The Tyro Saga 2: Preparing for Launch

(…not to be confused with preparing for lunch which is one of my favourite activities – and a jolly sight easier)


Friday 18th

Fine and sunny

1030    Arrive Langstone Sailing Club from home via my mother’s flat in N London.  Inspect the new flanges and mountings on the heads valves.  Inspect repair to starboard keel root.  Inspect stern gland/stuffing box.  Inspect engine, recently serviced.  All seem OK.  Try starting the engine, which the engineer said he couldn’t do because the starter motor didn’t work.  Started second or third try, after the starter motor pinion failed to engage at first.  Both batteries appear to be charging.  Turn off before it starts to warm up, as no cooling water available. (Yes, I know how to do it now…)

Tyro in the yard at Langstone SC

Start ferrying copious quantity of gear (dinghy, tools, clothes, sailing kit, food etc.) from car to boat and attempt to stow it in some semblance of order.  Make contact with Martin in Ambler, the catamaran parked next to Tyro, who’s also preparing for launch.  Mutual offers of assistance.

1130    Change into scruff rig and start grinding, filing and wire-brushing the sacrificial anode to remove the coating of zinc oxide that had accumulated over the 18 months while the boat’s been ashore.  Made more difficult by its uneven and pitted surface, and the lack of a suitable mains lead to plug into the electric tree which would have enabled me to use 240v power tools instead of my new and shiny but dinky little battery-powered drill.

1200    Decide that that’ll have to do and set about other tasks.  Clean galley.  Clean mildew from port side lockers (starboard side done previously).  Stow gear.

1230    On gas.  On kettle.  Lunch (sandwiches, prepared by my loving mother that very morning).  Off gas.

1300    Vendor – now ‘the previous owner’ I suppose – arrives to help bend on the sails.  I haul them out of the fo’c’sle and the genoa takes ten minutes from start to finish.  The only slight oddity is the absence of a conventional halyard: the wire serving that function is secured to the top of the furling reel at the stemhead which will preclude adjusting its tension while sailing, but I don’t suppose I shall be able to make much pretence at performance anyway.  The main was a different story, with its trough, supports and lazy-jacks but all went well and we were able to hoist, reef and unreef the sail before stowing it away and zipping it up.  The main halyard is badly worn, however, at the point where it passes over the masthead sheave, so it’ll definitely need replacing.

John also, at various times over the weekend, turned up with a variety of other items of kit, some more useful than others: the inflatable seat for the dinghy and a shore power lead were top of the list and a selection of cushions near the bottom.

This is what I wrote that evening:

Chapter One

  1. In the beginning was the Boat, and the Boat was without sails and with four Great Tasks that were necessary to complete, not to mention a multitude of smaller ones.  And the tasks were without form and void until the new Owner of the Boat listed them and arranged them in order of their urgency, even unto the fourth and fifth priority.
  2. First there were the four Great Tasks which had to be completed even before the Boat would be able to float upon the face of the deep and they were four in number.
  3. First the root of the keel upon the right hand was in sore need of strengthening that the keel remain attached unto the Boat.
  4. Secondly the flanges of bronze by which means the foul waste was to be eliminated from the Boat were sore in need of replacement.
  5. The gland in the stern whose purpose is to prevent the ingress of the waters of the deep even unto the bilges of the Boat was sorely in need of salvation.
  6. The infernal machine which propels the Boat even in the absence of the merest zephyr, and in the close spaces within the harbours also was in need of salvation.
  7. It came to pass that the Owner of the Boat was unable by reason of an excess of distance over time and verily also by reason of absence of sufficient skill and experience to complete these Great Tasks upon the Boat and so experts were called in such that the tasks could be completed by the payment of many bags of gold.
  8. And lo! the four Great Tasks were completed upon the Boat in good time and the Owner saw that it was good.  Or at least he would have seen, had he not been three hundred miles away at the time.

Chapter Two

  1. And it came to pass that the Owner came unto the Boat in order to complete the multitude of smaller tasks.  And these tasks were so multitudinous that as soon as one was completed another rose to take its place.
  2. And these tasks were as follows: clean the lockers, fix the table, obtain and fix the jackstays, clean the stove, make the tearegister the boatde-scale the sacrificial anodeassess, markand de-rust the cable, buy a hand-bearing compass, clean the heads, secure the gas bin, free off the chart tableclean the water pipes and pumpsfill the tank, clean the engine, make the tea, stow all the gear, compile a list of where everything is stowed, license the radio, sort out the tool boxesbend on the sails, repair the navigation lights, clean the lifebuoys, support the cables, buy new fire extinguishersmake the teatest the dinghyfind a marina, buy an almanac, clean the bilges, service the bolt cutters, arrange the insurancewash the jib sheets and other ropes, replace the main halyard, touch up the antifouling, test the heads, swing the compass, scrub the decks, make the tea, find the leak, book a berthsecure the new fire extinguishers, test the engine, practise sail drills, inspect the shrouds, look up the tides, inspect the kedgemake the teaplan the passage, polish the brass, buy another lifejacket, find out how the foghorn works, charge the batteries…..
  3. Verily I say unto thee: become not the Owner of a Boat lest thou becomest overwhelmed by the proliferation of the multitudinous tasks which thou art thereby obliged to undertake.
  4. But equally verily, thou shalt reap thy reward once the boat floateth upon the face of the deep and thou art able to come and go thereto as thou pleasest and to make progress upon the deep using only the wind as thy motive power.  And all shall be peaceful and pleasant except for when the wind bloweth with violence across the face of the deep and causes great billows to arise which may dash the Boat against the shore.  For verily, the wise mariner never relaxeth and neither doth he trust any single source of information although that ith another matter.
  5. And lo! it came to pass in those days that a decree went forth from the committee that the Boat was to be floated upon the face of the deep on the twenty-first day of the fourth month.  And the Owner realised that in the absence of divine intervention it would never come to pass that the multitudinous tasks would be completed in time.
  6. And yea, he adopted a philosophical approach and decided that many of them would just have to wait and could be completed at leisure over the course of the next few months. 
  7. Or years.

And then the following morning (having typed the foregoing drivel in my B & B room last night) I arrived at the boat to find a strong smell of gas permeating it.  Hatches open, turn off cylinder (which I’d forgotten to do the night before) and forgo much anticipated cup of coffee.  Later on (after doing many other jobs, pleasant and otherwise) I investigated and found a kink and hole in the copper pipe in the stern locker close to the cylinder.  Fortunately there was enough pipe left after I’d cut out the damaged bit to reconnect the flexible pipe to, but I need a new olive for the joint, so another call at the chandler’s (or preferably hardware shop, but there ain’t one) is needed tomorrow.  Good job I discovered it before launch otherwise I’d’ve had no gas supply for several days.

The internal chaos

Went looking for some of the stuff I needed at chandlers.  Failed to find hand-bearing compass and new almanac, but did pick up a set of Imray charts of the Solent: 10 charts for £37.50, which I thought was reasonable.  There was indeed a hardware shop nearby and after grovelling over a box full of bits on the floor the owner found exactly what I wanted – a soft copper olive of the right size.  And he refused to charge me for it.  I felt obliged to buy a brass one for 20p as a spare.

Got friendly with Martin in the next boat (a biggish but venerable catamaran) who helped and advised me in return for tea and buns. He’s being launched tomorrow too.  And he gave me a (slightly) out of date almanac, so I just need some tide tables (free from chandlers etc.) and I’m sorted.  (I can manage without a hand-bearing compass in the Solent in this good weather.  It ‘ll have to wait.)