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


Allan and I woke to find that the wind had subsided in the night to a more civilised force 4 SW, so we decided to leave further exploration of the pleasures of Newhaven to another day and left the harbour early.  The harbour dredger was already out in the entrance channel dredging  - perhaps it had been working all night - but we managed to slip out past it.  We had the sort of day's sailing that everyone enjoys : sun, fair wind, all sails set, self steering gear doing all the work and the boat making steady progress in the right direction. 

Beachy Head
The picture shows the cliffs at Beachy Head.  The lighthouse at the base of the cliffs used to be one of the most distinctive on the coast.  The first lighthouse was on top of the cliffs, but it was so often obscured by fog that a new one was built at ground level.  A high powered rotating beam from this lighthouse could be seen traversing the white cliffs behind it and was instantly recognisable from many miles out at sea.  

Sadly this has now been replaced by a much lower powered LED light that flashes rather than rotates. It no longer lights up the cliffs and is much harder to recognise from a distance. However we shouldn't complain.  Since practically everyone today has electronic navigation systems we should be grateful that the old visual aids to navigation are maintained as a check and a back up. Long may it continue.

There was quite a bit of turbulence round the entrance to Dover harbour, as usual, but with Allan at the helm we negotiated the entrance and tied up in the Granville dock around 8pm. Once ashore we had no trouble in finding a suitable restaurant in which to reflect on the day's journey.
An Easy Day's Track