Circumnavigation – last legs

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Where did the summer go?  It’s September and I’ve already heard the ‘C’ word mentioned at least twice now and yet its more than 100 days to go.  I have been unbelievably busy this summer and that is my excuse for not putting any posts up for ages.  Anyway, I’m here now and I thought this post ought to be an update on the Circumnavigation of the British Isles, which started back in May.

Well, despite a couple of weeks of being stuck in harbour due to bad weather, the Botnia Targa arrived in Neyland Yacht Haven at the end of June – that is a pretty quick circumnavigation if you ask me!

I took the picture above as we left Neyland Yacht Haven on the leg to Padstow.  It would have been possible to get from Milford Haven to Falmouth in one hit but we both wanted to take a peek at PadStein and both the timings and weather were perfect to go for this option.  The harbour at Padstow has a lock and the Doom Bar in the estuary of the Camel River can get pretty treacherous in strong westerlies, so the light northerly which pushed us along and a latest arrival time of 4pm, meant we were definitely heading for a Rick Stein supper!

This next shot is us departing Milford Haven with St Ann’s Head in the distance and Thorn Island to left of centre:

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We had a lovely run down, with a slight to moderate sea and a light following wind. Wall to wall sunshine simply added to the enjoyment – I even enjoyed my supermarket sandwiches, which on a grey day would surely have tasted of cardboard!

You know, I can’t remember how long it took us to get down there but we arrived so early that we had to wait for the tide to come up before we could get into the harbour. With this in mind, we slowed right down as we approached the river mouth and pootled along enjoying the scenery – it really is very pretty.

Approaching the Camel River:

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In the estuary:

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… I wonder which came first, the Bar or the Beer?

and here’s Padstow Harbour in all it’s prettiness, with us tied up on the left of centre.

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A trawler which came in shortly after we had finished tying up:

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and here’s the restaurant we ate at – couldn’t get into a Rick Stein restaurant after all 😦

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The next day, we were up with the gulls and headed off on the penultimate leg of the circumnavigation – Falmouth.

We were so lucky with the weather; even lighter winds and more sunshine.  It was going to be a long day but with such good conditions how could we possibly complain?

Running south along the North Cornish coastline, we could see Lundy in the distance. Sadly, too far in the distance for my iThingy to get a decent picture but I did manage to get some footage of dolphins chasing the boat! I’m sorry it’s not brilliant footage but I was so excited I could barely hold the phone steady.

I guess the ensuing chatter about the dolphins helped us forget the miles but whatever it was, Land’s End soon came into view.  After a peek at the chart and a quick discussion we took the decision to go ‘inside’ rather than ‘outside’.  This meant going between Kettle’s Bottom and Dr Johnson’s Head, the promontory upon which the visitor centre is perched.

Here’s the approach:

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and here’s what it looks like from the other side:

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So, Land’s End rounded,  just the Lizard to go round and then a straight run into Falmouth:

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Approaching Falmouth, we had a great view down the south coast to the East:

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What a lovely couple of days we’d had.  Superb boating conditions, great scenery, dolphins, fabulous food and of course, great company!  Before we knew it we were motoring gently through the harbour and up the river towards Falmouth Marina:

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Sadly, I wasn’t able to do the last leg across to Jersey but within the week the Circumnavigation of the British Isles was complete!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

 

 

Skipper’s Tips #15 – Whether the weather is hot…

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This subject is truly extensive.  There are a huge number of books that have been written about weather and there are many, many people far more knowledgeable than I, who can wax lyrical about world weather systems.  That said, I do know some of the pertinent bits and that’s what I hope to pass on to you today. 

It goes without saying that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather.  Nobody wants to be caught out in bad weather and frankly, with so much good quality forecasting these days, it’s almost inexcusable.  Weather forecasts can be found in newspapers, on the radio and on the television, on regular VHF broadcasts, on the internet, but even easier than all these options, try using ‘Mk 1 eyeball’; stick your head out of the window!

Essentially, as boaters, the weather we need to know about falls into three categories.

  1. Depressions
  2. Sea breezes
  3. Fog

Depressions occur when warm, wet wind crossing the Atlantic, picking up moisture as it goes, comes into contact with the Polar Front, which lies generally to the north of our latitudes.  The cold Polar winds will get underneath these rising, warm, wet winds from the southwest and set up an anti-clockwise, upwards spiral of wind.  As the warm, wet winds rise, they cool. Cold air isn’t capable of carrying as much moisture as warm air and so eventually, the moisture is released as precipitation – that’s rain to you and me.  The difference in air pressure from the outer edge of the depression to the inner centre varies hugely over relatively short distances – we can see this when we look at synoptic weather charts showing the clustering of isobars around the centre of the depression. These tightly packed isobars indicate the large pressures gradients involved, which to you and me essentially means strong winds.  In fact, the closer together the isobars, the stronger the winds.  If you can get hold of a print out of a synoptic chart, there should be a scale on it, which will allow you to measure the precise wind speeds.

Here’s something to consider the next time you get a chance to look at a synoptic chart. In the Northern Hemisphere, the wind cycles anti-clockwise around a low and clockwise around a high.  So, if you get a High and a Low next to each other the wind is likely to be great where they meet as you will have two wind systems effectively going in the same direction.  However, when you get two Low’s next to each other, they cancel each other out at the point at which they meet.  The resulting wind, at this point, will most likely be light and variable in direction.

If we know what to look for we should be able to spot a weather system coming and this will allow us to make an informed decision on whether to go to sea or not.  So, what does an approaching depression look like and what are the clues?

The classic timeline of a depression moving through is as follows:

  • Falling barometer
  • Lowering cloud base
  • Rain
  • Reducing visibility
  • Complete cloud cover
  • Veering (clockwise) change in wind direction as the warm front arrives
  • Steadying barometer
  • Easing of the rain to a continuous lighter rain or drizzle, in the warm sector
  • Rising barometer, as the cold front arrives
  • Thunder clouds, often with the thunder
  • Gusty winds
  • Showery rain
  • Veering wind direction
  • Crystal clear skies, with fluffy white clouds
  • Excellent visibility

Keep your eye on the barometer.  Make a regular note of the readings when you fill in your deck log and you will instantly notice a change.  A fall of 6mb in a two-hour period means head for port; there’s some bad weather due soon.

Clearly, given the basic level of our weather forecasting skills (up to Yachtmaster level), I would still recommend that you also compare what the traditional weather sources are telling you with your new found skill of being able to spot a depression – the weather we experience in and around the UK is very varied and subject to quick changes. Weather systems continually speed up and slow down, often arriving early or not at all.  

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Sea breezes occur on sunny, summer days, when rapidly rising air, which has been warmed by the land heating up, sucks in air from the sea, producing the onshore breeze.  The rising air eventually cools, falling back down over the sea and so the process continues until the evening when the sun goes in.

Katabatic wind is the wind that blows out to sea from the land. As the land, which during the day was hot, cools down, it cools the air above it. This, now heavy, cool air tumbles down the hillsides and coastal cliffs, rushing out to sea.  This wind effect doesn’t last particularly long and personally, I’ve only experienced this in the Med. 

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Fog is caused when warm, wet air gets chilled revealing the moisture content as fog. The classic example of this is in coastal UK waters in Spring, we call this Advection Fog or more affectionately, Sea Fog . The waters around the UK are at their coldest at this time. As the warm, moist air coming across the Atlantic meets the cold waters around the UK, the chilling effect reveals the moisture as fog.  It can often burn off by mid-afternoon but occasionally it can hang around for a few days until the wind direction changes and the temperature differential changes.  I’ve seen waves of fog plague islands in the early Summer months and even in August on Jersey one time when I was delivering a new boat to a customer and got fog-bound myself. 

Radiation Fog or Land Fog, as some call it, happens mostly in the Autumn months. After a warm, sunny September day, the land, which has been warming up during the day, will chill down quickly under clear skies.  This chilling cools the air lying over the ground, which in a Katabatic Wind style, tumbles down into valleys and estuaries where it meets warm, moist air lying over streams and rivers.  The chilling effect of this cold air produces the fog – which gives us those romantic looking photographs that people like me love to capture.

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Please don’t base your boating plans on a forecast you had five days ago – 12 to 24 hour forecasts are going to be the most accurate and this is what you should be looking at before you decide to head down to your boat. Then, before setting off on your journey, get the latest forecast as published by the marina.  Remember too, that the weather you’re feeling inside the marina will often bear no relation to what’s actually going on at sea.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

 

New Beginnings

On a sunny Tuesday in May, I was back to Italy one last time, to complete the handover of the boat I’d been skippering for the previous year.  It was absolute chaos, as the refurbishment had started and there were people, equipment, tools, food, shoes and plans scattered everywhere.  In the middle of all this madness I was trying to remember what needed work doing to it, what needed replacing and all the time I was showing the new owner how his new toy worked.

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Here’s Gary doing his bit with some of the water pipes that had perished.

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And here’s the remnants of the food shopping to be put away and also the impromptu office where we were going through the work details and the handover – the only bit of free space on the boat it seems.

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As most of you will know, I’m a tad anal about keeping things tidy but at the same time as I was stressing about the carnage, it was wonderful to see the boat getting a new lease of life.  When the work is complete she will be back to her former magnificence and ready for the coming season.

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What I certainly wasn’t expecting, was the new owner’s two friends who came along for a spot of sun and to spend some time practising their musical skills.  I had no idea what a treat we were in for when Kim and Billy walked out of arrivals at Naples airport with a guitar each.

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Here they are, giving it plenty on the flybridge!

Time to say goodbye…

It wasn’t long before my visit was over and I was heading back. I just had to get a couple of snaps of the Alps as we flew over and if you ask Dan I’m sure he’ll confirm that you have to get one or more Obligatory Wing Shots whenever you fly somewhere!

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It’ll be sad not being on the boat in Italy this summer but I’ve already got some exciting adventures lined up for the coming season, not least, assisting one of my customers to circumnavigate the UK in his Botnia Targa, now that will be worth reading about, surely?

Giving you confidence

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So, my contract in Italy on the 76 footer has finally come to an end and I am now back on Jersey full time.

Operating as a true freelance captain and RYA instructor again, I am now fully available to offer a whole range of skipper services to anyone who needs help building the confidence you need to safely take your friends and family out boating with you.

  • If you want to brush up on some rusty skills or you simply want a skipper to handle the boat while you enjoy the ride, then I’m your man
  • If you are studying the theory and it’s not making sense, then I’m your man
  • If you need an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) assessment, then I’m your man
  • If you need your boat delivering somewhere, then I’m your man
  • If you want to take clients out to give them a good time, then I’m your man

I’ve recently taught two separate Yachtmaster Theory candidates who were taking distance learning courses and they both tell me that they truly benefited from spending a few days on a one to one basis with me prior to taking their exams.  So whether that’s you or you’d just prefer to learn about the theory behind navigation, safety and etiquette on the water, give me a call and we can discuss times to suit you.

With summer truly on the way, it’s time to get the boat washed off and start planning those trips.  However, if it’s been a while since you were last out on the water, you might be feeling a little low in the confidence stakes.  Spend a few days buzzing around the marina with me and your confidence will come racing back and you’ll be good to go.  If you are intending to visit France this summer and you don’t have an ICC, then I can take you through the requirements and assess you as we go – much easier than taking a test I’m sure!

Perhaps you just want to sit back and let someone else take the strain.  Leave the driving to me and you can enjoy the time relaxing with your family and friends instead of worrying about tide times, mooring on an unfamiliar berth or going to that marina you’ve never been to before.  Impress your clients with a trip out on your boat and let a professional captain and crew make it work seamlessly for you.

I have many, many years of world wide cruising experience and teaching under my belt – let me share this with you and give you the confidence to properly enjoy your boating.

Sarky Sunday!

OK, so it’s Sunday, there’s a gentle breeze wafting across the island from the south, it’s a little over cast but the forecast is for sun later, what do you do next? Well, let me tell you – you get on a boat with seven other people and you go to Sark for lunch of course!

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It was a little lumpy on the way up to Corbiere but nothing we couldn’t cope with and then, once we turned the corner it was an easy run straight up to Havre Gosselin.  This is a super little bay on the West coast of Sark, just at the point where Sark and Brecqhou meet (actually, there’s a small channel that separates them but you know what I mean).

Picking up the mooring buoy was a breeze, as was getting ashore on the jet-rib but climbing up the zig-zag path to the Pilcher Monument at the top was not such a breeze, especially if you are as unfit as me it seems! It is definitely not the sort of hike to be attempted if you have heart issues but most people could make it to the top with a few stops to get their breath back I’m sure.

From the moment it flattened out, we broke into a brisk walk, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of an island devoid of mechanised transport (except for the tractors of course). In fact, we reckon the most noise came from our footsteps and the wind – how delightful.

It’s only a ten minute walk to the high street which, compared to previous visits, was looking a tad quiet.  Mind you, it was early May, so perhaps it’ll pick up later in the season.

There’s a visitor centre just before you get to town and Mandy simply couldn’t resist looking down the barrel of the canon…

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There’s always one who has to do this, isn’t there?

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We also needed a comfort break by now.  If ever you go to Sark and you need the loo, they are this way…

After a brief stroll down the high street, we headed for the hotel where we were meeting for lunch.  The Stocks Hotel is an oasis in the centre of the island, providing top notch accommodation and exquisite food to go with it.

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We tried the locally caught lobster and enjoyed every single mouthful. Sitting in the afternoon sun, sipping Sancerre and chatting with some lovely friends, has to be the most wonderful way to spend a Sunday.  Anyway, all good things eventually come to an end, so we took a leisurely stroll back towards the boat.

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Here’s a tower we saw en route.

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and here’s a cat!

At the monument, we started our decent and it’s at this time, every time I visit Sark by this route in fact, that I’m glad the return journey is down hill and not up!

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That’s the boat we came on – the one in the bay there, next to the other ones… long way down isn’t it?

Once we’d all got back to the boat, we strapped the rib on the back, untied the mooring line and we were off.  An hour later and we pulled onto the berth in Elizabeth Marina and that was us back in Jersey.

The next time you’re wondering what to do on Sunday…

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.

 

Skipper’s Tips #14 – Picking Up A Buoy

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These principles work equally well for yachts and motor boats alike. However, there is a caveat to the lassoing technique. I found this out when picking up a buoy in Cowes Roads once.  If you change your mind and decide not to pick up the mooring buoy, when you let the temporary line go – the one you’ve just lassoed the buoy with – you must throw the loose end well to the side before you start to pull it on board, as there is a very good chance that the tide will sweep the line past the buoy and free end will crossover the end of the line still attached to the boat, causing it to knot and subsequently making it exceedingly difficult to get away from the buoy.

Picking up a mooring buoy can be a little tricky at times, especially if it’s windy, the tide is running hard or there isn’t a pick-up line?  The simple solution is to set up a ‘lasso’…

Ask your crew to tie a mooring line to both forward cleats, lead the line around the outside of the ‘pulpit’, then coil the line up into fairly small coils – easier to throw – and split it into two coils. Standing at the bow, the crew can then guide whoever is helming towards the mooring buoy. Approach the buoy into wind or tide, or a combination of the two, whichever will allow you to gently come to halt and hover by the buoy whilst the crew throw the line over it. The line will now sink around the buoy and as you start to drift backwards and will capture the buoy by it’s chain.

This is only a temporary solution – the chain will eventually saw through the mooring line and you will drift off but it does take the pressure off the helmsman by saving them the trouble of having to dance around the buoy while the crew try to put a line through a tiny eye a metre or more below the deck height.

Now that you ‘attached’ to the mooring buoy, you are in a position to pull yourselves closer to the buoy with the temporary line and reach down to put a proper line through the eye on the top of the buoy.  Alternatively, you could get the tender out and motor round to the front of your boat and put the proper line through from a more friendly height.

Another method in light wind and tide conditions, but without a pickup line, is to pass the mooring line through the eye on the buoy at the stern of your boat, or for yachts, amidships. Ask your crew to tie the mooring line on at the bow, pass the line through the forward fairlead, keeping the line outside the rail and then down the deck to the stern. Now, motor towards the buoy, again into wind or tide as explained previously but as you get to the buoy creep past it, so that you stop with the buoy just forward of the stern. Your crew member, standing on the bathing platform, holding the mooring line, can now easily reach the eye on the buoy. They pass the line through the eye and walk up the side deck with the line, which is then attached at the bow as normal. Whilst the crew walks the line forward, the boat will slowly drift backwards and you will end up in the correct mooring position, just as the crew ties the line onto the forward cleat.

Beware though, some of these mooring buoys bite! They can be metal, rusty, big, heavy and have sharp bits. If you intend to attach yourself to a buoy by having a crew member pass the line through at the stern, I suggest you select the buoy with care, or put your boat on the ‘down wind’ or ‘down tide’ side of the buoy, so you aren’t drifted onto it as you drift back.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.