What does that red flashing light mean?

Which one, where?

It was last Wednesday that I  down to Northney, for a spot of light wind sailing. I was taking the retired librarian and cave manager for a “taster” sail. He’d collared me at a wedding the other week and said “What’s with this sailing thing that you do?”. It was that time in the wedding when food had been eaten, the speeches were done and the toasts all finished (and, of course, the bride and groom were now officially married – you mustn’t forget that bit). The Dad dancing hadn’t started, although the group was warming up but conversation was just possible. Anyway, you get the scene and the state of mind of the retired librarian. “Now I’m a retired librarian, I need to find something to do” – he continued.

“Well”, I replied, “how about the week after next ? – the tides are right at Northney and the weather might be OK – I’m free Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – let’s see what the weather forecast is like nearer the time.” When I arrived home, the family diary told me that I was only free on Wednesday, so that was when it HAD to be. The forecast was fine for the wind – F3, possibly F4 but it included a chance of rain. You know, that funny wet stuff that we soft southerners haven’t seen for a few months.

On arriving alongside Riff Raff, it wasn’t raining – yet. The wind seemed steady (from the NE) at about 8 knots – perfect for an introductory sail. Just enough breeze for a fire-ship and the tide was making strong* so, in a flash, Riff Raff was stripped of coverings, un- necessary weight was taken off and stored in the car and she slid down the slip and was afloat.

Off we went – the wind was coming straight up the entrance channel to the marina, so I hoisted the full main on our way out, turned to starboard past the post maker, unrolled the jib and we were off – 2.5 knots SOG against the incoming tide. Once past the third post marker, another turn to starboard and we were running before the wind. This time, despite a few strong puffs, the wind and sail combination (and a bit of concentration on the part of the helmsman) let Riff Raff maintain a stable goose wing all the way down to the Hayling Island Yacht club. Meantime we settled into a comfortable introduction to sailing for the RLACM (See above). The rudiments of sailing theory were expounded upon. Bearing transits were demonstrated. Collision avoidance was alluded to but not demonstrated. The naming of parts took place (and was promptly forgotten). He took the helm and soon learnt which way to push it. A gybe was demonstrated (oops). Despite all this we overtook some sort of Westerly on the downwind run.

We took a photo of the RLACM for posterity – I hadn’t noticed he was eating his lunch!DSCN1540

There were four or five other sail boats about: – we noticed a couple of Drascomes making their way up wind.   The theory of going about was discussed. We went about and worked our way upwind. The idea of heaving to was discussed and demonstrated when we next went about (oops).  We chased the Drascomes. Tack on tack as we overhauled them and left them in our wake. Not that we were trying, of course.

It came on to rain. That fine rain that penetrates all foul weather gear*** and not only soaks you but freezes you to the marrow.  It was time to go in. We sailed to the third marker, started Freddy and motored in – the RLACM steering as I packed away the main sail, put of the fenders and found the mooring ropes.

I took the helm for the tricky bit in the marina and we parked against the jetty with scarcely a bump.

Then I noticed the flashing red light – on the engine, just below the stop button. Yikes, it’s the low oil pressure warning light – how long has that been on?




* Reminded me of a verse from “The Old Way” by Ronald Hopwood

‘Came a gruff and choking chuckle, and a craft as black as doom
Lumbered laughing down to leeward, as the bravest gave her room.
“Set ‘un blazin’, good your Lordships, for the tide be makin’ strong,
Proper breeze to fan a fireship**, set ‘un drivin’ out along!
‘Tis the ‘Torch,’ wi’ humble duty, from Lord Howard ‘board the ‘Ark.’
We’m a laughin’-stock to Brixham, but a terror after dark.
Hold an’ bilge a-nigh to burstin’, pitch and sulphur, tar an’ all,
Was it so, my dear, they’m fashioned for my Lord High Admiral?”

** I hasten to point out (to my insurance company at the very least) Riff Raff is not a fire-ship!

*** I mean all old foul weather gear. My set Musto about 15 years old and leaks like a sieve so I fear it’s time to buy some more.

**** OOPS – For Musto read must be.

Triumph over Terence?

Our regular reader will immediately recognise that this post is (yet again) something to do with the trailer. Terence had behaved perfectly with an under rated set of wheels when carrying Vagabond but seems to have taken a dislike to carrying Riff Raff on the new, higher specification, wheel set. I had surmised that this was because the new axle was fitted about a foot * forward of the original. In a previous post I hinted that I had moved the axle about 6 inches** backwards.

I suddenly realised that this might stop the “sway” of the trailer but would probably affect the down force on Martina’s tow hitch. This bears the warning “no more than 80kg”.*** I thought I’d better check this out.

So, armed with a suitable load cell, various blocks of wood and a hydraulic jack, I set off for the marina on the week of the Bank Holiday for a day sail.

But first I had to clear my doubt about the downforce.  After using the various bits of wood to move the jack into position under the tow hitch on Terence but on top of the load cell, I measured the downforce. “Blistering Barnacles”, as Captain Haddock would say, the down force was 125kg. I thought this was probably outside the tolerance of Martina. So the axle needed to come forward a bit. But not to much, otherwise the sway would not change

There was no room in the marina berths to park Riff Raff, so this had to be done with her still aboard. More blocks of wood were sourced from the boat yard, Terence was jacked up until both wheels were off  the ground and then put on blocks. The U bolts holding the axle were removed. It promptly fell to the ground but at least I could roll it forward to approximately the right position, before jacking it up against the frame, hitting it firmly with a hammer until it was square to the axis of the trailer.  Ubolts were tightened, the brakes adjusted and Terence was eased back to the ground. A quick check showed that the down force on the tow bar was now 83 Kg – I thought that would do…..*****

We went sailing. The wind was blowing at 12kn gusting 14 from the North West. I had still the reef in from our trip back from Cowes, so we motored out into the fairway, out the bow into the wind, and hoisted the main to the first reef. We turned SE and wooshed down the first leg of the channel turning more southerly once past the fork to Emsworth.  The jib was hoisted and we ran before the wind in a stable goosewing configuration. Our speed increased to an indicated speed over the ground of 7.5 knots. There didn’t seem much showing tide on the buoys……

I was surprised how stable the goose wing was – there was none of the flapping of the jib and then I remembered that this was also the case with Vagabond. Then I had concluded that the power of the un-reefed main meant that the jib was always being overtaken by the boat and deflated. It seemed a reasonable theory and a lesson I had forgotten. I wonder what else I’ll rediscover….

In no time at all we were almost level with the sailing club just before the “exit” from the harbour. It was time to turn back. I lost count of the tacks on the way home, turned to port to take the Northney leg of the channel to find the wind square on the bow. Down came the sails, on came Freddy (well, in reverse order to how it’s written) and we chugged back to the slip. The Ninja warrior on Terence did it’s stuff and, almost without effort, Riff Raff was dragged from the sea and secured for another week.

I drove home and found the M25 almost empty of traffic. The holiday season was not quite over. It is now and my next trip to Northney will not be so free of vehicular traffic.




* 300 mm, or thereabouts (this is known as a “metric foot” to those in the timber trade

** one foot = six inches – work out the metric equivalent without using a calculator (or you phone)

*** 12 stone 6 lb 6oz (give or take a bit) – do bear in mind there are 14 lb in a stone and 16 oz in a lb****. This is well within the capacity of my load cell – the trusty electronic bathroom scales.

**** Sorry, I forgot – 1 lb is another way of writing one pound avourdupois

***** The perceptive reader will notice that I still have no idea whether all this axle moving mularky will have cured the sway. The only way to test this (as far as I am aware) is to pack Riff Raff up for towing and get out on the Queens Highway. That will have to wait until the end of the season……