Saturday, 11 July 2009

24 hours afloat

I’ve just arrived back from an interesting time on the boat. No sailing, just cleaning and tidying up, although I did try to get into the jetty to fill up the water tank, but I failed. I thought I’d worked out the tide but there wasn’t enough depth so I gave up.

The first interesting event was the egg. We have some inverted plastic gutters on the deck to prevent the ropes which come from the mast to the cockpit from chafing the spray dodger when it’s folded. These are the standard half-round guttering resting upside down on the deck. When I moved one of these to scrub the deck, I found this egg. I’m not sure what bird laid it but there are lots of terns and oyster catchers around. But why leave it here – presumably it wouldn’t be able to incubate it.

Then there were then some interesting exchanges on the VHF. The first was between Solent Coastguard and a vessel in some difficulty: a 23M power boat whose both engines had failed and was unable to anchor because it had no power! 23M is enormous – 75 feet. They sent out the Portsmouth inshore lifeboat. There were no further communications so I’m not sure how a 5M RIB got on with a 23M vessel. The other notable communication was about a laser dinghy that had got into difficulty just inside Newtown Creek. A passing boat had called the coastguard who had located the rescue boat. The coastguard asked the boat that was standing by to tell the dinghy to say where it was because the rescue boat was on its way. The coastguard ended by saying “Thank you very much for going to the assistance of the dinghy and for relaying communications” – they are always so courteous and calm. I hope I never have to call them but it’s very comforting to know how professional they are.

Portsmouth Harbour is a navy establishment and all commercial shipping movements and many leisure ones have to be authorised by the Queen’s Harbour Master – QHM. It’s amusing to listen in to the QMH conversations: they are always very courteous and gentlemanly. “QHM this is St Clare. Request permission to leave The Camber. Over” “ St Clare, QHM, Yes, thank you, that’s approved” “QHM St Clare. Thank you, Sir” Today the Brittany Ferries ‘Mont St Michel’ was coming into harbour – presumably on a fairly fast incoming tide. There’s a 10kt speed limit in the harbour and approaches – particularly for these big ferries. The conversation went something like “Mont St Michel this is QHM. Please check your speed” “QHM this is Mont St Michel. What is the speed limit?” “Mont St Michel this is QHM, the speed limit is ten knots over the ground, sir” I don’t think there were any further exchanges but the Mont St Michel was seen a few minutes later travelling through the harbour very slowly. International incident avoided.

The QHM web site is and there’s a fascinating web site which shows all commercial shipping movements in the Solent in real time, updated every minute or so:

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