Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Friday, 31 January 2014

App Time (Number 3 of a Series)

Today's app is another web site I couldn't do without: Not because I need a fishing boat, but because it has really good links to weather sites, including free synoptic weather charts, giving predictions for the coming few days. If you know what you're looking for then you can have a go at predicting the weather and seeing if you or the weatherman get it right.

Check out the weather/tides link

So far I've been pretty accurate but then again I only predict up to 48 hours in advance.

I  usually have a check Thursday and Friday so I can see what the weekend weather will be like.

By the way CHIMET is back! Currently only the wind sensors are working, but that's a start. Kudos to the guys running it, its probably been no fun replacing bits out on the bar beacon in the rubbish weather we've been having.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


I've been sorting some of Sprite 2's paperwork over the past couple of days.

A while back I did the necessary changes on the Ofcom website to my ships radio licence to include Sprite 2, luckily the paperwork that came with her included the previous owner's licence details so I had her callsign readily to hand. These days ship licences and also the Amateur Radio (Radio Ham) licence I hold are all administered online. The only provision is they have to be kept up to date and of course I have to renew the Short Range Certificate every 10 years (next one due 2017 in my case **).

Of course a ship keeps it's callsign, so it has to transfer with the ship and having paperwork saves time and bother trying to get the details.

I haven't yet registered her for an Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number under the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) scheme, even though my Short Range Certificate allows it. I used to have a VHF Radio with DSC on it on my old boat and kept the radio, but on that particular radio the MMSI number can't be changed easily. You need software to do it, which is difficult to get hold of. If I can get the software and I can change the number, then I'll make the change. Sprite 2's callsign pre-dates DSC and the radio fitted to it doesn't have the capability. But DSC is so handy especially when its linked to GPS: calling for help and giving position data is as easy as scrolling down a menu and pressing a button that at some point I'll sort my old Radio and fit it on Sprite 2.

But for now I have a VHF only Ships licence and also a VHF portable licence which allows me to use the freecycle handheld on any boat.

I also registered Sprite 2 on the MCA's CG66 database so that god forbid if anything bad happens, they will know who the owner is, the appropriate shore contact and all the physical details of the boat if they have to go looking for it. I must say that the web pages for the CG66 service are functional (just) but could do with a spruce-up.

I tried entering a photo of Sprite 2 onto the page and even though all the parameters were correct, it kept failing. I fired off a support request this morning and to their credit I got an email back from a lady at the Bridlington station asking for a copy of the photo so she could add it manually. I did and now all the details are correct.

I'm not sure adding Sprite 2 to the SSR is necessary, it depends on if I have £25 to spare!

On of the next thing I need to do is register with the Sea Wych owner's Association which might prove to be useful. Looking at the web pages registration seems to be locked in the pre-PayPal dark ages but once I have the cash I'll give them a call and get things sorted.

So there's been plenty happening even if its been tippling down for the past month and a half!

** I did my SRC on 20th May 2007. How do I know? Well, I first met the current Mrs Phillips the day before. I had been chatting to her on the internet after having been introduced over the 'net by a friend. I arranged to meet her the day I came down to the South coast the day before the course in Southampton.
Obviously things worked out. :-)

Saturday, 18 January 2014


The main reason I moor my boat at Eastney is because its the cheapest place on the Solent. I don't think you can get much cheaper than £126 a year and that's including harbour dues!

Of course many other people do the same, although some can't afford to maintain their boats either, so they end up sunk or abandoned on the shore. If Dylan Winter is reading this no Dylan, people don't abandon Centaurs on the beach. More's the pity as I'd have snaffled one long ago!

Anyway, I took some photos today of the sadder looking examples.

First there's the Falmouth Gypsy that was in my storm video, which has got even worse now.

The loose bit at the back of the cabin has fallen off, the transom has a huge split down it and the hull has a huge split in it where it has been flexing. Basically its scrap.
Here's the transom:

Luckily it has a secondary bulkhead at the stern, but it won't be long before its no longer watertight. Either the crack in the middle of the hull will reach the waterline, or the secondary bulkhead will spring a leak.

At least its still floating (just). A few other boats at Eastney have succumbed to the sea, or filled with rain water. Not small boats either: here's an old fishing boat that seems to have filled with rainwater to the point it no longer floats and now the sea fills it at high water spring tides.

Its a shame because you can see at the stern that its set up for fishing or ferry service. You can imagine it taking people out on trips. But not any more.

Finally there's a lovely cute little clinker built, gaff-rigged sailing cruiser that has sadly seen better days. Its been several years since it saw a coat of varnish and everything on it is weathered and green. In places it has moss and Lichen Growing on it, showing possibly a decade of neglect.

Every rope is green, the wood has long since lost its weatherproofing and there's a fist sized hole in the roof.. The hull is no better, it doesn't float. Such a shame for such a lovely little boat to end up like that.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

App Time (Number 2 of a Series)

This time its not so much an app as a web site, but I do refer to it constantly on my mobile browser. This blog is a bit unusual in that I'm blogging about the loss of an app.

Its the CHIMET website I'm referring to ( Its a real-time automated station on the Chichester bar beacon that reports everything you need to know about the weather, tide and sea state in the area.

Unfortunately it got struck by lightning at the beginning of the month and its like having your hand chopped off. No longer can I check on what the wind is doing right on the coast, nor can I see the actual tide gauge reading (including storm surges) as opposed  to the predicted tide level.

I can't now see how lumpy the sea is either: CHIMET reports on the wave height and the period between waves which tells you how bad it really is out there before having to sample it for yourself.

I just hope it comes back soon!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Save a Centaur: Help Dylan Winter!

I blogged about attending Dylan Winter's talk at the RAFYC in Hamble on Friday night. It was quite a good talk and any yacht club can do worse than invite him down for a chat and to have him talk and show a couple of his videos.

Dylan has a dream to restore an old Westerly Centaur with a knackered inboard engine and take it to the Shetlands and round the top of Scotland. He took in a bit of local knowledge on Friday night and trawled the boat yards of Chichester harbour where he found loads of Centaurs, but not quite the right one.

Not by replacing the engine, but giving it a new lease of life by cutting a well into the cockpit floor and fitting an outboard which should put the prop right where it used to be with the inboard, rather than the more ubiquitous outboard bracket on the transom.

That way he saves an old boat from rotting to death in a boat yard as its cheaper to buy a new or used outboard and create a well for it than pay a few thousand on a new inboard and possibly gearbox, stern tube, etc.

He has the backing of one of the Yachting Magazines who will support him in his quest by taking his article (and thereby supplying a small money supply for the project).

He's also got West Systems the Epoxy people on side as well who have pledged to support the project. After all, they may get a new stream of people cutting holes in their boats and fitting outboards in them if it catches on!

Its a noble idea which if it gains traction might get a few larger old boats out to sea.

So, does anyone out there know of a half decent Centaur (it HAS to be a Centaur apparently) somewhere on the South Coast who's engine has just coughed its last and who's owner really has had enough of the bills for an inboard and wants to move on? The budget is up to £2000 for a good 'un that doesn't need much more than the old engine ripping out and the outboard well fitting along with some sprucing up.

As a skint sailor I fully support Dylan's project up to a point. If it pushes up the price of mouldy Westerly Centaurs I might change my viewpoint. lol.

Friday, 10 January 2014


I'm currently at the RAF Yacht Club in Hamble waiting for Dylan Winter's talk on his sailing exploits. Should be fun.


It was nice to see Dylan in action talking about his voyages, he really is a nice guy. I hope he finds a Centaur down here he can use for his Scottish leg of his journey round Britain.

If anyone knows of an old Centaur rotting in a boatyard or not rotting that can be snapped up for under £2000 please let Dylan know about it on his Keep Turning Left blog.

Taking Stock

Now 2013 is over, its an interesting exercise to have a look at how much I've spent since August when I got the boat.

So, here's a run-down of costs.

Sale of Radios:    -£530.00
Boat                     £    0.00
Engine                  £300.00
Marina 1 Night     £  18.50
Mooring Fees       £126.00
Insurance Deposit £  33.00
Van Wheel            £ 10.00
Mooring Buoy       £   0.00
Cement                 £ 18.00
Chain                    £ 40.00
Rope                    £  27.00
Total                   £  42.50

Insurance              £  8.00
Teak Oil               £  7.00
Sandpaper            £10.00
Dinghy                  £16.00
Paddles                £10.00
Battens                 £10.00
Epoxy                  £  4.00
Varnish                £  9.00
Total                   £74.00

Insurance              £ 8.00
Epoxy                   £ 2.00
Plywood               £ 0.00
Generator             £ 0.00
Chain Swivel        £  5.00
Total                   £15.00

Insurance              £ 8.00
Oars                    £20.00
Total                  £ 28.00

Insurance              £ 8.00
Seizing Wire         £  6.69
Bucket                 £  4.00
Rope                   £  3.00
Total                  £ 21.69

Total for the Year is £181.19.

That's not bad going considering its £36.24 on average per month. I did say before that expenditure was running at around £40 per month and that's a pretty accurate guess from the top of my head.

September was the heaviest month, but then I expected that as I'd used up the money I got from the sale of my radio equipment in August. Buying the list of DIY items that were needed and the dinghy and paddles bumped up the cost a bit but they were necessities.

Things calmed down at the end of the year not only because I'd already bought items and didn't need any more, but also because the winter storms had begun and stopped any work being done. I haven't used all the teak oil or varnish, nor used all my sandpaper. So I've not had to buy any any consumables yet.

Oh, and Christmas of course.

Anyway, expenditure for January stands at just £8.00, the monthly direct debit for the insurance.

Hopefully I've shown that you can own a boat and not shovel huge sums of money into it. You just have to be practical and able to take on small jobs. And be prepared to trade time for money. You do the jobs quicker by paying someone to do them, you pay more money. Money is fixed (I don't have bottomless pockets) so therefore the variable becomes time. It will take longer, but I should be sailing this spring. Each job has already got a plan formulated and is ready to roll. Of course things can throw you a curveball.

I fully expect that to happen with the mast step, which to me doesn't look quite right and I think will need some investigation at a minimum and possibly some remedial work.Its a known problem on the Sea Wyches, where the mast support goes and the mast step sinks. But isn't a major job in the great scheme of things. It just need the support for the mast step cutting out and redoing. All of which can be down internally.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Stormy Weather

I took this video last Friday to show how bad the weather was and how high the storm surge risen. You can see the dinghies under water that would normally be on a dry beach, so the surge was almost a metre higher than normal. That meant the boats at the bus stop at Eastney were floating rather than sat on a safe beach and once again they were bumping into each other. You can also see the little blue boat that was very low in the water.

You can tell its been a bit wild out there because today I checked on the boat at lunchtime and noticed something white behind Sprite 2. Yes, its a capsized boat!

If you check this picture you can see the boat right way up behind Sprite 2:

It looks like the cabin and the engine are under water along with the accessories that'll have spilled out of the boat.

Its a shame really but it does show the force of nature that the boats have been putting up with over the past few weeks and days.

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, but they were taken through the lens of my binoculars.


I've just looked through my photo records from the weekend and that capsized boat was afloat yesterday, so it must have turned turtle overnight. Possibly a combination of wind and a lot of rainwater on board sealed its fate.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Yet More Stormy Weather Taking its Toll.

Friday had yet another storm, yet another storm surge on top of a high tide. High tide coincided with lunch so I nipped out of work and spent my lunch break down at Eastney.

Some of the boats near the bus stop; the ones that were bumped together during the first storms were yet again bumping into each other. After three big storms they were now looking worse for wear.

A little blue boat was bobbing about and very low in the water and not far off sinking, the large yacht next to it had a broken roller jib. Its not looking good for boats in that area. One boat that is more or less a hulk had its deck separated from the hull. with the loss of rigidity the hull was starting to fold up on the bigger waves. To add to the misery, another boat with a lowered mast had bumped into it and the mast was thumping the cabin top every wave. Not conducive to a straight mast at all.

Back along the foreshore mine and Jim's dinghies were under water:

However, luckily the boats were fine, bobbing about on their moorings.

Others weren't as fortunate, this boat was floating a few weeks ago:

The tide wasn't far off overtopping the road in places, something I haven't seen down there, but I've seen the tide marks to show its been close in the recent past:

This boat had  broken its moorings again and this time ended up right up at the top of the beach.

Normal tides never come this high. They may come close a couple of times a year, so if it stays there then the owner is going to have a job floating it off again.

The woes of a boat owner battling the elements. Mind you, its far better if you use decent rope and anchors for mooring. Even better if you use chain. I do keep banging on about this, but chain isn't that expensive if you buy it from the right places and it doesn't chafes as much as rope does. Sure eventually you have to replace it, but maybe every couple of years or so for safety's sake.

Okay rope is cheap, but how cheap is it to hire a crane to drag your boat down the beach, or replace a mast after its been banged against another boat?