April’s idiot. (Friday 5 minute rant)

Any other business/anything for the weekend sir ?

Not much to report really except that i finally left the hospital having been there in some capacity or other since 1998.  I did ‘retire’ once before when i took early retirement and then realised that i needed a part time job to help me maintain my superyacht -owning and glue- sniffing lifestyle but hopefully this time it will be the real thing.  I might just keep the door open a tiny bit with my nursing registration this year as it might be useful to do a few ‘bank’ shifts next autumn and winter…that’s pretty much the only reason i actually worked my last month and didn’t take off during a great weather window right at the beginning of the month.   So, yes : i did actually turn up for my last 2 shifts, much to everyone’s surprise….only because it was blowing a hard cold easterly though and i didn’t fancy that in the channel.

You might realise from other posts that it’s been a very annoying and frustrating month here in the Tamar valley because of the idiot that pranged his car into both sides of the single track Gunnislake bridge : by some accounts after several miles of erratic and aggressive tailgating of an older driver.  One local report has it that ‘chemicals’ might have been involved.  There was some talk in the village of a local lynching party as and when the idiot goes to court….hopefully.

It’s possible that as this post ‘goes to print’ that i won’t have a car any more.  My old Pajero has been costing an arm and a leg to keep on the road, in fact it’s now one of my major expenses and i only really had to run it because of having to drive to work.  Take that problem away and i suddenly don’t need a car.  I know a couple of months back i talked briefly about the budget for the pre-voyage work and that i’d worked out that i could do one expensive-ish job for each month that i stayed in the job…..well one full month’s budget was just taken up with getting the truck through it’s MOT. The implications of that are : first no new mainsail yet and possibly more important no laptop to continue writing and blogging with until the car is sold.

Luckily i am at least on the same side of the river as my boat , the downside is that very little traffic is coming near the village nearby where I live  which means that deliveries here can now be very delayed.   As i wrote this missive i was still waiting for a several days overdue delivery of GRP tape to finish the new, longer mains’l sprit with. It also means that if I want to go into town…just 6 miles away I have to take a 25 mile detour. !

On the bench this month.

Jobs in the workshop have slowed down again because the work focus has been down at the yard and in completing ongoing projects.  The sprits have been on and off a couple of times, the bowsprit as well.                On the bench this month have been 2 jobs : making a new icebox/cold food chest and making the 3rd sprit, actually the 4th if you count the bowsprit.   Call it sprit no 4 then and it’s a slightly longer sprit for the mainsail as i plan to have a new custom made sail designed to the right shape to use with the sprit-boom.    I nearly ordered a new sail from the local hotshot sailmaker in March but the price was far more than double that of a decent everyday working loft.   It seemed that every time i added a feature : reefs, 1 long batten , rubbing strip etc, that the price just went up and up…then when i asked for it in red/tanbark the price went through the roof.  I don’t honestly think that the sailmaker wanted the job !

Sprit 4.

Iv’e approached 2 different sailmakers for quotes to build a custom mains’l to use with the sprit-boom rather than the conventional gooseneck mounted boom.  My old sail does have a reasonably high clew unlike say a droopy foot IOR mains’l but it could still be a better shape and a fair bit larger as a new one could use a lot more of the total available hoist and be longer in the LP due to the mizzen mast being at least 4 inches further aft.

The first sprit i made for the mains’l is only just long enough, in fact it doesn’t have quite enough length extending ahead of the mast and i want to change a couple of details : the positions of the eye-bolts and the sheeting attachment points.  Given that the base material is so cheap, the wood is commercially available lengths of CLS studwork, the greater expense is in the fittings, that i just went and bought another length and started preparing that.

This one will be slightly different based on the lessons i learned from making the first one although the main modification is that this one won’t be wood only but will have an inverted ‘U’ wrap of GRP tape to harden the surface and support the soft timber and it’s surface faults.  Although i spent some time down at the timber merchant selecting the clearest long length i could there are still small outside knots and the wood quality is basically nothing like as good as well sourced slower growth boatbuilding timber….equally it’s nothing like as expensive.  I checked with Robbins marine timber prices and their prices for either spruce or douglas fir are on the eye-watering side !….and neither can i guarantee getting ‘clear’ lengths.   I have been messing about with the idea of making a laminated hollow spar for the job, that would have been a neat glue experiment or making a birdsmouth hollow section as a more complex project.

For now, and for this sprit all i am going to do is cover the top and 2 sides with several layers of a light ( 180 gm/sq m) GRP tape after planing/sanding a round edge onto the 2 top edges.   The delay here is that my order of GRP tape and new batch of epoxy has been much delayed by the bridge problem and then having to do the last shifts at work.  It does mean setting the bench up for a much longer and slightly messy epoxy laminating job and i have also had to work out a way of supporting the sprit above and off the bench while i lay on the tape and resin.

The fridge/icebox got done all in a day and a half : the extra time being accounted for with flow-coating the inside box with epoxy.

Icebox/Fridge next to the old wanigan.


On the boat.

We moved WABI”’ to her new temporary berth just at the end of March and i filmed her there for the March blog.  At the same time i took some new shots of my bigger neighbour ‘Spirit of Mystery’ .    My main focus on the boat has been finishing endless details with the sprits and anchoring gear and then preparing her to go to sea.  On the very last day of March we did a boat larder shop and during that week i cleared out all the project gear, cleaned out and re-stowed the boat.

Had i not been going to work that day i would have slipped downriver the same day had i not got some small remaining commitment to being at work…..tough decision though given a light northerly and then easterly airstream.  Although cold at night, with the tillerpilot working it would have been a viable 24-30 hour passage over to Roscoff.

So, the main part of the April 5 minute blog is about me  stowing the boat and getting all the gear ready to actually sail and then anchor.  What i have done this time is put a lot more effort into getting weight in the right place so i thought i would talk about that.


The original Liberty 22, in it’s first form, was very lightly ballasted and had some problems with mast breakages.  Over time most owners had their masts sleeved and added more ballast in the form of lead shot cold-cast into the area just inside the companionway to stbd of the centreboard case.  Later models, the ’23’ and the Minstrel also got longer, heavier bilge keels and more sail area.  When i first bought WABI”’ (fairlee as she was named) she didn’t sail at all well, in fact she was a bit of a cranky sailor and i thought that might be down to me not being familiar with the slightly odd rig.

What i found though were several mistakes in the boat’s original set-up, one of those being that the previous owner had actually mounted the rudder blade back to front which must have had the most weird hydrodynamics.  That, the initial rig set-up and i think where weight was in the boat all contributed to a feeling that the boat wasn’t right and that she wanted to wander off course and would easily just round-up.

It’s taken quite a while, and sorting out some other problems to get her to sail well. One early fault being that the rudder blade was also loose in the stock so that the blade itself would be ‘wandering’, also on my part that i loaded much heavier anchoring gear right up forward in the bow well which contributed towards her poor balance.   For a long while I couldn’t make her balance and self-steer even with 2 sticks and a centreboard to play with.  That was most noticeable when i took her across to France in light downwind conditions and because i couldn’t make her balance for any length of time i had to hand steer for most of the way across.

By that time i had worked out that WABI”’sailed better with more weight aboard but that it was obviously a lot more critical where that weight was distributed….having extra weight in the bow was clearly wrong.  On the same subject , weight and distribution, Alan from NZ also noted that his lightweight flying machine sailed surprisingly well with 4 on board but most of the weight piled in the middle. In this spring refit I have just made the effort to go back to first principles and get the weight distribution better from day 1…..a pertinent question is ‘does it matter’ ?……well I happen to say yes and that having not much performance to throw away , I have to get more things right than wrong.   Anyway…it’s a nice surprise when the badly sailed 38 footer can’t shake off that ‘weird looking little boat’ in light weather  off-wind.

Just recently a visitor to the blog asked me about the junk rig project that i had been working on…..in fact i nearly bought a complete secondhand junk rig off another Liberty.   The problem with the junk concept, i think, was that i would have needed a stiffer, stronger and therefore heavier fore-mast and also all the gear associated with the Chinese standing lug (that being what it actually is).  It’s actually quite a complex rig set-up as it needs a yard, several stiff battens and then a larger bottom batten…….all of which adds weight.     I realised some time back that i didn’t want to add that much more weight forward , right in the bow , in addition to my already heavy anchoring gear.

A useful observation of mine, I believe, is that having seen some fine bowed yachts converted to junk they often don’t sail well at all because their balance is so badly affected by the tree-trunk they stick in the bow.  One local boat comes to mind : a slightly tatty old Contessa 26 with a solid wooden mast right up front….just looking at the boat she is visibly down by the bow and that doesn’t change much with someone in the cockpit.  One boat that did, I think, get it right was Roger Taylor’s ‘Ming-Ming’ and what he did there was to place a much lighter mast (a street light pole) a bit further aft than is often done.

Weight forward then.

Thinking back…..the original anchor was, i think, a 12 Lb CQR on a short length of 6mm chain and an improbably stiff coil of 3/8 nylon warp.   Even for our first trip i had brought that up to an 8 Kg (17 lb) Delta anchor, on a length of 8mm chain and using my old 75 meter warp from the Frances.  A rough estimation gives me a total weight on the bow of some 30 Kg in anchor, warp and chain and i hadn’t got into the ‘ocean’ practice of taking that off the bow for long passages.  Since that time i have evolved the anchoring gear to lighter and better quality anchors and the same with chain and warp.

With the new set-up i have put some weight on the bow in the form of the bowsprit : about 4 or 5 kg but i have more than made up for that by bringing all the weight of anchoring gear off the bow completely.  Depending on which combination of anchor, chain and warp i have ready to use that weight is in the range of 17-25 kg’s not on the bow.

Going back to twitchy IOR boats we were always sensitive about weight in the ends of a boat but where that really seemed to count was in the fine bow and at the tip of the mast…..the back end/cockpit often sitting on a much fatter waterline actually designed to take the weight of crew aft.   The Liberty doesn’t have ‘IOR’ lines at all but she is able to carry more weight aft (me) and seems to be less affected by having the weight of anchoring gear in the back of the cockpit.   If i was being super-picky i would have the anchoring gear stowed at the forward end of the cockpit but then i would be tripping over it all the time !

While i think about weight and passage making i know that the boat, just like a big canoe changes her balance quite quickly just by the act of me moving forward or aft.  When you think about it’s me and not the gear that is the heaviest moveable object on the boat. What i do on passage a lot now, especially given that i don’t have to hand steer all the time is that i spend more time sitting or standing in the companionway which is pretty much right over the boat’s centre of pitch and rotation.  On one recent passage i noticed that with the sail trim right and in that case, the board up a wee bit, that the tillerpilot had very little work to do which is how it should be.


What i have done this month is pulled everything out of the boat and stowed it based on it’s weight , with heavier items all stowed as near to the middle of the boat as possible and still be able to move around inside.   Something like this :

Battery.  (50 Kg +) I changed this a couple of years back from a relatively small ‘car’ size conventional lead/acid battery to a double size sealed AGM unit of 160 AH. That’s the single heaviest thing on the boat apart from the driver…..at least a hundred pounds.  That’s now directly alongside the centerboard case just under the cockpit sole and thus is almost at pitch-center.

Fuel. (20-30 litres) The fuel stowage is in the cockpit locker but now hard up against the cabin bulkhead and the main tank as far inboard and as low down as it can be mounted. I also de-junked the cockpit locker so that there is overall less weight in spare bits and pieces in there.

Water stowage. ( 60 litres +) All of the boat’s fresh water, about 60 litres, is now in containers in the heads compartment but once again stowed alongside the centerboard case.  The weight of battery and weight of water almost being equal either side of the centerboard case.

Second anchor. (20 Kg’s +)   Whichever anchor i’m not using is now in the first compartment of what would normally be the foot-well between the 2 bunks.  I have never set the boat up like that, rather i have always preferred to have the infill cushions permanently in place giving a much more flexible ‘sprawl’ space…..for example it allows 2 people to sit across the boat with their feet up.   The second anchor has at least 15 kg in chain (15 meters of 7mm short link and very high quality chain) and whatever spare warp is currently on it.  Also in the same space is my heavy tool bag.

Food and stores.  The heads compartment also gets used as our cold food and fresh/day food larder.  The 2 crates forming the larder are outboard of the water stowage, thus moving weight outboard although the total weight isn’t that much given that the main ‘heavy’ larder of tins and jars is now in the compartment forward of the anchor locker also below the bunk infill.  I don’t mind carrying a good store of food under there as alongside carrying a relatively large amount of water it means that i can be self-contained for easily 2-3 weeks if i really need to be and that gives me genuine passage making ability.

Under the infill….the dividers are removeable.

001 (2)

Other jobs.

While i think about it i have done one job to make things a bit easier in the galley, especially when sailing.  Up until now i have always carried my drinking water in a variety of containers and with what i think of as the ‘day’ water tank being the container under the companionway step.  That works ok enough and it is the simplest way of storing water in that i can carry water containers ashore easily to fill them.  It can however be a bit awkward to fill a kettle with the boat sailing so what i have done is installed a simple galley pump and hose….the hose is a simple piece of pipe that i stuff into the top of one of the water canisters.  When i find a usefully similar jerrycan top i will drill it out to make a replacement cap for the new large main tank.

The blog and other ramblings this month.

For the April blog i thought i would do a quick update on the blog itself and what i am doing with ‘other’ work.  Some time this month the blog will pass a milestone of 50.000 views which is something that i a huge surprise.  I think i have said once before that i had 2 goals with the blog that i wanted to achieve before considering putting out monetised work , those being a running average of a hundred views a day and a total view count of 50.000 hits overall.

I did almost write an April’s fool post based on my ‘something for the weekend’ series : that would have featured a ‘nice little Westerly’ but i just couldn’t get my tongue that far into my cheek to carry it off….and it’s been such a frustrating month anyway….even as i write , my partner’s car has just spectacularly failed it’s MOT and what with the bridge and every other idiocy going on around here i just haven’t had the patience….however

My quirky combination of bad writing and wonky photography seems to have gained an audience although what hasn’t worked out anything like as well is my video work.  I have genuinely tried to make short, interesting and cohesive video’s of 5 to 10 minutes…..i have done that, they have taken a lot of time to set up, film and edit …..only they’re just not getting the views and i really thought that was what people want today.  Maybe i have got it completely wrong……i don’t know !

Post edit.

This might actually be the last blog post for a while because, as yet, i don’t have a way of blogging from the boat and this post is the last one that i had prepared before leaving. It’s typical that just when i’m likely to have real voyaging to write about…..i might not even be in the country as this post goes live…..that i don’t have a way of blogging about it.  Maybe that’s a good thing and i should take this opportunity to go quiet for a while.

In January and March this year i had 4,000 and then 5,000 views respectively which was the final push i needed to get down to some longer form writing. Mid month i was actually sat writing when the post view count went over 50.000 which is a kind of landmark.        I am now most of the way into the first draft of the first in a sequence of short stories .  Without giving away too many spoilers i already have a dozen or so characters whom i seem to know and who seem very alive in my own imagination…..well at least most of them are alive : ‘old Harry is very much cold and dead on a mortuary slab, ‘young Harry‘ is sat on the steps outside the Colchester smack boys association , picking his nose and ‘blackbird’ is tucked away in a hidden creek somewhere on the east coast slowly getting covered in birdshit……

Sadly not my photograph but this is almost certainly one of the main characters of my story……….’blackbird’




Gone sailing……



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