Spars and standing rigging

A beautiful crisp morning in February 2007 saw the Tidemill owner, Richard in the crane to lift the mast. On inspection, it was sound apart from a small area of rot at deck level, easily repaired by scarfing.

Apart from the mast, which seemed to be reasonably sound, we need to consider the state of the other spars. The gaff is probably original, the spar being sound, but certainly not the jaws. The boom was replaced in the 1970s and looks OK but the bowsprit, not original, definitely needed replacing. As winter sets in the workshop at the top of the garden becomes a hive of activity, often filled with the smell of tallow, varnish and leather, with projects brought back into the house 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 completed, re-served and ready for the launch day.

The gaff spar was also a winter project 2015/16. The jaws were completely shattered, so new ones were carefully crafted from oak during a sunny spell in mid-March. It then turned too cold and wet to varnish outside, so, already leathered with the gaff fixed to the spar, it’s brought in through the sitting room window, just fitting the length of the room for several coats of varnish. Taken outside again, whilst awaiting transport back down to Suffolk 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! 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.

‘Cachalot’ features in several photos in Tom Cunliffe’s book ‘Hand, Reef and Steer’, notably the one captioned ‘a fine bowsprit’, where 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 needed replacing, showing its age and needing to be a bit stronger. We commissioned James at Larkman’s to make a new one, constructed from two pieces of narrow grained Douglas fir. Whilst the same length, it has a greater diameter. Steve set up the Wykeham Martin jib furling gear, bobstay and bowsprit shrouds after the new sails arrived in July 2018. The following year, he met a man in a van and purchased some Dynema at a very good price. The bowsprit was duly upgraded with a new set of fine shrouds and pelican hooks.

After being taken out and stored in 2007, the mast was repaired and varnished early on in the project, surviving a fall from the rack during the winter storms in early 2016. Having had many more coats of varnish it was ready to put back in the boat. After preparing the cross trees and collecting the final bits of metalwork from Moray at BronzeWorks, it’s agreed the best way to step the mast is to take the boat up to Larkman’s. James takes the mast by road and Steve motors up the river, spending a few moments in the Deben mud at Melton as he was a little bit early.

In July 2019, another refinement arrives in Woodbridge. 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.