Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Classic Boat awards 2017

I had not previously noticed a flagpole and blue ensign among the fashionable shops and hotels in Knightsbridge in West London. But here, backing onto Hyde Park, is the club house of the Royal Thames Yacht Club, founded in 1775 and one of the oldest yacht clubs in the world.  Perhaps it might have been possible to see the river Thames from this spot in 1775 looking over the fields and marshes of rural Chelsea, but you certainly can't today.

However the elegant  Royal Thames Yacht Club was a very appropriate place to host the 2017 Classic Boat award ceremony last night. The clubhouse was packed with boat builders, owners, sailors and traditional boat enthusiasts from many countries. The whole occasion was generously hosted and organised by Classic Boat magazine.

There were prizes in several categories including restorations and newly built boats along classic lines.

The awards have been running for some years but a new prize this year, awarded jointly by Classic Boat and Gstaad Yacht Club, is for the 'Centenarian of the Year'.  One of the speakers suggested that there were only about 200 boats over a hundred years old in good sailing condition in the world. This surprised me as we have seen quite a lot on the East Coast of England and in Holland and I would have thought there were rather more. Maybe this is where they are all congregated, where people appreciate and understand the pleasures and problems of looking after these old ladies?

Bonita was one of six centenarians shortlisted (see the full list here), and the oldest by several years. The prize went to Jolie Brise. Built in 1913, she is a relatively young centenarian but is one of the best known yachts in the world and is still very actively sailed covering thousands of miles every year introducing schoolchildren to the rigorous benefits of traditional boat sailing.

 D with Bonita's runner-up certificate
                                       

An interesting and enjoyable evening and a pleasant contrast to a busy day at work and the bustle of London's West End.










Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mast maintenance

Most years Bonita's mast stays in place on the boat. I usually sandpaper and varnish it by hoisting myself up the mast in the bosun's chair, a simple device consisting of a plank of wood and a loop of rope. This definitely provides good exercise, but I worry that the varnish may not protect some of the places where the wire rigging lies against the wood.  About once every 5 years or so I get the mast lifted out by the yard crane to do the job properly. This was last done in 2012. We don't know how old the mast is but it must be over a hundred years old.

                                                          The mast under cover


The mast only just fits into our garage-cum-workshop. Its a tight squeeze to get it in and even more difficult to get it out again without damaging the new varnish. But it must do the mast good to be out of the winter weather for a couple of months.

All solid wooden masts seem to develop longitudinal cracks in them, running along the grain of the wood. These cracks don't appear to weaken the mast significantly but its a worry that they might let the damp in. The cracks need to be filled by a flexible filler that allows some movement without splitting the wood further.  No doubt there are modern synthetic compounds that can be used but the traditional filler for this is a mixture of beeswax and linseed oil. By heating them together in roughly equal quantities you get a useful filler that can be squeezed into place, can easily be varnished  and never completely hardens. After this it takes several tins of varnish before the mast is ready to be craned back in for the new season.

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.