Saturday, 10 March 2018

The start of a plan

The season is getting close so we made a tentative plan for the year.

towards the end of April we'll head down to Padstow for the 'Obby 'Oss festival and leave Robinetta there and come back for the Tollesbury Rally.

Then, at the end of May we'll try and head down to the Scillies and over to Ushant and Cameret. We think we might be able to leave the boat at La Foret but we haven't spoken with them yet.

If that works we'll carry on after Swamazons and explore southern Brittany a bit before heading to Dournenez or thereabouts to leave the boat until the festival there in July.

After the festival we'll head round the coast to the Ile de Brehat and then over to the Channel Isles and Weymouth, looking in at Castle Bay where Robinetta was moored in the late 1940s and then on to Cowes for the OGA55.

After Cowes we don't have firm plans and we'll probably weekend-hop back to the East Coast. We'll have used an awful lot of holiday by then!

It's about 1,200 nm as drawn but it does include trips up the Medway, Thames and Blackwater which might not happen.


Drying Marina in a run-down area of town. Worth missing.


Amazing lock in the middle of the beach. Accessible with 2-3 days notice at high water. Good along-side moorings once inside canal.

Possible to come into the lock at high and tie up to the walls if arriving when unmanned.

Port Isaac

Drying sandy harbour.


Locked in marina. Not as busy as the web-site threatens. Doesn't take bookings but unlikely to be a problem in May. Friendly Harbour Master. Doom Bar challenging in quite calm conditions. Entrance well buoyed. Yellow buoys are not visitors moorings! Enter and leave near high water but should be OK to get in and out of the estuary above half-tide in calm conditions.


Tiny. Good for popping in for an ice cream. Not an overnight stop. Dangerous in bad weather.

We had amazing and unusual weather conditions when we visited, and I ended up taking a lot of pictures.


Nowhere to go in. Possible to tie up against the wall and dry-out. Wall a bit rough.


Watchet is a privately owned marina. The village is nice and the harbour front excellent. The chandlers is a café and there is a pub and a library. There is a boat museum up the hill and one of the notable origins of shanty songs came from here.

The harbour is only accessible about an hour either side of high water and when we visited had about 10 feet of mud making it almost closed. It was due to be dredged.

It looks a great place to stop.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The importance of local knowledge

Not really a log, but Robinetta related.

We were in the West Country last weekend. The trigger for this was Robinetta's launch on the Monday. This meant we needed to take the halyards down.

I wanted to explore the possible harbours from Bristol to the Scillies by land. We've done that a little before and it really helps.

Of course coming in to a port for the first time by sea is very special too.

So we came up with a plan to stay near Bristol Friday night, in Padstow Saturday night and then in Bristol again Sunday night so Alison could help with the launch. I had to fly on business Monday so I bought a train ticket from Bristol to Gatwick.

We planned to spend Saturday and Sunday exploring harbours.

Then the 'Beast from the East' and 'Storm Emma' made their presence felt. Those reading from a place distant in time or space from the UK in March 2018 will need a little explanation. The 'Beast' was a persistent east wind that brought blizzard conditions to many parts of the British Isles. Emma came up from the Azores and put further energy into the system.

The weather warnings for the south west got up to a Met Office Red Alert which means danger to life and we would have thought twice about going in a Yellow.

I looked at the web cams on the M4 late Thursday night and early Friday morning and it all looked passable. There were no real problems reported on the M25 either. So we decided to go at least as far as Bristol.

It was fine. Every stage looked just as it had on the cameras.

We set the car radio to pick up BBC local radio traffic reports. We could hear really bad things going on on in Wiltshire and adjoining parts of Somerset, and in south Devon but where we wanted to go we heard nothing.

So we headed on west to Burnham-on-Sea where we had a hotel room booked. They rang to say they couldn't feed us dinner but that otherwise it was fine.

On Saturday morning we had another look at the weather and decided it was safe to try for Watchet. It was also fine, until we got to the marina where we got stuck, but the locals got us out again. It is a really friendly place.

We hadn't heard anything on the radio about Porlock but the road towards it was closed so we did a big detour to Bideford and then up to Appledore and then another big detour around the roadworks on the A39 between there and Bude.

Not having heard a reason not to we snuck down to Boscastle before heading in to Padstow. Now we did hear traffic reports about Lynmouth and the terrible problems they were having there. We were glad our Porlock detour had also bypassed Lynmouth.

So we got to see four harbours on the Saturday and learned things about each one that one would not get from the pilot book or their website.

We struck really lucky in Padstow and got to the harbour at high water which meant the harbour master was on duty. So we had a great chat to him and got instructions for coming in, recent news about the state of the Doom Bar and a proper understanding that we will be able to leave Robinetta there in May.

On Sunday we went to Port Isaac and Bude and Ilfracombe. We met some sailors in Bude who gave us heaps of local knowledge about Bude itself and other places. They confirmed that the only really safe place to be if the weather gets up and you are out is Lundy Island.

This little car trip felt very much like a sea voyage. We had to plan and re-plan every step of the way and react to changing weather conditions. We had to make sure that we never went past a point of no-return without knowing what the conditions would be like. We got to places when the official advice was to stay home.

We've seen boats coming in to harbour because they'd heard a gale warning. We've passed them on our way out because we'd looked at the weather in detail and knew the bad stuff was further south.

The devil is in the detail. But so are the calm seas and fair winds. Local knowledge, whether from personal observation, local radio, seasoned sailors or harbour masters is absolutely vital and making good use of it is the key to going places and arriving safely.

Or we could just stay at home. I don't think Robinetta would appreciate that.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Rigging sorted

Got to Bristol by 09:30, and by lunch time I had re-fitted the solar panel, and managed to get the engine running in high revs in neutral to charge the batteries. It was simple enough
to do, as was making the engine cut off pull work again. It is amazing the difference working on things at the start of the day makes.

By the time I was ready to head home the boom and gaff were back in place, with the rigging running correctly. There are an odd assortment of blocks on the horse though, so work is needed. I brought the reefing wire home as the block attached to it is falling to pieces. I also had to wash the decks, as the beautiful clean paint had been covered in yard muck during the mast shenanigans.

I put more oil absorbent pads in the bilges as the water coming out when I tested the bilge pump seemed oilier than it should. Hopefully it is just residue from last year and not a new problem.

The toilet is now back in position, but not connected to the thru hulls. The lower one of these is letting in a persistent and steady drip the I want Julian to have a look at. Neither I nor Isaac could turn the valve, which is worrying.

All in all it was a productive day, but the three hours drive there, and the same back, made it a very long one. I will probably end up staying overnight occasionally in the next six weeks if I am to get everything done.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Back in the water

Detail of rudder fitting
I got to the yard at half nine, and had a look round Robinetta prior to launching. The state of the rudder fitting is a concern, but I was assured by Slava that the wood inside the cockpit where the fixing goes through is sound.

We will have to see what it looks like at the end of the season to decide if repair is an urgent concern.

Bubbles beneath the paint in the cockpit
The paint in the cockpit had looked really good on Friday, but problems manifested over the weekend. The paint used here is water based, and when the covers were lifted to let us have a look on Friday snow got onto it. It seems that the cold weather had slowed down the drying time to such an extent that the damp got underneath and raised blisters. The whole cockpit will have to be repainted.

Horse replaced and new beading on bulkhead
The cabin top and foredeck paint is oil based, and survived without problems. The block bearing horse has been refitted, new glands put in place for the electrics, and new beading fitted at the base of the bulkhead. Slava also put new bulb fittings in the nav lamps, and made it possible to remove the lamps from the fittings. I have not had a look at this yet, or checked they work.

When we had a gas cooker our insurer demanded that we should have a gas locker that drained overboard. We had one fitted, and an opening put in the hull. This had to be quite close to the water line to ensure it drained, which sometimes led to water getting into the locker when we heeled under sail.

Now we have an alcohol stove the gas locker is used for other things and the drain hole is unnecessary. We decided to have it closed up to prevent the water getting in. There is no sign it was ever there on the outside, and only a wooden bung visible in the locker. We will keep it obvious, in case there is ever a need to put a thru hull in that position again.

Our old spice bottle masthead light stopped working two years ago. We have replaced it with a commercial one, since the cost of LED lights has come down hugely. Julian checked that the wiring was not the problem, and hopefully this one will last well. I really don't want to have to go up the mast to fix it!

Lifting Robinetta off her blocks
The marina operators came along with their 20 ton hoist at about 11 am and lifted Robinetta off her blocks, before carrying her very slowly down to the dock. The slowness was due to the remote control for the hoist. The engine cut out every 5 metres, so it was a stop start progress until the operator changed to using the controls on the hoist itself, which was not easy, but at least kept the machine moving.

Lowering Robinetta into the water
Once in the yard Robinetta was transferred to the main hoist, which lifted her into the water. The weather was quite good at this point, about 7 C and dry.

I went to the car and got some extra mooring lines, since springs were needed to keep Robinetta still as the mast was lifted in. While the Rolt's guys and I rigged the lines, the Bristol Marina workers hoisted up the mast then lowered it into position.

This is when the whole process went west. No one had done a final check on the mast before it was lifted. I had rigged the ropes on Friday, but not thought to check that the wire loops that hold their blocks on the mast were in the right position. They were all labelled and should have been replaced as they were removed. However what the labels could not say was which loop lay on which side of the mast.

As a consequence all the loops lay in a single direction, which made getting the shrouds, forestay, backstays, and topping lifts into the correct position a nightmare. I had tied the ropes together into loops to make sure nothing got lost up the mast, but these got undone, and the gaff throat wire headed up the mast with no gaff attached.

Isaac  heading up the mast
Isaac headed up the mast to collect the gaff throat wire, and to try and sort out the lay of the shrouds. This proved impossible, and in the end the mast was pulled out again, and the tangle sorted on the ground. This also made it possible to unhank the burgee halyard, which had been left in a bundle right at the top of the mast.

By the time the mast was back in and the shrouds positioned it was 16:45, and the end of the yards' working day, but Isaac very kindly stayed on board to help me move Robinetta onto her marina berth. I checked the oil, turned the handle on the raw water inlet valve, and turned the key in the ignition. The engine coughed, but there was obviously not enough juice in battery 2, so I switched the batteries to "both". The time it turned but did not start. Giving more revs solved that problem, but no water came out of the exhaust. It turned out that the raw water inlet had been open before I moved it...

Robinetta arrived in her berth just as the rain started to hammer down. Isaac very sensibly left as soon as the bow and stern lines were on as he had no coat. I wanted to charge the batteries a bit, so left the engine on, but the gear release push button, that had worked without problems only quarter of an hour before, would not depress. Charging the batteries does not work well in idle, but I left it running while I sorted out the mooring lines. Then the engine fuel cut off cable pull would not move. I had to take up the cockpit floor to get at the cable. Not difficult, but it was getting dark, and I was cold and wet....

I wanted to put the solar panel on, but it had been cut off, rather than unplugged, when the yard needed it out of the way. It is simple to fix, but needed more mental energy (and light to see by) than I had. The yard had not finished installing the mast, and would be doing it in the morning, so there was no point putting the covers on. Water would get into the bilges, and the batteries (which I could not charge) will get drained when the float switch turns on the bilge pump.

I left Robinetta at 18:20, having to get home for Tuesday. I will be driving down again on Wednesday to get the battery charging situation sorted out and the covers on. She might be closer to home than for the last few years, but three hours there, and three back is a lot of driving....

Friday, 2 March 2018

re-launch looms

Julian and I braved the snow and drove to Bristol to dress the mast with the halyards. Robinetta is due to be re-launched on Monday, and the mast put back at the same time, so we needed to get it done.

compass re-mounted in the cockpit
While there we had a look at the completed work. We did not ask for her to be made "as new", so although the rebuilt bits look great the rest still shows her age, and work is still needed to prepare her for the season. The masonry paint on the decks has been replaced with off white Teamac gloss, and the rebuilt wood in the cockpit had been coated with le Tonkinois, like the mast and new fore hatch. I will need to work hard on the older bits to make them as shiny as the new.

Mark Rolt pointed out the top rudder mount, which looks on its last legs. Unfortunately no one noticed it until the hull was being painted at the end of the yard's work. Getting at the mount will be difficult without taking the cockpit apart, and it has only just been rebuilt...

Inside it is impossible to tell the ribs have been sistered without knowing what they looked like before, while the new bolts in the scarf joint in the bow are a lot more obvious.

The carving on the deck beam looks much neater than the original. Apparently it was Isaac's first attempt at carving, and I think he did a good job.

I did not look at the foredeck, since I will get to see it on Monday and it is currently still under cover.