No matter what you do some days don't go as planned, as Jonty Pearce found out this week


Carol and have got quite a lot of interests outside sailing. Sometimes they tend to intrude too much, as has just been the case. My work is a constant evil that takes up far too much time. A recent large party (a ball in a barn for 250), a massive church fundraising festival, and some property repairs have precluded sailing for over a month. Add to that maintenance of the four acre orchard that Carol decided to buy (don’t ask me why…), and demands on my time have been overwhelming. The orchard grass was waist high before we got on top of it, and it now all needs doing again. This weekend, in my mind a glorious sunny sailing weekend full of relaxation, was to be the reward after all my endeavours. I hoped to sail out of The Heads into the open sea for the first time this year, where we would be able to hoist my as yet untried new toy – a mizzen staysail.


But some days don’t go as planned. The forecast weather looked fine for Saturday with some rain for Sunday, though we had to be back over the marina cill by midday. The first harbringer of doom was Carol’s tummy upset after a few days away in her camper. She slept badly and was even harder to awake than usual, cutting back on the 30 minute ‘snag-fixing’ reserve I like to enjoy before any departure deadline. Because we were close to the height of tide necessary to cross the cill with the keel fully down, I tested its raising mechanism. I have installed a wireless remote control to be able to lift the keel from the helm. I pressed the button – nothing. I got out the spare – nothing. I put the spare batteries in – and got only intermittent function when held right next to the receiver. Allowing that all the batteries, including the spares, are 5 years old, I forgave it and resolved to rely on the working manual over-ride switch and away we went, clearing the cill to freedom with mere inches to spare.


I started to relax as we motored against the headwind up Haven in the warm sunshine. Carol suggested anchoring off the sandy sheltered beach of Watwick Bay before raising the sails in the afternoon. I needed no persuading, and we joined a happy group of yachts and motor boats chilling out and enjoying the fine weather. Pimms is somewhat soporific, and we were both tired. When we awoke from our snooze the weather had taken an un-forecast turn for the worse, developing into a cool damp misty drizzle that had sent our companions scuttling away. We were alone. The notion of raising sail and exploring out to sea to try the mizzen staysail was masochistic. The Indoor Dragon therefore did what she does best and snuggled down below to sleep with the cat, while I went up into the increasing rain to raise the anchor and motor back to Neyland, navigation lights on in the poor visibility, and sheltering damply behind the sprayhood.


Aurial has an indoor steering position whose visibility is enhanced by a windscreen wiper. I took the autopilot remote control below to sit in comfort, and turned on the wiper. Nothing but a wisp of smoke and a hot casing resulted – another job for the snag list. I turned it off, let it cool, and removed the casing. Luckily I was able to free the armature and, hey presto! A clear windscreen. I sat comfortably below watching the Haven slip by as I mulled over the other tasks on the snag list – keel controller, Navtext aerial, a loose stanchion, leaking windows, a faulty fore-cabin light, and the masthead wind cups that refuse to spin. None of them were essential, so when we had berthed up I cooked Carol supper and opened a bottle of wine. We slept well.


There really is not enough time to get everything fitted in. Something will have to go. My vote is work…


Jonty Pearce