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#1 2022-10-20 17:21:08

Registered: 2021-12-17
Posts: 14

First Solo overnight passage in IBIS a Victoria 30

Suffolk Yacht Harbour to Clay Hole: 20-21st April 2022
137 miles in IBIS a Victoria 30 sloop

Weather; NE force 4 increasing 5-6 later, fair, good.
My crew was preparing to leave after a lovely few days around the Orwell and Stour.  “Windy” forecast strong winds in 36 hours from the north east so I brought my plan to leave forward 24 hours and what was planned for a long restful day turned into a swift departure. 
I dropped the lines and motored out of Suffolk Yacht Harbour.   Once through the entrance I put “George” the Auto-helm on and got the fenders and mooring lines in and stowed, every time I returned to the cockpit I tweaked “George” to keep us in the channel.  Once passed the fairway buoy I turned hard to port to set the main.  With the boom out to starboard I could just do this while crabbing across the river. The wind from the North East was not very strong but gusting so I set the first reef. “George” turned down the river, the sail filled and I turned the engine off.  I then set the genoa reefed to the second dot.  I made good progress until getting into the lee of the container ships at Felixstowe.  Catching the gusts and the associated lift I just laid the shallow water of Shotley.  As I cleared the shadows the wind increased so as I cleared the spit off Harwich I headed up into the wind hardening in the genoa and letting the main sheet go, to bring down the second reef and bearing away just before going into the main channel.  This felt like a suitable amount of sail for the open sea. 
Second reef and 2 dots on the genoa was enough to keep me comfortably driving into the wind at 4.5 knots.  This felt comfortable and sustainable.  As I followed the buoys around the corner I hardened up to close hauled and set “Sven” the Seafeather self-steering to take over from “George”. I would then follow the wind and keep sailing with no adjustments needed.   However with the tide setting south I was heading South East making no progress at all towards my destination.  I could see another Yacht beating up the shallow water off Felixstowe beach and thought that looked like a good plan to get out of the foul tide so I tacked.  There was no broadcasts on the Harbour radio channel and no ships in site as I crossed the main channel.  The tack had turned me through about 150 degrees against a foul tide but I was at least making some progress.  Watching the depth I went as close to the beach as I dared before tacking off.  While sailing away from the beach I started to take 10 minute switch off breaks with an alarm set on my phone.
The tide changed and I put in a long tack going offshore to get into the stronger north going tide.  At last I started to cover the miles.  This also gave me an opportunity to eat.  I wanted something hot and easy and picked a Pasta Carbonara cook in the bag meal which just needed boiling water.  With a full tummy and clear visibility and no ships I started taking more 10 minute switch off times. I tacked back inshore hoping for a quick dive into Lowestoft for a few hours sleep while the flood ran against me.  But I did not make it before the tide changed. As the light faded Southwold Light House became visible Southwold lighthouse stayed in site for a full flood tide. 
I needed to make a decision should I go through the inner channel off Great Yarmouth or go around the outside.  I knew that the sea would be much flatter in the channel and I would make much better progress. But I would need to concentrate and regularly tack to keep in the channel.  In the dark the temperature dropped and I put on my full oilies and wellies to keep warm.  I decided that I could not sustain the level of concentration needed to go through the channel, particularly as out in the cockpit was now bitterly cold.  I took the easier if slower option of around the outside.  “Windy” predicted a wind veer from NE to ENE winds so when I seemed to be headed I tacked onto Starboard.  I was slowly lifted by the wind shift combined with the effect of ebb tide.  I laid the outer route in one tack.  Finally I was able to ease sheets and bear away onto a fine reach with the subsequent increase in boat speed.  I was being very careful to avoid the sand banks and kept well clear of any shallow water on the chart.  However at one point as I went well clear of the northern extreme of a bank, I could see a line of white in front of me which I was approaching at 10 knots over the ground.  The depth dropped rapidly and I powered through a standing wave.  Water came crashing down both sided of the boat and I ducked under the sprayhood as it splashed over the top.  I got away with it but wondered how accurate the charted depths are out of the main channels in these ever changing sand banks?
Dawn light off Happisburgh saw the wind dying away and the tide again turning against me.  This left a lumpy sea which threw the wind out of the sails. “Sven” on a broad reach could not cope so “George” took over.  I tried various things to hold the sails and eventually hove-to in order to set a full main I held it firm on a preventer and rolled the flapping genoa away.  With good visibility and a slow speed I extended my time off mini-sleeps to 15 minutes and got some rest.  I thought about setting the working jib on the pole but I knew I would have to get it down at some point and really didn’t want the hassle on my own.  However in the end a calming sea and frustration got the better of me. Sitting in the safe cockpit and looking at the rolling foredeck is quite daunting.  I planned the action in great detail so that I didn’t get into a mess rolling around on the foredeck.
1)    Clip on go forward on the starboard side and set the inner forestay return to the cockpit
2)    Carry the jib in bag forward tie down the tack and hank it on to the forestay return to the cockpit with the bag
3)    Go forward and tie on the single piece double length sheet with a bowline on a bight. Lead the sheet active back to the cockpit
4)    Set the pole clipped into the bowline bight on the sheet free resting on the guard rail to starboard and then on the mast
5)    Attach the halyard to the head of the sail and haul it up at the mast, winch it tight
6)    Back to the cockpit to sheet in
7)    Back to the foredeck to pull down the lazy sheet to the deck cleat to hold the pole down
The detailed plan worked smoothly and once out on deck I felt safe. 


Increasing wind and now the tide with me the coast moved rapidly past.  After Bridgirdle buoy I realized my run was turning through a broad reach into a reach and I was struggling to lay the Woolpack. At the bottom of the tide and with strong currents I didn’t fancy cutting the corner so I sailed as close to the wind as I could with the jib occasionally backing.  In the end with the Woolpack only a few 100 yards away I let the Jib pole forward leaving the sail to flap and used the motor to power into the confused sea.  I was back into the Wash.  Bearing away onto a run I set a course towards the Freeman channel entrance. This enabled the engine to go off and the Jib to set again, the increasing wind saw us rolling fast into the Wash.  Having got this downwind rig up and enjoyed the fast sailing, I now had to get it back down. I sat and planned my attack.  Giving myself plenty of time before the turn into the Freeman channel I harnessed up and (like the put up) was pleasantly surprised at how easy the take down turned out. 
Staring into the setting sun to spot the buoys of the Freeman channel needed sun glasses but with the full main set as I hardened up into the channel I had plenty of power on a reach.  Through the other side it was time to put the main away.  With the engine running quite hard I thought it would hold the boat into the wind while I dropped the main.  It didn’t.  So after a quick drop of the sail I dashed back into the cockpit to hand steer back around on the approach to Clay hole.  In 5 m of water I again turned into the wind and tide. Again the engine and George could not hold the bow into the wind but the anchor was away I came back to the cockpit and dropped the engine into neutral only to discover that I’d not locked off the windlass and the first pull at the anchor started letting out chain rapidly.  Back to the foredeck and the windlass locked off the anchor brought us up to a dead stop.  That anchor was not going anywhere.
I fired up the oven and treated myself to a whole Steak pie with boiled potatoes and carrots washed down with a glass of red wine.  I turned in with it still light at 8 o’clock.  The NE wind didn’t have to work very hard to rock me to sleep.
The following day I motored up the Welland on the incoming tide careful not to arrive before the top of the flood.  The bridge beyond the pontoons at Fosdyke does not forgive the unwary.


IBIS alongside in Fosdyke my final destination and Home port



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