Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | August 22, 2011

New friends and neighbours

This last weekend we finally got our boat, Dream It Do It (aka Didi) on the water and went for a 24 hour row on the South Coast in the Christchurch to Bournemouth area. As we’re rowers rather than sailors (the race attracts both, as well as “neithers”) we find this whole coastal business thoroughly baffling – different kinds of tides from the ones you get on the Tideway where we have often rowed, rocks, marker bouys, channels and protocols, and frankly we were very nervous about doing the wrong thing and causing damage to other people or ourselves – so we’d picked Rossiters boat yard in Christchurch as a starting point as they build ocean rowing boats and so are not only benevolent towards them, but various crews also train out of there.

So we were much relieved to find Toby and Nick of Box Number 8 there when we arrived, who gave us lots of good local tips (they’re round the world sailors) and helped us get launched. Having grounded twice after straying very slightly form the channel in Christchurch harbour, we worked out that “stick to the channel” REALLY means that… and finally made it to the harbour entrance where the quay wall was lined with people enjoying the fine weather…. including our neighbours! How random was that?

The whole area was busy with sailors, powerboaters and jetskis, which gave us… excellent practice of rowing in bouncy water! And Bournemouth Airshow was also going on, so we were entertained by the Red Arrows (tragic to hear that one of them later suffered a fatal crash on their way home), as well as a WW2 Lancaster Bomber and what I think was the Eurofighter (if it has what looks like a massive spoiler on the back). After a while the mass of boats thinned out… and then a large safety rib tore up to us and explained very nicely that we had strayed into the airshow exclusion zone, and would we please get out? Oops, certainly, no problem, just as fast as our oars can carry us (about 1.5kts).

As dusk fell, Tricky was at the oars and suddenly announced “We’ve got company”, and we met James and Bertie rowing towards us in their boat Patience. So we turned round and paddled along with them chatting for a while, discovering we all live in South West London, discussing the merits of autohelms (OK, we’re convinced), and taking tips from them on VHF protocol (we haven’t done our course yet).

Having done the standard alternating 2 hour shifts during the day, we opted for 3 hour shifts at night (actually, Tricky is so nice he unilaterally decided to do 4) which can only be described as hard. Apparently it takes a few days to settle into this pattern. We can only hope we WILL get used to it. Trying to spend as much time as possible rowing with the tailwind, H ventured west past Bournemouth pier, where she discovered that the airshow people had left what appeared to be their giant inflatable strawberries moored. Honestly, the irresponsibility of people – if you’re going to leave oversized fruit where people are rowing at night, you could at least LIGHT IT properly.

Shortly after dawn, ReadyBrek with sultanas was served, which was excellent.

Things we learned were:

1. We need to put a LOT more ballast in the boat (including water of the same weight as our food) so that she sits at an appropriate height in the water because pulling up round your ears is annoying to the point of making rowing impossible.

2. If you try changing the height of your gates at sea, it’s really not surprising that 1 out of 4 topnuts gets dopped in the water.

3. The chocolate and creamer sachets that Roger (the boat’s previous owner) didn’t use on his Atlantic crossing which he kindly gave us taste extremely “fusty” (a Scottish word whose meaning I’m sure you can guess).

4. We still don’t understand tides.

Blisters: 0

Sore bums: 0

Pork pies eaten: 9


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