Come on…it is April 1st.
Ok then lets get the sex scene out of the way first : i don’t know what the boat in the title picture is in terms of who designed her and who built her but undeniably sexy she is. I suspect that there isn’t much in the way of accommodation in her even though the transom is in Mylor boatyard and the forepeak is registered in a separate post-code.
Ok, now lets talk about drugs. A couple of weeks back when we were working on the bathroom i had the problem of running around in the car to get stuff while most of the roads around here were closed. One time i had just about managed to get clear of our village and get across to the next one where there is a useful hardware store. On the way back into our village i had to stop at the traffic lights right next to the bus stop shelter. I don’t know what made me look across but in the shelter were 3 teenage i guess lads, all heads down and hoodies up, as i watched a bigger and older guy walked up and passed a ‘wrap’ to each one and money changed hands in return……simple everyday drug deal but in broad daylight in the centre of a rural village in Cornwall. The local single track bridge over the river is said to be the dividing line between local drug-dealing gangs.
One of my work colleagues who lives in a similar village nearby describes her early morning school run as being partially the ‘Farrow and Ball’ set and partially the ones that had herion for breakfast. Not so long back my partner told me that there was an odd smell coming from a neighbours house….nothing unusual what with several adults, several children and dogs all in there but i took a sniff and yep……good old Mary-Jane skank weed. One neighbour’s son is almost certainly a small-time dealer. As i have said before that this part of Cornwall, the part that the tourists don’t see has high levels of unemployment, high rates of alcoholism and recreational drug use. You might be surprised to hear this but when we are advising our patients what they can and can’t do after their procedures we not only have to tell them not to drive but also not to drink alcohol and not to take recreational drugs. Given that many of our patients are over 60 that might seem a bit of an overkill but by all accounts ‘space’ cakes are quite the thing around here……there was good rumour that they were even being sold at a village fete last summer. That brings a whole new take to tea and cake on the lawn (please do not smoke the grass !)
Today as i write, its a very cold and grey Easter Friday which i guess makes it ‘good’ Friday. I have had one bloke turn up for a shuftie at the Dayboat and he was non-commitedly neutral which is fine as that is exactly what i am like during a boat viewing…..didn’t ask many questions other than was the price negotiable, which of course it always is. The bloke who is interested in buying WABI”’ has all the details and has ‘only’ got to convince his wife and meanwhile i am getting closer to defining my next project.
WABI”’ back in the mud at Calstock.
In just 10 days from now i should be seeing an orthopaedic surgeon about getting my bearings changed and from then i will be out of action boat-wise for a little while. Chris the boatyard boss was telling me about one of his owners who had one of his hips done and 2 weeks later was up his mast sorting the rig out……not sure if that was a bit of a challenge !
In the meantime i am just about out of the apparent confusion of what might happen next and have a pretty good idea of what actually could happen next. If it seems that my writing is merely ‘thinking out loud’ then fine, it is, it helps me clarify my thinking and the comments are always helpful. A lot of what i have been talking about is finding a boat that will do more of each thing that i need it to do. By playing around with the mental exercise of a proposed small boat ocean voyage i actually discovered that my own boat isn’t the right one for everything that i ask it to do. It just wasn’t designed for what i am doing with it ie going coastal and offshore cruising. Some of the owners association had ‘kittens’ when they heard about my channel crossings and solo sailing although both were fine. Recent experience though has shown me that i have been pushing at the limits though and the boat just isn’t rugged enough and powerful enough for choppy-channel days.
I know that just recently my thinking has been dancing all over the place and that’s fine too as it means that i don’t have rigid ideas about boats and as a famous quote goes “i am only interested in everything” boat-wise. So what am i going to do ?
Well firstly i am going to take a break from actual sailing when i get hauled out for a refit myself. This week i am hopefully going on a very long drive over to Essex-shire to see this boat . I can almost see the narrowed eyes, hear the ‘hmmmm’ and so on because i have had a very bad one of these before and disliked the boat quite intensely. This is, if you don’t recognise it a Deben 4 tonner and very much an east coast classic tabloid cruiser. Why ? because it might fit the bill of requirements that i have worked up and still find valid. Most of these boats live in either mud-berths or shallow moorings in the east coast rivers. This one is in a mud berth in the Orwell….don’t know it/never been there. It has kept the original rig although the stick itself is quite new and according to her owner has had all the essential work done.
Deben 4 tonner ‘Inanda’ (Sara Thomas photograph)
Let me just talk about this idea a bit more.
The one i bought about 10 years ago was clearly a mistake unless i had been able to do major wooden-boat surgery myself and at the time, working full time i just couldn’t have done that. The one i had was in a very poor state and would have been a long project for a good boatbuilder. I did have a ‘sort-of’ plan to dry the boat out, smash out the caulking, turn her over and epoxy/veneer cover the entire hull before a then total refit including and entire new rig, sails and gear. At that much work i may as well have planned to build a complete new boat….instead i bought a relatively cheap Frances 26 and put my time and effort into that.
As bad as she was (the Deben not the Frances) she still outsailed larger and more modern cruiser-racers and brought me back from Chichester to the west-country all the way upwind and with virtually no gear. Just to say that she had a huge ‘draggy’ aperture and propeller, a joke of a mains’l which was some 3 feet short in the hoist, no winches…..oh and leaked like a seive. What made me return to the whole idea is that i recently saw another one going very cheap, first on Ebay and now with a broker. This one is also over on the east coast and in kent and her owner doesn’t seem to want to talk either. However, she doesn’t have either a mast, sails or engine and i suspect needs lots of work.
Deben 4 tonner (unknown photograph)
You might still be thinking “why an old, wooden , gaff-rigged and long keeled boat in this day and age ? Well my answer is that as before because it might just do the job more simply than the more modern alternatives. We know that a long keeled boat is easy to sit in the mud or park on the beach with a pair of home-made legs. The long keel and powerful gaff rig has worked well down here in the west-country for several centuries…in fact the only working-sail boats down this way are the Falmouth oyster boats. Many of those now are of course GRP but in local races they give the club cruiser-racers a very hard time. The trick is that yes, they are relatively heavy displacement boats with a large underwater surface area but they can carry as much sail as they dare. Of course they don’t sail like a modern lightweight : they won’t surf or plane downwind and take more time to get moving. My experience with a semi-long keeled boat (Frances) though is that once moving she would keep moving and the motion was much steadier than say a quarter-tonner at about the same size. Ok so a well sailed quarter-tonner would see me off on the race course but i would get to where i was going comfortably, dry and having rested and eaten well.
I may have said recently that all boats are a compromise and an old long-keeled and gaff-rigged boat is another set of problems and compromises. The maintainence is clearly always higher, it isn’t going to point like a fin keeled and fractionally rigged lightweight and maybe there will be times when that really counts.
Oh….Rock-n-roll, i forgot to mention that. Earlier i was going to make a joke about Cornish ‘smack’ (heroin) and Essex ‘Smacks’ (fishing and oystering boats), there still being a ‘Smack-boys’ association….Colchester i believe. Anyway the rock-n-roll connection is actually the Deben and to a lesser extent the Folkboat and the Frances 26. During my windward delivery trip aboard the Deben i pulled into Dartmouth after a very long day beating across lyme bay, most of the way with the tiller tied-off with a piece of bungee cord and string. I found an unoccupied mooring near the entrance and settled down for the night. There was a bit of a swell setting into the entrance and at that time i didn’t know the river any higher up and neither did i have a Dart river chart.
Dartmouth during my recent trip.
At about oh dawn-thirty the Deben simply spat me out of my bunk when she set up a sickening cyclical roll, the mast must have been doing about 30 degrees in each direction and it just wouldn’t settle. I didn’t even bother to stop….just got the outboard on and cleared out but it was one of the features that really put me off that boat….that and that the boat had a bad personality. My Frances had a similar although lesser tendency to set up a cyclical roll and thinking back so did my first boat : East German folkboat. With the Frances that became apparent a couple of times during my solo cruise in South Brittanny and it took a while to solve, luckily i had one of the Pardey’s books with me and they described a similar problem with their Lyle Hess cutter ‘Serrafyn’. They solved the problem to a great extent by making what they called a ‘flopper-stopper’ and reading their description i built a similar one using a bucket and heavy shackle.
Serrafyn and Taliesin, the Pardey’s 2 home built wooden boats, are both moderately heavy displacement and long keeled boats. They were both rigged ‘bermudan’ rather than gaff. I don’t have a problem with gaff and it’s possible that the gaff rig is a better rig for the boat with its centre of effort being lower. The rig can also fly a lot more sail area downwind. I happen to know that i would like a salty and seamanlike boat that has a lot more character than the boats i have been to see recently. Although for example the similar sized Sadler might be a good boat for my requirements they just don’t make me moist……sorry…..sex again which is kind of where i came in (fnarrr)