25 May 2016 | Sainte Marine
23 May 2016 | L'Aber Wrach
21 May 2016 | Port Pendennis
05 April 2016 | Northwood
28 January 2016 | Hemel Hempstead
17 December 2015 | Boxmoor
01 September 2015 | East Coast
01 June 2015 | Ostend/North Sea
31 March 2015 | Leverstock Green
23 February 2015 | Leverstock Green
13 January 2015 | Leverstock Green
14 October 2014 | Leverstock Green
19 September 2014 | Leverstock Green
15 September 2014 | Levington, River Orwell
09 November 2010 | Leverstock Green
Time seems to fly these days. Nice weather's headed south, leaving us with rain, followed by showers and drizzle. An appropriate time to reflect on the last few years.
But first: what have we been up to lately? Not a lot. Two daysails, that's about it. Though the last one was a bit special: full crew. Evita was home from Uni for the week-end. One of our better days. Nothing spectacular, either a quick jaunt up river or just doing our bit for Trinity House - checking all was well with Medusa, Cork Sand and Landguard. Good - very good - to be out all the same.
Our current berth is a 'snug fit'. You need a couple of hands manning the sides just in case something goes wrong. This means that even though I have a lot of free time on my hands, my time sailing is restricted by the availability of crew. I have therefore e-mailed the marina regarding the availability of a hammerhead berth, this would make singlehanded sailing a viable option.
So, after a 2 year refit which where we've been eaten, chewed and spat out again - what works, and what doesn't?
Deck looks nice and is starting to acquire that 'weathered' look. Very comfortable to walk on, and keeps damp out of the boat. No more scrubbing, caulking, chasing leaks or fighting mould for us. So far, so good.
Hull Awlgripped - looked and still looks nice, but on reflection not an expense I would bother with if I could choose again. When on the boat, you don't see the hull and it does not add anything to the sailing performance. Still, there's the satisfaction in knowing that the old girl looks very nice for a boat nearly 30 years old.
Coppercoat: impressed so far. It does what it says on the tin. Not even a suggestion of a weed or barnacle. Bottom still very smooth. The Coppercoat is just starting to turn blue/green at the waterline, other than that... as new. Hope it keeps up.
Standing rigging and furling gear: not much to say about the standing rigging - mast is still up and gives no indication of wanting to come down. The Harken furling gear is most certainly a change for the better. Being able to furl the headsail from the cockpit without the need for much huffing and puffing was a novel experience.
Engine and prop: another of my better choices. The engine just works, no hassle. Plenty of power and no worries. New prop's doing it's thing too - better performance under sail a major boon, as is the reduced fuel consumption.
Still on order: new sails (genoa, main and cruising chute) due for delivery early March and new running rigging.
To be sorted 'later': electrics and plumbing (maybe February if funds allow). Electronics as good as done - still need to connect radar dome and awaiting Icom AIS tranceiver.
Slightly longer term: hydraulic windlass, Hydrovane and then finally, the year before the off: watermaker and SSB/Satcom.
A to-do list of just 2 paragraphs - nearly there.
Our dream's taking shape.
07 October 2010 | Leverstock Green
Shock - horror: it's been over a month since the last blog update. Time does fly.
What's been happening? Not a lot and quite a bit. Generally, the weather over the last month has been crap. Not as much sailing as I would have liked. One last father-daughter sail before she was off to Uni (seems like only yesterday when I held a newborn 3kg bundle of nothing in my arms) and a good clean-out down below. Long overdue as somehow we hadn't gotten round to it these last 2 years. Trying to clean a boat while she's in a yard is like mopping the floor with the tap running.
It's unlikely we'll get much sailing in over the next few weeks: I've got 2 weeks of night shifts coming on and to top it all the steering pedestal bevel gears are shot. Teeth missing. The weirdest thing: leave Guapa in her berth one week and all is OK, the next week crunch, crunch???
Whitlock pedestal is nearly 30 years old and spare parts are hard/impossible to get. Faced with replacing the entire innards. There goes another couple of hundred.
Guapa is rapidly turning into Trigger's broom (Only Fools and Horses): she may be approaching her 30th birthday, but apart from the hull and mast there is very little - if anything - of the original left.
One of the last major items on our to-do list was replacing the sails. Our present wardrobe is nearing the end of it's useful life (understatement), so I've bitten yet another bullet.
I talked to a couple of sail lofts at the Southampton Boat Show without much result. Either the stand was manned by some useless woman from accounts, or they adopted the cheap and cheerful (we can always adapt them later) approach. I may be old fashioned, but when I'm spending several thousands, I would like my sails to fit without the need for any re-cutting.
In the end I settled for a local loft who found the time to come to the boat, measure her, and to discuss specification in detail. And, they offered my a very, very good price for a cruising chute and snuffer too. Due date: end of February - early March.
So, there we are. Things are getting better all the time. Lots to look forward to.
31 August 2010 | Shotley
It's been an odd kind of summer: boat already to go and no time to sail her. With hindsight, it may not have been such a bad thing. You have to remember that we've not really done any serious sailing in two years. Skipper and crew were feeling a bit rusty.
Over the weeks, we got to know Guapa again. Just establishing some sort of routine again. How does she handle? Has the new engine/prop changed the way she handles close quarters? Has the new furling gear changed anything? All questions that were answered these last few weeks.
New engine's a dream - very pleased. The feathering prop has changed our experience under sail (gained more than 0.5kts) and performance under engine has changed for the better too. One of my better purchases. Harken Cruising furling gear did not disappoint either. Cranky old Selden Furlex but a distant, bad memory. Makes you wonder how we got on before.
Another 'big' change has been our move from a swinging mooring off Levington to a pontoon berth at Shotley, just a few miles down river. Whilst the mooring was more idyllic, the pontoon berth is a lot more comfortable - just walk on and sail. Still not entirely convinced, but very much in a minority of one.
Some sailing impressions.
For the first time in nearly three years, the kite got another airing. Lots of room for improvement (sail trim), but I'm quite pleased that we managed it without any snags. Practice will make perfect.
That particular day, we also enjoyed a cracking beat back from the Ore entrance to Harwich. Pleased to report that Snorky (autopilot) handled most of the work.
- boom reefing points need some minor attention, as we found out only yesterday.
Even when out yesterday in winds of consistently over 20kts Guapa proved she's in better shape now than she ever was.
Points to be rectified:
- finally traced the cause of our 'humid' bilges. Some taps/joints in the fresh water system are weeping more than just a bit. They need replacing this winter. As we've only been out for (extended) daysails this year, the lack of fresh water on board has not been a major issue.
- below the boat still looks like a tip. Every time we set foot aboard meaning to get to grips with that particular task, weather was nice enough not to go sailing.
- the sails will need replacing sooner than anticipated. Main's got rips in several places now, luff's started fraying and both main and genoa have lost shape more than just a bit. Hope to place my order at Southampton Boat Show.
This has been the year (so far) to mark the end of the new beginning.
As mentioned before, we've still got one target for the year: going abroad. It will have to be sooner rather than later. Before we lose Evita to Uni and the weather becomes too unpredictable.
We intend to go sailing through the winter. We've been without boat for soo long, that I'm not even contemplating laying up for winter. Winter sailing has it's attractions and the plan is to seize every possible opportunity.
Nice warm glow of contentment inside. It's all been (more than) worth it. And the best is yet to come.
Living like God in France...
28 August 2010 | Marchal, Auvergne - France
Lots happened these last few weeks. Haven't been able to post any decent updates as at the moment we're without internet access (thanks Virgin), and there's only so much you can do while you're sat in your car on a Starbucks parking lot.
- Tied up last few loose ends in Brussels, starting new job (back in Northwood) on Wednesday.
- Moved house - all done. You never realise how much shit you've got till you move house.
- Due to crap weather and lack of time, trip to Ostend fell in the water (pun - sort of - intended).
- Buggered off to France for a couple of days - annual visit to the in-laws. Weather brilliant. 30deg C and light to moderate breezes. So, went dinghy sailing on the nearby lake. Always fun.
There we are, a more detailed write-up of our Guapa sailing exploits in the very near future. We had some fun and everything that was fixed last year stayed fixed. Though we will have to replace the sails sooner than anticipated. Nothing new there.
It remains the plan to 'go foreign' at least once this year - not given up hope yet.
Other than that, life's on the up.
Out and about
24 July 2010 | River Stour
Not much happened last WE. Simple passage down the Orwell from the shipyard to our berth at Shotley.
New autopilot ram was in place and everything else seemed to be in order too. Prop much more responsive now and easier to helm.
Up at the crack of dawn to avoid being stuck at LWS. Alongside by 09h00. And that was pretty much all she wrote. Everyone too tired/knackered and not in the mood for much more. Steps' first night on board was a success. That was enough of a result. Home by lunchtime.
The plan for this WE was to check if there was still a world beyond Landguard or if you just fell off. Forecast was for a S 7-8kts. Gently motor down to Medusa and then hoist the spinnaker and see how far we got. It's been a long time and would be a good test to find out where we stood as a crew. All providing of course I still knew where everything went.
The best laid plans of mice and men... The forecast was a tad 'off'. S was OK, by the forecast 7-8kts turned out to be a very healthy 15kts - gusting to 20+ (in the marina). Maybe no kite flying this WE. And Landguard will have to wait too. Not looking to find out if Steps is liable to get seasick any time soon.
We locked out and hoisted the sails in record time. Reaching up and down the Stour (several times) can be fun too. Brigitte taking an ever more active part sailing the boat. Kids happy just to doggy sit. All in all, a very enjoyable couple of hours. Wall to wall grins all round.
Back in our berth without much ado. Boat handling skills still up to scratch. Sit back, drinks and nibbles in the cockpit, talk bollocks, ... ticks in all the right boxes.
Meanwhile, Steps up and down the pontoon like an unguided, four-legged missile. Clearly ever more at ease in the marine environment.
Steps: the end of the pontoon is nearer than you think and you need longer to 'brake' than you think.
We: Steps is a pretty good swimmer.
Quickly recovered and hosed down - and she spent the next half hour moping on the foredeck looking like an exploded punk chicken.
Quick bite to eat at Fox's and off home. Another Saturday well spent.
After two successful sails, how do I feel? Relieved and relaxed. A couple of minor items still need taking care of: our plumbing needs a closer look. For some reason, I keep finding fresh water in our bilges. One suspect indentified. Log still needs calibrating. But there's nothing that stops us from sailing and enjoying the boat and that's what it is all about.
Boat handling skills are still OK and the crew still knows what's what. After two years of enforced inactivity I had been worried about that. As it turns out, it's just like riding a bike.
If this week's sail's taught me anything, it's that our sails are nearing the end of their useful life. Baggy main and a genoa stretched to within an inch of its life. It should have been re-cut when we had the new furling gear, but due to its age it didn't warrant the expense. New sails now top this winter's shopping list. And guardrail netting.
Near future: a couple of days cruising towards the end of August and maybe some more in September. Easy does it. Next year, there's always Norway and the Shetlands.
It's life, Jim - as we used to know it. Normal service has resumed.
A fresh start
14 July 2010 | Brussels
OK - I've got some time to spare, so here's the promised write-up of our first proper sail in a long time.
We sorted the logistics (getting to/from Fox's) by scrounging another ride. Once on board first job was getting the genoa on. The new Harking furling gear having been installed last Thursday. Certainly looks the business - vast improvement over the aged Selden which seemed to gives us trouble at the most inappropriate moments.
In the mean time, Steps familiarized herself with every nook and cranny of the boat. The flapping of the headsail seemed to unsettle her for a bit but as we all acted as if nothing had happened she soon settled down. I'm confident she'll turn into a proper seadog given time.
Out of the marina on freeflow - it doesn't get any easier than that. Once out on the Stour we hoisted the main and set course for Ipswich. Unfurled the genoa as we rounded Shotley Spit - finished with engines - heaven.
The next hour and a bit turned into the most pleasant sail in a long, long, long time. Wind hovered around the 15kts mark (occasional gusts over 25kts). Very big grins all over the place. The Orwell Bridge came much too soon. Dropped sails, parked the boat and civilized traditional Sunday lunch.
Hopefully, the first proper sail of many more this year.
In the mean time, I've heard from the yard: the battery charger 'problem' turned out to be a software problem (between my ears). Note to self: things tend to work better when you switch them on.
So that just leaves the prop pitch and the autopilot ram. From what feedback I have received everybody's getting on with the job.
Counting the days/hours till Friday. Off to the boat straight after work.
One last point, I was very pleased to be sailing with a full compliment. Having the entire family there made the boat feel all the more like home. Steps is still settling in and 'finding her feet' and the kids had a right proper teenage moan as usual, but apart from that.... They all acted like a 'crew' - not a raised voice, no arguments, ... Week-ends like they used to be.
Most of important of all, I got the distinct impression than Brigitte is more confident on board. Instead of just undergoing events, she anticipates them without any prompting, points out things I have overlooked etc ... A switch has been flicked, it's her boat too.
Our shared dream of sailing off into the sunset is one step closer.
11 July 2010 | River Orwell
Wind and sun (sort of).
If a picture's worth a thousand words, movies must tell the whole story.
Hardly circumnavigation stuff, but even the longest journey begins with the first step.
Proper write up to follow in due course.
On the move
03 July 2010 | River Orwell
Anticipated for such a long time - taking Guapa out for the first time in a (very) long while.
Alarm clock set for 06H00 - on a Saturday! Wasn't really necessary - wide awake at first light.
Whole family - including the dog - on the road by 07H15.
We arrived at Fox's just before nine. Yard engineer took me for a guided tour of the new engine. Some snags with the ne prop. They took the boat out for a test and noticed that the pitch might be off. We'll have to call in again to have it adjusted.
Boat was quite clean - less to do for the white tornado clean team.
The new sprayhood looked fabulous too. Very pleased.
We took stores on board and then set about hanking the sails back on. Well, just the main, genoa awaiting the fitting of the new Furling gear on Thursday.
Rigging had helpfully led all the lazyjack lines forward of the mast. Quickly sourced a bosun's chair and dispatched N° 1 child up the mast. Some more faffing about with the reefing lines (more bits of string than I remember) and... job done.
Engine started at the first turn of the ignition - not had that in a long time. Close quarters maneuvering with a new engine and a new prop proved 'interesting'. No panic - crew anticipated very well. Propwalk more pronounced than with the old engine. Skipper reflexes still good.
Gently motor downriver towards our new berth in Shotley. Our newest canine crew wasted no time exploring the boat. Being surrounded by water was a new experience but we knew she was OK when she started begging for food.
We were off Shotley lock in about an hour. Called the marina on VHF and were instructed to proceed straight in. Big motorboat in front of us - tight squeeze. Crew took it in their stride. Parked in our new berth without mishaps.
Walked the dog and sorted 'stuff'. Trip to Fox's, dinner at the club and off home. Great day for one and all - Steps slept most of the way home.
Boating again - very good feeling. Next step; next week - proper sailing.
It looks like Guapa will have to return to the yard for a week (Monday-Friday). Prop pitch is definitely (way) off. And some electrics/electronics need sorting: the new battery charger doesn't. Plugged into shore power we get 220v but batteries aren't charging. Either I'm missing something (new set-up) or something is wrong.
There's also the continuing saga of our autopilot - the only part that hasn't been replaced yet is the hydraulic ram. Guess which part now refuses to play? In one. As luck would have it, I bought a brand, spanking new one on eBay the year before last just because it was dirt cheap and you never know. Looking to get that one fitted asap.
All in all: the good mood persists. Family (and skipper) crew morale improved no end. Steps seemed very at home on the boat, so she'll be along in future too.
28 June 2010 | Ipswich
Two entries in one day - whatever next?
Nothing much to report, except... we're afloat again. Picture courtesy of a liveaboard at Fox's. Thanks Duncan.
I wish I have been there, instead I'm stuck a couple of hundred miles away counting the days till the week-end.
Can't seem to get rid of this silly grin.
28 June 2010 | Ipswich
Last one... last weekend without the boat that is. Trip up to Ipswich on Saturday to check on Guapa one last time before launch. In the slings and ready to go - she should already be afloat as I write this.
Some minor (electrical) issues left to sort, but the yard seems to have everything under control. By and large, impressed with the way the yard have handled the project.
I had hoped to be there this week, but circumstances (work) have dictated otherwise. Five days in exotic Brussels. This has put an end to our plan for the week. Revised schedule: pick Guapa up at Fox's Saturday morning and make for our new berth. Then it's up to the 'clean team'.
Rig tuning and furling gear to be sorted Thursday or Friday next week. Barring a hurricane, we're going sailing July 10th.