Sea Trial

I see that my readership (all one of you) is as inattentive to my spelling as am I.  In the last post, Terrence had at  least two spellings of his name. I’ll have to ask the owners agent for the official version. I had hoped to go off sailing this week but other events intervened, some connected with Riff Raff and others not. The not events are easier to talk about – you may (or may not) know that I’m enrolled on a PhD research project, fortunately only part time, but I’ve had to do some work on it he last few weeks to justify my existence. Writing a 10,000 essay of sensible, academic, stuff was a bit of a stretch….Any, ’tis done now and I await the comments and helpful suggestions that will arise from it. That’s year one of seven almost completed.

Now, where was I?

There have been a few niggles with Riff Raff, I’m afraid. Nothing major, but niggles. Some come from design “improvements” introduced between BC#10 (Vagabond) and BC#54 (Riff Raff). Take the sail cover and lazy jacks. If you look at the picture in the previous post, I hope you agree that it looks extremely smart. But. The sail is very tightly squeezed into the cover (a bit like a lady who is really size 14 in a size 12 dress) and I don’t think it’s particularly comfortable. O help, that was a sexist remark. The trouble is that when a bloke with a 40 inch waist squeezes into a pair of 36 inch trousers, the excess bits all hang out (if you see what I mean). The fair sex doesn’t have that escape mechanism with a dress – everything just gets stretched a bit. Well, that’s exactly what is currently happening with the lazy jacks and the sail cover.  RANT ON I think, by the way, that lazy jacks and the sail cover are known as a “stack pack”. A triumph of marketing terminology over imagination. “Lazy jacks” is exactly the right term – a sailor can be very lazy folding up the sail when lazy jacks are in place. “Stack pack” has no relationship with sailor – just marketing hype. RANT OFF.

Anyway, the yard agreed to have a new one made, with more room for the sail. Said new one swiftly arrived only to be of the wrong colour. The real new one is eagerly awaited. A tent has been ordered from a chap in Poole; “ready by the end of May” said he. No cloth has yet been cut.

The battery monitors had suggested that the batteries were not being charge, despite sun pouring down on the solar cells on the quarterdeck.  They were charging fine – it’s just that the battery monitors had been wired to ignore them. The chart plotter was oblivious to the AIS output from the VHF/DSC/AIS radio. The owner was in the wrong here – the configuration is not in the standard yard specification and he had misread the manual……

On the plus side, the new water tank is a great improvement on the old “balloon” version, the floorboards are much less flexible, the anchor lockers have cut outs so that the anchor may be stored with the end of it’s cable permanently fastened to the post, and the cut out cubby holes in the cockpit sides are just right for binoculars, hand bearing compasses and sea sick pills.

So, it’s off for a real commissioning sail next week. Off to Yarmouth we go.

A Grand day out (and no cheese, Grommit)

Well, it was about time. A couple of weekends ago, the banker and I went for a sail. I’d given her and Terrence (the trailer, remember) a good talking to before the event and, ever so slightly, adjusted one of the many rollers on the rear of Terrence (so that it really did clear the teensy weeny bilge keel thingys on Riff Raffs bottom) and lo! Riff Raff slipped off Terrence (the trailer, remember) without a hitch (but the odd clunk or two which I must investigate). Soon she was bobbing in the sea water alongside a pontoon with the sea cock open. No, she wasn’t being scuttled, just having her ballast tanks filled with lots of heavy sea water. I know the forecast was less than 10kn of wind but, I thought I might have forgotten how to sail (memory being one of those funny things these days)and wasn’t taking any chances.

Here she is, waiting for the off:


Isn’t she lovely, Wasn’t the weather fantastic? But the water was cold. Riff Raff has a slightly different arrangement for the vent into the ballast tank. It means that one’s arm is, for a few minutes, under about 6 inches of water whilst closing the vent. Shutting the vent on Vagabond required a swift immersion in the tank followed by grabbing self bailer and yanking it shut. Simple and quick. Now one has to screw in a bung; when the water is at less than 15 deg C, this extra few minutes is quite a trial.

So we were off, against the tide and the wind down to just before the entrance toChichester harbour. Several hours later, sunburnt and fully competent to tack Riff Raff, we turned for home and had a whee of a downwind sail. The new rudder arrangement on this latest version of the BC23 makes her much more responsive in the turn. ‘On a sixpence’ as they say, even at quite low speed. We didn’t get into Irons once whereas, in Vagabond, I think we would have been on several occasions.

Back in harbour, it was time to empty the ballast and drag her out onto Terrence. Emptying the ballast was a breeze, if a little noisy.  Turn on the switch on the panel, cover your ears and, five minutes later, the pump is sucking air so you know it’s time to turn it off. Martina was hooked on to Terrance which (who?) was backed down the ramp and stopped with his tyres just in the water. Riff Raff nosed up to his backside and the bow ring was hooked on to the winch. With remote control in hand, I stood on the pontoon, holding Riff Raff in line, and pressed the up button. Nothing happened. I’d forgotten to turn on the winch battery (fitted to the front of Terrence).

With the power on, this time the up button did its stuff and the Ninja (I need a name for the Ninja) dragged Riff Raff squarely onto Terrance and we were off the washdown area.

Now we could eat our sandwiches and make a cup of tea!

Next time, we might get out of Chichester harbour!



A boat to go

A couple of weeks ago, Martina was pointed to the West and we flew down the M4 with a strong tail wind, paid our dues to enter Wales and then wended our way to Cardigan and thence to Gwbert. Riff Raff was standing outside the workshop, mast erected and sails fitted (but not flying). There was one part that had not been fitted – by design- I hasten to point out – the fingers / strips that are meant to nestle round the outboard shaft when motoring and seal the outboard well when sailing.

Readers may remember that Vagabond was eventually fitted with “undercarriage doors” when the outboard had finally chewed of all the strips. A Mk2 version of the doors had been taking shape in my “workshop” (not quite a basement, but very nearly), being built on a jig that was meant to replicate the outboard well on Riff Raff. Now was the moment of truth – was the jig a good replica or had all the cutting, gluing, thinking and painting been in vain….( I suppose in the way of modern TV journalism I should now change the subject in the vague hope that you stay and watch the rest of the programme – but hey ho, I trust my reader) – no – they were fine. The outboard leg and prop cleared the doors, the doors could be shut whilst motoring as specified. The full fit and the invention of the mechanism to open and close them could wait until morning.

So Matt and I adjourned for a curry.

Next day was occupied by an owners re-union. Peter Taylor arrived en route to somewhere else (more out of the way than on route, I would have thought) and a new owner turned up to take away a new BC26 just out of the works. Matt disappeared to invent new bits for the COAST, the not so secret next development for Swallow Yachts. I glued and stuck and painted and then had to remember how to de rig a BC23. Riff Raff somehow seems to have more bits of string than Vagabond. It must be the asymmetric (now flying that single handed is going to be a challenge).

The came the slight snag. Jamie (the Production Manager) was wanting me to explain the wiring for the wind indicators – the circuit diagram didn’t seem to match the equipment.  Ooops – the wrong instruments had been fitted. Not quite sure where this cock up originated (I had a feeling I had some ownership of it) but we had an amicable problem solving discussion, the outcome of which was that I’d take RR away, the new gear would be ordered for delivery to my not quite a basement and I’d do the fitting. By now it was late and I didn’t fancy towing Riff Raff to Northney that evening.

Friday morning dawned a little dull but we had a good turnout for the sending off picture



and we were off.  Martina threw herself into the harness*  not she’s not yet an autonomous vehicle) An uneventful tow and by about tea time Riff Raff was parked in Northney Marina.



  • A figure of speech. Martina is not, as far as I know, an autonomous vehicle.