July 31, 2011

Llanbedrog - Abersoch

Around 02.00 the noise of the boat changed. We could hear water lapping against the hulls and a clonking as though the centreboard was rattling in its casing. I ignored it. It wasn't anything I'd ever heard before and normally I'd have got up to investigate but I knew what it was. We were taking the ground.

Evetually Julie got up in the night, as you do, and so did I and I discovered that the engine was stuck in the sand. I'd neglected to raise it when we anchored. I persuaded Julie to stand on the port trampoline, near the bow, and then I was able to get the engine up. It had come to no harm so we went back to bed.

Then I thought I'd take the cabin light and look around outside. It is a powerful LED light run by two AAA batteries. We were on sand, sprinkled with sea weed. The water was some distance off by now. The boat had heeled a little to starboard, possibly because the engine and mainsail were on the same side. The consequece of this was that in bed Julie felt a bit squashed because I couldn't easily stay on the port side of the berth.

At dawn the wind got up from a different direction and the mast and rigging made a strange and eerie moaning sound whenever the wind blew. When the water returned we experienced the same lapping noises as when we had taken the gound la "Riddle of the Sands". Then as we floated the trimaran realigned herself with the wind and the moaning ceased. We got some rest at last.

Julie had survived the night but she really was not well still when we had to get up around 0820 lest we got stuck here for a whole day. She felt sick as soon as she sat up in the cabin. No appetite. I decided it was best to get her to Abersoch as soon as possible and get her off the boat.

The mainsail went up really quickly and easily and I decided on one reef. I would have taken two had we set off earlier as it had been about force 5 then but now it was only 3 gusting 4. As this was Julie's first sailing holiday I did not want to be gung ho and frighten her so I was sailing conservatively.

It was a grim grey morning as we beat to Abersoch at about 8 knots. Max was 9.6 kn. Very good! That was in a gust when I let the sheets out as the starboard float was showing signs of immersion occasionally. But it was piercing the waves nicely and there was no appreciable decelleration into waves. The wave height was about 0.6m. We stopped a couple of times to sort out details like fenders wishing to abandon ship. We furled the jib and centred the main when we stopped so she pointed head to wind.

At Abersoch we anchored right outside the South Caernarfonshire Yacht Club and a launch came quickly and took Julie ashore.

I took the mainsail down and lashed it to the boom, using the main halyard as a topping lift. I remembered to raise the engine this time and I lashed the tiller with the rudder also lifted. But I forgot to raise the centreboard so I had to go back and do this after a full English breakfast and a shower. Julie could only manage tea and toast.

I checked with the bosun about our position and he remembered the last time I was here with the Catri 24 trimaran six years ago. It was a very distinctive boat. He even remembered which mooring it had been on.

The launch driver was only a very young teenager and inexperienced. He had to make 3 - 4 attemptes to get alongside the Astus trimaran and then completely messed up the approach to the Yacht Club, jumped ashore without a rope and didn't catch the one that I threw him, which left me in charge! By now the wind had the boat by the bow. I put the engine astern a little and he bravely jumped back on board at the stern. If he'd fallen in he could have been badly hurt by the propeller. But he was lucky. He tried hard to hide his embarrassment and I tried to reassure him by saying that he could only learn by doing the job.

Julie called her friend Judy from work, who was in Llanbedrog on holiday with her family and we walked into Abersoch to meet them. As you may know I am a twin and today it is my birthday. Judy's has twin daughters (1st coincidence), Abbey and Lauren. I'd just spent the last 10 days teaching a girl called Lauren to scull (2nd coincidence). Judy's husband, Mike, is also a twin (3rd coincidence). His twin brother is called Steve (4th coincidence)! Whilst Julie and I had been sitting on a bench waiting for the family to arrive it turned out that we'd been sitting on the same bench as Judy's son Luke, who had with him the family dog, a flat coat called George. We all went and had a sit down, a drink and a chat.

Then Julie and I walked along the beach (with two piggy backs to cross the river) back to the Yacht Club.

Cup of tea and bit more toast for Julie and a panini for me.

We bumped into two people we knew. First was our GP from Chester and second was Harvey Worden (with latest babe in arms), who rows at my rowing club. Then we walked back into Abersoch to buy some books to read and some fresh milk and marmalade. Then back to the Yacht Club and back to the yacht.

We attempted to weigh anchor but the wind was so strong and the anchor rode so thin that I could not get an adequate grip on it to pull us back to the anchor. I didn't want to stay in this place for the night so I taught Julie how to operate the engine, knocking it in and out of gear and steering with the rudder so as to inch the boat forward into the wind as I hauled in the rope and then the chain and eventually the anchor.

We motored along the line of yellow buoys marking the swimming area of the beach and dropped anchor at the southern end when we could see the bottom was clear of obstructions. We were well sheltered from the wind here.

It was drizzling and to prevent any drips coming in I made a canopy out of Julie's showerproof jacket rather than close the hatch over us. Given more time I'd have a proper canopy or bimini made.

We turned in about 21.30, possibly the earliest I've ever been to bed on my birthday! Every now and then we could hear the swish and plop of a fish or perhaps a duck. Then we fell asleep.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 09:29 PM

July 30, 2011

Pwllheli - Llanbedrog

With the new Astus 20.2S trimaran in tow I picked up Julie and it was clear from the outset that she was not a well bunny! We stopped at the first pharmacy we came across and were given an out of hours number to ring. God bless the National Health Service! We were given an appointment at the Glan Clwyd hospital near the white marble church at Bodelwyddan on the A55 North Wales coast road and within a couple of hours were on our way again complete with appropriate antibiotics. But would Julie survive a week at sea in a small boat with me or will I be burying her corpse at sea?

It's not often you see a trimaran in a hospital car park

The harbourmaster at Pwllheli was very friendly and made no initial charge for launching as we'd have to come back later in the week.

Julie was very tired and had to keep napping in the car whilst I rigged the boat.

I launched the boat in trailing mode (floats in) and we set off under power at 18.20. We motored upwind at 7 knots (not quite at max power as I was still running in the engine) and arrived at Llanbedrog at approx. 19.00.

My twin sister, Ruth, and her husband, Stephen, were on the beach to meet us. I passed him the anchor and he ran up the beach with it whilst Julie stepped ashore and I pushed the boat out to sea a little way. The still rising tide would look after the rest.

Ruth and I always try to get together for our birthday, which is tomorrow. We all had nice meals in a beautiful setting at the Galley Bistro on the beach with the boat in view. But Julie, who looked grey and close to death, didn't have much appetite and left most of her main course. We were all really worried about her but she was quite stoic.

We re-embarked at about 21.30 and anchored off. We spread the outriggers to make the boat its full width. The mainsail was already lashed to the boom (we'd done that at Pwllheli before launching) and secured to the starboard side to give more space walking about in the cockpit. We reorganised the contents of the cabin for sleeping, something that we would find increasingly easy to do, and turned in as it was getting dark.

A group of holiday makers were enjoying themselves on the beach, having a BBQ.

There was a strange bird flying around in the dark with a call I'd never heard before. ..- ..- with a glissando in the - but most bizarrly it sounded as though it had a gzu stuck in its throat! It flew around making this noise for quite a while then flew off.

Every now and then in the small hours I could hear the distant sound of the engines of passing motor boats. Julie never heard them as she was asleep already.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 11:41 PM

July 27, 2011

Astus 20.2S DEMOS in Cardigan Bay

On Saturday (30th July) I shall be rigging the Astus 20.2S trimaran at Pwllheli and setting sail in Cardigan Bay. First stop was going to be Cricieth and then Portmadog but plans are evolving and we might set off in the opposite direction so that I can spend the evening with my twin sister on the eve of our birthday, probably in Llanbedrog.

Anyway, if you want to join us for short trial in the boat then do give me a ring on my mobile 07 985 043 981. Please leave a message, as I seldom answer my phone when under way, and I'll get back to you to arrange a rendezvous.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 11:48 PM

July 14, 2011

Morecambe Bay

Following successful demos on Ullswater and on the Solent I took the Astus 20.2S trimaran to Morecambe Bay for a demo. Unfortunately I did not arrive early enough and we ran out of time and had to recover the boat before the tide went out after only 15 minutes in it. This was not so difficult as you might think with only two of us by virtue of a cleverly positioned length of rope.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 03:59 PM

July 06, 2011

Astus demo day on Sunday

The weather looks ideal for a demo at Lee-on-Solent this coming Sunday, the 10th July.


I intend to be there at 08.30ish to give plenty of time for questions during asssembly and to launch the Astus 20.2S trimaran before 11.00 when the tide will disappear from the end of the Elmore Anging Club slipway. We cannot get the boat up the slipway again until after 14.40, I believe, so there will be plenty of time for different people to have a go. (We do not need the slipway in order to change crew.)

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Please, if you are seriously looking at buying this boat and want to come along then call or text me on my mobile, 07 985 043 981 as I will not be answering emails after tomorrow morning. I am driving down south with the boat tomorrow and then racing at Henley Masters Rowing Regatta on Friday and Saturday.

Posted by Stephen Walker at 04:55 PM