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

Least said...

29 December 2012 | Leverstock Green
We seem to have come to a somewhat boring end of a year best forgotten. And the sooner, the better. Not much to write home about, so I won’t.
Suffice it to say that if this current spell of wet weather keeps up we’re likely to get osmosis of the deck (wrong kind of rain – as in way too much).

Took the boat out for a spin on Boxing Day. More a logistics run than anything else. A two hour fair weather window was all we got/needed. Just enough to get rid of the cobwebs and to move Guapa to a new temporary berth. A new home for her till we figure out what the rest of the year will bring us. To quote John Lennon: Life is what happens while you make other plans.

Lots of social and family commitments over the next few days. Next sail as soon as time/weather allows, as I’m keen to squeeze in as many sailing days as possible while we still have the time.

So, there we are. Another year of our lives we’re not getting back. Best wishes for 2013 to one and all. Things can only get better.

How hard can it be?

03 December 2012 | Leverstock Green
Sometimes you need a target to focus the mind. Target set: the AZAB 2015. Just registered a preliminary interest. Boat should be ready and up for it, let's hope the same will go for the skipper and any possible crew.

After all, how hard can it be? Great things have been achieved in life by naive and ill-informed people.

Onwards and upwards.

Choices made

03 December 2012 | Leverstock Green
I have had a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards the boat this past year. Mainly brought about by health and financial worries. Would we still require such a large boat when it looks like the children will no longer be coming along, will we be able to afford keeping such a large boat when I retire? And due to some health concerns: would we still be able to manage such a large boat single or short-handed?

The lack of potential, cash rich buyers beating a path to our door has made it quite clear that Guapa will be our boat for many years to come. And in a strange way, I am quite relieved/pleased. We've put so much into her... I'd be heartbroken if she actually went.

So, much thought has been going towards what's required to get her ready for long distance offshore sailing. Lots of items initially deemed essential have been scrapped or been moved to the 'lottery win' list.

1. Windvane self-steering: long been on my wish-list, but now moved joint top on our to-do list. It's what we need to be able to sail beyond the goldfish bowl that is the North Sea / Channel area. A Hydrovane had always been the most obvious choice, but I was never quite sure about them. Having chatted with loads of people who have already done what we are planning I have now gone right off them. It came down to an Aries or a Monitor. The 'swing-gate' option swung it for the Monitor (pun sort of intended).
2. Electric windlass: joint top of the to-do list. Back/heart problems have meant that we haven't really anchored in five years. But I'll be damned if I'll be spending the rest of my life sailing from marina to marina. Once fitted, a new lightweight but rigid tender will be on the list too.
3. Pulpit remodelling: getting on/off the boat when moored bow to is not exactly easy. Looking to have the pulpit adapted like some of the Swedish brands (with a ladder). And at the same time I would like to have it adapted so that we can fit a removable bowsprit. We really need one to be able to set the cruising chute shorthanded. The current spit & chicken wire arrangement will only get us so far.
4. Electrics: solar panels and some sort of towed electricity generator. Plans for a generator have been shelved for practical and financial reasons.
5. A water-cooled fridge/freezer: Current unit may well have another year left in it, but not much beyond that.
6. Communications: an SSB radio (possibly with a Practor modem). As we already have a portable satphone plans for some sort of Inmarsat/Iridium internet capable terminal have also been abandoned. There is life without the internet.
7. Steps on the mast: will make getting up the mast A LOT easier. Certainly in the long term when there will be just two of us (or even singlehanded).
8. Also considering fitting an electric winch, but this is not essential. A self-tailing manual winch on the mast will do too.
9. Plans for some sort of rigid canopy to replace the sprayhood have also been shelved. Would be nice to have, but I quite can't bring myself to see it as essential. Price is an important factor too.
10. Likewise plans to fit a watergenerator. These things seem to be very fickle and more trouble than they are worth. Also a consideration: I am not the most patient kind of person when it comes to dealing with temperamental equipment.

There were, still lots to do, but the list is becoming manageable. Hope to complete items 2, 3 and 4 in 2013 and the remainder (1, 4, 6 and 7) in 2014.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

PS: just bought a second-hand boom-brake as X-Mas present for the boat. Added peace of mind when sailing downwind. Don't know why, but involuntary gybes scare the hell out of me.

Short & sweet

03 December 2012 | Leverstock Green
Been out a few times lately – which was surprising as work has kept me quite busy. Though the few times we have been out have been well worth it.

Crisp winter sun and a nice breeze, sometimes even from the right direction. Most trips two up, some trips I even got one of the offspring to come along. Most adventurous feat to date: recovering a cruising chute in a 20kts breeze singlehanded. Lots of lessons learned there.

Other than that, not much to report. The winter ‘to do’ list is as good as done. Wind genny back in place, new oven gimbals fitted, and sprayhood windows replaced free of charge (my favourite price).
Still left on the list – but hopefully struck off by next week: welding the leaking fresh water tank.

So, there were, in pretty good shape considering and looking forward to our next winter sail. Not as many as I would have liked, but so very rewarding.


21 October 2012 | Northwood
Not much to report - just a quick post to let you know this blog has still got a pulse.

Dehumidifier and heater are back on the boat. Proof, as if proof were needed, that winter is upon us. The 'cold' hasn't arrived yet, but the 'wet' is well and truly with us.

Sailing wise there is not much to report. Some sailing in a brisk breeze (fun), some drifting in very little wind (not so much fun, but the pleasant company made it bearable - and then some) and some pottering about. Generally not going anywhere and taking our time about it.

Weather and work are seriously cramping my style. And this (work) is not likely to improve before the end of November, though if we're lucky we might squeeze in a day of two over the upcoming school half-term holidays.

Winter maintenance/repair list is fairly minimal. Fix the leaking port-side water tank, some tabs, find a way to secure the oven and put back the wind generator mast. Last but not least, some minor deck caulking. End of list. Yard has got the job well in hand and no doubt they will once again do a great job.
Sprayhood's already made it to the loft to have the window replaced. Hopefully it should reappear in the very near future.

And that my friends, is all she wrote. Hang in there and stay safe. We are.

Summer in hindsight

12 September 2012 | Leverstock Green

We may or may not still get an Indian summer, but work and other commitments mean that we will not be in a position to take full advantage. Whilst we're contemplating getting ready for winter, it's as good a time as any to look back. The season has been another so-so one. Not as good as hoped for, not as bad as feared.

My main disappointment has been that we have, yet again, been unable to broaden our horizons and to go boldly where we haven't been before. Time (lack thereof) and the weather seemed to conspire against us. But I'm grateful for what we've had - no-one can take it away from us.

A 'cunning plan' is forming. A, for us, rather unorthodox, way of organising our 2013 summer cruise. More later, once I've had a word with the XO, but if it all works out either the high latitudes or southern Brittany may well be within our reach.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy 'Float on a Boat V1.0'


01 September 2012 | Ipswich
Surprisingly little has gone wrong with the boat this year. Proof that we're finally getting on top of things.

And we have at last found an electrician worth his salt. A 'man with a van' who is as good as his word.
Over the last two weeks he has sorted our increasingly temperamental bow navigation light (Lopolight: avoid at all cost. When we opened it up, it seems it was by no means waterproof), sore the wiring faults in the forward cabin, worked out how our charging setup functions (weird doesn't even begin to describe it), and last but not least he fixed the bilge and sump pumps. Yanni had done a good job jury-rigging them, but a more permanent solution was called for. One pump and one sensor later and things are like they should be.

On the to-do list for this winter:

- Sort the oven gimbals
- Replace the fresh water switch-over tabs
- Replace the sprayhood windows. They went foggy after just two years. Dolphin offered to replace them FOC. Result.
- Put the new wind genny pole back in place.

End of the list. For a 28 year old boat, the old girl is in pretty good shape. And getting better all the time.


11 August 2012 | Bradwell, Essex
To say I'm a reluctant East Coast sailor is a bit of an understatement. Though the place certainly has its attractions it seems to be lacking in one significant area: water. There hardly is any. The Suffolk/Essex coast can best be described as an area of shallow puddles surrounded by mud. We're there because of two factors: economics and convenience. We can't afford to keep the boat anywhere else and still be within reasonable driving distance of home. Still, things being what they are, we might as well make the most of it.

In that view, and with 2 days of reasonably nice weather forecast, we planned a trip to Bradwell (another shallow puddle). Easterly 4-5 with nice blue, sunny skies and a perfect neap tide to boot. Too good an opportunity to miss and widen our horizons at the same time. Offspring remained at home on dog-sitting duty.

Fox's to Bradwell is just over 36NM - feasible on one tide. And with favourable wind, a pleasant enough trip. And it was. A lovely sail down, one of the best of the year. However, the echosounder kept me on my toes. Once it starts showing less than 3 meters I can never truly relax. I must admit that my nav planning was partly at fault. It had been a quick rush job on the plotter. So people, the lesson for today is: always use paper charts (they show all the details all the time as they have no 'zoom') for your passage planning. Bar a few unscheduled course adjustments the trip was entirely uneventful. We had made good time too - arriving an hour earlier than planned. HW-3 - entry into Bradwell Creek would be 'interesting'.

Just when you think things are going too well and you start to get just a bit too complacent, life has a way of sorting you out. I had called up the marina prior to entry and we had been advised that we would have to raft. Fine - fenders at an appropriate level - just below the toerail. We crawl into the creek (only touched ground once) to find in the marina that there was no raft and we would be on a pontoon. Not enough time to lower the fenders and a brisk easterly (18-20kts) blowing us off the pontoon. First approach was close, but no cigar. Second a lot worse. Third time proved to be a charm. Secure after some internal swearing at the locals. Boats whizzing past you left right and centre when you're obviously having some difficulties... : not exactly helpful. But all is well that ends well. The wind genny pole came off second best in an argument with a Mobo anchor and a XO sported a rather bruised left hand. But alive and kicking and ready to fight another day.

After a cup of tea to settle the nerves, a trip to the pub for some sustenance. The menu looked good, though the much-hyped food was somewhat of a disappointment. Whilst you could not say it was bad in any way, it obviously came straight out of the microwave. Understandably maybe as the place was heaving. Will give the place a second chance this winter. Quiet night on the boat with a book and a movie - life was good.

Sailed back the next day. More of the same: some motoring, going like a train in a brisk reach, gentle downwind sail up the river. Fell in love with the boat all over again. Even the battered XO made sounds of approval. There is hope for us yet. After years of just pottering about, I think we may finally have found our ideal WE destination (providing winds and tides play along).

To be continued.

Short term plans

04 August 2012 | Plogastel St Germain
Ideally another Channel crossing: Ostend for the Paulusfeesten. However, the forecast for next week is somewhat disappointing. It looks like Tuesday will be the last day with any usable wind. And to be truly honest, I don't fancy motoring another 30 hours. We've already too much of that - thank you very much.

Will be keeping a close eye on the forecast for the next couple of days and if it looks like it's going to be motoring most/all of the way we'll stick to pottering about in local waters. Ramsholt or Bradwell or both or neither... we'll see.

The boat's a dream to sail. Laid out just as we want with (nearly) all the comforts of home, and I plan to enjoy her as much as possible. Certainly now, when there's able (and sometimes willing) crew available.
And that will have been it for another year. Diary has no room for sailing for about 3 weeks from the middle of August (mainly work), so it'll be local jaunts only from then on I fear.

At least, we've had some great sails this year, and what we've had no-one can take away from us.

Saving the best for last

29 July 2012 | North Sea/Ipswich
The final leg of a cruise has taken a while to write up. Real life sometimes imposes priorities of its own. Anyway, as the title may indicate, the final leg was by far the best sail of the summer so far.

Ramsgate had suddenly started to fill up with Ramsgate Week participants. So, we had to vacate our berth 'as soon as possible'. As soon as possible in our case meant a quite reasonable 6 o'clock departure - tide with us most of the way (always a bonus). And with wind forecast W to SW 4-5 (occasionally 6) we had the makings of a great passage.

Slipped our mooring on time, hoisted the main in the harbour and proceeded along the yacht track out. So far, so good. A mile and a half out and time to head NNE - and time to switch off the engine. Utter bliss. Wind speed somewhat disappointing but helped along by the tide we still made 5.5kts over the ground. Not too bad and as far as I was concerned this trip was going to take as long as it took.

Once we cleared North Foreland, wind picked up somewhat and now we were really cruising. Sit back, enjoy the scenery and let the autopilot do all the work. Surprised by the number of wind farms. More and more of them every time we come this way.

We tore through Kentish Deep at a rate of knots (more wind) and by the time we had to alter course towards The Sunk we were already an hour ahead of schedule. The forecast 'occasionally 6' materialised in due course, so reef in the main and a couple of turns on the genoa. Boat speed by now consistently over 8kts. Not even the rain/thunder could wipe the smirk off my face. By the time we passed Landguard Guapa was surfing along as she shot up into the Orwell. The bow wave must have been something else, like something out of a Mobo wake shot.

We kept sailing till Pin Mill and took the laundry down as the wind started to drop. Motored the last few miles as the crew busied themselves getting the boat ready to come alongside and to go home. Warm glow of satisfaction after what was the best sail - by far - in a long time.

And that warm glow stayed with me for a couple of days. Its days like these that make this whole boat-owning lark worthwhile. Just wish there were a lot more of them.
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
Created 18 July 2014
17 Photos
Created 20 February 2014
12 Photos
Created 22 May 2013
13 Photos
Created 22 May 2013
Ostend, UK East & South Coast and Normandy
30 Photos
Created 10 August 2012
Winter sailing - UK East Coast
18 Photos
Created 9 February 2012
34 Photos
Created 17 April 2011
10 Photos
Created 17 April 2011
It's all been worth it.
4 Photos
Created 26 July 2010
The horror... The saga continues. Hull respray, new engine, and loads more (expensive) fun.
20 Photos
Created 21 June 2010
Replacing a teak deck and other horror stories
25 Photos
Created 31 December 2008
The Solent, Channel Island(s) and Normandy.
21 Photos
Created 8 June 2008
Messing about in the Suffolk/Essex area
17 Photos
Created 21 December 2007
UK South Coast, Normandy, Northern France & Belgium
40 Photos
Created 23 September 2007
A thing of beauty
7 Photos
Created 3 June 2007
Meet the crew
12 Photos
Created 27 March 2007
Messing about in the Suffolk/Essex area
8 Photos
Created 27 March 2007
Running from the storm(s) - North Sea Triangle: Ramsgate - Ostend - Harwich.
6 Photos
Created 17 February 2007
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