Autumn comforts.

Autumn cruise, post 10

Autumn comforts.

WABI’’’ real time : early October and at anchor off Cellar beach, St Mawes. This morning there’s a fresh breeze gusting up from the south, it’s set to increase and it looks as though it’ll rain ‘dreckly’ .; as they say ‘round ere’. WABI’’ is lolloping around a bit even in the short fetch across the little bay and i’m waiting for a good moment to up anchor and move further into the bay, to windward and in shallower water near the beach.         It was a cold night with high, hazy cloud such that i could see the brighter stars for some of the time,  this morning we had maybe half an hour of sun but since then it’s gone dull and grey again, in fact, as i write, there are the first drops of rain again.


Aside from one clear and still Autumn day it’s been a lot like this for most of my autumn cruise so far ; mainly windy to very windy and from wet to minging !, the upshot of that is that iv’e had to spend a lot of my time inside the boat , often all day and sometimes with all the boards in and the hatch over.           I don’t mind having to be at anchor and sheltering from heavy weather but to have it for days on end has got a bit wearing so it’s a very different experience to the summer cruise in France which seems ages ago now.
It’s a lot cooler already, this morning i’m sat in the boat reading and writing with my mountaineering quilt pulled up to my waist and a light fleece on above that.     Iv’e been using the charcoal stove most days this last week mainly to help keep the cabin dry, later on i’ll probably light it up just around dusk while i’m cooking and the transition into night : the nights seem and are long now and i can’t read for very long because i haven’t got enough light in the boat to work with.


Iv’e been thinking about boats and their comfort, or lack of it, quite a bit on this trip because WABI’’’ is a remarkably comfortable little boat although not really big enough for what i’m doing right now which is more like a long term cruising and live-aboard experience than a summer camping one.    Iv’e been trying to work out what it is about this little boat that makes it a comfortable place to be where other boats that iv’e looked at and spent time aboard have been physically uncomfortable and cheer-less places.       A couple of years back we went actively looking for something along similar lines to the Liberty but in a larger package for more space and even went to see some other boats that i thought would make a good basis for a longer term cruising boat ; the thing is that we rejected most of those other boats because they were either less comfortable or had the wrong kind of ‘feel’ to the space.


Just for the record i’m thinking about a couple of the faster lifting keel yachts like the little Dehler….although longer at 25 feet the useful cabin space was smaller because of the main bulkhead breaking the length up and making for an unusable space forward ; allegedly a double berth that i couldn’t even get into !.   Weirdly, even worse was the ‘big boat’ that i looked at, the GK 29 which i had in mind as a serious long term cruising boat and yes the ‘Geek’ was made by ‘that’ company which shall not be named here !   My partner described that one as disappearing down and down into a dark and dank cave with none of the natural light that WABI’’’ has, it didn’t help that it was damp and the boat stank of old sails and bilge.  I was quite enthusiastic at first because iv’e dealt with many a smelly old cruiser-racer and i had a good plan for the interior ; something along the lines of Danny Greene’s boat with it’s open interior and modular systems.  One thing the GK would definitely needed was ports cut into the hull….i do so like being able to sit in comfort and watch the world go by and it having light makes the interior space seem a lot larger.

Surprisingly….the little Deben was comfortable once i took the double burner hob out and returned her cabin to how it had been built ; after my quick refit she just had 2 good sea berths in the middle, a small galley space aft and a proper sailorman’s forepeak.     She even came with the Pansy stove so she could be a warm boat but what she wasn’t was anything like dry. I sat for most of one night in the only space that wasn’t dripping until the rain stopped…her cabin roof would have needed a complete rebuild which was on the cards if she’d turned out to be an acceptable sailing boat.

The kind of thing i had in mind for her cabin was a variant which was actually built called a ‘deck-edge’ design…..where the cabin roof goes right out to the sides and without the awkward step in the coachroof which had Jax clonking her head every time she turned around. Her cockpit and deck ergonomics were terrible though….perhaps the most uncomfortable iv’e ever been aside from sitting out a one tonner in the rain upwind in the Irish sea.

Drying out in the Deben after heavy rain.


Unlike Inanda, WABI’’’ is both dry inside and mostly a ‘warm’ and friendly boat , ok so she does have a charcoal Pansy stove which i fitted and that makes her supremely comfortable in cold and wet weather but that isn’t the whole story. I think one of the features that makes her very comfortable inside is that i can sit in comfort with my back supported and my legs spread out….and not just in one position either but i can do that either side or at the forward end of the cabin too. Right now i’m sitting aft by the galley and watching the going’s on in the anchorage and i think that might be the key here. With 2 eye level windows each side and quite a large companionway i can always see out of the boat when i am sat reading, writing or cooking and i don’t feel as though i’m in a deep dark and smelly hole.

The cabin space, although small, just seems to work well with the berth infill permanently in place, the galley, which remember i moved. works mostly well and far better than the original layout although it could be better and i’m working on that : what doesn’t work well is my watch-keeping space in the companionway and the access into the heads compartment….not a heads any more but our main larder and stowage space.

We think that the space could be even better though….when my NZ friends were over we got to talking about several things about this boat and they both came up with some very practical solutions and from that conversation i’m thinking about altering the aft end of the cabin to make the one awkward part work a lot better. That will be the subject of one of the winter blogs at least because if it happens it’ll be quite a lot of work but i think it might improve the boat and as WABI’’’ is going to be our long term boat….unless we win the lottery….it would be worth the effort to make her sail as well as i can and to be as comfortable boat as i can make her.


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