Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lateen sailing festival Cambrils

OB and Santa Espina
Photo by Josep-Anton Trepat

When I rang the organisers of the V Trobada de Vela Llatina de Cambrils—worrying as I occasionally do that I’ll be told that home made, ply and epoxy boats, have no place among the majestic remnants of Mediterranean maritime history—I was received with genuine enthusiasm and welcomed to take part.

Photo by Montse Granollers

Feeling rather honoured I felt I’d better prove my worth by sailing to Cambrils but no sooner was the thought out than the weather changed. 20 miles with the wind bang on the nose would have taken more time than I had and, I’ll admit, would have been more hard work than I felt like. Still feeling rather nesh I put OB on the trailer and pootled down early on Saturday morning.

Photo by Montse Granollers

All the boats were moored at the fish dock and I rafted alongside a pretty lateen craft and was warmly greeted. Actually warmth and generosity marked the whole event. I bumped into a lot of old friends and met many new ones who were familiar with Onawind Blue from her TV appearance. I was touched to receive a round of applause as I collected a goody bag at the end of the first skipper’s meeting.

23 boats took part from as far apart as Sète in France in the north to the Albufera of Valencia in the south. We had a marvellous morning sail in a friendly 8 knot onshore breeze, a group picnic with the boats rafted together, long chats over coffee and then an evening sail for those that wanted.

Photo by Montse Granollers

The few boats that sailed out formed the backdrop to a demonstration of traditional fishing techniques. Fishermen, sailors, villagers and tourists set nets from the beach with the help of llagut rowing boats. I watched from the sea and didn’t catch much except the mellow changing light.

L'Esperance from Sete

After the French Atlantic I found the event beautifully Mediterranean, I swear we squeezed 70 minutes out of every hour. We didn’t sit down to our evening meal until 23.45 and wound up much later. ‘There’s always time for everything,’ a friend of mine often says, ‘except a good night’s sleep.’ And just 6 hours after hitting the sack I found myself standing in the queue for a breakfast of barbequed sardines and red wine of the sort that gives a zing to your morning, as long as you don’t stop and rest as then you simply fall asleep.

With sardine fingers we rowed across Cambrils harbour to visit La Teresa, a fishing boat from the ‘30’s being restored under the eye of the son of the original builder. And then Gerard Martí, director of the local history museum and one of the event organisers gave us a moving account of the fierce storm of 1911 in which 80 Catalan fishermen were lost, many near Cambrils.

Lola, built in 1906, the oldest boat in the fleet.

Each boat was presented with a flower and followed Lola out to the point where the fishing boats foundered 100 years ago for a memorial ceremony. There was no wind and I was rowing so the ceremony took place before OB arrived.

My friend Jaume Amengual was aboard rowing with me. Jaume was taken out of school at 12 to join his father’s fishing boat and he fished for 20 years before setting up his own nautical company. Together, a little to the north of the actual spot, we had our own little ceremony in which I threw the flower overboard and then tipped beer over the side before both drinking to those lost and each saying a few words. It made an emotive end to a great weekend.

For more photos visit El Mar és el Camí, Artesà Nàutic and El Mar de Amics

'Alba' from the Albufera region of Valencia
Santa Espinsa

Sa Xicote

Above photos by Montse Granollers

Thursday, 16 June 2011

More from Morbihan

The only other Spanish people up at Morbihan, apart from the Basques who were the guests of honour, were a couple of friends from Catalunya. I had no idea they’d attend, though being the saltiest couple I know I suppose it was hardly surprising. Xavi Canos and Monica Sitjes live in Cardona a landlocked town about 100km from the sea, yet most weekends they can be found sailing their Drascombe Scaffie somewhere on the Catalan coast.

One of the bonuses about running into friends, apart from their uncanny knowledge of bus times (they’d done this before you see), was that they could take photos.

Onawind Blue was distinctly camera shy all week. I’ve been through a few videos on youtube and haven’t seen a trace of her. Except in this one of the fleet arriving in St Goustan, after a long afternoon beating up the river Loch. Xavi and Mónica are some of the first in and you can just see OB’s sails in the background at 2.05.

The next morning my friends sailed close and got some good shots of OB going down the river and on the Golfe.

All photos by Mónica Sitjes.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Water, wind, wood and oysters

Of the 70 photos I took at least half were shot from the hip and just show the gunwale, an oar and some water. I quite like them but the Semaine du Golfe was more than that. Here’s a selection of the better pics with brief commentary.

The voile-aviron fleet pulled up on the beach at the Ille d’Arz.
There were many interesting boats but I didn’t get to do much chatting to owners so please forgive the lack of info.

Onawind Blue running down on the fleet.

As well as more talking about boats, I could have done with more time sitting on the quay eating oysters. I’d barely got to the bit about the butter being spread too thick before it was time to move on again.

In the dawn light, on the high tide mark after a night sleeping under the mizzen sail near Saint Armel. A woman stopped by and gave me some biscuits and an apple then announced she was going home to get coffee. But before she could return the tide had risen and I was following the fleet out of the bay.

Between islands there were often traffic jams and bottlenecks. At other times the current was so strong that we all whizzed through like so many bath toys but in those spectacular moments I couldn’t stop and get the camera out.

This is Bob, homemade in Sweden.

A couple in a Tideway dinghy.

A singlehander in a honey-varnished clinker pram.

This man, Bart I think his name was, did it in a currach, which he was painting on the first day with a viscous black mixture. You could always tell when you were sailing downwind of him by the fumes.

Boats in the tide between Locmariaquer and Port-Navalo.

The Parade on Saturday: 1300 craft all crowding up the golf towards Vannes on a rising tide with a light headwind. It was madness. I’d missed the skipper’s meeting but I got shouted instructions from another boat, ‘Just stay in the main current and make short tacks.’ That sounded simple enough but with all the other traffic tacks were often no more than a couple of boat lengths. The whole mess of sailing boats was exacerbated by tourists in motor yachts, snapping like crazy and not necessarily looking where they were going.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Onawind Blue in Brittany

Probably as hard as any sailing trip I’ve done—given that I’m not as fit as I have been—and just as rewarding, the Semaine du Golfe was amazing.

Coming from the Mediterranean the tides at first were unnerving but as all the sailing was carefully planned around them I didn’t have to worry too much. At one point I did end up way down-tide and had a hard job of anchoring and rowing the 50 yards or so to enter the bay where the rest of the fleet picnicked on the beach.

There were other single handers and elderly ones at that, truely inspiring folk that must have known the ropes as they didn’t seem to have the organisational problems that I did, but I think it’s an event in which a crew is a benefit. Someone to be in charge of chilled beers and bus times. I spent one cold night aboard, wrapped in the mizzen sail, due to missing the bus back to the campsite at Conleau.

But those incidents are anecdotes now, just part of the adventure. The reason I still have a broad grin on my face one week after the event is due to Onawind Blue’s performance. Your boathandling skills are tested when beating up a river with 300 other boats and a fleet of 60’s cruisers charge through, and so is your boat.

OB has proven herself in a variety of conditions and I was extremely gratified to see her rise to this. I’ve never had the opportunity to compare her performance with other boats but having seen her edging up through the fleet when sailing broad and keeping up when tacking I know she has nothing to envy of other craft. And of course under oars she really flies.

One afternoon we sailed to windward in a strong breeze. Reports stated it was a force 5 gusting to 7. I didn’t really have time to study it, what with the tide, the standing waves, the packets of water in my face and all the other boats, it was just bloody windy and I was carrying too much sail. Once I’d managed to stop, get both sails double reefed and the boat properly trimmed—only half the daggerboard in the water and the mizzen just spilling, she went like a dream and I had one of the best sails of the week.

She is wet to windward no doubt about it, while others sailed in shorts and tee shirts I was in full wet weather gear, and close hauled is not her favourite point of sail—it takes concentration and careful tacking to get her upwind. But arriving damp and later than the lead boats does not constitute any great crime when weighed against her other qualities. What is more, whether labouring uphill, flying off the wind or lopsidedly beached she still has some of the sweetest lines you are likely to see.

Once again I take my hat off to the designer. Chapeau Gav!