Sunday, 8 July 2018

Crew training

We went for a short sail in the Swale with Allan, Alice and Toby. It was a warm day with a light NE breeze. Toby is now 16 months old so takes a lively interest in activity aboard, helps with pulling on ropes and loves waving to people on passing boats. A friendly wave from Toby always gets a gratifying response.

The first picture shows Toby in Bonitas cockpit chair - designed so its occupant can see whats going on and offer advice without getting too much in the way.

Toby in charge

The cockpit chair was originally made about 30 years ago for Allan - seen steering in the upper photo but occupying the chair in the picture below.

D and Allan in Bonitas cockpit

Saturday, 16 June 2018


On Thursday were were visited by Gerald Lewin and David Munge. They came chugging through the Swale from Queenborough in a little motor launch on the rising tide. Both are old members of Erith Yacht Club and remembered Bonita from when she was kept at Erith further up the river Thames. Bonita was based at Erith between 1937 and 1968. We had the EYC burgee at the masthead to mark their visit.
Gerald had particularly fond memories of Bonita and Dad. He was last aboard when he was 13 and Dad had invited him to help crew in a race. He was entrusted with taking the tiller, but found that the downside of this is that the helmsman gets a steady stream of well meaning advice from the rest of the crew who feel the course being steered is not quite as perfect as perhaps it could be. Previous to this he had only sailed in dinghies: the old Hamble Stars which were kept at Erith. Dad always thought that dinghy sailors made better helmsmen as you get immediate feedback in a dinghy.

We talked about happy memories of Erith which in the days when the river was much busier and more polluted could sometimes be an exciting place in which to learn to sail. Sadly Gerald and David  did not have time to come for a sail on Bonita on this visit before returning to Queenborough while there was still enough water in the river.

                                                         Gerald and David

Today was a bright and blustery day and we went for a sail with Vic and Mark. Most of the boats out had a reef in but we did not seem to find this necessary. Vic of course is an experienced Bonita sailor - specialising in sunbathing weather- but today was Marks first time afloat in her. We charged around the river at top speed before picking up the buoy under sail at the top of the tide.

                                                    Vic with Mark steering

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Mast stepping

Bonita was craned back into the creek at the beginning of the week. Worryingly she often leaks a bit after being lifted back, probably as the hull must distort a bit while propped up ashore and also while hanging in the crane slings. However the leaks usually dry up in a few days. No doubt the tenacious Faversham creek mud, which seems to get everywhere, helps in this process. We will keep Bonita in the mud for a few more days to let things settle before taking her out to her mooring in the river.

Yesterday we reattached the rigging to the mast and had it lifted back into the boat. Its customary to put one or more copper coins under the base of the mast before it goes back in. Some purists would say that the date on the coin should be the year the boat was built, but with a Victorian boat this seems an unnecessary complication. Putting coins under the mast is a very ancient tradition and is supposed to bring good luck.  Archaeologists  excavating Roman ships have found coins placed under the heel of the mast by the original builders.

                                                     Two 2p coins in the mast step 

The reason for this ritual is not hard to see. The base of the mast sits in a mortice in the keel and any water collecting there cannot drain away. The copper salts from the coin will help inhibit the fungus that causes wood rot. While the coins themselves may or may not bring good luck, clearly any rot that develops at the base of the mast is very likely to bring bad luck.

Owners of boats with metal masts need not worry about rot but it seems that they too often want to benefit from the good luck associated with the traditional coin under the mast step.  The trouble is that a copper coin will quickly cause electrolytic decay of the aluminium. It would be logical to use an aluminium coin: some of these were minted during the period of hyperinflation in Germany in the 1920s, but they are not now readily available and may not be considered very lucky.  Apparently the recommended solution is to encase the copper coin in epoxy or silicone to insulate it from the mast. Even cruise liners and naval vessels it seems sometimes have coins welded to the base of their steel masts to bring them good fortune.

A curious example of an old tradition turning into a new superstition.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A spell ashore

Most years Bonita stays in the water and is painted on the beach between tides. However every few years she needs to be lifted out to tackle those jobs that cannot be done in the few hours before the tide comes back. She was last out of the water in the winter of 2012/13 and has sailed thousands of miles since then.

Bonita was lifted out in early March with a plan to put her back in the water after a month. This tight timetable has several advantages....

a)  it minimises the time the planking is drying out while with luck giving enough fine days for applying paint.
b) it makes me get on with things to keep the work going, especially when new unsuspected problems are found
c) knowing she will soon be lifted back in, the yard have propped her up conveniently by the waters edge on the quayside. In this prominent position while working on the hull I get a constant stream of passing visitors admiring her shape, asking about her age and sometimes offering helpful advice. 

The main thing that needed doing was to refasten the lower rudder pintle which had become loose. The picture below shows the job after the fitting had been bolted back  through new oak plugs and painted with primer. Fortunately the work could be done without removing the rudder from the boat. Removing Bonita's rudder requires digging a four foot deep hole under the stern and dropping the rudder into it, so is not done very often.

                                                           The bottom rudder fitting

Other jobs done include sorting a leak around the echo sounder transducer, replacing corroded bronze bolts securing the log that supports the propeller shaft, refastening the forward mizzen shroud plates, and assorted other minor tasks. 
At present we are in the grip of the 'Beast from the East'. There is a brisk north-east wind with a substantial wind chill, and flurries of snow which discourage any kind of outside work. For painting the hull and producing the glossy yacht-like finish that Bonita deserves, the weather can only get better. 

Friday, 2 February 2018

More Improvements

Winter finds Bonita once again safely in her mudberth at Ironwharf boatyard in Faversham Creek.

A project that I have thinking about for a while is strengthening the counter . This takes a lot of twisting forces, particularly when running in heavy weather. Waves coming up astern lift the boat up by the counter and sometimes ( though not very often) the top of a wave will come aboard over the stern.
The trouble is that access to the counter is through a very small hatch, and unless I take up some of the deck, then any work has to be done through this hatch.

The picture shows Sophie (aged 13) inspecting the counter when she visited us in Gosport in 2013. An adult can just about get his or her head into the stern hatch, or one arm, but not both at once. Any work in the stern locker therefore has to be done unseen and with one hand.

 I decided it would be a good idea to beef up the counter with internal copper reinforcing straps. The way to get a structure to better resist torsion (twisting forces) is to make it into a better tube, so  to be effective the straps need to be as far out towards the side of the boat as possible. 

This photo was taken by lowering a camera into the counter and is a far better view than can be got by squinting through the hatch. It shows the port side with the ( green) exhast pipe going out through the side of the boat. There are now new shiny copper straps that can be seen bolted in place joining the frames to the deck beams.   It must help a bit.

I also thought it might be time for a new mizzen sail. For most of her life Bonita used to have cotton sails. Then one memorable and squally day in 1963 when sailing in the Thames estuary, both the foresail and jib blew out together. Dad decided it was time to switch to terylene and Bonita had a new set of sails for the 1964 season. The mizzen was the last survivor of these, made by the excellent but now sadly defunct firm of Paynes of Poole.

The mizzen has been frequently repaired and patched but had become rather frail. It split from luff to leach during a brisk sail last summer so I reluctantly decided that after more than 50 years it was time for a new one. I used to consider the mizzen as a light weather sail, but increasingly in a gust of wind we drop the mainsail and carry on under headsails and mizzen. So perhaps a new mizzen sail and a strengthened counter are both needed.

So what plans for next season? you may well ask. Its a bit uncertain at present, depending on availability of willing crew. However I have said we will take part in the Old Gaffers 55th anniverary rally in the Solent on August 16-18th. It should be a lively occasion and I hope we will be able to meet up with a few old friends.