George Cox' beretning om seilasen til Norge 2010 med VELSIA
Familien Cox har hatt båten i siden 1950
hvilket betyr 61 år og over halve båtens lange liv pr. i
VELSIA eies idag av David og Candia Cox og deres sønn George.
David og Candia kom og besøkte oss i Risør i 1980 og kom også til båtens 100 års jubileum i 1990. De hadde da bestilt ny mast hos oss på Risør Trebåtbyggeri. Og det var på tide, for masten brakk 2 ganger i Nordsjøen på veien over. Da seilingen på norskekysten den sommeren således ble amputert, ble de 2 år i Norge.
George seilte i 2010 båten med venner til Risør Trebåtfestival og båten har ligget i Risør i vinter.
Med siste års seilas til Norge er det 7de
gangen over Nordsjøen for Cox familien. Denne turen ble seilt
av George på 23 år som derved går i sin fars og
farfars fotspor med samme båt.
Denne turen var heller ikke helt uten uhell. Denne gangen brakk gaffelen og de måtte inn til Lowestoft får å få den reparert. Men de rakk Trebåtfestivalen som planlagt.
Her er Georges egen beretning om turen:
It has been the plan to take the boat back home to Norway for a season or two for several years now. 2009 was the original date set, yet that plan had to be abandoned after the boat was still not even close to launching at the end of July. We went to South Britanny instead that year on the basis that if we went that far south, we were sure to find some sun that would cheer us up after the two months of rain that had sunk our more ambitious ideas.
Anyway, lessons were learnt and 2010 was to be the year. My first trick was returning home a month earlier as the weather in Cornwall always seems to be fine in May, June and early July, but from then on you get an endless procession of depressions that give you a fine kicking when you are trying to paint and varnish in the open air. So, starting work in mid may, should in theory give an extra four weeks of mostly fine weather in which to make a cracking start to the annual refit. This worked rather well and with the additional stroke of luck that Andrew, a friend and former crewmate of mine had time on his hands and was willing to work in return for board and lodging the boat progressed at a pace that made Norway a very real possibility.
Unfortunately Andy wasn’t able to afford the time to come with us and left in search of that certain type of work that actually pays money. At around the same time however the crew that would make the trip started to congregate and lend a hand in making the boat ready. First to arrive was Jim, 21, whom I’d met in Antigua whilst on my travels over the winter. Being keen, and having sailed to the Caribbean and back he had some welcome experience. Next to arrive was Lily, also 21 and an old friend who was supposed to come sailing the previous year, but, whilst patiently waiting for the boat to be finished, became employed and had to give it a miss. Contrary to the oldest traditions I’m a big believer in taking women to sea, it stops the men from becoming too comfortable and lewd in their absence and a bit more effort is taken to keep things tidy. That is the theory anyway, maybe one day the practice will conform.
The third and final crewmember to arrive was Will, 22, he’d sailed Velsia back from Jersey with us a couple of years previously and his Uncle had been with my Father when he first sailed the boat to Norway in 1980.
So the crew was ready, and a few days later, so was the boat and on the 17th of July we set off up channel headed for Ramsgate which was to be the first and final port of call before sailing straight on to Norway. The weather for the trip up channel was glorious, clear skies, a hot sun and a fine south westerly breeze to push us in the right direction. The sun stayed with us, the wind however died completely when we were off St Catherine’s point, so the engine went on and stayed on, which left us with little to do except ponder on how Dungeness power station looked as if it was made of Lego, and how fantastic it would be if Lego did produce a Dungeness Power Station kit to thrill the children with at Christmas.
We arrived in Ramsgate in the early hours of Monday morning and thinking I knew better than the buoys we ran aground just out side of the inner harbour. Luckily the bottom was mud, and with even more luck, it was dead low water and half an hour later we were off and in the marina. The largest stroke of luck however was that this happened at two o’clock in the morning and very few people were able to see the embarrassing spectacle of a boat aground on the wrong side of a very obvious mark.
The following day Will had to leave us and return to work, but was replaced by Holly, 21, a friend of my sister who had decided that sailing to Norway sounded like a brilliant idea. Also joining us was Pete, 17, the son of one of my Fathers known associates.
We left Ramsgate the same evening into a windless haze that did nothing to hide or improve the procession of offshore wind farms that dominated our view for the next twelve hours. However after midnight the wind picked up the engine went off, the wind farms disappeared astern and all in all things were looking pretty good.
When daylight appeared on yet another gloriously sunny day the Topsail went up for the first time that season, followed very shortly after by the Spinnaker set in place of the jib. The westerly wind however continued to back into the south west and by early afternoon the wind was too far aft to fly the Spinnaker off the bowsprit so we dropped it and hoisted it on it’s pole, bore away and ran directly for Norway at a rather satisfying six and a half knots. It was less than 15 minutes later, with a sickening crack that only wood can provide, the gaff snapped in two at the jaws and the game was up. With twenty feet of wood swinging all but unrestrained at the top of the mast and every possible stitch of canvas flying this was of course a rather worrying moment, but fortunately nobody panicked and all the sails came down intact at record speed. With the gaff secured and with only the Jib set we turned back around and headed for the nearest port, which was Lowestoft, luckily only 20 miles away and not quite dead into the wind and waves.
We arrived at Lowestoft in the late evening and in the marina of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, whilst trying to turn the boat around in a gap that was barely wider than the boat is long, the throttle cable parted company with the engine, which then stalled. I was less than impressed at this latest turn of events, but Jim managed to get himself on board the boat ahead of us with the bow line and we then managed to warp along side whilst at the same time the cable tie that had been holding the throttle cable together was replaced and auxiliary power was restored. We then moved the boat alongside the historic ships pontoon and made it to the yacht club just in time for showers and last orders at the bar.
I’m not too sure what to make of Lowestoft. I will admit that the town is not my perfect idea of a holiday destination, but whether that is the fault of the town, or the mood I was in over the circumstances of our enforced stay, I cannot be sure. I can however give full marks to the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club who were helpful, friendly and the keepers of fantastic loos, with the urinals in the gents being a sight worthy of a stop in Lowestoft themselves.
I had called my father to give him the good news about the gaff as soon as mobile contact could be established, and by the time we were tied up in Lowestoft he had made calls, pulled strings and had already arranged for the spar to be collected the following day and repaired in Ipswich by Chris Dean who deserves a huge thank you for the work he did. Once the spar was taken away and order restored we took the opportunity to get the deck painted, which was the last job we didn’t have time for back in Falmouth. In all we were stranded in Lowestoft for six days. This meant that Holly had to leave as her time was already limited, no less, by the necessity to resume her helicopter flying lessons. Meanwhile, Will, who lives in Norfolk, came to visit us with his girlfriend for a gourmet meal of bangers and mash, complete with a fine gravy that was served from the boats multi purpose coffee pot (its other function is a Pimms jug). The repair on the gaff went well with the only hitch being that the wood ordered for the job got sent to Plymouth instead of Ipswich, never the less an alternative bit of timber was sourced and the spar was ready and delivered back the following Tuesday. We left that evening as soon as the mainsail was bent back into place and set off straight for Mandal with a forecast that promised a north westerly wind of anything up to a force 6. The first day’s sail went without problems the repaired gaff was holding up perfectly and the wind was gently building as the forecast had promised. The wind continued to build the following day and the first reef went in just as the first oilrigs came into view. The second reef went in at awful o’clock the following morning as the wind continued to increase and the boat started to perform a creditable impersonation of a submarine. The lee decks were regularly fully awash to the extent that the life ring on the guardrails had to be brought into the cockpit to avoid it floating away, meanwhile an uncomfortable amount of spray was flying over the windward bow. It was around this time it was discovered that the putty sealing half the windows in the coach roof was no longer watertight and so as well as getting continuously wet when on deck, you could now experience the same thrill from the comfort of your own bed. This, along with still rising wind, which was now well above a F6 and the rising water in the bilges that indicated the hull wasn’t enjoying the sail either, made it necessary to hove to by mid afternoon. We stayed like that for the following 18 hours with the wind eventually reaching it’s peak that night with what I estimate to be rather a healthy force 8, if not an all out 9. The Shipping forecast was still twittering on about sixes and sevens, perhaps eight, and the barograph was scribing a mockingly straight and level line. The only positive aspect to all of this was that the direction of the wind allowed us to drift dead on the course we were trying to sail anyway, so despite making a mere one to two knots, they were at least made in the right direction. It was also a damn sight dryer and more comfortable on board and even those who weren’t quite so convinced about the sudden lack of progress could see and appreciate that. The bilges were still filling with regular monotony though due to the topside planking being rather dry and half way through the night the pump handle gave up and snapped two inches from the inboard end. Fortunately the handgrip had fallen off a week previously so all that was required was to reverse it and we were good to go again.
We set sail the following mid morning after a game of chicken with a Danish trawler resulted in us tacking and making way again, allowing him to stand on. The wind had moderated slightly and with only a triple reefed main and jib set we made for Mandal once more. The whole ‘hove to in a gale’ experience was taken in a variety of ways by the crew. I for one very much enjoyed it, uncomfortable though it was, I was at least where I wanted to be, sailing to Norway in my own boat. Jim was irritated by the lack of progress and didn’t think such tactics would be necessary in a modern, plastic boat. Lily later confessed to never having been more terrified in her life, but I think that was only for a short while when the weather reached its peak. It was rather rough. Poor old Pete was seasick, though continued to stand watch like a trooper.
The Norwegian coast was raised just after noon the next day. Or at least it would have been if it hadn’t been foggy at the time. As it was the first we saw of Norway was a lone rock in the bay on the approaches to Mandal. At around the same time we saw our first yacht of the crossing, a Danish boat that was first overtaking, but then slowed down and fell in line astern in a manner that could only indicate that they intended to follow us through the murk to the harbour entrance. It may have been sound logic to follow a Norwegian double ender into a Norwegian port, however we’d never been there either and our laptop chart plotter had suffered from the damp so that a large part of the bottom of the screen was merely a large, black, damp splodge. And so after following us for three quarters of an hour as we fannied about finding marks and taking sails down, the Danish boat raced off as soon as another vessel, this time flying a large Norwegian flag, cruised past us. We sheepishly turned and followed suit.
We tied up along side the town quay just short of the bridge, cleared the boat up, put the dinghy over the side then all trooped off for showers and loaded all of the ports washing machines up with dirty, wet clothes. Then despite it being nine in the evening we set about making a massive greasy fried breakfast that Lily and I had started planning two days before in the midst of the gale. After that we then embarked on our first, and last, Norwegian night on the town. It’s well known how extortionately expensive Norway is, and while the price is undeniably high, in retrospect it’s remarkable how many other places in Europe can now actually match or even exceed this. If you are used to the South of France for example, Norway can sometimes appear quite reasonable.
It was the Saturday 31st of July by the time we reached Norway and we now had two deadlines to meet. Firstly both Lily and Jim had to fly back to England on the 2nd, whilst I had to get the boat to Risør by the 4th for the start of the Wooden Boat Festival, where my father and another one of his 1980 crew, Paul would be joining. And so the day after arriving in Mandal, we left for Kristiansand. The next leg of the voyage was free of any unusual incident and was along a stretch of coastline that while utterly stunning, has been undoubtedly written about before. Progress was assisted by Judy Lomax’s guide to the region, but also by yet another friend of my Fathers, Jeppe Jul Nielsen, who not only sent his son, Jonas, along to crew after Pete had to depart at Lillesand, but sent photocopies of charts with his own preferred routes penned in, and detailed advice on sailing an old gaffer along them. After a couple of days I realised what his methods of sailing in the area were, simply find the narrowest gap in the rocks it is possible to squeeze a boat through and then sail straight through it. I’m afraid his advice on gybing went unused the first day as I wasn’t so sure about learning to navigate the narrow channels, and gybing shorthanded all at the same time so the Blindlea (a stretch of the Norwegian coast I advise everyone to experience) was tackled under power with only a staysail set. However, when Jonas and his girlfriend Nikita arrived on board we advanced onto using a reefed mainsail and staysail in the rocky channels before finally getting the jib up as well on the last day which enabled us to sail majestically through the centre of the town of Lyngør before arriving in Risør where we were given pride of place in the middle of the inner harbour for the festival.
This then was the ambition achieved. The boat was back in her home waters and we were attending the Risør Wooden Boat festival for the first time in twenty years. It was also the boats 120th year afloat and her 60th year in our families’ ownership. So, quite an auspicious occasion, which Velsia lived up to marvellously when, despite being the oldest and smallest in the fleet, she got line honours in the racing, which became a second on handicap. The conspiracy theorists eye might light up on discovering that the aforementioned Jeppe, who incidentally wrote the handicap, claimed first place. Alas it was an honest result, and upon seeing the size of the cup we quickly realised that he’d be keeping it safe at his home regardless, as he had agreed to keep a watchful eye on Velsia over the winter.
Dad and Paul were only staying for the festival, but also joining halfway through was a cousin of mine, Ian and Alex, his wife. This was to be my final crew for the final stage of the voyage, which was to involve little more than going to nice places when the weather was pleasant enough to allow it. This was fortunate as Alex had never sailed before whilst Ian had only once sailed with us once in really enjoyable conditions, all other times being rather vicious roller coaster type channel crossings. It was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that sailing wasn’t only rough weather and seasickness. We made our target destination Larvik, Velsia’s birthplace and set off again with the help of Jeppe’s marvellous route planning which offered the most narrow corridors and high rocks possible in the short space of time available. Upon arriving at Larvik we took a stroll around Tollerodden before visiting the maritime museum. The museum is not vast but pays tremendous homage to both Thor Hyerdhal (of the Kon Tiki voyage) and Colin Archer, Velsia’s designer and builder. Upon the walls of this museum hangs a sail plan for a yacht named Vinga and on this drawing there is the faded outline of another, larger sail plan, which is initialled W.O.S. A gentleman named W.O. Sorensen commissioned Velsia to be built and the revised sail plan on the drawings are for her. Vinga incidentally I saw several years ago in a terrible state in a yard near Stockholm, in need of a saviour if anyone’s interested.
Alex had to leave us in Larvik and so Ian and I sailed to Nevlunghavn, original home to the Teddy of Earling Tambs fame, and then onto Kragerø where we’d promised to attend another festival. This was a much, much smaller affair than Risør and in it’s first year. It was during this stay, whilst rowing across the harbour to pick up the laundry I realised just how many people were giving me strange, amused looks and cheerful waves. Apparently in Norway rowing is an antiquated form of transport and the people have fully embraced the outboard motor. I’d never before viewed the act of rowing as delightfully eccentric behaviour and was quite relieved to scurry away from the limelight when I reached my destination, though naturally I then had to row back.
After Kragerø it was back to Risør where the boat was to spend the winter, there in the last few days of Ian’s stay we met the first and only other RCC boat of the season, Nanise and her owners Peter and Nicky Mason. A couple of days later Ian’s holiday time ran out and he had to leave in order to earn a living again. And so the journey ended. After Ian left I was invited to sail one of the old Norwegian sailing lifeboats to Denmark and back on a traditional Scandinavian booze cruise and after that all that remained to do was to prepare the boat for the winter as best as possible before leaving it in Jeppes capable hands and flying home myself, thoroughly satisfied and itching to get back next year.
The only remaining issue over Velsia’s winter stay is the import tax duty that customs seem to want out of every boat staying for more than a season. At the time of writing this is still in the process of being resolved.
VELSIA ble bygget av Colin Archer i 1890 som lystbåt.
Candia og ungene i Norge 1990.George til høyre.
VELSIA deltar på Isegran og Risør Trebåtfestival i år før de seiler hjem, så de som kommer der kan se henne da.
Les mer om Velsia her: www.jul-nielsen.com/VELSIA.htm
Denne side ble
først opprettet 10 juni.2011
Oppdatert 10 juni 2011
Jeppe Jul Nielsen
Trebåt: Konstruktør & Konsulent & Båtutstyr for trebåter
Tyriveien 1 - 4950 Risør
Tlf 3715 3144
Mob 9077 8929