Friday, 1 August 2014

In the beginning



My Family have been involved in boats for as long as I can remember. This blog replaces my boaty website which was becoming a bit frayed around the edges. Our boating story had ended, but after 8 years ashore, and missing the sea very much we now have another boat. She is small, only 18ft, previously a fishing boat. She still smells a bit fishy, but I am hoping to make her more "yachty"

She is called "Winston"
There is a reason for that, which I will explain later, meanwhile she is now lying at Titchmarsh Marina where she is being worked on. She has her own page at the end of the blog now that she has been launched.






Arrival at Titchmarsh Marina after the tow from Brightlingsea



Her hull is rather chalky and not a very nautical colour






After 3 weeks work she is looking a bit more tidy!





Much Earlier....
My father started his sailing in the Walton Backwaters before WW2. below are some of his pictures, the quality isn't great, most of them were taken by Mum with a box brownie......










The Early Years




After WW2 Dad was needing to get back "On the water"
and so when I was about 7 years old (1950) he bought a 13'6" clinker built yacht's tender with a tiny Stuart Turner 2 stroke petrol engine, which we used for fishing.
I have no photos of this boat, but it soon became clear that this one wasn't really large enough for Harwich Harbour which can be rather rough at times.




She looked a bit like this...





Dad caught an 11 lb bass, it had a "Lying in state in the bath!


So in about 1958 we graduated to a retired Harwich Lobster boat, of some considerable age, with a Kelvin E2 7hp petrol engine. She was the "Sandra", and ours was the first in Harwich to have a little shelter over the engine.




When we first bought "Sandra" she was in a rather
uncared for state, here we are working on her at Smiths
 the builders yard, guess who is painting the bottom...

S



As time went by, we were looking for something a bit more substantial, and found a boat for sale, only a few years old, and one of the last to be built by Cann of Harwich. We were lucky enough to be able to engage the services of Alan, who had helped build her. he built a cabin and side decks, and we had many happy years fishing and cruising. There was a downside however, the engine was a Lister twin air cooled diesel, and it was loud! She was named "Avanti 2"



Wooly hats were De Rigeur at that time..

Before she was converted. I was trying hard to
look like a fisherman!

Here's Mum indicating that the
kettle is about to go on


An afternoon in Levington creek


Avanti 11 after a refit at Phoenix Dock
(Harwich and Dovercourt SC)



A memorable holiday!




Meanwhile I had learned to sail, having been taught by my friend Tony, in his home built Mirror dinghy. I was now wishing very much to have a sailing boat, and in 1971 Dad and I went into partnership in a new Westerly Cirrus sailing cruiser. She was "Avanti 3", and while being a safe and stable yacht, she was rather slow...









Can you guess who is underneath painting the bottom?




After a couple of years, with a growing family we decided to upgrade to something a little bit sleeker....

She was "Straggler", so named because we always came last in the racing! Built in Limerick Eire in 1973 to Swedish design, she was 29ft OA. She was just over a year old when we bought her. She was the first yacht in which I sailed across to Ostend in '75.




Here we are in the Montgomerydok Ostend, enjoying the sun....
We had a very rough ride home, where many lessons were learned!




Here we are in the Grevelingen Meer Holland in 1977, our sons were 7 and 4
 and growing fast, we were running out of room on Straggler!







As you can see the Admiral was often supervising the humble workers!





Next came "Big Hilda".......

With the boys growing up, Straggler's narrow beam and limited accommodation, meant that we had outgrown her, so she was sold and we went looking for a larger alternative. After quite a long time hunting we found a Moody 33, the year was 1977 and she was laying at Moody's yard at Swanwick on the Hamble.





It was love at first sight and during the ten years that we owned her, we cruised many miles to France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark. her accommodation was roomy, with a separate aft cabin which was the boy's territory.










Although I have been in boats all my life, with experience, one realises that there are gaps in your knowledge. With several friends we decided to study for the RYA Yachtmaster course, and over two winters in 1980/81 we attended the local Further Education Centre, and were taught the mystery and magic of navigation by teacher Bernie. Subsequently my good friend Fred and I took the practical test aboard "Big Hilda" on a foul wet and windy weekend , and somehow we succeeded to gain the Yachtmaster Offshore certificate. There remained a further challenge and that was the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate. So again it was back to nightschool to be taught celestial nevigation, by a chap who used to drive an aircraft carrier!
Lastly we had to make a voyage of 600 miles non stop, and we chose in 1985 to sail towards  Denmark....







Next came "Sunseeker"
In 1987 my friend Andrew, one of the crew to Denmark had reluctantly decided to sell his yacht "Sunseeker" She was a beautifully maintained Moody 36, a very similar ship to "Big Hilda", but substantially larger. I had, in a moment of foolishnes said to him that if she ever went for sale I would be interested. After a lot of scrapping around we managed to reach the very fair price he was asking and Sunseeker became ours.
We continued our Summer holidays in Holland each year as you can see...




Our new ship, which seemed so much bigger than "Big Hilda"


As can be seen she was like a large floating caravan


Come rain or shine, and it was often rain, we cruised
 our local rivers, here we are on the Orwell



Our next big step was another cruise to Denmark...





While chatting with Ole in Denmark that Summer
he told me of an idea he had for when he retired.
"I would buy a boat with low air draught so that I could cruise in the canals and rivers of Europe"
This set a germ of an idea, and having checked my log at the end of the season, 75% of the time we were motoring!
Maybe then it was time to go back to motor.


"Essex Girl"

It took a year to sell "Sunseeker", we had osmosis problems and had to sandblast and epoxy the bottom, eventually she was sold in Summer 1991.


Sand blasted!

Paul grinding and grinding!


We then set off for Holland to look at steel cruisers.
We looked at several, but eventually found
this one...
Here we test the steel for thickness with an ultrasound device


Then back into the water

The Mate was happy with the layout

The galley was roomy


Her name was "Gwendoline"
we thought this was too twee
for Harwich so we called her
"Essex Girl"


Paul at the helm as we headed for Vlissingen and home



Waiting for the locks at Willemstad

We follow commercial barges into the lock



At the end of October she was ashore at Walton
There was much work to do before our planned
 adventures which would start in Summer 1992







In the ensuing years we cruised Holland
several times, one particularly stands out, perhaps because the weather was so nice, it was only one week in Zeeland, but I remember this one particularly well..




Our next adventure was planned for 1995
I had this idea that it would be unusual to try and take our boat to Switzerland. Could it be done?






The next big event for us and "Essex Girl"
was a refit in Holland



We have made friends with some special people
over the years



Owning a boat is a commitment,
"Essex Girl" gave us great pleasure but the price we pay is looking after her so that she will look after us!




We now decided to explore nearer to home




Downsizing
The time had come, we were not getting any younger and we very reluctantly decided in 2005 that the time had come to sell "Essex Girl"
Having made the decision, she was sold quite quickly, and we were soon off to Holland again to search for a smaller alternative. We looked at numerous boats all of which depressed us. Judging them by Essex Girl standards made it very hard to find something within a limited budget. We were almost ready to return home and on the last day we had one last look, and found the "Cha"





"Winston" our Swan Song boat


Having missed the sea for a long eight years, we have now bought "Winston". Lying in a garden in Brightlingsea, I saw her advertised and made an appointment to take a look. I had been looking for some time, but all of the candidates were lying miles away, while this one was only 15 miles down the road! She had started life as a professional bass fishing boat in Wales where she was built on 2002. She is sturdy but well used, and we are now trying to make her a little bit more trim.



As we found her





After about a month at Titchmarsh Marina, we had worked quite hard to smarten her up.




Now launch day had arrived, the last day of August, and the guys in the yard did a great job, allowing me time to finish the antifouling on the hoist, and helping me to moor up, this being the very first time I had tried to handle her under power. All went well and she is now afloat. 

Special kudos to Chris Titchmarsh, who bent over backwards to get us afloat really quickly!


Down she goes






Now lying in her new berth



 There is still much to do. Electrics need work and the electronics have to be reinstalled. The cockpit floor needs to be re painted with non slip paint.
Meanwhile she is now useable and we hope to make the best of the last of the Summer to go out and visit our old haunts in the Walton Backwaters.
More on this tale later....


Meanwhile you may like to take a look at the Marina where we have kept our various boats since 1976....



Maiden Voyage

Just a short trip to test equipment, all went OK




Oh Yes!








Past millionaire's row






Stone Point





Back again




We did a princely 4 miles, everything is fine except at idle
the engine is stalling - note to self......try to fix!







We have now added another refinement, made for us by our friends at Dolphin Sails






This will enable us to go out in the winter










Before we laid up for winter we had to try full speed
 "To blow the cobwebs out of the engine"









Winston was lifted out on January 20th for the remainder of the Winter










We have always supported the Lifeboats
Here's a link to Harwich Lifeboat



Harwich Lifeboat