Shakedown Cruise part 1 – Overcoming Chaos and Adversity to launch!

So, the engine was repaired, the rig was checked over, I’d checked the state of the tide – about two hours before high water. Ideal for the slip we were aiming for. I was told the crew were ready, snacks were packed, and changes of clothes for all were in the van. Extras and towels for when we were on the water were in a dry bag. All the life jackets were adjusted.

SO, the boat was hitched up behind the van, and off we went. First stop was the petrol station, where 6 litres of the cheapest unleaded I have bought in years were put into the tank. I would have had more, but that was all I had sufficient 2-stroke oil for, and the garage didn’t sell it – do any of them any more? Its a while since I had a 2-stroke, they all used to.

I had arranged to be met at the slip (socially distanced of course) by a fellow Drascombe owner, Jon, who had proven to be a very helpful kind of chap throughout the search, often being the first to respond to the multitude of silly questions I had posted on the Drascombe group on Facebook. He had very kindly offered to give us a pair of spare oars, as the ones which came with the boat were a good couple of feet short at one end.

We would have been there in more or less on time, except that when we got to the slip, it was utter chaos. Paddle boards and kayaks everywhere, cars parked all up the slip, the car park (including the trailer bays) filled with VW campers, and other “trendy” cars. Even if we had been able to launch, there was no hope of ever getting a parking space.

Plan B. After a quick message to Jon, we relocated to Warsash hard, which, although nearly as chaotic as the slip at Burseldon, has several advantages. First of these is that approaching high water is absolutely the wrong time to launch there, so there was no fight for the slip. (The slope of the slip is geared towards a low water launch, and only has a very very gentle slope at the top. It also has a much larger car park, and a dedicated trailer area, so it is more able to absorb the level of chaos. OK, so the largest car park is behind a height restriction too low for our van, but that’s a complication we will deal with later.

Down on to the slip, stop short of the water, start rigging the boat. Krõõt entertained the kids (Henry paddling and splashing so much he needed one of those changes of clothes already!), and I got things started, with occasional hands as needed from either her, or Ellinor. At this point Jon arrives, with a pair of oars (duly stowed, Thanks Jon!) as well as a fair bit of advice. Don’t forget its basically only the second time I”ve rigged her. Several areas were not quite done as I thought, albeit only minor things like what goes to which belaying pin, and the exact lead of a sheet.

Meanwhile, the tide is coming in, and has reached more or less the level of the trailer tyres – theoretically perfect, but not for this slight slope! Anyways, unstrap, break the back of the trailer… Nothing happens. So we try back winching. Still nothing…

Checking the centre-plate wasn’t holding her up!

Eventually, Krõõt and I get our backs under the bows, and by a combination of lifting and shoving, off she rolls, hard aground on the slip. Turns out you need a teeny bit more water than that! But there’s still a few minutes left to high water…

We then finished getting everything into the boat, and donning lifejackets etc, before Henry I go, leaving Krõõt and Ellinor to look after the boat, able advised by Jon, and drop the trailer and the van in the car park.

Due to the convoluted traffic system, and the height restriction, this actually involves driving around the block, before pulling up just shy of the car park to un-hitch. I then use momentum built up on the last bit of hill to drag the trailer up the slope into the car park, and bounce up the kerb onto the verge which serves as a trailer park. Leg it back to the van, check on Henry and grab the hitch-lock (Note to self, need to make some way of attaching it to trailer when not in use!) and secure it. Then back to drive the van down to the short stay car park. I’m in luck, and a space comes clear at the crucial moment. Walk back to the slip, and we’re ready! Time to park – about 10 minutes.

This picture courtesy of Jon Gale.

So in my absence, the tide has reached its peak, and the boat is still (just) aground. So, kids are instructed to walk down the adjacent pontoon, while Krõõt and I, assisted by Jon on bowline (sounds like a bad improv band!) half lift, half drag her into deeper water. CLunk goes the rudder, hard onto the deck. OOOps. Need to add drilling a peg hole to the “todo” list.

So, rudder is then unshipped, and we’re in better business. Jon, Krõõt and I, using a combination of oars (to fend off) and mooring lines, walk her down the pontoon until deep water is reached, where Elli is put into the boat and instructed on how to ship, then use, the rudder to help hold her off as we take her to a berth at the end of the jetty and moor up for a minute or two.

The engine starts with hardly a murmur, and then rapidly cuts out. Try and restart, pull, fiddle with the choke and the idle, and pull, and fiddle, and repeat ad nauseam, (or more likely about 4 or 5 minutes) and it settles down to a quiet purr. “Thanks Jon”, slip some lines, and we’re backing and filling away, managing to turn, despite the increasingly awkward gusts doing their best to pin us to the berth, then gently away upriver, under outboard.

The above video was sent to me by Jon while we were still on the water! Thanks Jon for all the help, a great introduction to the Drascombe way of life!