Since her launch in August, 2017, ‘Cachalot’ has been out of her berth and into the river on several occasions, but never actually left the Deben! In 2018 we had a late start, problems with the hull, no sails until July and there was still lots of ‘fitting out’ to be done. There were too many family commitments elsewhere in 2019 and last year we were all ‘locked down’! In searching the archive it’s nearly 15 years since she last crossed the Deben Bar. On 1 September, 2006 we returned from the OGA Classics Cruise, joined by Hedley, and sailed all the way up the river! Donna Morgan caught us on camera as we passed through Waldringfield . . . so, she’ll definitely be going out this year!
During a trip to Dartmouth in May, Steve acquired a beautiful winch from Steve M. He’d taken it off ‘Cormorant’ and was about to sell on eBay. It’s now securely fitted on the foredeck along with the cowl air vent over the forepeak cabin. Winches, kindly given to us by John and Jane, are also now set up with two pairs of clutches for the foresail sheets.
Below decks there was a radical tidy up, removing anything not required for a passage.
There’s now a secure place to keep the electric outboard, hooks for hanging wet gear and an improved area around the stove with places to stow all the essentials for cooking.
Steve cleaned the bilges and on checking the manual pump found it was totally seized and needed taking out, cleaning and re-fitting . . . in a particularly difficult place under the deck!
Looks like we’re all shipshape and ready to go! Peter is due to arrive on 12 July to join Steve for a first trip out of the river . . . then we hope to join the OGA East Coast cruise at the end of the month with more crew lined up.
With storm force winds forecast for Saturday, 8 June, it’s going to be difficult to find a suitable ‘window’ to bend the mainsail on properly and swap over the covers, so we decide to leave the winter one on for now. Steve takes advantage of a sunny day to paint the rest of the decks, making sure to leave time to replace the winter cover before the rain starts again . As the storm arrives, as forecast, we have to leave the boat to concentrate on family matters [there’s a funeral and two weddings this summer], and putting together the 100th issue of Gaffers Log. After four days in Aberdeen, making plans for Ian’s funeral, we leave Matlock Bath by train for a long weekend in Paris to celebrate Simon and Ricarda’s civil wedding. Back at home, we send Gaffers Log to the printer and return to Woodbridge at last on 27 June, bringing the car and the van as we’re likely to be away from home for the rest of the summer!
Steve’s very pleased with the varnishing, all still protected by the winter cover, and has masked up ready for painting the deck, starting with the rather grubby cockpit and cabin entrance!
After another good stretch of fair weather allowing plenty of work to be done, we decide it’s time to find out what’s going on in our other ‘home’ and drive back to Derbyshire on 21 May, stopping at Wicken Fen for afternoon tea.
Owned by the National Trust, it makes a better place to stop than the services on the A14 and we take a stroll along the boardwalks through the tall, swaying sedge grasses.
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.
Lists, and more lists . . . what to do next? Now she’s back in the water, and seems to be taking up OK with the bilge pumps kicking in at ever increasing intervals, Steve asks himself, “What are the priorities for ‘fitting out’?”
The damage caused by the winter storms is top of the list, after fitting the base for the second bunk, so we can both sleep aboard in comfort. The broken porthole is polished up, reglazed and re-fitted. All the damage to the deck and coach house roof are also made good and repainted.
He decides that the mast will be OK, bearing the scars of the winter storm, but the bowsprit is taken ashore for rubbing down and another coat of varnish.
After a couple of reminders, Suffolk Sails in Woodbridge confirm they have supplied and fitted a replacement cover (at a very reasonable price) so we hope there won’t be any more problems before the weather improves, allowing us to return to Woodbridge and tidy up the damage before getting ready to go back in the water . . .
Having sorted out the boat, we’ve had plenty to keep us occupied until Easter (early this year, today, 30 March, being Good Friday): finish the kitchen, order a skip to clear all the rubbish and get the house ‘shipshape’ for a family gathering to celebrate Penny’s 90th birthday, drive to Paris with some of Simon & Ricarda’s stuff en route to Val Thorens for a week ski-ing. The van is becoming a mini-project, showing her age and we have more welding done to make sure it passes the MOT to serve us as ‘home from home’ for another summer until the boat is fully fitted out!
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!
After fitting the stemband and gammon iron, it was time to paint the deck. I’ll let the pictures tell the story of what she looks like now, nearly ready for launch with the date now confirmed as Friday 4 August . . . the bottles of fizz are ready!
After a weekend at home in Derbyshire, Steve packs the Bongo with everything that’s been in storage at the house awaiting the time to launch! It’s quite exciting, finding all the carefully stowed parcels and packages.
There seems to be lots of space around the house as everything is brought down to our neighbour’s driveway for loading. There’s cushions for the main cabin, warps, sheets and assorted ropes which may (or may not) be serviceable, the old sails along with loaned sails from Ratsey & Lapthorn . . .
‘Cachalette’ has been collected from Carsington Sailing Club to be trailed down to Suffolk. She’s been neglected for the past year or so and is in need of some maintenance and a fresh coat of paint and varnish.
All goes well until Steve joins the A14 and notices some of the van’s instruments aren’t behaving as they should. Worried about what the problem might be, he decides to pull in at Huntingdon Services and a call to the AA results in the diagnosis – failed alternator.
After some failed attempts by the AA Service man to secure one, a recovery vehicle is called and arrives to take Steve the rest of the way to Woodbridge. It was excellent service from the AA, who tried hard to make a roadside repair and then took great care with towing the boat and delivering the Bongo to just the right place at the Tidemill beside our tent.
Fortunately, Steve doesn’t need to use the van for the next few days and has already found someone to deliver a new alternator at a reasonable price – so it’s back to plans for the launch!
While we wait for the metalwork to be returned, there’s plenty more to do!
The long bolt is drilled, and secured just above the rudder stock and rings for the mainsheets are all secured through the deck.
The big plastic box storing yards of tangled electrical cables is unpacked and instruments are checked, then fitted in place ready for the electrics to be re-installed. The bilge pumps, in particular, are scrutinised and cleaned up ready for service.
Sadly, it seems the depth sounder hasn’t survived, so there’s quite a bit of research to source a replacement to be fitted before the launch.
Steve will be returning to Derbyshire in the Bongo, via Birmingham to pick up Simon, and plans to get the deck painted with at least one coat before leaving on 14 July. The weather is kind, with a gentle drying breeze and no rain . . .
He plans each day allowing time for a few more coats of varnish and then gets the coachroof painted in Epifanes no. 24 with non-slip pearls added, to match the hull. Before the chainplates can be fitted, due to the change in design, there’s six more frames to be fitted inside the hull – a piece of work unaccounted for in the list of ‘essential to do before launch’ list!
Bev sets to work masking up all the varnished areas in contact with the deck in preparation for painting. She takes the car back home on 10 July to get some more work done on the house before Simon and Steve return at the end of the week.
We know Dutch OGA friends Rik and Celeste on ‘Cine Mara’ and Fred on ‘Morgaine’ are visiting the East Coast. We track them down while they’re at anchor in the Deben, and invite them for a cuppa – our first visitors on board, even if she’s still in the tent on her cradle!