Saturday, 10 November 2018

A sailors protection

            O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren's shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;

From Eternal Father, strong to save by William Whiting 1860

Image: Blue sea and rocky outcrop 
 with breaking white waves

Bear with me on this one. I promise that there is a point to this story. The dog has a rubber pig. It used to be stuffed and it used to squeak. Having been very well loved by the dog it is now hollow but he still likes playing with it.

Recently he took it with him to the beach and ran around with it for a while. Until he lost it. No more pig. It didn’t help that it was the same colour as the seaweed or that he was well below the tide line. It was gone.

Until a few days later. 

Running along the beach the dog stopped, picked something up and started throwing it around. It was the pig. Having spent a a few days being pushed around the bay by the tides and currents it had been washed back up onto the same beach where he had then found it. When it was time to go home though it was nowhere to be seen. It was gone - again.

Until a few days later. When it turned up on the slipway by the beach.

Image: Pug puppy (in-laws, not our sea dog) lying down chewing the pig toy

Sailors are a superstitious bunch and tend to believe in all sorts of things. Pigs and chickens are unable to swim and sailors believed that God would look down on these helpless creatures in a shipwreck and see them safe to land. Therefore by having the pig or chicken tattoo you will be safe from the terrors of the sea as the tattoo itself keeps the talisman close.

Image: Brown chicken scratching ground (taken in Brittany, France)

There is a very good reason for sailors to hang on to anything they feel will give them protection and keep them safe from the ravages of the sea whether is is singing hymns, getting a tattoo or any other expression of belief. Even now the merchant seamen, naval seamen, fishermen, professional skippers and others face dangers at sea and have the second highest death rate of any worker group (second only to loggers).

Plymouth is a naval city, built around the historic docks of Devonport. The city has been affected time and again by actions the world over and has been scarred and shaped by its past and its affiliation to the armed forces. On the Hoe overlooking the sound are the grand memorials to those lost at sea. The naval memorial lists hundreds of men (and women), including my Great Uncle. Further down by the Barbican, a smaller plaque recalls fishermen from the town who gave their lives doing their jobs. Behind each of these names is a story, a family and a person.

Image: Towering Portland stone column with naval crest. Mottled grey sky behind and wave of ceramic poppies sweeping upwards in front (from Blood swept lands and seas of red)

November is a month when we look back at our histories and the people who have shaped our country and our lives. From the services of light marking All Souls day and through to Armistice day, it is a time of quiet reflections for many including our family. Remembrance Sunday this year falls on November 11th and marks 100 years since the end of the Great War that tore Europe apart for four long years. The area we now call home was an sea plane base at that point and echoes of the past remain around the area.
Image: Memorial statue, cast metal replica of Sunderland Short flying boat propeller on white round stand with "for those who served 1917-2012" written around the base

Remembrance is a very personal thing. Memorials take many forms, not all of them are large stone structures. A wise woman once told me, many of the best reminders of our loved ones are simple items that we use or look at everyday. The living memorial of the thunderbox room marked with a tin hat and Cornish shovel at the lost gardens of Heligan are poignant in their simplicity. The gardens fell into disrepair after the majority of the gardeners were conscripted in 1914. Few returned and the gardens became lost behind closed gates, neglected and overgrown. They were discovered and nurtured in memory of all those who gave their lives in world war one. 

         Image: Bronze plaque, Cornish shovel and tin soldiers hat hanging on side of small stone walled building 

The Imperial War museum is trying to map and catalogue all of the memorials throughout the country including ones for specific individuals, groups or incidents. They are asking for the nations help to send in information or photos to help with this massive undertaking. If you want to join in with this project more information can be found on their web site.

We've had a stark reminder recently of how few ex-forces personnel actually survive to collect their pension at national retirement age. Many people are affected by conflict, directly and indirectly and for some the battles never end. Although there does feel like there is a greater general awareness of both the mental health issues and physical problems experienced there are still horrifying statistics of suicide amongst veterans. The Royal British Legion has a ministry of care, helping serving and past members of the armed forces and their families and they need our support. The national act of remembrance is coordinated by the British Legion across the country and poppies are a way not only of showing our respect for those who have fallen but also to help provide ongoing support, and protection, for those who are falling.

Image: sprig of rosemary (for remembrance) and red enamel poppy brooch with 1918 2018 in gold letters and small green leaf, both on black background

We will remember them.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The refit (part ten)

Image: title image, paint pots and tools in background, white words across bottom 'the refit (part ten)

There is lots happening on the boat at the moment, the slow slog is showing results as some big things have been done.

image: black dog lying in sun on deck, supervising humans working

The biggest thing was the removing of the masts. These needed to be taken off so that all the standing rigging (the wires holding the masts up) can be replaced. Tarquilla is a ketch which means she has two masts of which the back one is shorter than the front one. The chain plates (metal bits that the back stays are attached to) were worrying us and there was some soft wood underneath that the skipper is replacing. The masts themselves seem to be OK but need a freshen up and new tape. We do intend to sort out the aerials and radar bits that live at the top. Hopefully things will be less cluttered up there when it all goes back up. 

Image: 6 pictures of masts being removed by crane. Grey sky in the background

Taking them down involved two cranes and a large team of people. We stood watching, clutching our coffee mugs in the drizzle. All the photos look like they are black and white because of the weather. It was a really grey day. The riggers and the yard team were really good, putting up one mast and taking down four in a morning (well 5 because we have two). The masts themselves are now on racks in the yard. We were pleased to find an old coin in the mast step. This is a tradition that goes back to Roman times and is thought to bring good luck to the ship.

Image: shilling coin amongst debris in mast step

The sanding of the sides is coming along. The skipper has been filling and smoothing as well as repairing patches. This means that some parts just need the old flaky paint removed whilst other bits need the filler corrected to ensure we have a nice smooth finish when the paint goes on. With a forty two foot boat we have one hundred and sixty eight feet of sides to sand and prepare. 

image: woman standing, looking cold, sanding hull of boat

Doing the sides has not been too bad. We have a ladder platform which has been really useful to help reach all of it, especially for those of us that are slightly more vertically challenged as the rub rail (marking the top of the side) is about two and a half metres off the ground. We’ve been very careful to use the vacuum attached to the sander to catch the dust (well as much of it as possible). The hardest bit has been sanding under the bridge deck. This is the bit that goes across the centre of the boat joining up the two hulls and we have to stand underneath working upside down.

image: looking up at man working at height on front deck

Work on the engines is keeping the Skipper busy. He has taken out the sail drive leg and gear box. The hull was then primed inside the hole. He also made a hole in the deck and using a plywood plate with an eye bolt, created a hoist to lift the engine. The hole has now been sealed with a plastic fuel filler so that it can be reused when it is needed again. The dog enjoyed this process, trying to help out and sticking his nose through the hole under the engine to look at the ground underneath us. The sail drive has been separated from the gear box and they are both being cleaned up and painted.   

Image: engine compartment of boat, dog with head in through hole

It's good to be able to actually see some progress and feel like we are really getting somewhere. There is still a lot to do and she looks strange with all her patches and without masts. More sanding, the second engine and lots and lots of painting are likely to be the focus of the near future for all the crew. 

image: boat from side in yard with filler patches and no mast

If you're interested, there are other refit blogs (9 others, obviously as this is number ten!), just click on refit in the word cloud to see what we've done so far.

image: boat from front, blue sky, sea in background

Why the strange image descriptions?

You may have noticed that lately we have started doing our image descriptions very differently. There is a good reason for this. There are a significant number of people using the interweb who have sight issues. By putting image descriptions on the pictures we put into the blog or on our facebook page, the speaking apps that read the page are able to then describe the picture giving a much better idea of what is there than a snappy or cute title caption. In addition to this many people do not have great band width. This is something we are very familiar with, partly from living/staying in rural areas and partly from times when we have been afloat in places with dodgy internet access. As pictures often do not load properly you end up with a blank grey square and a mystery as you have no idea what picture you are missing out on. So that is why you will now see image descriptions on our stuff. Our little contribution to making the internet accessible for all.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A wet and stormy weekend

The sun is out this morning and the wind has died down. The sloppy sea is the only remainder of a wet and wild weekend. The storms over the last week or two have affected many parts of the globe and the horrifying loss of life, especially in the typhoons in Asia, demonstrate again and again the power of nature.

Image: Waves breaking on cliffs with 'stormy weather' written in corner

Compared to many others our experience of the storms was nothing but it was still very unpleasant.
The boat was shaking with every gust and the rain hammered down on the roof. Winds off Rame Head at the entrance to the Sound reached over 60mph. When the weather is like this the skipper sleeps (or at least tries to) upstairs in the saloon and we keep the radio or netflix (if internet allows) playing as a distraction from the noise.  

Image: small boats on swinging moorings, bucking and rolling

Looking out the window this morning the sea is heaving and raging, throwing itself at the shore. I know the beach will look different next time we go there, I can see that the little earthen pathway down to the water is being scoured by the waves breaking up over the bank. 

Image: rocky coastline, crashing grey waves, lots of white spray

Beaches always change in weather like this, changing shape, moving large rocks or fallen trees that in the summer look like they will be there, part of the beach for ever. When we arrived here after the stormy winter of 2013/14 the beach was pebbly, we were told that it had been a long stretch of sand until the winter storms had swept it all away. Other days the shingle or sand on a beach can be sculpted into amazing shapes.

Image: Pathway beside water, covered in pebbles from the beach

I recently read the story of the Penlee lifeboat crew, a deeply sorrowful tale of the loss of so many lives from one tiny village. A quick internet search shows just how much the loss of a life boat affected such a tiny community, leaving long shadows. We are safe inside during storms but out there are commercial shipping and others who have to face the weather and our thoughts are often with them as wind and rain buffets the boat. The heroism of the lifeboat crews however leaving the safety of their homes to go out into storms to rescue others is truly humbling.

Image: Grey waves breaking on shoreline beneath red and white lighthouse

Some other stormy blogs from the past:

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Wind scoops

Wind scoops and keeping boats cool are a topic that comes up regularly on cruising forums so I thought I'd add my tuppence worth with some pics of how the skipper made ours. Hope it helps, if you have any questions just give us a shout in the comments below.

Image: hatch cover and title on background of hand drawn diagrams

We used our wind scoops quite a bit over the summer. They are a very simple design from the Skipper that he ran up on the sewing machine a few years ago in France. They are made from bright orange rip stop nylon (parachute material) left over from making a canoe. 

Image: bright orange scoop on an open hatch

The basic shape is two triangles an a rectangle, stitched together. An elastic loop around the base fits it snugly round the rim of the hatch. We use the rigging to suspend the upper strings giving it the shape.

These diagrams by the Skipper show how he cut the material and how these pieces were then constructed to form the scoop shape.

picture: hand drawn diagram of measurements and shapes

picture: hand drawn diagram of construction of scoop

They are easy and quick to fit on to the hatch rims and literally scoop any passing breezes down into the boat. By having hatches open front and back and letting the air travel through it does cool the boat down effectively. They can be fitted to the hatches in any direction which is helpful for quaysides, pontoons or indeed land - we have used our several times over our unusually hot British summer.

picture: orange scoop on open hatch, blue sky

And that's it, wind scoops to keep you cool.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Looking back at a British summer

Well, that’s the end of the summer holidays. 6 weeks, 4 birthdays, a wedding anniversary, work on the boat, many mini adventures and lots of time together.

[Image description: teenage deckhand with power tool sanding paintwork inside the boat]

We’ve done some proper traditional British stuff this year which has been great. A steam fair in Somerset with tractors, traction engines and other steam related engines was a hit with the boys. It was in their home town and it was great to catch up with some old friends too and see places that are important to us. 


Our first visit to a Devon sheepdog trail was interesting. There is a lot of skill involved in controlling the animals. There are certain signals and different parts to the challenge of rounding up the sheep and guiding them around the field. Fortunately the programme included a page telling us what they had to do to score points so we were able to follow it and learnt some stuff. The dog particularly enjoyed watching and took part in his first dog show and a running race where he won a bone. The local hunt was there in all its finery which led to some interesting discussions with the deckhands about the morals of hunting animals and changes in law affecting this very traditional part of the British countryside.

[image description: green field with sheep dog lying on ground watching a flock of sheep]

There was also a local summer fete in our nearest village. Traditional English fetes include lots of stalls with handicraft items and games like splat the rat (a sock down a tube), soak the Vicar/teacher (throwing wet sponges at someone who we normally show respect to) and lucky dip (small packages wrapped in paper with surprise contents). There is usually a band or singers and maybe some dancers to watch if you’re lucky. It’s all fun and a good excuse to get people together. It also raises lots of money and awareness for local groups.

The beach has been our main playground over the summer. Scrambling over rocks, hunting for sea life, barbecuing on the beach, kayaking trips and lots of swimming have been enjoyed by the crew. The weather this year has meant that the water was a nice temperature. Further round the coast we made the most of the sandy beaches of South Devon.

Thurlestone beach
Rum Bay

We went out out walking on Dartmoor and in the local woods. There are a lot of very beautiful places around the area which has meant lots of photos to be sorted and prepared for uploading to our Shutterstock profile. I enjoyed a visit to the spectacular Brent tor which has a small chapel built on its mount. There are always lots of legends and stories about Dartmoor and plenty about this building being a thanksgiving to St Michael for bringing a merchant sailor safely home.

Food is something that the crew has a healthy appreciation of. We’ve been playing around with various cake recipes that don’t need ovens (we do have an oven but it is in the cockpit and not connected to anything) including some really sticky rice crispie cakes and an attempt at cooking sponge in the frying pan that almost worked. I think with some more practice and some alterations that could work quite well. It’s amazing how many recipes we found that claimed to not need an oven then ended with the final step – now put it in the oven to brown. The ‘Best takeaway fish and chips in Britain 2018’ are from a chippie not far from us so we decided to give them a try and they were lovely. We also enjoyed proper pasties hot from the local butchers - 'proper lush' as they say in Devon.

[Image description: golden coloured crescent of pasty in a white paper bag]