With stormy weather lashing the country, we scour reports and forecasts for the East Coast hoping that everything is OK in Woodbridge. On Tuesday, 13 February Steve receives a phonecall from the Tidemill whilst in Southampton and enjoying being ‘grandad’ . . . “Steve, your boat cover has been shredded in the storm and there seems to be some damage to the deck and coachroof.”
What to do? It’s a long trip, but Kate lends him a sleeping bag and he sets off only to be caught in long traffic jams on the M25 to arrive cold, tired and in the dark just before 8pm. After a fine meal and a pint at the Anchor, he settles down for the night, cosy in the warmth of the fan heater, loaned sleeping bag and comfy on the new bunks. No damp inside the boat, and it will all look less bad in the light of day.
It seems that a warp had tangled itself round a belay pin, ripping it out and using it to flog the deck, mast, coachroof and bowsprit, smashing the glass in one porthole. Having no workclothes, tools or varnish, Steve called at Larkmans and James lent him an ’emergency maintenance bucket’ with everything he’d need to make a temporary fix. A call at Suffolk Sails resulted in the possibility of a temporary cover being made in the next few weeks . . . a long drive back to Derbyshire and Steve’s now at work on finishing the kitchen!
Along with tidying up the site, Steve’s hoping that the sailmaker will be able to measure up before the end of the season, so is keen to get the boom and gaff in place. There’s also nowhere left ashore to store any spars!
James helps bring the boom on board and Steve sets up the gaff and calls to make a date with Ratsey & Lapthorn. All fixed, Steve and Andy will drive up from Cowes on Monday, 16 October. So, it’s time to get on with stowing everything that can be left on board for the winter and making a start on the bunks . . . fortunately, the weather seems to be quite settled, and not too cold as we may need to work into the autumn to get everything ready for the winter. Bev leaves Steve in Suffolk and returns to Derbyshire where the plasterers will be making a start.
Now that the tent is empty, there’s room for the mast to be under cover. Two fellow berth holders volunteer to help move it inside, with a mast trolley loaned by Larkmans.
The tent has to be dismantled, and it’s not before time! The lean is becoming more and more pronounced, and it seems unlikely to survive another big storm, but makes an ideal workshop to finish varnishing the mast as another bout of wet weather approaches.
As Steve cleans up the mast and applies several more coats of varnish, Bev returns home to get the ‘other’ project up and running again after the summer interlude. There’s the plumber and plasterers to schedule in as well as sorting out the new floor.
Steve finishes the mast, prepares the cross trees and gets the final bits of metalwork from Moray at BronzeWorks. It’s agreed that the best way to get the mast in is to take the boat to Larkmans again, so James takes the mast by road and Steve works at Larkmans to get the mast ready. Eager not to miss the tide, and having re-calibrated the depth sounder, Steve sets off a little early to motor up river and spends a few moments in the Deben mud part way to Melton . . .
There were two weddings, another ski trip to Val Thorens and the kitchen project to occupy us from January to mid-April 2017, but Steve made time to write a long list of all the jobs that need to be done in preparation for getting in the water this year!
There’s new sails to be made, and Ratsey & Lapthorn have been engaged to make these, so we’ll be off to Cowes later this month.
Moray McPhail, at BronzeWork in Martlesham, will be making the new keel bolts and sorting out all the other metalwork for us. Following discussions over the chainplates, it was agreed to have a channel to carry the shrouds over the bulwarks so, on our return to Suffolk at the end of April this was the first job to be done, port and starboard.
After joining the OGA at the Tollesbury Rally on 29 April, we returned to Woodbridge but the incessant wind forced us back to Derbyshire by the end of the week!
'Cachalot' features in several photos in Tom Cunliffe's book 'Hand, Reef and Steer'. The caption for the picture above is 'a fine bowsprit', and of course, she's flying the St George's cross as a Dunkirk Little Ship sailing in company on the Return to Dunkirk, 1990. However, the bowsprit now needs to be replaced since it is showing it's age and needs to be a bit stronger . . . The new one has arrived from James at Larkman's, being constructed from two pieces of narrow grained Douglas fir and, whilst the same length, has a greater diameter.
The boom has now been taken to Larkman's yard for varnishing and other refinements . . .
The mast has already been repaired and varnished with several coats, surviving a fall from it's rack during the winter storms in early 2016, and ready to step once the hull is ready . . .and the gaff has also been repaired, but needs transporting back to Suffolk from Derbyshire where it attracts frequent comments and enquiries from visitors, bemused to find such an unusual item in the garden of a house in the Peak District!
Find out more about the gaff, still being stored in Derbyshire, in the post from Winter projects 2015/16.
12 October, 2015 finds us back in Derbyshire and a sense of being ‘in limbo’ sets in after so long away. What are we going to do? There’s little interest in the house in Matlock Bath, and as we scour for sale listings in Suffolk and Derbyshire, we realise there probably isn’t a better place to live, after all. Following a ski trip to Val Thorens in late January, the decision is made . . . pay off the Estate Agent, take the house off the market and plan some serious ‘home improvements’!
The workshop at the top of the garden becomes a hive of activity again over the winter months, with the smell of tallow, varnish and leather, often brought back into the kitchen when it becomes too cold or damp outside. Steve turns his mind to the standing rigging . . . shrouds, backstays, forestays and new dead-eyes are all complete, re-served and ready for the launch day.
We take a short break for a trip to Holland at the end of February 2016, meeting up with the Dutch OGA for a weekend of baking bread and learning to splice ropes. Inspired by both bread-making and ropework, it’s back to Derbyshire. After seizing in the new thimbles the blocks, made nearly ten years ago when the project didn't seem to be quite so big, are ready for use. Steve experiments with the lathe for a new set of parrel beads. Made from some ash felled in our own garden, he’s really pleased with his example of ‘tree to sea’, as they fit neatly onto the gaff.
Next it’s the gaff spar. The jaws are completely shattered, so new ones are carefully crafted from oak during a sunny spell in mid-March. It then turns too cold and wet to varnish outside, so, leathered and gaff is fixed to the spar, it’s brought in through the sitting room window and just fits the length of the room for several coats of varnish. Taken outside again, it's awaiting transport back down to Suffolk along with another of the ‘bits and pieces’, the refurbished cover for the rudder stock, gleaming with new varnish and polish.
Late at night on 15 December, 2006, there was a phonecall from Mark at the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, "Steve, your boat has sunk!"
'Cachalot' was hauled out of her berth in the marina, and put in a cradle ashore, following a call from a passer-by to the Tidemill staff that she seemed to be ‘lying a bit low’ alongside the pontoon. Why had she taken on so much water so suddenly?
Was she telling us something? She’d been booked to be lifted out for work on the counter and seams just two weeks later, on 10 January 2007!