Other PicoMicroYacht

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A damn close run thing crossing the English Channel

L'amiral Nielly prend ses fonctions de préfet maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord

In late June 2013 the newly appointed Admiral Nielly moved decisively to ban all self powered craft from entering French territorial waters in the English Channel. Many organised charity rows were caught out having trained for months in advance. One crew set off on 1st July but were turned back by a French vessel. It appears that the French authorities came to this decision when a cross Channel row was attempted overnight and went wrong, requiring rescue. The authorities are worried about safety issues and frustrated by such occurrences.

Talks are underway to persuade the French authorities to change their mind and in the meantime the charity rows have been done by rowing halfway across the Channel and turning round.

PicoMicroYacht was so fortunate to attempt the row last year and not delay a year. This was because Full Throttle Boat Charters were able to provide a safety boat at a reasonable price, which convinced me to do it then... It was a damn close run thing.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

PicoMicroYacht's Land's End

It is nearly a year since PicoMicroyacht crossed the English Channel. This blog is about PicoMicroYacht rounding Land's End on the 5th May 2013. The voyage was done anticlockwise, starting off from a small cove called Sennen Cover, rounding the most westerly tip of England arriving at the quintessentially picturesque St Michael's Mount. Large waves batter this coast, rolling in from across the Atlantic with no significant land mass between England and the USA and Canada.

Chart showing route from Sennen Cove (just north of Land's End) to St Michael's Mount.
1 - The route took PicoMicroYacht inbetween Land's End and the Longships rocks, very close to Kettle's Rocks as semi-submerged reef that has sunk many ships. The atlantic waves are coming from the west (left) and will criss-cross any local waves. Adding to this, the loss of depth as the waves close in on the shore and the tides bifurcating as they traverse round the tip of Cornwall means there can be a very confused sea even with slight winds. 2 - It is necessary to go round the Runnel Stone buoy to avoid both a reef (The Runnel Stone) and rough water or a race off the most southerly tip of Cornwall. After that things get easier  (3-4) as the coastline gets closer you entered the more sheltered water of Penanze bay to reach St Michael's Mount. On this trip, PicoMicroYacht did not stop off at Mousehole.

The night before in the hotel overlooking Sennen Cove I could hear the surf pounding on the beach. But by the morning it had calmed down. I knew it was going to possible to do the voyage. Nevertheless, as the day wore on the wind and surf increased.

           A calm start to the day off Sennen Cove - the rocky foreshore is covered at high tide
                                                    and the waves break on these rocks

When launching PicoMicroYacht I was helped by a group of funder raisers and supporters who were running round the Cornish Coastal Path in aid of a local UK charity called CASPA which helps children with autism and their families. 
I chatted to my helpers and then went down to the beach and several people helped me drag the boat off the sand into the water. We bantered.'You must be mad - I have looked at the sea and it is rough out there.' 'no it isn't.. it's quite calm really' I replied, knowing it was not.

Inside the harbour it was calm and I was able to get PicoMicroYacht completely ready for the voyage.

I called up the Falmouth Coastguard on the radio. They asked whether I had a shore party. I hesitated in my reply because I thought they might not believe me if I said "well there are about 20 people running along the cliff tops looking out for me and my wife is on the mobile phone"

There was time to take photographs of the people seeing me off.

I had been studying the sea carefully and saw there was only white water where it broke against the rocks. There was a commotion but not enough to upset PicoMicroYacht.

Quickly I was off, rowing down the Tribbens, a narrow channel between some rocks and the shore, feeling my way along trying to find the right line to avoid the worse of the turbulence. I had chosen the best time to use the channel, high tide.

PicoMicroYacht was pushed upwards by the oncoming waves and bouncing down the other side, but no water broke over the boat and I felt in control.

As I pulled away from the land the waves became considerably larger, with smaller cross waves, but I was struck by how little wind there was given the commotion of the sea.
I was looking to position myself between the Longships lighthouse and the shore, enough out to sea to avoid any overfalls but trying to avoid two treacherous rocks, known as Kettle's Bottom. Everything was going to plan, and I moved forward gingerly looking out for rough patches.

                                                               Longships Lighthouse
As I neared Land's End I could see the gothic like architecture of the cliffs with houses perched on the top. The people sending me off had disappeared from view. I had to force myself to stop and take some photographs because the temptation was to keep moving forwards.

                                                          Land's End with confused sea

I became aware of the noise of a ship and looked round to see a large catamaran motoring towards me with sails up. I altered course to signal I was manoeuvring out of the way, following collision regulations. But the catamaran kept alterning course as if not seeing me. So I turned 90 degrees and rowed hard to make sure I was clear and in doing so I was seen.

    The catamaran heading off past Land's End on the right with Cape Cornwall in the distance,

I headed the for the Runnel Stone buoy, which marks the passage avoiding a hazardous rock pinacle off Gwennap Head. As I drew near I heard a bell clanging and a moaning noise. The buoy is fitted with a bell that sounds with wave movement and also with a whistle set in a tube, which makes the moaning noise whenever there is a good swell. The doleful atmosphere it created contrasted with the bright blue sky.

The Runnel Stone buoy - just inside this buoy is the hazardous rock pinnacle that used to show above the sea until a ship struck it in 1923

Soon I could just see the Minack Theatre and the two beaches of Porthcurno. At this point I was 1.5 miles out and the shore party could just see me, my rowing blades catching the sun and flickering.
The sea became calmer and the wind dropped off near to nothing and I was joined by two small fishing boats, one of which seemed to keep station about 100 metres away but then continued fishing.

Eventually PicoMicoYacht was rounding the headland into Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount could be seen in the distance. Mousehole was on the left and I was reeling in the miles.
I arrived on the hard sandy beach at Marazion be met by two friends who helped me take the boat out of the water.
I checked the distance - it was 19 nautical miles and had taken five hours.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Eight months on and another adventure

Eight months later and I am planning my next voyage, this time rowing round the most westerly tip of England over a four days, as a sponsored rowing in aid of CASPA, a charity which helps children with autism and their families in South East England. It is not a voyage to consider lightly because of the way the coast sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean, with potentially large waves rolling in and meeting complex tidal rips and reefs. So I will need a calm sea and the good fortune I had crossing the English Channel.


Accounts of this voyage and the charity event can be found on  http://PicoMicroYachtLandsEnd.blogspot.co.uk and the charity event on http://www.justgiving.com/PicoMicroYacht and on http://fourdaysrunning.blogspot.co.uk/

The total distance will be 41 nautical miles, from Portreath, past Land's End and to St Michael's Mount. Assuming my three knot average the time taken will be between 13 and 14 hours. But this time it should be easier because I am spreading it over four days.

Why does it say 'fourdaysrunning' in the picture above? Well, about 20 people will be simultaneously running along the coastal path as their part in the charity event. They will be looking down on me as they clamber along the cliff paths. They have the most difficult job.

My speed is of interest and I have been pondering why I average three knots. The theoretical speed of a boat is fixed by the length, unless it gets up on a plane, because as the boat speed increases, so does the size of the bow wave, and therefore so does its wavelength. When hull speed is reached, a boat in pure displacement mode will appear trapped in a trough behind its very large bow wave and not be able to go any faster.

It can be calculated by the formula:

v_{hull} \approx 1.34 \times \sqrt{L_{WL}}

"L_{WL}" is the length of the waterline in feet, and
"v_{hull}" is the hull speed of the vessel in knots

My boat is 12.5 foot long, so my theoretical maximum speed is 4.7 knots -  If I sprint I can get up to just over 4 knots as a reasonably fit mid 50 year old, so I suppose I settle down and do 3 knots, as a 'jogging' speed. 

I wanted to find out the first person to row the Channel Solo and how long it took. I found the answer on a website called inspired by rowing - http://www.inspiredbyrowing.org.uk/?location_id=1

 It was Samuel Osborne in 1888, from Dover to Wimereux, taking 13 hours.

Times dropped dramatically when using very calm weather and rowing shells. For example, in 1911the Rev Sidney Swann crossed from Dover to Cap Griz Nez in three hours and 50 minutes.


 In 1983 Ivor Lloyd crossed from Folkstone to Cap Gris-Nez in three hours and 35 minutes, creating a new record, his trip interrupted by two destroyers and an aircraft carrier returning from the Falkland war.

The first crossing by a woman was by Guin Batten, the same route, taking 3 hours 14 minutes in a resolute racing shell which weighed only 14 kilograms.