Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Brighton Departure (2) - This time with a fair wind!

Early start to get tide and wind today - cleared Marina Village at 5.56am. Beautiful day, but still require 6 layers of clothing! Perfect 15 knot wind from from the North West.
Good  progress to Selsey Bill - then into The Solent. Just off Bognor Regis with local trawlers::
See names in chart above

Monday, 29 April 2013

All 3 of us on Brighton Beach

Brighton Marina (with info supplied by Beckett Rankine)

Following our lively re-entry to the marina we have been reflecting on the design of harbour entrances and how tight turns in the entrance channel might be good for preventing wave transmission but can be quite a challenge for an historic yacht with a long keel and quarter mounted prop. But then modern marinas are not designed with bowsprits and bumpkins in mind either.

Built between 1971 and 1979 Brighton is unique in being the only UK marina constructed on an open coastline, all other marinas have either been built in naturally sheltered sites or in old commercial harbours. Later this year the Brunswick Group, who own the marina, are due to commence construction of five large residential blocks, four of which are to be sited partly in the outer harbour on top of the spending beach while the fifth will be on the mole where the RNLI berth is currently located.

The spending beach forms an essential function in absorbing wave energy that enters the outer harbour. As part of this latest development extensive numerical and physical wave studies were carried out to ensure the wave climate would still be acceptable. The image on the left shows the result of a numerical model for a 1 in 1 year southerly storm with a 3.12m significant wave approaching the marina. The present condition, without the proposed development, is shown.

The photo on the right shows the physical model constructed at HR Wallingford's laboratories in 2008 with part of the proposed development in place. The large red object on the right is the development's western 37 storey tower, the blue object in the background is the wave generator and the little blue tripod structures are wave monitoring instruments. Part of the bases for three more towers can be seen in the foreground.

Here is a short video clip of one of the wave model tests. With waves overtopping the breakwater it represents a day much like today when its better to be securely moored inside the marina!

Crew Training Day Today

We were joined by Ant Bennett on Saturdy night. Ant is a gaffer owner but not such an old one. We were tempted out of Brighton marina by sunshine and light winds. The forecast was for strong winds later but maybe that would be quite a bit later. So off we went hoping to get through the Looe channel off Selsey Bill. The Looe has a reputation of being a dangerous place in bad weather, but  isn't a problem under good conditions... 

Sadly  the forecast was right and halfway on our course we were pushing into heavy seas with several reefs in. 

After a crew discussion we decided it would be more sensible to go back to Brighton. (At about the last point on the chart shown below). A quick journey back to the marina with a tricky entrance and a rising wind. Bringing up to the pontoon was achieved safely and without drama thanks to Ant making a flying leap from the bowsprit with a mooring rope. Safely moored at 7pm - one hour before low tide - phew!

Currently engaged in researching eating facilities in Brighton Marina. Best breakfast so far was Cafe Rouge and Zizzis best meal (and wine - overtones of chocolate and plums apparently!). 
This blog written in the comfort of Zizzis restaurant (20% off for marina customers) sheltered from a strong cold wind by a large picture window.

Still researching wind, which is presently SW - i.e. not favourable - before deciding when (or even if) we're departing tomorrow (Tuesday)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Brighton Departure (1)

Sunday 28 April - (from Leading Helmsperson Jane)

1000: No wind, no water. Just watched another boat go aground trying to leave the Marina....leaving soon.

1402: Now deep into a long hard bash towards Selsey Bill. 10 knot wind on the nose, standing well out to sea on starboard tack - it's going to be a long day!

Drying Out and Warming Up

Saturday 27th April

We spent last night anchored on the East side of Dungeness: not a very peaceful anchorage but a useful place to wait for a fair tide or a reasonable wind when going down channel. 

We lifted the anchor at 4 am by the light of a full moon and had a brisk sail with a northerly wind to Brighton. Still very cold (nearly May!)  but we are now warming up in more hospitable surroundings while waiting for crew reinforcements - Ant Bennett - and drying the boat out a bit.

We will go for a drink with him when he arrives...
Driving the crew to drink!
Contented Skipper

Friday, 26 April 2013

Off at last!

Left the Swale at 6am, and a very wet and fast sail down to Ramsgate. It seemed a pity not to go on but the rain stopped, the wind died and we are now becalmed between the Goodwin sands and the Kent coast.

There been much discussion recently of the possibility of building an international airport on the Goodwins. Certainly if you have to build an airport somewhere then the Goodwin scheme would cause less disturbance to fewer people than any other option. The Goodwins have for centuries been a graveyard for ships -the site of many wrecks and many heroic rescues. Buried in the sands must be many remains of ships and their cargos from all ages, all in an unknown state of preservation and quietly deteriorating. How interesting it would be if the airport construction allowed systematic excavation of this unique depository of marine archeology. Wrecks always have an unending fascination-the site of so much drama and effort frozen in time.

Maybe the international air travellers of the future could pass the time while changing planes by wondering at the preserved remains of intercontinental travel from a long forgotten age.

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Bonita's trip has attracted some sponsorship. First we have been presented with a smart logo  by the excellent digital branding agency Vitamin London.

Designed specifically for the trip this logo will feature on our crew attire which is being generously donated by the UK's leading marine consulting engineers Beckett Rankine. Why Beckett Rankine? Well, apart from a family connection which keen-eyed readers might have spotted, Beckett Rankine are also celebrating 125 years of history this year and what better way than to sponsor a 125 year old yacht's tour of UK ports!

Beckett Rankine's origins began in 1888 when Robert White (current director Gordon Rankine's great grandfather)  set up in business as a consulting engineer. Originally specializing  in railway projects, mostly in India, the firm moved into port work in the early 20th Century. Robert White's son Sir Bruce White was responsible for the design of Richborough port during the 1st World War and then the Mulberry Harbours in Normandy during the 2nd World War. Bonita will be passing many of the firm's achievements en route with some of the more notable projects getting a mention in this blog as we go.

While on the subject of anniversaries we are undertaking this voyage as part of the Old Gaffers Association's Golden Jubilee Round Britain Challenge. Details of the event and all the boats (and bloggers) taking part in it can be found on the OGA50 website.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

2 days until the shakedown passage to the Solent....

Time to leave the boatyard and head out for the great wide world...
...or as a first installment, out into the river Swale anyway!

This requires a little mental effort as the yard seems comfortable and safe. There is a well stocked chandlers and a pub within easy walking distance.  There is also mains water, electricity and clean(ish) toilets. There are lots of interesting boat restoration projects to look at in various stages of hope or despair. What more can a troubled sailor ask for?  The river here never gets rough, and indeed at low tide there is hardly any river. Many boats and their owners get cosseted by these simple luxuries and seem never to leave the yard at all.  

However today we had sun, a pleasant SW wind force 3-4 and it was time to leave the yard and negotiate the meandering channel of Faversham creek and out to Bonitas mooring on the Swale to await further developments. 

Laying nicely to the tide on a secure mooring....

2013: Hand crafted wooden technology + hand crafted digital technology

1666: Great Fire of London - caused by new oven technology
1777: First Marine Chronograph Patented
1888: Bonita hand built by craftsmen at Arnside, Cumbria
1999: Mobile Internet starts in Beta test

In her 125th year, Bonita now carries echoes of all these events as she sails round Britain.  At the time she was built, she was ‘state of the art’ for a gentleman’s cruiser.  As much skill, effort and creative problem-solving went into her construction as went into the crafting of the computer software this old lady is carrying aboard - or for the new technology of baking bread..

Once GPS position keeping became commonplace, one of the first maritime extensions was the AIS system.  This was originally designed for large ships to transmit short range ‘pings’ of their position, speed and heading.  Any ship within radio range could pick up these short messages and then, visually or automatically, work out whether a collision was going to happen — and take avoiding action if necessary.  The same equipment transmits & receives and is compulsory on all registered merchant ships.

For cost reasons, Bonita only has a receive capability, but this will be enough to stop her being run down in Bristol Channel fog.  Much easier than shining a torch on her mainsail— which we've done on more than one occasion!

Early on, some clever techie realised, that if they could receive these tiny AIS messages at a shore-based radio station. They could then display ship positions live on a computer - and nowadays send them onto the Internet.  

Go to  http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ and have a play –  you’ll be astounded by the detail.   You can also download Marinetraffic for your Android phone or tablet from here.  If you’re still on old technology, it’s available for the Apple iPhone  here.  If you really want a great view on your PC or tablet, get the Google Earth 3D extension from here

Zoom in on the English Channel or Shanghai.  See the live position of every ship in the area, then right click to see their track, their pictures and ship details.  You can even add waypoints and calculate arrival times.  If you search for Bonita‑Yawl (not ‘Yawl Bonita’), you'll see her position if she’s transmitting.  If she hasn't for 24 hours, it will say ‘Out of Range’.  It will also tell you the last time she transmitted. The picture above shows her journey today from Iron Wharf Boatyard to her mooring (click the picture for a much higher resolution).

So if she only has a receive capability, how is Bonita doing this? Well the answer is the Google Android Phone that Mike or his crew is carrying, and the mAIS Self Reporting app which you can download from here.   Bonita has her own MMSI number (or at least her VHF radio does) — 235098433 — and you can search on Marinetraffic using this instead of her name.  As long as she’s within range of a cellular network (which is almost all the time), Mike or his crew’s phone will send out her speed, position and heading every 15 minutes.  The messages are tiny, so the cost is negligible with a UK data plan; the power consumption is low enough to only need to recharge the phone once a day.  

More on Bonita’s electrical systems in a later blog.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Happy Chain of Events

Another day of work on the boat. A bit depressing really as the list of jobs to be done doesn't seem to get any shorter. However I tell myself that even if the list is as long as ever, at least the jobs still undone are getting less important.  

Many hours are spent wearing 3 jumpers and a woolly hat to keep out the cold, working away and dreaming of warm seas, gentle breezes and blue skies.

I spent a bit of time worrying about the anchor chain. Usually we carry 16 fathoms (32m) which is quite enough for Thames estuary sailing. Having read a few guidebooks and asked a number of people, some say 16 is fine, others say you must have 30 fathoms for the West Coast of Scotland.

It seems a lot of extra weight in the bow, but I decided to go with 30 fathoms of 3/8 chain. The decision was made easier as I recently found around 15 fathoms of chain complete with anchor that had become entangled with our mooring. Some unknown yachtsman has fouled the mooring, been unable to lift his anchor and chain, and had abandoned it.

It seems a pity not to put a free gift like this to good use. Thames sailing barges, I am told routinely carry 45 fathoms of chain, and may take more if going down-channel.  Who needs gym membership when you have a hand operated winch and plenty of chain?

Sent from my Samsung Mobile

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bonita's Easter Bonnet (sorry, Mast...)

Mast lift-in was today. Ideally you need a calm day for this tricky operation. We got a strong and very cold northeast wind. The situation was made more complicated as Bonita was lying outside the sailing barge Mirosa, so the mast had to be swung over the barge, and the crane driver could not see Bonita's deck at all.

This delicate operation had to be guided by hand signals passed on by a chain of several people. Fortunately all went well thanks to the very skillful crew of the Ironwharf boatyard led by Peter Dodds.

This is not Bonita's original mast. We know she was dismasted some time in the early 1930s and the owner at the time bought a second hand mast of unknown age as a replacement. This is the mast we put in today.

This blog post was sent via my sleek new Android Phone from Samsung. Bought to send live position data to Bonita's Facebook page. We'll soon learn if my trusty crew can make it do what they promise...