The day after Goshawk’s maiden voyage, when I had sailed her from Titchmarsh Marina to Wrabness with a great deal of assistance from my cousin James, I was desperate to take my whole family for a short sail around the Stour.

We started a little later than planned (we had, of course, to drive to Costa in Harwich to take advantage of their ‘any hot drink for 50p’ promotion), but we rowed out to Goshawk around 13.00. Claire got to work making lunch (beans on toast with cheese on top), whilst I checked the engine was operational (it was) and attempted to work out how to hoist the sails. In the cabin it was discovered that Goshawk has a very efficient grill. Up on deck it was discovered that hoisting the sails looked easy enough.

After lunch, we raised the sails, and I discovered my first difficulty; how on earth does a self-tailing winch work? I seemed to end up with masses of rope from the main halyard around the winch, which I’m pretty sure isn’t supposed to happen. Nevertheless, the sail went up, and the jib pulled out nicely. I dropped the mooring and off we went!

We went off at a decent pace, and with the sails set pretty well, even if I do say so myself. We had a decent (but bitterly cold) breeze from the east, so after a quick run to the west, I began taking up to the east. The previous day we tacked three times (I think), and James made it seem incredibly easy. Actually, I found out that it wasn’t quite as straightforward as I thought it was. Again, the problem was my ignorance of self-tailing winches; how do you release the jib sheets to tack? How do you pull the jib in again swiftly? And how, on earth, does a self-tailing winch work anyway?!

Five year old Daniel was desperate to take the helm, so I quickly gave him a go. Another difficulty encountered here – Daniel couldn’t see where he was going! Claire grabbed the bearing compass, though, and Daniel proved surprisingly good at following a bearing! He’s learning about compass directions at school next term, so hopefully this will give him a head start!

Despite the issues with the winches, we had a really lovely sail, at one point hitting 5.7 knots, which I didn’t think was too bad. Claire even managed to do the washing up whilst Goshawk was heeling well (well done, Claire!). Daniel really enjoyed helming, and Lily, 4, just loved being aboard. So all bodes well for the future.

Unfortunately, at the point we decided to head in, things got a little more eventful. I decided to start the engine before dropping the sails, but when I turned the key, absolutely nothing happened. We had no power whatsoever. I still have absolutely no idea why. I had thought that we had charged the batteries fully whilst hooked up at Titchmarsh, and boosted them whilst travelling under engine the day before, but either this didn’t happen, or something else went wrong between me starting the engine successfully on the mooring before our departure, and failing to start the engine at the point we decided to return.

We were left with no option but to return to the mooring under sail. No problem, I thought. A Centaur is just a large Coble (a sixteen foot day sailer I’ve sailed for many years); how hard can it be?

Since unsure about which is my mooring, we headed back to my brother’s, which we completely missed. With a river full of moorings and no other boats, I decided just to head for the next one. Claire managed to hook the mooring buoy, but unfortunately, although the sails had no power, the force of the running tide just made it impossible to hold onto. I tried to grab the boat hook, but there was no saving it, and the boat hook went overboard.

Not ideal.

With no engine and no boat hook we found ourselves in a somewhat tricky position, so I dropped the anchor and we decided what to do next. Claire took the children ashore in the dinghy, whilst I packed the sails away.

When Claire returned, she volunteered to tow Goshawk to a nearby mooring, which she successfully did. (That’s what comes of being on your university’s rowing team!)

Back on shore that afternoon, we established that the mooring we had put Goshawk on was not particularly reliable, so I decided to move the boat. With no engine and a fairly stiff onshore breeze, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do this. I went out in the dinghy, however, and with assistance from shore was finally able to locate the mooring that I had bought. It was some distance from the mooring Goshawk was on, but there was another between the two, that wasn’t far off the mooring Goshawk was currently on.

I went aboard Goshawk and found all the rope that I could. I then rowed out to my mooring and tied a piece of rope to the metal ring. When that rope ended, I tied another to the end. Then another to the end of that. Then another to the end of that. I didn’t quite have enough to reach the mooring between where Goshawk was lying and her proper mooring, but when I removed the dinghy’s painter and attached that, it just about reached. I then tied this to the mooring.

The next step was to tow Goshawk the relatively short distance from the mooring she was on to the next mooring out. I tied Goshawk’s painter to the centre thwart in the dinghy, took a deep breath, and rowed like crazy. Initially I didn’t think anything was happening, and with the tide falling fast actually began to wonder if she was beached. She wasn’t, and very slowly, inch by inch, I managed to tow her to the next mooring. When the reached the mooring, I tied her to the end of the very long rope attached to her mooring. Then, very carefully, inch by inch, and praying that the rope didn’t snap or my knots come undone, I pulled her out to her proper mooring, where I was finally able to tie her up.

This ended up taking far longer that I had anticipated, and was much harder than expected. But I accomplished my crazy mission, and got Goshawk out to her very own mooring!

Not a technique I would recommend though.

I need to establish the battery problem and buy a decent boat hook so that I never have to do this again!

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