Other PicoMicroYacht

Monday, 10 October 2016

PicoMicroYacht's worse lookout blunder

The plan was to exit the river Avon  Estuary past Bigbury on Sea in Devon and make use of an easterly  tide to help PicoMicoyacht down to Plymouth.

The upper reaches of the Avon Estuary are a delightful spot, with wooded slopes and tranquil waters. Except that I had chosen to set off in the middle of a smorgasbord of paddle boarders and sit on top kayaks who had the same idea of launching at high tide.

Added to this this a strap from my lifejacket kept jamming in my seat wheel mechanism (I have fixed this now). As I drifted along trying not to curse whilst I extracted the strap and avoided ploughing into one of the small boaters I missed some of  the awesomely relaxing landscape

Soon the delightful thatched boathouse at the bottom of the estuary appeared.

Finally I was outside the harbour, passing Burgh Island, where Agatha Christie wrote many of her novels. The hotel she used does murder mystery weekends these days.

PicoMicroYacht quickly crossed Bigbury Bay and passed Beacon point where the locals had gathered to watch the Spanish Armada as they passed close to the shore,

The plotted course across Bigbury Bay

PicoMicroYacht was soon approaching the Mewstone outside Plymouth. 

A strong headwind met PicoMicroYacht as it entered Plymouth harbour and I hunkered down, rowing against it at a solid pace, made more difficult by wearing my hood to keep my head warm

I was looking at a square rigged training ship on my starboard bow, weighing anchor and raising sails. I then turned to look to port and there in front of me was a smallish police rib with three officers crammed on board. The the conversation went like this:

"have you seen what is coming?"

Answer: "What is it?"

"there is a large ship coming"

Answer: "Where?"

I peered over my right shoulder and saw a large freighter with two tugs fussing around it and two police launches quite close and bearing down on me.

"We just wanted to know that you have seen it" said the police officer rather plaintively.

It was the MoD Police Marine Unit, here seen testing out their small and versatile ribs,
real gentlemen

It had been my worse navigational and lookout blunder. I had assumed that the east side of the harbour would be free from major traffic, but actually the dredged main channel sweeps round those parts. The tugs were there to keep the freighter on course.

The good thing about Picomicroyacht is that it can turn on a sixpence and it is amazing how quick it can to get up to maximum boat speed if pushed.

Rip Hudner, the Nassau registered freighter, nearly my nemesis

The harbour map - Rip Hudner was encountered a third of the way up on the chart

Postscript: It turns out that the somewhat unusual name is because the ship owner's son, Rip Hudner, was killed in a high speed car crash, his father naming the ship after him.

Friday, 16 September 2016

How big a boat do you need?

According to the great yacht designer and writer, Uffa Fox, a person should have a foot of boat length for every year of their age.

But I don't believe he really meant this because when aged 50 years he was writing about the need for him to upgrade from racing 12 to 14 foot dinghies to using an 18 foot dinghy, the Jollyboat, which he designed.  He was also sailing small boats later on than this, including with Prince Phillip and his son, Prince Charles.

Anyway, I digress. I found another rule of thumb in a charming book called 'Dinghy Cruising' by A. G. Earl, a classic book of this type of genre, written towards the end of the Second World War.   His view is that for single-handing  dinghy cruising the overall length of the boat should be between ten and thirteen feet and the length of the boat should be equal to the weight of the crew in stone (what about if you are 14 stone or more -  no matter!). His reasons cited are being able to use weight to keep the boat upright and having the strength to pull the boat up a rough beach. A. G. Earl knew his stuff and was doing the same adventures of  PicoMicroYacht, but 80 years ago in a ten foot open clinker sailing boat, as shown below.  A brave man, given his boat.

A. G. Earl with an illustration of his 10 foot clinker dinghy

So how does PicoMicroYacht match up? Well, 11.5 feet translates into 11.5 stone or 73 kilograms. This roughly matches the weight of PicoMicroYacht's crew.

By the way, digressing again,  that generation knew a thing or two, being much more adventurous in dinghies. Quoting directly from the Class Boat Museum website about Uffa Fox:

UFFA Fox designed many fast racing dinghies during the 1920’s and 30’s. 
The most successful of these, which still has large fleets worldwide, is probably the 14 footer. 
Amongst the many famous names of these dinghies is his own Avenger - sail no. 135 – in which he won the Prince of Wales Cup at Lowestoft in 1928.

Five years later, with crew of Bob and Spike, he made an extraordinary voyage in July   1933 when they sailed Avenger across the Channel from Cowes to take part in a regatta in Le Havre, sailing for 29 hours, bailing much of the way.
Once there they took part in the last two days of racing, winning


K135 Avenger, and Uffa in Le Havre after Channel crossing, July, 1933
on the last two days of racing, winning on both days, and then left on 14th July, taking 37 hours to sail home, breakfasting at Seaview in the dawn. 

They arrived off Ryde just in time to race in the Regatta there, but were too tired to do more than come third.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Keep Turning Right (well ... sometimes left)

In my mind the best blogger of small boats is Dylan Winter, whose accounts of sailing round the UK in a Mirror Offshore and other boats are legendary. His blog title 'keepturningleft' is no doubt influenced by his political views, or is it that he is just circumnavigating the UK anti-clockwise?


Dylan has it all. Firstly he has the necessary wit, eccentricity and quirkiness; secondly, he has all the blogging skills, being a BBC cameraman,  a naturalist and writer. A perfect combination.

Whilst Dylan keeps going left in bits, mostly on the East Coast, my mission is to keep going, but with  no political ambition - I am just drawn the South Coast and South West, so it makes sense to turn right,  whilst he is drawn to the great East Anglia coastline of his youth, with the amazing wildlife.

Dylan's Mirror Offshore, that he called the Slug after it's great looks and speed capabilities.

But I am having a go at the East Coast, still Turning Right by going up the Thames Estuary on the north shore, this time from Thorpe Bay to the small Two River Island, near Leigh on Sea, which I did yesterday.

I started opposite the Isle of Grain, where the power station is being decommissioned and the great 801 foot chimney was having it's last day. A lone cyclist stopped to photographic it with me, lamenting the end of the landmark, although I prefer the coast to be desolate and flat.

The Grain Tower from the Thorpe Bay Yacht Club on it's last day - photographed in the evening.

A grey overcast sky surrounded me as PicoMicroYacht was launched. A lazily moving finishing boat seemed to be stalking PicoMicroYacht as we headed off towards the Southend Pier.

The pier has to be appreciated from the water, the pier head being 1.34 miles from the land.

The next stage was to row up to Canvey Island - looking round I saw some large boats coming down the estuary, the sky especially gloomy but atmospheric.

I was soon at the Two Tree Island and pulling PicoMicoYacht up the slipway. The island was surrounded by salt marshes and abandoned boats, some of which blended into the landscape.

Postscript - the chimney went down as this post was prepared - here is it happening.

Postscript - From Dylan:
 'shucks! and I am full of admiration for your no frills voyaging. Goodonya.'
Thanks Dylan!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dover to Dungeness and the Kindness of Strangers

The sea can seem to bring out the best in people, which was certainly my experience on my 26th August voyage to Dungeness.

Image result for map sea dover dungeness

The plan was to leave Dover at Mid-day, and catch the tide down to Folkestone and strike out towards the Dungeness headland.

Before I launched a frail man in a wheel chair offered to keep an eye on it whilst I quickly got a sandwich and another man helped me down the steep ramp to launch the boat in the harbour, interrupting his can of cider.

Two teenagers then helped the boat into the water whilst I clambered in and got the oars set to row off.

The port authority cleared me to leave and I was exiting through the western entrance keeping a good distance from the pier heads.

Just outside the tidal stream from the harbour meets that going down the channel and makes the water rough.

But it was a neap tide and there was little wind, which meant it calmer, with only a subdued but latent menacing sea.

The tidal stream was reasonable strong and soon I was off Folkestone resetting the SatNav for Dungeness and then a long voyage across the bay, empty of ships.

A yacht sailing close into Folkestone  to avoid the tide going in the opposite direction

As the afternoon wore on the sea was getting more misty as a gentle wind helped me along the way.

As I got closer to Dungeness I saw two little sails along the shore line and realised this must mean a sailing club, a place to beach PicoMicroYacht. It had been a five hour row.

Soon I was rowing the last bit over the lengthy sands that are covered at high tide. As I got close to the shore the two dinghies were still there, with youngish crews learning to sail.

A man in a wetsuit was standing in the water and  he walked out towards me. He introduced himself as Paul and I explained to him where I had come from. He turned out to be the Varne Boat Club treasurer and he said he would get some help.

A group of people got the boat out of the water an into a secure compound. I was a bit relieved, feeling the effects of the five hours rowing and glad to not have to pull PicoMicroYacht up the steep shingle beach on my own. Later on I met a friendly crowd in the bar.

I chatted to two lifeboat men from the neighbouring Littlestone on Sea lifeboat station. They told me about their large rib lifeboat, an Atlantic 75. It looked quite fun to go in the rib, but then I was thinking that saving people off Dungeness in the winter is a serious business and they potentially risk their lives.

The Atlantic 75

Image result for littlestone lifeboat

The Varne Boat Club - a very friendly place to visit.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Puzzling Twin Peaks and Passing Old Harry in the Dark

I am getting to understand the tides a little better, but as you get more into tides they get more puzzling and mysterious.

The plan was to set off from Christchurch and voyage across Poole Bay to the Old Harry Rocks and then on to Swanage.

I would set off at 8.00 pm on Sunday 14th August and the tide would take me across Poole bay (starting at the bottom of the map).

The water enters Christchurch harbour via the 'run,' a narrow channel  through which vast quantities of water  must squeeze, impossible to go against in PicoMicroYacht. So I was expecting not to get out of the harbour until 8.00 pm when it was high tide. But when I arrived and set the boat up by 6.30, most of the water seemed to be in the harbour and I could set off.

Later I checked what  had happened and the tidal chart revealed three interesting but very puzzling phenomena.

Firstly, for each tide there is a mini 'stand' with twin peaks.  I have to admit I don't fully understand this mysterious double tide, but there is a description of what happens by Dr Ivan Haigh, a tidal expert from the University of Southampton, about 20 miles from Christchurch:

Apparently it is 'the combined effects of water sloshing across the Atlantic (a bit like in your bath) and spinning round because of the rotation of the Earth; this causes the water to slosh around a point which in fact is inland. When the tide ‘comes in’ water travels up along the coast but can’t navigate the corner into the North Sea and is reflected back down the coast.' He says it is not due to the proximal Isle of Wight. 

All I can recommend to understand this is sloshing water round the bath with a few objects in it; the sloshes might reveal that the height anywhere in the bath isn't a simple function of the water just moving along it and back.

Secondly, at neaps (not too much tide), the second peak is higher than the first, whilst at Springs (lots of tide), the second peak is lower than the first ... puzzling and I cannot find an explanation.

But I have just also noticed that every other twin peak high tide is larger ... even more puzzling.

So it there is anyone out there reading this who can explain any of this, please comment?

But I am not so exercised about the tides, and there are some things as a sailor you can just accept as fact; PicoMicroYacht took advantage of being able to exit a little earlier at 6.30 pm because the tide had stopped rushing in the entrance.

PicoMicroYacht was quickly out of the harbour. On a spit by the entrance I passed some of the most expensive beach huts one can imagine, a recent one selling for £260.00.00 - they have no toilets or washing facilities and shared shower block

As I traversed along the spit, a rich owner paddleboaded out to me to say hello and ask me about PicoMicroYacht.

Soon I was out into Poole Bay, looking back to see Hengistbury Head, on which are the remains of an iron age fort.

The sea was calm and I had been stemming the tide for over any hour until it turned in my favour. As the sun set and the sky darkened I looked across to Bournemouth.

It now now darkened quickly and I was across the bay approaching the Old Harry Rocks, looming out in the darkness. These chalk rock that sticks out into Poole Bay could be seen faintly in the moonlight but defied my photography. It is at this point you have look out for ships going pass Old Harry to go in and out of Poole Harbour, including high speed ferries.

As I was lining up to go past the rocks I spotted a light in the sky and a green navigation light more at sea level, just below it.

The white light was on the top of a tall mast and the green light was on the bow, indicating it was going to the right of me.  It was a large yacht motoring quite close to me as a I rowed to ensure I was out of the way, taking no risks. I could hear the crew talking to each other over the sound of their engine. I hoped they were looking ahead properly.

The yacht had distracted me and I looked round to see I was being swept through the race, a bit bumpy but not dangerous with no wind and a neap tide.

Soon I was in Swanage bay and looking for the sailing club to land, arriving just on midnight.

The next day the friendly bosun of the club chatted about boats as PicoMicroYacht  was taken from the beach.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Pico crosses the channel again but this time without oars

PicoMicroYacht crossed the English Channel in 2012 but not as impressively as Dave Birch did recently, sailing his Pico dinghy from Guernsey to Torquay, a total of 73 miles in just over 14 hours in force 3 to 5 winds and with NO OARS.

He had a full sailing rig and was doing the dinghy sailing thing of hanging over the side deck getting very wet.

His epic voyage is captured in a short film.

PicoMicroYacht is currently inspired by his achievement and thinking of a new adventure.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Knowing the tides aged 11 years

When I was eleven my best friend thought high tide was always at tea time.

He was right.

Whenever we went sailing on the coast, usually Chichester Harbour, our parents chose to go in the afternoon and selected sailing days for when there was a high tide. He didn't have to worry about the tides and just turned up for the sailing. The high tide transformed the estuary into a huge lake where you could go everywhere.

High Tide at Bosham, Chichester Harbour, where King Canute, King of Denmark, England and Norway, is reputed to have decreed that the tide should stop coming in, but was not successful on that occasion.

I was reminded of this when studying a Yachtmaster training book and reading about semi-diurnal tides, in which there are two high tides a day, separated by about 12.5 hours. I thought this was universal, apart from some local variations caused by geographical features such as Islands.

Image result for semi-diurnal tide

I was right .... well that is to say, around the British Isles, North West Europe and most of the East Coast of North America, not to mention other places in the world.

But I was to find out that I was thinking like my friend - as my son said today, I was right given the limitation on the data I had to hand .... but then I was to discover the tides are also di-urnal, with  one high tide a day, or even mixed, a sort of hybrid, as in the Pacific Coast of North America.

The semi-diurnal tides set the rhythm for the PicoMicroYacht voyages in the UK  because PMY always aims to go with the tidal direction when going round the coast, and this follows approximately the same periodicity.

High tide to low tide and vice versa is about six hours, and this is a typical limit for a PicoMicroYacht voyage. Assuming a 3.5 knot average speed, this provides a range of  about 21 nautical miles.   The recent 42 mile voyage round the southern Isle of Wight required two voyages in one day and, of course, eventually turning in the opposite direction up the Needles Channel changed the game.

Below is a heat map of tidal rates for tide in full flow up English Channel and past the Isle of Wight - it would be impossible to voyage against the red flow areas.
round the island, cowes