Sailog – The sail blog

When having a shower is a real treat

Living on a small sail boat has its attractions, but it does not come without sacrifice. Wight Cat does not have a shower, common with most other small modest sail boats, the shower is often the Sea, when at sea, though most harbour’s and Marina’s have shower facilities for their customers.

Having not been in harbour for about a week now, I have had only the cold sea shower (ie a jump in the sea, and a climb back up to the deck on Wight Cats ladder ).

Becoming “shower hungry” yesterday I paddled over to Yarmouth harbour, to slip into the harbour office and its accompanying showers ordinarily (I assume ) for its nautical residents at berth.

Yarmouth harbour office double ups at the visitor information centre, and to its rear are showers and a laundry room with coin operated machines. The showers and other facilities are in principle accessible to anyone since there is no code on the facilities door (as is common in other marina facilities ) so anyone can just literally walk in, undress and shower in one of the several private shower cubicles; just as I did today, at length, and it was truly a real treat; so simple, so basic, so modest, yet oh so rewarding.

On the paddle back from Yarmouth to Wight Cat I began to appreciate the satisfaction and happiness I got from my shower (sounds silly right?)…

Back on Wight Cat, I’ve formed a plan of action and manoeuvre to get Wight Cat going, but I’m not going to make the same mistake as I did last time I put Wight Cat to Sea, and launch in a state of unreadiness where both myself and Wight Cat were not quite ready;

my mate Russ Dawkins is trying to connect me with a old chum sea dog of his who has sailed around the world and who has offered to give me a lesson to teach me how to “navigate and then sail”, that would be exceptionally helpful, I must put some effort into making it happen…

To address the Wight Cat issues I experienced when I was adrift at sea and ran out of power, I have ordered a 500wat wind turbine for the boat, which together with my existing 100 watt solar panel should give me proper ‘off grid’ power 24/7 for all my needs: though I muse to myself that I would like a ‘power shower’ on board (the installation of which is easily possible) , wouldn’t that be a real luxury I think, then I remember the real and genuine satisfaction of having a shower today, which I would not have experienced but for the fact of the novelty of having a shower and the effort involved to shower a (4 mile paddle).

For now the Sea Shower, with the occasional treat of a land shower, is all I need!

A paddle around the Needles….

Yesterday morning I decided to try and retrieve my RIB (which is ironically a former RNLI RIB).

Because of my anchor situation etc et al I could not retrieve the RIB on Wight Cat. Luckily I have on board a kayak, well a racing surf ski to be exact, it’s has the word “Titan” on the kayaks’ side; I think “Titan” refers to the brand of surf ski as opposed to a name that has been given (by my brother Richard who owns said surf ski).

The obvious solution to retrieving the RIB presented itself with the use of “Titan”, or so I declared as I departed the lee side of the island ( ‘lee side’ is the side which is not windy (which would be the windward side). The windy side of any island occurs on the side of the land which has the greatest fetch (fetch is the term used to describe the distance over sea that the wind has to build up before breaking and hitting land).

The passage from current ‘temporary permanent ‘ mooring to retrieve the rib at Freshwater Bay, is one which is approximately just over 8 or so miles by sea around the infamous and often hazardous Needles stack of Rocks ( a world heritage designated site of outstanding natural beauty).

The plan was to paddle over to Freshwater Bay, attach A rope to the rib and then tow the rib back around the needles to Wight Cat; paddling Titan as the tug vessel, me as it’s engine.

Now my Rib is not your average tender (a tender is a word used to describe , the usually small, inflatable type boats that yachts carry with them to ferry the inhabitants to shore ), it’s massive (and wholly unsuitable to lug behind any sail boat to serve as tender by virtue of its size and drag ( drag being the resistance against forward propulsion (because of weight, surface area etc)).

The ribs about 18feet in length with a wooden floor and water ballast between the deck and hull; it’s not just big, it’s heavy.

Preparing for a long day paddling I packed with me in a dry box -which I duck taped to the stern ( stern is the rear of a boat) – some spare thermal gear, a hip flask of whisky (why not !) , and neoprene diving gloves ( I once got frostbite on a long distance kayak race and ever since then my hands lose circulation quickly and get cold even in hot weather) , and carrying on my person I had the handheld VHF radio and a couple of bananas, some sugary sweets and a litre of water.

As I paddled off I left the water on Wight Cat, not appreciating this fact for ten minutes or so. I contemplated going back to get it, but my impatience determined otherwise. I pushed on. Eventually I got to the needles though unfortunately at the same time as a pleasure Rib was passing the needles at speed, making the already choppy turning around the needles even more fraught. “Oh fuck a duck” I shouted out loud as I turned into the swell and began the torrent of the crossing through the needles in my small kayak.

It’s fair to say that I forgot how rough and scary this dangerous patch of water is, it being over 15 years since I last kayaked around the needles. I soon recalled the feelings of fright and horror as I approached the high rock stacks, compared to my low position in a kayak, it’ was daunting.

My intended course was to cut the corner of the needles, and to go through the middle of the rock stacks , as opposed to going around the stack of rocks. Stubborn as I am, I kept to that intended course, even when I had time to change course to the safer wide berth route which would go around the entire stack , giving the rocks a wide berth, not cutting through the middle. I don’t like defeat, and thought to my self , a change of course would be defeatist. “Man or Mouse” Henry , “man or mouse”, I said to myself in between repeatedly shouting to myself and Mother Sea, out loud, “fuck a duck, fuck a duck, fuck a duck”.

It was windy which added to the drama and swell, and I was alone , by my self, a capsize alone in chopping sea waters by the side of high sea cliffs , with no where to get out , was I thought, not what I wanted that morning. In super concentration mode I go, keeping a watchful survival eye on the situation all around me, looking out for where the next wave or swell was to come from, so as not to be caught out and pushed under.

I eventually make it to Freshwater Bay, unscathed, phew! But I had realised when I hit the windward side of the island as I passed the Needles that my plan of towing the Rib back was a non starter, completely. I chose to push on regardless of this realisation since I thought I would see what options may present for the recovery of the rib at freshwater bay.

At freshwater bay i assess the rib: the engine has gone, presumably stolen and the rib is semi deflated. I can’t find anyone in a boat to tow it back, despite making enquiries ( I went into the trinket shop at the bay to ask if they knew of any vessels heading my direction, the morbidly obese man whom I spoke to remembered me from the first RNLI rescue, he was keen to offer me his view (though not any help) on my voyage and he suggested, without any invitation, that I should give Wight Cat a Viking burial ( ie take it out to sea and sink her) , I respond by saying to this grotesque figure of a man, “not at all. Looks can be deceptive, looks can be deceptive”. I then leave the trinket shop thanking this creature for his opinions.

I formed a plan, that I would take the kayak back to Wight Cat and return by foot the next day, Inflate the rib and paddle it back.

By this time I’m cold and wet and dehydrated , having only had the whisky from the hip flask since I left at 10am (it now being 330) i decided not to paddle back but to walk with kayak on my shoulder , cutting across the island by foot is substantially shorter in distance back compared to going around by sea, although by foot the journey is, I discover, much much harder.

As I walk across the island with this massive – and heavy- kayak on my shoulder, sweat is dripping off my chin and forehead like a running tap. A couple of people offer to lend a hand , which I decline for their own sake. A number of people pass comment to me saying “that looks hard”; they don’t know it , I’m regretting this decision and aching like crazy. But I try and visualise the route to the finishing line of the shore (I had in fact earlier walked it back without the kayak as a recognisance trip to ensure I got the right route , before walking back to freshwater bay to pick up the kayak and take it back to Wight Cat ) .

Mid way I came across a load of blackberry bushes and stopped to feast, and hydrate al la blackberry ( having only had a small amount of whisky , no water, since I left that morning). I suspect that to an onlooker the sight of me picking blackberrys at speed and shoving them as quick as I could into my mouth, resembled a sort of starving cave man sight, I didn’t care, I still don’t.

As I approached the shoreline where Wight Cat is moored 500 metres off the shore I pass some road workers working in the road on the approach to Colwell Bay. The workmen physically applaud me, the three of them stop work, down tools and start clapping, they tell me that that drove past me at the other end of the island as I walked (struggled ) with the kayak on my shoulder and couldn’t believe that I continued the journey to where I now meet them again, the other side of the island. They ask me what Im doing it for, I replied ” the cause of stupidity”. They laughed.

The Needles in the distance .

Anchor Man II

I woke early to catch the low tide so that I could take a better look to see what my anchor is jammed by.; I saw, and the anchor has found a new long term home down there now, the thick chain leading up to the anchor has woven in and around a couple of neighbouring large boulders, in speggetti type fashion, while the anchor itself gives no movement whatsoever on pull, it being so firmly jammed between two large rocks.

It’s not my anchor anyway, I lost my anchor last week, the day of the first RNLI rescue. This is an anchor which I came to by chance, on the day of the second rescue, when I had no anchor on board other than my twin brother Richard, after Wight Cat began to hit the rocks (because we ironically didn’t have an anchor to drop to halt our drift !) our rescuers towed us to a near by bay and temporarily lent me their spare anchor.

As the loaned anchor dropped into the water, one of the two rescue boats shouted to the other rescue boat “oh look theirs that anchor from last week!”

My ears sprung up instantly, and my eyes directed to the patch of water which rescue boat 1 was pointing at, and their at the end of his stumpy fat hand was a white Bouy, marking an anchor line, but, most importantly of all (for the purposes of my anchor acquisition) no boat attached to the other end ( I thought to my self , there will be a boat attached very very soon!)

I immediately queried with the rescue boat the situation and story of this anchor and bouy, which with every word in response, I began to take ownership of this loan some anchor.

Shortly after the rescue boat left ( loaning me their anchor ) I then canoed over to where the anchor bouy was when the stumpy fat hand pointed to it, although by this time it was submerged with the rising tide. It being impossible to connect my own rope to the anchor bouy without getting wet and diving under, so I launched myself from the canoe onto open water, rope in one hand and swimming with another, then a short dive under the waters surface to connect my rope to the submerged anchor buoy, and BAM!, it’s now my anchor (according to international maritime law, thank you mamm!). I swam the other end of the rope back to Wight Cat, pushing the kayak as I swam.

I did not occur to that just maybe the reasons that anchor detached from its former owners boat was because it got jammed.

So I now have an anchor, one which is not going anywhere. This makes it a rather secure fixed tidle mooring which I do not have to pay for! Though I will have to invest in a new anchor if I am to take Wight Cat from her new permanent mooring!

When nothing happens at all.

I rise early this morning, in fact I went to bed so early yesterday afternoon, so fed up was I at everything either breaking or not working (or both) I just thought sod it, and off I went to bed while it was still daylight outside.

As a consequence I awoke at 1am and have been up since. I had great. plans for today, I was going to raise the sails and fly, we’ll sail at least.

Hurdle 1. I couldn’t and still can’t work out how to raise the jib or fathom how the rigging works on the boat. Even more confusing, it appears that I have 3 other sails in addition to the main sail which for the life of me I don’t know where to put….

Solution 1. Fuck the jib and other sails. I spent 2 hours staring at the mast and main sail which I had raised , thinking to myself “do I actually need the other sails?” In between I emailed the Isle of Wight radio station asking if they would put out my plea for an islander who knows about rigging to come aboard for a couple of hours to show me the ropes ( quite literally) I got no response from the station.

With my main sail raised and with a spirit of wanting, needing, yearning to burn some distance today, I then tried to hoist the anchor: would it budge, it still hasn’t.

Problem 2: the anchor is either stuck between rocks and won’t lift or I am just too much of a weed to carry its drag. Either way is not moving’ though the tide has just changed, so I’m hoping that a falling tide in the other direction and some more man hours heaving at the chain might, just might,, free me from this prison on the sea.

I also dropped another mobile phone into sea today. I’m really not doing well at keeping mobiles on board.

I did however pump out all the water from the bulk heads on either side of the main hull, which at least was some kind of achievement. At the present rate of success I take what ever success I can get, even if it is only pumped out bulkheads….

I’m off to try the anchor again.

When you don’t have a schedule you can’t be late

So, I’m pretty much doing what I did yesterday: eating and breathing…

Though today I’m in learning mode and have spent the day aboard Wight Cat swatting up , via the internet , on how to sail, for stats on countries that discriminate by law.

I say I spent the day aboard Wight Cat, I have not put foot on land since my brother Richard left a couple of days ago.

Anyway, one of my sisters (I have 3!) emails me today to say that I should post an email I sent her on my blog since it’s would be more interesting than the usual tosh I write; I agree, not least because the work has already been done- no effort .

Samantha says most people would want to read about sailing global stuff as opposed to my views on the price of wheat in China; I hold my counsel.

So this is the email I sent her last week, when the weather was bad…


The wind is still g8 level here, it dies down late morning though, so my plan, somewhat of pragmatic plan or chickens plan , depending on individual perspective is to head up the uk coast in the morning towards Dover and to then make the crossing of the channel at the narrower point where it’s only 12 miles as opposed to 70 miles.

I just heard, while typing this , The Solent coastguards gale warnings and forecast (Solent coast guard perform a more detailed version of r4’s shipping forecast , approx every 3 hours, they do so by announcing the upcoming forecast on vhf channel 16 – the emergency channel which everyone tunes in to, directing those who want to listen to the safety briefing and forecast to channel 63. Much like r4’s shipping forecast it is very relaxing , I particularly like the section ‘hazards to navigation’ part of the broadcast (in the last week there has been a sunken tanker in Osborn bay with its bow sticking up out of the water,  exposed piping on the sea bed for submarine wiring (not sure why subs needs to have piping laid for them!  And just now I learn via the Solent coast guard  0131hrs report of a fishing net  of some 5metres by 5metres adrift at the entrance to Chichester harbour! ) I digress,  3 gale warnings in sea area ‘Dover’ ( severe 9,  lowering to 8 imminent, ), sea area Portland ( severe 9 lowering to 8 immient ) and sea area Wight (8. Expected later): that forcasg might upset my plan, as above….

Re AIS system,  compared to the spot system, both work by using GPS (think both on the erridium satellite group), but spot and ais have very very different functions and jobs. The spot device is a small orange block device that is  water proof with a couple of buttons and a flashing light, it has 2 functions 1, to. Transmit location data back to the satilite and 2 , to enable the user to send their exact coordinates in a distress call for a search and rescue operation. The only people who have sight of the gps data and location are the user and whoever the user has shared that data with and obviously spot.

AIS , is more like a sophisticated radar system, conveyed by gps, as opposed to radar. The ais device transmits data to other ais receives sending them info as to exact location, and vessel details, (type, length , etc etc)  the ais also receives the same data Of other vessels from other ais devices. The ais device is a screen that has your vessel in the middle and then plotted on the screen is the location of other vessels in your location, so at night, u can see all ais vessels around and alarms go off if a vessel gets to close within a user defined prominty , usually 2 miles, promoting u to take evasive action to avoid collision. When I was adrift at sea the other night, my alarm on the ais went off, causing me in fact much more panic than reassurance, since on the screen both my vessel And another vessel (which. I couldn’t see by eye sight , it being pitch black) looked as if they were on top of each other , or just about to be, I dashed into a moment of sheer fear thinking Wight Cat was going to be struck by a tanker !  In the end , ie the morning, I realised ,, after not being struck by that evasive tanker !, that I had set the safe zone at 3.5 miles , plenty of space, so the alarm triggered when a vessel with ais came within 3.5 miles of me,  not metres as I assumed in fear the previous night as the alarm bell sounded   !,

So, with what is my easiest post today, a mere cut and paste job, I shall return to my pimms.


A day gone by….

So Another day another dollar

Today I stayed put. In ‘staying put’ I made more progress compared to all the days I was on the ‘move’.

I could have put my hand to the million and one repairs the boat apparently needs; though, if I’m frank those “repairs” are actually superficial facial reconstruction as opposed to fixing the organs or bones of the boat.

I didn’t attempt any repair let alone a face lift of Wight Cat. She does not need it. Wight Cat purrs irrespective.

My brother Richard urged me to “tidy her up”.

What Richard meant by that was that he was uncomfortable being seen in a shabby vessel that was in ‘need’ of a coat of paint.

I’m not swayed….. I know how big my penis is, others can take it or leave it. It’s really their problem, not mine.

It’s not what we wear on the surface that matters. It’s what we are below that counts.

Nor do we need the acceptance of strangers to be at ease. I don’t, neither should you.

In ‘boating land’ people “invest” vast sums into their vessel. That “investment” is more often a penis enlargement as opposed to anything else.

In truth, no one needs a penis enlargement; ‘small diamonds cut large rocks’; just work out how to use it…..

We sweat a lot of small stuff. A lot of small stuff….

The ‘problems’ that most people in the uk think they face don’t bear comparison to the real challenges that many people global face.

For instance while we may cry at how bad the local authority is where we live in bin collection, bear a thought for those who live in the 72 countries around the world who suffer daily under the law because they are gay, and being gay in they country is outlawed.

Let’s be frank; most of us have it easy, right?

My first port of call (aside the Isle of Wight ) is France. A western democracy , so you would think.

Not so if your gay or a woman, where some of those ((French) laws, enshrines prejudice into law.

I will report on the major problem of French discrimination in the law in my blog post as I hit (hopefully not literally, but who knows!) the French Coast.

For now, good night.


Slow, errrr umn ‘progress’?!

The VHF radio taking a well earned break. Used (again) today for a reluctant “Mayday Mayday Mayday” call to HM Coast Guard, when my brother Richard was in charge of ‘Wight Cat’. Turns out I know more about sailing then he!

So progress is relative right ? At least I hope so, since if my ‘progress’ in a sail boat is to be adjudged by the yardstick of what most others might have achieved in a sail boat over the same time, then others would consider that disappointing…

Thankfully, I’m not ‘most others’. I believe that success, at anything, starts with a personal success, and that success is relative, relative to ones capabilities.

We can’t all achieve the same thing or achieve at the same rate, we all have different strengths and different weaknesses, different learning curves and different capabilities: we should not shy away from facing up to the fact that we can’t be good at everything and some times we should rejoice in the admission of our own incompetence; for publicly accepting that we are rubbish at a particular thing is a real strength in its self, and beholds both a confidence in who we are as an individual as well as an assertion that ‘who I am’ is great! Flaws and all.

Take me for example; I (still) can’t sail. Not in the slightest. I have spent almost a month going a few miles, a few miles i could have achieved walking backwards with my eyes closed in just one night; but that’s ok, at least it’s ok with me, and that’s all that matters.

I wake up in the mornings and gaze dumbfounded at the rigging on my sail boat, trying to work out if all the pully systems on the boat are for actual use or , I speculate, are they just there for show…

At the present rate of travel I will be 897 years old by the time I complete a circumnavigation of the world; that is if I in fact complete one.

But that’s ok, it really is. My goal was always to challenge myself and take myself out of a ‘comfort zone’ that I got stuck in it’s never ending cycle of discomfort ( I take issue with the term ‘comfort zone’ since the hum drum routine of a ‘comfort zone’ is seldom comforting to anyone).

Much to my ‘uncomfort’ I have truly exceeded in the underlying objective of challenging oneself, and getting out of my comfort zone- and I have done so in just the pithy miles I have spent so long trying to travel.

Take today for example: after being rescued by both the HM Coast Guard and RNLI last week, I sat around in Yarmouth harbour on the Isle of Wight, sitting more out of fear of my own incompetence than anything else; I was just scared of what I could not easily achieve. I sat around under the pretence of ‘boat repairs’, I even kidded myself into believing the ruse.

In truth, it wasn’t boat repairs I was waiting on ( I duck taped up the holes quickly) but a self mental repair. The trauma of being rescued and the deep down knowledge that, at sailing at least, I was not as good as I either wanted to be or thought I would be. This morning I “came to” that honest realisation of my on sailing incompetence and thereafter, and, apart from another emergency “Mayday Mayday Mayday” call to the Solent Coast Guard and summoning the assistance of about a dozen passers by as Wight Cat hit some rocks (again!), , the day was plain sailing, albeit without the sailing! And in my sailing incompetence I am happy, really happy; I have found who I really am, or not, as far as sailing quickly (or at all) goes.

Sure, I would love to be the best at sailing, and the best at everything. I would also like to be Prime Minister. Bub wanting something I can’t achieve is its self a starter to a main-course of misery; though I like to think that I could still be the PM!

There is nothing wrong with ambition. We need it, we live on it, but let’s make it an honest ambition as opposed to a dream.

So still on the island- second rescue over and I feel good- good about myself , good about my strengths and non strengths ! And excited for the sailing future. It has been a real rolla coaster thus far and a challenge beyond my expectations. Just think what the rest of the journey has in store!