Ronhilda went on Keith Iron's Revived Opening Season BH Yarmouth Rally and had a great sail around the Bottom of the Isle of Wight
Chichester Bar shows its teeth on the Morning of the March Fast Cruise.
Knowing I was in Ukraine till Thursday I had left the yacht in Gosport to allow for last minute delays and not to have a too stressful Friday. Good thing I did, the Polish airline LOT was dreadful and we did not get back to Chichester until 2am on Friday.
Anyway Friday evening saw the regular Ronhilda gang enjoy the standard evening meal of Fish and Chips, I must confess I caught up on sleep 8pm to 8 am so missed the usual banter in the saloon after the meal.
Saturday morning brought a forecast of F5/6 East going NW and gusts in the 30s. So we put a reef in the main and 2 in the large geny. Not many yachts with a high handicap started this month and we chose to beat across the Solent to Browndown letting the tide take us towards the mark with just a tack and short beat in flatter water down to the buoy. The next two legs brought us back to the start before repeating this triangle. In the cold of a Feb day not really inspiring, nor was the sight of the short course yachts then having easy legs straight up Southampton Water to the finish whilst we had to go right across to Cowes and then back across to Hill Head before going up the water.
I had a hunch the course setter would be on the water with us this month. As he seems to like a close start to his home waters I guessed this would be in the serpent infested waters of the far west and so it turned out to be. Not wanting to have to get up at 4am and sail for 4/5 hours before even starting a long cold fast cruise sail on the water, fortunately some of the crew helped me ferry Ronhilda this month to Gosport and so they and I set off on Friday after midday. We knew the wind was stong but from the North West so no swell just a short wave fetch. This was true but the wind was so strong in the gusts ( well over 30kts) the crew complained their teas etc was being blown out if the cups and replaced by water shipping over the bow and being blown straight into the cockpit. Earl Grey tea made with cold Hayling Bay water is not good.
For October's Fast Cruise Ronhilda had a reduced crew and his skipper was still suffering from, and had not recovered from, his appendix operation in July. So it was decided the journey from his Gulag located in the far east in Chichesterstan would be taken easily and the actual cruise would be with a small sail plan.
Having signed up for Grahams St Vaast Rally this BH weekend I had done more than I normally do for a cross channel trip, even putting in a course on my iPad. The only issues in the week leading up to the rally were my large 28 year old 145% Genoa was not back from the Sailmaker having suffered in the winter fast cruises and I could not shake off a severe earache.
Whilst the yacht was in Gosport Andy Chatterton went up the mast fo rme to recover the Ticktack wireless masthead sender unit. Raymarine knew all about the Ticktack flat battery problem and had got a replacment unit out almost as soon as I had got through the door. Apparently the design has been changed so you can now replace just the masthead battery only every 8 years or so, but the old design units (mine) have to be changed completely fo rthe new (at a cost of over £300!!!) Friday evening Andy again went up the mast with your scribe winching and reported it was dam cold 21metres up. I am truely grateful for his efforts which meant Ronhida had working wind instruments again for the first time since October '14
Wary of the weekend weather forecast all the crew ( bar one confined to bed with manflu) joined Ronhilda on the Friday afternoon. We then made a short trip to Gosport Marina in the late afternoon sun. I must have found the gravel hump on Chichester Bar as we only had 0.7m depth under the lowered keel on the shallowest part even at half tide. Breaking waves were noted on the sand banks either side of the harbour entrance, and the East Winner shallows off Langstone entrance had a good display of white water. As the wind was turning Westerly and backing the geny at this point we furled sail to avoid getting anywhere near these breakers and motored the rest of the way. Distance sailed was 11miles with max speed 8kts.
We had an excellent value Fish and Chips meal at Gosport followed by a pint in the Castle and retired to our berths to listen to the wind increasing overnight.
The forecast in the week for the Jan FC was uncertain, but seemed to be settling down to a brisk N/NW on the day with a bit of a lull on the Saturday morning. So with it being Neaps I was looking forward to an easy passage out from Chichester followed by a crisp hard sail and Charles's course for the day looked very good for all FCers coming from North, East and West.
Friday saw an unexpected lull which made me a little nervous things were moving through quicker, but the forecast was still for NW/N F5/6 when we needed to be punching our westwards so I was still confidant of a good day. Foolish skipper that I am, 5am in Chichester Marina saw snow falling which froze on the pontoon woods and a steadily building W wind. We noted the dredger which is digging out Birdham approach had shut up shop for the weekend in view of the forecast F8s.