The Tyro Saga 13 – …and finally

April – May 2017

Two years have now passed since I bought the millstone boat and I’m arguably worse off than when I started.  Financially, certainly.  If I’d spent the same on chartering, or sailing with the GSA I’d hardly have been off the water.  But I have a shiny yellow new engine, which seems to work OK, new rigging, and a plan to get the mast up, which is the biggest remaining job.

Sat 22nd – Sun 23rd             Warm & sunny

Arriving on Saturday afternoon after a long but uneventful drive from Liverpool I was pleased to find Tyro still afloat, with very little water in the bilge and not much around the raw water intake. All good.   Once I’d had a chat with Amanda about her boat and its problems and unpacked – and had the obligatory cuppa – I spent much of the evening screwing and bonding the new companionway step (which I’d made and varnished at home) into place.  Good job, except for the mess made by the sealant: once it’s set I can scrape off much of the excess.

I also met Alex and his friend Adrian as they were bringing his new boat, Gemma Jo, in for the first time.

Then a shopping list for tomorrow’s boat jumble at Beaulieu:

  • 25lb CQR anchor
  • 6-way electrical distribution panel
  • Suitable anchor light for hanging in the rigging – or the components to make it
  • A new tube of Marineflex polyurethane sealant
  • Any other likely-looking bits and pieces.

Once I’d negotiated the about-to-be-closed-for-the-Southampton-Marathon roads and made it to Beaulieu, the reality turned out to be a little different:

  • Oil filter wrench                     50p (possibly the best buy of the day)
  • Four blocks, various                11
  • Sikaflex sealant (old)              £1
  • Shackles, various                     £2.40
  • 12” adjustable spanner           £5
  • Small crimp connectors          £4
  • Marineflex sealant                 £7
  • Fuel funnel                              50p

…plus a tenner or so to get in.  The observant reader will perceive the small overlap between these two lists.  Such is the way of boat jumbles.  And I had a look round the National Motor Museum as well.

And then, while putting away my purchases and waiting for the kettle to boil, Alex appeared again.  Over a cuppa, it transpired that he’d also been at the jumble and, more importantly, that he’s an engineer and can make things out of stainless steel or aluminium.  I suspect we might have further contact; I also expressed my willingness to wind him up the mast in his newly-purchased Bosun’s chair so he could fix his recalcitrant tricolour light.  Then Billy turned up, bearing his spoils from Beaulieu!  These included a mainsail for a Centaur which he’d bought as a spare for £15!  Too small, really, for his boat.  Did I want it?  Not at the moment, thank you, but possibly in the future.  Watch this space.  [Later investigation showed it to be very flat-cut and without reefing cringles, indicating that it had been used in a roller-furling rig.  Not suitable for my proper slab reefing system!]

We also, the three of us, discussed the mast, and decided that Drivers is the place to be.

Monday 24th

Accordingly, the following morning I called them, and Gareth was keen to do it on Wednesday, when the tide is admirably suitable.

The first job on the list was sorting out the raw water filter for the engine cooling system.  I’d noticed that the pipes were connected the wrong way round, and that one of them was bearing on the alternator casing and had started to chafe.  Removing both pipes, I caught all but a spoonful of the water in the funnel and bucket, and removed the rotten seaweed stuck in the filter.  In the process it became obvious that the filter itself was insecurely fixed to the bulkhead and on inspection it turned out that the bolts were only threaded for part of their length and had been inadequately packed with washers to try and make up the space.  Fortunately I had some spare bolts of the right size and type and was able, after a certain amount of fiddling about, to remount the filter, reconnect the pipes the right way round and refill it with water.  Having done the rest of the engine checks I was then able to start the engine and run it for an hour, during which it behaved impeccably, apart from being rather sensitive on the throttle.  I suspect that may be a function of having reused the old throttle cable.

While the engine was running I tried again to bleed out the air in the primary fuel filter.  No luck, again, and I also checked all the possible sites where air could be getting in, at the engineer’s suggestion.  No luck.  But it seems to work.  A few hose clips needed adjusting, so that was the next job, and then coffee.

The battery locker with the batteries secured. The wiring leaves a little to be desired…

After tidying away the tools (yes, really!) I then had a good look at the electrics.  I need to secure the batteries in place so we don’t have a hundredweight of lead and acid flying about the boat in a seaway and extend the cables to the autopilot and the fresh water pump as far as the battery – or, preferably, to the switch panel.  They’re both on the starboard side, near where the batteries used to be, and their cables now don’t reach.  It’s not as easy as it sounds because the whole wiring system is a complete and utter mess. It works, but there’s no proper layout, and it’s difficult to add more circuits – which is why I wanted a new switch panel yesterday.

Brain hurts.  Lunch.  Shower.  Library.  Shopping.

Tuesday 25th             Sunny.  Cold.  Showery.  British.

Made a start on the electrics today, despite not waking up till 0830 and then not feeling like doing anything much.  First off I opened up the locker where the engine battery used to be, in search of the securing strap and its fitting.  The strap was fixed to a wooden tray, fibreglassed into the hull.  I decided I didn’t need it there and proceeded to cut through the thin GRP holding it down and after scarcely half an hour of concentrated effort, out it came.  The strap and fittings were of limited use but it did uncover the layer of rotten wood at the bottom of the tray and enable me to clean out the locker properly.  And Billy later claimed it as firewood – although I recommended he remove the fibreglass first!  The locker, which contains a cockpit drain, now also contains a variety of light and fairly soft stuff such as spare plastic boxes, snorkelling gear and the cockpit tent.

Having failed to find useable straps there, I discovered both of them, with their fittings, in the battery boxes with which (I had forgotten) they were bought.  Four small holes drilled (one pair backed with a piece of marine ply which had to be cut to size and faired off; it’ll need varnishing in the fullness of time) and two straps fixed.  An hour or so.  The domestic battery on its home-made plinthy thing is pretty secure, the engine one less so, but it’ll do for the time being, in the calm of the Itchen and Southampton Water.

After lunch I took a walk up to the bar to find Steve, my putative crew for crossing the river.  He was keen, so we arranged that he’d come at 1030 tomorrow (an hour before HW) to give me a hand.  Good news – it looks like I might finally get the mast up!

The wiring, from the other end of the bosun’s locker. All that spaghetti is normlly concealed behind a plywood bulkhead – but still needs tidying up.

Then I stuck my head in the Bosun’s locker (it only just fits through the hole – maybe I should enlarge it – or get my head shrunk) to have a look at the back of the electricity switch and distribution panel.  Spaghetti. Possibly very confusing, but I’d looked at it before (the regular reader may recall) and all the wires were labelled.  Not enough room, though to add separate circuits for the autopilot, fresh water pump and a new one for the compass light which has to be separate now that I have a tricolour as well as the ordinary side and stern lights.  So I decided upon a new panel with a further six circuits, to allow for future expansion.  And I needed some flex as well, to allow the autopilot and FW pump to reach the panel, as they were on what had been the battery side.

The chandler was able to provide the switch panel (at a price, of course) but nowhere could I find the flex I needed (1.5mm2 two-core; ordinary domestic stuff pro tem until I eventually rewire all the below-the-waterline stuff with proper tinned flex) until I was directed to the electrical wholesaler.  He didn’t have it either!  But he sent me to a trade supplier close to the marina where, although it was ten minutes past closing time, I finally obtained it.

Tired and emotional after what turned out to be an active day, I decided that I’d done enough.  And then I leaned on the table and broke the socket.  Again.  The air was blue, and for a moment I feared that the bottom of the leg had gone through the bottom of the boat!  The thump I heard was the central part of the socket, which had become detached from the rest of it, hitting the bottom.  And the fibreglass down there is a lot thicker than it needs to be.   Cleared up the débris and had a sit down. Mentally designed a properly supported wooden table to make and fit…some time. Meanwhile I’ll have to manage without a table.    Some ideas, too, about modifying and increasing some of the stowage space.

First things first.  Mast tomorrow.

Wednesday 26th   Showery.  Sunny.  Breezy.  Cold.  Sleet later.

Up early, ready to roll before 8.  First of all I removed all the extraneous gear – boom, spinnaker pole, old foil etc. to the pontoon.  That was no simple task (as ever) because the old foil (what am I going to do with it?) was lashed alongside the new one and the mast, and all its ropes.  Once I’d sorted that out I thought I’d better do the engine checks, which were, of course, fine.  Still too much gearbox oil – must take a little out tomorrow.  Then I needed some tools for connecting the forestay(s) so out they came, also the clevis pins themselves and other bits and pieces likely to be needed.  I’d just reached the point of disconnecting and removing the big solar panels when Steve turned up, 20 minutes early.

Engine started correctly.  I explained my plan for the evolution and then worked out the method of getting out of the berth in the prevailing conditions of wind and tide.  Then we did it, and it worked, according to plan.  Could this last?

The hoist begins. Northam Bridge in the background

Across the river we arrived at the yard and were directed to moor alongside another boat while the crane was busy lifting one out.  This gave us the half-hour needed to get the lashings off the mast, move it into position and sort out all the wires and ropes to avoid tangles.  Then we warped Tyro under the crane and tied her up tightly to avoid her moving too much when the operation was in progress; fortunately the tide had just turned, so the stream was pretty slack. Gareth discussed with me the method to be used and we decided that not having the bolt through the step would be a good move – so we didn’t.  Hoist away, very gently, and continuously checking the alignment of the mast and the tension in the shrouds.  This latter proved somewhat excessive and we had to remove their pins for a time.  But then it was up.  Inner forestay on; shrouds back on, and then the forestay, which was the one I was worried about.

The forestay in place, artistically extended with pink string

Rightly, as it turned out.  It was six inches too short.  GRRRR!   Still, easy enough to extend it – certainly easier than having to cut it down and refit the swage.  I applied a length of cord, dinghy-style, to hold it in place and the mast was up and stable.  Using a gauge to measure the tension in the wires was child’s play (thank you, Roger) and I adjusted them to about 10% of breaking strain, just as a temporary measure.  They’ll eventually have to go to 15%, but that’ll do for now, especially as one of them incorporates a bit of string.

Finally we were able to have the cup of coffee which we’d been promising ourselves since 1030.  Steve poured this while I went and paid the man, and he declined my offer of lunch, so back we went to my berth.  A successful, if stressful, morning’s work.

After a sandwich and a relax I spent the afternoon tidying up the lines, only one of which turned out to have been led incorrectly.  And then even connected up the electrics, cleaning up the terminals too – and they all worked!

Tyro back on her mooring with the mast more conventionally oriented

All in all, the most successful and satisfying day I’ve had in the boat for some time!

Jobs for the next day or two (chiefly to concentrate my mind…)

  • Buy, or cause to be made, something to join the bottom of the forestay to the stemhead fitting, replacing the pink string
  • Fit same to the boat and correctly tension all the rigging
  • Adjust angle of spreaders and fix
  • Return rigging tension gauge to Roger
  • Dismantle A-frame; take home, renovate and store
  • Fit boom, kicking strap and mainsheet
  • Fit mainsail, trough, lazy jacks and reefing lines
  • Fit, hoist and furl jib; rig furling line (when rigging tensioned)
  • Fix and wire in new switch panel
  • Connect autopilot, FW pump & compass light
  • Wash out FW tank (how??) & test pump
  • Fill FW tank
  • Test all lights (best done after dark)
  • Go sailing?

Thursday 27th                      Cold & bright, clouding over later

Into Bitterne in the morning to use the library internet there and report on yesterday’s momentous events.  But first a birthday card to the Aged Parent – two fat ladies tomorrow!

The old bronze bottlescrew in place at the bottom of the forestay

Back on board, after lunch I spent some time puzzling over the forestay and how to extend the bottom end without requiring a mortgage. Research on line indicates that a toggle of the right size to extend the forestay would cost over £300, so I need to find another solution!  As luck would have it, Neil (from Meander of Mere) happened by and suggested using the old rigging screw underneath the new one.  It’s bronze (used to be chromed bronze!) rather than A4 stainless steel like the rest of the system, so it’s weaker, and can’t stay on there for ever, but it’ll do for now.  I can look out for a more suitable replacement at boat jumbles before I put it under any great stress.*

That took me some time to assemble – it was quite a fiddly job to get everything lined up properly, and I had to do it twice to allow me to adjust the new rigging screw (largely hidden inside the furler) to the right length.  Once done, I dug out Roger’s tension gauge and set about tuning the rig.  I wound up the forestay, backstay and cap shrouds to about 10% of breaking strain to start with, and the lowers and babystay to about 7%.  That’ll do till the wires and hull get used to the idea, and I’ll crank it up to working tension later.

The tension gauge in use on the backstay

Now the mast was stable it was time to get the boom on, which was an easy job – except that I discovered the bolts holding the gooseneck onto the mast were loose.  They can be turned easily enough, but don’t seem to be gripping anything.  Another puzzle to solve.

After dinner it was dark enough to test the lights, all of which worked.  Good news.  Not quite so impressive was the later discovery that the old VHF aerial lead runs through a built-in trunking and it will be impossible (because of the friction caused by the other wires in there) to draw the new one through the same route.  No matter: I can run it alongside, and leave the old one in place in case it turns out to be useful for anything – maybe an emergency aerial for when the mast falls down.

*Update: as of February 2020 the bronze bottlescrew is still there, and has supported the mast without the slightest sign of trouble through nearly 2000M of sailing, including some quite rough weather.

Friday 28th              Sunny and reasonably warm

A reply to my earlier text to the organiser of the Fo’c’sle Folk Club to the effect that it’s a singers’ night tonight, with a theme of ‘summer is coming in’, so I was to be heard warbling May Song and Hal An Tow for much of the day.  Amongst others.  Good job, as it turned out.

Easy job first: dismantle the A-frame that had been supporting the mast.  Screws out and lash the bits together to take home and renovate.  And then I dug out a line, tied a heaving-line knot in the end and sorted out the one recalcitrant line from up the mast.  Then it was time to ’phone Mum and wish her a happy birthday.

Measuring the mast rake. The adjustable spanner is there as a plumbob on the end of the main halyard, and the bucket of water is to damp its movement. 65mm over a mast height of 9m is … erm …. just a little bit of rake.

At this point I realised that the line I’d been using was ideal for use as the jib furling line, so setting that up, with a replacement leading block occupied a merry hour till coffee.  Slightly trickier was moving the spreaders up to the correct angle (bisecting the angle they make with the shrouds).  I lashed together two boathooks and lashed the boom amidships to stand on.  I could then reach – just – the spreaders, but they wouldn’t budge.  Accordingly I slacked off the shrouds again (and removed the signal halyards which hadn’t been helping) and tried again.  Success – at least partially.  I was able to shove them up half an inch or so at a time, walking along the pontoon after each adjustment to check (some things would be so much easier with an assistant!).  Eventually they looked about right: at least they were both the same, and above horizontal, so it was a definite improvement.  I tightened up the wires again, this time to 15%, and the shorter ones to 10%, which ought to be their working tension. And I adjusted the mast rake.

I felt I’d earned my lunch.

Then I grasped the nettle of the electrics.  The inside of the battery locker is a complete snakes’ nest but there’s not a lot I can do about that at this point.  So I concentrated on fitting the new switch panel, which necessitated a new hole in the joinery… well, the fibreglass bulkhead.  I made an accurate cardboard template, drew round it and drilled holes.  That was when I discovered that a hacksaw blade just doesn’t cut it.  Well, it does, but very slowly.   What I needed was a Dremel or similar, which I don’t possess.  So hacksaw blade it had to be, with frequent breaks to let my fingers recover.  After scarcely two hours of unremitting (well, all right, slightly remitting) toil, I had a hole of approximately the right shape and size, and was able to apply some of my plethora of files to tidy up the edges.

Enough.  Cuppa.  Tidy up.  Shower. Dinner.  Off to the folk club.  It’s generally been reasonably well attended before, but there were just five of us there.  And only three of us were singers.  Ten songs each as it turned out, which taxed my unrehearsed repertoire, before we called an early halt at quarter past ten.

Saturday 29th                      Cold/cloudy, then sunny/breezy

An indolent morning, not helped by the dismal weather.  After lunch, though, I re-routed the main supply cables from the domestic battery and its main switch to the switch panels, which necessitated drilling just the one more hole between lockers, and enabled the snakes’ nest to be tidied a little.  Then I moved some of the negative leads on the busbar to make room for the new circuits to be connected, by stacking those that ‘belong’ together, such as the side and stern lights and also those that would never be used together, such as the tricolour and steaming lights.

Amanda came by for a chat, declined tea but was pleased that I’d reported on Christmas Rose being safely in the water.  And then Alex, who knows about these things, provided a much needed idiot’s guide to the battery-charging control relay and offered some advice on tidying up the installation.  A removable board mounted at the back of the battery locker, with all the connections made thereupon, neatly organised and labelled for future reference.  And he lent me his little gas blowtorch (from Aldi) so that I could have a go at soldering an extension to the main positive feed to the switch panel to accommodate the new one.  And several boxes of crimp connectors.  Encouraged by this I made a start on this part of the circuitry, taking the irrevocable step of removing a couple of inches of insulation from this main lead.  High quality cable inside – probably 8mm2 braided tinned copper – which shed several bits as I opened it up.  It’s massively bigger than required though, so losing a few bits matters little. Holding that in my suction-attached vice (from Aldi) I applied the blowtorch and some solder, and by some miracle, managed to stick some to the wire.  I repeated the process with the smaller wire that was to form the branch to the new circuits and then tried to join them.  They did not want to know.  Several times.  Decided I needed my dinner, and some help, in that order.

Sunday 30th                                   v windy o/n. Cloudy. Rain later.

Having been kept awake half the night by wind-generated noise from the halyards, amongst other things, and it being Sunday, I was disinclined to work (or maybe I just don’t like mornings…). Eventually, however, I got going (to Aldi) and realised as I reached for a trolley pound that I’d left all my money in the boat. Back on board I decided to fortify and console myself with a cup of coffee and TWO buns but eventually got the foraging completed.

It wasn’t possible to continue with the soldering without Alex’s help and/or advice so I resolved to push on with the other electrical jobs as far as possible: extending the autopilot cable, giving the compass light its own circuit (to enable it to be used with any combination of nav lights) and reconnecting the sink’s fresh water pump.

Readers unfamiliar with the layout and organisation of small boats in general and Tyro in particular may not be aware of the disruption involved in this kind of work.  The batteries are in a locker under the settee on the port side, so the large cushion has to be removed from that, as does the wooden lid.  The wiring and switch panels are in the locker above and outboard of this (behind the settee back) and this has to be largely emptied of its contents (chiefly round, plastic chocolate ‘tins’ containing bits, pieces, odds, sods and all manner of interesting and useful items).  The tools are under the settee on the starboard side – another cushion and lid up – and many of the cables run through the engine compartment, so the steps that form the front of that also have to be removed, making it difficult to get in or out of the boat.  Of course, all this removed stuff has to be put somewhere, which means in the front half of the saloon, where it blocks off the fo’c’sle, heads and galley.  And the whole thing takes place in a space smaller than a single bedroom.

The compass light was relatively straightforward.  Having made space on the negative busbar by stacking on a couple of terminals (rules are made to be broken) I was able to crimp a ring terminal onto the wire and connect it…  once I’d recovered the screw from the bottom of the locker.  Oh yes – the locker.  To get at the electrical connections at the back of the locker I have to kneel on the seat (now deprived of its cushion and strewn with hard tools) and reach in with one hand to do the connections.  I can’t get the other hand in because the hole’s not big enough for my head and both shoulders.  So I either see what I’m doing one-handed, or use both hands and a lot of imagination.  It usually takes many attempts, several changes of position and upwards of half an hour to accomplish the simplest task which would take five minutes in ideal conditions.  And the position required of my aging body when doing this is such that I have to straighten up and move about every ten minutes as well.  This is why progress is so….. s…l…o…..w

Improving and extending the autopilot cable wasn’t a lot easier.  The cable from the deck socket is almost inaccessible inside the lazarette and it was hanging loose and flopping about everywhere.  It was only a matter of time before the kedge or the deck scrubber caught it and pulled it out entirely.  So that needed securing to the only available structure, the exhaust pipe, through whose hole into the engine room it runs.  Scarcely ideal, especially as it’s not heat-resistant cable, but the pipe doesn’t – well, shouldn’t – get too hot as it’s partly full of water by this stage, so it’ll have to do.  But running a cable tie round both pipe and cable using only one hand (I did say it was almost inaccessible) was almost impossible.  Until I had the bright idea of holding one end of the cable tie from outside in the other hand with a piece of stiff wire.  Then it only took about fourteen goes to get it right, but after that (it needed three ties) I started to get the hang of it.  Then it had to be run through the engine bay, with cable ties every foot or so, this time on sticky-backed pads, which stick on some of the time.  And then the new extension – a new length of 1.5mm2 cable from the switch panel locker, through a hole into the engine compartment and connected in the most awkward possible position, behind the water filter.  Bingo.

Break.  Lunch, which was due hours ago, and the galley’s inaccessible.  Orange squash.  Banana. Bun.

The engine’s solar charging circuit needed tidying up – not a difficult job except where it involved pushing a thin and floppy cable through a hole not quite big enough for it.  I eventually managed it (don’t ask me how!) and even got a bigger one through later to connect up the sink FW pump and another 12V socket nearby.

All of that lot was subject to the welcome interruptions of conversations with Billy and Alex, and a trip to Mouette Blanche, another Centaur whose owner, Jeremy, allowed me on board to measure the tension in the standing rigging to compare it with my own.  So by the time I got everything finished and put the boat back together again it was well past dinner time: I cooked myself a proper meal of fish and three veg.

And then the rain had abated somewhat so I ventured on deck to investigate the source of the godawful racket.  It turned out to be the spreaders rattling in their sockets, which vibration had been amplified by the hollow aluminium mast and transmitted to the supporting kingpost in the saloon.  Absolutely nothing I can do about that at the moment – maybe I’ll see if someone can winch me up the mast so I can pack the sockets with bits of hosepipe, or something a little more technical.  At least I know what it is and can stop worrying about it.

Monday 1st May                     cloud/sun

After the best night’s sleep so far (2300 – 0730, uninterrupted by noise or bladder) I thought the ship was now in commission, so I rigged a temporary becket on the backstay and performed Colours.  I’d just taken the boat apart again (see above) and fixed a few terminals, when Alex arrived, keen to do some soldering.  I’d like to say he helped me, but in truth he did it and I handed him the bits and held things still.  And made the coffee.  The positive feed from the switch now has a branch to the second distribution panel, everything is connected and (after eventually remembering to connect the negative lead back to the battery, works!  Even the autopilot, which I removed from its denim jacket, plugged in and hummed and flashed merrily.  Whether it will actually steer the boat remains to be seen….

Tidied up, had a sandwich and then it was time to get the sails out!  Bit of a sense of occasion here, after eighteen months or more in their bags.  Jib first, which necessitated the correct shackles being retrieved from the Bosun’s Box, but it went up fine.  Until the last couple of inches, when the head had got as high as I could get it but the tack was still that far below the shackle at the top of the furler.  Another effect of the forestay being too short.   The sheet blocks needed lubricating (of course) and with every turn of the furling drum, it clanked on the anchor, so that’ll have to be adjusted too.

Up with the jib…
…and the main

The main was more complicated but I did find the long-lost dodgers in the bag with it, along with the trough that the sail lowers into and the boot that covers the luff when furled.  And another piece of dark blue canvas which looks like the old sail cover, from the days before lazy jacks and troughs.  First the mainsheet and kicking strap had to go on, to control the boom, the latter requiring the emptying of the rope locker to find, and plenty of lubrication.  The construction of the trough requires it to be fed into the track on top of the boom together with the footrope of the sail from the front, while simultaneously pulling from the back.  This required more hands and longer arms than I possess so I rigged a spare block to the boom end to act as an outhaul, which at least solved the problem of reach.  The lazy jacks went on without a problem, as did the reefing pendants – although I later discovered that I’d rove them incorrectly.  The slides needed a quick clean (which could have been done over the winter) and a spray with silicone lubricant (which couldn’t).  Slides into the track – no problem.  Halyard on.  Up she went – no problem. Except that the sheave was complaining loudly.  I’d cleaned and lubricated as far as possible while the mast was down, but I clearly hadn’t done a good enough job.  Another job for when I go up the mast.  The last two inches, again, were reluctant.  No idea why.  It’s not the knot this time as I demonstrated by hauling the halyard up without the sail (but with the other end attached so I could retrieve it!).

I went ashore with a camera to photograph the masthead (the wind having fallen away to nil in the light rain) to see if I could spot the problems.  Then back on board to lower the sail (testing the lazyjacks) and insert the battens.  This I did, and by the time I’d hoisted it and lowered it again the rain was becoming spectacular and I decided it was time for a drink with jam and bread.  And a chocolate biscuit.  Examination of the photographic evidence showed that the knot in the end of the halyard had caught on the halyard deflector: it may be possible to use a racking seizing instead, or even sew the end back on itself, to allow the halyard to slide past.  Or maybe just jiggle it a bit, to quote the famous Arkwright.  No help on the main though.  Maybe it’s a slide sticking in the track – I shall have to have a close look at them.

Deciding against lowering the jib and sorting that out now, I also decided that it was, regrettably, too late to sail today as the ebb had begun and was only an hour of tide left to get out and in again.  Not long enough if I have a problem.  Everything pretty well ready for the morrow though.  VHF aerial tonight, FW tank tomorrow morning and sail in the afternoon, weather permitting.  I must go and see the AP soon too.  HW is at 1640 tomorrow, so I can be out from about 1500 till 1830.  Ish.  (Southampton has the dubious benefit of ‘double tides’ – effectively the tide stays ‘in’ for longer than normal, and then ebbs very quickly to catch up with itself).

Put the Queen to bed at sunset, for the first time, and myself not much later.

Tuesday 2nd May                          warm/sunny/cloudy.  Light ESE’ly

Slow start after a poor night’s sleep and in the end I had a shower and did last night’s washing up (tut tut) instead of connecting the VHF.  Then, tired of eating from a locker lid on my lap I removed the cockpit table socket to the saloon – maybe Alex’s welder friend can fix the broken one, but he says it’d cost as much as buying a new one.  Maybe I should make a properly designed new table with a proper wooden mount.  Then I finally connected the aerial (more insertion of cables through barely adequate holes) and (eventually) got through to Ocean Village for a radio check, which proved that it worked.

Sail drills next: worked out a method of lashing down the luff of the main when reefing.  Not very pretty or elegant, but effective enough pro tem.  Left one reef in as, despite the light wind, I didn’t want acres of canvas all over the deck.  The trough needed adjusting (difficult) to allow the leech cringles to be properly lashed down by their pendants, now correctly led. 

Then I secured the anchor to its roller, using the pink string again (easy) and tried unrolling the jib.  Pulled the starboard sheet: nothing.  The port one worked fine, but the starboard winch had jammed and required the greatest effort to turn it, so it clearly needs a proper service.  Reluctant to start taking it apart at this stage (well, at all, actually – I don’t understand winches yet and don’t want to lose all the small bits into the Itchen mud) I decided that I could manage without it in this very light wind.  Wrong again.

Actually, maybe I could find more modern replacements for both winches: Netley boat jumble is next weekend.

Lunch.  Tide continues its inexorable flood.

Bloody autopilot.  Not working.  Connected it up and tested it the other day.  Now no volts at the outlet.  Checking the circuit revealed the negative lead not connected to the busbar.  Easily (well, relatively easily – see Sunday’s entry, above) rectified, but how…..?

From the log….

1445 Engine checks     
1452 started engine
1452 & 10s opened engine seacock.   Secure for sea. LJ on
1506 slipped Kemps Quay
1510 in river. Manoeuvres under power. Autopilot test – successful
1520 main up (one reef) off Shamrock Quay
1525 opened half jib     
1530 engine off.  Sailing practice. Very little wind.
1540 resolve to go further afield. Engine on. Roll up jib Head down river
1600 sailing again. progress very slow – less than 2kn, beating, making little ground to windward
1610 off St Mary’s stadium (for some time). Engine off.  Still slow, but steady.
1650 Chapel SHM ß
1705 hove to just above Itchen Bridge to speak Emma Jayne, also from Kemps
1706 bore away for KQ.  Main down, full jib for sailing downwind.
1715 hopeless. Engine on, jib rolled. Then increase to F2-3 W’ly. Jib open. Sailing  
1730. jib rolled off Shamrock Quay.  Prep for coming a/s
1800 secure a/s Kemps Quay.  Engine off.

Engine 1hr 52 min. Fuel used apparently nil. Distance sailed unmeasurable owing to log being u/s.

…which boils down to a bit of pootling about just outside the marina to get the feel of the boat again make sure all the mechanicals worked.  Sails up to check that they behaved themselves, which they did, and then I considered calling it a day.  But since it was a nice afternoon and I’d come out to sail I set off on what turned out to be a very slow beat down the river.  At first I was unable to make any headway over the (still flooding) tide but as it slackened, and as my tacking improved, I managed the heady speed of 1.6 knots over the ground (from the GPS: log consistently reading zero).  VMG to windward was still almost nil, however, and I soon tired of the sight of Southampton FC’s stadium at St Mary’s.  Centaurs clearly aren’t built for beating, at least in light winds: she seemed to do all right nearly two years ago in a F5 out in Southampton water.  She wouldn’t lay nearer than about 55° to the apparent wind before the sails began to protest and leeway increased dramatically: even at that angle it was significant and I was doing about as well as a square-rigger of 150 years ago.  And short tacks were needed in the narrow bit by the pontoons between the stadium and Itchen Marine where there was a ship unloading at the wharf.

But eventually I reached Chapel beacon where the channel widens out just above the bridge, avoiding the tug pushing its very smelly barge of sewage sludge, and approached the bridge itself. After heaving-to (I was gratified to find I could do this almost without thinking) to say hello to an acquaintance from the marina in his little sports boat, Tyro was reluctant to continue to windward so I accepted her decision and bore away for home.  With the main lowered and now the full jib she steered very nicely before the wind, which had now increased to F2 and veered westerly, and I was able to let the autopilot earn its keep while I prepared lines and fenders for coming alongside.

Having taken less than a third of the time of the outward journey to return I got back into my (slightly awkward) berth with no trouble and a little help from a nearby mobo driver. A gentle but successful little exped then, and the first of many.

I turned the boat round (helped by Brian from Willow, astern of me) and tidied up.  After writing up my journal (on which this account is based) I decided I couldn’t face shopping and cooking, so decided I’d celebrate my success with a curry.  An excellent ‘Chef’s Special Biryani’ at the Gandhi in Portswood left me too full to consider doing anything else for the rest of the evening, so upon my return on board, I turned in, looking forward to another go tomorrow.

Wednesday 3rd        Breezy. Chilly.

Turning out was a problem.  Pain.  Considerable.  Lower back, right side.  Probably, I ruefully deduced as I hauled myself out of my bunk, as a result of asymmetric hauling on the starboard jibsheet, whose winch was u/s, as you may recall.  After some breakfast I went in search of ibuprofen on the way to the library to write up some of what you have recently read.  It turned out that sitting is less painful than otherwise.  A visit to the Polish supermarket furnished the makings of two days’ lunches and the rest of the day was spent on the settee with a hot water bottle applied to the offending part.

As was much of the next, except for occasional and painful excursions on deck to reduce halyard noise in the rising wind.  By mid-afternoon I’d had enough, packed up and then retreated chez Aged Parent in London.  Netley boat jumble will have to do without me.


It’s now (at the time of writing in early May 2017) two years and thirty-eight days since I bought Tyro.  In that time she has travelled about thirty-five miles, mostly on the initial delivery from Langstone to the Itchen.  She has a new engine which seems to work fine with its new coupling, prop shaft, stern seal, Cutless bearing and prop, and new standing rigging which is approaching the correct tension.

The full list of jobs done in two years:

  • had the starboard keel root repaired
  • had the Cutless bearing replaced
  • had the heads skin fittings overhauled
  • employed engineer to service engine
  • cleaned the sacrificial anode
  • secured and modified the gas system
  • located the source of engine coolant leak
  • replaced the fire extinguishers
  • replaced the rusted clips on the heads pipes
  • checked the electrics
  • freed and serviced the opening windows
  • inspected the anchor cable
  • cleaned the mildew out of the lockers & elsewhere
  • tested the electronics
  • secured the gas bin
  • cleaned the engine
  • licensed the radio
  • bent on the sails (twice)
  • had the boat launched
  • had the boat recovered and fixed heads seacock
  • had the boat relaunched
  • motorsailed to Southampton
  • overhauled battery terminals
  • tested and overhauled the heads
  • cleaned lifebuoys
  • cleaned the decks
  • stowed all the boat’s and personal gear
  • made the sliding chart table slide
  • serviced the bolt cutters
  • cleaned the sink
  • cleaned and regreased main hatch slides
  • polished the brass
  • sailed towards Hamble
  • suffered engine failure
  • sailed back to the Itchen
  • had starter motor overhauled
  • reseated forehatch handle
  • replaced main halyard
  • bought and connected small solar panel
  • removed leaking FW foot pump
  • had the rigging inspected
  • tested and used dinghy
  • replaced the broken table socket
  • fixed small solar panel to board
  • fitted terminals for solar panel connection
  • bought  & fitted LED cabin light
  • drained tank and double-filtered fuel
  • removed, washed, had repaired & refitted dodgers
  • washed all old running rigging
  • scrubbed rubbing strakes
  • replaced leaking coolant pipe
  • got heads working properly
  • tried out autopilot
  • discovered major gearbox problem
  • cleaned out starboard quarter berth
  • bought fridge
  • had alternator repaired
  • had sprayhood repaired
  • discovered faulty injector pump
  • bought larger solar panels & heavier anchor chain
  • connected panels to domestic battery; small one to engine
  • discovered water in engine oil
  • connected up new anchor cable
  • decided to replace engine with a new one
  • removed all running rigging and boom
  • lowered mast
  • removed standing rigging
  • removed engine ancillaries
  • had boat lifted out and jet-washed
  • bought new engine
  • had new standing rigging made up
  • & bought s/h furling gear
  • pumped flood water out of engine bay
  • covered boat with tarpaulin
  • cleaned boat and removed mildew (again)
  • stripped mast
  • removed tarpaulin
  • removed woodwork around companionway
  • had old engine removed
  • repaired crack & drilled limber hole in engine bay bulkhead
  • cleaned, degreased and painted engine bay
  • applied compression seal to lazarette lid
  • bought electric bilge pump & float switch
  • bought bilge paint and tricolour light
  • removed rust from keels
  • removed old engine bearers
  • removed exhaust elbow & cleaned for sale
  • bought ropes, lights etc. at Netley boat jumble
  • bought hardwood for companionway step
  • bought painting gear
  • rust-treated and primed keels
  • cut access hole in cabin sole (under step)
  • bought new steaming, side & stern lights
  • bought reel of tinned cable
  • removed old anchor light from masthead
  • ditto VHF aerial
  • moved batteries across boat and reconnected
  • sold old anchor chain
  • had new jib luff rope fitted to fit new furler
  • borrowed rigging tension gauge
  • removed old steaming light
  • ran new cables in mast for lights & VHF
  • fitted new steaming light
  • cleaned & overhauled mast foot sockets
  • assessed and labelled wiring loom
  • improved wiring connections
  • bought clevis pins & rebuilt standing rigging
  • fabricated new masthead plate
  • sanded hull ready for anti-fouling
  • cleaned & lubricated masthead sheaves
  • cleaned out all through-hull fittings
  • greased & reassembled heads seacocks
  • made & fitted new gasket for cooling seacock
  • made insert for engine control panel mount
  • fitted new masthead plate
  • fitted new LED side & stern lights
  • inspected and marked cable
  • weighed anchors; decided bower too small
  • fitted new instrument panel
  • assembled new furling gear foil
  • cleaned up & primed angle iron for engine bearers
  • discovered they were too short
  • designed new hinges for opening portlights
  • sacked engineer & engaged new one
  • bought & painted new engine bearers
  • had new engine fitted & all ancillaries
  • reprimed keels
  • applied antifouling
  • damaged large solar panels
  • reinstalled log
  • installed electric bilge pump
  • had boat relaunched
  • engine commissioned & started
  • moved boat onto berth
  • lifted mast on board
  • ran the engine to charge the batteries (at intervals)
  • discovered fuel problem – air in 1° filter –bled
  • tried to straighten bow roller cheeks
  • overhauled mainsheet blocks & rove mainsheet
  • scrubbed cockpit sole boards & others
  • attempted repair to solar panels
  • replaced standing and running rigging on mast
  • filled fuel tank & bled filters again
  • fitted & wired new tricolour light
  • fitted new VHF aerial
  • motored round pontoon to attempt mast raising
  • motored back again with mast still horizontal
  • tested VHF set, GPS, echo sounder & compass
  • tested autopilot
  • ran engine – seems  fine
  • measured air draught
  • assembled forestay, foil & drum (with much help)
  • fitted new (& varnished) companionway step
  • bought various items at Beaulieu boat jumble
  • assembled handy billy
  • removed old battery mounting box
  • secured (partly) batteries in new position
  • bought new switch/distribution panel & cable
  • broke saloon table socket (again)
  • moved cockpit table socket to saloon
  • motored across river
  • had mast raised & motored back again
  • lashed too-short forestay with pink string
  • replaced pink string with old bottlescrew
  • tensioned rigging
  • rigged jib furling line
  • hoisted & furled jib (needs modification)
  • fixed boom, mainsheet & kicker
  • bent on mainsail & trough with all ancillaries
  • cleaned & lubricated mainsail slides
  • hoisted main; reefed etc.
  • adjusted spreader angle
  • fitted new electrical switch panel
  • extended various circuits
  • connected  & tested VHF
  • WENT SAILING (briefly)

And then, of course, there are the jobs still to do:

  • Adjust rigging tension and lock screws
  • Ensure spreaders are at the correct angle & fix
  • Get Bob to check engine alignment
  • Make & fit new gasket for coolant intake
  • Sort out leak from below there
  • Work out how & where to store solar panels
  • Connect old engine stop cable to fuel cut-off
  • Rig dodgers & second lifebuoy
  • Straighten cheeks & overhaul bow roller
  • Tidy up and clean whole boat!
  • Acquire & fit jackstays                         
  • Overhaul 12V wiring
  • Fit solar charging sockets for both batteries
  • Clean around exhaust outlet
  • Remove old stern gland greaser & pipe
  • Acquire/renovate & fit tacho & temp gauge
  • Touch up damaged areas of topside paint
  • Repaint whole topsides (eventually)
  • …and antifoul (annually or biennially)
  • Sell old propeller
  • Try again to sell old engine or parts thereof
  • Remove chipped/cracked/peeling non-slip paint
  • Repaint with non-slip paint
  • Repair all chips and cracks in gel coat
  • Renovate and polish gel coat
  • Ditto & oil teak grab handles & rubbing strake
  • Find and cure leaks through cockpit seats
  • Fix lifebuoy light
  • Install extra cleats on foredeck
  • Ditto amidships
  • Clean, repair, renovate & oil rubbing strakes
  • Make leadline
  • Terminate guardrails correctly & tension
  • Lead lines aft (needs blocks, winch(es) & cleats)
  • Replace galley, fo’c’sle & heads lights with LEDs
  • Fit bunk light for stbd quarter berth
  • Get manual for radio/CD player
  • Install shore power system inc. battery charger
  • Clean out FW tank & pipes
  • Refit (overhauled/new?) FW foot pump
  • Clean & paint all lockers
  • Ditto stbd quarter berth
  • Secure bookcase
  • Fill old holes to stbd of companionway
  • Rebuild cabin sole to reinforce & incl. hatches
  • Install calorifier
  • Install cabin heater
  • Replace gas bin with proper locker
  • Seal lazarette lid closure
  • Correct charts
  • Wash cushions and covers

After over two years of ownership I can consider Tyro more or less ready for sea, or at least for a little more local pootling.  The jobs continue to proliferate (see above) like Hydra’s heads but I suspect this is the way of things with boats.

Was buying her a good decision?  Well, I still think I bought the wrong boat – China Belle, the first one I saw, in Plymouth, was a better boat, but there were other considerations.  I hope I shall be able to sail her when and where I choose, restricted only by the tides and the weather and independently of the vicissitudes of potential crew.  Time will tell.

About the author: Steve Freedman
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