Other PicoMicroYacht

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Exploring the route to Portsmouth and an unusual view of a train

Although I had finished 'London's Lost Route the Sea'  I remained curious about how the boats had carried on to Portsmouth.  The Portsmouth and Arundel canal used to link the river Arun with Chichester Harbour where the inland estuaries provided a route to Portsea Island (see the tiled map below).

The route then passed onwards via the Thorney Channel and then through the Langstone Channel. This latter part I wanted to explore.

The channel between Langstone Quay and North Hayling was dredged originally, as shown in the map below. The remains of this 'new cut' can still be seen at low tide when it is about six inches deep.

I set off from Emsworth and skirted across the mud flats at high tide towards the channel. Infront of me was a road bridge now connecting Hayling Island to mainland.

Stills from my Tom Tom Camera on the PicoMicroYacht mast

Beyond this were the remains of a railway bridge. To the left of the channel I could still see the remnants of the large cogwheel that enabled bridge movement to let ships through.

The railway was served by a 'puffing billy' train, featured in the short film below. The distinctive puffing sound from the last days of steam locomotion brings back old memories for some.

I was now in the Langstone Channel. Instead of going south, I decided to go northeast to find a small duct connecting Langstone Harbour to Portsmouth Harbour.  Someone had warned me that high tide is needed for the duct, but also the bridge clearances might not be sufficient. I got stuck at a railway bridge.

A snag of going under the bridge was that the trains appeared without warning. This is exactly what happened as I squeezed under the first bridge, the train passing just overhead at about fifty miles an hour. I hardly had thought 'I shouldn't be under here' when the train had gone.

A few more bridges took me through to Portsmouth Harbour. As PicoMicroYacht passed south  a police launch came along to check me out.

Further along I could see the police launches fussing around HM Queen Elizabeth, a huge aircraft carrier still being commissioned.

Finally PicoMicroYacht arrived at Haslar marine, with the distinctive green painted lightship, now used as a restaurant.

Postscript: Close to Langstone Bridge is the home of the famous Langstone Cutters Rowing Club, here seen rowing round the Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

A smooth voyage to Eastbourne as PicoMicroYacht completes the London's Lost Route to the Sea

The voyage had started in February, when under cold clear blue sky PicoMicroYacht went through the centre of London on the River Thames. The aim was to discover London's Lost Route to the Sea,  going onwards through the county of Surrey, down to Sussex and along the South Coast, reaching Eastbourne where my fellow charity runners were completing their run along the South Downs.

The runners had long since completed their event, but I still had the last voyage to complete, from Seaford to Eastbourne.

I picked a calm day. The temperatures were in the high 20's but the voyage would only take three hours rowing. Soon I was looking back towards Seaford with the glassy blue green sea set against the white cliffs..

It was not long before Cuckmere Haven appeared, with the old coastguard cottages to the left, defying nature as the cliffs continue to crumble.

Beyond were the Seven Sisters, undualations in the cliffs between Cuckmere Haven and Birling gap.

The temptation to count them is considerable, even though I have done this many times.

With a knot of tide and a calm sea, PicoMicroYacht was making good progress as I rowed along the Seven Sisters and looked up at the cliffs to see people on the coastal path.

When I reached Birling Gap I could see the metal frame of the steps that enable people on the cliffs to reach the beach.

Beyond this was Beachy Head, the highest cliffs in this part of the coast, with the lighthouse just below on a chalk ledge.

Avoiding the ledges, PicoMicroYacht went further out to sea and I was looking inland at the lighthouse beneath the cliffs.

Rowing on a little I could look back and see the sun starting to dip in the west.

The tide began to rip past the coast as PicoMicroYacht sped onwards. I could tell the speed of the tide from the lobster pot buoys.

The smooth water finished as PicoMicoYacht passed over an underwater ledge. I realised that this is where nasty seas could develop in bad weather and was glad I had avoided them by turning back on my previous voyage.

Finally I was in Eastbourne and going past the pier.

I looked round and saw people sea swimming, thankful I had not gone further in and risked bumping into them.

The more highly trained swimmers looked like sea creatures, whilst the less practiced, with their gaudy hats and floats to attract attention, looked more human.

The voyage was now over and it was time to find the beach by the sailing club and begin the slow task of dragging PicoMicroyacht up the beach.

Earlier on in the year, PicoMicroYacht had come to Eastbourne to celebrate the finish of the FourDaysRunning charity run for CASPA. One of the group had brought along his drone and filmed PicoMicoYacht from the pier.

The musical background to this short video clip by Ronald Binge captures a hot lazy day in early summer for PicoMicroYacht.

Postscript: Just before the FourDaysRunning event, the organiser Ivor Reveley died suddenly in his sleep. With some reflection and sadness, the runners completed the event, but grateful we had come to know this very inspirational leader who had helped so many people through his positive and unselfish approach to life.

Ivor Reveley

Monday, 25 June 2018

Should PicoMicroYacht turn back?

One of the things I enjoy about sailing is how to manage risk.  In everyday life I find risk management is often done for you or it is so ingrained (such as when crossing he road), that you do not really think about it too much. However, when sailing I find you are constantly assessing danger and making decisions about how to avoid getting in a tricky situation. Sailors talk about being 'caught out' or 'badly caught out' and then describe  in yachting magazines how they were caught out and had to cope with horrendous circumstances.

In PicoMicroYacht I am risk averse, because the outcome is potentially catastrophic if things go badly wrong.  I find it interesting that when people see PicoMicroYacht going out to sea they feel it their duty to warn me of the risks.

When PicoMicroYacht left Newhaven on 23rd June 2018 a kindly person on their incoming yacht looked down and saw the PicoMicroYacht electronic system, with the ship radio and AIS. They put two and two together to make five and said in a slow and deliberate voice:

'You are crossing the channel today'

I replied: 'no - not today'

'Are you crossing?'

'No not today'

With a hint anxiety in his voice he said even more slowly and deliberately:

'be careful'

I proceded onwards, the plan being to row along the coast from Newhaven to Eastbourne, passing Beachy Head. As I got out the of the shelter of the long Newhaven pier  the sea started to kick up. Despite low winds it became bumpy and choppy, or 'lumpy.'  I spend about an hour rowing along the coast until I reached the end of Seaford beach. The lumpiness continued and at this point I had to make a decision about whether to keep going.

 I spoke into my microphone to record my thinking at the time... should I turn back? The wind was a Sou' Westerly two to three, due to increase to three to four.  I had another three hours of fair tide and it was neaps.

Should PicoMicroYacht turn back?

Monday, 4 June 2018

PicoMicroYacht - what's in that name?

The latest edition of Practical Boat Owner has a useful comment article on  do's and don't of naming a new boat. Don't use a joke name, such as Rogue Trader if you work for an investment bank .... don't use very long names such as  three sheets to the wind, or ones that might cause confusion such as Starkle, that might be misheard as Sparkle when radioing the coastguard.

From the July 2018 edition of the Practical Boat Owner - What's in a Name?

The name PicoMicroYacht arose because I started sea rowing my Pico and I wanted it to reflect that I was treating it like a larger boat in terms of navigation. I do the same amount of voyage planning as in my larger 24 foot sailing boat, if not more. I follow the same principles, namely, check the weather, factor the tides into the passage plan, navigate using charts (at least in the planning stage), follow a course using a GPS or a compass, and use a ship radio. I take extra precautions such as usually reporting my passage plan by radio to the coastguard.

The boat is a Laser Pico, so this name was combined with 'microyacht,' the name given to very small cruising boats.

Micoyachts usually have an unusual appearance, such as this green Paradox class boat called 'Little Jim' and sailed by Alistair Laws on the south coast.

The wonderful 'Little Jim' - Paradox - to be seen on the South Coast of England

Paradox looks somewhat eccentric partly because the person sits in the cabin when they sail, the boat doing away with a cockpit. 

It is actually well thought out. As a boat gets smaller, the dimensions are such that if you retain a large enough cabin the cockpit gets relegated to the back of the boat and the crew essentially is sitting right in the stern. So the solution is for the crew to sit in the cabin.

An extension of is the attempt at a world record by the 42 inch 'undaunted' who tried to cross the Atlantic in 2017, but has had to delay the voyage due to technical difficulties.

A very short microyacht 

I suppose PicoMicroYacht is not really a microyacht, but a dinghy converted for very efficient sea rowing. But I find the name useful when, for example, contacting the coastguard, since it suggests my intentions. Also it is fairly distinctive and recognisable, although a bit of a mouthful.

By the way, a good seafaring tale that includes an intrepid voyage by Little Jim can be found in this video by Roger Barnes.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Sinking off Shoreham

I tend to mention safety issues and mishaps on this blog, perhaps to remind myself not to be complacent about the dangers of being out at sea in a small boat. To put things in perspective, the largest group of people who drown in the UK are out walking or jogging and happen to fall in. But complacency at sea can provide the biggest risk.

I remind myself that accidents happen at sea. I recently posted on PicoMicroYacht's voyage from Littlehampton to Hove in which, at the end of my voyage, I went past Shoreham harbour in the dark, running into a fishing line off the pier. I was carefully looking out for craft entering or exiting the harbour and neglected to think about the fishermen. Bright lights shone down at me as they wondered what was going on.What if, distracted by dealing with the line, a fishing boat had exited and run down PicoMicroYacht?

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch recently reported on the sinking of a small fishing boat off Shoreham port. This was in the dark, in the early hours of the morning.

The navigation lights of the boat were inadequate and they were not keeping watch as they fished for mackerel. The boat was run down by a 144 ton scallop fishing boat because the person on watch was distracted by looking at their laptop.

The scallop dredging fishing boat

The small fishing boat was swamped by the bow wave of the larger vessel and sank in two minutes. Although there were life jackets on board, these were not worn.  Only one out of the crew survived to tell the story, having clung to a buoy and being rescued five hours later.

The MAIB provide their account of the sinking and what went wrong

Friday, 11 May 2018

Onwards to Newhaven

PicoMicroYacht was launched off the beach and gingerly passed the Brighton marina as boats were coming in and out. I looked wistfully into the marina entrance.

The wind moderated and the sea became glassy. I was careful not to run aground on this shore because the ledges could be hard chalk.

Along this coast kayaks would come off the beaches and some were fishing. It was hot.

It was only about seven miles to row and the Newhaven pier was close.  An inflatable dinghy was out and about, reminding me that go to sea, you only need a very calm day, the back of a car, a pump and of course a mobile phone with the battery working and in a waterproof phone bag (see note)

Soon I was in the harbour, having called up on channel 12 to check whether the harbour was clear, and also the marina on channel 80. I was met by a marina worker, who helped me to my pontoon. We chatted about boats. His was a 37 foot motorboat that he had recently bought to do up and live on  - sounded like hard work, but I was ever so slightly envious.

Radio use approaching Newhaven

He reminded me of the potentially rough water off Beachy Head, particularly on an ebb tide when the water coming from the east speeds up and passes over shoals. I realised that if I was to take the flood up to Eastbourne I should be well past the Head before the tide changes if there was any sort of sea or swell.

These kayakers know it can be lumpy off Beachy Head - From the Chelsea Kayak website

note: personally I would advocate lifejackets, a portable ship radio (having gone on a course to make it legal), flares, a waterproof torch and telling someone what you are up to.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Beaching at Brighton

PicoMicroYacht was launched off the beach in Hove for a short hop to Brighton Marina.

I was helped into the sea by Jim, one of the 'fourdaysrunning' charity fundraisers, who was running 120 kilometers along the South Downs. Remarkable fit, he seemed not to be bothered  by walking down the beach after a long run.

The bank holiday sun had brought people to Brighton in droves and it was a little more peaceful out at sea.

The sun was setting as I passed the funfair at the end of Brighton Pier, listening to the screams (editors note - I have suggested this should be qualified - everything was alright).

On reaching Brighton Marina I called up on Channel 80. I found out they do not take craft without engines so PicoMicroYacht was beached just to the west of the marina.

 I looked back and saw Brighton Pier silhouetted against an orange sky, the end to a fantastic day with the fourdayrunners and my little voyage along the Brighton seafront.

The video below shows the launch at Hove, the Brighton Pier and the end of the voyage (Steve Reich's 'Piano Phase' is used as the background music).