April: A cracking start to the season

We’ve made a great start to the 2015 season with Karisma. After getting the boat back from the yard where she’d been having a new depth and speed (log) instrument fitted two weeks ago, we needed to make a run in Cardiff Bay to calibrate the log using the GPS. We happened to have a new crew member, Phil, along for a cup of coffee that morning and, as the weather was so nice, we decided to pull the sails up after the calibration run, so he got more than he bargained for! The wind then piped up mid-month so we had the first of two training sails in the bay, to get ourselves used to higher winds again. This was the first time Jenny had sailed in a force 6 wind for a while, and although Fionn didn’t exactly help by glueing himself to the wind display, urging it to register ever-higher numbers (When will it get to 22?) we had a cracking sail, snugged down with 3 reefs in, the boat doing around 5 knots and not exceeding 10 degrees of heel. We repeated the exercise a couple of days later, just to prove that the boat (which is quite light and powerful) can be set up for comfortable family cruising in heavier winds.

E-Motion in the Bay
E-Motion in the Bay

With this new confidence we ‘cruised in company’ all the way from Penarth Marina to Mermaid Quay in a blustery Force 6 with our pals Al and Julie who were having their first outing on their new boat, ‘E-motion’. E-motion is an E-boat, which is an IOR-style offshore racing one-design, so we’re looking forward to sailing further afield with her soon. It was a very pleasant surprise when we visited the marina a couple of days later to find E-motion tucked up in berth A28, right next to Karisma! She had originally been on B pontoon but, as everyone knows, Al and Julie are ‘A’ pontoon people so it’s great to have them next door.

This set us up well for the Active Marina ‘Cruise in Company’ proper, to Portishead on 25th April, organised by Malcolm and Linda Broad of White Knight, a 37 ft Beneteau Oceanis moored opposite Karisma on ‘A’ pontoon. In three years of ownership, the winds, waves or work have meant that the timing has never quite worked out for us to get Karisma anywhere further than daysailing around Steepholm. But with light winds and neap tides, myself, Jenny and Fionn motored out of Cardiff Bay and set sail for Portishead at 08:30 on Saturday morning. We started with all three reefs in (you can’t be too sure, this is the Bristol Channel after all!) and progressively shook them all out as the wind hovered around 8 knots. We were the smallest of the seven or eight boats making the cruise, and despite taking time to shake out reefs we arrived only about twenty minutes behind the crowd and shared the lock into Portishead with White Knight and Toro Tsa Rona, a Bavaria 32. Toro Tsa Rona used to belong to our friends Jamie and Viv, but they have now moved on to a larger Jenneau in Swansea. She is now cruised by Kieran and Simone with their two boys.

After we got ourselves onto our visitor’s berth (F15) without too mch trouble, our plans to celebrate finally arriving with pink champagne were derailed by Fionn’s need for bacon sandwiches from the harbourside caff. After lunch we visited the Royal Inn on the headland above the marina, and had a couple of pints watching the tide ebb around the Firefly buoy. Then it was off to the Hall and Woodhouse restuarant in the Marina, where Malcolm and Linda had organised a meal for the cruise in company- and very good it was too. Fionn sat with the two boys from Toro Tsa Rona whilst we chatted with Nick and Fran, two new bertholders who own a magnificent Westerly Oceanquest, and Clive and Swee, owners of the motor cruiser ‘Sole Mate’, fellow ‘A’ pontooners and usual suspects.

Karisma in Portishead
Karisma in Portishead
Toro Tsa Rona leaving Portishead
Toro Tsa Rona leaving Portishead

In company with White Knight, Toro Tsa Rona and the 42 ft Bavaria Tucepi, we sailed back at 13:00 on Sunday with a bit of trepidation: there was quite a blow and a lot of rain during the night, and the morning started grey and blustering a good F5 through the marina from the NE. This, however, was largely a funneling effect, and the true wind out on the water wasn’t more than 10 knots. Again we set out with all three reefs in, and the initial sea state was a bit lumpy, with the tide still flooding from the south west against an easterly breeze. With big, lazy waves on her quarter, Karisma rolled and wallowed downwind for half an hour in quite an unpleasant way, after which a combination of more sail and speed, together with a flattening sea as the tide began to ebb, produced a more comfortable ride.

Sailing home was complicated by the wind being light and more or less dead astern on the rhumb line to Cardiff, which is not easy to sail without a spinnaker of some sort. We broad-reached towards the Newport Deep before gybing back towards the rest of the fleet. Toro Tsa Rona poled out her headsail and goosewinged. By the time we reached the safe water mark in mid channel, the larger boats (Tucepi and White Knight) had started motor sailing and, although were were sailing as far off the wind on a starboard gybe as possible, we could not

Jenny helming towards home
Jenny helming towards home

steer low enough to make the 280 degree compass course which a predicted EP said should bring us to the North Cardiff buoy. Having sailed too far towards Newport, we also started motorsailing. The wind died completely from astern as we entered Penarth Roads so we dropped the sail completely and motored to the Outer Wrach cardinal. Here, however, an easterly wind piped up again, perhaps piling up agianst Penarth Head. With Wrach channel becoming a bit lumpy and the headland a lee shore, we were glad to tuck inside the barrage breakwater and lock into the Bay alongside Toro Tsa Rona at 16:45. We were back in Penarth Marina on berth A29 by 17.30, all done and dusted; and then it was home to Cowbridge for a well deserved pint and curry.


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