Time out on the water

It’s 7 weeks since my last post, where I talked about joining St Denys Boat Club and I’ve spent quite a few hours since then out on the water.

Having been signed off on kayaks, paddle boards and dinghies in one afternoon, this meant I’ve been able to use quite a few of St Denys Boat Club’s wide range of water-going craft with my favourite being the Laser dinghy.

Daniel and I have also sailed two of the club’s other dinghies; Harry’s Girl and Kingfisher, as well as kayaks and paddle boards. Connor has even joined us for both kayaking and paddle boarding on a couple of occasions. The most recent of these being to support the Lions-organised annual Duck Race where we helped along some of the less enthusiastic plastic ducks before collecting the 1000s that clearly never had a hope of crossing the finishing line.

Yesterday (1st September) was a great day to be out on the water and fortunately I’d arranged to explore ‘under the bridges’ with another club member, Geoff. Many thanks for ‘showing me the ropes’!

The area by the boat club at Cobden Bridge is a little small and the wind is often quite shifty. That’s mostly due to the buildings that surround the area and the bridge itself. With the narrow width of the river, the water depth affected by the tide and the wind, it’s recommended that you sail out towards Northam Bridge but that requires some extra challenges as getting under Cobden Bridge (and St Denys railway bridge) is not possible as the bridges are too low to sail under with the mast up. If only they’d made the arches a little higher when built in 1926.

Instead, you have to take a boat with an outboard (we took a petrol outboard which was more likely to get us there and back than an electric outboard) and tow the dinghy (or dinghies) out to a buoy and then raise the mast and rig the boat on the water before setting sail. A bit of a faff but well worth it in reality. Getting ready and motoring to the sailing area probably added 40 minutes of which 20 would have been spent sailing there had we been able to.

The journey to the sail area was very pleasant. The weather was lovely and it was quite surprising to see so many houseboats along that stretch of the Itchen River.

Having lifted the mast successfully (without a dip in the water) and set sail the sailing area is much bigger and more interesting than to the north of Cobden Bridge. There are other moored boats to avoid as well as several shipwrecks which are exposed during low tide but lurk beneath the surface at high tide.

With 7-15mph winds, the conditions were great for sailing. It really was a beautiful day to be on the water. As I’d cycled 50 miles the day before in the Garmin Ride Out, I was a little concerned that my quads wouldn’t respond well to the demands of hiking out, but my fears were unfounded. I managed to sail without getting wet.

The sail area didn’t suffer from the fluky wind-shifts of Cobden Bridge and there was plenty of space to explore. I was sailing the Laser whilst Geoff was helming the Laser Pico. After 90 minutes or so, we swapped boats and I got my first chance to sail the Pico. A very different experience to the Laser. Much bigger, with a large deck, and more forgiving but not as much fun or as responsive. No complaints though. I wasn’t too sure about the toe straps but fortunately didn’t need them.

With 30 years since I’ve last sailed, I’m pleased do report that I’d not forgotten how to sail. The dinghies, in particular the Laser, seem smaller than I remember them (!) but other than that the skills I learned as a teenager have soon flooded back. In fact, I’m gradually teaching Daniel the basics of dinghy sailing and am remembering instructing as a teenager and the theory and practical aspects of the RYA courses which are largely unchanged in the intervening years.

After 2 hours of sailing, we headed back to the buoy where we’d moored the motor-boat, de-rigged and motored back to the club which was teaming with activity with club members getting afloat in kayaks and dinghies. I’ve not seen the club so busy. Fortunately, one family was keen to take the Pico off our hands so we only had to get the motor-boat and the Laser out of the water and give the outboard its post use maintenance.

Overall, a great afternoon of sailing.

Today I hoping to get Daniel helming the Pico with the aims of getting him confident sailing before the end of the Autumn.

St Denys Boat Club is quite simply brilliant. There’s plenty of choice of boats, all well looked after and ready to go afloat on/in. The club members and committee are friendly and helpful. We’ve certainly made the most of our membership so far with 9 visits (1 or 2 visits per week). Hopefully the weather will remain good for several weeks to come and I’ll get more time afloat with the family and occasionally solo too. Can’t wait!

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