Trip on Spellbinder starting 2010-11-07 in BSADec10

Sail Handling on Spellbinder – report by Phil Watkin

Sunday 7th to Wednesday 10th November 2010

(Random Men Overboard and two calls to the Lifeboat!!)

The crew comprised Chris Watts (skipper) Jill Hunter, Sue Fowle, and Phil Watkin.

We left Bristol on Sunday on a beautiful afternoon marred only slightly by the threats of strong winds, heavy rain, and no water on board. Phil and Jill were first to arriveMap and luckily were in time to meet the Phoenix crew as they were clearing the boat after their weekend cruise. The Phoenix skipper had tracked and fixed the leak from the fresh water system, thus removing the first threat to our cruise. Chris and Sue arrived a little later, so having loaded our kit and stores we headed off for dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. After some discussion it was agreed to go for the “set menu” which allowed any number of starters and any number of main courses for a very reasonable fixed price. This was a novelty to all but Chris who had recommended it and proved to be a feast! Of course there was also a liberal wine ration taken alongside the food!

Overnight the Met Office’s prediction was proved correct and we were tossed around by gale force winds and sluiced by torrential rain, which meant that none of us slept very well. We were however VERY pleased to have both diesel and electric heating onboard. The bad weather persisted into the morning, but after the safety briefing and an excellent review of how sails work by Chris, the rain stopped and we set off out into the harbour. It quickly became apparent that the wind was too strong to do exercises handling the boat under sail, so we picked up a mooring buoy for lunch and to discuss our options. It was agreed that we should head for Cowes, and hope that the wind would moderate sufficiently for us to do some exercises in the Medina either that evening or the following morning. We set off from Portsmouth in a good sailing wind, with two reefs in the main and genoa, enjoying the freedom of the open water. On the way Chris randomly shouted “Man Overboard” so that we could practice “crash stops” which was very entertaining!! During the afternoon the wind gradually faded becoming very light, so by the time we arrived at East Cowes the lack of daylight meant that the handling under sail exercises had to be postponed again. Although it had been rather cold at least the rain had held off and we managed an enjoyable sail.

We were allocated a very convenient berth only a short walk from the facilities, and commenced the evening with a de-brief over mulled wine prepared by Chris. Suitably warmed we decided to visit the Lifeboat for dinner. We found the food to be very good and the wine offer (buy two glasses and get the rest of the bottle free) irresistible!! However Chris ordered a rare steak which was delivered on a sizzling skillet which meant that by the time he had taken a couple of mouthfuls it was no longer rare. Overnight the wind and rain returned so despite many sleeping draughts once again the crew did not manage a refreshing sleep. In the morning Chris and Phil braved the elements to visit the shower block and ended up having three showers instead of one.

Following a subdued breakfast, we decided to head out as the rain seemed to be easing and try some handling under sail. Chris and Phil tried some initial manoeuvres but the conditions were still unsuitable so we opted for sailing and as the rain stopped we headed off for the Hamble, once again with two reefs. This turned out to be a very lively sail both due to the wind strength and the sea conditions. All the crew had turns at helming as we beat our way across before mooring alongside one of the pontoons in the Hamble for lunch.

After lunch Chris demonstrated “springing off” against the wind which was pinning us to the pontoon, but again the exercise was hampered by the strength of the wind. He did however get enough clearance so that quickly slipped lines allowed him to make a controlled exit from the berth. Not one for trainees unfortunately!! We initially headed up Southampton Water towards Ocean Village, but after a discussion about the quality of the shoreside offerings there, it was decided to go about and head back for Cowes. We had a good fast sail back with Sue and Jill on the helm vying for the highest speed on the log. Never say the ladies are not competitive??!! We entered the Medina as darkness fell. The chop in the entrance was really quite spectacular. A large racing trimaran moored on an outside pontoon was taking quite a battering while her crew (or marina staff) tried desperately to fend her off. We headed up river to East Cowes again to a berth which was not quite as convenient as the night before, but perfectly acceptable. It was a very enjoyable days sailing and once again the rain had kept away! Mulled wine soothed cold and tired crew as a prelude to another call to the Lifeboat. This time those having steak requested it be served on normal plates and it was excellent. Of course we felt duty bound to take up the wine offer again, and an enjoyable evening was had by all.

Tuesday night was a total contrast to Sunday and Monday. No wind, no rain and a good night was enjoyed by all, with the added bonus of bright sunshine, a light (but very cold) breeze and a cloudless blue sky to greet us in the morning. After a slightly more upbeat breakfast and single showers, we decided to go sailing. We had left the two reefs in and when we got out into the stronger breeze in the Solent we were sailing comfortably so we kept them. On the way out the trimaran appeared to be undamaged so the efforts of the crew had succeeded. We beat to the west for a while then tacked and headed north hoping to achieve a good line for a single tack all the way back to the entrance at Portsmouth. Chris again used the “Man Overboard” call for crash stop practice. Once heading east the wind gradually backed and eased until we were on a dead run. We had to steer carefully to avoid gybing until we had passed GilkickerMap and could harden up for the entrance. Before returning Spellbinder to her berth we picked up a buoy for lunch and did our very best to limit the stores we would have to share out and take home!!

While it was disappointing that the handling under sail activity was limited we all had some enjoyable sailing and convivial company. Thank you Chris for helping us make the most of the trip despite the conditions.

Haslar Marina  50.7908,-1.1171
Weather at EGHN   8 kts from NNE 7.0C, 1008mb Scattered Clouds
Gilkicker Point  50.7666,-1.1394
Weather at EGHN   8 kts from NNE 7.0C, 1008mb Scattered Clouds