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
08 November 2013 | Leverstock Green
I’ve been negligent in my duties – again. Nothing reported since the end of September. Lots to report though, so here goes...
Since the last entry the boat has spent most/all of its time laid up at the yard. She went in to have the ding in the gelcoat repaired. It took a while to bring the offender to book and sort the insurance stuff.
Whilst she was in there, I thought I might as well a quote to fit/fix some bits. Mainly stuff I had bought on eBay – all of the ‘this is going to be useful one day’ category.
- a Furuno radar dome (bought after a Channel X-ing in VERY dense fog)
- a wired Furuno windex to replace the very temperamental TackTick wireless unit
- the Monitor windvane autopilot (eBay again – picked it up for an unbelievable low price)
- an AIS transponder
- solar panels (another eBay bargain)
- rewire the bow navlights
- rewire the bilge pump and fit a bilge monitor
After some negotiating the yard submitted a very competitive quote, so I told them to get on with it. With some creative accounting and by postponing the replacement of my old banger for another year we could just about afford it.
And they did get on with it: on time, on spec and (nearly on budget). Things looked good.
Then... disaster struck. Just when the yard was getting the boat ready to be launched one of the foremen noticed a crack on the rudder. And he could hear water sloshing around inside the rudder. Emergency meeting. Quick drive up to Ipswich – bit dazed and confused as I had just completed a week of night shifts.
Call me Mr Unadventurous, but I don’t want to a potential rudder failure hanging over my head. Looked at the crack, listened to the water sloshing around inside and decided there and then to have the rudder dropped and inspected.
The bad news: water had been seeping in along the rudder stock. This had caused the wooden beam inside the rudder to swell/expand. This in turn caused the crack, which let in even more water...
The good news: the rudder stock, the frame and all the welds inside the rudder are still intact. Apart from the wooden beam inside it, the rudder itself was in pretty good shape. Solidly build too – yard commented on the thickness of the GRP. Much thicker than even the hull of modern boats.
I am left feeling a bit frustrated/angry with the delay and the added expense, but on the other hand I am relieved that the problem was detected now rather than somewhere in the middle of the ocean.
Launch date is now 22 November. Work is keeping me busy for the next 7 days, but I plan to make another trip up next Friday to make sure that everything and everyone is still ‘on track’. Whilst I was having a clear-out today, I came across another forgotten eBay purchase: a rope cutter. So, I might as well fit that whilst the boat is out of the water.
For the most part, the weather has been crap since the boat was laid up, but I am now starting to miss the old girl. I have a sailing itch and it needs scratching.
Also sorted our mooring for the Summer. For the past few years (since we got Steps) we’ve been on a pontoon berth; and whilst it’s convenient it’s also ‘not cheap’. Economies and sacrifices have to be made. Swinging mooring as from April. The dog will have to get used to the dinghy ride.
Other stuff to sort by then:
- Service the life raft and life jackets (all well overdue)
- Fit a stainless cradle for the life raft and dan-buoy
- Service the outboard (going to be interesting – it’s not been used for a number of years)
- Re-commission the dinghy (sort out some sort of fenders and fit hooks so she can be hoisted on board)
Whilst life has not exactly been a bed of roses these last few weeks, I am quite pleased with the progress we have made. Up till now, all the work we have had done was of the ‘make good’ variety (30 year old boat and all that). But with the addition of the windvane, solar panels, radar,... the ‘new’ Guapa is starting to take shape. We’re not quite there yet, but finish line is now in sight.
Hope to be able to report to you all – soon – that we’re back in the water and out sailing.
Summer 2013: OBE (Overtaken By Events)
26 September 2013 | Leverstock Green
It seems like forever since I felt like I had anything of note to say on here. Summer 2013 came and went without us doing anything worthwhile or even only slightly memorable on the sailing front. Our cruising season got overtaken by events.
Leave/time off work got moved or cut short, weather was never just quite right when we were off work, etc... The 'dirty diesel' constantly prayed on my mind. What if we get stuck somewhere, what if we can't get home, never mind the added expense.
So, I was determined not to set off unless we had a 4-5 day weather window which would allow us to sail where we wanted to go. This, of course, never materialised.
The limited time available to us would also have an effect on range. We would only be able to get to places (and back) we had already visited many, many times before. None of us were all that keen to play the same old record over again.
In the end we just pottered about a few days in local waters. The engine didn't miss a beat once (to be honest, it only had to run 3 hours since we changed all the filters and treated the diesel).
What surprised me was the ease with which we made the decision to cancel our summer cruise. No-one was broken up about it. We went for a couple of day sails and we did some other things: traveled a bit by car, our eldest took up surfing; we had family over and did other stuff together. All in all, even though we did not sail much, I don't feel like we had a bad summer.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, but I think we've gotten everything out of our present cruising ground there is for us to get. For a large, deep-keel cruising boat there are very few anchorages around here. The bits of water we can safely sail we have to share with merchantmen, even at sea you find you're constantly dodging them. And if you head abroad you have more than a 50/50 chance that at least one leg you will have to deal with 'wind on the nose'.
Time to up sticks. A change of scenery will do us good.
26 July 2013 | Levington
I think we’ve nailed the cause of our engine trouble at the end of our last trip: clogged fuel filters. The contents of the diesel pre-filter looked particularly dire (see picture above).
The engine had done just over 100 hours since we last took on fuel, so I was aware that we were sailing pretty much on fumes. As was little diesel that remained in the tank looked quite clear I am hoping (fingers and everything else crossed) it was not a full-blown case of diesel-bug. Time will tell.
In the mean time, we have topped up the tank to the brim (320ltr – major shock to the wallet), added Grotomar to combat whatever bug may have taken up residence in the fuel and changed all filter. Bar taking on food/drink the boat is good to go, and so am I. Other half of the crew should arrive back from the States tomorrow very early a.m. Allowing for a day to recover from the jet-lag we should be spending our first night aboard on Sunday. Sailing early Monday morning.
We have no fixed itinerary, but it looks like our first port of call will be Ostend (again) before heading for Boulogne-sur-Mer and Dieppe towards the end of the week. After that, the weather and the engine will dictate what happens to a large extent. Brigitte only has two weeks of work.
Apart from money, time is the one luxury we are desperately short of. And it looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Mustn’t grumble though (so unlike me), as every little bit helps to keep the dream alive: at some point in the not too distant future we will leave all the shore based troubles behind.
Optimism is a moral duty – good times ahead.
Sting in the tail
14 July 2013 | North Sea/Levington
On the day of our departure, the weather was pants. Dark, grey skies and a stiff breeze (20kts – NNE). Even though it had only just gone six, Robert was already around. We made our final goodbyes and cast off.
Once in open waters we were once again met by short, steep seas. Lots of rolling and pitching. I went down below to fix some breakfast and I was nauseous within minutes. And I haven’t been seasick in donkey’s years.
In these seas, sailing close to the wind became nigh on impossible with help from the engine. Even with the engine the autopilot struggled to keep us on course and average SOG dropped to just below 5kts. There now followed a couple of hours where the thought foremost in my mind was; ‘Why didn’t I just take up snooker’.
All good things come to an end. Fortunately, all bad things come to an end too. When Westhinder Anchorage came into view we were sailing once again. The TSS towards Antwerp was extremely busy, and I was kept busy dodging freighters for quite a while. Once clear of Westhinder, sea state improved and the sun put in an appearance once in a while. I just watched the world go by for much of the rest of the trip.
By the time we reached Cork Sands the wind had veered East. The run dead downwind to Landguard was very ‘rolly’ and slow, so I thought it would be good idea to fire up the engine once again. A good idea it might have been, but the engine refused to play ball. Turned the key and the engine went: bop-bop-bop... and then nothing... . Tried again, but the result remained the same. Bugger! Fule gauge well into the red. Either we had run out or, much more likely, the crud at the bottom of the tank had clogged the fuel filters. A distinct possibility given the lumpy passage.
Panicked (mentally) for all of 5 seconds. Then, training kicked in. We would sail into our berth, there was no other possibility. Winds would abate once we were on the river and as the wind direction was predominately easterly sailing into our berth was doable.
Radioed ahead to inform the marina that we would be sailing in but they had already shut up shop for the night. Initial recce through binos lead me to believe that there was a boat in our berth but I could not be sure.
Sailed on with one reef in the main and two in the genoa. Pushing the last of the ebb, progress was slow but I needed the time to get (mentally) prepared. Arrived at the SYH fairway buoy at HW-1 and entered the narrow channel towards the marina with some trepidation. Dropped the main when we got to the seawall and turned hard to port. There was indeed a boat in our berth (with our luck that day, there just had to be) but at least there were people on board and they caught on pretty quickly that we had no engine. We let fly the genoa to slow the boat and a kind soul took our lines. Bar a minor scuffmark all went well. It’s reassuring to find that I can still do the things I was trained to do way back in the Stone Age. Packed and went home. Tired but relieved.
I’m working this week, so next week I’ll attempt to service the engine (another first) with the help of my youngest and refuel. Hopefully, that’s all what’s needed as the boat kitty funds are otherwise depleted. Fingers crossed and hope for the best.
PS: I've also uploaded some more pictures to the Summer 2013 gallery.
The Great Escape
10 July 2013 | Ostend
To say that I was eager to escape the Orwell goldfish bowl would be the understatement of the year. Desperate would be more appropriate.
A 3-day weather window presented itself: NE4-5 – with no rain forecast. All you need for a Channel crossing to Ostend. Crew was made ‘available’ and we were off. As per usual we picked up a mooring outside SYH. Nice to see we haven’t lost our touch, picked it up at our very first approach. An early night afloat.
Slipped our mooring at the crack of dawn the next morning. Traditionally a job for the skipper, whilst the crew sleeps in. This time was no different. As winds were very light, I decided the shake out the reef in the main still left from a couple of days ago. Only to put it back in by the time we got to Cork Sands.
The rest of the crossing was very uneventful. Reaching in 15-25kts of apparent wind. Seas were quite lumpy at times (short & steep), especially where it was quite shallow (< 10m). Otherwise, a fast crossing in the sun. Due to wind chill it did not ‘feel’ like summer despite the clear blue skies.
Crew surfaced shortly before lunch. Farther- daughter chats over a bit to eat. Bliss.
We reached Westhinder Anchorage by 15H00, Ostend came into view by 16H00 and we entered the approach channel just before 17H00. Sailed all the way from Landguard - good job.
Once we entered the Montgomery dock I was somewhat surprised not to be met by the familiar and distinctive booming voice of Robert (RNSYC HM). Instead we were met by a perm in a rib making vague suggestions. Decided to ignore his ramblings and give him some directions of my own. Seemed to work much better and yielded the desired result.
Next stop: a Belgian chippy. The usual first night in Ostend meal. Once fed, we were ready for an early night and another day in paradise. The usual routine: meet up with old friends for a meal/drink and shop for food/drink. Happy days.
30 June 2013 | Northwood
Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.
Again a month has gone by, again not much to report. A couple of daysails in not particularly summery weather. It's better than nothing, but not much. Least said the better. Usual culprits: work & weather.
Boat outfitting: pulpit modification should be done before the 'summer cruise' end July/early August.
Also, our in-hull echosounder had worked itself loose after 7 years. Refitted (cheap & cheerful kit), but not convinced it will hold long. Hopefully it will last the summer and we'll glass it in properly over winter.
Have been keeping an eye on second hand Aries windvanes being offered for sale on eBay or cruising websites. The ones we could afford were in need of a major overhaul, the ones in good shape we could not afford. The search continues. Have been offered a good one at a reasonable price, but at the moment funds are sadly lacking at the moment. Hope it's still available later in the year.
Not so good news: a squib has taken a chunk out of our gelcoat. About the size of a 50p coin and half an inch deep. We weren't aboard when it happened, but someone on a boat nearby had seen it happen and told me last week. Got in touch with the culprit via the marina office. Very apologetic, offered to make good and get quotes. So far, no word yet, but will get a quote from Fox's this week.
Summer cruise: once again we're very short of time. XO will only have two weeks off work - again. Not a happy bunny. So, the plan's the same as it has been for years: third week of July - get the boat as far west as possible (aiming for Portsmouth) with one of the kids as crew. Last week of July, first week of August (crew yet to be decided): explore the Channel Islands (Alderney + Guernsey), France (Dieppe and Boulogne sur Mer) and finally stopping over in Ostend before heading home. Hopefully it will be the last year of this - I've had enough.
Onwards and upwards. Hopefully the weather's more like summer next week - we need to get out of the Orwell goldfish bowl soon or risk a severe bout of cabin-fever.
26 May 2013 | Levington
I must admit to feeling a bit down and out after so narrowly missing out on the Aries windvane last week. As always, the cure for all my troubles is to go sailing.
As you will have gathered by now, our annual pilgrimage to the Oostende voor Anker got axed by the weather gods. So we settled for the next best thing: a trip out to open sea and to nowhere in particular (Sealand
in this case) and then back again. Blue sky and scattered clouds, at times a brisk northerly breeze and some much appreciated sunshine. Still cold though.
Best seven hours I spent in a long time. Fell (even more) in love with the boat and her crew.
I also had time to conduct a quick audit of our electricity usage. Not good: the fridge and the autopilot are both very greedy. Both are drawing 6-7Ah each. Our battery bank is 440Ah and the wind genny puts in only a mere 3Ah (just about enough to keep up with everything but the fridge and autopilot). Energy independent we are not. We would need to run the engine (or a generator - of which I'm not a fan) at least once every 24H.
At the moment I'm on the lookout for a much more energy efficient fridge. As current one is nearly 30 years old that should not be too onerous. Solar panels would be a welcome addition to our inventory too. As I still have my mind dead set on some sort of windvane selfsteering energy independence should be will within our grasp.
I have discounted the possibility of getting some kind of towed generator: these things only generate power when under way and when you add a windvane to the mix I fear this may very well prove to be an accident waiting to happen. All in all, it would not be an efficient allocation of limited financial resources.
With the 2015 AZAB in mind, I managed to lay my hands on a Guy Cotten TPS survival suit. An eBay bargain of which I am, for some inexplicable reason, quite proud. Though not proud enough to post a picture of me wearing it. Suffice it to say that when I tried it on I was likened to a Teletubbie.
The next month or so, this family/crew will be in the grips of exams and work, so I don't think we'll be able to squeeze much sailing in. We'll still try to do so whenever possible, but I don't expect it to be much to write home about.
Overall, I must admit to feeling a lot better about the boat/life/the world and everything than I did this time last week. And that must be good thing.
Hang in there, because we try to too.
A false start
22 May 2013 | Levington
Once again, we managed to do some sailing. Just a day, but we enjoyed it very much none the less. These days, we have to be grateful for small mercies. Mixed bag really - at times we were just drifting with sails up. Stress oozed away as we proceeded up the River Stour at a stately 2kts. A couple of hours later we were beating down the Orwell towards open sea. All in glorious sunshine. Truly balm for the soul.
Coming weekend we usually take the boat on our annual pilgrimage to Ostend (Oostende voor Anker festival). The weather gods however, have decreed otherwise. Even though the forecasts keep changing, none of them are predicting a leisurely cruise. And as always, we find ourselves short of time – meaning we don’t have the luxury of being able to sit out the bad weather. Work is indeed the curse of the sailing class.
Instead of a Channel crossing we’ll have to confine ourselves to some pottering about in local waters. A night away somewhere would be nice. As this will (hopefully) be our final year in the land of brown and shallow water we might as well take the time to explore some local hideouts which we have neglected these last few years.
Yet again, our season’s off to a false start.
Earlier this week I held my dream in my hands. Alas, it was not to be. The one thing the boat’s missing to really set her free is wind vane self steering. I’ve been researching this for nearly as long as we’ve had this boat. A Hydrovane had for a long time been at the top of our lists. Then some brutally honest feedback from some owners did put me off (it started with one, and all of a sudden there were lots more – too many to be just a fluke). A Monitor came highly recommended, but these things only become available this side of the Atlantic very rarely. And since these things are mostly semi-customised for a boat chances are it wouldn’t suit Guapa.
So, I had my mind set on an Aries. These come up for sale from time to time, but the problem is finding a good one. Then, I found one. Only lightly used, complete with all the bits and it would require only minor modifications to suit us. As always, funds are finite, and the seller’s asking price (little/no room for negotiation) was outside of our budget. A shame really, as we were only a couple of hundred apart. Our offer is still out there, and hopefully he will reconsider. Chance would be a fine thing.
I was really impressed with the thing. It is so obvious how it works, it seemed so well built, ... So near and yet so far.
Also made some progress on the ‘pulpit modification’ front. Discussed our requirements in detail with our ‘stainless man’ and impressed on him the need to revise his quote downward. I think he got the message. Hopefully pulpit will be modified before our summer cruise, and if not it will be a job for this winter.
As our project is now in its final stages I am somewhat apprehensive – we’ve been ‘at it’ for a couple of years now. Completion was always somewhere in the distance, but now... I’m scared that once she’s good and ready I’ll set off one day and I won’t be able to come up with a good reason to head back. Regardless of the consequences, commitments, obligations,... What if?
Hopefully the AZAB 2015 will provide enough focus and dispel such ‘evil’ thoughts.
PS: I’ve added two photo galleries – Winter 2012 and Summer 2013.
02 May 2013 | Leverstock Green
Time for another - long overdue - update. Some of you may be surprised that we actually did manage to get some sailing in.
First off: A small step for mankind, a giant leap for... A couple of weeks ago I had tried, in vain, with the kids to move Guapa from her temporary winter berth to her new permanent berth. The wind thought better of our efforts. Gusts of 25kts+ kept blowing us back into our berth when we reversed. And Guapa does not reverse well (monster kick to port). Only the help of two (not so) innocent bystanders prevented us from coming to any harm.
The week-end before last seemed more suitable, but with one snag -I was working nights. Other half and kids duly dispatched to 'go and move the boat'. Slight look of apprehension given the fact that none of them had done this before without me being aboard.
Anyway, long story cut short, by mid-afternoon I received a text message saying that all was well and the boat was in her new berth. Later found out that my youngest has all the makings of a future Captain Bligh.
Last week was an altogether much more pleasant affair. First sail in over two months: gentle sail up and down the Stour. Trip started out as not much fun but skipper and crew mood improved on the return leg. Once out on the river we soon found ourselves short-tacking into a spring tide. So, progress was painfully slow. Crew was rusty as a tack took forever, though the skipper could have expressed his orders much more clearly. Racers left, right and centre did not do much for the skipper's peace of mind either. Anyway, once away from the crowd and on a run serenity ruled. The sun shone, it wasn't raining, beer in hand, .... Life doesn't get much better than this (could have been a touch warmer though).
Minor blemish on an otherwise perfect day: I noticed some traces of mildew on the genoa. The long, cold and wet winter has taken its toll. Nothing major, I just might get the genoa valeted next winter. We'll see.
We are we on the refit front? Moving along apace. A couple of items got axed. The modification to the pulpit for a start. Had it quoted and much to my dismay I found that this would cost more than I had paid for the thing in the first place. Well, no way Jose. I'm not made of money and it had always been a 'nice to have' rather than an 'essential'.
Likewise, the removable bowsprit. I'm sure I will come up with a suitable way to jury-rig the jockey-pole to do the same. Since it is now surplus to requirements (we no longer have a spinnaker) it might as well serve a purpose. Will consult with our rigger at some point.
So far, this year I have bought a second-hand danbuoy. Not so that you could tell - the thing is in pristine condition. Not absolutely essential, but it's one of those things I'd rather have and not use than need and not have.
Also bought (in the US - dollars for pounds) a Furuno Fi50 basic wind system to replace our TackTick. The TackTick is brilliant when it works, it's just not that reliable (goes on a sulk from time to time). Also, the need to replace the batteries of the masthead transmitter requires the occasional trip up the mast. Just the sort of thing I was eager to avoid.
Most recent acquisition: a 7' traditional wooden clinker - complete with mast and sail. At a fraction of what one of these would cost new. Bargain. As we will need a tender when we move the boat to Brittany (she'll be on a swinging mooring there), I jumped at it when the opportunity presented itself. For a while I had toyed with the idea of getting a Nestaway tender, but these things are prohibitively expense. Nor do they ever seem to become available second hand. I'm really pleased with 'Poppet'. Once she's had a coat of varnish, she'll be as good as new and good for hours (or even years) of fun. She has all the makings of a future family heirloom.
Left to do this year: have the life raft and lifejackets serviced. Long overdue. And, in 2 weeks time, I'll be checking out a second hand Aries offered for sale. Pictures show it to be only very lightly used and in as good as new condition. Now, if we can agree on price...
Plans are to take care of the last remaining items on my refit list next winter (2014). Outstanding items are:
- Fit steps to the mast (all the way up) as well as at least one self-tailing winch on the mast. Whilst the mast is stepped, we might as well have the radar dome fitted. It's not been getting much use sitting in a cardboard box for 5 years.
- Modify the boom to take the boom-brake I bought last year. Possibly replace the goose neck and kicker.
- Fit an SSB (almost certainly an Icom M710). With an SSB installation is everything, so I'm going to have that done professionally. The required LRC course is also planned for some time next winter.
- Fit an electric windlass and a keel cooled fridge/freezer. For these two items I will go shopping at Southampton Boat Show in September. Some sort of AIS transceiver is also on the list.
Whilst it would be nice to have the Furuno Fi50 (and maybe the Aries) fitted before the start of this year's summer cruise, time and funding (mainly the latter) may well dictate otherwise. In which case they will get fitted next winter as well.
All in all, I'm in good spirits. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We're in the final stages of the project. Hopefully we can move Guapa to Brittany next summer and then we will have Biscay at our doorstep and at long last we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of our labours.
To quote Jack Sparrow: 'Bring me that horizon'.
26 March 2013 | Leverstock Green
Not much sailing these last few weeks. In fact: no sailing whatsoever. Weather stopped play. Gales and ice/snow on deck. Not even a hint of Spring on the horizon.
Not been sitting still though. Ideal moment to take stock. Where are we? What have we got? What to do next? Where to go? You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.
First thing first. We checked the drinks locker last week. We’re out of gin (shock – horror) and beer, but there’s still plenty of rum and a couple of bottles of red plonk. To be remedied forthwith.
Again been up to check on the boat yesterday. The old girl is holding up well. At times better than I am. I am also in the process of rediscovering storage lockers and what treasure lurks there.
- I think I may have found a staysail. To be investigated further as I did not take it out of its bag. Too cold to hoist it anyway.
- Also found a hand-held VHF. I knew we had one somewhere. Now I just have to find the charger. And, if memory serves, there’s another set hiding somewhere.
- The boat paperwork could do with some sorting out too. I keep everything (manuals/receipts/log books), but I always seem to have trouble finding stuff later on.
- Two more lockers to go.
For a while it had been uncertain whether or not we were going to keep the boat or downsize. The decision now made, it’s time to sort the last few remaining items on our wish-list.
- I have asked for a quote to alter our pulpit. And I’ve also got this cunning plan to use our jockey-pole as a removable bowsprit.
- I have located a supplier in Germany selling brand new, but older models of ICOM SSB radios. If I could recover the VAT (still under investigation) then including ATU it would come to just over £1K. Absolute bargain when you consider that the latest model costs close to £3K.
Not insisting on the latest model gizmo has already saved me a fair packet in the past.
- Also hot on the trail of a wind vane self-steering system.
If I could get these three items sorted this year than that would just leave the electric windlass, fridge, solar panels and mast steps to be sorted next year. Already have been quoted for the mast steps and that came as a pleasant surprise. Not often that something costs less than I thought it would.
I’ve always wanted to sail the high latitudes. Don’t know why. It seems strange that a child of the Tropics should even consider sailing the high latitudes, but ‘Strange’ seems to be my middle name. Anyway, after these last few months, Arctic sailing is very much on the back burner. Time to set our sights on all points south. This will come as a great relief to the other half of the crew.
If all goes according to plan, this should be the last year we keep the boat in Britain. We’ve been on the waiting list for a berth/mooring in Brittany for some time now and it’s only a matter of time before our number is bound to come up. Should reduce our berthing fees by over 70% and we’d have Biscay right on our doorstep.
It’s never so dark as just before the dawn.