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

Friday, 25 July 2014

Thumbs Up for Toolstation.

Throughout the refurbishment of Sprite II and my dinghy I've needed the odd bit and pieces: small tools, glue, varnish, stainless screws, sandpaper; You know, the usual bits and bobs you acquire when you take on these sort of jobs.

Being the skint sailor I tend to go faint when I look at chandlery prices. DIY stores are a little better but you get the feeling they're charging premium prices rather than giving you the best deal.

A while ago I got to know about Toolstation. I've bought a number of bits from them and tools as well. Luckily, they are across the road from work. Fair enough they don't have specific boaty stuff, but why pay silly prices for stuff if you don't have to?

I buy stainless screws in packs of 100 or 200 and its never cost me more than a tenner. Their dearest 200 pack is less than £11.

They also do a range of Stainless Fixings similarly cheaply.

I bought a litre of yacht varnish for less than a tenner.

They do throwaway packs of brushes that can be reused or they really are cheap enough to throw away.

I've used their epoxy adhesive  for various repairs and it makes a good seal on cracks in the dinghy.

So thanks Toolstation for being so reasonably priced. Expect a rush of sailor types stripping you of your stainless bits soon!

Update: I forgot to mention that if you don't have a store near you, they do free delivery on orders over £10. You can buy a whole load of stainless screws for that!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

An Excellent Mid-Week Cruise.

I'd booked yesterday off work a couple of weeks ago. Looking at the tide tables it looked right for a not-too-early start and a reasonable return time. Of course at the weekend I invited Jim along if he could make it.

So it was that on Tuesday morning we stocked up with lots of fluid, a few foody provisions and set sail for the Solent.

We dropped the chain at 9am and slipped out of Langstone at slack water, before the tide turned to ebb.

The Sun was still pretty low when we set off and Jim captured this amazing photograph of the sails back-lit by the Sun:

This for me summed up the whole day. Just...amazing. We had good weather and a flat sea. The only thing that spoilt it a little was the lack of wind.

Here's the view leaving Langstone, not a cloud in the sky:

Despite the lack of wind we persevered on to our first waypoint, Horse Sand Fort:

After Horse Sand Fort, we headed over to No Man's Land Fort, but as there was no commercial traffic heading our way we cut the corner and headed for Ryde.

Off Ryde the wind picked up enough to do some proper sailing:

Even though it was a work day, there were still plenty of boats out on the water. On the approach to Cowes we were shadowed by a couple of yachts heading in the same direction:

As you can see, still a cloudless sky and calm sea.

The stretch from Ryde to Cowes always seems to take ages, but this yacht and a couple of other boats we passed broke the journey up. We watched this charming little gunter-rigged open boat come over from Gosport to the Island:

We saw lots of different rigs and a few of the big racing yachts were out, with their huge, colourful sails.

Cowes eventually started to reveal itself:

Finally we were outside Cowes harbour. Rather than cut the corner and take the inshore small craft channel, I decided to go the long way round and continue to the main channel before heading in. We got to see the new floating breakwater that is anchored to the sea bed.

Cowes is always a bit choppier than the rest of the Solent, the amount of boat traffic seems to create the chop.

Looks like somewhere on the Riviera!

I hailed my favourite Marina, Shepards Wharf on the VHF and got a berth sorted over lunch.
Even on a Tuesday it was packed and the chap on the pontoon was frantically directing yachts here and there. We got a berth rafted to a very nice motor cruiser.

Getting to Cowes I felt really happy that everything had gone ok, everything had worked as it should and we'd even done a spot of sailing too.

Everything got squared away and we went ashore to pay our dues and hunt down lunch.

We listened on the VHF to a race being shortened just before lunch due to the lack of wind.
The RORC have been running their Commodore's cup series this week. It looks as though the wind has been causing problems for the big boats too: Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup 2014: Unlucky Race Four although they weren't racing on Tuesday.

Shepard's had a few smaller race boats on the hard:

We headed off into Cowes and had a walk round:

All too soon it was time to head back out into the Solent. On the way out of Cowes, we passed MarySlim. Its a pretty unique vessel called a VSV (Very Slim Vessel). Its designed to pierce waves rather than roll over the top of them. Its just broken a record running out to Rockall and back.

Out of Cowes there seemed to be a lot of boats out there, including one junk rigged boat that wasn't having too good a time in the light air. But it was nice to see such a wide variety of boats out on the water during the day.

We rode the tide back towards the East. Off Portsmouth the surface went glassy calm

Before we turned across to Langstone we passed a fleet of four yachts 

Then we headed across the Solent back to Langstone

Once in the harbour we waited until the water was deep enough to get into the pond and then moored up.
Finally we rowed ashore. As you can see the Sun was getting low.

We set off at 9am and got back at 7:40. 

What an excellent day. I need to organise another one. Soon!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cheeky Afternoon Sail

I took another half day of work today as the weather was so fantastic. The Sun was really stinging so it was on with the sunblock and out to the boat. Some more tweaks to the sails are needed. I've put penetrating oil in the lower pin so hopefully I can get the downhaul to tighten the main sail properly at the weekend.

One job I did before I went out into the harbour was fit the depth sounder. 30 quid from eBay isn't bad and it works! I feel a bit safer knowing what the depth is under the keel.

Didn't have time to take pictures today but I'll take some at the weekend. Depending on the weather I my sleep over on the boat at the weekend. the forecast is for thunderstorms, but they were wrong last weekend so who knows.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sailing Weekend

There have been some big tides this weekend. 5 metres on Saturday and 5.1 on Sunday. Big tides like this allow sailors in Langstone to use the whole harbour without much risk of grounding.

So with that in mind I made sure I got a lot of sailing time in!

Yesterday I arrived a bit late, having taken the wife to a car boot sale in the morning. I didn't mind because I got a clock and barometer set there! I was going to get down to the boat about 10am, but in the end it was more like 11:30. But I still had a good hour and a half or sailing in the afternoon.

Mainly getting to grips with the mainsail and trying the tiller pilot. The bad news was that the wind was a bit inconsistent, so the tiller pilot couldn't quite keep up. But that's an important lesson learned for the future.

Before I set off I fitted a new shorter shackle to the top of the mainsail, which lifted it another half inch. It helped, but the downhaul still doesn't put enough tension in the sail, due to the pin in the slide stopping the boom moving any lower. Despite this the sail is looking a lot better:

The weather forecast for Saturday had been pretty dire, warning of showers, etc. That was good because it kept most people away and Langstone harbour was almost abandoned, apart from a few dinghy sailors and the very occasional yacht.

Anyway, the outgoing dredger signalled the tide was well on the ebb, so it was time to turn round and head back to base. Day one over, sailing time 1 Hour 30 minutes.

Sunday started cloudy and windy. I had a few chores to do first, so the lawn got a quick mow, I made a flask of coffee, collected up the clock and barometer for fitting to the boat and then was off.

I got down to the boat at about 11:30, which wasn't that far off my original setting-off time of 11. I'd left the sail loosely tied, so All I had to do was start the engine, fit the rudder and slip the mooring. I followed a lovely little lug-sailed boat that came out of the marina. After clearing the deep water moorings they peeled off Eastwards across the harbour with the wind behind them.

The tide was still flooding in, so once I'd come out of the pond I half sailed, half pushed by the tide Northwards up the harbour. Up to the end of the harbour, just short of the outdoor activity centre that had a gaggle of dinghies around it.

All the while I was trying to get the best out of the sails, but the wind was again inconsistent which didn't help. After a slow 30 minute trip up the harbour I turned round and headed back South. Not long after that the wind died completely, just the occasional just pushed me along. The residual wind was hardly enough to push me against the incoming tide.

What I do know is with a bit of consistent wind, the boat really can get a move on. When its at this sort of angle it goes very well!

Jim texted me while I was on my way back down the harbour, so I dropped the sails, started the engine and headed off to the ferry pontoon, where I picked him up. So, off we went back up the harbour for another hour or two of pottering about.

When the wind picked up, we held our own against some of the dinghies out in the harbour. Certainly we weren't left for dead as we were a month or so ago. So working on the trim of the mainsail has made a huge difference.

In the end, we had a really good day. Rather than just sitting, we were actually sailing, which makes a big difference. You can tell I enjoyed it:

Jim has been enthused with sailing again. So I've started making him a new rudder for his boat as his flimsy one broke a couple of weeks ago when he took Doug out.

So far I've glued and screwed the plywood together into a rough rudder shape. It needs a tiller, but even in its rough state you can see its a rudder. 50 screws hold the 15mm marine plywood sheets together along with the fact the sheets are epoxied together, so it should hold up to the rigours of being a rudder.
Hopefully during the week I can knock the rough edges off and form it into something a bit more elegant.

Its been a really good weekend.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sail Tuning

I had a play with the sail today and sorted it out a bit. the bagginess has lessened, which is good.

One of the major causes was a lack of tension in the luff. I hauled up the main as far as it could go, but couldn't tension the downhaul. The culprit was a broken slide jammed in the slider:

With that removed the downhaul tensioned better. Its not great, but better. There's less bag in the sail and the boom stays fairly level now. Another inch or two of travel would be nice, but the pin in the slider at the bottom of the mast is seized in. A bit more difficult to remove than a rogue bit of plastic. I'll have to work on getting a bit more height at the top of the sail. Maybe a shorter or smaller shackle would give me another half inch or so.

I took the opportunity to renew the lines on the tack and clew and tensioned the foot of the sail a bit better as the old lines were a bit weathered with age. I used the thin rope I bought at the Netley boat jumble.

I've yet to sort out the reefing system. There's a snap shackle at the tack so I'll fit one at the clew as well with a jammer pulley that way I can easily snap the shackle on the clew and the the tack and quickly pull some tension in before securing the line in the jammer.

As well as sorting the mainsail, I put some silicone on the underside of the locker tops. On Friday night I gave them a layer of varnish over the woodstain. Today I put a thin strip of silicone sealant underneath around the edges to act as a drip lip. One of the problems with a straight edge is that water can travel along it and into the lockers. A drip lip forces water to drip into the drain channels around the lockers.

Just a bead of silicone sealant round the edge.

Nice n shiny after varnishing.

It was a grey days today, but the sight and sound of a Spitfire displaying over Portsmouth was uplifting. The sound of a Merlin engine still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and the  pilot wasn't holding back either. Nice.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bugged about Bagginess

One of the things that became apparent during our short fathers day Solent sail, was that the main sail is way too baggy to work properly in anything other than light winds. A number of times the boat rolled over excessively as the sail caught the wind but generated little drive.

After extensive (Okay, about 30 minutes) research, it looks as though the fix is a relatively easy one. Of course all things are relative, but it looks as though its something I can fix myself with a bit of gumption (good Northern Word that).

Basically what looks to have happened is that the sail has stretched slightly, but the bolt rope down the luff has shortened. It seems a bit of a design flaw to use a rope that shrinks under stress as a bolt rope, but that's what happens.

The tell tale is lots of creases along the length of the sail. And guess what, here's a picture of my main sail:

A very wrinkly and baggy sail
No matter how much tension I put on the main halyard I can't remove the creases along the luff, thanks to the bolt rope. The final evidence is once the main is hauled up and fully tensioned, the boom drops towards the stern. Again a tell-tale sign that not enough tension is being put into the luff. So at some point the main is coming off Sprite and is going to be worked on at home.

While I'm messing with the main I might see if I can improve on things at the clew. There's a annoyingly long bit of string attached to one of the clew reef points and it dangles in your face at the most inappropriate times. I might have a stab at making something a bit more elegant with a small jammer pulley and a snap shackle.

I must admit that there's more to sails than just hauling up a bit of rag. Its interesting getting into the science of it all and seeing why one sail performs poorly against a different sail. One of my previous interests was aeroplanes and there is a fair bit of crossover between aviation and sailing. All you have to do is think of a sail as a wing stuck upright.

So a baggy sail will make a good slow speed aerofoil, but will generate lots of drag at higher speeds, hence why when the wind picks up, it just knocks the boat over, despite letting the sail out lots. A tighter sail will be a poorer slow speed aerofoil, but will be more efficient and generate less drag at higher wind speeds. If you have a sail that is able to be tightened for higher wind speeds, then you always have the option to let the tension out of it and make it baggy for low wind speeds. A baggy sail will always be baggy, you never have the option to trim it for higher wind speeds.

So, the next big job is sail tuning...

P.S. Notice I used sailing terminology like luff and clew. I'm getting good, I only looked clew up, I remembered luff, leech and foot from memory! I can also remember head and tack, but clew seemed to have fallen out of my brain. :-)

Messing About in Boats

After the weekend's road trip up North, I'd also booked Monday off to wind down and recover from 3 days of driving.

It didn't quite work out that way.

I got shanghaied into doing the pond at the wife's works again in the morning, as the dreaded hair algae was making a comeback.

In the afternoon I went down to the boat and went for a potter about. I noticed that Jim had already left his moorings. I found him in the harbour entrance with another friend, Doug as crew. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of Jim's boat whilst it was moving.

I'd just overtaken Jim in Gannet 2

As I was overtaking him. We photo-op'ed each other

Jim and Doug looking at home on Gannet 2
Of course Jim took the opportunity to take some pictures of me and Sprite 2 as well:

Sprite is looking pretty good. I don't look out of place as Captain either. 
I gave Jim a wave. George (the tiller pilot) is steering.

We retired as a fleet back to our moorings. I noticed a new yacht having a run round Eastney pond, so we may have yet another new neighbour shortly. My fault for publicising how cheap Eastney is!

We've had a recent influx of multi-hulls. I expect they're getting priced out of other harbours and the flat mud of Eastney is just right for them and at a budget price.

Not a bad day at all, pottering about and having lunch on Jim's boat. (Lidl meatballs in a tin, lovely).

One last thing.... I think today was the first day I felt really relaxed and at home on Sprite. I'm beginning to enjoy the boat, rather than worry about whether things will work or what I'm doing. Its a nice feeling!