This year in sailing.


January 2019, and it’s that time of year when i start to make plans for what i am going to do in sailing and what i am going to try and do with the blog.   Sitting here at my writing desk, looking out of the back window and i can already see the shoots of daffodils and alliums poking through the bark-mulch on the back garden.   This time last year i was waiting to see my GP and then the orthopaedic consultant, wondering what was going to happen with that and on top of that planning a new boat project.  As readers will know it became a very confusing year in which my plans and aspirations seemed to change nearly every month.

I had argued myself into the corner where i thought that a long keeled classic yacht would fulfill my requirements plus it would have a lot more ‘heart and soul’ than any other alternative. I found an affordable boat, can’t say that i fell in love with it but i could see it’s potential and i even thought i had a realistic sense of what it would take to make a very good boat.  It was a nice idea…… but for a younger and more mobile version of me….the reality being that i had completely overlooked what might happen with my combined knee and back problems.  Even had i successfully started turning out new frames, fitting them would have been a nightmare and that would have only been the beginning of, i think, at least 2 years work.   To be completely honest i think i would have started to hate the work and hate the boat.    As i said in ‘Shed it’ i’m glad i worked out that mistake quickly enough and was lucky enough to sell Inanda on to a new idiot *


The year wasn’t a total loss though, i had a tough set of passages early in the year when i sailed the Liberty back from the Exe and then a testing voyage with the gaffer starting with an interesting traverse of the Thames estuary.  It was my first time sailing on the east coast and that was a completely new experience having been a ‘bold water’ sailor most of the time.  At some time i would like to go back to the east coast where Inanda came from and having also been to Norfolk , although by car, i know i want to go there with a boat.   I guess that segue’s neatly into making positive sailing plans for 2019.



I’m almost at the point where i think i can predict what is going to happen with the things that will affect my sailing and outdoors life.  I strongly suspect that it’s the end of the road in terms of my working , clinical, career.  If it is then i’m not going to sit around at home and i am going to set off on a longer term voyage with WABI”’ , my little Hunter Liberty.  As she is now it would be half a day’s work to clean and stow her, put the mizzen back on and get ready to go.  Given that it’s January though and the days still being short there is some useful work i can do first.

In 2 other posts i am already working on boat projects now that the workshop is in a better state to use. Although very small steps i have tried to do one more thing out there each week over the winter, yesterday i made the timber scraps bin.   As of today , as i write, my charcoal heater should be on the way and that will make a huge difference to comfort on board.  One thing i can take from my time with Inanda is how effective and useful a dry-heat boat stove is.  During one of my harder upwind passages with Inanda i had what would have been a horrible night after a tough passage and what made that a lot more bearable is that i could dry myself , my gear and the boat out with Inanda’s ‘pansy’ stove.    So, my actual boat projects have started, the heater should be with me in the next couple of weeks and i am already making a mock-up to work out the alterations inside the boat.

It’s a bit frustrating at the moment in that i haven’t been able to use my days off work properly because my car has died…..well, if not dead then at least in intensive care !.  Right now i am waiting for a new (secondhand) diesel injector pump as the one on my car would cost more than the car is worth to have reconditioned.  That has meant that i still haven’t got down to the yard and the liberty is still sat on her mooring and not alongside where i can get at her

Scraps bin….made from scraps.


Concurrently i am working out how best to make new spars for the Liberty and ultimately change the rig to yawl…and either with lug or gunter rigged.  As readers will know i was messing about with the idea of converting to junk rig and was very close to buying a complete secondhand rig.   I slowly went off that idea though as i think there are better solutions for small boat rigs that are a lot less complex . Making the spars will be a longer term project as i can’t do that until it’s a lot warmer and dryer or until i can use a larger/longer inside work space : my little workshop not being anywhere long enough to lay up a new timber main mast. One way around that, later in the year, might be to build a temporary extension at the door end of the workshop and that would allow me to build a temporary spar bench, but before that i want to talk about a different project that i have been hankering to do for several years.  The rig project, by the way, is also the subject of a longer post.

If the sailing works out anything like the way i think it might then i will be spending a lot more time aboard the Liberty and for much more of the year.  I have pretty much come to the conclusion that the Liberty will be our long term boat and there are plenty of advantages of staying with a small boat.  Yes…i would still like to have more living space but what i think is more important now is to accept the limitations and just get on with it.  One advantage of the small boat by the way is that i should be much more able (financially) to leave it on a mooring somewhere as and when i need to.  Last year just as an example i found that i needed to leave Inanda for a while and where i was , in Chichester, would have been stupid-expensive.  By just moving her 20 miles i was able to find a much cheaper, and much nicer spot for a month.  Longer voyages with the Liberty will have to be planned around getting her to somewhere more reasonable to leave her while i am at home.



The actual sailing plan then breaks down into 2 parts and that is essentially where i really want to go, and for how long, and then what to do with the rest of the year.  I think it’s reasonable to have a long sailing season with the Liberty but i don’t think it’s a viable all year round option : it’s just too small.  So the first part, the main part is the decision of where to head towards first, from here that’s essentially west into west Cornwall and the Scilly’s , east towards the central south coast and the east coast (potentially the Kiel canal and the Baltic) or south and Brittanny.  At this time of year we often get a short period of northerly and easterly winds that aren’t very strong and that would make an early season channel crossing a go.  Now that i have a working tillerpilot a channel crossing would be a lot less tiring than it was last time.

The second part of the plan is then where to leave the boat at the end of the season and how best to use the down-time over the winter.  The first part of that of course depends heavily on the base decision as to which way we go first.  From the far west country it would normally only be a couple of day-sails back to the Tamar, it’s usually more difficult from the east so i would keep in mind both Trouts at Topsham where i over-wintered last year or further along the coast within Poole harbour in the river Frome. France is slightly more of a problem in that i just don’t have the language skills to negotiate a winter mooring and generally the marina’s are too expensive.  One option has always been to get a trailer and tow the boat home from wherever….i nearly, but not quite, got hold of a decent trailer this year and i keep watch for one.

The winter project could turn into being the preparation time for fabricating new spars if i go down that route.  The smaller components of a lug or gunter rig can be done in my workshop as it is and it’s only the main mast that causes a major problem with length. There is a second project that i’ve had in mind for a long time though and it’s that one i want to talk about at the end of this post along with the video-log.  This section needs a post all of it’s own but i am going to introduce the main idea in the video log.

For the last part of the post i just want to talk briefly about the development of the blog this year.  On new years eve i just happened to be working at the computer looking at the website stats as the whole thing clicked onto the new year : from some 100 or so views that day and 600 for the week, 19.000 for the year it all went to zero, zero and zero and i had a brief panic until i noticed that it was simply showing that it had just passed midnight !.   This year i think i am just going to aim to produce one blog post a week but to enhance each written piece with a video log (Vlog).   Right now i’m just as embarrassed by my video efforts as i was with my writing this time last year.  I could see then that i had to make a lot more effort to write and photograph better posts.  Likewise this year i have everything to learn about video.  By sheer coincidence this year i have a sailing friend at work who, amazingly, has a similar sailing background to my own and who worked for a few years as a video editor. Video, i find to be much more difficult than writing and photography : the trick at the moment seems to be to not over-think it as much as i am doing and just concentrate on telling the story.  If this video just seems like a ‘talking head’, as my friend Dee puts it then that’s because i haven’t learnt the next set of tools to take it beyond that yet.   It can only get better…..i hope.

Macgregor style sailing canoe, boat design and photographer unknown.



  1. Exciting times ahead Steve. Looking forward to following along. As for your video, I liked it because it was honest (“just” a talking head) and told a good story. No drone shots, slick editing, intrusive music or bikinis(!) needed to hold my attention.


    1. I’m very new to video and struggle enough with the basics. This week i’ve been talking to my work colleague (sailor and former video editor) about everything video related. I think one whole series of work that i want to do would inevitably be ‘talking head’ and i don’t want it to be just that for half an hour. My mate at work has shown me ways to break it up a bit…a lot of that comes down to cutting in ‘interest’ shots so i’m going to work on that. Right now i’m trying to track down a cheap plywood donor canoe to make a sailing canoe from……found one but it’s 250 miles away and my car is in intensive care !


  2. Hello. I enjoyed hearing about your latest thoughts re sailing and canoeing. I arrived at your blog through a reference from/to Ray Goodwin, who I know through canoeing/coaching. I am involved in the Open Canoe Sailing Group (being a founder member from 1990) and we are a bunch of people who like messing about and cruising in these simple, small craft. Have a look at the website, where you may find some items of interest to help your plans to make a sailing canoe.
    I appreciate your view that open canoes do not really belong on coastal waters, but under sail and with the right knowledge, skills and planning they serve quite well on appropriate days (I’ve sailed round the Isle of Wight!). I wish you well with the project and if you find yourself able to get to one of our meets to chat about sailing canoes, you would be most welcome.


    1. Thanks, i did originally contact another group : Song of the paddle, to see if anyone had a MacGregor style boat that i could use pictures of. So far i have drawn a blank on getting an older plywood or canvas frame touring canoe to play around with as proof of concept. One boat was in Lancashire and the other one in Wakefield ! (My car was out of action for both). What i am looking to do next is work out which kit to buy …..or plans. I like the look of Ian Oughtread’s boats and i think Jordan do a kit of his MacGregor canoe. The other one i am looking at is the CLC waterlust with the Hobie drive. I am quite happy with the idea of taking a sailing canoe on a coastal voyage in decent conditions….in fact i think that would be a neat project. Best wishes.


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