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……..




A Tale of Two Axles and an Assymetric

Another reader has joined the followers – that makes three! Wow, another step along the monitisation of this blog. I keep getting “helpful tips” from WordPress on this – so far I have ignored them all.

But I digress.*

Now where were we? I think Riff Raff was back at Northney, on her trailer and ready to go. The returen journey from Mylor had been as nailbighting as the ouitward leg – trailer sway commenced at just over 50 (yes, I know it’s the legal limit for towing a trailer but one does try to keep up with the traffic) and Martina demonstrated her new found ability to control the sway on several occasions. I though I’d better check the car manual and found that this ability is a “feature”, so all is well on that front.

I looked up trailer sway on t’internet. A US discussion board (well, I think it was US but you can never be sure these days) recommended I fit a “swaycontrol bar” for a mere $300. One entry suggested that “yous not enough weight on the tow bar bud.”

So that gave me some food for thought. Readers of my blog about sailing round Britain in Vagabond will recall that Terence was her trailer too. We didn’t experience sway with that combination but the axle was only rated at 1500kg, not the 1700 or so that the trailer and boat weighed. I’d had the trailer manufacturer replace the axle with an uprated model. Perhaps this was the cause of the sway.

Suitably equipped with bathroom scales, blocks of wood and a jack, I zoomed down to Northney and measured the down thrust on the tow bar – 59 kg – quite light really for a 1700kg train weight. Riff Raff was thrown into the sea, u bolts undone and the axle slid backwards on the trailer by a couple of inches.

Then we went off sailing in light winds and attempted to fly the asymmetric. Flying it from the bowsprit (very traditional) was no problem – recovery was a very different matter – it didn’t quite go in the sea but it was a close run thing. Needs further thought (and practice).

Riff Raff was recovered, the tow bar down thrust measured – 65 Kg. Well, that’s better but the tow bar can take 80 so the axle could go further back……

Back at home I went looking for photos of Terence. It seems that the”new” axle is positioned at least 6 inches ** ahead of the old one.

So I think I’ll have move the axle still further back…..


* As usual

** Sorry, about 150mm (I think we’re still in Europe***

*** Although I suspect “metrification” and decimal currency will survive BREXIT.

Swallows flock to Mylor – it must be summer

My loyal readers (there are at last two of you) will recall that Riff Raff had arrived at Mylor, after wild ride on Terence, late on the Wednesday evening in the middle of the first week of July.  We parked “up the valley” and Riff Raff was rigged before dark. We stayed up the valley all night and launched after breakfast. Several other Swallows were launching too.

We had all arrived early for the Swallow Yachts “raid”* on the river Fal. Over the next couple of days more Swallows arrived, launched, sailed and tried to moor in the same small stretch of pontoon provided by the Mylor habour master. Tents were erected at the campsite, cottages and B&B’s occupied and the important code for the shower block was learnt by heart. Charts were perused, the racing rules for the week were examined and hulls were polished with secret concoctions.**

We met together in the local restaurant for the “welcome” meal, where we hailed people we recognised from previous years and welcomed new comers with ribald remarks. And, eventually to bed, to wake for breakfast and the briefing for the fist race. Riff Raffs chat plotter decided that racing was not for it, so failed to “initialise”. The snag is that the chart plotter is a single point of failure in the instruments. If it doesn’t work, there’s no depth sounder, so not only do you not know where you are, you also don’t know if you’re liable to run into the hard stuff. So, whilst the fleet went off racing, I spent an hour or so on the Garmin help line only to establish that the software needed updating. ‘Just download version xx to your PC, save it on a USB stick, transfer that to the plotter and turn it on – the new software will load itself’ said the helpful help desk.

But no PC was available.

To my great surprise, the Marina office allowed me to use one of their PC’s for this purpose and we were back in action by the middle of the afternoon.

I won’t bore you with the detail of the next few days – suffice to say that Riff Raff rapidly acquired the mantle of Vagabond and acted as “back marker” for the fleet. I took a few photographs but they were all pretty rubbish as you can see from this example:



Fortunately, there were other photographers present and you can find some of their work at 

There are even a few of Riff Raff!

At the end of the week, we recovered the boats to their trailers, derigged, packed up and drove out. Riff Raff was back at Northney by mid July, rigged and ready to go again. But first I had to get her tent and that’s another story.


*  For the uninitiated, a raid is a series of races under sail (rowing is allowed) for small boats, followed by periods of deep discussion, bragging and much quaffing of various beverages by the skippers and crew. Points are won in the races and w all know what points mean……

** Well, not the last part.***

*** As far as I know.

Motoring to Mylor and Martina reveals hidden depths.

A week ago last Wednesday, after an exciting academic meeting in London, a train journey interrupted by power failures and expanding track, some trailer repairs and a little domestic R & R, the skipper (aka your scribe) returned to Weymouth, in Martina, towing Terence and carrying clothes for a fortnight * and a set of Italian Carp waders. The intention was to haul Riff Raff up the town slip and onto Terence so that she could be taken to Mylor by road.

I had originally intended to sail her all the way – the interruption caused by the meeting had allowed the wind to change and what the forecast thought there would be was light Westerly for the next few days. “On the nose” as they say. The Italian Carp waders were (as I was advised) essential as the town slip in Weymouth is not flanked by a floating pontoon and there might be a need to wander around waist deep in water whilst persuading boat and trailer to get acquainted.

In the event, the Italian Carp waders were not required – the town slip had useful railings to which Riff Raff was secured whilst Martina manoeuvred Terence into position (in line with Riff Raff and just far enough down the slip for his tyres (but not the brake hubs) to get wet. Terence’s winch wire was wound out, hooked on to Riff Raff and the up button pressed** – hey presto! – up she rose onto his back.

An hour later, with mast lowered and all the bits of associated string made fast we were on our way westward, into quite a strong head wind. This proved a bit of a problem as the dreaded trailer sway kept occurring at ridiculously low speeds – only just over the speed limit for a car towing a trailer. During one particularly vicious bout, Martina suddenly applied her brakes in anti skid mode, first on one corner and then on another. The only control I had was through the steering wheel.

‘WTF’, I thought, ‘the bloody ABS has chosen to fail at this precise moment’. However, once we had slowed enough, Martina returned full control  to me and we carried on. It happened a few more times and I concluded that, somewhere in her software, she had found that she was towing a trailer and had invoked some anti sway routine. Do I trust it? Perhaps I should read the manual.

We evntually reached Mylor before dusk, parked”up the valley” and set about rigging Riff Raff again. The Ninja Warrior facilitated raising the mast and Riff Raff was ready for launching. But it was now dark so we spent the night on the hill.




*  two weeks for any US readers

**  Despite his agricultural appearance, Terence is quite sophisticated. He is fitted with a solar powered electric winch which goes by the name of “the Ninja Warrior”.

To Weymouth (3)

By now, my reader(s) must b wondering if Riff Raff has disappeared into myth, or perhaps turned into the Flying Dutchman. The discerning one will have noticed that my typing skills have returned to their normal state and misspellings and typos are returning to confuse you all.


The last post told of our sail to Poole; now we have to recount the voyage to Weymouth

We motored out of Poole early on a sunny, windless morning, passing the chain ferry without incident and along the entrance channel with no interference from Ferries. A sol fisherboat was entering the channel, with its usual escort of hopeful gulls. I was hopeful too – that a sea breeze would spring up so that Freddy2 could be silenced. Past Old Harry, breasting a little tide, hoping to get to St Alban head at slack water to avoid the overfalls from the off shore leadge.

Pas the yachts still dozing in the anchorage by Old Harry

P1020752 then on past Swanage, we crept along the coast, parting placid waters with our bow and shattering the peace with Freddy. A couple of Gulliemots passed overhead but no other wildlife appeared.

No sign of the tide when we approach St Albans point so we kept even closer to the shore, taking the inside passage (keep within 50 feet of the shore, say the pilot books). Still calm water – ahead and to port were the ominous very  swirls of the beginning of the tides rush to the west. Riff Raff twitched a few times but we were through. The bulk of Portland was ahead,so Weymouth must lie in the valley a little East of that. Now we can head straight for it.

It’s Monday. It means the Army is at work. Up comes the guardboat, urging us to head away to the South for half an hour to clear the range. In theory there’s no legal requirement to do this but I thought discretion was the order of the day and complied until they were out of sight, whereupon I resumed my course and speed for Weymouth.

Still no sign of a breeze, so Freddy 2 hammered away.

Away to the south west an ethereal shape started to emerge from the haze.P1020756 It hardened into a 3 masted sailing ship, with the yards all brailed up, making about 8 knots against the tide.

Then the guard boat rushed up again to give it (and us) our marching orders.

Thirty minutes later I resumed course for Weymouth – we didn’t see the guardboat again.

We inches our way to Weymouth, lunchtime came. Freddy 2 was shut down for a few minutes as I listened to the one o clock news (how traditional) and ate the sandwiches I had made the night before (cheese, marmite and tomato, if you must know).

We drifted in the hot sunshine, on a glass like sea (I was reminded of the verse from the Ancient Mariner):

“All in a hot and copper sky, the bloody sun at noon”

but I couldn’t remember having killed an albatross.

Freddy 2 was set to the task again. I called up the harbour master at Weymouth to ascertain that the Bridge would lift at four and we chugged on.

We sighted the mole and turned round it’s eastern end.

I was enchanted by the sight that met us:P1020759

I could almost imagine the harbour as it would have been at the beginning of the nineteenth century – the customs house on the right, ready to assess my cargo and examine my ships papers, the forest of masts of the various cargo and fishing boats on the wharves, the warehouses bulging with goods and the rummage gang already to pounce on suspect boats.

But it was a summer day in 2017, so we made our way unmolested and untroubled to the waiting pontoon. Soon the harbour bridge was lifted to let us through into the marina and we settled in silence to the heat of the afternoon.

As I had to go to London for a meeting the following weekend, this seemed a good place to pause the trip. I covered the cockpit with the purpose built cover, paid in advance for a weeks mooring and left by train the following morning.