Trip on Pantalaimon starting 2019-10-04 in BSAOct19

Boat Handling Weekend, 4th-6th October 2019 – report by Ian Gamble

Boat: ‘Pantalaimon’ Bavaria 36.5

Skipper - Jeff Birkin. Crew: Alex Barry, Colin Burbidge, Ian Gamble, Taylor Mowat and Emma Robertson.

Four of us left Bristol, Cymbran and Clevedon to arrive in Plymouth and Queen Anne BatteryMap at approximately 4:30, with Taylor and Emma arriving around 8:00pm. Jeff and Colin had done the provisional shopping, so once the first four of us had arrived, stowed our gear and the shopping on board by around 5:30pm, it was time to test the stove and kettle for tea and coffee preparation.

We covered plenty of interesting topics, including, a synopsis of our experience levels (that didn’t take long), our health and any necessary medication, hopes for the weekend, general sailing aspirations, navigation experience, reviewing the ever-changing weather forecast, (which thankfully had improved) and most essentially, our common need for copious amounts of chocolate ��

We reviewed a few of the essential items with Taylor and Emma, safely adjourning to cross the swing bridge to The Barbican, the fish and chip shop...then the pub shortly afterward to complete a necessary Tribute and Guinness comparison survey in Chandlers bar at the marina.

Saturday was a steady and relatively leisurely start, with quick breakfast, weather update and Safety checks. Weather for Saturday was calm and winds light, with something a little more brisk on Sunday, and with very little rain in the predictions. Despite the good forecast, we’d been advised wisely to be ready for most types of weather, that we’d be doing some fairly physical stuff, so to have layers allowing easy adjustment to our temperature if and as required. Nobody seemed to be suffering from sea sickness, so for those that took precautionary tablets, they obviously worked.

As the wind was relatively steady, we decided upon testing Jeff’s cardiac stamina; we were initially observing and absorbing both essential and handy tips on gaining a ‘feel’ for panty liners...sorry, typography issue... feel for Pantalaimon’s manoeuvrability on rudder, etc. We then all had several goes at the helm, slipping mooring, moving around the marina and re-mooring at a safer location (where we might hopefully cause less damage). These exercises were all so helpful: Leaving and parking/mooring, boat and engine handling tips and practice in the marina. Initially it seemed a lot to grasp, but Jeff was extremely careful in ensuring observation and safety at all times, often giving us various words and gestures of encouragement to adjust, particularly when we may have ventured a little too close, or too quickly toward other yachts. We quickly reached a stage where we could tell when to turn by the colour of Jeff’s face and the bulging of eyes...he’s a very good communicator.

After looking up some of the words later...I’m not sure that all were strictly nautical...a bit like the lingo in this report.

We later discussed more about running on engine, looking closely at rigging and nomenclature, finding out where things were and the differences often found on even very similar vessels. This seemed to calm things down somewhat and... well the weather forecast kept getting better and better, with less wind, just the right amount to play with. So, after tea and a lot more chocolate for Jeff and Taylor, we ventured out into Plymouth Sound, practising loads of helming, tacking and gybing, reaching and running, whilst all the time changing places and duties. Later in the day, we practiced heading directly into wind and holding steady, then regaining position when deviations occurred. We pirouetted around to port and starboard to ensure we could feel the way the boat handled turning on keel, under rudder control. This was great practice for reducing load on the sails and rigging to aid reducing canvas.

The end of an excellent Saturday saw us venture once again over the swing bridge to The Barbican and into a fish restaurant. With lovely food consumed, we emerged to a complete deluge of rain. We headed back to the marina, soaked to the skin. It rained pissistantly… oops…non-stop, the whole way back, so to avoid getting the Pantalaimon too wet, we decided to shelter and dry ourselves in Chandler’s Bar, again completing a necessary Tribute and Guinness comparison survey.

Sunday saw us rise early, checking weather eagerly, as we could feel the wind was stronger with the promise of brighter skies. We headed out into the Sound at around 8:00am as we were eager, particularly after Skipper Jeff’s briefing and adaptable objectives. What a great day. We showed the wind more cloth and had a fantastic time practising our tacking and gybing. The wind gusted pretty strongly, Force 6 at times and we soon felt a bit over-canvassed, particularly when quite close to a multitude of racing yachts. After persevering for some time, a few hairy moments with rails in the water and a few more pirate words from Jeff, we turned into and faced the wind, stalling the sails and reducing pressure on the lines in order to reef in somewhat. Under easier control once more, we continued our tacking and gybing until approaching lunchtime and CawsandMap; this was our chosen zone for anchoring practice. More tips in manoeuvring to drop and position the anchor and chain carefully, then some interesting moments (we suspect the anchor hadn’t been used for a while), we got a good bite and settled in for lunch and a briefing for our afternoons activities.

Next, our Man Over Board scenarios. We discussed how things often work, the issues with different boats, strong winds, tides, etc. Our first few M.O.B. attempts were successful…in that we didn’t actually lose one of the Pantalaimon’s fenders, however, at times we feared our fender M.O.B. may feel the hypothermia.

Next we were personally introduced to OSCAR. We've heard a bit about ‘Oscarline’ over the last few years and it was very impressive to see, and indeed all use, the training version in action. Without fail, we rescued our M.O.B. casualty much more quickly using OSCAR. With OSCAR well and truly tested for our session, we headed back to Mount Batten Quay for fuel. En route to the fuelling pontoon, I inadvertently tied a poor hitch on our roving fender, which tangled with my harness line and immediately went a roving. Again, we attempted our M.O.B. rescue with success!

Alex then tested Jeff’s vocabulary whilst helming back to Queen Anne Battery MarinaMap. Suddenly the Pantalaimon lurched to Starboard; an abrupt and complete course change toward the concrete shore. It was a Pink Floyd few seconds, a momentary lapse of reason, which, partly thanks to Jeff’s pirate lingo, was soon corrected.

All calm again… and a safe mooring in the marina, a clean and sort of the boat and we were on-shore again. We had run a kitty for the food and drink we shared as a crew, so we decided to settle up before leaving the marina. Where could we find a table? What better place than the Chandler bar…oh go on then.

We sorted, shook hands and Jeff confidently announced he was about to kiss Taylor’s wife cheerio… Taylor hesitated; a delayed answer. We are still unsure whether Emma knew about Taylor’s wife before that moment.

On that note and discussions in the car that followed, Alex and I agreed, whilst we very much enjoy the cruises, it's a slower learning process. We felt we learnt as much in one weekend, as one picks up over several years worth of ‘normal’ trips. It was equally useful going over everything several times. We'd both like to do similar Sailing exercises outside the sound, in a swell, to get a hang of that.

As Alex commented, the only issue is time.

‘Pantalaimon’, a Bavaria 36.5 was very comfortable. It slept six of us in relative comfort and was very well equipped. She was a tribute to her owner and to Liberty Yachts.

Last…and certainly not least, I feel we were all pretty impressed with the OSCAR. The simplicity and relative efficiency with which, even as novices, we were able to retrieve a line during the MOB practices and execute a rescue, should make it an international ‘no-brainer’.

Our sincere thanks to Jeff and all of the team for an absolutely excellent weekend all-round. I think we would all certainly be up for another one.

Plymouth QAB  50.3644,-4.1316
Cawsand  50.3319,-4.1894
Queen Anne Battery Marina  50.3647,-4.1311