Monday, 16 January 2017

This blog wins a prize!

For  the sailor based in the South East, January brings the London Boat Show. Here on damp and dismal winter days, in the cavernous expanse of the Excel centre we are encouraged to dream of those tropical seas and blue skies where there are always happy photogenic crews and fair winds. For the more practical, it is still an excellent place to compare different types of waterproof clothing or to browse through foreign charts, but the Boat Show has undoubtedly been undermined over the last few years by selling over the internet that needs no human contact.

There are some astonishing savings to be made at the show, as this sign on a large gleaming motor cruiser indicates. However after careful thought we decided that we could save even more money by sticking with the old boat we already have.

On the last Saturday of the London Boat Show the Old Gaffers hold their AGM: this year in a pub by the West India Docks. I had not been to an OGA AGM before but it is a jolly affair, with many old friends and no more time spent on the formalities of the meeting than is absolutely necessary. We were presented with the Francis B Cooke trophy, an East Coast area trophy for the best log or blog. I thought there were some other good blogs, but maybe it was decided that it was Bonita's turn this year.

John with the Francis B Cooke trophy

The picture shows John holding the Francis B Cooke trophy. It is a nicely made wooden half model of a small yacht, and the trophy has been won by a number of well known East Coast boats over the years. It is a lovely thing to own and put on display for a year. There is no indication on the trophy how old it is, which boat the model represents, or what, if any, connection there is with F B Cooke.

Francis B Cooke (1872 - 1974) was a well known and prolific writer of yachting books and articles. Unfortunately his books are now rarely seen and he is almost forgotten, but he was very influential in the popularising of small boat cruising in the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote largely about Thames Estuary sailing and was based in the river Crouch in Essex. Some people rather unkindly said that indeed he very rarely left the sheltered waters of the Crouch. He more or less gave up sailing at the age of 70, but continued to write almost until his death. Cooke was a great lover of small boats and the tidal waters of the Thames Estuary and its a pleasure to be awarded the trophy that is named after him.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Winter work

Bonita is now snug in her mud berth in Faversham creek, under her winter covers with the mast lifted out and stored ashore.

There is always a bit of work to be done after the wear and tear of a season's sailing. This year most of the wear and tear seems to have happened more or less all at once - during the morning of 10 June when the engine fuel pump failed as we were in heavy surf on the bar at Lauwersoog in the Dutch Frisian islands. We anchored while waiting for the lifeboat and there was a lot of snatching on the chain as Bonita rolled boisterously in the waves. At one point the load on the chain twisted the fitting holding the bow roller, jumped out of the roller, effortlessly removed a length of the teak capping rail and broke the starboard whisker, the stay which holds the bowsprit. Other damage sustained at this time included a lot of cracking of paint around the counter where the planking was disturbed. We will have her lifted out later in the winter to check on her planking below the water line.

The picture shows the bow roller as it appeared after its ill treatment. The roller is mounted on a stainless steel bolt running through the stem: this bolt  had become bent so the roller was jammed and would no longer rotate as the chain ran over it. The bolt could not be removed as it had bent in the wood. We calculated that it must have taken a load of several tons to bend this bolt. 
Bonita's bow with bent roller assembly

There were helpful suggestions from the crew that it could easily be straightened out by
a gentle wallop with a sledgehammer, but I thought this might be a bit unkind to the old boat. So eventually I removed the bolt by cutting it into three pieces. 

New and old bolts with the bronze bow roller

We had a new bolt made up by T. Norris, the excellent marine engineers. Their works is many miles from the sea, an unexpected island of nautical expertise among the London suburbs. It is also a conveniently short stroll from where I work. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Bonita usually stays out on her mooring until late October  or early November although with the shorter days and pressures of jobs that need doing ashore and afloat we dont get very much sailing at the end of the season. The picture shows Bonita and Pretty Penny moored on the Swale just after a rain squall. The sky is darker outside the inner rainbow (the Alexander band) as some of the light goes into the colour spectrum.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Swale Match

On Saturday Bonita took part in this year's Swale Match - the 44th year it has been held. We always enjoy the Match as it is the only event where gaffers, Thames barges and assorted other old boats race over the same course. This combination adds interest and excitement, especially when tacking alongside the bigger boats in a confined channel. Bonita rarely does very well in this race unless we have strong winds. 

Today we had a fine bright day with a force 3-4 SW, and Allan, Alice and Sarah as crew. Alice steered for the downwind leg when she overtook several boats, though some of these later passed us on the windward stretches. There was some uncertainty aboard about the exact course and we might have gone the wrong side of one of the buoys as a result. However this would not have significantly affected the outcome and sadly we won no prizes. We did however have a good sail and a fine day so many thanks to the Kentish Sail Association for their excellent organisation of the event.

The prize-giving as usual was a convivial affair at the Shipwrights Arms in Hollowshore. We met up with some old friends including Simon and Sharon who have just returned from sailing round  the west coast of Ireland in Cygnet, a lovely 1906 yawl.