Other PicoMicroYacht

Monday, 28 December 2015

PicoMicroYacht and the joy of fixing boats

I am convinced that some boaties like working on their boats almost more than being out on the water.

My brother has taken more time building his canoe than he will be using it and he just loves his old Stuart Turner engine for his 23 foot yacht, even though it is most unreliable piece of equipment he has (apart from his Seagull outboard) - but the joy of fixing it is clear.

Just listen to an old Stuart Turner R3M go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sqmks0W87I and you will see his point.

For PicoMicroYacht getting the job done and being out rowing as quickly as possible is the priority.

But it is a bank holiday and a tyre of PicoMicroYacht's trailer need replacing and the replacement turns out to be the wrong size. And the WaterRower I use to train on is in bits because the tank has just sprung a leak and the temporary repair didn't fix it.

Even though the WaterRower is the best bit of kit I have bought, it has a flaw - the drum that contains the paddle that provides the resistance to the rowing action is joined together by a central seam that is prone to leaking.

The temporary fix was unsuccessful

It has to be taken apart and mended properly, which the suppliers will do.

So no rowing over the vacation period until I get one of these fixed.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Was PicoMicroYacht the last solo to row the English Channel?

The French 2013 ban for cross channel rowing is still in place.'Channel rowing' can be done but the voyage is half way across from the English side and then back again.

Two polish gentlemen had a go illegally recently because they wanted to find work in France,  rescued by the RNLI after bravely rowing fruitlessly into a strong head wind for two miles.

Image result for cross channel rowing 2015

To get round the ban people have planned to row 50 miles to Belgium instead, a more challenging crossing because of the less predictable shipping routes. I hope these Bournemouth hotel employees who planned to row to Nieuwpoort did well - I haven't heard whether they have done it yet.

So was PicoMicoyacht the last solo voyager? No - for two reasons. Harry Uglow rowed across a month later than PicoMicroYacht, in 2012. Harry was the youngest solo voyager at 15 years. I think he was the last to make it.

Harry Uglow

Harry did it in a Janousek coastal sculling boat, a remarkable achievement given it was not exactly calm throughout and he did it in less than five hours.

Secondly, PicoMicoYacht had two small auxiliary sails, although the power from these was counteracted by the 3-4 gusting 5 close head wind from the East. PicoMicroYacht could not land because of the rough sea and had to be content to arrive at the point the chart said no water at low tide.

2012 was also a bumper year for UK celebrities rowing across the channel, including  Davina Mcall, Denise Lewis, Freddy Flintoff and John Bishop photographed in Dover. They obviously enjoyed it at the end, but John Bishop had then to run to London, having cycled to Calais from Paris. That far away look reflects his fatigue level.

The end of an era possibly.

Monday, 26 October 2015

When I'm 74

The Beatles song:

'When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now ... will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?'

I ponder now whether PicoMicroYacht will be still out there, shall I say, not 64 but 74?

A cousin is still rowing competitively, having started nearly 60 years ago. The photo below is him winning on that famous old rowing course on the Thames, at aged 71 years, so it is possible.

Sean Morris winning the Henley Masters 70 - 74 years old competition. 

Over ninety years ago another relative was winning on the same course, and Gallaher's cigarettes decided to cash in, perhaps reducing longevity for others.

According to Geoffrey Page, in his book 'Hear the Boat Sing: A history of Thames Rowing Club and Tidway Rowing,' it was a tough one. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Exiting the Western Solent

PicoMicroYacht was to exit the Western Solent on the South Coast on a spring tide and cross Christchurch bay to Christchurch harbour. The tide through the exit is somewhat treacherous as it squeezes out through a narrow gap between the Isle of Wight and the mainland Hurst Spit.

According to Peter Bruce in his book 'Solent Hazards' (5th Edition), 'The constriction of the tide flow caused by Hurst Spit creates very strong tidal streams, circular areas of flat sea caused by up welling water and unusually spiky waves'

The strategy is to turn to starboard through the North Channel to avoid being swept out past the famous landmark the Needles and risk being destroyed by large and steep breaking seas.

But if you make a mistake the tide will get you in it's grip and push you south west across the infamous Shingles Bank where, as Peter Bruce has put it, 'Even if the slightest swell is running, ugly waves can appear as if from nowhere to capsize even quite sizable vessels.'

With this in mind I set off from Keyhaven, the first part of the voyage exiting the sheltered harbour close to Hurst Point.  Soon I was opposite the lighthouse with the Hurst Castle to my left, the sea revving up.

The next stage was to hug the Hurst Spit around the castle, but first I had to get through some rough water as the tide bore down on the spit, the waves refracting off it in a commotion. Photography was difficult as I had to concentrate.

But soon I was through the worst and heading into the Hurst Narrows.

I now had to stick close to the Hurst Castle but also avoid hitting the groynes or a sandbar called 'the Trap' that stuck out into the channel, the tide sizzling past.

I could see what I had avoided and was glad now to be rowing safely onward  as I looked back at the turmoil through the camera zoom.

Out to sea was the Needles, across the hidden Shingles banks.

The sea calmed down and a friendly gaffer passed by under motor, stemming the tide.

Soon I had crossed Christchurch bay helped by a north easterly wind that started when PicoMicroYacht was half way across. When PicoMicroYacht arrived at the harbour entrance the tide was still streaming out, so it was beached on a sandbank for a while.

Various boats and canoes would exit the harbour but with the tide too strong for them to re-enter and this kept me interested until it was time to finish the voyage.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Where am I?

This summer I have been planning a voyage when the conditions and wind and time are right. In the meanwhile I realised that out at sea PicoMicroYacht can seem very small, so I decided to find a way of people seeing me more easily.

Having sails up helps, but I was struck by the fact that when I rowed round Land's End and was two miles out at sea none of the 20 or so people running along on the cliff top saw me. What chance a ship two miles away closing at 20 knots? That's six minutes.

So I have been experimenting with an automatic identification system transceiver (apparently they call it a transponder but the experts say it is a technically a transceiver).

My WatchMate 850 receives and transmits from a VHF antenna fitted at the top of my mast. It can then identify if a ship is about to collide with me as well as telling all other large ships my whereabouts. It also provides a call sign for the ship so I can even radio them directly to warn them about PicoMicroYacht.

A byproduct is that PicoMicroYacht is being tracked and this then goes on the internet so people can know where I am (There is a pirate mode in case I want to receive but go in cognito).

It shows my voyage as well.

As you can see, I didn't get out the harbour this time.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Finishing the Thames Voyage

PicoMicroYacht's final journal was from Gravesend to Queenborough in the Medway Estuary, a journey of about 23 miles.

Gravesend was soon receding into the distance.

The new London Gateway container ship port did not seem very busy.

Further on was the refinery at Holehaven.

Finally PicoMicroYacht was looking out towards the North Sea.

With Wimbledon tennis about to start, it was strawberries and cream for refreshment.

To the south was a large sandbank stretching back to the shore with a solitary seal who decided to move into the water.

In the background, as if beached on the bank, was a fort at the entrance to the Medway.

Some yachts were scuttling into the harbour as PicoMicroYacht finished the long journey down the Thames.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Shut out from Littlehampton

The plan was to leave Shoreham by Sea and the row 13 miles down the English Channel to Littlehampton, the next port.

As I set off the coastwatch were looking at me through their binoculars.

Frustratingly, my VHF was flat because I left it on and I could not communicate with them. I had to consider whether to carry on. I still had my flares, a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and my personal locator beacon. I waved and went on my way.

A motorboat was living it up it up as a I departed.

Down the coast there were two fishing boats to avoid as they came up the English Channel. One passed me quite close.

I passed Worthing, normally a grey blur from out at sea. Close up there were some good buildings to view.

Finally I was at Littlehampton. But the harbor was in full ebb and churning up the water outside. I went in for a closer look. It was a bit threatening if I am honest.

A yacht that had been tailing me turned to go in under motor and hit the strong tide, slowing to a crawl. A fishing boat turned in as well.

I realised that there was no way I would be able to get in. I was bouncing up and down already and it would get worse going nowhere very fast.

So I gave up and rowed another five miles down the coast to Felpham where there was a sandy beach and slipway.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

PicoMicroYacht safer than my job?

Apparently, sitting too much is dangerous but not necessarily when rowing PicoMicroYacht. 

The Port of London Authority were interested in my safety as I finished my voyage to Gravesend.

(Tim took a photo - a bit cheeky to include this without permission but Tim has twittered it, so I hope it is ok. He was tweeting to @girlaboutthames who was curious about PicoMicroYacht. Nice photography).

Tim from the Port of London Authority decided to quiz me from his launch.  He was polite and pleasant, checking me out to determining whether I was at risk and warning me of the river dangers. 

Tim's Port of London Authority catamaran launch -stylish boat in my view

However, it turns out that one of the most risky things I do is sitting at my computer desk at work.

According to the Guardian newspaper:

'Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England.....Research has long linked excessive time spent sitting to increased risk of morbidity or premature death.

Guardian 1st JUNE 2015

Nobody at work quizzes me about that!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

London by the Sea

23rd May 2015

More training for the next adventure, this time the South Coast and Brighton.

Brighton is a  50 minute train ride from the capital and considered as a place to go outside London if you want to stay in London but be by the sea.

The sea here is quite docile if you pick your moment.

Brighton doesn't have a port but is flanked by two very commercial ports, Newhaven to the East and Shoreham to the west, a 15 mile distance between the two.

Setting off from the marina in Newhaven, 'traffic' lights opposite the marina were signalling. Vessel movements are controlled by the Port Authority 'Newhaven Radio' on channel 12. A pilot boat was also on station to warn me that the ferry was about to enter. When the ferry arrived I realised why they take port control so seriously.

A sailing boat had made the mistake of entering after the ferry and too soon. A man appeared on a wharf and whistled loudly for it to stop and it was made to loiter even though the ferry had now docked.

Further down the coast was Peacehaven, originally developed for retiring World War I veterans to help them to escape and recover from the effects of the war. Development was piecemeal and not so attractive over the years.

I was then opposite Brighton, with the piers, one now a fun fair and another burnt down.

I drifted lazily on and listened to Channel 16. A 40 foot yacht had fouled its propeller and it was drifting. There seemed to be communication difficulties with the yacht and the coastguard was trying to coordinate a rescue using nearby ships.

I managed to confuse things by radioing my arrival off Brighton and got the following message "PicoMicroYacht this is Coast Guard. Thank you for your offer of assistance for (name of yacht); please report your position."

Soon I was in Shoreham, the distance gobbled up by a favorable tide and a following wind.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Unfinished business

PicoMicroYacht has still to finish it's Thames adventure and so continued down the river.

The river was surprisingly rough as the west wind played against the last of the flood, with the Queen Elizabeth 2nd bridge in the distance.

 Soon PicoMicroYacht was under the bridge and I was looking upwards, the tower blocks in the distance providing scale.

I had to look out for river traffic and keep my station.  A  ship was creeping upstream with two tugs huffing and puffing to keep it in the right position for docking.

 A solitary yacht came past under genoa, keeping the speed down so as to arrive at Gravesend at a particular time.

Soon I was passing the wharves at Gravesend, as the river  accelerated. I was now drifting down at six knots, with the greenish brown water in boiling turbulence around me.

I made my approach, readying PicoMicroYacht for the only slipway.  A Port of London Authority launch made a beeline for me from across the river, wanting to quiz me about my intentions. After a brief chat, PicoMicroYacht was on it's way.

Gravesend Sailing Club kindly agreed to store my boat for a few hours. A chatty friendly group of sailors greeted me.

They conquer the mud in dinghies by going out at high tide and using the crane to launch.

Their friendly welcome made me almost want to join the club there and then, but PicoMicroYacht must continue onward.