Gladlee of Guernsey
December 1990 – May 1991
The rest of December offered no further opportunities to take “Gladlee” out, and we spent two weekends ‘housekeeping’ and sorting out the heating unit, which had to be removed again for repair and servicing. Over New Year we went down to Solent School of Yachting again for a very successful 5-day cruise in some quite heavy weather conditions, and at the end of the course both of us managed to pass the oral exam for RYA/DTp Coastal Skipper. After a visit to the Boat Show (and ordering an outboard and two bicycles there) we were back on board “Gladlee” over the weekend of 12th/13th January: having successfully reinstalled the heater we decided to go out for a sail on the Sunday. Not a good move, as it turned out – we overheated the engine through failing to open the sea-cock fully, almost lost Nigel’s hat overboard, saw the mainsail stick halfway up as the wind started to pick up, and (having decided to beat a retreat) burned out the domestic water pump with an unexplained voltage surge! The following weekend saw us on the Van der Rhoehrs’ boat at Brighton, helping Jim and Janet take her out for a brief airing on the Sunday morning.
Our two visits to Ramsgate during February were a good deal more successful – two brief but enjoyable outings in not-too-cold sunshine, light northerly winds allowing as easy run down to the B-2 buoy and back. We replaced the water pump, serviced the steering gear and did various other tidying-up jobs, finally giving the topsides a thorough scrub down after the snow had left them filthy. With a convincing if unspectacular English win over Scotland in the Calcutta Cup on 16th it had been a good month all round!
27th-29th March 1991 - After little activity in the earlier part of the month we finally reached Easter weekend, when we had to deliver “Gladlee” to the Westerly yard at Gosport for various modifications, arranging to meet various friends on the way. The forecast for the first leg to Brighton looked reasonably promising, but as we left on the S-going tide at 02.30 on the Thursday morning it became rapidly apparent that the wind would be virtually dead astern until we got past Dover – not “Gladlee’s” happiest point of sailing, so we settled for the engine until first light. Thereafter a good run down to Hastings, where we set the ‘chute as far as Beachy Head. By 14.00 we were on course for Brighton and the wind was gusting through the Seven Sisters: lack of practise showed when Nigel found himself desperately hanging on to the sheet as the ‘chute billowed out astern (we let go the tack to get the sail down with too much wind on the beam). Eventually we needed to take in some genoa as the wind gusted to 25 knots, but we raced along across Seaford Bay and reached Brighton almost exactly 13 hours after leaving Ramsgate, an average of over 6 knots made good.
Friday was planned as an “open day” for various nearby friends of Nigel’s to come and visit us. The first lot dropped out, but David and Rachael Woods arrived with son and daughter at lunchtime, and we took them for a run down to Hove. The return leg was quite lively, on a fine reach into a F4/5, but the Woods’ seemed to enjoy themselves. Back to the marina, where we found the Tandy family waiting to join us for tea. Unfortunately nobody (including us) had thought to bring a camera.
30th-31st March 1991 - We were due to rendezvous with the Wildigs in “Maui II” (a Westerly Pentland) off Osborne Bay in the late afternoon, so we left Brighton at 09.00 in what developed into a pleasantly sunny but hazy and almost windless day. After half and hour of F4 between Shoreham and Worthing we settled for the engine for the next three hours to round Selsey Bill. Meanwhile the wind had swung from NE to WSW, and as it freshened we managed a pleasant sail down towards No Man’s Land Fort off Ryde. We heard from “Maui II” on the VHF at 15.30 and met up with her an hour or so later. After half an hour of gentle tacking in company we gave up and motored round Castle Point to head up the Medina River to the pile moorings off the Folly Inn. Rafted alongside “Maui II” we met Tony Wildig’s brother Mike and Sarah’s boyfriend Adam, Julie also meeting Sarah and Charles Wildig for the first time. We hitched a lift over to the “Folly” with Charles and “Roger” (“Maui II”’s tender) and enjoyed a few beers and food with the very congenial Wildig crew – coffee and liqueurs on “Gladlee” later.
The following morning was sunny, but the wind was mostly illusory and after lazing across to the Bramble (boarding photographers from “Maui” on the way) we started engines and made for the anchorage off Lee-on-Solent. “Maui” kindly did the anchoring and we rafted alongside for lunch, taking Sarah on board afterwards so that she could wash her hair in our freshly heated shower. After lunch we set off for Chichester Harbour, and with a W F3 we got our ‘chute up and fairly romped away from “Maui”, whose Dutch equivalent evidently didn’t pull so well. Adam’s excellent photo shows us getting under way. Arrived at Chichester Bar Beacon we kept a cautious distance out ( we were almost exactly on LWS) and waited for “Maui” to come up. There followed some anxious moments ( at least for us looking on) as Tony, who seemed to have some problem with a jammed spinnaker halyard, drifted inexorably towards and across the bank immediately S. of the beacon. According to the chart and tide tables there should have been no more than half a metre of water there, but Tony assured us later that he never had less than 2m. – he had just been determined to make it round the beacon under sail and had had a little trouble gibing his pole (we did find out, with the aid of our lead line, that his depth sounder was over-reading, but it was still an impressive demonstration of local knowledge!) Rafted on piles off Itchenor, and a run ashore to the pub for dinner.
1st-2nd April 1991 - Parted company with the Wildigs in the morning with some regret – our first such encounter in “Gladlee” – as they set off to find their new berth near the harbour entrance. We followed at midday, getting slightly lost on the way out but saved from running ourselves aground by a friendly passing yacht. Outside the bar there was a fair WSW blowing, and we had a lively beat down towards Portsmouth with two reefs in and the wind freshening to F6 – the only really hairy moment was when the boat threatened to broach just as we approached the gap in the submerged wall inshore of Horse Sand Fort. The wind eased a little as we reached Portsmouth approach channel, and we got the main down in the relative calm of Haslar Creek before going into Camper’s Marina on what had become a rather dreary afternoon.
The morning was similar: we used the time waiting for the tide to change the oil and then negotiated the couple of hundred yards or so round to Westerly’s. A very friendly reception as we went through the long list of jobs to be done, and then it was goodbye to “Gladlee” and off to catch the train back to London.
3rd-4th May 1991 - Refitting “Gladlee” took considerably longer than expected and it was almost five weeks before we set foot on board again. Few changes were visible, except the wind generator on the stern and a whisker pole on deck, but we now had an extra alternator (of which more anon), two more batteries, a holding tank and a watertight ‘P’ bracket – as well as a hatch over the loo and various minor repairs and improvements. The yard had suddenly been inundated with work, so it wasn’t until well into the afternoon that “Gladlee” was hoisted into the water and we were able to set out for Brighton with a nice breeze on the beam. This had died by the time we reached Selsey Bill, though, and we completed the trip under power in a flat calm at 23.30.
In the morning we gave the boat a much-needed wash with the help of Brighton Marina’s ‘hot wash’ facility, and did some shopping before Nigel’s colleague Brian Reade and wife Averil (+dog) came by for a few pre-lunch beers. No sign of the van der Rhoehrs and “American Passage” – no doubt away for the Bank Holiday weekend. Brighton Marina pleasant, as always, in spite of the berthing fee of nearly £16.
5th May 1991 - We left Brighton at 08.00 in bright, showery-looking weather with a comfortable N wind on the beam, making over 7 knots by log towards Beachy Head (though passed as if standing still by a 42 ft Beneteau which eventually got to Ramsgate five hours ahead of us!) The wind was fresher and shifting towards NNE as we passed Eastbourne, but we continued to make quite good ground on a fine reach towards Hastings. The weather closed in at lunchtime, and we got increasingly persistent rain and gusts up to F6. Quite hard work up to Dungeness, by which time we had two reefs in, and we were losing time steadily on our ETA Dover to catch the last of the tide up to Ramsgate. Conditions were a bit better N of Dungeness, with less of a sea for some reason, and we let the reefs out after 17.00 as the wind briefly moderated to a F3 and backed to NNW. By the time we got past Dover, though, the wind had picked up again and was right on our nose, and we had lost the tide. With the engine on we started battling north, the rain still pelting down and conditions increasingly unpleasant. At this point the engine rev. counter started malfunctioning, and we briefly considered ducking back to Dover and dropping anchor in the harbour. Two hours later the rev. counter had given up, the second alternator warning light was on (though ignored), and Julie found the engine compartment flooded and the centre bilge board floating on top of several gallons of sea water. Nothing for it but to carry on, with 30 knots of wind over the bow and a lot of spray and rain making life very miserable. Navigation wasn’t easy either in the poor visibility (and Decca decided to go on strike!), but we eventually made a perfect ‘landfall’ at the Quern and thankfully found ample space on the crosswall pontoons shortly before midnight. There was an awful lot of water below (we were still finding pockets of it a fortnight later), but we pumped the worst of it out before collapsing into a warm bed (and there didn’t seem to be too much water above the bilges, at least).
Before we turned in we had easily identified the cause of the flood – the newly-installed second alternator’s retaining nut had not been secured properly, the belt had come loose (hence the warning light) and by sheer Sod’s Law had cut through a section of the salt-water cooling pipe half an inch away. Not enough to allow the engine to overheat, but there had clearly been a leak under pressure for at least a couple of hours. To replace the pipe and remount the alternator was a fairly simple job, but it took most of the next day to mop up and try to get some of the salt off the engine. Altogether not a pleasant experience, and a blemish on Westerly’s otherwise excellent work (not so, with hindsight!)
6th May 1991 - Apart from repairs and cleaning up we had the novelty of sitting in the visitors’ section of the marina, having found ourselves a very comfortable berth to move into on the afternoon tide. As we did so Stuart and Diana Anderson turned up for a cup of tea, having retired early from some very windy golf at Deal. Nigel had contacted the Andersons (ex-defence Attaché, Ankara) after we’d received an invitation to daughter Debbie’s wedding at the end of June, and it was nice to see them again; Stuart now employed as Secretary to Kent CCC.