We fit in a short trip to Woodbridge early September before Steve takes the van to Chamonix for ten days climbing with Simon. We creep out of the Tidemill at 1800, Saturday 7 September, with only just enough water over the sill and motor downriver, intending to go to Ramsholt. By 1845 it’s getting dark and windy so we call Tony and ask to spend the night on a buoy at Waldringfield instead. By 2000 the wind has calmed down and Sunday dawns a bit gusty but warm and sunny. We enjoy the spectacle of Waldringfield SC One Design Dragonfly fleet racing for their 70th anniversary then motor slowly back to the Tidemill just before dusk. Steve decides to go over the bar at 1:35m, we touch and clatter across the sill – hopefully no damage is done and we moor up at 1910!
There’s no Indian Summer this year and we scan the forecast to find a couple of days when we can check the new mainsail cover fits and then lay ‘Cachalot’ up for winter . . . Saturday 19 October looks promising. We drive down to Suffolk in the van for the weekend, get the sails bagged up and spars laid on the deck, but as we start to put the winter cover on the rains return with a vengeance!
It’s impossible to secure the cover tightly enough, so we leave it and return in the car to finish the job on 3 November and sleep on the boat. It really is quite cosy as a winter hideaway, and now the winter cover is on, the bilge pump is going off quite infrequently.
The weather means we can take the winter cover off at last, relying on the summer one finished off perfectly by Baz.
With sunshine forecast, and only light winds, Steve decides it’s time to bend on the mainsail.
Once that’s done, there’s a bit more ‘rigging and reeving’ to do and Pete offers to come round and lend a hand. Steve climbs the mast to set up a couple more blocks and tidy the new rigging.
Baz calls round on Wednesday, as promised, with the summer cover. Started by Bev last autumn, it was reluctantly handed over for him to stitch the reinforcing panel and tapes as she couldn’t manage to do them on Mum’s old sewing machine. To allow us to measure up, Steve’s temporarily taken the winter cover off and laid the mainsail and gaff in place. We also measure up and send dimensions to Steve at Ratsey & Lapthorn for the new mainsail sailbag.
Once the electrics are done, Steve re-fits one of the Samson posts and starts to repair the storm damage done to the coachroof back in February 2018.
Baz calls on Monday 13 May to talk about the winter cover, and agrees to stitch the long panel on the summer cover, which is proving a bit too much for Bev’s domestic machine. Discussing all the options, and looking at the weather forecast, Steve decides not to take off the winter cover just yet and Baz takes the summer one away.
The weather changes for the better so we try out the van’s awning and Bev persuades Steve to protect himself from the sun with some new headgear. She gets out the sewing machine to make a cover for the mast boot, fitting it before the varnishing starts, and Steve rigs up a way to secure the forward section of winter cover to provide protection for varnishing.
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.
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.