Dorado, my very own, first yacht.

 Saturday 25th July 2015 A day sail in Dorado, my 17-foot Trailer Sailer.

The sailing week that I remember as the most awesome yet was with The Tallships Youth Sailing Trust, on a Challenger yacht voyage from Swansea to Liverpool, and the most amazing day of that trip was from Milford Haven to Dublin; a port reach all the way with lots of wind, big waves and everyone sitting in the cockpit getting sprayed by waves with manic grins on their faces (our faces) for hour after hour! We were sailing in company with another 72' Challenger so we could see how they were taking the sea so well, with the same steady 25-30-degree tilt as we had. There was sunshine inside and out.....

Well now, today's sail with my son Gabriel as the most amazing and never complaining crew, was the 17-foot equivalent to that 70-foot Challenger day. In fact it was more like three good sailing days rolled into one: Lymington then Yarmouth to Newtown Creek. Newtown Creek to Newtown Creek. Newtown Creek to Lymington. Yes, we saw a lot of Newtown Creek. 

As usual, I slept fitfully the night before our trip, working out how I'd do this or that manoeuvre and remembering to take the WD40 for the Seagull outboard; 'Take that you 1956 heap of history – here's some Red Bull for you old man!'

I woke Gabriel at 5am and we left home for the two hour journey to Lymington. We were rigged and sailing off the pontoon by 8am with a third of our big, £30 on Ebay, headsail out and a reef in the main. We had wind against tide and shot over to Yarmouth with no difficulty at all and picked up a buoy, a very large one, in the exposed mooring for larger boats outside the harbour wall. Pretty soon Gabriel went quiet, the first sign of sea sickness, so we upped and took off on a downwind run for Newtown Creek making an easy 5 knots to a slightly more sheltered anchorage in the bay just as the tide was slack and low. After resting for a while, and knowing that we had a strong wind and 6 hours to wait until the tide turned in our favour, we decided to get the Seagull out and motor into the improbably small entrance to Newtown Creek, and pick up a mooring or anchor there for a while. The Seagull went 'Pop, Pop, Pop, rev, rev, rev, Pop, rev, Pop!' We made it and got the hook down in about 5 feet of water with just enough chain and rope to let us take to the mud about 20 feet from the remains of an old sea wall. That was enough sailing for one 'reasonable' day, but it was still only 12 noon. Time for cereal and cheese for lunch, and a kip while listening to the wind-up radio.

 Windguru had said the forecast was 3-4 all day, dropping to 2-3 at 7pm. I waded to shore and did an underpants 'I've landed on the Isle of White' dance on the muddy old sea wall. By now it was 4pm. We couldn't see any white horses breaking on the Solent and the wind seemed to have dropped so I hoped we could make it back to Lymington against the tide with our secret weapon – the huge ebay Genoa – so off we went. The Seagull did fine for once and in no time we were shaking out the reef in the main. A few tacks later and we had made no headway towards Lymington and the wind had gone back up to 'White Horses' and I even saw one of two of those 'foam spread off the top of the waves like Marbled paper' efforts which signify something stronger than a Force 5. Gabriel was helming expertly in spite of being overpowered. Time to run back into Newtown Creek before we were blown all the way to Cowes! The Seagull was hiding in the cabin by this time and we just made it into the creek under sail and picked up a visitor mooring among a line of bigger boats. We had more recovery time and the decision was made to only go out again once the tide was fair and the wind had dropped. This episode had taught us about the windward sailing properties of a triple keel boat drawing under two feet and was enough sailing for an average day out, but there was more to be done.

We were missing tea bags which was a pity, and the food was down to cereal, some milk and three squishy bannanas. We had enough water to drink for 24 hours.  We talked to Mrs 'Hope' in the yacht next door and Mr 'Hope' offered to drive us in his car to Yarmouth so we could take the ferry back to Lymington. What kindness from complete strangers. Very touching! We said we would wait here and see if the wind dropped. I changed headsails to the storm jib and put the reef back in the main. We both lay down and dozed until 6.30pm.

The wind, having peeked at 5pm had possibly dropped a tad and the Seagull was still cowering in the cabin so we pulled faces at her as we sailed off our mooring and out on a close haul through the tight entrance to the creek to face the Greenies on the Solent once again. At least this time we had a tide in our favour even if this would give us a short, choppy sea. Going out we passed an incoming 40-footer who reported 'still Force 6 out there'. Even in the first ten minutes we were now heading in the right direction for Lymington 'lee bowing' the tide and making 5 knots over land according to the hand held GPS. When we got out of shelter of land there was plenty of footage to be taken on Gabriel's new Go-Pro camera. Pity I've only got a 2 gig card!' he said.

We were in the perfect storm with a nicely balanced rig and a light helm. This was the third time I had sailed Dorado, or 'Dora do' as we call her, a 17-footer with a triple keel – an idea that was all the rage in 1965 and was largely abandoned by the 1970's –  and we were putting her through her paces. She performed beautifully. Up she went over the waves and still perfectly on course for Lymington. Not another sailing boat to be seen 'You'd be mad not to be sailing in such great conditions' to quote a retired Naval Commander I know. Thank goodness for tides, and still two hours of daylight left.

Finally we put in one short tack in order to get away from the mud banks which run beside the channel to Lymington and the wind dropped to almost nothing. Just time to tie up on a convenient buoy before the ferry plowed round a tight bend and a last prayer that we could get the Seagull to splutter us onto our pontoon. Gabriel eventually succeeded and we discovered a 35-fool wooden lovely in our berth, so we had the final stress of popping forwards into the berth vacated by our neighbours the night before. 'Hold the back in please!' My first shouted command for the whole epic day. (Did I say, our Seagull only has forward gear?) We were getting tired and had finally docked at 9pm after 13 hours on the water, 20 Nautical miles in Force 4-6 winds, six moorings and nearly twenty minutes of engine time. We both had wet trowsers from waves breaking over the cockpit but there were only two sponges full of water in the bilges. We did a record breaking pack up and rushed to the chip shop for their last Fish cake and Battered sausage to eat on the two hour drive home. 'Never a moan' Gabriel was the best crew that I've ever had, and such a treat to spent 17 hours with one's son.

Today I plan to do nothing except enjoy the memories of Lee Bowing a 1965 Hurley Silhouette in a Force 6. A good little boat providing your passage planning takes into consideration less than amazing windward performance!     

Peter Barnes 26.7.2015.

...and the dawn of another day. 

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