After the race

I used this first picture on a ‘Dear George’ post the other day. I had forgotten the series I took of the Fastnet boats after they finished in Plymouth back in August.






I like the images. They say something about this race – the yachts involved, the numbers of crew,  the conditions.

On being left-handed

On being left-handed

Have you ever been shown how to tie a knot by a right-handed person? “The end goes round this, over that, round again and under the other.OK? . . . Now you do it.”  Good teaching, useful learning – if you’re right-handed.

But it can be a real trial if you’re left-handed. A left-hander will pick up the rope and find that what s/he sees in front of him/her is different from the demonstration. It’s not necessarily the fault of the teacher, from the start it just doesn’t “look right”. S/he has to think it through again. Sometimes this takes time and the student appears slow, sometimes not.

I have spent most of my life bemused by the gap between how I am told I should be doing this or that task and how I end up doing it. I have driven several severely right-handed teachers wild with frustration. Older now and hopefully a little wiser, I am still left-handed and that gap between theory and action has not diminished.

In fact, I have come to enjoy it. Within what I always think of as a deceptively slow approach, life neither follows a straight line nor flashes by in black and white. There is an opportunity to stand back and observe. And there is an opportunity to be creative.

On the boat, it is not the left or right hand that is so important, it is the wish to observe, and, from that, the desire to create.



On sailing a Folksong – Self-steering gear

Earlier in the year, Seb (Mischief) asked about self-steering gear on a Folksong. He was interested in a bracket to carry it.

I know he has now fitted a Hasler gear and has since sailed from the Tamar to Portsmouth with it, so I hope to hear how he got on.

In the meantime, this is the gear I picked for Blue Mistress – the Windpilot Pacific Light.

One of the reasons I like the Folksong is that there are no predetermined class rules. You have to make up your own mind. So, having  decided which self-steering would suit me, then comes the problem of how to mount it on the stern with a rudder post that stretches as far aft of the transom as that on the Folksong?

This is what we eventually decided:

The Pacific Light is relatively simple to fit on most boats and Peter Foerthman of Windpilot is immensely helpful. However, there are always problems to overcome in any project like this. If anyone with a Folksong would like more detail, let me know.

There is a learning curve. I have already discovered a great deal about sail balance using the gear . . . but there is a long way to go, and, as only way to learn  is to get out there and do it, I am going to keep Blue Mistress in the water through the winter and stick at it.

On sailing a Folksong – Ossian



Eddie writes:

“Only had the boat 7 months, previous owner had her based at Loch Melford near Oban, spent the first three months of the year traveling backwards and forwards every weekend getting her ready for the water.

Once launched we sailed around to the Loch Crinan then through the canal to Ardnishaig  then 54 NM dash down the Clyde to our home port of Irvine.”

As you know, I’m biased – but what a good-looking boat.

I’m particularly interested in the furling headsail – difficult to get my head round the ease of use against having a choice of sails.

As I get older, the prospect of the plunge forward becomes less appealing – on the other hand . . .

On sailing a Folksong – A ‘come-in’ for Blue Mistress

I have had a small ‘come-in’ fitted on Blue Mistress.

This is not the large, curved, ‘extra-room’ spray-hood seen on most modern cruising yachts but a small, upright pram hood over the companionway. I believe this design is called a racing spray-hood, but I prefer ‘come-in’ – (a description I came across in a book written in the 1950’s),  for the comfort of the name.

I can now sit in my favourite spot out of the weather – on the companion way sill with my feet on the engine housing and a good view forward.

The frame is well-constructed and robust (Dicky B Marine). It is designed to fold flat onto the deck with an angle to clear the wooden bar at the front end of the hatch. In the upright position, it is secured firmly onto the bulkhead either side of the companionway with straps.

The canvas zips onto the frame and is attached to the aforementioned bar with studs – it can be shipped in a trice. The original design had the attachment further forward to give it an elegant slope and also create some room to stow a camera etc. This would have involved fitting a new batten across the hatch housing. However, bolts through the deck here would have stopped the hatch sliding forward. In the event,  it has been kept as small as possible.

The opening is just too small for me to enter and leave without having to push the trailing edge forward about six inches. Initially that meant lowering it completely every time I went below. The problem has been solved with two short lengths of shock cord stretched from the angle at the bottom of the frame to the point where the retaining straps are fastened. These straps are very secure but it is fiddly to keep releasing and tightening them. The shock cord does the job perfectly.

I particularly like this design because it leaves the winches and lines clear. I can go forward easily without tripping over it.

Also, the window is big enough not to block the view forward from the tiller.

. . . I’ve yet to trial it in a gale

. . . and get used to the interruption to the lines of the boat!

From Steeple Point – coincidence

This afternoon I finished reading John Howlett’s book – ‘ Mostly About Boats’.

In the last chapter, acknowledging the experience at his disposal – (a lifetime sailing and having designed a number of his own boats), he describes the boat that he would now build for himself. One that he could sail single-handed if need be.

Remember, he was writing in 1956, when he was in his sixties.

He gives a sail plan:

I looked at the plan and thought, *Surely, I’ve seen a boat with a sail plan like that recently. . .”

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 – Betsy

The last I heard of Betsy, she was fitting out for a trip from the Algarve to Lisbon.

I look forward to hearing how they got on.


In terms of maritime history, this is a coast of great importance, the early Portugese navigators leaving a legacy that is still relevant to us today.

Looking through the links, I came across this report – The Wreck Report for ‘Hantoon’ and ‘Rothesay’ 1882, which occurred some 50 miles north of Cape St Vincent. Although it doesn’t compete with the early use of astronomical tables for navigation (or even events like the Battle of Cape St Vincent), for those  interested in seamanship, particularly where the Collision Regulations are concerned, it’s worth reading – and remembering even though it happened over a century ago, it could have been yesterday.