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

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

T'is The Season...

....To pick up a bargain boat.

I reckon you'll be seeing quite a few cheap boats in the next month or two.

After a year of rubbish weather where even the most enthusiastic sailor will be having second thoughts about costs vs benefits, the recent storms, no end to the current spell of bad weather and mooring fees and insurance coming due, I think this will be the time to pick up a bargain boat.

A disused boat still afloat with all the gear is probably the ideal and provides endless hours of fettling to get up to spec.. Next would be a boat with a bit of non-structural storm damage like a tattered sail or lost hatch you can cheaply replace on eBay.

Ones with holed hulls aren't necessarily a write off, but there are lots of things to consider before taking one on. Not least the insurance. Would your insurance company be happy underwriting a DIY repair on a boat that's already been written off? They may stipulate any repair would have to be done professionally, or insist on a survey after repair making the boat uneconomic to repair.

Also keep your eye out for marinas and harbourmasters selling abandoned boats to recoup costs, I reckon this season there will be more of them than previous years. Shoreham Port Authority and Brighton Marina usually have a few abandoned boats on eBay around this time of year. The bad news being they tend to be fin keelers more often than bilgies. But a pre-emptive "have you got any cheap abandoned boats?" phone call might get you first dibs and a cheap price on something floating but guano-encrusted.

So, if you're after a cheap boat, keep your eyes peeled, the next few months might be the best time to bag a bargain for quite a while.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Gosport Boat Jumble.

I went to a bleak, windy and cold boat jumble at Haslar marina yesterday.

Unsurprisingly it wasn't well attended, I bought a few things: Elastic bungy cord sail ties (the type with a ball at each end); 10 for a fiver, some 3mm cord (2 rolls for a fiver) and 20m of 8mm rope for £6. The 8mm rope was marked up at £14 but I think the stallholder had had such a miserable day with so little interest he just walked over and said £6 for that. I guess he was happy to sell it at any price. So I bought it. lol

Walking through Havant to the train station in the Sue Ryder shop window there was a dinky little Barometer/Thermometer/Hygrometer set on a wooden plinth. For £5.95. I bought it and I'll put it on the boat.

By the way, I did say train station. Yesterday I used public transport. Mainly because it's a huge trip round Portsmouth harbour to get to Gosport, plus the traffic is horrendous over that side due to there only being one road in and out.

Far better to walk the half mile to the train station, get off at the other end at Portsmouth Harbour right next to the Gosport Ferry and then walk the half mile to the Boat Jumble. It did stop me buying some bits. Like two very large fenders that were marked up at £7 each and I could probably had for a tenner, but they were just a bit too big to carry. Next time I'll take a big rucksack.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Costs for 2015

As is customary for the start of a New Year, it's time to look back at the old one.

So, first of all, costs.

 £132  Mooring

£150  Insurance

So that takes care of the Annual running costs. £282 :-)

£40 Fuel (should be cheaper this year!)

£5  MX Mariner (from Play Store)

£40 Heavy Duty Wire (20m worth from eBay)

£16 Solar Panel Regulator (from eBay)

£25 Waterproof Tablet Case (case from Boat Show, connections from eBay)

£10 Large Fuel Tank (from Beaulieu, yet to be installed)

£20 4x Side Stay turnbuckles (From eBay)

£10 Oxalic Acid (eBay again!)

£35 2.2 Hp Mariner Outboard (From eBay)

£6 VERY Large Anchor (subsequently donated to Freecycle as it was too big!)

£6.50 Boat Hook (eBay)

£2.99 Boat Hook Handle (The Range)

£4.00 Pound Shop Bits

£16 Main Sail (eBay)

£18 Spinnaker Sail (eBay)

£19 2.2 Outboard Cylinder Head (eBay)

£555.49 Total Sailing Expenditure for the year.

Down on 2014, but that reflects the lack of use last year. I got some good days in, but the week away I'd been planning all year was a washout. Had I gone away. I'm sure there would be Marina bills on top of this total.

Also maintenance was minimal this year. I already had all the stains, oils and varnish, so I reused that. Next yer the locker tops will need replacing again, so I might have to shell out for more.

Some things I bought last year I didn't follow through on. I bought the big fuel tank, but haven't yet bought all the bits to convert the outboard to external tank use. Maybe that's a plan for this year, but it's not a priority.

The same goes for the Little Outboard. I got an uncracked head, but it needs a new head gasket and service to get it up to scratch.

I might put the old Seagull I've got on eBay to claw some money back. It's never worked, so I might as well let it go. If anyone wants to make me an offer, please message me, but if I can't breathe life into it, it's really only good for parts..

I didn't attend too many Boat Jumbles last year either. Probably a reflection of the weather. I did make Beaulieu, which I recommend to anyone. You can spend hours walking round the boat jumble there.

Instead I majored in eBay bargains. It seems that in 2015 it was easier to pick up a bargain than previous years. I remember in 2014 the struggle I had to get a cheap depth sounder display. It took months to actually win one at a decent price. 2015 just seemed easier. Okay there were a couple of Chinese parts, like the Solar Panel Regulator and the rigging turnbuckles, but most were sourced in the UK. Just not from Chandlers (although the bargain 2.2Hp engine was from a chandlers! But via eBay).

This year the plan is: not to plan! I spent most of my time last year wanting that cruise away for a few days and I was bitterly disappointed with the weather. In fact that week was when the weather broke and has not been settled for long enough to get much sailing in at all.

So this year, I will revert back to the 2014 model of snatching days and half days when the weather permits. That was a far more rewarding year.

I will be on the lookout for bargains as always. On the list is rope for the spinnaker so I can get that working. I've a plan to try and make the spinney easy to single-hand too. But I'm not sure it will work. I mean the idea is so simple someone else must have tried it....

A high point of 2015 was the Round the Island Race. Watching the live streaming on my TV was excellent and I don't know why one of the terrestrial broadcasters don't pick it up. They could provide coverage all the way round the Island and it would be niche enough not to get snapped up like the likes of Sky. ;-) But the pictures of hundreds of boats jockeying for position at the start were awesome. I'd recommend watching the live stream to anyone remotely interested in sailing. Even if you're not, the images are stunning and just might inspire you to have a go. It's especially impressive on a big TV.

The surprise of 2015 was Oxalic acid, which I used to clean the hull. Watching FaceBook videos it looked too good to be true, but it removed the staining from the hull easily. Definitely recommended. It also dissolves limescale from the loo at home too. :-)

Success of 2015 was the re- wiring. The tiller pilot worked so much better, the battery voltage held well (until the sun went away) and it just improved things to the extent I don't have to worry about electrical problems now. Playing with the sensitivity of the tiller pilot made it work so much better too.

So there you have my review of 2015. Glad to see the back of it. Roll on 2016.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

On Board Today

Against my better judgement I  Rowed out to Sprite today for my first visit since Monday's  big storm.

My plant pot tea light heater had been thrown on the floor and smashed, my lantern had been knocked about so much it lost the battery cover and the batteries had fallen out. But that's about all there was.

Todays wind was about f5 to f6 from the NE so it made rowing out there quite tricky. Todays conditions were about the top end of the scale for going out to the boat. Normally I'd stay ashore but I needed to make sure eveything was ok. That wind direction sets up a big swell. I partly surfed back from the boat. But getting out and on board was a bit tricky. Even being on board was tiring as I had to brace myself all the time.

I took down my cheap mainsail while aboard as it had partly come loose.

But half an hour on board was enough and I  came back after tidying up the mess down below.

Roll on Spring and Summer!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

What a Day!

I think everyone with boats on the water in the Solent area yesterday must have felt nervous. Storm Imogen smashed into the South coast with probably the strongest winds since the beginning of 2014.

I went down to the boat no fewer than three times yesterday and with all the other owners at Eastney there was a flurry of Facebook updates keeping each other abreast of the status during the day.

I went down before work and noted we'd lost at least one boat from the pond. I drove up top the end of the spit at Eastney and saw that one of the big yachts on the deep water moorings had unfurled a jib sail and it had been shredded by the wind. Looking over to Hayling Island I could see at least three small boats blown up onto the beach.

At luchtime I nipped out of work and had a quick look. Luckily everything was ok, but it was pretty blowy. A few people were down there lashing stuff down:

As the wind continued I got updates from Nicky and Jim on the status of the boats. At one point Chimet was recording F11 gusts and a solid F10 breeze. In the afternoon a small red fishing boat broke it's mooring. But luckily by that time the tide must have been low enough for it to ground out. Unfortunately it stopped right next to Jim's boat.

I quickly posted a note up on the Solent Sailors Facebook group and the owner was contacted. The Solent Sailors group sounds rather grand, but as yet it only seems to have us guys at Eastney on it. If you have Facebook, search for it, it would be nice to have more people as part of the group.

While at work I kept in  touch with everyone. This is one of the occasions where social networking shows it can be more useful than for posting videos of cute cats.

I went back after work and checked on Nicky's boat as she asked me to check her boom was ok. But by then the wind was decreasing and down to a more reasonable F7/F8.

I went back at lunchtime today and the red boat wasn't there. Jim had come down earlier and had seen the red boat on a trailer being towed home, so it looks like it was recovered either last night or earlier today. Lazy days, the boat that had disappeared yesterday lunchtime was back on it's mooring this lunchtime, so it looks as though he was able to recover it on today's tide.

But what a day!