Dogwatch on board the
beautiful 1922-built Albert Strange and T Harrison Butler yawl
"I wonder if we'll get a run ashore tonight?"
Wandering around the
Southampton Boat Show - and I've no doubt I shall find the same
at ExCeL - I was impressed by the sheer size of the boats displayed.
Not only were they of great length - a 34ft Hallberg-Rassy looked
minute - but they were also of extreme beam, usually carried
right aft to the transom. How will they ever fit into a 30 year
old marina berth? Oh, and there's the enormously deep keel under
them too. Where will there be water enough for that?
Some of these keels look like a pencil
with a torpedo on the end - absolutely perfectly designed for
capturing fishing nets. Brilliant. Trawlermen everywhere will
be over the moon. All they have to do is put their names and
addresses on a label attached to the nets, then when they lose
them, along comes Joe Yachtsman with his net catcher and the
fisherman will doubtless offer a reward for the return of his
Also, how secure are these narrow, deep keels? We've heard of
several dropping off racing yachts at sea, so what would happen
if the boats carrying them were to bounced hard on an offshore
Many of the displayed boats had wheel
pedestals mounted high in the air, forced upwards by the need
for headroom in stern cabins. It gives the helmsman a good all
round view when motoring, but he'll have no idea what's going
on behind the genoa while sailing and he or she will be exposed
to every breath of a chilly wind, to say nothing of the kiss
from a friendly wave that slaps against the open stern. And,
might I warn, all that fine array of electronics mounted on the
pedestal - each with its maker's name emblazoned on the screen
cover - is just begging to be nicked.
I saw several boats with hydraulic doors
in their broad transoms, behind which were stowed inflated tenders.
Very neat, very clever and very likely to go wrong, trapping
the tender behind the closed door, no doubt.
Cynical? Perhaps, but the level and sophistication
of equipment on these boats makes it highly likely that in a
year or two their owners will be spending much of their cruising
time in marinas trying to get an engineer to come and help. Is
this what cruising under sail is all about?
The other thing that
struck me forcefully about the boats on show at Southampton was
the strong influence of racing on their design. This has always
been common in production boats - with a few notable exceptions
- but just why does anyone think we want boats with wide, flat
sections aft (derived from down wind sleigh riding) that fling
their cockpit crews skywards when they heel, but are often not
as weatherly as might be hoped?
Why do we want narrow cord, bulbed keels that you can't dry out
on and that will have the helmsman sweating to hold a course
as the boat twitches and leaps about? And why do we want all
this beam towards the stern? Is it just to gain a pair of claustrophobic
double berths under the cockpit? (Who wants two anyway, particularly
with only 9mm of un-soundproofed plywood between them?) Or is
everyone pretending to be a hotshot racer? Boats are beginning
to look very like 'pimped' Vauxhall Corsas, I fear.
TRUST A PLOTTER?
At what point does
trusting your GPS and chart plotter become dangerous?
It's Sunday morning, you've got to get
home on the tide to be at work on Monday, but the fog's come
in over night. You're not in an area of shipping, you're in home
waters and there won't be too many other boats on the move if
you get under way soon. Do you set off, relying entirely on the
GPS and plotter to show you where you are, leaving you to keep
your eyes peeled for anything looming out of the white wall that's
shrunk your world to a room just a few feet across?
Given a working radar you might be in
a stronger position, but without one?
I put the kettle on, made a brew and
thought about it carefully. By the time I'd downed the tea the
fog had changed to a thick mist, the sun a bright patch shining
through it and one river bank could be made out. Any approaching
craft would be avoidable and the chart plotter would act as a
useful guide, coupled with the echo sounder and a knowledge of
landmarks, buoys and groups of moored boats to be passed. I set
Within a mile the mist dispersed and
it turned into a drifting day of precious little wind, but a
lot of time to mull over the decision to get the anchor and go
to sea. Right? Wrong? It all worked out well, but I'm still not
entirely sure what I would have done had the fog not thinned
while I supped that mug of tea.
TRY THE OTHER
With the day looming
closer when 'Gypsy' would be brought ashore for the winter, I
was becoming more and more frantic. I couldn't undo the security
lock on the trailer.
Each day for four days I soused it in
WD40. I bent and twisted the key; I poked with wire; I finally
resorted to a rubber lump hammer. It was no good. I would have
to buy an angle grinder and cut it off.
Then, for some reason, I tried the spare
key. Hey presto! - well, words to that effect, but mostly profane
words - off it popped. Just like that. With relief, I applied
loads of oil and so on, then found the original key also worked.
No detectable difference in the keys and everything only six
months old. I've given up trying to work it out, but the lesson
must be to try the spare key before taking irreversible action.