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

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Round The Island Race

No, I'm not announcing my entry. The cost of getting Sprite 2 up to the required spec to compete would run to thousands of pounds (of course which I don't have). Not that a racing snail like a Seawych would be competitive anyhow.

I was mulling over options: get up around 7am and watch the start of the race on the live streaming service (if its available this year, there seems to be very little info on the website), or do I get up at 4am, get down to the boat for 5am and then get out into the Solent on the high tide and watch the start of the race and the return of the fastest boats later? Or do i get up early, get down to Southampton and get the Red Jet over to Cowes and watch the start from there? I think the weather will decide. The wind is mainly from the West which means another slow slog up the Solent, or maybe a trip out to the Nab Tower and hang around watching the boats come around Bembridge.

A couple of years ago, the couch option would have won hands down, but this year is proving a watershed. I haven't enjoyed sailing so much since 2014 when I first really started sailing Sprite 2 in Langstone harbour, with it's threadbare sails, green rope and my lack of sailing experience.

This year I really like the idea of being in the Solent as the fastest mono and multi-hulls go roaring past.

The one thing I have noticed is that as I start to progress out into the Solent more, the less apprehensive I get. I think the Saturday when I had the wind building to F5 served to help me understand the boat's and my limitations. I know both of us can quite happily cope and get home safe, although the journey isn't particularly comfortable. It's taken 4 years to get to this point. Steadily improving, repairing, restoring and generally getting the boat to a state of repair where I can give it some small amount of trust. And also trust that I won't make a bad decision.

All I can do is keep an eye on the forecasts and see if I can drag my weary body out of bed at 4am.

Maybe see you out there.


Live Streaming Starts at 5:15 am according to the latest tweets from the RTIR account:


I did the couch thing. Actually it was bed, then couch thing. A 4am start was a bit too early. Plus I have a raft of things to get done today as tomorrow is taken up with a Birthday BBQ for the Mrs. Today I have to get her a card (obviously), get the racking done on the car and also take my son to the Apple Shop in Southampton to see if they can fix his iPhone (he called me last night in dire need of a lift to Southampton, the iPhone is his life).

I've had a vicarious sailing fix, I will just have to make do. lol.

Thanks to the team at the Round The Island race Live coverage, it gets better every year. Cameras and Drones at Cowes and cameras at Hurst, The Needles and also St Catherines.

I'm not sure the large yacht that hit something hard at the needles wanted it to be live on camera, but there you are! It hit so hard that must have been a retirement. It was under the Spinnaker so wasn't hanging about when it abruptly stopped! If you're quick, watch the replay of the starts on the RTIR website. The yacht prang is at 2:00:31 I actually said Ouch! out loud when I saw it.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

America's Cup: New Zealand Win!

Well, the Kiwis and their amazing flying machine proved to dominant for team USA and have won the final round of the Americas Cup. Well done to the team, they were impressive with they AC50 cyling machine (checks for hidden propellers...)

Cue cheesy 1987/2013 mashup YouTube video courtesy of Seven Sharp:

Ah 1987, when I was still single and facy free.... The decade of big hair and big shoulder pads. And that was the blokes!

And of course the New Zealand Band-Aid tribute act singing about a yacht... :-)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Biiiiig Battery

I took the new battery down to Sprite yesterday. It was blowing F4 and threatening to rain, so no sailing.

The first problem was getting the new, larger battery in the locker below the bunk where the old one(s) were.

The old batteries were wedged into place with baulks of timber so I took those out to make room, then threaded the new bigger battery into the locker. It's a lot harder getting a huge single battery in place rather than a couple of smaller batteries.

Then the battery stuck. It was too tall to fit. and wedged itself under the locker sides. Oh dear!

So, with a lot of fiddling about I took more baulks of timber out of the locker and lowered the battery.

I think the easiest thing to do is make up a new battery shelf under the locker and hold the battery in place with a strap, so that's what I'm going to do. I've got an ideally sized bit of external/marine ply that can do for the shelf, Just need the straps. Pound shop here we come.....

I've also removed the eBay Chinese solar panel controller. Far from being useful, I think it's been the cause of the demise of the old batteries. I'm pretty sure it's reduced the amount of charge going into the batteries and then taken current out of them at night when the solar panel isn't charging. So the batteries have been running on empty and sulphated.

So, it's back to the old setup of the solar panel being directly connected to the battery, which should be fine. That way there's nothing draining the battery at night. The Solar Panel originally had a diode across the terminal, but a while back I changed it to a blocking diode, which means the solar panel doesn't drain the battery at night:

Here's the original configuration, to prevent the panel being damaged from reverse polarity, but still allowing the panel to drain the battery at night:

Here's the new configuration in blocking mode. It stops reverse poliarity AND stops overnight power drain. The downside is a small voltage drop across the diode which means slightly less charging current, but it's still worth doing I reckon. Time will tell.

There's a rule of thumb when using solar panels that you don't need a controller if the panel's wattage is 10% of the battery's capacity. i.e. 10W and 100Ah. Which the new setup will be.

With the controller ditched, the solar panel connected directly and the blocking diode, the battery should keep fully charged. All I need worry about is overcharging, but that shouldn't be such an issue with such a big battery. I just need to check on the electrolyte levels regularly.

Here's hoping anyway. I'll let you all know.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


This has been an expensive month for me, not the boat, but the car. So far it's needed a new exhaust system and now I need to get two tyres for it after a puncture last night.

eBay provided the exhaust, from Poland of all places. But it was cheap so I took the chance. Luckily it fitted fine.

The insurance needed renewing this month too.

Now I need the tyres. Three things in the same month. Please stop it and behave, car!

Every cloud has a silver lining and all that: I'll fill the dodgy tyres with concrete to make a mooring block for Jim as the two tyres I gave him before have been nicked, I assume to be fenders on a boat somewhere. :-)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Battery Woes and a Result.

While sailing last Saturday, one of the things that did let me down was the battery. Ok, it's an old car battery taken off one of my old cars before it was scrapped and not a proper leisure battery and it was about 6 years old after doing service in our old caravan.... okay, okay, it was due for replacement!

Anyway, as luck would have it, about 2 years ago work bought a 100Ah Leisure battery for use at the shows we attend just in case the generator packs up.  (long term readers will remember I snaffled the generator around that time because it blew up all the laptop chargers at one show we went to!).

I've been regularly charging this battery to keep it ready for show use and secretly coveting the huge capacity. The thing is, for the last few shows, we've rented a really good Honda generator from the local tool hire shop rather than relying on a £100 Chinese one. The leisure battery option is pretty redundant and is just sat under my desk getting in the way.

Well that's what I said to the boss yesterday anyhow..... :-D

And for the princely sum of £20 I've got myself a fully charged, checked at 100% capacity, hardly used Leisure Battery. I mean, it's a written off asset by now, so that's £20 clear profit for the company.... Well, that was another thing I pointed out to the boss.

So now I have a huge leisure battery, fully charged, tested and ready to go onto the boat. I just need to get it on board and threaded into the battery locker.

So on further sails I should be able to use the tiller pilot for a bit longer, rather than it keep beeping when the voltage drops too low and it resets, sending the boat who knows where. Not that manually steering was a hardship on Saturday, but a bit annoying when you want Geroge to take over while you have a pee or get a brew on.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sunny Saturday Sailing. Best Sailing Day So Far!

On Friday night I went on the boat straight after work and put the boat in Southsea Marina. High tide on Saturday was 5:20am and I couldn't risk getting up half an hour late and missing the whole day. Southsea have a tidal cill which was open for a few hours after high tide, so it gave me options. The chap who booked me in was very friendly.

In the end the overnight stay turned out to be a good call.

Here's Sprite 2 in the marina:

So, I get up at the allotted 4am, scrape the sleep out of my eyes and hit the road about 4:40.

This is the sight that greeted me as I walked back to the Marina after parking the car:

Calm, still.... and way too early in the morning. Check the sunrise times for last Saturday!

Got to the Marina by 5, set everything up and then..... the engine refuses to start. Brilliant.

After running back to the car to get a spark plug spanner (mental note to self: buy one to keep on the boat!) and finding the spark plug was okay. In the end it was the cut out switch that was playing up, still shorted even when pressed. A faff with the switch to pull the contact button away and the engine started on the first pull as usual. Doh!

A quick tidy-up ensued and then untie and off out of the Marina entrance half an hour later than planned. Which sort of shortened the day, but more of that later.

Motoring down the Deep Water channel like the big boys do felt kind of weird. After all, I usually just scrap off the mud, round a shingle spit and I'm in the harbour entrance.

Not many boats about at that time in the morning, although a couple of fishing boats went out at the same time.

Coming out of the harbour I raised the sails and the wind was around an F2. Not a lot of wind but enough to keep Sprite 2 trickling along nicely. The sea was calm as well. The wind was a Westerly, so ideal for getting past Horse sand Fort and the submarine barrier, but not at all ideal for cutting the corner and heading for the gap in the barrier.

So the plan was to head over to the I.O.W. and then tack, heading towards Portsmouth.

I reached Horse Sand Fort quite easily:

The next point was No Man's Land Fort. I got there quite quickly and put a tack in once I'd got about halfway between the fort and the shore.

On the opposite tack I noticed that the wind was behaving oddly on the Portsmouth side, possibly Gilkicker and Gosport had something to do with it. I put in another tack and headed for Ryde. Mainly because the Normandie Express was coming out and I didn't fancy being in the way of her. lol.

A few big ships went through the Solent, so gauging the passage across the shipping lane was important. Ships like this one:

This is where things started to go a bit awry. Getting out of Langstone later than I planned meant I was always on the last of the Westbound tide. With the wind against me it was always going to be a slog up the Solent, but just off Ryde the tide stopped. I must have put in quite a few tacks, but on the compass although I was supposed to be going in one direction, I only seemed to be going Westwards very slowly. On each tack the same point hove into view, or at best only a little further on. The Car ferries loved me getting in the way. One tried to give me a hint I think:

And getting very close:

Then just after Stokes Bay the Wind stopped too.

I mean completely stopped: the water was glassy calm and everyone had the engine on, heading for Cowes. Now my engine isn't the noisiest two stroke in the world, but I didn't fancy burning money just to get Westwards and burn more money in a Marina for a second night. Also by that time I'd had about 5 hours of sailing. That's not bad going considering the longest I've ever sailed in one continuous go was a couple of hours.

After more or less drifting for the best part of an hour, I stuck the motor on and Headed back East for an hour or so.

Then the wind chipped up again, this time from the South East! Yep, heading almost dead into the wind again!

So, up with the sails and make the best of it. This time the wind was an F3 and Sprite 2 romped along. After 6 hours at sea I was having a blast:

By that time all the posh chaps had had their breakfasts and Lunchtime Martinis and had come out into the Solent to play too. By 1pm there were hundreds of sails visible out on the water. This lot were just in the water outside Portsmouth, looking up to the Western Solent it was a mass of white sails.It seems to be a lot quieter on the Eastern side.

I was heartened to see I wasn't the only small boat out there. But it's a shame there weren't more. It was ideal weather for small boat sailing.

I finally got back to my mooring around 3pm after having my best sailing day to date, without qualification. I loved every minute of it. I know it's been almost 4 years since I took over ownership of Sprite 2, but it's taken this long to get confident enough and to have the stable weather to able to plan in advance like booking the Marina and also having the spare cash to be able to spend on a Marina slot. £25 might not be a lot of money to some people, but it's almost a week's worth of petrol to get to work, or half a weekly shop. I don't have much disposable cash so to be able to do this has been pretty damn brilliant.

Yesterday I was thinking about heading out to the Nab Tower and back maybe, but today my body said no in no uncertain terms. I ache all over! Who knew sailing was such a good workout.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Summer Storm and the Americas Cup.

Well, the Barometer on my weather station has dropped like a stone, the wind is howling and the rain is bucketing down.

It's been a while since we had a storm this time of year. Two years or so, since that was the summer I'd booked a week off work to go sailing after watching the Americas Cup World Series. The last day was cancelled and I think that was the worst week for summer weather in a long time. Just my luck.

I hope Sprite is okay as I had to get off her a bit hurriedly the other day and there's always the nagging thought I forgot to tighten up a line or something.

Talking of the Americas Cup, I see Sir Ben isn't doing too well. Luckily he won the ACWS and got points to carry on to the main event, or otherwise Team Land Rover BAR would be in serious trouble. To be honest I haven't watched it, not having subscription TV and the BBC not really advertising if or when they are showing it.

In all honesty I think it will end up in a match between the Yanks and the Kiwis again. I just don't think Sir Ben's boat is fast enough, sadly. It seems outclassed by most of the other teams and in terms of strategy, the other teams laid into him early on to get penalties and penalise him in the races, but that tactic seems to have died away as the other teams can see they can beat him on outright pace.

The race the other day where Team New Zealand stayed on the foils for 100% of the race showed what the other teams are up against (I saw it online). They have to be able to do the same to even get close, otherwise they'll be left for dead. Fair Play to the Kiwis, they showed a bit of class with that race and their innovative thinking, like replacing arm-powered grinders with leg powered cycle style units may also be showing the way forward for that class of boats. It seems obvious that leg power can generate more power for longer than arm power.

Ho Hum, another plucky but ultimately doomed Americas Cup for the Brits I guess.....


Yup, I was right. Despite NZ pitch-polling yesterday, they recovered so well that today they sealed the deal: Team Land Rover BAR is out of the Americas Cup.

Something very wrong with their AC50, it seems all the other teams including Softbank Japan have faster boats. There will be some soul searching over the next few weeks as to where they went wrong.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

More Actual Sailing.

Yes, I can't believe it, twice, in one week! I've done sailing.

This time I popped this year's Solent cherry. It's the first time I've been outside the harbour since last year.

Wind was F3 to a quite fresh F4, the sky was cloudless and the tide was 4.2m this morning, so a quick scoot down to the boat, get the engine on and drag Spriteoff the mud while the tide was rising.

Out of the harbour I go, as you can see initially it was pretty flat, Sprite 2 was handling and going well:

So, do the video, continue out of the harbour, towards the forts. Well, As close as I could get because the wind was South Westerly and the forts are East of the harbour entrance. In the end heading towards Bembridge, almost due South was my course, with an eye on heading West once I'd got across the Solent.

In the end it didn't happen. I got to Horse Sand fort and the wind started freshening and along with it bigger waves. The clouds were also getting more dense and darkening up, which means it was only going to get worse. I already had two reefs in the mainsail and was zooming along (for Sprite) at 5 knots. I'm pretty sure that's around her hull speed!

In the end as the wind was getting stronger I made a Captain's decision to head back toward land. The problem was with being bounced around so much I couldn't even have a brew. And that's a problem. :-)

I was going to stay out, but the lack of brew-making made me head for the harbour again, in the hope of finding shelter, a spare buoy and the ability to get the kettle on.

Look who came in the harbour with me:

Yep, it's the Rozzers! Not sure where they were bound for, but on an outgoing tide they wouldn't be there long. lol.

Going up the harbour for a recce of the deep water buoys, I noticed the tide hadn't gone down too much and that it was maybe worth trying to get back on the mooring. By this time SolentMet was reporting a pretty brisk F5 and you could even feel it in the harbour.

So, with even getting stuck on the mud being a better brew-making option I headed towards Sprite's mooring. By now after 2 hours playing in the Solent, quite a lot of the beach at Eastney was showing. I still chugged to the mooring and with a huge bit of luck I made it to my buoy, just as the rudder hit the mud. I just aimed the boat at the buoy and the attached dinghy and kept the power on until I was there, a trick that seemed to work.

Hooking onto the chain proved a mission with the wind pulling Sprite and the keels dragging on the mud. It didn't want to come round into the wind as it usually does to make things easier, but with a bit of effort I wrangled everything right and looped the chain over the samson post.

A hasty packing session followed (I'll tidy the cabin up later) and with about a foot of water left and Sprite's keels now in the mud, I climbed into the dinghy and rowed ashore. Please note the lack of brewing that has happened thus far. Such was my haste to get ashore and have coffee on dry land.

In the end the dinghy touched dry land just as the beach turns to mud. Any longer and I would have needed wellies.Lucky that, because they were in the car!

So quite a way to drag the dinghy this time, but it was worth it.

I packed everything into the car and on the way back drove down Southsea seafront. By now the Solent was full of white capped waves. I'm not sure it would have been much fun in a 19ft boat to be honest. There may be braver souls out there, but I'm quite sure that F5 is about Sprite 2's limit. I'd have been on my third and last reef and close to the limit of the old sails and rigging. In the end I came home without having a failure of any kind, which is always a bonus.

So to recap, I'd had a couple of hours out in the Solent, watched lots of bigger boats out there with none the size of Sprite 2. Sailed with the mainsail reefed for the first time made a good decision on the weather and got home safely, even being lucky enough to get on the hook  I didn't get a brew or any sort of food while afloat, but then that got rectified once I got home. :-)

All in all, a good morning.

A nice exercise in finding out Sprite 2's limitations and to some extent honing my own skippering skills.

Thursday, 1 June 2017


On Bank Holiday Monday I did do some sailing, but with very little wind it was a very slow slog up the harbour, 50/50 tide assisted. The low cloud didn't do much for the scenery either.

My mate Rob popped by for a boaty afternoon on his way back to Oxford from Exmouth.

The boat was just on the verge of losing steerage, slipping sideways almost as much as forwards.

We crabbed up Langstone harbour until we got to the Dredger at the top of the Eastern Road, then motored back, avoiding dinghies on the way.

As we motored back down the harbour, the mist descended, lowering visibility to half a mile.

We'd started up the harbour with the tide flowing in and it took so long to get up the harbour that by the time we got back down, the tide was well on the ebb.

So straight to the mooring, hook on, pack up and then ashore for a bacon roll and a coffee, over which we chatted some more about family and stuff as you do.

Then it was off to pick the Mrs up from work.

Hopefully more boaty stuff at the weekend, but the tides are 4.1m. I'm hoping to finish the scraping, but past experience says 4.1m might not be enough to get on the beach. We'll see.

If no beach/boat action, then I have a number of options. (a) fit a new exhaust on the car or (b) motorcycle restoration/resurrection (but that's another story entirely).