Guapa: Beauty and the Sea

One family and their boat. A daydream, a vision and now, slowly, becoming reality.

14 December 2016
25 May 2016 | Sainte Marine
23 May 2016 | L'Aber Wrach
21 May 2016 | Port Pendennis
19 April 2016 | Boxmoor
05 April 2016 | Northwood
28 January 2016 | Hemel Hempstead
17 December 2015 | Boxmoor
01 September 2015 | East Coast
30 July 2015 | Northwood
26 July 2015 | Northwood
01 June 2015 | Ostend/North Sea
27 May 2015
31 March 2015 | Leverstock Green
23 February 2015 | Leverstock Green
13 January 2015 | Leverstock Green
24 November 2014
14 October 2014 | Leverstock Green
19 September 2014 | Leverstock Green
15 September 2014 | Levington, River Orwell

Over a month

16 December 2007 | Medusa and back
It's been over a month since we last went sailing. That's way too long. Various reasons - mainly crap weather, exams and work (of all things) caused this sorry state of affairs.

Finally - clear sunny skies and a nice easterly. What more do you want/need? Our first attempt to get to the boat yesterday was foiled by Health and Safety obsessed Highway Agency wankers. The gods had successfully thwarted our sailing plans for a day. But as luck would have it, today was not too bad either.

We got up extra early to be sure to be at the boat at a reasonable hour. We arrived without mishaps at 10H45 and wasted no time getting ready for sea.
It showed that we hadn't been out for a while - everything took just that little bit longer. And I very nearly bungled our departure, but recovered with style and grace.

The promised easterly was in effect all over the place, but it was nice to be out all the same. We motored to Shotley Spit to give the engine a decent run and unfurled the genoa. Finished with engine. Peace and quiet - only the gentle murmur of the sea. Bliss.

And very soon I was left to enjoy all this peace and quiet on my own. Despite several reminders that is was going to be bloody cold it became apparent that my faithful crew had underestimated how cold bloody cold really is. They retired down below to defrost. Bless 'em.

Off Walton it got lumpy and protestations were made. Could we turn back please? Seeing I had dragged them here and the crew weren't enjoying themselves I gave in. Hopeful that this had created some future goodwill.

And behold... as soon as we had tacked they all surfaced. Family chat in the winter sun. Yanni made himself useful and pumped up all our fenders. And it needed to be done. The recent storms had pinned Guapa onto her pontoon.

Once we passed the Felixtowe container terminal the wind packed up. We drifted for a bit hoping for the wind's return. Alas, it was not to be. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Yanni started the engine and we had the sails stacked and packed in no time.

We squeezed Guapa into her berth in our well practised manner. Having two instead of one to take the lines ashore makes all the difference. Cups of tea (with anti-freeze) all round. The family once again retired below to defrost whilst I enjoyed the scenery on deck.

Time to head back came much too soon, but today's fix would see me through the next couple of days. Two weeks X-Mas leave on the horizon.

Getting philosophical

11 November 2007 | Medusa and back
Sooner than expected and hoped for: our first true winter sail of 2007. The forecast was ominous a NW to W F8 with rain thrown in for good measure. We (Brigitte & I) made the trip up anyway as I wanted to check on the boat after the recent storm/spring tide. A sail would be nice but not essential.

Guapa was in pretty good shape - she had survived more or less unscathed. Just the deck remains a worry - leaks in all the familiar places. If the deck's dry next week I'll do some emergency repairs.

Where was that forecast F8? Barely 8kts of wind in our berth. We had a very nice lunch - brie and bacon croissant sandwich - and made ready for sea. The westerly dictated a leisurely cruise towards Medusa. And why not?

Out in the river we hoisted the main and pointed Guapa towards open sea. I just caught the latest Met Office forecast repeated by Thames Coastguard. Sea area Thames: W - F8 continuing. Brigitte looked at me with big eyes. What planet were these people on? Still, Evita and I had made two bumpy North Sea crossings this year - F8-9 at sea and eerily calm on the Orwell. Rather safe than sorry I put a reef in the main. You never know.

Once past South Shelf the wind picked up a bit (15kts relative), but not much. Landguard came and went - still no more than 15kts over deck. As we were pushing against the tide Guapa struggled to make 4kts over the ground. That reef had to go. I managed to shake it out in less than a minute. Rather having to shake one out than struggling to put a reef in. Boat speed picked up and we were cruising without a care in the world. Snorky did the helming, Brigitte made some tea below and I sat on the foredeck watching the world go by. Once again trying to think of reasons to head back. It's getting harder every time.

At sea. I like being at sea - even more so when we're out of sight of land. Whatever worries or troubles you think you have... Fuck it! Seems a fitting answer to all of them. Running away to sea - the dream of a lifetime.

If the weather's sunny and warm with just enough wind (say F4) from the right direction: you're having the time of your life and nothing else matters.
Rather more sporting conditions (F6) maybe slightly wet and overcast, but Guapa's unleashing her full potential: you're having the time of your life and nothing else matters.
All hell breaks loose (F9), seas are huge and spray's flying everywhere. Making your way forward on all fours to put in yet another reef you consider "what if" scenarios, but in a strange way you're more alive than you've ever been and once again: nothing else matters.

About a mile short of Medusa it started to rain more than just a bit. Seemed like as good a time as any to head back. One tack and that was it. Back towards "civilisation" and all that entails.

At least it wasn't crowded out. Sort of an understatement really - we were out for four hours and in all that time we met five other boats. Considering that there are about 2,000 boats kept in the Orwell/Stour area the place was deserted. Thank God.
It's so much nicer to sail like this, without a care in the world. Not having to dodge yet another prat shouting "we're racing" or even worse a clueless week-end warrior in his shiny floating caravan/gob of snot. L'enfer - c'est les autres. Hell is other people.
And, let's be honest: Do I look like a "people person" to you?

We got back to the marina in the last of the daylight. I had ever so slightly misjudged our approach angle but Brigitte's fearless leap into the unknown saved my bacon. Tied up in no time. Routine kicked in: Brigitte tidied up below; I sorted out everything on deck. We headed home at 17H00 and it was pitch-dark. And it'll be getting worse for another five weeks. I hate this time of year: X-Mas and all the commercial bollocks that comes with it. Can't we just "fast forward" to April 2008?


06 November 2007 | Suffolk
It's been a bit quiet on the blog, but that does not mean nothing happened. Au contraire, mon vieux.

Weather's been "odd" the last few weeks. Rain with sunny spells, and not much wind. On one of our week-end outings we motored up the Stour and finally completed Snorky's (our autopilot) sea calibration. He now steers a straight as a ruler, but seems a bit more nervous. As a consequence power consumption has gone up. I'll fiddle some more with it at some point; but for the time being I intend to leave well alone. Since we confine ourselves to daysailing in winter the batteries can take it.

I checked the sails last week-end - both main and genoa could do with a stitch in places. Nothing major, but I don't want it developing into something major. I'll take them down to the loft to be mended some time after X-Mas.
What else am I doing - not much; compiling a "to do" list for winter/spring. So far the list features:
- fitting a new radar/plotter. Spotted a very good deal and went for it. (April)
- Get the sails mended (February)
- Fit new aft head. The current Jabsco caused us grief last summer, so it's being replaced by another Lavac over X-Mas
And that's about it; I intend to keep the list to a minimum this year as we will most likely be laying up for winter in 2008-2009.

Other developments on the boat-owning front: I'm looking to re-mortgage. Guapa weighs heavily on our monthly budget, hence my investigation. I've tracked down to two possible providers offering a very attractive rate (5.60%). Only caveat: we would need to reflag the boat. I'm not stuck on any one ensign, so now I'm figuring out the paperwork involved. If all goes as planned we should soon have some extra breathing room every month and have some money left over for the deck refit next year. A major cost, but the longer I postpone the worse it'll get (and the more it will cost).

The week before last we moved from our swinging mooring to our winter pontoon berth. Always a kind of sad moment. The end of the season. It does not affect our sailing much, but it still marks the passing of another year. I now miss our dinghy ride to/from Guapa and the peace and tranquillity. It's like a move from the countryside to a block of flats.
Still, it's not all bad. The main benefit being shore power. In winter I leave the dehumidifier on all the time. With the amount of rain we get, that's not a bad thing. And I've got an electric heater on a timer.

We're in an altogether better winter berth than we were last year - more sheltered, and in a westerly blow (the prevailing wind direction) we're not pinned in against the pontoon. Though, as I found out the week before last, in a southerly at high water we're not going anywhere either. And, last but not least: we're much nearer to the bar.

So, that's it - nothing exciting, things are happily ticking over. Looking forward to some decent winter sailing. The crowds seem to have gone home for another year. Happy days.


13 October 2007 | River Orwell
Weather looked not too bad, a bit overcast but a nice E to SE 2-3. Looks like kite flying weather to me. Upriver? Not a long trip, but it can be fun.

After lunch, I set out to rig as much as possible whilst still on the mooring. PPPPP - Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. It had been over a month since we last flew the kite, and it showed. It took us 15 minutes to have everything in place, compared to the 10 minutes it took us last time. Standards are slipping.

Some-one must have seen us coming, because as soon as we got underway the wind veered to a more southerly direction. We were flying the kite at it's limits - 90° of relative wind. Note to self: next time I must not forget to rig the jockey pole, altogether easier on the sheets and the rigging. As it was, I was not much bothered, light winds and it was only a short trip.

Once we had passed Pin Mill Brigitte took over the helm. Whilst flying the kite - a first! Confidence is growing. Always nice to see. The farther upriver we went the more variable the wind became. I had my hands full adjusting the spinnaker boom and the general sail trim to the constantly changing conditions. Well, it kept me out of trouble. Guapa put her best foot forward too. With a bit over 10kts of relative wind, she managed to reward us with just under 7 kts boat speed. Not bad for 13 tons, not bad at all.

We turned back just short of the Orwell Bridge. Kite and main were down and stowed in no time at all. With Brigitte still at the helm we motored back to our mooring. The batteries needed the charge. I think they may have had it. With everything switched off and isolated they lost 25% of their charge in two weeks. Not a top priority as we will be on a pontoon berth in two weeks time, but it needs to be investigated this winter. And maybe it's time to invest in a windgenerator?

We met quite a few boats coming upriver flying their kite too. Still a thing of beauty. This time of year the waters get less congested and you meet a different kind of sailor. Not a bad thing. Looking forward to some decent winter sailing.

Brigitte volunteered to park the boat, Evita and I made our way to the foredeck. The first approach was just right, pick up a doddle. Pretty soon they won't need me at all.

The week after next (school holiday and I have a week off) we had/have some sailing plans. These are all up in the air at the moment; our dog sitter won't be available and I urgently need to go shopping for another car. You plan... and then you have to do something completely different.

Is this it?

10 October 2007
All was supposed to be revealed today: the meaning of life, the universe and everything... 42!

So far, I don't feel any different. Maybe it needs some time to "take"?

The past year has been one of mixed blessings - let's hope the next one brings a bit more stability and good fortune.

Bobbing along

29 September 2007 | River Orwell/Stour
To avoid repeating myself at nausium: we'll take the drive to the boat, launching of the dinghy and the lunch as read. If a routine works, there's no point in changing it.

Not much to be said - just enough wind from a Northerly direction. What to do? It looked busy upriver and "Dad doesn't like crowds", so what about another trip to Wrabness? Reaching all the way along the Stour - should be good.

The leg from Collimer Point to Pepys was almost dead downwind. Too short to bother with the kite. By the time we would have had it up, it would have been time to take it down.
Goosewinging worked some of the time, but it was not ideal. The wind was far to fickle for that.

As it we were pretty much bang on HW we once again took the short cut from College to Ganges. It's going to end in tears one of these days - I can feel it.
Anyway, the trip to Wrabness and back was utter bliss. We put Snorky in charge, and that was it. SIt back and relax. Just what the doctor ordered. Alas, once again, over too soon.

As we rounded Shotley Spit on the way back we tacked upriver as far as Fagbury. Then you could see the enthusiasm wither on the vine. Sod it, let's get everything down and motor back - the battery needs charging anyway.

On the way back we stopped at Fox's to drop off some contraband and have a quick pint and a meal. So much for another week.

Since we got back from our summer cruise we have pretty much managed a daysail every weekend. And that's fine, I long for and need these little excursions. I don't think I would survive without them.
Fine as they are, I long for the open sea. Just to get away from the shore, out of sight of land, away from the petty mindedness that seems to surround me lately.
As a French philosopher once said: "L'enfer, c'est les autres". Hell is other people.

I will have a week off in two weeks time. School mid-term, so I'll have crew as well. If there's a decent weather window (3 days) I plan to make another break for Ostend. To visit friends, to stock up on booze and just for the hell of it. More than enough reasons.

Rather sporting

23 September 2007 | River Orwell
Odd forecast this week-end. It looked to be quite good both days; with a bit more wind on Sunday. Why not go out both days? Gentle reminder from Number One (obviously one was needed): Who's going to do the washing, cleaning and shopping when we're gone the whole week-end? And what about the dog? Yes dear, no dear, sorry dear...

So, another daysail. I opted for Sunday, the safe choice. Wind guaranteed, or so they said.
Trip round the M25 and up the A12 - I could do it with my eyes closed, and one of these days I'm going to try it.

We arrived in Levington just before lunch. Same old, same old... launch Guapi, wet & wild trip to the boat, strip off, dry oilies, and have lunch. Quite a bit more wind than forecast - an ample 20kts over deck (bit more, bit less). What to do? Play it safe - upriver cruise. No the time to play the hero or break something - I have no money as it is.

An enjoyable and at times an exhilarating ride to the Orwell Bridge. Against the tide we still clocked over 7kts over the ground. The gentle murmur of our wake at times became a something associated with motorboats. Give her plenty of wind, and she'll lap it up. We had full main up and full N�2 genoa. If Guapa was ever tempted to round up we just let the main out a bit and she was once again as good as gold.
What a boat.

The trip downriver delivered more of the same. Apart from one extra lesson learned: upriver there are no shortcuts. At LW: pass the buoys on the proper side. For about 30sec we were stuck in the mud. (note to self: the echosounder needs to be adjusted by 0.40m).

Picking up a mooring is an East Coast custom. We do it from time to time, and as we have attached a pick-up buoy (blub) to our mooring it has proven quite popular with other boats. We've had plenty of squatters in residence. When we're out for a couple of days, I don't mind in the least. I'm not using the mooring, so feel free. When we're out for a daysail we leave Guapi on the mooring as a sign of our imminent return. Today; a first. A squatter - with Guapi still in place! Some people! In future I'm going to leave a sign: Don't even think of picking up this buoy.

Sails stacked and furled, we motored back onto our now vacant mooring in a bit of a breeze. Twenty five knots... where did that come from. Well trained, Brigitte picked up the buoy first time round. Break out the booze. Rum and coke, some crisps and watch the world go by; still basking in that post-sail glow.

The trip back in the dinghy was an altogether dry, surfing kind of affair. And that was it, for another week. Back to the office tomorrow - some-one please hand me the Prozac, or some other happy-pill.

Easy does it

15 September 2007 | River Orwell/Stour
Like last year - September's not bad, not bad at all. Some glorious sailing to be done.

Gentle to moderate breezes were our part. Just a daysail, but not to be sniffed at. A day's better than nothing at all. Plenty of options: a gentle upriver cruise or an excursion into the Stour? Upriver would give us another opportunity to fly the kite, a trip to Wrabness would be the sociable thing to do. A chance to say "hello" to Jolie Brise anchored there.

A quick phonecall to Roger decided it for us: he had a camera on board. It has been some time since we had a picture of Guapa under sail. A sail-past at Wrabness it was going to be.

Just enough wind to be useful - a bit over 10kts over deck. I hoisted the main on the mooring and we gently sailed off the buoy. Genoa unfurled in no time at all. Then, short tacking our way down to Shotley. As it was bang on HW I ventured the shortcut across Shotley Spit. Just enough left below the keel.

Then, my favoured kind of sailing: long bits on the same tack. Snorky took care of the helming. The wind just aft of reaching all the way. Utter bliss. Passed the collection of defunct lightships onto Wrabness.
We spotted Jolie Brise on a mooring - Roger camera in hand. Smartly executed tack and on our way back home.

Gentlemen like race with two other boats going the same way. We won - no contest. Just off Felixtowe we put the laundry away and motored back to our mooring. All packed and stowed by the time we got there.

Picked up blub - finished with engines. Break out the booze. Family chat & drink on the mooring. Trip back in Guapi and the well trodden road back to St Albans.

Just about enough to keep me sane for another week.


08 September 2007 | St Albans
No sailing this week-end - but there's a good reason for it. Both of Guapa's junior crew have a birthday to celebrate.

Yanni's turning 11 today. Only 11 years we've had him - it seems like so much longer.
At times "le petit zizi" when we heel a bit too much for his liking, but he remains our keenest sailor. Sea Cadets trained, and keen as mustard.
What will become of you, little dude?

Evita will turn 16 - sweet sixteen on Tuesday. Time flies. I remember like yesterday the time I first held you in my arms. A 6 pound little bundle of nothing... now look at you. A budding Einstein ready to take on the world and break a few hearts along the way.

Ladies & Gentlemen, please raise your glasses to my kids/crew: they make me proud every day.

Fickle winds

01 September 2007 | River Orwell
Last week-end in August. Funny week-end, this one. Weather forecast was not bad, but not that good either. Very light winds, some sun & no rain. Sunday marginally better than Saturday. A no-brainer, or so I thought.

I was all in favour of a Sunday sail, but as Brigitte pointed out: there would be a lot of cars on the road on Sunday. School's starting again next week. So, a Saturday of drifting with style it was.

The trip up the A12 took longer than usual. Nonetheless, we arrived just before lunch. Same old, routine: launch dinghy, have lunch and watch the world go by. Another advantage of being on a swinging mooring: nothing beats the view.
Just over ten knots of wind over deck - just about useable. We made our way downriver downwind but against the tide. Four knots over the ground - goose-winged. By the container terminal the wind went altogether. Furled genoa and motored for a bit. Past Shotley Spit the wind re-appeared. Time to give it another go. The wind shifted between starboard quarter and dead aft. Sail trim became a full time job.

Once we passed Landguard the wind settled starboard aft quarter - eight knots relative. Spinnaker, anyone? Surprisingly, the vote was unanimous. All in favour.
Now dab hands at this, we had the kite rigged and up and flying in less than ten minutes. What a team. Bliss lasted for all of five minutes. Then the wind, if there was any, was all over the place. Three knots relative was not doing it for us.
Recover kite, de-rig and stow: another ten minutes. All done and dusted in half an hour.

Bit downhearted now, I just took all the sails down. We motored all the way back - the batteries needed charging anyway. Mooring, recover dinghy and relax. Some (several) rum and coke, some beer,... Nothing much.

Dinner was a pleasant meal at Fox's followed by a record trip down the A12 & M25. And that's going to be it for the next few weeks. No sailing next week-end as the family's 'n "birthday mode". Yanni'll be 11 on Saturday and Evita'll be sweet 16 next Tuesday.
The week-end after that there's a possible visit to Southampton Boat Show planned. Going cold turkey's not going to be easy.
Vessel Name: Guapa
Vessel Make/Model: Kalik 44
Hailing Port: Ipswich, UK
Crew: Wim, Brigitte, Evita & Yanni
About: The Vandenbossche family
Extra: One family and their boat. It started as daydream, then a vision and now, slowly, becoming reality.
Guapa's Photos - Beauty and the Sea (Main)
1 Photo
Bringing Guapa home - Bruinisse lock
35 Photos
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Winter sailing - UK East Coast
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7 Photos
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Meet the crew
12 Photos
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Messing about in the Suffolk/Essex area
8 Photos
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Running from the storm(s) - North Sea Triangle: Ramsgate - Ostend - Harwich.
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