Sunday 19th April
Fine, sunny and warm (still)
I’m about to settle down to do the passage plan for the trip to Southampton, singlehanded, in an unfamiliar boat. Plan is to go in the water tomorrow lunchtime, spend the afternoon sea trialling inside the harbour and then the night on a buoy. Tuesday I shall be off as soon as the tide is right, or at least not too wrong, which looks like being about 11ish. With a bit of luck and a decent breeze (the moderate easterly we have here at the moment would be ideal) I might make it before the tide gets too awful in the evening. Otherwise I shall anchor in Stokes Bay or off Hillhead for the night and continue on Wednesday. If it turns westerly I could nip across to Osborne or go into Hillhead, or even the Hamble at a pinch.
And then on Thursday I join Solent Flame for some more fun and frolics.
Monday 20th – Launch Day
Warm and sunny (again)
0930 Arrived Langstone Sailing Club to be told that the launch team were ready to move Tyro to the hard now. I wasn’t ready (expecting to be launched about noon) so they went off for a cuppa. I worked frantically to clean the last of the zinc oxide off the sacrificial anode (now much quicker with a disc on my 240V drill) and expose and close all the seacocks ready for launch.
1000 Launch team returns and I indicate, optimistically, my preparedness. Boat hoisted and carried to hard. I return on board (via rickety ladder) and continue preparations during the inexorable rise of tide.
1130 Tide reaches bottom of hull, including some of the seacocks, notably those admitting water to and draining the heads, both of which have been overhauled. Water starts leaking in through small holes in the heads outlet hose. I call this to the attention of the launch crew, one of whom comes aboard. Once the boat lifts off I start the engine (phew!) and motor off to the nearest mooring. On examination the leak appears to be persisting whether the seacock is open or shut. The boat needs to come out again. In the meantime, my new assistant and adviser (David) bandages the leak with a plastic bag, which reduces it to no more than a dribble.
1230 Once the other boats have been launched I drive Tyro back onto the lift, and out she comes. Everyone troops off for lunch apart from David who stays on board to help me. We disconnect and dismantle the offending valve and discover that the supposedly smooth mating surface of the cone is pitted and uneven, despite the engineer’s invoice stating that he’s ground it. Cone liberally slathered with grease, leaky bit cut off pipe and valve reassembled just as the crew return from lunch. Means for a small libation distributed to David and the team in lieu of launch charges.
1330 Relaunch. Repair holds. Mental note to self to berate engineer (who, fortunately, has not yet been paid). Small drip from stern gland (half-expected, reduced by greasing) and a slightly more concerning but very slight one from the hull near the mast. Inspection impeded by inability to raise cabin sole: major joinery job to be done in the fullness of time. Motor out to temporary mooring. Continue jobs for the rest of the afternoon. Leaks easily containable by occasional pumping.
Evening Don’t feel like eating much. Force down a little pasta. V tired but reviewed the pilotage plan for the trip to Southampton on the morrow. Bed. Little sleep – the settee berth (on which I’ve generally been most comfortable in other boats) is too narrow; unfamiliar surroundings and worried about leaks etc.
Warm and sunny. Up early; a little breakfast and then preparing the boat for sea. The tide’s out and we’re sitting on acres of soft mud; high water is at lunchtime and I calculate that we should float off at about 1100. In the meantime I busy myself with the 101 tasks to be completed before I sail. These include (but are not limited to, as the insurers are fond of saying)
- secure the deck cargo (the baulks of timber that the boat’s been standing on for 18 months) and the A-frame and prop designed to help raise and lower the mast)
- pump ship – very little has come on board overnight, which is reassuring
- practise sail drills, although I expect to use only the roller-furling genoa today
- prepare lines and fenders for use later in the day
- connect up (unsuccessfully) tillerpilot, which might have made my life considerably easier
- drink coffee & eat ginger nuts
- review and consolidate passage/pilotage plan
- engine checks
- prepare sandwiches etc. for lunch.
At 1010 I called the Coastguard on Channel 67 to let them know of my plans under the CG66 small boat safety scheme, which also served as a radio check, and then at 1030 the weather forecast repeated by them indicated E/NE F4 – 5 which will do very nicely thank you – it promised a broad reach pretty well all the way, so I could do it under jib only, and wouldn’t have to grapple with hoisting and (which is harder) lowering the main on my own. What’s more, it was sunny, and the slow-moving anticyclone made it likely to remain so. I really couldn’t have had better weather for my first trip. The tide was also favourable, being with me more or less all the way at a convenient time. The main exception is in the mouth of Langstone Harbour, where I expected to have to use the engine to plug the expected 2 – 3 knot foul stream for half an hour.
About this time the rising tide reached engine cooling water intake so I could start the engine – but forgot, at first, to screw down the stern gland greaser. Cooling water flowing (good), batteries charging (good), blue smoke emanating (not good). I also checked all the seacocks again, and all seemed well.
At 1100 on the dot the boat floated off the mud; I slipped the mooring and set off for Kemp’s Quay Marina, Southampton.
I motored out of the moorings, through where the old railway bridge had been, and once surrounded by relatively clear water, unrolled the jib. I kept the engine running, partly to give it some exercise after a long period of inactivity, partly to give the batteries a good charge and partly just in case I should need it to get out of trouble. The wisdom of this was revealed a little later when a moment’s inattention caused me to wander out of the channel in the vicinity of Stoke starboard hand mark, an event signalled by a gentle reduction in speed to zero. I had clearly hit the (very soft) mud, so, putting the engine into astern I reversed my course for a few yards into the channel, mentally smacked my wrists for my unseamanlike conduct and continued somewhat more circumspectly.
By 1200 I was at the harbour mouth, having dodged the worst of the foul tide by keeping close to the eastern shore (another advantage of a shoal-draught, twin-keel boat) and shortly afterwards was able to alter course 262 for the Main Passage through the submarine barrier off Southsea. Halfway there I thought I’d give the engine a rest – it is supposed to be a sailing boat, after all – and tried sailing under just the jib for a bit. Even with the help of the tide we managed only 3kn over the ground like this and I didn’t fancy the main so the donkey went back into action (starting first time) as we approached the barrier. Gilkicker came abeam at 1340, Lee-on-Solent at 1400 and, passing Hamble Point at 1500, I called up the marina with an eta. By 1600 I was over Weston Shelf, grappling with fenders and mooring lines while failing to get the boat to steer herself; then I was able to roll up the jib and motor to windward up the Itchen for the first time, getting to Kemp’s at the estimated 1700 on the dot.
On arrival I made an excellent job of bringing the boat alongside for the first time, which is all the more surprising given that the harbourmaster and marina manager were watching. (Usually good seamanship goes unobserved, and one has an appreciative audience for one’s horrendous mistakes). Secured alongside in my preferred manner (four lines for four jobs; round-turn-and-bowlines ashore and OXO on the cleats on board), forgetting to turn off the engine electrics and battery. When I finally did so after 20 minutes or so I was surprised to see all the instruments go off as well. The domestic battery appeared to have no charge, astonishing after nearly six hours of motoring. Deciding to leave investigating till the morrow when I’d be less exhausted and better able to concentrate I put the kettle on, tidied up the boat and went ashore to the office – which was closed.
22 miles in exactly six hours, all but half an hour of it under power, at least partly. The engine behaved itself almost perfectly and all was well with the world. If only I’d known.
The crucial task of the evening was to recover my car, still at Langstone of course. After checking I had car and boat keys in my pocket there was a ten-minute walk to the station, a ten-pound ticket and a ten-minute wait for the train back to Havant (change at Fareham). On alighting at Havant I asked a lady about buses to Langstone and she suggested I share her taxi as she would be passing the club. This I gladly accepted and five minutes later I was at the club. I used John’s fob to let myself in to the clubhouse to see if there was anyone to thank, which there wasn’t, and then to the car for the drive back to Southampton. I reached into my pocket for the car key, and there it wasn’t.
Mild panic. Search all pockets. No key. Increasing panic. I can do without this after a mentally and physically exhausting day. Think. I remember – definitely – picking up the key and putting it in my pocket when I left the boat. I checked (you may remember). It’s not there now. Ergo, I’ve dropped it, probably on the train. Bad news. No spare. Check all round on the ground. No key. Despair. Look round for a potential saviour. One man working on his boat on the far side of the compound. He suggests phoning the AA and declines my offer of help to move his trailer. I phone. Yes, they can help. They’ll call me back. Goodness knows how much it will cost.
By the waters of Langstone I lay down and wept. Well, not quite, but I wasn’t a happy chappie. Pull yourself together. Check all round again for key. This time, over to the clubhouse door and – miracle of miracles (am I getting a bit biblical?) – there’s the key! I must have dropped it while fumbling with the clubhouse key. Work of a moment to open the door and retrieve it. Tears of relief. Back to the car and let myself in. A thought – let the other chap know. He seems unimpressed. Phone the AA back with the glad tidings. Good job I found it – they can’t come till Friday. And would have charged £400 or so! Resolve to get a spare key cut. (But I still haven’t).
Drive back to Kemp’s Quay in Bitterne, a suburb of Southampton. The station, near the marina, is not near the rest of the town and I spend a good half an hour (well, not so good really) driving around and getting conflicting directions. Eventually back to the boat in the gloaming and heat a can of chunky soup for a well-deserved and much-needed evening meal by torch/moonlight (still no battery). After a bit of a read I turned in early, exhausted after a long and strenuous day, and slept like a log in the foc’sle.
Up early the following morning feeling remarkably dynamic. Tea and breakfast then steeled myself to investigate the domestic battery. Still no instruments or lights etc. Step 1: get my new multimeter on the battery. 12.8v – so it is charged after all. Good news, but why isn’t it working? Step 2: try the terminals. The positive one comes off in my hand, and on inspection isn’t terribly clean. So out with the sandpaper and small files. Five minutes on each terminal (the black one was little better) and a good solid tightening, switch on and hey presto, we have power! If only all problems were so easily solved. Of course I should have done all that before the boat went in the water but time and inclination were both in short supply. Bad attitude. The sea will find you out!
A variety of jobs occupied the day. First I had to remove the deck cargo – the baulks of timber that the boat head rested on for 18 months and the A-frame and prop for raising/lowering the mast (haven’t yet worked out how). Also a trip to the office to say hello to Sarah, the manager, and pay for the year’s berthing. That was a mixed experience: Sarah was (is) very pleasant and helpful but parting with £1000 is rarely happy. Still, a debit card eases the pain considerably, and it’s a lot less than I’d’ve paid elsewhere.
Then it was off to Shamrock Quay for a short cruise with the Go Sailing Association in Solent Flame.