Who Needs an Anchor?

The tide was already coming in as we finished preparing Sadaf for sailing; we had finished the outside work of preparing the anchors, dinghy, and various other tasks. As we floated, we set the mainsail and the genoa.


Leila and I Leaving Port Carlisle

The wind was slight, 2-3 knots, and a sunny warm day, perfect conditions. We got rid of the mooring warp without problems and headed out past the harbour wall, into the main channel. The incoming tide was still strong, although it was getting shallower ever day, and we could not push against it so we ferry-glided across the estuary to Scotland and then back again to England; even so we were being pushed up the estuary and we had to wait for the ebb to bring us back to our original position.

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We did not make a lot of distance and we ran out of tide at Bowness-on-Solway and came to rest on the sands, just below the houses on the hill.
We had a nice walk on the beach to the viaduct and saw a beautiful sunset. We noticed pieces of tree trunks lying in the sand and we had seen some floating while sailing; also a metal stake was embedded into the sand just beyond Sadaf, which would have made a nice hole in the hull if she had landed on it.

We ate using the Trangia stove and then went to bed about 11pm. We woke before 4am and prepared to sail. It was dark and there was a strong easterly wind making out mooring for the night a lee-shore. The lee shore was not as bad as the mooring where I normally keep Sadaf, there it makes life on board uncomfortable, at Bowness it was more on the nose and the waves were hitting and glancing off. It remained dark as the flood tide came in and I decided not to sail as if something went wrong I could not see anything to fix the problem.

So I decided to stay until it was light and see what happened, the problem was I had not weighted the anchor warps and they have a tendency to go underneath the keels and snarl. So I went fore and kept moving the anchors if they looked like they were going under the hull, which they did do on occasions.

I have mentioned before in previous posts that the tides of the Solway estuary are strange, and on this occasion I was amazed to see how the anchors were useless. There was a fast flood tide which should have the anchor warps straining with its pull, but they were slack. We must have been positioned on a border line between the flood and a back current, as Sadaf was not moving (except from side to side) the flood and the eddy were keeping her in one position, no need for an anchor. She had positioned herself stern to the wind (east), with the fore facing into the flood (west), the anchor warps were loose (a Bruce and a grapnel), we just floated caught between 2 fast flowing pieces of water.

Eventually the ebb started just as the light came, we did not want to go further out with the ebb so we stayed anchored and did not sail. Sadaf turned with the ebb and she stayed on her mooring until she dried out, a short distance from the metal spike!

We slept until noon, and I noticed that she had dried out not too far from our previous position of last night. I prepared the boat and waited until 4.30pm when the tide came in. when it came it was a lot sluggish than before. I was wondering if Sadaf would float as the tides were getting shallower each day.

I had positioned the grapnel anchor in deeper water so to pull Sadaf in the right direction when we floated. The plan was to pull on the warp and float us out into the channel while reeling in the warp, but the grapnel warp anchor got snarled amongst the genoa sheet so there was no foresail at first.

With that free we sailed and tacked into deeper choppy water, wind against tide. Our intention was to get back to our mooring with this tide or we might be stranded on the sands for a week. In mid channel we tacked and again the grapnel anchor warp got tangled with the genoa sheets, wrapping themselves around each other making the use of the genoa useless. Stress, frustration and anger…

Once freed we tried tacking several times but the confused sea state (eddies, currents, waves) prevented us. We wanted to miss the harbour area as this had back-currents which would pull us back to Bowness. As we approached the harbour wall the wind died, on came the electric motor which gave us a little more way against the back-current from the harbour wall. I thought we had cleared the wall but we were pulled towards it with this back eddy. With the help of the motor we reached the shore and sailed and motored to the buoy of our mooring.

We dropped the Bruce (our grapnel was no longer possible to use as we had to unfasten it from the boat), but the warp of the Bruce anchor went underneath the hull as the wind pushed Sadaf onto the shore. I tried to back motor but the warp was firmly trapped underneath the hull.

There we sat, stern to the wind, as we waited for the ebb, and when it was shallower I jumped out, freed the warp and slowly walked Sadaf back to the mooring.
I noticed the propeller had come off the motor; the back motoring must have unscrewed the propeller nut. I thought I had lost it for good, but I later found the propeller in the sand, but not the nut.

We ate then slept, and the next morning we packed up and cycled home.

Here are more photos from the sail:

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In Coming Tide

They say the Solway Estuary has the 3rd fastest tidal flow in the UK. It is quite a boast, but when the tide is at its highest it can be quite something to see, especially with the Solway Bore.

A less modest, but also impressive experience is to stand in the flood tide and feel its power and force. The local Haaf Netters have done this for centuries, and can tell more stories about its power than I can, but I produced this video to show its force.

Carlisle’s Floods 2015 – a solution

Most people would have seen the flooding in Cumbria (and Southern Scotland) this December (2015) where the rivers became swollen and breached the flood defences in Appleby, Keswick, Pooley Bridge, Dumfries, Carlisle and elsewhere… there was a lot of talk on TV saying how there was “unprecedented rainfall” in Cumbria since records began. This rainfall fell on high ground (Lake District fells and the Pennines) and this saturated the ground and this fed into the rivers and they became torrents. These rivers all fed into the River Eden and this fed into the sea.

The last time this flooding happened was in 2007 (in fact there were smaller occurrences since 2007 but these did not make major news), and at the same time as the swollen rivers there were also very high tides on the Solway Estuary.

The various government agencies when looking at why the flooding happened in Carlisle only seemed to asses river levels. Their results focused on building flood defences, after estimating the future river levels.

What they did not notice or what is not so evident from news broadcasts is that the river levels reached their highest point around the area of Carlisle City because the flood water from rivers met the flood waters from the sea.

Carlisle is tidal, not many people know that. I have been carried all the way up to the outskirts of Carlisle by high tides. Starting at Drumbrugh in my sea kayak I was taken past Rockcliff and I was easily able to kayak up river Eden, have a sleep near to Cargo and come back on the same tide.

A week before Carlisle got flooded I was told and shown a video of the high tides at Port Carlisle. High tide was supposed to be at 4pm, and generally the tide starts coming in 1-2 hours before that. It races in and goes out more leisurely. But that week they were coming in about 12 noon, so that is 2-3 hours more water than usual. Therefore it is lingering longer and going out slower. That build up of water in the estuary and that water flowing over the salt marshes and up the river Eden would have a drastic effect. It would meet the River Eden in flood and the two waters would collide. It is possible they met near to Carlisle and they began to build up and over flow their banks.

There would have been no outlet for the meeting of the waters. The tide goes out and there is roughly 6-8 hours of dry sands (and salt marshes) for the rivers to drain into. Because of the tide lasting longer in the river Eden, and because of the tide covering the salt marshes and staying longer there, this would give time for the flooded rivers stay longer or to be held up moving on… they would build up on top of each other, there would be nowhere for the river to go except to widen its course.

They will talk of new defences again I am sure after the floods have gone and they will assess the damage. But I wonder if they will look at the sea?

I am not just going to criticize; one solution could be to divert the flooded rivers before the flood plain, somewhere before the motorway bridge, east of Carlisle. A canal or many irrigation ditches could be built and managed, so when a tidal surge and flooded rivers are likely to collide the canal’s gates could be open to let the flood waters be channelled in a direction away from the River Eden and Carlisle.

The area historically known as “The Debatable Land” is mainly low land, farm land and not used extensively. These flood canals could be fed into them causing little risk to houses or to live stock, they could be dug all the way to Rockcliff marshes and there (when the tide goes out) let onto the marshes to drain away with the tide’s ebb. The diverted route is perhaps 7-10 miles and this is already an extensive amount of water to fill the canals.

The cost of this could be considerable, but compared to the human loss and building flood walls which might add to the problem elsewhere it could be a solution. The canals could be used as a recreational waterway when the floods are not with us. Boating and kayaking, small craft sailing, swimming and walking along the dyke could be one way of creating income to pay for it.

Bailing Out…. a Folk Session

It was a wet night that I went down to the folk session at Bowness-on-Solway. I packed my concertina into a big black bag and cycled the 12 miles along waterlogged country roads. The weather in Cumbria has been particular wet these day (if you have been keeping an eye on the news you will have seen the flooding). I expected a bit of flooding on the roads so I was prepared to slow down and judge the situation, but as there was no moon and it was very dark I could not see the pieces of road that was underwater…the section of road which I was not prepared for.

Getting to the session I was a little late as I had to make a call in to see Sadaf. She has been sitting on her keels for 7 weeks and had been checked only a few times. She was ok, and has been ok amazingly over the weeks with all the flooding and rain. She leaks water above the sea-line from an unknown spot, it is rainwater and generally there is a trickle in the bilges, but because of the amount of rain we have had she has been full.

When I got there she was full too. I was surprised to see how much water had gotten into the bilges. It was not up to the cushions, but up to the floorboards. The only difference I could see that could account for the increase in water, was the front cover/plastic had blown off and rain was getting in from the fore section…I do not know from where?

Bailing her out took some time, each section had about 2 big buckets of rainwater to sponge out, and there was 5 sections. The area underneath the cockpit was dry! So I am thinking the leak is towards the front of the cabin. I will have to make some checks.

The Bowness folk session begins at 8.30pm and I just got there in time, the musicians were there and the pub was nice and warm to dry my coat. It is nice and relaxed, playing a mixture of southern English, Northumbrian, Scottish and locally penned songs/tunes. The songs are dominant and the guy who writes them was getting good responses to his humor. Besides the local musicians a guy called Steve came with his guitar to sing: and some tunes were played from the Playford’s manuscript.

The session ends roughly when they sing the “Haaf Netters Song” with audience participation, is has become a bit of a ritual there.

The session ended about 11pm.

Then the long cycle home, with the rain in my eyes, somewhere along the route I got a puncture, but the tired stayed up enough to get me home. I could hear the roar from the sea as it raced into the estuary.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi

I am just beginning listening to an audio book called, “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi. It is the 2nd time I am attempting this book, the first time was when I was corresponding with an Iranian friend who lived in Tehran at the time. She raised objections to the book (I am not sure if she had read it) and I put it away as it caused her some anxiety. Now I feel I can look at it again and listen to it with new ears.

It is not as bad as what my friend was saying; in fact the author says that the book “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, is not a symbol for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since I have just started this book I am not sure how the book Lolita fits in with her narrative of Iran or her students whom she is teaching, but time will tell. It is her own personal impressions of Iran, her students which have been turned into a novel.

Since my first attempt at “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, I have met other Iranians and have gotten to know life in Iran from several different perspectives, and I find that listening to this book I am finding out that what the book says and what my friends say are not to dissimilar. I mean, there are similarities even though one is a book’s description and another is someone’s memories. Both have a love of “Iran” and a critique of the system, I find nothing distasteful with this. To look at a country through rose-coloured spectacles is not healthy and it can be quite naive to think a country can be idealized to “others” at the same time being distasteful to ones life, this is not an honest representation.

We shall see the book develops…
As I read further, I can begin to see other aspects of the authors writing. She is writing the book in the USA, she is remembering Iran, and she is remembering her life in the USA with occasional references to her life in the USA today. It is all mixed up, it is not a narrative telling a story of events in any order, and it flits from books to life to memories to countries.

The events in Iran during her time there are obviously bad memories: the invasion into her home from the “police” is thought-provoking, but is it so different from the British police breaking down your door in the early morning on a police raid (guilty until proven innocent?), is she saying that these intrusions into ones home only happen in Iran or in any totalitarian state? She is not including USA or the UK or any other “western democratic country”?

She is obviously bitter to what happened to her father as Mayor of Tehran, but does not corruption exist in all politics? These things are not solely in Iran. The incarceration of the group of women in the north of Iran is harrowing reading, and the virginity tests they are subjected too made me feel “sad and angry” but after a while it becomes a catalogue of disturbing events… and I find myself becoming numb to it all.

Where is the alternative side of Iranian life? She must have experienced some happiness there? I know in totalitarian regimes there are still hope and laughter, friends and ways of finding happiness.

Her bags are searched in the airport as she enters Iran from the USA, well has she never been to Manchester airport and the rough way they handle delicate belongings like musical instruments?

She has been subjected to political activism in the 1960s/70s in the USA, she is radicalized and she is transporting that radicalism to Iran… why is she so sure Iran wants that radicalization? So many Ex-pats think they know better than the people who live there!

It is a book of contradictions, and the subject matter of her novels…it is a layered cake of pessimism, I wonder where she is going with it? Her book is like the regime she is condemning (even though she claims not to) negative and dark, perhaps one-sided and it needs a bit of lighter moments to make it believable.

In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust.

(Or as I remember it, in Carlisle library when I was a teenager, “Remembrance of Things Past).

“Swan’s Way” the first book…

I have been trying this audio book for 1 week, I am struggling with it. It reminds me of Flaubert “Madame Bovary” with its mundane talk, its stillness, lack of movement, detail to detail. My God, how he goes into detail, flowery, in-depth, precise analytical descriptions. And for all that it is brilliant, if you can bare all that then it takes you into another world, a secure world like he is describing of its time. His childhood, his adulthood, his family and servants, friends and environment is all minutely described and this paints pictures in one’s head, you can enter and live it, if you are also in that frame of mind.

And that’s the problem; in this day and age we are not always in that state of mind; as it paints a picture of a static society not a movable one, as is ours today. It is like a painting hanging in a gallery where we stop and look into it, it is not like a video where we stop and it moves and passes us by. You have to enter into it or it is a nothing. So sometimes I struggle with it as I am not in that static state of mind.

I looked into this book when I was a teenager but when I saw the many volumes on the shelves I did not bother with it, I am pleased I never tackled it then as I certainly would not have continued with it, but now I will keep going, it is not a book where I can linger though, but I do appreciate its prose and descriptions.

The L Shaped Room (film and novel)

Last night I watch the film called “The L Shaped Room”, directed by Bryan Forbes from 1960. I had read the novel a while ago, the same title as the film written by Lynne Reid Banks, and wanted to compare the two. The book I had picked up in a market from Eccles many years ago I had not heard of it before but reading the back of the cover I was intrigued.

The film differed from the book, often the film is poorer than the book but I think the film brought to life certain aspects that the book hinted at, and the film became a separate creation. The leading heroine is French in the film and English in the novel, why? Well, I guess it brought up certain aspects of “foreign-ness” the war was mentioned, adding something to past and the now (1960). The negro character had a strange role in the film he is hinted as being gay, but I would say he is more A-sexual, as though a negro cannot be allowed to feel any sex or to listen to it, or have a relationship except for his gift with music.

The men in the film are either drunks, sexual predators, or in the main characters weak and unsuccessful. The writer cannot sell his novels, he backs away from responsibilities, he wants sex but not commitment, although he tries he cannot accept the baby, which is not his… at least this is honesty. In the book the heroine is English, pregnant, does not enjoy sex, independent minded… all complex characters. All living in a house which is odd… the L shaped room indicates all is not “straight” sexuality, jobs, relationships, etc.

There are 2 other books from this novel: “The Backward Shadow”, and “Two is Lonely” I must track them down.



Byocycle City Speed Review (storing, keys and punctures)

During the summer I finally used the bike for what I first intended, which is to cycle from home to the boat, rig the boat, sail, and de-rig the boat and cycle home. I had hoped the electric bike would save my energy to do all this, as I was having trouble on my normal bike.

On a couple of occasions I cycled to the boat and folded it down, carrying it onto the boat and placing it into one of the side berths. The boat is 20ft, she has a cabin and although small it is enough to sleep and cook and store things. I strapped down the wheels and handle bars to the frame so it would not come undone (I wish the design would allow this to happen, there is no fixings to hold her fast once folded down), then strapped her to the boat so the bike would not fall over. There the bike sat until I had finished sailing. When finished I took the bike back to shore and assembled it again and cycled back. This time I used the throttle power more to give my legs a rest.

On one occasion I lost the key to the battery. I could not find it anywhere. All I could do was to cycle home using the gears. It was not so bad, taking it easy I did not notice the added weight too much. But another question arose “where to get another key cut?” When I asked in the shops in Carlisle they asked me what sort of key it is used for. So they were not used to its size or thickness. One shop quoted me more as it was an “electric bike”; finally I found a replacement for 6 pounds for 1 key. The bike came with 2 keys, and another fault (?) with the design is that once you have taken the key out of the battery where do you put it? You have to leave the key in the battery while riding so to have a key ring dangling is not good due to it catching on something. To have it with other keys is not practical as you have to remove it each time from the bunch. It would be better to have it on the bike attached to the seat (?) as you have to remove the seat to get the battery out. I am sure I lost the key in this process as I had to dismantle the seat and battery from the bike, therefore leaving the key loose.

Another question which arose recently was that I got a puncture in my back wheel. I am not sure if it was a puncture from the hedge cutting on the country roads, or if it was a fault in the inner tube as the back wheel was always going flat if I left it a couple of days. Perhaps over the weeks the pressure had made the hole big enough to cause the bike to go down quicker. Half way home I noticed the bike to be sluggish, I used the throttle more than normal and it got me home with 3 lights showing (normally I get home with 4 lights on the battery). The bike also felt unsteady due to the lack of pressure in the tire. I thought I had to take the back wheel off and realized what to do about the motor and its wiring? I mailed the shop where I had ordered it and their response was very helpful, offering to ring me back and offer assistance. In short I had to unplug the wiring on the back wheel and then take the wheel off as normal. In the end I did not take the back wheel off, I disconnected the brakes and slipped the inner tube out, found the hole and repaired it. So there is 2 puncture patches on the back wheel so far.

On many of my trips to the boat I have been taking lots of extra gear and food, the panniers where full and heavy. The bike handled well with the added weight, so no problems there.

The Summer is Over…Long live the Autumn

One could say the “summer is over” all activities seem to have stopped and I find myself being “back at work” which for me is making small-pipes and busking. But I can still write about the various activities I have done over a month or so, some of which were a welcome change: a travel to Orkney (a birthday present to myself); sailing once more after a period of 3 years; going to Piping Live 2015 in Glasgow; and a trip to the Isle of Arran (my last visit was when I was 21, a few moons ago!), and where my small laptop got a wash in seawater and decided not to work again (the laptop I had used on many of my previous blog entries R.I.P.)

There was a new insight into my electric bike which I will add to the review blog. I will be reworking my Dinghy Cruising Association articles for the blog, as I think they could be of some use to those who wish to cruise the Solway Estuary.

Over the next few days/weeks I will be writing several blogs on these topics and others too, such as: folk sessions; a new Small-pipe workshop which will be in October; and unintentionally learning an old instrument, the recorder! An instrument I hated when I was at school, but I find myself starting again.

So the summer might be over but let’s look forward to the autumn!

Byocycle City Speed Review (update)

It’s been about 9 months since I got the electric bike and I have learned a few things from riding it. The first is not to treat it like a normal bike, it is not. The weight and size of its wheels make it a very poor bike compared to a full size racer or touring bike with 700 wheels. But it is a great bike and if you use it in a certain way it is just as good.

I use the different systems as gears; I use the systems for different tasks:

The gears can be used as normal, but I rarely go onto the 1st or 6th gear. I use gears on the flat, on the top of a hill, on the descent, when I am climbing using the pedal system, but I do not use gears all the time, the bike is too heavy for that.

The pedal system is the most used while riding. It adds to the cycling, the motor and the cycling leave the legs without stress or tiredness. While going uphill I have it on and it is like being pushed, on a long flat piece of road I use it to make the head wind a little easier to cycle against. I rarely have it on ‘medium’ or ‘high’, I use it in ‘low’ mostly. I use the gears 2-4 depending on the hill, if it is a long hill I use a lower gear.

The throttle system, I use sparingly, I get bored sitting there not doing anything. I use it on flats, when my legs are tired, when I am peddling and I want a bit of help. I use it to get over busy roads fast, or to get passed a bit of road which I do not want to be on. I use it to coast along, to move but not to speed.

All these systems are used in a cycle of about 25 miles round trip; sometimes I get off and walk up the bigger hills to use different muscles in my legs. The battery is still on ‘3 lights’ when I am finished.

I can pack it into my boat, and I intend to use it on some camping holidays later this year.

Of course there are disadvantages, one being the size of the wheels makes you pedal faster, but this can be solved by better technique. My tires keep on deflating I am not sure if this is due to the weight or a leaking valve, but I am blowing the tires up every other day. I do not know how to change the back inner tube due to all the electrics or where to oil the motor parts… there were no instructions for this.