What about the boat?

Arctic joy, my so far trusty vessel, has done exceedingly well, she is a day sailor a Hawk 20, designed and built by Reid Marine , Christchurch England (www.hawk20.co.uk). When I first sailed on her when she was being used by Exe Sailing Club in Exmouth Devon as a volunteer with their sailability scheme. I looked and sailed her with various groups on the river Exe and also out to sea towards Dawlish and was impressed. About an 8ft long cockpit, and thought this boat is built well and could do alot…. ok we sneakily fell in love and so i dreamt a dream of sailing her to the Arctic and named her Arctic Joy hoping a good trip would ensue. Realizing the size of the trip, well ok getting a glimpse of what it could be like to sail an open boat so far, I set about training and that meant going sailing, bearing in mind i did my RYA dinghy level 3 only 6 months before buying the boat… The learning curve would be steep, and occasionally jagged with bitey like teeth, which bit, but was fun and fascinating, I was hooked. Now 2 years after buying her, here I sit in Denmark on the isle of Mon preparing for the next leg up the East Coast of Sweden, which looks like being fairly rocky judging my stack of charts from Iver Weilbach in Copenhagen…

Back to the boat…. She is 20ft long, with an 80kg aluminium centre board, and also ballasted with lead. She is self righting, and yes I have tested it.. Twice!! She has a cunning spinnaker tube through the bow, with snuffer too,a beautiful striped ash and chestnut i think rudder, though don’t quote me. A 5hp 2 stroke outboard, which sits inboard,with chocks so i can close the outboard well. On the last leg our trim was appalling, due to so much weight in the fathomless bow locker, though this year I have installed new lockers in the stern, hopefully I can store 2wks food in each side and maybe a rum or 2?? That being the modern system, liquid movable ballast.. The boat came with a new main, and I had a slightly bigger jib made, which I find balances the boat more betterer, My spinnaker is getting tatty but patched now, so tempted for a union jack one from Exe Sails and Covers.. They make good sails.. This year I have adapted my boom so I now have 3 solid reefs, all of which come down to cam clutches at the foot of the mast, more lines than most yachts have (11), but when single handed, ease of use, and knowing the set up, and to trust it and not have to use the rams horn whilst being battered, as when I use the 3rd reef it will be blowing probably a six, that being for the landlubbers reading a Beaufort scale force 6, 22 to 27 knts or 39 – 49kph. Alot of wind to be out in a dinghy? The boat copes well and i feel safe and confident in her, though beating in the Baltic with the short sharp swell in usually a fairly wet affair, but come on, it is a water sport, get used to it or stay on land, but good kit is good.

What gear do I use this year?

Musto.      Mpx Jacket ( good solid jacket that gets better with reproofing, an awesone collar and hood. BR2 sallopettes, getting worn but good and for this year I have made space for my arctic pro jacket, as who knows how far I get back next year..

Typhoon PS330 drysuit. I cant stress enough the comfort they bring, It does what it says, to stay dry with waves breaking down the boat 3hrs from next safe harbour keeps me alive. Have also used it on yachts.. Buy the best kit you can afford, as when you depend on it, it has to work.

Yak. Touring kayak cag with cuff seals and good hood, could do wit an xxl, but only for my shoulders, but they don’t ,make em for beefy paddlers???

Palm. Dry trousers which do just that, and my adapted rescue 850 boiuyancy aid, with harness line attachment point. Though after my first capsize whislt clipped on, I don’t use it as my movement is too limited, especially with my mainsheet in the centre of the cockpit.

Merino. Lots of Merino. all underlayers, plus some mid layers, even an icebreaker jacket. Fabulous material..

Pertex. not down which is useless when wet. I have musto ski trousers, Rab jacket, Mountain Hardwear jacket, Musto jacket… It also works, windproof, and shower proof, but not immersion proof.. it is all about the layers…

Dry bags and barrels…. 5 30 litre bluechemical barrels, 2 which live in the cockpit, and lots of dry bags. Everything must be double bagged, most are from Overboard, but also various others are there too..

SAFETY GEAR…

Grab back… More than enough flares, fully charged DSC handheld radio, urgent engine spares, emergency water, chocolate, spare meals, compass mirror, large first aid kit (an adapted Lifesytems mountain leader pack) and other odds.

General onboard kit includes, two Cobra handheld hh350 radios, Garmin 84s handheld gps, though not for navigating, but used when needed , but not great battery life, spare etrex gps, more flares, including an electric one with an 8hr battery life. I can charge radios as have 12v battery and 2 solar panels, quite important for the speakers and mp3 players. multiple as salt water kills shit.. and lost one on first capsize.. smart phone with navionics for planning tool, though not on deck when sailing, fuji film xp90 camera, theorettically water proof, soon to be tested, couple of anchors, 2 garmin virb cameras. And finally my Kannard marine SAFELINK SOLO PLB, my emergency positioning beacon, hopefully it will never be used, but if in  utter danger of life it is there, wether I use it in that case we will see.. Well others will put there life on the line for me. Why should I put someone else in danger.? I am not suicidal, and I know the risks, I take calculated risks and am aware that if or more realistically  when I fuck up, it could be painful..  I learn everytime I go sailing. I wanna sail alot, all over…. I don’t plan to fuck up, but I may, or is Sinbad gonna push me?

So now I sit here, with 2 Admiralty planning charts on the wall of the Gulf of Bothnia, and a stack of charts, with some still to come and a couple of harbour guides, cunningly in Swedish.. but they come with pictures, which some say are worth a thousand words, so I can have some idea of the harbour as single handed berthing is all about preparation, lines and fenders ready. I always set up for port or starboard, if on  a pontoon and always have two bow and stern lines set up, and a midships line too with a karribeener, usually for those days when i should of stayed in bed. The Northern European Pole births are fairly tricky with a beam wind, but practice, and then some more makes it easier, and a day to day job.. I may try to film one, but no guarantees on that.. As my technichal ability is worse than my sailing I will probably delete it instead of sending it!

Time for a Danish Easter beer and finish sewing my sail cover..

 

 

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I need to go back to sea

Hello again… long time no post.

I hate technology…. That is why i sail on charts, with a bit of backup,with my handheld gps..Always got to have a back up system, and maybe a back up for that too.

Here we are, on the island of Mon in Denmark. It is February there is water and wind and i really need to go sailing. Boat realistically should be in the water and ready. But no. Arctic Joy is still in the water sat in Kalvehave needing love and bits, Slowly I collect the bits and just have to put the puzzle together.  More of that later…

So far the plan for 2017… After the north sea, I have decided to head up the Baltic instead, is that the arctic you ask? well no, not quite. If I get to the top of the Baltic around the Swedish Finnish border, I should get to about 65 deg and 30 minutes north. The last part well fuck it I will walk. Ok for those who don’t know i was planning to go for the coast of Norway, and go play up there, but no. In my 20ft little wee boat with only an 80kg centre board, no cabin and a drunk cat called Sinbad, bollox to that. The North sea is a wild and beautiful place, but with prevailing SW winds it makes for a fine lee shore, littered with rocks and for my liking not enough safety. I like the odd risk or why would I be here? But I want to survive this. Attempting to get up the west coast of Denmark was, well lets say exciting enough that I had to bail out after on the 4th attempt to get to the  Limfjord from Hvide Sand (white sand) I hit a pallet and managed to attach it to my centreboard. I was about 3 miles off shore, off a lovely lee shore with 2m swell and breakers on the beach. It necessitated a little swim, and proved a theory that to use a hammer under water is, well you try it…. Brute strength and fear got me out of that one.

Now i try to prepare… betterer than last time. I have finally managed to source my charts from Iver Weilbech in Copenhagen, I have never before helped by so many suits when I ventured to there office in the city with my wish list of charts.. Some English suppliers could not supply my wishes, again, but these guys thumbs up. Then there is the boat jobs list… mmmm, well we nibble away. New hatches in my ‘engine bay’ for food storage and maybe some illicit supplies for Sinbad. It means removing buoyancy, as am hoping for at least 2 weeks food each side. With this I am hoping to improve the trim as I carry alot of stuff up in my bow locker, maybe too much, but have to be prepared for well anything and have had a 5%  at least incline towards the bow, which the short sharp Baltic waves punish me severely especially upwind when the waves slow and try to stop me. The waves here are a tad different to Offshore, often only 2 second intervals and a 1m swell is a bloody wet day, if I go upwind. New clutches on the deck as one is cracked? so new spinlock toys, also to accommodate the new third reefing lines. These little things only 6mm line, but when I need them, I need them, no tying knots or any other crap now. When  I am out there alone, I need stuff to work, and usually reliably,  If not well I could be fucked. So live and learn and improve. A few new blocks here and there, especially to replace all the Barton bits i used, they work, but not for long and fail at the most inopportune moments, cheap is cheap, and will remind you so.My main is in for a wee patch, and the spinnaker too. I hope to give the spinny, that is my colourful sail which I use to go downwind sits in a tube which runs through my bow locker, but is often wet.. not good. This is due to the hatch which closes the tube leaking and also as I often sail with it open, this bein as a rule I stubbornly refuse to go on my foredeck in lumpy waters, it is exposed, no gaurd rails and fairly small, so I try not to go there unless Sinbad forces me. I have tried, not wise… That was a wet day!

What else goes on? What do I do over winter? Well I volunteer in a school here on Mon, a Danish free school, only new and offering a different kind and enlivening education to free range kids….. No I don’t an can’t teach! I garden and build, repair stuff, try to stay outdoors all day, all winter. Love Merino… If you are outdoors in chillier climates you should love your merino wool. Layer after layer of the stuff, as it works oh so well. I just picked up my Musto arctic pro jacket, still not used in anger, but it is here, and there will be days when I need and want it. Special thanks to Peter Dixon chandelry in Exmouth Devon for all your help with gear and equipment from screws to my PLB to my Typhoon PS330n drysuit, Thankyou.

Do you want to know more? do you have questions? feel free to ask..

Future dreams if I survive this one? oh yeah… Looking  at a few races on Exebitionist (X34) in 2018 and 2019 with hopefully the AZAB.. That is to the Azores and back shorthanded, well we shall be two which I reckon is luxury, with an oven too… Also hoping for a wee trip with Rubicon3 from Greenland to UK to get that astro nav sorted… Oh and to see the sea and some utterly stunning coast. So really not much, just go to sea, sail and then maybe some more…   Life on land is not for me at this time…

For more tales off last years cruisin around the Fresian islands and a couple of laps of Denmark, be patient…It may come, then again like the wind it may not..

Tales of two crossings…

Here I am sat in Den Hague in the Netherlands on a blustery grey day. since my last post I have managed to cross 2 major waterways, the Thames and the North Sea. Here is how they went…

The Thames. 

I was last on the Thames back in January when we sailed a Bavaria 45 back from London with Cornish Cruising, a memorable trip as on the way to Falmouth we were demasted off of Portland Bill, cut the rig off and managed to get into Weymouth under escort from the lifeboat. This time I was on my own, and in my fine but small Hawk 20. I slipped the mooring I had picked up in Faversham as the Sun was rising, and motored out against a flooding tide to the estuary. Off Pollard sands I raised the sails and used the flooding tide to head out to mid channel, aiming roughly for the red towers on a broad reach. By the time I got to the towers the tide had well and truely turned, and I made for the west swin channel. Knowing it was neap tides (the small ones), and having a lifting centre board I cheekily took a short cut across the west Barrow sand bank, with about a metre of water under the boat. This I had calculated before leaving, using a tidal curve which gave me how much water there would be at each hour of the tide. Surprisingly there wasn’t much traffic on the river, so the main channel was all mine.

On into the East Swin channel I sailed with the wind dropping down to Beaufort scale force 2 I headed for the Whitaker East Cardinal before turning North Esat for the river Blackwater.. I would of loved to have cut across the Foulness sands, but due to the artillery firing ranges, which I knew were in use from the mornings gun and sub facts report, I decided to be prudent for a change and stayed in the main channels, Pushing up the Blackwater against the last of the tide on a 7 mile broad reach was relaxing sailing I headed for Bradwell marina, and a pint of Ruddles finest ale.

The North Sea.  

This crossing would be my biggest yet, quite a few people had said I was a fool to attempt this in such a small open boat. Others have been further in smaller boats, Shrimpy, Frank Dye etc.

I am fairly new to sailing after refinding my love of the sport at Exe Sailing Club, after doing my Dinghy level 3 course in September 2014, I sailed as often as possible over winter, and did my instructor training the following February gaining my ticket in June after racing as often as possible on dinghies and cruisers and helping out with junior race training and sailability sessions. I decided I would do an intensive sailing course that winter and signed up for a zero to hero yacht master course with Cornish Cruising based in Falmouth, hoping that if I can cope with a west country winter of sailing I should be well prepared for future endeavors. The instructors were great, patient and thorough, the boats were, lets say well used…. I successfully gained my Yacht Master Offshore at the end of February this year, and felt mentally ready for the upcoming challenge.

To begin with I had hopes of sailing from The Wash straight to Esbjerg in Denmark, a crossing of over 330 nautical miles, though after the sail from Exmouth in Devon to Essex my self steering system was weak and I realized this passage may be the end of the voyage one way or another, or even me! So whilst sat in Titmarsh marina in Walton on  the Naze and studying various weather and wave websites, I saw a window to hop over to Holland, hopefully missing shipping channel with suitable wind. I swiftly grabbed some extra charts of the Dutch coast, double checked all gear on arctic joy, and left 2 days later.

The alarm buzzed at 3.15 on the 20th of May 2016, after a short nights sleep due to the many thoughts going round my head about the crossing, I packed up the boat and left the marina at 4.30 a.m. . I knew I would have to sail against the tide for the first hours of the trip, but I wanted to arrive in daylight and with a 130nm passage I would have it with as well when it turned. With the sun rising i made for a South Cadinal bouy marking the Whiting Bank to the east of the mouth of the river Ore. With the wind up my arse, which is never a favoured point of sail, I goose winged on port and starboard tack against the tide and with less than 10 knots of wind, I got frustrated, cursed the wind and a few other things, wondering what the hell I was doing out here. It took a few hours to settle into this leg, knowing how far I was going to sail and with these waters being some of the busiest in the World, shipping coming and going from Harwich, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Newcastle, the Baltic ports to name just a few. On reaching the cardinal I altered course and made for a waypoint I had decided on mid channel. I had stocked up on snacks before I left, so the cockpit bags were bulging with chocolates, scotch eggs and pasties, and of course  several of my fine wet ration bags. I had found on the sail up from Devon that I wasn’t regularly eating, and hunger affects my decisions, so more was better and at the first stomach grumble I could reach down and grab something sweet or savoury whatever the weather was doing.

Some showers were forecast, and the 7am shipping forcast brought a strong wind warning in sea ares Thames and Humber with a force 7 predicted. This gave me food for thought and a couple more nerve endings buzzed. I had tried to prepare myself and the boat as well as possible and believed we could cope with that though it would be at both of our extremes. So with about 15knts of wind I made for waypoint one on a broad reach with about a metre high swell, I was beginning to enjoy it. With a wind farm on my starboard beam, a couple of vessels passed me, the first of these I radioed to see how I was appearing on their radar, as I had installed an Echomax radar transponder before I left which should give me a much better ‘echo’, they said they could see me well which calmed a few nerves. As I got further into the North Sea the swell increased to 2 – 3 metres which gave some good surfing as it was almost astern, though when it came onto my beam (middle of boat) we did roll a fair amount, but not too much to worry me.

On reaching the way point, there wasn’t really any going back now as I was over half way across, there was the odd ship on the horizon, then one was headed in my direction, ok lets see if we are on collision course. Were, as it got closer I saw it was a large car carrier, very large when you are in a 20ft boat, so I hove to and waited for it to go past my bow at about 500m distant. As I was alone and evening was coming I knew I would have to keep a very good watch  for shipping as if they ran me down, they probably wouldn’t notice and I probably wouldn’t even scratch their paint work, however shoddy it was. Dusk drew in and more ships appeared on the horizon, they were headed to all points of the compass and I had to dodge several, but I knew the main shipping lane was to my west and hoped the majority would stay in there. Midnight came and went I was feeling tired, and had a wet bum, after opting for regular wet weather gear instead of my trusty dry suit. This was probably an error as trying to get into a drysuit whilst sailing is not an easy option especially with a fair amount of spray onboard, so i stayed as I was, but added an extra primaloft layer under my Musto MPX jacket.

I was hoping for an early morning arrival in Scheveningen, which I prefer as if things go astray on the passage it gives me plenty of daylight to sort things out and still have time to get into a new Port or anchorage without darkness to hinder me. By this time the wind had risen enough for me to use my ‘deep’ third reef and still be making a good 6 knts, if the wind kept up I would drop the mainsail totally and go on my headsail alone. At about 3 am my course took me past what I thought were  a couple of ships at anchor, as one made way towards me I changed direction and ducked behind a tanker, expecting to be in clear water afterwards, but to my shocked and blearily tired eyes there were dozens of ships at anchor, presumably waiting to enter Rotterdam about 40 miles away. After about 30 minutes inside this anchorage I found clear water and my nerves were half shot as some were very poorly lit, I headed back out to sea as I thought. But no, somewhere in there both my compasses on board were showing 100 degrees different to my gps, I dug out my spare gps and it was reading the same as its brother. A little panic then set in, I knew where I should be, which was about 25 miles East north East of my destination, but which should I trust, 2 compasses or 2 gps’s? I decided to wait half an hour until it got light enough to see clearly, consult charts, eat, calm down then make a rational decision. As daylight sauntered in I saw at least 3 tankers that were unlit at anchor, which is not only illegal but scary when you are sailing around them in a wee boat and they are dark coloured, and therefore invisible to me, I breathe a huge sigh of relief that I hadn’t hit one, decided to continue on my course using gps, hoping there was a magnetic anomaly in the area or from the other ships.

The last broad reach into Port was grand, with seriously drooping eyelids, I fell asleep on the helm and only woke as the tiller was yanked out of my hand, I needed help to stay awake. A good friend Vicki and mentioned at a pre trip dinner that at some point there would be time for death metal.. So out came the ipod and speaker, Metallica was found and out they thundered, no sleep now. Hoping they wouldn’t be overcome by water and drown as my ‘waterproof’ speaker had i carried on with them both sheltering under my crocs. My final way point came into view a safe water mark, freshly painted and gleaming red and white striped. I dropped my sails radioed harbour control and entered port, feeling  exhausted but elated, I had done it.

Solo across the North, over 30 hrs at the helm of my 20ft hawk, arctic joy. Now for a short rest before island hopping up the coast to Denmark and beyond…

 

 

 

 

My little adventure has well and truly begun. As I sit here in Ramsgate with a northerly wind gusting to force 7, I contemplate the first section of my journey. I have now covered over 350 nautical miles ( 1 nm is about 1800m ), and the south coast of England is now behind me.

I finally departed Exmouth on the 27th of April at 01.30 a.m.heading for Portland famed for its tidal race off the Bill, I timed my arrival there so the race would be slight and daylight, even so I was met by metre high sharp and vertical waves coming from all directions, an exciting 15 minutes before I came into clear water and sailed down into Portland harbour and dropped my anchor after 11hrs under way. Sleep was required as the last week of preperation had taken its toll, ( packing ones boat with everything needed for such a trip is a logistics nightmare, then putting the other part of my life into a shipping container without any vital items being forgotten, or excess gear being carried ).

I continued the next day on around to Studland, just outside Poole Harbour, a good sail, with maybe a smidgen too much sail up as I was hitting 9 knts downwind, which is exhilarating in a 20ft well loaded boat, I sat on one of there visitor moorings for a couple of nights settling into the boat routine again, and realizing what I was attempting. Foolishly or Boldly I decided to avoid the busy Solent and sail around the outside of the Isle of wight. Those who know the area, the south side is fairly exposed with no bolt holes or escape routes, a case of sail to the other side or return to start. I wanted to get the feeling of exposure which I will have to face over the coming months, and I sailed of with a couple of butterflies in the wellies. Two thirds of the away around after watching a squall approach, I put a couple of reefs in the main and part reefed my genoa when it hit. 35knts said my windex as the boat heeled over and water poured into the cockpit, my reactions from dinghy sailing sent me for the centreboard, my safety harness didn’t agree. Ok I thought, will have to see what the boat does on her own, and she did wonderfully and headed up into the wind and came onto an even keel, Sinbad the ships cat was swimming as was the waterproof speaker, which has since never worked. The cockpit self bailers worked a treat and within minutes the boat was dry ish and on we sailed, towards Hayling Island feeling a bit jaded but very happy all had survived the first ‘knock down’, just had to fight the tide to get into the marina at 19.30 after 12 hours at the helm. I decided to skip the evening ration pack and eat out and have some more iron rations by way of Guiness.

After a couple of quiet days exploring the estuary, with the hawk 20 having a drafty of 30cm with centreboard up we can go where other boats don’t dare, dry out at low tide and enjoy the tranquility of marshes and the wildlife they hold. On to Shoreham for the next stop, where I sat on the Sussex Yachtclub visitor pontoon, which dried at low tide and left me hanging of the edge, surrounded by flotsam and jetsom of the smelly kind, so I didn’t stay long and then headed around to Eastbourne and Soverign marina. It was the first time we have gone through lock gates, pinned in by several smelly fishing boats, ( a different smell than my wellies anyway ) and in we went, A big and pricey marina surrounded by expensive flats, I am sure I was the novelty boat in there, and spied several nosey critters with there binoculars on me.. You get what you look for!! Not a home for me so on into Dover, hmmm big boats coming and going, I used my radar transponder for added visibility and kept in shallower waters playing dodge the lobster pots whilst feeling tired from a long overnight sail so as to catch the tide right, though having to wait outside the harbour for an hour in a racing tide diminished my fuel supplies and was a noisy end to the morning. Not the nicest of towns these days so I hopped around to Ramsgate and had a foggy trip, not my wisest of days bur I was  able to put into all I had learnt at Cornish cruising, and stayed on the contours, then hopped from bouy to bouy using my Garmin 78s handheld gps, now that makes life easier with visibility down to 20m at times, exposed sand bars and the Harbour Break water to hit, I tried to be cautious, the 4knt tide made the last approach  exciting, but alls well that ends well.

With gusty conditions and an unforgiving swell, it is time for a bit of maintenace, repaired the main halyard and adjusted the centreboard uphaul, today is time to look at the extra somar panels and do a few modifications to my palm rescue bouyancy aid, another pocket to add and adjust the safety line attachment point. I have now fixed my harness to the boat as it is a double hooked system which is now larks footed onto my strong point I can clip on and off when I feel it is needed, so far very little as I choose the days I sail and take my time. On the idea of time and reaching Northern Norway, well, I don’t reckon it will be this year! I may just slip up into the Baltic and see where I get to and have a nice early start next year, if arctic joy and I are still speaking, of if Sinbad hasn’t set me adrift on my paddle board..IMG_20160429_162436