Tuesday 20 February 2024

Tidying up and the 1974 Heineken rally

 While waiting for the weather to be suitable for a bit of painting, the time can usefully be spent clearing out some of the clutter that accumulates in the boat. This is perhaps overstating it a bit; usually stuff is taken out from the various lockers, inspected, and then mostly put back in again as its just possible it might come in  useful sometime.  Over the years we have also accumulated quite a lot of plaques commemorating various events and rallies that Bonita attended. They are often quite nicely made in brass or ceramic, but there are far too many to put up in the boat, so they accumulate in boxes either on the boat or at home.

I found this little souvenir at the bottom of an old plastic ice-cream box, and maybe it deserves a bit of cabin space this summer...

The 1974 Heineken rally was, I think the first rally to Holland organised by the OGA and very generously sponsored by Heineken. 22 boats went across including a few classic bermudans. We were rafted up in a commercial dock that had been cleared for the purpose in the centre of Amsterdam and hundreds of people came to look at the boats and their intrepid crews. Bonita was there, though I was on another boat at the time. We certainly had a marvellous time and were very well received. The boats I can remember or find a record of are Marguerite, Alyn, Band of Hope, Dreva, Bonita, Saskia van Rijn, Ciris, Privateer, Kyle of Bute, Blue Shoal, Greenshank and Argo. Gaffers last a long time but I wonder how many of these are still active today? Certainly Marguerite, a Bristol Channel pilot cutter is. At 43 ft overall she was very much the largest of the fleet. She didnt do well when racing on the Ijsselmeer though, as with a draft of 7ft 6in her keel was touching the bottom much of the time.

We are hoping to get to Holland this summer at the invitation of the Dutch OGA to help them celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Sunday 14 January 2024


D, John and I took the train to Liverpool  for the OGA AGM.  The conference was excellently arranged by the NW Area of the OGA, and there was a display of various prawners build in the area arranged by the Nobby Owners Association. They were selling neat little badges showing a nobby in full sail. Of course we had to buy a couple....
Virtually all nobbies are cutters as in this badge (single mast and two headsails). Bonita is as far as I know the only one that is rigged as a yawl.
We all enjoyed the meeting which I felt was very productive with some useful business done. We met a lot of OGA members from all over the country. It is most helpful to meet up face-to-face with people you normally only see on Zoom. There was also a very encouraging contingent of Younger Gaffers.

At the AGM the results of the OGA Photographic competition were announced, excellently judged by Sandy Miller who is a renowned marine photographer. Justin got a 'Highly Commended' for this picture taken from Bonitas cockpit.

This was taken in Lyme Bay heading westerly after a windy night at sea. As the sun came over the horizon in the east, we saw this magnificent rainbow, a sign, as it turned out, of more difficult weather ahead.

After the AGM on the Sunday morning we had a few hours to spare before the train home. D went in pursuit of culture in the art galleries. Preferring fresh air I walked down to have a look at the river Mersey and look at the Albert Dock. 
The dock was a major piece of early Victorian engineering, but is not much used now apart from a few yachts. There are a few historic boats in the dock and some historic vehicles on the dockside. There is a London steam bus from 1902 - apparently a commercial failure, and withdrawn from service after a few months. The most interesting exhibit I thought was a propeller from the the liner Lusitania. Built in 1906, and sunk with great loss of life by a German submarine in 1915. 

This is one of her 4 propellers and is 17ft in diameter, though I thought it looked smaller than I expected for such a large ship. The propeller was removed in 1982. Presumably the visible damage to the blades was caused when the ship hit the bottom, perhaps with the propellers still turning as its known that she sank very quickly.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Crossfields Conference 2023

 D and I went (by train) to Arnside for the third conference on the boats built by the Crossfield family of boat builders and other nobbies, inshore boats local to the challenging waters of the coast of NW England. We stayed at the cosy Fighting Cocks pub and hotel.  As always the conference was excellently organised by Alasdair Simpson. On Friday a small group of us went to David Moss' boatyard to see the fine work being done to restore the Severn, a Crossfield Rivers class boat. She has a remarkable history, which includes capsizing and sinking during a race on the Mersey in 1914. Due to the diversion of the first world war she was not raised for 13 years, when it was found that the hull was still in good condition and she was put back into service. She is now owned by Arnside Sailing Club and is getting a major rebuild. Once done she should again be good once again for many decades of sailing.

As on previous occasions the conference was a mix of history, tales of sailing and practical details of individual boats. I was particularly interested in Michael Leahys talk on the Laura, a very fast nobby built in 1908. She has a fasinating history, although disentangling fact from fiction can be difficult.  I gave a talk on Bonitas participation in this years OGA Round Britain cruise. It was good to see Dave Walters again - he is a professional musician and took part in the 2013 Round Britain Cruise. He was talking about the nobby Pastime which he used to own. Sadly after he had sold her she was lost in a storm in the Irish Sea. Fortunately her crew of four were saved in a heroic rescue by the lifeboat. In the evening Dave entertained us in a jolly evening at the Arnside Sailing Club. 

The picture shows Dave in full flow. 

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Laid up for the winter

 With the shorter wetter days, and Storm Ciaran expected to bring strong winds to the south of England, I thought maybe it was time Bonita came up Faversham creek to her cosy mud berth in the boatyard. So yesterday with help from Allan and his friend Andrew we has a pleasant trip in fine weather. With Allan at the helm we cleverly avoided going aground, although at times the echo sounder showed zero distance between keel and mud. By the end of the day we had got the sails, spars and assorted other gear ashore, I flushed out the engine cooling system with fresh water and antifreeze, changed the oil and got the winter covers on. The picture shows us tied up alongside the sailing barge Mirosa, with Allan and Andrew hard at work.

And so in a few hours Bonita is transformed from being afloat and ready to sail the seas to being safely tucked up away ( I hope) from the worst of the winter weather.

What projects this winter? There has been a fair bit of minor wear and tear on the gear this year and I have taken a carload of stuff home for general repair, painting and varnishing. Otherwise I'm not expecting any major work......

Monday 11 September 2023

Home ports

 With Susan J, and now Minstrel returning to their berths on the south coast, all the Round Britain boats are now back home. Paradoxically, the best of this summers weather seems to have come in the last couple of weeks, although without much wind. We may have a few day or weekend sails in what remains of the season but nothing I hope too adventurous.

We have had a marvellous time going round Britain with the Gaffers, and have been made very welcome all around the coast. Where possible on this trip I have tried to visit harbours that we havnt been into before, and with Bonitas limited manoeverability under motor this is often a stimulating experience. I am grateful for my many long suffering crew - 12 this year- who have helped make these visits less dramatic than they might have been and made the whole voyage possible.

In several places, not just in south coast ports, there were piles of these leaflets in the clubhouse or harbour office.  I wasnt sure if I should be pleased they had used a picture of a gaffer to enhance the visual effect, or maybe there is an implication that traditional rig might in some way be more suspect. The combination of a 'sugar scoop' reverse sloping transom with gaff rig is definitely unorthodox.      We saw lots of Border Force patrol boats on our travels but none of them showed any interest in an elderly gaffer slowly making her way round the coast