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Portland Harbour - 8/8/2004

Thursday evening's social prior to the Portland trip was at the Jolly Sailor at Saltford. Things were looking hopeful for Sunday; at least 2 people had seen a favourable forecast, that was good enough for us! The last Nomads outing to Axebridge, we totally misjudged and decided to ride offroad from Ian and Neroli's house to Axebridge, as we thought there would be no wind. After an exceedingly difficult offroad climb up the hill at Cheddar (much of it on foot!) we arrived at the top to view at least 3 windsurfers planing in the distance on the reservoir below - bother!

This time six of us got the MTBing out of the way on Saturday; Ian, Neroli, Al, Adrian, Steve and I negotiated a route around Wells. There are a lot of hills around Wells! The OS cycle tours book described the ride as 5 bottles (strenuous), they were right. It was a good ride though, followed by some well-deserved beers (with Appletise for Al) and some time later by an early night. Steve was expecting me to get up at a scary hour for a Sunday. I am not good at mornings, so to get up at the same time as I would for a work day always feels very unjust. Steve promised that we would stop for breakfast if I got up early enough (the way to a woman's heart!?!!) so it was before 08:00 that we set off.

The weather was sunny as we set off from Bristol and the trees were moving in an encouraging way, had we got it right this time? Breakfast at the Little Thief on the A303 was unspectacular but very welcome. Steve asked me to drive from there, he only ever asks me to drive if he wants to sleep and sure enough after 10 minutes on the road he was dozing gently; it seems that I am not the only one who struggles with early mornings! Some of the route from Grimstone, the back way to Portland off the main road, reminded me of the Fiat Punto ad; didn't find any steps or good looking muscular types though, so Steve slept on. The trees were still jigging about in a very encouraging fashion though.

Steve did regain consciousness early enough to ask the question 'Do we need anything from Windtek?'. This has been a very expensive question in the past, we tend to ask it going in one direction or the other, or sometimes both. I already had harness lines on the list. I changed to a waist harness following our trip to Moon Beach in May/June and found that I was too close to the sail with my harness line lengths as they were. I had survived the trips to Daymer and Bigbury, but there was no way I was going to drive past a shop as well equipped as Windtek without stopping. With harness lines bought and a, very restrained, 3 metres of outhaul/downhaul/anything else you can think of rope for Steve, we proceeded to the boatyard.

We arrived a little before 10:00 and were delighted to find that parking was easy, though not so delighted to find that the sun had vanished. There were numerous Nomads already present at various different stages in the windsurfing ritual. Ian, Neroli, Al, Adrian and Keith were already on the water and planing well (this should be a good day!), Mike and Pierrette were rigging and Graham was still deciding what to rig (by far the most difficult part of the ritual!).

As we were assessing the situation (2nd most difficult part of the ritual!) Neroli came ashore, her broken finger too painful to continue windsurfing. Neroli fractured her finger a couple of weeks ago on a Nomads MTB ride, she has been MTBing several times since, but this was the first attempt at windsurfing. I have decided that she is sane, but fearless (that assessment is open to revision at any time and obviously assumes that I am also sane, which I admit is debatable!)

Neroli was planing well on a 5.3m sail, but the wind seemed to be coming up - what to choose? 5.0 or 5.5m? Oh the dilemma! Of course the 5.5m is the Arrows sail that I don't much like, should I go for the Sailworks 6.0m that I do? I finally make a decision - have a cup of fruit tea, fit my new harness lines and defer 'til after that! Steve decided to have coffee and go back to sleep.

One harness line fitted and Pete appears, his first trip of the year so he was going to sail no matter what, he chooses a 5.7m sail. One and a half harness lines fitted and there are a disturbing number of soggy Nomads congregating, the wind has dropped somewhat! Bother!! (sanitised version!). Pete was struggling to open his sail bag. WD40, pliars and brute force (thanks Ian!) and the zip was free but the sail was now too small. 7.0m sail then chosen, with similar problem, why do sail manufacturers insist on using metal in their zips? Graham also decides to change from his half rigged 6.5m to something bigger. Two harness lines fitted, it is now raining, so I decide to change into my wetsuit, before rigging.

Portland has changing rooms so complete isolation from the elements for 10 minutes, by the time I come back to the car the wind has gone completely. Double bother! (even more sanitised version!) Carl and Phil have now turned up, with the inevitable tales of 'you should have been here earlier'. Much standing around chatting later and the wind does not seem keen. Cake is brought forward to 12:00, getting desperate now! Thanks to Al for the cakes, which more than made up him for forgetting them at Axebridge!

After more chat Phil and Carl depart, without touching any kit, but early enough not to cop the writeup! Ian and Neroli de-rig and depart also and Steve and Mike rig their largest sails, 9.0m and 8.5m respectively in a last ditch attempt, have we sacrificed enough early leavers to the wind gods? Mike and Pierrette have not de-rigged anything yet and now have three sails rigged and all four boards off the trailer. They are ready for any eventuality; I am still undecided.

All remaining Nomads then take to the water, except me. The wind is now coming dead onshore and everyone potters close to the shore, with the wind occasionally coming up enough to tease, but not enough to tempt me onto the water. Even the threat of doing the write-up was not enough to tempt me to come to a decision, rig a sail and get out onto the water. I know that I should be practising odd manoeuvres in light winds, but!

Finally defeat is accepted and all de-rig and pack up. I have to admit that that is the first time I have ever got into my wetsuit and not sailed - note: wetsuit boots are even harder to get off when they are mostly dry! This was only my third Nomads trip this year and was enjoyable from the social side, a pity that the wind dropped so early - perhaps if we had not had breakfast, or if we had bypassed Windtek or ……….

Viv Powell

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