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Raptor UK canoe sailing

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April 2012

didn't strike me as realistic, so I had Googled it and read that this film is notorious for its depiction of the danger. It seems that quicksand will not drag you down in the way depicted in the film - you will sink until buoyancy is achieved, no further. However, it is certainly possible that you could become stuck so firmly that you are unable to escape and then be drowned by the incoming tide.

We eventually reached a patch of mussel shell-covered mud, which was slightly firmer, where I had left the boat. After a further short wait, during which the sea seemed to make negligible progress landward, I pulled my Raptor into shallow water, installed my passenger onto the sidecar and was finally able to nudge us afloat shortly before 2:30 p.m. What a relief. With the wind from starboard, we set off on a beam reach as I headed for deeper water. After a couple of hundred metres I inserted my daggerboard but this hit the seabed almost immediately, so I had to retract it again until I was sure the water was deep enough. I have no charts for the area but it is obviously still very shallow some distance from shore.

I veered northeast and settled on a close-hauled starboard tack. Once in deeper water the sea state quickly built up to a 1-2m swell. I deployed the foil although with less than 4m2 of sail unfurled and the weight of the passenger on my sidecar there was little tendency for the ama to lift. By contrast, the foil was definitely needed once on a port tack, to prevent the ama from being submerged. I briefly tried sailing without the foil but it was quite scary.

I am slowly coming to realize that carrying a passenger or fully loading the sidecar with camping gear requires a new mindset. When sailing an unloaded Raptor, port tacks are relaxing and fast, often with no need to deploy the foil. When sailing a fully loaded Raptor, starboard tacks are the more relaxing and fast. The Raptor manual recommends maintaining the foil control handle in a neutral position by the right thigh and exerting gentle upward force when sailing on a starboard tack to keep the ama down or gentle down force when sailing on a port tack to keep the ama up. Maintaining the foil position takes a surprising amount of force when carrying a passenger on a port tack. Not downward force, as you'd expect, but upward force. This is because the force of the water acting on the foil is constantly trying to force the foil forward and upwards. This is felt as a varying but at times strong pull downwards on the foil control handle, which must be counteracted to prevent the handle being pulled out of your hand. Forget about this tip from the Owner's Handbook: "Some sailors also seize a small 'D'-ring to the end of the foil control handle. The aft end of a length of shock cord is then attached to the aft iako and the forward end is attached to the 'D'-ring with a quick release snap hook. The tension on this shock cord tends to keep the foil in a neutral position and allows the sailor to let go of the handle whenever foil stabilization is not needed" (P.17). I tried this tip earlier in my Raptor ownership and quickly stopped. The shock cord tension would have to be very high to keep the foil in a neutral position, otherwise the handle will start to oscillate violently.

I'll have to come up with a better way to retain the rope for both bow and stern Bruce anchors in their respective bags, as simply closing the zip didn't do the trick. I ended up trailing the stern anchor rope behind me as I sailed east. An unforeseen consequence of siting my passenger's seat as far forward on the sidecar as possible is that the boom can hit her head when on a starboard tack unless she ducks. The further forward the seat, the less headroom available below the boom. The passenger seat seemed to work very well. There was still a little puddle of seawater collected on the base when my passenger disembarked but this is no longer such a problem since she now wears a drysuit. Generally water drained off the sidecar quickly through the central drain holes behind her seat. I decided not to test the strength of the forward 'D'-rings too much with the seat back's forward attachment snap hooks, so threaded a length of line from the port side snap hook, around the forward iako and back to the starboard side snap hook. That way most of the tension from the seat back was applied to the iako rather than to the 'D'-rings.

I was fighting both the strong easterly breeze and the incoming tide. Progress seemed quite slow so I unfurled a little more sail. I had originally hoped to make it as far as the Forth road and rail bridges at Queensferry but the late start and wind chill (after an hour my finger's were starting to feel numb) caused me to modify my plans. I decided to head instead for the mouth of Midhope Burn near Abercorn, where I knew there was an attractive grassy area that would make an ideal picnic spot. The only unknown was the state of the beach. If it turned out to be as muddy as at Blackness it would be impossible to reach the shore, given that high water was still 5 hours away. We beached the boat at 3:45 p.m. almost 300m from the HW mark and luckily the ground was much firmer since we had to walk over 500m to the picnic spot. I deployed my bow anchor only and it performed flawlessly. The tide was by now starting to flood rapidly, so I had to return to the boat twice during our 1 hour stop, moving it 50m further inshore each time, so that I wouldn't have to wade out too far or too deep on departure.

The sail east comprised of five starboard tacks and five port tacks. My maximum speeds on the eastward leg of the journey (more than 6 knots) were all attained on starboard tacks apart from one occasion when I bore away while on a port tack and hit 6.7 knots. As usual, going from a port to starboard tack was difficult to achieve cleanly in the strong breeze and so I considered gybing on my third anti-clockwise tack, but as my speed increased and things started to get a little hairy I thought better of it. My GPS track shows that on average I was able to point no better than 63

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