Friday, April 29, 2005

Loose Ends

Have you ever forgotten to tie a bootlace, stepped on it, tripped and hurt yourself. No, nor have I, but loose ends need attending to, or else there could be trouble.

It’s been one of those days when attention has had to be paid to loose ends because a deadline has to be met. If the cruise is to start on Monday, as planned, then all things that need doing beforehand must be attended to.

Instead of loading the boat with provisions, I’ve done all those little things my wife wanted doing before ‘deserting’ her for a couple of months or more. The final coat of varnish was carefully layered on the garden bench; the windows, frames, eves and doors were cleaned; the garden weeded and a laburnum tree transplanted! Before doing any of these tasks, it was a visit to Tescos for the weekly shopping. All in all, the day has been very busy.

This evening it’s a matter of loading the car with the final items for the boat, and tomorrow morning, very early, heading for Burnham-on-Crouch for a full day’s sailing in the hope the boat will be fully tested.

This fine weather is a huge bonus, and apart from a few showers and maybe some thunder, there should be at least another three days of it.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Preparing for something is quite often the most important aspect of an enterprise, whether it is a do-it-yourself job, travelling abroad, making a dissertation or doing a bit of cooking, and for those who have been following my theme, you will realise by now how many things I have, by necessity, dealt with. Without attention to detail, organizing this and that, and actually ‘doing’ things, I would not even have had the boat in the water.

Next, there’s the final assembling of items yet to be taken aboard, things like food and drink, bedding, waterproof clothing, tools and the computer. Naturally, these bits and pieces are usually left until last, especially the computer. It is vulnerable and needs much protection. To this end I made a bespoke console or container for it, so that it would never be doused with water.

Before setting off I have to collect my crew by car and ‘deliver’ him and his personal effects to the boat; then I have to make arrangements to have the car taken home for safekeeping. Because he is a complete novice I shall need to spend at least a day showing him the ropes. He’ll have to be able to start and stop the engine, steer the boat so as to be able to pick up a buoy (that’s for my own welfare, in case I fall in the water), and he’ll need to be able to sail the boat on all points. That’s quite a tall order for one day, but I think it can be done. He’s an intelligent and fit lad, wanting to learn all he can.

Because the weather looks set to be fine for about three days I should be able to thoroughly test the boat and all her gear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Launched at Last

The launching master at last found time to put ‘Bumber’ in the water. She looks fine. I was somewhat surprised to find her floating higher on her marks than last year. Perhaps that’s because more gear has yet to go aboard. There will be the personal effects of two crew members, and later, a third crew member will add more weight to set the boat down to her designed displacement. The large water tank has also to be filled, but I want to test the quality of the water at Rice and Coles pontoon before taking it aboard. Food will be purchased on Friday, ready for victualling the same day, but fresh vegetables will be bought at the last moment before setting off for the first leg of the summer cruise.

I managed to test the engine and was pleasantly surprised to find it running a lot cooler than last season. Perhaps there’s a better water supply for cooling the engine because the seacock was serviced and a new impellor was fitted. The boat rigger rotated the halyard block at the head of the mast, for which I was most grateful. That will mean the sail will be easier to hoist and quicker to come down when reefing. It will mean that the sail can be hoisted or taken down on any point of sailing, whereas last year I could only hoist or lower the sail when headed into the wind.

Junk sails are more efficient than other sails, except when on the wind. For cruising they are ideal, because of the ease in which they can be reefed. They do not flap or make a noise like Bermudan sails or the head sails of conventional rigs. Junks tend to sail more upright than boats with Bermudan configurations or gaff rigged sails. Gybing is effortless and if done properly does not bring about any hard loading on the mast.

Now I feel more settled about the forthcoming prospects of a good summer’s cruise. It’s all beginning to come together, but I shall need to be patient because the weather forecast for tomorrow is poor – loads of rain and plenty of wind. In any case, the car has to be serviced, which means I shall not be able to visit the boat until late afternoon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More Delay

The launching master informed me today that he could not put ‘Bumper’ in her element. He has his priorities and my yacht is not one of them, but some progress has been made, because my small yacht has been transferred to a trailer for conveying her to the crane; so perhaps tomorrow it may be her turn to fly over the sea wall while dangling like a puppet on a wire.

One of the launching crew may do me a favour by twisting the main halyard block at the top of the mast. For perfection it needs to be rotated 180 degrees in a clockwise direction – that’s looking from above – to enable the fall to exit on the starboard side of the mast. The previous owner made the mistake of having the fall on the port side, but because the deck fairleads and jamming cleats are on the starboard side it’s better to have all the running rigging operated from that side of the mast.

A volunteer from the launching crew will have to be hoisted by the crane to the top of the mast while sitting in a bosun’s chair. In that elevated position he will cut the wire which stops the block shackle from coming loose; then he will remove the shackle before twisting the block 180 degrees and refastening it. Finally, he will need to wire the shackle.

When that’s done and ‘Bumper’ has been launched she will be shunted by the work boat to her mooring. Then I shall have to check the underwater hull fittings to see if they are watertight. The engine will need to be run for testing the cooling water, and both the forward and reverse gears will have to be engaged. That’s the only sure way of checking the stern gland to find out if it is watertight while under load. I’ll have to make a couple of turns on the stern gland grease dispenser which feeds the ‘stuffing box’ with grease via a plastic tube. The function of the grease is to lubricate and seal the shaft.

If I’m happy all is well with the boat I’ll leave her on her mooring until Friday, because there is an atrocious weather forecast for Thursday, and I have things to do ashore.

Monday, April 25, 2005


How often do our plans work out exactly as intended? In my experience they quite often do not, because of unforeseen circumstances.

When planning a coastal passage, various factors need to be considered, such as: weather, tides, distance to the chosen safe haven, will the engine be used to keep up an average speed, or is it the intention to sail most of the way, and will the crew be able to operate a watch system?

Inevitably with these variables, opportunity exists for the unexpected. What if the weather takes a turn for the worst - perhaps there’s a headwind instead of the forecast ‘soldier’s wind’? Then for some unaccountable reason the engine gives up the ghost and the whole crew goes down with seasickness. Well, that really upsets the apple cart. All the optimism in the world will not make a ha’p’orth of difference!

Today, ‘Bumper’ should have been launched; instead the launching master said it could not be done because there were too many boats coming in and out. It would have to be tomorrow, if I was lucky. So my plan for a trial sail had to be postponed, but when shall I be able to do it? Unfortunately, the forecast for the coming week is very poor…. rain, rain and rain, but there is sunshine beyond the rainbow and the month of May could be glorious.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Something Wrong and Something Right

It’s not much of a confessional, but yesterday I bought a length of rope for ‘Bumper’s’ running rigging and today I was embarrassed when I found it was too thick for the blocks! I’ll have to make a return visit to the chandlers in the hope I’ll be able to swap the rope for a thinner one.

Quite often I make mistakes, and they are always costly. This one was expensive in petrol and in time – a total of 55 miles driving the car while burning carbon fuel and most of the money going to the Chancellor in way of tax on petrol, and of course, the bit of rigging I wanted to renew will now have to be completed after the boat has been launched.

Still, something came of the trip to Burnham this afternoon, because I was able to load more gear aboard the yard and sort out a couple of new stowage arrangements.

Now, all the charts, almanacs, pilots and navigation tools are in one locker, whereas last year they were on various shelves. I’ve allocated a locker for dry and tinned foods and another for vegetables and fruit. The old gear that occupied valuable space in the heads compartment has been ditched, which means the Porta Potti can be used for its designed purpose. I’ve placed the emergency flares and a fire extinguisher within reach of the companion way, while a second extinguisher was given a place by the forward cabin.

I hope the above changes will improve the operational efficiency of the boat and that something right was done today.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Seahopper Dinghy

In 1984 I bought a legendary Seahopper folding dinghy from my friend Geoff Lennard who designed the boat and manufactured it successfully for a number of years before selling the franchise and business to an employee. Seahoppers are still being manufactured in the UK and continue to be good value for money. They come in a variety of sizes and can be purchased with a complete sailing kit. Being rather versatile, they can be rowed and motored with a light outboard engine.

When I sold my Folksong 25 foot yacht, the Seahopper went with her as part of the deal. Richard Wells, who bought the Folksong became a good friend and we often sailed together. The Seahopper always went wherever the Folksong sailed and was constantly used as her tender. Richard sailed around England taking the Seahopper with him, sometimes towing her behind the yacht for passages.

To cut a long story short, when Richard sold the Folksong he kept the Seahopper and used her subsequently as a general purpose boat. When I bought my most recent yacht, a 23 foot Virgo Voyager named ‘Bumper’, I mentioned to Richard that I would need a tender, and on the off-chance, I asked him he would like to sell his Seahopper. To my surprise he agreed. Last year I became the owner again after 20 years.

I discovered one of the valves of the two external inflatable fenders was leaking and today I repaired it. On Monday next, I’ll be using the Seahopper to ferry items to ‘Bumper’ after she has been launched in readiness for her summer cruise.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Boat is Ready

Today saw the completion of all the major jobs to make ‘Bumper’ ready for her summer cruise. If the Boatyard is as good as their word, she should be craned into the River Crouch at a time between two hours either side of high water on Monday, 25th April.

The team who operate the crane have it all worked out, since they use the crane most days when the tide is suitable - that’s because a fair number of boats are taken in and out for racing.

All that remains for me to do is to put some extra gear aboard, but that will probably have to wait until the boat is on the water, because the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday is for heavy rain.

I just hope everything goes smoothly on Monday as I’m looking forward to being there when the boat is launched. It’s always good practice to check for leaks immediately after launching - especially the newly serviced seacocks. They look OK to me, but I can’t give them the thumbs up until they have been tested.

It’ll be good to sail the boat most days next week to check everything thoroughly. One item I particulary want to test is the new stowage system for the second anchor, which is in a compartment under the cockpit. Another item to try is the computer navigation consol. I also want to test the pneumatic floatation bags for the Seahopper dinghy. These are designed to keep the dinghy buoyant and afloat in rough conditions, but they also act as fenders.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Against Gravity

Against Gravity

I wonder how many readers have tried their hand at antifouling a yacht. It’s certainly a case of fighting the awesome power of gravity. It doesn’t matter how careful one is with the paint, some of it will drop off the brush or roller because of a fatal attraction for the earth. My schoolboy physics reminds me it will travel at 32 feet per second, per second; so in a fraction of a second it has splodged itself on the ground. After a while, the earth has the appearance of chickenpox, since the colour of my antifouling is a maroon red.

Isaac Newton formulated a law of gravity in his Principia, way back in 1687. Simply explained he said it is the force that causes things to fall down, but he could not have foreseen me trying to make antifouling stay on the bottom of ‘Bumper’, my 23 foot yacht. That’s an awful lot of wetted surface to cover, especially as she’s rather beamy.

Today I spent two hours preparing the surface and five hours applying the antifouling. Fortunately the conditions were absolutely ideal. The weather was not too hot and it was dry with a little wind, just enough to keep one cool.

Gravity not only had an effect on the paint, but it really tugged at my arms and hands as I struggled to apply an even coat of antifouling. Focussing ones eyes on the darker recesses under the hull and between the bilge keels was not easy because of the contrast between the shadow and bright sunshine.

One of the secrets of antifouling is to first apply it under the hull between the keels (if a bilge keel yacht); then to work outwards to the bow and stern. That way, one is able to avoid getting antifouling in ones hair or hat. It’s a good idea to apply double layers of paint around the waterline and all leading edges. This is a good insurance policy against weeds and barnacles, because these are the areas most likely to be eroded by the action of the water.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Odd Jobs

The first job after breakfast was varnishing the vane and paddle of ‘Bumper’s’ self-steering system. It was a cold damp start with an overcast sky – not at all promising – but with several outstanding jobs to be done, today was as good as any.

All things revolved around taking my wife to the hospital in the afternoon for her two and a quarter hours therapy and collecting her afterwards. Although the weather forecast was for a general improvement, antifouling the boat was out of the question; therefore it was best to concentrate on things that could be done at home. That meant I had to visit Homebase for a barbecue kit and some new garden hosepipe, as well as a couple dozen clothes pegs for the boat.

I thought I would have ample time to assemble the kit while my wife was having her therapy, but unfortunately, an essential part of the kit was missing. That necessitated another journey to and from Homebase. When I arrived back home there was just sufficient time for me to drive to the hospital to collect my wife.

After returning home again I set to work at putting the barbecue kit together – talk about Chinese puzzle – understanding the assembly instructions was almost impossible. To start with, the description of some parts did not fit the diagram; indeed, the diagram was wrong in places; so, trying to match the written instructions with the diagram was a test more than equal to the 11-plus examination!

Anyway, just as I got stuck into making it look like a barbecue, I was called for the evening meal. It took a further half-an-hour or so to finish assembling the barbecue.

I forgot to mention that fixing the garden hosepipe was not easy, because the outside tap fitting was too large, which meant I had to cut a length of spare aluminium pipe for joining the hosepipe to a wider gauge rubber pipe which fitted the tap. Needless to say, it leaked, but by tightening the jubilee clips with all my strength the seepage was stopped.

Then it was time to sort out my toolbox in readiness for the cruise. That took a good hour while I selected the least number of tools able to do the maximum number of tasks. As it was, after a frugal selection, the whole lot felt like a ton of bricks! Every bit of weight on the boat has to be pushed through the water, either by wind power, or by the engine, so it pays to restrict weight carried aboard.

Although it was almost dark, I needed to load the car in preparation for the antifouling tomorrow. In addition to the paint I also put the diesel fuel and one or two other things in the boot.

The more that can be stowed aboard while the boat is ashore, the better, because getting gear and provisions onboard when she is at her mooring is a real chore. My Seahopper folding dinghy is not equipped with an outboard engine, which means I have to row several hundred yards from the jetty to the boat, and that’s after carrying everything up and over the sea wall before carting it along the jetty.

Tomorrow, it will be a bit more early morning varnishing before motoring to Burnham to do the antifouling.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Odd Jobs

There’s a never ending pile of little jobs that need doing before the summer cruise, not just things for the boat, but odds and ends around the house. Today has been typical of the sort of thing I mean.

I spent a large part of the morning working on my web sites in preparation for when I shall be away. Keeping a site up-to-date requires a fair amount of time and effort; it’s not only checking hundreds of links, but it’s playing around with the content, refreshing and adding new pages.

After lunch I was required as a chauffeur for my wife who had yet another hospital appointment; then it was time for some varnishing on the self-steering vane and paddle.

When that was finished I made three visits to the local garage for the yacht’s diesel fuel which I carried home in five small plastic containers. I find it’s best to use small ones because they can be carried more easily and stowed more easily. Pouring the fuel into the yacht’s main tank via a filtered funnel is more easily done when using a small can. Using a large can at sea, except in the calmest of conditions would be impossible and there’s nothing worse than spilled diesel over the cockpit seats and floor.

Next, the lawn was in need of a severe cut, but as the grass was somewhat wet I had to manually clear out the cutting box after every second row. All that bending, lifting and pushing sure helps keep one fit.

The antifouling will be the next pressing job, but tomorrow’s forecast is poor, therefore I’ll probably have to sort it out on Thursday with two coats of International Cruising Uno antifouling – not cheap at £80-00 a tin! Fortunately, I have a spare tin left over from last season and a few dregs in other tins. That may be enough to cover the underwater area, including keels and rudder. The propeller would be better if it had some of that special resistant antifouling, but again, that will cost me.

There are a number of jobs my wife wants me to do before the cruise, such as cleaning the windows and buying a barbecue, but there will be others. Of course, there’s paperwork, like paying the yacht insurance and returning my DCA membership form. Social visits to relatives will also be on the agenda; then, what about the unforeseen?

Monday, April 18, 2005


‘Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can,’ goes the saying, but what is patience? It’s the capacity of a person or persons to tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset. Galatians 5:22 includes it as part of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. Equated with it Paul the Apostle lists these qualities: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; although I believe patience is partly to do with self-control, because it can be fostered through the efforts of those who desire patience.

When I was young my patience was minimal; I wanted things to happen right away; for me there was no time to waste, because life was short, but developing patience as a part of my character has been a worthwhile goal. Without patience, how can one cope with today’s traffic? Perhaps, because of the vast increase in the number of vehicles that cram our roads, there’s been an increase in so-called, ‘road rage’, which simply means an increased loss of temper by those unable to tolerate delay or the antics of certain drivers. They vent their anger by being abusive and aggressive; in some cases deliberately crashing their cars into other cars, or physically injuring those perceived to have caused delay or offence.

I’m trying to control my patience as I wait for the time when my yacht ‘Bumper’ will be launched into the River Crouch for trials in preparation for her summer cruise. Yet more patience will be required during the preparatory period until I am convinced everything concerning the boat is satisfactory.

Yet more patience will be needed as my crew and I sail towards the Scilly Isles, with the objective of achieving a satisfying cruise there and back. No doubt my crew will have to be patient with me, and I with him. He is very young and I am old. We come from different generations with different understandings and standards, but I’m sure we shall learn from each other - providing we are both patient.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


The adjective ‘cosmetic’ is defined as, ‘treatment intended to improve a person’s appearance,’ and as a noun in the plural, ‘cosmetics’ means, ‘preparations, especially for the face’, but so often boat brokers incorporate the adjective into their selling jargon perhaps with these words, ‘This sound boat has somewhat been neglected, but she only needs some cosmetic attention.’

Well, my yacht ‘Bumper’ had a face lift today, when I applied a small quantity of Blakes alizarin crimson yacht enamel to the sides of her cabin. That put a smile on her face and on mine too! I used the same paint for the wooden bracket securing the windvane self-steering gear to the transom ladder, not so much as a cosmetic, but more as a preservative.

The appearance of a boat can lift the morale of the crew and act as an incentive for keeping things shipshape, and there’s something very pleasing in maintaining a vessel so that she sparkles. I love scooping up buckets of clean sea water and emptying the contents over the decks prior to giving them a good scrub before rinsing them off with more salt water. If there’s fresh water to spare at a marina, so much the better for a shine, but it doesn’t do teak any good, because it is then not protected by the salt found in sea water, which is particularly effective as a preservative for wooden boats. Fresh water encourages rot, especially with oak and elm; hence the great sailing ships of old when laid up at the end of their working life quickly succumbed to effects of rain water.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sunny at Last!

What a contrast between yesterday and today. How wonderful it was to have a warm sunny day, with little wind. So many people have their boats on the water and here’s me still working at preparing to launch mine; although I must say most of the sailors who have their boats afloat are keen racing types. They have been racing since Easter.

At long last the sail is ready for action. It seemed to me everything that could go wrong with it did. The mainsheet was difficult to sort out, but it could have been so simple if I had made a note at the end of last season showing how it went together with its numerous blocks and spans. You can be sure I’ll do that in future.

I tidied the wiring for the solar charger so that it is hidden behind the cabin panelling. Then I made a deck mounting for the module which will allow air to flow underneath it to help reduce its temperature on very hot days. When any deck work needs doing I and my crew will have to take care not to stand on the somewhat fragile panel.

Apart from tidying up, cleaning everything, and applying the antifouling, there’s very little else to be done.

Shortly before the launching day I’ll need to provision the boat, top up the water, and the fuel. Then it will be all systems go.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Testing the System

Today while the boat is ashore I am trying the computer navigation system and connections to the Internet using the Vodafone Connect Card.

Having wired the solar panel, all seems to be working, but a much longer test will be needed to ensure there is sufficient power to run both the navigation and communications facilities. Also I shall need to try things out when the boat is on the water under sail. How will the computer operate when the boat is hard on the wind and it is subject to pounding? I’ll have to wait and see.

As I prepare this article for my ‘blog’ the rain is beating on the cabin top, and apart from the sound of it all else is quiet, because no other ‘nutters’ are here at the boat yard working on their yachts. They have all deserted me, but I must say this little community of yachtsmen at Rice and Coles is a friendly bunch. Ask for advice and you’ll not be short of helpful suggestions.

Well, if you are reading this, then the Internet communications part of the system is working. The navigation programme is fine too.

That’s it for today, as there’s not much more I can do in this horrible weather.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

April Showers

April is living up to its reputation of being a month of showers. Hardly a day has passed without a sprinkling of rain – all very good for the garden, but not so handy for fitting out the boat.

Today I had hoped to finish the sheeting arrangement for the junk sail. Last time I visited the boat I forgot to take the rigging plan, and I couldn’t remember how the various mainsheet blocks were attached to the sail before I removed it for the winter valet.

Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. The wet weather was not entirely to blame for today’s hiccup, but as I had arranged to meet a sailing friend and his wife at the boat to demonstrate how the sail supposed to work, I really wanted to be there to greet them. Unfortunately, two unexpected visitors arrived at my home just before I was about to set off for the boat. I tried to contact my sailing friend to say I would be late, but he and his wife must have already left. A few moments later the rain poured down. So I was on the phone again to let my friend know the excursion to the boat was off. Needless to say, I was greeted a second time with the answer phone. My pathetic message was one of apology saying I had to cancel the sail demonstration because there was no way I was going to hoist the sail in the rain. There’s nothing worse for creating conditions for mildew than to have the sail wet when bagged up under the sail cover – so it was a no go situation.

Sadly I could not contact my friend to tell him. As the rain continued to fall, I could only hope he would put two and two together to realise why I was not at the boat.

If April runs true to form I’ll have to work between the showers to complete fitting out ‘Bumper’ for her summer cruise.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

To Buy or Not to Buy

Shakespeare's Hamlet contemplated death through suicide and he soliloquized,

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”

My dilemma is not nearly so dramatic,

“Should I buy, or should I not buy?”

When endeavouring to be a minimalist, the answer to the question becomes easier because choices are lessened. A small amount of space aboard ship means less equipment, but a Reeds Nautical Almanac takes up as much space in a small boat as it does in a large one, and in proportion to the whole, the amount of space taken up by the almanac is much more in a small boat, likewise is the relationship in terms of weight.

The solution for the minimalist is to go to the local library and photocopy the essential pages of the almanac for the proposed sailing programme, whether it’s exploring an estuary or making a coastal cruise, but the more capacious the vessel, the more opportunity there is for bundling items into the space – that’s assuming one has the cash in the first place to buy such items.

In this quandary where space and money is no object, answering the question, “Should I buy, or should I not buy?” becomes more difficult.

I’m considering the purchase of a barometer, knowing how useful it would be for forecasting local weather, but at the same time I have access to several weather forecasts through radio, VHF, and more recently, the Internet via my laptop computer. So do I really need a barometer?

I also have to make a choice whether to buy an inflatable dinghy. There’s enough room for one on the foredeck of ‘Bumper’ – just about – or should I make do with my Seahopper dinghy which has inflatable rubber fenders? The Seahopper is a bit more problematical for storing.

If shortage of money is not a significant factor, although in truth it is, space aboard most certainly will restrict what I buy; but most of all common sense should prevail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bending the Sail

Junk rig, as per Blondie Hasler, is sometimes referred to as the Chinese lug rig. The sail is simplicity itself. Mine is cut flat and has six wooden battens in sleeves between seven panels to simplify reefing. The yard is angled upwards about seventy degrees from the uppermost horizontal batten and this upper triangular area is divided in two by the topmost batten. Because all the battens, except the top one, are parallel with one another, when the sail is reefed by dropping the halyard they naturally fall into place, since they are retained by lazy jacks.

The battens are held close the un-stayed flexible metal mast by means of parrels - in this case short lengths of rope. Sheet spans with blocks are attached to the panels at the leech for the mainsheet which passes through multiple blocks attached to the pushpit.

Today my task was to bend the sail to the wooden yard and boom, then slide the battens into their sleeves and secure them with short lengths of stout synthetic cord.

When the weather is fine I’ll have a go at rigging ‘Bumper’.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

One of those Days

There are times when important events take precedence over those one would prefer to participate in, for example, Prince Charles had to postpone his wedding to Camilla because attending the Pope’s funeral became a priority.

Today I would have preferred working on my yacht ‘Bumper’ in preparation for the forthcoming cruise, but visiting a family in London was far more important. It so happened that the visit was very pleasurable and I’m glad I found time to meet some very lovely people. Into the bargain I had the unexpected bonus of having two hours by myself to plan and rehearse a particular meeting.

For me time is at a premium. Almost every minute is being taken up with unavoidable activities; even making this entry on my ‘blog’ eats into valuable time.

How wonderful it will be when I find myself afloat with a willing crew as we set off on our voyage of discovery. We shall not be governed by pressing engagements - only by wind and tide.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Boat Ownership

Sometimes I walk along the river bank at Fambridge, where, during the summer season, about two hundred yachts have their moorings. Most of them sparkle as they dance to the water’s rhythmic pulse while bathing in the warmth of the sun, but seldom do I ever see anyone aboard these yachts of pleasure. Always the question comes to mind, “How do their owners justify such expensive objects which are so seldom used?”

Could I be wrong in my assumptions regarding their expenses and usage?

Both of these aspects of ownership are relative, because a rich man could consider his expenses to be ridiculously cheap, and a busy man could perceive a fortnight’s holiday afloat as ample reward for the cost of ownership.

Not all owners have the same reasons for buying and maintaining their boats. Some could be interested in racing, while others could enjoy short outings or be challenged by the demands of cruising, and there could be some who want the prestige of ownership or need their boats for business purposes.

No doubt there are other categories into which owners could be placed, such as those who simply enjoy being on their yachts while ashore or afloat; they would not have the least intention of doing anything other than relaxing or perhaps entertaining - and there are those who enjoy pottering, tweaking this bit and that, or just dreaming while soaking up the nautical atmosphere.

A yacht can be the ideal place of retreat, beyond the beck and call of all and sundry: a den where there’s no phone, no television, no computer, no traffic jams, no wife or husband; just a timeless dream where waking, slumbering or focussed creativity can take their course, or paradoxically coexist – a place where there’s no one to whom to be accountable, other than oneself, or perhaps it’s the abode of a monk who communes with his God?

All such owners can equally justify themselves for their expenditure and their reasons for boat ownership.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


What are the chances of your crew suffering scurvy? If you live in the Western World it is most unlikely. Why? Because many of the fresh foods we eat contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid).

Scurvy does not occur in most animals because they can synthesize their own vitamin C, but guinea pigs, primates (including humans) lack an enzyme necessary for such synthesis - they must obtain vitamin C through their diet. This vitamin is widespread in plant tissues, with particularly high concentrations occurring in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit, but it is also present in tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, and green peppers.

Foods containing vitamin B also help prevent scurvy. A regular intake of both vitamins C and B will ensure a person does not suffer from this serious disease that was rampant among 18th century sailors, particularly those who spent months at sea while sailing the oceans of the world. A diet deficient of vitamin C for six months will ensure the onset of scurvy.
For a graphic account of its effects, here is an edited quote from a BBC Discovery web page:
“Scurvy came to public notice in Britain after Commodore George Anson led a squadron into the Pacific in the 1740s to raid Spanish shipping. He lost all but one of his six ships, and two thirds of the crews he shipped (700 survived out of an original complement of 2000), most of them to scurvy. Their symptoms were vividly described by Richard Walter, the chaplain who wrote up the official account of the voyage. Here were descriptions of its ghastly traces: skin black as ink, ulcers, difficult respiration, teeth falling out and, perhaps most revolting of all, a strange plethora of gum tissue sprouting out of the mouth, which immediately rotted and lent the victim's breath an abominable odour.”
“There were strange sensory and psychological effects too. Scurvy seems to have disarmed the sensory inhibitors that keep taste, smell and hearing under control. When sufferers got hold of the fruit they had been craving they swallowed it (said Walter) 'with emotions of the most voluptuous luxury'. The sound of a gunshot was enough to kill a man in the last stages of scurvy, while the smell of blossoms from the shore could cause him to cry out in agony. This susceptibility of the senses was accompanied by a disposition to cry at the slightest disappointment, and to yearn hopelessly and passionately for home.”
Another source quoting historical facts had this to say:
“Vasco da Gama lost two thirds of his crew to the disease while making his way to India in 1499. In 1520 Magellan lost more than 80 per cent while crossing the Pacific. Two voyages made by Pedro de Quiros early in the 17th century resulted in huge mortality from a sickness Sir Richard Hawkins called, after his venture into the South Seas, 'the plague of the Sea, and the Spoyle of Mariners'.”
“In 1747 the Scottish naval surgeon James Lind treated scurvy-ridden sailors with lemons and oranges and obtained dramatic cures. In 1795 the British navy began to distribute regular rations of lime juice during long sea voyages (hence the name limeys for British sailors), a measure that was largely successful in preventing scurvy. It was probably the first disease to be definitely associated with a dietary deficiency.”
My advice for those intent on blue water cruising would be to take with them fresh vitamin C bearing vegetables and fruit to last as long as they remain palatable, then swap to dehydrated vegetables from a source such as Walton Feed, whose web page can be found at It is possible to make your own dehydrated food - see Also make sure you have a supply of vitamin C and B supplements.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


What is the connection between metabolism and sailboat cruising? In order to make a connection we must first define metabolism. My Franklin Language Master explains it as, ‘the sum of the processes of life support and especially the processes by which a substance is assimilated or eliminated by the body’.

From the foregoing we can deduce that foods taken in by the body are digested at various rates according to types of foods and demands made upon the body. It’s a bit like a car being driven at different speeds or having to climb or descend while progressing along an undulating road. Although it burns the same type of fuel, more of it is consumed when the car is driven at high speeds or when it has to climb hills or mountains.

Long distance runners pack carbohydrate bearing foods into themselves before running because such foods provide energy over long periods, whereas other foods may only provide short time energy. They drink copiously because they know full well they will loose a lot of water through the natural process of perspiration which is an automatic function for cooling the body. As the heart pumps faster to supply hard-worked muscles with oxygenated blood, the body temperature rises; hence the need for a cooling system.

When foods and drinks have done their work of providing energy for the body they become expendable and what remains from the metabolic process is expelled. During this daily process a routine is established, to the extent that it becomes an automatic rhythmical metabolic action because of everyday requirements. Occasionally, this rhythm is upset because some unusual demand is placed upon the body; perhaps a person has to do a week of night shifts after a fortnight of day shifts. Such a shock to the system can be very upsetting, whereby sleep patterns are disturbed and the routine bodily intake of food is broken.

Now we can begin to see a connection between metabolism and the operation of a cruising boat, because if a crew is required to sail day and night or perhaps most days during daylight hours, or take the helm for several nights, their natural metabolic rhythm is upset.

When I am coastal cruising I like to maintain a natural daily routine, but this is not always possible. My preferred method of operation is to sail early and arrive early, because this provides a measure of time before nightfall to make the intended port of arrival. Should unforeseen circumstances slow the boat’s progress, there may still be time to arrive at a safe haven before nightfall.

Several days before setting off on a cruise I like to rise early and turn in early, so that my body is fully prepared for the same pattern while cruising. There you have the full explanation of why metabolism, in my view, is linked to the activity of sailboat cruising.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


The importance of hygiene aboard a yacht cannot be overstated. Unless a crew can maintain good health it cannot function properly, but how often do we find dirty crockery, cutlery, filthy worktops and disgusting heads (toilets) in boats we visit? Of course, we are never guilty of the same conditions aboard our own yachts.

I must admit that I’ve sailed on friends’ boats which have had appalling hygienic conditions to the extent that I’ve not wanted to drink, eat or go to the toilet. Nothing can be more off-putting when sea conditions are bad. It’s no wonder the crew ends up being seasick.

Why do we accept standards afloat that we would not contemplate at home? Perhaps there’s the excuse that the boat is rolling all over the place or that she’s sailing on her beam ends which makes doing a bit of housework impossible. Then, when we arrive in port we are too tired to attend to some cleaning. Maybe we would prefer to go ashore for a slap-up meal at a restaurant; the advantage being there would be no washing-up afterwards.

There really is no excuse. ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’, was a saying of my dear Mum, but perhaps she was right? Surely in heaven there is no filth. If we want our boats to be a little bit of heaven, then we should make the effort to do away with muck and grime.

Anything likely to cause ill health through lack of cleanliness is unhygienic, and therefore we should consider keeping our own bodies clean. In that respect, large cruising boats today are usually equipped with at least one shower which has a sump, the contents of which can be dumped when well offshore. Unfortunately, very few UK marinas offer a pumping service for the disposal of unwanted human waste, but some yachts are sensibly fitted with Porta-Potti type toilets, which can be emptied into an ordinary toilet.

Bodily hygiene is important, especially when the crew is confined within a boat’s cabin; therefore every effort should be made to keep ones body clean - including brushing ones teeth twice daily. A yacht’s crew live together in close proximity and bad breath is no fun; smelly feet, pungent armpits and stinking clothes are even worse!

Anyone who sails on my boat for more than a day must attend to his personal cleanliness and be responsible for keeping the boat spick and span. All crew members must share in the washing-up and ensure the boat sparkles.


Porta Potti (1)

Porta Potti (2)

Monday, April 04, 2005

List Keeps Growing

To Do

I had no time for the boat today, but the ‘To Do List’ keeps growing. Here it is:

Repack stern gland
Insert battens and rig sail
Renew running rigging where necessary
Paint around windows
Paint self-steering bracket
Paint antifouling
Paint windvane
Varnish self-steering paddle
Attend to exhaust tube
Fit rubber sealer to cockpit floor locker
Secure cockpit locker floor
Thoroughly clean engine and touch up with paint
Secure gas pipe in overspill locker
Make mouse box
Fit and test computer navigation gear
Try burgee
Make door mat from spare carpet
Tighten lifelines
Stow gear
Thoroughly clean boat inside and out

In addition to the above there a number of items to buy; some of them will require fitting.

Finally, everything needed for the cruise will have to be taken to the boat.

What with my busy schedule and April showers, it’s going to be touch and go that all will be finished before launching time in just under three weeks.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Busy Time

It’s a good job I started preparing the boat at the beginning of last month for her summer cruise, because there have been so many things happening in my private life that I’ve not been able to devote as much attention to the sailing project as I would have liked.

Anyway, today I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours working on ‘Bumper’. Her engine has been completely serviced and it is in running order. I was rather surprised that the engine started first time, but as I followed the manual, perhaps I should not have been amazed. Everything sounds sweet, if the noise of an engine can be delicious.

Some people are fanatical about their yacht engines, but I’m not such a fan of complicated mechanical devices. On the other hand, ‘Bumper’ should be thought of as a motor sailer, rather than a pure sailing vessel. Because this is the case, when the wind is on the nose, or it is slight, I prefer to keep the boat moving, and that warrants using the engine. Also by running the engine the batteries get charged, and with the proposed use of my laptop computer for navigation and for surfing the web, I shall certainly need a plentiful supply of electrical power.

There’s less than three weeks to have ‘Bumper’ ready for the water – that’s allowing one week for trial sailing before setting off on the long awaited adventure - cruising towards the Scilly Isles in the hope of reaching them. It’s an unwise sailor who says he will reach his objective, irrespective of weather and unforeseen circumstances, but it’s always a good idea to have a general plan which may be modified according to events.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Engine Maintenance

I spent much of today playing with ‘Bumper’s’ Bukh 10 diesel engine. It’s a jolly good one, although it’s 23 years old.

I replaced the lubricating oil filter, the zinc rod to stop internal corrosion, the impeller which pumps cooling water to the engine and the fuel filter. I checked some other things and placed new oil in the engine.

Next time I visit the boat I’ll have a go at bleeding the fuel system before attempting to start the engine. Because the boat has not yet been launched, the cooling water will be taken from a bucket which I’ll refill as necessary.

After the stern gland has been repacked with wadding I’ll replenish its lubricating grease.

I hope there will be no problem starting the engine.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Launching a Trailer Sailer

My friend Theo has a Sailfish trailer sailer, and yesterday the tide at Hullbridge was just right for launching her. With the help of John, a friend of Theo’s, putting the boat in the water was an easy thing to do. What little wind there was came from the south east, which was absolutely ideal, as the tide was making from the east and the south bank of the River Crouch gave good protection.

Theo has owned his Sailfish, ‘Blue Marlin’, for a number of years and he has made several useful modifications which make sailing and launching her easy.

I was impressed with the mast lifting device which is a loop of metal hinged to the aft lower ends of the pulpit on both sides of the boat. When the lifting device is in the upright position the tack end of the roller forestay is attached to it by a simple slot-in clip. Meanwhile the upper end of the mast is supported by a crutch attached to the transom so that the foot of the mast is slightly angled downwards towards the bow. A long rubber bungee tied to the mast immediately below the spreaders is led forward under tension to the mooring cleat near the bow. This takes part of the weight of the mast as the crew ‘walks’ the mast to the upright position. In actual fact, the person lifting the mast walks forward into the open cabin while standing on top of the keel casing. An assistant takes the tack end of the forestay and clips its shackle to a fitting at the bow.

Before the mast is hoisted one of the shrouds must be loosened at its bottle screw, but once the mast is in the upright position, tension is taken up again and both the forestay shackle and the rigging screw are wired to keep them from undoing. Then the rubber bungee is pulled down the mast by using a boat hook before being removed. Next, the lifting device is unbolted; afterwards this ‘u’ shaped metal loop, made in two halves, is dissembled for compact stowage.

What I’ve been trying to explain sounds complicated, and perhaps by now many readers have given up trying to understand it, but in practice, putting the mast up is very easy.

Because the combined weight of the boat and trailer is more than can be held back by three people on the slipway, Theo uses a one block rope tackle to take the load. A long rope is first attached to a fixed ring near the top of the slipway; it is then passed through a block at the front end of the trailer and back to a towing loop at the front of his car. Slack is taken up by removing the wheel blocks while controlling the trailer’s rate of descent down the slipway by judicial use of the trailer’s brake. Gradually the car is eased forward to let gravity convey the boat down the slipway while the helpers guide her. When the trailer wheels are a few inches short of the waterline wheel chocks are set in place to prevent further movement.

Launching in this case, really means ‘launching’! Two people lift the front end of the trailer and without ceremony the boat slides into the water; meanwhile one of the helpers pays out her painter speedily so as not to receive rope burns. (He would do well to wear leather gloves to prevent injury to his hands.)

After the boat has been launched, the engine and rudder are shipped. Because ‘Blue Marlin’ only draws a few inches of water the crew can wade out to her. With the use of the engine the boat is taken to her nearby mooring while towing her tender.

The whole leisurely business of making ready the tender, launching the boat and returning the tender to the Up River Yacht Club took about two and a half hours. We certainly didn’t rush the procedure; instead we made it an enjoyable experience.


Sailfish 18

The Up River Yacht Club


Sailfish 18 Class Association Class Secretary, Jackie McGuiness, 40, chapel Street, Spondon, Derbys. DE21 7UJ. (I hope this up-to-date.)

An illustrated article about the Sailfish 18 in "Practical Boat Owner" - Number 404, August 2000.