After a few weeks of pretty awful weather (I’ve added “Don’t sail in the rain” to the rules of sailing that I developed when taking Vagabond round Britain) , the sun shone this week and the winds were light, even warm from the South. Just my sort of sailing weather these days. It was time to be brave and wet Lockdowns’ keel. (This sounds a but like one of Odyseous’s voyages but I didn’t have an oar to carry down to the sea1). In the few weeks between taking her to Northney to last week I’d braved the M25 (quite tame in lockdown) and painted her name on the bows, 2 worked out how to make the throttle control on the motor talk to the motor without using wires and built a control console to house it and the ipad nav system over the centre board case.
So, Thursday of last week was the moment of truth. I remembered how to rig the mast and the sail, I’d found where I had left the main sheet, mopped up the water in the cockpit 3 and we were ready to go. Only two other boats in the queue to launch and it was an hour before high water. Perfect.
She slid down the slipway. Ooops. I hadn’t got out the mooring warps, so there was a little panic whilst I found them. Nor had I fitted any thing to tie on my non existant fenders. Fortunately, there was little wind and no wave action and the gunnel was at the same level as the top of the pontoon so I felt I could leave her for a bit whilst I “lost” the car and trailer.
A few minutes later, lifejacket in place, I was back on board. I lowered the motor into the water and checked operation. Tick 1 on the checklist.
The rudder went down to and locked in place. Tick 2 on the checklits.
I know it was only a F1 or 2 wind, but I’m a mimp so I opened the sea cocks to let in the water ballast. She slumped a couple of inches into the water. Tick 3 on the checklist
I lowered the centre board. It stuck half down4. I peered down the slot. There, glinting at me in the water, stick fast between the board and the side of the slot, was a 5 mm long loose screw. Dropped, no doubt, by some careless dockyard labour. If I could get to it, I could “flick” it out of the way but was just beyond the reach of my screwdriver. Fortunately there were some shipwrights having their well earned lunch just up on the hard. One lent me his long screwdriver and it did the trick. The centreboard went down a relucant few inches and stuck fast again, moving neither up nor down.
I decided to go sailing none the less. If the worst came to the worst, I could bring her alongside the slip and let the weight of the boat and the receeding tide push the centrebaord up into the slot when I’d finished for the day.
A quick radio check on Channel 80 – the Marina staff even wished my luck on the maiden voyage – and off we went. Pottering noiselessly out through the marina entrance. A quick turn into the wind and up went the sail.
Motor off and up. She fell off the wind to port, so that’s the way we went – off towards the sea. I spent a couple of hours playing with her. The helm is light and neutral. When the helm is let go and the sheet released she drifts sideways down wind. On a reach she picks up speed very quickly and I wonder if she’s plane without the ballast on board. She points to within 50 degrees of the wind and tacks quite quickly through it. She has a docile gybe (admittedly in the light air). I had noticed that the lacing of the sail to the yard is not quite right and realised that I need lessons in how to trim a lug sail.
It was a relaxing couple of hours, pottering about in the upper reaches of Chichester harbour. We were overtaken by a Swallow BC 23, who took a lovely picture of us – its’ shown below and I hope Paul will forgive me for stealing it from his post on the Swallow Yacht Facebook pages.
First sighting of Lockdown
I hope there will be many more over the next few months!
- This is a nod to my classical education for (as I remember it) Odysseus threw his oar over his shoulder and marched home when he’d given up roving.
- A sllight exageration – I’d used the usual transfers – a bit like Letraset (rememeber that?)
- No, it’s not that she leaks. It’s just that the second hand “tarp” is not quite long enough.
- Or should it be half up – does this denote I’m an optimist or a pessimist – or does that just apply to the fullness (or otherwise) of glasses?