Thursday, 31 May 2007

Yachtmaster Exam

The Yachtmaster Examiner, Mike Stratton, arrived at 2pm and was on board until after 11pm.

Brian was doing his Coastal Skipper exam whilst I was being examined for Yachtmaster Offshore. The syllabus is the same for both but the level of experience and expectations for Yachtmaster are higher.

We took turns skippering the boat and being examined in the saloon on a whole range of subjects and skills. Soon after leaving the harbour I had to moor to a buoy. Then I had to sail off the buoy and Brian was down below for his 'blind navigation' plotting a course to St Mawes quay. With blind navigation it is as if there is dense fog with no information other than the course and speed through the water and the depth of water from the echo sounder.

Half way across the Carrick Roads Mike shouted 'help!' and I realised he had chucked a buoy and bucket over the side so I immediately went into Man Over Board drill. Thankfully we picked up the grateful bucket and set off again to St. Mawes. The wind was increasing all the time and even with one reef in the boat behaved rather erractically, being a plastic fantastic Bavaria, much to Mike's horror. He said 'put the helm hard over' I said 'I have', he said 'my boat wouldn't do this' or something to that effect in Cornish nautical dialect!

Now it was my turn to navigate blind, this time from St. Mawes Quay to Mylor Creek. The crew put a second reef in as the wind increased and we headed out of St. Mawes with a Man Over Board for Brian on the way. As the wind was coming from the north down the Carrick Roads we had to tack up the harbour which was an extra challenge for my blindness. If one can get within 2 boat's lengths of a buoy the crew are allowed to tell you and this gives an exact position. I managed to get one Starboard hand buoy on the way to Black Rock then nothing until much further up the roads. Finally I resorted to tacking to and fro along the port hand 10metre contour of the main channel. I knew if I kept doing this eventually the angle would chgange and we could reach along to the next buoy. Just before it there is a wreck which confuses the contour. Unknown to me there was a fishing boat sitting there (good fishing around the wreck). The crew were getting exhausted with all my changes of tack and Mike tried to throw me ofcourse with bits of information. However he eventually said 'exercise over - up you come, I can see exactly what you are doing'. As I came on deck there was the buoy right next to us beside the fishing boat. Very satifiying.

We still had various exercises, including being grilled on all the navigation lights, fog sounds, meteorology (we had to interpret the day's shipping forecast) and Mike checked our passage plans which we had prepared earlier.

After a bit of night pilotage we arrived back in the Marina. After debriefing me and saying that I had passed Mike said to me finally 'I have one question for you, why havn't you done this earlier?' I could hear Captain George Paget when I was Third Mate on the Logos in 1973 saying to me 'When are you going to get your tickets?'

Job Done!

Day Skipper Lois

Lois joined "You Go", a Bavaria 36 for her Day Skipper practical course on the same day I started my YM prep. Her instructor was Martin and she was joined by Dave, also doing his Day Skipper, and Paul and Ivan doing their Competant Crew.

She had a great week, effectively skippering the yacht for 50% of the time! This involved all the boat handling on and off buoys and pontoons, passage planning and pilotage in and out of harbours by day and night. In addition they had lots of Man over Board practice (with a fender, not a live victim!) and they played "Bob" - you'll have to ask her about that!

Lois went to all sorts of places I havn't been to yet such as Goran Haven, Polperro and Mevagissy in addition to Tregothnan, Helford River and Fowey.

At the end of the week she was on a 'high' having passed with flying colours. Martin encouraged her to charter a yacht and skipper again asap. So she has booked 'Czar', a Contessa 32, for the last week in July and she is also doing her Radio Operator's training next week.

Line up for Logos II

Lois, Esther and I paid a visit to the Logos II 'Lineup' team. Adele from Cameroon, Greg from South Africa and Anna from Germany are based in Falmouth for a couple of months preparing for the visit of the mission ship LogosII.

We arrived just in time for a cream tea. Someone had provided clotted cream to help them with cultural adaptation to Cornish ways (ie cream on top of the jam as opposed to jam on top of the the cream, in Devon). While we are about it the great debate on "I GO" was whether Pasties originate from Devon or Cornwall - come on all you bloggers let's have a real debate!!

Meanwhile, Adele has agreed to ask the Port Operations Manager if we can have a pontoon berth in the docks next to Logos II for "Polbream", out next charter yacht. Dave Thomas, Chief Engineer on Logos II has arranged for us to take different groups from the ship out for day sail training. One day will be for Deck and Engine Officers, the next for Deck and Engine Ratings and the next for the Intensive Training Team (bit like a turbo charged DTS for those who know what that is).

The Ship is in Falmouth at County Wharf, next to the Maritime Museum from 5-18 June and is open to the public for free visits every day. More details at
She is also going to be at Portland from 27 June to 9th July.
Lois and I took a stack of posters and programmes to distribute in Mylor and at Falmouth Marina. It felt like being back on the Line Up team again in the 1970's.

Yachtmaster Prep

The Yachtmaster Prep course is designed to get one up to speed for the Yachtmaster exam so I joined "I Go", a Bavaria 30, on Sunday 20th May for 5 days intensive training and revision.

There were 5 of us on board: Nigel, our instructor, Brian and Jenny doing Coastal Skipper and Day Skipper respectively and Geoff doing his Coastal Skipper Practical.

We spent the whole week in and around Falmouth and the Carrick Roads, hardly going outside St. Anthony's point. Most of the time on the water was taken up with boat handling; Man over Board exercises, mooring to buoys and pontoons and anchoring. We also did a lot of revision either on board or in the classroom of navigation buoys, Lights, Sounds, Collision rules, Meteorology, passage planning and pilotage.

By the end of the week we were real 'swats'. My head was aching from trying to remember so many facts and figures. After Freya I was physically exhausted but this time it was a mental challenge!

The time went all too quickly and we became a very effective team supporting one another. Brian and I would be the only ones being examined as Jenny and Geoff's qualifications were based on continual assesment. So Geoff and Jenny very kindly cooked etc. so that Brian and I could get our heads down.

The hour of the examiner's arrival came nearer and nearer. We were informed that his name was 'slasher' Stratton!!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Mylor and Day Skipper

Back in Falmouth I was reunited with Lois who arrived early to attend the opening of John and Jo Dyers art exhibition at St. Michael's Mount.
After a hurried goodbye to Freya's crew I started a two day course on Heavy Weather Sailing and Survival at Sea. Quite a number of the other students are planning for the AZAB Azores and Back race in June. I was fascinating to hear many stories of storms at sea around the world from these seasoned short handed sailors. (They didn't have short hands - they just sail on their own or with just one crew across the oceans of the world)

We had several practical sessions with our Lifeboatman MBE instructor. For one we attempted to recover a 'man over board', a convenient diver who seems to spend most of his time in the harbour. For this we rigged a 'handy billy' attached to the hallyard on a yacht - see picture.

On the Sunday we went off to a swimming pool in Truro where we jumped in with full sailing kit on and then exhausted ourselves getting into a liferaft.

On Monday evening we went along with Esther to a folk dancing evening in a little pub by the harbour in Falmouth - great fun!

From Monday Lois was in student mode doing her Day Skipper theory course at Cornish Cruising, whilst I looked after Simba at Mylor revising my Yachtmaster theory. Each evening we would compare notes and help each other.

Esther also got in on the sailing, starting a dinghy sailing course on racing with some other uni students. They went out in quite a blow on Wednesday evening, she lost count of how many times she capsized, but she really enjoyed it.

Lois was delighted to pass her exams on Friday.
We enjoyed a relaxing day today, Saturday, including a walk at Mawnan at the Helford River entrance.

Freya III

On the 5th May I was joined by Alan Edwards, Alan Higgins, Trevor Watts and Roger Bradbury on board Freya III. Freya is an ageing Sadler 32, quite a squash for five big lads and all our gear. We had been promised two other bigger boats but the owners withdrew them at the last minute. However Freya is a good seaboat and given the weather we experienced that was important.

Our original plan was the go to the Isles of Scilly, which would have been great a few days earlier but the wind came around to the west in strength so we ruled that out. After a night up on the Tregothnan pontoon on the Truro River we headed out to sea attempting to get to L'Aber W'rach in West Brittany. However strong winds and increasingly heavy seas caused us to turn back for shelter. At least we had a good 'shake down' for later in the week!

We headed back to Falmouth Marina for hot showers and a good night's sleep in the snug marina. Next morning we decided to try sailing t Fowey or even Plymouth. As it happened the weather was much better than forecast and we had a great sail down wind all the way to Plymouth. We were conscious that, with westerlky winds forecast all week, we would be in deficit for the beat home. However, at least we had escaped from Falmouth.

We ended up with three nights in the Plymouth area. First night very cosy in Sutton Harbour which has excellent faclities and is cheek by jowel with the Barbican. A very late evening meal at "The Jaipur Palace" was enjoyed by all!

On Tuesday we headed out well reefed beyond the breakwater for another very lively sail, getting the crew and skipper used to heavy weather tactics. Scampering back into the harbour we anchored near Mt Edgecombe before heading up the Lynher river (via HMDocks trying to get the Grey Funnel Line to acknowledge of constantly dipping ensign to no avail).

On our way up the river we spied a mavellous sight, a grey atlantic seal atop a large buoy!

We anchored for the night at the very peaceful Dandy Hole out of sight of civilisation.

Next morning we determined to have a go at sailing to Fowey,despite the badweather reports. The Reports were all too correct and we gave up off Rame head and scooted, yet again back into harbour for shelter (becoming a habit this 'tail between our legs' sailing) nevertheless it was the seamanship like thing to do. This time we headed for Plymouth Yacht Haven where docking in very strong winds proved a challenge.

Thursday dawned with the challenge that we were going to Fowey come what may. What came was no wind for some of the passage, so we motored quite a bit. Except for the final approach to Fowey when the wind got up to force 6 gusting 7 just as we were off the harbour entrance and then the engine oil pressure alarm went off! This presented the budding yachtmaster with the challenge of entering Fowey under sail along with a rapidly increasing force 7 from the SW to pick up a mooring under sail under the beady eyes of all the armchair sailors gathered at their picture windows around Fowey harbour. No doubt half of them are Yachtmaster examiners queueing up to be on duty at Falmouth at the end of May!

We were mighty relieved to get alongside a pontoon and the cheerful Water Taxi delivered us ashore to collapse in the delightful surroundings of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club. The evening also rewarded us with an amazing Seafood Bouillabaise and 'Sams'. We also discoveed we had careered down wind into the beginnings of the Daphone Du Maurier Centenary festival. To honour the event, after getting the green light from the CC engineer, we motored upstream for a "Daphne du Maurier evening river cruise" past her riverside house in the pouring rain and fast disappearing light. Odd no one else joined us. But we did need to get to a calmer mooring ready for the Force 9 forecast by every resident of Fowey that night.

We sailed for Falmouth on Friday morning commencing what was to be a very entertaining and lively passage. The entertainment started when a Dutch Naval vessel put out a warning that they were about to commence live firing at sea. Not only were they firing into the strech of sea that we wanted to sail through but, according to my calculations and the co-ordinates they broadcast the the Western Channel, they were also going to fire on Falmouth and most of South West Cornwall!

I decided to put my VHF skills into practice and I called said warship to ask might they have got their co-ordinates wrong? We imagined the scene on the bridge of the Dutch ship as the captain realised his junior officer had giving out a wrong position for their exercise to every other vessel in the Channel. Having sorted that out we then realised we only had a narrow channel of 'sea room' south of Dodman headland to get through to Falmouth. This would have been reasonable had it not been for the strong head wind and deteriorating visibility in rain squalls.

Eventually we were caught in a vicious storm for an hour or so in which the winds reach Force 9 for about 15minutes. Once we weathered that the sky cleared and we had a pleasant afternoon sail into Falmouth harbour.

Although we did not get to the Scillies or France, we did have an eventful week which was excellent preparation for my Yachtmaster exam.

Many thanks to another excellent crew!

Reading at Mylor

After 'Wild Betony' and roaming the Western Channel for a week I had a lovely quite week at Mylor, resting, reading and walking.

Not having a car and with the internet down it was a real retreat!

Apart from my Yachtmaster revision, for which I seem to have endless books and articles now, I also explored several devotional books on leading and creating retreats.

Currently my practice with each crew is to take them through the Daily Devotions (morning and evening) from the New Zealand Prayer book. This is very popular as the prayers are timeless and very creative. The themes are based on a different part of the Lord's Prayer each day.

In addition we read portions of other devotional books. My favourite at present, for obvious reasons, is "At Sea with God" by Margaret Silf (DLT). It has been amazing how apt her observations have been to our daily experience on the boats. I have also been reading her book on making a retreat "Soul Space" (SPCK).

Another book that has been great to dip into for group and individual readings has been Exploring Celtic Spirituality (Kevin Mayhem) by Ray Simpson of Lindisfarne. Being subject to wind and tide and using the Maori influenced NZPB is all very Celtic! I also love reading snippets from "Wisdom of the Sadhu" (Plough) and I have been rereading The Wild Gospel by Alison Morgan (Monarch).

Wild Betony

During the last week of April Mike Salisbury, Tim Jolly, Peter Latham, David Walker and I chartered "Wild Betony" from Cornish Cruising in Falmouth.

Wild Betony is a Rustler 36, a long keeled bermudan rigged sloop. We had an evening sail and stayed at Falmouth the first night. On the Sunday we set off for France. We had a really good passage taking about 20 hours over night. We did encounter some fog mid channel but thankfully it cleared.

Our first port of call was Trebeurden in North Brittany. Trebeurden is a holiday area with a brand new marina and lovely beaches and scenery. After a day and night here we sailed along the coast (well we motored quite a bit as the wind dropped) to Treguier. This involved negotiating quite an inhospitable rocky coast and then sailing up a really pretty river for several miles.

Treguier is a lovely old cathedral city (more of a market town like Wells) with losts of half timbered houses along winding streets. The marina pontoons are laid across the river which is quite fast flowing so it presents a challenge when mooring the boat, especially with a long keel.
The crew were amused to see a couple of french racing yachts attempting this at speed under sail alone!

Just as we were about to leave the berth on departure we discovered our engine controls were jammed. So we had to stay 'til the next tide whilst various members of the crew tried gentle methods of persuasion to get it going again (see photo!).

We finally set sail, this time for the Channel Islands. Another overnight sail brought us to St. Peter Port in Guernsey. We had to moor to a pontoon in the outer harbour whilst waiting for the tide to enable us to enter the inner amrina. Once in there we were very snug just a few steps from some first class showers in one direction and the high street and M&S in the other.

We enjoyed an excellent meal ashore in the evening. The next morning we rose early to catch the tide and set off on the 100 mile passage back to Falmouth.

All in all a very pleasant cruise to some lovely places on a terrific boat with a first class crew!

Back online

Sorry for the lack of news.

We have been offline for several weeks due to a faulty wireless connection.

Lois and I are having a quiet day at Mylor prior to joining two different boats in Falmouth for our respective DaySkipper and YachtMaster courses.

Lois was very excited yesterday as she passed her Day Skipper theory exams.

I shall now bring you up to date with the last two boats and life at Mylor.