Friday, 30 March 2012

The Channel Dash - passage plan part the first.

The Owners Agent has insisted that she and I compare diaries for the next month or so. This has forced me to commit to the first stage of the wander around Britain (well, the first week to be exact). And I have discovered a hideous fact - the first week of the voyage ends in the Solent at the time of the Early Spring Bank Holiday (for non British readers, a Bank Holiday is a Public holiday, a bit like Labor Day (US) and Victorias Birthday (Canada): we have eight of them usually - this year there are nine because of the Queens Jubilee). The Early Spring Bank holiday is a relatively new introduction to Britain. It was introduced by a Labour government in the 1960's to commemorate the 1st May; a sort of Labour day too!

Anyway, enough digression. The problem is this:  it seems that anyone who has a boat takes it out in the Solent in the Spring Bank holiday weekend (and at Cowes week too, but Vagabond will be long gone by then). This means that there will be a fair chance of walking across bits of it without getting wet (or needing Divine intervention) and the more popular "parking" spots will be full by midday. Vagabond should be able to take advantage of her small draught and anchor near the High Water mark if necessary.

This map (based on Admiralty chart 0001) shows the planned  route:

Of course, it all depends on the weather. If it's blowing hard out of the West I may turn left instead of right out of the River Crouch at the very beginning. More discussion on this soon - I bet you can't wait.......

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Launch Date! 17th April!

Swallow boats told me this week that Vagabond is almost completed and she should be available for collection immeditately after Easter. Help!
So, yesterday, the Owners Agent and I ventured into Eastern Essex. Off the end of the dual carriageways (divided highways to any US reader), down a narrow lane to the upper tidal reaches of the River Crouch. Suddenly a forest of masts and a herd of boat hulls on legs emerged from the behind the trees. We had found the North Fambridge Yacht Haven (, where I thought there was a slipway that might be a suitable launching site for Vagabond.

The sun shone, the tide was out and the slipway ended in glutinous, glistening mud. A short distance from the end of the slip was a set of floating pontoons. 'Excellent' I thought 'I can launch Vagabond at high tide and she can spend her first night or so in salt water alongside the pontoon'. Leaving the Owners Agent sitting in the sun, sipping a cup of coffee (it was only 11 o'clock), I hastened to find the harbour master and found myself in a line of supplicants. Once I got to meet him, we  quickly agreed the date and booked the slip, the tractor and the pontoon berth. High water on the 17th is at 11:10.  So the launch will take place at about midday!

The Owners Agent and I repaired to the Anchor in Burnham on Crouch for lunch and she agreed that, when the sun shone and the wind didn't blow, the sea side was quite a lovely place to be!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

It's a gas (locker)

One of the downsides to sailing (and, as the owners agent would affirm, there are many) is that it is very easy to get cold or wet or both at the same time and, in a small boat surrounded by the wavy stuff, it is difficult to get hot and dry unless you go sailing in the Med or Caribbean. So I have decided to equip Vagabond with heating: not a traditional coke stove but gas fired Central Heating for a quick blast of hot air when shivering over the docking tot* after we are safely attached to the hard stuff at the end of a long day spent enjoying ourselves. This extravagance requires a gas supply to be stored somewhere so Will (in the boatyard)  has created space in a compartment in the stern quarter for a gas bottle or two. The challenge was to work out how two bottles can be put in, stowed, used and then taken out of this space because anything going into it has to pass through a 210mm diameter hole in the top.
Fortunately it has been a long and sunny day. Eventually, much pencil chewing, measuring and sawing  of plywood and foam sheet (ugh) achieved the rather inelegant result shown above. This 3D jigsaw should all fit in but the proof of the pudding will be when Vagabond is collected. Stand by for some rapid modification before the glue is be applied!

*Docking Tot: Stiff drink offered to skipper and crew after safe arrival at destination port.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Replan! Old salts and modern technology....

I met the cap'n and the purser at the local coffee house the other day.

The cap'n (left), with many years experience of East Coast sandbank dodging under that hat*, claimed I'd misread the currents in the Thames Estuary.

There was much heated discussion (even in a coffee house), then out came the Ipad and a free wi fi connection was found. The credit card was flexed, the Imray app for North Sea navigation was downloaded and its' tide planner showed that he was right.

If Vagabon leaves Burnham on Crouch a week earlier (or later) than orignally planned,  the tides are even more advantageous.

The downside is that I have to get up early on the day of departure. Since I retired, "get up early" has not been a set of words in my lexicon. However the mornings are getting lighter.....

* The cap'n demonstrated this experience to the Purser, the Viking and me when we were on a charter cruise in Ireland one year. We softly touched the mud as we felt our way into Clonakilty bay. The Viking (who habitually sailed off the West Coast of Scotland) was horrified as he only really felt comfortable with 30 metres of water under his keel.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I've just realised that it's been a month since the last entry. Outwardly, little has happened towards the voyage but there has been much paddling under the surface.
Vagabond is now registered on the UK small boats register so her name is official. She has been issued with an SRC number.
The VHF/DSC radio has been registered and we have been allocated an MMSI number (it's a sort of phone number for digital VHF radios).
The hand held EPIRB (that's a device that uses clever satellite and GPS technology to tell the coastguard international rescue centre at Falmouth where and when it's been activated) has been registered.This means that if I fall overboard and have the thing in my pocket and am concious enough to activate it at least the coastguard know where to start looking.........