After all the dramas about ensuring that our students wear appropriate clothing for sailing in cold weather, we were all finally on our way: our first Competent Crew Course of the year. Expectation always needs to be managed when it comes to weather in winter, and though there are some wonderful days’ sailing to be had in winter this weekend proved not to be one of them!
The wind was forecast to blow to a Beaufort 9! Not great for our three intrepid first timers and another on board to gain mileage. The positive side to the weekend is that everyone learned a lot about reefing: how to reef, how not to reef, when to reef and how to keep sailing when the wind exceeded 30 knots.
After a morning of boat familiarisation below and above deck alongside the pontoon in Penarth Marina, we set out after an early lunch to Cardiff Bay. The wind was gusting to 30 knots and leaving the pontoon was a well executed evolution in close quarters.
Three reefs had already been set so this did not have to be organised when we were underway. The conditions were challenging enough in the bay alone let alone further out to sea. The main aim was to demonstrate to the crew how to manage a vessel in inclement weather. We hoisted our sails and executed points of sail for a good few hours. Everyone had a go on the helm and pulling some sheets and by dusk the return to base was welcomed!
The weather by now had deteriorated further with sustained easterlies of severe gale 9. Despite my suggestion of rescheduling the Sunday the crew wanted to meet anyway. We left the pontoon early in the morning but were severely hampered by the wind. There is a pint where the teaching element of a course is lost in severe weather, and the safety aspects are brought in to sharp relief so we returned to the pontoon.
The remainder of the morning session was devoted to berthing in severe weather, and how to set our lines to protect our vessel in storm conditions. Doubled lines were laid and close attention paid to springs as well as breast lines. The afternoon session covered chartwork, tides, tidal heights and streams and pilotage. The crew thoroughly enjoyed the session, having all been asked to create a secondary port tidal calculation for leaving Cardiff barrage. This exercise alone is an extremely valuable skill to have. The day wrapped with a passage plan and pilotage developed for our next meeting mid March.
In all a great weekend in extremely challenging conditions with a crew who remained upbeat and focussed throughout. A big well done to you all!