Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Sail

On the spur of the moment I went to the boat this morning. The forecast was for a south westerly wind between force 3 and 4, and low water was 11.47. There could be a faint possibility of a shower. I wasn’t sure if I would go for a sail, but I wanted to try the new Honda 2.3 outboard. Sure enough it started on the second pull and it continued running nicely at tick over. Seeing the engine was an air cooled one, I didn’t have to keep checking for a copious stream of cooling water, as was the case with my old Mercury engine. I took in several rolls on the mainsail, and under power left the mooring, then I steered to the south bank were there was a bit of a lee. There I unrolled a small portion of the foresail and stopped the engine. The wind was more from the South than the South West as expected, which made sailing against the last of the ebb easy. I let the Autohelm take control of the tiller and lifted the outboard out of the water.
The Squib fleet and the tiny Optimists were out racing by the Crouch Yacht Club as we headed up the River to the West. To windward the ‘Celtic Warrior’, a coastal freighter, was having her cargo of wood unloaded by a spindly looking crane. A dark cloud passed overhead that sprinkled a light shower, but the sky soon lightened and it wasn’t long before the sun came out. The wind eased, so I sat back and relaxed while eating my lunch as my crew friend the Autohelm willingly looked after the boat. Apart from a Drascombe Dabber with tanned sails, ‘Ladybird’ and I had the Cliff Reach stretch of the River to ourselves. There isn’t much of a red sandstone cliff there, but lined with trees it’s quite picturesque. The electric train travelling from Burnham in the direction of Fambridge rattled along the line and gave a cheerful toot.
The next stretch of the River turned a little more to port which meant ‘Ladybird’ was fine on the port tack for most of the time, with the occasional starboard tack to make up to the windward side. A few gusts had me taking over the steering because my faithful Autohelm could not cope. Just short of the Fambridge moorings I gybed the boat and headed Eastwards into the oncoming flood tide, but the wind was sufficient to give us good speed over the ground as we broad reached. A rather fine double ended steel Dutch yacht painted in blue made her way up river under power and two other yachts flying Dutch ensigns followed. I had seen the trio at Heybridge when walking there the Saturday before last.
Back at Cliff Reach ‘Ladybird’ overtook a small cruiser towing an inflatable dinghy and ahead I could see other yachts coming my way. Adjacent to Wallasy Island, by Essex Marina, I let the Autohelm steer the boat as I took down the mainsail and started the outboard. I misjudged the strength of the flood tide, but the outboard coped at low throttle. (When running in an engine of this type it is necessary to keep the revs low for about 10 hours before changing the oil to avoid undue piston wear.) Picking up the mooring was quite easy, despite the increase of wind from the South. As soon as the boat was securely tied to the buoy, I made a welcome cup of tea before stowing odds and ends prior to rowing the dinghy to the Rice and Cole floating pontoon. Three quarters of an hour later I was at home being entertained by three of my delightful grandchildren. Oh, the joy of retirement.

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