Monday, 9 November 2020

A late sail goes wrong

I have been checking the weather and tides for the last week. The tidal stream out of the Killary is not that fast and with an easterly wind, about 15 knots forecast, I decided to head out for a sail on Saturday.

I haven't sailed much in stronger winds so I double reefed the main, only unfurled about ⅓ of the head and made preparations to head off.

Outboard was filled and the new container of petrol, I added the 2 stroke oil to. Then on with my jacket and life yacht. Sailing plan added to SafeTrx and texted to my shore contacts.

As the wind was coming from the east, I was able to sail off the mooring and slowly headed out of the mooring field. And into the bay. The wind was a lot weaker than the forecast so I let out a bit more of the head. I left the main reefed.

Then heaven happened. I was surrounded by a pod of dolphins so I slowly sailed with them breaching around me, they were more than likely feeding but they stayed around me for 30 minutes or so. I think I took over 120 photos. 
The plan was to sail around Crump Island, where my family originated from. This was a short 4 hour sail but with the wind from the east, I knew I would have to tack back. And I was prepared to do so. 

As I was rounding Crump, I was dodging Lobster Pots, and a fisherman from InishTurk was heading back to the island, we waved at each other and continued. 
As I started the leg from waypoint 2 to 3 I could see the waves were building slightly. But they seemed manageable but I knew I would be using the outboard to get back. So I a started it early and continued on my way. 

As I turned at waypoint 3, the winds also started to pick up. Sustaining over 20 knots and gusting to 30 knots it made progress slow. 

Untypical for me, I did not panic. I was confident in my boat and knew she would see me right. I had dropped the main into the cabin and furled in the head. 

I was motoring away but my progress was almost nothing and only half way across the island, the outboard started to stutter so I filled it again, a little concernwd about the fuel usage. 

I was using transits on the island to monitor my progress and at one stage I was going backwards. In the back of my mind, I was working out where to head to for safe mooring but the pier I launched Bilbo at was a no go, she would have been bounced to bits there. 

So I kept motoring but I was struggling to made progress the winds were still gusting over 25 knots and the waves were at least 2m if not more and the time between the waves was very short. This was not in the forecast and I have never seen it before. 

I was harnessed in and had all the lights in. I was looking around to see if there was any of the local fishing boats out. Not a soul except me. 
I had to made a decision. I checked the remaining fuel in the outboard, roughly about 2 litres. So I knew there was no way to safely make it back. 

I knew what the decision was but I checked the fuel twice more. I was just keeping Bilbo heading east, almost directly into the wind. 

I made a PanPan call. I needed a tow. I gave the location and information to the coast guard, explaining that Tully Pier was a no go. And that there was no vessels around. I explained the weather and waves to them also. 

I just kept the outboard on idle so I was heading into the wind. I did debate heading to InishTurk but the forecast for Sunday was not good to head back. And where would I have got fuel. 

Almost as suddenly as these waves and wind arrived, it disappeared. The waves dropped to almost flat calm and the wind dropped to about 6knots. But the wind was still on the nose.

I was in constant contact with the Coast Guard and was still getting the odd 20+knot gust. I did try to tack a little but every time I brought out the head sail, I was getting a gust that was turning me. 

The Achill All Weather Lifeboat arrived and towed me to the moorings. I had just about enough fuel to make it to the mooring ball that I swing off. 

I thanked them for their assistance and also the Cleggan Coast Guard crew who came out to assist me. 

By the time I had made Bilbo safe and secure it was pitch dark. No amount of head torch would make it safe to head ashore. So I stayed on Bilbo for the night. I always bring an extra day's food with me. I am considering getting MRE packs. 

I am going to put off my circumnavigation until 2022. I need more experience and also a better outboard. I would love a bigger yacht but my income would not allow that to happen. 

I will do something in 2021 to raise funds for Clifden and Achill RNLI. I am currently doing my Day Skipper theory and plan to do my practical early next year. 

I will continue to gain experience by sailing but will buy a new outboard a 10 hp 4 stroke with 2 external fuel tanks. 

One of the things I think stood me is the theory course. All the information was fresh in my mind. So this old dog is learning. 

I did see that another sailor was further up the killary but in a more sheltered area. It must have been a localised weather situation that hit me. 

It has not put me off sailing. In fact it has made me more determined to get the experience to handle these situations better. I enjoy being at sea. And I enjoy solo sailing. I am not a people person. 

So expect a fund raiser early next year for both life boats and more sailing stories. I will blog my winter projects and have decided to add a slab reefing system to Bilbo. I had considered a tiller pilot but I enjoy sitting at the helm watching the waves go by. 

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