Trip on Spellbinder starting 2014-11-16 in BSADec14

Spellbinder trip with Quartette 16 – 19 November 2014 – report by Jeff Birkin

The crew for ‘Spellbinder’ was Dave Brown, John Hartland, Jill Hunter and Penny Luckand skipper Jeff Birkin.

We all arrived on the evening of Sunday 16th November and joined the crew of Quartette for a pint and a meal at the pub and celebrated young Bernard’s 80th year and 80th sailing trip. Here’s to the next 80!

On Monday morning after completing our checks and topping up the engine coolant tank, we slipped Mapat 11:10 and began our first day in the wet, grey and windless weather. Approximately 30 mins later, the engine alarm sounded so we shut down the engine and began to drift. Checking the engine coolant level it was discovered to require about 1½ pints. Topped up again, we started the engine and motored on checking the level after about 20 minutes. Sure enough, it had dropped again and required ¼ pint. Rather than just leave it at that we then topped it up to the brim and when we checked the water level every 30 minutes after that, it hardly dropped at all.

Not wanting to risk further problems we did not stop for lunch and motored straight to LymingtonMap and by 15:35 we were moored at the Town Quay where we were joined by our partners in crime soon after. A delicious spread of nibbles and a few drinks on Quartette got the evening off to a fine start.

On the 18th at 10:30 we prepared to slip and follow Quartette into the welcoming Easterly wind. Ignition on, engine heaters light extinguished, press engine start, nothing! Try again, and again, and again....... Although the engine was spinning freely there was nothing to indicate any intention of a desire to start. I had previously seen problems with the fuel cut-off valve and noted someone had clearly tidied up the electrics for that component providing, what I regarded, as a very robust connection. So, after 30 minutes of prodding, trying various combinations of throttle, battery setting and starting sequences, we were about to give up and call Sea Start. John then suggested hitting the valve! It’s worth remembering that this valve is a very solid lump of steel attached to an equally solid lump called the pump. Hitting it with anything short of a sledge hammer is unlikely to move anything. Therefore, it was with some sense of desperation that, so as not to cause damage, I hit the valve body with the handle of some plastic scissors. Next try, the engine instantly bust into life.

We slipped and made our way out to the channel raising the main and unfurling the headsail as soon as practicable. We were instantly sailing comfortably at 6 knots in the easterly winds out of the channel and across to the IOW. Continuing our journey we tacked against wind and tide using the shallows on the mainland side to reduce the effects of the tide. It was a really great sail and we made rapid progress toward Cowes, outpointing other yachts and carrying good speed. We had made such good time we decided to stop at Newtown Creek Mapfor a late lunch – an idea we had previously abandoned due to the delayed departure.

Starting the engine early – just to be safe - we dropped the sails and motored in using the ball and basket transit. It was just after low tide so scraping the mud as we headed to anchor in the east bay was of no concern. We dropped the hook in about 1 metre and settled in for an excellent lunch.

After lunch we headed out using the back transit to clear the channel and taking the opportunity to practice this black art, we went back in and out a few more times. In freshening winds and with the change in tidal direction, we had a great sail towards Cowes. With the main lowered and engine on – but not driving, we sailed under headsail only until we were close to the chain ferry where the wind dropped and navigational expediency dictated motoring the rest of the way to East CowesMap.

A visit from our comrades depleted the stock of alcohol and nibbles but set the tone for an enjoyable evening at the Lifeboat.

The following morning the engine started first time and we motored out navigating through the well buoyed channel around the new breakwater which doesn’t appear on any chart or in the almanac (but see PPS below). Then with full sails we made for Gosport tacking and reefing as the wind speed increased and the seas began to roughen. Ben Ainsley was out for a jolly but didn’t come near enough to exchange pleasantries as he made (according to AIS) 12 knts into the wind heading east.

Our last tack took us to Spit Sand FortMap where we centred the main and headed up the small ships channel under headsail power only. This activity was enhanced by the use of the tongue twister it inspired. ‘I sailed my ship up the small ships channel’

Once in the calm of GosportMap we used the space near the submarine museum to make a proper job of flaking the main before finally berthing Spellbinder for the last time.

It was a really great sail spoiled by problems with the engine and having to take account of its propensity to let us down when we might need it most. However, I am satisfied we were safe at all times and in all conditions we could have faced so, in all, there was no need to shorten the trip.

Thanks to all the crews of both boats for their good humour and for making this – my first official PYC trip as skipper – such an enjoyable experience.

PS. A full report of problems with the engine was submitted to PYC.

PPS (secretary’s note):

A chart of the new Cowes breakwater and warnings about variable W-going tidal streams between the breakwater and the western shore of the entrance are given in Cowes Harbour Commission Local Notices to Mariners. East Cowes marina has also warned to take care when using the boat channel and to check the depth of tide.

PYC have advised that Spellbinder may be aground in her Haslar berth at LWS, and arrival and departure should be timed accordingly.

Haslar Marina  50.7908,-1.1171
Lymington  50.7571,-1.5309
Newtown Creek  50.723,-1.4075
East Cowes  50.7529,-1.2917
Spit Sand Fort  50.7704,-1.0991
Gosport  50.7904,-1.1165