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Saturday, 15 December 2012

House sale falls through

Well here we are at the end of 2012 when we thought we would be selling stuff, packing stuff to make the move to our place in  the Dominican republic and the start of our big adventure. Things were looking good when we got a buyer for one of our properties that we need to sell to kick start our plans. The agent said it would take about 8 to 12 weeks to complete, which seemed like a rather long time, but with the way the economy is we just accepted that it would eventually work out.

Well this week we had the bad news, it didn't work out that way. After all this time of having the house with a sold sign on it, the sale has fallen through, the buyer couldn't get the mortgage they had been promised.

We kept being told that it was a difficult case for the broker but that in the end it would be successful, so the call I took from the agent on Thursday was a bit of a downer, to say the least. Our other house, the one that we live in keeps getting viewings but no offers, so we're stuck.

Stuck in this recession, where nothing is moving. So we did the only thing that made any sense to us, we booked a flight for Jan 2nd to have a holiday at least. We put it on the plastic, we just need to getaway and get a bit of winter sunshine and check on our apartment.

Looks like we're going to be working through till March anyway. Handing over to another chief will take that long and there's issues that we have to resolve before we can feel ok about leaving. Maybe by then we'll manage to move one of our properties on, who knows, it's in the lap of the Gods, but we're so ready to go but without the funds from one of our properties we're stuck in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Dirt Click the word Dirt to hear this.
This is a song from our forthcoming album and to my mind is a wee cracker written by Mr Ewan Blackledge, who sings and plays on this recording, We overdubbed the 12 string and found that we never tuned to concert when we did the take, which was probably just to demo the arrangement, and Juje reckons the 12 string is out of tune. I can't hear it, can you? Anyway we're talking abour re recording it but I don't know I@ve grown quite fond of this and so thought I'ld post it to see what you think.
On the song it's master piece of song writing from Ewan. You'll maybe know Ewan, he's a pro busker around these parts and plays a mean slide guitar among a host of other instruments.
We've got 11 songs, so far, all not too far away from a final mix. Be good to have it ready for Christmas.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

New crew member

Here's a picture of my skipper with the new crew member, Luca. We had to hi-tail it down to Canterbury last week to catch the birth of this newest member of the family, born to Jackie's daughter just last Monday. Able seaman Luca Thomas Blackburn weighed in at just under 8lbs and is doing just fine, although mum is a bit sore as he had to be brought into the world by caesarian. This wasn't the original passage plan, but then mother nature is always a little unpredictable, and it was decided that after 58 hours of beating into the prevailing winds that this was for the best, for mum and baby. 
As his mum had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days after the birth we took time out to go and have a look at an Ohlson 38 that was for sale nearby. Now I know that we shouldn't have been thinking about boats at this special time, but, hey, we had time to kill between visits, and this particular vessel had caught our eye as it was a similar boat to one that we had seen in Largs, a couple of weeks ago. This one was a bit more expensive but seeing the one in Largs and deciding it was almost our ideal boat we wanted to compare.
It didn't disappoint, in fact it was almost everything we wanted, but it wasn't our boat.
It already had a couple of offers on her, and not ones that we could match. We also had to consider the time it would take to get her ready for a transatlantic crossing, and to get us ready for a transatlantic crossing.
On the way back to the new bairn we came to the conclusion that sailing the Atlantic was not going to be possible, not unless we wait another year. That's how long it would take to get ourselves and the boat up to speed, so the visit to see this boat had at least focused our ambitions.
We sped back to the hospital in Margate and immersed ourselves in the business of babies.
The priority now was to get Luca and mum back home and to help settle the new crew member take his place in the world.
Our plans we're to move to Dom Rep early in the new year, but we'll just have to wait and see how things pan out with our new crew member and his mum. They may need us to be around just a bit longer, we just don't know. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Hauling out Heats of Oak

It's mid September, and up here in Morcambe bay the boats are being hauled out for their winter layup. This week I joined the crew of Hearts of Oak to bring her round to her cradle which was at the Roa Island boating club pier. There were five of us who met just before 1pm, three of us would collect Hearts of Oak from her mooring whilst the other two would stay at the pier ready to haul in her warps when we made it to the cradle.
Me, Tony and Brian took to the boat, whilst Gordon and the other Tony opted for the dry land bit of the mission. Gordon is the brains behind the plan, they tell me he's in his eighties, but I cant believe that, as he's fit and bright as a button. Earlier on in the morning he has arranged for the mobile cradle to be parked next to the old pier, and before the others arrive he shows me where it is and goes over the plan. Bearing in mind that Hearts of Oak hasn't been out of the water since her launch, 3years ago, and this trailer was not designed for this boat, its an old one that's been, erm, "modified". Anyway Gordon has done all the measurements and calculations and is confident that she will fit snugly as the tide, which today is a 9.5 metre tide, drops her gently to rest in about five hours time. He has the air of a Cpt. Manering about him as he reiterates the plan to me, and I have no reservations about his grasp of the task we're about to undertake.

The crew for today will be me Tony and Brian, whilst Gordon and the other Tony will stay on the quay to receive lines as we come in.

Now Hearts of Oak is a heavy boat that originally wouldn't have had an engine, but nowadays she does have one. The one quirk about this upgrade is that the prop is skewed off to one side which has a tendency to push her to starboard, so she's not the sort of boat that manoeuvres easily. Brian and I defer to Tony to take the helm, who seems the most confident to bring this mission to a good conclusion.

There's a force 3-4 blowing, and its blowing right across the pier that we're going to slip into. We'll be bringing her in on the lee side of the pier, but her stern will be still in the wind once we have her bow in the cradle. This means we need a stern warp out onto the pier as soon as we're in position to stop her slewing around in the cradle. We set up all these lines before we set sail into a quite lumpy sea that kicks up plenty of spray as we bounce across to the Roa Island pier where Gordon and Tony are waiting.

The first approach has to be aborted but the second attempt sees us nudge our way into position. Lines fly out and are caught and without too much drama we manage to position her between the four uprights that are just about 18" above the high tide line. Later we'll notice that the bow has scraped on one of the stantions of the trailer, but it's only a scratch, she's at least in the right position. The lines are secured and a mast halyard is tied to a big block to prevent her tipping over. All we have to do now is wait for the tide to drop, releasing the warps as she drops gently to her cradle. Gordon has made his calculations of when she should come to rest and marked the cradle stantions with red and yellow tap to indicate the positions of the deck and waterline so we know when she's about to settle. Unfortunately these have been calculated with a 5.5ft draft, but it turns out that she only has a 4ft draft. Anyway this doesn't present any problems except a little embarrassment for Gordon, who dismisses it with good humour.

The tale of moving her once the tide had dropped is all told in the video. Lots of times we had to call a halt to the haul out as the bracing blocks fell away, but Hearts of oak never looked unstable, or threatened to tip over and after a couple of hours she was parked safely in her winter berth. The day was not without incident and at times could have been an episode from last of the summer wine, lots of rye humour and comeraderie, a fun day which accomplished the mission of delivering Hearts of Oak to dry land.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

When not to set sail

Sunday morning we wake to the wind singing in the rigging, and halyards clinking throughout the Marina. We run into Brian again who agrees that the wind is blowing a force 6, although he says it always seems worse in the Marina. We have breakfast and decide to wait to see if the wind is going to drop a little. The Halsberg Rassy that slipped in late last night, slips out at about 7.30 into the teeth of the weather. They looked like a couple of seasoned sailors who would cope very well and perhaps had a long sail ahead of them. Then we realised that they had probably sneeked off without paying as the office didn't open till 8am and closed at 8pm, sneaky, we'll have to remember that one.
Marinas can provide much needed entertainment whilst your passing the time waiting for a weather window. Ours would be provided by a 43ft Beneteau that sailed through the entrance at about half eight that morning. We assumed at first that she had come in to find shelter, although it turned out she was just dropping a couple of people off. There were about six on board all holding ropes or placing fenders ready for docking. The pontoon that the helmsman aimed for was square on to the wind. On the first attempt they just failed to get close enough to the pontoon to leap off and then the obvious happened. The bow was blown away and a little chaos began. With not enough room for her to swing around the helmsman put her into reverse, backed away and came in for another shot at it, the same thing happened this time. Anyway to cut a long story short they eventually landed the couple going ashore but not before changing pontoons and crunching the boat once or twice. Nice to know that we all make mistakes, you just hope they occur when no-ones watching.
I suppose we got our come-up-ence  when we finally decided to chance the exit from Portavadie now that the wind had died back to a reasonable force 5. We had decided that prudence should prevail and had put in a couple of reefs prior to leaving, but what we hadn't considered was to make sure we had cleated off the furling line. Consequently as we hit the full force of the wind just beyond the marina wall our jib started to unfurl with sheets cracking like lion tamers whips across the decks sending us into a mild panic. We were on it though, headed into the wind and managed to retrieve the situation. Luckily no-one was watching, or a least we didn't see anybody, in fact we were much too busy panicking to care.
We could see a few yachts, a couple of miles across the sound sailing in the lee of the land. That looked like a sensible thing to do as out on this side the winds were pretty serious so we motored across before setting just the jib, which seemed to have here sail fine at about 6 knots, and in more or less the right direction for Androsson. The rest of the day passed without incident and as we approached our destination the wind fell away completely so we lowered the sails and motored towards Androsson Harbour. The movement of the boat in very sloppy seas was horrible, to say the least, but finally we were just a stones throw fro the harbour entrance, but the entrance wasn't obvious. We studied the charts and marina guide and finally tumbled into the relative calm beyond the sea wall. Just about then back came the wind, we called up the marina and were glad when they said they had room for us on (A) pontoon. With Jackie at the helm we squeezed through, what appeared to be a very small entrance and into the marina proper. We swapped places and I made a faultless pass into the only small space available on A pontoon being very careful not to bump into the biggest shineiest motor yacht in the harbour. Jackie stepped off and secured the lines like we'ld been doing this fo years. As we secured Kiwi the man from to big posh boat was polishing his fenders, good job we got that right, time for a cuppa tea and a fag. Tomorrow we would sail the short hop north back to Largs.

But when tomorrow came the winds were up to maybe force 7, the seas were crashing over the sea walls and Mr posh boat owner said we would scare our selves to death if we ventured out. We took his advice, called the owner and said we didn't want to sail, it was too dangerous, for us at least.
They were more than happy we had made that decision and came to collect us to drive us back to our car in Largs. The first sign of a good skipper, they said was to know when not to set sail, and we had passed that test.
So that was it, our first bareboat charter, not without incident, but an adventure that boosted our confidence that we can do this, we are now sailors, albeit inshore sailors. The next step I suppose is offshore in a bigger boat, so we went to have a look at a 38ft Ohlson that was for sale in Largs. Nice boat, big winches, big mast, big everything, and just about ticked all the boxes for our sailboat. Sailing something like that, now that would be an adventure, as for now we're glowing with the completion of this stage in our quest to become real navigators, seasoned sailors with the skills to cross oceans. Still some way off, we know but this weekend voyage has boosted our confidence, we just need to keep taking those baby steps, we can do this.

Portavadie is posh

The views from the deck of a boat of the coast and islands of the Firth of Clyde are spectacular even in these grey and overcast days of early September. Kiwi scuds along at a average speed of about 5-6 knots until we enter the Kyles of Bute where we loose the wind and eventually fire up the engine, sir, and motor through the narrow buoyed channel at the north of the island and head south for a marina called Portavadie which is just about opposite Tarbert on the Mull of Kintyre. It's about a two hour sail with a south westerly, force 4 to 5 on the beam. Eventually after about two hours we tack to starboard to make our way to Portavadie, the wind is still fairly fresh and the sailing is superb.
Since leaving Largs we had been sailing with two reefs in, which was a wise move as squalls would be coming thick and fast throughout the day. Now as we neared Portavadie the winds had died down. Other yachts heading for Portavadie seem to me to be making better progress than Kiwi, "lets shake out the reefs" I suggested. Jackie didn't think this was wise but the alpha male in me decided that we needed more sail up. I eased the reefing lines and hauled up the mainsail to its full height and Kiwi increased her progress by a couple of knots, now we were holding our own against the other boats. Then the next squall came rattling in and we heeled over violently, Jackie swung her into the wind, but too far, the jib backed, and around we went until we stopped. An accidental hove-to, a good time use the loo, thought Jackie. I take the tiller and decide to get us underway again. Another big gust hits us and I'm spinning round dumping Jackie on the loo rather unceremoniously.
Jackie had been right, we should have left the reefs in.
We, took down the sails and headed for the entrance of Portavadie, and for the first time used the VHF to call the marina and asked for a berth for the night. This was the first time we had used the radio, by ourselves, and it all went very smoothly. Enter the harbour gates, turn to starboard and take a berth on pontoon A. Oh, alright lets go for it then. Motor in slowly, swing around, fenders on both sides, warps ready, me at the helm, drift in and whoops, missed it. Luckily there were a couple of helping hands to help get her safely into dock. Not the perfect approach but with our two angels on the pontoon we were docked and safely in port after our first bareboat voyage. Not exactly an ocean crossing, but a voyage from port to port with just ourselves in charge skipper and crew had made it safely from port to port.
Once everything is tided on Kiwi we go off to explore the facilities of Portavadie Marina. Next to us on the pontoon is a 43ft Bavaria, and standing next to her is someone we know. Believe it or not it's our instructor, Brian, that we did our dayskipper practical course with a couple of years ago. He's with a few other blokes on the Bavaria that they've chartered for the weekend. We hope that he didn't see our bumbled attempt at docking, he doesn't mention it.
Portavadie looks like its been plucked out of Dubai, I've never been but I've seen pictures. The Marina buildings are all glass fronted. The glass tower on the end has big triangular lights inside that run through a colour sequence, making for a surreal feature in this remote landscape. It's posh, you know it's posh cause the gents has moisturising cream on each  sink and next to the hair drier is a set of hair straighteners. Two glasses of wine cost £8.50 so we head back to the pontoon, and the comfort of Kiwi, for soup and a bun, crack open a bottle of white and settle down to a game of backgammon in the cockpit. We've made a point of mooring into the wind so the spray hood shields us from the elements but just as we start the second game the weather turns and down comes the rain, time for bed, tomorrow we sail to Androsson.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Novices to Navigators, well almost

Friday, 14th September and its almost 3 years to the day since we bought the full length deck boots, which is where we started with this sailing adventure. Way back then we didn't know a rope can be a sheet, had no idea what a halyard was, and a warp was a very fast speed that the star ship enterprise went into when they wanted to get to the other side of the universe, fast.
Now here we are back in Largs yacht haven, where we used those posh wellies to go on our start yachting weekend all that time ago in 2009, and this time we're here on our first bareboat charter. We've charted a 31ft Moody, called Kiwi from Flamingo yacht hire and we're about to embark on a long weekend sailing in the Firth of Clyde.
We arrive, after a four hour drive, at 6.30pm to find Largs being battered by very strong winds, which have been blowing all day. No boats have been able to sail all day, although now, in the early evening, the winds have died down quite considerably, and tomorrow the forecast looks good.
We meet with the owners of Kiwi and are shown through the bits that we need to know about the boat. Where the flares are, the fire extinguishers, life raft, Nav equipment, sails, engine, etc. etc. We take it all in, hopefully remembering enough to get this sailboat underway in the morning.
We ask about where they think we should explore, given the expected weather over the weekend and they suggest we go around the Isle of Bute, and bid us farwell and happy sailing. As long as we bring her back with the same number of holes in that she has this evening they'll be happy, and that I suppose means the through hulls, a wee Scotish joke there.

It's far too windy, and cold to sit out in the cockpit with a glass of vino and a fag on planning our passage for tomorrow so we decant to an outside smoking area, with tables and chairs that's a sort of posh lean to at the Marina bar. We order a glass of house white, which barely wets the bottom of the glass.  I go back to Kiwi to retrieve one of our own bottles, and sneak our selves an hour of passage planning, cheaply and with the warmth of their patio heater. Well, at £6.50 for two thimbles full what do you think we are, made of money.

Saturday morning at 7am and the wind has died so that the Marina flags barely flutter in the breeze, but out on the sound there's a healthy force four forecast for the day.Poor Kiwi has been trust up with warps and springs and it's now time to untie her and set up some slips. Listen to me, getting all nautical with my rope jargon, but basically we have to keep her moored to the dock, but be able to untie her with us both standing on the vessel. Otherwise the person who unties the boat would have to make a mighty leap aboard as she slips away from the jetty, not recommended, hence the use of one turn around a pontoon cleat and both ends of the rope being on board.
We've been told, by the owner that she has a tendency to want to go to port, going backwards, which is the first manoeuvre we'll undertake. With the engine started, and ready to go we're nervously working our way up to a smooth exit. We don't want to appear like the novices we are, but two people walk passed just prior to our casting off to tell us we're driving hard into the quay with the bows. I've started the engine and put her into forward gear, albeit at the lowest of revs, but  never the less she's grinding the pontoon. Luckily there's no damage and we faultlessly let go slips and move backwards. I go into a mild panic as she moves back quicker than I expect and I throw the lever into forward, push the tiller hard to starboard and around she comes. Again, forward is a bit nifty and by some small miracle we miss the boat moored next to us by inches, and straighten up to glide effortlessly towards the harbour entrance.   A sharp right and were through the entrance and into open water where another five or six boats are raising their sails. So far so good. We give these boats a wide berth before heading her into the wind, raising the mainsail, and then the jib. This goes very smoothly, well with a bit of shouting, and the we turn north, the sails fill, engine off and we're sailing. Sailing all by ourselves, with a passage plan and a fair wind on the beam. Soon we're touching six knots  and were on our way to the Kyles of Bute. The boat feels very safe and stable, we've checked the charts, we know what we're doing, and although the skys are heavy with cloud, and the sea is silky black we're wrapped up well  in our new foul weather gear and we're a couple of very happy sailors,.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hemp and the Hearts of Oak

Sailing on a 100 year old boat is not very different to sailing on a modern vessel, your still using the wind to power the sails, but there the similarities cease. There are no winches on Hearts of Oak, and all the lines are rigged with old fashioned hemp. They're stiff and all the same colour. This boat is a gaff rigged cutter, I think. That is it has a big sail at the front a smaller sail between that and the mast then a big mainsail hung on a big wooden spar. This has lines that raise the throat and the peak, that is the bit that closest to the mast being the throat and the bit that's towards the back, aft end, being the peak. Hauling this heavy lump of wood up in the air is not as difficult as at first it would appear as it runs through a series of block and tackle that make  the job  a bit easier. The problem comes when trying to figure out which line to pull on. Forward of the mast is a series of pins where the halyards are secured, there's six pins in all, I think. Two of these are for the main sail,, two for the staysail and jib, and two for the topping lifts. All of these ropes, sorry, lines look exactly the same. The idea is that the halyards will always be in certain positions on our row of pins, this will make it easy for each of the crew, which will be different on every voyage, to haul up or down the sail plan. Unfortunately no-one is exactly sure what this order is. The two outer pins should be the mainsail throat and peak, the next two, the staysail and jib, and the middle two the topping lift. But that is only the concept, in practice it may be different.
One of our members of the crew has worked out that if we have endless lines on the halyarrds the this will enable us to be able to work the sails from inside the boat and never have to go on deck, so ensuring    optium safety for the crew. Unfortunately this has only served to add confusion to the rigging of our beloved Hearts of Oak.
In theory it's a great idea, but in practice it doesn't work.
Anyway, we love sailing in this 100 year old boat but most times we've been out on her it's been in very light airs, and the sailing has been frustrating. Today was different, today we had a force 4 gusting to 6 and here was a good chance to try her out in good sailing conditions. As you can see from the video she can certainly move given the right conditions. Our skipper for the day decided against putting up the jib which made her a bit heavy on the helm. We put in a couple of reefs in the main prior to casting off and found her moving along at a very reasonable pace of maybe 6 knots. This would be the liveliest conditions she had ever been sailed in and although we had moments of panic we did have a glorious few hours sail. I made a discovery about the  topping lifts, there's two of them, where you have to let the leward side out and tension the windward side each time you tack or jibe. Chris our skipper didn't think we should mess with them but I was determined to suss out why we always had a bad sail shape and found that we had two topping lifts that had to be adjusted on each tack or jybe. Once I got this sorted the sails looked much better, without being fouled by the lines for the topping lift and she sailed even better. But we should have put the jib sail up. You see although Chris is a much more experienced sailor than any of todays' crew he's a bit too cautious and for some reason he doesn't like putting up the jib which has to be hauled out along a wooden bow sprit with a very simple bit of rigging, just a hoop of metal that slides along a pole, basically. This means being on the foredeck and with no safety rails on this old boat, this gives Chris the willies. He's also not a big fan of R.I.B.s which is why she's kept on a drying mooring. We have to be on the boat two hours before high tide and back two hours after high tide.
On this daysail I'm afraid Chris just missed the deadline to be back and we grounded the boat about twenty feet from the mooring bouy, it was one of those days. Poor Chris I'm sure he was so embarrassed about this but we just waited for the tide to drop and hooked her back on.
In a couple of weeks we will have to haul her out of the water for her winter layup. There's quite a few jobs to be done, but the season has been so short here in Morcambe bay, and the weather has not been the kindest of summers. But it's been an education getting to sail such a lovely old boat.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Boat shopping in S. of France

By the colour of the sky in this picture you may just guess that this is not an English summer sky of 2012, and you'ld be right. We had travelled to Nimes, well actually Port Napolean, in the South of France to have a look at this boat. It was called Brimstone and at £22,000 sounded like it may just be our boat. She a ferro cement ketch, with a good pedigree and on the internet she quite appealed.
So we flew Ryan Air out of John Lennon airport for the knock down fair of £99 for us both, there and back. We booked into the Marina hotel, courtesy of David, the owner of Brimstone and arrived at about 11am last Friday the 22nd. June. 
Now we would have liked to be in and out of France, perhaps the next day but as luck would have it there were no return flights until Monday, which meant spending a full weekend in the South of France. Oh well things could be worse I suppose, it's just that right now money is, to say the least tight, but here we were in the South of France and we had left England with the prospect of a stormy and cold weekend of weather. So here we were in the 32 degrees of real summer and we were here to look at boats, one in particular, so we set about enjoying our weekend break.
David had driven down from his home near to Geneva and picked us at the airport at Nimes to drive us to see his boat. As head of security for the uk mission to the united nations we were looking for a James Bond look alike at the airport, that bit was a bit of a disappointment, although a telephone call he took on our way to the marina was interesting as he mentioned Gordon Brown and William Hague to the recipient on the other end of the call, we were impressed, lets hope the boat lives up to this, we thought.
The boat was splattered with bird shit, and a sad and deflated rib lay abandoned on the deck. She was not exactly well presented, but we wanted to like Brimstone so we tried to see beyond these cosmetic failings.  Down below the disappointment stated with the Galley which was very restricted by the homemade engine housing that doubled as steps to the cockpit. The heads were very small, no shower, and bit by bit we grew to know this  was not our boat, even at the bargain price she was being offered at. We had really wanted to like her, especially having travelled all this way, but it was not to be.
We arranged to have a look at anther couple of boats on sale by Ancasta the next day, after telling David that we weren't going to buy his boat. 
On browsing the yard our eyes fell upon a lovely looking vessel that turned out to be a 35ft Halsburg Rassy on sale fo 47,000 Euros, a bit outside our budget but worth a look, we could always make an offer. This one turned out to be a beautiful boat with many newly replaced bits of kit on board. Her only odd bit for us was her hydraulic steering from a centre cockpit, but apart from this she was a fine boat and had we had the where with all we may have made an offer there and then.
Next day we met up with Francis, the boss at Ancasta, a very grumpy an unpleasent man, we were told who showed us round a Westerly Riviera. He wasn't too grumpy, maybe because it was early in the morning and he hadn't got into his stride yet. The boat was interesting though, and made us reconsider looking at Westerlys', but this one was over priced. So we left the Port Napoleon marina and headed for Nimes by bus and train for a weekend in the sun, and a little sightseeing.
Still looking for that illusive boat.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Hearts of Oak 100th Birthday

There must be some kinda way out of here said the joker to the thief. Still no offers on our house, or the other one we got on the market and the deadline draws nearer. Come October we'll both be out of our jobs and the plan to leave England for the Dominican republic is getting closer and closer. Without the sale of at least one property we won't be sailing any time soon, at least not on our own boat.

Still in the meantime we get to have fun sailing on a 100 year old boat that was built in our home town of Ulverston. Hearts of Oak is a Morcambe bay shrimper that has been rescued from rotting away in Northern Island by a trust set up by a tenacious woman called Jennifer Snell, who's very into the heritage of our little town here in Northern England. Jennifer has pursued this boat for over ten, maybe 15 years. It was donated to her trust who went about raising funds in excess of £60,000 pounds to bring her back to how she was when launched back in 1912.

We ran into Jennifer one day in our indoor market where she told us that she was short of sailors to sail her newly restored pride and joy.  We offered our services, not that we knew anything about the way you sail a 100 year old boat, all our training has been on modern yachts, but we thought it might be fun, and hey, could it be much different. Yes, and no I suppose is the answer to that one.

So although we had poodled about the docks in her Sunday, her 100th birthday would be our first chance to sail her for real. She had been moved from the docks in Barrow, where they build nuclear subs, to a drying out mooring in Morcambe bay, just off Peil island. She was heeled over and lieing on the sand waiting for the tide to float her when we boarded her in the morning. Slowly over the next few hours the tide crept in and eventually lifted her free of the Rampside mud.

We weighed anchor and motor sailed over to the celebrations on Peil island. After a few snacks and a drink we took her out for a sail by the crowds that had come to see this old girl. The winds were light but once we hoisted the sails, away she went, graciously catching the breeze, tacking backwards and forwards for her photo shoot. A very proud moment for Jennifer who stayed on shore as she hates the sea, and sailing. Curious. We loved it, great to be doing some sailing, and all the better for sailing an antique, classic boat, a real experience.

This weekend were off to Nimes in the south of France to look at a boat. It's a ferro cement boat that was designed by Alan hill who had something to do with Gypsy Moth that took Chichester around the globe. I don't know if this will be our boat, it's cheap, I know that, and it's on this side of the pond.  So if we like what we see we may still fulfil our dream of sailing the Atlantic to our new home in The Dominican republic.

Lets hope this is our boat, but what's more lets hope somebody wants to buy one of these two houses and then we can really get this adventure moving. The Greeks have just voted to stay in the Euro zone so maybe now things will pick up.
Nothing is moving round here, nothing is selling. All we need is for someone to buy one of these properties and we're on our way. Till then we'll continue to go on adventures on Hearts of oak and learn the ways of the saiors of old.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Silver Lining

As I said in my previous blog  we've ditched the idea of buying one of those classic looking old yachts from Taiwan, and the last week we've started looking at more modern conventional boats. This is a complete turn around I know, but we've had a big reality check after last weeks visit to see the CT41.

Now it's all Beneteau clones, as lots of modern boats look very much the same, a bit like modern cars,  I suppose. The silly thing is that before now we've passed over these ads, looking for that something a bit different, something with character, lots of wood to polish and varnish, wooden grabrails, bowsprits, some even with figureheads, a traditional wooden helm, the list goes on. What we couldn't find on all these boats though was a fair sized head, ample galley and a large cockpit, and so when we started to swallow our pride and have a look at more practical options, like the plastic tubs with a stick what did we find.

On the whole that's exactly what these newer boats have, a spacious heads, bigger galleys and large cockpits. The only thing is they're mostly fin and skeg, not your heavy displacement, long keel jobs, the ones that we've been steered towards from all the heavy weather sailing books, your first ocean crossing, secure at sea books etc, we've devoured in our quest to become navigators.

Surfing the net on this new tack, we found a boat in our back yard, at Roa Island just eight miles away. This was a Janneau sunrise, and at 34'6" just about our size. We made contact with the owner Paul and arranged to see her on Saturday morning. We chose the morning because Jackie, who had an eye on the weather reckoned it was likely to snow in the afternoon, so we arranged to meet at 11am. At 10am it started snowing.
Oh well, not the best day to see a boat that may be bound for the Caribbean. Luckily the boat, Silver Lining, was on the hard standing, but the northwesterly's were blowing in freezing rain and snow flurrys. We clambered up the ladder propped against the stern and gave the decks a miss as the boat was caked in ice. Below was cozy though, Paul had had the heaters on. First impressions were that we quite liked her, not love at first sight, but not a no no. She's a 1987 model so not too ostentatious like these production boats can be and the layout would definitely suit our list of requirements, nice heads, ok galley, largish  cockpit. And then my smart phone sounded an alarm, telling me we had to be back in Ulverston in 30 minutes, clever things these smart phones, which is why they called smart phones, I suppose.

We said to Paul we would like to see her on a better day and scurried off back to our appointment. On the way home we mulled over the pros and cons of Silver Lining and agreed that we needed another visit in more pleasant weather. By the time we reached Ulverston the snow was thick on the ground. This was not the day to view boats bound for the tropics but it lightened our hearts on a very cold and miserable winters day. Maybe our boat lay in our own backyard, just maybe. Surfing the net over lunch we found a similar boat, but a thirty eight footer just south of Glasgow about 5000 pounds cheaper. We'll arrange to check that out I'm sure, but today Silver Lining was the name of the game, an apt name for a winters day.

Monday, 30 January 2012

That rules out the Taiwanese boats then

We had a call yesterday lunch time from a guy called Richard who owns a CT 41 that's in Whitehaven. We had spotted this boat standing in the boat yard a couple of weeks ago. The boat wasn't for sale and it looked decidedly like a project boat, which it was. Being new to this boat buying game, and being romantics, we had always been drawn to the photos of these, and other Taiwanese models, the Cheoy Lee, Formosas etc. They just have that look about them, that look that turns heads as you sail into harbour, such pretty lines, they just seem to fit our ideas of what we wanted, and quite often they were cheap, within our budget.

We had asked Richard to call us whenever he was going to be visiting his boat so we could come and have a peep inside one of these, as there seem to be few, if any for sale in the UK. Although we knew this one was not for sale and that he had already begun to take her apart it was still a great opportunity to get on board and find out if this was the sort of boat we wanted to buy.

Now Richards emails had been, shall we say a little less than chatty, he seemed to communicate in lists, so I was prepared for a bit of a character, I suppose. When he rang it was a very last minute call, he was going to be there this afternoon if we wanted to come see. We were watching the Australian open final and it had just gone into the 5th set, so at first I said thanks but we may give today a miss. Anyway we were an hour and a half away and he sounded like he was only making a quick visit. Call you back, I said if we're coming. When I rang back he informed me that they would be there at 14.28. Now that was a bit weird, I thought, why not half two, mmm Richard was going to be different.

We arrived at 3.15. Richard was in his early 60s, I would say, and a bit of a live wire. From the off he told us how this boat was not the sort of boat we should even think about buying. He piled the negatives on top of negatives and then finally invited us to climb the ladder and come see the pain that we would inherit should we be foolish enough to buy a boat like this. Jackie, declined the offer to come a board and chose to stay on terra firm and chat to his girlfriend. She had already decided that  this was not our boat, much to big, much problemo.

I followed Richard up onto the rotting deck to be shown the horrors that lay buried beneath the bowels of this project. It was dark and dingy inside and all over the place were lifted boards that revealed a couple of years of restoration that Richard was embarking upon. It was not a pretty site, although I could sense that he was committed to bringing this craft back from the brink. But as he pointed out the herculean task that he was undertaking I could see that this was not the way I wanted to go. The dream of romantic sailing craft ebbed away as fast as the falling tides of Morcombe Bay. Sure, the teak interior was lovely but the mass of rotting pipe work and fraying wires exposed soon put paid to my ambitions to own this type of vessel. Richard talked it down, and down some more. Even though for him it was going to be a labour of love he made a great job of quashing my enthusiasm, and I thank him for this. We had be seduced by the lines, the superficial shimmer of the woodwork and space that we had seen in the photos of boats like this on the web. But no longer, we came away with a reality check, and Richards wise words.

We have been barking up the wrong tree, we want to sail, not too inherit a project.

So the trip was well worth it, we have struck another set of boats off our list, and although we don't have a clue what we want now, at least we know it's not going to be some romantic notion, we will choose more wisely, and may even go for a plastic bath tub with a stick that we can sail tomorrow, not spend our time doing something up that could take years to get to be seaworthy.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

No it's not a Gibsea 38

Another trip out to view another boat today, this time it's a Gib'sea 38 in Whitehaven, which is about an hour and a half up the coast from us. For a change the weather has been more like winter with clear skys and frosty mornings. It was a fine day to take a drive, a drive that took us along the coast with clear views into the mountains of the lake district as a backdrop to our mission. Lenticular clouds hung motionless over the landscape like giant almonds in a clear blue sky.

The last time we were in Whitehaven it was also a cold day, in fact so cold that the water in the marina was frozen solid. That was a couple of years ago, today it's cold but the waters are ice free. We stop the car in the car park overlooking the harbour, light a fag and watch a couple of swans perform a symmetrical dance of pre mating foreplay on the water in front of us.Then, just as it all seems to be getting serious one of them, the girl I suppose, decides it's all to public on the waterfront and glides away, followed by her suitor, later maybe he'll have more luck.

We're here to have a look at this Gibsea but we've been unable to get anyone from the brokers to come and open her up so we can get the full picture. Never the less we have decided that a look around the outside will be enough for today, and it's a good excuse to get out in this beautiful day. The yacht we are going to view is called Grumpy, not the best name for a boat. Why would you call your yacht Grumpy? We find her lying at the end of jetty QB bobbing on the slight breeze. She's a ketch with in mast furling and looking a little forlorn, in need of a little TLC but at first glance she looks in reasonable shape for her age. My mobile rings and its the broker asking if we've found her yet. Yes, we've just arrived, I say. What do you think, he asks, I say we haven't had chance to look yet but one of the stantions is a bit loose, I'll give you a call when we've had a proper look round.

After about 15 mins of crawling round her deck and peering through the windows we decide that it's probably not the boat for us. Sliding windows don't feel right, the route from the cockpit to the companion way is awkward. The jammers are too far from the helm and we don't need a separate entrance to the captains cabin. It's OK but it's not our boat. That's fine at least it's another one to tick off our list. We saunter off along the jetty and cast an eye over all the rest of the boats, although not for sale it's good to be in among lots of different craft and make mental notes of the ones we should look up on the net next time we're surfing. It's a needle and haystack business finding the boat that's just for you, unfortunately our haystack is not even a sheaf, and  today we drew another blank, but the more we see the more we eliminate. It's a long game we thinks.

After soup and a cuppa in the harbour side cafe we take a detour to the repair yard where we go looking for the boat we came to see last time we were here. There's a couple working on their boat who we discover have just returned from a two year cruise around the Caribbean and the East coast of the States. They're stripping her ready for a new paint job and we chat for a bit, about boats, what else. A few pearls of wisdom are dispensed in our direction, always a plus to talk to those who have been there, done that, got the T shirt. They're sailing a 43ft Onvi, which is way outside our league, but this chat reaffirms our idea that we need a long keel boat, an old long keel boat, and that still points to the Tayana type of thing, or perhaps an Island Packet 31, both are about within or just outside our budget of £30,000.

Home, and we drive into a sunset of baby pink clouds and misty mountains. We chat boats, and chew over our conversation with the Onvi crew. It's been a fruitful day and another step closer to finding our boat. The thing is that we don't even have the funds, as yet, until we manage to sell the bungalow, we can't buy anything anyway. It's going to be much harder to make the decision when we have the money I suspect, but for now we just have to keep on looking  because you never know when your going to stumble upon the one.   

Friday, 6 January 2012

Is this Nicholson 35 our boat?

Our search for a boat continues, and today we were at Glasson dock, a quaint old fishing hamlet near to Lancaster. There is a small marina here and we've come to have a look at a Nicholson 35 which I had arranged yesterday with Wendy from the brokerage at the chandlers. The fine still morning had turned to a low cloud and drizzle afternoon when we arrived a few minutes after two. We had been here just a couple of weeks before Christmas to see this yacht but hadn't been able to get on board as they were short staffed and couldn't let us on board by ourselves. As it turned out we had missed the owner by about 20 minutes on this occasion, so we were only able to check her out from the pontoon. She looked like a fine boat, and we were now back on a Friday to get the full picture. Unfortunately they couldn't find the key. Seemed that the owner had failed to leave a key with the broker, and he may be in Greece. We were a little deflated, to say the least, but agreed to look at another boat we had thought may be worth a look, a Colvic something or other. This boat was on the hard standing and so we would need a ladder. The problem there was that all their ladders had been recently condemned by the health and safety police. We went outside, in the drizzle, for a fag and a moan. Wendy appeared with an illegal ladder and we followed to the Colvic something or other. The moment the door was opened into the pilot house we knew we didn't want this boat, and after about 5 minutes of chit chat we climbed back to terra firma and back to the office, but taking a detour to the pontoon where the Nicholson lay to have a sniff about on deck.

We hopped aboard and at once were impressed with the her. Good sturdy oversized standing rigging, big winches, her soaring stepped mast, CQR anchor, spacious cockpit. Everything looked like a boat that was ready to cross oceans, solid, such a shame we couldn't get to investigate her below decks. We returned to the office. Here we heard that Wendy had managed to contact the owner who was on his way over, from near Blackpool, and would be with us in three quarters of an hour. We went to the local pub and ordered a pot of tea. The old Vic was empty, but with a roaring fire and was crammed with nautical memorabilia, a good place to while away half an hour on a drizzly afternoon. By the time we met Dave, the owner of the Nicholson the day was coming to its gloomy conclusion but that wasn't going to stop us having a tour of the boat.

Dave is a youthful sixty something whos' obviously been sailing a long time, he had that air, and drove a black 4x4. Dave is very handy and has, as we discover on the tour lovingly transformed this 1978 Nicholson from a bog standard boat, to something of a work of art. He's rebuilt the galley and topped it off with some ceramic top that they make mortuary slabs out of, not sure if that was a selling point Dave. Its had a brand new engine with a "Z" coupling, built cupboards here there and everywhere, except he forgot to build one for hanging cloths. There seems to be a back up for anything that might fail, and all in all this is a fine boat, we're impressed. We even get every chart we may ever need for cruising Scotland, plus a decanter and more cutlery than we need to serve a full compliment of Nelsons Victory. Dave is the consument salesman, excited to show us each labour saving device he's incorporated into this labour of love, each safety first addition and every angle that he's covered to make this a boat that would keep you safe and sound. This is a boat that won't let you down, a boat to carry you any where you choose to go. We spent over an hour below with Dave and now it was dark. He now showed us round the deck, but I was getting cold and I'd seen enough. I'll start the engine, eh. It starts at the first attempt. Yes we're impressed but it's time to go, hang on, he says, I'll show you the flood lights that i've got here I'm going to fit on the aft end, enough, enough. Your now overselling it Dave, we like what we've seen but we now need to be on our way, which is what we do. We head off down the pontoon in the dark and find our way to our car outside a closed and deserted marina. We light a fag and Dave pulls up beside us in his 4x4 to explain we need him to open the gate to let us out. Good job he thought of that or we would have been stuck there all night.
On the way home we chew the fat and come up with the downsides of Daves' boat, there's not many, but they are there. But that's the way it is with boats, compromise, it's all compromise. As a sailing vessel it's going to be hard to fault this boat but at the price he wants it's perhaps a no no. However it's very close to what we should be looking for, and I'm not ruling it out, and it is here. But we need to look at lots more boats to know we've found our boat but I must say this was very close to the boat my head says we should have, my heart will need a little more convincing.