24th Aug 2010. We left via the River Test after boarding at eleven and carrying out checks, depth
warm up etc. at just before midday, a little before high tide. The winds were good for this boat, ten to fifteen knots at the marina with 15 to 20 knots expected as uk.weather.com and Bramblet.met at 09:00 showing 10 gusting15kts at the Bramble Bank, with similar for Chimet. The Prout 31, mine for the last 2 years, was a comfortable and dry boat that we'd spent a couple of hundred hours in, mainly in the Southampton Water
. But it was time to reluctantly sell it, my and my wifes health
have taken a turn for the worse, and the inevitable economic pressures.
My regular crew and I have both experienced this boat at up to 30kts under full sail in the Poole Bay and in 20+kts in Southampton Water
both working into and running before the wind
We motored down to Town Quay with fully reefed main and 30% genoa
deployed. Apart from the usual noisy drive leg there were no issues, temperatures and oil
pressure consistent and in the correct zone.
At Town Quay we raised the main to first reef, genoa
to 2/3rds and soon after added the staysail. Wind
was around 15 kts giving us 4 kts typical boat speed, some gusts to 20, some rain briefly but without any increase or direction change in the wind as they approached and passed. All systems normal.
As we approached the bramble bank the weather
seemed stable, some gusts to 22 kts, sea reasonable, a few white horses on the bank, generally consistent with the forecasts to hand.
We turned downwind into the North Channel, having briefly considered an overnight stop in Cowes but it was 3 pm, plenty of time to reach the Emsworth entrance and find a river anchorage if the wind strength held up, the forecasts suggested little change.
As we approached the Fishbourne ferry route
the wind and sea worsened, sail was reduced, the main furled, and then the staysail removed and bagged. This made handling a bit difficult, we were often on full weather helm
to maintain direction so a storm staysail was raised which helped considerably although sheet forces were quite high.
Passing the Hovercraft route
running into Ryde the wind and sea state were no worse, though the long fetch produced larger and longer seas they were not difficult or uncomfortable. The depth
gauge had become suspicious, not changing as expected and not blanking when not in the water as waves passed. Visibility was fair to good but bouys were difficult to spot at more than a couple of miles.
We headed for the South End of the Isle of White looking for calmer waters but really only to allow a hot drink to be prepared and taken in reasonable ease. There was still am option to take shelter, tucked in close inshore or Bembridge but low tide by now, Bembridge has a bar, and we'd not visited it before.
Conditions were no worse as we ran down towards Nab Tower, identifying the buoys to our turn point towards Chichester Harbour Entrance, we had already found the boat steered and rode
better with stay and 1/3 genoa deployed which gave us 4 to 5 kts. Without the stay boat speed was around 2 to 3 kts with wide (30deg) divergencies from chosen course. This would make us a little early at Chichester but this is a shallow draft
boat (0.6m). We gybed our way towards our turn in point but had become disorientated, either misjudging our turn point, or not picking up the expected buoys and not having a working depth gauge. This probably caused us to overshoot Chichester entrance. The sea state had worsened, wind was now some 30 gusting 35 kts, I saw 39kts at one time, seas were genarally 1 to 1.5m with spray splashing across the boat quite often. Then we were hit by a single
breaking 2.5m wave broadside on which rolled us to perhaps 30 deg and drenched us both. The boat righted promptly as the wave passed mainly under us, but there was 2 or 3 inches of water in the cockpit
, we were both sat in it. it drained quickly, we were still OK.
I had recently started the engine
, on tick over in neutral, so it was available just in case. The wave set off an alarm
in the bay which didn’t respond to off/on ignition switching (re-starting the engine) but apart from being a little rough it was running ok, oil
pressure and temperature normal and mid working range. This was when we noticed the Starboard rudder
We were still searching for some sign of Chichester Entrance when it became apparent we had missed it, Selsey Bill was a couple of miles ahead and we were on a lee shore, with unexpectedly rough seas to the South and Selsey Bills races to the SW, nominally ahead as we ran starboard at 150 to the wind.
Fearing a possible knock down/capsize and probale loss of the vessel in deep water I turned the boat inland managing to hold 50to70 deg portside to the wind and engaged the engine at low throttle. It was still running rough which seemed to upset the gearbox
, possibly the linkage was overloaded, it tripped out of gear
a couple of times then failed to re-engage, we'd had perhaps five minutes intermittent use before it failed completely. We were some quarter mile of the coast, but closing with it. A tack on one rudder
seemed unlikely to suceed, she doesn't tack well, worse in rough waters, the engine was needed usually, but we still made a mile or more along the coastline, managing to hold 50 to 70 to the wind and a couple of knots on the boat to reduce leeway but we continued to close slowly with the beach, apparently a good gravel slope. We were advised by a wind surfer that we heading into very shallow water but at this point we lacked the ability to tack, it was just hoping we could fight our way clear but eventually the breaking seas in the shoreline forced us aground. I deployed a bow anchor
, and had the staysail down, bagged and clipped on when a Coastguard Rib
arrived. One waded to us, boarded and offered a tow to deeper water. When we explained the engine problem he decided to call in a ‘proper’ lifeboat to tow us to a safe place, probably Sparkes Marina.
towed us into deeper water, the towline secured to a heavy bridle
I rigged, and the tow was then later over by the lifeboat.
I was still on the foredeck, expecting to take on the tow line but a lifeboat crewmember boarded us and took charge of securing the tow, and then of the vessel. We were dismissed below to a place of safety
On the trip into wind, some two hours or so, it was clear that conditions had deteriorated still further, though no further damage resulted.
Routine checks were requested from our 'saviour' for leaks
, none, and our condition, cold.
Damage to the vessel seems to be minor:-
1. damaged stanchion (lifeboat crew transfer)
2. one rudder lost
There may be a claim from the Coastguard resulting from their recovery of the boat.
Any additional claims from Sparkes Marina for mooring
until I can expedite repairs
And perhaps a tow to our destination
, Thornton Marina, Multihull
World, given that they will accept the boat for sale
in this condition.
(Now done if you are in this area then Frank Dunster 07748997105 did that job in a weather window).
At the moment there seems to be no other damage as a result of the grounding and recovery though I have yet to determine what caused:-
1. the engine drive failure.
2. the engine alarm
3. the depth gauge failure.
There was mayhem below as you can imagine, the crockery, and all lose equipment
spread on the floor of each hull
This is posted for general education knowing I'm due a good bit of stick.
I would say that the only other sailing craft out there after the wind got up was one big sporty mono, the little mono's that would have done much better had all run for home, most of them motoring at that and nodding like noddy dogs
as they made their way into wind for Cowes/Hamble.