Petestack Blog

8 October 2021

Spinnakers and anchors

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 3:59 pm

Since Fly spent 2006–18 and 2020 ashore with just a short 2019 season afloat, there were two things I still hadn’t done with her since 2005 and just had to do this year, these being to fly a spinnaker (any spinnaker!) and spend one or more nights away at anchor. And it’s good to be able to report both these boxes now ticked…

So here she is on Loch Linnhe on 16 September with the old Hood kite (the ‘cruising’ spinnaker), light sheets and no tweakers in not much wind, ably trimmed by Lorna and steered by Twig. Yes, I have two better kites (the 0.9oz ‘Fly’ kite and an almost new 1.5oz heavy one I bought from Charlie Hussey of Bluestreak during the long lay-up and haven’t even had up yet), but this is the one I’ve put aboard for casual use and it was just a lovely day out with good friends:

And now to the night(s)-at-anchor thing, which I also needed for both the sake of it and testing/snagging, with upgraded heavier ‘cruising’ anchor gear, diesel heater and other things to try. But the weather didn’t want to play, with my projected departure for a week’s cruise last Thursday finally becoming a snatch-what-I-could two-nighter from this Monday to Wednesday… Monday motor (which saw sails up but no real sailing) down the Lynn of Morvern in biblical rain, good Tuesday sail up the Lynn of Lorn and calm Wednesday morning motor home to beat the next blow I don’t think we ever saw. So here’s Fly at Bernera Bay, Lismore, on a clearing Monday afternoon/evening, with a shallow cave on Bernera protected by unenticing vegetation and the still-impressive remains of Achadun Castle guarding the Lismore side (on which note I also have that shot through the doorway from previous visits in 1991 and 1994!):

Tuesday stayed bright and dry, with a fresh breeze conducive to leaving the anchorage downwind under sail, which is exactly what I did, reefing the mainsail in anticipation of a stiff beat (at least for single-handers!) back up the east side of Lismore and unfurling most of the genoa once round Lismore Light. And it was a good sail beating right up to the south-west of Shuna, if made more awkward up that narrower, shallower last bit by (possibly terminal?) tiller pilot malfunctions, at which point I dropped the sails to motor into Port Ramsay with the wind forecast to swing to the south overnight. Might add that I was surprised just after leaving to see that Serco vessel stay to port of me and head into Bernera Bay, but it did:

Now, the wind direction was forecast to change completely overnight, but first came again more strongly from the north-west just as I took the dinghy ashore for the photos to leave me with a stiff row back and ‘interesting’ night as I got bounced about by the swell rolling straight in and was glad to have the new anchor gear (of which more below):

But Wednesday morning saw Fly sitting quietly to seawards of the anchor, as shown by her GPS track here. While some of this is driving around looking for the best spot and some taking the dinghy ashore, the best bit’s about three-quarters of almost perfect circle at anchor where you can see how she swung in towards the head of the bay on Tuesday evening, then back out as it calmed overnight to the extent that I was able to just sit statically drifting while I cleaned the mud off the anchor before heading off:

Plan A for Wednesday was to sail home on the afternoon tide with a fair breeze but, after getting ‘increasing 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8 for a time’ off the 06:00 Inshore Waters forecast and not really fancying 7 or 8, I decided to motor straight back with barely enough wind to sail and hope not to hit the Ballachulish narrows too early. Which of course I did, but thought it worth a go and squeaked through against a near-spring tide nearly two hours before the in-going stream should start, which was pretty well on the limit for my boat and engine with the throttle almost wide open for 40 minutes to get me to the bridge and through. So of course I could have waited a bit (or maybe stuck to Plan A since I didn’t see much wind even once home), but worth remembering how much later the tide turns here than at Oban!

In-going stream begins at –0515 Oban (+0115 Dover).
Out-going stream begins at +0100 Oban (–0430 Dover).

Having mentioned the testing/snagging aspect of this mini-cruise much further up, perhaps I might conclude with some words about that? So let’s start with the clear statement that, for the things I currently want to do, Fly is now being optimised more for fast cruising and passage making than racing although I can still easily put her back in ‘race’ trim by taking some things (‘cruising’ gear) off and putting others (racing headsails and the better spinnakers) back on. So the new anchor gear is heavier and specified to hold her, unattended if need be, pretty well anywhere in anything. I’ve got a 10kg Rocna anchor (my chosen retirement gift for 30+ years of service with Highland Council!) where my previous biggest was a 7.5kg Bruce, and 15m of 8mm chain where I never carried more than 10m before. The rest of the rode is 14mm Anchorplait nylon because the Impala is a weight-sensitive boat with no chain locker and I really don’t want any more weight up in the bow well even for cruising, but I’m well satisfied with the performance of the new gear as well as aware that it’s about as much as I’d want to haul up by hand in more testing conditions. And keeping my 5kg Bruce (I have three Bruces with the third a 2kg ‘baby’!) with shorter length of chain and 12mm warp for a kedge means I also have a lighter class-legal anchor for races where I might want to take the heavier gear off.

With current ambitions in mind, I’ve also ordered a sprayhood and, if I ever had any doubts I wanted that for a trip to Shetland and back (I didn’t!), Monday’s super-wet trip to Bernera with washboards in and hatch closed would have quickly blown them away!

The last thing I might mention just now from a list as long as my arm that I’m not getting too deeply into here is the diesel heater and, having previously just tested that when installed but not run it afloat in October, think I can declare it to be warm, economical and safe. In what way ‘safe’? Well, I put a carbon monoxide detector aboard to check it out and it passed with flying colours, but I’m not so happy with what I was getting from the Origo meths cooker we’ve already used happily for years. So I’m looking at ways to improve things there and it’s a no-brainer to say the CO detector now stays aboard to ensure future safety from engine, heater and/or cooker. So, yes, I’ve still got a further long list of what’s working aboard, what needs fixing/replacing and what else I could do to make things easier and/or more comfortable, but that’s all you need to know for now!

5 September 2021

Sailing again

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 12:30 pm

At last, the belated update to July’s Retiring to Fly post I’ve been wanting to make but unable to do sooner for various reasons including teething problems getting the new sails fitted and ready to go…

While David Southcott kindly towed Fly down the road to Dunstaffnage to launch just days after that previous post, it was later in the month before things were able to proceed further and I was able to bring her back by sea. But here you see her in the garden ready to go, on the road at the big Appin layby, arriving at Dunstaffnage and back on her own new mooring at Glencoe Boat Club, where she’s sitting unusually level empty before I filled the water tank and put the new anchor gear up in the bow well. (Impalas, like typical IOR-type boats of that era, tend to sit slightly bow down till you add some crew aft!) The fifth photo shows a modified second pickup buoy I had at home and added after finding the unmodified Anchor Marine buoy almost impossible to catch and hold with the boathook:

The next batch of photos shows the new lee cloths getting fitted so I have an ‘offshore’ yacht again. Of course you can fold down the pilot berths to make settee backs and lose the main berth lee cloths under the cushions to open the boat right up in port, but the purpose of these things is to keep sleeping people or gear on the berths at sea! I also had quite a battle fitting six new stanchions when the bushes for the intermediate lifelines proved too tight on five of them, but didn’t photograph that process because it’s not very photogenic and I’m really not trying to describe everything here:

And so to the sails and sailing! While I’d already fitted the furler (twin-groove Harken with the drum down in the bow well, so still well suited to racing) for 2019 in anticipation of ordering a furling genoa, my experiences trying manage the Pentex mainsail with bolt rope alone back then taught me that I really needed a new mainsail with slugs, lazyjacks and stackpack for short-handed sailing too, so I just bit the bullet and ordered both in tri-radial cruising laminate. And they’ve been sitting unused and untried through the 2020 season that never was and most of this summer too after the late launch and other commitments I’m not discussing here conspired to keep me waiting yet longer. After which we get to the teething troubles, including a genoa luff that was marginally too long, a halyard wrap that damaged the top of the forestay and yet more waiting through unavoidable personal commitments till I could get John and Andy from Owen Sails out on Tuesday to sort it all out. So we had the forestay right off to remake the top end, took 34mm off the top of the foil and (I think) about 20mm off the head of the sail (which I collected on Thursday) and fitted the halyard restrainer there wasn’t room for before and it all works quite sweetly now! Here are two photos from Friday showing the mainsail up at the mooring (note the more typical bow-down pose here) and both sails up in not much wind; the lazyjacks are currently just draped over the spreaders, but will get moved up to about the black tape marks between spreaders and hounds for next season:

And here are some more (including two videos) from yesterday, when I had a good sail out on Loch Linnhe till becoming completely becalmed south of Camas Chìl Mhalieu (where I saw two dolphins who didn’t stop to play and swam out of filming range before I was ready for them!), and back on Loch Leven after motoring most of the way home. I’ve tried to get shots with the telltales streaming as they should be, but not everything’s perfect when I was also at the mercy of the tiller pilot steering to release me for the camera, and the later shots (and second video) also show the stackpack tidied up along the boom:

So how are the new sails? Basically all I’d hoped for in terms of short-handed usability and performance. The genoa’s so much easier to handle than the No.1 (which overlaps a bit more and hugs the deck) because the higher clew facilitates easy skirting over the stanchions and lifelines as well as improves visibility to leeward. It’s got a padded luff to help maintain shape when reefed on the furler, and strikes me as almost a ‘furling genoa by stealth’ because it really doesn’t look like one when unfurled with the drum below deck and white UV strip! I’d had some concerns when first fitting it that it might want to sheet too far back for the tracks close-hauled, but think it’s probably going to be OK there now I’ve actually taken it sailing. And the mainsail looks excellent up, so pretty happy overall! :-)

2 July 2021

Retiring to Fly!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 11:07 pm

Some 15 months ago I started to half-heartedly get back to a few wee jobs outstanding from Fly’s big refit as it became increasingly apparent that Covid-19 restrictions were likely to prevent me launching with enough of a season left to make it worthwhile, and wrote:

So I was looking forward so much to getting Fly in the water this spring after 13 full seasons ashore followed by that late, late, post-refit launch last year. But now we all know this year’s just not like other years, who knows what’s happening?

And, now we all know what happened, I’m aiming to catch up and get her back in the water again ASAP. But isn’t this July again, you might ask… why so late and what’s changed to make it worth it this time? In a nutshell, I’ve just taken early retirement, don’t have to go back to school in August, and can sail when I’d normally have been working! So I was patient with the early part of this year and similar continued restrictions ruling out the necessary involvement of others, knowing I could hit the boat in early July and still have a worthwhile season left to both enjoy for its own sake and give some new sails and gear a good shakedown with a serious trip next year in mind. So some of what you see below was started last year and just finished just now, but I’ve been at it solid for the past week and am now close to being in a launchable state.

The first thing here is the circular cutout in the foredeck, made on launch day in 2019 when it became apparent that the furler gear wouldn’t fit the previous space even with the actual drum down in the well as intended. So what I’ve done here (all last year) is just tidy up that unexpected cut to make it a touch bigger and more elegantly symmetrical (the difference between the second and third photos is epoxy-coating the exposed wood edges):

Next we have a through-deck double block and stand-up block in the well to bring the furler line to deck level, where it’s led aft by Spinlock eyes on the forward two stanchions and a matching block on the third. The photos are hopefully largely self-explanatory, but it’s worth pointing out that the plywood contraption clamped in the well was to mimic the lead from the drum to determine the fore-and-aft position of the stand-up block and I reworked the walls of the deck slot with thickened epoxy to get the best possible fit for the through-deck block after filing out a couple of unnecessary corners when first adjusting it:

If I told you how much thought and effort had gone into testing and implementing a solution for the chamfered edges of the new acrylic washboards not meeting tidily where they join, you might say ‘overthinking’, but this was nothing like as simple as it first appeared! While it was obvious that they needed to run in narrower channels, my first attempt testing spacer strips of nominally (?) 3mm plastic last year foundered when my test gluing of two pieces to make a double thickness strip for the port side proved the plastic to be just about unglueable. So I revisited the problem this week with hardwood strips, finding 7.2mm for port and 3.3mm for starboard to be perfect apart from the boards binding at the top where the moulding actually leans back slightly into the channels. So I finally decided that short strips just where needed were perfectly adequate to hold the boards in conjunction with the moulding shape elsewhere, so that’s what I made, epoxy-coating them for both longevity and to limit swelling. To which I might just add that I was glad to have my Wolfcraft fine-nose clamps when sticking them in place, and you can also see the new Blue Performance winch handle pockets fitted this week to replace the Lewmar ones from last year that wouldn’t take my new one-touch winch handles:

Finally (for now), some routine antifouling shots. The blue 3M masking tape is expensive, but absolutely worth the money for its superior performance. The keel shot shows that it’s not unusual to find bits that need sorting at just the wrong time, and the shots of the dropped trailer prop how I’ve learned to be very careful doing this (it was just this afternoon and I’ve already put this one most of the way back up tonight in case anything moves):

And that’s it for now. As things stand, I’m expecting to get the boat towed down the road sometime next week for a launch ASAP thereafter, but sure that’ll be featured here too when it’s happened! :-)

8 April 2020

A Brief History of Fly

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:25 pm

So I was looking forward so much to getting Fly in the water this spring after 13 full seasons ashore followed by that late, late, post-refit launch last year. But now we all know this year’s just not like other years, who knows what’s happening? Since she may or may not get to enjoy her 40th birthday afloat but I still have things to share, here’s what I know of her story so far…

[Update, December 2020: in August 2020 I had an email from John Dyson explaining that he was Fly’s first owner. He’d trailed her from Hunter’s yard near Foulness, through central London and on to Chippenham where he’d fitted her out. She was first launched at Bristol Floating Harbour, then sailed around Land’s End to Plymouth, where she was moored for four years just below the Tamar Bridge. I emailed back hoping to clarify some puzzling details of her early history as previously told to me and set out below, but haven’t heard from him since.]

She was, like many or most Impalas, home-completed as a kit boat. I was told when I bought her in late 1998 that she’s a 1980 boat, and her hull (116) and sail (9596) numbers square with that when I believe the bulk of the 155 built from 1977 to 1984 to have been towards the start of that period. Of her first owner, I know nothing except that he was an airline pilot and curiously didn’t name her, but I can piece together her history from 1986, when she was bought by Geoff McBroom. How?

I knew she’d belonged to Geoff because Ian (John) McCallum, from whom I bought her, told me about both the airline pilot and Geoff’s hang-gliding past (he turns out to have been a significant pioneer, but I just remembered the hot air balloon drop!). Perhaps I’d mentally conflated Geoff and the pilot, but some later email correspondence cleared that up!

I first heard from Geoff in 2002 after he’d discovered my exploits with Fly on the Internet. He told me the airline pilot had never sailed her or even given her a name, which I long assumed to mean it was Geoff who’d completed and first launched her, but I’ll come back to that because I was mistaken there. He also told me she was named for her speed (I think Ian McCallum had said for the flying connection), ‘not the buzzing household pest’, to which I replied that I knew but still found it the obvious image to use. Whatever, Fly must be one of a handful of Impalas to have kept one name throughout their life, and I like this one for both its associations with her history and its brevity. It’s also a name kept by Geoff for his subsequent boats, a Hustler SJ36 and an Ohlson 38, which I’ve seen in photos with the same stylised name graphic on the topsides. (Some of this information comes from further correspondence with Geoff in 2004 and 2006.)

This January I heard from Bob Fidler, who’d sailed on Fly with Geoff and also found me through the Internet. Since Bob told me he still had a copy of Geoff’s account of their 1987 cruise from the Bristol Channel to Brittany, I asked if he could possibly send me a copy, and he kindly scanned it for me. From this I learned that this Brittany cruise appears to have been their first trip in Fly since it refers to only just getting launched in time ‘to find the toilet left solidly blocked by the previous owner.’ (Note: if the airline pilot hadn’t sailed her, what had he done? Just motored around, or sat on a mooring? He must have completed and launched the boat anyway.) It’s strange seeing photos of my boat looking so familiar years before my ownership with many distinctive fittings (e.g. companionway grab handles, twin compasses and portlights) as they are today, but predating others (the No.3 genoa tracks). She’s sailing with the original Hood sails including a spinnaker I sometimes still use for cruising, and the topsides are adorned with the first incarnation of stripes and stylised Fly (no leaping Impalas) since modified in both subsequent ownerships. There’s an interior shot with the familiar original cushion covers and lining material, one of her dried out alongside at Padstow (I’d never dare on that fin keel, but see little need up here!), and two maps showing her outward/return tracks between Portishead and Land’s End/the Isles of Scilly and around the Brittany coast. And, while I clearly can’t just go uploading all this material here because it’s not mine (NB I’ll quite happily show people I know, but not redistribute), I’d think a couple of reduced-res boat shots to show her 1987 styling probably OK:

While Geoff clearly loved Fly, he really needed a bigger boat and didn’t actually keep her that long, selling her to Ian McCallum and George Sproul in early 1989. So she moved from Portishead on the Bristol Channel to Port Edgar on the Forth, which is where I found her now owned solely by Ian. I don’t know when George sold his share to Ian, but do know that her then first-choice Sobstad sails came through George’s weel-kent son Kevin, who must have had two spells at Sobstad since Google tells me he’s been with Hyde, Sobstad and Ultimate (in that order) since I bought Fly. My 1998 photos show the Fly name, stripes and leaping impalas as they came to me, along with hatch garage (now gone, but sometimes missed when crew block out the bulkhead-mounted instruments!) and Mk I rudder (replaced by the Mk II in 2002). The No.3 tracks are there if not obvious in either shot, but you can see Ian (facing camera) and my dad in the one from Port Edgar:

So what since then? From what you can see here, new topsides styling (I redid the stripes and graphics to balance things up with bigger impalas and fewer, bolder stripes), rudder and inboard engine. From what you can’t, new just about everything including multiple (Owen) sails. Trips to the Hebrides, Belfast Lough and the Clyde, with some moderately successful racing including that cherished 2003 Scottish Two-Handed Race victory. Nearly 14 years ashore, a neglected boat finally reborn through two years’ relentless effort, a token 2019 mini-season with great plans for the future and now, well… 2020. Which is, let’s just say, neither what anyone expected nor the end of this tale!

29 September 2019

Fly refit final index

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:36 pm

Having found myself frequently referring back to my own blog posts about Fly’s refit and knowing that many friends and fellow boat owners were following with interest, I saw an index of all the refit posts as a useful resource complementing the blog’s search function. So I made an interim version in April which I’m now replacing with this nominally final one when the refit never truly ends! For those unacquainted with the story, it’s been an initially sporadic but latterly concentrated total refit following the 2009 discovery of serious internal water damage while laid up ashore since late 2005, with things both within and without my control to blame for the obvious hiatuses but nothing ultimately stopping me…

  1. Getting back to Fly (26 September 2010)
    Alkathene tarpaulin frame.
  2. Undercover Fly (18 October 2010)
    First tarpaulin.
  3. Clearing the decks (27 February 2011)
    ‘removing just about everything that moves’
  4. Messing about in boat (5 March 2011)
    New forehatch in, lots more out.
  5. Gralloched Impala! (5 May 2011)
    ‘another day spent gutting the boat’
  6. Marine diesels and Munro tops (4 June 2011)
    ‘combining a trip to Dingwall to take Fly’s engine to Brae Classics for blasting and repainting with a run over Ben Wyvis’
  7. Back to Fly again (22 October 2015)
    Preparing for new windows.
  8. Fly has windows! (9 March 2016)
    New windows in.
  9. Stripping paint (2 August 2017)
    Serious refit starts at last with 100+ hours main cabin paint stripping a year after we finally get the boat dry but my June 2016 shed fire throws a very big spanner in the works.
  10. Stripping slime (3 August 2017)
    ‘took the pressure washer to her decks and topsides’
  11. Not well in the bow well (5 August 2017)
    ‘unwelcome discovery of rot in the floor and aft wall of the bow well’
  12. Destruction for construction (8 August 2017)
    Cutting out the remainder of the main bunk tops.
  13. Forecabin fun (12 August 2017)
    Stripping forecabin paint and testing water tank shapes.
  14. Good tarps and bad tarps (18 August 2017)
    ‘a proper little roof to allow work with the main hatch open any day and shed snow if I leave it up’
  15. Constructing again! (22 August 2017)
    New bunk tops in.
  16. More taking apart and putting together (20 October 2017)
    Starting to build an integral water tank, more rotting wood in the cockpit locker false floor and removing the companionway bulkhead facing.
  17. Bow well cover (29 October 2017)
    ‘so we’ve got shelter to get it dry and sort the problems’
  18. Constructive progress (21 November 2017)
    Water tank construction, epoxy coating main cabin hull surfaces and eliminating paths for water ingress to the bow well plywood.
  19. Easter Fly (9 April 2018)
    Bow well repairs and forecabin epoxy coating.
  20. Galley slaves (15 April 2018)
    Rebuilding the galley from old and new parts.
  21. Working after work (24 April 2018)
    More paint/varnish stripping and priming.
  22. Doing and undoing (30 April 2018)
    Varnishing, undercoating, new nav. station bulkhead and planning an integral cool box.
  23. Just doing (10 May 2018)
    More nav. station (including testing chart table fit), galley and varnishing.
  24. Two-man relay team? (15 May 2018)
    ‘nav. shelf fitting and cool box construction done by Twig mostly when I wasn’t here’
  25. The Cell of ‘Little Ease’ (27 May 2018)
    More painting and varnishing including the (awkward!) heads compartment.
  26. Sub-cockpit grovelling (10 June 2018)
    Stripping bunk-foot lockers for repainting and remaining galley paint/varnish stripping.
  27. Bunk-foot lockers (19 July 2018)
    Preparing and painting more awkward woodwork.
  28. Forecabin deckhead (29 July 2018)
    More paint and glue stripping…
  29. Main hatch (31 July 2018)
    And yet more!
  30. Cockpit locker false floor (1 August 2018)
    ‘cut out the starboard locker’s plywood false floor identified last October as rotten, non-structural and surplus to requirements’
  31. What I’ve learned about nylon brushes (2 August 2018)
    ‘Nylon brush summary [for paint stripping with electric drill] from one year and hundreds of hours use’
  32. Cavernous hellholes of peeling paint (8 August 2018)
    ‘one week and approximately 41 hours of work’ stripping the cockpit lockers.
  33. Jigsaw pieces (12 August 2018)
    ‘progress with the chart table and forecabin bunk boards’
  34. Two-month summary (21 October 2018)
    Mast step rebuild, galley, water tank and seacock renovation.
  35. No-photo report (with photos) (25 November 2018)
    Quick summary of stuff you can’t see, with a few pics of stuff you can!
  36. Two months’ work in twenty photos (26 December 2018)
    New (Jabsco) marine toilet, water pump, filler, chart table support block, switch panels, wiring, heads window and teak rings for heads door handle, as well as chart table progress, starting internal hull lining and cleaning the engine bay.
  37. Flying into 2019 (1 January 2019)
    Engine back in, new Vetus mushroom vents, painting (priming) the areas of deckhead where light would otherwise bleed through lining carpet, new stereo, planning custom speaker enclosures, battery box restoration and cleaning/recoating exposed areas of keelbolts and plates.
  38. More bits and pieces (13 January 2019)
    Battery box back in, minor tiller repair, chart table body and lid back together, and preparing for new Treadmaster in forecabin and heads.
  39. Things right and not right (27 January 2019)
    Heads and forecabin linings, and companionway bulkhead facing back in.
  40. Two weekends, one photo (10 February 2019)
    Prototype speaker enclosures and other bits and pieces.
  41. Things to see or just talk about (10 March 2019)
    Headlining panels, new spacer disks for pilot berth hanger eyes, porthole liners for companionway bulkhead and building the final speaker enclosures.
  42. Tricky stuff (17 March 2019)
    New mount for top galley door track, chart table leg and trim for speaker enclosures.
  43. Trim on (24 March 2019)
    Refitting the galley doors and starting to tidy awkward edges of lining carpet.
  44. Four weeks solo (5 April 2019)
    Refitting the galley pole, lots more carpet trim and cleaning/oiling the washboard rails.
  45. Fly refit interim index (6 April 2019)
    (Now replaced by final version.)
  46. Speakers’ corner(s) (7 April 2019)
    Fitting my speaker boxes and test-fitting the porthole trim rings.
  47. Bumper Easter Fly blog (22 April 2019)
    Stripping and epoxying pilot berth components, making/fitting traveller support blocks and helmsman’s footrests, finishing and painting the mast step plinth, some nav. station work, chart table leg, companionway stainless strip, hatch rail repair and more.
  48. Taking the roof off (28 April 2019)
    Removing the temporary roof and cleaning the decks.
  49. Crocked for the long weekend! (6 May 2019)
    Chart table lid stay, more work on the pilot berths and fitting the new mast base to its plinth.
  50. Trolley jack attack! (20 May 2019)
    Wheels off the trailer for new tires and pilot berth bases fitted.
  51. A week from the water? (22 July 2019)
    Non-slip sand for engine box, chart table cushion, renovated hinges, porthole trim rings and instrument covers fitted, pilot berth flaps fitted, topsides/antifouling etc. largely done, cabin sole templated and made, heads door re-hung, forecabin Treadmaster edge protected, increased support for cabin sole and shaft anode fitted.
  52. Fly has left the garden! (27 July 2019)
    Fly at Creran Marine with an empty space beside the house, furler and masthead light, tiller refitted, wheels back on the trailer, boat tied down, fire extinguishers and blanket, heads door catch(es) and varnished cabin sole.
  53. Fly is afloat! (31 July 2019)
    Launched by travel hoist, laughing fly mascot, and home by sea.
  54. Working through the ‘later?’ list (11 August 2019)
    Mainsail up, test sail, new cabin sole fitted, winch handle pockets, VHF mic clip, heads/main bulkhead door catches, switch panel labels, pilot berth bolts, new lifelines, securing the folded chart table and commissioning the water tank.
  55. Flying to Fraochaidh (27 August 2019)
    Not refit as such, but an enjoyable sail reaping the benefits!
  56. The money pit of usability (29 September 2019)
    Why I’ve hardly sailed since launching, what I’m doing about it (spending yet more money!), and photos of the new washboards.

The money pit of usability

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:10 pm

For two months since Fly’s emotional relaunch I’ve been desperate to go sailing yet hardly used her. Why?

It’s simple usability. While so many positive changes made during the refit promise so much for the future, I’m still stuck short-crewed or singlehanded with a boat intended to be raced by six and hampered for now by two crucial factors:

  1. Sitting on an exposed pontoon with a tight approach while I wait to get my own swinging mooring relaid.
  2. Struggling with slippery racing sails that really need crew to hoist and stow.

So let’s look at the problems here and see what’s happening to solve them…

While the pontoon berth was initially welcome for its walk-on access with tools etc., it was only intended as a short-term substitute for the mooring. But sourcing suitable ground tackle to relay the mooring has taken much longer than expected with what I was initially promised for mid-August only becoming available now in late September. So it looks like I’m on the pontoon for the short time left of this ‘season’, though I still hope to get the mooring laid soon in readiness for next spring. Might add that observation suggests more significant fouling (weed/slime?) to the bottom of the boat in two months’ pontoon berthing than I recall from a season’s swinging to a mooring, so guessing that’s due to some combination of static berth, static boat and water conditions.

As for the sails, the main problems have been remote hoisting of headsails (i.e. with no-one at the pre-feeder) and stowing the main after use. I managed one night’s successful singlehanded racing with main and No.3, then tore the No.3 through a pre-feeder jam when I tried to repeat the trick the following week! I also needed help to fully stow the mainsail since I can only get it all flaked down on the boom myself in flat calm conditions, and even then only with time, temporary ties and false starts. So the sails just won’t do for current purposes and I’m splashing out again (hence ‘the money pit of usability’) when I’ve probably already spent more on the refit than the boat’s worth (to anyone else)…

While a new furling genoa to fit the new furling gear was always on the agenda for next year, a new main wasn’t. But usability demands both because there’s otherwise no point to having got this far with a boat I want to sail but am currently finding (almost) unusable. Since my racing No.1, No.3 and kites are all in good order (despite the recent minor and now repaired tear to the No.3), my previous wish list might have prioritised full hoist No.2 and new racing main, with the current Pentex main relegated to cruising/backup in preference to the two much older Dacron mains that came with the boat. But that’s just not a practical plan for short-handed sailing, so I’ve now discussed and ordered tri-radial cruise laminate furling genoa, main and stackpack. The sails were the most expensive of four options (the others being cross-cut Dacron or Vectran), but some mixture of shape-retention logic and vanity still compels me to go tri-radial even after abandoning racing laminates this time round; while my plans for the next couple of years are centred on fast cruising, passage making and longer trips, I still have at least some club racing in mind and know what I like! The furling genoa will probably replace the dedicated racing headsails for typical club races as well as covering the gap between No.1 and No.3 when they’re used, and the new main (with luff slides and stackpack) should be not only more practical for cruising and short-handed outings but probably also as fast or faster than a Pentex main that’s already done the most work of my first-choice inventory.

So that’s it; the sails and stackpack are ordered and deposit paid despite a sobering total cost I’m not going to state here. While I do question the justification for such continued copious expense when I still have yet more needs/wants in mind (e.g. upgraded anchor gear, new lifejackets, flares etc.), the choice here was ultimately between a boat I can use and one I can’t. For sure I didn’t need to choose the most expensive sailcloth and construction options, but I was never going for the cheapest and the difference between each successive specification quoted wasn’t really so very much. You might reasonably ask (re. usability) if Fly’s still the most suitable boat for me, but that’s not even up for debate! She might be designed for racing, but is also just a delightful, thoroughbred, seaworthy, true sailing boat with good accommodation for her size and weight. And, since I’ve had her for nearly 21 years and already been through the protracted pain and expense of a refit that’s cost more than any complete Impala I’ve seen for sale recently, the only excuse for either having got this far or spending yet more I’ll never get back has to be knowing she’s my ‘forever’ boat and the main beneficiary is me. I might question the (financial) cost of it all, but fear the (life) cost of not doing it more!

Time to lighten up with some photos of the new washboards:

These are tinted acrylic from QD Plastics in Dumbarton, and so much smarter than the old disintegrating plywood. Because they’re also thinner and their angled common edges sit over-overlapped (if you see what I mean) in slots that were already over-wide, I had to wedge them in place with some cord behind the teak rails to get tidy photos. Easily sorted by fitting spacers to the backs of the rails for next year, but not right now. So does the refit ever end? Probably not, but another year’s another time after the ‘interruption’ of this year’s launch and perhaps it’s time to replace the ‘Fly refit interim index’ with a final version!

27 August 2019

Flying to Fraochaidh

Filed under: Sailing,Walking — admin @ 8:43 pm

So who’d have guessed I’d be back on Fraochaidh within six weeks of my ‘integrale’ traverse from Sgorr a’ Choise? Not me, but here’s how it came about…

Ex-colleague and (very much current!) friend Isabelle was over from France and keen for some long-promised sailing. Current colleague and friend Eilidh was keen to take Isabelle hill walking, so we took the two days of a fine weekend (no holiday Monday here!) to do both, sailing Fly out into Loch Linnhe and round Eilean Balnagowan on Saturday and climbing Fraochaidh from Glen Duror on Sunday.

Saturday’s sail pretty well started with a chance meeting in Ballachulish Bay with my cousin Alistair on his recently-acquired Silver Leaf motor yacht Silver Bird and exchange of hurriedly-composed photographs as he headed for Cuil-cheanna Spit Buoy and we for Ardsheal and beyond. Which course produced an interesting beat with the expected gentle breeze building to 28 knots apparent before subsiding to not very much at all as we rounded the island and pretty well flat calm from Kentallen home. But that allowed us to motor right into Kentallen Bay for Eilidh to admire her own wee house before another happy coincidence as we came across John Strachan and Jean Aitken on Hawk 20 Didima IV picking up a mooring at the Holly Tree for (I’m subsequently told) Jean’s birthday supper. A thoroughly enjoyable sail despite the odd spit of rain and that increasing and dying breeze not being quite what we’d ordered!

Now, try researching ‘Fraochaidh from Glen Duror’ and you’ll get plenty hits warning of dense forestry impeding this shorter approach, but keep reading and you’ll see that clearing has opened up some good ways through. So we started from the Forestry car park north of the river after deciding that parking for the track to the south of it suggested by Steven Fallon’s site (which would cut out the last remotely awkward ground) really wasn’t satisfactory. The former footbridge is still absent where we crossed, but the river was low enough to cross dry by stones, and our more westerly return track charts another wee track back down before cutting back to the river where we knew it would go. It was hot and sunny with great near-to-mid-distance views and a pretty-well aerial prospect of Saturday’s sail, but things further to the seaward side more hazy (e.g. the Mull Ben More and Scarba discernible, but not really Jura and definitely not Colonsay). Isabelle hadn’t done much walking since recovering from a serious leg problem and was concerned about her ability to make the summit, but got there and back in fine style in the end. It was a pleasant surprise to meet former school captain Jo Shepton and boyfriend at the summit after they’d followed us unrecognised for much of the afternoon, and a pleasant non-surprise to return to Eilidh’s Kentallen abode for the fine dinner she’d pre-prepared. Put the Saturday and Sunday together and the weekend felt like we’d been away for a great wee holiday together even if we’d all headed home separately for the intervening Saturday night! :-)

11 August 2019

Working through the ‘later?’ list

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 12:17 pm

Three blog posts ago, I mentioned my ‘diminishing, but by no means empty, list of ‘pre-launch’ and ‘later?’ jobs’. So, now Fly’s afloat, has been sailing and worked on some more, it’s good to report that just one ‘pre-launch’ job remains (taking a pattern to make new washboards) and the ‘later?’ list has progressed close to what I can reasonably achieve afloat before the winter. But let’s start with fitting the mainsail and going sailing before the new lifelines (guard rails) were even made…

So here’s Fly at the pontoon on 2 August with the mainsail up, then down and covered (when flaking it down on your own is never easy, but patience, sail ties to hand and calm conditions all help!):

And here she is out for a wee sail on 5 August under main and No.3 in breezy conditions with just two crew (Peter Watt and me), showing some main outhaul and then obvious kicker applied as I moved about looking at the shape of that sail:

That morning, I’d fitted my new cabin sole and it got its first dent during our afternoon sail from unsecured, flying washboards in the cabin… my fault when I should know better, but it’s ultimately for walking on, not admiring, and you can’t actually see the mark here even though it’s in the photos:

My other slight gripe from the sail was ripping a wee metal badge off my new Dubarry boots, for which I blame Dubarry and not me for such a vulnerable and unneeded addition to expensive boots built to be used in situations where it’s almost bound to catch on something sooner or later (in this case sooner!). So I now have one with badge and one without, and have pondered without further action whether they’d both be better ‘clean’:

I’d also fitted new Lewmar winch handle pockets that afternoon before discovering that they really don’t take my new Harken handles comfortably at all, so also already pondering replacing them with something which does.

Getting back to more interior fitting out, the best place for the VHF mic clip was under the shelf, which required the angle drill I’d wanted for months so finally just bought:

I got that heads/main bulkhead door to work in both positions with the same catch body, but had to adjust the bit I’d already done slightly now the boat’s afloat and rigged before fitting the second small part. Fortunately the main part in the edge of the door was easy to adjust because its screw holes are short slots rather than just round:

The labels that came with the switch panels didn’t have everything I wanted so I started again with Dymo (actually done pre-launch). Quite tricky when the cutter on the Dymo will only give you three letters in the available width, but careful trimming with scissors gives you four and I’m OK with most of my abbreviations (not sure about H20, but didn’t like WAT, and not set on RA55 for STEREO, but thought STE or STER could get read as STERN). Also discovered the other night that the blue LEDs stop the cabin getting completely dark when switched on, so still considering ways to deal with that if necessary. The battery switches used to say ENGINE and CHARGING but Twig told me to change that after rewiring:

If I’d known the old socket for the starboard pilot berth bolt would no longer fit post-rebuild, I’d have had that wood block off before varnishing the bulkhead. But at least I got it off clean (thank goodness it wasn’t epoxied!) and can sort the varnish sometime. I made acetal discs to replace the original wood blocks with brass plates, but needed different thicknesses for port and starboard, with 12mm just right for starboard and 16mm (what I could get) adequate to secure the port bolt:

I tried to get the fly to face out for this photo but he/she/it was determined!

Yesterday I fitted the new lifelines collected from Owen Sails on Friday. For those not so acquainted with these things, the cord lacing forward is to help keep headsails on the deck when they’re down and the cushions aft for crew face-out on the rail (legs over the side and body between lower and upper lifelines) or just leaning against from the cockpit:

I’d spent much time pondering methods of securing the folded chart table, but sometimes simplest is best. That shockcord might not be as pretty as shiny hardware, but is much easier to fit and test, and probably does the job better with negligible tension sufficient to hold the table really firmly. You can also see the velcro-attached bookstop (not backstop!) to the right of the fuses, but you can’t put books up there (even flat) and sail with the chart table down because they just come flying over the fiddles. I’ll come up with a solution sometime:

Yesterday’s final act was to give the as-yet-unused water tank a final quick clean, throw in a purification tablet, half fill it with water, wait half an hour, pump some through, let the first wee bit drain through the sink, then drink a couple of mugfuls. And I’m still alive and well, which appears to be a good sign! It tasted a bit chloriney, but I couldn’t remember the tank capacity and might not have had enough water for the tablet, or perhaps it just always does (reviews seem to differ on this point)? Whatever, I’ll try adding some more water to dilute what’s already there and may not use tablet(s) with every refill, but am naturally still a little cautious of the unknown.

So where does that leave the ‘later?’ list? Some things were always going to be for next season once launch day caught up with them, like lining the underside of the main hatch (which somehow escaped getting done with the rest of the boat), finishing the cool box and sorting the rubber sealing strips under the cockpit locker lids. Others may get done if/when the opportunity arises, like fitting red film to the ‘chart table’ light. The Harken furler is operating as a headfoil, but not yet furling because leading the line aft from the drum (in the well) requires turning and through-deck blocks now sourced but not yet fitted. So that might or might not get finished afloat when establishing and at least marking the turning block position is the critical step while the rig’s up. And I’ll be seeing QD Plastics in Dumbarton shortly about nice new acrylic washboards, so might yet declare the blog ‘refit’ series done when I’ve got those because there’ll always still be things to do! The boat’s now essentially in commission and sailable, so we’ll see…

31 July 2019

Fly is afloat!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:33 pm

It’s not quite the end of the saga yet, but surely now into ‘endgame’ as far as the refit’s concerned…

Yesterday, Fly was launched at Creran Marine, taking to the water for the first time in 14 years! John Grant from Owen Sails was round to measure up for new lifelines (guard rails) while Peter Watt and I worked through the conundrum of new Harken foiler furl and inadequate clearance through the deck at the front of the bow well (solved with joint ingenuity and the tools Peter had in his containers), and then she was into the travel hoist and away when the tide was up far enough:

To say that I was close to tears as the hoist approached the water, the keel and the rudder touched it and then she was fully afloat would be, well, true! I’m always struck by how Fly turns from being quite a ‘big’ boat in the garden or on the road to a comparatively ‘wee’ one when the bits necessitating a ladder ashore drop nearly six feet into the sea, but that’s by the by; she’s perfectly formed as she is, I don’t want a bigger boat, a smaller one or a different one, and we’re talking years when perhaps nobody but me (or even me?) truly believed she’d ever sail again. If some emotion was involved, and still is, it feels good and perhaps I’ve earned that particular kind of feel-good…

Time for some levity, perhaps, so here’s the laughing fly brought to the boat so many years ago by regular crew and dear friend Gill Reavley, still laughing (amazed the battery hasn’t run out!) and now back onboard today:

And here’s Fly today on her way back from Loch Creran, this time by sea rather than by road. Peter and I had a tidal deadline at Ballachulish narrows (aka Peter Straits and, no, I didn’t make that up!) with little wind and some rain, so done mainly by engine with no mainsail, but we did get to try the old No.2 on the new foil. Fly will be moving to a mooring at Glencoe Boat Club in due course, but happy to have step-on access from the pontoon for a bit while I finish sorting her out:

And that’s (not quite) that. There will be further blogs with some refit content as I fit the new cabin sole, washboards, guard rails and stuff like that, but hopefully also some actual sailing this year because it’s been long enough coming! :-)

27 July 2019

Fly has left the garden!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 9:12 pm

Let’s do this blog backwards for a change and start with today’s pics before continuing to the ones I took yesterday:

Notice something? That’s Fly at Creran Marine (where she’ll be launched on Tuesday) in the first pic with Peter Watt and David Southcott (who came to do what I can’t do on my own, which is get her there!). The eagle-eyed might also spot the grotty old washboards I haven’t replaced yet, but they’re temporarily serviceable if incompatible with my pride in my otherwise-reborn boat. And that’s, well, a great big empty space beside the house in the second pic where she’s sat for so many years!

Continuing to work backwards, Peter came up yesterday with Jill Mills to help put together the new Harken twin-groove furler and fit the new masthead light (replacing one that I stupidly broke the other day), but I have no photos of that because we were Busy with a capital B. But here are a few I took earlier…

While Deks Olje D.1 doesn’t last forever, the tiller’s never looked this good! And we have the wheels back on (thanks to Alan Morrison for help with that!), tires up to pressure and boat tied down just pending mast etc. lifting up to be ready to go:

The fire extinguishers are both new but the (obviously unused!) blanket is not. The second extinguisher used to be mounted higher (where the heater outlet is now), but I’ve tried the bunk and don’t think it’s in the way here:

There used to be bolts inside and out on this door, but they’re just not necessary. I have a second stainless ball catch but think I can mount just the small part on the main (white) bulkhead and use the same main part. But seem to recall this one’s best positioned with the boat afloat and the rig tensioned?

And here’s the new cabin sole after six coats of Epifanes gloss varnish. It’s had a seventh today and might get an eighth tomorrow because it gets walked on and wants to be tough, but is looking so good I’ve abandoned my original plan to matt off the shine with the softer satin interior varnish used everywhere else. I only put the hatch in for the photo; it’s otherwise back out again while I’m finishing it off:

Older Posts »

Blog powered by WordPress. Feedback to