You know how i was calling myself “2-boat” steve ?……..well a couple of weeks back that almost became ‘3-boat’ steve when i was bidding on this boat on ebay . Some of you might recognise it from my starter boat series as it’s the ‘ideal’ keel version of the Waarschip 725 with the shallow bulb keel. I figured that in mud that keel will just make itself a nice hole and a couple of yacht-legs would do the job on a harder surface. Draught is significantly less than the deep keel variant too. One of the deep keel ones sails very well in the quarter ton series over here but it’s this one that i have always kept an eye out for and this one suddenly popped up a few weeks ago. As always with ebay i set myself a budget, bid up to that and obviously someone else wanted it more. It might almost have been my ‘thousand-pound’ boat project and herein lies several tales.
At the start of this year i was having real difficulties making any useful decisions about what to do in almost any area this year, work is a problem because of my old back problems and my newer knee problem. That is all likely to impact on my sailing plans this year To be honest it already has in that i have already recognised that the Dayboat project ‘raid’ style boat isn’t going to happen. Hopefully by the time this post comes out i will have a better idea what the knee problem actually is, unfortunately during my recent annual leave it’s actually improved because i’m not standing all day so it might be harder for the GP to actually work it out. The leave is almost being a problem as well because it started with the snow we had here and then my car had to go in for it’s MOT and i won’t have it back long enough to go and do some work on the Liberty…..then we are away for my birthday. I have been getting some work done on the dayboat, almost finished the new rudder but that’s now much less of a priority as the boat is up for sale and the DY crew know about it so far.
Anyway : confessions.
I have been writing quite a lot about the Golden Globe race and the 1968 entrants , particularly Donald Crowhurst, hopefully my 3rd post hits the mark a bit better than the first 2 so maybe i can leave that one alone. I am writing follow up posts about some of the other competitors and then having a lot of fun tracing the threads that run through modern sailing from people like Bernard Moitessier, Bill King and Knox Johnston. The 60’s as an era in sailing is a bit of a peculiar time in the development of boats and equipment and up until recently isn’t a period i know much about. I’m researching that for a series of posts which is fun. I didn’t even begin to sail until the mid 70’s and even then sailing seemed to be an elite sport or wealthy middle class hobby, ok so it’s still expensive and so called ‘starter’ boats today are nothing like the ones i have focused on here.
I always had an interest in long distance sailing and singlehanded sailing and a lot of that comes together in races like the OSTAR and the Vendee. I have in the past tried to work out a way of putting an entry in the old style OSTAR (observer singlehanded transat) before it became the big-boat and professional race that it is today. I did mess with the idea of a mini-transat too but even a semi-decent boat was going way outside my limited means and those boats are awful to sail. Also , what the hell do you do with a mini-transat race boat once you actually get to the caribbean ? last time i was there i saw several stripped out and abandonned hulls in St Maarten. The nearest and closest match i ever got to the whole genre of singlehanded ‘challenge’ sailing was the Jester Challenge which has a cut-off at 30 feet. It isn’t exactly a race, and it tied-in neatly with the whole idea of getting the thousand pound boat on the water and sailing it across the Atlantic as fast as possible. Today i wouldn’t want to be limited to a particular event or route but i have a lot of respect for the skippers that have got Jester challenge boats together. Suddenly, boats like the Waarschip make a lot more sense : faster and more powerful upwind than my boat but basic enough to get together on a minimal budget. This one didn’t work out but it, and something else, came together at about the same time to make me think about ocean sailing again.
Just before leaving the Exe and getting a thorough spanking in Lyme bay.
I always had just 3 major ambitions as a sailor, first to sail a maxi yacht in the Whitbread race, secondly to complete a circumnavigation and finally to do a solo ocean crossing….. it didn’t even matter which one although its the Atlantic slopping up against our coast so maybe the local one eh !. Well, i sailed a few legs of a Whitbread race and went around the Horn, did my circumnavigation but never pulled off the third one. I did have a boat set up for long distance solo ocean sailing but that had to go when we took on the cottage here. Now the whole idea is kind of festering again. Working on the Donald Crowhurst posts have made me realise that i am very happy at sea and don’t get stressed from being alone, which is something i always wondered about. The opposite side is that i never particularly wanted to be a big boat skipper, in fact i was a pretty crap charter skipper as the owner and guests mainly just annoyed the hell out of me
Frances 26 WABI”
The recent connection is via an ex work colleague who retired just before i did and went off to live the good life somewhere in the Med. Her and her partner i knew had a fairly generic French cruising boat of somewhere around the 36 foot mark. Now we never talked much about sailing mainly as we didn’t get on particularly well, no friction, just one of those people i never really liked and vice-versa. Well recently she has been writing in her facebook blog about a failed attempt to do a transatlantic with another couple aboard their boat and from the Canaries. The blogs are sad and frustrating to read , little or nothing about the preps and sailing and all about the conflicts and personality clashes aboard. I commented a bit tartly a couple of times mainly about the inadequacy of the designated skipper, even had some moderately polite discussion about skipper and crew dynamics with other readers on facebook about it. I guess that i am the kind of ex mate and ex skipper who is all about getting the job done and getting the boat out to sea rather than the kind who is worried about offending the ‘snowflakes’ feelings. My former colleagues blog is all about the latter, all about how everyone is feeling and exactly the kind of thing that makes me realise i am turning into a moany old bloke…or a dirty wet sea-dog who snarls at the postie and barks at the radio !
My last comment to her was “why not go in your own boat”…..a generic 36 foot French cruising boat, while not Southern ocean material, should be able to cope with the milk-run crossing from the Canaries. Most of that trip is light weather and downwind. Her answer was that the boat was too small and would need lots of work on it first. Yes i did almost throw my toys !, ok so i don’t know the actual boat but boats far smaller do that run on their own or with the ARC every year (if they wanted a safety net). So that was less than impressive . I thought “if you really want to go, you have a boat, why not prep that and just go….run what ya brung in biker speak”. No answer was the reply !
I guess you can see where this is going…. i have the ambition still of doing a solo ocean crossing, have a small boat that is very good downwind and in light weather……hmm. I could make the excuse that my boat is too small and would need too much work on it but ‘blah-blah’ that’s just excuses isn’t it ? Now, to do a northerly route transatlantic you really do need more upwind power than a Hunter Libery has, that really would be a struggle, but why not think about doing a trade route crossing from the Canaries….why not indeed ?.
So….big question….could my boat do it, and what set-up would i need to do the trip ?. Alan is right, maybe i should be thinking and planning a big ocean voyage and not faffing around with stuff that just expediently keeps me at work and messing around locally. I am actually thinking about this quite seriously, even writing about it makes me realise how much of the planning i have already done. I know that one specially built Liberty has been across the big pond and smaller, even less suitable boats have done it. Some here will know my connection with the late Bob Salmon who instigated the mini-tranast and did it in an E boat and then again with a small cruising boat. The rig plan for my boat is coming together and i am halfway to a working solution even now : my biggest concern with my boat is the strength of the rig. What else would i really need ? a wind vane ideally, a hand powered watermaker, cold storage initially, a sprayhood, couple of rails, more solar…..there isn’t that much really. This might seem a mighty ambitious post given that i have just had a spanking in Lyme bay locally but it must be remembered that the problem there was essentially the lee-shore and steep breaking waves one and not hundreds of miles to leeward to run-off into.
Or would a slightly quicker and better ballasted boat be more ideal ? This boat for example has a similar interior envelope to my boat but has a much higher ballast ratio, a higher SA/Disp ratio and is technically more ‘slippery’. It’s also what Roger Taylor chose to base his second arctic exploration yacht on. This particular boat i could sail almost as it is with a limited refit or be as ambitious as the budget allows (curently not). I know i have covered this class before but they really are an under-rated small boat and they will do what i need, mainly in that they will dry out level. I could easily imagine sitting that on its keels in Ruan creek and the Isle De Brehat but equally i can imagine taking one well offshore.
How about this for a plan: Plan A, get WABI”’ ready to sail at Topsham now, sprint back to base this spring, refit this summer, re-commission later in the year. Or plan B, refit WABI” and get her on the market early this summer and ready to sail. Find the project hull and spend the summer and autumn doing a major project refit, shakedown next spring and summer. Leave the UK late summer and make my way down to the Canaries or the Azores. An AZAB (Azores and back) would be a decent challenge in itself but then why not then do an Atlantic circuit before everything packs up. As i write , several weeks before the post is due to be published, its my knee that might stymie all plans.
Final confession for now ……bit of an ‘oops’ moment.
After i wrote this post but before it is due to be published ( i write ahead now) i made another trip over to Topsham to get some more jobs done on WABI”’. As usual i planned to stay aboard for a couple of nights and as before it was achingly cold at night and it took quite a while to get going in the morning. A bit of an odd thing then occurred : i was working on the boat which is only yards from the waterfront quay and i noticed a group of policepersons ‘interviewing’ someone who was being a bit argumentative and whom i noticed eventually got cuffed and taken away. Well that’s a bit unusual for sleepy Topsham to start with but when a little while later i headed into town to do my shopping the place was crawling with police !. Odd thinks I !. Maybe they are having some kind of operation going on….weird stuff does happen . Turns out that it’s nothing more sinister than the nice young police learners doing some actual scenario stuff on the street with i guess police ‘actors’ and their instructors. So…..there i am walking along, puts hand in pocket to make sure wallet is where it should be and it isn’t…..except what is there is my razor sharp fixed bladed riggers knife !. Walks past not one but several groups of nice young policepersons grinning madly and doing cheery ‘good mornings’. I think i got away with that one, could have been very embarrassing as knives really make the plod moist these days.
About half of what is aboard the boat…..more sharps than the average dwarf (‘Clang’ in the words of the late Terry Pratchett)