Trip on Bertie starting 2013-05-31 in BSAJune13

Trip on ‘Bertie’ 31 May-2 June 2013 - report by Don Hirst

The Skipper, Jeff Birkin, and Crew Bill Barnes, Jade Barnes, Chris Baxendale, Alan Gray, Paula Gray, Richard Trim and Don Hirst of ‘Bertie’, a Bavaria 44, assembled at QABMap Plymouth on Friday afternoon. After a comprehensive safety brief we set sail for the river Yealm under Idyllic conditions, lower Force 4 Northerly, slight seas and Sunshine. Some of the crew were unfamiliar with the latter promising a whole new experience. The downside to all this was that all the other sailors who had been allowed out to play that afternoon decided to head for the Yealm and we were unable to get any space on our usual pontoon just short of the Noss Mayo inlet. Even on the outside of the pontoon where we had just received lurid details and dire warnings from Simon Beeby of Liberty recounting recent accidents which had occurred due to crews being inexperienced with the strong currents which occur at times. Even if you are experienced, the crew of the boat next to you may not be. We had to settle for the quieter visitors’ pontoon beyond the Noss Mayo inlet on the west bank. The usual trip to the pub was deemed to be challenging from this location without the assistance of an outboard for the dinghy so we settled for a very convivial night on the boat. On reflection, due to liberal interpretation of contingency planning applied to the provisioning list, allowing for just such emergencies as the pub being beyond reach, we probably had more alcoholic beverages on board than the pub anyway.


The day dawned clear and bright, suntan cream not used for years was brought into use. We set sail for Fowey. Bertie soon showed his power even doing upright sailing achieving speeds up to 8.5 Knots, close reaching, with 2nd reef in the main in a Northerly lower Force 6. Progress was so rapid we diverted to St Austell bay for lunch at anchor to be followed by man overboard training using a fender and bucket. The crew emerged brimming with confidence all achieving successful rescues in the F6 conditions. What followed pressed home the message to clip on in anything but the most benign conditions in the cockpit and at all times when moving on deck in daytime. Clipping on at night is of course mandated. A model representing the head of a person in the sea was set adrift. It was remarkable how quickly it was lost from sight with perfect visibility in a slight sea state. An experimental device was attached to the model, although it greatly increased the distance the man overboard model could be seen, it is clear that man overboard is a major emergency warranting a MAYDAY in every case.

Training over we motored round Gribbin head into Fowey. We soon saw the familiar yellow peril water taxies plying their trade. The Visitor pontoon opposite the lifeboat was taken by a yacht in the centre of the pontoon. We managed to moor Bertie’s bow to the pontoon. The other yacht then moved up and we were able to move Bertie to a more comfortable position for the night, with proper fendering and only the stern overhanging. Enthusiasm took over and we treated fellow yachtsmen and women to a demonstration of using a halyard to hoist a crewman from the pontoon onto the boat using his life jacket harness. Pre-dinner drinks also over ran, as they do, leaving no time to use the dinghy. The only solution was to call a water taxi whose fees make bankers’ bonuses look like petty cash. The cost per metre travelled compare with that of a flight into space or printer ink. The only redeeming feature is that the last return service has been extended to 23.00 from 22.30. Once ashore we assessed the hostelries. All were full, even the mediocre ones, Sam’s had 10 tables booked in front of us. In panic we tried the yacht clubs and found solace in Fowey Gallants SC who provided good wholesome food and drinks at a reasonable price, a good port of refuge.


As we were leaving the pontoon using a woven warp as a long stern slip to spring off the bows, the warp locked on the pontoon cleat. The warp was released from Bertie and retrieved from the pontoon without further incident, but it had the potential to cause problems. Analysis: A rare occurrence, however when the load is released the springiness of the woven warp amplified the waves set up in the warp as it was being pulled rapidly aboard, which caused the warp to lock on the pontoon cleat. The learning points are not to use a woven warp as a spring slip, particularly if it is to be a long one and always plan for problems.  In the case of this incident, the problem did not leave us with a damaged vessel or injured crew. Using exactly the same method, we then left the pontoon in textbook fashion.

The day started with the potential to be as perfect as the previous two, weather wise, but three out of three is about as improbable as a tax rebate and sure enough the wind dropped and we had to motor. We anchored in Cawsand Bay for lunch on the way back.

Bertie is a great yacht with plenty of room for eight. Enough pieces of string attached to Bertie’s sensitive parts to keep the sail trimmers happy. Even the skipper was struggling to find fault with Bertie. A big fast boat which would be good for longer trips to France and the Channel Islands etc., it also has a powerful economical engine should the wind fail. A chance remark by Liberty suggested that 44 foot boats are less popular for hire than the 36 -38 foot range. It may be possible to get better deals.

The Crew thank the Skipper for a super trip, exceeding our original objectives, having a great time, and learning some valuable lessons.

QAB  ,