Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Wrong Sort of Sailing?

Vagabond had been back in the barn for a couple of weeks whilst I wondered what to do next. The two trips, (Scotland and Cornwall) had provided enough evidence to show that the idea of trailing somewhere, rigging, launching, sailing,  de-rigging (un-rigging?)and trailing home in a day was not a sustainable way of using her. And yet, in the next few months, there weren't spaces in the family calendar for  any longer period away from home.

I thought there were three choices:

(1) sell her
(2) Leave her, fully rigged, on Tarquin, somewhere where she could be easily launched, close to a good sailing ground
(3) Plan some more long voyages and negotiate with the Owners Agent for the time away.

As some of you may know (readers who have been at Sail Caledonia and the Swallow Boat Raid, option 1 has been toyed with for the last several months. Despite the lack of sailing for the family at Mylor, they ruled out this options for at least another year.....

Option 3 appeals to me but there is a problem for next year - as some of you may know I have returned to University (after a break of some 48 years) and am studying (part time) for an MSc. The dreaded dissertation is due next summer and, whilst I can see that I might like a break from the research, thought and writing that it will involve, I don't think I can afford 3 or 4 weeks.....

So Option 2 has been adopted. Vagabond sits on Tarquin at Northney Marina, which gives access to Chichester Harbour and the Solent. She's been there since the beginning of August and I have sailed in her precisely five times.

We have yet to make it out of Chichester Harbour into the Solent. We've run aground twice, the jib had failed to roll up twice and the outboard gear selection has failed.
The outboard needed a new plastic  part (the selection lever!) and it wasn't in stock in the UK.

Rollers fouling the "keel"

Now that Tarquin is being used fairly intensively, it's clear that the set up of his various rollers was not optimised for either launch or recovery.
Extensive trials, adjustments and lubrication has now got Tarquin to behave and, just as the season draws to a close and the college term restarts, we might be able to go day sailing again.

Chichester Harbour -
 not much water under the keel

My limited experience of messing about in Chichester harbour has led me to have full sympathy with the (sadly late) Viking, who was always unhappy when he had less than 30 metres of water below the keel of Shenanigan.

In addition, I find I don't like traffic. Or boats on moorings.

Boats on moorings

Not only does the presence of it make me aware that my knowledge of the "rules of the road" is a bit flaky, it's quite clear that so it is so for everyone else!

So, whilst I think that option 2 might last for next season, it is not, I think, the right kind of sailing for me.

Options 1 or 3 have to be back on the table. I've some ideas for 3 (in 2017) but fear I might be getting a little long in the tooth for them. Time will tell!

I've just heard that the Swallow Boat raid is on for next June.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review of the summer (what?)

Two posts in two days - please do not expect this service to last, dear reader!

Scarcely had we had time to recover from our break in Albania (well worth a visit by the way, if you want to see an unspoiled Mediterranean country) before it was time to tow V & T* south west, to Cornwall, for the first "Swallow Boats" raid, where were learnt of the forthcoming re-branding to Swallow Yachts. I'd forgotten how far Mylor was from Bucks. You think you are there when you fall off the the end of the M5** at Exeter, only to realise that there's another 100 miles*** (and at least three hours) to go....

The fleet at rest
The weather was sunny, with the winds somewhat fickle, particularly on the expedition up the River Fal. There were a couple of unexpected capsizes and Vagabond ran aground (we kept quiet about it) but this time we managed not to hit anything!

It might rain

In the Pub

I think we are meant to go this way

 There were the dinners (but few speeches) and, somewhere down the line we were awarded a bottle of wine (for reasons that now escape me).

At the end of the event, Vagabond was due to be left alongside the pontoon for a couple of weeks for the family (The Banker, the Irish lass, cabin boy, cabin girl and Owners Agent) were scheduled to come to stay a local farm house and it was planned to have some jolly family sailing.......

Just before I left Vagabond at Mylor, I thought I'd check over Tarquin, the trailer. To my horror, I found that one of the tyres was badly worn on one side, to the extent that the steel bands that compose the core of the tread were exposed all the way round on that side.
"Something's wrong here",  I thought.
Using a convenient piece of string (there are lots of them associated with boats) I established that the axle was out of square with the centre line of the trailer. The left hand wheel was about an inch and a half *** ("behind" the right hand one - it can't have been like this all the time? And I thought back to the pot hole in the Scottish layby, when the wheel was damaged and the tyre deflated.
So, with the aid of the piece of string, an adjustable spanner and a large "lump" hammer (always part of Vagabond's tool kit!), I set about aligning the axle. Of course, once this was done, the brakes needed re-adjusting and the (rather dodgy) spare wheel used to replace the bald one.

And so I came home only to return a week or so later, with a new wheel and tyre, and the family.

By then, of course, the weather had broken: we had a week of sea fog and wind, overcast days and wind and pure wet days and wind. Vagabond left her mooring once, when the weather moderated for a few hours one evening. Otherwise she bounced up and down beside the pontoon and was used as a base for crabbing by the Cabin Boy and Girl.......

The Banker and the Irish lass left early for appointments "in town"' leaving the Owners Agent and I in charge for a couple of days. More crabbing. More wet weather Still no sailing.

At the end of the week, on "changeover day"****, the Owners Agent, Cabin Boy and Cabin girl were dispatched home by train and Vagabond, Tarqin, Martina and I had a quiet, though long, journey home. The tedium was relieved by the sight of a large Range Rover on it's side at the bottom of a hill on the other carriage way with a large rib, sitting serene and smugly on its trailer, some way astern of the vehicle, but ahead of a long tail back of frustrated west bound holiday makers, businessmen and truck drivers.

I drove very slowly for the next half hour or so......

It's only the middle of July - where am I going to go sailing next? What's the right sort of sailing?

Conversions, notes etc

* just to remind you all V (Vagabond) is the boat which sits on top of T (Tarquin) the trailer
** The M5 here is a motorway , not a sort of BMW
*** 160 kilometres
**** say 60 cm
***** Changeover day - the day when the owner of a cottage deems it for the holiday rental periods to start and finish. In Cornwall, it seems to be universal the all  such changeover days are FRIDAY. The resultant traffic to and from Cornwall brings the creaking infrastructure close to gridlock......

Monday, 5 October 2015

Not Dead Yet

Regular readers of this irregular blog will probably have given up on me. I am entirely to blame and can't claim too much work, too many family commitments or even a surfeit of sailing as excuses for not blogging through the summer.

The real reason is that there hasn't been enough of the right sort  of sailing - but I'll come on to that in the next edition of this blog....

In a lock, somewhere
between lochs
You may recall the excitement of towing Tarquin and Vagabond north. The Purser and I joined Sail Caledonia on the raid through the Great Glen.
The Purser at rest

The wind was behind us for the whole way which made coming to rest in the various locks and alongside the various pontoons tediously difficult with the result that Vagabonds gelcoat is a bit the worse for wear.

The points that spring to mind (apart from the bumping and bashing) are:

  • forgetting to engage the shrouds with the spreaders when raising the mast.......
  • the tow car getting a puncture on Sunday in the Highlands.......
  • an exciting cross wind sail across Loch Ness, where, despite a reef in the main and a total crew of 3, a 35 kn gust lead us to spend an uncomfortable couple of minutes (or so it seemed) looking down onto the water, the nearest Vagabond has been to a capsize yet 
  • a downwind sail at about 6 knots under foresail only
All too soon it was over and we were up at crack of sparrow what's it to take the Purser to Inverness airport and Vagabond (on Tarquin) was under tow across to the West Coast. As a gesture, we paused in a lay by to let the traffic build up pass. I failed to notice a large pothole on the exit from the layby - it knocked a trailer tyre off the wheel rim, buckled the wheel and (of course) deflated the tyre. 

Praise to the electric jack, the wheel was changed in a jiffy and we arrived without apparent further ado at Balvicar, where the wind and rain raged incessantly. At this point the trailer brakes proved defective and required major adjustment. The local merchant could not source a new tyre but did straighten out the wheel and put the old tyre back onto it so we sort of had a spare.

The weather forecast was atrocious for the next week...
The Owners Agent and I were due to go to Albania in 10 days.....
So I trailed uneventfully south and stored Vagabond and Tarquin (V & T) in their usual barn space in Bucks.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The joy of Towing a boat

I imagine that, by now, my regular reader has given up and wandered off somewhere else in search of nautical mutterings. Well, here's an attempt to rekindle your interest, before embarking on the saga of Sail Caledonia.

You may recall, from my previous post, that I was in search of a tow car: I eventually settled on a Skoda Yeti (where do they find these names) and can report favorably on it's ability to tow. Martina*  behaved almost impeccably, dragging Vagabond on her trailer (Tarquin**) the lengths of the M40, the M6, the M74 and a chunk of the A9 in just over 12 hours.

But O, the joy of towing. In theory, there's a 60 miles per hour speed limit when towing a trailer. Trucks seem to be governed at 58. Then there's the dreaded trailer sway that cuts in when the car/trailer combination reach a critical speed which varies and seems to be determined by cross winds, road surfaces and other vehicles (for any given trailer and tow car combination).
So you have the choice - (a) hog the middle land (sorry, lane 2), observing the speed limit to creep past the trucks, ensuring the wrath of all unencumbered cars and white vans or (b) ignore the speed limit and creep up to the point where the dreaded sway is just on the point of setting in or (c) give up and resign to being governed by the trucks and stay in lane 1, being bounced about by the wonderfully degraded road surfaces on this part of the motorway.

Then there's the matter of what you can see behind you. Not much, even with extension mirrors.

And then there are the "services". Martina and Tarquin are about as long as one of the tractor and semi trailer rigs - they don't fit in the car parks assigned to caravans, so we have to share the truck parks. These have appalling surfaces, smell of hot oil, diesel and (frankly) human pee. One assumes that the holding tanks (or whatever passes for them in a truck) are emptied at these stops.......

And then there are the various bits of Tarquin that stop working or fall off during the journey. Like the stop, tail and indicator lamps. Martina (being a sophisticated and modern model) helpfully tells her driver when various lamps aren't working. This is fine when you start off - the issue can be fixed (by a strategic thump on the lamp concerned - and all is well. It's when she tells you that the left indicator is no longer working and your at 65 (shh) in the middle lane and you want to tell the drivers behind you are moving over..... or that you want to leave the motorway (to give the lamp another thump and experience the olfactory delight of the parking bay). And why is it always the left indicator?

Despite all her sophistication, Martina can't tell you when bits of the trailer fall off (including the wonderful strip of lights at the back). UK trailer regulations are rather opaque and there's a bit that says that the load must not overhang the rear of the trailer by a certain amount. To meet the letter of the law Tarquin is fitted with a pair of rails that are used to extend the rear of the trailer depending on the load length (the wonder of circumventing regulations - it's less complicated than tax minimization but the idea is the same). These are held in by a simple clamp, which has been known to work loose and allow one or other of these lumps of metal to be dropped on the carriageway. .

Then there's the rear of the trailer itself - this consists of a white plastic bar which carries the various rear lights (see above). This bar fits across the trailer on the ends of the extensions From time to time, one or other end of this bar works loose and drops onto the road. Other road users are most courteous and friendly, regularly flashing their headlights at you - you have to be on your toes to interpret these flashes (you're clear to pull in front of me, something has just dropped off (and hit me), get out of my way, etc).

This made the drive north to Fort William a slightly tense process and the Purser and I (with Martina  et al)**** took a leisurely three days, stopping at Tebay services (ample room to park) and Pitchlochry. This latter stop was to see the Scottish herbalist - Vagabond et al were parked in a local caraven site for the night for the princely sum of £5.

Now you'll have to wait a day or so whilst I try to remember what happened in the Great Glen

* She was built in the Czech republic (admittedly of German descent) and Czech females of my acquaintance seem to share this name.
 ** Well it can't be Thomas because he was a Tank Engine, Terrance was a tractor in the same series of books and Tarquin sounds a controlling, feisty sort of name**)
*** Controlling and feisty because Tarquin limits your options as a driver, feisty in that, if ignored, he will totally take charge and you'll find yourself jack knifed across all three lanes or into the adjacent field.

**** You can tell I've been infected by the academic writing bug by the judicious use of "et al" in this instance.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Freddie wakes up

The sun and the daffodils are out, the dawn chorus is deafening at 5 o'clock, so it must be spring. It's almost time to go sailing again (I know there are several hardy types who do it throughout the winter - but there are limits to the discomfort that I'll accept in the following of the sport).
It's time to check things out. I know there are lovely lists in well known yachting magazines of what you should do - here's my simplified view - Are there any bits of string that look frayed? Or pieces of wire that look very rusty. Has the anchor chain welded itself stiff with rust? Did I empty the portaloo at the end of last season? Does the satnav (sorry, chart plotter) still work?  Is the gas cylinder empty? Have the flares expired? 
Check complete. 

Oops, I have forgotten the wheel bearings on the trailer.

Then there's the problem of reassembling Vagabond - where did I put the windex when I took it off the mast? Where does this piece of string fit? What about the sandwich box and the thermos. And so it goes on. 

Vagabond has been undercover in a barn all winter. I had forgotten how dusty barns can get. It's going to take several days to get her clean - I wonder if I can get the local Polish car wash to do it for me?

Does Freddie still work - at least he's been sitting in a garage for four months or so. It's time to try him out. I need something to pretend it's the sea - the Council recently provided us with just the thing - the "domestic kitchen waste bin". It's bin day, so it has been emptied - a quick wash out and it serves the purpose. After several attempts, Freddie roared into life, squirting water from all the right orifices.

Now to go sailing.

Well, not yet. Our first appointment with the wet stuff will be at the end of May, when Sail Caledonia starts. In the meantime, I need a tow car.........

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Another Boat Show edition

It's January, so time to go to the Boat Show and assist Swallow Boats with the sales campaign by stunning potential customers with my tales of sailing with Vagabond. Also to pick up a small container of gel coat to repair a few blemishes on Vagabonds hull.......but that will have to wait for some warmer weather.

Having spent the 3 months before Christmas with my head down in text books, writing mediocre academic essays and (after Christmas) preparing for my first academic examination for about 47 years*, it was a welcome break (or reconnection with reality, depending on your point of view) to spend two days talking boats and drinking coffee.

Swallow Boats had a BRE 20 and 4 models on the stand. Not the type of model that has just been banned from page 3 (topical tip) but 3D printed scale models of the current Swallow Fleet. Customers and potential customers visited the stand, small boys climbed in an out of the cabin and (as I understand) an order or two was taken.

Matt and I were both intrigued by the hydrojet powered canoe ( I wonder if you could fit one of the pump motor combinations in the outboard well?

I was also intrigued by the video that Swallow have of a BC23 running down wind with a sort of spinnaker / cruising chute

More research required.

Meanwhile, it's head down for the MSc course again for the next 3 months.

* In case my reader has forgotten (or perhaps I didn't tell you), I've resorted to more education to keep Alzhiemers at bay. I was going to attempt the MSc on a full time basis but, on looking at the required work load, have opted to "do" it over two years. I can't read fast enough to do it in one!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Southampton Boat Show edition

The Owner has just returned from a couple of days "helping" on the Swallow Boats stand at the SBS. When I first arrived at the show, I felt lost - Swallow Boats were nowhere to be seen in the small boats section. I had to join the crowd that trudged over not one but two bridges to the furthest reaches of the show (except for the Marina) to find the stand.

Swallow have been "upgraded" and now mingle with the likes of Benneteau, opposite the food bars. At least coffee is easy to find!

The stand is now enormous (by small boat standards). Gone is the little set of steps that let one climb into a BC 23. Instead, there  are steps up to a platform that is at BC 23 gunnel level, with Equinox, Andy Dingles' new boat (in a rather becoming Burgandy red),  nestling against one side of the platform. Seemingly towering over the other side of the platform is the NEW BC25, with a  gloss black hull and white upper works. She boasts twin rudders, a Pilot House, electrically operated Dagger Board, built in shower and loo, clever sliding arrangements for cookers, sinks and fridges and a host of other "big boat" features. She's been built to a high standard under the watchfull eye of her prospective owner. He and Matt are still adding refinements......

Meanwhile, the interior finish of the BC 23 has been further developed and I'm pleased to see that one or two external improvements have been made to overcome niggles that I (and no doubt others) have expressed to Matt. He certainly listens to his customers.

Friday seemed to be a Swallow Boats association reunion event- I am sure there were more existing customers than potential ones. Saturday was completely different - the BC 25 attracted most of the attention and many interested and admiring comments.

I've returned home with several ideas to incorporate into Vagabond when I get the time (and money!). (Not to mention a GRP repair kit....) Time is going to be bit short in the next year, for I'm returning to University next week, to my "Alma Mater" (UCL) almost 50 years to the day when I first passed through it's gates.....This time I'm embarking on an MSc - I'm told it involves writing essays and taking exams again.....but at least it might help to keep the dreaded Alzie away. Provided the exams and the dissertation don't get in the way, I may get some sailing in too!