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.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Scrubbing off

This year we seem to have developed a luxurient growth of weed on Bonita's bottom. This may be due to unwise economy in antifouling paint, but no doubt the last few weeks of very hot summer weather have been a factor.  It discourages the growth if we can spend a week or two of the summer in fresh water, but this year that hasn't been possible. We have entered for the Swale Match next weekend and there's not much point in taking part with a dirty bottom. So yesterday I thought it was time for a scrub.

Fortunately there are a couple of posts on the beach on the Swale and it is a relatively simple matter to tie up alongside these at high water, and wait for the boat to dry out as the tide goes down.

High water on Sunday was at 3.40 am. There are not many people about at that time.
The picture shows dawn with the sun just below the horizon,  Bonita tied up to the posts, and the ebb tide just beginning. The boat in the background is Calismarde. She has just returned from an adventurous cruise round Britain over the last two summers.

Although there were no other boats moving on the river at this early hour, there is still some activity. Over the Kentish marshes we could hear the rhythmic thump of some pop concert or party miles away and obviously still very active. Eventually however these sounds faded away to be replaced by the more usual rural sounds of birds and sheep.

The whole scrubbing off operation depends on having 12 hours of dry and settled weather and luckily that worked out OK. By mid-afternoon Bonita was back on her mooring with a clean bottom and a rather muddier owner.

Will the clean bottom make any difference when it comes to the race? We will have to see....

Sunday, 23 June 2019


Sadly Dave had to leave us at Ramsgate, but luckily D was able to join us for the final leg back to the Swale. The night spent in Ramsgate was useful not only for crew recuperation, but also the wind changed overnight and we woke to bright sunshine and and easterly breeze.

The picture shows the North Foreland under conditions which have been unusual so far this summer - blue seas and blue sky. After a pleasant trip along the north Kent coast with a fair wind we picked up our mooring on the Swale just before high water.

This ends this years big trip, though we hope to have time for some shorter excursions around the estuary. There are a few jobs to be done on Bonita, including some work repairing the long pole for holding out the big jib. This disintegrated as we were passing Dover harbour and one end was lost overboard. As we were in the track of the cross-channel ferries at the time, we did not think it was an appropriate moment for some man-overboard practice to try to retrieve the pole.
We very much enjoyed joining the Falmouth Classics and the Helford rally, and the welcome we got at both of these.The Falmouth Classics is one of the largest events of its type with over a hundred entrants and many interesting boats on the water. We know the Helford river well and for a long time have been looking forward to sailing Bonita there.

This years plans were dictated by the need to leave the boat on several occasions for work or family commitments, and for this purpose, apart from the high marina fees, cruising along the south coast is ideal.