Why do I always get a near gale in Weymouth!?

Looking at the weather forecast for the weekend, the plan to sail across the channel wasn’t going to happen. With a force 7 forecast sailing to Cherbourg with a new crew that had never done offshore sailing was not the best idea. So as a replacement for a channel crossing we went to Weymouth instead. There was no set syllabus for the weekend , just to get some miles and more experience. Both we achieved. A great sail West but coming back was when it got a little blowy. We had decided to round the south of the Isle of Wight. It would be a very fast passage with 30-35 knots behind us and an east going tide. Had we not left an hour late, we woud have made our tidal gate, even though we were screaming along at 10 knots over ground, we missed the turn of the tide around St Catherines point, the southern tip of the Isle of Wight by about 20 minutes. This meant we would not be in by breakfast time and instead we were crawling along with a speed over ground of about 2 – 3 knots and wouldn’t be in until lunch unfortunately.

So, south of the Isle of Wight with a force 7 behind us and the tide against us, the sea built up to an impressive little chop that made surfing fun but helming a pig for the new crew who had somewhat been taken by seasickness. The only thing to do was to steer for 5 hours until the sea state calmed down. I had blisters on my hands by the time we were approaching the nab tower. Stupid really but I don’t like wearing gloves, that might change now.

All in all it was a successful weekend, the crew got their experience that they wanted, along with some passage planning and great sailing and I learnt a few lessons. First, to leave on time. Secondly, why go around the south of the IOW when you can quite as easily go in the needles.

Every thing I do on any boat, whether its Ariande or a school boat that I’m working on I translate back to the Golden Globe.

One of the biggest issues with the GGR is self steering. If it is unusable that is. So, helming for 5 hours this weekend was enough, I knew we would be in the shelter of the Island soon so it was easy to keep steering but what about when I am out in seas a lot worse, on my own and my steering has failed. There is no way I will be able to keep up helming in conditions much much worse. Maybe if I become superwoman with insane strength I might have a pretty good chance, but thats sadly not the reality.

Something I have been thinking about for a long time, is which self steering vane do I use. I currently have a Monitor, which are great bits of kit but will it stand up to the southern Ocean. I have been looking at getting a hydrovane, which I have never used myself but have heard great things about and anyone I have met that has sailed across an ocean with it, swears by them. My quick temporary solution for steering failure on the race is to set the boat to sail on her own, she will always be close to that point anyway. Trouble is, Ariadne is a sloop, not a ketch with two masts, they are much easier to set up to sail on their own, so with Ariadne not being the perfect self sailor I need the best steering vane possible, and the best back up. Is it silly to take two vanes with me? It wouldn’t even be possible to mount it in any sea way. I mounted the monitor after I took it off to service by myself and that was enough of a pain even in the yard, so near impossible with a breaking sea over her. The other problem is weight, they are not light pieces of kit to carry and Ariadne must be fast, its a race afterall. Or I simply take so many spares for the best vane, whichever that turns out to be, enough so I can practically rebuild the thing if it came to that. Oh, the decisions…

I guess the answer will come after this winter when I have done my Atlantic loop and properly tested out the monitor on Ariadne and see if it will stand up to the Southern Ocean.