Tuesday 9 May 2023

A stormy day

We left Dartmouth with a forecast of moderate SW winds, with Justin as crew. There was thick fog past Start Point, but with a bit of care and watching the GPS and AIS that's not too concerning as there is very little traffic in these waters apart from fishing boats which usually seem to carry AIS. We were sailing along fine with a fair tide, and expecting to be in Plymouth by mid afternoon. Then there was a tremendous squall from SW with driving rain, and very quickly a heavy swell sprung up. One advantage of sailing a gaffer is that it's very easy to drop the mainsail - the weight of the gaff brings it down whereas Bermudan mainsail can be difficult to get down in bad weather. When the squall hit us we dropped the main completely and rolled up the jib so we were roaring along with just staysail and mizzen. This strong wind wasn't forecast. I thought it was at least force 8 ( gale force). It was obviously quite widespread. Of the Gaffers, Indian Runner a few miles from us recorded a strength of 35 knots and had to turn back,  and Dave Patuck on Susan J off Plymouth recorded gusts of 60 knots. In Lyme Bay the pilot cutter Lettie suffered rigging damage due to the strength of the wind and had to put back for repairs.Pilot cutters are pretty solid and robust craft

I thought it might be a passing squall so we carried on under staysail and mizzen for a bit, getting very wet in the process due to clouds of spray coming over the boat. But after about half an hour we decided that we couldn't go on so we had better go back. So we ran back to Dartmouth and tied up to the pontoon we had left that morning. I had thought of going into Salcombe, which was nearer, but it was near low tide, and there is a bar at the entrance to Salcombe Harbour which can be dangerous in heavy onshore winds.
Bonita seems to have stood up to this poor treatment quite well. Sadly the mainsail boom crutch - which had been tied on- disappeared overboard at some point. A pity, as it was nicely made of oak with brass hinges. We need to stay in Dartmouth tomorrow for a crew change so I will try to make a replacement boom crutch.
Of the Gaffers in Dartmouth, Swift and Step Back in Time were sensible enough to stay here all day. Charlotte Elizabeth, Hilda and Bonita have put in due to stress of weather.
The Gaffers gathering in Plymouth tomorrow may have fewer boats attending than they expected, though we hope to get there some time on Thursday.

1 comment:

  1. Blimey Mike. Written up calmly, but a lot of decision making there. Good job. Pity about that old crutch though...