Monday, May 31, 2010

Being Prepared

'Ladybird' Ready for Adventure

Being prepared for possible eventualities is a practical means of dealing with future happenings as they unfold. The importance of preparedness cannot be emphasised enough. Are we prepared for tomorrow? Have we taken stock of our resources? Will they be adequate for days, months, and years to come? The application of preparedness to all aspects of our lives is prudent. I am about to spend two months aboard my 19’ Sloop, ‘Ladybird’. Is she equipped for the task in hand, which is to cruise along the South Coast of England? Do I have the right provisions, and am I up to it?

There will always be flaws and inadequacies in our preparations because we cannot foresee the future; we cannot know for sure what lies ahead. We can only surmise or guess what time will reveal, and this according to our knowledge or lack of it, plus our experiences from the past. If our preparations fall short, we shall need to be resourceful at overcoming the deficiencies. No explorer in his right mind sets off to the South Pole without the right equipment or without adequate training. Likewise, no climber will attempt reaching the summit of Everest without first thoroughly researching the subject and astutely examining himself to make an objective assessment of his own capabilities. On such a dangerous enterprise, falling short of the truth will inevitably bring disaster.

I believe I have tested myself and ‘Ladybird’. Neither she nor I are perfect, but I think we are up to the task. Avoidance of gales, strong winds and taking unnecessary risks should go a long way to keeping us safe and making the cruise a success. The first few days will confirm that systems are go, but if there are deficiencies with the boat or myself, there is no shame in calling the cruise off.

Finally by way of preparation, I shall stock the boat with a week’s provisions and acclimatise myself to being afloat, most probably by spending a night aboard the yacth before setting off – that’s if the weather is suitable.

If my onboard laptop can connect to the Internet, I shall as far as possible post my daily log to these pages. Please do not be concerned if I miss a day or two, because the chances are that reception for my wireless connection may not always be adequate.


Scout Motto – Be prepared

US Interpretation of Baden-Powell’s Motto

An Old Article about Preparation Lists

Seaman’s Motto – Be Prepared

Sunday, May 30, 2010


One more day, and the adventure begins; that’s if nothing intervenes to prevent or postpone it. My definition of an adventure is conventional, as per the Oxford Dictionary, i.e., an unusual, exciting, and daring experience. Don McIntyre who is skipper aboard the Talisker Bounty Boat re-enacting Bligh’s voyage has a different definition which goes as follows: “An adventure is when one embarks on an enterprise of which the outcome is unknown.” This may not be a verbatim definition, but the gist is there. For sure, Don and his crew are having a very testing adventure, but not without rewards, for although there have been times of danger, drama and tension, there have also been moments of blissful delight and of amazing beauty.

By comparison, my forthcoming adventure aboard ‘Ladybird’ will be less hazardous and less stressful; in fact the plan is to have a pleasurable experience as I once again explore the coastline, anchorages, ports, resorts and marinas of the South Coast of England. If gauged by past experiences, my time will be exciting and there will be an element of danger, but driving my car on the congested roads of Essex, must be far more dangerous. Careful risk assessment can minimize the dangers, and mostly any activity on the yacht can be thought through in advance before being carried out. The limiting factor these days is having less agility than I had in my youth because of my age. I am less fit and less strong than I was at my prime. Mishap, because of carelessness, tiredness or because of being overwhelmed by the sea and adverse weather is the thing most feared. Therefore, in terms of Don McIntyre’s definition, my forthcoming cruise will be adventurous, because the outcome is unknown.

The plan is to spend the month of June working the boat towards the West and Southwest, and to do the return trip during July to the River Crouch. If the winds are favourable, getting as far as Exmouth, Dartmouth or even Plymouth may be possible. I have friends and relatives I wish to visit. Hopefully, we shall enjoy each other’s company and share our news.


Talisker Bounty Boat Website

Bounty Boat Blog

My Blog on the Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Round Britain and Ireland Race

'Shyauk' crossing the start line
Official Brochure 1974
A very young me, and my brother

The older one becomes, memories and reflections increase in importance and they can be benchmarks that rank alongside the realities of everyday life. When I learnt that the 12th Round Britain Race will take place this year, starting on Sunday, 6th June, my emotions were stirred. I was taken back in time to the Race of 1974 when my brother Frederick and I crossed the start line aboard ‘Shyauk’, a Wessex One Design to the lines of Philip Goode. Boats of 24’ and over were permitted to enter, providing the two man crew had completed a qualifying cruise, and the inspection committee was satisfied with the quality of the yacht and the competence of the crew. ‘Shyauk’ was originally 2” short, which meant I had to laminate a false stem, making her 24’ 1”.

The first Round Britain Race was sailed in 1966, and the second in 1970, and thereafter every four years. There was no chance whatsoever that ‘Shyauk’ would take any honours, because the trimarans, catamarans and giant monohulls like Robin Knox-Johnston’s 71’ ‘Ocean Spirit’ would be streets ahead. Knox-Johnston and his companion Leslie Williams came first with ‘Ocean Spirit’ in the 1970 race and Derek Kesall’s trimaran ‘Toria’ handsomely won the 1966 race in a time of 19 days, 17 hours and 23 minutes. This time included the compulsory stops of 48 hours at the end of each of the four ports of call.

The Race has traditionally been organised by the Royal Western Yacht Club of Plymouth, and according to their website there have been eleven previous races, which means two of them must have been inserted into the otherwise four year periods between races. The early ones were sponsored by the Observer newspaper organization. This year’s race has the title, ‘Shetland Round Britain and Northern Ireland 2010, since it is being sponsored by the Shetland Islands Council.

The rules of the Race have changed somewhat since its inception, but the clockwise course remains the same: Plymouth to Crosshaven, thence to Castlebay, Lerwick, Lowestoft and back to Plymouth. Boats now have to be between 30’ and 50’ in length. Over 50 of them are set to start, including 8 multihulls and 10 Class 40 yachts.

A number of participants interest me such as Mary Falk, Katie Miller and Will Claxton. Sixty-three year old Mary is sailing with Jerry Freeman. She has already completed five Round Britain Races. A survivor of cancer, she is raising money for Cancer Research, and to date she has raised over £96,000. This time she is hoping to reach her goal of £100,000. Katie represents the younger generation and she will be the youngest female to have entered the Race, but she is well qualified with a solo trans-Atlantic Race to her name. She’ll be aboard her ‘bluQube’, a Beneteau Figaro II, and her co-skipper will be Matthew Lingley who has raced dinghies, skiffs and catamarans, plus his own Dragon. Will Claxton is of interest because of his efforts at restoring ‘Paradox’, a 33’ Dazcat 10 trimaran with the express purpose of entering the Race. He has Matt Gill as co-skipper.


Shetland Round Britain and Northern Ireland 2010 Race

Mary Falk

Just Giving – Mary Falk for Cancer Research

Katie Miller

Will Claxton - ‘Paradox’ Dazcat 10 Trimaran

The Competitors

Shetland Marinas

‘Shyauk’ Observer Round Britain Race 1974

Friday, May 28, 2010

‘Moonraker’ - Dunkirk Little Ship

Yesterday, a flotilla of little ships that had taken part in the evacuation of allied troops from the Dunkirk beaches and Harbour in 1940 set out from Ramsgate to cross the Channel again. TV news footage of the flotilla caused me to recall a rather special little yacht that was once moored at Hullbridge; she was ‘Moonraker’, one of the little Dunkirk ships. When she was at Hullbridge in 1973 she belonged to a member of the Up River Yacht, of which I was also a member. ‘Moonraker’s’ owner was rightly proud of his yacht and kept her in a good state of repair. He would join club members on organised cruises and races. She did not point well, but when free she went like the clappers!

She was designed and built in 1911 by A, Burgoine of Kingston on Thames as a racing and pleasure yacht.

Curiosity led me to Google for ‘Moonraker’, and I came up with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships with a section that has statistics and photos of her. The article mentions that repairs were expected to take two years, and it was hoped she would participate in this year’s 70th celebration of remembrance of Operation Dynamo.

A good many years after being at Hullbridge during the early 1970s I saw ‘Moonraker’ in a state of disrepair at a Heybridge boatyard. I noticed slight hogging had taken place where her shrouds had exerted pressure on her splined planking. (Splines are thin pieces of wood inserted between the planks instead of caulking to make a boat watertight.) I owned a similar vessel which caused me no end of trouble, because the wood for the splines was different to the wood for the planking, which meant that the expansion and contraction of the woods caused the splines to move, particularly after being subjected to frost during a winter lay-up. Needless to say, she leaked badly, especially in a seaway.

The Independent’s website states that ‘Moonraker’s’ latest owner, Gerald Barlow, has been preparing for 10 years to take part in the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation. His little yacht has a gallant heart, and memories of her valiant service. She can rightly feel proud of her achievements and be grateful for the tender care that has been lavished upon her. Ninety-nine years young, she lives on.


Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Moonraker Association

Independent Article about Operation Dynamo

Yachting Monthly

Motor Boat

Yachting Monthly

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Solway Dory Shearwaters

All photos are from the Solway Dory Website - Link below.

An Internet friend of mine who is more fanatical about small boats than I am has just bought a second-hand Solway Dory Shearwater, which has focussed my mind on this class of sailing canoe.

To my eye, these decked canoes are very attractive, and with their easy-flowing lines they present little resistance to forward motion; hence they sail well. Their firm bilges amidships provide initial stability and their sharp bow with a slightly curved stem, cleaves the water effortlessly. They have an attractive varnished wooden leeboard fitted on their starboard side, and their single 5 square metre Bermudan sail can be furled around a metallic freestanding mast. For more stability they can be equipped with side floats attached to a cross-member. Their side decks are perfect for hiking when conditions warrant it. An experienced helmsman will play the gusts, rather than reef his sail. Steering is by a tiller extension attached to a transverse arm fitted to a kick-up wooden rudder. The general standard of finish is very good, and they have quality mouldings with substantial fittings for securing the deck hatches, the leeboard and the rudder.

Shearwaters are advertised as decked, expedition sailing canoes suitable for one or two people. Their length is 16’ and they have a beam of 3‘4”, which in my experience is rather too wide for efficient double-bladed paddling. The paddler has to be seated several inches above the waterline to use his double-bladed paddles, which increases windage. At 120 lbs rigged, without gear, a Shearwater is quite heavy for portaging. In this respect, handles at the bow and stern are useful. Carrying the boat overland may not be too difficult with a crew of two, and her folding two wheel trolley would make the job easier. Shearwaters have been proven suitable for expedition sailing. They can be car topped, and they will just fit into an average UK household garage. At £3,000 each, they represents good value for money, but a new owner must be prepared to pay another £300 if he wants the floats, and for a trolley he will have to fork out an additional £90. On top of that there will be a delivery charge, or arrangements will have to be made for collecting the package from Grange over Sands, which is between the Lake District Fells and Morecambe Bay.


Solway Dory Shearwater

Steve Robinson’s Blog

Solway Dory Home Page

Shearwater Fast Reaching

Shearwaters and Others at Windermere

Shearwaters on an Expedition around Jura

Grange over Sands

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Boat Electronics

The electrical apparatus on ‘Ladybird’ is not at all sophisticated. When I became her owner I tried her lights, none of which worked. The VHF was a load of coroded rubbish and her depth sounder did not work; in fact, the only bit of the electrical equipment that was any good was the battery. The combined fuse box and switch panel was sound, but the wiring linking it to the lights etc was useless. At least I knew I would have to set up my own system of internal wiring, which I did, but not to a professional standard, because I am no electrician. However, everything works, including the wiring for the newly installed solar panel, depth sounder and the Autohelm. It’s nice to know that if I have to do night sailing, the navigation lights are OK.

By comparison with my early boats back in the sixties, ‘Ladybird’ has lots of wires for various pieces of equipment including two GPS units, one laptop computer, two mobile phones, a battery charger for AA and AAA batteries, an inverter for changing 12 volts into 220 volts, a charger for a my Sony digital camera and earphones for my Sony Walkman. I also have an extension cable for a 12 volt cigar lighter fitting, an electric cable for plugging into the mains at marinas and a cable for the mains charger for the ship’s battery. I feel sure I haven’t mentioned them all. Oh, yes, the charger for the VHF radio.

The photo shows just some of the wires through which current will flow during my voyaging aboard ‘Ladybird’. It’s just as well that the ship’s battery is good and that I have deionised water for topping it up when the acid gets low. The Spectra Solar-Panel has been able supply all the current needed to date, but cruising will be different because of the constant need for electricity to power the GPS units and the Autohelm. In between, I shall require electricity to power my EEE PC laptop for blogging and emailing. If there’s enough juice to spare, I may even run my Sony Walkman, which will only need a little input from the laptop, because it is charged via a USB cable.

How did I manage in the early days without all of these electrical gadgets? My first cruiser had an oil lamp to illuminate her cabin and the ship’s battery was only used for the navigation lights. The auxiliary engine was cranked by hand, and the alternator generated electricity. Life was simple, because there was little to go wrong and little to maintain.


TCS Chandlery – Spectra Solar-Panel

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Boat Cruising Paraphernalia


The original meaning of the word ‘paraphernalia’ comes from the Latin ‘parapherna’, which is property apart from a dowry retained by a woman after her marriage; nowadays the word is used to describe miscellaneous articles, especially equipment needed for a particular activity.

Well, as the excitement builds because of my forthcoming departure aboard ‘Ladybird’ for her summer cruise, I’m sorting out paraphernalia that I shall or may need to help make my cruise safe and pleasurable. I’m always surprised each year when it comes to this time, how much ‘clobber’ I accumulate, a fair amount of which I seldom or never use. The photo above shows the sort of things I take, bit by bit to the yacht before the cruise begins.

The only essential items shown in the photo are my tools, in the black plastic box and a set of screwdrivers in the blue container. I could get away with not taking the unleaded petrol can, the 12 volt battery charger and the extension mains light, but why forfeit taking them if they could be useful? When the boat is at a marina, the ship’s battery can be topped-up by the charger and I can use the mains light at night. I am not convinced of the efficacy of the cylindrical radar reflector, but if I were to be caught out in fog, hoisting it up the mast may do something to make ‘Ladybird’ more visible on the radar screens of vessels in the vicinity. The very old, sun-bleached baseball cap could be useful; that’s if I happen to lose the other ones I already have aboard the boat. I’ve lost count of the number of caps that were once owned by me, which were taken by the wind or were knocked off my head by the boom into the sea. At least two of them I managed to retrieve, only for them to be consigned at a later date to Davy Jones’s locker, by courtesy of the wind.

I have a standard checklist for all essential gear and items required for cruising, but I won’t bore you with it. Every time I return after a cruise I look at the crumpled clothing I never used, but I like to play safe by having more than I think I shall need, just in case I take a ducking, or in some other situation my clothing becomes wet. Wearing wet clothes does nothing for morale. Keeping warm and dry, being well fed and having sufficient sleep, are factors that contribute towards a successful cruise; therefore it is essential to have effective clothing, nutritious food and a dry, comfortable bunk. Unlike ocean cruising, the coastal yachtsman can replenish his stores and get hold of things he may need.


Dave Bolduc’s Inventory List for ‘Little Cruiser’

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rory McDougall and ‘Cooking Fat’

'Cooking Fat'

Well, Rory McDougall made it along with the other eighty or so competitors, who crossed the start line of the Jester Challenge Trans-Atlantic Race at Plymouth on Sunday, 23rd May, 2010. Congratulations to all of them, but this article is about Rory who holds the record for sailing the smallest catamaran around the world. She’s a homebuilt Tiki 21 designed by James Wharram. More details of his circumnavigation can be found by copying the link* below and pasting it to your browser’s address bar.

Rory is asking people to support him by donating to the Sir Francis Chichester Trust for Devonian youngsters to give them opportunities for taking part in outward-bound courses. Donations should be made via the Just Giving Website.

You will be able to follow Rory's progress by visiting his Blog.

Just because he has sailed around the world in his small catamaran, that does not mean his passage across the North Atlantic will be a pushover. In addition to raising money for the Sir Francis Chichester Trust, his aim is hold the record for sailing the smallest multihull across the North Atlantic from east to west single-handed.


Rory McDougall

*‘Cooking Fat’ Rory McDougall’s Boat Website

Rory’s Blog

Jester Challenge

Just Giving – Francis Chichester Trust

Sir Francis Chichester Trust

My Blog about Rory

My Blog on the Jester Challenge

James Wharram Designs

Sunday, May 23, 2010

River Crouch Photos



Inner Crouch Buoy

Small Gaffer

Yacht with Spinnaker

Yesterday I had a very enjoyable sail on the River Crouch, and while on the water I had my Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W 110 camera at the ready. The wonderful thing about this sort of digital camera is that you don’t have to worry how many photos you take, because there’s always an inexhaustible memory on the storage card, or so it seems to me. The limiting factor is the battery charge, which means an eye has to be kept on the battery icon to check if the battery is running out of juice.

I was not disappointed with opportunities for taking photos, but if I had had a more sophisticated camera with a 10 or 12 times optical zoom I could have taken better shots with far more detail. This was apparent when it came to taking photographs of the seals basking in the sun on the spit of Foulness. I was able to sail ‘Ladybird’ to within 50 metres of them, which wasn’t close enough for my camera’s limited 4 times optical zoom to do the scene justice. Nevertheless, my photo clearly shows six very fat seals.

The photos give an indication of the perfection of the weather for sailing. There was just a light south-easterly for most of the time. When ‘Ladybird’ left her mooring around 1100, the tide was ebbing and the Optimist fleet was being supervised by volunteers in a rib. After a pleasant sojourn at anchor by the seals I made sail and idly let the flood tide and the gentle wind convey me and my boat towards Burnham. To the west of the Inner Crouch Buoy a modern small gaffer came close enough for my camera to take a reasonable photo of her; then a yacht with a colourful spinnaker overhauled ‘Ladybird’, presenting another opportunity for a snapshot.

By mid-afternoon there were many more sailing craft on the water than when had I set out, and this was not surprising, because surely it had been the finest day of the year. Summer had truly arrived. Indeed a distant cuckoo confirmed this to me by calling his repetitive notes.


International Optimists

River Crouch

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W 110

Saturday, May 22, 2010

At Buxey No 2

It’s Saturday 22nd May and the time is 1405 and I’m aboard ‘Ladybird’ at anchor, a cable or so from the Buxey No 2 Buoy to the north of Foulness Sand. I am with a gathering of yachts at anchor adjacent to the sandy spit where the seals await the incoming tide before hunting for fish.

My sail to windward during the morning and early afternoon was really enjoyable. Because the weather is perfect with a sea breeze of Force 1 from the southeast, a good number of yachts are out and about.

The photo is of the double-ender passing astern of ‘Ladybird’ on her way towards Burnham.

I’ll try uploading this from the anchorage here at Buxey. The other yachts that were with me have made sail and they are on their way back to Burnham with the first of the flood tide. I’ll be off too. Bye.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Preparing my EEE PC 2G Laptop for the Summer Cruise

Logitech Wireless Mouse and Dongle

In an effort to familiarize myself with my miniature laptop before taking it with me on my summer cruise aboard ‘Ladybird’, I’m practising using it by doing today’s Blog. I’ve mentioned before that I would be seeking a way to resize photos so that they would have less pixels, perhaps in the region of 2K. I’ve discovered how this can be done - simply by right-clicking the photo icon, then from the menu selecting ‘Resize Photo’, whereupon another popup appears giving size options.

Until now I’ve been using a wireless Microsoft mouse which I have been swapping between my main computer and the EEE PC, but this has been irksome, and there have been times when have I wanted to use both computers concurrently. A mouse pad on a laptop has never worked well for me; therefore I much prefer a separate mouse. This also gives me flexibility for operating the computer because I am not restricted by the length of my arm and fingers. To improve matters I bought a Logiteck M305 wireless mouse which works a treat with the EEE PC. An advantage of the Logitech over the Microsoft mouse is its very neat dongle that hardly protrudes from the USB slot. This means that I can leave the dongle inserted into the laptop, even when the laptop is in its protective bag.

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year, but today looks as though it could be hotter. There was not the faintest of winds during the morning; however, the sea breeze set in this afternoon. I’ve been wondering if the weather will be similar during June and July. I can hope for good weather and for enough wind for sailing. Only time will tell. There are another eleven days before I plan to set sail on my next great adventure, a cruise along the South Coast aboard my 19’ Seawych sloop. I’ll first have to cross the Thames Estuary before sailing around the eastern and southern coasts of Kent. One of my objectives will be visit places where I have not been before, such as Faversham and Rye. Whether I shall be able to do so, will depend on situations encountered along the way. Time will be a factor; but the most important element will be the wind. Without the right winds, I shall not be able to reach Exmouth, Torquay, or possibly Plymouth. I shall need a month to make it to the West Country via northern waters of the English Channel, and a month for returning to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex.

If that all goes satisfactorily, I intend to offer ‘Ladybird’ for sale in August. With the proceeds I shall hope to undertake a new project. I am not sure what form this will take, but I may attempt to build another boat.


Ladybird for Sale Website

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Jester Challenge 50th Anniversary

'Fluffy', John Margarson
'Palletine', Tony Van Hee
'Vaquero', Duncan Lougee

A fundamental characteristic of the Jester Challenge single-handed trans-Atlantic race is its Corinthian spirit; that’s the embodiment of the highest standards of amateur sportsmanship. There are no race sponsors and no specialist professional racing yachtsmen or yachtswomen taking part. There may be the odd professional who delivers yachts, but in this race the emphasis is on amateur participation. The competitors are not diehard racing fanatics who must win at all costs; rather the prevailing spirit is of a gathering of seafaring people who love the sea and small sailing boats. Although they are single-handing, the comradeship is tangible. There’s a kind of ‘brotherhood’ feel to the event. They are all in it together for personal reasons.

Individualism and diversity typify the makeup of the participants. Boats mirror the characters of the sailors and tell of something of their nature. Some are obviously richer than others, and their yachts tell the story, but a good many have skimped, saved and worked hard to prepare themselves and their boats for the challenge; for indeed, it is a challenge. Nowadays, single-handing across the Atlantic is commonplace, but in 1960 when ‘Blondie’ Hasler and Francis Chichester, along with a handful of adventurous sailors took on the challenge of a friendly race, very few had sailed across the Atlantic on their own.

Oceans do not change, apart from the ever increasing pollution caused by man; the BP catastrophe of the exploding oil platform in Gulf of Mexico is a prime example of man’s greed and negligence resulting in the destruction of the natural environment. However, in the main, the Oceans remain as they have for thousands of years; therefore the sailor has great respect for the power of the wind and the waves. These men and women who take on the Atlantic know full well that they could be tested to their limit of endurance. They will have prepared for storms, calms, headwinds, blazing sunshine, fog, seasickness and even serious illness. Self-sufficiency will be the order of the day.

On Sunday, 23rd May at 1300 BST, eighty or so sailors of different nationalities will cross the start line off Plymouth Breakwater to mark the 50th anniversary of that first friendly race.


My Blog – Jester Challenge 2010-05-20

Jester Challenge Web Site

Entry List for the Jester Challenge 2010

Bill Churchouse

Tribute to Mike Richey

An Excellent Blog at 70.8% - Jester Challenge Preview

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another One of those Days

Model Proa
Racing Buoy
RS Elite at her mooring

You get them don’t you? Today has been horrendous. Guess what I’ve been trying to do; I’ve been doing everything in my power to install an anti-virus application on my EEE PC 2G. At long last, after hours of frustrating glitches, I’ve succeeded, probably more by luck than purpose.

At least, now I have a viable miniature laptop which is very suitable for use aboard ‘Ladybird’. One thing remains to be done, and that’s to find a way of reducing the size of photos so that they have less pixels. I downloaded a small Windows application for reducing the size of photos to 640 x 480, but for some reason it will not work. I’ll persevere, because uploading large images to my Blog will take time; besides, I doubt many of you will want to open large-scale photos - that’s if you click on the photos for detailed viewing.

Today, as it’s been very busy for me, I’ll just leave you with a few photos, all sized at 640 x 480 pixels.

One photo is of a model Sri Lankan proa, the sort offered to holiday makers. I bought the model as a memento of my holiday there and as a reminder of the real life proa I sailed on. Another photo is of a racing buoy on the north side of the River Crouch, opposite the entrance of the River Roach, and the third photo is of a RS Elite Keelboat at her Burnham mooring.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Frustrations of Mobile Broadband

EEE PC with Home Page Jessica Watson
BBC Weather Map
XC UK Wind Map

I originally started this post with a gripe about the T-Mobile Black 120 dongle I recently bought. The thing just didn’t seem to work, but after reading a forum page which I’ve labelled ‘More Bad Reviews’ in the Links section below, I tried changing the Settings for the Dongle, and to my surprise, pages started loading at a very reasonable speed. I could even get the BBC Weather Maps with their sequence pages. Even more astonishing I found YouTube videos worked well. Maybe the Dongle is not as bad as I thought? I’ll reserve my final judgment until trying it for a few more days.

Here’s my original gripe:

I bought a T-Mobile Black 120 USB Stick for my ultra-portable EEE PC Windows laptop and despite trying it at various locations I’ve only twice been successful at downloading web pages, and these appeared at an agonisingly slow pace. I’ve tried it in town centres and the open countryside with the same abysmal results. I’m perplexed when I read enthusiastic reviews of the device online, because that has not been my experience, but I still cling to the hope that the dongle will achieve better results during my cruise with ‘Ladybird’.

The system is supposed to work on 3G at fast speeds. Take this article as an example which claims the Stick has been designed, "to give you a stronger signal in those hard to reach places.”

By way of assurance, the comment also adds that the Stick has a slot for an external antenna boost as well! The blurb makes it all sound so easy, “Simply plug in your USB Stick for easy access to your favourite websites,” and, “with speeds up to 3.6Mbps. "Well, you could fool me!”

I wish I had read two reviews at Amazon CO UK before buying the Black 120. Here they are verbatim:

“i bought this as a in between at sorting out my broadband, and even though i have a full signal,
i have to refresh the page 9/10 times had the 3 version a year or so ago, and i thought that wasn't very good but this is worse ,
luckily i didn't join them on a contract !”

“It's almost impossible to get a signal on this thing on any train journey, whereas my O2 mobile works 80-90% of the time.
But the real disaster is the software. After about 2 days it started disappearing a couple of seconds after starting it so I couldn't use the dongle. Unfortunately the Uninstall option doesn't work which means it refuses to reinstall and the Repair option doesn't seem to do anything. The whole thing now just complains that files are missing, while leaving lots of crap lying around. No number of reboots makes any difference.

I have checked the ZTE website (the equally unpromising site you get diverted to) and as far as I can see I have the latest version.

I now have a load of crap on my laptop and in my registry which doesn't work and which I'm going to have to try to get rid of manually. I haven't seen software this bad for some years now. It shouldn't be let anywhere near a computer.

I simply don't have any more time on to waste on this at the moment and am going to have to throw the whole lot in the bin.”


Amazon Co Uk Ratings as above

More Bad Reviews

BBC Weather Maps

UK Wind Maps

Monday, May 17, 2010

Comparisons between Peter Bray’s Ocean-going Kayak and Greg Kolodziejzyk’s Pedal-driven Vessel.

Sometimes we try to reinvent the wheel, and I think the meaning of this saying can be applied to some of those who design vessels for crossing oceans. There have been very successful yachts that have circumnavigated the Globe, such as Jessica Watson’s ‘Ella’s Pink Lady’. Her yacht was a Sparkman and Stephens 34, which has been well proven for her sea keeping qualities and robustness.

Greg Kolodziejzyk has been working on a project* for a couple of years with the aim of pedalling his unique propeller, human-powered canoe from Vancouver to Hawaii, starting in June, but he has run into difficulties because of problems with his boat. She was custom-designed for the 4500 kilometre voyage, but she has not performed as Greg had expected. Surprisingly, he had a previous prototype built and tested. She was smaller and differed from his newest boat. In several respects she was more successful in rough conditions, but she was too small. Greg needed more space for his physical comfort and for carrying the equipment and the provisions he felt were necessary. Comparisons of the two boats reveal differences, the biggest one being that the earlier prototype was rounded in form, whereas the larger newer boat was slab-sided and flat bottomed. The early prototype had external floats that could be deployed for extra stability.

I am a little perplexed why Greg did not insist on his second boat being more like the first - in view of her success. It seems to me the designer of his first boat had invented a pretty good wheel, but Greg wanted a better one which so far has eluded him.

The other thing that surprised me was that the designer of Greg’s latest boat, ‘Within’, could possibly have incorporated features of successful similar vessels into his design. I’m thinking in particular of Peter Bray’s kayak which was fitted with a small cabin. He paddled her 3,200 miles across the Atlantic. Rob Feloy was her designer, and Kirton Kayaks built her.

Notably, there are similarities between Peter’s kayak and Greg’s first prototype. Both vessels are rounded in form and each of them has moderate rocker. A big difference between them is the keel built into Peter’s kayak. I believe this keel was ballasted with water, and it may have been part of a pumped water system designed for righting the kayak in the event of her being capsized.

If another kayaker wants to cross an ocean, he would do well to examine Peter Bray’s very successful kayak and base his boat on Peter’s.

Improving a wheel may be possible, but reinventing it is not possible.

* Greg's Project:


Greg Kolodziejzyk

Peter Bray Links

Peter Bray’s Book ‘Kayak across the Atlantic’

Kirton Kayaks

Jessica Watson

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sailing ‘Ladybird’

'RSC Maximus' came close to 'Laybird's' mooring. (See link below)
RS Elite Keelboat

Saturday, 15th May, 2010

As I type this, ‘Ladybird‘ is at her mooring. I can hear the chuckling of water running past her hull, and the rustling of nearby sails. A fleet of racing Dragons is beating up the River Crouch against the ebbing tide. Now and again I hear the firing of a cannon when a yacht crosses the finishing line of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. RS Elite keelboats swish by, their skippers risking all in shallow water to avoid the current. Further up the River, Squibs with their distinctive tanned sails are in friendly combat, while their crews do their best to outperform the others.

This morning and into the early afternoon I had an enjoyable sail. Firstly I sailed ’Ladybird’ against the incoming tide to a point well beyond the entrance of the River Roach, and after lunch I tacked back up the River. Zigzagging through the Burnham trots I went as far as the Crouch Yacht Club. There, as the wind was very light, I started the engine to help ’Ladybird’ return to her mooring.

Back at the mooring I tidied the yacht, then I set up my small EEE PC laptop to test it, including charging its battery by using a 12 volt inverter that transforms 12 volts into 220 volts. Unfortunately I was unable to connect the laptop to the Internet, because I had foolishly forgotten to take the T-Moble dongle. Later, when I arrived home, I tried uploading my article by using the dongle, but the signal was too weak, which left me with no alternative, except to transfer it to my main computer for posting to my Blog.


The inverter/converter for stepping up the current from 12 volts to 220 volts has the trade name ‘Follow-on’, made in China. I obtained it via Ebay.


RS Elite Keelboat

RSC Maximus

Royal Corinthian Yacht Club

Crouch Yacht Club

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Greg Kolodziejzyk’s Pacific Ocean Aspirations


Thousands of people have been following Greg’s preparations for pedalling his unique vessel ‘Within’ from Vancouver to Hawaii. She is a specially designed canoe-like vessel which is driven by a human powered propeller. In a previous article* I wrote at length about Greg’s ambition to be the first man to pedal solo across that stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Things have not gone well for him. He has run into all sorts of problems which are unlikely to be resolved before June, when he had planned to set off. Mostly the problems are with his boat. She has a very bad characteristic of rolling when running downwind and when the wind increases to about 30 knots she turns broadside to the waves. Greg can power her out of that situation, but it takes a lot of effort. Another shortfall of the vessel is her windage, which causes her to heel when the wind is from the side which makes paddling difficult. To counteract the heeling, Greg mounted the ship’s batteries on an eclectically driven shunt which runs athwart the boat, but if there’s a sudden wind shift, the weight of the batteries can make the boat heel to the extent that if a side port is open, water can enter the cabin.

Despite modifying the rudder to help steer the boat better when she is broadside on to the waves and to keep her on course when running downwind, plus her movable ballast, these modifications have not eliminated her bad traits. Additionally, Greg confesses he needs more ocean-going experience with his boat. He is worried that he will not be able to deploy her sea anchor in rough weather because of the vessel’s instability when he stands up, which is necessary for setting and retrieving the sea anchor. If she were to roll over, he would be thrown into the sea and water would enter the open hatch.

Having considered all of these things, he is pretty certain his attempt to pedal to Hawaii has to be postponed until next year, by which time he may have found solutions for making the project viable. His current support vessel will be available next year.

Understandably, Greg is extremely disappointed, and feels that he has let people down, i.e., those who have contributed to the venture and those who have been following his endeavours. Greg has kept himself extremely fit; so from that point of view and the enormous effort he has put into the project, he should feel fully justified. I don’t think he is the sort of person who will be put off by this setback, and I believe he will bounce back next year.

*Previous Article


Pedal the Ocean

Adventures of Greg

YouTube Video of Sea Trials

YouTube Video Tour of Within

My YouTube Playlist for Greg

SpiderTrax Tracking

Friday, May 14, 2010

EEE PC 4G Windows Laptop


Three days ago my new (second-hand) ultra-portable laptop was delivered by TNT to my doorstep. After playing around with the settings and installing an antivirus application, plus doing a defrag, I was fairly happy with what I had bid for at Ebay.

As I explained in a previous article* I wanted a Windows version of my EEE PC 2G Surf laptop, so that by using a Broadband USB dongle I would be able to access the Internet from my yacht.

The ultimate objective is to have a facility for uploading my ship’s log to my Blog. I also want to be able to upload photos taken with my Sony digital camera. In order to do the latter I had to find out if my new laptop was compatible with my Sony digital camera, and I’m relieved that it is.

The acid test is to give it a go, and if you are reading these words and you can see a photo of my EEE PC Netbook, then I have been successful.

One thing I miss with the miniature laptop is a photo application that allows me to resize photos. On this occasion, so that you don’t have to open a 2.3MB photo, I have trimmed it down by using the Microsoft Photo Editor which is installed on my main computer. Making photos smaller on the EEE PC will be a problem unless I can install a similar editor for reducing their size. Maybe there’s a facility on my camera that will allow me to take photos with less pixels?**

Meanwhile, please accept this as a ‘test’ entry for when I come to upload my ship’s log on a daily basis during June and July.

** I have discovered there is, but these photos come out at about 1MB which is still hefty. Two or three KB would be ideal. My Nokia E71 mobile phone has a camera which takes pictures with less pixels; however, the installation of the Nokia Suite that links the phone to the laptop is very consuming of the limited space there is on the 8GB hard drive; therefore I would be reluctant to install it.


*Previous Article

EEE PC Website

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alessandro di Benedetto Again


This is one of those rare occasions when I have insufficient time to make a considered entry to my daily Blog. I have worked hard at trying to establish contact with my newly acquired EEE PC Ultra-portable Laptop, but the network coverage where I live has not allowed me to do so.

Therefore I’ll use my main computer to leave a few links about Alesandro di Benedetto taken from a previous article.

As far as I understand it, this remarkable sailor continues his circumnavigation under jury-rig and he is somewhere off the coast of Brazil making northwards on the home leg towards Sable d’Olonne after more than six months at sea.


Alessandro di Benedetto

My Previous Article

Transat 650 Org.

World Speed Record Sailing Council

International Sailing Federation

Findomestic Bank, Sponsor of Alessandro

A Mention of Alessandro di Benedetto in this Blog

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seedling Endeavours


When are the seeds of endeavour planted? Could they be formed at a very early age, perhaps before we have any consciousness of them? Even in his youth, David Cameron, because of his intense interest in politics, was given the nickname ‘Prime Minister’, and yesterday his cherished endeavour to be the top guy became a reality.

When did I first find any endeavour with boats? The earliest I can remember was at the age of seven. My friends and I pretended the fallen leaves of autumn were boats as they scurried down the rapids of flood-filled ditches beside country lanes. We watched their ‘voyages’ with great interest. Each of us was possessive of our adopted leaf and we took care to rescue it, if it came to grief by being washed up at the side of a ditch. The stranded vessel would be re-launched, and anxious seconds would pass as she was sucked into a whirlpool at the orifice of an underground drain. There would be shouts of jubilations if the leaf emerged from the dark tunnel to the light of day for continuing its rapid descent to the stream, and from there to the swollen river, and the raging sea.

In our imagination, matchsticks, matchboxes and corks were transformed into Indian canoes, pirate ships or tea clippers. We launched them into a nearby stream where we conducted pitched battles by bombarding them with stones in our efforts to sink them or move them on their way to gain advantage over our adversaries. When we grew older we built canvas canoes and sailed and paddled them on our local river for voyages of adventure. We saw trout, moorhens, ducks and kingfishers.

The excitement found then in boating adventures remains with me to this day. My endeavours continue.

A few days ago I had the enormous privilege of sharing time with three of my young grandsons. They bubbled with glee as they were put aboard Grandad’s ‘new’ boat for adventurous sailing on the green sea of the front lawn. They wanted to know everything about the bouncy boat and they very quickly learnt which parts of her were the ‘bow’ and ‘stern’. In their imagination the oar pins became throttle controls for making ‘their’ speedboat go faster or slower. They jumped into the waving green sea and swam with the dolphins, ducks, swans, turtles and hippopotami! Meanwhile Grandpa joined in and was lost in wonder, planning new endeavours with them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mike Perham, Jessica Watson, Abby Sunderland and Laura Dekker


As 16 year old Jessica Watson approaches Sydney Harbour near the end of her circumnavigation of the world, Abby Sunderland is halfway around the world at Cape Town and Laura Dekker will set off in September on her attempt at being the youngest to complete a circumnavigation.

Last year Laura was prevented from setting sail by the Dutch Authorities on the grounds that she was too young, but she has now acquired a larger yacht and she has overcome the bureaucracy that was preventing her from embarking on her voyage. Recently after fitting out her yacht, a 38’ Jeanneau Ginfizz ketch, she started conducting sea trials.

Currently the English lad Mike Perham holds the record for being the youngest person to sail around the world single-handed, but it looks as though Jessica will take his crown when she arrives in Sydney in a couple of days time. Mike was 17 years, 5 months and 11 days old when he completed his circumnavigation, whereas Jessica will be 16 years, and 11 months. Laura was born on 20th September, 1995; therefore she is aged 14 years, 6 months and 20 days (as I write). If Abby Sunderland succeeds in her attempt at being the youngest circumnavigator, Laura will need to complete her voyage before July, 2012, which gives her 2 years and 2 months to do it. Abby Sunderland was born on 19th October, 1993, which means she’s 16 ½ years; therefore she’ll have to finish her circumnavigation within 5 months to steal the record from Jessica., but the older girl will retain her record for being the youngest to sail around the world without stopping and without direct assistance.

What is it that motivates these young people to undertake such difficult and dangerous ventures? I would suggest with all four of them they want to prove that despite the odds being against them, they can accomplish something that was previously thought to be impossible for people of their age to do.


Mike Perham’s Website

Jessica Watson

Abby Sunderland’s Blog

Laura Dekker

Laura Dekker Video

Laura Dekker Wikipedia

My Previous Blog about Laura

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sri Lankan Proas

Just arrived at beach
View showing leeboards
High and Dry
Fishing Fleet

My old web site contained hundreds of photos of sailing boats, including the ones shown here of Sri Lankan proas.

A few years ago my wife and I visited Negombo, which is not far from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. We had a mixed bag of experiences. Some of them were enjoyable, but others were far from pleasant. Perhaps our most exciting experience was when we sailed on a local proa. This graceful craft was about 30 feet in length and she had a beam of approximately 25 feet. She only drew 1’ 6”, but instead of being hollowed out from a tree, as were most of the local boats, she was made from fibreglass. I cannot remember seeing any ballast aboard her to compensate for being lighter than her more traditional sisters. Like the others, she was equipped with three leeboards, which were all on her leeward side. Her outrigger was kept to windward, which meant she had to be shunted before moving off on a new tack. This was a very slow manoeuvre, because the entire sail had to be reversed, so that the luff was taken from one end of the boat to the other. Likewise her sheet had to be led from the opposite end. Her fore and aft leeboards were really pivoting rudders which were held in place with lashings. When they were being used as rudders, the helmsman attached a short tiller to the top of them. The crew moved the middle leeboard fore and aft until the boat was properly balanced.

The majority of these vessels were used for shrimping and for general fishing. When my wife and I stayed at Brown’s Beach Hotel three were kept on the foreshore. I was impressed with the skill of the sailors who managed these exceedingly fast boats and I was privileged to be allowed to take the helm on two occasions.