27 November 2012

Storm? Piece of cake.

When I heard a decent storm was heading my way I checked all the lines, added a couple more springs and went shopping for extra provisions.
If I'm going to be kept awake all night with crashing, banging and Armageddon going on outside, then I should make best use of this extra awake time.

I ask myself, what would Thora Hird do?

Bake a cake surely?

Right on! Bake a bad ass fucking cake! What could possibly go wrong? I mean, I can do cakes right? I can certainly eat them well enough. But it's in the region of 20-25 years since I last baked one.
I've got an oven (no temperature gauge or control). I've got some gas in the bottle. I've got all the tools and ingredients... It's just logical following the instructions right?
My sister in law bought me the scales ages ago. So far they've mostly been used to work out postage fees for eBay!

The cake mix waiting in the tin as the oven warms up to whatever temperature that may be.

And then the white chocolate and cream topping caused a bit of a mess. It's not cold enough outside to set it properly, the fridge is switched off, so twas still a bit runny.

But.. the proof was in the tasting the next morning for breakfast.

And while the cake was basking in the glow of my expensively bottled Butane and rising in the oven I did flash card practice. As you do on a Saturday night in a force 10.

18 November 2012

Night time revision in the dark.

As part of my on going training and preparation for passing my yacht master practical... which will carry me through to instructor and commercial endorsement which eventually will lead on to greater things...and assist me in my comedy turn around Britain in 2013, I have flash cards showing day marks, buoyage and light patterns.
I have incentivised the whole process by allowing myself a sip of wine for each one I get right.
Now the first pack of day mark cards was a breeze....
But the night lights are becoming increasingly blurry.
Obviously this adds to the realism because when one is out in the lashing rain, trying to focus on distant light patterns its quite difficult.
In addition, my domestic batteries are flatter than a witches tits right now. (Due to ageing batteries and no wind power for a few days) So I am sitting in the dark with only head torch for light source.
All I need now is to lean the boat over somehow and get someone to chuck buckets of cold salt water in my face to complete the training effect.

03 November 2012


This time last year I was still hanging on the buoy. It was mild weather and I didn't need a heater.
This year the winter has come a bit earlier and I've swung over to the visitor pontoon to allow me to plug into the shore power so I can put a heater on. Yes, (sigh) I have not fitted a diesel heater yet.
So I show the dog the rabbit, and plug the cable in. But. The moment I turn the shore power on in the boat it trips out the whole pontoon power box.
It's an old patched cable. It must be that.
Nope.still tripping out the box. new cable is lovely though.

It's a dodgy plug socket. It was getting warm last winter. I'll just replace that.

Nope. Not that either.
Still tripping the box out.
Fault finding will be turned up a notch in daylight.
Could be new battery charger time...
In the mean time I'm running the cable through a hatch and directly to my heater.
The wind generator is keeping the batteries topped up.
Except there's no wind...

21 October 2012

Mental Block

Since the Breskens trip I've been meaning to fix another item that broke. Strictly speaking it was already broken, but I just broke it more. To the point where it is actually finally broken beyond cobbling along.

The trip to scoff a waffle cost me a new reef line (fitted in Breskens) and a main sheet block.

The block system on the main sheet on a Dehler 36 comprises of four large Lewmar blocks.
The originals it seems, have lasted well, but now, rapidly, like a set of lightbulbs all fitted to a new house, they are all popping off in short succession.

I scoured the internet for the modern equivalent.
the all new and improved Lewmar blocks (62 squids each) now have ball bearings and spin almost like silk.
The delight of spinning the new blocks brought me over most queer like, with a hot flush of anticipation. The thought of less friction is almost orgasmic.
I procurred two new blocks.

But the upstander part which is absolutely fine and still works ok has a different sized receptacle.

So the new blocks went on the upper part of the mainsheet rig while I reconsulted the internet.


I visited a different chandler to usual and had to do the obligatory wander around browsing, like you do, it's the law. And there, in a dusty corner (aren't all chandlers corners dusty?) sat two Harken blocks, with exactly the right sized thingy, to fit in the wotsit. I didnt need to measure, I could just tell.
62 squids each these were too...

.... arrive back at Varekai with the look of an excited parent about to reveal a lovely present to their beloved child...


The main sheet is so friction free now it's like mainsheet porn. Honestly. You can't help but want to handle the line and just feel it slipping smoothly through the new set of four blocks.
I could just sit in the cockpit and play with the main sheet while moored. I dont need to go sailing anymore for my filthy fix of sailing excitement. Come and handle this!

arf arf arf.

05 October 2012

Blue days

Those who know me, know that I rarely have blue days. but sometimes, a blue day comes to me. And its quite beautiful.
I woke to crashing and banging and the sensation of being on a fair ground ride with the boat slewing around the mooring buoy. A squall was over head. The rigging of all the boats around me squealing.
A magnificent way to start the day. If perhaps a little earlier than planned.

Jayne: a tiny teeny bit worried about rowing ashore and keeping her dapper look, dapper.
Dog: not impressed.

23 September 2012

easterly beasterly

I arrive home after a long drive... to this


magical huh. you can see the dog was loving it.

16 September 2012

A room with a view

So many people ask me how I deal with sleeping in a room without windows.
How do I wake up?

well, thats easy, there is a window. it faces upwards. and it opens big enough to climb in and out of should I so wish.

and when I open my eyes seeing a blue sky like that, it just makes the day that little bit better.

28 August 2012

For the love of a waffle

I am partial to a certain type of food.
one which cannot be easily found in the UK.

Crepes and waffles.

last year I went to Dunkirque for a crepe.

this year I went to Breskens for a waffle.

 Just getting past Burnham is a feat in itself. each time I have headed up there, something breaks and forces me back to camp.
 But, at least I earnt my t-shirt and got as far as the windfarm
Des the instructor, looked a bit like this... he was nursing a sore head after a night out with friends. so he was quieter than usual. which was a blessed relief. not too many of his rubbish jokes.

  I love being out of the sight of land. I really feel like Im going somewhere.

 The waffle was a real treat. every bit and better than I had hoped. washed down with a nice cold beer. perfect.
and then to quickly reprovision with a bits from the supermarket... those crazy dutch know how to eat well dont they.

adding extra sheets to the self tacking jib to make it set better to windward.
high levels of concentration require powernaps to maintain.
the instructor Des seems to have lost his washboard. or fancies himself as a teapot. not sure which.
thanks Des for the instruction and the company of course.
the snake pit.
the windfarms in the night. menacing. enticing. mesmirising.
all of those. and when I went for my sleep... we tacked just before. and then 2 hours later we were back exactly where we were when I went for my sleep. just goes to show. theres no time for complacency or sleeping across the channel or north sea. the track shows the route before my phone died. I didnt sink. the windfarm was just off to starboard the whole time. we missed it by just a few meters. I could hear the blades turning.

the westerly... the fucking bastard westerly that always gets me on the way home. just when you think you're winning having tacked 100 times into the entrance of the Crouch and think... yes! im onto a long reach now... come on... yes yes... NO. the wind backs and you end up facing 3 more hours of relentless tacking... or...

Put the bloody engine on. I admit it. I gave up near the river roach and engined back.

14 July 2012

the yachting monthly triangle race

 When I was asked if I would like to cover the 2012 Triangle race,
I practically snatched the editors hand off. I had read about the race previously and it had built a reputation for being a very sociable race.

On arrival in Torquay, a cacophony of halyards clanging and rigging howling provided a noisy welcome.
Gazing around, amid flapping battle flags I found my ride for the next two weeks, a 10 meter Dazcat, owned and skippered by James Jermain. Ineligible for the monohull only race, but a perfect platform to perform media duties from with its huge rear deck space and potential speed to keep up with even the fastest in the race fleet.

Leg 1
Destination Kinsale
17 June 2012, Sunday 0900

arrival Kinsale
19 June 2012 tuesday morning with a serious problem with electrics on Bella Donna. not sure if we can continue...

Leg 2
Destination Treguier
22 June 2012, Friday 1030
fast, furious, the best fun ive ever had in my foul weather gear. Smiles from ear to ear pretty much all the way. and a stifled hysterical laugh as my skipper got washed across the deck with a breaking wave.  He loved it too... even if he didnt say so at the time. 

Leg 3
Destination Torquay
27 June 2012, Wednesday 1300
on leg three we had the committee to carry back to the start, so we didnt get a chance to sail with the fleet who vanished off into a gloomy over cast and later foggy day. but, we did carry home one of the crews whose boat had a rudder failure.  so the extra company was very welcome for the short leg back to torquay. and I found my own amusement by playing with my food.

you can read the full story in the September 2012 issue of Yachting Monthly magazine.  

04 July 2012

a bit of fluff

Forgive me Varekai for I have been unfaithful.
A twin hulled mini minx caught my eye for a couple of weeks, but I am back... I promise I wont stray again (for a while)

But I have been spoilt and now I expect speeds in excess of 10 knots all the time.

Thanks to Mark Ramsden of Grafika-uk.com for sending me this picture of me taking a picture of him taking a picture of me....

07 June 2012

let's go again

A few days ago, when closing the raw water in for the engine (and toilet) the valve turned in my hand.
The thread it turned on is before the valve not after it.
which means, boo boos if it leaks.

I tickled the thread with a finger to see if there was water.


water coming in, from the outside, and no back up pump.

Varekai had to be lifted out for a quick over-nighter in the slings. 
It's a quick two person job, one person stands outside with a bar rammed up the jacksie hole, while someone else is on the receiving end inside, by the valve, putting some silicon on the threads, unscrewing it then screwing it tighter.

Boats, filthy buggers.
It had a nice wash down while it was out and a couple of new anodes added to its shaft. I got green stuff in my hair from standing underneath, cleaning around the holes.

Like I say, filth. I mean, it's not possible to talk about a boat without it sounding like some sort of pornography.

the silicon this time was actually evo stick wet line, or something like that. It's a marvel. sets fast and can even be applied under water. (which thankfully I didn't need to do)

Varekai went straight back in the next day, and back round to its mooring.

a few days later, a long weekend planned, as all plans go... it didn't go to plan. The weather came along, the best of British weather and I was consigned to just an afternoon and evening of river stuff.
But even that was short lived, as muppetry ensued.

I had previously the week before, adjusted the furling line on the jib to take a few turns off that were causing it to jam.
Unfortunately, the crew I had with me didn't know that when I said "you may need to use the winch to assist you" when I asked him to bring in the jib for a while when we were head to wind.
He didn't understand that cranking very very hard on a rope that goes to the furler means something is wrong. The sheet was too tight, pulling the sail in very tight and not enough turns left on the furling drum.
Being much stronger than me, I didn't realise that he had cranked up the furling line so tight that it pulled the fixing out, snapping the plastic barrel in the process.
As it went "bang" I realised immediately some bullshit had just hit the fan. I pegged it forward to avoid the sail un-furling in the stiff breeze. All the while trying to explain what the word, "lashing" means to Johnny foreigner Crew mate. I take full responsibility, I should have spotted the mistake before it happened. Now I need to find/buy/source a new inner drum half for my Furlex.

magically though, Rod Tinsley single handing his Moody out on the river managed to take a pic before it all went wrong.
It's the first pic of Varekai like this. Many thanks for allowing me to post this pic Rod.
He's a decent boat snapper, have a look at his site: www.rodtinsley.co.uk

just an hour or so before the muppetry began.

29 May 2012

Hello Sunshine

Finally, out of the marina. Finally, got a sail up.
dinghy prepared
aaaah, such happy times can only bring expense and misery.
sails up

isn't it lovely

Happy happy happy
just coming around to land, flaps down

shortly after the pics were taken, I discovered a loose raw water inlet valve for the engine.

Varekai had to be rushed back into the marina the next day, craned out and waiting for me when I got home from work.


all pics courtesy of the man with the camera, Gids. Mucho mucho gracias.