Sunday, July 7, 2024

2024 Spring / summer (what summer?) cruise stats and issues.

DRAFT

A very poor trip that also left me much poorer, due to the weather, failure of equipment less than 7 years old and early abandonment due to a family emergency, again.

  • 93 days to abandonment at Milford Haven.
  • 429 hours at sea.
  • 1,975 nautical (2,273 statute) miles over the ground for a running total on Sancerre of 15,735 NM (18,111 statute).
  • 49 days sailing / motoring (ignoring moving a short distance to/from a berth / anchorage).
  • 51 place visits (duplicate visits counted each time).
  • 17 anchorages / marinas visited for the first time.
  • 34 days weather bound.
  • 50 nights at anchor, 39 in a marina or paid for buoy (excluding time at Milford Marina where I left the boat there to go home).

High Lights

Weather:

I spent 34 days (37% of the total) weather bound and through force of circumstances the majority were in expensive marinas such as Portland, rather than at anchor. The ratio was only made semi respectable because from Stromness to Milford I only had three nights in Ardglass marina (2 weather bound) and one at Tobermory, all the other nights being on the hook or at sea.

I also used more than twice as much diesel as expected due to motoring through lack of wind on the way north and 29 hours under engine in the rush to get to Milford and home.

With all the delays and no sign of improvement I gave up on Shetland before making a quick return from Orkney down the west coast, that was a good decision, if I had gone down the east coast I would have been stuck in marinas for quite a few more days and used more for overnight stays as the anchorages would have been unusable due to the wind direction.

Equipment:

Both the anchor windlass and the plotter failed in the first few days, both were installed new in 2017, the windlass turned out not to be repairable (1 year out of warranty) so that was £600 plus £100 for the new motor that I could not fit due to corrosion of the gearbox casing, hopefully I will get some of that back selling the motor and new parts not required on eBay. 

The plotter failed whilst I was in Portland and was over £1k to replace, but I did get a 9" rather than 7" (the hole was too big for the new 7" to fit into) that now fits on the back of the cabin, the previous version was bigger and would not. I may be able to repair the old one with parts from the US but it is unlikely to be worth the effort as the obsolete 7" would probably not fetch much more than the cost of the repair, if I can fool it to start up without the card reader and can find the bail to mount it, it may be possible to use it as an instrument display but I'm not sure where it would go, perhaps replacing the monochrome GNX 20 display? 

The REALLY annoying thing was that a week after purchase Garmin launched a big discount sale and I could have saved over £300.

The new Garmin 923, without a powered jig saw several hours work
was needed to enlarge the hole and mount it. The SD cards are now on
the back  of the unit, the screen now going almost to the edges, and
are not easily accessible so I may fit the the optional remote reader.
On the plus side, the new one is much easier to read and the App that maintains the software and charts recognised my charts as being 2 years out of date and gave me a free update to the 2024 version, I suspect that is because when you purchase charts on a card with the plotter (rather than downloaded separately) you get one free upgrade to the current version and the software probably thought the charts came with the plotter. Now that I have a compatible plotter I could upgrade to the charts incorporating Navionics features but I doubt that I will as the version does everything I need, the upgrades are not cheap and although I will not use much of the area my current chart covers the Western Mediterranean, the Atlantic seaboard from Belgium to Africa at 26 degrees N, the Canaries, Azores, etc. The new UK chart covers just UK & Ireland and several others might be required.

The 722 as an instrument display, there are lots of options
with everything on the NMEA network displayable one way
or another. Screen shot in Portland, just before it failed,
during the second named storm to delay me, it peaked
with gusts at 56 knots.
I also had several other problems, mainly resolved before I left Hamble for the second time, fortunately from then on I had no gear failures.

  • On the last delivery trip to the boat, I tried to wind the rather nice 15 day vintage marine clock I had restored, signed by Mercer a premium chronometer maker but actually Coventry made by Williamson, and the mainspring broke or became detached from the arbor or barrel. Fortunately I had a centre seconds 8 day clock by Kelvin Hughes on my study wall so I lugged that down with me on the train so as to have the space on the bulk head filled and because I use the clock a lot as it is easily visible from the cockpit and from the bunk.
The replacement clock, nice but I had to replace the dial when
I restored it, the original was printed and someone had wrecked
it trying to clean it. The barometer on the right is by Broadhurst
Clarkson is from the inter war years, also restored.
  • When I switched on the instruments to leave Hamble, the wind instruments were not working, they had been a week before. I was not totally surprised as the seriously expensive plug and socket at the mast had given trouble a year before not liking the thin cable and very thin wires. After the first failure I had hard wired it but the water had got through. It could not be hardwired again as the short piece of cable from a connecter block under the head lining to the old socket was too short, but I had come prepared with a different make of plug and socket and a length of the correct cable to replace the gash bit that had been left on the boat when the previous owner had installed a radio linked sensor (another long story, but I had replaced that in 2021 as it was useless). I was late away from the mooring and left on a falling tide but with an empty mooring down stream it was not the issue it normally would be.
  • Fixing the wind instruments disturbed other wiring and I had to go back and replace a broken jumper that provided the earth for many of the cabin lights.
  • One non-slip "Treadmaster" pad disappeared from the deck in a storm the day before I left, yet to be replaced.
  • The electric toilet pump packed in shortly before I left, replaced with a much better and far cheaper locking manual pump, now the bowl doesn't slowly fill to half full then slop all over the place in rough weather unless cling film is put over it. It also uses less water so does not fill the new holding tank as quickly.

Friday, July 5, 2024

2024 June 29th Days 92 and 93, A mad dash to Milford Haven. Part 2.

DRAFT

There are few pics due to the weather and night time. This post needs to be read after the last part of the post before last "It's like déjà vu all over again".

Approaching the West Codling buoy the wind rapidly increased from the SSW as I was headed SSE sails were not much use to me, the F4 wind against tide and light rain made it uncomfortable but reasonably quick and at one point there were over falls not noted on the (raster) charts. 

A large lorry ferry coming through the banks.
Some quite large ships pass through the banks, the one above was coming a bit too close so a 30 degree course change was required to avoid, then I was dodging a lot of pot buoys in the channel, each with a very long pick up waiting to catch the prop. 

Approximate track in the absence of
the real one, straight lines instead
of curves
A 40ft + catamaran with 4 or 5 men busy working pots also had to get out of the way of the above, but not out of my way, she drifted as they worked one string then moved at 8 knots to the next one making it difficult to  gauge where we might meet and I ended up passing within 50 yards of her whilst she drifted.

The tide turned as I got to seaward of the main banks and even making 5 knots under engine and a day off a neap tide, I was moving more to the east than to the south (more so than in the indicative route shown here), at least that helped me clear an off lying shallow area known for over falls. 

Fortunately I was still in cell phone range at 11:30 when I got the news that my wife had broken her hip and would be operated on later that day or on Sunday.

As expected not a great deal of southern progress was made for 3 hours and not much more for the final 3 of the tide and I was more than 5 miles east of the rhumb line when the tide turned again to the south but that helped me get to my waypoint off "Bishop" without any significant change of course.

Meanwhile the wind was not cooperating and had been blowing F5 since late morning vs F3-4 in the forecast, by 16:15 the change to the northerly had not happened; then it veered 180 degrees in 10 or 15 minutes without dropping, a rare event. All through the trip Met Éireann and the UK Met office were playing catch up and largely understating wind strength, at one point they were forecasting an increase to F5 coming when I was in F5-6 and had been in F5 for half a day.

I set the headsail with one reef to reduce rolling vs the full sail, recalculated the route and timing and had a think. Under sail with a still dirty hull I would make about four knots through the water without pushing too hard, motor sailing I could make 5 - 5.5 knots, still well short of I would make with a clean hull but better than before the cleaning I did at Ardglass

At 5.5 - 6 knots there was a chance of getting past the "Bishop and Clerks" off of St David's Head just after slack water, coming north on a following spring tide I had made 10 knots over the ground along there, I did not want to be heading into 3 - 4 knots of tide but if I could get well across St Brides Bay before the stronger tide started I would then have to battle the tide into Milford Haven but that was more "doable" than getting past Bishop against a full tide and would get me to Dale for some sleep before getting to a marina.

Given the time pressure I opted for motor sailing and accepted the noise and vibration that results, so there would be no chance to take 20 minute naps and relying on regular visual checks plus AIS and radar alarms to avoid collision.

One of two serious alarms on AIS on the long leg, this one went
less than half a mile past my stern after I had made a significant
course change in poor visibility. 
I was now rushing south at 7 knots over the ground or better and it was looking good until about 20:00 when the wind dropped from F5-6 to F3 - 4, my speed dropped and I didn't make it. Typically the wind came back as I reached Bishop and I was very glad it was dark so I couldn't see how bad the sea was,  a F5 wind against a strong tide created what looked in the moonlight to be a scaled down version of the seas in a southern ocean storm, I had to slow the boat down and reduce rolling or there was a serious risk of a broach and a potential knock down. 

Under engine alone I was still surfing down waves at 6 - 7+ knots but making only 2 occasionally 3 over the ground. The autopilot did a great job driving me straight down the waves with only the occasional roll when an awkward wave hit on the quarter. I would have been very hard pressed to do that for four hours and would probably have streamed warps and waited for the tide to change.

Approximate and simplified track from Bishop to Milford in the
absence of the real one.
It was too dangerous to alter course and I was reconciled to continuing south well out of my way and getting close to Grassholm before the tide turned calming the sea, but fortunately the wind backed a little and the wave changed direction a little and I was able to almost follow my planned track reaching Skokholm as the tide turned. 

I then had an easy motor into Milford Haven except that I hit a big pot buoy off of St Anne's Head, the marker was being towed under by the tide and was completely invisible with sun behind it and barely visible down sun, when a cloud briefly put a shadow over the water waves I could see more pots ahead so I jinked a few hundred yards into the channel and made my way to the west of Stack Rock (S of Sandy Haven Bay) where I let the boat drift as I made phone calls to find a berth.

My luck was in and I got a berth at Milford Marina just half an hour away and the best place to be as it is sheltered and 10 minutes walk from the station. I went onto the outside waiting pontoon and opted to stay there until free flow through the lock, that was easier than locking through and saved the marina operating it. I spent the time checking out the marina and starting to tidy the boat.  Free flow started a few minutes late at 11:50 and I was on a berth shortly after.

I had got an update when I came within cell phone range, my wife was #1 on the list for Sunday having been bumped on Saturday, but whilst she was expected on the ward she had not arrived and I could not get through to the evaluation unit, so I had a brief snooze and when I woke up tried again, and she had just arrived on the ward at 15:30 after a successful four hour operation.

137 miles in 29 hours from the Skerries to the Haven Marina waiting pontoon, 183 miles in 49 hours from Ardglass with 3.5 hours sleep.

The aftermath.


On Monday it was 6 hours on the train, then taxi home and car to the hospital after fixing dinner to take in. 

To add insult to injury, when on the following Thursday I took her home I got a puncture in a tyre only replaced last September after the previous one was trashed going to the same hospital after rushing back from Hope Cove.

I have asked for the boat to stay in the water at Milford for a month (the same price as c 18 days on the daily rate) then be lifted out for 2 - 3 weeks by which time I should be able to go down for a few days at a time to do the anti-foul and touch up paintwork damaged by weed and a mooring buoy - hopefully I'll not need to do a complete repaint this year. 

Having looked at the rate card for Milford Marina, a year in the sheltered marina is £40 cheaper than my exposed trot mooring on the Hamble plus my yacht club membership required for dinghy storage and other facilities. Also time ashore and services such as lift outs are a lot cheaper - for example 4 weeks ashore during the winter would be half the price of doing it on the Hamble, a significant saving and the saving increases with more time. Even a simple lift, power wash and relaunch would save £260 vs the same at Deacon's and be only £90 more than drying out on the YC piles to DIY which in practical terms takes 3 days as I usually go into the dock before dawn and stay the night after.

It is a 4 hour drive vs 1.5 hours, I’d have to pay for accommodation when the boat was ashore and when the time comes it could probably be harder to sell the boat there (although there are a lot of Achilles owners in the area where they were built and many A24 owners move on to the A9m or A840). But I’m seriously thinking about moving the boat there in October and am waiting for details, T's & C's etc.. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

2024 June 29th Days 92 and 93, A mad dash to Milford Haven. Part 1 to Dublin and the options.

DRAFT

A lot more text than usual in this post, even with the trip split into 2 parts. Few pics due to the weather and night. Needs to be read after the previous post.

Timings are generally from memory, time stamps on emails etc., at the time of writing my navigation log is on the boat along with the Dongle security device for the navigation software and I didn't mess around downloading the log from the chart plotter before I left the boat.

I got about 3.5 hours sleep and was away before 04:00 on Saturday punching the tide under engine before the tide turned south as I rounded the outer island (St Patrick's, I wonder how many of them there are in Irish waters?), there was no wind and visibility was very poor, not what I was hoping for with loads of pot buoys to avoid. Fortunately it improved as I reached the biggest concentration. To be replaced with light rain and drizzle that would remain for most of the day. 😞 The end of June and I was in full winter gear from Dublin on, fleece lined trousers, wind proof fleece, duck down gilets, insulated boots and full waterproofs. Fortunately my French made fisherman's salopettes do keep me dry, unlike the high tech, expensive ones I have had previously.

Passing inside Lambay Island. The small rubber boat surprised
me, four big men aboard fishing at 05:36, before I reached for the
camera two of them were fishing standing up!
I was off Dublin Bay at 08:00 and there was no news from the hospital, when a friend finally got through at 09:00 there was still no definitive news, possibly another broken hip but the senior staff would be reviewing later in the morning, the junior doctors strike was slowing everything down.

Approximate track in the absence of the
actual one.
Now I was in a bit of a quandary, I was past the south end of Dublin Bay with a few hours of tide left, I could go into Sorrento Bay and wait for news and perhaps get some sleep and leave on the evening tide if necessary but that would be a bit of a cop out achieving little and wasting the last of this tide, also possibly a tide at the other end, more of which later.

I could go into the marina at Dun Laoghaire (Dublin Bay) or, if they had no space go back to Howth, both the marinas are a long way from the airport and in the EU, at best I would get home overnight on Saturday or early Sunday leaving the boat in a difficult and expensive location (Eire is expensive these days and these are premium sites). I decided that would not achieve much, if she was let out of hospital my sister would cover until I got home, if they kept her in they would be looking after her, although she would not like the food - The Horton in Banbury has excellent people and facilities but poor food and rubbish parking, they also happen to be the go to place for hip surgery. 

So I decided to press on, but which way? Going along the Irish coast would not achieve a great deal and if the then current forecast was right (it wasn't) I could get stuck further down with few options for a safe haven or even somewhere to anchor. 

Newlyn was tempting but its was an awful long way, they have few spaces in the marina and it would take longer.

So it had to be Wales, Fishguard was ruled out despite a good rail link because there is no marina and it is exposed to the northerly winds forecast, Holyhead might be quicker but the marina got trashed a few years ago, is in a sad state and I have never been there or through some tricky waters off Anglesey. Pwllheli seemed no better. So Milford Haven was the place to go, there are two marinas although they can get full, several places where a buoy can be rented also I have a few contacts in the area who might find me somewhere if all else failed, hopefully short of leaving the boat at anchor which would cause all sorts of problems, not least where to leave the dinghy.

I already had a route planned for Sorrento Bay to Milford for the following day so it was a quick redo for a different start point and time whilst I continued south, still under engine, heading for the passage through the offshore banks between Codling Bank and India Bank, a route I have taken several times before; following a trodden path is always a good idea if you are tired or under stress.

The  weather chart down loads at 08:30 were in general agreement and different from the previous evening but it was a difficult situation for forecasters and computers with a shallow low over Ireland moving east and dissipating, timing was always going to be an issue but I was a little surprised as to the error in wind strength that was to follow. 

Essentially the wind should fill in from the SW, back to the S then quickly veer to the N or NW. Looking at the domestic forecasts from the UK Met office for various places along the Irish coast plus the ECMWF and UK Metoffice hi-res models the change to NW or N should happen about 14:30 and be F3-4. Very good news as, pushing just a bit, with that I could fly the spinnaker and make good time under sail and be comfortable. Alas that was not to be, although I was to make even better time, although not quite enough to make a big difference.

2024 June 28th Day 91 Ardglass to The Skerries and "It's like déjà vu all over again".

DRAFT

The forecasts were a little equivocal but generally showed the wind decreasing from F5 and from the NW. I had planned to leave lunchtime and go to Dundalk Bay and then on to Dublin on Saturday but with the wind already down from F7 to F5 considerably earlier than forecast and the sea not looking rough, I decided to leave at 08:00 with the wind in the marina light from the NE. Outside the harbour the wind was F3-4 from the NW, that gradually increased to F5 and I was making fine progress until not long after leaving the wind started to back and I was close hauled but making good a course that would take me to the Skerries, quite a way but certainly doable by evening.

The wind started to back again in the afternoon and by a little after 15:00 it was approximately SSW and almost on the nose, I had three options; tack and head for Dundalk Bay, but that was now almost as far as the Skerries, second beat on to the Skerries and arrive well after dark and struggle getting to Dublin as an early or very late start would be needed for the tide. Or third to put on the engine.

Wanting to press on and not miss favourable winds the next day and to get south as quick as was sensible because of easterly winds promised (which did not turn up) I put on the engine, as it turned out a very good choice. I arrived at The Skerries at 20:00 with a Beef Bourguignon ready to eat once I was anchored.

"It's like déjà vu all over again." [Yogi Berra]

I hardly had time to finish it and a sun downer before a phone call; a repeat of last years second cruise, my wife was calling to say she had fallen and was in hospital (no she does not 🍷) tests were still being done (and were still not completed at mid night when her friend left) and it was not known if she would be kept in or sent home. If the latter she would probably need more help than her friends in the village could reasonably give. 

I spent until 23:30 telling relations etc., organising and planning as best I could. My sister volunteered to come up to Oxfordshire from Somerset on Sunday if my wife was sent home and I said I would be in Milford Haven on Monday or Tuesday at the latest if she was kept in or home probably earlier if I flew back from Dublin - always try and over deliver in these situations!

There was no point in staying where I was, so it would be an 04:00 start next day to get the first of the south going tide and hopefully find out what was happening before getting to Dublin so I could make a sensible decision as to the best option.

46 miles in 12 hours

What happened next.