After a week at home, we decide it’s time to return to Woodbridge on 20 August, despite the weather forecast . . . Strong winds hamper some of the planned work initially, which included Steve going up the mast! It’s warm and sunny though and the camper van is a ‘safe haven’ from the winds, rocking us to sleep at night . . . While the wind whistles round the masts and rigging, Steve finds plenty to do to improve the galley and there’s the newly renovated fridge to install. It’s over 15 years old, rescued in a sorry state from the sinking in 2007 and sitting at home ever since as a ‘non urgent’ project. With a few parts secured on eBay and some fiddly electronics, it seems to work OK using the solar panel for power.
On 14 July, Steve decides the time is right to go down to Woodbridge. The Marina has been open to bertholders for a couple of weeks, although some of the facilities are not available yet.
He loads the Freelander, with its newly-fitted towbar, with re-upholstered cushions, summer boom tent/cover, rigging and sails etc., then goes round to his Mum’s house to hook up the ‘little boat’. Stored in her garage, ‘Cachalette’ has had the benefit of a full winter maintenance programme and glistens in the sunshine, all ready for taking out on the River Deben. Driving quite carefully with such a full load, Steve’s impressed with the fuel economy of the Landrover as he arrives in Woodbridge having only used a quarter of a tank.
Jim joins him from his holiday caravan in south Norfolk to change the oil in the engine, the winter covers come off and the sails are bent on. There’s quite a bit of activity in the Tidemill after the easing of lockdown and after a very wet July, the weather looks set to improve at last! Looks like it’s time to bring the camper van down and get out in the river . . .
The newly upholstered cushions look really good, complemented by the pillow bags made last summer by Bev.
Whilst at home in Derbyshire, Steve made a beautiful set of new boom gallows which fit perfectly, allowing a full turn on the tiller as they’re set further back from the cockpit. With major jobs complete, it’s also time for all those fiddly finishing touches to the cabinetwork behind the chart table, including some hand-turned knobs for the drawers.
But will we be ready for the East Coast Summer Cruise . . . decisions, decisions and just as we’re thinking about it, James calls to ask, ‘Will you be joining me on ‘Kestrel’ this year?’ We haven’t got time for any ‘shakedown’ trips, as the cruise starts 48 hours after we return from our second sojourn on the continent. This time it’s to join Simon and Ricarda at their wedding party south of Paris, taking in a trip to the Swiss Alps to make crossing the North Sea from Harwich to the Hook of Holland with the van worthwhile!
So, sadly, we decide that ‘Cachalot’ will not be ready to join the Cruise this year and James sends off the entry forms . . . we’ll be crewing on ‘Kestrel’ again for the OGA summer cruise, which starts at Stone and continues south this year!
After a week at home, it’s time to return to Suffolk. Bev brings her bookbinding materials to start work on the wedding book for Simon and Ricarda and Steve starts work on the final panels to complete fitting out in the forepeak. The new van makes quite a good workshop, and is warm and cosy when the weather’s bad. We call Baz who will come round mid-week to talk covers. The weather veers from beautifully warm, balmy and calm to torrential rain and high winds – flaming June meets March winds! Dodging the rain, and making use of the winter cover for protection, Steve’s finished fitting out the forepeak, including routing and painting the plywood bulkheads. “That’s the last time I’ll have to do that!”, he exclaims [the routing to make it look like tongue and groove]. Just need to collect the cushions next time we’re home. They’re being re-covered by Andy, the furniture restorer back in Derbyshire.
Chilly winds and rain are inconvenient, and often drove us back to Derbyshire in the past, but don’t stop work on the boat any more . . . The winter cover provides excellent protection for Steve to work on board. Bev finds plenty to do in the spacious (and warm) new van and we retire for a warm and cosy evening with the heating turned on!
The first priority for this trip is to complete work on the switch panel and radio. After several re-thinks, re-wirings and re-designs, Steve’s ready to finalise everything, complete the wiring, fix the back boxes and front panel in position ready for final testing. For now, he leaves the chart plotter, as there’s still some thinking to be done . . .
We still need to source new panel labels for a couple of switches (ideally without buying a full set!) but it all works and makes better use of the space.
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!
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.
Steve reserved a lovely piece of teak (salvaged from an old wardrobe a couple of years ago) for the chart table. After cutting to size we spend time checking out how best to design this area to accommodate storage for charts and books, the switch panels, VHF radio etc. We count how many switches we’ll need, and it’s more than the old 8-gang panel, so another item on the ‘research’ list of those more expensive items, along with the fridge options which we’ve been thinking about for a long time having discovered that a small one can cost as much as a huge domestic fridge freezer, and then there’s the issues of keeping it charged without draining the batteries . . .
From chart tables to plumbing . . . We decided a long time ago to have a water tank, rather than water carriers. Installing the foot pump and faucet came to the top of the ‘to do’ list – after several discussions and trial runs about where to site them, or even to abandon the plan altogether!
After connecting the foot pump and experimenting with the faucet, Steve came up with the ingenious idea to secure it to the bulkhead where it’s at the right height and can be twisted out of the way when not needed. After a bit of testing for water levels, the pump works perfectly to fill the kettle and washing up bowls. We’re not having a sink with plug hole, preferring the ‘bucket and chuck-it’ option. We’re not re-installing the heads either to keep the number of ‘through the hull’ holes to a minimum.
After just over a week at home, catching up with life in Derbyshire, jobs around the house and getting the OGA Gaffers Log to press, we return to Suffolk with the promise that the sails will have been brought to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for our collection on Monday.
As she seems to be taking up, Bev is tasked with cleaning the bilge and we drain it completely, fingers crossed she’s settling down now!
We’ve been doing lots of research into all the other ‘bits and pieces’ we’ll need, so combine the trip to collect the sails with quite an expensive visit to the chandlery, funded in part by Bev’s first State Pension payment! A special purchase, along with the essentials like the radio and water pump is a fine new clock with matching barometer. We also call at Larkmans to order cordage for halyards and sheets . . . lots of it!