Thursday we took Raya out for her first shake down sail, well motor, as it turned out. The first step was to take her round to a dock, at 90 degrees to ours, so as to get her at a better angle to the wind to allow us to bend on the main sail. When we bought Raya the foil in the inmast furling system was broken and the main sail was being repaired at the sailmaker, so this was the first time we had got the main out of its wrapper. It has battens, basically sticks that run vertically at intervals up the sail, and we had our worries that they weren’t such a great idea for the type of short handed sailing we were planning on doing. The main went into the foil and hoisted really smoothly but putting in the battens was a different matter. With her main up Raya snatched at her lines eager to sail off, the batterns proved to be as troublesome as anticipated and finally with the wind freshening we furled the sail without them and motored off towards Southampton Water to calibrate the electronic instruments and give the engine a work out.
To reach anywhere from Shamrock Quay, you have to sail down the Itchen River and under Itchen Bridge. Itchen Bridge is about 29m above chart datum (the lowest depth of water on the lowest tide), our mast we estimate with all its new electronics on top is about 24m above the waterline so with the today’s tide giving us around 3m of water that’s not much to play with.
As you cautiously motor towards the very centre of the bridge it appears as if there is absolutely no chance you will fit under, as you get closer it seems like you will definitely hit it, you quickly do the maths again. Yes, we should have 2m clear above us.You know
from experience that the optical illusion of the angles means that you can’t see the gap, we have Andy on board who has done this a thousand times reassuring us but it still appears impossible that we will fit beneath, in the end you have to trust in the calculations and just, very slowly, go for it. Scarily, even as you pass under it, it still doesn’t appear that you will fit!
Relieved and once more in open water, the electronics guy (another Andy) started to calibrate the instruments, this mostly involved steering straight at buoys and performing large circles in the middle of the channel. What the passing ferries and other yachts thought we were up to I can’t imagine, but we got the job done and now have working radar, depth and wind gauges and log, the compass was not as successful and will need to be ‘swung’, by a specialist. The men aboard were heard to mutter that “the engine was sweet” which I assume meant all was good in that department as well.
Over lunch we discussed with Andy the pros and cons of batterned sails and with advice from the sail maker, the decision was taken to have the sail recut so it can be used without them. Down it came once more, then it was neatly flaked and off it went to the sail loft.
We opted not to take her out with just the Genoa and instead spent the next few hours doing some extremely useful boat handling exercises. I am fine at the helm until I start to get close to things, so a marina is not my favourite place to be at the wheel and trying to park Raya she suddenly seemed huge. It took a lot of instructions from Andy but I did manage a couple of simple parking manoeveres, sort of at the controls. Practice makes perfect and we need plenty of it!