Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hooked on Sailing

Writing the other day about the efforts some sailing magazines make in frightening their readers with tales of woe and near disaster in small boats, set me wondering why sailing and boating is such a love or hate activity. What was it that made me a boating person when there was no history of seafairing in my family? Why do I love the sea when so many others fear and loath the experience.

Maybe, it had something to do with the first formative experience. It happened like this.

I was brought up in a small Yorkshire mining town and I didn’t get a chance to try boating until I was at college in Portsmouth UK. The college overlooked the entrance to Langstone Harbour a bottleneck of water with a reputation for overfalls and fierce currents. In the bar tales were told of students canoeing across the entrance on an ebb and being carried clear across to the Isle of Wight. No one knew who it had happened to - but everyone had a friend who …..

In the early seventies, Langstone was a ‘working man’s’ harbour, lots of small boats - many were home-made and some had been converted from ships lifeboats. To my eyes, more used to spoil heaps from the coal mines, it seemed like heaven. The boats, and their owners who turned up in the local pub with deep tans and bags-full of fresh fish, fascinated me. I was an impoverished student so the idea of taking a boat out and coming back with week’s supply of food had enormous attractions but, without boat or funds, the idea didn’t develop until a fellow student - Charlie struck a deal with a boat owner who lived a long way from the harbour. The upshot was that Charlie would look after the boat, keep her maintained and have her ready for the owner each time he arrived to do a spot of fishing.  In return, Charlie would have free use of the boat at all other times.

As the new Skipper of the ‘Blue Moon’ Charlie recruited Paul and me as crew - not for our knowledge of the sea but because we liked the same music and played pool together. We signed on before seeing the boat or questioning Charlie’s credentials to lead the expedition.

Eleven o’clock the next morning saw us looking for the ‘Blue Moon’, ‘varnished all over, clinker built, solid and seakindly’, according to the owner. Three quarters of an hour later Charlie had to admit that he didn’t know what ‘clinker’ meant and that he wouldn’t know a solid or seakindly hull from a  piece of cheese. We found her eventually. She was small, maybe twelve feet max, and the varnish was almost black.  She looked like an old beer barrel.

We found the outboard underneath and dragged her to the water with various bits of tackle we had managed to borrow. The old Seagull started on the first pull and soon we were at the harbour entrance. The ebb was fierce enough for Paul to suggest that we didn’t need the outboard; the current was doing a fine job taking us out to sea. Fatal words! The engine coughed and died. From here on we were running on tidal power, sometimes backwards, sometimes sideways but always out to sea - towards the Isle of Wight. Were we about to prove the bar-room legend?

We were also taking in water, not an obvious leak just a slow seepage into the bilges - a pint every fifteen minutes or so, nothing to worry about so long as you scooped it out from time to time.

At sea the water was choppy enough to make Paul turn green and vomit over the side. He wasn’t happy but Charlie and I decided that if we were to be washed up on the Isle of Wight we may as well take some fish with us. As the only one with a fishing rod, Charlie cast as far as he could, the line raced out until there was no more on the spool, then it left the spool altogether leaving Charlie holding the naked rod, his line and tackle lost on the seabed.

I didn’t have a rod but a friend had given me a hand-line with a hook, weight, and some coloured beads on it. I hooked on a few worms, dropped it over the side and tied it to the sternpost when it touched bottom.  Charlie meanwhile was hand-lining from the bow using Paul’s tackle.

As the Isle of Wight loomed larger Charlie caught a mackerel, the first of three that afternoon. I was impressed. Nothing was happening on my line so I turned to the outboard. My old BSA motorbike frequently broke down so I knew a few things about getting engines started. There didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong so I checked the fuel line and found an on/off tap similar to one on the BSA. It was switched off.  The seagull had started with a thimble-full of fuel in the carburettor. It had stopped, starved of fuel a few minutes later.  I opened the tap, quietly confident that we’d get home when we were ready.

Charlie’s next fish was small and spiny with the face of the devil himself - we were pleased to get him off the line and out of the boat but a few minutes later he pulled an eel aboard, not huge but a fighter nonetheless. We dropped him into the bottom of the boat along with the mackerel. Shortly afterwards I felt the line jerk - my first fish! The adrenaline burn was out of all proportion to the flattie which I hauled aboard.

As the day wore on Paul became more morose and depressed. We hadn’t caught anything else and so we had to accede to his wish to return home. As predicted, the outboard started first time and soon we were skipping across the sea towards Langstone, two of us at least, regretting the day’s ending and quietly cursing Paul for his less than enthusiastic contribution. Fate took a hand in gaining our revenge however. The boat’s motion under power revived the eel which slithered through the mounting bilgewater and sank its teeth into Paul’s bare foot. His howls could be heard in Southampton.

That evening we turned up in the local pub, tired and tanned with a reasonable bag-full of fish. We’d had a long day and learned a great deal. Why had Charlie arranged for an eleven o’clock departure coinciding with the strongest ebb?
‘I didn’t’, he said. ‘I knew nothing about the tides but I knew you wouldn’t be out of bed any earlier!’

That first trip was one of several that Charlie and I made during a long summer and endless autumn. Each trip taught us something new and gradually our catches and credibility increased. Later that evening I fried the Plaice in butter and it was fresh - like no fish I had eaten before. But now, fourty something years and five boats later, I wonder who was really hooked that day - the fish or me?


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Westerly 22

Don’t know about the rest of the world but this little location is unseasonably wet and cold this year. Last week we had the longest day of the year and apart from a particularly pleasant April the weather so far has failed to deliver anything remotely resembling summer. Are we downhearted? You bet!

Still on the brighter side I managed to crawl onto a Westerly 22 the other day (not the one in the picture). 

Unfortunately she had been converted from Günter rig to that of a standard sloop.

Regular readers will know I am attracted to a Günter rig vessel largely because it makes mast handling very easy and as I am hoping to take whatever boat I purchase via canal from the English Channel to the Atlantic, a Günter seems a sensible solution.

This Westerly in particular was not for sale so the owner was refreshingly candid with me. He told me he had converted to a standard sloop rig several years ago, largely because it improved her sailing performance. According to this guy there are downsides to Günter which to date I have failed to appreciate. The first one is that because the mast is in two sections, the upper section being raised with the sail, you cannot fly a foresail from the top of the mast. At best you get what is called a fractional rig’ with a smaller than average jib. Not only can you not fly a large jib, but for the same reasons, your stays and shrouds cannot be rigged to full mast height either. The lack of height of the ‘permanent’ mast also means that you cannot rig backstays. Finally, I’m told that no matter how hard you pull on the halyard it is difficult to get the sail-carrying spar raised tight against the mast so despite your best efforts the top half of the sail is likely to sag to leeward, thus spoiling performance.

Out of that litany of drawbacks, the one that worries me the most is the absence of backstays. On a lake or river maybe but in any kind of a sea, you’ll have to put a good deal of faith in the rig design to keep the mast upright without backstays.

On the other hand though, I was completely charmed by the interior of the vessel. Its hard to describe, but essentially, because the cabin sides are taken right to the edges of the hull, you have a remarkably large cabin for a relatively small boat. There is even room for a sort of wooden bureau/bookcase with sliding Perspex doors above the cooker and sink – a really homely touch.

From the outside the Westerly 22 definitely looks ‘quirky’, the product of a single mind rather than a committee and certainly nothing like you would get from a designer concerned more about looks than performance.

I guess with a Westerly 22 you either love her or hate her. Susan, took one long look sighed and fell in love with her strange one-off whaleback shape, partly I suspect because the Westerly reminds you somehow of the modern sort of lifeboat carried on cruise ships. The impression I got was that she would be a safe steady but unexciting vessel. Maybe that’s what I need.

Anyway, on to other news. 

  • This morning I read John’s (The Unlikely Boat Builder) latest article on his blog and was completely blown away – he’s a very good writer, extremely knowledgeable, and his latest idea of telling the same story from his, and then his partner’s point of view, is excellent. Too many of us guys get off on the excitement, risk and adventure aspect of sailing that we fail to bring our partners with us. I have to say, I have been there, not with Susan fortunately but when this happens, us guys are the losers. So we can all learn a good deal from what John and his partner have to say.

  • Talking of partners, my  ‘Simple Sailing Low Cost Cruising’ owes a great deal to the time and support Susan give to it. I would love for her to add stuff from time to time but so far I have only mastered the technology enough to give her one page. So, her contribution at the moment cannot be archived – it’s good for one month only. Her current page therefore will stand down sometime next week to be replaced by new material for July – please visit her June page before it disappears, and the come back again next week.

  • Susan, won’t say this herself, so I’ll say it for her, she really is a great shipmate and an excellent sea cook – one of her recipes is to be featured in the Summer issue of Practical Boat Owner

  • Also new for July I’ll be posting a monthly boating quiz (with answers published at the end of each month). What’s that all about? Well, I’m learning about boats and the ways of the sea. Setting a monthly quiz helps me learn, it may be interesting for you – and if I get it wrong I can rely on you guys ( and galls) to draw my attention to it!


Friday, 22 June 2012

Is Sailing a Safe Activity?

A Couple of things happened this week. First I had a visit from my insurance people trying to sell me higher and more expensive cover. (Is it insurance or assurance – what’s the difference?). Anyway, I didn’t buy any more cover from them but I did garner an interesting piece of information. They asked me if I took part in any risk sports or activities. I said, I didn’t think so but I did go sailing, often alone and frequently up to twenty or thirty miles offshore. The insurance guy told me that this was acceptable within the current terms of my cover and that sailing is not considered to be high risk.

Now I have always agreed with this view. In fact I would go so far as to say that you are probably in more danger of accident in your car on the way to the marina or harbour than when you are on the boat.

Now, the second thing that happened this week, was that I found myself trawling through old boating magazines looking for pictures and articles about Westerly 22’s. I didn’t find many but, I was struck by the number of articles which seem designed to put you right off this apparently safe sailing activity altogether. Yachting Monthly, has a ‘confessional’ where guys write in and explain how they nearly kill themselves on their boats. Practical Boat Owner has a ‘learning from experience’ piece in which amateur sailors recount near disasters and then, with hindsight, explain what they did wrong. Throughout the sailing media, journalists write articles designed to unsettle you – ‘Lifejackets are they Safe?’,Could you handle a force ten?’ Come on do you want people to go sailing or not?

Safety at sea is very important but lets not get carried away. As a Englishman, who spends most of his time in Jersey or France, I get a very interesting view of the way small boat safety is viewed in different jurisdictions. The English have a tradition that anyone can put to sea. It is one of the inherent characteristics of English individual freedom. The Europeans however, are increasingly moving down the licensing route. Yes you can have a boat, just like you can have a car but you must prove you can handle her.

The EU now has categorised boats according to their build and equipment and each boat has a cruising limit from sheltered waters to Deep Ocean. The UK, as a member state of the European Union now has the same regulations applied to its boats but for many years argued against this. The English view was that safety came from trained and experienced seafarers rather than boat design. The argument, I suppose, was that a trained and experienced seafarer would check the boat before departure and use her appropriately.

Now Jersey is not a member of the EU and so none of this applies in local waters. If you want to make a trip to France or the UK however, you need to comply.

What has all this to do with me buying a boat? Well, firstly I’m not going to let the Yachting Press put me off with their scary articles and secondly, I need to understand more About the EU small craft directives and regulations. I’d hate to purchase a vessel and then have some European Bureaucrat tell me I can't use it!


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Lysander Sailing Boat

Percy Bandford, not a huge name in yacht designing, but a real revolutionary in his day. I mention him because I came across two examples of his designs the other day, sadly too small for my requirements and probably too far gone for me to renovate. One in particular attracted me because she was gunter rigged. I don’t want to bore readers with my passion for this rig, but for new people to this neck of the internet, a gunter has arelatively short mast in a tabernacle, which makes mast raising and lowering easier. An extra spar is attached to the sail. It is raised when the sail is hoisted, thus increasing the length of the mast. This means that the total length of mast is shortened when you reef the mainsail, so not only do you shorten sail, you shorten the mast as well. This lowers the centre of gravity – thereby increasing stability as the wind rises. Another advantage is that both the mast and the gunter spar sit inside the overall length of the boat with no overhangs when she’s on a road trailer.

So there she is a Blandford designed beautiful pocket cruiser called the Lysander. Percy was one of a small band of British designers who popularised sailing in the 1950s by developing plans and kits for very small cabin cruisers which could be built at home using marine plywood in a geodesic kind of way. That’s to say the tension developed in the ply when it was bent to take up the shape of the hull were the boat’s real strength. By bending sheets of ply in tension against each other you could do away with heavy expensive framing. He also, took advantage of the emerging use of bilge keels to make sure that these designs were happy on cheaper half-tide moorings. In his own words (reflecting attitudes of the day) a Lysander kit could be put together by a ‘man and a boy’ in about ten weekends.

I sailed an old Lysander about ten years ago, she was light, fast as a dinghy and very comfortable. Most were 17 feet in length; this one was a 19ft stretched version, a big boat for me at that time but this was lake sailing not sea sailing. At sea maybe I wouldn’t like her so much.

There are downsides to purchasing this type of boat though, especially for anyone purchasing one second hand. The quality of construction depended on the skill and patience of whoever put the kit together; some were built of inferior exterior ply which was significantly cheaper than marine ply but much more prone to rot and delamination.

That shouldn’t be a problem anymore because the exterior ply versions will probably have rotted away after all this time. Find one in good condition and she must have been made out of the real stuff. Sadly the one I looked at the other day was just too far gone for me to repair and, in any case, it would have required a transom hung outboard for auxiliary power, and that puts her firmly on my ‘no thank you ‘ list.

Looking at her though, I was reminded of Joshua Slocum’s famous book ‘Sailing Alone Around The World’.  Joshua was the world’s first solo circumnavigator and he did it on a shoestring. In the book he describes rebuilding an old boat for the trip. She was called the Spray, and he points out that in law the Spray remains the Spray even if there is only one original plank left after the renovation.  My task, if I had bought the Lysander would have been equally drastic. 

One other interesting low cost cruising gem from  Joshua’s book, is that when he was ready to start the voyage he didn’t have a chronometer so he bought an old alarm clock and boiled it in oil. It kept good time and worked perfectly through the voyage. 

So, a while back John (the Unlikely Boat builder) commented that he feared the list of boats that suit my wish list – ‘good sea boat, shallow draft, gunter rig, good accommodation’, may be a very short list indeed. In truth, I think he suggested that there may be no boats at all which would meet my requirements.  Well, I’m still optimistic because if the Lysander had been in better repair she would have met three of the four criteria listed above. Actually I’m not being entirely truthful here – she was far too small! But this brings me back yet again to the Westerly boats. Apparently, Denis Rayner, the originator of the original Westerly boats did build a shallow draft, GRP gunter rigged vessel with inboard engine options – the Westerly 22, Mmm need to have a look at one.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Boat Share

Recent correspondence from Michael suggested I should consider sharing a boat. His logic was that if I can find someone committed to his career, he would only want to use  the boat during weekends and occasional holidays. I in the meantime, having given up mainstream existence for a better quality of life, ( albeit somewhat poorer) will benefit from free use of the boat during my partner's working week. What's more, I'll be part owner of a boat so purchase and maintenance costs will be halved - thus enabling the partnership to purchase something bigger and/or better than I could achieve alone with my somewhat limited resources.

I must confess, I considered this option a few years ago when  I was still tied to the working treadmill but at that time I considered the ideal partner to be a priest, vicar or some other 'man of the cloth', my reasoning at the time was that he'd be a reasonably honest partner and he wouldn't want use of the boat on the Sabbath.

Meanwhile I have still got a hankering to follow John's advice and consider using a local boat builder to develop and construct a vessel along local lines on the grounds that she would be a good solid boat in the kind of waters I intend to sail. I have reservations however about cost.

With these two ideas in my head I visited a friend in the village who used to own a boatyard and build boats. Not only that, he is an expert sailor, with countless delivery trips and charter boat skippering experience. If anyone can build me my perfect cruiser, this is the man.

Unfortunately, he's tied up in another project, and I probably couldn't afford his time anyway BUT here's an interesting twist to the tale.

There is another guy in the village who is the reluctant owner of a 30 something foot oak twin masted lug rigged open sailing boat, built in the 1930's along the lines of a nineteenth century fishing vessel of the type used along the coat here.

The vessel 'La Passagere' was used commercially as a ferry for passengers and goods traffic across the estuary and now she is a pleasure boat. The guy has spent a fortune on her, installing a new big diesel engine, and bringing her back to 'as new' condition but he is at the time of his life where creature comforts such as a cabin, a cooker and a toilet are becoming important so he has wanted to sell her for a few years. Only recently, has he reduced the price to a realsitic sum. Previously he set a price to recover his investment and there was no interest.

Now this is the really interesting bit. My friend the boatbuilder/skipper made an offer and had it accepted. His plan is to use La Passagere' as a  trip boat for tourists, offering cruises and picnics on the estuary on a half day, day or evening basis but to get the scheme running he need someone to be his crew.

Well who might that be? Yep! you guessed it ME good old Seaward. So, thanks to Michael and John, I seem to have acheieved something at least - unlimited sailing (maybe even more than I want) on a beautiful old locally designed boat, in a kind of partnership.

Obviously, having use of a vessel can never be the same as owning your own so the search continues but it looks as if this summer I'll have my feet on the water rather than on the pierhead - Yes a Result! Thanks Guys!


Sunday, 10 June 2012

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Sailor (7)

Or in this case maybe it should!

The tiny island of Jersey, where I spend a good deal of time, is home to a small community of 90,000. The Island measures 9 miles by five at high tide and gains an additional 44 square miles of sand and rock at low tide. The inhabitants owe allegiance to the Queen of England but not her government. Essentially in all matters other than foreign policy they are independent. The Island is 90 miles south of the UK but only 14 miles from the French coast. As you can imagine, there is a strong French influence and there are families here who can trace their ancestry back to William the Conqueror. Much of the local legal system is based on old Norman French law too. One throwback to the old Norman times is the system of policing used in the Island.

The system works like this. Each Parish (there are twelve) elects a Constable who is responsible for law and order in his parish. The Constable is ‘elected and unpaid’. In order to fulfil his duties he has a team of voluntary Centeniers, each one theoretically responsible for the good behaviour of one hundred families. To assist in carrying out his duties , each Centenier has a team of voluntary Vingteniers responsible for twenty parish families. Their prime duty is to prevent crime. This is no easy job; if they are ‘too eager and enthusiastic’ they are not re-elected. If they are ‘too laid-back or lazy’ they are not re-elected. They walk a fine tightrope.

Davy, has a Channel Island 22 which he uses for crabbing and the occasional trip to France to replenish his supply of red wine and calvados, a sort of fire-water made from apples.Each Spring he takes the boat from his back yard down to the harbour and each Autumn he brings her back to overwinter.

So his road trailer makes four three mile trip each year. A couple of years ago, he became worried that the trailer may no longer be ‘street’ legal. The tyres were bald, the salt had seized the brakes, the brake lights didn’t work and the whole rig was covered in salt induced rust stains. What to do?

He called the local Constable who arranged to visit him and inspect the trailer. The constable brought the Centenier, who brought the Vingtenier with him and the three voluntary officials carried out a thorough inspection. 

        ‘Ah Davy, you have a problem here’, pronounced the Constable. ‘Look here, the tyres are bald, the salt has seized the brakes, the brake lights don’t work and the whole rig is covered in salt induced rust stains. This trailer is illegal. It’s dangerous - that’s what it is’

        ‘I know’, said Davy, ‘that’s why I brought you here. It’s March already and the crabs will be coming in by April, can’t miss the season, what am I going to do?’

The police officers agreed that this was indeed a serious problem and took themselves off out of ear-shot to determine what should be done.

After a few moments they returned
        ‘Well Davy, this is a serious problem’ said the Constable in his most grave and authoritative tone ‘Here’s what you must do. Firstly, you move the boat slowly, at six O clock on Sunday morning when there won’t be too many people about.’

        ‘That’s all very well,’ said Davy, but what if someone reports me? I might get into trouble.’

        ‘It won’t be a problem.’ Said the Constable, ‘we’ll give you a police escort’.

Now why can’t all policemen think that way?


Friday, 8 June 2012

Halcyon 27

I became quite excited the other day when Michael commented that a Halcyon 27 might just be the boat for me. Excited, partly because I knew she was an Alan Buchanan design. Now this guy in his later years settled on the Island of Jersey and set about designing craft ideally suited to these waters. We have some of the highest (and therefore strongest) tides in Europe. A spring tide for example can raise the water level 40ft above datum.  The sea here is littered with rocks and the seabed is very uneven so you can get rough patches of water even on a good day. In places the sea seems to boil most of the time. So a vessel specially designed for these waters seems to be a good starting point for finding the ideal cruiser. It also fits conveniently with John’s advice the other day, which could be interpreted as ‘try to find a boat with a local pedigree’.
My previous motor boat was a Channel Islands 22 ,  a twin engined vessel created by the same designer and despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy motor cruising anything like as much as sail cruising, she served me very well for several years – so I have confidence in the man and his work.
So the Halcyon 27 might just be ideal. 

Well, the Halcyon has full standing headroom in the saloon (6ft), and a reputation for a very sea kindly motion. She is described as a ‘classic small offshore cruiser - a tough, seaworthy little boat’ which I find slightly strange given that I pretty much discarded a Westerly Centaur on the grounds that at 26ft, she was a little too big for my needs. She also has a good long traditional keel which means she goes in a nice straight line (directional stability) and can be set to steer herself quite easily. Some have been taken on long offshore cruises and some have been circumnavigated.

Ok so what’s the downside? Well, that beautiful long keel draws 4ft, and to get the best out of my cruiser I need a vessel which draws no more than three. Ahg! Dealbreaker!

Not to be put off though, I began to dig a little deeper. There is another Halcyon!  The Halcyon 23 was also designed by Alan Buchanan in the 1960s. At first,she was known as the "Crystal" but after several changes in the accommodation plan, the vessel was taken into production by Offshore Yachts Ltd. in 1965. She was a popular model which remained in production until 1975 when the company was forced to close down after a fire in the shipyard.

Would you believe it? The Halcyon 23 also draws more than I can accept. Another blind alley but an interesting piece of research none the less.

So, I have to be philosophical about this. Somewhere, out there, there is a boat for me, the more I look, the better chance I have of finding her.

Talking of chances, there is a very popular cartoon series on French television all about a group of creatures called Shaddocks. A Shaddock, poor thing, only has four compartments in his brain, which means he can only cope with four actions or pieces of knowledge. If, for example, he can walk, talk, count to ten and light a fire, he has to shed one of these skills if he wants to learn to kick a ball. The bane of the Shaddocks lives are the Moonies – cynical, sarcastic, wasters who take great pleasure in making the Shaddocks lives miserable. To escape the Moonies, the Shaddocks have decided to build a rocket and emigrate to the moon but every time they build a rocket it fails to fly and usually explodes. Does that stop the Shaddocks? No way -! they have a party after every failed attempt. Why? Because the Moonies have told them that the chances of them building a craft to get to the moon are 1000 to 1 against. Now to the Shaddocks, this brings hope. They only have to fail 999 more times – each failure brings them closer to success!
Maybe I should adopt a similar approach.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ocean Kayak

So two days of public holiday, no boat except for a Kayak. We launched at the home port of Plouer Sur Rance, Brittany, France and decided to paddle up the estuary and into the river. The weather was changeable, sunshine followed by cold showers. I didn't care. Susan sitting up front has a unique paddling style which sends sheets of water in my direction with every stroke. Rain or fine, I'm always soaked on the kayak. Well at least the wind was light.

Now, to set the scene, a few words about this neck of the woods. Brittany's first inhabitants were Celts and Britons displaced out of England and Wales by successive invasions - Romans, Angles, Saxons etc.. that's why this region of France is called Brittany (little Britain). Towns and villages here which have a Plou or Plou prefix are ancient British settlements. Across the estuary is Mordreuk (the place of the Druids) and further upstream there is an old tidal mill with the unfortunate name of Moulin de Pratt!. The river Rance by the way translates as the 'Rancid One' but don't let that put you off, this is a truly beautiful place.

Further upstream, the estuary tapers to a narrow channel, with old fishing platforms on either side of the river and then you are at a village called Livet, locking out of the estuary and into the placid fresh waters of the river itself. A short paddle, through the increasingly beautiful wooded valley brings you to Dinan, a walled medieval town which is a delight to stroll through. If you had a sailing boat drawing less than one meter, you could drop your mast and continue by canal southwards from here right across the Brittany peninsular to the Atlantic. I'll do that one day, but for now, its time to dry out at a riverside cafe, for gallets (a sort of pancake made with buckwheat) and sausages, washed down by several glasses of rough local cider, followed by a stroll along the ramparts and the enjoyment of  almost free music supplied by very capable busking musicians along the way.

Returning, Jack our Jack Russel, embarrassed himself by falling off the kayak as we made our departure from the town. I estimate we were making about five knots at the time, trying to impress the locals, and so for a moment Jack's nose made a significant bow-wave for such a small dog.

Back in the salt-water estuary, we pulled ashore to harvest young Samphire spears, the best of all vegetables for a low cost cruiser, and to collect as much driftwood as the kayak could carry for the log burning stove at home. For the last few miles, we trailed a lure in the hope of catching a sea bass or maybe an early mackerel. No luck. So we ended the day, scratching a low tide sand bar for clams and cockles and took a mighty haul!

The shell fish were cooked with garlic, white wine and cream on the log burner, and the samphire was lightly boiled, tossed in butter and served alongside, with plenty of sourdough bread to mop up the juices. Susan will post the recipe shortly on our 'View from the Galley page'. Cost of the day? - eleven euros ( lunch for two paid for) Savings for the day? evening meal, that could not be beat. Best bit? Drying out, toasting toes by a free log fire with a perfect shellfish dinner inside you. Such a perfect day.

NOW an Apology to John the unlikely boat builder, who commented on an earlier posting and recommended seeking the perfect boat by considering local designs. He quoted Howard Chapelle as a designer who draws inspiration from local traditional boats. I confused Chapelle with another famous US designer  Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. "Captain Nat," as he was known, revolutionised yacht design, and produced a succession of undefeated America's Cup defenders between 1893–1920. I confused the two hence my incorrect reference to Chapell's designs as 'Ocean Greyhounds', Mea culpa!  I need to learn more about Chapelle. Sorry John!

Meanwhile if you're interested in the Ocean Kayak - you can get it here
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak (12-Feet / Yellow) (USA Readers)


Friday, 1 June 2012

Lloyds Standards

A story in the boating press and another in my local newspaper caught my eye recently.  One concerned someone who had purchased a boat on ebay and decided to take a couple of day’s vacation to sail her from the seller's boatyard to his own moorings a few hundred miles away along the south coast of Britain. Engine heating troubles delayed the start of the voyage, batteries failed to hold their charge and in the end the trip became a nonstop 36 hour marathon to meet work schedules, with new problems encountered almost hourly. OK, the boat was inexpensive but it seems to me the skipper took a huge risk in buying a boat unseen and then assuming her to be faultless. A less experienced skipper could easily have become a lifeboat or coastguard statistic.

The other story relates to someone more locally, who sailed his internet bought boat for approximately 20 minutes before significant bits of her fell apart (actually, the keel dropped off!). She drifted onto the rocks and became a ‘total loss’ on the next tide. The boat had only cost him something in the region of £2,000 but the embarrassment was intense.

The two stories serve to reinforce my belief that you have to see, smell and touch the boat yourself before you sign anything, and then buy-in a professional surveyor only when you yourself are convinced that she is sound.

One comment I found particularly interesting in the press report though, was a statement of surprise by one of the unlucky new owners.
‘She came with a Lloyds Certificate, surely that should have meant something, you know, that she was a good boat’.
So that set me thinking about certificates such as these. What do they tell you?

OK, here’s what I discovered. 

Lloyd's is a UK organisation, one of several on the international scene, known as ‘Classification Societies’. As well as Lloyds there is Det Norske Veritas, and the American Bureau of Shipping. Their role is often misunderstood.

Each society sets the minimum standards that it requires for a vessel to be included on their lists. The standards however only apply to certain aspects of a vessel. Most major classifications have standards for yachts and small craft but it is not compulsory for a builder to comply with any or all of the standards.
Even when builders choose to comply, with published standards of construction for example, it does not mean that every aspect of the boat has been considered and evaluated by the classification society. The only way to know what the society has approved is to refer to the standards published by the society for that particular type of boat at the time of construction.

So, Lloyds, for example may publish certain standards that they believe are important for the construction of a GRP boat hull. The standards refer to GRP quality, thickness, type of mat and resin used, the environment, temperature and humidity of the boatshed etc. Some builders may go the whole way and invite inspection to verify the attention to such details. Others may simply state that they themselves built the vessel in accordance with published standards.

But then, standards can change over time as more is understood of the building material. It’s a bit like health and safety regulations, they change and become stricter as more silly people do silly things (or as more governments and organisations feel they have to control our lives for our own good). So, your Lloyds construction certificate at best only confirms that the boat was built according to the best knowledge available at the time. A well looked-after vessel may still be in good condition but an old certificate issued for a craft which has been neglected and misused for twenty years is hardly likely to be sound simply because the builder claims she was built to Lloyds standards.
So, for me this is all interesting but pretty academic. For my money I will have to asume that the vessel I buy will not be in a seaworthy condition on purchase. My task will be to develop 'Seaward Standards' and bring her up to expectation. In some strange way that is a liberating thought. It means that my prime concern should be the shell of the boat, her mast and sails. The rest will have to be rebuilt or refitted and if I discover anything else actually works - well that's a bonus isn't it?