Beware the Lesser Spotted Dogfish

Well, since my last entry I have acquired a new crew member… whoop whoop! I have loved the challenge of sailing alone, but it has been fab to be a skipper with crew! Although my new crew has sea legs and excellent helming skills this is from his history of sea fishing, so I am definitely going to have to work on his love of sailing… I am going to enjoy this new challenge… 

The only down side about gaining my new crew member has been the introduction of fishing (7 dogfish, 4 crabs and a whiting caught in 2 hours!) from Poppet with which came the demise of my one and only nautical tea towel… oh and the smell of lug worm! Totally gross! However this has definitely been a price worth paying and we even saw dolphins! 

First weekend solo sailing

Well Easter weekend was the first ‘Cruise’ in the Bay of Colwyn sailing calendar. This was the date that I had been working towards so that I could join all of the guys on the Round Anglesey cruise… 

My engine had been run in and was raring to go (4knots flat out – but better than none!). So the next hill to climb was the battery issue…

Most solo sailors appreciate a helping hand from their autohelm. This steers the boat in the chosen direction while you run about the boat sorting the sails, or fenders or the anchor. Well mine had been having a difficult time of it. The battery lasted about an hour with very little power being used by Poppet’s electrical equipment. The depth sounder and the vhf radio uses very little, so the main drain was the autohelm – or so I thought… I bought a brand new leisure battery which had been fully charged, so all looked hopeful and I was ready to go… Yey! Let’s go sailing! 
Well Good Friday the sea was looking a little lumpy, I still couldn’t reef my main sail (make it smaller so that the boat wasn’t overpowered) so I got Poppet ready for motoring. Traumatic was heading to Beaumaris, I hadn’t heard from the other boats. Most of the boats in Conwy Marina were staying put, but with a little prompting from the owner of Traumatic II, I decided to go out and see what it was like in Conwy Bay… 

I left the marina and headed into the channel, motoring happily. Well I love a slightly lumpy sea, and Poppet felt happy too! All good! Traumatic met me at the Fairway buoy, rolling around in the swell… and off we headed to Beaumaris… 

It was great, rather damp but fun… Poppet happily bounced into the waves and yet the cockpit was stable. 

At Beaumaris we picked up mooring buoys (another first for me), and waited for the tide to go out… after a little while, the tide receded to reveal an anchor pointing straight up out of the sand only feet away from Traumatic! Oh my, that could have been really serious! So after waiting for the tide to go out, the anchor was buried point down into the sand, hopefully no longer to be a risk again… 

So after a chippy tea and a pint in the local, off we went back to the boats… it was a lovely star lit night, and I really enjoyed being on a mooring for a change. 

The next day, after a bacon butty, and working out the tides for slack water etc we left our moorings and with the wind directly on our bow we motored down the straits and through the swellies (notorious section of water in the Menai Straits). 

I got all excited when we passed a boat I recognised – Talaris, and waved like an over excited loon!! 
When we reached the Caernarfon end of the Straits the water was getting a little less flat again… 

Traumatic went into the marina first, and after a few minutes or so I headed in and moored up next to her… 

After realising that we weren’t being joined by the rest of the sailing club guys, off we went to meet up with my friend at my favorite ice cream and pancake house, Scoops, then went for a drink (or 3!!) at a nearby pub. 

The next day, feeling rather thick headed, we decided to go back to Conwy, the wind was such that if we didn’t go today we would have to motor… well the best thing about having a sailing boat is when you turn the motor off, you are still moving, there is no noise apart from your hull cutting through the waves and the sound of your terribly trimmed sails luffing if you’re on poppet haha!!! So, one of us with a wet leg, and the other with a sore head, we sailed back, Traumatic miles ahead of Poppet! No surprise there! Anyway – the sail was great, the sea slightly lumpy, the arrival into my berth was my worst ever! Tired, panicked! Argh!!! It was that bad that I was never going to sail again in fact! 


Setting sail solo

Well last weekend I actually went sailing solo… a couple of friends had helped me with fitting an autohelm and my nav lights and my new (2nd hand) Mercury 4 engine was in place… what was stopping me!? (apart from being terrified of course!) 
Well it was a beautiful day, and light winds so perfect for me to shake out the sails! So I get Poppet all ready, hank on her foresail with a down haul, get the main ready to go and just as I am sorting the mooring lines out the marina chatterbox comes along (no it’s not actually me!!) and we chat about nothing for a while, as I am trying to get away along comes someone else and stops and asks if he can take our photo – oh heck no! But a photo he takes (apparently for marina marketing! Aren’t there any other solo females setting sail for the day chatting to a chap leaning on his stick? Oh apparently not!). 
Well I manage to leave the berth in one piece, and set off towards Puffin Island. I didn’t get the hang of the autohelm, so I may as well not have had it. I motored out of the channel and then pulled up my sails… off comes the engine… it was lovely out there… 
I then get a call from a friend out at sea – your foresail is rather small is that the biggest you have? Oh poop! The sails were put back in the wrong bags last weekend! So, down comes the foresail, unhanked, up goes the slightly larger one… 
Well it did make a difference, from 2.5 to 4 knots (I do love Poppet but I really don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry with my sail trim skills!!) 
​Anyway… just as I arrive at Puffin, the electrics all fail, battery flat. Engine going but not making a difference to the electrics, I get the sails down, then motor (apparently way too close to a sandbank  – oops – where is the depth sounder when you need it) over to my friends boat. Then of course, I panic, engine dies, I go up front to get the anchor down anyway and struggle with the foresail being in the way! Nightmare! But once the anchor was down and I sat down it was sooo lovely (just a tad too cold for shorts lol!) and I saw and heard some puffins flying by.

So I had a cuppa and a bite to eat while watching all of the sand banks appear around me. Yep – I had definitely been over them! But I had anchored on my own for the first time! Yey! 
Well once the tide was high enough again we head out of the anchorage, so I pulled up my anchor, nearly mowed my friends boat down and once again manage to get the sails up, I did panic a little once when I saw a muscle farm area and turned the engine on instead of tacking! Then I thought what on earth did you do that for and then tacked and turned the engine back off again! I tell you this is still all very new to me! It is one thing sailing with someone else who knows what they’re doing, but it’s a completely different thing when that someone is you and there’s no one else on board! A blooming massive learning curve for me this is!!! 

Anyway – I sailed to the Conwy Channel and then motored back in. When I got back to my berth I did ok at getting in but managed to catch my bow on the life ring at the marina while I was stood on the pontoon. Oops! They are keeping an eye on me now – I recommended they don’t fix it for a while to give me time to get a handle on getting into berth! 

Well – I enjoyed my first solo sail – and my first visit to puffin island. Loved it! All told, a lovely day…

Sails everywhere and yet stuck in a marina

So the next weekend it was time to check out my sails… I’d had them out of the bags but not actually tried to “hank on” a foresail or pull up the main… 

I had said goodbye to my borrowed engine but as it was such light winds it was perfect…

So here they are…

So with the option of white or tan sails, a working jib and a storm jib I have gone for the tan… they look really pretty, it was just such a shame I couldn’t go anywhere without an engine! Thankfully I only had a couple of days before it arrived… 

Smooth as a baby’s bottom

A few weekends ago (26th March), it was glorious weather in Conwy, over the previous weeks I had tried and tried with the Honda 7.5 (engine no.1) but to no avail. So it was a Saturday morning and I was all set with my newly serviced Yamaha 3.5 (engine no.2) to motor across to Deganwy Beach to dry Poppet out and get her antifouled. Well the engine wouldn’t tick over, it was all or nothing, and I found out later that I could have got there without idling but I don’t know what I’m doing and didn’t want to risk anything. Off came the engine and it was given the once over in the Bay of Colwyn boat yard at our BBQ and it was soon clear that her rusty fuel tank was the problem. So after a few offers to borrow an engine (my sailing friends are amazing!) I borrowed a Mercury 4 (engine no.3 – not actually mine so not sure it counts!), the next day I chugged across to the beach (Poppet was moving like a brick through sludge with all her sea life attached!) and spent hours scrubbing her and then antifouling her… she was very crusty and covered in Marina poop.

Just before I started painting a friend turned up with cake and a cuppa – life saver… then by 5pm it was off home to scrub the antifoul off me!!! Later we were back to Poppet with an Indian meal and awaited the tide to come in and motor back home to Conwy. Poppet moved through the water so nicely, she was more responsive than she had been, so that was good.

Well I was a tad terrified about getting back into my berth (something I really struggle with!) especially with my friend being a yachtmaster instructor (pressure was on!) and although it was a little hairy in the dark I actually did it without bumping anything! I have to say it was the first and only time I have managed that! 

So the hunt for an engine was on… at least now I knew that I was going to have to buy one. Well a message from a friend showed an engine on eBay… and although it was based in Truro and local collection only, I got in touch with them, bought it and it was arranged to be delivered… yey! 

Sew much fun!

Well, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything on here. It has taken lots of time and energy (oh and cash) to get the lovely Poppet II sea worthy… first the engine (I am now on engine no.4 and have a Mercury 4 which is great, but gonna be slower than everyone else I know through the water!). The latest has been the battery. But all of that is to come…. over the next few posts I will catch you up 😉

In the last post I wrote about my new cushion material, so after what felt like days and nights of sewing (on my 80’s sewing machine that I’ve used for years but hadn’t read the book – but now I sort of know what I’m doing!) I made myself a seat cushion for the v-berth and turquoise curtains – to match the plates! when making the curtain tie backs, I had help from a furry friend… not! But anyway – my first sewn zips and chorded seams… I think I did ok.

B.O.A.T. -Blow Out Another Thousand….

Well my lovely Poppet 2 has belonged to me for two whole weeks and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much going around in my head before. Got to do this, need to check that, have to buy the other… Well it has to be said she is a learning curve, and a money pit. I have so many lists now I don’t know where to start! I get half way through a job and then something stops me from finishing it. I am just afraid that knowing me and my “bodger” heritage I might forget something major… sails? 

So, here are some examples so far… 

She has had a scrub inside and out. Although I haven’t been able to wash up the pots because I can’t empty the sink due to not being able to open the seacock to let the water out… need the tappy thingamy bit… and I still need to scrub her crusty hull – need to get some anti foul, and be able to rely on my engine to get me to a beach and decent weather so that I can strip and paint her while I’m there…

Although you can’t see much difference in the photos, before is left and right is after…

Talking of engine… i started her five times today! I am slowly getting used to both the physicality of a pull chord and the temperament of my Honda 7.5, to use the choke or not etc… this is all new to me. It makes me realise how much I am grateful to my car for not having a crank handle (mind you, I used to find being able to crank my old 2cv6 quite useful!)… I still haven’t been able to start the Yamaha 3.5 tho… poop… And my hand is black and blue after whacking it on the hatch padlock loopy thing when trying to start it the other day!​

​So today I decided to sand down and varnish the tiller, did really well until I realised it was too cold for the varnish I have… and all the sand was coming off the sandpaper so that wasn’t ideal! So I have bought new sandpaper and am now I am waiting for the temperature to rise a little… 

Navigation lights. 

Now generally red is on the port side, and green is on the starboard side, so why do I have a blue starboard light? Was it ever green? Now, a sailing friend suggested that these lights might not be intended for boats, as I have only seen them for sale in red pairs on an American car website I wonder whether my funky vintage lights are actually car brake lights… or a brake light and a reversing light painted blue!!! Well, anyway,  I thought I would check what bulbs I might need to replace as they are not working, and I get the top off and they are soooo corroded I have had to buy a new set… so now waiting for the postman… then I’ve got to learn to do some electrics! 

Also in the post is a new foam cushion to complete my v-berth, some leatherette material to cover it (I went with black so that it was clear it was new), some material to make curtains and cushion covers (randomly turquoise!!) and an auto helm…. also a head torch which has a red light so as not to lose night vision. (That was just a luxury haha!)

So now other decisions to make are, do I just stick with a physical chart and the iSailor app on my phone, or should I get a chart plotter? And if a chart plotter shall I just buy a decent and possibly expensive one with a decent screen, or go cheap and regret it later? Also do I get a windex? Or just tie a ribbon on my shrouds?

Anyway… it is late and tomorrow is another day…  I might even have a sleepover with my new love!! Well it is valentines day and all…

I’ve bought a boat!!!!!!

Ok, I have intended that that this blog should be my full sailing story in chronological order etc etc – but I’m so excited I have to interrupt it with a – I’ve bought a boat! Yippee!!!! 

Meet Poppet 2, she is a Snapdragon 21, and although probably older than me and currently a bit in need of some love and attention she is sea worthy and she’s mine! Whoop whoop! 
I have bought the boat from some interesting chaps who run a YouTube VLog, there are quite a few videos (some of Poppet), I think they generally want you to believe that they are crackers, but I think there is some sanity in there somewhere! 

The friend who introduced me to sailing came with me to check her over on Saturday and then again helped me move her from her Conwy River mooring to Conwy Marina yesterday (which very randomly is £79 cheaper if you book it for 2 months than it is for one!). I think I will be forever in his debt! I was a bit of a stressed bunny! It didn’t help that the engine kept stopping and wouldn’t go into reverse either! 

Well, like I said she needs a few bits and bobs doing, and no doubt a fortune spending on her but I am trying to be sensible and do as little as is needed to get her out and sailing! The first purchase of the day was a new padlock – like a twit I heard a plop and saw bubbles rising in the water – after going through everything in my bag and pockets I eventually realised the only thing that could have gone overboard was the padlock and it was nowhere to be seen! At least it wasn’t my phone or car keys! Or me! 

So she needs a very good clean, not only for aesthetic purposes but having looked in the well that the engine is sat in – it is apparent that she has a very crusty bottom! Even the outboard engine has a meal growing on it!! Cockles and mussels alive alive oh! 

So tomorrow will be spent investigating, sorting and cleaning… Things like, there are flares on board that were out of date in 1999! Really? It’s always a great idea to carry around explosives that are so out of date they might be unstable in a small vessel on the water. I have inherited washing up, mouldy teaspoons and Tupperware. But then there are bags of lovely tan sails so I am not complaining I just want to get her ship shape… 

So no doubt more photos and blog entries will appear featuring the new female in my life interrupting the perfect order of things… but even with my slight OCD I think I’ll just about cope. 

It really was a lovely day in Conwy yesterday!

That was close!!

So summer starts in 2016, after various invitations from my great sailing club friends which had been turned down – although, I believed, for the right reasons – I said yes to a sail. It was going to be on Eira on 17 July and at the Conwy River Festival. Lovely! It was arranged that I would be at Conwy Marina for 0900… I was really quite anxious, I was worried that I would be hopeless! (Anyone who knows me would tell you that I always worry that I’ll be hopeless!!!) I consoled myself with the thought that the three of us would be fine and it was just a bit of a cruise…

I arrive to find that that it wasn’t just a cruise, it was a race and then a cruise, it wasn’t the three of us either, as Lady Eira had gone on another boat, it was just the two of us… oh no… help!!! 
Well, after a calming cuppa and a chat about the plan for the day (a race in the morning followed by the La La Rally – a cruise to Caernarfon and back…) I was still panicking internally, but with the calming statement, ‘don’t worry Joy, I only need you to make up the numbers needed to enter the race’ from Mr Eira, I began to feel slightly less tense… but of course, only slightly!

So, out from the safety of the pontoon at the marina we go, we listen on the VHF for our course and start time. Far too quickly we are off, well to be fair, most of the morning was a blur, just the tension remains when I think how close to sailing into a fellow competitor we were at one point, half an inch maybe? Argh! (This was my first introduction to the lovely Talaris of Conwy. Not the best introduction and probably never forgotten by all involved!). Anyway, once the race was over – thank goodness! – we were on our way towards Anglesey. It was a lovely day, and by the time we reached Port Dinorwic, I definitely felt like we needed a rest! 

So after finally arriving at Caernarfon, we then had to wait a while for the tide to rise enough for the Marina gates to open. Well – I loved my day at sea. There were moments of tension, but also moments of bliss, lying in the sun (getting very sunburnt and not realising it – oops!) and enjoying being on the water in such a beautiful place… also, with me on helm going through the Swellies, we managed to avoid A, the divers, and B, the other boats, so all told quite a successful jaunt. 
As much as I loved the day – I knew I was ready to learn more and try and get some confidence on a boat… next stop – Gibraltar! Yey!

Summer’s End – Time Flies

Sailing in North Wales – unless you keep your boat in a marina – is very seasonal, plus of course the weather!!! 

So after a couple more sails on Eira, and one on the CHA, that was the end of my sailing for 2014… how depressing! 
2015 didn’t prove too eventful either, I had met someone new and due to his ill health I didn’t want to leave him at weekends, so only one sail on Eira while Colwyn Bay’s Prom Xtra was on, a little race in the bay followed by munchies at the mooring…. bliss.
2015 disappears and 2016 appears on the horizon. I am invited to become the secretary for Bay of Colwyn Sailing Club – I couldn’t say no to such an offer!!! After my appointment at the AGM in Feb 2016, the monthly meetings followed by a pint in the pub meant that I didn’t completely lose touch. Oh but I did miss sailing…. 
I just needed to get back to sea!
It’s the beginning of May 2016. I had lost so much confidence in sailing (I had only been out sailing once for half a day in 19 months!). A conversation was had around holidays, I was advised that they should be spent doing something that you really want to do, so once you decide what you want to do, go for it! 
That night I was googling sailing schools, I knew I needed somewhere tidal, having had a look at local schools and locations like Tenerife, Cornwall and the Solent – I realised that as RYA prices were pretty much the same it didn’t really matter where you went. About 5 years ago I lost lots of weight, since then I am sooo nesh! I get so cold easily, I thought that I would like to go somewhere warm, I emailed loads of sailing schools for availability on a Competent Crew course at May half term, a few got back to me from Gibraltar and Lanzarote with options but I chickened out…. just not brave enough to click “book”.
After a quiet and not particularly exciting May half term, often enjoying my view of the sea and watching the boats with sadness – I got back on the web and booked a course in Gibraltar for August (getting brave! Was I mad? Yes probably!!)…
Check out my view!