Sunday, July 30, 2006

Laser days at Calshot

I have had a fantastic time this last weekend. I've been on my residential Level 2 dinghy sailing course down at Calshot Activity Centre. The view from my room window was:

My window looked out across the entrance to Southammpton water, which is to the left of this photo. The channel was particularly busy on Friday evening because boats were making their way over to the Isle of Wight for the start of Cowes week on Saturday, for which a 1000 boats had entered. It was a lovely sunny evening and I later enjoyed sitting on the beach for a couple of hours just watching all the different types of boat pass me by.

I've spent about 5 hours each day out sailing a Laser Pico. We had anywhere between a force 1 to a 5, gusting to an occasional 6.

I was worried that my previous sailing experience would mean little in the world of dinghy sailing and this course has reassured me that I can actually sail a dinghy, and in fact, I can keep it upright too. I capsized once on Saturday whilst gybing round a buoy in a gust but on Sunday managed to stay upright in some pretty windy conditions.
The other 4 on the course consisted of a guy who did his level 1 in Greece 3 weeks ago but had never been out sailing before that, another guy who has been around boats before and did his level 1 in June, and two young women, (twins actually), who completed their level 1 last year, and have crewed on other boats since then.
The first guy had not experienced much wind before and struggled to stay upright on tacks and gybes in anything more than a force 2-3. He persevered until the 5 gusting 6, then retired to the beach.
The other guy was better, but capsized alot too. None of them were ready to hike out with bums over the edge and feet under the centre strap so in moments of need, the weight just wasn't out there.
I nearly fell over backwards into the water once when I thought my feet were under the strap and started to hike out, only to find that my feet met no resistance. I only just managed to let out the main and get my bum inboard again.
Don't get me wrong, I need lots and lots of practice before I am sailing without losing control of something, and instead, sailing efficiently. The tiller slipped out of my hands on a couple of occasions, and on a few tacks I didn't get round fast enough and had to figure out how to get the boat around onto the tack I wanted whilst moving backwards, sussed that out now.
For Sunday I bought a pair of gloves to prevent more chafing of the outside of my poor little finger on the left hand where I'd hung onto the main sheet whilst hiking out.
I loved having to anticipate and react quickly to the fluky wind. I loved the spray sent back into my face from the bow at speed. I loved being on the water and I loved being at the helm and being in the position of making decisions about my course and heading. I'm still buzzing now and look forward to getting out there again.
Oh, and I got to go rock climbing on Saturday night too, as the free evening activity. A first for me. The centre had 9 or 10 climbing walls of varying degrees of difficulty so we had fun for an hour or so, though only 2 of us had any energy left after the days sailing.
There is so much more that I could write about the weekend but I must stop somewhere and now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Osprey delight

This photo was on the Blithfield club site, and this Osprey belongs to Jon Batt. I wanted to show someone out on the wire and a spinnaker set and this is just perfect. Similar wind conditions too

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a guy (Robin) down at Shoreham sailing club who had just picked up his new Osprey. He mentioned then that he is selling his old mk lll Osprey, and having given this some thought, Longlegs arranged for us to go out for a sail on her with him last night down at the club to see how suitable she would be for us.
We arrived early to a sea so calm that not a sail was visable out there, not one, just lots of seagulls serenely afloat and a few jet skis roaring around in the distance.
I could see a bit of a localized storm on the horizon and heading our way, and I wondered whether it would bring us a breeze, lower the humidity as it passed through, and leave a bit of wind behind for us to play with.
Sure enough, a little later, I felt the draught of cooler air on my face, and dark, dark grey clouds loomed overhead angrily. Lightning flashed and thunder growled and beach folk towing towels and toys scurried off to seek shelter from the approaching rain. Torrential rain poured from above for about 20 minutes, then it was gone, leaving a little wind, not much, 8-10 kts, ('ish), maybe, but enough. The cloud-cover stayed with us and it was pleasantly cooler too.
Robin showed us the layout of the rigging and took his time to go through everything in detail.
There are just SO many lines and halyards and sheets on these performance dinghies, all in bright different colours, most cleated off somewhere in amongst all the others along the centre thwart. Just so many that I've never come across before and it would be quite a while before I knew which to reach for in an instant.
Anyway, no matter, by 7pm we were on the water in a light breeze, heading out to open sea through the harbour entrance.
Longlegs and I were crouched down either side of the centreboard casing with a jib sheet each.
The twenty or so rest of the club boats were also out for Wednesday racing, but we steered clear and went our own way. Robin had kitted us in trapeeze harnesses too, I wondered if there would be enough wind to warrant them but that just goes to show how much I have to learn about these very responsive dinghies. We flew ahead of the fleet, having started at the same time as them but off to one side.
Once outside the harbour wall the wind perked up a bit more and I got my first step-by-step lesson in getting out on the trapeze. It was great fun being at full stretch feeling the heel of the boat in response to the breeze, and adjusting my leg stretch according to the heel of her beneath me. I have not been exercising enough and I could feel my thigh muscles in particular, tauten and silently complain. Not me though, oh no, I was loving it, though inexperienced, I felt totally comfortable.
I was concentrating on all sorts of things, like not holding the wire, holding the jib sheet, keeping my back straight, keeping my forward leg straight and bending the aft leg like it was self-sprung, holding my balance and watching for dark patches of wind coming our way. Robin was a great host and comfortable to be around. For the spinnaker run he described concisely what needed doing and both Longlegs and I had turns at setting up the pole, then Robin hauled the sail up through a neat shute in the bow and we had a chance to play with the edge of the spinnaker with the sheet so that it filled properly.
It was a fantastic experience and time flew by on that downwind leg.
I asked for a go at the helm too, and had fun trying to figure out what to do with the tiller extension when going about. I'm not used to the confined quarters of an Osprey, 'Berceau' in Canada last year, had a tiller with an extension, but she was 27' with plenty of extension-swinging space to manoeuvre in.
I brought the Osprey back into the harbour and managed to find the dead space with no wind with the greatest of ease. Robin did warn me to stay near the left wall but I somehow found myself in the middle anyway. The wind was so light that we sort of glided into the shallows, and were the last boat in apart from the safety boat. To get that inflatable up the ramp, all hands were called for and about twenty of us on a long thick rope hauled her up to the top. After doing what we could to help in true learner fashion, we showered and met up in the bar with other club and committee members armed with our questions about boats and membership.
I really enjoyed the Osprey, and am so grateful to Robin for taking the time and effort to introduce us to the one that he is selling. He is going to advertise her this weekend and we really aren't ready to buy right now. I've no idea how quickly an Osprey will sell, and I don't know what this one is worth, so we will keep in touch and carry on with the research.

What a way to spend a Wednesday evening...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Harley Blast

I finally get out for a ride this afternoon after a month of other priorities. For the last week it has been just too hot here anyway, even for riding. I wear leathers, jacket, gloves and boots in all weather, even though I'd love to get out there wearing alot less when the heat is extreme. My conscience won't allow me and it would be hypocritical too.

Today though, fluffy clouds and a light breeze softens the summer heat and humidity and I itch with impatient urges.

I dust her off and start her up and get her out onto the road, ready and waiting for Gadgetman to return from his bit of freedom to take over the reins.

D'ya know the sound she makes when I pull away out of the close gives me such a thrill. I open the throttle and feel the acceleration as we escape for a while out onto the open road. ahhhhh, that's better, single-carriageways wide enough for overtaking, then the dual carriageway bypass for a blat-blast up to 90(mph). Yesssss, I just love it and feel the familiar sprinkling of sparkles within me. I know that 90 isn't fast but when I'm stuck with speed restrictions and traffic, doing 50, the blast is like being unleashed from everything. Unfortunately no sooner do I open her up when I have come off the power and slow for the curves and villages of the A246.

At Newlands Corner I find this Harley V-Rod. I like the solid wheels, no chrome on them, and easier to clean.

and this Harley Night Train. I love the matt black engine casings, they don't show the dirt, a bit like having one of these modern self-cleaning ovens, you know the ones with sides that don't have to be cleaned...ever!

I sit on a bench with a space with my name on it, with my capuccino and bacon butty and chat to this guy.

I'm sure he said this bike has a 1450cc engine now, but it is shown on the site as having a 1340cc. He has changed it loads from the standard bike I see. Unusual pipes for around here, and so is the air filter. He says he trawls lots of catalogues looking for extras that take his fancy.

Another blast up the A3, 100 this time. I feel my neck muscles acutely and my chin strap pulls against my chin. My shades need re-adjusting. I watch for gaps in the middle lane of the three lanes, no chance that anyone can pull out on me then. I spy a gap and open her up a bit more. My ride is complete and I am recharged.

I've been humped

This posting is long overdue, on July 10th I was humped by a rather nice chap over at Desert Odyssey and got 3 humps out of a potential 5. I’m happy with that. I am grateful for his constructive comments and appreciate the time he spent reading through it all. A very personal assessment and it gives me a boost of encouragement. Thank you Lucky.

Looks like I need to make some adjustments to my Blog and do a bit of ‘housekeeping’, not my most favourite past-time. I seem to be able to link to all of my ‘I read’ links so if there are problems linking to them, let me know and I’ll have a play around.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

When the seed was sown

Last night on the phone I quizzed Mum about her and Dads early days together.

I only realised later that maybe this was a bit tactless and insensitive of me so soon after Dads death, I don’t know how she mourns him, she doesn’t say. I wonder if her heart aches with sorrow and loss when she thinks too deeply about their experiences over the years together.

Mum and Dad met in 1957 whilst on a camping holiday in a Cornish field. She’d gone with a friend and her boyfriend, who had brought along one of his flatmates, who turned out to be my Dad. It was a chemistry thing, Mum said.

One day during that holiday, the two ‘couples’ hired a sailing dinghy and spent a day out on the Helford river. All novices together, and had a great time.

So there was sown the seed. Right there on that little sailing dinghy on a river in Cornwall.

3 weeks later Mum and Dad were crossing a road in Victoria. As they stood side by side on a central reservation in the middle of the road, Mum glanced over at Dad, and it dawned on her that Dad would never get around to asking her to marry him, he just didn’t have that look about him, so there and then she proposed to him. I wonder how aware of they were of their surroundings for those brief minutes on that traffic island, with busy London life flowing around and past them.

3 weeks!

On March 24th 1958, they were married in a church in Godalming, Surrey.

All within 6 months of meeting each other.

They talked of their future together and of having an interest that they could share, and continue to share with children in the years ahead. As it was, Dads life revolved around his customised Riley special, which he raced at events around the south. Mum loved skiing, she’d been to Switzerland a few times and caught the bug.

They’d got a taste of sailing whilst on holiday in Cornwall, and decided that it was something they could learn together, neither of them would have the edge of experience over the other.

Before they’d even sorted out where they were going to live, they bought a 16’ clinker-built sailing dinghy. She was kept on a mooring beneath Hammersmith Railway Bridge.

At weekends they learnt to time their sailing jaunts with the tides, occasionally having to traipse through the squelching mud of the Thames to get to or from their boat. Another time they were the wrong side of a bridge at the wrong state of the tide, and had to lower the mast to get through.

Soon they bought a trailer and took her down to the Medway and started to spend weekends exploring the river and creeks. They bought Lilos to place either side of the centreboard casing and spent nights aboard, not the most romantic of sleeping arrangements. Dad built an oak storage box to put in the bow, to keep their groceries in.

Then they towed the dinghy further afield, down to Fowey, then the next year, to Salcombe, in Devon. ‘Meg’ was lying on a mooring there. She was a pretty wooden 1904 built 21’ Bermudian sloop, and she was for sale. One day Mum and Dad were sitting in their boat at a mooring nearby. They watched a man of about 80 trying to sail ‘Meg’ off the mooring on his own, but they could see that he just wasn’t agile enough. He saw them and rowed over. He offered them a sail if they would help him as crew. Maybe he thought that he could encourage them to fall in love with ‘Meg’ if he wooed them with her sailing grace.

A couple of day cruises on her later, they made an offer to buy her. They did indeed fall in love with her. The old man accepted their offer of £450, and included in the deal was the tender, a lovely little sailing dinghy.

Their first boat, the 16’ dinghy was sold and went to live with a houseboat on The Thames, back to her roots.

So this was how it all started, where the pathway to a whole way of life began, together, as equals, on a boat, learning and exploring and growing together.

This was as far as we got last night. Mum went silent. She’d had enough interrogation for one night, and as I said, maybe it’s too soon to cause pain with those carefree early memories of fun times with Dad brought to the forefront like this.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

School run

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Club research

Today Longlegs and I spent the day together visiting the sailing clubs that we have independantly been researching on the net. Brilliant weather too and I was grateful for the air conditioning in his car.

We started the day with Sussex yacht club. The tide was still ebbing, with no water for sailing and there was little sign of life, however we did speak to a very helpful member who was doing a spot of gardening in the grounds. There were about 50 dinghies in the dinghy pound but we quickly came to the conclusion that the tide would restrict available sailing opportunities too much, and anyway, the club catered mainly for yacht racing.

Our next stop was Shoreham Shoreham sailing club. Now this had good potential. Only an hours drive from London, as opposed to Weston at an hour an a half and very friendly members who spent the time answering all our questions with enthusiasm. One guy has just collected the above Osprey from the factory yesterday and the resulting permanent ear-to-ear grin was totally understandable. He spent a good while explaining the virtues of the boat and why he thought this is a good club to join, whilst he was sorting the snagging issues on the boat prior to going out for a sail. Racing is all done outside the harbour out in the open sea about a mile off shore, shown in the photo below.

Then we headed along the south coast to Stokes Bay opposite The Isle of Wight. How crowded The Solent looked, let alone the beach. Absolutely packed with the usual beach goers and families on a hot summers day like today. The sea off the beach looked like an ants nest, and would be very exposed to the full force of the elements at other times of year. Much too big a membership for our liking, and parking the car would be costly and problematic. A member helped us willingly with our enquiries but we were put off by the huge numbers and didn't stay long. Just not the sized club that we had in mind and anyway, about a further twenty minutes drive on top of the hour and a half from home to Weston.

Our final stop of the day was back to Weston, the club I visited last Sunday. I like this club best of all for novices like us. I like the somewhat protected location, with reduced effect from the weather outside in The Solent, but with lots of potential for sailing further afield if we wanted to. I like that it has a membership of 300, instead of thousands, so is quite peaceful and tranquil in comparison to the hub-bub of Stokes Bay. I like that there are club boats available at £5 per day to try out, and lots of experienced members we could pick the brains of. I like that it's only about 5 miles from the motorway and has plenty of parking and secure boat-pound space. Membership is affordable and training courses are run during the year too. All sorts of members were ashore to answer our queries, and probably about 40 boats of varying classes were out racing too. We chatted to one of the RS400 owners in between races about why he likes this particular boat. A decent size for the tall build of Longlegs but no trapeze. Personally I reckon that we need to get out there and build with 'team' experience before thinking about any extras, which will take time and lots of days spent sailing.

I had such a good day today. I know its summer and I generally feel so much more positive about life at this time of year, but this feels like I'm starting out on something that connects me to my roots, a feeling of belonging that I have been mostly separated from through self-imposed limitations that I only now see. I have crewed on yachts throughout the years, and not even thought of dinghy sailing as an affordable option, thinking that it would not come close to the 'real' thing on larger yachts. Dinghies were a form of transport to me, a way to get ashore, a utility.

Meeting up with Longlegs may result in a friendship that develops from a shared purpose, but although I am a free spirit, I am not about to abandon my family responsibilities, so my time is divided and as hectic as ever.

We just seem to be motivating each other along this path and we'll see where it goes....

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Plotting a course

It's about time I posted here. Trouble is that 'other' interests are taking up all my free 'me' time and the Gadgetkids and work take up the rest.

Most of the computer based stuff I have been doing has been researching dinghy sailing, both boats and clubs. Yes I know that I haven't even done the course yet but it's not as if I don't know whether I like sailing or not so won't know if I want to take things further. I have a strong feeling that I will but reality may yet prove different so I can only go with the flow and see where it takes me.

Proper course has been a resident in my sidebar for sometime and I have vicariously enjoyed the thrill of dinghy racing and just getting out there for fun through his Blog, quite an insight into one mans passion for laser racing and all sorts of connected experiences.

Then I happened to meet an old friend that I haven't seen for a few years who whilst we were catching up on our respective lives, just happened to drop in that he had been on a few dinghy courses and wanted to get into racing a 2-crewed dinghy with a trapeze. (Actually he specifically mentioned the 505, but that is a long way off in my head. That would be like passing your bike test and going out and buying a Hyabusa or other top of the range motorbike, then racing it).

I started to think about me and sailing from a perspective that I hadn't considered before though, dinghy sailing is affordable and perhaps this will be a way to satisfy the nautical roots/urges within me, I don't know, but I am driven to find out and to enjoy the journey.

So back to the research, and as part of this, I visited Weston on Sunday, where the above photo of an RS400 was one of those racing. 28 kts of wind out there and about 20-30 club boats on the water. It was a buzz just watching and I itched to get out there too. I liked the location too, decent stretch of water with Southampton to the right and The Solent a few miles to the left.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sailing therapy

I’ve decided.

I need to go sailing.

I’m booked on a RYA level 2 dinghy sailing course at the end of the month.


I’ll be using one of the following boats that they have available:

8 RS Fevas
4 Laser Stratos
12 Laser Picos
2 Wayfarers
2 Topper Buzz’s
2 Wayfarer Worlds
2 Dart 16 Catamarans
12 Oppies
8 Funboats

I’ve got a friend that wants to do the same course but our available dates don’t tie up so I’m off to do the course anyway…

Maybe this will settle me a bit….Maybe I’ll get hooked…...We'll see.

It will be a break away that is just for me, no family or kids, nor am I visiting anyone. Just me and a boat. Sounds theraputic.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cloud-Blonde land

I seem to be experiencing extreme emotions at the moment. Funny, I didn’t think that Dad dying was affecting me really but I have been at times elated and at others, in floods of tears, both at work and at home about all sorts of areas in my life that I normally manage to deal with.

I think a cure for my blues is…..

To go sailing.


Maybe I live in cloud-blonde land and I'm away with the Seagulls....

Just humour me and let me go where this goes...