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

Friday, 30 September 2016

Thanks a Bunch Google

It looks like Google has made changes to the template I use for this blog. Unannounced I've lost my blogroll of favourite blogs.

I'm at work and have only just noticed it, so bear with me and I'll try and re-create it this evening.

Thanks Google you bunch of tossers. I've already had the email saying you're limiting the search on blogs to just the contents of the blog (i.e. Google), but this change was totally unannounced.

Now a blog that has been up and running fine for three years suddenly has bits of it missing. Fan-bloody-tastic!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Cut Price Chandlers

First off, let me explain where my idea is coming from. After you buy a car it needs maintaining. Now to maintain that car you have two options: You can buy parts from a dealer, or you can buy unbranded parts from a motor factor. The unbranded parts are of a decent standard, they do the job and they are safe. The paint finish may not be as good as the original (but that doesn't matter on a suspension arm, for example) and quite often come out of the same factory. Most people buy non-original shock absorbers. Some prefer to by branded aftermarket shocks, like Monroe, Koni or Spax and in some cases they can be of a better specification than standard.

Lets stick with the shock absorber analogy as we transfer to boats. You buy a Ford car, it will have Ford branded shock absorbers fitted. They are the original equipment, but the manufacturer may not make them, they may buy the shock absorbers in from a reputable manufacturer. When they wear out you may buy the Ford branded part from a dealer, but more likely you may buy a branded non-Ford part, or a completely unbranded part from a motor factor. All three types will do the job they are supposed to do safely. The Ford part and the unbranded part may even be made in the same factory, it's just cheaper because it doesn't have the brand stamped on it..

A boat may be supplied with Harken blocks for instance. When the blocks wear out you may fit the same Harken Block, or you may fit a Ronstan or Barton one instead. What you don't get in the boaty world is the budget equivalent part.

So there appears to be a niche in the market for decent, low cost parts supply, like a motor factors, but for a boat. A Primark of the seas, where low cost parts are sourced and sold. It's even easier than a motor factor because you don't have to stock parts for each model of boat. One cleat will fit many boats, for instance.

Somebody somewhere in the world must be making such parts, all it takes is someone to go out and source them.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Boat show Musings and a New Market for the Brave?

The one thing that has come out of the boat show weekend is that the Southampton Boat Show is close to a tipping point.

It's very close to becoming as irrelevant to sailors like me and the thousands of other skint sailors as the London Hooray Henry Champagne Bar-bedecked bash.

Looking at a lot of the feedback from the show there seems to be a criticism that the show is ignoring the majority that pay entry and come through the gates for the spectacle and is starting to pander to the minority that can commit to buying a boat at the show.

Even the smaller traders, that can usually be relied upon to furnish some boaty bargains on the day seem to be hamstrung by big rental costs for their pitches. Bargains... true bargains were thin on the ground. Even the usual cheap rope wasn't so cheap.

You can gloss over it as much as you want by having weird Guinness Book Record attempts (largest number of people making a picture of a boat??), or limited on the water opportunities (great for those that don't have a boat), but there was pretty little for those of us trying to keep a boat going on a limited budget.

One thing I did note was that very few people were taking things away from the show. Lots of empty hands not carrying carrier bags loaded with stuff away from the show. Now I know there are plenty of people with a bigger budget than me, so it's plausible that I should see some of them carrying goodies away with them. But I didn't see many if any doing that. Very unusual and possibly an indication that the items on offer at the show are overpriced maybe, or the internet provides better bargains, or shoppers are becoming more savvy.

The thing is, what do people come to the show for? It's an interesting question and one that the show organisers should really be asking.

What do I go to the show for? My motivation isn't to buy a boat, that's for sure. What I do go to the show for is to see the latest technology and boats and see if I it's relevant to me and if I can use it. Maybe not at the show, but at some point. I may pick up a bargain if I think it is a genuine bargain. I'm not going to buy something with a 10 or 20% show loading (because the vendor has to cover exorbitant stand rental) advertised as a bargain. The on-the-water attractions don't er, attract me because I have my own boat.

The organisers really need to start to re-engage with us ordinary sailors, the ones that have boats already and are out there sailing every weekend. Do us poor saps who pay to get through the door a favour.

Maybe have a boat jumble area, with reduced stand sizes and rental costs, so the vendors can sell at proper bargain prices. Let those premium priced vendors charge the prices they want for premium brands, but let us bargain bucket boaters have our little area where we buy non-branded stuff cheaply.

Which brings me to another idea I have about a new type of chandler, a Primark of the seas, for us bargain boaters. Why are the chandlers full of branded kit? I don't think I've ever seen non-branded items like cleats, or blocks. Someone in the world must manufacture them.

Something to pick up on in my next post I think.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Boat Show

Earlier in the year I took advantage of an early-bird offer for tickets to the Southampton Boat show. Two tickets for a tenner!

Which meant I could have a mosey on down to the seafront and see what's what. So I went down yesterday. The bad news is payday is Monday, so I was a truly skint sailor looking round the show. I'm also suffering medically at the moment, so I could only manage just over a couple of hours down there. Plenty of time to scoot round and have a mooch, especially when 95% of the show is out of your financial reach.

First off, by the entrance was PBO with a pretty worthy effort at getting people to understand that you don't need to spend the kid's inheritance to get on a boat. They had Ciao Bella and Marlin on their stand.

Marlin is being sailed by Dave Selby whi being sponsored in aid of The Guillain-Barre & Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies charity. He's on twitter here: @ImpracticalBoat

You can sponsor him at his justgiving funding page

Anyway, the PBO stand had quite a few pictures of boats, each with a very cheap cost ascribed to it. Some even free, like Sprite 2. But it's nice to see the cheaper end of sailing promoted.

Maybe at some point the boat show organisers could have a bargain bucket section, with cheaper rents for exhibitors so they can show of their wares. I doubt anyone servicing the skint sailor has enough margin in their day-to-day dealings to afford a full-price stand at the show.

There is still a dearth of smaller boats at the show, but I imagine that's the reason why.

It's long been a bugbear of mine that small boats at the shows tend to be split into two camps: the trad boats, the crabbers and the gaffers that hark to a bygone age full of wood and varhish and gaffer or gunter rigs.  Or the not very practical semi-racers, almost like upscaled dinghies with open sterns to help the waves that break over the bow to drain away, huge cockpits and claustrophobic cabins, like this one:

So finding something sensible, practical and reasonable on price was a mission.

First off, this red boat stood out in a sea of white now when you see a boat in a different colour, my brain instantly goes "Oh hello!" and gets curious. The builder is obviously making a statement: this boat is different.

From a way off it looks a reasonable size, the cabin also looks pretty decent for the size of boat compared to the soap-dish semi racers. So I went over and had a look.

It's called a Wild Atlantic 33 Ocean One Design:

With a price tag of £170,000... er, not for the likes of me then. It's got the now fashionable open stern, but the disconcerting thing attached to the stern is the electric propulsion. Yep, 170 grand doesn't get you an engine.

Now whilst I understand electric propulsion is very worthy and all that, I can't help but think it's a little misplaced in a sea-going craft. We all know the reality of battery power is it's going to let you down just when you need it. Call me a luddite, but I'm not at all convinced by it as a concept. On Inland waterways, it's fine, because when you lose power you drift into a muddy bank. but not for plugging the tide over a notorious bar or reef.

Anyhoo, there were more "trad" boats:

Lots of wood, lots of varnish, lots of maintenance...

The stand-out star for reasonable-ness was the Sedna 24.

Reasonable size and a reasonable-ish £29,995 price tag. I say -ish, because the price is pretty basic. Look at the options list for what they are calling extra options and what most people would call essentials. Does anyone spec a hanked-on jib any more? Roller furling costs you an extra £446.

£95 for a chemical loo, £295 for anchor, chain and warps, just over a grand for a Tohatsu 6Hp and an extra £127 to have the charging circuit connected up. Mind you Nav lights are an extra £290, so do without them and you won't need to charge the battery so much.

It does look a nice boat, except for that pedestal in the middle of the cockpit. It'd break your back if you fell backwards over it, or even worse smacked your head on the shackle at the top of it. I take it it's the mounting for the Mainsheet, hopefully with jammer and ropes in place it will deflect body parts from serious injury.

So actually once it's kitted out you're looking anywhere between 30 and 40 grand. But hey, that sub-30 grand price point gets you looking.

Anyway, after a coffee and a bun, I was done and made my way back to the entrance.

The PBO stand's effort to push the philosophy of low-cost sailing made me think. Plenty of the stands at the show are asking premuim prices for their products. Very few actually sell at a low price point. I blame the show organisers, they charge what they can for a stand and the trader has to cover that expense, but there must be traders out there that help us offset the cost of boat ownership. The guys that import directly, make smaller margins and try and undercut the guys out there that put superyacht margins on their wares.

I know Marine Superstore over at Port Solent are reasonable (for a chandler) and don't charge exorbitant price for parts. I thought the 17 quid they charged for the brand new Barton cam cleat wasn't bad. Marine Superstore tend to charge about 10 or 20% less than other chandlers and often have special offers, like the Hempel antifoul I got earlier in the year.

When I had a powerboat, I needed an exhaust manifold for my OMC V6 as the original had cracked. I hunted around and found these guys: who sold pattern exhaust manifolds and saved me a packet. I also got my first VHF handheld off them cheaply too. Back then they were working out of the from room of a house, I assume 7 years on they've got better premises. :-)

Does anyone else have any favourite cut-price chandlers out there that they can recommend? I've heard the chandlery barge on the Hamble is quite reasonable. Has anyone had any experience there?

If I get enough recommendations I'll put them on a page.

Talking of chandlery, I'm after a small hatch (not a port light or porthole) max 12 inches (300mm) square. If anyone knows of a cheap one going, please let me know.  I'd prefer the Lewmar size 10 Ocean hatch, but anything that size that I can keep open for ventilation on a horizontal or sloping surface even when it's raining I'd consider.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Oh Look, More Wind!

Today it was a bit windy and being Northely, it was quite lively out in the pond today:

Sensibly, I stayed on the shore.

The boats down by the dinghies were getting a bit too close to each other. The owner of the tarpaulin boat has fitted a battering ram on the side. Needless to say the owner of Emma J has moved away from it.

Lets see what weather we have tomorrow .

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Jib Cleats.

The Paxolin strips that make up then bases for the Jib Sheet cam cleats have been cleaned, glued together, drilled with new fixing holes and painted.

In the end I've painted the Paxolin silver to hide the brown-ness. Silver was paint I had left over from touching up the car. They don't look too bad:

Here they are fitted:

All the prep was a bit last-moment last night as I took a day off today and I wanted to get them fitted back on before sailing.

I used the 12v drill to make the holes larger and drill the two extra holes for the smaller cleat. I thought I might as well go up to a slightly thicker screw size (5mm) as it doesn't hurt to beef things up a bit. The Paxolin is held in place by countersunk screws in the original holes and the two screws for the cleat go through the Paxolin and the deck. Underneath the washers overlap making a greater surface area to prevent the whole lot being pulled out. It was all sealed using the sealing tape I have left over from my caravan many years ago. Good stuff: it comes on a roll of greaseproof paper and you unroll a bit, cut it to size, slap it on and peel the paper off. Then you squidge it all in place and it ooses out and seals round the screws as you tighten them.

Finished fitting them just as the tide turned. I did a short sail up the harbour to make sure they worked ok and then the plan was to sail out into the Solent to have a mooch about until high tide tonight. The Mrs is working late in Southsea today so it would work out just right.

Except the wind over tide effect in the entrance to Langstone had other ideas. I've never seen 5ft swell there before, it reminded me of Chichester Bar when it cuts up rough. A couple of the waves were breaking and others had quite sharp crests, with the bow smashing into the wave and spray coming over the cabin. Pretty exciting in a 19ft boat.  Very strange for a F3 wind, but it was SSE so blowing directly up the harbour entrance against the outgoing tide.

All very exciting and exhilarating..... as long as everything keeps working as it should.

The bad news is in the middle of the swell the outboard gives up. Not sure why, but I suspect the pitching motion dislodged some rubbish in the carb float bowl, blocking a jet.

Now under no control whatsoever, I'm hanging over the pushpit rail trying to restart the engine. In a 5ft swell. From Exciting it's just gone several notches up to borderline Terrifying. It's a good job I'm the one that keeps calm in a crisis! It took what seemed like an age, but maybe only in reality 30 seconds, I got the engine running, but it wouldn't rev, instead dying as I opened the throttle.

So, with only minimal revs to keep steerage (by now I was already side-on to the waves) I turned back into the harbour. I effectively surfed back into the harbour on the back on successive swells. Once a breaking wave came over the stern, luckily not putting much water in the cockpit, just wetting the cockpit cushions.

Of the three boats that went out at the same time (one 22ft, one around 25ft and the other 30ft) I think only the 30 footer made it through, the other two turned round after I did, so I guess it was even rougher further out.

Me and another boat retired to the mooring buoys further inside the harbour entrance. I worked a bit of magic on the outboard and got it revving again with the aid of some carb cleaner. I also stowed away all the gear that had come loose when the boat was side-on to the swell.

Even though it was 1.5 hours after high tide, the tide was high enough that I stilll had water on the mooring, so I retired back to the hook. Enough excitement for one day I think.

So this weekend it looks like the outboard now needs some TLC.

Although I have this:

And I'm meeting this on Sunday:

I'm picking my stepdaughter and her partner up, they're on a weeks cruise from Southampton on the Ventura.

High tide is at 1:30 on Sunday and I'm picking them up around 10, so I should be good to get on the boat on Sunday afternoon and wrangle that pesky outboard back into reliability.

A couple of surreal things happened today. The first is just after I got on the boat and started dropping the outboard into the water, a water vole swims up to the stern of the boat. Definitely a vole with a short tail and not a rat with a long one. Then off it swims towards the shore, diving under water whenever a seagull came close.. I never knew water voles lived in a salt water environment.

Second surreal moment was when sailing up the harbour. There was a collection of gulls on the water. The reason was one of them was trying to swallow an unfeasibly large Fish into it's mouth. So big it couldn't get the whole thing in, so eventually it flew off. I just wonder where it got that from.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A Cleaty Day

Cleaty, I just made that word up. My definition is: a day or portion thereof with regard to the business of cleats.

As per my last post, I've stripped the jib sheet cam cleats from the deck and brought them home in preparation for swapping them over to something newer and more importantly, better working.

Way back when, I got a couple of  Barton cam cleats which I dug out of the junk box. It just happens that the fixing centres are 40mm. Bingo! I used one to repair the main sheet jammer.

Old and busted versus new hotness.

The new one fitted a treat

Looks the part too.
I decided to use the same cleats on the jib sheets despite the difference in fitting centres. I'll sort something out about the difference. With my mind made up I wasn't going to pay stupid money for some huge cam cleat off a tug boat with the correct 60mm spacing, I nipped to Marine Superstore and bought just the one cleat to make the set of three. Less than 20 quid is better than 50-60 for a pair of monster cleats.

Where the jib cleats were are strips of duct tape covering the fixing holes. The old cleats are raised up on strips of Paxolin.. The Paxolin is soaking in the kitchen sink to strip the old sealant and brown paint off it.

Ahh, the smell of Paxolin.... it takes me back to the late Seventies and my first ever job. I worked in electronics test and development (at 16!) for a company making emergency power supplies. The smell of Paxolin always reminds me of soldering electronic prototypes on tag boards and the connections on the transformers I used to design and wind up myself.

Once the strips are clean I'll paint them with something maybe a bit brighter than brown. Maybe dove grey to match the hull and tie into the grey on the cleats. I still have the grey paint from the locker tops.

Which reminds me, I really need to fit the starboard locker top to match up with the port one I fitted months ago.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Windy Thursday

With a few days holiday still spare at work and with an MOT due at the doctors, I took yesterday off, as earlier weather reports said it would be a fair weather day.

I watched with dismay on Wednesday as the closer to Thursday it came, the higher the forecast winds would be.

And when it came to the day, it was rally windy. Chimet registering F5-F6 and gusts of F7. Not the sort of weather a 19ft yacht with dodgy rigging relishes. So no sailing then.

I got down to Eastney early, well before the tide was right to launch the dinghy. A 30-40ft yacht was heading out of the harbour with a serious amount of reefing and as they cleared the cover of the land, even they heeled over as the full force of the wind caught them.

Sod that, I'm a fair weather sailor and my boat is a fair weather boat!

That's the thing with running a boat on a shoestring of course, that firstly parts like rigging aren't up to blue water standards and the fact that us skint sailors can't afford to push things up to (or past) breaking point because it's an extra (probably large) cost.

Anyway, I fought the wind and got on the boat. There were a few jobs that I needed to do on board anyway,

The first one was measure the cam cleats for the Jib Sheets and the Main Sheet. The Jib sheet cleats are getting a bit worn and sometimes go past the stop, which means on smaller ropes they undo. The cam cleat on the main sheet jammer has broken. The cams themselves have broken through aged plastic and go past the stop all the time, so every time I pull the rope through, I have to manually reset the cams to lock the main sheet. Way too much of a faff.

The stops are the tabs in the metal. The hollow cams are broken and don't hit the stops.

Anyway, the main sheet jammer cams are 40mm centres, so getting a replacement cam cleat to bolt in should be relatively easy.

40mm centres. Should be easy to get a cam cleat to fit.

The Jib Sheet jammers are 60mm centres, which may be a bit trickier and a lot more expensive to source. They are old resin ones, so I assume they are a bit bigger than modern ones. I have a feeling I'll end up with jammers suitable for tug boats if I buy modern ones.

60MM centres for 12-14mm rope. Chunky!

The other job was to hang up the birthday present I got from my daughter on the boat:

Very homely. It's actually a wonder I have a patch of wall to hang it on in such a small boat!

The other birthday pressies I got will come in handy. the first is a cordless hoover for the car and boat and the second is a 1080p watertight action camera. So expect some videos... eventually!

At least this camera switches on when I ask it to, unlike the cheap Chinese one I got off eBay a couple of years ago. What I might do is take the old one apart and see if I can fit an external mic (so I can fit a wind muffler) and also make it switch on reliably. I can then use it as a back-up.

Fingers crossed the wind dies down on Sunday, which looks to be the only dry day of the coming weekend.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Not much to report

Last weekend I was in Yorkshire, It was my mother's birthday so we went up to Yorkshire and nipped over the Pennines to visit her. The Mrs was most impressed with the river Humber estuary. A trip over the Humber bridge emphasised what a huge body of water it is.

Anyway, thats why I wasn't sailing last weekend, despite the good weather.

Then this weekend arrived......and so did the wind. Force 5-6 yesterday and force 4-5 today.

Unusually there were a couple of bigger yachts hooning around Langstone harbour both days. And both days they were on their scuppers. I'd have loved to be out there hooning Sprite up and down the harbour  But if they were on their side, Sprites baggy mainsail would have just pulled it over or worse, the rigging might have snapped. I wasn't going to risk a snapped mast despite how much fun it might have been dicing with a couple of other yachts like dinghy racing.

So I stayed shoreside and watched them through the binoculars, pretty impressive and not something you usually see in the harbour. Must people just want to transit to the Solent.

Anyway, the weather is due to improve later in the week. Maybe I'll take a day off work. Next weekend it another early/late high tide, Another trip to the beach and scrubbing session is due. Hopefully the last before I start with the antifouling.