Saturday, 9 August 2014

Returning Home

We had been getting anxious about the weather which was predicted to deliver strong westerly winds for days to come - with the possibility that hurricane Bertha might become troublesome when she had finished annoying the Americans. However there was a short period of around 36 hours of mostly easterly winds forecast and this prediction seemed fairly confident. If we had run out of time with the boat still in North Holland I could have left her there to be bought over later, but that would have produced all sorts of practical difficulties at work and home.

Bilgeboot Bonitas
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to Alice and Allan at the Amsterdam marina as they sadly did not have enough time left for the North Sea crossing. Dave, Bryony and I motored down the North Sea canal in light Southerly winds to Ijmuiden to lock out into the sea. 

The first photo taken in the canal shows the Bonitas, a craft perhaps more functional than elegant. She is, it will be seen, a bilgeboot which collects oily waste from other ships. The crew gave us a wave and thumbs up signs. We followed her into the lock.

However enjoyable the canals have been, locks and opening bridges are hard work and there is a feeling of relief and excitement when the last lock opens to reveal the expanse of open sea beyond. We left Ijmuiden in a flat calm, but within an hour or two this developed into a northerly breeze which developed into a fine easterly wind which lasted all night. In the morning we were off the Essex Coast near Harwich, but it was misty and we never saw anything of Essex. 

Bryony at Shivering Sands Fort
We spent Friday threading our way through the sandbanks of the Thames estuary. The second picture shows Bryony steering us past the deserted Shivering Sand fort off the Kent Coast that evening. 

Shortly after this picture was taken our easterly wind abruptly changed to a moderate southwesterly. After a few tacks we motored into the Swale. It was completely dark by the time we had arrived in the river and picked up our buoy.

After we tidied the boat we were sitting in the cabin having a late supper when there was a strong westerly squall with torrential rain. It blew hard all night and we were grateful not to be beating against it out in the North Sea.

And so this is the end of this years Dutch cruise. We always enjoy trips to Holland as they offer a bit of everything: open sea and canals; locks and bridges; cities and villages; culture and countryside and always with a people who appreciate everything to do with boats. This year's trip has been especially memorable because of the marvellous organisation of the Dutch OGA for their tenth anniversary cruise and we very much enjoyed being their guests.

Bonita 1938 - GWH Beckett standing on the after-deck
Bonita seems to have come out of the trip more or less unscathed in spite of many anxious moments maneuvering in tight spaces. We were frequently rescued by the quick reactions of the foredeck crew with boat hook and fenders, and their ability to interpret creatively unclear instructions coming from the cockpit.

As a final comment, this year we are remembering the centenary of the start of the First World War.
Bonita was in Bridlington then and it's unlikely she was sailed much in those years, if at all. The last picture was taken around 1938 at Holehaven Creek. Standing on the after-deck is my grandfather George W H Beckett. He was proud to be an 'old contemptible', a member of the British Expeditionary force that fought at Mons in the early days of the war. The Kaiser regarded the BEF as a 'contemptible little army' and the name stuck. 

Receipt for purchase of Bonita
Although GWHB owned a motor boat for a while he was never a keen sailor. However he did help with finding the £90 for Bonita's purchase in 1937, the receipt for which is shown on the right.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Heading South - Amsterdam again

Today the gaffers sailed north to Enkhuizen but we said goodbye as we've decided its time to head south. 

We had a brisk sail from Hoorn tacking into a moderate Southerly wind. The day started bright and sunny but it had started raining as we got to the lock at the entrance to the Nordzeekanaal. 

By the time we got to the marina it was wet and blustery which made getting Bonita alongside the pontoon difficult. 

The first picture shows the fine Dutch ship Gaia that we saw in full sail off the little island of Marken. There were lots of people running about on deck pulling on ropes. We overtook her eventually but she caught us up again at the lock.

Allan and yet another Bonita
The flags in the background of this second picture show that it is still blowing quite hard.

However, better weather is promised for tomorrow so we remain hopeful. We finished with an entertaining supper in the Amsterdam Marina restaurant.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Tracking the OGA Fleet (by Trevor)

Those of us cooped up ashore in our homes and offices have had great fun following some of the fleet with the mAIS 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 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.

Many yachts, including Bonita, have an AIS receiver incorporated within a chart plotter so the positions of nearby merchant ships can be seen; however she does not have the additional AIS transponder to transmit her position.

Some clever techie noted that if AIS messages can be received at a shore-based radio station, the same information could be used to display ship positions live on the Internet.  There are several organisations that do this, but we find MarineTraffic to be the  most reliable 

Bonita from Haarlem to Amsterdam
Drag the map around with your cursor and zoom with the navigation bar that appears on the right hand side when you move the cursor.   Now zoom in on the English Channel or drag the map across to Shanghai.  See the live position of every ship in the area. Then right click on one of the ships. It will display the ship (or yacht's) details as well as options to see their track, itinerary, nearby vessels etc.  You can even add waypoints and calculate arrival times.  On the left hand side are useful filters to add satellite views, filter out certain types of vessel, and even build your own 'fleet'.

If you search for Bonita‑Yawl you'll see her position if she’s transmitting.  If she hasn't done so 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 a few days ago from Haarlem to Amsterdam.

You can also download MarineTraffic for an Android phone, iPhone or tablet from here.  If you really want a great view on your PC or tablet, get the Google Earth 3D extension from here
Android Screen

Not only can a smart phone be used to receive AIS data it can also be used to transmit it and this is how Bonita's AIS transmissions are made. As long as she’s within range of a cellular network (which is when she is in coastal waters), the phone will send out her speed, position and heading every few minutes.  The messages are tiny, so the cost is negligible with a UK data plan. If she goes out of cellular range for a time, the app stores up a couple of hours worth of positions and then sends them when connected.

Transmitting AIS data makes a vessel much more visible to merchant ships which is of particular value at night or in poor visibility. So how does one set up a smart phone to transmit AIS data?

Please drop me an email if you have any technical difficulties - - Bonita's IT admin.
Busy English Channel


Bryony in charge
Today we had a ladies' race from Edam. Each boat had to have a lady in command with any gentlemen aboard just obeying orders. Some gaffers had some rather unlikely looking females in charge but we had Bryony with her proven race-winning skills. It was a hot day with light fair winds and sadly some boats had much more sail than we did. However everyone had a good day.

East Breeze
The second picture shows East Breeze with Marion in charge and Barry helping out.

We are now in Hoorn, a picturesque old shipbuilding and fishing town. Cape Horn was named after Hoorn.
Jan Coen
The third picture shows a statue in the town centre. This self-confident son of Hoorn is Jan Coen, who built up the Dutch East India company and founded Jakarta in Indonesia. He was clearly a man of great energy and imagination. Unfortunately his reputation was damaged when he lead a campaign against the native Banda islanders which resulted in a massacre. The reason for this was that they were selling nutmeg to English traders, contrary to company policy. The statue doesn't seem to give much indication of remorse or self-doubt.

We are concerned about the prospects for the weather over the next few days as the situation seems rather unstable. We plan to head south tomorrow in the hope of getting a day or two of reasonable winds for the journey home.

Monday, 4 August 2014

To Edam

Molly Cobbler
Yesterday evening Bryony Sharpen joined us in Amsterdam and we motored down the canal, through a lock and bridge to the Markermeer, which is a lake more than 10 miles wide and is the southern portion of the old Zuider Zee.

We anchored for the night off the little harbour of Durgerdam. This morning was bright and sunny and we started the day with a swim in the lake.

There was a briefing ashore where it became clear that there would be some kind of organised sail round several buoys to Edam. The exact details were and remained rather obscure. However all the boats had a excellent sail in bright sunshine, a welcome relief after days in the canals.

The pictures show Molly Cobbler with Mary Gibbs in charge, and Kajan, another East Coast boat owned by Yvonne Mitchell.

The third picture shows the crew enjoying the sail with a good many gaffers trailing astern
Bryony, Allan, Alice and Dave

The fourth picture shows the little Step Back In Time, built and sailed by Tony Kiddle, which he has trailed over from Grimsby.

We are now in Edam, where our convoluted efforts in mooring up in the compact harbour  were noticed by all.

After supper and communal singing there was a hilarious prizegiving by the irrepressible Rik Janssen.

Everyone got typical Dutch prizes - apparently regardless of how well they had done that day.

We got some real filter coffee which will no doubt raise standards aboard.
Step Back In Time
Rik Janssen awards the prizes

Sunday, 3 August 2014

OGA Heineken Rally 1974 (by Tim Beckett)

Today Bonita has had a rest day in Amsterdam. While she is there helping the Netherlands branch of the OGA celebrate their 10th anniversary her arrival reminds me of the OGA's first formal event held in Holland which was the Heineken Rally of 1974 - a year that is probably better remembered for Abba winning the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo.

I'm not sure whose idea the Heineken Rally was but Ian Hunter-Edmond, a founding member of the OGA and East Coast Area secretary at the time, did a magnificent job of organising it. The rally was memorably and most generously sponsored by Heineken who provided participating boats with almost constant supplies of beer and a lot of flags - amazing!

Bonita attended the rally in company with our good friend Jan Bart Pot's Dreva, unfortunately Bart could not make the event at the last minute due to work commitments so he most trustingly allowed Mike to skipper Dreva for the whole trip. The photo on the left shows Dreva and Bonita in Enkhuisen moored outside the Bristol Channel pilot cutter Marguerita T.

40 years ago we took far fewer photos than today and those photos we did take don't seem to have been very good, probably because one tended not to take a good camera on a trip aboard an old boat. Anyway here is a photo of me at the helm of Bonita as we sailed down the Blackwater, on the right of the photo is my father Allan holding his 8mm cine camera while on the left of the photo my old college friend Justin Besley is taking it easy. The photo was taken by my sister Sian.

I have had the film that Allan took of the crossing digitised and here it is below. The fleet departed for Holland from the Blackwater the day after the East Coast Race, we left around mid-day with a pleasant westerly Force 3-4 which gradually strengthened through the night so that by the time we were approaching Ijmuiden the next morning we had a Force 6-7 behind us. In those days before satellite navigation making the landfall in those conditions could be a challenge and I remember that one boat did miss the entrance to the harbour ending up on the beach. In the film the little Dutch boat running in great style was called Saskia van Ryn, built of steel she was only a couple of years old at the time.

Finally to demonstrate that it wasn't just Abba that had the hair in those days here is a photo taken in Dreva's cockpit. Mike is at the back behind our mother Ida, I am in the cap and this blog's IT guru Trevor is in front.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Haarlem to Amsterdam

Today we travelled down the canal from Haarlem, through a couple of bridges with strictly limited opening times, and out into the Noordzeekanaal that links Amsterdam to the sea.  For most of this trip we had warm sunshine. The day was also greatly improved by the company of Beverley Daley-Yates and Christina.

The girls came over from England on the ferry and were cycling through Holland when they were tempted by the thought of a canal cruise on a gaffer. Beverley edits the OGA website and 'Sailing By', so she took lots of pictures with a proper camera. By contrast, most of the pictures on this blog were taken with a mobile phone. Christina's previous experience of sailing was on a Folkboat so she may be a new convert to the joys of gaff rig.

The second picture shows a fine sailing vessel that we saw cruising majestically down the canal with a large number of passengers on board enjoying a reminder of the great days of sail. The effect was somewhat spoiled when we later saw her motoring back up the canal under full power, straight into the wind with her sails still set.

We berthed in the new Amsterdam Marina near to several interesting old vessels including a lightship, an old windjammer, a floating hotel and a decommissioned submarine. There are regular ferries across the canal to the centre of the city. In the evening our crew was greatly strengthened by the arrival of Allan and Alice so space is getting a little tight aboard.

The third photo shows that we have left the world of small rural canals and inshore traffic, and that big ships come to  the busy waters of Amsterdam.


Sailing over the motorway
Friday morning we left the sunny rural surroundings of Braassemermere and traveled in convoy up the canal to Haarlem. The old boats travelling in orderly single file must have looked a fine sight and we seemed to have lots of appreciative admirers on the shore and in passing boats. The procession was slightly less impressive when it came to the bridges as there was usually a scene of organised chaos as the boats of various size, engine power and maneuverability tried to keep their position in mid channel while waiting for the bridge to open.
Much of the time the canal runs above the level.of the surrounding land and at one point a motorway crosses under the canal.

At about 4pm we arrived in Haarlem, and the picture shows the gaffers tied up in the centre of town. I had not been to this Haarlem before but I have been to the one in New York. There are not many similarities between the two. New York of course was originally a Dutch colony but in 1667 Holland traded the island of Manhattan with Britain in exchange for the now obscure Indonesian spice island of Run. 

The Dutch Haarlem is a bustling city with many high quality shops and restaurants.
There was plenty of other activity on the canal today. We saw lots of people out in small open launches just motoring up and down the canal, enjoying the open space and sunshine. In the UK many years ago people sometimes used to go for a drive in their cars in nice weather for no particular purpose- just for the fun of it. That doesn't happen so much now but here we have seen many people doing just that in small motor boats clearly made for the purpose.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Canals and bridges

Waiting for the rail bridge at Gouda to open
Today we left Gouda early to continue our journey north. The picture shows a large group of boats jostling to get under the railway bridge at Gouda. The opening times of this bridge are dictated by the train times: it opens once every two hours and then only for a few minutes. There is a great scramble to get through and a risk that the slower and less manoeverable boats could lose out. We then traveled several miles down the canals passing under numerous lifting bridges of many different types. Each bridge presents its own challenges especially if there is a barge coming the other way. Being an open water yachtsman Dave had had little experience of navigating through  locks or bridges before this trip but we are now well on the way to regarding ourselves as experts.

The smaller Dutch canals wind through fields, towns and villages. Often they go past people's back gardens. Frequently we find the level of the countryside either side of the canal is actually well below the water level in the canal. These tidy Dutch houses with their elegant gardens exist in an artificial world, depending entirely on dykes, locks and water pumps.

In the afternoon we arrived at Braassemermeer, a large lake at the junction of several canals. The wide open space contrasts with the confined feel of the canals that we have become used to, and the water seems cleaner.

While here I cleaned out the engine cooling water filter, which had become partially choked with weed. Sometimes the murky canal water looks as though nothing much could grow in it, but the weed seems pretty resistant.

In the evening we went out for supper with some Dutch friends of Dave's, Vince, Heather and Roger. They visited and joined us in Bonita's cockpit, although having no nautical experience at all they declined the offer of a trip down the canal.

A Day In Gouda

Dave and I, and the crews of about 30 gaffers, spent the day exploring the quaint old town of Gouda. The first picture shows the very impressive sixteenth century town hall surrounded by a bustling market place. We looked round the interior of the magnificent town hall, and the cheese market where we felt we had to buy some cheese. The market stalls seemed mostly to be selling house clearance sort of stuff and although there were some interesting pieces we resisted the temptation to buy anything - attic to attic, dust to dust. 
Everywhere in the grand old buildings here there are reminders of the great wealth that the Dutch republic of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries built up from trading overseas. 
This more recent mural is a reminder of the hazards of the sea for those floating peacefully on the still waters of the canal.

Dave visited the Bonita boutique in the town centre (no other male customers) where the staff were jolly and friendly. He was generously presented with a Bonita carrier bag and a prized set of labelled Bonita coat hangers. 
The old boat may be a bit short on some of the comforts one expects on a modern yacht, but at least she now has her own personalised coat hangers.

In the evening we were entertained by a local shanty group
West Zuid West  who sang rousing sea shanties in Dutch and English with great spirit.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dordrecht to Gouda

Today started with a guided tour of the old part of Dordrecht There are many fine buildings dating from the days with this was a prosperous trading port between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There were also several pictures and plaques reminding people of the devastation caused by the widespread flooding in 1953 which led to the building of the extensive and very impressive flood defences that are so often seen in Holland.

After our guided tour we left Dordrecht as a slightly ragged convoy at about midday.

This evening we are in Gouda. On the way we have passed through some of the busiest inland waterways in Europe; we have gone through three sets of locks and rather more lifting bridges.

This seems like a full day's work with plenty of opportunity for causing embarrassing and costly mistakes by minor errors of judgement when manoeuvring in confined spaces.

Gouda however is a quaint town and we are tucked away down a quiet side canal near the centre of town. The sad news is that D has had to go home, having stayed away from her medical duties for as long as she could. Bonita is now entrusted to the gentle care of just Dave and me until fresh reinforcements arrive at the weekend.

We found Bonita's namesake shop in Gouda although I fear it may not be doing so well as everything on sale is half price!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Next stop Gouda, Haarlem, Amsterdam then the Ijsselmer!

The major Dutch waterways that wind through town and countryside are very busy with lots of huge barges.
Many of these are 10,000 tons or more, and travelling at much higher speeds than Bonita is capable of.

These barges are always handled very skilfully and serious accidents are apparently very rare.

This AIS snapshot of our progress so far shows only a very small proportion of the other boats sharing the waterways.  Learn more about our final destination here.

Wemeldinge to Dordrecht

Today a massed group of about 60 old boats travelled in convoy through the inland waterways from Wemeldinge to Dordrecht.  They must have been a fine spectacle.

The trip was great fun but had its difficulties.  We left Wemeldinge in a rainstorm which reduced visibility to virtually zero.  The weather could only get better after that, though we had  head winds all the way.

The first picture shows a large commercial lock at Krammer crammed with elderly sailing boats.  At this point we left salt water and entered fresh, which we hope will discourage any barnacles on the bottom.

We had a scramble to fit into a smaller lock at Volkerak (picture #2) and some congestion getting under a lifting railway bridge at Dordrecht.  This only opens for 9 minutes every 2 hours so everyone was very keen to get through first time.  We're now in a small harbour off the main canal in Dordrecht

Although Bonita is difficult to manoeuvre under motor, many of the other old boats are not much better, so there's plenty of interest in watching them negotiate tight spaces.
We've seen a few minor collisions but fortunately without significant damage or loss of temper.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rest day in Wemeldinge

After the labours of yesterday we had a rest day in Wemeldinge where many Dutch and English gaffers are gathered to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Dutch Old Gaffers. 

The day started with us moving Bonita into the inner harbour where all the other gaffers are. There is a very jolly atmosphere here.  There are so many old boats packed in there is very little space. Getting Bonita in needed some luck and a lot of skill on the part of the foredeck crew and several willing helpers, but all went well and the second photo shows her in her berth. Getting her out again will be tomorrow's problem!

The third photo shows the lovely 'Molly Cobbler', a 19ft gaffer owned by Mary Gibbs (green hull with yellow top band).

Mary has spent many years crewing for other people, but after going round Britain last year decided it was time she had a boat of her own. Having come over from the East coast she is now cruising the Dutch inland waterways.

Into the heart of the Netherlands

After a good start yesterday the trip across the North Sea was at times a bit of a plod. We had mostly light NE winds, the night seemed long  and the mer was a bit mal at times. Things brightened up with a northerly breeze this afternoon.

The picture shows us locking into the Osterschelde at Roompotsluis. The sheer scale and ingenuity of Dutch marine engineering is always impressive and the collective effort needed to keep the sea in its proper place seems to have influenced the Dutch society and culture in a unique way. We got into Wemelding at about 8 pm and found a large and jolly gathering of Gaffers.

Unfortunately we were not able to join them as they are in the inner harbour, we are in the outer harbour and the man with the key to the bridge separating them has gone home. Never mind; it was nice to meet some old friends and we hope to see more tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Heading East

The picture shows Bonita with her all weather crew of D and Dave Patuck bravely sailing out of the Swale at the start of her cruise.

This is the same fine crew that took us safely on a stormy passage from Falmouth to Southern Ireland last May, when the weather was considerably colder. We had intended to leave our mooring at midnight last night after a day at work, but a forecast of NE force 5 winds made us think that a 12 hour delay and a night in bed might be a better idea.

We now have lighter head winds and bright sunshine as we head East, hoping to be in Holland in time to join the Dutch OGA party.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Bonita's 2014 cruise

Anxious and faithful followers of Bonita's blog may be wondering what the old lady is doing this year. Well, not very much so far.  However we are planning to cross the North Sea later this month to join the Dutch Old Gaffers who are celebrating their 10th anniversary. They are planning a cruise through the Dutch canals from the south to the north of the country.  Other East coast gaffers have been rather more active than Bonita: I have been enviously reading the blogs of Witch and Robinetta, both of which have done the long journey up to the North of Scotland this summer.

Inevitably Bonita needed quite a lot of cleaning and tidying during the winter. I cleaned out the fuel tank which had accumulated about 2-3 cm of sludge in the bottom. I revised and I hope improved the mainsail reefing gear.  Also a bit of carpentry was needed on the cabin sides. Bonita's cabin is unusual in wooden boats, having a double curved 'shell-back' cabin top fastened to the rounded cabin coaming. This arrangement looks lovely but is structurally weak, which is why most wooden boats have a sensible rectangular cabin and a plywood roof curved in one plane only. My father did a lot of work to strengthen the cabin sides over the years with copper and extra bronze fastenings, and I have continued the process using stainless steel. 

Fitting out for a cruise is always a busy and interesting process with all the many components that a boat needs - from antifouling paint to insurance with much else in between- all coming together just in time. This year I also decided I should get some certificates. I learnt mostly from my own and other peoples mistakes and have never had any certificates or qualifications in yachting. The last time we went to Holland -several years ago- they didn't seem to be needed. I was concerned that today this sort of optimistic attitude maybe isn't good enough, and on the inland waterways we could run into trouble if we can't produce the right papers at the right time. Therefore  my friend Geoff Jones and I spent a pleasant morning motoring with a little sailing in the river Medway, and we persuaded an examiner that we were competent. We both now have an International Certificate of Competency that we can show to anyone who suggests we don't know what we are doing.

At present the plan is to assemble a sturdy all-weather crew and, if the prospects look reasonable, to set out for the eastern horizon on Friday 25 July.