October 2014 – Frances Miller – Around the world in 15 years
Frances addressed our October meeting, following much hard work by her and Rear Commdore Hugh Woodsend in gathering and shaping material into an exemplary presentation.
James had planned a round-the world voyage for his retirement. He bought an Endurance 35 ferro-cement (i.e. concrete) bare hull and spent 5 years creating the ketch, “Tara”, out of it. Projects like this are incredibly time, money and effort consuming; and are not for the faint hearted, impractical or pessimistic. James was clearly none of these.
After retirement from the Navy James joined a local authority and was, as it happened, recruited by Frances, who went on to became his companion – not only on this monumental voyage but for the rest of his life. Frances had sailed before - dinghies, she told us, as a teenager in the Tripoli Dolphin Services’ Yacht Club, in the days before Gaddafi.
The plan? To go! For how long? Well, it would evolve. Where to? Well, that depended on the weather, how the boat fared and which bits broke, where; what rebuilds they would do, what visas they could get…
The circumnavigation started conventionally enough with a transatlantic passage to the West Indies, but soon they decided to add Canada, the USA along the Intracoastal Waterway, and Bermuda to the itinerary before resuming the passage westwards through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to New Zealand. Once in New Zealand, The Bay of Islands became a base from which to spend several years of cruising the Pacific Islands and Australia. I lost count as to how many times they shuttled between New Zealand and Australia…
The boat was rebuilt two and a half times during the voyage. One of the disadvantages of building ones own boat to a budget, as James had, is that compromises often have to be made (in James’ case, fitting a used Perkins 4108 diesel). One of great advantages, however, is the intimate knowledge you’ve gained, so you can nearly always fix things, or know how to work around problems….
Frances’ mother had grown up in Bermuda, and the couple seemed to have friends, or quickly make friends, almost wherever they went. So visiting places with family connections, picking up with friends, success in getting help, and long stays in port, were a core feature of this grand voyage. Fishing, on the other hand, wasn’t….they caught 10 fish in 15 years.
The return voyage took Tara round the top of Australia and on to South Africa, finally completing the circumnavigation in the Azores.
We have heard and read many times about the extent to which blue water cruising sailors value, and have to develop, self-reliance. But James and Frances seem to have taken this to another level. It seems they uniquely combined self-reliance, a strong partnership, and the ability to make friends and get help wherever they were. These are the enduring messages from this presentation. And it is good to be reminded that it is not only the young who have ambition, drive and ability. James was sailing well into his eighties, and even then did not “swallow the anchor”. Tara was sold and replaced with a Dutch motor boat, now in the South of France (and for sale – RB), in which they then cruised for several years, but that’s another story…
Commodore Duncan Wheatley paid tribute to James Jacques, who died this month after a long illness. James was one of the Club’s most distinguished members and will be greatly missed; Duncan extended condolences on behalf of the Club to partner Frances, who was with us in the audience. We look forward to hearing Frances tell us more about James, and their 15 year circumnavigation, at our October meeting.
Our speaker was Tom Cunliffe – a big man who has done some big and fairly intrepid things, many of them in big, heavy, traditional, boats. Tom’s theme was pilot cutters – boats that have a deserved reputation for seaworthiness, capability and elegance. He has owned several, pumped a lot of water through some of them, and was infectiously evangelical as to their virtues.
Many of us associate pilot cutters with Bristol, and although this is not wrong they are not limited to that part of the world, despite the Bristol heritage. The Bristol Channel has strong tides of large range, and few havens. Shipping needed the guidance of pilots, whose boats had to be capable of sailing (and heaving-to) in difficult waters, and being crewed by a man and a boy – sometimes just the boy. We heard about the privations and dangers of being a pilot and Tom recounted the example of a pilot’s wife, who had kept marrying pilots after she was widowed by them, one after t’other. Seven of them, apparently.
Bristol Pilot Cutters are solidly built, long-keeled, gaffers with counter sterns, low freeboard and a gentle sheer. The Norwegian variety tend to be double-ended, often Colin Archers. As to seaworthiness and sea kindliness Tom explained stability curves, which show how the righting moment of a vessel relates to its angle of heel. These curves, though factually correct in their own terms, are misleading as they only show what happens to a heeled boat statically, in flat water. The dynamic of a boat moving through lumpy water is something else. Typical pilot cutters have large moments of inertia deriving from their construction, ballast and heavy spars. This gives them a slow reaction to upsetting forces – so slow that the problem wave or gust will often have passed by before the boat reacts in a significant or dangerous manner, unlike many modern designs.
Modern boat designers tend to think in terms of accommodation and equipment – pilot cutters were built first and foremost as boats; then and only then did the builders work out what to put in them.
In attempting to defend against an accusation of working on the Sabbath on a boat, in Brazil, Tom had mentioned that Jesus was a carpenter. “Maybe so”, came the reply, “but he didn’t have a power plane!”
We were accused of having a bourgeois attitude to leaks. Tom sees no problem in having to keep pumping, as long as one can keep up, and the pump doesn’t fail. Admittedly he had to half-inch his young daughter’s plimsoll sole on one occasion to replace a leather flap-valve…
July and August 2014 socials
These were both at the Chequers (which was, incidentally and appropriately enough, called the Anchor before a name change in 1794/5). The July event was themed as a BBQ to honour the hope of fine summer weather, without the risks of actually holding an outdoor event.
The conversations flowed as well as the drinks and it was great to have the opportunity to get to know other members (and their guests) better. It is always surprising what one learns. We are quite an interesting bunch, with in many cases, sailing as only one of many pursuits, here and overseas. Some are working up plans for bigger boats and more distant shores, some have done all that and are downsizing or even having to “swallow the anchor” …
June 2014 social
For our June summer social evening we visited the local and famous brewery at Hook Norton – one of only 32 family owned breweries and probably the finest example of a Victorian Tower Brewery in the country. In two groups we enjoyed a conducted tour, admiring the 1899 steam engine that “can be used” still, to power the brewery, through an impressive engineer’s wonderland of shafts, belts and cogs. A diminutive (by comparison) electric motor does much of this work most of the time nowadays…. We got our hands and noses dirty, chewing samples of barley and sniffing various hops; we peered into the tanks, mills (including of course the “grist mill”), and tuns through which the liquor passes as it is transformed into beer. The office in which brews are designed and recorded has no visible computer – we heard that records go back to the beginning and that every now and again an old recipe will be resurrected, with or without a modernising tweak. The evening ended in the Visitor’s Centre, where the bar was open for us to sample their beers – and sample we did, growing just a tad more noisy as the evening wore on. There’s something rather admirable about a free bar, in today’s world. It was just a tiny bit of a shame that one of the specials a few of us particularly liked was an experimental brew, not available to buy, not even in barrel. Perhaps we should suggest a Chipping Norton Yacht Club brew, sporting our emblem? The House of Commons has its own Scotch, I know of a college or two that bottle their own Sherries…
If you missed the tour there’s a nice video here.
May 2014 meeting
A hardy core of CNYC members braved a damp Wednesday evening and were suitably rewarded with a delightfully relaxed evening at the Cotswolds Club. Two of our committee were in the chair.
Hugh Woodsend, who is responsible for the excellent presentation technology used at our meetings stepped out from behind the projector to encourage us all to have a go at making films whilst sailing. Starting with a few key pointers such as “keep the water out” and a rather alarming insight into film editors, Hugh then entertained us with an excellent film he made whilst kayaking on the Beaulieu River.
Initially impressing the audience with a few facts about kayaks (did you know you someone paddled around Australia in 330 days….), it became clear to anyone that knows the Beaulieu that the most relevant and useful attribute of a kayak is its draught or lack thereof. This opens up considerable opportunities and these were most interestingly exploited by the film-maker. We now know that the Beaulieu is a privately owned river and it was the primary site for developing and testing floating harbours for the D-Day landings.
Bucklers Hard, we learnt, was the location of the building of the HMS Argamemnon, a 64 gun Royal Navy ship of the line in 1777 which was later captained by Lord Nelson and proclaimed his favourite ship. Continuing the military theme, Beaulieu Palace, now the home of a motor museum, was once the “finishing school” of SOE during the Second World War ahead of being parachuted into war torn France.
By now we had forgotten that this was an amateur film, shown to demonstrate what can be done with relatively simply tools and were entertained to a thoroughly professional and engaging presentation of the side of the Beaulieu River that most deep keeled cruising yachtsman would never see. We are now considering Hugh as front-runner for the head of the CNYC kayaking section!
Members will recall from our previous meeting we were unable to field questions on the presentations of two of our members and that we would attempt to redress this. Carl Baxter reminded us of his sailing exploits through the Kiel Canal and the canals of Holland en route to the Beaulieu River. Carl would be happy to help anyone planning on sailing in this region and has access to considerable resources for planning such a trip.
Our final speaker of the evening was Chris Adams, a committee member and head of our very active Scotland section. Chris provided a very informative presentation covering a variety of blog tools, either provided specifically for sailors or that can be readily adapted to the needs of sailors in all waters.
A blog can be as private or public as you want and is mainly just a really good way of keeping a visual diary, combining photos with a few words, whilst allowing you to share this with interested family and friends – or the whole world if you want! The software ranges from ‘very simple’ to just ‘simple’ and the free services are more than good enough to create a very professional look.
For sail cruising the key requirements are the ability to include photos, text and a map – and, from Chris’ experience, to be able to post the blog by sending an email rather than doing this online. Sailing in the Western Isles places severe demands on email or web communications; Chris likened this to clouds of communication that sometimes waft over the boat; transmissions need to be short and made when you sail through a good signal. In other sailing locations, particularly along the South Coast, 3G can be found quite a way offshore, and the luxury of interactive services are available for building blogs with rich media content. That said, email posting is quick, easy, can include photos and other media and is very flexible. Once you have a template set up it ceases to be a chore and becomes an enjoyable way of reflecting on a day’s sailing.
Chris provided many examples of different blogging approaches using his own blog for Swallow as a case study. He has kept a blog for the last 5 years using MailaSail, a pay service specifically for sailors (http://blog.mailasail.com/chrisadams) but recently has largely migrated this to WordPress (http://swallow342.wordpress.com), which is both free to use and allows a more individual look. All of Chris’ posts (on both platforms) have been made by email – with only a small amount of editing once back home. Another good, free platform is Blogger, which is where our Commodore is known to post the odd blog (http://yachtliquidasset.blogspot.co.uk/). Finally, take a look at Barnaby Scott’s blog (our webmaster) – documenting his progress as he builds Luely, his ‘Haiku’ sharpie (http://boat.waywood.co.uk).
Chris would be happy to help any member thinking of setting up their own blog. It only takes a couple of hours and can be immensely rewarding.
April 2014 meeting
46 Members and guests came to our April meeting to hear two presentations: one telling of a fascinating trip through lowlands, and the other rich with adventures and misadventures on the high seas.
Carl Baxter’s informative presentation was called ‘The Backdoor to the Baltic’. He entertained us with his account of a trip from Denmark via the Baltic, the Kiel Canal to Cuxhaven, the Frisian Islands on the northern German/Dutch coast (“Riddle of the Sands” territory), returning through the land-locked IJsselmeer, the Markermeer, and the Dutch canals. He shared pictures of charming medieval Hanseatic towns; of less charming Nazi architecture surviving as it did allied bombing; of a steam locomotive powering through the heart of a small town; of dicing with container ships in locks of vast scale (when the smaller “sport” lock was shut); and of dropping €5 bruggeld (bridge fee) into a proffered clog at the end of a fishing line.
The final passage back across the Channel to Dover had held fears for the crew but as it happened (and as a photo recorded) she read whilst motoring across in the sunshine, on a windless day in a flat sea.
Carl found Brian Navin’s Cruising Guide to the Netherlands, and the ANWB publications (including the “Standmast” route showing options to traverse the Netherlands with mast up) most useful, and offered to lend to anyone thinking of visiting this area. (Roger Backhaus is a member of the ANWB, the Dutch equivalent of the AA which in their case includes waterways as well as roads, and has, or can easily source, this and related material for anyone who is interested – Ed.)
Carl was followed by husband-and-wife double act (and what a fine double act) of Carolyn and Alistair Roberts telling us of their 2-year circumnavigation. The talk was entitled: “How not to sail around the world – but succeed all the same!”
They started with buying a boat – their first. What they wanted was a well-appointed Warrior 40. The closest affordable match, however, was an elderly Warrior 38 with (as it transpired) a Volvo engine that wouldn’t last the voyage, a deck that leaked, and fresh water tanks that would fail.
While the whole circumnavigation was badged as a rally, from and to Gibraltar, they were often far from the others and had to fend for themselves. Deliberately avoiding a travelogue style, they took us instead through the mishaps and misadventures, and confessed their own lack of preparedness for this kind of voyage. Despite this, they came through unscathed, still together and smiling.
Although extremely experienced and well qualified sailors, they found they had a lot to learn about boat husbandry, repairs and maintenance far from professional help, the tight management of food, fuel, water, and electricity, the ineffectiveness of fridges, and the advisability of tethering the dinghy with two painters. There were a number of “whiskey moments” in the face of adversity, some of which ran rather closely together, and some splendid examples of innovative solutions to problems – a clever arrangement of bits of pipe, a jerry can, and a bilge pump, for example, to keep the geriatric Volvo running through one of its more senior moments.
There were dramatic and dangerous notes. They were in the water in Thailand when the 2004 Tsunami hit, and the water fell away before returning to tear out anchors and toss boats ashore. India provided a haven to recover.
There were also many wonderfully positive notes: the first cold beer in Nelson’s Harbour, Antigua; the fauna on the Galapagos; the local Pacific island people; the uninhabited islands to lord; the diving…
If they had one message to leave us with it was: “don’t commit to deadlines!” They did, by arranging to meet up with their two daughters, twice, en route… a joy, but with what stress!
You can read about their exploits in “Rally Round the World” available as an i-book or Kindle download, or in paperback. Visit the self-publishing website here for details.
March 2014 meeting
Robert Miller told us about Elsa Hammond, an Oxford graduate now doing her PhD at Bristol. She is planning a record-breaking row across the Pacific – 2400 miles, from California to Hawaii, in aid of Plastics in Oceans; and is looking to borrow an EPIRB, a PLB, a hand held GPS and water containers. If anyone can help he asks them please to mail her at email@example.com or make contact via her website.
Roger Backhaus (as Membership Secretary) gave us an update on member numbers. We have 63 to date – down on our initial year’s 120 or so, but we continue, as we did last year, to have a very healthy turnout at our monthly meetings, and function fine at this level. Additional members are nevertheless to be encouraged.
On funding, Roger (wearing his Treasurer hat) told us that that expenditure this year will be lower than last. In our first year we had professional website costs (the website is now managed by Barnaby), we were hiring AV kit (now provided by Hugh) and we had one-off burgee/logo design costs. We have plenty in the coffers for our 2014 programme.
Visiting speaker Bob Comlay then presented his personal and gripping talk “Travels with Tilman”.
Tilman was a gentleman adventurer, born into comfortable financial circumstances in the reign of Queen Victoria. He served in both World Wars, conquered Himalayan peaks, and in his latter years (when “too old to climb”) took up sailing. Sailing, in his terms, meant taking heavy and already elderly gaff-rigged Pilot Cutters into the Arctic, with an assortment of crew picked up from advertising in The Times. Tilman’s signature advertisement read:
“Hands wanted for long voyage in small boat.
No pay, no prospects, not much pleasure”
(Some in our audience seemed to find this amusing. Can’t think why.)
Bob Comlay was then a student. He applied to crew, was selected, and went on to sail with Tilman on two arctic voyages; he saw and did things few youngsters would get a chance to see or do, or dare to do, and as a result took 5 years to complete his 3 year degree course.
Bob showed us wonderful pictures of Greenland, of fjords, icebergs, growlers, fog, and cod-drying racks. The skipper and crew (including himself) were captured on film (yes, film) in woollen hats and sports jackets. For those of us who appreciate the aesthetic and engineering of old boats and rigs the many pictures of pilot cutter Sea Breeze, on deck and under sail, were equally fascinating. We admired the massive mainsheet buffers, the boom reefing ratchet gear, the cut of the sails, the jury tiller brought into service after ice had broken the original, the sistered gaff ….
Memorable also were the pictures of Sea Breeze “being watered” (harvesting potable water from ice); Sea Breeze tethered to icebergs; and the provisioning manifest for one of the voyages, including as it did nearly 100 tins of corned beef, 2lb of curry powder, several cases of whiskey, rum and gin, and a dozen loo rolls.
Bob said it was a testament to Kodak that the colour film of the 70’s had worked so well and lasted so well. I wouldn’t disagree, but more importantly Bob is an extremely accomplished photographer, and that is what really counts (go to his site to see some examples)!
Bob runs a website dedicated to the topic of this talk.
Paul Heiney, well known sailor, broadcaster and author, was the draw to our February meeting. Over 50 CNYC members came along to hear him, to talk boats and boating, and enjoy a good meal. It was a very convivial evening and we have had lots of positive feedback. All in all a very good start to our 2014 programme.
The Cotswold Club did us proud and many remarked on the quality of the food; and on the very professional AV support we now give to presenters – thanks to Hugh Woodsend.
Duncan, our Commodore, heralded an initiative to share members’ contact details. He explained that we are working out how best to do this, as we review and revise the website, and will be mailing each member individually with details and to ask whether they would like to participate, as he very much hoped they will. Duncan also thanked Barnaby Scott for the excellent work he has been doing, largely behind the scenes, on the website.
Next meeting is on 26th March: Bob Comlay on Travels with Tilman
Here is an account of Paul’s talk:
Paul Heiney delivered a colourful, and wonderfully laid back, account of his voyage across the southern Atlantic and round Cape Horn. He was laid back as only an extremely experienced sailor, and an experienced presenter, can be.
Paul did much of the 18,000-mile voyage single-handed, and claimed that the outward leg towards South America “could have been sailed in a Mirror”. This may have slightly over-stated the ease of those long hours in the Atlantic swells, but we got the message. He told us it doesn’t much matter what boat you have for such a trip, and did very few modifications to his boat Wild Song – a Chuck Paine designed Victoria 38. Paul crossed paths with others sailors, far from home, in very modest craft – including a Westerly Centaur.
Scoring the places he stopped at on a ten-point scale (some places would have scored a lot better if their marina charges had been less outrageous) Paul talked us through the voyage, through the Roaring Forties, down to the Horn and back. I for one confess that I had not realised that Cape Horn is actually an island – so one can, as Paul did, sail round it and return across the same ocean.
Adventures included running out of diesel, a shredded mainsail, and, at one critical point with no electric power either, getting help by calling Falmouth coastguard, who in turn alerted the Azores coastguard. They rang back almost immediately. Paul told them he was OK for the night, but a boat was sent out the next morning to give him a short tow to safety.
Paul neither dramatized his account nor regaled us with the problems he faced on this voyage. Boredom, he said, was perhaps the most difficult thing to deal with. Luckily he loves cooking (or is it food?) and part of his solution is to cook labour-intensive dishes. Fresh bread, and the peeling of potatoes are, apparently, ideal balm for a bored soul.
Paul is of the view that a journey is not emotionally complete until one has returned to its starting point. His port of return was not, alas, his port of departure; but as luck would have it he had called at a supermarket to stock up on the way out, and realised, back at the same supermarket there, after the trip, that his 18,000-mile voyage was now properly ended, in a supermarket aisle.
All in all a fascinating and engrossing account. Questions from the floor were many, varied, and telling. I am happy to report that no-one from our audience asked him whether, in the context of keeping an adequate watch as a single-hander crossing an ocean (always a controversial point), he always put in somewhere for the night. He mentioned he had been asked that vexing question, at some other yacht club gathering.
We have a rich and varied programme for 2014 – there will be talks by well-known external speakers, as before, plus more this year from our own members. Another quiz, a summer BBQ, and a brewery tour are also being planned.
We start the year with a talk by Paul Heiney, on 26th February, whose book The Last Man Across the Atlantic will be known to many of you. Members – if you want to come along please book your place here. Non-members – why not consider joining!
Membership renewals are now due for 2014. Please see “Notices to Members” in the Members Area for details.
CNYC held its first AGM on Wednesday 28th. January at the Cotswold Club.
Trevor and Jo, who had worked so tirelessly to establish the club during 2013, had stepped down, and Duncan Wheatley thanked them and the other officers, on behalf of us all, for getting us off the pontoon so very successfully.
Trevor said he’d stressed that he wanted no fuss on his departure but we could not let them go without some form of ceremony.
There were a number of other changes on the bridge, and the following were voted in to form the new Committee:
The business part of the meeting over, we moved on to hear presentations from four club members, three talking about their exploits on the water last year (in one case the last decade and a bit) and one telling us about his ambitious plans for the next boat.
We also heard from Frances who is having a bit of a clear-out now she and James are retiring from active sailing. She mentioned in particular a 100 channel, 10-100 watts, KENWOOD TS-50S HF Transceiver (operating on ham & marine frequencies), with matching KENWOOD AT-50 Automatic Antenna Tuner, modem and other bits and pieces. If you are interested do take a look here and get in touch with James or her!
Holly Jones’ talked us through her adventurous voyage along the Norwegian seaboard to the land of the midnight sun, above the Arctic Circle. She shared pictures of craggy fjords, tranquil villages, dried cod, and, of course, that sun at midnight.
For those that missed it, here are some of the evocative photographs she shared with us, and a plan of the route she took.
The talk was entitled “Seventy at Seventy” for reasons a gentleman with any manners could not begin to guess at.
We very much look forward to her next talk, after she returns from a Pacific trip later this year.
Holly told us she has been given a new camera, and promised us lots and lots of photos!
Next up was Barnaby Scott, a local furniture designer and maker who is also a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. He sails Scottish waters in and around estuaries and creeks, many of which are shallow and dry out, so has particular requirements that no stock boat quite meets.
His current and very pretty strip-epoxy pocket gaff yawl (a Willow Bay Shilling) looks a picture parked on the sand, but at 17 feet on deck she has her limitations, especially in terms of accommodation. Barnaby’s checklist for the right boat led him to a 30 foot sharpie design by Iain Oughtred, the Haiku, which is a modern interpretation of Ralph Munroe’s legendary Long Island inspired sharpie, Egret. One Haiku has been built in the UK so far.
When it comes to building a boat Barnaby has several weapons up his sleeve: an ability to create a detailed 3D computer model of the design (which he’s already done), and some state-of-the-art computer-controlled wood machining kit (a “CNC” machine)….
As well us showing us a few pictures of the planned boat, Barnaby fired up the software model and took us, virtually, through the build, and then inside the boat – quite fascinating. We were delighted to have helped him make the public commitment he now has, to this fascinating project. There’s no going back now, Barnaby.
Phil Levermore left Plymouth in 2000 and sailed his Scanmar 345 “Scandal” to practically every location you think of in the Mediterranean over the next 14 (yes, that’s 14!) years.
He was first, during 2013, to make use of CNYC Crewing Service, and had the honour of having our newly-elected Commodore, Duncan, as crew as a result.
Last year’s sailing excitements included hard-drinking Russians in neighbouring marina berths, the failing of the elderly Volvo Penta, and the insatiable appetite of one of his crew members – whose orders the waiter assumed were for the whole table, rather than for just one hungry crewman….
Chris Adams has told us before about the joys of sailing Scottish waters. The midges (“not as big as you think”, he insists); the storms (“hardly ever”, he claims); the rain (“only sometimes”); the rocks (“they just add to the fun”); the racing tides (they “just help you along”). He is quite an enthusiast for these waters (!) and has been heard to say “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” a quote variously attributed to Ranulph Fiennes (properly Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE); Alfred Wainright and Billy Connolly….
In this talk he took us through his end-of-season Western Isle cruise – northwards up the Sound of Mull, stopping at deserted anchorages on Coll, back south’ards around the outside of Mull, inside Colonsay, returning south down the channel between Islay and Jura. It sounded wonderful!
Most memorable, for those of us who choose to sail in the more popular waters of the South Coast, in the Med., or in the Netherlands, is the isolation. Chris showed us photo after photo of an empty bay or beach, occasionally crowded out with a single yacht (his Hallberg-Rassy 342), and occasionally not even by that….
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