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

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Short Visit this weekend

Just a quick visit last weekend to check on the fit of the VHF hutch.  Offering it up to it's home, it looks like the way of mounting it to the cabin roof needs to change slightly.

There are a couple of bolts for the rope clutches that come through the roof in the same place the mountings were going to go, so there needs to be a change. Not much: a few blocks mounted on the back wall of the cabin should be enough to hold the hutch in place.

Just a small change and worth nipping on board to check.

I was impressed the cabin was relatively dry and not dripping with damp like this time last year. Not sure what the difference is as it's been quite damp outside the cabin over the past few weeks, with fog and mist lasting several days. The harbour fog horns have been working overtime. :-)

I think last year loading a wet rudder into the cabin close to the end of the year introduced enough moisture into it to cause problems. This year I let the rudder dry in the cockpit before putting it away, so maybe that's the answer.

Checking the battery, it was down to 13.5v, I assume the result of a few weeks of misty, overcast days preventing the solar panel doing it's thing.

I also started to attack the Christmas choccy biscuits I took on board a few weeks ago. Yum.

Guy paddled over for a chat, it was nice to see him. He's been a bit scarce down the pond as he's been working away a lot.

I didn't even stay on board long enough to make a brew. I was off at high tide, which made recovering the dinghy easy. It's great when you only have to drag it 4 feet rather that three and four times that up the beach.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Chilled Weekend

Not much to report this weekend. Tides were wrong for getting out to Sprite. Nicky needed to borrow my winch as an old hull had broken loose and was bumping into Meagles at high tide. She needed the winch to drag the hull up above high tide. So I dropped the winch off yesterday.

Today I did a bit of food shopping, serviced the car and did a bit of housework, then went off to the boat just as the Sun was getting towards the horizon. Always a quiet, still time of day down at Eastney, as the sightseer traffic tends to die down.

I spent over an hour just chilling down there, watching the birds working their way down the beach and the geese fattening themselves for the flight back up North. I don't think it'll be long now because they're starting to fly around in bigger flocks. Always a precursor to them legging it off Northwards. I'm sure the weather at the moment is confusing them, being freezing at night and mild during the day.

But it's relaxing listening to the calls of the birds when there's no other noise. The Geese and their quiet honks of contentment, the more distant calls of the Curlew working the centre of the pond, the chatter of the Starlings as they work the beach around the high tide mark. Only broken every so often by the loud shrill call of a Gull echoing off the surroundings.

A couple of guys with cameras were walking down the beach taking arty snaps of the birds in the low Sun. One mentioned someone had seen an otter swimming. Not sure it was an otter, Langstone harbour is a bit too busy with human traffic for them. I really hope it's not a Mink, the bird nesting sanctuaries on the islands in the harbour will be under threat if it is.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Vendee Globe: Armel Gets First, Alex a close second

Well, the first two boats home in the Vendee Globe have arrived back.

Armel Le Cléac'h arrived back just after 3:30pm yesterday, winning the race. Armel has been second twice in this race, so it's heartening to see him win after getting so close before.

But for us Brits, the big Story is Alex Thomson arriving back just before 8am this morning. After his boat was damaged and lost a foil on the way down to the Southern Ocean, it was a  supreme effort to stay in touch with the leader and at one point in the final days to get within 40nm.

In the end it wasn't to be. But hey, he's a hero for getting to second.

Considering his boat, Hugo Boss almost didn't make it to the start line and the damage during the race. We all know he'd have won if he wasn't crippled on port tack.

I hope he goes again in 4 years time, although I suspect the advantage he had this year will be a lot less by then. I'm pretty sure after the outstanding performance shown by foiling monohulls in this Vendee, that all the boats in 4 years time will have foils. 3-4 years worth of development will make any performance advantage pretty small. I mean, just look at the amount of foil development in the past 5 years, first in multihulls and now in monohulls. God knows where they'll be in 4 years. I mean, a few foiling monohulls entered the Transat Jaques Vabre in 2015 and a number of them had failures of the foil and or the foil to hull joint. A year later there was none of the drama, apart from Hugo Boss being dismasted and damaged (Herculean effort getting HB back up together for the Vendee guys by the way.)

Just over 12 months after the issues and failures in 2015, a number of foiling boats have just sailed round the world.

The amount of effort to get a boat built, get the sponsors and actually sail the thing around the world is staggering. It's huge and fair play to The Hugo Boss team for doing so well.

<imagines stirring background music..>

Just like us Skint Sailors: finding a boat at the right price and getting in a seaworty state is an effort still worthy of some acknowledgement. It's not racing round the world single handed, but it's a worthy challenge that hundreds of us step up to.  All you Skint Sailors out there, give yourselves a pat on the back for doing what you are doing, having the stamina to keep moving forward, at whatever pace you can afford,  with little money and little reward. Those of you that don't yet have a seaworthy boat, keep on in there, you will get to your goal. Be positive!

Skint Sailors the world over celebrate! You are champions in your own right.

<okay, stop the music now, that's just silly :-) >

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Vendee Globe: The finish is close

It's now probably less than 48 Hours to the end of the Vendee Globe. Not an unremarkable statement on it's own, but after over 24,000 nautical miles and over 72 days of sailing, the two boats out in the lead are only 72 nautical miles apart.

Alex Thomson in second place is closing in on Armel Le Cléac'h the leader. On the run up the Atlantic, Alex has closed a 500 nm deficit and still closes in on the leader with less than 48 hours to go to the finish.

In Vendee Globe terms, this is the equivalent of a photo finish. It may well be very close by the end, given that there is a tricky patch of weather between the sailors and the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne which looks like forcing them up close to Ireland before they catch favourable winds down to the finish in Southern France.

So the last 48 hours will be all about routing: catching the best wind and conditions and keeping the pace of the boat up. The ridge of high pressure they are trying to negotiate has low winds in the centre, so they are trying to catch the higher clockwise winds on the outer edge of the anticyclone.

The thing is, do you cut East early, reduce the miles but suffer low winds, or do you head further North before heading South East to the finish, benefitting from higher winds but taking a longer route.

The fly in the ointment is Alex's boat is not so fast on starboard tack because he lost a foil (yes, these 60ft boats are foiling yachts!) in the South Atlantic on the way down South.

It's all to play for in the last 48 hours and Alex has a chance of being the first Brit to win The Vendee.

To get within 72nm after all those thousands of miles of sailing and in a compromised boat is an unbeleivable acheivement.

To me single handing the massive Hugo Boss yacht is a mighty achievement, I've seen it in the Solent and it's huuge.

Alex Thomson for BBC Sportsperson of the year 2017? I'll be voting at the end of the year! Even though the BBC has had little coverage of the event apart from a few small snippets on the local News.


Alex closed the gap over yesterday to be within 40nm of Armel. Currently Armel is taking a more Northerly route almost to the Scillies to keep in the higher winds. Alex is taking a more Southerly route, cutting the corner but taking the gamble that what should be lighter winds are not as light as the predictions indicate.

This really is amazing sailing. After over 24,000 miles and 70-odd days, the leaders could be minutes apart. It could even be closer! Do the Vendee Globe organisers have a commitee boat with a camera on it at the finish line? This could be a photo finish!


Looks like Alex had a nightmare of a night, having to fix a number of failures that slowed him right down compared to Armel. The sensors for his autopilot system being the most crutial. But he has no AIS as well, which tends to suggest electrical gremlins. Alex is now 90-odd nm behind the Frenchman and Armel is only 98nm from the finish. So unless he has some form of catastrophic failure, Armel Le Cléac'h is destined to become the winner of the 2016/2017 Vendee Globe Race some time later today.

Alex has now regained some speed, but he's too far away from the leader to challenge for the win if things continue as they are at the moment.

Monday, 16 January 2017

No Progress

This weekend I didn't get anything done on the boat.

Despite the attraction of high tides and a long stay on the boat, on Saturday my daughter was down from Uni and came over for dinner.

Yesterday the weather was miserable. Really miserable, with wind, cold and drizzle. Not a fun sailing day and not a fun day rowing out to the boat either. Given that one of the jobs I wanted to do was the cockpit locker top, the weather was not ideal.

So yesterday was occupied by food shopping. Oh the excitement!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Home for a VHF Radio

And a horn button.

I've been busy actually doing some work on the VHF hutch that will be fitted to the roof of Sprite to the right of the companionway, above the little moulded in table.

Looks a bit rough and ready, mainly because I don't have the tools to accurately cut holes out in plywood. But once it's had a bit more work to round the sharp edges and stained to match the rest of the interior woodwork, it should soften the rough look.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the thing cracked on me where the plywood is thin, so I had to epoxy it back together.

I've added the horn button for the horn I bought back in 2015 (??). Obviously I'll have to wire it in  but first the hutch mounts have to be fibreglassed and epoxied to the roof of Sprite.

The advantage is that the display and the speaker for the VHF will be horizontal, rather than pointing up to the ceiling. It should be easier to access and control in an emergency.

Also there's a bit of space ready for future projects. Not sure what they'll be yet.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Costs for 2016 and a Review of the Year.

So, here's the annual round up of costs for the previous year.

As usual first are the basic expenses.

£132      Mooring Fee

£160      Insurance (reflecting a higher valuation).

Up £10 on last year at £292.

Fuel this year was £11. I only bought 10 litres as I spent most of the year using up 2015's stockpile.

£2.50 Absolute tides Update.

£13 Navionics Update. I think it was around that much.

£5.00 Sail Bungie Ties.

£6.00 20m of 8mm Rope.

£5.95 Barometer set from Sue Ryder shop

£0.00 2.5 litres Hempel Classic Antifouling (was £35, but it was a late Xmas present so zero cost)

£19.95 Hempel Waterproof Undercoat.

£25.00 Various bits of sandpaper and cheap paint brushes.

£8.00 A few sets of needles for sail stitching from the Craft Shop.

£12.99 Speedy Stitcher.

£6.95 Mooring Buoy (subsequently lost)

£15.98 2 x 1oz Reels of Polyester sail Thread.

£28.88 Marine Ply for locker tops.

£19.00 Stainless Hinges for Locker Tops.

£19.95 Grey Paint for Locker tops (Hempel Gloss)

£17.95 Undercoat for locker tops.(Hempel Primer)

£20.88 Head Gasket for 2.2 outboard. (still needs an impeller)

£6.00 Assorted Stainless screws. (for cam cleats, etc.)

£17.75 Barton Cam Cleat.

£7.70 Second (and hopefully current) Mooring Buoy.

£2.99 Polyprop rope to secure Mooring Buoy.

£4.99 Set of 4 Nautical themed mugs.

And they were my last purchase for the boat.

£570.41 is the Total Expenditure on the Boat for this Year. (£47.54 per month)

Which isn't bad as it corresponds quite well with last year's £556. Considering the amount of  Paint and related painting kit I've bought this year, it surprised me that the yearly costs were so close.

One of the stand-out features of this year has been the lack of time spent on the boat. This time partly to do with the weather (which still didn't deliver a long enough spell of settled sunny weather to do any planning ), the other part to do with other commitments: Birthdays, weddings, holidays and the like.

The plan to grab odd days or half days on the boat worked reasonably well. So that will probably stay as a theme for 2017. I neglected Sprite a bit last year, not really following through with jobs like the antifoul and the port side locker top. Hopefully I can muster the gumption to get these done this year. From the amount of time it took last year, I'd say I need a long weekend when the tides are right to clean the hull and get it painted.

I learned in 2016 that a sailing boat needs a clean hull to perform well. I also came to the conclusion that I really do need to do longer sails than just up and down the harbour. But to do that I need to be able to plan a couple of consecutive days of mild weather. The only decent periods of weather we had in 2016 I was either in France or at my stepdaughter's wedding.

I also learned that Sprite's rigging can take a bit more stress than I thought, having sailed down Langstone Harbour with Sprite on it's scuppers, although at the start the weather helm was horrendous. Trimming the sails for less weather helm is another lesson learnt. :-) In my case, ease the main as the wind picks up.

In 2017 I'm visiting family in April so if things continue that may be the best weather period of the year for everyone else out there. Mark your diaries.:-)