We pack up the boat on 5 July, leave the Mini safely parked in the Marina and take the van on her maiden foreign trip . . . first overnight stop Harwich Harbour, ready for an early morning crossing to Holland. Returning from our 2,000 mile tour down to the Swiss Alps and back on 23 July there’s just two days in Woodbridge before we leave on ‘Kestrel’ for the OGA Summer Cruise. We check the boat and find the bilge has started going off rather more frequently, the counter seems to indicate it’s maybe as much as three or four times a day. A bit worrying, but there’s no time to do anything about it now . . . securing everything as best we can, we meet James and sail from Waldringfield on 26 July, returning after a great ten days on 4 August.
Whilst we’re away, Steve meets a man in a van and is able to purchase some Dynema at a very good price, so the bowsprit is now secured with a new set of fine shrouds and pelican hooks.
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.
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.
After a few days in Derbyshire, we’re back in Suffolk for the OGA Summer Cruise. After a passage race on Friday, 20 July and the East Coast Race on the River Blackwater the following day, the week’s cruise ends with a parade of sail up the River Orwell today. ‘Cachalot’ isn’t ready to take part, so Bev crews with James on ‘Kestrel’.
While Bev’s out sailing, Steve gets on with fitting out with evening trips to various locations to join the Gaffers by car. The work is made harder by the blistering heat and lack of shade, but he manages to to get a lot done including installing the VHF radio and navigation lights, setting up the Wykeham Martin jib furling gear, bobstay, bowsprit shrouds and anchor (without the newly-acquired winch, for now).
He spends an enjoyable couple of days with Steve, from Ratsey’s, who’s visiting the Tidemill YH on holiday from the Isle of Wight and also repairs another area of winter damage where the new capping rail has split. All these ‘little jobs’ take time, and it’s sometimes hard to see progress, despite ticking them off the list!
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!
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!