Saturday, 9 March 2013

Preparing Bonita for the Round Britain Challenge


On Thursday I got a phone call saying that the yard had put Bonita back in the water and she wasn’t leaking.  So far so good.

This is just a small piece of the work involved in getting Bonita ready for her big cruise.  We are planning to join the Old Gaffers 50th anniversary Round Britain Challenge starting from the Hamble on 5th May.  I had always been told it was unlucky to write in a ship's log what the destination was as she might easily end up somewhere else entirely: you should write ‘towards New York’ rather than ‘to New York’.  Perhaps the same superstition applies to blogs as well as to logs.

So we are planning  to set off down channel in late April with the hope of eventually getting back  about 4 months later.

Bonita is 35 feet long, weighs 9 tons and was built in 1888. Most boats surviving from those days are old fishing boats, but Bonita was built as a yacht.  She is a very elegant old lady, but there are few luxuries when living aboard.  She has been in the family since about 1936 so we know a fair bit about her maintenance – what has and what hasn’t been done.  She is largely original, and unlike many old boats she has never been rebuilt.  She seems sound but is definitely old.  Bonita is the oldest boat in the round Britain rally.

The first big decision, apart from negotiating the time off work, was whether the hull needed any work done to strengthen it. The planks were fastened to the frames mostly with iron nails. The boat seemed strong enough and didn't leak, but I knew that a few of the nails were not holding properly. The rest seemed OK as far as anyone could tell but they were all just as old. Most wooden boats get refastened before they get to their second century:  it would have to be done one day.  So I decided to get her refastened by the proper shipwrights in Alan Staley's yard in Faversham.  Hundreds of bronze screws were driven in next to the iron fastenings.  I had wondered about doing the job myself, but when I visited the yard and found four people working on her at once I realised that it would have taken me an awful lot of weekends.

So after six weeks in the yard,  Bonita is now back in the water, or rather in the mud at Ironwharf boatyard.  There is still plenty to be done. She is going to have an inflatable liferaft for the first time ever, up to date flares for the first time in many years, and many other small improvements.  Its also an excuse to clear out some of the junk that’s accumulated and all those things that might just be useful but never are.