Saturday, June 30, 2012

Testing 'Sandpiper' - Part 3

Thursday, 28th June 2012

I had every intention of spending another day on the water with ‘Sandpiper’, but the early forecast indicated there would be rain for much of the morning and the possibility of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. With that unpromising prospect I decided to put the boat on her trailer and head for home.

Moored at Pontoon

Early high water was at 0715. I had three-quarters of an hour before the ebb was due to commence. I skipped breakfast, fired up the engine and cast off from the pontoon. Two minutes later the prop fouled the line for raising the rudder, causing the engine to stop. With my makeshift paddle I took her to a nearby pontoon. The only way I could unsnarl the line was by cutting it free. I tied the ends together and proceeded to the slipway.

Unlike when launching the boat, I was able to keep the wheel bearings out of the water, because the winch was powerful enough to haul ‘Sandpiper’ onto her trailer. However, the operation was not trouble free, as the winch rope jammed against the side of the drum causing it to be almost severed.

From there on, everything went according to the book. I took my time; then I had breakfast before setting off for home. There was no rain in the morning, nor was there a thunderstorm in the afternoon - so much for the weather forecast!


‘Sandpiper’ requires only a few minor modifications before she will be ready for a short cruise. All I want is a satisfactory forecast for a spell of fine sunny weather.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Testing ‘Sandpiper’ - Part 2

Wednesday, 27th June, 2012

It is surprising how quickly one gets into the routine of living aboard. When I woke this morning I felt quite at home, almost as if aboard ‘Faith’, my 12’ 10” Paradox. ‘Sandpiper’ is not as cramped, but she has less useable space because of her intrusive centreplate and her large cockpit. I can’t stretch out my legs as easily. To do it, I have to sit on the port bunk while facing towards the stern with my legs resting on the bunk top.

After breakfast I tried the Honda 2 HP outboard, and I was surprised that it fired into action at the first pull. The propeller was a little lower in the water than I wanted. To improve matters I made a rope strop to keep it at the correct depth. I also raised and lowered the centreplate to test it and to discover if, as a result, water came through the centreplate box where the support bolt is located. To my relief, none did.

Jim's Macwester

Yesterday I bumped into an old sailing friend, Jim McAvoy, who I knew when I was a member of the Up River Yacht in the early 1970s. He was at Burnham Yacht Harbour with his Macwester yacht ’Cestra’. We both planned to sail to the River Roach, setting out about 1030, and from there Jim would return to his mooring at Hullbridge. Low water was at 1222, after which time he would have the flood tide with him. I had no definite plan for the afternoon, but I would anchor for lunch within the entrance of the River Roach.

New Jetty

Beyond Rice and Cole, on the opposite side of the River Crouch there is a new jetty for offloading spoil from the Cross Rail Project. This joint enterprise has the backing of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The spoil is being used to make a large wetland reserve for birds where they can feed and nest.

On my way to the River Roach I tried various manoeuvres with ‘Sandpiper’ to test her sailing performance. She hove-to nicely, sailed fairly close to the wind, and she was as happy running as she was on the reach. Her weather helm was not excessive and it could almost be eliminated on the reach by half raising the centreplate. By comparison with ‘Faith’ I found she was more tender, but like the former she hardened up when heeling at about 15 degrees.

I anchored a cable or so beyond the Branklet Spit Buoy that marks the entrance of the River Roach. There I had lunch. The sky turned grey, and the weather was very humid. A low-flying, EasyJet passenger plane noisily passed overhead on its descent for Southend Airport. Recently the runway was extended to accommodate larger planes.

After lunch I had a snooze. On waking, and with renewed energy, I broke out the anchor. Not a lot of mud came up with the anchor; therefore cleaning the foredeck was quickly done by sloshing three buckets of seawater over it.

The 'Crow' Buoy and the entrance to the River Roach beyond.

I had a spanking good sail up and down the first stretch of the River Roach before returning to the River Crouch. From there I brought ’Sandpiper’ onto the wind and tacked towards the moorings at Rice and Cole. At about 1500 clouds darkened and drizzle started to fall. I was able to make it into the Yacht Harbour before more persistent drizzle set in. I slotted the lower washboard into place, closed the hatch and made a cup of tea. To replace energy expended while sailing, and as a comfort snack, I ate a delicious portion of Herman the German cake my wife gave me for such an occasion.

Herman the German Cake

Before preparing my evening meal I walked to the Co-op to buy the ingredients: potatoes, broccoli and corned beef.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Testing ‘Sandpiper’ - Part 1

Tuesday, 26th June, 2012

High water at Burnham Yacht Harbour was at 1743. I took an hour to make ’Sandpiper’ ready and to launch her. Disappointingly I could not persuade her to slide off her trailer without the wheel bearings getting wet. Had she not been fully loaded with cruising gear, including the outboard motor, I think it would have been possible to manhandle her off her trailer.

The wind was blowing directly onto the slipway which helped by keeping the boat nudged against the mud to one side. That meant I did not have to pull her onto the slipway while I took the road trailer to the car park. I moved the boat to her berth with a makeshift paddle that I knocked up before leaving home.

I was relieved to find that not a single drop of water entered through the centreplate box where the bolt that supports the centreplate passes through. I am hoping that will be the same when I drop the plate and start sailing.

I should have a fairly peaceful night in the Yacht Harbour. Tomorrow, I am planning to test the outboard and go for a sail. Depending on the strength and direction of the wind, I’ll decide where to sail, but it is my intention to return to the Yacht harbour for the night.

So far things look positive. Sandpiper is loaded correctly, and with the amount of gear I have aboard she is exactly on her marked waterline.


This is the first of a three-part account; each one was written on the day in question.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren

Weather dominates the life of a sailor. Yesterday my daughter was one of a crew delivering a yacht from Brightlingsea to Pin Mill. I would not have fancied taking her place, because the wind was hovering around a Force 7 blowing against the flood running down the Wallet. She described the conditions as very lively, and their trip was not without incident – a smack boat capsized and the yacht being delivered sustained a damaged bowsprit. For sure, the conditions were too rough for a little sailboat like ‘Sandpiper’, and I was glad I was not sailing her at the time.

Today, the wind moderated, and maybe ‘Sandpiper’ could have coped on the sheltered River Crouch. Instead of being tempted to launch her there and give her a go, I stayed at home to be with my grandchildren and great grandchildren. They spent the day with my wife and me so that their parents could have a break. The tiny tots were a lively bunch – all boys and noisy too, but they played well together. They had plenty of toys to fire their imagination and bags of space for running around. Hide-and-seek was the most popular game, followed by football, a close second.

Together we had a great day, and I delighted in seeing them so happy, healthy and ‘normal’. We all came out of it unscathed. The children fell asleep the moment their heads touched their pillows.

Tomorrow will be another adventure for both young and old.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jet Stream

Turbulent Sky

Almost three years ago I wrote an article for this Blog on the subject of the Jet Stream. (See link below.) In fact there are several jet streams. For an explanation as to their nature, read the Wikipedia description.
Yellow Roses

Suffice to say, they are powerful, fast-moving, relatively narrow bands of wind that hurtle around the earth between 23,000 and 52,000 feet above the surface, varying in height, according to where they are. The jet stream that most influences weather in the UK is the Polar Jet, and this year, as in 2009, it has settled into a more southerly rotation than is normal; this allows and encourages a series of depressions to pass over the UK. In so doing they shed loads of rainwater, causing havoc with flooding. Strong winds and rain devastate crops, even uprooting trees.

These conditions are not conducive to encouraging cruising sailors to be out on the water, especially those who have tiny boats like my 14’ ‘C’ Type West Wight Potter. I have been making plans for trialling her over a period of two to three days, but the latest forecast gives little prospect of settled weather. I am not a masochist, and therefore I would not choose to venture forth, even on the semi-protected water of the River Crouch.
Variegated Rose

As I wait for the weather to improve, I take solace in the fact that there is no pressing need to get out on the water. I am retired and I can bide my time. I can be patient while enjoying what my garden has to offer - not that I am a gardener, but my wife tends it. She has transformed the space over a period of many years from being a sterile, functional play area for our children who are now grownup and have their own offspring, into a mini Paradise where the most wonderful flowers, shrubs and trees thrive. Although the garden is no longer geared to football, cricket or tennis, our grandchildren are not denied access, nor are they restricted from playing ball games. If they inadvertently damage plants, shrubs or trees during play, so what? - Far better to hear cheerful voices. There will be no chastisement for innocent play, only joy and fun.

Quiet Corner


Jet Stream

Jet Stream

Jet Stream Forecast

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Final Touches to ‘Sandpiper’

The sun shone this morning in more ways than one. Paul, a follower of my blog, paid me a visit. We had a jolly good chinwag, mostly about small boats, but also reminiscing on the subject of our youth. He lived in Essex before moving to New Zealand; therefore I was rather touched that he should take time to meet me during a busy holiday schedule. He gave ‘Sandpiper’ a thorough look-over, and said that she was smaller than he had imagined, especially her narrow beam. I explained she was similar in some respects to Matt Layden's Paradox – both single chine vessels roughly the same size.

After Paul left to revisit places he had known years ago, I set up ‘Sandpiper’s’ rig to check if the anchor on the foredeck would snag the foot of the jib, which it did. To overcome the ‘technical hitch’ I moved the wire strop from the head of the jib to its tack. An unforeseen advantage of this was to improve visibility forwards, because the sail was raised above the deck by over a foot.

There is very little left to be done before the boat can be launched; therefore I am hoping for a few days of sunshine next week when I can try her out on the water.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Ship's Battery for 'Sandpiper'

After considering various options, I chose a Halfords standard HB063 12 volt car battery. This battery requires no maintenance, apart from charging.  I have placed it amidships within the cabin, where it makes good ballast. The GPS units can now be powered by it, as I have linked them via a three-way cigarette adaptor. The Autohelm plugs into an extension socket that is wired to the battery.

At the moment I am reliant upon charging the battery through a mains connection, but I may buy a solar panel charger for topping it up when I am cruising for more than a couple of days without an opportunity for plugging into a mains power source.

Very shortly ‘Sandpiper’ will be ready for her first sail with me, and I am hoping for a fine spell of weather next week when I can try her out. Two or three days messing about on the River Crouch should give me an idea as to how she handles and of her potential for cruising further afield.

Monday, June 18, 2012

‘Sandpiper’s’ Autohelm

When I sold my last small cruising yacht I offered her new owner my Autohelm at a bargain price, but she did not want it. When she sold the yacht I offered the Autohelm to the person who bought her for the same bargain price, but he did not want it!

Now that I have ‘Sandpiper’, I’m glad I was unable to sell the electronic gear, because I feel sure I shall be able to make good use of it. Today I fitted the gizmo to ‘Sandpiper’, and tomorrow I would like to install a suitable battery for it, along with the associated wiring.

I’ve not yet made up my mind whether to add a solar panel for charging the battery, but if I’m only doing short cruises, I can charge the battery at home. A compromise would be to fit a cheap trickle charger similar to a Spectra 5W model.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

‘Sandpiper’s’ Stove

I prefer stoves to be gimballed on yachts, but the practicalities of fitting gimbals to the stove I've inherited prevent me from doing so - at least for the present time. This means that I have had to modify the stove to discourage saucepans from sliding off it.

I can expect the boat will experience lumpy conditions at sea, and if I want to safely prepare a hot meal while underway, saucepans, frying pans etc must stay firmly in place. The fact that 'Sandpiper' may not be on an even keel will make little difference when I’m preparing a meal with the pressure cooker, because the contents will be secure.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Preparing ‘Sandpiper’ for Sailing – Part 2

The weather was very blustery today - definitely not the sort to be out on the water in a 14 foot boat. However, that is hypothetical, because I am still preparing ‘Sandpiper’ for her first outing with me. Only if there is a bit of wind will I discover what works and what does not.

By the end of the morning I came up with a temporary solution for where to put the drinking water so that I can conveniently help myself, perhaps for making a cup of tea or for cooking a meal. I already own a plastic keg with a pushbutton dispenser; therefore rather than buy a new container, I put my creative thinking hat on. The resulting system for dispensing water does not look pretty, but it works.

The other thing requiring attention was where to place a chart for a spot of traditional navigation. The answer was staring me in the face in the form of my bunk top without the mattress. In fact, when the chart is there I can see it from the cockpit.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preparing ‘Sandpiper’ for Sailing

After I adjusted a trailer support to make the boat level, I set about preparing ‘Sandpiper’ for her first sail. When that will be I do not know, but it will depend on the weather. As soon as an opportunity arises I want to be ready.

My priority today was to find secure places for stowing gear. I fitted the cooker to an old plywood storage bin cover that I modified by adding five small shelf supports. They stop the cooker from moving, and at the same time they do not prevent air from circulating under and around it.

A miscellany of plastic containers for stowing food etc, occupy the forward end of the cabin. My pressure cooker, saucepan and frying pan are housed in the washing-up bowl. My sleeping bag and mattress are in the recess under the port cockpit seat, and my waterproof vinyl cushion is on the port bunk.

I have a waterproof pouch for my mobile phone which hangs on a cord by the entrance to the cabin so that I can get at it when I’m in the cockpit.

I shall have to work out where and how to stow drinking water, and where to place a chart for navigating the boat.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Varnishing ‘Sandpiper’

When a boat is over forty years old you don’t expect the varnish to sparkle, as is the case with ‘Sandpiper’, but there is something about the tarnished wood that makes me feel at ease. She’s not that pristine that I’m afraid to work her because I might spoil surfaces by scratching them. I can feel comfortable and be at home, knowing that a blemish here and there will make little difference.

Over the years and at various times she has had to manage a bit of neglect when left in the open; she has been attacked by the elements: rain, sun, frost and snow. Therefore, I’m surprised how well she has come out of it, with only some crazing of the gelcoat, staining of the woodwork, and a few rusty fittings.

Today, I gave her woodwork a fresh coat of varnish to cheer her up and to make her feel loved. With all the cosmetic attention I’ve been lavishing upon her lately she really does have a broad smile and her teeth truly sparkle. She has invited me to share a jaunt on the water, and if only the weather would cooperate, I would be delighted to have our first date.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Painting ‘Sandpiper’s’ Cockpit etc

At long last the sun has made an appearance. Various neighbours took the opportunity to cut their lawns, but I put ‘Sandpiper’ on my driveway and set about painting her cockpit, her stern locker and cabin floor. These cosmetic touches make her more attractive.

Apart from finding a secure place for the cooker and sorting out how to stow my cruising gear, the boat is ready to go, but I must reposition the trailer supports for the bottom of the boat, because the port one is lower than the starboard one.

Well, if a decent spell of weather comes along, I shall have my first sail aboard the little boat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Laura Cook, Photographer

Here is a photo of my computer screen displaying a photo of Laura and her husband, as presented on a page of her website. (See address below.)

Now and again you meet exceptional people who would never claim they are different, better or more talented or more gifted than others; invariably they are humble and self-effacing.  Today I had the privilege of meeting such a person, Laura Cook, who is a gifted photographer. This morning she gave a presentation of her work at Providence Baptist Church, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS2 6LH.  

Through the power of the visual image she refreshingly brought the good news that the world is a place ‘worth loving’, not just the natural habitat that cries out for ecological balance, but love for all people.
Such is the love of God who sent His Son to prove it and to give it - if we can humble ourselves to accept His love.  (1 John 4:8,9)

More about Laura and her work can be found by visiting her website.

Other Links:

YouTube Video by Laura

Her Facebook Page

Laura subscribes to the Ethical Code for Visual Communications

Monday, June 11, 2012

‘Sandpiper’s’ Anchor

I believe I’ve come up with a viable solution for stowing ‘Sandpiper’s’ anchor so that it will least interfere with the working of the boat, and yet be handy for deployment.

Very conveniently the flukes fit either side of the foredeck cleat. At the same time the shank rests on top of the cleat. In that position the chain can be wrapped around the anchor with the warp attached to it. The warp will run along the starboard side deck into the cockpit where it will be neatly retained by a cord hooked over a cleat.

When not in use, the anchor will be secured by a double bungee attached to plastic supports.

To deploy the anchor I shall unhook the cord; then I shall walk along the side deck before unclipping the bungee and supports.  From there I shall set the anchor. When I’m back in the cockpit I shall adjust the amount of warp required and make it fast to a large cleat.

The double bungee when not in use will be clipped to the foredeck cleat.

To retrieve the anchor, I shall reverse the procedure. Very little mud or weed should find its way into the cockpit.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Old Gaffers Race

Making Sail.

The forecast was SW 6, which was almost ideal for the smack ‘Electron’. She was moored in the protected waters of Pyefleet Channel, and there a crew of six boarded her at approximately 1000 today to make her ready for the Old Gaffers Race. There was some uncertainty about the time of the start and the course, but the Race Officer finally opted for a course that took us into the mouth of the River Blackwater.

Tramping Along.
The start was at 1240 on a line from Bateman’s Tower. We had a very fast, fine reach towards number 8 red can buoy. From there, we brought her round hard on the wind, and we had to put in several tacks towards the windward mark. With tide against wind a lot of spray came over the decks and the occasional wave rolled along the leeward gunwale.  The liveliest part of the race was north of Bradwell Power Station where the making tide surged into the narrows whilst opposing a strong wind that funnelled out.


We didn’t see many competitors, because from the start we were with the leaders. As the race progressed to the south of Mersea Island, only two yachts where ahead of us. One was a large ketch, the name of which I fail to remember, and the other was a smart double ender that beat us to the windward mark. From there we rapidly overhauled her on the downwind leg. We piled on sail, and ‘Electron’ ran like a scolded cat, throwing aside the breaking waves.

Thames Barge 'Reminder'.

It seemed that in no time at all we were racing by the Nass Beacon where we overtook the second yacht. She immediately laid a course inshore, presumably to avoid the adverse current, but we headed directly into it towards the next racing mark. By the time we arrived there, we were far ahead, except for the large ketch with the tan sails which was only a smudge on the horizon, pointing the way towards the finish.

A pretty entrant from Holland.

The wind veered a trifle, causing us to be close-hauled towards Mersea Stone, and for a quarter of a mile beyond to the finish. There we smartly lowered all sail as we motored directly into the wind heading for our permanent mooring. The race was over, and we had had a thumping good time.


‘Reminder’ – Thames Barge


'Electron' Articles

Friday, June 08, 2012

Some progress with ‘Sandpiper’

Bolt and stopper bar.

As expected, I didn’t make a great deal of progress today with preparing ‘Sandpiper’ for the water, but I was able to replace the bolt at the forward end of the centreplate box and fit a new stopper bar for the centreplate.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Mick Dawson and Chris Martin Row the Pacific

Cropped photo of my computer screen.

The weather in the UK today is lousy. There’s a dark sky and the rain is lashing down. Tomorrow will be the same, according to the forecast, but much windier. With that prospect, I’m not likely to make any progress on ‘Sandpiper’; instead, I shall be doing those things I should have done at home and I shall find time to look at a few Internet sites, including YouTube, where I’ve found a brilliant video featuring Christ Martin and Mick Dawson, who together became the first duo to row across the North Pacific. They did it non-stop from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco.

Here’s the link:

You will not fail to be amazed at their achievement of rowing about 7,000 miles against the odds. They experienced full gales, saw whales, sharks and other sea creatures.

So join them without the pain and toil as you sit in your armchair sipping a cool drink.


P.S. Chris Martin is organizing a Pacific rowing race. Details can be found at his website: