A good team. Job done.

One of the features of a boat that was launched in 1988 is that any fittings that haven’t already been replaced are now over twenty five years old. I thought of this yesterday when, the winds having abated, we were able to get a couple of jobs done that had been scheduled for two days earlier.

I took the boat down river to Plymouth Yacht Haven. We slipped into a berth beside yachts twice the size of Blue Mistress. In such austere company we seem to be batting above our league. However, let’s concentrate on the job in hand . . .

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Coming alive

Yesterday I experienced what everyone who has ever owned a boat must feel – that moment when the elaborate and expensive shed you have spent the winter accessing via a wobbly metal ladder reenters the water and comes alive. Continue reading

Back to studying

For those who tune into this blog occasionally and are wondering why I am dodging around topics, it’s because I am doing a short course with WordPress – Writing 101. It lasts a little under three weeks and involves participants posting a blog most days. The topics are varied and a little out of my usual line. My intention is to get back to a writing habit that I lost over the past year. Bear with me, something good will come from it.


For those who are wondering what has happened to Blue Mistress, the refit is nearly complete. A lot has been done in between longish pauses and I see the chance to get back in the water in the next two weeks. The boat is looking good but needs to be afloat!




And if you are also wondering when I am going to talk about New Zealand, it will come. In the meantime, this is the Bay of Islands where Webb Chiles (see below) is headed.



If you are not following Webb Chiles, you should be. Aged 72 and circumnavigating in a boat smaller and lighter than Blue Mistress. It is his sixth time round, I believe. He prefers the solitude of single-handed sailing and was reluctant to fit the Yellowbrick – technology impinging on personal space. In the meantime, we have the privilege of sitting back and admiring. He has been sailing at over five knots for most of the voyage. Fair winds to him.

You can follow him here http://my.yb.tl/gannet

(All images taken by Bill Whateley)


Lifting Blue Mistress

There are a number of reasons why I might not have shown this image – personal embarrassment being high on the list, But then I thought, “Hey, this is what happens if you don’t lift the boat often enough. Not many people have seen this on their vessels, so maybe it will make them feel even better about the refitting work they do.”

I haven’t posted this year. One of the results of a difficult year has been a lack of time afloat. So when, on one of the few times I was able to go to sea, I had engine trouble, I finally decided it was time to lift her and spend some productive refit time over the winter.

And yesterday we did lift the boat, and this is what we saw in the early evening gloom (click on image to enlarge) . . .


. . . not just barnacles but a whole colony of mussels – on the rudder and around the propeller. So this was why the helm was sluggish and the engine was difficult to start.

There were some ripe comments from the lifting crew!

However, Blue Mistress had always cleaned up well and today . . .




She won’t be back in the water until early May. There are a number of jobs I want to do on her, including major work on the engine. And we also have other adventures planned before then.

I will post on the boat again.

On sailing a Folksong – The timing could have been better

The day job is demanding at the moment – and the holiday was abroad, therefore I have not spent enough time on the boat.

So, I thought, why not lift her now that most boats are back in the water and get a couple of jobs done.

This includes removing layers of anti-fouling that weren’t removed properly in her early years. There are patches where it flakes off easily under a hose.

And there are a couple of innovations on Blue Mistress (more on these later) that have been in the pipeline for some time.

She was last lifted was eighteen months ago. There was limited but great sailing during the winter, but it has taken its toll on her hull.

So we lifted her . . .

– and guess what. We have now had a prolonged stretch of beautiful weather – the best for a long while.

My hands are itching to feel the tiller, the pull on a sheet, the rise of the bow on a swell.

I stood in the cockpit yesterday, my feet seeking the vitality of a boat on the water and, you know what?, she felt solid and lifeless.

However elegant, a boat out of water is little better than a glorified shed.

On sailing a Folksong – Mischief

Seb writes that he has bought Mischief.

Found her in a yard at Calstock on the River Tamar.

There is work to do on her but “her hull, decks and mast are sound; she has new standing rigging; a good set of sails etc.”

“Her interior is completely bare however (pure, as the previous owner put it), with no through hull fittings other than the engine water intake, but she does needs a lot of work done on her interior”

He is doing some immediate work on her “. . . gave her a good scrub; fitted a new fore hatch; refit the genoa tracks; tinkered with the engine . . .”

“I will be taking Mischief to Portsmouth from Plymouth as soon as she is sea worthy.”

Seb has plans for Mischief and originally contacted me about self-steering gear:

I posted on this and two useful links came back – thank you again for those. In the meantime, he (Seb) has noted:

“It seems that few Folksong’s have been fitted with mechanical self-steering gear, so I have been using the Contessa 26 as a source of information regarding the suitability of wind-vanes (given that they are both loosely based on the Folkboat). So far the Windpilot pacific light servo-pendulum gear, or the Hydra Autosteer trim-tab system, seem the most likely candidates, mainly due to their weight and cost.”

My choice would be the Pacific Light but that’s based on study and other people’s preferences – not practical experience.

Here is a clip of one in action following last year’s Jester Challenge.

“Crossing Lyme Bay after returning from 2 months away on Jester Challenge to Azores. Big following sea and wind around F5.”

I’m sorry, I don’t know who made the clip – perhaps somebody could let me know so I can thank them personally.

Any further comments would be welcome.

And Calstock looks the perfect place to find a Folksong!

For love of a boat – St Ives ‘Jumbo’

Following my ‘love of a boat’ post on 25th February, I want to speak up again for a project that I have only recently become aware of but one that so obviously meets the spirit of this series that I cannot believe it has taken me so long to find out about it.

We have spent this weekend in St Ives.

I had hoped to see the Jumbo, a replica of the smallest class of St Ives fishing lugger – (details of the project can be found here).

No chance – but I made up with it in viewing the many old photographs of the original boats available around the town.

Apart for appreciating the boat as a boat, my interest was sparked by a press release dated November 2007.

An extract from it reads:

“Our aim is to establish a racing class of these boats at St.Ives in order to regenerate a waterfront community in decline. How much more effective it would be if, in addition, these boats could be eventually used for the purpose for which they were designed whilst providing a seasonal income for a couple of individuals!

Clearly, there may come a time when, in addition to any green, carbon neutral credentials, a sail-operated fishery could become commercially viable or at least a natural way of conserving resources (as demonstrated by the Falmouth oyster fishery – much celebrated as the last in the world to be worked under sail).

In the meantime the skills required need to be developed. There’s a growing recognition that this approach would at least address some serious issues; the sustainability of fish stocks, the rising cost of fuel, the dependence on imported goods and the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas to name a few.

And if successful, the model could be readily repeated elsewhere.

Only a few months ago such a proposal would have been dismissed as romantic fantasy. So far however, my inquiries have been met with a degree of excitement.”

This is a brave start and I am sure that more than a few eyebrows have been raised.

However the project has powerful backing and a great deal of goodwill, to which I am happy to add my own small cupful.

I invite you to explore their well-managed site and appreciate the enterprise.

For the origins and full set of images in this series, here

On sailing a Folksong – Sunday morning log

I was expected in Exeter this afternoon but checking the boat after the snow, the frosts and the rain of the past two weeks was a priority, so I seized the moment this morning.

The drive to Plymouth is about an hour and I got there about 10:15. By the time I had pumped up the dinghy, talked to the man who was going fishing in his ocean kayak and taken some photos, it was about 10:45 when I finally arrived aboard.

There is debris in the river from the heavy weather. In general, it floats past, but occasionally snags boats that are moored on the trots.

The mooring lines were as I had left them two weeks ago. There were no loose halyards. The sail cover was still firmly in place – it is too short and I have promised myself I will get one the right length one day. In the meantime, the boom end is covered by a square of canvas.

She looked neat in the morning sun.

The ten minute row demanded a small celebration.

Then start the engine (it fired first time!) and a look around before getting on with the several jobs I had planned:

The seagulls were enjoying the sunshine;

the fine house on the Cattewater shore was still overwhelmed by her industrial neighbours;

the boatyard on the opposite shore was the usual marvellous jumble of work-in-progress;

and the rowers were taking advantage of the weather.

A good day for a sail. Pity I had to return so soon.