Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ready for sailing again.

After a year of busy landlubbing, I've prepared the boat for sailing again. It's been a year parked here:

Snug and secure in the mud

Which is nice quiet place and picturesque, and with my favourite bird the curlew one of the major sources of noise. The little bay in the river sheltered from all weather, and the boat is afloat only at the top of the tide. Most of the time, it sits in soft mud. And it doesn't cost anything. I'm glad not to have to pay marina or mooring charges! But that was partly why I chose a cat with daggerboards, lifting rudders and outboards. Any bit of mud in some out of the way place is fine.

The boat had developed a leak in the roof of the bridgedeck, though very small - the only evidence was a small puddle on the floor of the saloon and a slightly corroded brass screw in the ceiling. I'd previously taken down a couple of ceiling panels to investigate, and concluded the sealant round the base of a winch probably needed renewing. But it was no longer apparent. The leak had stopped leaking. Still, everything needed checking over, the electronics needed reinstalling, cushions and bedding to load and so on, so I sailed the boat up the river to Totnes.

The antifoul was stained by the mud, but otherwise entirely free of weed and barnacles. The only work I imagined I needed a yard for was to pressure wash the deck, to clear off a thin patina of algae, but in keeping with my preference for frugality, I didn't even tie up at the Totnes yard's pontoon for that job. That would have cost, for parking, water and electricity. Instead I parked the boat in the old ship's turning bay, no longer used. Again, the boat was settled on soft mud most of the time. And the deck was easily dealt with by spraying on some dilute bleach with a garden sprayer.

Two boats in the yard have their AIS switched on.
So after a year of sitting in the mud, the boat needed very little maintenance. Mattresses and the cushions I'd left on the boat were completely dry and mould-free. There was no smell - having no engines on board (the outboards had been stored in my garage) and no plumbed in toilet, there is nothing that could give off any offending odours. That familiar boaty diesel/damp/mould smell was entirely absent. :) The saloon catches the heat of the sun enough so that the boat is warmed a little and it is well ventilated, so my efforts with insulation and ventilation have paid off.

There was little work to do - a lock had become seized in a door (and not from corrosion either, just a mechanical fault), which I replaced. I end-for-ended some anchor ropes and spliced new eyes. Fired up the laptop, AIS, radar detector and so on to check it was all working. A nice little laptop had come my way, so I formatted the drive and installed all the boating software I have on my main laptop, so now have a reliable spare laptop. If the one I normally use fails, all I need to do to get the replacement working is to plug in one USB lead.

So, after a week of fiddling about and checking things over, and loading stuff onto the boat that had been stored elsewhere, I was ready to go. West coast of Scotland would be nice I thought. But a friend also chose that as a destination for this summer on his 50' wooden boat. Hmm, I invited him to join me, and he invited me to join him. In the end we decided we'd go in his boat, so Scrumpy is all set to go, but now settled on the mud again. Perhaps later in the summer.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Scrumpy for sale

This really ought to be the last post!

Scrumpy is now for sale. Details here.

It would be nice if someone would carry on with the voyaging - the boat is very stable and simple and pretty fast. Nice opportunity, for someone else...

Friday, 31 July 2015

The last post: Scrumpy gets a makeover

Here's the damage from bouncing on an Azore. Both fibreglass skins were split, but the foam - Airex - remained intact and kept the water out. I pressure-washed the hulls and left the boat to dry overnight. With some trepidation I ran my moisture meter over the damaged area, and found the water had barely spread from the obviously damaged area. I was so surprised, I checked my meter against a part of a bow that I know is damp, and the alarm went off just fine. So all I had to do was to replace the damaged glass and foam. The wood shoe wasn't torn off by the rocks - I'd already started removing it before I thought to take a photo.

This oak shoe took a lot of the impact, but it is repairable and reusable. Every boat should have one, or two!

The outer skin and foam is cut away. The inner skin is scarcely damaged, so I left it intact to make it easier to glass up to, and repaired a split in the glass from the inside with some glass/epoxy.

The second damaged area. Scoring the glass with a grinder made it easy to remove the outer skin and foam with a hammer and chisel.

The replacement patches need a 2" overlap. Here I'm sealing any little gaps between the inner skin and the foam to ensure that I will have an airtight surface so that I can use vacuum bagging.

I was glad to have assistants on the vacuum bagging day. One to help, one to take photographs apparently.

The vacuum bagging worked great. I'm just checking for leaks. We were able to warm the Airex up and bend it against the hull as it cooled to get it pretty much the shape we needed. The vacuum was then sufficient to pull the foam tight against the inner skin. The white stuff is bleed cloth.

A bit of fairing and filling before adding the second skin.

And some pink undercoat on the topsides while the epoxy is setting below.

The outer skin is now on - quadrilateral stuff, 1200 gm/m2 - and here's the final fill.

Leigh's Epigrip is an epoxy hi-build. Brilliant stuff. The while boat is covered in it. Unfortunately, it comes only in this colour, which several people have pointed out that it reminds them of the contents of a baby's nappy. Oh well, it is super-hard wearing.  On the deck there are a couple of places where ropes have chafed, but only the top coat of paint is worn away. The baby poop is just polished a little.

It's red. Used to be yellow. I like to imagine it has ripened.

New engines, new-to-us dinghy, and new paint all over. Ready to go again, after a solid month of hard work.

So this is officially the end of the voyage - where Scrumpy is all set to sail once again after our 2 year Atlantic and Caribbean odyssey. So we're off to Brittany for the rest of the summer and who knows where after that. I won't be blogging about it though. I feel like the story is told and no story is complete without an ending. It's been fun to write about and photograph the trip though, and I've very much appreciated the encouragement and support I've received through this. So thank you one and all for that, and good luck with your own ventures - and goodbye!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Azores - UK

I left Horta at dawn with a forecast of a high pressure ridge stretching from the Azores to the UK. Light winds, calms and a need to stay west of the ridge and sail north to find the westerly winds at a higher latitude. Suited me fine. Bye bye Horta - such a nice place!

I had 60 miles or so, sailing between islands, to get to open ocean. Here's Sao Jorge, 30 miles long, and 3 miles wide at it's widest. This is the thin end of it, the west end.

And so, after 60 miles and a busy day, the wind stopped.  I don't think a photo of a calm out on the ocean really conveys the profound stillness - here's an action video of the calm:

So that got me a good night's sleep. One reason I wasn't too daunted at the prospect of prolonged calms is that I have some decent light weather sails, and Scrumpy goes well in really light wind. I don't need the kind of wind that generates waves and will happily sail like this for the rest of my sailing days:

I kept the spinnaker up all day, and sometimes hit as much as seven knots. That's the kind of sailing I really like, when you look over the whole ocean from horizon to horizon, and the only waves in sight are the little ones generated at the sterns in the wake. I think not too many single-handers use a spinnaker, and only silly buggers would be daft enough to leave it up overnight. At 4 am I awoke because the boat had slowed, and looking out the window I saw the spinnaker wrapped around the forestay. I decided it was best dealt with after dawn, and turned over for another hour's kip.
The next few days the wind was too light, and often from the NE, so dead against me. I stayed on the starboard tack sailed north when I could, and sometimes even NW.

Sometimes I thought I detected a threat of bad weather, but this was as bad as it got:

I spent over a week in such calm weather, making less than 500 miles. The wind was almost always from just north of east so I had to sail into it close-hauled on the starboard tack. If I'd had a windvane connected to the Autohelm so that I could have had the boat steer by the wind rather than the compass, I could have left the sails up and would have had no need to adjust either the course or the sails for days on end. As it was, the wind shifted about frequently, and if I found the boat slowing down, it was because the wind had headed me and I had to bear off a few degrees, and if the boat started going faster, the wind had freed and I could change course to somewhere closer to my destination. I had to do this day and night, so that was quite tiring, though sleep came easily, day or night.

When it is calm, and all is quiet, you can hear the whales breathing from over a mile away. I see a spout and count the seconds, like after lightning, to gauge the distance. Hearing the spout 5 seconds after seeing it means the whale is a mile away. There are many more whales in the ocean than I thought! Even a slightly roughened sea makes spotting or hearing one much less likely. Prolonged calm is what is needed to really see how many there are. Unfortunately, I got very few decent photos of them. Usually, they are only clearly visible briefly. I won't write a lot about whales right now - I think a posting about the whales I've encountered on the whole trip might be better (and more interesting than the details of the repair job coming up), but here's a sei whale, 12 metres long. It stayed around for an hour or so, often swimming alongside, then disappearing and then swimming along the other side. Occasionally, it would turn and swim for the bow of the boat, and when it got within a few feet, just drop down in the water (not diving) a few feet. 500 miles from the Azores, and 800 miles from home, this seemed an appropriate time to have my heart in my mouth as I listened for what seemed the inevitable contact between rudder and whale, but that never happened.

After over a week and making only 500 miles, the wind shifted to a more southerly breeze, and Scrumpy was able to crack on, a steady 6 knots day and night.

The return journey is just a countdown to completing the voyage, getting of the boat, reuniting with family and friends, getting on with all the plans that have been forming when I've been able to do nothing about them except imagine.

800 miles to go, and I passed through an area where tuna leaped from the water all around. I hooked one, but the line spilled from the spool so quickly and the rod bent so violently I was hesitant to grab it, and when my 100 lb line snapped I was relieved I wouldn't have to deal with it.

700 miles to go, I passed through an area full of tuna boats from Galicia catching nothing.

450 miles from land, I got radio 4 on long wave, and now had shipping forecasts to inform my strategy, and, as it happened, settle any anxiety. The forecast remained predicting winds of a maximum of force 6, but I never even had that. In all the sailing I've done with the boat, I've never had sustained periods of a fresh breeze from the side - the boat travels very steadily and comfortably like that. It was usually cloudy and cold (to me, coming from the tropics) so I usually stayed indoors with the hatches and doors closed. The saloon warms up nicely, like a greenhouse.

300 miles, I saw the boat about to run over a very large plastic bag. As the front beam passed over it, the thing turned - a waving fin lifted out the water, and I realised that the bag was actually a sunfish sunbathing on its side, and the whiteness I'd seen was its belly. It just fitted between the hulls - so it was close to 3 metres long! That would have been quite a hit so it was fortunate that the boat ran directly over it.

50 miles, and ships and fishing boats all over the place. I line the boat up to pass through the shipping lanes in thick fog off Land's End. Hurray for AIS!

5 miles, my phone connects, though I still haven't seen land in the mist. It's late afternoon, and considering the forecast is for just one more day of south westerly wind I decide to sail on through the night, planning to arrive at Dartmouth in the morning.

That plan worked fine, though I found fishing boats not using AIS, so I had to keep watch on and off through the night and didn't get much sleep. My arrival at Dartmouth coincided with low tide, so it was simple to carry on the 9 miles up the river to Totnes and motor right up to the one pontoon we have in Totnes, 3-400 metres from our house.

Tash and Fred had been able to see the boat's progress on the marine traffic website which monitors AIS transmissions. They were able to see such detail, they even saw when I ran aground in the mud and had to reverse and put in a little pirouette halfway up the river. They were there to take photos and catch lines - I was too busy for such things, but boy, what a welcome sight! And they'd brought a picnic basket with gluten free bread (the only kind I can eat) and some local cheeses, so I had my first cheese sandwich in 7 months. And my second, and third to be honest. And raspberries, strawberries...etc. What more could a fellow wish for?

A tired fellow too busy making sandwiches to be overwhelmed.

Good old Scrumpy! Boy, it's nice to step off and walk away! :)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Back in the UK

Just a quickie to say that Scrumpy got me back safe and sound after a long slow but gentle sail back, with no damage or drama.

The boat is coming out the water tomorrow so we can repair the hull and give the whole thing a lick of paint before a relaunch and a trip to France. So pretty busy, but I should have time in the next few days for a longer post about the return trip.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Leaving Horta

The work on the rudder went well, and I made two halves that I could epoxy around the straightened steel post:

The workshop was a very pleasant place to be working. Sylvia would always run rather than walk, everywhere. Full of energy. She ran the office, and created the finer bits of woodwork. Her Dad usually worked in the building next door, slicing trees. Her mother, a 60 odd year old in a broad-brimmed straw hat worked in the area between, shoving beams through a thicknesser and planer. I once looked up and saw her pull a 10-12' beam 2" thick and 2' wide from the thicknesser, swing it round and shove the other side in. I think I'd have struggled to lift it. And here's a thing I found in a corner of the workshop, something Sylvia's Dad made in his spare time - a go-cart made from a cast iron bath!

On my last day at the workshop, I got a small pile of money from the hole in the wall to pay for all the use of all these tools and the space, and the help Sylvia's Dad have given me using his moulding machine to cut the round groove to take the steel work. But they wouldn't accept more than 20 euros!

Back at the boat, I glued the two halves of rudder round the post, with a layer of double diagonal glass in the middle. I then laminated it, painted it with hi-build epoxy, and once that was dry, put it into a black plastic bag and lay it in the sun to post-cure the epoxy.

I had time while the epoxy was hardening to stock up with grub. What a selection available here, and cheap, compared to Bermuda and the Bahamas! There was a large bag of strawberries too, but they tasted too good for their own good, and they didn't make it back to the boat.

I figured one thing Sylvia and her parents didn't have at the workshop was a decent brush and shovel, so I returned one last time to give them a present and show my appreciation of their kindness. Sylvia was delighted, and her mother stood in the doorway of the workshop in her straw hat blowing me kisses as I made my way out of the yard.

Sure, there are grand views in Faial, like the top of the volcano in the middle of the island - an 8 mile walk from the boat:

but it's the people I'll remember most fondly.

So, the forecast is fine, the rudder is re-built, food and water is loaded, and tomorrow morning, I lift the anchor and set off on the final leg of this journey. This last island has proved to be one of the most memorable of the whole trip. I'll keep my Azores pilot guide, and I hope to make it back here some time.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Onwards to Faial, Horta, with half of the recommended rudders.

The wind remained in the east for a couple more days, and there was nothing we could do to repair either the hull or the rudder, so we went on a hike around the north west of Flores.

Going up
Scrumpy still anchored - not on the shore again!
There's so much up, it's hard to believe.
Reaching a road didn't make things easier.

At the top, moss two feet deep dripping very drinkable water.

The view after we'd crossed the top, and begun the climb down another cliff back to Faja Grande.

 At last the east wind died. We decided Horta in Faial, 130 miles away, might be the best place to repair the rudder and we set off with a very light westerly. I put both daggerboards fully down to assist the autopilot. I experimented with the boards up, but the autopilot then caused the boat to zigzag quite wildly. I DO need a second rudder to get home!

Faial, with Pico behind it.
I was glad to have a huge and nearly empty harbour to anchor in, manoeuvrability not being Scrumpy's strong point with one small engine on one side, and only one rudder.

After a day's resting and sampling the supermarket which had a stunning (to me) range of food at prices I could afford, and sitting in bars where buying a drink was a simple option, not a financial commitment as in Bermuda or the Bahamas, I pulled the rudder out of the locker (I only had to undo 2 bolts to completely detach the rudder and put it away - a good argument for the value of stern hung rudders!)

I smashed the damaged wood from the steel, looked up a steel worker on noonsite and arranged to meet him the following morning. For the timber, I bypassed the carpenters that were recommended and walked to the sawmill up the hill. They agreed to cut me some strips of wood I could epoxy together and then form the rudder shape from the resulting plates. In the UK, asking when such a job might be done often entails some sucking off teeth, and a great deal of humming and harring, and the answer being a speculative time next week. Maybe. Here in little Horta, the answer was, this afternoon. They'd email me, and deliver the wood to a bar near the boat.

I glued the wood together easily and the next day found it very hard to plane - though I'd sharpened the plane well, I didn't really have a good place even to hold it for planing. I emailed Sylvia at the timber place to see how they could help. Come up and see us was the answer, and so we climbed the hill again with the wood and the now straightened steel and drawings and measurements.

In the workshop, a bench was set up for me, and on the shelf behind, an electric planer, a sander, a jigsaw, a drill, a router - everything I could have wished for. I was delighted. I've made few recommendations in this blog. But should you need any woodwork doing in Horta, I strongly recommend:

Manuel Garcia Borges & Costa , Lda.
Produção e Venda de Madeiras
Zona Industrial de Santa Bárbara - Angústias
N.I.F. : 512025517
Apartado 127 - 9900-408 Horta , Faial - Açores
Telefone : 292.292.586 Fax : 292.292.586

I'd have given you a link, but there's no website I can find. Listen, these people (one family as far as I can tell) are so good and so pleasant to deal with, you'll not only get your woodwork done but you'll come away with an increased appreciation of the human race. You people who arrive in Horta with no broken woodwork to fix - I pity you!

Between rudder fixing work, we invited our rescuers from Flores - who had also sailed to Horta - to dinner. I thought some fish might be nice, and the harbour being very clean I set about fishing. Right away, I caught a big mackerel. This was very nice, but not enough, so I carried on fishing, but got just a few bites and no more catches. A little disappointed, we went to the supermarket to buy more fish. But first I filleted the mackerel and put the fillets out of reach of the gulls. The head and spine, I almost threw overboard, but remembering the shark that had eaten the remains of our big dorado in the Bahamas, I put hook though it's head and lowered it to the bottom. Just out of curiosity.

When we came back from the supermarket, I went to pull in the line. The wind had turned, and so had the boat, and it felt like the hook had caught in the anchor line. Since my fishing line is 100lb breaking strain, I just continued pulling. Our neighbours wee laughing - they too assumed I'd hooked the anchor line and were amused to see me pull the boat along using a rod and reel. However:

it was the biggest stingray I'd ever seen. Sorry, the photo isn't that brilliant, but it was a lot of work to hold the fish near the surface and to shoot with the camera. That's the mackerel head by the ray's snout. The hook was through the tip of its nose, so it was quite easy to unhook it, and I doubt it came to any harm. That was certainly the biggest fish I ever caught, and I don't mind if I never catch anything bigger.