Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sailing Preparation

Today a very important package arrived. Last time was off sailing around Penzance my knees ended up cut and bruised. And soon will be off sailing the same boat again, and would rather come back with unscared knees.

So over the weekend ordered the knee protectors below:
This simple bit of clothing was also a top tip on Live Sail Die - see this article here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Silver Lining, Stormy Weather

The wind is strong, hot, and gusty from the East, but this black cloud is pushing its way in from the West.

The ominous darkness is occasionally broken from within by flashes of light.

Time to batten down the hatches - or grab a pew and sit outside to enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

9 months to New Zealand

Talked to an old friend today for the first time in years and was surprised to hear his plans.

He's bought a 31 foot boat and is about to sell up and head off to sail to New Zealand! He's going to take his time - about 9 months - taking the traditional Westward route of Biscay, Canaries, Caribbean, Panama, Pacific Islands etc.

And after that? Well he's talking of heading on to his home country of Australia where his Dad came from (Melbourne) and then maybe to keep going through the Indian Ocean to do a circumnavigation - or even keep going some more and do a circumnavigation and a half!

At the moment its just him, he has no crew. He's prepared to do it single handled but if there were volunteers........


Hot Weather

Its a hot and sticky evening here, the sort when all you want to do is sit outside with a cool drink, glass packed full of ice, and watch the sun set.

Since the kayak / canoe 2* been to the pool again where alas it wasn't a magic wow formula to make those rolls work first time, but still felt have learnt a lot since the first visit many weeks ago.

Everyone seemed outdoors today - the South Bank sailing club sailing down the Thames, the parks full of picnickers, and the tow path full of bikers and walkers.

Summer is truly here and thunderstorms are forecast for tonight.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two Stars on Tuesday

Final day of the kayak BCU two star course and we passed! Well, the three of us left - there were some drop outs.

And one final trial, which was to turn upside down in the kayak yet again into the Thames, escape and swim to shore without loosing either paddle or kayak. Given it was a lovely and warm summer evening that wasn't so bad.

Yesterday was talking to an ex-rower who remembered when he was young drinking the Thames when they got thirsty, in days before water bottles.

Not sure up to that: but on a hot day might be tempted to go for a swim!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

London's Lifeboats

I took this photo during the week as crossed Waterloo Bridge on my way to Somerset House, where went to meet some family over a meal at the Admiralty restaurant before some of them went off to see the Zutons.

This is Lifeboat Pier, base of the RNLI's operations in London. There was some scepticism when it was opened, but that was quickly silenced as it has become the busiest lifeboat station in the UK. The second busiest is also on the Thames - at Chiswick.

Sadly a large part of its job relates to jumpers - suicides and cries for help from those that go on London's bridges and threaten or actually manage to jump.

It was on my mind during last week there was a rather sombre program on BBC 1 about the river police that focussed on this subject, and while most people were saved one wasn't.

London has many good aspects - but it is also a hard city. I'm glad the lifeboats are there for those that need it.

Another picture

At the end of the sail last weekend we dropped M. off into the inflatable and he took pictures of us under sail - and jolly nice she looks too!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More on classic sailing

Rather nice picture from the FT site of one of the statues from Antony Gormley's 'Another Place' welcoming one of the Tall Ships to Liverpool. Wish I could be up there to see them!

This weekend's paper also included this nice article about sailing the Salcombe Yawl.

Classic boats (and cars)

One of the nicest things about sailing a classic boat such as the 30 square metre rule last weekend is how great it looks. Its not just a great sail also a thing of beauty - and people notice, so more than a few times you see cameras pointing at you.

Felt like that again on Tuesday when the last hurrah of my brother's 40th birthday was a day's rental of an Aston Martin Vantage V8 (did someone say mid-life crisis?).

It was amazing to drive with incredible power. Life a fair ground ride that goes on for an hour rather than just 2 minutes - exciting but also rather tiring. And like a classic boat it got approving looks where ever it went.

Afterwards I watched the YouTube video of Top Gear racing one across the Isle of Man together with BMW M6 and Porsche 911 and Clarkson preferred the M6's due to its even greater power. But he agreed that while other drivers would be happy to give way to the Vantage, the other two cars had a bit of an image problem.

Because the M6 is ugly it gives nothing back to those outside watching it go by. And no doubt a modern sailing yacht could out sail a classic boat but the looks just aren't there. Their design is all about the winning, just as the M6 is about having the most brutally powerful engine.

I know which I'd prefer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

An Embarrassing Result

Did a bit of sailing this weekend, and we got a bit of an embarrassing result in the local regatta.

I've signed up to help crew the classic boat above at the centennial regatta next month and this weekend we entered a couple of races at the granite toe of England, just by the St Michaels Mount in the background of this photo.

It was certainly one of those learning experience - i.e. lots of things went wrong. I was up on the foredeck which isn't my usual position, so there were some less than polished hoists and drops, though gybes were mostly ok.

We even managed to mess up a simple tack when the bowline on starboard jib sheet fell apart (not one of mine hasten to add).

But, oh gosh how embarrassing, will have to go to small font, we came 1st.

We so really didn't deserve it. Tillerman struggles for weeks to get his tactics just right and we stumbled round the course and ended up with a trophy and two bottles of wine at the regatta awards.

But it was a really useful day's sail. In our post mortum most of the problems were put down to the spinnaker and jib halyards getting twisted early on, so we know to double check for that.

And I've learnt that I'll spend a lot of time on my knees, which are now a bit of a bloody mess, so will have to get long trousers or some of those knee pads that cleaners use to scrub the floor.

That's not something I've read in the sailing books!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thames Sailing Barge Racing

Until recently there was an old Thames barge moored outside my window, but during the week it slipped its lines. It's a lovely old boat which I'll miss looking out at.

What I'm hoping is that it just head off for this weekends Thames Sailing Barge races which looks amazing (see picture above). Alas won't be able to go to the estuary to see it but for those interested there is more information here which gives the following background:

"The event originated in 1863 through the initiative of Henry Dodd (1801-1881) who was known as the “Golden Dustman” of Victorian London. He was immortalised as “Mr. Boffin” in Charles Dickens (1812-1870)'s novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-65). It is now the longest running, regularly organised, national racing event for traditional sail in the world."

I'll have to make do with reading the book I bought yesterday, namely "Mate of the Caprice" by Gordon Brown (who I'm reasonably sure is a different one that our current PM), which describes life aboard these remarkable craft.

If you follow the link to the Amazon page for the book you'll see there is a review, and unsurprisingly a very positive one, from none other than the granddaughter of the author!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kayak Mutiny

Saturday's canoe instruction fiasco was indeed mentioned on Tuesday's lesson with mutterings from the group and apologies from the instructor.

In the end we didn't mind that much having to go out again - it was another lovely evening and this time we were in two person canoes which was fun to try out.

The sticking point was the need to jump into the Thames again to repeat the rescues. No one was that that keen - when asked my view it was that would do them if had to but felt we had done enough to pass on the Saturday.

The instructor didn't press the point so we paddled around Chiswick Eyot instead practising all the other strokes.

It was kind of interesting to double up - as some were a lot better at the ordering around instruction giving role than others! Allegedly this is a good test of a relationship - or at least it can be testing on a relationship!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

It was magic

Another Tillerman group writing project, this one a "Heyitwasgreat".

He even suggested a possible theme for the offshore sailor as the "landfall after a long voyage" - which for me could either be reaching St Lucia after the Arc or heading into Plymouth after the Fastnet. Both were great, but neither truly magical.

The trouble is both happened in the middle of the night, when was tired and run down after the long voyage, when getting close to that point when just want to get off to have a shower and a beer. And to be honest its not much fun when stuck in a confined space with a boatfull of sailors who's clean laundry ran out over 200 nautical miles ago!

No, for me the "Heyitwasgreat" moment was the start of the Arc.

When the gun fired there was no turning back. In front of us were 3,000 miles of adventure, blue water sailing at its best. I'd met the crew, skipper and boat and approved of all - the fears of nutters or cramped bunk had been put to rest.

And we were off with 200 other boats, all sailing in the sunshine, all heading the same way for the same reason.

But even that wasn't the best bit.

The best bit happened that first night. After the sun disappeared in the same westerly direction we were steering darkness fell on the fleet, and the lights started to appear - below us, above us, and all around us.

In the water around our boat we saw the watery fireflies of photoluminescence. Above us the stars were bright with the constellation Orion riding high in the sky. And around the horizon were the red, green, and white lights of the Arc.

It was truly magical.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Another test for the new Panasonic TZ5, this time of reflections of the sunset on the river.

I think this is more something an impressionist like Monet would have composed, unlike the previous Turner / Constable.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Confused Instruction

Yesterday went for a paddle in the above.

No! Not the Audi!! A red canoe like the one on the right!!!

As part of our two star course we went along to Whitewater Canoe Centre in Shepperton (who's blog the above picture comes from, and yes that is a real accident!).

We were doing the canoe as distinct from kayak bits of the BCU course - and we had a different, new, canoe instructor instead of the usual kayak instructor. It was a lot of fun as always and we enjoyed ourselves even the getting wet bit (ok, one of our number wasn't so keen on jumping into the murky waters and stayed resolutely dry) and we did everything asked by our (canoe) instructor.

But she failed us. This led to more than a little muttering and grumbling into beers down the pub later over in Parson's Green - almost a mini rebellion.

The problems were three fold: partly the reasons given were trivial (wearing t-shirts rather than fleeces - well it is July!), partly because she wasn't that brilliant (my rescues worked first time while she took three goes to show how to do it) but mostly we were used to the laid back it looks fine no problem attitude of the kayak instructor.

A course has a style you pick up on the first session which sets the tone, and changing it leads to confusion about what is appropriate and then anger from students that feel their hard work is not appreciated.

We'll see what the kayak instructor has to say about this on Tuesday - I'm sure it will be mentioned!

Tide stops Train

Just a moment ago I was booking some train tickets online (for a future sailing trip), when couldn't help but notice the river was a bit high this afternoon - not just high tide but a spring one too.

Very pretty it looked too.

But for train travellers this weekend there was a more ominous side, as the First Great Western booking site had this message:

"Due to expected high tides this evening at Dawlish, the line between Exeter St Davids and Newton Abbot may have to close.

There is a possibility that the line could remain closed on Monday 07th July.

Customers should check this website for details of possible service alterations before they travel."

Apparently the rising water levels from global warming is threatening that lines future - so this might become a regular problem!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Trying out a new camera. I think Turner or Constable would do them a lot better.

Surfer Dude's a Commuter

I've seen this guy a couple of times, sometimes by himself (like above, last night) and sometimes with another surfer, and usually struggling against the flow of the river. It looked lot of hard work, and last Tuesday we wondered as we glided by in our kayaks "who's the surfer dude?".

Apparently he's just doing the daily commute down to the City and back - his way. Not sure how it would work with briefcase, suit, and on way home bags full of shopping. Anyhow, full story here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Head underwater

This is where I stuck my head yesterday - the Thames.

As part of the kayak course did an x-rescue and one of the rolls in its very murky brown waters. And with the nose clip falling off while upside down ended up swallowing much more than would like.

Actually biggest danger was banging my head - at low tide the river is very shallow indeed.

If there's a lull in posting you'll know to blame the Thames lurgy!