27 December 2011

Merry fucking bullshit day to you too

It's that wonderful time of year, you know when everyone is told to "cheer up, it's xmas"
told to not be a "scrooge"
told that because you don't join in, you are a "bah humbug"
Well fuck you and your false birthday of dead Jewish martyr/prophet.
Fuck you and your excessive eating, drinking and partying. If I was Jewish, Jehovah Witness, Muslim, Hindu or any other religion than Christian it would be frowned upon to say such things to me.
I am a scientist, I believe in quantum physics, I'm a Jedi. Have some fucking respect and stop expecting me to join in with your annual season of stupidity and vast stomach churning over consumption of Chinese made SHIT that will be out of date in four weeks time and food imported from all over the world and eating birds that quite a lot of people don't actually like the taste of, but eat anyway, because it's fucking tradition.

I used to like December when I was younger. I didn't understand any more than the fact I would get fantastic presents and I would empty my bank account to give presents that although I put a lot of thought in to them, frankly, everyone I gave them to, could have bought them anyway, if they wanted to, but probably didn't want, so wouldn't have.
Now I understand a lot more about the silly season I choose not to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, it's forced upon us. I endured a works xmas lunch, an overpriced meal in an overpriced pub for an underwhelming meal. I justified it only because it fell on the winter solstice day, which I do sort of celebrate because, obviously, the days starting to get longer again, is worth a drink at least.

What has all this got to do with Varekai and boats? Near to fuck all, but I needed to get it off my chest.
24, 25, 26 December was spent alone, on Varekai and in the club house sewing. I managed to put 5 new windows into two different motorboat canopies. Two new zips and some patch work.
My family are all abroad in the sun of Lanza-grotty.

remarkably peaceful, with every cunt away eating fat bastard meals and sleeping. Leaves the rest of the world free for the minority of us who aren't doing that.

14 December 2011

Join the club

My canvas work has taken off far more than I could have imagined.
I'm getting more and more ambitious with each creation, initially trying to keep them small, the latest one is simply impossible to finish within Varekai. I managed to stitch the main seam down the middle amazingly inside the boat, but now to adjust the edges to curve and fit the customers boat and add the windows I really desperately needed a nice floor to lay it out on.
There was only one thing for it. I was proposed to join the North Fambridge yacht club.
The people there are friendly and not too stuffy like some yacht clubs I perceive to be and they are happy for me to use the floor of the club house. And the tables. And the electricity that is coin operated.
What a marvelous stroke of luck that they are so friendly and accommodating.
So the boom tent has almost done in the pic. Just needs a few fittings and then er, fitting.

06 December 2011

Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect £200

Standing there thinking, brrr, it's gone all cold. I realised the electricity had gone off. I poked my head out of the hatch and saw someone else looking around too. The lights along the pontoon are all off and the lights of the clubhouse have gone out too.
Faced with an uncertain amount of time without power and the threat of cold weather soon I took the risk of heading into the marina, at almost the bottom of the tide, in the dark.
I was lucky to have the help of the grumpy Frenchman who was visiting at the time. HE stood and guided me in the narrow dark channel to the marina.
Mooring up was fun. A lot of other boats had come into the marina for the winter and all the spaces I saw available just two days ago we re all gone.
Ticking over I eeked along closely to the boats as there wasnt a lot of water. Pulling level with a potential spot I eyed it up asked the grumpy crew member if it looked big enough to him, yes was the answer.
Ok, so er, I think I will just reverse in as there's not really room to swing round.
In the time it took reverse to engage I was practically resting alongside the moored boats, 90 degrees away from being in the right angle for reversing into the mooring.
What a tit.
SO crew jumped off to fend us off the other boats, but dropped the stern line in the process, meaning I couldnt use the engine until it was retrieved.
In the mean time, crew man is looking worried. I say, hey its no problem we arent hurting anything, just take your time, dont rush all with be fine, but then he says, yes, but have you seen that>>> points to the massive bow sprit of a boat just off my bow. SHIT! I dont want to hit that. it belongs to one of the guys who works in the marina.
a quick bit of reversing and rope throwing, somehow we manage to man handle Varekai into a tight mooring spot. just a foot to spare between me and the neighbours boat.

Still, its in and snugly tucked up and I think reversing in will be an advantage with the way the wind blows most of the time around here.

02 December 2011


The funny thing about this time of year is just how changeable the weather can be.
I awoke to this

but came home to this

and then spent the next hour re attaching, re roping and then fitting these

20 November 2011

Bradwell and back

I've sailed pretty much no where at all this year. It's been a write off.
Nothing doing.
But then, as I'm recovering from illness, having been struck down for two days my local sailing instructor took pity on me and said we should get out and enjoy some sunshine.
SO we did.
Up to Bradwell Marina and back
we shook the sails out and enjoyed the sun and the happy breeze that blew us there and back. While we were out, we practiced heaving to, so that I can do stuff below when I'm sailing alone.

16 November 2011

forced pontoonage

So, it was with a sad weary brow I arrived home with a sore throat late from work and decided I should probably move the boat closer to some mains power so that I can put some heating on. I feel an illness taking over me and while I'm still capable of standing up, I decided I should head for the pontoon.

The friendly local ex-fisherman hopped aboard my dinghy while I rowed out and offered to take a line for me. His wife waited on the pontoon for us, also ready to take my lines. I must have looked ill.

Fired up the Yanmar with a bit of a struggle. Since changing the diesel filter it has struggled to get started. I think there's a bit of a leak somewhere. I have no inclination to work out where or what or how at the moment.

Ten minutes later I was along side and the longer orange shore power lead that belongs to the fisherman was put to good use as mine was too short to reach the only available power socket.
Heater plugged in.
Now to bed. I'm ill.

10 November 2011

Mines a pint of mild

Unbelievable, nay unthinkable that we would still be enjoyiing such warm weather for almost mid november.

Somehow, I'm still clinging on to my beloved mooring spot on the buoy in the river. A pontoon berth awaits me in the marina. But the only reason for that will be to plug in to the mains grid power to power my electric heater.

Life on the good ship Varekai is currently as good as it gets.
Im run ragged between the sewing work for peoples boat canopies, photography work popping up and of course my day job in the city.
To make ends meet, it's a case of having to work and then work some more.

Except MY work doesnt really feel like work. Sewing in the evenings, or as last nights job was eyeletting which involved a power drill and a hammer, its rather theraputic. I just feel like im doing something. Wriggling my fingers a bit.
Creating. Fabricating.
Just as when I spend two hours each day on the train im creating, wriggling my fingers and typing. Fabricating a novel. I do it anyway, paid for or not.

Exhaustion rarely hits me. Except for this week.

Sunday I drove to see a gig in chesterfield and then drove straight back, but as I didnt get back until 6am, it didnt leave much time for sleep.
Now ive more or less got used to 4 or 5 hours nightly, but 2 hours, thats hard. And just 5 hours in 3 days almost turned me most queer.
I wonder how much sleep a solo sailor gets daily? Since its something I plan to do, I wonder if im capable of the high level of sleep deprivation.

Catching up now, im feeling quite full of beans.

I might get a fair bit done tonight, there's a mandolin needs playing. Ive neglected it recently.

26 October 2011

I love swinging but...

Attempting to swing on a buoy all year round would be a bit foolhardy.
But the rewards for staying out there in the river as much as possible are high.
The freedom to swing with the tide means I always know which way the water is going without consulting a tide table. The isolation is wonderful. No noisy pontoon creaking or footstep sounds as others walk up and down. No nosey neighbours peering through the windows and no need to get up and check ropes in the night if the wind picks up.
Getting to and from the boat is another matter, as is not having any form of heating.
The little yamaha engine that got a dunking a few weeks ago has ceased to work and is in need of some new parts that suffered the ravages of salt water. So rowing my little inflatable butter dish is quite some effort when the wind blows and impossible in a gale.
The temperature inside recently dipped to 5 degrees as the wind shifted to a northerly. Brrrr. Except my new heated blanket has been a marvelous revelation. I wish I'd bought it last year when the idea came to me.

So, as much as I want to stay out in the river on a buoy my choices for winter are forced a little to include finding an electrical point to power a heater.

In the spring of this year I provisionally booked in to Limehouse marina in london, thinking the 15 minute cycle to work would be great and the cost of the marina being very close to the cost of the train seemed like nothing to lose. Apart from my sanity that is.
After careful consideration, weighing up mooring in a sheltered, locked (as in lock of the watery kind) basin with a busy commercial river running for miles with no wildlife or views for hours of cruising and no friendly marina staff or other sailing friends, or, to pay a bit more and have access to a pontoon where I am in Essex on the crouch, where I have free parking, friendly people, a pub within staggering distance, views of the sunrise and sunset over wildlife reserves and, importantly, a river I can go sailing in practically any time I like. Give or take an hour or so either side of low tide to get out of the marina.
Limehouse would a convenient concrete prison that would pander only to my day job and in which I would merely exist.
Fambridge is a long journey to the day job, but, I feel alive there. The people, the wildlife and location, it's too much to give up.

Im saving up for diesel heating to make winter sailing a possibility.

21 October 2011

A drip

I spy with my little eye, a drip or seepage, or something.
A dot of moisture caught my eye, so now I'm checking the ball valve join each time I use it. Which is several times a day. Not sure if its condensation in the cold or genuine seep.
Last year I noticed water in the bilge and it turned out to be a sweaty hull...
Still, I cant help feeling I may have to tighten it up. Out of the water.

Here's lookin' at you Mr. B. Valve.

13 September 2011

Hurricaine Katia

When a hurricaine wanders off from the Atlantic and makes its way over, the resulting winds are great for drying clothes quickly.

peg legs

the rain came and a rainbow spanned the river

before the storm

then the sun set


and the tail winds of the hurricaine hit, and in the night the boat rocked, rolled and doors flew open and closed that I hadn't snecked back, my cutlery drawer flew out because I hadn't secured it and my dinghy...
Ah my poor dinghy, it took off in the wind, complete with Yamaha outboard and landed upside down.
I was not happy to be greeted with the bottom of an inflatable dinghy and a propellor waving at the sky.
Thankfully, its a simple engine with simple needs. It just needed a little love and it works again, as the video proves.

The power of wind

I had a Rutland 913 on last season.
It was good, it charged and kept my batteries ticking over. But it was not quite powerful enough to keep them tippety tip top when I charged some of my juicier bits of electrickery. Plus the Rutland was only on temporary loan.

So I upgraded to an Airbreeze.


and a new inverter was installed around the same time... as well as a shunt in preparation for a battery monitor.


15 July 2011

sewing on board

I bought a new bad-ass sewing machine over the winter and I've been honing my domestic skills on the beast.

I grew up learning to sew with my grandmother, every week. It just seems to come naturally these days. I just enjoy sewing.

SO, a neighbour I had briefly while on hard standing commissioned me to make a few covers for their boat.

A ketch is a tricky bugger to make spray dodgers for. how many cut outs?
What fun it was.




24 June 2011

Happy Birthday to me

June came along rather quickly and the bottom of Varekai hasn't been wet since October last year.
How time flies when you own a boat, when you can't afford to wave the magic wand of wonga and get it all done by someone else.
I took a week off, my birthday as it happens was during the holiday, so time to sit back and enjoy the world go by.

As if!
time to get busy. First, strip the keel back of layers and layers of old antifoul.



then get the antifoul on, touch in a few marks on the rudder, borrow a polishing machine to cut back years of not being polished and then finish, two coats of waxing by hand. I am the karate kid. Wax on, Wax off. There are no bingo wings here.


Launch day, Friday. but no.

The wind was blowing, hard. The guys in the marina asked if I could wait a few days.
Two more days booked off work, and the crane finally came to hover over Varekai for lift off.

such was the shock of the boat being ready to go back into the water, a bird literally fell out of the sky and landed in the cockpit, thus:




and then, ever the professional photographer, my battery died in my camera just the moment before it went in the water.

total bloody amateur.

The rudder problem

The rudder took me by suprise.
I should know to always expect the unexpected, but I wasn't really expecting what I saw when I removed the rudder earlier this year.


clearly action was needed. I wrote to my friends at yachting monthly magazine to see if they knew anyone who would give me their opinion.
I wrote to the Dehler owners club too.
opinions varied from stripping back the entire rudder and replacing the stock, getting the stock turned down, replacing with new rudder, getting a new rudder made using the old one as a mold, put a stainless sleeve over the existing stock to replace the old sleeve and epoxy resin to fix the rudder blade.

The latter choice came first, since I have the best access anyone could have to a precision engineer. Enter, my dad once again to find a solution. He worked out the flex and strain capacity of the stainless sleeve, and although an expensive lump of metal and heavy, it works out to be stronger than the original stock, he machined a matching pair of bearings, upper and lower to resin into the boat and epoxy resined the rudder back to the shape it once was.

Dehler 36 CWS rudder repair

the result is a vision of beauty to my eyes. The machining was absolutely spot on, despite the bearing being sent in advance and the sleeve being machined afterwards.

Once the rudder was slid back in place, with the bottom bearing epoxied into the rudder sleeve build into the hull, the top bearing screwed in place in the top bar in the cockpit, the rudder turned smoothly and swung easily.

23 May 2011

gimme a P, gimme a B, gimme a racket

October 2010, I asked a man if he could help me sort my P bracket. he quoted and never came back to me after that.
November it snowed
December it snowed and was pretty cold
January 2011, it was cold.
February I had no motivation.
March, I got the chisels out and gave them to someone stronger than me. a pig of a job
the Pbracket was liberated from its 22 year home and went off for fettling. It was time to DIY-F-S, if the local business didnt want my business, then it was a sign that I should learn to do it instead and save myself £800

it was fettled. welded, polished and cutlass bearing replaced. (thanks Dad)

the stainless sleeve arrived too, but still has to be machined to fit the rudder stock and bearings. (thanks again Dad)

May arrived and I went off to fetch it, along with a fettled and polished prop and shaft.
Epoxy resin was fetched in from the Maldon branch of Marine store.
Its always important to line your surfaces with some sort of protection to keep them clean. What better than a newspaper article on the modern wonder that is the "side boob" and a rather tenuous story about whether it is the new "cleavage". hmmm. The Metro newspaper, it's not what it used to be.
epoxy resin

after what felt like an age setting up the jig to hold the p bracket in place and all the tools to keep it in alignment, you can see its a complex set up... some band stands, an old passarel plank and some wedges scrounged from the floor where boats have been this winter and are now back in the water.
dehler 36 cws p bracket outside

at the same time as hooking it all up, we had to fit the new stern gland... which I MUST remember to tighten up before putting the boat in the water. I have put a bright plastic clip around it to remind me.
non drip stern gland
and then onto the messy job of applying epoxy resin, in varying degrees of thickness, gooiness and runnyness.

refitting p bracket

we ran out of epoxy resin, so its left like that for the moment. The final shaping up and roving will hopefully be completed next weekend.

21 April 2011

pull the rudder one

with the boat rapidly becoming swiss cheese, the time came to finally drop that rudder and replace the bearings.


easier said than done.
first a hole had to be dug and with most jobs like this, there is always a foreman, a tea boy and a grafter.
I opted for being the tea boy, my dad stood propping his hands on his hips making sure the job went to plan and Mr X did the digging, because, as a building site labourer, he said "Im used to it"
I did the blagging part, as tea boy, and went over to the local builders who are currently constructing a new toilet block and laundry facility for the marina and begged for a spade.

I did wonder if I should ask first before starting to dig up part of the marina, but decided to just get on with it, asking questions shows doubt in ones mind. Doubt, is a sign of weakness and the last thing I want to show anyone right now is any kind of weakness. When it comes to DIFY, I need to keep a clear mind as to what I want, when and how Im going to do it.
Having secured the use of a spade, I quietly retired to camera duties (as well as putting the kettle on.)

with the rudder released, next came the bearing. It was glued in with a resin type of glue, araldite or something like that. It needed cutting and hammering and a bit of persuading to come out.

The last skin fitting was ready to come out after a little bit of preparation with some high prescision tooling.
the new skin fittings are in 316 stainless

The rudder is a sorry looking thing. A bronze collar has caused galvanic corrosion of the aluminium stock. Its not looking too pretty.

further investigation reveals the extent of the corrosion.

Im not exactly sure what Im going to do next. possibly retire to my chamber to contemplate my options.