messing about in boats

Moderate wind and sun

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on March 6, 2011

The weather man can officially go to hell. A perfect forecast of a force three and sunshine for moving Nervous Tension from Langstone Harbour up to the River Itchen last weekend… Well, it was when we set off, for about half an hour before degenerating into blustery, rainy greyness. By the time we’d reached Portsmouth the sun was back out however. All well and good before the wind died and Calshot disappeared in the blackest cloud I’ve ever seen.

We stuck the reef back in, but nothing quite prepared us for what happened next. Best described as armageddon in hailstorm format. 90 degree wind shifts, massive squalls, clouds black enough to turn the distant streetlights on and hailstones like jagged little peas. It was quite something. The leech of the ageing mainsail tore, the window in the dacron no2 genoa blew out and the end of the tiller exploded. I threw the now useless extension down below and hunkered down on the cockpit floor for the rest of the trip – it was actually remarkably cosy. The really exciting bit was that in this melee of being knocked rather flat repeatedly and trying to spill as much of the surplus power that we could we were heading straight for a moored Condor Ferries ship. Typical.

Weather soon passed though, nothing serious broken and my confidence actually greatly increased in the boat. If she could survive a squall like that with far too much sail up then she was still robust underneath despite her shabby appearance. From then on in, with three reefs in the main to stop it tearing further and with tide and time against us we had the outboard on tickover to just help power through the chop and make some good progress. Even so, the sun was going down as we passed Calshot spit and we carried on in the fading light. Just off Netley we had a stern but fair ticking off from the Harbour Master about being in the shipping lane with no proper navigation lights. He did seem to take pity on us after hearing we’d been out in the squall earlier and we carried on up to Southampton shining our torch at the tiny triangle of mainsail.

So the boat’s now happily on a pontoon at Lauren Marine, and what have we learned?

  • The echo sounder works
  • The main isn’t in very good condition
  • Neither was the tiller
  • Working navigation lights would be a good thing, just in case
  • The boat’s actually quite robust and behaves very well despite the beard on the keel and the lack of weight on the rail

Back on it

Posted in Boat Building & Maintenance, Sailing by Joseph Moore on January 25, 2011

Sunday I’d hoped to go for a bit of a sail, but it was fairly breezy and on rehanging the rudder I noticed a huge great crack where an old repair had gone bad. Probably best not to sail when the rudder was in danger of falling into two pieces, so we spent the day repairing it and doing further jobs on the boat – more patching of the deck and repairs to the stem, plus she got a good dry out inside with the fan heater.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in terms of getting emails from various people – first from Rupert Holmes who recently restored the Extension 24 “Minestrone”. He had a lot of useful insight into the boats and the issues he encountered in doing a fairly similar refit. Then this morning, a load of comments from Mike and Hilary Payne – owners of Nervous Tension for 5 years up until Spring 2009 – offering encouragement and stories from their days spent sailing her.

Roll on the warmer weather when some serious progress can be made!

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Last race of the Hamble winter series

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on December 6, 2010

Went pretty well to be honest. I was doing pit on J/109 “Me Julie” again in light airs and patchy fog. Delayed getting to the start as we had to scrub the ice off the decks before it was possible to stand up on them and also drop a couple of late sailors off onto another yacht. Seemed to work in our favour though as we arrived at the port end of the line just as the gun went and the fleet were setting off from the starboard end – it seemed to put us firmly in pole position by the first mark, which we kept until the last (downwind) leg. The yachts rounding after us caught some better air and went steaming off faster and deeper, while we got pushed ever further by the tide. Still, we made a creditable 3rd place and sailing with the sun streaming down through the patchy fog was just brilliant. Would have been a great day to have a decent camera for sure.

Snow… but not here

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on December 4, 2010

Warning: here comes a thoroughly British rant about the weather…

The UK’s taken a bit of a battering by the cold arctic northeasterlies lately. Lots of snow everywhere, except here in Hertfordshire where there’s been barely any as usual. Curse our sheltered geographical position. No sledging because there’s just puddles of icy mush on the ground and no boating because thanks to a short lull the southwesterleys have taken over for the weekend and the air’s warmed up by 10 degrees or so. This means it’s now warm enough to be drizzling down in Hampshire which is just unpleasant.

Tomorrow it’s forecast heavy rain with air temperatures just above zero and I’m due to be crewing on J/109 “Me Julie” again. Monday’s (of course) looking rather nice but I can’t stay down on the boat even though I’ve got the day off as I’m waiting for some new power steering hoses for the Land Rover. Typical. She’s so irritatingly close to being as ready (if not pretty) as she’ll ever be for some really good sailing and I want to make more use of the marina berth while I have it over the winter.

I just can’t bring myself to spend as much as I’d have to on a pontoon berth all year round. I’d rather put that money in the tank of my car or the outboard and get out on the water.

November update

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on November 27, 2010

One quick update for what’s actually been a pretty busy month of boat stuff.

Holes in the deck have been patched with glass on the outside and are awaiting a matching patch on the inside for good measure. Had the No.1 genoa up on a dead calm day – went up smoothly, no trouble, so that’s good.

Here’s a couple of snaps including one of yours truly:

Nervous Tension

Nervous Tension - crack in deck, needs repairing

Nervous Tension

Nervous Tension - taking out damp wood from the deck

No1 genoa up!

No1 genoa up!

Apart from the front, the awful state of the paint on the topsides and the beard on the bottom of the boat that’s somewhere approaching the Amazon rainforest in terms of scale, she’s basically ready to go sailing. We’ll see how that pans out as it’s currently -3 degrees outside, snow is forecast and my Land Rover’s waiting on some new power steering parts.

I have actually been sailing though – J/109 “Me Julie” was a little short on crew for the Hamble Winter Series last weekend and I was invited to crew with some old Cherub buddies. Excellent sailing, if a little nippy. We weren’t too shabby either – coming 7th out of 13, and only missing out on 4th place by a matter of seconds as we missed the lay line for the final beat. Back out in a couple of weeks for the final race of the series, which should be good. I forgot to take any pictures so here’s a shot of the boat from someone else taken last season. We weren’t nearly so co-ordinated in our clothing.

J/109 "Me Julie"

J/109 "Me Julie"


Dinghy cruising in the Solent

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on October 27, 2010

This is great: “The Solent Cruising Guide for Centreboard Boats” by Cliff Martin. I stumbled across it the other week (hopefully he doesn’t mind me reproducing it here) and it brings back great memories of trips around the Blackwater estuary when I was in the Scouts. Worth a read just to get a different perspective on sailing, even if you only own a boat with a huge lump of metal fixed to the bottom of it…

Winter berth

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on October 19, 2010

Nervous Tension‘s now tucked up on a pontoon in Southsea Marina for the winter. Long story short, I got bored of waiting for Emsworth to get back to me about spaces once they’d taken my deposit. The chaps at Southsea have been helpful and friendly all season so despite it being a bit more expensive, they get my custom.

More about the comedy of errors that was Sunday afternoon and some great photos soon, I promise.

Bring on the boat fixing, and hopefully a little sailing too.

Looking back through old photos

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on September 8, 2010

Maybe I’m seeing things, but something doesn’t stack up.

Look here:

Then look here:

Notice anything? Or, more specifically, notice anything missing?

Yeah, me too: The keel. The first set of photos I believe are from around 10 years ago when she was raced on the Medway, the second set are from this winter just before I bought her.

Apparently she should have a draft of 5’1″ – but the keel looks significantly shorter in the more recent photos. According this article on the Extension class yacht, the keel should be 2.5:1 in aspect ratio. I’m dead keen to dry her out and do some inspecting now.

Has she lost some keel? Did she have a keel extension added at some point in her life which was subsequently removed? The keel bolts were replaced by the previous owner, but whether he noticed any irregularities at the time I don’t know. The antifoul and weed in the later pictures sure suggests it’s been like that for some time.


Oh, for a pontoon…

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on September 7, 2010

Sent off my application for a winter berth at Emsworth Yacht Harbour this morning. Seemed to be a nice, friendly place and just about the only pontoon berth within my tiny budget. Access over the fixed sill is about 1.5hrs either side of high water with a 5’1″ draft on all but neaps, so that’s fine by me. At least there’s more chance of some sailing than if she was ashore and much less chance of anything going wrong than if I was to leave her on the swinging mooring in Langstone Harbour.

I also sent a cheque for £10 to Cowes Harbour Commission to be put on their waiting list. Berthing’s cheaper on that side of the Solent and the Medina is the sensible choice for a fin keeler – always plenty of water and access at all states of the tide. I have to chuckle at the way they’ll only discuss availability with you after you’ve paid to join the waiting list, but if it’s £10 down the drain, so be it. At least I’ll know the chances of keeping a boat there next year.

Really cannot wait to be on a pontoon with all the associated convenience. There’s nothing wrong with a swinging mooring – it’s just that the one in Langstone is over a mile from the nearest launching beach, so after you’ve faffed around with the tender, motored out there, bounced around in the chop and shifted all the gear aboard, you’re kinda ready to pack up and come home. It’s just a bit boring and ever so inconvenient. A water taxi would make life much more pleasant – but in that harbour the distances are too great and the traffic too low. So roll on a pontoon berth with all mod cons of fresh water, electricity and dry feet!

Bank holiday boat repairs

Posted in Boat Building & Maintenance, Sailing by Joseph Moore on September 2, 2010

It hardly seems possible that the August bank holiday has passed already. This summer’s flown by in a flurry of boat-related mishaps and long hours at work. Summer’s coming to a close and the wind’s already picking up as if it were well into Autumn. Time to take stock and figure out where to go from here…

The good news is that Nervous Tension‘s essentially ready to sail. Sarah, Chris and I spent the weekend hammering, sawing, screwing, scrubbing and painting. The stem’s braced back to the first bulkhead, the old vent holes have some rather fetching plywood screwed over them, the port side stringers are back in place and most of the surfaces down below have had at least one coat of fresh white gloss.

Something had to go wrong though – it wouldn’t be boating otherwise. My shiny new (well, new to me) Mercury 5hp which had done a sterling job starting first pull and chugging us, towing one heavy old clinker dinghy, over to the marina waiting pontoon lost it’s prop just as we tried to leave the pontoon to berth in the marina. Fortunately with a force 5 on the beam we were pretty much pinned to the pontoon so there was very little chance of getting into trouble. Couple that with a Sigma 38 getting itself wedged into a corner and crushing Chris’ elderly clinker boat so it now takes on water and we were a bit stuck for getting back to the mooring the following day. Thankfully the chaps at Southsea Marina are fantastically friendly and agreed that the boat could stay there if Chris went back the following day and helped them tow her back to the mooring using their launch. Nice one guys!

So; taking stock. I’ve got a boat that’s just about ready to use at a time when most people are preparing to put theirs ashore for the winter. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Dylan’s book and indulge in some chilly but peaceful winter sailing. Something needs to be done about that mooring though. I can’t leave an elderly racing yacht on an exposed buoy through the winter storms again – it’s just asking for trouble.

I’ll write more on my thoughts and efforts to find a reasonably priced, accessible and practical mooring soon no doubt. In the mean time, a few photos from the weekend.

Panoramic "before" shot looking forward

"Before" shot looking aft

Port quarter berth with damaged stringer

Starboard quarter berth - what a difference a coat of paint can make!

"After" shot looking forward - mostly shiny and white now

On the waiting pontoon at Southsea Marina

A cockpit full of junk - painting down below

Stem braced back to front bulkhead

Repairs to front of boat - not pretty. Solid though!

Panoramic shot on Southsea Marina waiting pontoon

Eastney Lake from near Locks SC

Southsea Marina waiting pontoon and channel