Wednesday, March 31, 2010

‘Within’, Greg Kolodziejzyk Pedal the Ocean



Yesterday I touched on the topic of the Jester Challenge 2010, which is a Race across the Atlantic for solo sailors in sailboats between 20 and 30 feet LOA. Generally, competitors will not be racing hi-tech yachts especially designed as racing machines; they will in the main be very ordinary cruising yachts, the sort used for coastal sailing, such as the Contessa 26, the Corribee 21, the Twister 28 and the Wharram Tiki 26. These sailors will not be sponsored, nor will they be racing for a coveted prize, but each of them will be highly motivated to undertake the demanding task. Their boats will not be packed with electronic gadgets, nor will they receive assistance from shore-based advisors, but every competitor will have fully prepared himself and his yacht for the challenge of his life.

Greg’s challenge is unique, because no one has ever used his own human power to pedal a vessel across an ocean. ‘Within’ is a large canoe-like boat that has two cabins: one for her solo crew to work the boat and the other for sleeping in. She is powered by a propeller which is connected to a foot pedal driveshaft, of which there is a replica stowed aboard in case the primary one should fail. In fact, this is Greg’s forte, i.e., preparedness. He has fully prepared for possible eventualities, for example, ‘Within’ is equipped with a sea anchor, an emergency locator beacon, a SpiderTrax tracking device, spares of things like GPS units, water makers and he has more solar panels than he thinks he’ll need.

His solar panels are rated at 250 watts, and he knows for sure he can get by on 110 watts, but that power will have to operate an array of electrical gadgets such as, a satellite phone, an Autohelm, a Raymarine GPS coupled to an AIS receiver, a two-way radio, a fan unit, a computer, and an Ipod with a video facility. In case his solar panels do not perform as expected he also has a wind generator that can be mounted on the cabin top.

It is Greg’s hope to set a speed record for others to better. He has allowed himself 80 days at most to pedal his craft from Vancouver to Haiwaii, which amounts to a total distance of 4,500 kilometres. He would be chuffed to do it in 40 days, but if he were to sleep 7 hours a day and pedal for 17 hours in every 24 he would need to average 6.6 kilometres an hour, i.e., 4.1 miles per hour. To that end he has been practising in the boat under simulated conditions and on the water with sea trials along the inshore stretch of Vancouver Island. Tomorrow he is due to set off on his offshore trial in the company of his safety vessel. This yacht will accompany him when he does the actual record attempt in June.

He certainly cannot be faulted when it comes to being fully prepared, even to the extent of building a prototype boat named ‘Tofino’ which did not come up to mark. Hence he rethought the whole enterprise; instead of attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean, he opted to pedal from Vancouver to Hawaii. He has sought the very best of everything to succeed, including the designer of the boat, naval architect Stuart Bloomfield and Rick Willoughby, an experienced marine engineer. The result is a state-of-the-art lightweight high performance machine capable of reaching speeds of up to 9 knots under the right conditions.

Greg is not undertaking his adventure purely for selfish reasons, because he has an altruistic nature, being a man who cares for the less privileged. To that end he invites his sponsors to donate $50 dollars per mile, and for each mile he pedals ‘Within’, the Kimberlee’s Bikes for Kids Charity will donate one bicycle to a deserving child. The aim is to promote general physical fitness and to reduce obesity. Greg’s primary mission is to encourage youngsters to be more physically active for better health and to encourage us all, irrespective of age to adopt this ethos and put it into practice.


Pedal the Ocean

Adventures of Greg

YouTube Video of Sea Trials

YouTube Video Tour of Within

My YouTube Playlist for Greg

SpiderTrax Tracking

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jester Challenge 2010

Thomas Jucker's 'Marta'

Rory McDougall's 'Cooking Fat'

The single-handed crossings of oceans by sailors, both male and female, are almost commonplace these days, but the oceans have hardly changed since early voyagers risked their lives while attempting to cross them. I suppose some of the earlier ocean seafarers were those who left the shores of Morocco, circa 3000 BC in search of new lands. These mariners aboard their ancient reed craft sailed and drifted across the Atlantic. Their route was largely determined by the prevailing winds and currents which took them to the Americas, or so Thor Heyerdahl believed. To prove the viability of his theory, he and seven crewmates sailed a replica craft to Barbados in 1970. They took 57 days to complete a crossing of 3,270 miles.

The story of ocean seafaring is well documented by historians from the 6th Century, when Procopius described the double-ended dhows of ancient India and he told of their voyages. Others have chronicled the likes of Leif Ericson who voyaged from Norway to Greenland in a wooden lapstrake longship. This voyage of discovery and resettlement took place approximately five hundred years before the historic crossing of the Atlantic by Columbus in 1492 aboard the ‘Santa Maria’. From those times, sailing vessels have ‘evolved’ because of emerging technologies. We live in this exciting age of new man-made materials which makes it possible for us to build vessels lighter, stronger and larger than those of our forefathers, but don’t let us be carried away by thinking we are gods who can overcome the oceans by our technologies.

Those who have crossed oceans can give testament to their vastness and the power of wind and waves. For most, the experience is very humbling, and they are amazed at the creatures they encounter, whether flying fish, whales, sharks, birds and the sights they see: sunsets, clouds, waves and even waterspouts. Of the 90 entrants to the Jester Challenge Race to take place this year, I doubt there is one who will be totally reliant upon technological gismos to get him across the Ocean. They will be sailing in the spirit of the ancient mariners, reliant upon their own resources. They will not have the ultimate, automated racing machine in which their role is to monitor instruments, press that button and be guided by onshore weather gurus. These are the true Corinthians who will come face to face with challenges, and have opportunity to test themselves and answer the question, “Who am I?”


The third Jester Challenge for single-handed yachts, under 30 feet, leaves Plymouth at 1300 BST on 23rd May 2010. This will be the 50th anniversary year or the first trans-Atlantic single-handed race.


Jester Challenge Web Site

Entry List for the Jester Challenge 2010

Bill Churchouse

Tribute to Mike Richey

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Boating

'Ladybird' in hibernation

The religious aspect of Easter will largely go unheeded by the mass of people, but quite a few yachtsmen and dinghy sailors will take note of the date, because for them it is a time to be out on the water enjoying their boats, fresh air and the company of others. If they are into racing, they’ll look forward to competing; if they are into cruising, they may make the first cruise of the year, or if they are into just messing about, they will have a jolly around.

The date of Easter Sunday varies, depending upon it being the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month that falls on or after 21st March, which is the nominal day of the vernal equinox. This year, Easter Sunday falls on the 4th April, which means that many of us will have a long bank holiday weekend extending from Friday, 2nd April to Monday, 5th April.

Yacht clubs will be buzzing with members busying themselves like bees organizing and taking part in races. Some will be painting and varnishing their prized possessions, and a goodly number will be looking forward to a slap-up meal provided by their Club to open the season. Socialites will hang around the bar drinking gin and tonics, while telling tales of heroic deeds, or of fearsome times when they escaped from the clutches of the awesome sea.

Unusually, for me, a boat of mine remains in hibernation before Easter. ‘Ladybird’ is still tucked up in her winter cocoon, because the weather has not been cooperative in stimulating activity on the part of her skipper. Well, that’s my excuse, but it has been jolly cold, and there have been bountiful showers, all very good for the flowers, but not for the varnish! With the launch date is set for the week commencing 18th April, whatever the weather, I have to make the effort.

The worst part of fitting out is lying on my back between the bilge keels trying to apply antifouling that wants to obey the universal rule of gravity. The last thing I want to happen is for blue toxic gunge to speckle my expensive spectacles. If I don’t wear them I cannot see clearly what I am doing, and if I protect them with goggles, they fuzz up with condensation. There’s only one answer, and that’s to take great care how the brush is handled and how the paint is applied, but I have to be double-jointed to get the brush into the pot, while on my back. As I am not double-jointed, I have to raise myself up every time I dip the brush into the pot, and sit-ups are not my forte. The process can be self-inflicted torture, all for the hope of hedonistic pleasure when the boat smiles at me and she skips over sparkling blue water.

Sometimes pain has to be endured for a better outcome. Just spare a thought this Easter for Jesus who endured unimaginable pain to give access to many to the riches and glories of His magnificent kingdom. (John 3:16)

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Yankee Girl

The Around-in-Ten saga may be coming to an end. Steve who owns and runs the web site has announced that most likely he will not continue to sponsor the site through lack of interest. His reasons are very sound. He does not think the expenditure and effort on his part warrants continuing, because of the waning interest and negligible use of forum. It looks as though Steve is determined to close the site, but he would be prepared to pass the whole lot on to a new owner who would be responsible for maintaining and developing what has been started. If there are any takers, I suggest they get in touch with him.

In response to Steve’s recent announcement about the likely closure, I replied to the Around-in-Ten Forum with the following post:

Hi Steve,

We can all sympathise with you wanting to close the Around in Ten web site. The costs are not to be sniffed at, and you did all that hard work to make the site attractive and useful, besides having to maintain and develop it. I certainly appreciate your efforts. You’ve built a resource for those interested in small offshore yachts and you’ve been a fine facilitator. Thank you for giving advance notice that you will be closing the site, because there will be a number of people who may want to copy things to their computers for personal use. I shall be sad to see the site go.

A race such as the Around in Ten is never likely to be sponsored by a newspaper or even a generous philanthropist, for the very reason that it is too risky, because lives may be lost. This would reflect badly on a sponsor. On the other hand, if someone with a viable boat were to throw the gauntlet down for challengers to race around the world in a ten foot boat, there might be a chance it could take off, just as was the case when Blondie Hasler challenged others to race him across the Atlantic. Officialdom will not want to be involved with such a race because of the risks; therefore a prestigious yacht club would not want to be involved with organising it. The burden is heavy for the organisers of the Woodville Challenge Rowing races, but for a round the world race in ten foot sailboats, the burden on the organisers would be greater.

However, I’m convinced that a brave sailor will achieve a global circumnavigation in a ten foot, and his or her name will go down in history.



The above statement is a personal assessment, and it does not take into account the immense effort and expenditure of those who originally intended to participate in the Race. Not one of them was able to make it to the start line, for various valid reasons. I take my hat off to them for trying, while others have benefited from their input.



Bills-log, Around-in-Ten

Small Boat Circumnavigators

Alone against the Atlantic

Alone Against the Atlantic – Book from

Ten Feet across the Pacific

Marlin Bree

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prout Dinghy

Prout Dinghy

I was glancing through some old photograph albums and I came across a photo of two of my daughters messing about in a Prout folding dinghy. That would have been in 1971, when I sailed my Torbay Class 2 Racer to Alderney. (See link below.)

Prout and Sons started producing their 6 foot version of the canvas and plywood dinghy after the Second World War when they set up their business at Small Gains Corner, Canvey Island. These very tiny dinghies were sought after by yachtsmen for use as tenders. I bought a second-hand one for my Torbay Class 2 Racer. She was just large enough to accommodate two cooperative people who didn’t object to being in close proximity, but using her in anything above a force 2 would have been folly. She did not have internal buoyancy, and had she become flooded she would have provided no useful floatation to her floundering crew. There was no way the crew could have got back aboard her.

Folded Prout on Phillida

Despite her limitations, she had a number of attractive features, i.e., she folded flat, took up very little room, was quick to set up, and she was light. Great care had to be taken to avoid damaging her canvas bottom, but her long narrow keel, capped with a length of half-round brass strip, helped in this respect.

The design was simplicity itself. There was a central narrow plank that acted as a keelson, and attached to it at either end there were upright supports: an internal curved stem for the bow canvas and a straight stern post for the transom canvas. The sides of the boat were made of plywood, and waterproofed duck canvas was tacked to them to form her bottom, transom and bow. To prevent the structure from collapsing there was a hinging crossbar near the stern, and at the bow there was another. Floorboards were laid on the crossbars to keep the crew clear of any bilge water. She didn’t have a thwart, which meant the occupants had to sit on the floorboards. This was a good thing, because it kept the centre of gravity low. The upper edges of the bow and transom canvas were strengthened with rope which was sewn to the canvas, and nailed to the plywood sides.

As far as I know, there is nothing like the Prout dinghy on the market today. The Origami has to be built from plans, and she is far more complicated than the Prout. Seahopper manufacture a folding dinghy, but it is much heavier than the Prout and takes up more room.


Cruise to Alderney

Wooden Boat Forum – discussion on Prout Dinghies

Origami Dinghy

Seahopper Dinghy

Friday, March 26, 2010

‘Elusion’, Matt Layden’s Micro-sailboat

Matt and 'Elusion'

I believe I’m right in saying that Matt Layden, known as Wizard, has completed nine races organized under the banner of Water Tribe, either in the Everglades Challenge Race or the Ultimate Florida Challenge Race. He has performed well in a variety of his own-designed and home-built craft. His sailing vessels of note are ‘Paradox’, ‘Enigma’ and his latest boat, ‘Elusion’. I was so fascinated with ‘Paradox’, that I built my own. She truly was a very fine little beach cruiser, capable of sailing in shallow water where other craft would find it impossible. This was in part due to chine runners either side of the sharpie hull and the efficient hydrodynamic shape of the hull. When running downwind she was a stable boat because of her flat bottom and buoyant bilges. Matt incorporated a cleverly designed roller-reefing, standing lugsail, which was rigged on a short, freestanding mast.

Wheels for portaging

He has put a lot of thought into the design of his sailing boats with a view to reducing surface friction, both below and above the waterline. He has designed them as displacement boats, rather than light-displacement boats. Drag is an element that reduces forward motion, and Matt really appreciates the importance of minimizing its effect. Rather than relying on waterline length to achieve speed, Matt, has concentrated on being super-efficient at reducing friction, e.g., his boats have no standing rigging and few external halyards, downhauls etc. On his own boats he avoids using topping lifts.

Two up!

‘Paradox’, ‘Enigma’, and ‘Elusion’ all look similar, as if they are sisters – ‘Paradox’ the eldest and ‘Elusion’ the youngest. Matt relies on ballasting his boats to bring them to their designed waterlines. Paradox has water and lead ballast; Enigma has bagged sand, plus her cruising gear; ‘Elusion’ has cruising gear and water, plus her crew. Paradox is the largest of the three, and ‘Elusion’ at 9 feet by 38 inches is by far the smallest. To my mind, the most remarkable is the very tiny ‘Elusion’. Matt endorses his confidence in the boat by entering her in the Water Tribe Ultimate Florida Challenge Race. Here is a man who has competed on these waters for many years; hence he knows them like the back of hand. He is fully aware of possible scenarios that could arise – principally caused by the effect of the wind on the shallow waters around the coast of Florida. He knows where he can seek shelter if need be. Matt’s preference is for extreme minimalism, and he is a guy who enjoys the challenge of overcoming what for most of us would be perceived as goals that are impossible to achieve. As I put this article together he is currently the leader in Class 4, which is for Small Sailboats.

Matt using a single bladed paddle

As a tribute to him for his special contribution to the small sailboat community, I am pleased to have this opportunity of thanking him, and wishing him good fortune as he continues with the Race. Whether he wins or not, is irrelevant, because I feel sure his aim is to compete to the very best of his ability and strength. Whatever happens, he is already a true winner. Well done, Matt!


Water Tribe

Matt Layden’s Boats, by Dave Buldoc



Dave’s Wiki

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hobie Mirage Tandem Trimaran

The Tandem

On Wednesday, 13th January I posted an article at this Blog giving details of the Hobie Island Adventure Trimaran. (See Link below.) From the general tenor of my article I was pretty enthusiastic about the lightweight, single-seat, sit-on-top kayak that can be transformed into a sailing trimaran. I particularly liked the retractable amas that allowed easy access for the crew, to or from pontoons, quays and jetties. I also liked the patented ‘twist and stow’ rudder. Likewise I thought the unique Hobie Mirage pedal drive system was a great, because it could be used independently, or in conjunction with the sail. (This ingenious, extractible piece of equipment utilizes fins similar to those of a fish for propelling the vessel through the water.) The rig was pretty cool too, since reefing can be carried out almost instantaneously with little effort, simply by pulling a line attached to a furling drum.

Another Tandem

Well, according to popular demand, Hobie Cat are about to release the Tandem version of the Hobie Island Adventure Trimaran. Although similar in appearance, the two boats are different. The Tandem, as the name implies, has room for a crew of two, but she is a longer and heavier trimaran, incorporating features of the smaller boat. With a heavier payload, she has more sail area and more storage capacity, but attention will need to be paid to trimming her correctly, by balancing crew weight with cruising gear to ensure she sits on her designed waterline.

Two of them

In my opinion, both boats are best transported on purpose-built trailers. Indeed, the Tandem at 190 lbs could make car-topping difficult. Some might say it was bad enough car-topping with the 115 lbs Adventure Island. The difficulty of handling the Tandem off a beach during a bit of a blow was clearly demonstrated in a video taken during the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge Race, 2010. Single-handing the Tandem if she ends up on the mud could be very awkward, as was explained in another video filmed during the Ultimate Challenge Race. (See my Youtube Playlist link below.)

So far, I have not seen a price quoted by any of the dealers, but here in the UK, a new Hobie Island Adventure Trimaran with the basic gear will set you back £3,175.00. My guess is that the Hobie Mirage Tandem Trimaran may be almost double the price.


Another Illustration

If you are seeking thrills and speeds, both boats will do you well. For adventure expedition type situations, particularly in shallow waters, she should be pretty good, but not so good for situations where large breaking waves may be encountered. The disadvantage of both Hobie Trimarans mentioned above is exposure for the crew, even if they are well equipped with the appropriate clothing. For day sailing in sunny climes in semi-protected water, I think they would be great fun. Because the Tandem can be steered by either crew, she would make an ideal boat for tuition. She’s almost large enough to warrant a mooring and almost too big for launching on a regular basis for day sailing, which makes her an in-between boat.

P.S. I forgot to mention that both trimarans can be equipped with the latest electric propeller drive, supplied by Hobie Cat, the ‘eVolve’.


Statistics of the Hobie Mirage Tandem Trimaran

Length Overall: 18' 6" / 5.64 m
Ama Length: 13' 4" / 4.06 m
Width W/ Amas Out: 10' / 3.05 m
Width W/ Amas Folded in: 4' / 1.22 m
Width (hull only): 30" / 0.76 m
Mast Height: 18' / 5.49 m
Sail Area : 90 sq. ft. / 8.4 m2
MirageDrive Weight x2: 6.6 lbs / 3 kg
Rigged Weight: 190 lbs. / 86.18 kg
Capacity: 600 lbs. / 272 kg


Hobie Cat

My Article about the Hobie Island Adventure Trimaran

My Hobie Mirage Tandem Trimaran YouTube Playlist

Features of Hobie Trimarans

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roamer Dinghy Photos

At Tower Bridge

Some time ago I posted an article about my Roamer dinghy ‘Harriott’:

Here are a few more photos of her.

DCA at Walton Backwaters, Kirby-Le-Soken

The same place

Running comfortably

Happy Crew

If you would be interested in building a Roamer, you could contact the Dinghy Cruising Association to discover if plans for the boat are still available. Here’s the URL:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

‘Tyrol’, a Shortened Scout Kayak

'Tyrol' under sail. Note the fixed plank across the cockpit. The sails were made from parachute material.

On the River Tone

Also on the River Tone

At the age of 13 I built my very first boat, a Shortened Scout Kayak. The plans were obtained from the Boy Scouts organization. As far as I can remember, the decked canoe was about 11' long and 2' 6" wide.

My little nephew

I first had to attach six frames to a keelson; then fit the sheer planks either side of the frames. The stem and stern posts were shaped and screwed to the keelson and the sheer planks. Laths were laid over the framework and the boat was covered with canvas. Linseed oil was brushed into the canvas as a preservative. Finally the boat was given three coats of oil paint. External rubbing strips were added to her bottom, and wooden laths were screwed along the sheer to seal the deck and hull canvas.
My canoe was rigged with three sails and she was equipped with a screw-on keel and a fixed rudder. I sailed and paddled her on the River Tone, the River Exe and the River Avon. I also sailed her at Plymouth.

River Avon

In 1947 the Taunton Canoe Club held a successful cruise and camp at Starcross. We paddled to Teignmouth via Dawlish Warren. Our canoes were transported by steam train from Taunton to Starcross and from Teignmouth to Taunton.

Taunton Station

Monday, March 22, 2010

‘Ladybird’s’ Rudder

Here it is

At the end of last season I removed ‘Ladybird’s’ rudder and brought it home for stripping the old varnish and applying coats of epoxy. The first coat of epoxy went well, but the weather turned cold which meant that follow-up coats were never done.

This spring I have been waiting for a dry warm day to apply the next coat, but so far it hasn’t happened. The forecasters have repeatedly said the temperature would rise to 15 degrees Celsius, but it has never reached more than 12 degrees. In desperation I spoke to my wife about my predicament, and to my surprise she suggested that I should use the kitchen. I then confessed that I had built the mast and boom of my Paradox sailboat in the kitchen when she was away on holiday. I also told her that I had assembled and glued the side panels for the boat in the lounge!

Within twenty minutes of my wife’s suggestion, the job was done. Therefore dear boatbuilding husband or boat maintenance yachtsman, pluck up courage and communicate with your wife or your partner - she may even offer to help.

P.S. For the best result with the epoxy I use, a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius is required.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roamer Interlude

Roamer Dinghy 'Harriott'

My Crew

I have a feeling that a few readers may have been bored with my endless log accounts, consequently this ‘Interlude’ featuring my Roamer dinghy, ‘Harriott’ will be brief.

If you live long enough and become married or have a relationship, you may become a grandparent. Of course, you will become a parent first! One of the joys of life is holding a newly born grandchild in your arms. I’ve been blessed with seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Well, the challenge of building a relationship with a grandchild is there for the taking, that’s if you are up to it. Time and circumstances need to be fortuitous otherwise you will not be successful.

During the summer of 1999 I had a weekend break aboard my Roamer dinghy with my Italian-born grandson. I wanted to share time with him and to introduce him to sailing. I had expected he would not be interested, but I was proven wrong.

'Harriott' Close-up

On the morning of 24th July, 1999 we launched ‘Harriott’ at Burnham Marina. Straight away I gave him the responsibility of getting us out of the marina. He diffidently took the tiller, but within minutes he got the hang of steering. There was only a gentle wind from the south, which meant sailing down the River Crouch towards the sea was an easy matter. The River runs west to east; therefore all my grandson had to do was to point the boat towards the east and try to keep her in the middle of the River.

It was a lovely sunny day, and a good many yachts were out on the water. Our course took us seaward past the usual marks: Inner Crouch Buoy, Crouch, Outer Crouch, and so on until we arrived at Buxey No 2 where there was a gathering of anchored boats – they were all the there for viewing seals lounging on the drying sandbanks of Maplin. As we progressed seaward, the wind backed to become east-by-south, which entailed sailing to windward. Gradually, my tyro crew was taking onboard new knowledge: how to trim the sails, the difference between weather helm and lee helm, heeling, trim, tacking, gybing, port hand and starboard hand etc.

Once again, the direction of the wind changed; this time coming from south- by-west. Small cumulous clouds formed overhead. We headed back towards Burnham. On passing the entrance of the River Roach we avoided a fleet of dragon yachts engaged in racing, and how colourful they were with their spinnakers flying. The inshore lifeboat was speeding into the Roach. Off the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club we were forced to keep clear of a number of Squibs as they jockeyed at the start line.


We continued up the River to Fambridge where we moored beside the pontoon, and there we set up the tent. A meal at the Ferry Boat Inn went down very well. That night we slept peacefully.

Early on Sunday morning, 25th July, there was a slight mist rising from the river banks. When breakfast was over and we had packed the tent away we made sail for a saunter up river through the moorings as far as Brandy Hole. I couldn’t get my grandson off the tiller. He just loved tacking the boat through the Fambridge moorings. He had the skill of one who had been doing it for years. He even tried racing other boats as they weaved their way towards Bridgemarsh Island, where terns screeched in protest at yachts close to their nesting site.

The diurnal rhythm of a summer’s day brought an increase of wind from the east which caused us to exchange the Genoa for the jib and put one reef in the mainsail. Having tacked through the Burnham trots we continued to the River Roach where we explored the first reach. By then there was a good force 4 from the north east, so we anchored in the lee at Crow Corner and set up the tent.

At 1810, chips, tuna salad, yoghurt and coffee went down well. It was an evening of reading for me, and a time for listening to the radio for my crew. The sunset was fabulous, although the wind shook our tent. As a precautionary measure I let out more anchor warp. A DCA member with the name David passed by in his Skipper 18. He told us he had set out from Havengore Creek and had spent the day sailing around Maplin Sands.

There is no further record in the logbook, but on Monday morning we returned to Burnham Marina. Together, my grandson and I had shared a precious interlude, a time between times, which we shall always remember.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Regular Subscribers - Thank You


This is an appropriate moment to thank all of you good people who regularly subscribe to Bills-Log. Without your support there would be little incentive to continue. I could keep all the fun to myself and not share it with others, but the sharing makes all the difference to me, and I know you appreciate it too, because you keep coming back for more! Thank you.

Over the past weeks I’ve been reminiscing on cruises I’ve had aboard my own boats and one aboard a friend’s. My log books contain many more stories, and it is my hope to share a selection of them as time goes on.

Forward Decks



‘Ladybird’, my Seawych 19, has been hibernating during the winter months, but now she’s stirring because she ‘feels’ the spring. She’s looking forward to a good clean, a new coat of varnish, a bottom scrape and an application of antifouling. She’ll also appreciate new jib sheets, a better furling line for her foresail and a new support for her two GPS units. Then she’ll be ready for the summer season.



Future Plans

She and I have plans for a great adventure. During April and May we’ll be tuning up, in preparation for a cruise along the South Coast. We have reserved the whole of June and July for this enterprise. Hopefully, guests will join us for their enjoyment and for our company. If the weather is kind and my health holds out, we are hopeful of visiting Exmouth, Teignmouth, Dartmouth, Torquay and perhaps Plymouth. That’s a tall order, we know, but fair winds could make it possible. En route we plan to call into Poole where we shall hope to sail with two friends in their Paradox micro-cruisers, and we shall want to visit Weymouth to meet an old crew. Keyhaven is another venue where we plan to rendezvous with a friend who is more fanatical than me about sailing and boats.


For Sale

When our cruise is over, my current mistress and I will most likely part - ‘Ladybird’ in search of a new master, and me to take on a new project. If there are any suitors for ‘Ladybird’ please get in touch. She’ll be FOR SALE at the going rate; really good value for money. She could be yours in August!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 9

Track across Thames Estuary

Friday, 7th August

As quite often happens, the weather forecast for the sea area of Thames did not match reality. We were expecting winds of force 4 to 5, from the northeast, but we experienced no more than force 2 from the northwest. Yet again, according to the Met Office, fog and thundery rain were items on the menu. We had to bear this in mind, plus the fact that we would have to endure at least two to three hours of tide against us while skirting Maplin Sands. Our intention was to make it back to Burnham before nightfall.

Early that morning at Harty Ferry, a fine mist cloaked the River Swale, but it was not thick enough to prevent us from seeing the Horse Sand Buoy, which was near the entrance of Faversham Creek. We made sail at 0710 hours, knowing full-well that if we didn’t maintain accurate courses from one buoy to the next we may end up on the sands. Having rounded the bend at Horse Sand, our course was to the northeast, and when we were at Shellness Point we could pick out Pollard Spit Buoy. There, two trawlers were hauling nets over the shallows of Whitstable Bay.

The only sounds we could hear were the chuckling of water along the hull, and the faint drone of the trawlers’ engines. A World War Two pillbox at Shellness Point was just visible in the mist. The eerie, spooky scene stimulated my imagination so that it went into overdrive. Were we being watched by ghosts of the past, ghouls with their rifles, faint figures gaping from dark recesses within that concrete tomb? ‘Apple Charlotte’ sailed on, and the time capsule was left behind. We arrived at Columbine Spit where the sound of foaming waves wakened me from my silent dream, so that it was no more. To accentuate my loss, I utterly killed the prospect of further dreams by starting the engine. Our course was directly into the wind.

The sea mist persisted, but in those shallow waters there was no danger from shipping, until our course would take us at right angles across the buoyed fairway which led to the Medway. Things worked out well, since we were not harassed by passing vessels. We only glimpsed the outlines of two ships anchored at Shoebury Roads. Our course took us over the shallows of the Cant, and from Sea Reach we headed due north to the East Shoebury Buoy, which marked the southern limit of Maplin Sands.

These Sands are to be avoided, because the Shoebury Firing Range extends across them. Unwary sailors who stray into the area are likely to be apprehended by uniformed officers, and their yachts could be confiscated. Today, soldiers are trained at the Range to immobilise the sort of improvised bombs favoured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. We could not hear the sound of firing as we felt our way north-eastwards along the edge of the sands, and assumed there would be none, because of the poor visibility. There we gave respite to the engine, and quietness to our souls as the wind did the honours.

Unexpectedly, we encountered a Naval Patrol Vessel that was on a reciprocal course. Seeing her come out of the gloom was a frightening experience. She had obviously picked us up on her radar, but she sounded no fog signals, neither can I recollect seeing her navigation lights. To all intents and purposes she was a rogue vessel, except she was engaged on Her Majesty’s business, whatever that may have been. Our tiny yacht posed no threat to her, by way of our slow speed and miniscule size; yet she would have gone right through ‘AC’ as if she were a fragile egg.

As the tide turned against us, our speed correspondingly decreased, and the light wind was insufficient for us to make over the ground. Of necessity we restarted the engine, but ‘Apple Charlotte’ barely held her own. By then it was early afternoon, our time for lunch. Should we anchor, or should we continue? The mist began to lift, and ahead there was a fine traditional yacht on a reciprocal course. We passed port to port, and a close inspection revealed that her name was ‘Ocean Slipper’. Her sail number was 2870Y. At 1430 the Whitaker Beacon bore due west as we headed true north towards the Whitaker Buoy. From there we took the flood into the Whitaker Channel. Our almanac confirmed that high water at Burnham would be at 1706 which gave us five-and-a-half hours of favourable current – plenty of time for reaching Burnham before the ebb.

The entrance to the River Crouch was well buoyed. Several yachts were making to sea in the wake of a coaster heading towards the Sunken Buxey. We guessed rightly that she would take the channel to the north; accordingly we chose the shallower passage to the south. Our petrol was running low, but by the skin of our teeth, we made it to the Royal Burnham Yacht Club were we tied up to their pontoon. The time was 1718. Continuous drizzle dampened our arrival, but not our spirit. My gallant brother volunteered to buy petrol, so that we could press on. Within the hour we were motoring through the moorings when we came across the sullen crew of the Creeksea Sailing Club’s rescue craft. Their engine had broken down, and they desperately needed a tow to get them back to the Club. We brought them alongside and gave them cups of tea before leaving them at their Club’s slipway.

Our trip up the River Crouch to Hullbridge was uneventful, but notable, because of the pervasive drizzle which trickled down our necks and got up our sleeves. The dinghy was still attached to ‘AC’s’ mooring, but she was full of water. Despite the damp ending to our holiday we were as happy as Larry, and chuckled all the way home. It had been a fantastic cruise.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 8

'Apple Charlotte's' track

Thursday, 6th August

This morning’s forecast was not too encouraging, because the north-easterly force 3 would be against us when sailing to North Foreland. Furthermore, the wind was predicted to increase to force 5, and there was a likelihood of thundery showers with poor visibility - even fog! The wind would also be against us if we tried sailing to Burnham via the Edinburgh Channel. Therefore, we decided the better option was to have a go at rounding North Foreland, from where we would be able to broad-reach along the North Kent Coast to the River Swale.

Getting around North Foreland can always be a bit tricky, because Broadstairs Knolls extend to the east, and strong currents brought about by the flood and ebb tides, tumble over them like rapids in a river. Our tactic was to keep as close to the cliffs as we dare, which necessitated short tacking. By doing so, we would avoid the stronger currents, and we would have less distance to sail. In practice, the latter part of the ebb northwards was helpful to us, but when we rounded North Foreland and headed into the last of the ebb from the River Thames, the waves got steeper. However, from thereon, the northeast wind, instead of hindering us, helped us, because it put us on a reach, enabling ‘Apple Charlotte’ to power over the chaotic waves.

We had left Ramsgate Harbour at 0705 and by 0920 ‘Apple Charlotte’ was north of what remains of Margate Pier. The Pier, sometimes referred to as the ‘Jetty’, was severely damaged in a fierce storm, back in 1978. Attempts at demolishing the remains of the Pier by the use of explosives were not entirely successful. The twisted metal framework and supports were just visible through the sea mist, but as we progressed, visibility gradually improved to reveal a hazy sun. Two ships were anchored in Margate Roads.

The wind veered a little, so that we were able to free the sheets and run before it. Our first important mark to find was the newly-installed East Margate buoy. This formerly, lateral type buoy, had been replaced by a cardinal one, i.e., it had two black cones at the top; the upper one pointing up and the lower one pointing down. The conical buoy itself, was painted in black and yellow, so that the upper and lower parts were black. We would pass to the south of this east cardinal buoy and continue to the South Channel. As it was about an hour before low water, we had to take note of every beacon and buoy to ensure we would not stray into the shallows of Margate Hook Sand.

At 1000 we were north of Birchington and its distinctive Church which we identified by its prominent spire. Just south of the austere Margate Hook Sand Beacon that in my imagination resembled a gibbet, there’s a super anchorage with good holding ground, adjacent to the five metre line. We were almost tempted to wait there, but we could make out the Copperas buoys about two miles ahead. They marked the precise route between Copperas Sand and the tail of Margate Hook Sand.

Strangely, we hadn’t seen any other yachts. We could only assume that the Up River contingent had chosen a route across the Thames Estuary via the Edinburgh Channel, or they had postponed sailing until there was a more favourable forecast. At that point, visibility began to close in when sea mist overtook us from astern. Thankfully it was not fog, as had been forecast, but we began to wonder if we had made the right decision to sail. However, there was about a mile of visibility, and in the gloom ahead, there was a tiny yacht coming our way. She was a red Hunter Sonata with the enigmatic sail number, ‘8364N’. Now, what the ‘N’ stood for we didn’t know. Perhaps she was Norwegian? She was doing remarkably well against the wind and tide. Was she a lifting keel version or a fin keel Hunter? The depth of low water where we were, north of Herne Bay, couldn’t have been more than three metres at most, and further to the east there were patches with less than two. Well, we had made it, so perhaps she would be OK on a rising tide.

By 1210 we were at the north cardinal Whitstable Street Buoy where we handed the log. Our average speed over the ground since heading west from North Foreland had been 5.5 knots. To the southwest we could see the dark outline of a smidgen of land which marked the entrance of the River Swale. There was precious little else we could see, as the land beyond the River was low-lying, and visibility was no more than a mile-and-a-half. We simply had to rely on keeping an accurate course to the Pollard Spit buoys were we would hope to find Shell Ness, which is a bank of sand at the extreme eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey.

Harty Ferry Slip

At that moment, just when we didn’t want it, the wind increased to force 5. Coming from the northeast, it combined with the flood tide, to push ‘Apple Charlotte’ along at an alarming rate into the Swale. In an effort to reduce our speed, we took down the mainsail. As we were engaged in this frenetic activity, a yacht with the name ‘Lady N’ was trying to beat out of the River. Her crew shouted to us, but on account of the wind and the whiplash of the sail, we could not get the gist of what they were saying, neither could we hang around to find out. Meanwhile, there was a thunderstorm brewing to the southwest; therefore we were thankful to pick up a mooring at Harty Ferry. The time was 1310. Twenty minutes later, ‘Lady N’ passed close by, and her skipper told us that his friend’s yacht had broken up on rocks, only two hours before. Her crew had been rescued by Helicopter. Then we understood what the distressed skipper of ‘Lady N’ had been trying to tell us. We still couldn’t work out why he was trying to sail out of the River.

At 1700 it was getting on for high water. Torrential rain battered the cabin top, and a small coaster named ‘Roina’ chugged by. She made her way into the River and disappeared from view beyond a bend. An hour later the rain had cleared to reveal a heavily-reefed junk-rigged yacht approaching the Harty moorings. There her skipper chose a mooring off Lily Banks in the lee of a few old hulks.

Good fortune had smiled on us. It had been a successful and satisfying day, but things could have been so different, had we got it wrong, like the skipper of the wrecked yacht.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 7

Up River Yacht Club boats at Ramsgate

Wednesday, 5th August

With a persistent ridge of high pressure from the Azores to Scotland, there was every chance the weather would remain fine. Indeed, from early morning to sunset there was precious little wind. However, according the Shipping Forecast there could have been a chance of thundery showers, but my feeling was that if they were to occur, they would more likely take place inland, rather than at sea. We weren’t in a hurry to get out on the water, because the tide wasn’t due to ebb northwards from South Foreland until mid-afternoon. Therefore we took things easy, and, as there was almost a dead calm, we set about tidying the boat, including scrubbing her decks.

Shortly after 1300 we prepared the yacht for sea. On retrieving the anchor, I was amazed by the large amount of weed there was clinging to it. For the next quarter-of-an-hour we motored around in circles to the east of the Prince of Wales Pier until the signal was given for vessels to leave the Harbour. An officer aboard the Duty Launch instructed us to remain where we were until after the Hydrofoil had made her exit. As soon as this high-speed shuttle had zoomed off into the blue, a handful of yachts followed her at a slower pace. Shortly after leaving the Harbour we continued to the northeast, but we had to take great care when approaching the eastern entrance because numerous ferries were entering and leaving the Port. Altogether we counted five! The experience was exciting to say the least, as there was always a possibility that the outboard may let us down, which I’m pleased to say it didn’t.

Archive photo - White Cliffs of South Foreland

The white cliffs of South Foreland looked pretty impressive. Perched atop them were the old lighthouse and the Coastguard Lookout. The wind briefly sprang up from the northeast, which caused us to tack offshore to clear a ledge that ran out to sea from the base of the cliffs. By 1500 the wind had petered out, but the tide assisted us northwards towards Ramsgate. The seaside town of Deal and its distinctive Pier was to port. Inland, further north we could see the cooling towers of Richborough Power Station which were situated by the banks of the River Stour, north of Sandwich.

We had chosen the deep water route via the Gull Stream in preference to the inshore one, but by adhering to it there was the possibility that the ebb may swish us beyond Ramsgate. As usual, the Up River skippers did their own thing. John in his Atalanta followed the two metre sounding along the Kent coast. This made sense because his boat was equipped with twin lifting keels, and if she were to touch bottom he wouldn’t have a problem. He had the added safety factor of the ebb taking his boat directly to Ramsgate. Ken Phipps and his crew aboard his Westerly Centaur could no longer be seen, because he had forged ahead at the outset. No doubt he was already snug in port, perhaps ashore having afternoon tea at one of the cafes overlooking the harbour.

Twenty minutes before our arrival at Ramsgate a very noisy Hovercraft came close to ‘Apple Charlotte’, and she continued towards the Harbour. I must say the proximity of the Hovercraft caused us great concern, to the extent that on its approach I climbed on the deck and held the radar reflector as high as I could. Normally, the reflector was only deployed when there was poor visibility. My practice was to hang it at the crosstrees, but just then there wasn’t time for me to attach it to a halyard and haul the thing up. Unexpectedly, the wind sprang up again, which was helpful, because it gave us more speed for counteracting the tide as we entered Ramsgate Harbour. There we were invited to come alongside a Dutch Contest 31. Later I moved ‘Apple Charlotte’ to raft up to the Up River boats.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 6

'Apple Charlotte' at Dover

Tuesday, 4th August

Well, it was the day for crossing the Channel to Dover. The forecast was for variable winds at force 3 or less, moderate visibility with fog patches, becoming extensive. The prospect of the latter was not good, because there would be many ships passing through the Strait of Dover, and several cross-channel ferries between Dover and Calais, the very route we would be taking. However, previous forecasts had predicted fog patches, and although we saw only one, it had not bothered us. The unanimous opinion of the UP River skippers was that we should go for it.

The sun was shining and the sky was blue; therefore we put to sea at 0820. From the start, it was obvious there would not be enough wind for sailing. The larger yachts forged ahead; meanwhile we kept our outboard at half throttle, which enabled ‘Apple Charlotte’ to cruise at a speed of 3 knots. As the crow flies the distance between Dover and Calais is about 22 nautical miles. In the event, fog patches did not materialize, but there were a good many ships passing through the shipping lanes. At 0920 the Sealink Ferry, ‘St Anselm’ overtook us, and from the opposite direction, twenty minutes later, the Townsend Thoresen, ‘Pride of Free Enterprise’ passed to our port side.

Archive photo of 'Free Enterprise'

Somehow, ‘AC’ drifted off course towards Folkstone and at 1430 the harbour entrance bore 330 degrees. Our new course for Dover was 065 degrees. As we plotted our position on the chart, ‘Horsa’, a Sealink ferry, headed across ‘AC’s’ bow for Folkstone. When we were two cables from Dover Harbour’s western entrance we took good note of the signals, knowing full well, to keep clear until two red balls were displayed vertically, and only then with permission could we enter. This was really important because the cross-channel hydrofoil was in operation, and at speed, her foils would cut cleanly through our fibreglass boat. Even if she wasn’t travelling at foiling speed, she would be a real danger. The water is always choppy around Dover Harbour, so waiting around for permission to enter can sometimes be a bit hairy. As fortune would have it, we did not have to hold station for more than ten minutes until the little man in a black suit waved us in. Had we possessed a VHF set the whole affair would have been much easier. Nowadays, it is imperative to communicate via VHF.

As soon as we entered the Harbour, the Duty Launch appeared, and her skipper took us to where the other Up River boats were anchored, i.e., outside the 2 metre line to the southeast of the Yacht Club. The open anchorage at Dover is renowned for rolling yachts whose skippers are foolish enough to take advantage of a free stop. If you are staying for more than one night, by far the better option is to raft at the inner harbour outside Granville Dock, but of course, there will be a charge. On the other hand the facilities are good, including hot showers.

Despite the rolling, we loved being at the busy harbour, because there was so much to see. We had had a rotten night at Calais, and by comparison, Dover was almost like a feather bed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 5

Calais Harbour Entrance

Sunday, 2nd August

There was nothing much to distinguish this day from another, except that the wind veered from northeast 4 to east 6, which was very much in our favour while sailing from Zeebrugge to Dunkerque. With tide and wind helping ‘Apple Charlotte’, her average speed over the ground was an incredible 6 knots!

We were at Blankenberge by 0905 hours, and over the Stroombank between Ostend and Nieuwpoort at 1025. There we had to keep clear of a colourful fleet of Dragons engaged in deadly combat. They were probably based at the Ostend North Sea Yacht Club. By 1450 we were approaching the entrance of Dunkerque Harbour. Having made it safely into the Harbour we had a bit of trouble trying to find a berth. Altogether, we were shifted three times before we were allowed to raft alongside another yacht. I guess the Harbourmaster was pretty busy, because it was the height of the season. In the process of moving our boat, my brother sustained a painful head injury when he caught his forehead on the end of the boom of another yacht. He made a note in the log that the resulting lump resembled a grade 3 egg!

After an early evening meal we took a stroll through the town, and while doing so, we did a bit of window shopping, principally to compare prices with those at home, especially house prices. We couldn’t work out why the air was so cold at the beginning of August. On returning to our boat, we made large mugs of Hot Chocolate to help warm us, then we turned in for the night. The wisdom of drinking so much liquid before taking ‘shut-eye’ was open to question. There’s no mention in the logbook about the number of times we had to visit the loo as a consequence.

Monday, 3rd August

Having heard a good morning forecast which told of a zone of high pressure at German Bight, with the possibility of fog patches, the Up River contingent motored out of the Harbour. The time was just before seven o’clock. There was very little wind, and we were greeted with a sea mist. Our purpose was to sail to Calais, which would be our point of departure for Dover the next day. The engine was doing sterling work, but refuelling every hour was a bit tedious. Monotonously we powered from buoy to buoy, marking our progress on the chart, but at 0805 the propeller became fouled with a plastic bag. Cutting it free was an easy job, and away we were again, this time trailing a mackerel line from the stern. The sun broke through the mist and it soon cleared. Lo and behold! There on the line, was a glistening mackerel – not enough for a proper meal, but we cooked it nevertheless.

Late that morning our contingent tied up to a large visitors’ mooring buoy in the Calais Arrier-Port, south of a quay where cross-channel ferries berth. A more uncomfortable situation you couldn’t imagine. Every time a ferry arrived and left the harbour, torrents of water swirled over the shallows, causing the yachts to gyrate around the buoy, while banging into each other. Care had to be taken to make sure crosstrees and rigging did not clash together. Our situation guaranteed an awful night, but I for one did not want to be restricted by the tide, had I chosen to take ‘AC’ through the lock to the Bassin Ouest and moor at the Yacht Club. That evening, the Calais yachtsmen welcomed us at their Club where we spent a few cordial hours, but later, we suffered a tortuous, noisy night, one I would rather forget.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 4

Veere by the Welcheren Canal

Friday, 31st July

The early morning forecast predicted an easterly force 4, increasing to 5 or 6, veering to the south later, plus thundery rain. At the time, there wasn’t much wind at Veere. The first thing we did after breakfast was to shop for a few items of food. This gave us another opportunity for looking at the town. When we returned to the boat for morning coffee, the sky was looking a bit watery, which didn’t inspire us for getting out on the water. Nevertheless we had come to Holland, and we hadn’t fully explored the Veerse Meer. We overcame our inertia, and made sail. As we progressed, we noted that the low-lying flat landscape was similar to that of our own east coast, but the Dutch inland waterway had no rise or fall of tide. We had to keep a close eye on the chart to make sure we didn’t stray off course, as we wanted to avoid the deep fin keel of ‘Apple Charlotte’ from coming into contact with the muddy bottom of the lake.

Early in the afternoon we pulled alongside a jetty on the north side of the small island of Ondiep. There we had lunch. Drizzly rain confined us to the cabin for a full hour. Afterwards it was time to make our way back towards Veere, but we strayed out of the channel south of Haringvreter and became stuck on the mud. By using the outboard and punting with an oar, plus rocking the boat, we succeeded in breaking free. Much relieved, we sailed to Schutteplaat Island where we met a Dutch man who lived on a boat no bigger than ‘AC’. He was a keen radio ham, but remarkably he only had one leg. This did not prevent him from sailing because he managed quite well with his artificial leg. I was a bit disconcerted when I saw his leg in the cockpit, because I hadn’t realised he had a disability.

Saturday, 1st August

We were greeted by a dull drizzly morning which somehow encouraged my brother to don his oilskins and scrub the decks. Just as we got underway, our Dutch friend popped his head out of the companionway and waved goodbye. It was only a short run to Veere Lock, and as soon as we were beyond the open gate on the far side, we made sail. Sailing was much more pleasant than motoring, and as we drifted along at a leisurely pace with the wind from astern, we had time to take in the scenery. There wasn’t a great deal of note on the northeast stretch of the Welcheren Canal where the rural landscape was flat and there were few buildings, but in Middelburg I delighted in the tapestry of colour and pattern seen in the variety of buildings. At 1115 we encountered the swinging bridge and from thereon we downed sail and had to suffer the outboard. With the wind coming from astern we had to be careful, because the engine did not have a reverse. Trailing a bucket was surprisingly effective at slowing the yacht. Anchoring was not feasible, neither was it is legal.

Swinging Bridge

Vlissengen Lock

At 1300 the sea lock at Vlissingen was opened for the Up River contingent, including, ‘Apple Charlotte’, ‘Lamorna 11’, ‘Umande’ and the Atalanta 26. The crew of ‘Dinky Too’ had remained at Veere with the intention of exploring other Dutch waterways before returning to Burnham. The afternoon forecast was mainly good, because the wind was expected to come from the southeast, which would be offshore. On the other hand, the prospect of fog banks was not so encouraging; neither was the possibility of local winds reaching force 6. In fact, as we sailed along the coast towards Zeebrugge the wind came from our starboard quarter at about force 5, to give us brisk sailing so that we were off the entrance of the Harbour at 1800. We had to keep clear because a very large ferry was on her way out to sea. At the edge of the fairway the water was rather shallow, and the onshore wind caused the sea to kick up. A quarter-of-an-hour later, all of us were berthed at the Yacht Harbour where hardly a breath of wind could be felt. That evening my brother and I took a postprandial walk, but we were unimpressed with what we thought was a rather dull, functional transit town. The sole purpose of the place was to receive and despatch people, vehicles and goods via the ferries.