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Kit Guide

Sometimes even a 180kg Wayfarer can feel too small

By Mark Harper 30th September 2020
Hafren at rest
So the first problem in launching a Wayfarer at 03:00 for a trip to the IoW - how to get the boat launched without getting wet feet ? One of the first pieces of advice from dinghy cruising guru Jeremy Warren was to avoid getting wet for as long as possible, and so my friend Martin and I waded to the limits of our Dubarry boots (not many Rooster products involved here I'm afraid), and just managed to float the boat from her trailer. The weather forecast had been changeable for the previous week, but as we launched we had a very pleasing NNW f2, ideal for navigating the Emsworth Channel to Chichester harbour entrance. No dramas on the way to HISC, there was enough of a moon to be able to see mooring buoys and other potential snags, and enough general excitement in Hafren to counter the effects of the early start. We managed a first cup of tea by Marker buoy, found the hand warmers by Mill Rythe, and started on the emergency chocolate rations by Sandy Point (the 'emergency' being that we were sailing at 3am in the dark). As we left Chichester Harbour at Eastoke point, the wind died to a flat calm, but the full force of ebbing tide took us towards West Pole at a rate of 2.5 knots. The previous week had seen gales for several days, and the crashing of unseen waves on the sandbank was incredibly loud, and invoked a kind of primeval fear. Whilst we knew that we were relatively safe in the channel and that we could paddle the boat at up to 3 knots to get out of any trouble, the noise of the waves was really quite unnerving, and there was particular attention paid to the GPS plotter until we made our Southing. Speaking of the GPS plotter, it occurs to me that some aspects of Hafren differ from the usual Wayfarer set up, and I list some of the more interesting additions here. 1. The boat carries significant quantities of water, cleverly stowed under the side decks. The water can be moved from side to side following a tack, so optimising righting moment. In this aspect the boat is virtually indistinguishable from a VOR 62, who have copied this method, but seem to take hours to move their kit, we are far more efficient and can do it in less than 5 minutes. 2. The boat has a custom mast head light, built with several CREE LED elements and rechargeable batteries. A tip to budding dinghy cruisers is not to look directly at 14 CREE LEDs whilst switching them on. Night vision is destroyed for hours. 3. Safety equipment. Harnesses to keep sailors attached to the boat in the event of a capsize/MoB, personal emergency beacons, flares, radar reflector, full first aid kit, VHF, emergency chocolate rations (now eaten). 4. Sail inventory. Slab reefed main, roller reefed genoa. Wayfarer kite, 505 kite, and a mast head cruiser kite for lighter days. All symmetric in bags with a bespoke carbon pole. 5. GPS plotter. Invaluable for sailing at night, especially with a low light setting to preserve night vision. No AIS though. 6. Gimballed stove. Sits under a thwart. Needs nerves of steel to light it, for fear of burnt figures (and burning thwarts and boat). Rather like a temperamental cat, provides much pleasure to owners but can turn at any moment and requires a certain nervous vigilance. And doesn't like to be woken up. 7. Untold amounts of ingenious storage. 8. Partial deck covers that allow for sleep uninterrupted by spray and wind. So there we are, we have left the harbour, and we are now close reaching to Horse Sand Fort in a F3/4, with a reasonable sea state. The issue now is spotting and avoiding lobster pots. If you were to canvas dinghy cruisers for their top three perils at sea, lobster pots would certainly figure on the list. They are typically the size of a football, most of them are helpfully painted black or dark blue, they can be towed underwater by tide (and so unseen), but equally they can be set with 50m of floating rope. We have read some horrendous accounts of entrapment with lobster and crab pots, where the resolution has been considerably more involved than a quick up and down of the foils. So eyes were peeled as we forged West for the Solent deep water channel, and here comes the first test of navigation. The number of channel markers in the Solent is considerable, and at night they are distinguished by light signals. So the ' Fl (4) 8s' on the chart suddenly becomes meaningful, but fortunately we were prepared in this aspect. What we hadn't realised is that it is very difficult to to gauge the distance of a single light by eye, as there is no perspective in the dark from other objects. Also, distinguishing between 'Flashing', 'Quick Flashing' and ' Very Quick Flashing' took a bit of getting used to. Crossing the deep water channel by Horse Sand Fort was no great issue, we choose the shortest transition on the basis that the less time we spent in the channel in the dark the better. There were no other boats around, which made this particular part of the voyage stress free, although a 180kg Wayfarer does feel insignificant compared to the scale of the shipping that passes through this channel. Given the speed that some of the tankers move in the Solent, this was one of the areas that I was most concerned with before we set out, and it was good to get it squared way. Now we simply had to bear SSW for the entrance to Bembridge Harbour, navigate the channel entrance, and make our landing for a breakfast of heroic proportions. The meandering channel that leads to the entrance to Bembridge harbour is well marked with sets of lateral marks - it needs to be as the channel itself is really quite narrow. None of the lateral marks are lit, and they are difficult to distinguish against the background of the shoreline, street lights and the like don't help with the night vision. We had a couple of moments where we strayed from the channel by only a couple of meters, to find both the centreboard and rudder touching the sandbanks. Another unexpected dimension of the landfall was the fishing boats that were leaving the harbour on the last of the ebb. These boats had clearly left at the last possible moment, and were racing to get out of the harbour. They did not expect a Wayfarer to be plodding into Bembridge, and we did not expect to leave the channel to avoid being run down! But happily we made our landfall in Bembridge anchorage just before dawn, and watched the sun rise over the dunes. We interrogated some local dog walkers to establish where we were going to find our heroic breakfast and feasted on a Full English with extra toast. The trip back was less exciting, as it was daylight and we could see everything, so I shall not recount the return. There is a sense of achievement that comes from this type of endeavour. Our next trip is late April, perhaps Emsworth to Poole, with a full overnight passage. Can't wait. Mark

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