Friday 5 minute blog, March.

In the blog i have really enjoyed writing, and last month filming, the Friday 5 minute blog series at the end of the month.  It’s easy to write because i am only writing about stuff that i have actually done and with that it’s a neat way of keeping count of what i have done rather than what i would have liked to do.

Just before getting into the list of stuff on the tick list i just want to talk about ‘any other business’.  At work ,when i am there, we have an excrutiating team ‘huddle’ in the morning which is a colossal waste of time.  The format follows pretty much the same way that every other nurse led ‘meeting’ proceeds and ending with the deadly ‘any other business’.  Usually what happens is that some of us are itching to get on with the actual work of the day when someone says “can i just say” and i know that we will be there for another 10 minutes while that person brings up something minor, irritating and usually just a moan of some kind……nurses moan (and not usually with pleasure unless copious quantities of chocolate are involved !)

I once saw and rather enjoyed the opposite approach which was during a team brief as given by an ex military instructor whom i just happened to be working with.  He commenced the briefing with a terse ‘any business’ ? while glaring at the students to make sure there wasn’t any other business and then got on with the job of giving the actual brief.

Today i’m going to get the ‘any other business’ out of the way first.  So, first is that i have handed my notice in at work and will shortly stop being a nurse. Whether i decide to continue and ‘re-validate’ my registration this year is another matter.  Quite honestly the time wasted in the process and the cost of yearly registration just makes me spit….especially given that much of that registration fee goes to paying the ridiculous salaries of the nursing registration board *

Right then lets shed that (Blyth 1975) and get on with the real stuff. (see what i did there ?)

On the road.

What iv’e had to do quite a lot this month is be on the road and driving up and down to Plymouth, mainly for stuff that i can’t get any more locally and although i could order online its often stuff that i often need to look at first.  Some stuff i can’t order anyway and is very much a case of go-look-see.  This month i have been in and out of the reclamation yard (Stax) just outside Saltash several times       They always have a useful stash of old timber, many of it from old buildings so there is quite often a load of close grained and better quality old-growth/slow grown wood.    In a couple of visits i found a piece that would be ideal for the new bowsprit and near that i found a slab of teak which i can cut down for strips to make the cockpit slats for the anchor stowage.  During my latest visit i found some nice dense pine boards that will form part of the ‘curious cabinet’.  They also sell really interesting reclaimed furniture and odd stuff like this which i had to ask what it is.

Apparently it’s a back bar from a private pub but came from Bodmin jail when it was being refitted.  For scale the top is about 9′ high and it’s all oak.  The pillars are beautifully tapered up from square at the bottom to round at the top.  It’s all made in oak too.

Not quite visible in this picture is an excellent stuffed boar’s head on top.


Last year i bought half a dozen very wide pine skirting boards that came out of the Royal William yard down in the old naval base, they went through the stripping tank and look great downstairs here as they are about the same age and era as the cottage.  That time, and i didn’t get a photograph, they had a cleaned and polished Martin Baker ejector seat out of a Lightning interceptor.  That might have made the coolest office chair ever except for the fact that they are very uncomfortable, i was briefly strapped into a real one , once upon a time when i was an air cadet…..anyway….

That brings me neatly onto the projects that i have been working on that have needed reclaimed material so….

On the bench this month.

The biggest job on the bench this month has been the bowsprit for WABI”’. Although also described in a project post my purpose in making and fitting a bowsprit is twofold : to carry the anchoring and mooring gear forward and to give me the opportunity to try sailing the boat with a small jib.  The anchor rode is to go down through the bowsprit and my intention is to have side mounted bulls-eyes (not real ones mind) to carry a pair of mooring strops.

I ordered the custom made delrin sheaves locally only once i got them i realised that i hadn’t estimated the sheave size i needed correctly so am waiting on another pair….just as well because that project will rely on some very accurate drilling for the axle and the sheave slot…below.

I think it was in January that i bought a cordless power planer and new 18v volt battery, the same as my 18v cordless drill uses.  At the time i thought that might have been a mistake as i didn’t use it much but it has been great for this job and reduced the time and effort needed to shape the bowsprit down to maybe an hours work.

This month i really appreciated my 18 volt cordless tools for the first time.  For a long while iv’e been using an 18 v cordless drill which although heavy on the wrist is a total workhorse.  Some time back i bought a circular saw from the same brand and kind-of forgot about it for a while and then in January bought a power planer and new battery. The 18 v batteries are shockingly (pun) expensive at over a hundred squid a go but they do seem to last a lot longer than cheaper 12 v Ni-Cad rechargeables.


Next ‘on the bench’ were a series of small jobs that i made as patterns to have made up in stainless steel down in the city.  This delicate little job below is the mounting for the butt end of the bowsprit , the back plate is shaped to fit around the mast and the box section will hold the squared-off end of the bowsprit.  While quite delicate looking now, made from 3mm stainless steel should be plenty strong because the inboard lever arm is huge compared to the outboard (working) end.  The bowsprit has to be removeable so that the mast can rotate out in the bow well’s mast slot.


A second job, not photographed here, is a fiddle rail to support my kettle on the top of the charcoal stove.  With the boat completely still at anchor i found i could boil a kettle in about half an hour so i just thought “why not have a pot rail there and routinely use the heat from the stove”.

The third pattern/model is for a mounting box/spacer that will eventually replace the ugly wooden block i made and fitted to rake the mizzen mast aft.  That one hasn’t gone for fabricating yet because i might alter some details once i have sailed the boat a bit more….it might for example need a cleat mounted on it as well.

This one i have a bit of a design and specification problem with in that i can’t find a way of working out , or guessing, how thick the metal will have to be.  Just in case anyone has an idea the longer back plate will bolt through a pad onto the cabin bulkhead and the alloy mast pivot will bolt through a thin pad onto the shorter front face.  In this picture it’s upside-down….and the long face goes up against a pad on the cabin bulkhead.


Just for reference it will do this job.

Mizzen pad


With the trips into town i had a shopping spree so the boat also got some new bits and pieces : a new reserve petrol tank for the outboard and a new main water tank in the form of a 20 litre container that will sit in the heads compartment.  Something i am trying to find is a replacement cap for the water canister that can be drilled out to take a feed pipe so that i could have a manual water pump in the galley.

Other projects.

The curious cabinets are hung on the wall, the right hand ‘wing’ cabinet now has a spiffy rustic door made up from a piece of church pew and some hand forged hinges.  The first 2 displays are beginning to come together. One is based on the sea and boats….naturally….and the second is sort-of based on the early days of my nursing career but harking back to my brief time in a chemistry lab (My first proper job)

On the river.

My main focus in March was to actually get aboard the boat and go out for a trip rather than just going aboard to do some more work.  Apart from just moving the boat alongside the yard pontoon it’s been nearly 9 months since i have been out on the water properly and actually sailed.  I really felt this month that i’d had enough of work, at work and was getting a bit stale even at the yard even though i enjoy being down there.  I just managed to catch the tail end of a few nice days of weather and with a manic push got the boat ready enough to take out on the water.  As it worked out i missed one tide because i really had to go and buy some food for a few days out so i ended up putting my food and gear aboard that same night and slipping down the river a ways just before midnight.  I must say that it was a lovely still night on the river, i didn’t even go very far but fetched up to my anchor just downstream near Halton quay.

Next morning and the ladies team were giving it some in the slave galley.


That short weather slot brought forward my actual sailing plan which was to be ready for a coastal voyage, and to make a passage, at the end of the month.  Instead i had a more hasty preparation , didn’t make the passage i intended but did sail for a while, anchor a few times and had 3 nights out on the boat at anchor….not bad for the beginning of March.

What i did do in that brief time afloat was try out the handling of the sprits and my experiments with different anchor techniques, as i have already covered those in more detail in other posts i won’t repeat that again here.  I did complete more detail work on the sprits set-up, mainly in the sheeting and reefing arrangements.

The trip did have some comedy moments as i’d ended up doing a lot of things very quickly and in the dark at the boatyard.   Getting up and down the greasy ladder and not stepping off the inside edge of the pontoon was a major achievement i feel.  Once i had left, in fact the next morning when i woke up, i discovered most things that i had forgotten : from the new log book and the new square frying pan and the right charts.

The charts, or lack of the right charts was entirely a checklist fail on my part.  Normally my stack of charts live in the coffin berth aft of the galley, i had checked to see that they were on board but hadn’t thought to check which ones were there.  It turns out that the several chart folio’s on board would get me from the river Orwell in the east to Rame head just outside Plymouth….which would have been fine if i had been reversing Inanda’s voyage.  However, what i really needed was my west-country and northern France charts which i knew neatly stacked under my bed at home.  It’s no exactly that i don’t know my way into Fowey or Looe without a chart but the minor fails were beginning to add up.

My initial plan, which was to go west for Fowey, got changed when i saw the unpleasant conditions off the western side of the breakwater and and in the western entrance to the sound.  Waves were breaking solidly over the breakwater and all the way across to Penlee point even though there was hardly any wind.  The right approach in those conditions is to leave Plymouth sound via the eastern entrance and then get clear of the breaking area before going west.  With not much wind to work with i think it would have been a slow passage west, i didn’t have much daylight time to work with and to be honest it was more valuable to do the detail work on the sprits.

Even taken at distance that’s a decent wave breaking over the breakwater, Penlee point over to the west looked similar.


I don’t remember whether i talked about the re-wire job on the boat , i actually got most of that done in February but continued the job early this month with leading new cables for the navigation lights and the boat’s internal lights.   I did get finished a major tidy up of the main wiring loom which now tracks around the aft face of the heads compartment before going into the far side of the new switch box.   As i write i have power to the depthsounder, vhf, tillerpilot and compass light.  The new flex for the navigation lights is wired in at the switchboard end but isn’t connected up yet and neither do i have any internal lights.  At this stage it’s looking a lot neater and more professional in there.

Another mistake i made on my nights out was that i also forgot to take my big LED camping lantern that acts as a general interior light but can be hung in the rigging as my anchor lantern.  I’ve always been surprised by how long it will run, at low power, on it’s  ‘D’ cells but it must be over a hundred hours a set.   What i did have is a small service light that plugs into the cig socket on the switchboard so i had some light to work by at night.


Comedy moments.

The first main comedy moment was when i romped into the anchorage, chucked the anchor over the stern and went to drop my sails…..only to find that i had managed to sail over the anchor warp and get it jammed thoroughly behind the centreboard which then jammed it in the slot….eventually had to buoy it and motor off, then come back and retrieve it.

The final comedy moment of the trip was when i stuck my bare butt against the charcoal heater at some ungodly hour when i crawled out from under my quilt to go topside for a pee….almost branded my ass with a ‘Hampshire heaters’ logo !

Other projects.

Back on the bench this month are the carcasses of the ‘curious cabinet’ for a second load of primer, filling and sanding, and several topcoats.  While i was down at Marine bazaar i had a shuftie through their stack of secondhand charts searching for any old black and white Admiralty ones based on surveys from the 19th century.  I found a couple that i liked and at least one will be used as the backdrop to one of the displays.

Part of my purpose in poking around the reclamation yard was to find some nice old pine for the cabinet project and then partially to look for some pieces for individual parts within the displays.  It’s such an interesting place that i found a dozen things i would like to have at home and a few things that have given me some new ideas although most of the really interesting stuff is on the large side…..there’s this great looking forge bellows….for example, although far too large for the cabinet. I did feel like asking them if they had any used skulls kicking around , it’s that kind of place !

In the workshop.

What is it precious….what is it ?

It’s my glue order from Axminster tools only the box weighs about 70 kgs !. didn’t think i’d ordered that much glue.


In the workshop…..i had a big push mid month to make the workshop the next incremental bit more functional and give me a bit more useable working space.  In previous posts i have shown the jobs on workshop centre, that’s the main bench and workshop right where i keep the sheets of plywood and the timber bin.   Workshop left has always been the ‘dark side’ because it’s under the low side of the sloping roof and even though there’s always been a bench there it’s mainly been the junk area.  Up until recently most of it was covered by my odd collection of old lead-acid batteries, containers of odd mixed fasteners, dust and cobwebs.  I know there’s a roll of barbed wire sticking out from under the far end due to the number of times i have caught my shins on it.

I always wanted to have a 2 bench set up so that i could leave a glue job or small paint job aside to be going off while i work on the main bench.  The old bench on the left side though was always the rough one, although some of it has a good structure most of it is one of the house ‘Don’-isms.  Someone at some time obviously made a reasonable frame and Don clearly added to that with a nasty particle board top and some very odd shelves.

What i wanted was a 2 level bench that is both strong and level and flat….that’s a hard call on this floor which slopes and angles in every plane.  The new bench frame i had to initially hang on the old one as i took bits of the old one out.  Here the support rails, rescued from an unused garden project are going in .   The top for this one is going to be most of my last sheet of 18mm plywood. (25 mm structural ply under the drill)


The purpose of the 2 level bench is that i need the low end to mount my first serious piece of workshop machinery on : my brand new pillar drill.  Making and fitting the new bench took most of one day as no 2 pieces are the same.  At the end of the day though i had the new structure finished and a strong enough top for the 65kg pillar drill and the top seemed to be level in it’s 2 planes.   At the end of the day i thought i would be able to spend a pleasant hour putting the drill together : it comes as a big and heavy kit of parts.

I didn’t photograph it at that stage but the ‘how’ i got the 70kg package down the drive was to wrestle it onto my multi-purpose workshop and planter truck and then try and keep it under control running down the drive.


Sorting out and unpacking the parts for the base and column.  Note that the bench wasn’t fully cross-braced at this point.



The base and column structure went together well enough given the amount of head scratching and pencil sucking it took to interpret the instructions….why they can’t just make accurate exploded-part diagrams and work from there i don’t know.  It was all going fairly well until i set the base and column up on the bench and realised that there was no way there was going to be enough head space for the machine head and certainly no way that the head could be lifted over and onto it’s column.

It was an absolute ‘oh bugger’ moment when i realised that i’d wasted most of the day and was going to have to take the new bench supports apart again and re-mount everything at least 100 mm lower….basically completely rebuild the whole bench at that end.  By then it was getting dark, i was tired and filthy and i’d had enough for the day.  All i could summon up the energy for was to at least take the whole thing apart again before leaving it alone for a while.

Day 2…..and still not up and running : i hadn’t made allowance for the depth of the machine head at the window either so the worktop is essentially now too narrow so i now also had to make a new top which overhangs the main support rail and then add strengthening pieces to that……what a mess i got into !.

Yes, at this stage we’ve got to lay the drill carefully on it’s side, heave the machine head off again and lift the pieces onto the main bench so that i can take out the new and fixed bench top and make a new one…..i also ran completely out of 25mm structural ply at about this point as well.

Up to about that point when i didn’t even want to look at it for a while.

While it’s a huge push forward in the kind of work i can do, possibly one of the most essential tools in a workshop, it was a huge slice out of the budget : in fact that’s the workshop budget completely spanked for a long while.  I really ought now invest in some much better drill bits….really want a set of Forstner bits but they will have to wait.  Spending that much on the drill meant that i didn’t order and pay a deposit on the new mains’l either and with the drill still not up and running on day 3 i was getting a little frustrated shall we say.

Just earlier in the month i had seen essentially the same drill secondhand on Ebay and made a decent offer on it.  The seller was being grabby though so that fell through.  The thing i noticed he had done and why i made the offer is that he had mounted his one on a box-like truck with lockable castors.  That might have been a neat solution for me had my workshop floor been level…it isn’t anything like and i don’t fancy the idea of a 70kg drill waltzing it’s way out of the workshop door !


Any other ‘other business’ ?

Overall it’s been a very expensive month as i not only wiped out any plan i had for spending in the workshop but i also had the joy of getting the truck through it’s MOT , needed lots of odds,n,sods for the various jobs and had to drive up and down to the city several times…..several fills of diesel adding to the bills.

Well i had a birthday, i had some idea about spending it out on the water except that on the day it was blowing around 40 kn in the river so that didn’t happen.  We had a day out down in Truro , coffee, lunch and picked up a book that i’d ordered.  The nearest i got to the water was watching the Falmouth oyster dredgers out working under sail and in the rain…..we were sat having lunch at the neat cafe down at Mylor boatyard.  Although the Truro and Fal rivers are places i know well iv’e never been up as far as the city itself on the tide.  There is a pontoon and place to land , on a high tide, here with the Dutch boier .



*NMC chief executive basic salary £198,00,0 (£20.000 payrise in 2016/17)



  1. Enjoyed the update Steve — you’ve been busy! And congratulations on the “shed it” moment. Andrea Sutcliffe’s salary and benefits package (over £250K in total) is a joke — she’s paid more than the prime minister! Apparently it was recently bought into alignment with “the external market.” Since nursing doesn’t seem to be a “for profit” business activity I can’t see what the external market has to do with anything. At least she’s not a former lawyer like the last incumbent…


  2. Nice read, great balance of topics and their detail.
    Gem of a day on the video, we love the yard shots. Keep it up.


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