Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Choosing the Boat (1)

What skills do I have?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been making checklists. I used the first one to list the types of work which might be encountered in building, restoring or renovating a boat. I found it a really valuable, but painful exercise, having to admit to myself just how limited my skill and knowledge really is.
The time spent was well worth it though. Now I know I won’t be building a brand new boat in wood or steel. I also know that I’ll probably try to avoid working on gas fittings, and that I have a good deal of reading to do if I have to deal with 12 volt electrics.

Anyway here was my starting point and I’d like to think the time and effort will be rewarded when I start the real work – hopefully in choosing my boat I won’t bite off more than I can chew
Checklist 1: About me (strengths and weaknesses) (scores out of 10)
Personal Skills/ Knowledge
Got a GCE in 1967, but that wouldn’t make me a boat builder. Built a Mirror Dinghy (stitch and glue) It floated. Good for Something
Tool up for small jobs – don’t buy a wooden boat or try to build one!
Working GRP
Some experience in repair and cosmetic  improvement, glassing in and stitch and glue construction – I’m a bit messy though
Like wood – can probably get away with small stuff but could not undertake a build or a major repair
Painting / Varnishing
Not too bad – I know enough to understand that preparation is the key
This is probably my best skill – could make a boat look pretty – my painting is better than my varnishing though
Engine maintenance /repair
I Know nothing!
This is something I will have to pay for. So single engine and keep it simple to keep costs down
Electrical systems and installation
Could fit a new VHF of wiring was already installed. It’s all 12 volt isn’t it?
Actually this is something I’m interested in because it has a direct relationship to shipboard comfort. So I need to read up all I  can and always stay with the low tech solution
Nothing – on a boat it might be quite simple – but through hull joints and fittings will have to be very well done
As above, lots of reading to do but if its kept simple I should be able to cope
Sewing – canvass work needle work
Nothing – but I know someone who does!
Convince Susan that this is her project as much as mine – consider a sweetener – Call the Boat Susan!
Rope work – Knots, splicing etc
No too bad – can do all the sailing knots and a few fancy ones for gingerbread work. Can make up halyards, mooring lines etc. Could not handle wire rigging
That’s my winter evenings taken up
Metal work – welding etc
Never done it – will have to avoid or learn
Don’t buy a steel boat!
Gas fitting
Everything I have reads suggests gas on boats can be dangerous and should be fitted by a qualified expert -
Get it done properly or find an alternative

Guess I'd better stay away from a wooden boat


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

It shouldn’t happen to a sailor (1) 

Life Threatening Life Raft

A friend was almost killed recently by a six man inflatable life raft – read on.

Jersey UK is a small island 9m x 5m, home to some 90,000 inhabitants none of whom live more than three miles from the sea. Sailing is a major activity here and the local government invests a great deal in teaching sailing, boating seamanship etc.  My friend (let’s call him John, to save his embarrassment) is an instructor at the Island’s sailing base. Each spring he organises a sea-safety course for young people. The highlight of the programme is to motor out into the bay and throw an inflatable life raft overboard for the kids to scramble into.

This can be an expensive exercise because afterwards the raft has to be deflated and professionally checked, restocked and repacked with a new CO2 gas bottle. One way to keep costs down is to use liferafts which are due their regular mandatory maintenance checks, they have to be inflated checked, deflated and repacked anyway.

John collected one such raft from the office in town, put it on the passenger seat of his Land Rover and set of for the harbour. En route, the vehicle bounced over a pot-hole and – you guessed it – the life raft began to inflate. In john’s own words:-

‘…dam thing went off life a firecracker… filled the cab and pushed my face against the screen and crushed me against the door… the pressure was building and building… thought it was going to push the windows out… couldn’t move my head… hit the brakes hoping there was no other vehicle on my tail.’

Then, just as he thought he was about to die, the inflating raft snagged something sharp in the cab and it began to deflate but John’s troubles were not over:-

‘the pressure came off and I heaved a huge sigh of relief… a moment later I realised my heart was pounding and I was taking in huge gulps of air but I couldn’t get my breath … something wasn’t right…  was I having a heart attack brought on by the shock and stress of the incident? ‘

No, this wasn’t a heart attack, this was suffocation. The CO2 gas which had initially inflated the raft had escaped through the life-saving puncture and now it had filled the cab, expelling all the air:-

‘so for a second time in as many minutes I thought I was going to die all over again… fortunately, I managed to push the cab door open, and fall onto the road… fresh air never tasted sweeter. Hey! Listen, this is quite embarrassing. You won’t tell anyone about this will you? 

No John. I won’t breathe a word!


Monday, 26 March 2012


I’ll keep this brief and hope you’ll stay long enough to sign up for the voyage to a place a long way from here.

A bit about me

As a child, I was raised in the coal mining district of Yorkshire England at a time when ponies (pit-ponies) worked alongside human miners underground. Like the humans they were entitled to an annual vacation and so once each year they were brought to the surface for a two week stint in the sun. We kids tried to ride them but, like any other miner in the sunlight they became crazy! 
My own trip starts after forty years in the harness of mainstream life, commuting, working, raising kids and paying mortgages. Sailing happened whenever possible but always with a strong engine to get me home by Sunday evening ready for a return to the office on Monday morning. Last year, I was ‘cash rich, time poor’, next year I’ll have all the time I need but I’ll be considerably poorer in financial terms.  I am approaching this with an enthusiasm bordering on the insanity of a ‘pit-pony’ in the sunlight.

I am a slow learner and quite forgetful. In the 1960 and 1970s I was a part of alternative culture but now, after being sucked into the vortex of mainstream society and having stayed there so long, the luxury of choice and the options of what to take and what to leave from the ‘old life’ feel very new to me.
This blog is about choosing, purchasing, restoring, renovating, navigating maintaining and voyaging a cruising boat. Sailing is going to be writ large but there is also a hidden agenda. I want to explore an idea that that the exchange of time for money may not be a simple ‘like for like' equation. Maybe time is more precious and useful than money. Maybe you already got there years ahead of me but I’m sure there are plenty of us who through choice, circumstance or personal philosophy are in similar situations or at similar turning points in our lives – we need to know:

Can we get on the water, cruise, voyage in comfort, and maintain our vessels on a shoestring?

Could this idea actually be more attractive than our current situation?

Might we discover that time is actually more important than money?

Could the knowledge and skill acquired have wider applications?

So, my trip, and yours (if you want to join it) is a philosophical exploration as well as a practical quest