Witch and Moon River too. They will be contacting Simon to let him know when the programme goes out but it is anticipated it will be in January.

It was however a fantastic afternoon and they have some great shots of both Cygnet and Witch crossing each other as we tacked across. Cant wait to see it. And what a great way for the OGA boats to be seen. What a great day again. This evening after a spot of food on board we are retiring to the pub with the crew from the other boats as all good sailors do of course!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The next leg........ The crew of SS Jaguar!!!

Trains, planes and automobiles have been a significant part of this Round Britain Challenge. I checked the itinerary and there was no mention of the fact that one could not use other modes of transport to support this challenge. Which is just as well because since starting this journey I have travelled on Cygnet, Trains, Planes, Cars, Motorbikes and more recently a luggage Trolley. (As promised the story behind this will be laid bare in the last blog!!!)

Anyway we returned back to Dunstaffnage and the boat after a few days home. The crew of SS Jaguar took it in turns to do 2 hour shifts which meant that the 9 hour journey back up here wasnt nearly as bad as it could have been. Upon arrival however (7am!!!) needed a couple of hours sleep to catch up before rising at lunchtime to start the adventure again.

After a spot of housekeeping and scrubbing of Cygnet to make her look her beautiful again we repaired to the 19th hole for a spot of Gin and Tonic and some partaking of the local dialect (its a hard life but someone has to do it) and to discuss the next leg which starts tomorrow heading up the Caledonian Canal................