Autumn 2009


Commodore's Report

AGM, prize giving. Party

Annual Dinner

Aquarius at Bewl Water

Bosun Open Regatta

Casino Royale

Christmas greetings

HMS Bristol

Kempton Fireworks    

Lasers named


My First Stories

 Before You Can Finish

  Birth Of A Signet

  Sailing In SunseT

Newsletter printing

Our First Youth Input

  Sailing Course Review

  Sailing At Loch Insh

Pat on the back

Sailing beyond end

Security at Aquarius SC  

Skittles Evening

Social Calendar  

Trouble with Over Easy

Use of Club Dinghies

Website 10 anniversary


Work Party


Aquarius at Bewl Water - Mike Hendra

The late summer holiday crept closer with varying reports about the weather raising all the doubts that sailors have about forecast accuracy. However, last year the Bewl weather was threatening but the strong wind resulted in some exciting sailing and although the sky scowled darkly the rain stayed away. So here we were on an overcast Monday, silly enough to be contemplating a trip almost to Hastings on a bank holiday.

I don't sail much at Aquarius but I always feel guilty about the few who do the work when I do not help and once again I had not assisted with loading the boats and equipment. Richard and Co had organised the event, loaded the gear and trailed the boats to the lake. Even though I had not helped I felt the endeavour needed support and to go to Bewl was at least a show of appreciation for the efforts of the willing horses.

Jean was not well during Saturday night and so Sunday began as a slow start with us only leaving shortly after 10 am. The early part of the journey was easy with light traffic and apart from noise that sounded like an escaping hub cap, our trip to Tunbridge Wells was quick and trouble free. Just before reaching the TW bypass, hazard lights flashed ahead and soon all progress stopped. Slowly the car inched ahead but the average speed dropped from 60 to 6 and Bewl looked to be another 45 minutes away.

Eventually the entrance came into view and the turn was quickly affected. "Shit" I had forgotten the parking voucher, despite my efforts the gate guard was unmoved by my tears so I coughed up the £8.00 entry fee. As we swung into the parking area the sun smiled with gentle amusement from behind the clouds and the day began to offer promise.

With luck a parking spot appeared close to the club and our trusty steed was stabled between the lines. The windscreen framed a rippling lake dotted with a plethora of sailing craft. The journey down had already proved worth the effort.

Bewl Water ( r) is an impoundment, a lake created by a dam and is the largest area of fresh water in the south of England. Low ridges surround the waterway which fills the dales between the hills that slide gently beneath the surface. The terrain is both grassed and treed with walks and picnic areas offering an alternative to sailing. Activities on the lake cover all aspects of water sport but for Aquarius it offers us the chance to sail a long course uninterrupted by riverbanks.

Richard had organised a team to load and tow club boats to the site and his team (together with Liz) were there to greet our arrival. Roger trundled behind somewhere with more gear so although we had Signets and Pecos we were still short of rigging. The Jedi Knights of Aquarius, the Luniss family, were assembled and kitting-up to attack the wind and waves with purposefulness. Jean wanted a coffee and Richard wanted bums on boats.

I kitted up and joined Mike Baker for a ride in Easy Over, his Signet. We took off in a fresh breeze with Mike at the helm which he shortly and foolishly handed over to me. I moved gingerly in the stern and nervously hardened to weather never once tacking just to avoid the bank.

We beat, reached and ran across the lake experiencing varying degrees of wind strength. We went from gunwales under to smooth sailing for about half an hour before being hit by a gust that threw us on our beam end. My faux pas, I had failed to release the mainsheet quickly enough and paid dearly with a barked shin and a shame face. Mike was kind but we still headed for the jetty, sail one over.

By now Roger and Laurie were somewhere towards the far end of the lake, the Luniss flotilla were widely spread and Richard was under the command of his Mate Liz. I was off to the club house for lunch and a coffee.

The "Aquarius wives" it's difficult to really decide if sailors are married to their boats or their women, were assembled in the club house. Coffee cups, cake crumbs and news papers (well the Daily Mirror) littered the table.

Jean was ready for lunch and knew the ropes so I paid. With plates in hand we headed for the barbeque where the lunch crew fuelled us with burgers, sausages and salad. A beer called but foolishly I resisted paying 99p for a "coffee" instead, a terrible waste of water and 99p. With the inner man satisfied it was time to challenge the waves again.

The breeze had stiffened considerably post noon making our Pecos, now Jedi free, dance and flap excitedly at the end of the jetty. Aided by Laurie I slithered aboard struggling to untangle the tiller form the main sheet horse whilst holding the painter. In the struggle I lost the painter only to be rescued by Laurie's nimble fingers.

The Pico bucked from the jetty driven by a half sheeted main and a flapping jib. Tiller, mainsheet, jib sheet, I had run out of hands and my feet were struggling to find the foot strap. The half sheeted main was left with the flapping jib demanding immediate attention. Addressing the jib made the tiller jealous and the boat slewed angrily to windward backing the jib.

The main now miffed by the lack of attention tugged at its sheet and the hull rolled threateningly to leeward. Teeth came into play as I bit the mainsheet in defiance, punched the tiller into submission and found the foot straps. We were off at a gallop, my first on a Pico. The tell-tales streamed along the jib and the boat tore away from the shore like a rocket.

I settled down for a long uninterrupted beat up the lake, no north and south banks close here. The Pico stayed hard on the wind as it gusted and eddied over the water which giggled excitedly as it slid from under the stern.

Grass and trees fleshed by to port as we navigated past the racing-crews heading for open water. Gee this was fun! Legs held fast in the straps, back and right arm trimmed the main whilst the left kept the tiller under control.

The wind eased in the shelter of the trees so a course change was a looming option. I slid into the middle, short of hands again but although not a racing turn we took off on port tack without drama or mishap. The Pico found the wind so the left arm and back trimmed the main, the right managing the tiller with the rushing water giggling under the stern again.

We reached, ran and beat for an hour that passed in ten minutes. Thinking of the others waiting for a ride I changed course running back to the club jetty. The approach was well timed, the jib freed, the tiller up, the bow to windward we kissed the jetty and hung on for dear life with everything flapping. The end was just like the beginning except I was now stiff and aching.

A beer beckoned, the coffee was no match, so I creaked to the clubhouse to find Jean. Shirt and shorts were soaked with perspiration (the wet suit kept the spray off) so a change was required. All boats were manned and sailing far out on the lake so I was ordered home.

My satnav Rebecca was no match for Jean when it came to cross country traffic-jam avoidance so she took command. The Honda eased away from the quay under female command with me at the helm. The main road was full but moving slowly as we joined the queue.

A left at the first roundabout saw us heading through the village towards Royal Tunbridge Wells where we encountered little more than local traffic before rejoining the main road on the other side of town. The highway was moving fast when we reached it and we journeyed home without incident or unusual hold-up.

I tried to get out of the car but I was stiff, bruised and battered, firstly by a Signet then by a Pico. Why is God and exercise so unkind to old people? Helped from the car I was ordered into the shower before a snack, a medicinal red and bed. I did not lay awake long.

Jean and I, as well as several others had enjoyed a wonderful day very different from Aquarius sailing on the Thames. The day was possible thanks to Richard and many others (including Liz) who had organised, loaded and transported boats and equipment to Bewl.

I was not one of the workers so I hope this story counts as my contribution to the Bewl outing. It is my thanks to Richard and Co and I am sure expresses a sentiment shared by many who participated. Can't wait for the next encounter!

Mike Hendra