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The Black Sea is not a popular Cruising Area but each year a number of boats do battle with the strong currents of the Dardanelles & the crowded waters of the Bosphorus to visit this once USSR Naval stronghold.Trevor undertook this journey from Leros in the eastern Aegean to Bulgaria & Romania in the summer of 2015.

JANUARY 2017 MEETING                                The 1,448th meeting                               

The Aegean to the Black Sea
& back!

a presentation by Trevor Pratt

Leros to the Black Sea (and back) began with an amusing story of a mis-addressed email to a recently widowed minister’s wife who was led to believe that her late husband had contacted her from beyond the grave, announcing that he had arrived, that they had computers and it was flipping hot!!

Trevor then got down to the serious account of his trip from the Aegean to the Black Sea in his Jeanneau 409. Following a shake down sail to Patmos, famed for its monastery of St. John and touristic beauty, he then proceeded to island hop via Pythagorian, Chios, Oinoussa and Lesvos including a visit to the Ouzo distillery in Plomari whose wares were eagerly tasted.

Leaving Greek waters, Trevor changed crew at Myitilene on Lesvos and met up with friends with a Westerly Oceanlord to sail in company and leave Greek waters for a passage through the Dardenelles. By way of stops in Canakkale, Karabiga and Topogac they crossed the Sea of Marmara and eventually reached Istanbul where they berthed in the new marina. The old fortifications of Constantinople were impressive as were the three suspension bridges they passed under before the long passage through the Bosphorus and entry into the Black Sea. An overnight passage took them to Tsarevo which proved like so many places in the Black Sea to be deserted and overstaffed by officials and then onto Bulgaria’s main port of Sozopol ( best pronounced before too much of the cheap local beer !).

At Balchik they checked out of Bulgaria before moving onto Mangalia in Romania and then onto Constanta which is the largest port on the Black Sea. Though many places were beginning to cater for tourists there was much dereliction in the hinterland of many of these places in the former iron curtain countries.

With the war in Ukraine posing a potential threat they decided to explore the Danube Delta by minibus and small boat enjoying a true bird watcher’s paradise as they cut their way through water lily filled lakes and canals. In the return to the Aegean, Trevor paid tribute to the 1915 failed assault on the Dardenelles and the memorials to the Turks, French and Anglo Anzac forces cataloguing the many lost and wounded. His trip encompassed 1546nm of which 65% were done under sail, and he outlined some of the costs and support that they needed along the route
                                                                                       Roger Cleland.

Boathandling in Montevideo!

A talk by our President - Geoff Meggitt

An interesting half-meeting which outlined how easy it is to organise a Bareboat or Skippered charter around the beautiful islands of Greece & Croatia.

FEBRUARY 2017 MEETING                                The 1,449th meeting                               

Chartering in the UK, Greece & Croatia

a presentation by Plainsailing.com

A two parts meeting featuring

Plain Sailing ( a Stockport based Charter Agency and one of our sponsors ) gave a comprehensive introduction to the joys of chartering a yacht particularly in warmer climes. Tommy’s start point described what yachting abroad was like from the sense of exploration and fun to the teamwork among friends together with the boastability of the whole holiday experience. His breakdown of costs, though a little on the optimistic side in terms of filling all berths, showed just how affordable it has become and certainly cheaper than chartering in the UK. He took us through the choice of sea area, type of boat, qualifications required and/or whether professional crew were necessary or desirable. We were taken through the booking arrangements ( Plain Sailing.com for real time booking, discounts for MCA members), what to expect at handover and on the return of the yacht to its base port. He concluded by answering questions on checks on the standards of boats and equipment and on financial compensation when things went wrong.
Dr. Mike Leahy gave an excellent Vote of Thanks.
                                                                                          Roger Cleland

The second part of the meeting by Geoff Meggitt also involved “chartering” a boat albeit the 1102ft Queen Mary 2, no sails and some 4000 people on board for a cruise around Cape Horn beginning in Rio de Janeiro. Delivered in his typically dry, witty and laconic style, he shared some of the delights of his new camera and his artistic revelation of shots of “Christ the Redeemer”, having a state room with balcony (mentioned at every opportunity), to capturing on film the slick transfer of the pilot in rough waters. He photographed a fellow passenger who swam all the way round the Horn (in the swimming pool) and the dramatic backdrop of glaciers in Chile while watching the rescue of the ship’s rescue boat. Montevideo captured his imagination for its links with the sinking of the “Graf Spee” and the various film versions of the “Battle of the River Plate” whose main characters seemed to shuffle round depending on the nationality of the version. More revealing was his fascination for 1950’s style risqué films such as “the Garden of Eden” and “the Attack of the Crab Monsters”. The food was excellent as were the facilities for other activities on board and having a state room was the icing on the cake.

MARCH 2017 MEETING                                The 1,450th meeting                               

45 boats later - Aluminium !!

a talk by Mike Brown

..trials & tribulations of commissioning an aluminium boat in France and a short sprint back to the UK!

“45 Boats Later” by Mike Brown who although billed on the MCA website as a North West sailor has in fact lived in Hamble for the past 28 years although his formative years were spent in Knutsford. The title refers to an early estimate of the number of different boats he has sailed from his first experience in a Mirror on one of Fiddler’s Ferry’s lagoons with his dad. During his early years he progressed through a variety of racing dinghies including some he had built himself. His big boat experience grew from trips to Holland, Ireland and France before he helped on a trans Atlantic delivery trip with his wife to be, Kay.
Once a family arrived he chartered boats before owning a Hunter 273 which he subsequently replaced with a Hunter Channel 31 and in which he gained considerable experience clocking up between 60 – 85 days a year at sea. But the dream was of an aluminium boat, with shallow draft capability to explore deeper up creeks and little coves, and after return visits to Southampton Boat Show their hearts were set on an Ovni 365 which they commissioned to have built at Alubat in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Backed by lots of really interesting and unusual photos, we were taken through all the stages of construction from plain sheets of aluminium of various thicknesses, to the formers and stringers, three tons of lead ballast, the options for the interior layout and the French oak cabinet making of lockers, galley and navigation station – aspects which most talks never mention. Mike spoke of some of the frustrations of dealing with a French firm from a distance where any slight change of specification was deemed an “extra” and a Gallic shrug was the explanation for any discrepancy. Fortunately, the end product was a splendid yacht which they were thrilled with.

Mike’s third part of his talk was a composite description of his shake down sail in 2015, chased by threatening storm force winds, from Les Sables d’Olonne to the Hamble via Belle Ile, Loctudy, Camaret, L’Aberwrac’h and Trégastel to their home mooring in Newtown Creek. He ended with some modifications to the boat (rig, winches, cuddy extension) and his future plans to enable the boat to be self-sufficient around the world. Questions were asked along the way and the MCA President, Geoff Meggitt, gave the Vote of Thanks on behalf of members.
                                                                                         Roger Cleland

In introducing his talk on “Sailing Accidents – Investigations and Lessons”, Roger Brydges reminded us that it was ten years since his last visit to the MCA though only a handful of those present had attended at that time. Roger outlined the beginning of the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch which was set up following the “Herald of Free Enterprise” ferry disaster off Zeebrugge in 1987 and whose brief is to act as a separate body to investigate marine accidents without any role in pursuing legal litigation. The reports that they publish establish in detail the facts and offer recommendations as to future avoidance. So the “what we do”, “how we do it” and “why we do it” revolved around a number of different case studies Roger had chosen to illustrate the scope of the MAIB’s work.

APRIL 2017 MEETING                                The 1,451st meeting                               

Sailing Accidents – Investigations & Lessons

a report by Roger Brydges of the M.A.I.B.

Based in Southampton with a staff of 36, the team is split into 4 colour groups each of 4 inspectors together with additional support staff and technical advisors. They investigate accidents involving UK flagged vessels anywhere in the world, any vessels in UK waters, merchant ships of all sizes where foreign countries lack the necessary infrastructure to investigate as well as fishing vessels and recreational craft both commercial and privately owned. They set the atmosphere, gather and safe-guard evidence, interview extensively those involved, follow up with equipment testing and/or forensic testing but do not prosecute even where there are fatalities or errors of competence and judgement. For each investigation the pattern is to deploy to the site, interview, debrief, follow up, produce a written report including recommendations, allow a 30 day consultation and subsequently publish a report. The examples that Roger chose ranged from speed boats to freighters, modified fishing boats, to racing yachts with two particular accidents – one where the skipper went overboard but drowned whilst still attached to the boat highlighting all the problems of the recovery of an unconscious person from a rough sea. The other of a collision where the yacht was driven backwards at speed , filling the hull with water and trapping  a crew member with fatal consequences. So often, the cause was human error, lack of preparation, over ambitious sailing plans, failure to operate a proper watch system, even sometimes an over-reliance on modern electronics.  Roger answered a number of questions and Alan Street proposed the Vote of Thanks on behalf of the members.
                                                                  Roger Cleland.

MAY 2017 MEETING                                The 1,452nd meeting                               

Advances in Digital Photography that benefit the Yachtsman

Followed by the ever popular MCA Hot-Pot Supper
together with the Commodore’s Quiz

Roy Conchie’s talk on digital photography was a clever mix of the technical, informative and eye opening in the breadth of possibilities that modern cameras can offer. His starting point was prompted by the low entry to the MCA’s photo competitions and how what may seem ordinary photographs can be transformed into something better.

Different types of camera were discussed including Smartphones and Go-Pro action cameras as he took us through a timeline of colour photography from its early 1861 “tartan ribbon” to Leicas 35mm film and then on to the digital age.

He discussed the many bundled features of a modern digital camera from the video function, wi-fi connection, image stabilisation and to the wide ranging editing effects amongst others. Even more sophisticated were some of the sensor updates offering low light, wide angle, broader tone range and a higher pixel count. Roy showed us how cropping could enhance what seemed like an ordinary shot, the benefits of a wide angle lens for better perspective both in depth and height and what the range of f numbers meant in terms of light admitted to the shot.

For the point and shooters” among us, we were left with a fresh look at our possible future shots and also a feeling of awe of where the ever more complex cameras are taking us. Lets hope his challenge for more entries to the photo competitions in November bears fruit.
                                                                                                  Roger Cleland

SEPTEMBER 2017 MEETING                                The 1,453rd meeting                               

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2016

A presentation by MCA member Richard Stain

A Near-Death Experience(for Frank!)

followed by

Some anecdotes from Karen Partington

The Sydney to Hobart Race 2016 was a fascinating account by Dick Stain and fellow crew member, Carl Davies, of their entry and participation in the world famous southern hemisphere race starting on Boxing Day 2016. By way of background, Dick explained how they had previously entered the 2007 3 Peaks Race and become friends with rival competitors in “Highland Spirit”, Ed Simmons and Mike Curtis, and how they had subsequently entered the Fastnet Races of 2009 and 2011 as well as Scottish Islands events.
The decision was made to enter the Sydney – Hobart Race and Dick took us through some of the many hurdles of  the entry procedure, from the 96 pages of regulations, getting a sufficiently experienced crew together, logistics of transporting their boat “Laura” to Australia and the prospect of a 630 mile race as a “long, tough slog south in daunting weather conditions”.
Outlining a brief history of the race, the number of participants had settled around 100 (in fact 88 took part in 2016) and over the years the time taken had dropped to one and half days for the fastest crossing. Realising the cost of shipping a boat to Australia was too expensive, they settled on buying a boat, a Beneteau 47.7 monohull but not the original one, “
Chancellor”, that they thought they had purchased, but a sister boat called “Samskara”.
The daunting checklist of boat stability, crew experience, life raft certificate, charts (unused), first aid equipment, insurance, high frequency radio etc. was enough to put anyone off, but eventually they were ready to go with the additional crew of James Mansell, Eric Zon, Andy and Bernie. Christmas Day and pre-race cocktail party saw them feted by the media as the only British boat, suitably decorated for a visit from Santa, and time spent with supporting family and friends.
On race day they had a good start and Carl explained his constant vigil of wind and currents (gyres) in order to capitalise on conditions either by standing off the shore of Australia to closing with the coast of f Hobart. They finished 48th and gained much satisfaction from beating “
Chancellor”, after which they enjoyed the festive post-race celebrations before sailing back to Sydney.

After several questions, Richard Gregory gave a vote of thanks.

A Near-Death Experience(for Frank!)

Some anecdotes from Karen Partington

Karen Partington’s experiences of attending her Day Skipper course was in a totally different vein. Delivered in a self deprecating style with a warning that we would learn nothing about sailing.
From the heartache of their first flotilla holiday, where to her surprise the boats were not tied together, to the bold step of attending her course at Deganwy with her sister, Tracy.
Under the mean, humourless tutor, Frank, we learnt of the increasing tension among the crew that can only lead to mutiny. Saved by the fact that fellow sailor, Pete, was the scapegoat for all their failings, they muddled through sifting one set of instructions against contrary advice. Eventually they all passed but would never again take another course.

From Canada to Pwllheli

A talk by Nerys & Rob Kimberley

OCTOBER 2017 MEETING                                The 1,454th meeting                               

From Canada to Pwllheli by Rob and Nerys Kimberley sounds like a journey of epic proportions by any mode of transport – to undertake it in an untried yacht was even more fascinating. In seeking to get home from San Diego, Rob had spent four months looking out for a suitable boat but had found former racing craft either a) stripped out and b)with gear that was too heavy for his short handed crew. In the end he settled for a Freres 45 fin keeled, cutter rigged yacht called “Ghost Rider” which he found in Sacketts Harbour, Lake Ontario, but which had not been on the water for seven years.
Rob took us through some of the sorting out over a period of a few months of the 25 year old sails and replacement rod rigging which had to be done in Canada some 300 miles away. But even then the engine leaked. From being technically rather inexperienced, he rapidly became familiar with all the pumps, filters, pipes and valves that were part of the engine and water systems of the boat.
In July he and wife, Nerys, accompanied by a spritely friend, Phyllis, set off down the St. Lawrence River. We followed their passage past Kingston, the 1000 islands, huge locks, dangerous obstructions in a fast flowing current, the beauty of Montreal with its friendly people, Quebec and finally Phyllis’s injury in jumping off the boat precipitating in a premature return to her West Coast home. With now just the two of them they tacked their way down and inside Prince Edward Island to avoid the counter current to Port Hawkesbury where they recuperated before a lovely spinnaker run down to Dartmouth in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Preparations now began to victual the boat in readiness for the Atlantic crossing. Rob adopted a simple, pragmatic approach to food and water stockpiling and a lengthy check on all the equipment. They were joined here by Pete and Ken so they could maintain a rotational watch system (without an auto pilot) and duly set off south eastwards to avoid the cold and the fog.This was a mixed blessing as they ran out of wind and gas and had at times to motor to the north to pick up the wind again. The hardships of pot noodles in the microwave and rationed drinking water ( they ended up down to their last five litres) were offset by really hot weather and amazing wildlife including a pod of pilot whales. Finally the last leg approaching the south west of Ireland brought force 9 gales and surfing at 9 knots under storm jib before eventually berthing in Pwllheli Marina with just one hour of tide in their favour, to be feted by family, friends and the media. It had taken 18 days to cross the Atlantic and 4150 miles all told from Sacketts Harbour.
Questions were asked about GPS, radar, and AIS and whether an auto pilot would have helped.
Geoff Meggitt gave a vote of thanks and presented Rob and Nerys with an engraved MCA tumbler.                                                       
                                                                                                   Roger Cleland

NOVEMBER 2017 MEETING                                The 1,455th meeting                               

Journey to the Ends of the World

Dr. Clare Thorpe

Journey to the Ends of the Earth by Clare Thorpe was a fascinating account of a trip that she undertook in 2016 along with her partner, James – it is in fact the second of two sailing adventures ( the other being to Antarctica, an account of which she will give to the RYA NW Cruising Meeting in March 2018).

Their background was with the Ocean Youth Trust where they met during courses on “Greater Manchester Challenge” whilst Clare was doing her Duke of Edinburgh award.
Clare became aware of a lack of female volunteers & organised a group, “
The Captain’s Daughters” who sailed a Sigma 38 from Cork to Norway and back as part of the
Tall Ships Race.

For the next eight years she undertook a number of trips with paying guests thus gaining valuable experience in leading a team. Wishing to branch out further she met up with James and they decided to hire a large yacht and sail to the Antarctic and the Arctic Circle – they subsequently found a steel yacht from Holland, the “Anne Margueretha” ( a purpose built expedition boat) which the owner was willing to hire out and which was to be picked up from Tromso, in northern Norway.

By way of preparation, they assembled a crew of 14 composed of varying ages and a 50/50 male /female split, who all paid £1500 and who were divided into three watches so that the boat could be sailed day and night with plenty of rest in between watches. All took a full part in the tasks of cooking, cleaning, helming and navigation, though James was the skipper and Clare was 1st Mate – several of the others were Yachtmasters taking charge of the watches, although some members were novices just attracted by the sheer adventure of the project.

They tried to cover every eventuality including learning to shoot rifles in case they met polar bears, balancing the stowage of several tons of fuel & water and the hard lesson of not storing tea in non-waterproof containers !

From Tromso, they sailed across to Jan Mayen Island and then on to eastern Greenland to stand where Shackleton might have stood. They did not encounter any polar bears but enjoyed some spectacular mountain scenery whilst on climbing expeditions ashore, back afloat they bumped along multiple ice floes, some of which were fended-off with reinforced boat hooks and they found some deserted far flung anchorages (made possible by exceptionally ice-free fjords) aided by local knowledge, Google Earth maps and hand sketched charts from other intrepid sailors.

There were lots of opportunities for forays ashore into the surrounding mountains which produced some spectacular aerial views of the boat at anchor many hundreds of metres below.  Clare also managed to combine some scientific research in conjunction with Aberystwyth University with a focus on glacial soils and ice deterioration.

They then sailed across to northern Iceland, visiting old rundown fishing villages, had a crew change before attempting the journey southwards back to Holland. This section was tightly governed by a strict timetable so as they rounded Iceland meeting strong headwinds they had to press on despite the slow windward performance of the boat – much to the distress of novice crew member, Jess.
They stopped off in the Faroes and the Orkneys where strong southerly tides sluiced them through the night between the islands. Further on they attempted an overnight stop in Whitby but lack of depth alongside and the bridge being closed forced them to seek shelter in Hartlepool from where they sailed back to Holland.

Niall Golding gave the vote of thanks on behalf of members and Clare was presented with an MCA glass.

Roger Cleland

DECEMBER 2017 MEETING                                The 1,456th meeting                               

The Building of the Amelie Rose’

Nick Beck

- a journey from city streets to the open seas!

    On the 23rd April 2009 Nick Beck and Melisa Collett, IT specialists in the City of London, departed the capital to start a new life in Dorset.
A day later, 300 miles away in Gweek, Cornwall, they watched the manifestation of their dream, a 44 foot wooden pilot cutter called ‘
Amelie Rose’ take to the water for the first time.

“The building of the Amelie Rose” was, we came to realise, part of a story captured on TV as the “Hungry Sailors” for which they programme makers chartered the boat. But this was much more – the fascinating story of a successful London banker who gave it all up to follow his dream.
Nick began by whetting our appetites with a video of the launching/ blessing of “Amelie Rose”, but then took us back to his first venture afloat on a lilo with his sister on a rubber duck. Two Enterprise dinghies later, then a Westerly GK29 and a meeting with Melissa, a fellow sailor, and the dream of selling up and going to sea became a reality. Pilot cutters were what he wanted to sail with early experience in “Compass Rose” and “Jolly Breeze” confirming their ease of handling, their speed and being a good sea boat. Sadly it took the death of a friend in the London bombings for them to realise that they needed to act promptly. Having Googled Pilot Cutters and found a builder in Luke Powell, a trial sail was all that was needed to secure a deposit.
The second part of his talk was an account of the building of “Amelie Rose”, starting with three piles of timber (opepe, oak and larch) stacked to dry out for three months. Carefully taking us through the various processes, we saw lofting (with line drawings moving on to a template), rough-cut ribs using the natural bend in the oak, assembling frames every 18 inches and the addition of the keel, stem and stern. When the carvel planking went on it began to look like a boat and reveal its size in relation to a man standing next to it. Deck beams followed and then to the interior fitting of bulkheads, floors, and benches.
By 2009 Cornish Douglas Fir was being sought for the spars. Cupboard doors finished off inside work, and the ballasted keel and lead shoe were added before caulking and painting. The final stage was leaving the shed and the completion above decks of the rigging. And there she was in all her glory – 44’ LOA; 13’6” beam; 7’ draught; 24 tons and 1750 sq. ft. of sail.
Finally, Nick took us through a series of graphs relating to expenditure over the project, confidence in the boat, a ‘still to do’ list, happiness in the project and how it was now a thriving charter business. He showed two more film extracts – the maiden voyage from Gweek Creek and a promotional film for Topsail Adventures.
There were lots of questions about finance and committing to realising the dream, future projects, the risks of not holding back and the joy of finding a new rhythm to life. Alan Street gave the Vote of Thanks.

Roger Cleland

The meetings of 2017…

Roger Cleland