shoestringsailing.com

Sailing adventure on minimal outlay.

Author: Steve (page 1 of 5)

Dreary, Dour Day Of Boat Drag 2017.

So then, finally the hard graft and endless faffing about with a multitude of tedious yet essential details has come to an end. Idris is ready to launch.

tightly bound. Now you stay there my lovely.

Tightly bound. Now you stay there my lovely.

Just the small matter of getting her across a muddy field onto the tarmac and then the nerve jangling 20 mile tow to Retreat Boatyard for her annual birthing ritual into the Exe. I hate this bit. It only takes about three quarters of an hour even at my cautious snails pace, but it seems like an eternity. Every bump, noise or flap sends me into a twitching frenzy of mirror searching for that imaginary loose strap/ wheel/ spray hood, desperate not too fall foul of the westcountry law of sod in the middle of the A30. Oh well, it saves me about £900 in yard storage every year and I try to move her first thing on a Sunday morning when there’s no other traffic about. It’s probably worth it.

The (muddy) road to freedom.

The (muddy) road to freedom.

This time next week I can throw off the shackles of land and it’ll all seem worthwhile again…hopefully.

A WINTERS TALE.

So, it’s now been a full four months since I last put any kind of effort into this site. I’m ashamed of myself, truly. However, I have not been idly peering through the condensation on my bedroom windows waiting for the summer sun to peek his head out once more. Oh no, far from it, I’ve been working very hard indeed. Firstly, I’ve been working very hard indeed at my actual work, making happy customers and healthy bank balances ready for the year ahead. Secondly, I’ve been working very hard indeed at getting Idris safe and ready for relaunch this Spring. This, it turned out, was by far the biggest challenge.

 

Chart table and batteries removed. Lower bulkhead panel and broken tabbing cut away. Hull ground back to accept new glassing.

Chart table and batteries removed. Lower bulkhead panel and broken tabbing cut away. Hull ground back to accept new glassing.

Remains of old bulkhead used as template to cut new.

Remains of delaminated old bulkhead used as template to cut new.

Much epoxy and glass was required. Glass matting precut into handy patches to ease application and follow curves of hull.

Much epoxy and glass was required. Glass matting precut into handy patches to ease application and follow curves of hull.

 

Glued, screwed and glassed into place. Rock solid now and part of the internal furniture, doing its job as a part of the structural strength of the hull.

Glued, screwed and glassed into place. Rock solid now and part of the internal furniture, doing its job as part of the structural strength of the hull.

Following our wonderful summer together last year, I had conveniently overlooked all of her minor and not so minor faults, problems and breakages. I was aware of these, along with all the potential that I had seen in the first place when I chose her from the sprawling collection of awful project boats on offer. It is fair to say that when I made a list of all the essential jobs that needed doing before relaunch, I did wonder if it was even possible to get her back in the water this year. Maybe a year off to complete the work properly was a better idea? Trouble is, with a deadline things get done, without one, well…..

Did I mention the horrific corrosion at the mast head fittings?

Did I mention the horrific structural corrosion at the mast head fittings?

Cap shroud u bolts were none too special either.

Cap shroud u bolts were none too special either.

R

Who needs any more holes in thier boat than necessary? Not me! Glass the buggers over!

Who needs any more holes in their boat than necessary? Not me! Glass the buggers over! Redundant toilet through hull holes well patched.

So after Christmas, under a makeshift shelter made from old roofing joists and an advertising banner from a handy skip, I started stripping her out to get access. Toilet cubicle area, chart table area, cabin floor, forehatch, cockpit lockers and all electrics were stripped. The list of jobs seemed endless, the pile of hard earned cash seemed inadequate and my willpower was sorely tested. Gallons of epoxy resin, acres of glassfibre matting, more gallons of varnish and bloody paint…..  When will it end? What is the point?

More repairs. Cabin floor this time. Rotten as a pear so it was.

More repairs. Cabin floor this time. Rotten as a pear so it was. New oak bearers glued and glassed in.

Sure there should be some sort of bronze thingy on here...

Sure there should be some sort of bronze bearing thingy on here…

Slowly though, things were getting done. At the beginning of April I suddenly realised that I was beginning to put things back together rather that take them apart. The cutlass bearing was pressed together and refitted, new engine mounts were fitted and aligned, new stern gland slid into place, it was all getting enjoyable again. The rewire was a bit too much like everyday work but then, joy, the new cabin floor could go down and the chart table could be refitted. Oooh, she’s looking lovely now. The ugly patches of fresh fibreglass around the new bulkheads and locker sides could be painted up and the internal woodwork can have a couple of coats of varnish too. I even had time to rip off those leaky cracked old plastic air vents and treat her to some classic old bronze ones.

Ah, things going back together. A beautiful sight to behold.

A full engine service revealed massive valve clearances and a completely dissolved pencil anode in the heat exchanger. The rocker cover gasket appeared to be the original Lombardini which made me think it was the first time it had ever been off!

Right now I still have a couple of things left to do. Mainly, strengthen the road trailer a bit now I know where she sits on it, and devise a mast raising device (probably a bit of timber with some ropes around it). Then my friends, then I have to book the crane at Retreat Boatyard. It is Spring 2017 and Idris will be in the water once again.

Yule live to regret it….

Now then, I’m no saint when it comes to looking after my equipment. I’m sometimes late on service intervals and have been known to buy cheaper non original parts in order to keep my elderly vehicles on the road for (yet) another year. There does come a point however, when economy becomes false economy, so even when I’m really busy I still make sure my kit gets the attention it requires.

The insides of a fairly typical elderly engine. This is where all those expensive precision made wearing parts lurk.

The insides of a fairly typical elderly engine. This is where all those expensive, precision made, whirrly parts lurk.

What I mean by this is that it’s possible to exist under the illusion that by not bothering to have your car, van, boat engine serviced properly for a number of years you can save a worthwhile amount of money on oil, filters and labour. The truth of the matter is that all the time you are saving money on these cheap consumable items, there is a debt of mechanical pain being inflicted upon your motor that will eventually both let you down and cost you a flipping fortune.  If you regard your vehicle as a cheap throw away item and it’s easily replaced by another cheap throw away vehicle then this is really no massive problem. If, on the other hand, the motor in question is installed in a boat that you take out of safe waters and into the sea, well, I feel you really are pushing your luck a bit.

Let me give you a recent example of many I have seen during my previous occupation repairing old, knackered machinery. Its a very, very common problem and it starts like this:

Let us assume we are talking about a small boat with a two cylinder engine. The engine is installed in a rather inaccesable place, it’s bloody awkward to get up over the top and therefor the fiddly task of checking the valve clearances gets skipped on repeated services. After a while the checking of the valve clearances is forgotten about completely as it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the running of the engine anyhow so clearly the job isn’t necessary. The engine gives no rattles or outward signs of there being any problem apart from maybe a greater reluctance to wake up on those cold spring mornings. One day, most likely when you need the thing the most, it simply refuses to start at all or if it does, it chuffs and wheezes along with all the enthusiasm of a small child going to the dentist. It has lost a cylinder. You might be able to limp along for the rest of the sailing season on one cylinder if you choose your days out wisely, but you’re more likely to want to know what the problem is.

The problem may be something like this. A split in the head of an exhaust valve caused by searingly hot exhaust gases being forced past it under pressure.

The problem may be something like this. A split in the head of an exhaust valve caused by searingly hot exhaust gases being forced past it under pressure.

Hmmm, beyond recovery I feel.

Hmmm, beyond recovery I feel.

This is when it starts getting expensive.  With many boats it’s going to begin with a crane out into a yard and a period of storage (fees)  while learned folk poke your ancient motor with gauges whilst mumbling about compression being down and access being difficult. Then, somehow, the top of the engine will have to come off in order to confirm the likely diagnosis. The boat will then get shunted into a distant section of the yard for a period of weeks (more storage fees), while a world wide search for the required obsolete parts and gaskets is launched. This will eventually result in a piece of paper landing on your doormat with a quite incredible estimated repair bill. You’ll have to do it because otherwise you can neither use or sell your boat. By the time the work is done and your boat is back in the water, most or all of the summer is gone, you haven’t got any kidneys left to sell and your sailing season has worked out to be the most expensive one on record . But none of this would have happened if only those valve clearances had been checked.

Once you have actually located that lost haul of obsolete valves for your engine...

Once you have actually located that lost stash of priceless new valves for your obsolete engine…

....you have to somehow grind the valve seats back into shape or (in the worst cases) have them recut by a professional machine shop.

….you have to somehow grind the valve seats back into shape or (in the worst cases) have them recut by a professional machine shop.

As any engine is used, a gradual degradation of the metal valve seats by the super heated exhaust gasses is going on all the time. It is faster in some engines than others, indeed I know of a few owner/servicers who boast that their valve clearances never change over decades. Great, but why not check them anyway. As the valve clearances reduce, the engine will very gradually lose power due to the slight change in opening/closing times of each valve. When the clearances get really tight the engine will become harder to start due to the actual loss of cylinder compression through valve leakage. If left unchecked, the valve seats will erode very quickly and give a missfire or in extreme cases the escaping hot gasses can melt or split the valve and drop bits of metal into the fragile inner workings of your engine (see photo). This is a bad thing.

Three valve seats on the left are done. Valve seat on the right is not.

Valve seats on the right are done. Valve seat on the left is still pitted and deformed by exiting exhaust gases.

I’ve always looked after my own vehicles; all cars, vans, motorcycles and boats of a very elderly and well used type.  I can count the number of times they’ve let me down due to mechanical failure over 26 years on my fingers (mostly that wretched old Mercury 7.5 I first had on “Macavity”).  That’s not at all bad really and the key is regular, vigilant servicing. So, Christmas is here, you’ve got a few days off, why not escape the mayhem for an afternoon with a bag of spanners and treat your boats old motor to a bit of festive lovin’. Yule be glad you bothered come the Spring. Merry Christmas everyone.

Halcyon 27 road trailer.

Ready to sit on its own wheels once again. Budget Halcyon carrier in the making.

Ready to sit on its own wheels once again. Budget Halcyon 27 carrier in the making.

Finally getting there with the road trailer for Idris. After a slow start, progress then stalled completely over the summer before a last minute panic in late September forced me back into the welding gloves. The old royal navy boat launcher required new brakes and bearings all around before I could even move the thing off of my trailer. This proved tricky as it was fitted with old type Lockheed 10 inch brakes. These are no longer available and most of the replacement parts for them are also long extinct. I managed to beat the old brake drums off and save the expander mechanisms but still required some new shoes as the old ones were completely rusted to bits due to salt water immersion by our brave Navy lads.  A trawl through the internet offerings eventually revealed a firm in Taunton that had a stock of these 10 inch shoes for a fair price. I collected a full set and got on with assembling the axles again complete with all new wheel bearings and seals.

Siezed and useless brakes.

Seized and useless brakes.

One at a time, each hub had to be rebuilt.

One at a time, each hub had to be rebuilt.

New wheels, tyres, brakes and bearings get the old launcher mobile again.

New wheels, tyres, brakes and bearings get the old launcher mobile again.

Next was wheels and tyres. The old wheels had suffered the same fate as the brakes and were crumbling away. The tyres were under rated for the weight of the trailer and so it made sense to replace all wheels and tyres together. Luck smiled on me this time as the stud pattern and wheel size matched an existing Ifor Williams 3.5t axle size. Two second hand wheel sets were sourced through ebay with two more bought new for £70 each. Good so far then. Next was to cut off all of the old unused Navy boat bunks and props leaving a blank canvas to build up my Halcyon 27 cradle. I had made a masterful sketch of the hull dimensions during my between tides scrub off and antifouling weekend in the spring. Anyone who has ever attempted to measure the compound angles of a curved hull surface will appreciate that this still left a fair margin of likely inaccuracy.

A quickly compiled note of her hull dimensions were all I had to help guide me on the construction of the trailer. It's for this reason that I've made the support cradle as adjustable as possible.

A quick, between tides note of her hull dimensions were all I had to help guide me on the construction of the trailer. It’s for this reason that I’ve made the support cradle as adjustable as possible.

Support arms taking shape in the workshop.

Mk1 Support arms taking shape in the workshop.

Some of the old bits I’d cut off could be used again in the fabrication of the cradle. The rest of it being made up using old steel water pipe of various sizes salvaged from demolition skips over the years. The only new parts used were the screw adjusters for the side support legs which are actually tractor top link arms from my local agricultural engineers.

Tractor top links were the only new parts I had to buy for the cradle.

Tractor top links were the only new parts I had to buy for the cradle.

 

Finished (more or less). Ready to support the invalid for the duration of her winter surgery.

Mk1 Finished (more or less). Ready to support the invalid for the duration of her winter surgery.

I spent a good few days looking at the Mk1 Idris transporter from our kitchen window over breakfast, before finally giving a sigh of painful acceptance that it just wasn’t good enough. Those arms looked too long and spindly and would only stop her from toppling by squeezing in at the hull sides in a very concentrated little contact area. There was also no swivel action on the top rollers (themselves inadequate I felt) to compensate for hull curvature. In short, I had to spend another day redesigning the arms.

The answer was to cut 18 inches off of each arm and then find a piece of galv pipe that would slot into the stumpy remains. This would provide the required swivel. Next, weld 6 inches of the original top sections back onto the swivel and find some marine ply to make thick bilge support pads from (the old heads door from Idris volunteered for this). These pads also had to pivot and so were mounted by two pieces of scrap angle to the post tops. Of course, I wouldn’t know for certain if the trailer would fit until Idris was craned out, but I was happier that the odds were in my favour now.

 

The very patient staff of Retreat boatyard gave me plenty of "fiddling time" for the first run.

The very patient guys at Retreat boatyard gave me plenty of “fiddling time” for her first fitting on the Mk2.

Safely home in her winter spot after a nervous trip down the A30.

Ashore for the first time in a few years. Safely home in her winter berth after a smooth trip down the A30…..

 

Plenty of working space, ideal.

…loads of working space now, ideal.

 

Weekends spent in sheltered coves.

Despite the fact that everyone who has ever been there will instantly recognize it, I’m not going to name this particular cove. Half the fun of these places is in the seeking out of little clefts and nooks that provide shelter and safe anchoring for someone prepared to study the charts. A degree of solitude in the most incredible surroundings can still be had by those of us happy to do the job diligently and for that diligence the prize is not being crowded or deafened by hoards of fast water craft directed there by the likes of a guidebook or indeed this website.

A glittering prize waiting for the vigilant sailor with a chart and an anchor.

A glittering prize awaits the vigilant sailor with a chart, an anchor and a willingness to use them.

The south west has the perfect piece of coastline for a bit of adventurous over-nighting, having headlands, river estuaries and deep coves in abundance to provide shelter from most directions. I do now have to be a little more careful about depths, rocks and tides than I was with Macavity due to Idris being long keeled and reluctant to stand up on her own, but it’s still a doddle with a large scale chart and a weather forecast.  I’m relatively new to all this sail cruising lark though and am inclined to ‘er on the side of caution,  a weekend in a coastal anchorage will only happen if it coincides with good weather and the correct wind direction.

Striking place isn't it?

Striking place isn’t it? On this side we have some nice rocks…

....and this side we have some nice trees.

….and this side we have some nice trees.

So it was on the 16th of July. Good sunny forecast with light winds from the south west, perfect. I got down to Idris early on Saturday morning in order to scrub the seagull crap off of everything and get organized (engine check, bail out bilge, fill flask, tidy up ropes,etc) before setting off. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect when I got there after studying the charts and looking at an old guide and was excited about living a weekend on a sunny beach with my boat. The previous trip down to Dartmouth with Bob had proved just how comfortable a home Idris could be and I wasn’t even going to need the charcoal stove this time.  A very slow drift along the coast in a light breeze made for an extremely enjoyable day. No timetable, no stress and the same tack all the way apart from the odd time I wanted to take a closer look at something, I couldn’t be more contented. I had plenty of brewing up time and the tea did floweth to accompany the various tasty sausagey, cheesey, olivey meals I was knocking up along the way.

The rarity of spending time alone on such a beautiful beach forced me to discard all of my clothes in sheer joy.

The rarity of spending time alone on such a beautiful beach forced me to discard all of my clothes in sheer joy and swim around in circles for ages.

Yes, I thought I knew what to expect of the place. I was wrong, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer beauty of this cove when I eventually got there. Steep wooded banks on one side, jagged twisted rocks on the other with a deep set, sandy beach for landing, swimming and sunbathing. All this and not a soul about, I dropped anchor in 3m of water under the cliffs and rowed ashore to explore. There was a disused section of the beach with a derelict footpath up the cliffs and then a more readily accessible side with a well maintained concrete path. I chose the easy path as it was nearing dusk and hiked up to the top to get some photos. Owls were screeching among the trees and a furtive fox was rather surprised to have to share his highway at such an hour.  It was dark by the time I rowed back over to Idris, sleep came very easily in such peaceful surroundings.

No facilities though. Rubbish really.

No marina facilities though, and no bar. Rubbish really.

The temptation to dive in and have a dawn swim around the bay proved too great for me and it wasn’t until the first holiday makers appeared on the beach a couple of hours later that I actually felt the need to put some clothes on. I was nicely warmed and dried by the July sun so decided on a little dinghy trip around the broken cliff line, trying in vain to film the flamboyant holidaying jellyfish as I passed over them. An unexpected phone call from Bob on his way back up from Plymouth resulted in his turning up for lunch before we both made our way back to the Exe again. For myself a round trip of no more than 25 miles but my enjoyment of the place was far out of proportion to the effort of getting there. Small adventures can often be the best type I think.

Recognise it yet?

Mid way through jellyfish trekking. Recognize it yet?

Worth following these little things for a bit if you can be arsed. They really are quite stunning to watch.

Worth following these little things for a bit if you can be arsed, they really are quite amazing to watch.

 

The Dart to the Dart.

Having had a glimpse of what the coastline towards the West could offer, I was keen to take another trip to the Dart with Idris and find out if my weekend of scrubbing her bum at Ashes quay had paid off. New sailing mate Bob was keen too, so I decided to make it my first ever joint sailing venture. I’d had a fairly crappy fortnight and so was keen to get some peace once there at a nice secluded spot, rather than using  a town mooring as before. This, it turned out, was exactly what Bob specialized in and so we enjoyed a great sail down (see youtube film “Exe to Dart trip”) before feeling our way upstream and anchoring under the trees at a well known secret spot. A massive amount of early in the season driftwood lined the shore, so we did our duty by pilling it up, lighting it and cooking dead animals with it. We then lolled about drinking cider and talking rubbish until drunk enough to paddle our way back to the boats through the mist. I lit the charcoal stove and fell into my sofa bunk for a  good hearty sleep.

Enjoying our massively oversized BBQ and cider whilst gazzing out over the misty Dart.

Enjoying our massively oversized BBQ whilst gazing out over the misty Dart.

Although I can’t exactly remember what time I got up on Saturday morning, it was pretty late and so we decided to get straight on with the pre-agreed task of rowing to the nearest village for food supplies. Bob uses a kayak as his tender which makes a great deal of sense as he can carry it on deck easily. I’m still using  my increasingly patchy and battered ply cockleshell dinghy which tows on behind Idris and lends itself well to a bit of rowing. Up against a canoe though, it’s a bit of a slug. I worked up a fair thirst trying to keep up with  Bob. Some more beer was going to be needed.

Next morning dawned sunny and warm. Idris came complete with an anchor ball so I took this opportunity to try it out. Looks good, eh?

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm. Idris came complete with an anchor ball so I took this opportunity to try it out for the first time. Looks good, eh?

Saturday morning trip down river to the shops for food and beer.

Trip down river to the shops for food and beer. Kayak proved much faster than my own rather podgy dinghy.

Another shoreside beer and driftwood barbecue evening completed my weekend of recovery. We moved the boats back down river on the Sunday morning tide to fuel up and dispose of some rubbish in the floating skip, before going our separate ways. Bob was off to the Channel islands on Erin for a week and I was heading back to my  Exe mooring before work on Monday. I felt great though, and was very pleased with this new found pleasure. I’d realized that although It’s great to be independent,  it can also be a lot of fun to share a joint challenge with other like minded folk.

 

 

S.F.C.C Why join a sailing club?

Ok, so now I have little choice but to lie down for a few days due to a stupidly self inflicted back injury, I might as well try to get the site up to date. As I’ve previously mentioned, it has been a busy and varied year. Having sailed “Idris”, my new project boat, back from Poole fairly early in the Spring, I’d created a nice long introductory first year of sailing for us. She was bought as a project from a boat breakers yard and had been sat in the water all year around for a few years. One of my first tasks then, was to dry her out somewhere and check all of her under water private parts for damage or wear. Clearly it would have been best to do this before I handed over the money but there wasn’t the opportunity and sometimes you just have to take a chance in life. Luckily this year I’d decided to join one of the local Exe sailing clubs and had chosen the S.F.C.C as it seemed fairly down to earth, had a good bar, a convenient car park and was near my mooring. It also has it’s own quayside that can be used for drying out, scrubbing off and antifouling….which is nice.

Had to get to Ashes quay bright and early in the morning to catch high water. A pile of anchor chain and water containers on the quayside deck helped her lean in the required direction.

Had to get to Ashes quay bright and early in the morning to catch high water. A pile of anchor chain and water containers on the quayside deck helped her lean in the required direction.

Revealed for the first time and scrapped, scrubbed and scrutinised.

Revealed for the first time. Scrapped, scrubbed, scrutinized and antifouled. Idris seemed pretty good beneath the waterline considering her age. A smattering of osmosis blisters, a depleted zinc anode and a very loose cutlass bearing being the worst of it.

The need to scrub off the marine growth was obvious after a rather embarrassing low speed crawl down to the Dartmouth music festival to meet new friends from the Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club (S.F.C.C). This was our first trip out of the Exe estuary following our harrowing delivery trip back from Poole. Becks and Orla had forgiven me (or forgotten the details) by now and so tagged along for what turned out to be a fabulous weekend of music, beer and laughs. The sun shone, the sea was glittering, the wildlife was abundant and the coastline was majestic. Perfect.

Breakfast time at the waterside. Have to pay a bit more to moor up at the town but in this instance, it really made sense.

Breakfast time at the waterside. Have to pay a bit more to moor up at the town but in this instance, it really made sense.

We met up with some of the other members of the club for a drink and ended up moving from our anchorage mid stream to raft up at the town alongside a chap in a 23ft Westerly Pageant called Bob. This was miles more convenient as we had been hopping on and off the boat all weekend and negotiating our way across the busy river in a frail overloaded dinghy. It also meant that we had a large, two boat platform upon which we could lol about drinking beer, listening to the live music and talking rubbish. This it seemed was right up Bobs street and we left Dartmouth as good friends. Belonging to any kind of organized club tends to go against my natural inclination to get away and do things my own way. There does however, always seem to be someone else there who views life in the same way and the amount that can be learnt from other helpful members is an absolute goldmine. You don’t have to become one of the racing set or go marina hopping with the gang at every opportunity if you don’t want to.

Close in rock dodging can be a risky business without a learned guide. Fortunately we had one, cheers Bob.

Close in rock dodging can be a risky business without a learned guide. Fortunately we had one, cheers Bob.

We followed Bob back along the coast towards the Exe and he guided us in among the reefs and rocks to get right up close to those towering cliffs for some amazing views of the bird colonies. We also spotted some great potential anchorages for future trips that we wouldn’t have seen without his help. Six hours saw us back on our mooring and a quick dinghy ride back to the club car park saw us on the way home without any unpleasant lugging of gear across miles of mud or having to cram a flaccid, wet dinghy carcass into the boot. Yep, I’ll certainly be renewing my club membership next year, it’s a bargain.

Must learn to say no.

Firstly, I must apologize for not posting anything at all for nearly three months. I really don’t know where the time has gone to be honest, I have been very, very busy. Work loads in the building trade tend to achieve a kind of white heat of frenzied activity in the summer as people try to complete their various projects during our short “dry” season. I also try to utilize the good weather and longer days to get any projects of my own done before the dark, dismal season of hiding from the elements puts paid to my enthusiasm. I’ve managed to construct our long stagnant greenhouse this year, rebuild my old classic Landrover ready for Winter and make good inroads on the new road trailer for Idris. I haven’t managed to get much time in front of the computer though, which is why I’ve not detailed much of my summer Halcyon 27 sailing on here yet.

Not a sight I had expected to see first thing on a Monday morning.

Not a sight I had expected to see first thing on a Monday morning. A shabby shackle was to blame it turned out. Luckily the old girl had the sense to lie down in the mud and not on anything sharp or pointy.

The summer hasn’t been completely fun free though, far from it. I’ve had a great time with Idris on the occasional weekend exploring along our coastline or making trips to Dartmouth, Lyme Regis and various coves whenever I could. I’ve made  new friends through the Starcross Fishing and Cruising Club (S.F.C.C) which resulted in an unexpected sail to the Scilly Isles in August which was absolutely fantastic. Mishaps this year have been few, although I did have to make a heart in the mouth dash to the Exe following reports that Idris had taken a solo trip onto the Exmouth shore one fine evening. More of that later on though when I’ve compiled the rest of my summer photos. I promise I will set to work as soon as my actual, real, paid work allows me the time.

Motoring home from the Sidmouth Folk Festival early in the morning to catch the tide over the Exe bar. Captured by Captn Bob aboard "Erin".

Idris Motoring home from the Sidmouth Folk Festival early in the morning to catch the tide over the Exe bar. Captured by Captn Bob aboard “Erin”.

Halcyon 27 trailer.

Like a great many things in life, an improvement in one area can bring about some unexpected problems elsewhere. Take for example my recent change of sailing craft. The five years spent with “Macavity”, my dear old bilge keel Westerly 25, have been a great experience and have taught me many, many things in a boat that could happily be used around shallow estuaries without concern. The great thing about starting “big boat” sailing with this affordable project Westerly has been that, even with all the work I’ve had to do to her, after selling her on, five years sailing has cost me around £2000 all in. £400 per year. This compares pretty well against most other sports or outdoor pursuits….especially things like skiing! In fact, if I hadn’t wanted to expand my sailing horizons, this figure would have carried on decreasing with every extra year I’d have kept her. The most expensive period of ownership is the year you buy the boat and then have to spend money getting her right.

Macavity 2011. The expensive year.

Macavity 2011. The expensive year.

A beautiful sanctuary the next morning. Couldn't resist a dawn stroll about on our little island before the rest of the world got up and ruined it.

2015. Our last year adventuring together.

I have now of course spent the money I raised by selling “Macavity” on a new, slightly bigger and more comfortable project boat, “Idris” my Halcyon 27. I’m in the middle of my first summer with her and am having a great time finding out just what she’ll do and what she won’t. She won’t, for example, stand up if I’m stupid enough to run her aground on a falling tide. She won’t sail over some of the shallower areas I’ve strayed onto with “Macavity”. Much more importantly though, she won’t fit onto any kind of trailer I have or I can afford to buy.

I did consider cutting up my old yellow twin axle trailer to make a sturdy Halcyon 27 carrier, but it seemed such a waste.

I did consider cutting up my old yellow twin axle trailer to make a sturdy Halcyon 27 carrier, but it seemed such a waste. Luckily, this old Navy boat launcher turned up on ebay in the nick of time.

This gives me a fast approaching Autumn dilemma. I have to get a good deal of repair/improvement work done on Idris over the coming winters, including replacement of the stern gland, some engine repairs plus some bulkhead to hull glasswork and other osmosis or damage repair. Ideally I want to do this at home near my workshop, I can’t afford yard storage anywhere so she simply must be brought back to our house somehow. I have two options then, either pay a haulage firm to bring her back and sit her in a cradle on the drive where she will be immobile until I pay them again to haul her back to the Exe, or to fabricate some kind of heavy duty trailer for her. The main problem with employing a haulage firm are that I would have to do this twice a year every year I owned Idris. I think the cost of this would eventually force me to part with her. The second problem is that she would have to be taken across a field in order to get here.  I know from past experience, this is not always immediately possible due to rain, livestock or crops.

Like all bargain buys though, it is not without its faults. Would you trust these wheels to carry a 3ton Halcyon? No, me neither.

Like all bargain buys though, it is not without its faults. Would you trust these wheels to carry a 3ton Halcyon? No, me neither.

My heart skipped a beat then when, one evening in June, I spotted an old Royal Navy 3500kg  galvanised boat trailer on ebay, sitting in a farmers field with seized brakes and an invisibility cloak of woven Somerset nettles. Surely this old thing could provide most, if not all, of the parts I need for my super trailer? It was built in typical military style, tough as old boots. If those brakes would free up, it could be the sale of the century. I put a speculative bid in of £375….it became mine for £350.  Bargain.

Love me tender…

She needs some tender loving care alright.

She needs some tender loving care alright.

A bit of local work in the next village saw me confronted with what might end up being my next little project (once I’ve got a sturdy trailer welded up for Idris that is). A friend has had this little white lightweight dinghy tucked away under some trees for a good many years with the intention of fixing it up and sailing it. It was apparently his fathers boat and ended up being his when his dad couldn’t use it anymore. Reluctant to sell it and with no time to fix it, it’s got pretty ropey. All of the woodwork has rotted out and the little road trailer is as rusty as an old Cornish Fiat. When he asked me to make him an offer on it I was a bit taken aback. On the one hand, it could be sorted out with some effort and wood scraps for minimal cash; on the other, did I even need it and how much do I offer him?

Bit of a scrub and I think this could be my new tender.

Bit of a scrub and I think this could be my new ferry.

Anyhow, needless to say, it’s now mine. I figured my little green, plywood tender isn’t going to last forever and it’s not quite safe enough for two grown adults plus luggage and dog. This thing should make a fine little sailable tender and I think we’re both happy with the transaction. For now though, it’s going to live under the trees.

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