By Jeff Dray
The Summer Of
The summer was not a good one for
sailing, I was at work for most of it and the few chances I did have were marred by the
weather. Either there was no wind at all or too much and I allowed my impatience to get
the better of me.
I went out one morning in July, I waved Kate off to work and
rolled the boat down to the slip. The forecast was for a lively force 5 which, according
to the good old BBC shipping forecast, would moderate in an hour or two. The tide
prediction was for two more hours of flood. Both turned out to be completely wrong.
I left the quay and went west, assisted by the rising tide and a
good south easterly. The wind was supposed to ease and move round to south west, which
would have brought me home just about when I wanted it.
Instead of this, the wind strengthened to 6 or 7 and went into
the north east, completely foul of where I wanted to go. I raced along through a mounting
swell, having a great time. No water came in over the front and I was going faster then I
ever had done. The western shore of the harbour was coming into view so I decided to take
a turn back to the east. I was not able to go about in the normal way as the swell was
preventing the boast from turning. I decided to do a controlled jibe to turn. The swell
was picking up, easterly winds and rising tides in Poole Harbour cause quite a chop and it
can be hard to escape from the troughs between the waves in a small craft. This is not
normally a problem provided you are going in the same direction as the rollers, but going
against them is a distinctly uncomfortable experience. On the second attempt the boat
jibed, not too much of a problem with a sprit rig with no boom, I swung around but was
pooped by a freak wave. The rudder shattered, leaving me with the tiller in my hand!
Without the tiller the boat swung head to wind and started to
slam about. The anchor went over and I bailed out. It was too rough to sail without the
rudder so the sails came down and the trolling motor went in. On a nice day sailing is
like this: I was about four miles from home, there was about 90 minutes left
in the battery, the tide was running against me at about 3 knots and the wind was
strengthening all the time. I headed for the north shore, hoping to get some shelter from
the wind. 2 hours later I was still a mile from home, crawling along the northern shore
with a dead battery rowing for my life. Eventually I made the quay and dragged the boat
Unfortunately no photographic record exists of this marathon. My
camera spent an hour floating around in sea water under the stern thwart and has gone to
that great camera shop in the sky.
After this I decided that it was time to get the second year
maintenance program under way. I built a lovely new tiller out of a decent bit of meranti
hardwood, using wooden spoke shave that had belonged to my great grandfather's father.
They are known to be over 150 years old so it was with some trepidation that I applied one
to the edge of the wood. I need not have worried. After my father had sharpened them they
worked beautifully, far nicer than the new steel one I had bought that week.
The tiller is a work of art, even
though I say so myself. I also started to feel an affinity with that now long dead
craftsman who used the tools before me. I
am also enjoying getting to grips with real wood and I am currently making a boom for my
sprit sail. (NO more uncontrolled jibes for me!) Hopefully, when all the work is complete
and the new paint has dried, the boat will get closer to the wind. Because if the fuel
shortage I have had to cancel my holiday this year, I will be sailing instead! (some might
say it's a good trade).
This might be the week I need to get all the work done and so I'm
not too upset at not going away. A few hours sanding and some fresh paint and varnish is
just wha the doctor ordered. The boat stood up beautifully to the ordeal, it was me that
was a bit shaky.
The moral of the story?
Never trust the MET office or the BBC weather service with your
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