What makes a great summer rally? A carefully planned itinerary that includes shorelines steeped in history, beaches of golden sand as far as the eye can see, pretty harbours serving up delicious food and excellent wine and oh, the best weather in living memory. The mystery is that only two boats took part, Shearwater (Avril and I) and Aeolus (chartered by Graham Broadway).
Trips to St Vaast are usually a treat and the May Bank Holiday excursion was no exception.
We’d signed up Shearwater months ago when Graham Broadway first mentioned the possibility of a club rally but as the date grew closer, doubts about our ability to take part grew. The problem was our engine. At Easter, we discovered our trusty Volvo Diesel to be a little less trusty than usual. Lots of smoke, a lack of revs and an inability to push Shearwater convincingly against even a very slight tide meant that it really couldn’t be trusted at all.
Every so often March has days like this. Days that make you think that summer has arrived, that your thermals, mid-layers and fleeces can be cast aside and that it is time to bask in the sun, open a chilled bottle of something suitably refreshing and to be careful not to fall asleep in the full glare of the sun to avoid serious sunburn. For this fast cruise, we had two such days in succession.
Avril and I were joined by Jill Moffatt and Ian Middleton at short notice, their original berths on Ronhilda sadly unavailable due to Brian Humber's indisposition. Friday evening in Haslar saw a sizeble contingent of LSC folk including the crew of Day at the Races and elements from Musyk and Solid Air enjoying a dinner at Hardy's.
A great day of sailing.
Once again, the "Frostbite" cruise was anything but. Friday might have been wet and windy but Saturday was close to perfect. Winds between F2 and F4 from directions gradually working their way around from east to north-west; enough sunshine to break out the emergency supplies of sunblock and some great "fast cruising" (this is similar to racing, but with much less shouting and no protest committee).
Thanks to the indefatigable Graham Broadway and everyone else who made it all possible.
Dinner at the RSrnYC was good, though there were a distressing number of people wearing ties.
Sunday dawned grey and miserable and the rain started in earnest early in the afternoon, fortunately after Shearwater was safely tied up back home in Gosport.
I'm sure many LSC members are already aware of the proposals to build a wind farm off the south coast, to the west of the Isle of Wight. If you are not aware, you can find lots of information at the Navitas Bay Wind Farm website.
The wind farm proposals will doubtless face strong opposition, but one aspect to the plans that I have not seen any discussion of is the effect on wind speeds downwind of the site.
The penultimate weekend of the Fast Cruise season was another particularly enjoyable one. While early 2012 was windy, early 2013 seems to be continuing the theme of late 2012: anything more than 10 knots of wind is beginning to seem like a dream.
As Avril decided that her crutches were not suited to marine use and another crew member claimed to have contracted SARS, the somewhat diminished crew assembled on Friday evening at the end of a day when I had briefly spent time in the cockpit wearing a T-shirt and no fleece at all. The sun had shone, but the night was cold and Saturday morning dawned bright and calm with Bramblemet and Chimet agreeing on wind speeds of 5 knots gusting 6 and the inshore waters forecast promising "variable 3 or less." Clearly reefing was unlikely to be urgently needed.
With the winter fast cruises, you know what you are getting yourself into. Wind (lots), rain (some), with perhaps a little sleet or snow and the occasional patch of ice on deck. A timed passage in mid-June is completely different, of course. Or it should be.
But this is an English summer, so Shearwater headed to the start in a wind forecast to be south west force 5-7. Familiar conditions, then. Fortunately, the rain held off until Saturday evening and the journey back from the pub, but the sailing was dominated by south-west winds which frequently topped 30 knots apparent. A couple of boats familiar from the winter were present: Chris Overall's Oxygen and Richard Strong's Solid Air along with Amber One and Sour Kraut who were new to us.