RYA Practical, Clyde – Firebird

The RNYC Easter Cruise 2007

Largs Yacht Haven

Largs Yacht Haven

Following the pre-cruise briefing a fortnight earlier, the crew of Firebird, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 32 sloop, met up and shared a lift up to Largs in order to get to know each other. Simon, an Accountant, Roger, a Nurse Practitioner, and Steve, a former Royal Marine, were all doing Day Skipper, whilst I, a Policeman, was building my miles and days on board in preparation to take Coastal Skipper later in the year. We were all looking forward to taking on the Firth of Clyde.

On arrival, we discovered that the Clyde Ice-Cap had melted, and mild, sunny weather was to be the order of the week. We also learned that our instructor, Mike, was going to be inspected by the RYA (along with Firebird, chartered through Flamingo Yacht Charter). As a result, we carefully scrutinised the inventory for the yacht, and each of the crew were tasked to find all of the safety equipment and ensure that all was well.

After compiling a list of “stuff-that-needs-sorting” we slipped our mooring and undertook a little mooring buoy practice (getting laughed at by porpoises) before steaming off to Rothesay in a Force Zero wind. Mike obviously planned this, as after selecting a mooring buoy for the night at Rothesay, he took us on a night navigation exercise around the Skelmorlie Channel, before we had to re-acquire our mooring buoy at Rothesay for the night. Mike’s motto was, “If it ain’t windy, learn excercises that don’t need wind”.

Kyles of Bute

Kyles of Bute

The following day wasn’t windy, either, so we undertook anchorage practice (manually lifting a heavy chain, as the windlass was playing up, and getting laughed-at by Eider Ducks) at Kames Bay, before steaming to Holy Loch to get in some pontoon bashing, at which point the wind gusted savagely to a Force 2, so we were able to spend the afternoon sailing.

On Day 3, the wind had abated to a Force Zero again, so we got on with some manoeuvring practice, where Mike demonstrated that the stern of a Moody is harder than the bow of a Sun Odyssey 32. He got laughed at by some gannets. Clearly, our course was adversely affected by the magnetic deviation of Firebird, so we spent the rest of the morning beginning to compile a deviation chart for Firebird by taking transit bearings; “If it ain’t windy…”
Once the wind blasted its way up to a Force 3, though, we sailed, close-hauled, up to Tarbert (Sin City), where we moored for the night and got laughed at by a heron.

East Loch Tarbert

East Loch Tarbert

We spent the next couple of nights at Tarbert (but we got pontoon berths, enabling us to sample the exotic night life!)

During this period we were able to practice how to recover a man overboard under sail, getting laughed-at by a pair of grey seals. Simon acquired the nickname “Queequeg” as a result of his never failing to hook the “MOB”. Back ashore, we had to figure out how to lift him back aboard (Global Warming is OK, but the Firth of Clyde is still cold in April!) Simon and I eventually came up with a block & tackle device operated from the boom, which was prevented from swinging back inboard by a “preventer” rope.

During this time, we also visited Ardrishaig and Loch Fyne, learning how to tie up to various types of moorings with a variety of clever techniques, as well as practising blind pilotage skills whilst sailing back close-hauled against our strongest wind yet, a Force 5.

After compiling a passage plan for Arran, we set sail in the late morning to discover that someone had sabotaged our mainsail by tearing it, thereby requiring our return to Sin City. Once we met the Sailmaker, we found out why it had come to pass that Tarbert had run out of beer the night before; needless to say, he required payment in cash for mending the mainsail.

Brodick Castle, Arran

Brodick Castle, Arran

After a very pleasant sail downwind at a dead run, or goose-wing, we anchored at Brodick Bay, Arran, just before sunset, getting laughed-at by a cormorant. (Roger thought it may have been a shag, but we’d been at sea for a week and none of us could remember what a shag was). This gave us time for dinner on board before a night sail to Troon, where we arrived at 1.00am.

For our final day, we sailed to Millport, Great Cumbrae, where we secured to the jetty (another new technique) and had lunch, before sailing back to Largs and cleaning the boat down.

Our final evening was spent catching up with the crews of the other four yachts from the RNYC Cruise and swapping tall stories of localised hurricanes, great white shark sightings, and water-skiing behind the yacht under sail.

We can’t wait until next time.

RYA Day Skippers

RYA Day Skippers

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