Little Else still sits patiently on the hard in the boatyard, waiting for a bit of work to be done aboard before she can be put back in the water. She doesn't like having her stern pointing into the prevailing wind/rain combination of the south west, but that's what she has to contend with for a while. We are monitoring a couple of leaks that have shown up in the coach roof as a result. Meantime we are doing as much as we can to get the boat's equipment prepared for the new season by taking the removable bits home to clean/polish/repair/update/replace. As you do! More when there's more to report.
Since the last posting there hasn't been much to report on the boat front, as we have been doing a lot of other things, like a trip down to Caerlaverock bird reserve to see swans and geese, visits to friends and generally getting on with winter life in Ardfern. Two weeks ago, however, we spoke to the boatyard about the annual haulout, and brought Little Else over to the pontoons to await her turn in the big hoist. This year we also want to fix a problem first spotted by our marine surveyor when we bought the boat, namely the deck drainage system. That was what failed badly on our trip across the Bay of Biscay in 2008, flooding the bilge with seawater every time we were heeled heavily to port. Since then we have sailed with the port deck drains plugged with a couple of bathplugs secured with string (very Heath Robinson, but it stops the water getting into the bilge, and eventually it spills out over the toerail!)
Talking to the people who will be fixing this problem, we discover that our drains are nothing like other drains on Rival 32s, and have obviously been designed by whoever was responsible for the amateur fitting-out on our boat. Just our luck! Everything including the two bilge pumps are led to a small box at the stern. This box will have to go, as it too is leaking.
So, once this bit of work is completed we can get the sails back on - they have been being washed and repaired, for the first time in five years, by Owen Sails, and we can also restore our wind steering gear, the Aries, which we have now repaired after having to sail without its help last season. It failed because it lost a tiny stainless steel pin, absolutely crucial to its working!
Other little problems we need to try and fix await once we are afloat again.
Plans for sailing this season are deliberately fluid. Our plan, if we have one, is just to potter about, rather than decide to head for a particular destination. That we we reckon will be more relaxing and less stressful, which is what holidays are supposed to be, after all!
A photo of our newly antifouled boat should appear above! I'm testing the Aries windvane in this photograph.
I suppose we've been going to the boat show at Excel now for a number of years, possibly four or five, and usually we've gone on the final day, a Sunday. This year we went on the middle Sunday, although I don't think that makes much of a difference to the visitor experience. I used to think that if you wanted to buy something specific at the show, good deals were improved hugely by offering cash in exchange for a further discount. Stallholders were sometimes happy to do this on the last day. This time we had no possible (sizeable) purchase in mind, so it didn't matter.
What was more interesting was to reflect on the changes over the years. Gone are the guided visits of Royal Naval frigates parked at the dock - the Navy can't spare the ship from duty any longer. I didn't even see an RN stand this year. The huge motor boat hall was full as usual of improbably huge and opulent craft, full of stocking-footed visitors, and this year there were also a large number of cars and heated outdoor hydropools. (Difficult to understand where you are supposed to put these on a 32 foot yacht?????) But there is obviously a market for opulent craft somewhere in this so-called recession!
The chandlery and small stalls hall was pretty full of people this year, more so than last year, I thought, and there was a great variety of things to look at and choose from.
But overall there is a feeling of the whole event shrinking year by year just a little. The floor space occupied by the show shrank last year to accommodate an outdoor show in half of the small stalls hall. Fun if you are interested in bikes - I had a look at the celebrated Brompton bike last year!
So, a bit less animated, a bit less to see, just a bit less all round.
For me the real marker was the absence of the hot-chestnut seller at the exit to the exhibition this year. Not enough departing punters to make it worth his while. Well I missed him!
Our visit was made really memorable by seeing our old friends Frank and Joyce and having a good blether over lunch. And Dot and Noel managed to find this year's sweater among the clothing stalls. So it was a good day out, overall.