Thankfully, the long awaited summer months are now with us and all of us who have grafted shivering through the winter sleet can take a step back to enjoy the fruits of our labours. I for one, am going to try to get as much time on the beach or on Macavity as I can possibly get away with this year. None of us know for sure how much time we have left in this world, it’s a good thing to bear in mind sometimes when the temptation of earning a few extra pounds on a sunny weekend presents itself!
As I’m not going to be hiding from winter gales in my house of an evening any more, there probably won’t be so much activity here in the way of posts until the Autumn. I will however be trying to put together some short films of any trips I go on with my groovy little waterproof Nikon. These will go onto www.youtube.com under my user name of “shoestringsailor”. There are already a couple of rather shaky beginners efforts of mine on there, I hope to improve.
I’m still after contributions from readers about their own projects (ongoing or completed) for a new page which I shall imaginatively title “Readers Projects”. Anybody that would like to send in a few photos with a brief description of their work and voyages would be very welcome. Especially if your project happens to be an old Rayner Westerly.
I’ve been using the shoestringsailing winter project dinghy for servicing my swing mooring and the odd trip around the Exe recently. I have to say, I’m very pleased with her indeed. Such an agile, stable little boat born from such a pile of old detritus is hard to believe really. I’m still none the wiser as to what the original hull was though, so if anyone knows, please let me in on it.
The little green £75 wonder.
I’ve had some very nice people say some very nice things about my site recently. This chap Simon has sent me the story of his first day sail in his first small cruiser… uncannily similar to mine! Perhaps this sort of thing happens to all of us when we first venture forth on our wobbly way to becoming “sailors”. Anyhow, as a problem shared seems to genuinely make things less embarrassing, I thought I should put his story out on here. Hope that’s ok Simon. Thanks.
I love hearing stories of people’s first adventures at sea. Especially when it’s done on a shoestrings budget. It gives great encouragement and confidence to those of us with limited means wishing to join in and do the same. You can be forgiven for thinking that sailing is only accessible to the retired or wealthy when visiting harbours, as I did for years.
Your first tentative journeys are very reminiscent of my own adventure aboard my first boat back in 2003.
As most of us have done, I would lean on the railings watching the boats from the harbour wall and think “that must be fun, and really, how hard could it be?” So after the usual soul searching that besmirches all first timers, I dived in and bought a boat. An Achilles.
After purchasing all the missing necessary’s (so i thought!!!) and pottering up and down the harbour for a few days getting used to handling the boat, with a big smile, raising and lowering sails etc I got ready to push out further afield. Confident in my preparations, I headed out to sea for the first time in great weather.
Porthmadog harbour is a few miles from the entrance to the estuary (and bar) and you only have one and a half to two hours either side of high tide to get in or out. Added to this the channel is constantly changing throughout the season and my newly acquired drying mooring only allowed us to head out safely two and a half hours before HW. This meant that if I wanted to make it back to the mooring on the same tide I would only have an hour or so at best out in the bay beyond the bar.
When I think about it Porthmadog really isn’t the ideal first timers safest choice to set sail from on their own. I’ve seen so many people high and dry over the year and it’s a wonder that given my level of seamanship at the time that the only damage done on this trip was to my nerves.
After you’ve sailed in and out half a dozen times or so it becomes a matter of routine, but this was my first time (for everything!) I got such an adrenaline rush in those first few miles negotiating moorings, rocks (real and imagined) buoys, other yachts and the dreaded jet ski’s. Plus whist this was going on I was struggling to control and sail the boat against 3 knts of tide. By the time I reach the fairway buoy I was absolutely stressed and knackered and now the wind was building. (Not forecast!)
As we had made slow progress and this was a maiden run with no intentions of heading further afield. I had to spin her round and do it all again. Immediately!
This is when I learnt what “wind over tide, lee shore, engine failure and out of your depth” means. All at the same time! As my dolphin inboard started, revved, spluttered and died. I had a few rants and raves, and a couple of why me’s, and a bit of a bottom tremble, and then I pulled myself together and got to work.
Luckily I had a mercury 4 HP as back up. I started it, dropped the main, reefed the Genoa and headed for home, buttocks clenched! As I reached the bar the sea grew lumpy but not as bad as I had expected and we soon pushed through into calmer water and safety.
In reality it was a perfect day for sailing even with the unexpected change in the weather and engines fail from time to time. I was struggling because I was at the limits of my ability and experiencing the unknown.
I made it back safely to my mooring, no dramas or notable incidents, but before I locked up and headed for the pub I had made a list of lessons learnt and equipment needed. A very long list. Number 1: autopilot……. Number 2: book a day skipper course…… 3: sailing is a bit harder than I thought……etc.
I’ve found over the years that this is usually the time when a surprisingly large number of novice sailors find an excuse to either sell up or turn their beautiful pride and joys into floating static caravans.
Not me! I grew a bigger pair and set out again weekend after weekend until eventually I “unclenched” and had lots and lots of fun.
My advice to anyone on a shoestring budget is to sit down with a pen and paper and calculate what you can reasonably afford and go for it.
Having spent a much needed week up in Scotland larking about on snowy mountains and spending some time with old friends, the long and painful drive back to Devon was livened up somewhat when we stopped at Birmingham services for an extortionately priced cappuccino and twix power meal. My eyes did wander to the w.h smiths magazine rack and there before me was my own little story of my first real small boating adventure in Macavity back in 2011. It’s only a little two page piece that has been edited down somewhat from the epic novel it once was, but even so, it’s quite a thrill to see some of your own words in print and on sale. Thanks very much Practical Boat Owner, you made my Monday morning a lot less boring. (Got a really nice piece of Dick Everitt artwork for my efforts too)
Recognition at last! Might do a few more if I get time.