Friday, 22 March 2019

The Arnside Conference

At the weekend  D and I attended an excellent  conference at Arnside with several talks on  Crossfields boats and the contributions of the Crossfields family of boatbuilders. The conference was ably organised by Alasdair Simpson of Arnside Sailing Club, and there were about 60 people present including several owners of Crossfields built boats. Alasdair was presented with an OGA trophy for his efforts in organising the meeting and researching the local boatbuilding industry.

                                                        Alasdair with OGA Award

There were several members of the Crossfields family present, and Eric Crossfield, who is a member of the Old Gaffers also spoke. The boatbuilding business closed down in 1940, and I think they were pleased to see the name is still held in such high regard.

                                                              Eric Crossfield

Its possible to see the site of the boatshed where Bonita was built, although the building has now gone and a couple of semi-detatched houses are being built on the site.  The boatshed was in the middle of the village a little way up a hill from the river, so finished boats were rolled on a trolley down the middle of the street to be launched. They had no way of getting boats back up the hill into the shed, so any repairs or modifications had to be done on the beach between tides. The site of the boatshed seems very small, when one imagines them melting down tons of lead to cast a boats keel, or steaming large planks to bend them into place to make the nobbys characteristic eliptical cockpit coamings. Yet many boats were built here over around a hundred years and established the families reputation for good quality work.
There was a general feeling that the conference was too good to be a 'one-off' so maybe we shall be making a regular pilgrimage to Arnside in future.

Friday, 11 January 2019

An Historic Ship

We recently found that Bonita has been entered into the National Register of Historic Vessels - here is her certificate below.....

This is in recognition of the fact that she is an almost entirely original Victorian yacht: also the oldest Crossfields built boat afloat and possibly the first yacht that Crossfields built - at least she was their first entry in Lloyds yacht register, which was first published in 1878.

For a long time we have been looking for a picture of Edwin Grundy Wrigley, the man who commissioned Bonita and was her first owner. Recently, with the help of Wendy Gradwell, who works for the Bury Archives, we have found the photo below.

Edwin Wrigley was a prosperous local businessman who was part-owner of a large paper mill; he lived in an impressive house on Holme Island which is near Grange over Sands. No doubt William Crossfield would have put his best efforts and finest materials into his first yacht commission for such a prominent local person.  Sadly Wrigley did not live to enjoy sailing Bonita for very long. He died in Cairo in 1892 at the age of 60. Wealthy people at around this time sometimes took a sea voyage by steamship to Egypt when hoping to convalesce from serious illness, and that seems to be the explanation in his case. 

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year!

Bonita is now snug under her winter covers, while the usual list of maintenance jobs gets tackled. No major work is planned for this winter, although sometimes jobs which start small seem to end up getting a lot bigger.

The picture below is a reminder of a long warm summer: Bonita is racing in the Solent Old Gaffers race in a brisk breeze - photo taken by Julie Patuck in Susan J.

And below is a much older picture of Bonita in the River Stour - taken by the famous East Coast photographer Den Phillips in around 1985. Like most boats Bonita looks especially good in shots taken from the lee side as this emphasises her elegant sheerline.

Classic Boat Awards - Centenarian of the Year

Once again Bonita has been nominated for the Classic Boat magazine Centenarian of the year. She is the oldest of the six boats being considered for this award, and as far as I can see, she is the only one that has not had a major rebuild.  I'm not sure of the process by which she got onto the shortlist, but its nice that she is there. On the previous two occasions we were nominated, Bonita was a runner up to the main prize so it would be good if we could do better in 2019.  The winner is decided by people voting online. Please do support us by visiting their website-  - and casting a vote for Bonita!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Round and round the island (of Sheppey)

Pictures taken on the Old Gaffers rally in Cowes continue to trickle in now almost everyone has got home.

Here is a photo of Toby inspecting the compass.

I tried to explain to him how useful it is to know in which direction we would find the North Pole, even though we have no intention of ever going there. I don't think he really grasped the concept.

And here Thomas is emerging from the stern locker after inspecting the work done last winter to add some internal strengthening to the counter.

With Vic and Mark we went for a sail round through the Swale to the Medway on August bank holiday. I have often found the weather on the August holiday can be so dreadful that it would be better to have stayed at home, and this year was fairly typical. On the Sunday it was blowing a full gale from the SW and raining heavily. No other yachts seemed to be out. Under reduced rig of jib, mizzen and motor we soon got tired of trying to get to windward  and settled for a sheltered anchorage in Stangate creek. Here we sat down below around the cabin heater playing Monopoly while the weather howled outside. This was only Mark's second sail, and his first night sleeping aboard, so I was relieved when we woke to rather better weather on Monday. We had a brisk sail back round the outside of the Isle of Sheppey, at first with several reefs in, but taking them all out by the end of the day as the wind moderated.

Last Friday, by contrast, the day started sunny but with no wind at all. I was sailing with Justin (to become daughter Emma's father-in-law in February) and was a bit anxious as he is an expert Dragon crew.  Dragons are elegant and complex boats that are raced very competitively and maintained at a high standard; Bonita is rather different. We motored out to the Columbine Spit at the eastern end of the Swale, and there picked up a NE wind. The wind and tide were right to sail all the way round the Isle of Sheppey in a little more than a single tide.

Because the tide fills the Swale from both ends, it is possible to carry a fair tide almost all the way around the island. The Swale is not a true river with a freshwater source far inland- its technically a ria which is a sunken valley and it forms a tidal channel between the Medway and the Thames. Circumnavigating the island makes an interesting trip with plenty to see. We had a fine sail and I suspect the atmosphere aboard was rather more relaxed than on a racing Dragon - on Bonita you can light the stove and make tea while underway.

The picture shows Justin helming with the North Kent coast on the horizon astern. My apologies for not adjusting the mizzen sheet before taking the photo.

Here is the track of our (anticlockwise) circumnavigation of Sheppy as recorded by Justins watch (!), and his photo of Bonita lying peacefully on her mooring.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Back Home

Allan and I woke to the sound of the foghorn sounding across from the Dover harbour breakwater.  There was patchy fog which made it difficult to see across the harbour and the tops of the cliffs were completely obscured. However there was a moderate southerly wind so it was tempting to set out.  Sailing in relatively shallow water along the coastline is generally fairly safe in fog.  One of the yachts in Dover was setting out to Dunkirk, which crosses one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and is not a trip I would have chosen to do in such poor visibility.  We heard on the radio that several channel swimmers were also setting out.

When we were approaching Ramsgate the fog got much worse, with visibility of less than a quarter of a mile.  We saw a few small craft entering or leaving Ramsgate harbour, all going slowly in the poor conditions.  By the time we got to the North Foreland however the fog lifted, the sun came out and visibility improved to several miles.  We tacked into the Swale in late afternoon over calm seas with a gentle breeze under a blue sky.

Sunset and Home
We have enjoyed our short holiday to join the Old Gaffers in Cowes and it was certainly well worth the effort of going there.  It's always a bit sad packing up the boat at the end of a trip, though of course the primary purpose in sailing an old boat is to get back to where you started from without loss or damage.   We plan to get in a bit more sailing this year, but mostly as shorter trips.

Last Leg - with old school map