It’s Officially Winter

Now I know the Met Office, in its wisdom still thinks its autumn but as far as Riff Raff is concerned it’s winter.

She was dismasted (deliberately I would add), packed up and strapped to Terence a couple of weeks ago. This morning, Terence was hitched to Martina and we set off (with my heart in my mouth) from Northney for West Wales. It was with trepidation that we departed because this was to be the first “high speed” journey of the ensemble since Terences axle had been moved back several inches. Was this going to be the answer to the dreaded “trailer sway”?

Despite an 07:30 departure, there was no chance to test this until we were past Winchester and on the A34 – the first hour was spent in heavy traffic and we covered the staggering distance of 23 miles. All seemed well on the A34 – with the cruise control set to 50, no sway was noticed. We joined a surprisingly quiet M4 at Newbury and cruise control was inches up to 60 and was left there for an hour or so. No sway. Average speed had now crept up to 34.  After that we cruised at about 65 (and even touched 70 at times – all in the spirit of scientific investigation, you understand) without mis-behaviour. We had to slow down for the rolling A40 to the west of Carmathen.

What was I worrying about? Scotland here we come – next year.

Messing about in boats – last sail of the summer?

The dawn of a week ago last Thursday was damp and slightly foggy in Bucks but the forecast for Chichester Harbour looked good – sun and 6 to 8 kn breeze. Martina growled round a surprisingly quiet M25* and then down the A3**. The mist thickened until,as we breasted the last hill before setting down to the coast, the weather was transformed.  The Sun shone, the temperature rose to 18 degrees – set fair then.

We arrived at Northney by 11. There was a breath of wind from the south. In the water before 11:30.. Now came the test – the red light. My regular reader will recall the oil pressure light on Freddy was flashing as we came to rest on our last outing. The oil level was checked and found adequate. Freddy was fired up and cheerfully buzzed away in the well. A mystery then

We cast off and wafted out of the harbour with the outgoing stream. Up with the main as we left the harbour entrance (I’d held the topping lift tight to scandalise the main whilst I hoisted it). It was about half tide. With the main sheet hard in and the jib taught, Freddy was shut down and we were just able to point close enough to the wind on the starboard tack to waft down river with the tide. At the first major mark, at the confluence with the channel to Emsworth, we had to drift over to the far side of the channel before tacking. Several tacks later (I didn’t even try to count) but in seemingly no time, we reached the marker for the main Chichester channel. We could either start the motor and head out to sea or sail up towards Chichester. The wind would have been “bang on the nose” for the entrance channel, and I din’t fancy the noise of Freddy II, so we went exploring towards Chichester.

So far in our voyage, we had seen few other craft. Just, a couple of Drascomes running up river before the breeze – where on earth were they going for lunch? One was towing a heavy looking dinghy. We turned to port, round the yellow and black buoy and headed east, on a broad reach, past the anchorage tucked in behind East Head. About a dozen craft were anchored there whilst the owners snoozed in the warm sunshine. We overtook a small Crabber, despite not paying much attention to the trim of the sails.

Although very pleasant and warm, this was becoming a bit tame. I had noticed that there were several mooring buoys lying unused in the trot of moorings near the sailing club. I thought I’d see if I could pick one up under sail, rather than power. We turned round. I noticed the wind instruments had given up discriminating between True and Apparent Wind. And, come to think about it, I had seen any evidence on the chart plotter of an AIS transmitter on any of the boats at East Head. Some of them were (a) newish and (b) biggish. They must have been fitted with AIS transmitters yet they hadn’t been detected.

Either some wires had come disconnected behind the cockpit bulkhead, or something had happened to the GPS/Chartplotter. Perhaps the programming of the comms channels had reverted to “default” for some reason. The former was beyond investigation but I reckoned I could have a look at the latter, if I could find the manual…….Abandoning the tiller for a few minutes (having lashed it roughly in position) I dashed below and rummaged through the ships paperwork.  With it in hand I returned to the command position to find us heading for a sand bank. We manged to miss it and resumed our normal course.

A quick scan of the manual showed me how to find the comms channels in the various menus (I find Garmin menus to be far from intuitive). Sure enough, both the in cchannel (for the AIS)  and the out channel (for the true wind) were off. Simple! Fixed. I now knew where other big ships might be and what the true wind speed was (6Kn). I wonder what had caused the system to revert to the default. Then I remembered. I had been making the plotter talk to my phone, so I could consult the plotter from anywhere in the boat – it’s not that I need the functionality (like most of the stuff on the plotter) but I just wanted to know how to make it work…..Unfortunately, at some point, the App on the phone had downloaded the latest version of the plotter software and, unknown to me, had then uploaded the stuff to the chart plotter……and this had reverted to “default” settings. Or, at least, I think that’s what had happened. The wonders and pitfalls of connected technology. Just spare me from an intelligent fridge or, for that matter, a smart electricity meter.

Where were we  – oh yes, looking a for a buoy to tie up to. By now the tide had turned and was starting to flood. Wind and tide were now both coming from the south. So, if I could come into the wind with a little way on just by the buoy, the combined effect would stop the boat and we’d drift down to the pick up point. Simples. Where’s the boat hook – I lashed the tiller again and ransacked the cabin, only to realise that I’d left it in Martina.

Never mind, let’s try it out anyway. After a couple of false starts (mainly because we had too much way on and drifted to far from the buoy) we made one pass with the main scandalised again (I’m getting quite keen on this way of de-powering it). This was spot on: I was able to reach down and touch the buoy pick up  rope just as Riff Raff came to rest with the buoy alongside the cockpit.

‘Of course, had I had the boat hook, I could have picked up the pick up rope, grabbed the end of it and walked forward to tie it on’ I said confidently (probably out loud) , and it was deemed that we’d passed the test.

Now, as the wind was light and there was really no other shipping about, I thought We’d have a go at flying the asymmetric. I had already secured it’s bag to the foredeck (the sail was in the bag) and tied all the extra halliards, sheets and what have you to the right bits of the sail. I’d even brought the sheets aft, so I didn’t have to scrabble for them on the foredeck. In a trice*** (now where does that expression come from) the two halliards were lead through blocks held in place by the aft mooring cleats and we were ready to go.

Now, I’d not done this before..

The jib was rolled up, the asymmetric halliard hauled in, and up went the sail, only to wave about in the breeze and then set on the wrong side of the boat. It pulled us round to port. The main gybed with a thunderous crack (fortunately I had ducked) and we were rapidly approach the sandbank at the side of the channel. OOPS.

The halliard was let go, one of the sheets was pulled in, the sail was recovered  and stuffed into the cabin.20181005_150133

A slightly more controlled gybe got us away from the sandbank, so we had another go, this time launching the sail from the cabin. That  was surprisingly easy but I discovered that I’d routed the asymmetric sheets between the jib and the main mast, rather than between the forestay and the asymmetric halliard. And, although the sail sort of flew, it still pulled hard to one side – this time in the other direction.This sequence of events repeated itself a few times until I gave up. Or the wind had dropped. Or something. So back to the Marina and on to Terence. The end of sailing for this year?



*For non British readers the M25 is the London orbital motorway, well known as a car park at certain times of day. ** The A3 is a feeder road to the M25, with the same sort of reputation.

***I have no idea but I can think of a quote using it:

‘ And I was wandering in a trice,
 Far from the grey and grimy heat
 Of that intolerable street,
 O’er sapphire berg and emerald floe,
 Beneath the still, cold ruby glow
 Of everlasting Polar night’

It’s from the Ice Cart by by Wilfred Gibson.

What does that red flashing light mean?

Which one, where?

It was last Wednesday that I  down to Northney, for a spot of light wind sailing. I was taking the retired librarian and cave manager for a “taster” sail. He’d collared me at a wedding the other week and said “What’s with this sailing thing that you do?”. It was that time in the wedding when food had been eaten, the speeches were done and the toasts all finished (and, of course, the bride and groom were now officially married – you mustn’t forget that bit). The Dad dancing hadn’t started, although the group was warming up but conversation was just possible. Anyway, you get the scene and the state of mind of the retired librarian. “Now I’m a retired librarian, I need to find something to do” – he continued.

“Well”, I replied, “how about the week after next ? – the tides are right at Northney and the weather might be OK – I’m free Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – let’s see what the weather forecast is like nearer the time.” When I arrived home, the family diary told me that I was only free on Wednesday, so that was when it HAD to be. The forecast was fine for the wind – F3, possibly F4 but it included a chance of rain. You know, that funny wet stuff that we soft southerners haven’t seen for a few months.

On arriving alongside Riff Raff, it wasn’t raining – yet. The wind seemed steady (from the NE) at about 8 knots – perfect for an introductory sail. Just enough breeze for a fire-ship and the tide was making strong* so, in a flash, Riff Raff was stripped of coverings, un- necessary weight was taken off and stored in the car and she slid down the slip and was afloat.

Off we went – the wind was coming straight up the entrance channel to the marina, so I hoisted the full main on our way out, turned to starboard past the post maker, unrolled the jib and we were off – 2.5 knots SOG against the incoming tide. Once past the third post marker, another turn to starboard and we were running before the wind. This time, despite a few strong puffs, the wind and sail combination (and a bit of concentration on the part of the helmsman) let Riff Raff maintain a stable goose wing all the way down to the Hayling Island Yacht club. Meantime we settled into a comfortable introduction to sailing for the RLACM (See above). The rudiments of sailing theory were expounded upon. Bearing transits were demonstrated. Collision avoidance was alluded to but not demonstrated. The naming of parts took place (and was promptly forgotten). He took the helm and soon learnt which way to push it. A gybe was demonstrated (oops). Despite all this we overtook some sort of Westerly on the downwind run.

We took a photo of the RLACM for posterity – I hadn’t noticed he was eating his lunch!DSCN1540

There were four or five other sail boats about: – we noticed a couple of Drascomes making their way up wind.   The theory of going about was discussed. We went about and worked our way upwind. The idea of heaving to was discussed and demonstrated when we next went about (oops).  We chased the Drascomes. Tack on tack as we overhauled them and left them in our wake. Not that we were trying, of course.

It came on to rain. That fine rain that penetrates all foul weather gear*** and not only soaks you but freezes you to the marrow.  It was time to go in. We sailed to the third marker, started Freddy and motored in – the RLACM steering as I packed away the main sail, put of the fenders and found the mooring ropes.

I took the helm for the tricky bit in the marina and we parked against the jetty with scarcely a bump.

Then I noticed the flashing red light – on the engine, just below the stop button. Yikes, it’s the low oil pressure warning light – how long has that been on?




* Reminded me of a verse from “The Old Way” by Ronald Hopwood

‘Came a gruff and choking chuckle, and a craft as black as doom
Lumbered laughing down to leeward, as the bravest gave her room.
“Set ‘un blazin’, good your Lordships, for the tide be makin’ strong,
Proper breeze to fan a fireship**, set ‘un drivin’ out along!
‘Tis the ‘Torch,’ wi’ humble duty, from Lord Howard ‘board the ‘Ark.’
We’m a laughin’-stock to Brixham, but a terror after dark.
Hold an’ bilge a-nigh to burstin’, pitch and sulphur, tar an’ all,
Was it so, my dear, they’m fashioned for my Lord High Admiral?”

** I hasten to point out (to my insurance company at the very least) Riff Raff is not a fire-ship!

*** I mean all old foul weather gear. My set Musto about 15 years old and leaks like a sieve so I fear it’s time to buy some more.

**** OOPS – For Musto read must be.

Triumph over Terence?

Our regular reader will immediately recognise that this post is (yet again) something to do with the trailer. Terence had behaved perfectly with an under rated set of wheels when carrying Vagabond but seems to have taken a dislike to carrying Riff Raff on the new, higher specification, wheel set. I had surmised that this was because the new axle was fitted about a foot * forward of the original. In a previous post I hinted that I had moved the axle about 6 inches** backwards.

I suddenly realised that this might stop the “sway” of the trailer but would probably affect the down force on Martina’s tow hitch. This bears the warning “no more than 80kg”.*** I thought I’d better check this out.

So, armed with a suitable load cell, various blocks of wood and a hydraulic jack, I set off for the marina on the week of the Bank Holiday for a day sail.

But first I had to clear my doubt about the downforce.  After using the various bits of wood to move the jack into position under the tow hitch on Terence but on top of the load cell, I measured the downforce. “Blistering Barnacles”, as Captain Haddock would say, the down force was 125kg. I thought this was probably outside the tolerance of Martina. So the axle needed to come forward a bit. But not to much, otherwise the sway would not change

There was no room in the marina berths to park Riff Raff, so this had to be done with her still aboard. More blocks of wood were sourced from the boat yard, Terence was jacked up until both wheels were off  the ground and then put on blocks. The U bolts holding the axle were removed. It promptly fell to the ground but at least I could roll it forward to approximately the right position, before jacking it up against the frame, hitting it firmly with a hammer until it was square to the axis of the trailer.  Ubolts were tightened, the brakes adjusted and Terence was eased back to the ground. A quick check showed that the down force on the tow bar was now 83 Kg – I thought that would do…..*****

We went sailing. The wind was blowing at 12kn gusting 14 from the North West. I had still the reef in from our trip back from Cowes, so we motored out into the fairway, out the bow into the wind, and hoisted the main to the first reef. We turned SE and wooshed down the first leg of the channel turning more southerly once past the fork to Emsworth.  The jib was hoisted and we ran before the wind in a stable goosewing configuration. Our speed increased to an indicated speed over the ground of 7.5 knots. There didn’t seem much showing tide on the buoys……

I was surprised how stable the goose wing was – there was none of the flapping of the jib and then I remembered that this was also the case with Vagabond. Then I had concluded that the power of the un-reefed main meant that the jib was always being overtaken by the boat and deflated. It seemed a reasonable theory and a lesson I had forgotten. I wonder what else I’ll rediscover….

In no time at all we were almost level with the sailing club just before the “exit” from the harbour. It was time to turn back. I lost count of the tacks on the way home, turned to port to take the Northney leg of the channel to find the wind square on the bow. Down came the sails, on came Freddy (well, in reverse order to how it’s written) and we chugged back to the slip. The Ninja warrior on Terence did it’s stuff and, almost without effort, Riff Raff was dragged from the sea and secured for another week.

I drove home and found the M25 almost empty of traffic. The holiday season was not quite over. It is now and my next trip to Northney will not be so free of vehicular traffic.




* 300 mm, or thereabouts (this is known as a “metric foot” to those in the timber trade

** one foot = six inches – work out the metric equivalent without using a calculator (or you phone)

*** 12 stone 6 lb 6oz (give or take a bit) – do bear in mind there are 14 lb in a stone and 16 oz in a lb****. This is well within the capacity of my load cell – the trusty electronic bathroom scales.

**** Sorry, I forgot – 1 lb is another way of writing one pound avourdupois

***** The perceptive reader will notice that I still have no idea whether all this axle moving mularky will have cured the sway. The only way to test this (as far as I am aware) is to pack Riff Raff up for towing and get out on the Queens Highway. That will have to wait until the end of the season……

To Cowes (with a crew)

Riff Raff had been left idling for a week or so whilst the Owners Agent and I dashed to Scotland* to visit the Shaman** and her man. This included a day wandering around Edinburgh, in the rain, with thousands of other tourists. O, the joy of Edinburgh whilst the festival is on…

So I needed a bit of relaxed sailing. The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday of last week (that was the 22nd and 23rd August for those a bit lost in the chronology of this blog)***  seemed almost benign; force 3 for most of Wednesday from the SW and similarly for the Thursday. The Banker was between jobs so I persuaded him to come with me and we set off for Cowes, full of confidence and hope.

Riff Raff flew down the channel from Northney, out through the entrance to Chichester harbour, turned westward ready to tack **** our way to the North Fort, at which point the tide should turn in our favour.

We tacked in towards the land (to miss the worst of the tide) and the wind dropped. In the next hour we made about 2 miles towards our objective and reckoned we’d be there just before the pub shut (if not just after it had shut). Freddy 2 was summoned to life and we pottered***** of at about 4 knots arriving in Cowes a bit hot and bothered. (we had  sailed a little more towards the end and became embroiled in the finishing stage of a race of 5.5 metre racing boats – oops).

Up the river, dodging the dreaded Chain Ferry and into the friendly East Cowes Marina in time for a swift G & T or two at the local hostelry. The forecast looked fine for the morrow – F3 from the SW – just right to get us home.

At 07:30 I checked the forecast: f5 gusting f6 was now in the offing and it would get stronger as the day wore on and would stay that way until Monday. I checked two other forecast providers – all said more or less the same. The Banker said he had to be back that night and Google told him that a bus, ferry, train and taxi could get him back to his car within 3 hours. No need to do anything yet then, apart to advise the Owners Agent that there may be a change of plan.

Back to the pub, this time for breakfast.

By 10:00 am it was raining but all of the forecasts had changed. The general view now was that it wold be 3 gusting 4, still from the South West. Much more reasonable. The tide would turn East about 14:00. So we left at midday, hoisted the sails once outside the harbour and turned East. The gusty wind conditions were such that the jib would not set into a stable Goose wing (the wind gusts would catch the mainsail, which would accelerate the boat, causing the job to collapse) so we rolled up the jib. Well, we attempted to roll up the jib – it stuck about half way and I had to leave the crew in charge of the helm (well he has sailed dinghies before) 20180823_140134and crawl forward to solve the problem. There was a riding turn jamming the winch and soon all was secure.

That’s how we were for the next four hours. The sun came out, the wind rose a bit, setting up following seas just off the stern to port so we segued our way east, across the ferry routes, past the forts and up to the beacon marking the entrance to Chichester. At this point the wind indicator showed that the true wind was about 15 knots, gusting at time to 18, so I thought it prudent to take in a reef in the main, to give us a little more control as we entered the narrows on a broad reach.

I’m glad we did – the chap behind us hadn’t bothered and was all over the place coming in (although he did overtake us… – but who cares?)

We were back in Northney by 18:00. the Banker went off home and I move the trailer axle several inches further aft.

The following morning I finally fitted the tent! Here it is, as Riff Raff poses on the Swallow Yacht sales area by the marina entrance.

Very posh. I can almost stand up in it.20180824_113905

Now we can really go cruising but – wait a minute, should I have ordered the curtains?




* only just over the border but it’s still (almost) “forren parts”

** in previous blogs they were referred to as the flower farmers (in Nova Scotia). Well, they’re now in Scotia itself doing all sorts of stuff. Go to  to find out more about the Shaman and her best selling book!

*** this group usually includes the author

**** zig zagging against the wind to the non nautical nuts reading this

***** pottering speed that was – the noise levels suggested otherwise!


Nothing to report (sort of )

WordPress keep reminding me that I need to keep blogging, to increase the monitisation of my site. I’ve already added an “icon” so that people will recognise the site in their browser. I’m getting a bit out of my technical depth here, so I’ll quit whilst I think I’m ahead.  Riff Raff and I have had 15 visitors today! Wow! We’ll soon be going viral, even though there’s nothing to report.


Well, that’s not quite true. I spent a day or so last week, whilst waiting in vain for the wind to drop a bit*, trying to fit the tent.  Regular readers may recall that I picked this up from a sailmaker in Poole a couple of weeks ago. This tent can be likened to a huge pram hood, with hoop frames made of short lengths of stainless steel that slot together and a canvass (or similar) top and sides. No instructions were supplied for the fitting, so it took a lot of trial and error to get all the pieces of metal put together in the right order and mounted on the boat. Pieces of wood had to be obtained (Utile, of course) from a local timber merchant, flexible sealant from a chandlery), the Workmate assembled, measurements taken saws, planes and drills used and, hey presto, as if by magic the frame was fitted.

When the cover was applied, it was clearly fitted in not quite the right place so the whole exercise had to be repeated. O er – moving the position of the wooden mountings meant using a cheese wire to unseat the ones in the wrong place and  this revealed a slight flaw in the layup of the composite material forming the cockpit coaming. A 1 x 1.5 inch strip of the gel coat came away with the wood, revealing a layer of glass fibre lay up that was free of polymer……… Oops I hope there’s not more like that in the rest of the hull.

Fixing this delayed things a bit and I had just finished putting in place the new wooden mounts when the wind obligingly dropped. So we went sailing for an hour or so. Then the rain started and it was time to come home. The tent is still not fully fitted.

Read more about it (and see some pictures (but not of the defective lay up))  in the next episode………




* I’ve become a bit of wimp and must get over it. When I took VAgabond round Britain, I wouldn’t sail if there was an F6** or above in the forecast. Recently I seem tp have slipped to F5

** Beaufort force for the wind strength. Admiral Beaufort documented this wind strength scale in 1805. I’ve discovered that it wasn’t invented by him – there had been others before him but he was the man who persuaded the British Admiralty to officially adopt  it ***. in 1835. You can read more about it at:

*** Well, he was an Admiral, after all

More on Axles

I’v found a couple of photos of the trailer showing the old and new axle. No wonder there’s a problem, the new axle is about 9 inches ahead of the old one.

Here’s the picture of the trailer as originally supplied:

Old axle posititon

As you can see, the wheel centre is at least 9 inches behind the sixth upright post between the top and bottom rails of the trailer.

Whereas, the new axle is fitted to the trailer with the wheel centre

new axle position as supplied by cls

about level with the sixth upright (it’s hidden behind the wheel).

Considering  that the axles were changed by the trailer manufacturer, you’d think they would know where to position it!

I suspect I’ll have to shift the axles further towards the rear.

I suppose I could move the winch post forward and thus move Riff Raff further onto the trailer……..