Monday, 23 March 2020


In these difficult and uncertain times, is there any point in fitting the boat out for the season ahead? Many of the summers sailing events have cancelled, including the Falmouth Classics. If society goes down into total lockdown, perhaps we wont even be able to visit the boat to pump the bilges- although maybe this could be considered as an 'essential activity'.  However I am hoping that at least we will be able to get a bit of day-sailing in the Thames estuary as a bit of light relief from the troubles around us.

Last weekend Allan and Toby helped me move the newly varnished mast down the road to the boatyard to have it craned in. Wheeling a 40 ft mast on a trolley down the middle of the road does cause some disruption to the traffic, but most people are understanding and sometimes even amused.

                                                             Social distancing

Although the sky was blue, there was a cold north wind and we will not be ready to take the boat out to her mooring for another couple of weeks or so. However with her mast and rigging in place Bonita already looks more like she's more ready for her 133rd season afloat

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Gunter rig

Bonita has not always had her gaff yawl rig. She was rigged as a gaff cutter ( with one mast) until 1907, when she was converted to yawl. Then for about 20 years from the mid 60s she sailed under Gunter rig.
Gunter is a variant of gaff rig, where the gaff runs vertically alongside the mast  and takes a triangular mainsail above the masthead, so the overall effect is similar to Bermudan mainsail. It is common on small dinghies but rarer on larger boats. The picture shows Bonita with her gunter mainsail - this photo was taken in Holland in 1971.

Gunter rig is named after Edmund Gunter 1581-1626, an English professor of mathematics. This may sound rather improbable, and as far as we know he had no particular interest in the design of small boats. However he applied the newly discovered logarithms to produce an early version of the slide rule. The slide rule was universally used for calculations involving multiplication or division, and many became very expert with it but it has almost entirely disappeared since the introduction of electronic calculators. Gunters rule consisted of two pieces of wood marked in a logarithmic scale sliding alongside each other, or sometimes one piece of wood with readings taken off with dividers. Gunters rule was much used on ships to perform navigational calculations, and examples has been recovered from old shipwrecks. It must have seemed natural to call the rig with the gaff sliding along the mast 'gunter rig'.

Bonita sailed a bit better to windward under gunter rig, and the first reef was easier to take in. However I did not think it really suited her classic hull shape. So when the time came for a new mainsail I felt we should revert to more traditional gaff rig.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Winter work

There are always things to be done on an old boat during the winter, and its sometimes difficult to decide between the jobs which must be done, those that should be done, and those that it would be nice to do before too long. I try to stop taking things apart by the New Year, and start putting  things back together which gives me a bit of margin for dealing with any unexpected and unwelcome problems which definitely have to be fixed before we go back afloat.

I thought I should check on  the bolts holding down the anchor winch. This led - as things do -to the winch being removed and the decision that it was time it was taken apart and the components regalvanised. Designed by my father, constructed in an army welding shop in the 1940s, the winch was last galvanised about 20 years ago. Hot dip galvanising in a bath of molten zinc is by far the best way of protecting steel in a marine environment and all other  cheaper forms of zinc coating are greatly inferior.

A galvanising works is a large scale concern and their yard was full of huge pieces of structural steel, great piles of farm gates and suchlike. My few pieces of rusty winch parts looked very trivial by comparison. However they seemed happy enough to take a small order. Their minimum charge is for 100kg. The winch seems pretty heavy when you move it about but its still only around 40kg, so its an opportunity to get some other bits of boat ironwork treated 'free'.

                                                     As good as new?

The picture shows the winch reassembled, waiting to go back to the boat. It seems almost a pity to put it back in a hostile corrosive marine environment.

What plans for the new season? Things are still a bit uncertain but we may once again be heading west. We enjoyed the Falmouth Classics last year and may try to fit it in again if we can.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Laying her up for the winter

After several days of autumnal weather with strong winds and heavy rain I thought it must be time to put Bonita under her winter covers to await the arrival of Spring. Sunday was a rather better day, cold but dry with light winds. The picture shows Allan and Toby helping with the trip from Bonitas mooring to her winter berth in Faversham creek.

Toby, now 2yr 9 months old found plenty to talk about and was very interested in seeing some long abandoned wrecks on the mud at the entrance to the creek. He had no trouble spotting the red and green buoys, but was rather less sure in identifying buoys with points on, like the one in the picture above.  Some sailors rather more experienced than Toby can occasionally find these confusing too.

Its rare for us to be able to get into or out of  Faversham creek with its many twists and turns without touching the bottom once or twice. Sometimes, when things have gone really badly I have had to call up the yard launch for a tow. That doesnt happen often - usually when theres a strong crosswind making manoevering difficult.  But on this occasion we managed to get all the way to our berth without disturbing the mud at all. With a force 2-3 westerly wind there was a line of smooth water running along the channel indicating where the deeper water lay. This shows where the flood tide is running most swiftly, and I am always reluctant to assume that this necessarily indicates the deepest water as it often doesnt. But on this occasion the line of smooth water provided a reliable guide, 

Bonita is now snug under her winter covers, with the mast, spars and sails stored ashore.  Various bits of gear have been taken home for drying out, repairs or if absolutely necessary,                                                                      replacement.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Swale Match called off

Sadly we did not get the chance to see if Bonita would be romping home ahead of the fleet with a coat of  freshly applied new paint on her bottom. This years Swale Match - which would have been the 47th  - was cancelled due to forecasts of gale force winds. Strong winds in early August are rare, and I dont remember the race being called off before. However the talk in the local chandlers shop was that it has been cancelled once before but noone was quite sure when. More often we dont have enough wind at this time of year.

However the decision to call it off was clearly the right one. The first day of Cowes week was cancelled due to the storms and the cross-channel ferries were having difficulty getting into Dover harbour. I went up to the sea wall on Saturday morning to look at the boats out on their moorings. Although the boats were safe enough they were rolling around in the waves and it was certainly blowing hard with frequent even stronger gusts. No other boats of any kind were out on the river and I resisted the temptation to row out to Bonita in the dinghy to see how she was getting on.