WABI’’’ real time : at anchor Morgat. This evening I hauled WABI’’’ off the small area of beach just near the slipway that the sailing school uses. Earlier I made a complete hash of my landing in that I didn’t have enough line ready to lay out in while trying to beach the boat in a brisk crosswind. We got there in the end but it wasn’t pretty !. It was a delight to be splashing about in the shallow water once I’d jumped off the bow and and quickly heaved her onto the sand. This afternoon : went to find fresh water….easy….and then a short walk up to the town and a quick shopping trip. It’s the first time iv’e actually seen and bought blocks of ice from the supermarket as they don’t have a wet fish counter which is how iv’e been getting ice so far.
This post is the companion blog post to ‘Boulevard of broken dreams’ and, if you will, the ‘light’ side. The title comes from one of the boats being prepared for a year of ocean sailing ; the well named ‘Joititude’. On my first night actually at Port Launay I pulled up alongside a very rough yacht that I mentioned in the previous post. I didn’t say but she was almost certainly a Sparkman and Stephens design, something like an S&S 34 but maybe a tad larger all round. She obviously was once a fine looking and powerful boat, by the look of her gear she really has been places but she’s now way past needing a complete refit….rescueable yes but it would be a total refit.
Just ahead of me and the S&S was another boat that looked like another Sparkman and Stephens design but it was at the polar opposite end of the ‘cared for’ spectrum and quite clearly just finishing a major refit and preparation. I only got to say hello to her owners Oliver and Marie on the first day but the next day I could see that Oliver needed to get up the rig so I introduced myself and gave him a hand. It looked like he was setting up an detachable inner forestay for a very good looking working jib, I saw the sail fresh out of the bag for the first time next day. Then, I applied as much of the language as iv’e got and with his better English than my French we did a kind of dockside interview.
Their story is that they are taking a year out with their boat ‘Joititude’ and at the time I met them were just finishing their preparations to do an Atlantic circuit very much like the one I had in mind for a small ocean going boat like my Frances 26. They plan to visit the Atlantic islands : Madeira, the Azores and the Canaries but they’re not going to cross to the Caribbean …I definitely agree with that approach. Having been to the Caribbean and even worked in the sailing industry out there I really don’t rate it as a cruising destination but I really do like the places that Oliver and Marie, and their young children, are going to visit. In ‘real’ real-time, literally as I am sitting in the Capetanerie at Benodet they are alongside here with ‘Joititude’…..I must get a really nice picture of their boat here.
I did my best with my limited language skills and then as soon as I had internet access in Morgat (always corrects to ‘Morgan) I looked up their Facebook page, link below, and followed-up on a couple of interviews that they have done with the the local press. It seems as though they bought the basic and very old boat pretty cheap and then spent 3 years totally refitting it. I get the impression that it was similar in condition to the Javelin half-tonner that I seriously looked at last year with the same kind of idea in mind. The boat now though reminded me very strongly of my little Frances 26 : not in type of boat but in the approach taken to the refit and in a lot of the detail. Just glancing below when I went aboard to give a hand I could see the same kind of plain but clean finish and organisation that I created and that will work at sea and in port…it looked seamanlike and comfortable and not a bit fashionable. On deck Oliver was just finishing rigging his demountable inner forestay and a very effective looking hanked on jib to go with it.
Oliver, by the way, works as a sailing instructor in Brest and he is clearly a meticulous and conscientious ‘preparateur’ , I suspect that he is a very careful and competent seaman.
When I left Port Launay I wished them all the best and we thought we might see each others boats again because they were going to do a little shakedown cruise before leaving. I did see them again at anchor in the Anse de L.Auberlach but didn’t get to speak to them. A few days later I was in Brest marina waiting for Jackie to arrive, I’d gone for a very long walk to find the supermarket and suddenly there was a ‘hi-hello’ and it was Oliver….they were in Brest too but in the ‘other’ marina which I didn’t even know existed.
Next in Port Launay were a bunch of sailors I dubbed ‘the chaos crew’ with their 2 boats and what a contrast all over again. That first evening in Port Launay when I tied up against the other S&S I had a quick walk along the quay and there was a lot of activity around 2 boats just astern of me. One definitely looked like a very bad IOR throwback , possibly a small 3/4 ton or large 1/2 ton…I really found it hard to tell. The other one was a very beaten-about French production boat of about 28 feet , totally green/black with mould and muck but being worked on …..sort-of. There was a pile of scrap plywood and junk under a tarp so it looked as though they had ripped a lot of the interior out an while I was there a friend of the owner I think was trying to fabricate and weld a transom arch out of galvanised mild steel pipe. Well that’s what I think they were doing although it took them most of a day and a crate of beer to do one side. Last time I saw them that day most of them were spark out on the grass !. I also spoke with them briefly and according to them they were all leaving for southern Ireland in a couple of days….I looked at both boats again and thought “oh really”. Part of that ‘oh really’ was that I’d seen both the weather forecast and the state of the cruising boat’s sails. The mainsail was kind-of tied up to the boom but green and ‘crusty’ but there were bits hanging off the roller furled Genoa .
Later that week when I did see them out sailing down at the bottom end of the Aulne : they had at least made it that far….the old racing boat didn’t seem to actually have a mainsail and was just using an old looking Genoa. Ok so IOR boats were heavily dependent on their headsails but even so a mainsail is a good idea if you’re going to go upwind in the channel. The forecast by the way was all in the north and I can say that I wouldn’t have wanted to take one of those boats that far upwind in half a gale. Later still when I saw them again alongside a small pontoon at the entrance to the Aulne the young woman attached to one of the 2 boats seemed to be hand-sewing part of the Genoa clew back together.
Now, I admire enthusiasm and a make-do attitude, that’s what got us around the world a couple of times. However I lived next to their boats for a couple of days and saw them ‘at work’ and distressingly they seemed to living in a state of slightly ‘alternative’ squalor. Both boats were filthy, green and black with algae and mould when I first saw them and when I last saw them. One day when they were all working on their respective boats the young woman heaved an old mattress out of their communal van and started to cut the cover off, fine I thought as I had walked past it and it was filthy , I thought she was going to chuck that out and then cut out a piece of foam from the mattress to make a bunk. Well she did that and that disappeared below but only to be followed by the stained mattress cover presumably to go back on it somehow.
I really wanted to take over in full-on senior nurse mode, take charge and ’strongly encourage’ them to take every last thing out of both boats, get inside them with a hose and wash both right through, then clean all the gear and re-stow….and then wash the outside clean of several years worth of muck, algae and mould. After that it might have been a good idea to take the sails off, lay them out and have a look over the seams. Ok…so I can think of a dozen essential jobs that I would have made a priority rather than laying around drinking beer and tinkering with a home made transom arch welded up out of scaffold pipe . Scrubbing the undersides just might have done something for the performance as well. Now, being a bit alternative….fine I say, but they WILL learn some hard lessons if they go to sea like that. It might be something as simple as slipping on a slimy deck made slippery by all the green mould, worse it could be the one sail they have blowing apart , I don’t think either had a working engine and I never did see the racing boat’s anchor or ground tackle. It used to be an IOR rule that we had to carry an anchor and rode but maybe they haven’t got one…..that’s a problem in the making.
Aggi and ‘Norfolk County’
The next character I met in Port Launay was ‘Aggi’ and his boat ’Norfolk County’. As I motored up the first stretch of river after the lock there are a couple of large ex sailing fishing boats there : Fee D’Aulne and ‘Audierneais’ . Iv’e no idea what the score is with either of them although the latter looks like a restoration/refit job. Just after that the river goes under the high railway viaduct and then the main run of boats alongside the quay starts. One of them I immediately picked out as not being a Breton boat. The local fishing boats tend to have a high bluff bow and a squared-off counter transom and this next one looked like an ex working craft from much further east. I hazarded a guess as it being from the far north east of France and I was completely wrong and the name : Norfolk County , was a bit of a giveaway.
I met Aggi just by virtue of going and saying hello when he was working on deck one day. I thought at first he was French and so did my usual introduction in my version of the language only to be answered in very clear and hardly accented English, it.turns out that Aggi is German. Aggi told me a bit about the boat and gave me a very nice booklet that goes with the project, for a major restoration project she is. Norfolk County was built in 1908 as a steam powered fishing ‘drifter’ working out Lowestoft in the UK. The basics : she is all steel, 28 metres long and some 120 tons all-up. She was owned and partially rebuilt in Scandinavia and acquired by Aggi in 2012 so he is 7 years into the project already. While I was there Aggi was cutting and welding steel plate at the stern. Norfolk County doesn’t have a steam engine any more but a very funky looking 2 cylinder 2 stroke diesel….flat out at about 500 RPM and ideally a lot less. Aggi took me down to the engine room and I tried to get a picture of the big old motor but my flash didn’t want to play….I can say that the engine must have been easily as tall as I am so it must have an enormously long stroke.
Aggi’s story is as fascinating as his boat. I saw his truck as well : a big old ex military Magirus-Deutz truck with a home made ‘live aboard’ cabin on the back. From the truck, and I have to admit his appearance, I took Aggi to be a ‘travelling-man’ , he said not but that he’d bought the truck from a traveller family , and it suits him well. But he himself is a professional seaman, a trained chief engineer but who mainly works on commercial sail training vessels. It sounds as though he does a season or so working at sea and then goes back to ‘Norfolk County’ to carry on with a very long refit….I asked him ‘how long’ and he just spread his arms wide….There’s nothing delicate and pretty about Norfolk County : she’s all steel plate and heavy duty welding but then she was built rugged and for a tough industry. When I saw him last Aggi had made a wooden pattern for part of the stern deck plating and was just about to start cutting into that with his gas torch.
The last character that I met and took a photograph of I have to sincerely apologise that I didn’t get his name and I can only think of, kindly, as ‘Rasta’ man. One evening aboard WABI’’’ I looked down the line of boats as the light was changing and I saw one man aboard a boat I thought doing that odd head nodding routine that some of the Orthodox Jews do at prayer. Odd I thought because he had dreadlocks. Out of curiosity I took a walk down the quay and what was happening is that was playing on a rhythm-stick and was bopping away to some music. There wasn’t any external sound as he had a set of cans on and was obviously plugged into a sound system of some kind. His Rastafaraian flags on the back of the boat gave me a big hint about what he would be playing. The boat looked like a tidy, home built motor sailor and during the day he and his partner were often hard at work on the paintwork. He gave a cheery wave as I indicated my camera with a kind of “ok to shoot” and he was cool with that. I kind-of imagine him bopping along to something like the late Bob Marley’s ‘Jamming’. I had far too much of that when I worked in the Caribbean where you hear it everywhere…..now it’s stuck in my head again !.
‘Audiernais and Fee D’Aulne’ at Guly-Glas.