Formal business was quickly concluded. Retiring officers Duncan Wheatley , Chris Adams, Barnaby Scott, Hugh Woodsend and Roger Backhaus were re-elected unopposed. Officers Frances Miller and Phil Levermore are mid-term and continue in post. The financial position is healthy with a small but growing surplus. Membership continues to grow, slowly, and stands at 77 – new members were welcomed. Commodore Duncan Wheatley gave an overview of 2015 – a very successful year – highlights of which included presentations by Mike Golding and Sir Chay Blyth. Hugh Woodsend gave us an outline of the 2016 programme…
We then heard talks from two members, as we worked our way through the buffet.
Bob Steele broke a mould – although starting his talk by showing us a photo, of his smart Cape Cutter 19 – the remainder of his talk was illustrated with his own humorous artwork. Made a nice change. The story Bob told was of a family holiday, together with his wife and two daughters (none of whom had sailing experience), on a cheap charter boat out of Corfu. Battles revolved around whether to relax on beaches or go sailing. This was resolved at times by Bob dropping the family off and heading out solo. Excitements included his 40km last day’s sail, solo, which should have been a doddle with the prevailing winds. But the wind shifted and the easy reach became an upwind battle. Misfortunes included loosing the anchor overboard, engine failure, seawater in the diesel tank, a fouled prop and failed electrics. Equipment carried did not include a torch, a compass, or a knife sharp enough clear the prop. Good fortune brought Bob a tow from a passing yachtsman, who was less fortunate as he dislocated a shoulder during the exercise. Bob learnt quickly how to sail backwards into a marina berth. Or had luck on his side, at that moment – it having rather deserted him earlier.
Carolyn Roberts told a rather different story, of a passage around “the bumpy bit” of Ireland: the less well-known and very exposed West coast, where the prevailing South Westerly’s make it lee shore. Carolyn is an extremely experienced offshore sailor (and a Yachtmaster Instructor) so when she says “bumpy” we in the audience knew we would have inclined more towards “scary”. Those SW’s were 4s to 7s, occasionally 8s. There are relatively few havens, safe bays or estuaries, so some passages were long. As Carolyn explained, photos of bad conditions are rare as when things are rough there are other things to occupy one’s attention. Nevertheless she showed us fine pictures of gunmetal skies, and of promontories and islands partly obscured by the murk. Navigation would be easier if the concrete posts in harbour entrances stood out a bit more and were painted more clearly in the red or green they are supposed to be… memorable were Little Skellig (on which is the second largest colony of gannets in the world) and Skellig Michael where ancient beehive huts of dry stone, built by monks, are still standing, despite the weather. A shark was spotted off Great Blasket Island. Clearly a magical place, offering some great sailing, but probably not ideal for the faint hearted or novices amongst us!