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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.