I have just spent a week on Spellbinder on sea trials, testing the new systems installed over the winter and making sure everything was working after the winter break. I was joined by Neil and Paul who came down to help me not only with the sailing but also to help me with a few boat jobs – thank you guys, much appreciated! They were in for an interesting time…
The first morning was spent going up the mast in a bosun’s chair to check the rigging and victualing and refuelling. I realised that I hadn’t yet re-fuelled Spellbinder as last season we only used 300 or so litres of her 450-litre capacity. So, some £300 lighter I now have full tanks, and I hope not to have to re-fuel until the Autumn at the latest.
300 litres takes a while to pump!
We left with the tide just before lunch, beating up the Solent in 12 knots and anchoring in Osborne Bay for lunch in time-honoured fashion. We also took the opportunity to let out all the anchor chain, to check its condition and for me to ensure that the end of the chain was properly secured by rope, which you can cut in an emergency. All was as it should be. After lunch we beat down the western Solent and had a cup of tea in Alum Bay in the shadow of the Needles, before going into Yarmouth for the night, and eating out in the Bugle, which I can recommend. Neil had bought a bottle of cognac from near his house in France, while Paul had brought cake – both going down well over the course of the week.
The next day saw us take advantage of some easterlies forecast for later in the week by getting up at 5am and heading east to Brighton, a 50 NM passage which we did largely on a beam reach with strong spring tides. With a couple of reefs in the main and genoa we made fast progress, passing south of Selsey Bill in some occasionally fairly rough seas, averaging well over 8 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground). We arrived through a choppy harbour entrance for lunch and shared a well-deserved bottle of Muscadet. A siesta was followed by some boat jobs – I wanted to fix a ‘Hatch Latch’ to the washboards, which locks them in place in bad weather and can be operated from inside the saloon. Paul kindly supervised the drilling and put up a new clock and barometer while Neil replaced a faded decal (sticker) on the side of the yacht and fixed a fishing rod holder (see last blog post). We had a quiet evening, watching the weather improve, the barometer rise, and the forecast easterlies begin to set in.
The crew hard at work
A smart new decal
The ‘Hatch Latch’ in place
Taking the ebb the following lunchtime, we headed back west in light airs, getting out the ‘beast’ sail (125 m2 Parasailor) for its second outing in my ownership. I had a learnt a bit from its first time out and this time rigged two guys via a block on the bowsprit, in addition to its sheets. We sailed it without the main up. It took a while to sort out the lines but it proved to be an excellent, stable sail which needs about 8-10 knots when going dead downwind to be effective. It also preferred to fly with a bias to one side or the other, and we flew it up to 18 knots true without difficulty. We also tried to use the Hydrovane to steer, as this is the likely trade wind rig I will use. The Hydrovane needed a bit of tweaking and we need to practice a bit more, but we had some good results. We repaired into Gosport to our home berth for the night after an enjoyable sail.
The Parasailor making a steady 6-7 knots in 12 knots of breeze
The next morning the anti-cyclone had properly settled in and we motored around to Chichester on the tide, going up the 3 channels to Emsworth, Thorney and Itchenor, picking up buoys to have a coffee and lunch. We then anchored off East Head and deployed the dinghy and Torqueedo electric outboard to go ashore and have a stroll.
Playing with the dinghy and electric and outboard off East Head
A happy looking skipper…
The journey back was eventful to say the least. We had seen a lot of lobster pots on our trip to Brighton and back and were on the lookout for them – when sailing, with Spellbinder’s propeller folded, there is less of a chance to catch one but motoring is a different ball-game. We were motoring west into a setting sun….
…and missed one. We experienced a jolt and when I cut the engine the steering was heavy and floating from the stern was a grey plastic engine oil container attached to twine. We were now firmly attached to the seabed. We tried sailing off but there was no wind, so anchored and gave the situation some thought. We were not far off the main shipping lane into Portsmouth, not far from one of the Solent forts. We cut the line, trying to push the line down and away, but remained firmly stuck. I had a choice of asking for assistance or waiting for a day or two for wind – and unsurprisingly the former prevailed. It wasn’t a ‘Pan Pan’ but a polite ask on Channel 67, but Solent Coastguard nevertheless quickly tasked the lifeboat which arrived and towed us in, eventfully. This is the first time I have ever had to ask for assistance – and I regret not signing the Cruising Association’s petition against the menace of these unmarked pots. I do wonder whether it is lack of funding that prevents those that lay them using a more visible colour – or perhaps they simply don’t want others to spot their activity? Something must be done…
The offending pot. Very sea-coloured – the Navy use the same colour to camouflage their ships!
We had got back to Gosport after an interesting tow in time to make a well-deserved curry and lick our wounds, reflecting on a week which had, on balance, been great fun and good experience. Thanks to the good people at Fort Blockhouse and Hornet, the following morning I was able to arrange a tow around to a travel hoist and lift Spellbinder to get the rope removed, which was firmly around the propshaft. Thank you to RNSA, HSSC and the JSASTC who all played their part. One silver lining to this unscheduled lift out was that I was able to check the state of anodes and note to my satisfaction that the Coppercoat had prevented any sort of fouling.
Neil stayed with me to get Spellbinder around to Cowes. We moored in the RYS Haven and in the morning dressed Spellbinder ‘overall’ as it was HM’s birthday. Neil departed and we attended the Camrose weekend, listening to various entertaining speakers and having a very sociable time. In sum, a pleasing week which has given me renewed confidence in Spellbinder, and a clearer idea of the jobs which remain between now and our scheduled departure in July. I suspect ground rush will now happen…
Spellbinder dressed overall in Cowes