Sleepless nights.

Some days, and more nights, my head feels like a dusty junk-yard corner of a boat shed that needs a clear out.  Both me and my partner are long-term nurses and both of is quite often have restless and sometimes sleepless nights.  I know that i don’t have a ‘normal’ sleep pattern at all after working years of night shifts in a couple of jobs and then working a deadly combination of day shifts and night shifts in the same week….shit like that should be illegal IMO.  For the last 2 years of my current working life i have had the unusual experience in a healhcare job of going home at night and going back in actually in the morning….like ‘normal’ people’s jobs.  During the extremely tiring night drive back from Ipswich last week though i was reflecting on the lives of other 24/7 jobs as various emergency service vehicles wiggled their way through the busy M25 traffic to get to a multiple accident and vehicle fire.  Their jobs would be the first chain in a series that would continue with a hospital A&E department and most likely other hospital departments and their night/day staff.

Both of us have the strange problem that sometimes we are too tired to sleep straight away after a shift.  Sometimes not having a regular sleep pattern is a real pain when we need to get up early for the next shift although in my sailing life not having an expectancy of ‘normal’ sleep is positively useful.  At sea, rather than having a normal person’s diurnal sleep pattern, mine is more like a quadriurnal (if such a thing exists) pattern as i have periods during the day and night when i am fully awake and periods night and day when i want to sleep.  Often when i have a problem to work on i do my best work at night after a short sleep and that seems to transfer to my home and work life now as well.   Often here i will get a couple of hours sleep and then be awake and restless again and i have discovered that there is little point in trying to get back to sleep and that it’s best to get up and do some useful work even if that is only roughing-out a blog post, doing a post edit or working on my new writing project.

I actually spend a lot of that night/awake time in ‘thinking’ time, often about whatever projects i have got going on.  Although it might seem a bit random at times here a large part of what i write about is a slightly more condensed and edited form of what i have been thinking about….thinking in print if you will.   According to the good Dr Petersen the very act of writing can help to clarify the problem-solving process. I find now that the more i think and write about the various boat projects and jobs i do the more problems i will have worked out beforehand and the smoother the job will go.  The other benefit of course is that thinking out loud and writing gets feedback from you lot…..even if its only to tell me why something won’t work…..and that’s fine.


At the start of this year i was really struggling to make actual plans about even very basic and simple things such that i just ended up going around in circles….the best place to have found my mind then would have been with a colonoscope !.  Some things are resolving now, i have sold one boat project that wasn’t going to work and am ready to sell the Liberty.   The knee problem is now ‘somebody else’s problem’, by the time this post comes out i should have a definitive answer on when and where and what specific surgery i will be having and then other things will have to fall into place around that.

The likely sequence of events with my new boat and the most probable timing for surgery should allow me 2 more working and cruising trips over on the east coast. After that i intend to start moving the boat towards base, one possibility i am looking at is moving Inanda initially around to Chichester and getting her ashore there.  Around the Emsworth area there are plenty of small-boat yards and a few specialist wooden boat boatbuilders.  Although a slightly lazy approach it might be viable to have some of the critical work done professionally and i am looking at that option.

Quite a lot of my thinking time is taken up with the work on Inanda that needs to be done before she can really be a solid cruising boat that i would totally trust in the bigger seas of the channel and the west-country.  When i was aboard the boat last week i spent a good while just making a total list of jobs after i had cleaned the boat out, had a really good look at her, and done the first few hours work on the rig.   I feel a greater responsibility with this boat to be a ‘good’ owner in the chain of people that have owned her.  Some of those have clearly put time and money into her upkeep in the past and it’s time she got that again.  This project isn’t like the preservation of a historically important boat, a high-end Fife for example.  The Debens were never ‘posh’ boats built with the best materials and while seen as a classic there is no need to keep the boat in exactly the same configuration as when she was built.  I’m not going to mess her about just because i can but equally i have no problem with using modern materials such as epoxy, modern rope and sailcloth etc.  There is an outside possibility that to extend her life way beyond mine that this is the time to sheath Inanda with wood-veneer, epoxy and cloth in the same way that the Carr’s did with Curlew…..i used to have an article about how that project was done but i don’t seem to have it to hand.   As i start to break down the overall job list into smaller projects i will write about each one as it comes to the top of the list. Right now the first priority is to get her sailing and see what i need to do to make her sail well and secondly to make her comfortable to stay aboard.   The structural work will get done or at least started either in Chichester during the summer while i am laid up or as a longer job ashore this autumn and winter back at base.


While i am here i thought i would try and put across my attitude and approach to this project.  I am starting out with a pretty old hull that’s had a lot of work done to it over the years.  Some boaters i know would regard this boat as a ‘classic’ and with some implication that it should be kept in as near original order as possible.  While i think that it’s nice to preserve old boats, what i’m doing with Inanda isn’t a preservation job except that i want to keep her sailing so that one day someone else can also sail her in the long chain of owners that she’s had.  I don’t see any point in keeping her in exactly her original state, even at this stage she has had bits added that she wouldn’t have had at the start and already i am stripping some of those later alterations out because a simpler and more stripped-out boat will suit me better.    This is going to be a cruising boat that gets sailed and that already means ‘making-good’ the structure so that she can stand her ground to windward in the channel, it might even be the case that i alter some parts of the existing structure.   The first examples that come to mind are the awkward stepped coachroof, her small main hatch and the whole of the cockpit which is essentially open.  I have seriously been thinking about taking the existing lid right off and re-building the coachroof as one single level and from deck-edge to deck-edge just like the other Deben kicking around somewhere that i never got to see.

If the boat would benefit from epoxy/veneer sheathing after the frames have been done then i can so no good reason not to do that.

Her cockpit definitely needs a rethink and a rebuild. Even now the cockpit sole boards move around with a broken support underneath, at the aft end by the tiller i can’t stretch my legs out and brace myself comfortably. Taking the cockpit apart would be the work of less than an hour and i can see several approaches for a re-design that would allow me better sitting space, better lockers and a potentially self-draining (or pump-drain) cockpit.

Like this one


That coachroof shape i happen to prefer visually and i think it creates a much better internal space in the main cabin, the difficulty if any is the need to scramble over the top to go and work at the mast. It would still be a Deben design as Whisstocks did build a few like this and might solve several problems in one go.

s-l1600 (2)

Nicer version re-fitted

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So…yes this is the sort of stuff that doesn’t keep me awake at night but is the stuff i think about when i can’t get to sleep.

1 Comment

  1. I know the sleepless bit, I have worked over the years to “shut down” the grey matter at sleep times but when your running big jobs ‘Oh god o’clock’ seems to be the sort that one out time ! anyway the refitted Deben cockpit looks a lot better is the sole higher ? its a fairly straight forward ply box glassed and put in position is there enough height above the waterline to put crossed drains in ? engine access can be from inside the boat ? maybe a removable floor on a seal for the big jobs like getting it out or doing the valve clearance etc mmmm projects 🙂


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