Friday, December 21, 2012

And Finally...

Well, Missy Moto has departed for pastures new with a very nice young man from Fleetwood in Lancashire. I had decided that my remaining sailing time is limited being of somewhat mature years and spending even one more month of that limited time fixing up a boat was more than I was prepared to do even assuming I had the remotest capability of doing the work which I haven't. I know my limitations. Anyway she's gone and for this I must thanks the excellent website whose webmaster kindly featured the little tub's plight on the front page. So she remains in the family, as it were, her new owner has promised to keep the world informed of her progress and I look forward to reading about that.
I'm afraid I'm deserting Corribees/Coromandels for a Drascombe which will, I trust, give me the desired amount of coastal sailing and creek crawling I was aiming for with Missy Moto. My two comrades in arms having beaten a strategic retreat after Missy's concrete escapades will be joining me as guests on these excursions and we're all hoping for a better or at least less crap sailing year in 2013. There may well be another blog with a different name so don't think you're getting away that easy.
A bientot!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Aftermath

So our Coromandel, having been hauled off the shore, is now moored in the comparative shelter of Buck Shore where she is something of a talking point for the Swanage Sailing Club members. Even after all her tribulations the little boat is still afloat battered but unbowed. She is comparatively dry, the two holes bashed in her side by the gentle kiss of the seafront stone are, thankfully, above the waterline so she is unlikely to sink anytime soon. However, some kind soul has removed her engine, her fuel tank and her anchor chain and warp. I'd stowed the anchor itself in an aft locker since she was on the mooring. Frankly given the temperamental nature of the engine they're welcome to it but it is depressing to think that while most of the people who viewed her plight, many of whom helped to keep her as safe as they could, there are those who will take any opportunity to steal stuff that's not nailed down. Be that as it may there is nothing gone that is not replaceable and so far the boat is not showing irreparable damage much to my wife's disappointment! When we left for our Northumbrian trip I was ready to burn the little tub on her moorings but given her instinct for survival I'm now getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about her and am seriously considering spending more than she cost to buy on repairing her. How weird is that? I oscillate between moving her on and having her repaired. I'm not young enough or fit enough to undertake the repairs myself. Maybe minus 10 years...
I have to record a huge 'Thank You' to the guys at the sailing club who tried and failed to keep her safe but when push came to shove (almost literally as it happens) rallied round and hauled her from her hiding place and towed her to the comparative safety of Buck Shore. In addition to that the proprietor of Divers Down, no lover of the Sailing Club for historical reasons I have been unable to discern, has been an absolute trooper, using his telehoist to lift her onto her trailer on the pier so that she could be returned to her spot among the caravans and the cows with so little drama that I could almost have hugged him though he'd probably have decked me if I'd tried. All in all it has not been a negative experience. Work that one out.
In the final analysis I have to decide whether to repair or sell her as a project. I hope if it's the latter that someone takes care of her and has some fun. She deserves it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Somebody Is Definitely Trying To Tell Us Something

Things proceed apace dear readers to which the following entry will atest.

With Missy Moto lying, nay wallowing on her mooring, we contacted the doyen of junk rigs, Robin Blain of Sunbird Marine, to advise us on the mast repair. One look at the mast told us that far from being repaired correctly it had been stuck together with chewing gum which merely kept it in one piece long enough to move the boat on to us. Further examination revealed that it had been welded cursorily back together and only needed a chop short enough to flex the mast to expose the shoddy fix. When transported by Robin to Neeldespar their opinion was that it should have been sleeved internally with tube of the correct diameter epoxied in and then possibly riveted to completed the job. Unfortunately it was impossible to check that this hadn't been done since there was no way to see up the mast and check any internal reinforcing or lack thereof. It has been said that to assume is to make an ass out of 'u' and 'me' and this has proved to be all too true in this case. How one can check internal reinforcing without X-rays is the puzzle.

Anyway, with the mast away, the little boat sat basking in the sun which, now we had no way of sailing her, finally made a belated appearance. At least I could get out to her and run the engine occasionally right? Wrong, said engine again resolutely refused to start. Changed the fuel, fuel tank, fuel line, spark plug and checked that the plug was sparking all to no avail. So now we have a rather odd shaped pontoon moored in the bay amongst all the floating aristocracy and the working dive boats. Nice.

My October issue of Practical Boat Owner was delivered to my iPad (aren't I the techno-nerd) in mid-September and flicking through its pages I came across an article entitled 'Dismasted and Engineless' in which an actor, antiques dealer and boat owner recounts the tale of his boat taking on water, losing its mast and suffering engine failue all in the one trip in the Bristol Chanel. Accompanying the article was a painting by Everitt which was the reward to the author for submitting his article. I thought I recognised the craft and, sure enough, the article ends with the sentence 'The mast was subsequently welded and repaired and Missy Moto now sails off the South Coast'. What the author learned from his experience was and I quote 'Check old repairs. The engine bulkhead repair was a disaster waiting to happen. The mast had a circular score mark around it which I had noticed, but to which I paid no attention. That is where it snapped off.' Indeed! What I have learned is to trust no-one, even members of the sailing fraternity, who one would not expect to send another sailor out with an unsafe mast!

The Tail End of The Worst Seas For 30 Years

My long-suffering wife had been promised a trip to Northumberland in September once the all the juvenile hordes were safely back in the classroom and to this end we checked the long range forecast for the period of our trip. Weather good, breaking up a little towards the end of the week but in all probability coming from the west so we guessed we'd be pretty safe for just over a week and set off for the beautiful Northumbrian coast all unsuspecting. After all I'd been baby-sitting this hulk all summer with no sailing but at least no dramas. So we meandered around the beautiful north-west happily and wide-eyed. The first indication that anything was brewing was a Facebook posting from Swanage Sailng Club that strong easterlies were expected in the bay on Sunday. (Swanage Bay is renowned for being unsafe in strong easterlies and whenever you see an empty bay you know that everyone with a boat that can move has beetled off round to Poole Harbour or Studland. The operative words here are 'that can move'. Missy Moto was sail-less and engine-less and essentially immobile. I suppose I could have arranged to have her towed round but I was in the far north-east so I emailed the club secretary to explain the position and say that the little bugger would just have to take her chances. As an aside, previous easterlies had failed to be as fierce as predicted so I was hopeful that this one would be the same. Some chance.  A Facebook posting on Sunday night 23 September 2012 saying 'Oops, don't think that should be there.' accompained by a picture of a boat nose first up the Swan Brook on Swanage sea front. The picture was underexposed and dark but the boat looked strangely familiar and sure enough, Missy Moto had decided to go floatabout, tearing herself free from her mooring and running before the biggest seas seen in the Bay for 35 years. One frantic phone call later confirmed that it was indeed the little Coromandel and she was indeed under a bridge across the Swan Brook. It was 9:30pm on Sunday night so we resolved to race home first thing in the morning to see what, if anything, could be done. My Swanage contact was not reassuring raising the spectre of all sorts of dire possibilities. I slept somewhat fitfully.
A twelve hour road trip saw us back in town and a quick squint over the bridge revealed that the Little gadabout had gone, hauled from her snug hiding place by 150 horses bolted to the back of a monstrous RIB and the judicious use of some rocking to and fro by sailing club stalwarts she had been pulled out reluctantly and towed back to a Buck Shore mooring. Amazingly she was still afloat. She's nothing if not a survivor!
That Looks Cosy...
...I Think I'll Stay Here Awhile.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Signs From Above - Or Not?

After a significant delay caused mainly by inclement 2012 weather but also by apprehensive procrastination, a week was put aside to get the old girl rigged and sailing. The weather had brightened, our enthusiasm was stoked and we headed out onto the water to begin the next phase of our maritime adventure. All three of us were scheduled to be in the same place at the same time but, alas, it was not to be. 
Missy Finally Performing Her Design Function
John, who had supported the mast almost single handedly when it had been stepped in early July, had had a grumbling back problem ever since and it chose this week to finally down tools altogether and he had to cry off while it was tended to. So Dave and I headed for Missy Moto with high hopes of a first sail. The gods, however, decided otherwise as a series of setbacks began with the engine failing to start after several serious attempts. Having hooked up the main halyard, the lazy jacks and the parrels we unshipped the engine and hauled it back in the inflatable to deal with on dry land fully intending to be back and sailing by Thursday. We left Dave to deal with the engine on the Wednesday and headed for our one day of work. On our return in the afternoon we found that Dave had closed the garage door in the middle of dealing with the engine only to find himself locked out of the garage by the closing mechanism jamming. All tools were in the garage and we had to borrow an angle grinder and cut our way in through the garage door. We now had an additional job to do to make the garage secure but at least the engine had been liberated and Dave could begin his diagnosis of the problem. Eventually, after some dancing around the local Tohatsu agent, who seemed to believe that we shouldn't have touched the engine since it was still under guarantee, the engine was sorted and running sweetly, reinstalled on Friday, the main sheet finally rigged and we motored out of the bay in very light drifting winds to raise the sail and have a bit of a shakedown. Everything worked, nothing was binding and the little boat sailed in the light airs but very slowly. Into an ebbing tide we were even being overtaken by Ballard Down at one stage! 
Small Hint From The Engine Whisperer
As a brief aside, the Tohatsu has a five year warranty but, and it's a big but, only if it's serviced to their specifications which are frequent, no doubt expensive, ministrations by their appointed agents. The very old-fashioned look served up by their local appointed agent seemed to say 'you really shouldn't have taken it apart because we can use that to invalidate your warranty'. Which kind of begs the question, what are you supposed to do if it fails at sea? Wait for the appointed agent to show up spontaneously on the off chance or try and fix it yourself thus invalidating your much trumpeted warranty. It seems that the 'warranty' benefits only one group of people, Tohatsu and their agents. In other words it's a waste of expensive paper. Ignore it.
Back on the mooring we were not unreasonably pleased with our progress and we were determined to take her out in slightly more wind on the following day. Force 3-4 was forecast with a slight sea. Perfect.
Sadly, our optimism was not rewarded. Carrying our stuff to the foreshore early on Saturday morning, the frapping in the boat park sounded like the mines scene in Lord of the Rings only with more hammers. It was glaringly obvious that it was blowing directly onshore and at around Force 6 far too strong for two novice sailors to venture out in an unknown boat. So we packed everything back in the car and went for breakfast. This was to prove the most sensible decision of the week.
After an idle day during which we were busy doing not much, Dave and SWMBO took a stroll into Swanage stopping briefly to check on Missy Moto who was rocking alarmingly in the short wind born chop that was carpeting the beach with seaweed. Viewed through the binoculars Dave immediately noticed something awry but couldn't quite put his finger on it. Then it dawned, we'd lost the mast! It was late afternoon so we left it to check on the following day, Sunday. We went to bed thanking whatever fates were looking out for us that we hadn't raised the sail in that wind on that day. Swanage lifeboat would have been busy and one or both of us could very well have ended up in hospital.
Sunday saw us on the boat and hauling up the mast, still thankfully attached by the main halyard and the lazyjacks, and securing it to the deck.
The final straws in this week of disasters was that the tender engine decided to die on us as well and the inflatable tender also sprung a leak.

So, we have a dismasted boat, unreliable main engine, unreliable tender engine, leaking inflatable. Maybe, we thought, someone's trying to tell us something! On the plus side, we still have the mast, both engines have had a thorough service, neither of us was injured and we survived with our dignity in tact if not our tempers. Oh, and we have a razor-edged cat flap in the garage door beside which I fully expect to find half a cat one fine morning - the other half being on the inside.
Ah, the pleasures of boating. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My God! It Actually Floats

Well the day finally arrived and Missy Moto got put in the water but not without some antics of which read on.

Our little Coromandel, Missy Moto, has been primped and polished, but regardless has been sitting on her trailer in a yard full of assorted caravans, boats and motorhomes waiting endlessly, or so it seems, to return to the sea and her true purpose. 
Lambs To The Slaughter

In the interim Missy has had a solar panel fitted to top up the on board battery, had some of the wiring tidied up, the engine dropped in and a new fuel tank but mostly she has just sat on her trailer staring forlornly at the cattle in the field next to her probably wondering when, if ever, she would re-visit her old marine haunts.
We had intended to launch her at the end of April to maximise our usage in this the Queen's Jubilee year, but the vagaries of the Great British weather have dictated regular judicious postponements. For one thing three novices launching a boat into the teeth of a south-easterly gale in Swanage Bay was deemed foolhardy in the extreme. For another, though the mooring was laid in June last year, I had not stirred my aged stumps enough to go and locate it. When I did finally canoe out and pinpoint its location, amazingly enough right on its GPS position, it had disappeared three days later when the mooring service company came to lift and inspect it. It was definitely there on the Monday because I saw it and photographed it, if only to stem the gentle ribbing of my co-owners about buying a mooring sight unseen, but by Thursday when it was due to be inspected it had disappeared. So another delay is incurred while the local divers locate and lift it about a day too late as it happens.
See There It Is!
The year of Our Lord 2012 has seen the weather system go completely off the reservation and throw weather front after weather front onto the South Coast like rubble onto a skip. After a brief hopeful sunny interlude in March we have had pretty much continuous rain and gales so the launch has been put back numerous times and I sense a slight air of discontent in the ranks and mutiny brewing, Mr Christian. Finally we decide that we can wait no longer and, as a brief weather window appears, Friday 6 July is the target date. Dave arrives on Wednesday and Thursday dawns bright and sunny and remains that way all day. The forecast is good for the Friday but, as is so often the case, the forecast is wrong. Friday is overcast and there are ominous clouds glowering over Swanage but John is on his way from Wellow and we're not going to have another postponement. Undaunted, well slightly daunted, we tow Missy off the wall she's been snuggled under for the last nine months and head for Swanage slipway.
Now, we've had significant discussions about whether it was better to hoist her into the water which would involve a ten mile road trip to Ridge near Wareham or just to risk the sight of three landlubbers being towed down the slip by a runaway boat and trailer gambolling towards the water like a newly released cow onto fresh pasture. In the event and after exhaustive soul searching and pestering every known local to the point of insanity for information, we have plumped for the Swanage slipway so it is to there that we repair with everything but the kitchen sink.
It was carefully planned to park boat and trailer well out of the way in order to dress and step the mast but, as we arrive, a Swanage refuse collection lorry follows us impatiently into the boat park and we end up parking in the RNLI spot strictly reserved for the crew of the local lifeboat. Things are not off to a good start.
The mast stepping and attendant rope charming capers proceed with as much speed as we can muster acutely aware that the lifeboat crew, not renowned for their tolerant patience, may arrive at any moment. And it has started to rain.
Finally we're ready to roll and one advantage of the steady precipitation becomes immediately apparent. Normally the local angling club, whose club house is next to the slip, would be lined up for the sport of watching three tyros launching. It's usually a bit of a pantomime and what passes for entertainment for the anglers. I guess when your 'sport' is watching a little red float bobbing on the surface of the water 90% of the time the frolics of people like us must be the equivalent of the Roman games in the Colisseum.
Missy Is About To Start Stargazing.
The rain has kept them away so we get to fuck up in relative privacy. Not that we fuck up...much. There is one slightly heart stopping moment when Missy is first unhitched and we realise that the trailer, now loaded, is tail heavy. The first sign of this is that the tow hitch begins to travel skywards not rapidly but inexorably. Luckily Dave's been here before and he quickly hangs onto the hitch allowing John and I to get our combined weights onto the trailer while Dave undoes the travelling straps. Missy slides gracefully into the water and the trailer is returned to the boat park, the tender is inflated, Missy's engine is started (it's raining steadily and completely windless) and we chug out toward the mooring.
We reach the mooring ( not ours you understand which is still at the bottom of the bay but No.15 which, I'm reliably informed is vacant and we can use pro tem ) tie up to it after some faffing about on my part and, since it's still raining and we're all getting cold we decide to head the tender back to Buck Shore and some warm food. Unable to start the small Suzuki, Dave & John paddle doggedly back the five or six hundred yards to the shore against wind and tide, where, on lifting the small outboard, Dave discovers a fuel tap on its port side. Turning this on and pulling the cord he is rewarded by the little motor spluttering into life! We have all been there but since he is our guru for all things mechanical we are slightly concerned for the future of this escapade!
Still, she's in the water, everything works and the following morning there was no sign that she might be sinking so all's well with the world. She does look incredibly small though!
Postscript: On arriving home there is a voicemail from Divers Down to say they have raised our mooring. Oh! It must have been the one we passed on our way to number 15. As I say, everything went without a hitch.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Procrastination Rules

In September, as new boat owners, Dave and I mooched round the Southampton Boat Show looking for ways not to spend money. This, as it turns out, is practically impossible since one can spend anything from a few pounds to multiple millions depending on your bank balance. Our combined overdrafts just about permit us to have a sandwich and even that was stretching the budget some. I did manage to get a Garmin Montana 600 handheld satnav which, as well as being very portable is also waterproof and has an NMEA connection facility so it will read out to the cockpit making navigation easier. I got it for under £400 and since it'll double up for use in the canoe and is my own purchase it didn't need a pow-wow.
Perhaps We Could Add A Balcony To A Coromandel?

Having got Missy Moto to Swanage and found a spot close by to park her on the trailer we decided to launch her in mid to late September, for the last few weeks of the season to try our meagre skills and see if she floats - it's by no means certain! This was a cue for the peculiar British weather to blow it's proverbials off for the best part of three weeks thus knocking firmly on the head any thought of three novices putting to sea in an unknown hull with an unknown engine and a strange rig so we decided to park her up for the winter. Whilst disappointing, this meant that we had some more time to fit a bilge pump and make sure the electrics were working.
She's parked on a farm site nearby (5 minutes walk) and, once tarpaulined up, is looking quite snug. Of course it didn't last. The indomitable wind got up on its hind legs, rubbed the flimsy tarp over anything sharper than a billiard ball and wore nicely aerodynamic holes all over it so a new more substantial one will be the order of the day end of season. Ho hum, the learning curve continues.
Missy Goes On Safari
On the up side, I had been perusing engine makes and types to replace the two-stroke antique she arrived with and had arrived at one of two options. The ever-reliable but expensive Honda four stroke or a Tohatsu 6hp sail-drive model which seemed much cheaper but stil had a very good reputation. The Tohatsu brought the price down to a more modest £1300 (Hondas were up around the £2k mark) which would still have to wait. Then, one rainy day, browsing the marine section of eBay, what should peep over the parapet but the very same Tohatsu 6hp four stroke, six months old and only in Salisbury a mere 40 miles away. I bid expecting to get it for around £900 which would be good but in the event the 'hammer' fell at under £500, 490 to be precise, and to cap it all the engine is in Westbourne, less than 10 miles as the crow flies. What a result! Again I've bought without full consultation but Dave and I pick up the engine and hear it run sweet as a nut so there are no major objections from the stalls.
This was all at the tail end of 2011 and it's now mid-February 2012. We're eagerly anticipating a launch mid-April to mid-May and just need to fit the bilge pump and check the electrics. I'd firmly resolved to attend to the head lining and some other small cosmetic stuff but the road to hell and all that, so none of this is done and Missy Moto has been tucked away under her deteriorating tarpaulin waiting for our tender attentions in the early Spring which is almost here.

Unable to locate the mooring buoy, despite having paid for it and it's attendant ground tackle, I have obtained a set of GPS coordinates for it and, on a fine day with no ice on the water fully intend to take out the new satnav (Garmin Montana 600) in the canoe and pinpoint it so we don't lose it! Always assuming it's there in the first place. Dave has not been slow in pointing out that buying an unseen mooring from a guy 'down the club' is probably not my wisest move to date. It's not quite as bad as it sounds though but I can see his point.
And so it goes...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scotty (Dave) Can Hold Her, Captain

It's now a week since I headed home from the sunny Midlands to the equally sunny south coast where the Swanage Carnival has been wreaking it's annual shake-up of the usually sleepy little town. Not that Swanage is dead by any means. It has a vibrant musical life with two Blues Festivals, a Folk Festival, two Comedy festivals and numerous other entertainments year round. It's just that every year at the end of July and beginning of August the whole town and it's visiting tourists go batshit crazy and behave in a most un-English fashion. The whole thing is kicked off by a carnival procession involving any exhibitionist that cares to brave the Isle of Purbeck traffic and plonk themselves down in Swanage. So this year there were motorcyclists in fancy dress (a peculiar mixture of Ghost Rider lookalikes, people in cowboy gear, a white rabbit and Wallace & Grommit and not a helmet in sight.) Dune buggys (remember them?) where the nearest dunes (Stusland Bay)are protected by the vigilance of the National Trust, dunes buggys are not just frowned upon but would probably be the centre of a ceremonial pyre and danced around by naked National Trust folk painted to match their surroundings. Carnival floats representing many local organisations some exceedingly strange, town criers, folk dressed as pirates, the Flintstones and, last but far from least, a group of what looks like professional carnival performers from Luton, whose gayly coloured and incredible costumes would look amazing in bright sunlight but only achieve a kind of nervous giggle on the overcast Swanage Sunday that it is. Which is a shame because the full splendour of their garb would blossom in the kind of sunshine that the town has been bathed in for the last 3 weeks. Still this is England after all and too much gaiety is frowned on and has been since that warty bastard Cromwell inflicted his particularly dour brand of religion on us.
Just Add Sun - Some Hopes

Be that as it may I'm back in Swanage and waste no time in finding out about launching facilities, costs, tidal options and the general geography of the launch slip. Which all seems pretty tame stuff given that Dave is beavering away big time and has fabricated the stainless steel bracket to protect the bow and anchor and sent it off to be welded, removed and replaced the rubbing strake which, held only by a pop rivet, had pulled away from the hull. It is now fixed with a sturdy stainless bolt which probably means the rest of the boat will fall apart to leave one proud rubbing strake and the bolt behind. He's stripped, cleaned, oiled, WD40d the engine which to his surprise fired on the second pull of the cord, painted the trailer with Hammerite. Released the seized on trailer brakes including the tow bar brake mechanism which had also seized, sorted the anchor well and numerous other small and not-so-small tasks that required attention.

We've identified the engine as Yamaha 5hp air cooled single cylinder outboard built somewhere between 1973 & 1980 which means it's elderly, probably noisy and perhaps slightly unreliable but it'll do for now and we'll consider our options during the winter layup months when some other tasks will have to be addressed.
More anon.