Monday, 28 October 2019

Laying her up for the winter

After several days of autumnal weather with strong winds and heavy rain I thought it must be time to put Bonita under her winter covers to await the arrival of Spring. Sunday was a rather better day, cold but dry with light winds. The picture shows Allan and Toby helping with the trip from Bonitas mooring to her winter berth in Faversham creek.

Toby, now 2yr 9 months old found plenty to talk about and was very interested in seeing some long abandoned wrecks on the mud at the entrance to the creek. He had no trouble spotting the red and green buoys, but was rather less sure in identifying buoys with points on, like the one in the picture above.  Some sailors rather more experienced than Toby can occasionally find these confusing too.

Its rare for us to be able to get into or out of  Faversham creek with its many twists and turns without touching the bottom once or twice. Sometimes, when things have gone really badly I have had to call up the yard launch for a tow. That doesnt happen often - usually when theres a strong crosswind making manoevering difficult.  But on this occasion we managed to get all the way to our berth without disturbing the mud at all. With a force 2-3 westerly wind there was a line of smooth water running along the channel indicating where the deeper water lay. This shows where the flood tide is running most swiftly, and I am always reluctant to assume that this necessarily indicates the deepest water as it often doesnt. But on this occasion the line of smooth water provided a reliable guide, 

Bonita is now snug under her winter covers, with the mast, spars and sails stored ashore.  Various bits of gear have been taken home for drying out, repairs or if absolutely necessary,                                                                      replacement.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Swale Match called off

Sadly we did not get the chance to see if Bonita would be romping home ahead of the fleet with a coat of  freshly applied new paint on her bottom. This years Swale Match - which would have been the 47th  - was cancelled due to forecasts of gale force winds. Strong winds in early August are rare, and I dont remember the race being called off before. However the talk in the local chandlers shop was that it has been cancelled once before but noone was quite sure when. More often we dont have enough wind at this time of year.

However the decision to call it off was clearly the right one. The first day of Cowes week was cancelled due to the storms and the cross-channel ferries were having difficulty getting into Dover harbour. I went up to the sea wall on Saturday morning to look at the boats out on their moorings. Although the boats were safe enough they were rolling around in the waves and it was certainly blowing hard with frequent even stronger gusts. No other boats of any kind were out on the river and I resisted the temptation to row out to Bonita in the dinghy to see how she was getting on.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Scrubbing off

This year we seem to have developed a luxurient growth of weed on Bonita's bottom. This may be due to unwise economy in antifouling paint, but no doubt the last few weeks of very hot summer weather have been a factor.  It discourages the growth if we can spend a week or two of the summer in fresh water, but this year that hasn't been possible. We have entered for the Swale Match next weekend and there's not much point in taking part with a dirty bottom. So yesterday I thought it was time for a scrub.

Fortunately there are a couple of posts on the beach on the Swale and it is a relatively simple matter to tie up alongside these at high water, and wait for the boat to dry out as the tide goes down.

High water on Sunday was at 3.40 am. There are not many people about at that time.
The picture shows dawn with the sun just below the horizon,  Bonita tied up to the posts, and the ebb tide just beginning. The boat in the background is Calismarde. She has just returned from an adventurous cruise round Britain over the last two summers.

Although there were no other boats moving on the river at this early hour, there is still some activity. Over the Kentish marshes we could hear the rhythmic thump of some pop concert or party miles away and obviously still very active. Eventually however these sounds faded away to be replaced by the more usual rural sounds of birds and sheep.

The whole scrubbing off operation depends on having 12 hours of dry and settled weather and luckily that worked out OK. By mid-afternoon Bonita was back on her mooring with a clean bottom and a rather muddier owner.

Will the clean bottom make any difference when it comes to the race? We will have to see....

Sunday, 23 June 2019


Sadly Dave had to leave us at Ramsgate, but luckily D was able to join us for the final leg back to the Swale. The night spent in Ramsgate was useful not only for crew recuperation, but also the wind changed overnight and we woke to bright sunshine and and easterly breeze.

The picture shows the North Foreland under conditions which have been unusual so far this summer - blue seas and blue sky. After a pleasant trip along the north Kent coast with a fair wind we picked up our mooring on the Swale just before high water.

This ends this years big trip, though we hope to have time for some shorter excursions around the estuary. There are a few jobs to be done on Bonita, including some work repairing the long pole for holding out the big jib. This disintegrated as we were passing Dover harbour and one end was lost overboard. As we were in the track of the cross-channel ferries at the time, we did not think it was an appropriate moment for some man-overboard practice to try to retrieve the pole.
We very much enjoyed joining the Falmouth Classics and the Helford rally, and the welcome we got at both of these.The Falmouth Classics is one of the largest events of its type with over a hundred entrants and many interesting boats on the water. We know the Helford river well and for a long time have been looking forward to sailing Bonita there.

This years plans were dictated by the need to leave the boat on several occasions for work or family commitments, and for this purpose, apart from the high marina fees, cruising along the south coast is ideal. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Helford to Ramsgate

With the redoubtable Dave Patuck as crew we set sail from Helford on Wednesday morning and sailed the entire length of the English Channel, arriving at Ramsgate on Friday afternoon.

We had a fair wind throughout - W or SW, varying in strength from nothing to force 7, so that South of the Isle of Wight we took down the mainsail and ran under mizzen and headsails for a few hours.  We had spring tides, which is a mixed blessing.  It's very encouraging when the tide is with you (look how fast we are going, we will be there in no time) but a bit depressing when its against you (I can't believe how slow we are going - we'll never get there).  No doubt it all averages out in the end.

We saw lots of dolphins and I was interested to see them swimming alongside the boat in the darkness at night.  I had assumed that dolphins slept at night, or at least took it easy as presumably they can't see to hunt fish.  However they still are happy to welcome passing yachts.

After this marathon journey Dave and I felt very much in need of a shower, a square meal ( provided by the excellent Royal Temple Yacht Club) and a good night's sleep.

Bonita however seems unaffected by this excitement. Her entire journey up-channel (showing her very variable Speed Over the Ground as tides change) is visible on this YouTube video.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The Helford Old Gaffers Race

Today we took part in the Helford Old Gaffers Race.  This consists of 3 circuits of a course in the entrance to the river.  We had D and Roly as crew - Roly has a small gaffer that he trails around from his base in the Midlands.  We had a light Easterly wind and were able to set both topsail and light jib on the down wind legs.  Bonita however would have liked a bit more wind.  Inevitably we didn't do quite as well as some more modern Gaffers with local knowledge, but we did get a prize for being both the oldest boat and the one that had come the furthest.  After the race D and I went ashore to visit Trebah gardens once again; D is a life member so we thought we should get the benefit from this.

The day ended with a jolly dinner and prize giving in the Port Navas yacht club.

Our tour of West Country old Gaffers events is now coming to a close so we are hoping for fair winds for the trip home...


We left Falmouth and sailed the few miles to the lovely Helford river.  We are here today for an Old Gaffers rally, but we know the Helford well from many land- based visits with the family and dinghy sailing.  This however is our first visit in Bonita, and almost certainly her first time here.  It seems very odd to be seeing this familiar landscape from Bonita's deck.

We went ashore and visited the gardens at Trebah.  Rather incongruously they have installed an armoured car on the beach in recognition of fact that many American troops embarked from here before D-day 75 years ago.

About 15 gaff rigged boats have assembled for the rally - Bonita is the only entrant from the east coast.  In the evening we all went up the river for a barbecue at Tremaine Quay.  The picture shows some of the revellers and the boats anchored in the river.  Apparently the quay was built for a visit by Queen Victoria.  Unfortunately it was never used as her visit was cancelled.  However it is now a popular spot for picnics, camping and water sports.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Falmouth Classics Day 3

Yesterday evening Jacob had to leave to go the work but fortunately D came down on the train for a few days' sailing.  Today was the final day of the Falmouth Classics with a parade of sail in the harbour.  The theory of a parade of sail is that for the benefit of the spectators each boat should progress in an orderly fashion under sail, keeping a set distance from the boats ahead and behind.  In practice there was a fresh breeze and everyone had difficulty keeping their speed down.  On Bonita we just had jib, foresail and mizzen up and were still going too fast.  However the Parade must have provided quite a spectacle even if the boats might have seemed a bit jumbled up.

                                           The Parade of Sail
The rally ended with a prize giving in the Maritime Museum and has definitely been most enjoyable and a great success: we were glad we came.
The second picture shows the 50ft electric launch Constance, originally Victorian but recently extensively restored and kept on the Helford river.

The third picture is of one of the most interesting exhibits in the Falmouth Maritime museum: the 1905 Quay Punt 'Curlew'.  After a working life in the Falmouth docks she became famous as her owners Tim and Pauline Carr travelled widely in her and for many years she was based in the icy Antarctic waters of South Georgia.  She is now owned by the museum and is kept in fine sailing condition.

The picture below is of an exhibit in the museum that is perhaps appropriate for today - the little boat 'Father's Day'. This miniature boat is only 5ft 6in long and holds the record for being the smallest boat to cross the Atlantic. How you could store enough food for 3 months at sea, and why anyone would wish to inflict such discomfort on themselves can only be left to speculation.
                                                 Father's Day

Although the rally is now over, D and I spent a jolly evening in a pub with 10 other Gaffers. In the next room was a party of shanty singers in Falmouth for the festival. We were interested to see that after a busy day of singing they unwind and relax - with more singing.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Falmouth Classics Day 2

Sadly today Justin had to go home as he had run out of time.  On the water there was one race today and I had Jacob on Bonita as crew.  There was a sparkling sea and a brisk SW wind.  We had a fine sail and with Jacob at the helm we seemed to be passing lots of boats.  However many of those were probably in different classes and sailing different courses: the Falmouth Classics is such a large event with over a hundred boats taking part that it's difficult to get an overall view of everything that's going on.

Ashore the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival is in full swing and the town is full of swashbuckling characters. The second picture shows a shanty singing group of bearded ladies - one of many remarkable performances.

We had a prize giving ceremony in the refined surroundings of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club.  Bonita was awarded three third prizes for the three races over two days.  The third picture shows one of the presentation mugs.  While we definitely don't race in the expectation of winning anything, having come so far to take part it is nice to have got something

In the evening D arrived to spend a few days on the boat and generally sort things out...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Racing in Carrick Roads

The Falmouth Classics got off to a good start today with two races in the sheltered waters of Carrick Roads.  There was a good SW breeze, and - most unusually for this summer - there was sunshine.  I had a first class racing crew in Justin and Jacob.

The boats were organised in lots of different classes, some sailing different courses.  The whole event seemed very well organised.  There were dozens of classic boats afloat, all of them interesting and most of them unique in some special way.  We had a fine day and felt Bonita had done well - although we don't get any results for a while.  Here are a few photos of some of the boats taking part, though most of the time we were rather too busy to be able to take photographs.

Afterwards  we met Sian and Ant who had been watching the racing from on shore, and had supper with the crews of Calismarde and Susan J.  As we went to bed the rollicking sounds of the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival were enjoyed late into the night.

The Falmouth Classics

We have come to Falmouth to enter the Falmouth Classics rally.  Though this has been running for some 30 years, Bonita has never previously taken part.  Lots of Gaffers and other old boats appeared today and we had to move Bonita a couple of times to accommodate new arrivals.  Over 100 boats in all are taking part.  Among other arrivals, Calismarde with Geoff & Jane and Susan J with Dave & Julie turned up.  Calismarde had come from Wales, and Susan J from a recent trip to Brittany.

The picture shows the view of the marina filling up with old boats.  The size and number of boats mooring up far exceed the normal loading on the pontoons.  Fortunately, having been well designed by the excellent firm of Beckett Rankine the marina seemed well able to handle this extra load.

In the evening we had pasties and beer served up on the pontoons, and then a convivial evening aboard Susan J.  We look forward with anticipation to the racing tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Past the Eddystone to Falmouth

We got up at 5am and left Dartmouth before even making a cup of tea.  This was worth it as we got a good fair tide round Start Point, which pushed our speed up to 9 knots at times.  Otherwise we had a day of variable winds with much sail changing trying to make the best of what we were sent.  For the last few hours the wind died and we motored. 

The route from Start Point to Falmouth goes very close to the Eddystone rock, with its current lighthouse being the fourth in about 350 years.  The rock itself is a pillar rising from the seabed some 60 metres below to form a low platform continually swept by the waves.  It is no wonder that it wrecked so many ships and that so much effort was put into building a lighthouse.
When we got to Falmouth we found quite a collection of old and old-style boats already here, although the Falmouth Classics don't get going for another day or two.  'Phoenix' (below) looks like something out of the eighteenth century, but was in fact built in 1929, and converted to her old style rig for work in films.  We eventually tied up alongside a French lifeboat built in 1955.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

A damp day in Dartmouth

After our very late night arrival we woke at 5am to find strong wind and rain.  The forecast predicted gales.  We therefore decided that it might be a good idea to have a rest day and explore Dartmouth a bit.

We walked around the town and were amazed at how easy the entrance to the river appeared with the benefit of daylight.  We had showers in the yacht club.  We ate out for lunch and dinner.  We went to Paignton on a train pulled by a steam engine.

We crossed the river Dart several times on the frequent and efficient ferries.
We now feel ready to move on should the weather improve tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Round Portland Bill

Justin and I came down to Lymington on Sunday night and left on Monday morning before the sun was up - at about 4.30.  The Solent seemed strangely quiet at that time.  There wasn't much wind but by using the tides of Anvil point and St Albans Head we managed to get to Portland Bill by the end of the tide.

The notorious Portland Race off the end of the Bill looks innocent and completely harmless at slack water.  We then had a slow and rather frustrating sail across Lyme Bay.  The forecast led us to believe we would have a brisk Northerly wind, but the wind was neither brisk nor Northerly.  We were also told we would have plenty of rain; this part of the forecast proved to be entirely correct.

The afternoon was brightened up by seeing several dolphins, and also the square rigged barque the Europa on her way to France.  Below is our view and a Wikimedia version.

We entered Dartmouth after midnight in the rain and complete darkness, which is fairly stressful although the entrance is very well lit.  Our arrival at the visitors' pontoon was perhaps not as elegant as it might have been, but at least did not cause any damage or wake up any of the other visitors.

The only way to unwind after a difficult and stressful arrival in port is with a tin of beer, of which thankfully we have a small supply aboard.

Sunday, 2 June 2019


Due to persistant SW winds I left Bonita at Brighton for a couple of days, returning on Friday when the situation looked much changed and more encouraging: the sky was blue, the sea flat and the wind a gentle southerly.  In the marina we saw this business-like looking Japanese round-the-world yacht. The japanese dont have a reputation as producing many long distance yachtsmen and I cannot remember ever seeing one of their yachts  in UK waters before.

We found Bonita boxed in by a flotilla of French yachts that had arrived from from Dieppe, but with Chris as crew we managed to extricate her and reverse away from her berth without loss of paint or damage to international relations. We then had a light wind sail in the sunshine along the Sussex coast, through the Looe channel and into the Solent. Here we saw no fewer than five immense cruise liners leaving Southampton in quick succession on the tide: huge steel floating cities with thousands of people enjoying whatever facilities might be on offer and the view from high above the sea.

                                                      Getting away from it all

 The wind petered out in the evening so we anchored for the night in Osborne bay, off the Isle of Wight.
This morning we woke to a brisk SW force 3-6 and had a lively sail to the western end of the Solent. We berthed at Lymington in the Yacht Haven. This is where Chris and Alison keep their boat so a bit of local knowledge when getting in was most useful. There are two marinas in Lymington, but confusingly they use the same VHF channel to talk to the yachts. It was only when I told them I had tied up to a berth which apparently didnt exist that I realised I was talking to the wrong marina.
However it was all sorted out eventually and we left Bonita securely tied up. I now have to leave her for a few days for a family outing to Normandy. However I hope to resume progress westwards with fresh crew and with luck more favorable winds.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

A blustery sail to Brighton

We woke to a day with a blustery SW wind, but thought that with a bit of help from the tide it would do to get us round Beachy Head.  We locked out of Sovereign Harbour and had a rather wet close-hauled sail past the white cliffs of Beachy and the Seven Sisters to Brighton marina.  As we were approaching the marina the wind strengthened and bought a persistent rain shower which was unhelpful when trying to negotiate a difficult entrance.  However we eventually tied up to a pontoon conspicuously marked 'No Mooring' and it seemed it would be alright for us to stay here, at least for a while. 

As always there are a wide range of interesting boats at Brighton, and in particular there are three Dunkirk 'Little Ships'.  All look very well cared for and in absolutely immaculate condition.  It's good to see old wooden boats being so well looked after.  The Little Ships that took part in the evacuation of the troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 - mostly small motor cruisers- are entitled to fly the St Georges cross flag with the arms of Dunkirk in the centre.

                                                            A perfect 'little ship'

To escape the persistent driving rain we took the bus to Brighton, and after a quick look round without spending any money we returned to the marina for supper in a French restaurant.  We were served by an attentive waitress who had a reasonably convincing French accent but who turned out to have come from Romania.

As always our plans for tomorrow depend on the weather; but if necessary there is still plenty to explore in Brighton.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019


The SW winds had set in and Ant had run out of time, so I left Bonita in Dover for a couple of days.  I returned on Monday with Chris and Nic who made up a very experienced crew.  Among other things, Nic has sailed in Bristol Channel Pilot cutters, and Chris has sailed round Cape Horn in a square rigger.  I we hoping therefore that Bonita would be on her best behaviour (as she usually is).

We left Dover at the beginning of the west-going tide and had a fine close reach as far as Dungeness.  We then had a mixture of calms, head winds and rain squalls but nevertheless we managed to get to Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne in time before the restaurants closed. 

The harbour is a little way out of town and when we last visited  there was not much here apart from the prospect of a long walk into Eastbourne. There has since been a lot of building and as well as plenty of flats there is also a fine choice of places offering refreshment. However with our excellent all-weather crew we hope to be able to resist these temptations and move on tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Dover Day 2

Today Bonita, Ant and I are still in Dover. Though we woke to a nice breeze from WNW, all the forecasts said this would shift round to the SW and strengthen when we were still some miles away from any harbour and by which time the tide would have turned against us.  Deciding not to sail with an unsatisfactory forecast is sometimes a very difficult decision. Dad used to say that he got much more sailing in - and more exciting too - in the days before the shipping forecasts.

However we decided to stay and explore Dover.  We visited Dover castle where they are running exhibitions on the castles role in the Second World War.  We spoke to several people dressed up as wartime servicemen and civilians and they all seemed very knowledgeable about life then.  It being a holiday weekend there were lots of people visiting the castle, with a Spitfire patrolling over the white cliffs of Dover to add to the occasion.  I sometimes wonder if all this sanitised nostalgia for a war that happened a long ago is quite healthy.  However it made for an interesting day ashore and maybe more relaxing than sailing against increasing wind and tide in open water.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Dover Harbour

This year we hope to cruise to the West Country, although this will have to be fitted in around a number of other commitments. 

With Ant as crew we left our mooring on the Swale at high water today - around 4.40am. The compensation for this early start was watching the sun rising above a clear horizon. It was a day of light winds but we were able to carry a fair tide all the way to Dover. Entering Dover amidst all the ferry traffic is always interesting as usual there is a lot going on in the harbour and the town.

We saw several 'Border Security' boats that patrol the Channel to discourage illegal immigrants in small boats. Despite any concerns over Brexit the harbour is certainly busy. There is a constant stream of ferries, lorries, cars and coaches using the port and no doubt a fair number of migrants both legal and illegal. There is little sign of Brexit uncertainty in the Eastern end of the harbour where there is major redevelopment in progress, much of it  funded by the EU with the aim of improving communication between EU countries. This development will include a new and larger yacht harbour so many more yachtsmen will be able to enjoy tackling the turbulent tides sweeping past the entrance to the harbour.

We had a more relaxed afternoon after such an early start, and climbed the famous White Cliffs to enjoy this panoramic view of a huge harbour:

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Easter 2019

The date of Easter varies as it is linked to Passover, and hence the lunar calendar. Conveniently this means that at Easter we always get a combination of spring tides and public holidays - ideal for getting Bonita out of her mudberth and out onto her mooring. The picture shows the full moon rising over the flat Kentish coast. The moon looked huge as it always does when it's on the horizon . This is an optical illusion though which is why you can't capture it in a photo; the actual angle the moon presents to the eye is always the same.

                                                                      Full moon

So Bonita is back in the rural surroundings of the river Swale, but with the familiar bulk of the Kemsley paper works on the Western horizon.  There is a historical connection here for those that like this sort of thing.  Bonita's first owner, Edwin Wrigley made his money from the  paper mills of Manchester.  In the early 19th century, paper was made from rags and cotton waste from the Lancashire cotton mills. Papermaking needs a lot of energy, which came from water-wheels driven by the streams coming off the Cumbrian hills.  By the 20th century the economics of the industry had  changed greatly.  There were huge demands from Fleet Street for newsprint: the raw materials were now woodpulp from Scandinavia and esparto grass from Spain: and the power source came from coal or electricity.  Papermaking, like Bonita, drifted south and the Kemsley works near Sittingbourne became one of the largest in the country, supplied by small coasting vessels coming up the Swale.

We still have some painting and minor maintenance to do but its nice to be afloat once again for the new season.

Friday, 22 March 2019

The Arnside Conference

At the weekend  D and I attended an excellent  conference at Arnside with several talks on  Crossfield's boats and the contributions of the Crossfield family of boatbuilders. The conference was ably organised by Alasdair Simpson of Arnside Sailing Club, and there were about 60 people present including several owners of Crossfield built boats. Alasdair was presented with an OGA trophy for his efforts in organising the meeting and researching the local boatbuilding industry.

                                                        Alasdair Simpson with OGA Award

There were several members of the Crossfield family present, and Eric Crossfield, who is a member of the Old Gaffers also spoke. The boatbuilding business closed down in 1940, and I think they were pleased to see that their name is still held in such high regard.

                                                              Eric Crossfield

Its possible to see the site of the boatshed where Bonita was built, although the building has now gone and a couple of semi-detached houses are being built on the site.  The boatshed was in the middle of the village a little way up a hill from the river, so finished boats were rolled on a trolley down the middle of the street to be launched. They had no way of getting boats back up the hill into the shed, so any repairs or modifications had to be done on the beach between tides. The site of the boatshed seems very small, when one imagines them melting down tons of lead to cast a boat's keel, or steaming large planks to bend them into place to make the Nobby's characteristic elliptical cockpit coamings. Yet very many boats were built here over around a hundred years and established the family's reputation for good quality work.
There was a general feeling that the conference was too good to be a 'one-off' so maybe we shall be making a regular pilgrimage to Arnside in future.

Friday, 11 January 2019

An Historic Ship

We recently found that Bonita has been entered into the National Register of Historic Vessels - here is her certificate below.....

This is in recognition of the fact that she is an almost entirely original Victorian yacht: also the oldest Crossfields built boat afloat and possibly the first yacht that Crossfields built - at least she was their first entry in Lloyds yacht register, which was first published in 1878.

For a long time we have been looking for a picture of Edwin Grundy Wrigley, the man who commissioned Bonita and was her first owner. Recently, with the help of Wendy Gradwell, who works for the Bury Archives, we have found the photo below.

Edwin Wrigley was a prosperous local businessman who was part-owner of a large paper mill; he lived in an impressive house on Holme Island which is near Grange over Sands. No doubt William Crossfield would have put his best efforts and finest materials into his first yacht commission for such a prominent local person.  Sadly Wrigley did not live to enjoy sailing Bonita for very long. He died in Cairo in 1892 at the age of 60. Wealthy people at around this time sometimes took a sea voyage by steamship to Egypt when hoping to convalesce from serious illness, and that seems to be the explanation in his case.