It’s generally too cold to start work this early in the year, but we’ve taken the plunge, and ‘upgraded’ the trusty Bongo for a 6 metre Fiat Adria motorhome! After 12 years, the Bongo was still a good van and, having passed the MOT (with a little bit of welding), we decided to sell and buy a van with insulation, heating and separate sleeping/sitting areas.
It was sad to see the Bongo driven off by her new owner last week, but lovely and cosy to cook, eat and sleep in the Adria, without having to change the layout of the van.
‘Cachalot’ is still in her temporary berth on the South Arm while the Harbour staff finish dredging and winter maintenance so we park just above the boat meaning Steve can get started with planning how to fit out the forepeak while Bev makes the new van our winter ‘home from home’. We’re still discovering all the options which include hot & cold running water, fridge, cooker and a great heating system powered by LPG or mains hook-up!
The great news is that the bilge pump only seems to have been tripped once, since November . . . and the cover has kept her snug against all the winter weather, and showing no signs of wear apart from bird droppings!
Steve was thrilled to discover that ‘Cachalot’ is on the shortlist for Classic Boat Restoration of the Year, 2019 (Sailing Vessel under 40 ft).
Baz has made several visits to the boat, checking measurements for our winter cover. After the first ‘fitting’ on Wednesday, he meets up with Steve on Friday, 2 November, for a final fitting and checking over any tweaks and adjustments. Baz takes the cover back for some more stitching and returns on Sunday afternoon with fingers crossed it’s all OK. There’s only about two hours of daylight, but the weather has been perfect, fitting in exactly with schedules for moving the boat, fittings and getting other work done before we have more ‘restricted access’!
With lacings, bungees and straps, it fits perfectly with two roll back access doors, flaps for the fairleads and allowances for the halyards, mooring lines and fenders. We enjoy a cup of tea, sitting in the cockpit ‘tent’ as the sun goes down.
Made from polycotton, the cover doesn’t make the inside too dark. Waking up in the morning on Monday as the Tidemill staff start up the crane to lift boats out, we open the hatch and roll back the door to see another beautiful sunny morning.
Back in August, we started to think about the area behind the chart table and how best to use the space. The beautiful piece of teak, reclaimed from an old wardrobe for the chart table, has been treated with several coats of varnish, and is ready to fit.
There’s been a change of plans for siting the switch panels etc., and last month Steve did some rewiring of the compass, chartplotter and echo sounder, with the switch panel no longer going behind the chart table . . . he’s been making a double set of cupboards with four drawers (also reclaimed from that wardrobe with good solid drawer backs from our old kitchen units).
Meticulously constructed in the shed at home, from carefully drawn plans, the door fronts were varnished on the kitchen table as the weather got colder and set into the frame. We brought the van back to Woodbridge on 1 November to take more stuff back for winter storage at home and Steve set to work assembling and installing the units before Baz arrives at the weekend to fit the cover.
We can’t find any suitable brass fittings for the drawers, or catches for the doors, so for now, there’s temporary handles made from leather so that at least we can use them. We now have storage space for all the pots, pans, crockery, cutlery and everyday ‘culinaries’! At least three less bags to trip over in the cabin . . .
Having agreed everything with Baz at the end of September, we talk with the Yacht Harbour staff as he’ll need to be able to have access to both sides of the boat.
The North arm of the Tidemill, where we’re moored, will be dredged this winter, so we’ll have to move to the South arm at some point in the autumn. Bill, a bit further down from us, is going to move round in early October, and is happy for us to have his ‘corner’ berth.
With everything planned for laying up, we drive home for Bev’s birthday, returning a week later. It’s not just laying up that’s to be done, Steve’s determined to get a backrest for his bunk in place before we go back to Derbyshire again, and make templates for the area behind the chart table and other ‘flat surfaces’.
Woodworking is more of a challenge without the tent, but he’s set the ‘Workmate’ up on the pontoon and manages pretty well – but there’s more scope for accidents, with one or two items slipping into the water! He borrows a ‘Seasearcher’ from Henry one day and finds not only the small plane but a large drill lost a couple of weeks ago!
While he’s working on the interior, there’s no room for Bev, so she’s happy to go out visiting and finding other things to do in the area (including the shopping to make sure there’s always something good to cook for supper). She’s also the one who ensures we can fit everything into the car – quite a challenge this time with the mainsail and toolboxes as well as bits of wood to take home!
We motor round to Bill’s berth on 16 October and make her secure, enjoying a last night in this new spot, before driving home to tidy the house up for a long weekend with Katie, Giacomo and Roberta, travelling ‘up north’ for half term.
People keep asking when we’re going out sailing . . . and there’s always an excuse! Tide is wrong, still fitting out, too much wind, no wind, rig isn’t ready, mainsail isn’t bent on yet, no time to get out/in over the Tidemill bar, we’ve got to be in Derbyshire . . . Is what Rik said proving to be true? ‘Now we will find out if Steve is a boatbuilder or a sailor!’ Or is it Bev, who quite likes pottering around in Woodbridge and the surrounding area?
After ten years in the tent and the van, there are lots of reasons for us to just enjoy being on our boat, in the water, doing the ‘fitting out’ and getting her ‘shipshape’. Actually living on her this summer, without needing to have the van as a ‘back up’, has been great! Her interior is really taking shape. We’ve had lots of visitors, and can repay some of the hospitality we’ve had over the past ten years. But, she’s a sailing boat, not just a houseboat, and we have got some lovely new sails. So we check the tides and go for a night out in the river on a calm weekend 28-29 September. Thankyou, Bill, for the loan of your mooring buoy at Ramsholt. On Saturday morning, who did we see but ‘Kestrel’, sailing downriver and surprised to find us out of the Tidemill at last!
We needed to be back in the Tidemill to meet Baz on Saturday afternoon to discuss the winter covers, measure up and plan a schedule for getting everything done before the weather turns. Decisions made and schedule agreed, we’re going to bring all the sails home for winter storage and store the gaff and bowsprit on the deck. Bringing the anchor into the forepeak will mean we can have a fully fitted cover fore and aft with zipped doorways both sides of the cockpit, as we’ll want to come down during the winter.
We’ve commissioned a full-size winter cover from Baz Brackenbury of Woodbridge, but really need a new boom tent as well and covers for the hatch and coachroof. Bev decided to experiment with Mum’s old sewing machine and acquired some offcuts of Sunbrella for the purpose. After several attempts, and lots of online research, she decided it was worth a try and ordered 20m of Sunbrella from Parker & Kay Sailmakers at Suffolk Yacht Harbour along with the polyester thread and double-sided tape.
Once it arrived, the sewing machine seemed less happy about the ‘real thing’, but eventually, with help from Joe and a Derbyshire sewing machine mechanic, she learned how to adjust the settings to sew through the thickness! Cutting out meant clearing the kitchen floor for a large enough space, and sewing the long seams was quite a challenge, with it draped down the stairwell, but the job’s done and Baz will hopefully provide some guidance for the ‘final touches’, as we won’t be using it until next season now.
The smaller covers were much less of a challenge and after a first fitting, and finishing off ‘on site’, they look very smart, protecting the varnish and, in the case of the coachroof, keeping the rain out.
We’d been invited to join in with Maritime Woodbridge this year and set out from the Tidemill Yacht Harbour an hour before high water on Friday to motor round to the Town Quay. After running aground twice, and concerned about the fast approaching high water, we returned to our berth in the marina.
On Saturday, we tried again. It looked like there would be more water in Bass’s Dock and we approached slowly, running aground again alongside the Dutch barge ‘Inez’, but there was plenty of time before high water, so we waited. As the tide came up, we gradually warped our way into the dock stern to with several helping hands joining ‘Flooka’ and three Albert Strange yachts ‘Mist’, ‘Galatea’ and ‘Nirvana of Arklow’.
There were plenty of visitors braving our gang plank to come aboard, with lots of admiring comments for ‘Cachalot’. The event was held in the newly redeveloped Whisstocks Centre and seemed to be very successful with plenty going on.
We hoisted the mainsail when OGA friends Pete and Clare came aboard . . . thanks for all the help and advice with rigging and reeving!
As the end of August approaches, the weather changes to a more typical summer of chilly evenings and rain, so we decide to make a temporary boom cover from the emergency winter cover supplied by Suffolk Sails in February. Half of it will be plenty, so it’s laid out during a dry spell and Bev tries out the grommet punch. After two hammered fingers (and only two grommets inserted) she reluctantly agrees to give up, and Steve finishes the job.
We’ve been timing the bilge pump activity and it’s running at over 30 hours consistently now, depending on whether it rains, which is very encouraging. The solar panel isn’t coping as well with recharging the batteries though. We’re using 12v lights now and there’s more cloud cover . . . so we switch to 240v battery charging for a couple of days . . . this seems to provide enough power to revert to the solar panel when we leave on Saturday for a few days back in Derbyshire.
While Bev takes a day trip to London by train to visit the James Cook exhibition at the British Library, Steve re-sites the running backstay deck fixing points. By Wednesday the weather improves enough for more varnishing, so we decide to stay a couple more days. We bump into John & Catherine at Larkmans and invite them to join us for supper on Friday. There really is a great community along the river and we certainly feel ‘at home’ here. Before leaving on Saturday, we do some more tidying of the site where the tent was, which has to be cleared by the end of September, timing our departure to avoid most of the holiday traffic and making it home in daylight.
It’s neaps and there’s only about 30 minutes to get over the Tidemill YH bar this weekend. Although first and second high water are in daylight we decide not to go out (and risk not getting back in). With no rain forecast, hardly any wind and still long days, Steve decides it’s time to do some varnishing. He spends all day Sunday cleaning up the capping rail and bulwarks getting two coats on by the end of Monday. Despite the forecast, as we enjoy late evening supper there’s the gentle patter of raindrops. It’s only a short, light shower, but enough to ‘dull’ the shine.