Saturday, 5 July 2014

Life on board. Stranraer to Campbeltown part 1 of 3

A slightly delayed blog today, owning to the skipper having fallen asleep over his iPad while composing it last night!

Yesterday (Friday), the forecast was for moderate seas worsening to 'rough' (over 4m or 13feet) at times and with a strong wind warning with force 5 to 7. Rain expected, SW wind (about the only redeeming feature of the forecast). We intended to cross from Stranraer to Cambelltown, a passage of around 30nm of open sea, known for being influenced by the Mull of Kyntyre's fierce tides so with the poor weather and sea state this passage was not for the faint hearted. However, with a bit of careful tidal planning, a bad passage could be converted into a challenging one. We delayed slightly and left Stranraer at 1045 expecting to work the tides where possible and hoping for the 'rough' sea state forecast to be downgraded to 'moderate' as the synoptic charts suggested. But as always, we planned for the bad including identifying a (rather unattractive) port of refuge, and hoped for a 'not too uncomfortable' passage. Our confidence was not rewarded initially, as it rained heavily as soon as we made preparations to leave our comfortable berth, and indeed continued to do so on and off for much of the day. We could track the huge swathes of rain coming in on our radar, and rain in such quantities, locally called 'soft weather'  created a situation where any work was simply very wet. Notwithstanding this, the boat's design meant that no one needed foul weather gear at all. Remarkable. Indeed, our only enemy was the cold, which at 13 degrees and a strong 25knot wind meant that we were dressed accordingly. I understand he East coast of UK was having a 29 degree C heat wave. Ho hum! 

Fashion, of course, is important at such times. So, I attach two photos. Firstly one of me, modelling the latest snood and fleece combo, offset by a smart self inflating life jacket sporting strengthened harness point. In an early pre-trip experiment, I followed the complicated instructions to make the snood into a bandana. I was convinced that with poor light and a fleeting glance I might look like Brad Pitt in Seven years in Tibet. Oscar thought I just looked like a smurf.

Secondly, I shall post a picture of the Dynamic Duo fearlessly tackling the raging seas. Shackleton move over. Chris is modelling the latest edition of board shorts and eyepiece accessories with life jacket subtley hidden (please don't write in) creating the merest nuance of rugged danger, while Andy shows his commanding demeanour at the helm with his own competing range of buffs, this one having a repeating skull motif in azure contrasting with the rouge solidity of his elegant jacket. It's a pity that this vision of elegance was witnessed only by the birds. Voting for the best dressed mariner will start at 1400 GMT.

And so, back to the passage. The seas were at the larger end of 'moderate' at times, and 'rough' was indeed downgraded. It rained, and rained a bit more, and the boat sailed beautifully on a stable and comfortable course at 8 knots or so, with a second reef in the main and full genoa, then just the first reef, then none at all as the wind dropped to F3 to F5. Modern cats like to surf, and during the more spicy part if the passage we briefly witnessed our speed at 14 knots over the ground as we surfed down a rather large wave, indeed rather too large for comfort. At 1700, pretty close to plan, we reached Campbeltown marina who had fitted us in at short notice, quite a feat given our size and beam, and their modest facilities. The staff were brilliant, although we were moved, in the exact middle of our berthing manoeuvre, to another position, rafted up against a large motor boat. The owner, Jan, was on board and having ascertained we were not going to damage his vessel, was very friendly, asking us on board for a beer. After such a succesful day of spectacular and challenging sailing, we accepted his kind offer and chilled before a shore raid on the local co op and then repaired to a splendid supper at the Royal hotel. A fantastic day with great friends.

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