Solo Sailing

Approaching my 60th birthday, inspired by Sir Francis Chichester who had completed a solo circumnavigation when he was 65 ishI decided to prepare for something less spectacular and planned to take Dark Star back to the UK by taking part in the ARC rally. This would require a long period of training and preparation for both me and the boat. At this early stage I felt that the boat had a 90% chance of achieving it and I rated my chances at less than 10% so I had better get to work .

With wifely permission granted I headed down to the boat to spend the weekend working up my single handed skills while she was rehearsing for the summer show with her operatic society. Saturday morning and off I went, out into the bay with my sights set on a remote location for a quiet night on the hook. Crossed the bay, crossed the ship channel and off into Trinity Bay where very few people sail as it is a bit far for a day sail. I had sailed the length of the bay by about lunchtime, hove to as an exercise, ate lunch and set off for my planned anchorage, ETA about 1600, giving me time to anchor and make dinner.

Full main and genoa , 6 knots and the world was perfect and it made me think of Brad, a sailing buddy who had one stock answer when asked “Where shall we go?”

“South” he always said, “just keep heading South”.

Well here is comes…………….sailing along enjoying every minute then bang!!  What the heck was that? Quick look aloft and the mast is still upright, well that was a relief. Ease the sheets and investigate  so I am taking a good captainly look around the rig and the outer forestay looked a little slack, Hmmmm. Up to the foredeck for a look and peer over the bowsprit; there is the problem, the bobstay has parted where it joins the hull. The bobstay in question is 3/8 galvanized chain, good lord, how did that break? Well the chain had a length of hose to protect it when the anchor was hooked under it when not in use, a handy solution for an anchor that gets muddy when used in the bay.


All new chain, now checked regularly

Out of sight out of mind, the chain had been rusting for who knew how long and of course today was the day it decided to fail! I guess it was my first test. I was not to be done out of my weekend so I furled the genoa and used the main to sail off the wind towards the anchorage so putting the backstay to work with the inner forestay and aft shrouds to support the mast. I arrived at the anchorage, furled the main, dropped the hook and settled into dinner preparation and an evening on the foredeck with a beer. As dinner progressed, the wind, contrary to the forecast began to increase to the point where the anchor drag alarm went off. Well that is a right royal pain in the butt, with dinner nearly ready, so out on to the foredeck, reset the anchor, the wind is swinging round and threatens to put me on a lee shore so now the anchor drag alarm is even more important when it goes off a second time.

OK that’s it, there is some weather based conspiracy that seems determined to ruin my weekend and with the broken bobstay an added problem the decision was taken to return to the marina using the iron foresail (motor). So with the sun nearly set I began to motor back using the tiller pilot I might add as I was determined not to waste my dinner. Chugging along as the sun finally faded away in the west I sat in the cockpit eating my dinner from the saucepan and things did not look quite so bad. Dinner complete, about half way back to the marina my cellphone rings and my wife is calling on her way home from rehearsal.

“Hi, how you doing, where are you?”

“On my way back!”

“On your way back, why?”

“I’ll tell you when I get home, don’t worry everything is fine I just need to concentrate on getting into the marina”.

Put the boat in the slip and went home to face the inevitable music “You go out on your own and look what happens, and that is only in the bay!”

Not a great start to reliving my Chichester dream.