Sunday, 8 February 2009

Day Skipper Day 4

25 nautical miles

Again the day started off with maneuvering, again useful. Building confidence. There was an easterly wind which made the bow swing round and maneuvering with the bow swinging was very much more difficult.

In the marina there was the really beautiful ketch we kept passing when we were turning. Something about her lines... can you say a boat is sexy?

OK, before I become all goey about a boat rather than my wife, I take True North out from the marina and we sail a few miles out and then hove to.

The reason for this is to do some bearing work...

But the visibility isn't great actually today.

Nevertheless, out come the hand bearing compasses and we take bearings on targets we can see and match with the chart. The cement works chimney... silo at the new port... water tower in Limassol... and so on.

At times we bring out binoculars to check to see it the targets are what we think they might be. Maybe...

Then we transfer the bearings to the chart. They pretty much all come together - only a very small cocked hat.

Then we check that position with our GPS and check the chart depth... yes... the GPS confirms we are where we think we are.

We try goose-winging, but the wind is so low that the sails just flap and the wind indicator just rolls around. We couldn't get the spinnaker pole down to be used as a whisker pole as the end should come down a runner in the mast... but it jams and so won't move.

So we carry on sailing, just practicing boat handling. It's good to just be out on the water. I wish we could carry on... sail to Lebanon or Syria for starters. The wind is pretty fickle... sometimes one direction, sometimes another. We hove to for lunch.

Then everyone goes down into the cabin to warm up. No, the crew aren't invisible... if the photo included the crew then you would not see the interior of the yacht!

I sit in the companionway and keep watch to see no other boats or ships are about, and warm my hands round a hot mug of coffee. Then we sail on.

The easterly wind is picking up now. Not really strong, but would make mooring the boat difficult when we finally return. However, we try goose-winging again. Without a whisker pole, holding the genoa is pretty difficult in the gusts and lulls.

Finally, it's time to head for home, clean up the boat and leave. We sail back to the east of the marina, turn into the wind, which is away from the marina, drop sails, turn and motor into the marina. At which point Colin takes the helm as mooring could be very difficult. In fact before we left Andreas had said we could leave the boat bows to if it was really too much from the east.

Yes. Now I have the certificate for Day Skipper Practical. If you like to try yourself... True North Yachting in Limassol.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Day Skipper Day 3

39 nautical miles
To start off we did some maneuvering round the marina - you can almost never do too much of this when you start skippering.

We had another instructor for the next couple of days - Colin from Coral Bay Sailing. Colin's a Brit who has been sailing most of his life bringing his boat out here and setting up another RYA sailing school.

Colin is a quietly spoken sailor with a ready smile and way of encouraging everyone he teaches. A fountain of knowledge born out of many years sailing single handed and with crews, he sits and imparts words that help us all.

Sophocleus and Colin looking up at the wind indicator. Slowly I'm getting more comfortable feeling the wind in the yacht now but still checking up to the indicator. The electronic one is knackered. Apparently the Medium Wave transmitter off Potamas killed it - so its no longer possible to calibrate so that the main unit and repeater read differently. Very confusing.

Then we just sailed out and round the bay towards Limassol New Port. Michalis [wearing yellow in the photo] had to work later in the day and we were to meet the pilot cutter which would take him off to the port to work. That was an interesting extra maneuver not in the Day Skipper syllabus... transferring a crew member from a moving boat to a pilot cutter!

From there we went south and did some more man overboard practice especially for those who didn't do it last weekend. Then I had a go at picking up a man overboard using sail rather than power. Strangely it was almost easier... but... you have less backup options that way.

From there we sailed in to Ladies Mile and anchored up and rested waiting for the sun to set. We worked on charts and chart plotter planning a route back. We fixed three way points - one just north of the fish farm that is south of the new port, one almost due east from that to take us away from the port approach and a final way point south east of the marina.

Time for life jackets and safety lines as its now dark. And... the anchor winch is a pain, with the chain jumping off the winch. Oh well... then motor north round the fish farm observing the cardinal buoys. The south cardinal is [still] not fixed so you have to guess where the southern end of the fish farm is.

We turn east at the waypoint and then hail Limassol VTS on channel 9. I confirm our route to them... "Thank you, captain, you are free to proceed." But there is also a large merchantman coming out of the port at the same time. So, since they are larger and faster we turn south to avoid any possibility of colision, wait for them to pass our bows and then return to the new path to our second way point, having used the GPS to calculate the new route.

Final turn to home. Although we had plotted our bearing to way point, the sharp eyed helmsman spots the marina lights six miles off and so steers towards the marina itself, till we get close and then bear off to the way point and then round and into the marina.

Passing the munitions ship the marine police flash us with their search light. So I hail them on VHF explaining who we are and route. They ask me to spell the ships name. I start, and then my mind goes blank on the phonetic alphabet. I had memorized the letters for my Wayfarer Galini, but True North... yipes what is U in phonetic... fortunately Colin is on hand and knows it backwards so I confirm our boats name to the marine police. Again a polite 'Thank you, captain...'

I don't know what it is about the phonetic alphabet. I have worked on this to try and learn it, but cannot seem to lock it into my brain. Maybe because I don't use it very much. I'm sure I could remember it to pass a test... and then forget it 24 hours later. I think I will type it up and stick it to my VHF handheld so I have a reference.

Back in the marina I park the boat - which is interesting coming stern to the jetty after dark, somewhat different to the same manoever in daylight. Then its off for a drink with a friend, a bite to eat [cooked up on the boat] and sleep in the for'ard cabin.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Mast pin and anchor drum

Winter repairs should be considerably less than last year - there are three agenda items [apart from an extra coat on the seats] - firstly fix the mast pin and sort out the anchor warp, secondly sort out the launching trolley and thirdly see if I can get a spinnaker working.

The previous owner had put an aluminium sheave on a bolt as a mast pin. The aluminium was wearing badly. Alongside this, the anchor warp was difficult to handle.

So... my intention was to make a new mast pin and extend it to take a drum for the anchor warp.

A friend of mine, Ken, is a great mechanical [and other] engineer. He managed to get a new pin made out of stainless steel. The diameter of the mast pin is smaller than the extension for the drum. It was turned down to be the right diameter. There are then all the obligatory washers etc to pack the mast and space the drum away from the mast.

The drum, which is plastic sits on the extended mast pin. There are nylon bushes to stop it wearing and a piece of floor tread aluminium to strengthen the drum to take a winding handle [which has not been made yet].

This looks fabulous. I am really thankful to Ken for this. It's wildly better than I could have made myself.

Monday, 2 February 2009

1 Feb 09 - Second day practical Day Skipper

29 nautical miles
Day two the weather was much kinder to us - some rain to start with but really nice sailing weather for the rest of the day.

The first exercise Andreas showed was maneuvering the boat in the marina - both turning and coming alongside a fuel pontoon. I had been really looking forward to this as controlling a yacht inside a marina was something I had no experience with. The propwalk behaved exactly as described in all the books I had read, and with little wind affecting the hull I would be confident to control a yacht around the marina now.

When we got out from the marina to start with we sailed with full main and genoa, but then changed to fully reefed main and half genoa after about 45 minutes.

The first exercise on the sea was man overboard. Andreas made it look so simple - first we put the boat into 'hove to' position, start the engine, head downwind for eight boat lengths then come up toward the man overboard till we are alongside.

For the exercise, we were using a rope tied to a fender - which meant we had to come exactly alongside to pick up with the boat hook rather than a few metres away for safety and use a line to the man overboard.

To the right you can see Andreas example of how to do it.

Next Michalis did it and looked almost smoother than Andreas. His attempt is shown on the left. Smooth and clean.

OK, so how difficult is this... I was about to find out! My turn was next.

My first attempt, we 'hove to', no problem with that, I have done it many times in the dinghy, then furled the genoa, started the engine and headed downwind...

No... I didn't quite head downwind... in the thinking about the man overboard I was forgetting tiller/wheel and steered the wrong way for a bit in a broad reach rather than downwind run. Then I came up too fast to the man overboard, so went round for another attempt.

The second attempt was much better and would have be possible to rescue the man overboard if it had been a real man overboard as we were about 2-3 metres away and could have thrown an line. However it was too far for a boat hook so we went round again and picked it up correctly this time.

As Andreas explained, a lot of this is related to boat handling as much as the picking up a man overboard.

Both True North and True North 2 were out today - were were on True North and this is a photo of True North 2, a larger boat than the one we were on and made by Bavaria Yachts and... very new... just a few weeks old. Its main job is to be available for charters whereas the one we are on will be maintained for RYA training courses.

The aim for the rest of the day was to go through all the points of sailing and to practice tacking and gybeing... but it turned out to be a mini-race between the two yachts. A little competition never hurts to make people keen to do it better!

Just being out on the water, helming a 40 foot yacht was so wonderful. I think Andreas must be blessed to be paid to spend his time in such and enjoyable way. I think I might have had a different choice of career if I chose now!

The recommended way for gybeing is to bring the main to centre, gybe and then let out again. On the dinghy I would just hold the main sheets near the boom to control the gybe. However, I have both centre and end sheeting on the boom so controlling is not that easy. This seemed a better technique even for a dinghy so I will try this when I am on on Galini next.

We sailed past a ship with a fast deploy life boat. Now those do sound fun to be in... not! Andreas thought it was the munitions ship that the Americans had apprehended and suspected of arms running to Gaza. Now sitting 'under arrest' or something like that, in Limassol bay. There is a lot in the news about this, but here is one link:

But I have a credibility problem... you see... some friends of mine took a 30 foot catamaran to take medical supplies to Gaza. They were stopped by the Israeli navy. How on earth could a ship the size of the one in the photo ever get into Palestine without the Israeli navy knowing? Even a small 20 motor yacht was rammed by the Israeli navy taking in aid supplies. It just doesn't make sense. Something is very strange about this story!

But the race is still on... as we grab a bite to eat, True North 2 comes up and overtakes us.

There are shouts between the two boats. Most in Greek so I didn't understand. Of course they are a bigger boat so they should go faster... and of course we are taking a lunch break... and of course they might be cheating somehow...

It is beautiful sailing weather. Tacking up close to the shore we manage to overtake them.

This course is reminding me very much of my TV Conversion Course many, many years ago at the BBC. I had worked in radio and was confident in my abilities in radio - that didn't mean I was perfect and I knew I still had loads to learn, but then I moved to TV and so did a TV Conversion Course. Mostly it was the same but... different. Well that's how I feel about the Day Skipper Course. The yacht behaves the same as the dinghy but... different.

I know that sailing the dinghy I still have a lot to learn, but I'm confident to get us from place A to place B without any problems... but I spend my time kicking myself on the yacht when, because I am so used to a tiller, I move the wheel the wrong way, or when I just cannot seem to feel the wind in the same way I do on the dinghy... or cannot read the leech of the sail in the same way as the dinghy. What I need to find is a tame yacht owner who will invite me out to spend days with them on the yacht.

One thing that was strange was coiling ropes. Actually it was coiling ropes that first made me think of the TV Conversion Course similarity. I have been coiling ropes and cables for maybe 35 years now. At times coiling more than 50 cables in a day. More than 99% of the cables I coil are right handed lay, like right handed lay ropes, so back all those years I was taught to let the lay fall under your thumb... in other words a right handed lay rope would be coiled with your right hand.

Now modern synthetic ropes don't really have a lay so you can coil them either way and for most people, I gather, who are right handed, coiling as if they were left hand lay would be easier. Ah... but... not if you have been coiling right handed cables without having to think about it for 35 years. My hands just refused to do it as they should and so I still coil ropes as if they are right hand lay, much to Andreas horror, but he's tolerant of my idiosyncrasies.

Then I thought about all the little conversion things... I'm really enjoying this course, but I frequently feel like a total idiot, not able to do easily what I can confidently do in the dinghy... much like I felt 30 years ago on my TV Conversion Course trying to operate a TV boom. Of course it came with time and practice as I am sure it will with the yacht sailing.

Finally we turn and broad reach all the way back, gybeing on the turns. In theory it would have been almost a deadwind run, but we were reefed on main and genoa so broad reaching and gybeing is much safer. Here's Michalis at the helm. Just from his face you can see how enjoyable this course is.

Want to join us? True North Yachting RYA Training Centre.