Tuesday, November 30, 2010



For the past few days here in Essex, England, we’ve been gloating at the plight of less fortunate people who live in the North, particularly Northumbria, where the snow has been falling almost continuously to cloak the land with a three-foot layer of countless billions of flaky white crystals. Even to the South, in Kent, there has been a generous sprinkling of the Ice Fairy’s powder. We thought we would escape, but last night the Fairy cast her spell, so that a good six inches of crispy white snow settled on the ground.

When I woke up and pulled back the curtains I was surprised to see such a wonderful scene. The back garden had been transformed from being an autumnal grotto into an arctic fairyland of sparkling, shimmering brightness. Tiny white flakes fluttering to the ground enhanced the beauty of the vision by defining depth and adding movement. Like a child who had never seen snow before, my heart beat faster at the sheer wonder of it all.

Well, you may think I’ve gone over the top, and you wouldn’t be far wrong! In fact, my heart groaned, because I had to travel ten miles by car to my daughter’s place, and afterwards make the return journey. I knew there would be chaos on the roads. Instead of taking twenty minutes to get there, I patiently drove at a snail’s pace for over an hour, while being careful not to let the car skid off the road or prang another vehicle.

I was consoled by reminding myself that I wouldn’t have been able to do any boatbuilding, not just because it was too cold, but because I had the pleasure of being with the grandchildren. The whole exercise was truly worthwhile.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memory Loss

Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’

This is what it must be like when you are completely out of your mind, and you cannot recall what you did five minutes ago.

I’ve being doing a series on the logs of ‘Micro’, and yesterday I published ‘Micro’s’ Cruises No 6 – Holy Island Part 1. I had forgotten that I had already uploaded articles about this particular cruise between February 4th and 9th!! I therefore apologise for my memory loss, and in due time, I’ll publish Cruise No 7.

For those who are astute, you will notice minor differences between the accounts given of Holy Island Part 1, which is about my journey by road from Essex to Holy Island, the Island itself and the launching of ‘Micro’. The reason for the textural changes is because whenever I present items that were previously published on my Small Sailboats Website I try to improve them. When I re-examine some of the stuff I published at Small Sailboats I am seldom satisfied with it - I’m even embarrassed by a few things, not because of the content, but because of the bungling English.

Despite the difficulties I have with expressing myself verbally, I’ll continue persevering at improving my writing. For me, it is a challenge, and part of the process of learning which we do throughout our lives. Those who are articulate when young have a headlong start. They are the highfliers who leave the others behind. Literacy and numeracy are prerequisites to their success.

When I was at school I had great difficulty with reading and writing, and I now know that I suffered from dyslexia, but at that time there were no specialist teachers or therapists who could identify the problem; indeed, the condition was unheard of. I felt inadequate and I believed I was a dunce, but there were subjects at which I excelled, art and science in particular. These were the subjects that gave me hope, and it was through them that my verbal skills were improved by use of the nomenclature required to articulate them.

Now I’m getting to the stage when I suffer with ‘senior moments’, which is tremendously embarrassing, especially when I freeze in mid-sentence, because the word I want eludes me. I hope that I do not regress too rapidly until I am categorised as one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


Alzheimer’s Disease

Sunday, November 28, 2010

‘Micro’s’ Cruises No 6 - Holy Island Part 1

This map is reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey

Day one

Why go?

When I think of Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, I conjure up pictures in my mind of times long ago. The Island has the remains of an ancient abbey, and its 16th century castle which is situated upon a volcanic mount overlooking a natural harbour, is as imposing now, as it was when first built.

Abbey Ruins

In the 7th century, Benedictine monks established a priory at the southern end of the Island. There they would have found peace and solitude on this outcrop of rock that is cut off by the tide twice daily. Even now, things have hardly changed - apart from the intermittent bustle of summer visitors, intrigued by the Island's history.

Before the tide covers the causeway, day visitors make their escape, so as not to be trapped until the tide recedes again. Their curiosity satisfied, they leave with their impressions of the place and perhaps a trinket or two, a craft item or a booklet to remind them of their short stay. Things were different with me, as I was camping aboard 'Micro' while participating in a DCA rally. I had time to explore the Island and to soak up the atmosphere. Unknown to me, I was to receive a unique, personal experience that could only have taken place at that time.

As a young man I had wanted to visit the Island with canoeing friends. We planned to use it as a base for a short expedition to the Farne Islands. They are a small basalt archipelago situated in the North Sea, six miles to the southeast of Lindesfarne. These rocks are a natural bastion that defies the ravages of the stormy sea, and they are a sanctuary for grey seals and their pups. My ambition was never fulfilled through lack of funds and other demands that were more important.

Many years later I sold a yacht to a gentleman who lived near Perterhead. Part of the deal was to help him deliver his yacht from Southend-on-Sea to Peterhead. Because the yacht would pass close to the Farne Islands, I believed my chance of seeing them and Holy Island had at last arrived, but it was not to be. At the time, they were hidden by dense fog. Although we had an efficient GPS, we deemed it unwise to venture close, on the chance that we might be able to see them. Prudence determined we should continue on our northerly heading and give the Islands a miss.

Journey to Holy Island

More recently, when I read about the Dinghy Cruising Association's Holy Island Rally, I decided to take part with 'Micro', providing she had not been sold, and if the weather was satisfactory. Both criterions were met, and on Thursday the 30th May 2002, I set off, towing the boat behind my faithful Ford Sierra. We dodged dense and dangerous traffic and covered a distance of 327 miles. (My conscience was scarred because of the pollution caused by my car’s exhaust, but I was consoled a little, because the car ran on unleaded petrol. How could I proudly fly my Micro Sailboat Club pennant after such a blatant disregard of what its members cherish - a respect for the preservation of the environment? Ambition and self-satisfaction had shamefully triumphed over ideology, and my weak commitment to the tenants of eco-evangelists. Instead of minimising pollution I added to it!)

Heavy showers caused rainwater to collect in the boat’s cockpit, and unknown to me it managed to seep into the compartment under the foredeck. There I had stowed my clothing and sleeping gear. Fortunately, very little water had seeped into the plastic holdall that contained my sleeping bag, and I dried my wet shirts by leaving them overnight in the car.

By arriving at the Island's causeway before 1600 I had ample time to cross it before the rising tide would prevent me from doing so. High water, being three hours later, made it ideal for launching the boat at the fishermen's slipway. However, when I came to do it, there was a fairly heavy swell. The situation required me to use a length of rope between the boat and trailer. My usual method of launching ‘Micro’ was to back the car until its rear wheels were about to enter the water, but on that occasion the exhaust pipe would have been flooded, possibly causing the engine to stop.

We made it

As I was launching the boat, several American tourists were at the slipway. They were waiting for the small boat that would take them back to their cruise ship which was anchored offshore. One of them was intrigued with what I was doing. He offered to hold the painter until I had parked the trailer; then he observed, in a Californian drawl, how cold the wind was, and remarked that only a Brit would wear shorts on such a day. I politely explained that I was wearing shorts to avoid getting my jeans wet, and as I suffered with Reynolds Syndrome, shorts would be my last choice.


Soon, 'Micro' was high and dry on a nearby sandy beach. The tide was on the ebb, and I was snugly ensconced in my sleeping bag. The rain pelted down and the wind pummelled the tent, but I was safe. I was amazed at what had been accomplished since I woke early that morning. I found it difficult to take in that my home was over three hundred miles away. If I had sailed there aboard one of my yachts, it would have taken at least four full days.

(To be continued.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

‘Micro’s’ Cruises No 5 Perfect Cruise Part 3

'Micro' reefed

I prepared for the night by unrolling the self-inflating mattress, laying out the sleeping bag and placing the torch to the right-hand side, where my hand would naturally find it. I unzipped the bag and snuggled inside. As I lay there, I heard the sound of a yacht’s engine. She came closer and closer. Had her skipper seen ‘Micro’? At that moment I regretted not having an anchor light. I tried to justify myself by reasoning that my boat was only a stone's throw from the bank - who else would want to anchor there? Slightly anxious, I tried to imagine how I would extricate myself from the tent if the boat were to be run down.

With some relief, I realized the yacht was in the middle of the river, but then, from remarks made by her crew, I knew for sure they were about to anchor. A very dominant male skipper started bawling commands.

"Let it go now!" he loudly shouted, so that his voice could be heard above the throbbing of the engine. There was no easing of the throttle. The yacht continued on her course. "How much has gone?" he enquired.

"Blowed if I know!" was the reply.

"Better stop it there."

"How do I do that?" a crew member asked.

"Wrap it around the cleat!"

I was waiting for a cry of anguish as fingers were crushed between chain and cleat, but it never came, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

The engine stopped, and there was silence. Navigation lights were turned off, and a riding light replaced them. I had not been impressed by their manoeuvres, because the yacht had been driven beyond her anchor, so that she came up on her chain. This could have damaged her hull, and it seemed to me that they had not paid out enough warp to allow for a rise of six metres.

The next morning ‘Micro’s’ tent was damp - inside and out; inside, because of condensation from my breathing overnight, and outside, because of the heavy dew.

Retrieving my anchor was fun. A quantity of that dark, green floating weed, with small balloon-like chambers, had wrapped itself around the warp. The easiest way for me to remove the Bladder Wrack was to haul the rope over the quarter and unravel the weed bit by bit. As I did this, I fed the rope into the ship’s bucket. During the procedure, 'Micro' more or less remained stationary between opposing wind and tide. Finally, I cleaned the anchor by using a small scrubbing brush before placing the anchor with the rope in the bucket which I stowed in the forward locker.

I hoisted the jib and let it slightly draw to make way; then I set the main, making sure it had a good shape by first tensioning the throat halyard, then the peak halyard.

Thereupon, I adjusted the sheets and headed for the Branklet Spit Buoy. As I did so, I instinctively sniffed the air, because my olfactory nerves had sensed the smell of burnt stubble, which made me want to sneeze. The burning of stubble is illegal in England, but some farmers ignore the law and deliberately set fire to what remains of their crops after harvesting them. Towering billows of black smoke rise into the atmosphere, carrying large quantities of ash particles which are taken by the wind; sometimes they travel great distances before they settle, wherever that may be.

As I suspected would happen, the yacht which had arrived in the early hours of the night, had not been given sufficient scope for her anchor, causing it to brake out on the rising tide. Their yacht had drifted up river until taking hold on a shallow patch. Her crew would have been unaware of the happening. Fortunately, they came to no harm. The Cornish Shrimper that had anchored astern of ‘Micro’ was nowhere to be seen. I can only assume she must have made an early start, to take full advantage of the ebb.

Having made it over the first of the flood tide into the River Roach, on entering the Crouch, I steered a course towards Burnham. I was thankful that I was not sailing in the opposite direction, because of the piercingly bright sun that turned the waves into reflective liquid gold.

The River was mine. I was there alone. No other person was sharing that moment of nature's glory. ‘Micro’ creamed along; her white bow wave curled outwards like Father Time’s moustache, and thousands of rainbow bubbles were left in her wake. The blue sky contrasted with the dark brown of the weed-covered river bank that rushed by at an extraordinary rate. It seemed that the boat was standing still, while the world whirled towards the sun.

Oh, what joy! There was enough wind for me to sit comfortably on the port deck while playing the sails and feeling the boat through her tiller. She and I were joined together in harmony with the mechanics of countless molecules of water and air. We were integral within the formula of moving equilibrium. What a delightful sensation it was ............... the feel and balance of four dimensions; space combined with movement - far better than flying a kite, by far - even a modern stunt kite.

Just before midday, I arrived at Fambridge, and picked up a mooring. There I made coffee, relaxed, and watched the comings and goings of other waterborne craft.

Having the opportunity of perfect conditions, I played around with a few things, including adjusting the peak halyard which had taken to jamming when the sail was being lowered. I didn’t resolve the issue there and then. Later, when entering the moorings between Brandy Hole and Hullbridge, the halyard jammed again, and as the wind had increased to a Force 3, the task of getting the sail down was a bit tricky.

I had left Fambridge about 1300, so that I would have ample time for rowing a mile or so through the moorings to Hullbridge so as to arrive there well before high water at 1500.

'Would you believe it?' The wizened gent wearing the Panama hat and smoking a cigar was where he had been when we left! This time he spoke not a single word.

My cruise had been about as perfect as they come. There was nothing I could have done to prevent the pollution I witnessed, including the brown smoke that came out of the ears of the silent witness, and I was happy that ‘Micro’s’ activity had caused little detriment to Mother Nature.

Friday, November 26, 2010

‘Micro’s’ Cruises No 5 Perfect Cruise Part 2

Micro-Sailboat Pennant

Action Shot

I wondered how many Micro-Sailboat pennants were flying throughout the world. I guessed there were very few, as there had been little response to the formation of the Micro-Sailboat Club for eco boat builders.

My conviction of the need for restraint in the use of nature's materials for boatbuilding, had spurred me on to produce the Micro-Sailboat Web site. It was a dream of mine to influence at least a few people to conserve natural resources and recycle wherever possible, but to persuade them to change their habits and their views; I knew that would be an uphill task. Usually something catastrophic has to happen before minds are focussed, but even with the world's climate under threat, because of man's abuse of nature, the majority of us are not concerned. A prime reason for our lack of concern is that we believe we shall not be victims of our own pillaging – we believe we shall not be directly affected - certainly not in our lifetime. We confirm that all is well with the world. Surely we can all breathe relatively fresh air, and in the Western World, we have access to clean drinking water. As far as we are concerned, there has been no catastrophe that has focussed our minds upon the dire situation.

As I pondered these things, I was taken with the peacefulness of the scene. ‘Micro’, my partially recycled sailboat, was tethered to her Bruce anchor. I felt comforted that her anchor was attached to three metres of galvanised chain and thirty metres of rope. This would be ‘our’ security during the night when the spring tide would lift the boat a full six metres. There, in the River Roach, we were almost entirely protected from what little wind there was. The sky was endless - a vacuous blue ether, save for a few wispy white vapours left by aeroplanes, polluters of the ozone.

On tuning into this apparent bliss, while listening to the almost imperceptible music of rippling water, I became aware of a distant drone of combined harvesters. If I cocked my ear skywards, I could hear the throb of plane engines, but, after a while, these intrusions no longer invaded my consciousness.

Dinner was easy to prepare. I simply boiled water for dehydrated mashed potato, and I used the same water for heating a vacuum-packed chicken curry. I then consumed the first course, which was followed by creamy Muller yoghurt, and a cup of decaffeinated, unsweetened coffee. Satisfied with my repast, I settled down to immerse myself in my favourite book, the Bible.

Shortly before nightfall, a Cornish Shrimper anchored astern of us. She was a couple of hundred yards downstream, and very close to a stony, weed-covered bank. I could smell that delicious, earthy 'pong' of mud and marine vegetation, so typical of East Coast Rivers. It was truly a relaxing elixir. I deeply inhaled the medicinal gases and felt invigorated. The time was 2100, at low water. As the dew was descending, I pulled back the tent to its full extent and made it fast, but kept the flaps open by their retaining cords. There was barely sufficient light to continue reading.

(To be continued.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 33

Hog and Inner Stem Post

The Hog Butt Joint comes aft of the Keel Box Support Frame.

Boatbuilding today was a bit like climbing the North Face of the Eiger! The gas heater conked out, leaving the temperature nearer to zero than the required fifteen degrees Celsius. Only this evening are my feet thawing out, despite the fact that I spent but an hour in the garage. During that time I tidied the bottom surfaces of the hog and stringers to make them smooth for receiving the bottom panels, which won’t be for a while – at least until I buy another canister of Butane gas for the heater. I also started preparing the deck support stringers. These will be set proud of the apex of the frames, so that I can shape them with an inverted ‘v’ section to support the deck side panels where they will meet longitudinally down the centre of the boat.

I can’t ascertain the exact length of the forward deck stringer until the keel box has been made, because the aft side of the pulley for the lifting keel Bowden cable which is sighted on the upper surface of the stringer, must be directly above the point where the Bowden cable emerges from the keel box. I can get a pretty good idea of where the pulley will go from measurements on the plan, but I want to be precise. The length of the aft deck stringer can be accurately assessed, as the building plan shows that it protrudes an inch forward of frame number three.

Incidentally, at least sixty-four climbers have died climbing the North Face of the Eiger, and after my failed attempt today, I’m around to tell the tale.


The Eiger

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 32

If you’ve been following this series on building Derek Munnion’s ‘Sharpy’, I trust you are finding it useful. The aim on my part is to provide information, mainly by way of photographs, for any person who may consider building such a boat.

I was attracted to ‘Sharpy’ because of her unique characteristic of being a keelboat that could be transported on the top of a car. I liked the concept of a decked sharpie in which I could sit facing forwards. The boat does not require me to sit her out, or perform gymnastics to keep her upright. She is perfect for someone who is not particularly agile or fit - all that is required of her crew, is that he should sit on a comfortable seat while steering the boat with his feet resting on a rudder bar. One hand controls the sheet, and the other is free. Raising or lowering the keel, is not taxing, because a tackle system reduces the effort required. Another attractive feature is the protection provided by the deck and coaming, which help keep the crew dry, except when the boat is being sailed in the most demanding conditions.

Thoughts of sailing ‘Sharpy’ spur me on, with the aim of finishing her in time for the summer season. Much will depend on me being able to have the metal parts made in time. To make major progress I shall need the pintles and the aluminium parts of the keel made fairly soon. Ideally the pintles should be bolted onto the transom before the stern deck is permanently attached. To find the exact measurements for the keel box, particularly the width of the slot, it would be preferable to have the keel made up, including the aluminium plates that sandwich the keel. The keel can then be measured to ascertain its precise thickness. There should be at least an eighth of an inch either side of the keel to allow for any irregularity of the keel or the box.

As I dream of sailing the new boat I continue working on her, and today I epoxied the hog and the stringers to the bottoms of the frames. Despite the cold weather, the heaters were more than a match, by raising the temperature to 17 degrees Celsius. I subsequently turned them down to conserve fuel and costs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 31

Some advertising must work, because I remember seeing the TESCO slogan, ‘Every little helps’, and as I worked on the boat during the afternoon, I kept repeating the slogan. Sad, isn’t it? But I cheered myself up thinking about it while I struggled to figure out how to build the keel box and where it would fit on the hog. I reasoned that even a little progress helps me along the way.

When building a boat it is necessary to think ahead so that sequencing can be set in order. I need to know the dimensions of the keel box and where it will fit, in order to fix structural ‘cheeks’ either side of the hog. These small pieces of wood must be the same thickness as the hog, and preferably made of identical wood - in my case Utile, which is a substitute for mahogany. Fortunately I have a short piece left over from when I made the hog. This will need to be accurately cut down the middle, lengthwise, so that the separate pieces can be epoxied either side of the hog to form ‘cheeks’. These ‘cheeks’ will have a dual function, i.e., to provide a platform for the keel box and to strengthen the hog where a slot is cut from its centre, through which the keel will pass.

I spent most of the afternoon finishing the stringers and the hog, including the backing pieces for the butt joints. This evening I epoxied them together in the corridor of my home. When I took a photo of what I had done, I noticed from it that the hog was not lined up at the joint, whereupon I adjusted the pieces and took another photo to check if it they were in line.

Well, I hope the epoxy sets, and that by tomorrow morning I shall be able to test fit the hog and stringers into the boat. The weather is getting increasingly colder, just as was forecast, and I am wondering if I’ll be able to heat the garage to a temperature that will be sufficiently warm for further epoxying of the hog and stringers so that they will become permanent parts of the supportive structure of the boat.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 30

Nothing is perfect, at least on this earth - in Heaven, yes! Meanwhile, I and countless millions have to settle for the reality of ‘now’, while we look forward to the new reality of the future.*

Well, what has this to do with boatbuilding? Certainly I can speak for myself. Over the years I have built small sailing boats - none of them perfect. I am flawed and imperfect; therefore I cannot expect to make the perfect boat, but that doesn’t stop me trying, while knowing I cannot achieve perfection. My work on the boat today substantiates this truth.

You would think that fitting a straight hog, and equally straight stringers for stiffening the floor of the boat, would be a simple matter.

Cutting notches in the frames for the hog went relatively well. I took great care to countersink the hog into every frame so that it did not stand proud or be inset more than it should have been. Shaping the tapered part at the bow, where it met the inner stem post, did not go according to plan, but the result was tolerable; because I’ll be able to infill the spaces either side with epoxy putty. The join at the transom was spot-on.

I made two incorrect measurements for fitting the stringers, but because I always double-check and often treble-check measurements before cutting and shaping components, I discovered the errors, and by so doing, I saved myself from remedial carpentry.

Derek Munnion, the designer of ‘Sharpy’, phoned me to advise where I should place the butt joint for the hog, which is made from two 8 foot pieces of planed Utile. The natural position for the joint is at the aft end of the piece that is fitted to the stem post. The other piece is butted to it, and it is held in place with an overlapping 9 inch length of identical timber. Because the joint comes where it does, it will be hidden from view under the helmsman’s seat.

My next job will be epoxying the hog and the stringers to the frames, and the transom. The weather forecast predicts a cold spell that will become colder towards the end of the week, which could mean that I may not be able to heat the garage to the required temperature for doing the epoxying. Time will tell.

*Revelation Chapter 21

Sunday, November 21, 2010

‘Micro’s’ Cruises No 5 Perfect Cruise Part 1

This map is reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey

Galley Box and Contents


How fortunate I am to have the River Crouch only five minutes from my home by car.

Monday, 20th August, 2001, found me launching 'Micro' at the Hullbridge public slipway. The time was 1430, and it was high water. A wizened, elderly gent, wearing a smart Panama hat, leaned on the iron railings overlooking the slipway. He seemed to look at everything I was doing, but at the same time his glazed eyes were motionless as if in a trance. The pungent aroma of his cigar almost rendered me unconscious, and, despite his kind words regarding the beauty of 'Micro', I wanted to be away. I had no desire to be stricken with cancer through the secondary inhalation of nicotine. In fact the smell made me feel quite nauseous. How could he do that to himself and others in his vicinity?

Minutes later, pollution free air in the form of a gentle Force 2 wafted 'Micro' down the River towards Brandy Hole. Her sails were goose-winged - the jib to port and the main to starboard. This experience contrasted with the previous one when ‘Micro’ sailed the same stretch of water. Then, the wind was against the tide, forcing me to row some distance before I found space beyond the moorings, where I could safely make sail.

The warm summer air transformed a scattering of grey clouds into fluffy balls, like cotton buds that melted away into nothingness, lost in blue space; to the southwest, the bright piercing sun in his glory put forth golden shafts, so bright and dazzling that I could not look towards them. By evening, the darkening sky was pristine clear, ready to welcome a dazzling array of twinkling stars.

My plan was to sail the ten or so miles to the River Roach, where I would spend the night anchored by the west bank, two cables beyond the Branklet Spit Buoy. I had been there many times, but each visit had brought new experiences because of the changing circumstance of weather and tide.

It was a higher spring tide than usual, with a range of six metres. ‘Micro’ was whisked along at a rate of knots by the favourable wind and ebb. Therefore, after a fast passage taking only two-and-a-half hours, I let go the anchor in the lee of the west bank.

My journey had been uneventful, which left my mind free for aimless dreaming, so that my body entered into automatic mode. I did not have to think of what I was doing. There was nothing to challenge me, or demand my attention. I confess that I have done this when driving my car, and when I arrived at my destination, I woke up and wondered how I had got there. I could hardly recollect things seen or things done en route. Because of the gravity of the situation, I'm ashamed to confess such happenings. As I have become older, I have made very conscious efforts to remain alert, when at the wheel.

But I do remember lying on the floorboard of 'Micro', with my legs raised, and my feet on the side decks; my head was propped on the aft coaming. In that reclined position I could keep an eye on the DCA pennant that gently fluttered at the masthead. I observed its yellow tail that contrasted with a dark blue background upon which there was a white triangle. I assumed the triangle represented a sail; the blue symbolised water, and the yellow stood for the sun. In second position of importance, I flew the Micro-Sailboat pennant from the starboard shroud. The upper dark green sector represented the land; the lower blue sector symbolized water, and the red tail stood for eco-friendliness – particularly on the part of the boatbuilding community and sailors of boats.

(To be continued.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 29

Chines after planing

Chines at bow

Frame 2 level with chine

Fitting aft section of the hog

I’ve had an absolutely brilliant time building ‘Sharpy’. This afternoon I planed the chine logs level with the frames and started fitting the aft section of the hog. Before I fitted the hog, I thought the lower edge of the transom would be proud by about an inch! But that was purely an optical illusion. After I cut the notches in frames three and four and inserted the hog, I could immediately see that Derek’s measurements were spot on, to 1/16 of an inch. Everything slotted in perfectly.

I shall need to fit the forward section of the hog and join both pieces. How to do this, I have yet to work out, and where the best place for the join will be. When they have been epoxied into position, the finished hog will help keep the boat symmetrical.

The next job will be inserting the side stringers that will stiffen the floor. After that I shall probably fit the fore and aft central deck supports, so that the boat will be absolutely rigid. At that stage the aft and forward floors can be cut to shape and epoxied into position. The aft section of the floor will be cut from a full length of a piece of plywood, so that the position of the butt join will be determined at 8 feet from the lower ‘v’ of the transom.

Building this boat is rather like building a Matt Layden Paradox, in that the sequence of building follows what has already been built. The frames and panels give the shape of the hull to which the hog and stringers are added, and so on.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 28

Rudder Stock in the making. When it is assembled, a Yoke will need to fitted.

Ready to be tidied before applying the bottom panels


When I built my Paradox, designed by Matt Layden, I could access loads of information about how to do it from the Internet, but I can’t do that to help me build ‘Sharpy’. As far as I know, only one ‘Sharpy’ had been built in her entirety, and she’s the original boat built by the designer, Derek Munnion. Mr Anonymous in the US is building the second one, and I am building the third. Derek is very accessible via the Internet or by telephone; therefore if I have any questions I can ask him. I can also ask Mr Anonymous.

There’s nothing quite so useful when building a new boat from plans as good photos, because the details can clearly be seen. That is one of the reasons I am posting photos to my Blog. They are there for anyone to see. By looking at what I have done, the prospective builder will be able to make a better informed decision as to whether he wants to go ahead, buy the plans and build the boat.

When starting on a venture of this kind, quite a few important decisions need to be made. The most important is, ‘Do I really want this boat?’ The second question is, ‘Do I have the resources, including the skills, to complete the project?’ The third question is, ‘Do I have the will to do it?’ If all of the questions are answered in the affirmative, then there’s nothing to stop you going ahead, but perhaps there’s one very important consideration to take into account before building the boat, and that’s where do you intend to sail her? You may be more interested in building the boat than sailing her, but in that case you may want to find a buyer, before you set about making the boat.

I intend to mostly sail ‘Sharpy’ on the River Crouch, where I think she will be admirably suited. The River has two prime launching sites; Hullbridge public slipway and the Burnham-on-Crouch Marina slipway, where there’s a small charge for day sailing. I shall also be able to sail her at several East Coast Rivers including the Thames estuary from Shoeburyness, or Leigh-on-Sea. Across the Thames there’s the whole of the Medway.

When I know what she is really capable of I may take her on more adventurous trips, but that may entail fitting her with hatches for the stowage of camping gear. In any case, without a doubt, she will be a very good boat to take camping at semi-static sites, by the sea, the Broads, the Lake District, even abroad, perhaps to the inland waters of Holland.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 27

The panels and frames are symmetrical - very pleased with the result

Frames three, four and the transom, fixed to the panels

Inner parts of the rudder stock being epoxed together

Well, I did more on the boat than I thought would be possible today. That was in part due to a very early morning start before breakfast when I was able to epoxy frame number one to the side panels and at the same time epoxy the inner stem post to the panels.

Unexpectedly, I found time in the afternoon to epoxy the transom and frames three and four to the side panels. This evening I joined the inner parts of the rudder stock to the port side piece and epoxied the inner area of the starboard side.

The purpose of the inner parts of the rudder stock is to provide an enclosure for the rudder blade where it can articulate on a spindle. There is also a channel for the bungee that keeps the rudder down when the boat is on the water. If the blade hits an underwater object, the bungee gives, so that the rudder can absorb the shock. A cord with a loop on the end is attached to the bungee which runs over a one inch pulley at the top of the rudder stock. To lower the rudder, the crew pulls the cord and attaches the loop to a hook on the aft deck by the coaming.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 26

Drawing the shapes

Rudder Stock pieces, except for two

Checking to make sure the blade will fit

It has been a very long day. I’ve spent 8 hours and 15 minutes working on the boat. Most of the time was taken up making parts for the rudder stock. I had to draw their shapes; then cut them out with a jigsaw and sand them.

The good news was that by having the heaters on full throttle, the temperature of the garage reached the required 15 degrees Celsius. That meant I could get on with epoxying the rudder stock parts and epoxying frame number 2 and the keel box support frame to the side panels.

That was good progress, without a doubt.

I have yet to epoxy other parts of the rudder stock to finish it, but I’ll first have to epoxy the inside where the rudder blade articulates, because I shall not be able to reach that part when the stock has been assembled.

Tomorrow, I would like to epoxy the remainder of the frames to the side panels, plus the inner stem post and the transom, but it remains to be seen whether that will be possible. I have other commitments that may prevent me from working on the boat.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 25

The Heaters

Halogen Heater with one burner on

Gas Heater with one burner on

Keel Support Frame with side and bottom cleats

As so often happens, I plan what I hope to do the next day, but things don’t turn out as planned. Therefore it was not unexpected that I would not make the stock for the kick-up rudder; instead I added cleats to the keel box support frame. These pieces of wood are necessary to strengthen the frame and to provide more surface area for the epoxy to do its work of permanently joining the frame to the side and bottom panels of the boat.

By the time I arrived home after being with my grandchildren, there wasn’t enough time before it would be dark to measure and cut out the bits and pieces for the rudder stock. It was more profitable for me to cut and join the cleats to the keel box support frame, especially as I was multi-tasking, by being online and insulating the outside tap from the expected frost tonight. I needed to do the epoxying in the kitchen before my wife would want it for preparing the evening meal.

In addition to the above, I wanted to sort out the heating for the garage. I needed to test the heaters to ascertain how long it would take them to bring the temperature up to the required 15 degrees Celsius for using epoxy. After one hour at the lowest settings, the heaters only managed to raise the temperature to 7 degrees Celsius. I have a feeling they will need to be on maximum output for about two hours to achieve the target, but I will leave that experiment for another day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 24

Keel Box Support Frame in place

Rudder Blade

Progress is progress! There are some days when you think you are making very little progress; today has been such a day for me. Things crop up that interfere with what you are doing. This morning I had the feeling that not much was being achieved, but when I look back on the whole day, far more was achieved than at first I thought would be the case.

As I had to go near the factory where I’m hoping the metal parts for ‘Sharpy’ will be made, I thought I would call in to check how far they had advanced with a quote. Over the past three weeks I’ve been badgering them in a restrained way to get a move on. In total I’ve made three phone calls, sent an email and I’ve been to the factory twice. I was promised a phone call by the end of today, but as has happened before, I did not receive one. I have my doubts if they want the job. If they don’t, why aren’t they straight with me? I could try elsewhere.

About midmorning I set about tidying the keel box support frame by filing and sanding the edges where epoxy had seeped out from between the lamination. Then I fixed it in place between the hull panels. All of the frames have now been made; they simply need to be epoxied to the side panels, along with the transom and inner stem post to make a rigid framework for the rest of the hull. The bottom and deck panels will be shaped accordingly.

I needed to order epoxy and a length of Douglas fir for the boom, so at mid-day I took a break from woodworking to go online.

After lunch I made the rudder blade. The more complicated bit to build is the rudder stock which houses the kick-up rudder. I may be able to start that tomorrow afternoon. The reason I am doing things piecemeal is because I have not yet sorted out the heating for the garage. Once that’s been done, I’ll be able to make real progress.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Micro’s Cruises No 4 - The Poole Harbour Rally Part 3

'Micro' from above

'Flying Pig'

Derek Milbourne, known as Jay, was the first person with whom I spoke. I noticed that the US flag, the Stars and Stripes, flew at the stern of his Dodnor Star Trekka trailer sailer. He informed me that he had dual nationality and, because he hated the numerous EEC edicts affecting small vessels, including his 'dinghy with a lid', he chose to register her under the American flag rather than the British one. That way, his boat was exempt from the regulations. She was festooned with multi-coloured flags and pennants. The one I liked best had the words, 'I love sailing', in dark purple lettering that stood out from a white background.

Chris Jenkins was the next person to greet me. His spotless pale blue Potter AX had great character and charm, besides being a very practical boat. She was admirably suitable for single-handing, and her cabin had more than enough space for one person to live aboard for days at a time. She was not too heavy for a solo crew to retrieve from the water or launch from a road trailer. Additionally, she could sail in shallow water and take the ground while remaining upright.

Chris and Doug invited me to raft beside their Wanderer, but I declined their offer, because I wanted to anchor my boat. Liz Baker knew the place well, and pointed to a safe spot where I might set my anchor. She also asked if I would like to take a line from her Cormorant before setting my anchor, so that I could have the option of setting it on the beach; in which case both boats could be moved there when required. I thanked her for her kind offer. In the end, I anchored ‘Micro’ independently to swing according to wind and tide.

Three more boats arrived, one after the other.

The first was designed and built by Keith Holdsworth. She was shorter and wider than 'Micro', and she had two masts; one was at her bow and the other at her transom. The boat's name was 'Flying Pig’. I thought she looked quite cute. The following day he enthusiastically explained how her folding metal bilge keels hinged sideways when her rudder touched bottom.

The second dinghy to arrive was a heavily reefed Mirror sailed by Dave Sumner. He beached her and made her level by placing fenders under her bilges. She had two fenders at the top of her mast, presumably for providing buoyancy in the event of capsize. I know from experience that Mirrors are notoriously difficult to right after capsizing. This is because they float high on their side and it is difficult for the crew to get a footing on the centreboard so that she can be righted.

Finally, Len Wingfield appeared on the scene with his Leader dinghy. He was perhaps the most experienced small boat sailor there. I had read several of his informative articles in the quarterly bulletins published by the Dinghy Cruising Association.

Soon after I had set ‘Micro’s’ anchor, Jay brought his Star Trekka alongside, and invited me to join him aboard his 'floating home'. I accepted his invitation. When I was safely aboard his boat he turned off the outboard. Slowly our boats drifted apart until Jay’s lay to her anchor.

For a full hour, in a smoke-filled cabin, we chatted about many things, including the complications of filming 'rush' shots on location. He told me a hair-raising tale about his experience aboard a large schooner when she rode out a Force 9 in the Bay of Biscay. He had done some pretty adventurous ocean cruising, including a crossing of the Pacific. Being a non-smoker, I was pleased when our conversation came to an end so that I could escape from the cabin and inhale fresh air again.

My return to ‘Micro’ brought disaster. Jay stationed his boat beside mine, and I foolishly leapt into her cockpit, with the result that I lost my balance and fell into the water! I quickly scrambled back aboard. I felt like burrowing my head in shame, but instead, I tried making a joke of it.

Meanwhile, my galley box, which had fallen into the water, was being carried away by the current. Jay tried to retrieve it. Inadvertently he ran the bow his boat over it, whereupon the box turned turtle and heavy objects such as the cooker and cutlery were swallowed up by the water to be lost in the mud below. Jay tried a second time to retrieve the box, but the bilge keels of his boat snagged ‘Micro’s’ anchor line. Somehow he managed to extricate his vessel by going astern without making the matter worse, which could have been the case, had the propeller become entangled with the anchor line.

Eventually, Keith Holdsworth rowed his boat to the disaster scene and retrieved my galley box. Thankfully, my digital watch continued to function, and miraculously, my wallet remained dry. I was grateful to those who had participated in the rescue mission.

The next morning, at low water, Len waded in deep mud to find my cutlery and saucepan lid. The only items that were lost for good were two lead weights that had become detached from the bottom of the cooker.

Later that evening, windblown clouds chased one another across a backdrop of twinkling stars and a crescent moon. I had a restless night, due to the shaking of the tent and wailing from the rigging of nearby yachts. I awoke early to find a grim grey morning punctuated with periodic heavy showers. In the dim light, ghostlike trees waved to and fro as the wind buffeted them.

I heard someone shout to another that the forecast was for a south-westerly wind gusting to Force 6. There would be rain at times and visibility would be moderate to poor. That was not a good prospect; therefore I decided to stay where I was, tucked in my warm sleeping bag. Low water would be at 0830, which meant I couldn't sail for at least another couple of hours. After breakfast and the usual ablutions, quite a few people waded through the mud to have a closer look at ‘Micro’. John Perry and Josephine Street came by car and trekked the final couple of miles on foot.

Because of the strong wind I felt that I would not be able to sail 'Micro' back to Redcliffe Farm. Instead, I would sail her downwind to Rockley Point Sailing Centre. John offered to meet me there and give me a lift in his car to Redcliffe Farm so that I could collect my road trailer. In the event, neither John nor Josephine would accept any money towards their expenses. I was extremely grateful for their help.

The sail to Rockley Point was exhilarating, but perhaps the most testing part of it was getting into the small marina. There was a shallow channel between moored yachts that I fastidiously followed. I downed the mainsail to reduce speed, but even the jib powered the boat at an alarming rate so that I had to take it down also. I then rowed 'Micro' towards the slipway. At the last moment I decided to manoeuvre the boat into a lee provided by a pontoon. This entailed rowing sideways to the wind while going astern. My strength was taxed to the limit, but I made it after a near miss with one of the yachts.

By 1600 ‘Micro’ was on her trailer ready to face the most dangerous part of the whole trip, i.e., the journey home! You'll be pleased to learn that no mishap occurred and that we returned safely.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Micro’s Cruises No 4 - The Poole Harbour Rally Part 2

Tent folded to form a windbreak

With the rudder suitably secured, and the sail hoisted, I released the painter. I was to experience perhaps the most exhilarating sail of my life. 'Micro' lifted off the water. I needed absolute concentration to keep her on course. With a Force 6 from astern, an error of steering could have resulted in a disastrous capsize. The tide was against the wind, and my tiny boat leapt over crested waves. Explosive spray from the bow whisked into my eyes, causing them to smart. Nature's tears flowed down my cheeks to wash the brine away.

I could not have consulted the chart under those conditions, because it would have been rendered into pulp by the spray. My specs would have been clouded with salty droplets. I could only pilot the boat by reading the navigation marks and by observing the whereabouts of other boats, on the assumption that they would be in the deep water channel. I remembered from the chart that if I steered a course to a point about two cables from the northwest shore of Arne Point I would be clear of all dangers.

The windward bank of the Wareham Channel provided shelter, as ‘Micro’ reached to the east. Ahead lay the sands of Gold Point, which marked the spot where we would be on the wind when heading for Long Island. The shallow, muddy water was similar to the brown soup of the Thames estuary, so characteristic of my home waters in the southeast of England. I felt at home, but I was surprised at the extent of crested waves where windsurfers were skimming to and fro in consort with lightweight catamarans. They were in their element, but 'Micro' was finding the going tough. An army of white warriors, wave after waver of them, charged against her, intent on preventing her from going southwards.

Hiking the boat was fantastic fun, because I had gained confidence to sit on her gunwale close to her stern deck. This trimmed the boat so that she was slightly down at her stern which reduced weather helm. With her storm jib set, instead of her working jib, she had been griping into the wind. This had required excessive use of her rudder to compensate. A permanent solution to this problem would have been the addition of a skeg.

In the distance I could see Shipstal Point, where there were several DCA dinghies at anchor. An adverse eddy from the Wych Channel slowed us down, and the raised land off the Point provided a lee, so that we crept along at a snail’s pace.

On our arrival at the rendezvous, I rapidly downed sail. Because of my tiredness and my need to row to where I wanted to lay the anchor, I left the sail in an untidy bundle held by its lazy jack. I observed Liz Baker pointing her camera in my direction, and I wondered if she was about to take a photo of my dishevelled boat and the exhausted crew. I felt I wanted to shrink below deck and hide my head from many inquisitive stares, as everyone was looking at us.

(To be continued.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 23

Transom in place

Keel Box Frame

Fitting the transom, straightening the hull, and measuring the dimensions for the keel box support frame, took up most of the morning. I wasn’t able to work again on the boat until late afternoon. By that time it was dark, but fluorescent lighting in the garage was adequate for me to see what I was doing. I drew the shapes required for the keel box support frame onto 3 millimetre plywood and cut out two identical pieces. Later in the evening I epoxied them together. I did this by brushing two coats of epoxy on both of the surfaces to be joined and tacked them together with small panel pins that I shall extract when the epoxy has hardened. To make the job of extracting the panel pins easy, I left their heads proud of the surface. It’ll be a simple matter of removing them with pliers.

I shall need to attach cleats to the forward side of the outer edges of the frame where it comes into contact with the hull. Then it will be a matter of trimming the lower and upper corners so that they lock into the chine log and the sheer strake. Finally, I shall have to fit the frame between the side panels and fix it in place with four screws, as I did with the other frames.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

'Micro’s' Cruises No 4 - Poole Harbour Rally Part 1

This map is reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey

The map shows the general area of the cruise that started at Redcliffe Farm's launching slipway, Wareham, and ended at Rockley Point Sailing Centre, Hamworthy, Poole.

'Micro's' shallow keels

Having loaded the car with three adults, one child and myself, along with luggage for their fortnight's holiday in Florida, I started the drive to Gatwick Airport. We left home at 0430 on Saturday, 11th August, 2001. If anything, the extra weight of the passengers and their luggage improved the towing characteristics of my old, but reliable Ford Seirra.

Stars were shining brightly, but, by the time my wife and other members of the family had placed their baggage on trolleys outside the Departure Lounge, daylight had dawned and dark grey clouds were scudding across the sky. Such inhospitable clouds were to dominate the scene for the next two days. They heralded southwest winds of Force 3, and for a brief period a Force 7.

About mid-day I arrived at Redcliffe Farm's slipway where I found Liz Baker and her Cormorant dinghy. Acting in her capacity as co-ordinator of the Rally, she introduced me to Chris Heakey and his friend Doug who were about to launch their Wanderer dinghy. Other DCA members arrived by water, and I noted that their boats were heavily reefed. As I continued preparing ‘Micro’ they set off, leaving me on my own.

Half-an-hour later, the strong wind from behind helped me row along the winding River Frome towards Poole Harnour. I was surprised how many yachts were moored to a seemingly endless trot. They were tethered to a reed-fringed bank to my right-hand. Some vessels were alive with people who were enjoying themselves, partying, fishing or relaxing. Other boats were forlornly abandoned, in a state of decay. Further down the River I generally had it to myself, but occasionally yachts would overtake ‘Micro’ and others would approach from ahead. Briefly the sun shone, and at that point, I only needed the oars to steer 'Micro', as she was being driven by the wind. I tried keeping her to the right hand side of the fairway to avoid on-coming vessels - in accordance with the International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea.

I made sail as soon as I found open water at Swineham Point. There the Frome widens to reveal Gigger's Island, which is a short distance to the northeast. The storm jib pulled well, but I wanted to make quicker progress to the rendezvous at Shipstal Point,which was at least seven nautical from where I was. I needed to increase sail, and when I hoisted the reefed mainsail, 'Micro' shot off like a rocket. Almost immediately she slithered to a halt because her keels became trapped in mud. The chart showed 0.6 metres at low water springs. ‘Micro’s’ rudder had been forced off her pintles by the mud, but I did not lose it, on account of the tiller being retained by the Huntingford Helm Impeder. I had failed to safeguard the rudder by tying the retaining cord.

The wind threatened to take us further onto the mud. By downing sail quickly and rowing with all my might, I was able to very slowly move the boat into deeper water. I was taken aback with how difficult it was to maintain a course without her rudder when the wind was blowing that strongly. I had no time to ship it, because pausing to do so would have seen me back on the mud. After pulling hard for a quarter of a mile, I managed to reach a well-marked, but very narrow channel. I grabbed a starboard-hand beacon and tied a painter to it. That gave me respite and a chance to regain my strength by devouring a choc bar and drinking ginger ale. Several fast speedboats and motor yachts zoomed by. Their 'drivers' did not in the least consider the small boat that lay only a short distance from their frothing wakes.

When I was younger I would have shaken my hands in anger at them. Words befitting my indignation and irritation would have been shouted at them.
(To be continued.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 22

The Frames in Place

The weather forecast was right today. I was pleased that there was plenty of sunshine to counteract the cold wind. I took the opportunity to work on the boat. After five hours I had the frames held in place by screws. It took ages to do the initial measurements. Then I double checked them and treble checked them. I started by screwing the forward edge of the panels to the inner stem post, the forward top edge of which I used as a datum point for measuring the positions of the frames. Because the side panels are almost identical in shape, I could measure distances between the frames with some confidence.

Initially, each frame was slotted into position and held there with string. When I was satisfied that a frame was where it should be according the building plan, I secured it with four screws. The order in which the frames were fitted was from one to four. I judged the artificial waterline was horizontal, and used a plumb line to set the frames in their vertical position. Their transverse positions were guaranteed by taking accurate measurements from the top of the stem post.

By the time I had set frame number four in place I could see that the boat was not perfectly straight according to a line stretched between the top of the stem post and a central point on the upper edge of the transom. I believe part of the reason for this is due to the seating of the transom on the aft end of the side panels. I shall need to make very minor adjustments to the side edges of the transom cleats. Finally, I shall set diagonal braces across the hull to ensure it remains symmetrical.