Winter refit 2/4 – rubbing strakes and rudder post

(. . . continued)

Blue Mistress has a grp hull but there is a certain amount of woodwork that needs watching. In retrospect, it has been overlooked more often than not because the amount is small. This is not clever.

Blue Mistress is moored fore and aft on a trot mooring. She is facing west. The sun rises over the stern, travels round the port side and sets over the bow. It means the starboard side of the boat gets less sun and less opportunity to dry out, Water builds-up along the angle where the rubbing strake butts against the hull, the damp persists, algae forms,  water soaks in. Continue reading

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.

Ceres – between trips

Taking advantage of low tide.

Enjoy the detail in this photograph – rudder, blocks, hobble boat, people on beach, men working.

“Mr Health and Mr Safety, all of these children gained from the experience.”

The definition is not so good in the photo, but the sentiment is.


From a series of recently rediscovered photographs that had lain pressed in a book for the past ten years.

For the previous set herehere and here, for an overview of the harbour at Bude here

On sailing a Folksong – Self-steering gear

A comment this evening:

“I have just bought a Folksong and plan to do some extended single-handed voyages in her. I was wondering if you know of any folksong’s that have had self-steering gear installed on them, and if so which system / model has been used with success.”

Lo Shu

Sho Fu is the only Folksong I know of to carry self-steering gear – and this hazy image is the only one I have and I know nothing else about her.

Looking at her again, I notice the spray hood is similar to a design I have in mind. I might use this one.

I use a Raymarine ST1000+ for shorter trips, but would not want to undertake  a longer voyage with this system alone.

When I bought Blue Mistress I spent some time researching self-steering gear with the intention of fitting it fairly quickly. As happens, priorities changed and deadlines came and went and I still haven’t done it.

However, I did think that a system like the Windpilot Pacific Light might work.  (To see one fitted to the stern of a Folkboat, click here and here).

Nick Jaffe made it to Australia in his Contessa 26, Constellation, with this set up.

Here is Blue Mistress crying out for self-steering gear – and an owner with the means to go a lot further than he has so far.

If you have strong thoughts on this, let me know.

On sailing a Folksong – those lazy jacks again

Saturday morning around 0930, heading towards Mount Batten Pier with a following wind.

All morning, Plymouth Longroom has been delivering a Mariners Notice of an impending powerboat race in Plymouth Sound, warning other boats to stay clear. There are few boats out. I am heading towards Mount Batten pier, preparing to downsails in the spot I usually use when solo so that I can motor back to the mooring.

I start to wonder if today woould be a good day to sail the nautical mile, if not onto the mooring, at least close to it. Could I sail single-handed in restricted waters without making a complete scallops of it?

This is a 25 foot boat with just me on board. There is a wide S bend to negotiate but enough width in a river that takes commercial shipping. The wind is southerly but will differ in the river. It will be heading me as I turn towards the Yacht Haven and it will be gusting in the river. The tide is still be dropping, and is towards the end of its run.  There’s certainly enough wind tot take me over it. Depth may or may not be an issue. The traffic is minimal . . .  And I would like the experience.

There would have been a time when I would have done it without asking the questions. The trouble is, the more I know . . .

So, now, decision taken, I am almost too far to the right of the end of the pier, the foresail is goosewinged and a gybe looks likely before I clear it. But as we get closer, the wind backs slightly, blowing along the pier, and we slip round the end with at least thirty yards to spare.

There are three or four boats emerging from Sutton Harbour and a racing yacht circling as the crew work on the mainsail.There’s is plenty of room for Blue Mistress if we keep to the right of the fairway.

The wind is now blowing downriver, more south easterly, with enough south in it to keep me outside the line of mooring buoys. Round the green fairway buoy, hardening onto the wind towards Victoria Wharves. A large yacht – (white, tall sides) is motoring downstream, passing swiftly astern. A fishing boat, closer to the Plymouth side, looks concerned, slows, turns to head us, (perhaps thinking I may tack early), realises I won’t, then passes well astern.

By now, I am adjacent to the entrance to the Wharves, and the wall is coming up. Still plenty of water below us. A glimpse of a man above, hosing equipment. Foresheet to hand, tiller hard over, Blue Mistress comes about, sails flap, I drop the port foresheet, haul in the starboard one quickly before the wind fills the sail . . . and we are bounding up and across river. I ease the foresheet slightly to give more belly. Hauling the sheet  in  just before the sail fills is very easy but, in my enthusiasm, I tend to flatten the sail.

The wind is coming in gusts now and we dinghy-sail, bringing her head up when the strength of the wind allows and noting the slight variations in direction. It comes across the Yacht Haven straight down this section of the river, and then begins to back a little as it draws across Turnchapel. We’re heading towards the moorings of boats of a similar size to Blue Mistress. There is plenty of depth of water here but I don’t want to get in among the moorings.

A strong gust, we heel, head up, and then go about. This time I am more gentle on the helm, deciding not to push it hard over but to see whether being less forceful will still bring her about but keep momentum up. It seems to work and Blue Mistress moves smoothly onto the next tack. Despite my concerns about the rudder, it does the job.

This is the narrowest section. We are head on to a corner of the river wall. It is approaching swiftly. At low springs, there is a rocky reef exposed off this point so, although there is probably enough water, I give it room, go about and head up towards what the chart designates as a ‘turning area’  for the larger commercial ships. Now Blue Mistress and I have navigated the S-bend in the river and have opened up the stretch towards Oreston and beyond.

In towards the seaward end of the Yacht Haven, and we are headed upstream, slowing as we head into a more sheltered stretch. It seems the tide is running a little stronger here.

When I put my head out of the hatch just after 0600 this morning, ‘Stability’ was docking at Cattedown Wharf. We pass along her starboard side.

I bring Blue Mistress head to wind. . .

and, just as I let go of the main, we get caught by a heavy shower of rain.

Roundly cursing having to stow wet sails, I notice the lazy jacks are still led forward. Not only are the sails wet and slippery, but the mainsail is now in an untidy heap. I have sail ties in my pocket, but, by the time I have gathered it into a fairly neat bundle, tied it, let the foresail drop to the deck, and stowed it (wet) into its bag through the forehatch, the tide has taken us back down the river the whole length of ‘Stability’. Engine on, motor back to where we were and finish cleaning up.

Then back to the mooring to complete the task.

Single-handed, a lot more forethought is needed – forethought comes from experience.

The lazy jacks should have been put back before we rounded Mount Batten Pier. I won’t forget again.

On Sailing a Folksong – Thank you

There are blogs written by those who are complete experts at designing, building and repairing their own boats with no other help than a forbearing partner and a seemingly infinite amount of time. I am not one of these.


In 2006, I bought a boat. It was the boat I had wanted for most of my life but never had the opportunity to own before. It took a little time to confirm what was right with it . . . and a little longer to find out all that was wrong with it. Fortunately, what was right outshone what was wrong.

That first season was good fun. We sailed a lot, even making a passage to Fowey and back. Unfortunately, there were some problems and I began to think of ways to fix them – and then ways to improve her, and so my ambition grew – (”What is possible? We are not trying to restore a classic boat to its original state. It’s not a wooden boat. Let’s see what modern materials can achieve”).  One thing was for sure: whatever I wanted done on the boat would be way beyond my then knowledge and still current skills. So I began to look for someone to help me.

Specifically, I wanted someone who would listen to what I wanted to do . . . and would recognise when I was being unrealistic and say so – and be prepared to come up with an alternative. Over the years, I have learnt how independent boat owners are . . .  and how proud of their boats, sometimes excessively so. It takes a diplomat to handle them.

During that summer, following an unfortunate incident with a crossed battery cable, we were in Plymouth Yacht Haven sorting it out. While trying to hide my embarrassment at the earlier mistake, I was explaining to Pete from Marine Systems what I wanted to do with Blue Mistress. He said, pointing to the Hangar across from the marina, ‘why don’t you try DickyB over there’.

A while later, Richard Banks sat in the cabin and looked around while I told him what I was wanting to do and how far back we would have to go before we could move forward – and there was no way of my affording the work in one leap.

I liked him immediately. He caught on to what I was saying, cut through the c**p and we began to work out what might be needed to start the project off. (Yes, I know I was a potential client so you would expect him to be enthusiastic, but there are ways and ways of handling clients – I liked his style).

And so the relationship with Dicky B Marine began. There have been three periods in the Hangar at Mount Batten. Each time, Blue Mistress has been returned to the water greatly improved. On the last occasion, she was a new boat.


Throughout, Richard has been excellent. I often arrived unannounced and, despite other work  on other boats, been enthusiastically shown what had been done and what was proposed. If I was in the way,  he and everyone else had the courtesy to keep it till I left! I took pictures of everything. I have sent strings of emails and attachments with ideas and changes. Believe me, it’s not the boat, it’s the owner!

It’s a team, of course. In this, our last session, Robin Leach’s skilled carpentry and work below decks have been especially appreciated – I haven’t forgotten the twenty locker lids laid out to paint.

He also made the smart  new tiller, one that no longer catches the lazarette locker lids.

At the same time, the stainless steel fittings were made in their workshop by Dave Willey. Andy Wilson worked on her too. That was another reason for choosing this firm. They have several strings to their bow.

And there was Pete Brian of Marine Systems – he of the original referral, who did the electrical work, Neil Gledhill of Hemisphere Rigging Services and the haulout crew of Plymouth Yacht Haven.

In a little under three years, we have gone from this:


to this:


From this:


to this:


From this:

Torpoint 2006

to this:

Oreston 2009

The Folksong hull was originally built for the DIY market. Blue Mistress was launched in 1988. She has changed owners two or three times since. Each one had their own ideas. Everyone brings their own personality to a boat. I don’t suppose any two people would agree on what the “correct” solution should be.

Well, this owner is older with a demanding day job, and with not so many tides ahead of him. He has enjoyed sharing the boat with the  surprisingly large number of people who have worked on her. (In a recession that can’t be a bad thing).

And he’s not finished yet. Over the next few years her intends to enjoy Blue Mistress, work on her and sail her as much as possible.

Thanks, Guys.

On sailing a Folksong – update

“Looks like a new boat” said the man in the marina who kindly walked me out of the berth.

Indeed, she does. Blue Mistress has finally become the boat I thought I glimpsed the first time I saw her four years ago almost to the day. Ever since that moment, I have been working towards this.

What she has become has more to do with ownership than anything specific. Instead of coping with someone else’s ideas, (however good they may have been), it comes down to owning a boat where all the positives and all the negatives are now the product of my own collaborations and my own final decisions. I guess everyone who sails a boat for any length of time will know what I mean.

For example, it could be because I am sitting at my new chart table, notebook open, pencil at the ready, able to make notes whenever I choose.

It could equally be because the galley has been cleaned up and I’ve bought a smaller kettle which comes to the boil more quickly.

Or that the loo facilities have been thought through properly and, suitably primed, are now satisfactory.

Or the new feel of spaciousness thanks to Robin Leach’s excellent finish to the repainting and retrimming.

Perhaps it’s because I have rethought the locker stowage so that more gear is to hand – gear that, in the past, had been ‘put away’ to be sorted out later.

It could be that, sitting here, with this excellent cup of tea, listening to Handel on the radio and watching people enjoy their Sunday on the water, I am mesmerised by the reflection of the sunlight on the water. In a boat with low freeboard you feel closer to the water- if you write about the sea, you are writing closer to the source!

It could also be that the rudder and tiller that have been bothering me for so long have been dealt with for the time being and I have the enjoyable prospect of sea trials ahead.

It’s all these things, of course, but, above all, it is the knowledge that every time I come aboard I won’t be looking around seeing all these jobs to do – jobs that in no way did I have the skills to complete to this standard. This bulk of unfinished business was getting in the way.

At my age, I have, in Jon Wainwright’s words, “only so many tides” to catch.

Blue Mistress now fits – and I feel freer to catch those tides.


This was my first post written on the boat – albeit with notebook and pencil to be copied later. I hadn’t realised how deep my ambition has been to do this comfortably.

No, I didn’t buy the boat to have a table to write at. I bought the boat to be able to sail. Writing about it has come out of owning it and given me the chance to find ways forward.

I shall continue to post. I wonder if my emphasis will change.

On sailing a Folksong – March refit

When you buy a boat (or a house), you see it as you want it to be  rather than as it is.

It is rare that it is complete at the point of sale – you set out to put a bit (or a lot) of yourself into it.

So it was with Blue Mistress.

This is the third stage of the work that I thought we would need to do when I first saw her in 2006.

I’m not such a visionary that I could have said then ‘right, we’re going to do this in three stages’, but I could see where we would need to go and, now that I’ve learnt a few ropes, this is how it has worked out.

Broadly speaking, in stage one, we worked on the deck – reseating fittings, sorting out leaks, recoating it in to a finish that is hard and durable.

Stage two, involved a new engine housing, installing  a new fuel tank and moving the batteries to a locker of their own, as well as upgrading the electrics and installing a new VHF/DSC unit.

Now, in stage three, the top sides are getting repainted (five layers of epoxy primer so far),and the rudder rehung, to include a new upper pintle.

Down below, the main cabin is being upgraded, detail seen to, edges rounded off, surfaces smoothed and repainted, a couple of locker lids reworked  and so on.

So is this a totally rebuilt boat? No, all good boats have a character that can be encouraged and brought out.

A little bit here a little bit there transforms them. In keeping them up to scratch, they gain a new lease of life.

On sailing a Folksong – for fellow Folksong owners

Blue Mistress was lifted out of the water last Wednesday. While waiting for the lift, she was stripped of everything aboard (except for the cqr and anchor rode).

The boom was also unshipped.

Although that was not the  intention, it meant I got a picture of her motoring light.

So, we’ve got the much-talked-about ‘heavy’ rudder, two large riggers, and a Yanmar engine placed fairly far towards the stern – (the front of it stretches approximately 6 inches into the main cabin).

In the event, she is only slightly down at the stern. Normally, there is heavy gear (inc. spare water containers) in the fore cabin lockers to counteract this.

They removed the mast and rigging – the boom and spinnaker pole are lashed on deck.

The deck has grown green patches over the past few months thanks to the weather. The lines of the halyards over the cabin top are clearly visible. I will remember to clean here more often.

The bottom was fairly clean. Weed is on the anode, propeller (not enough use his winter), and the edges of the keel and rudder.

The Raymarine log has not been working this winter. There was a small colony of barnacles around the ‘propeller’ housing in the bow which was stopping it turning.

The strop is only just on the keel, showing how difficult it is to judge the rake of the stern from above.

A last look at the cheeks on the rudder and the hull shape from the stern.

There is more growth on the starboard waterline. Moored fore and aft, this is the part of the hull that faces away from the sun for most of the time. Earlier in the year, I spent some time in the water trying to clean this off – with little success.