Nothing to report (sort of )

WordPress keep reminding me that I need to keep blogging, to increase the monitisation of my site. I’ve already added an “icon” so that people will recognise the site in their browser. I’m getting a bit out of my technical depth here, so I’ll quit whilst I think I’m ahead.  Riff Raff and I have had 15 visitors today! Wow! We’ll soon be going viral, even though there’s nothing to report.


Well, that’s not quite true. I spent a day or so last week, whilst waiting in vain for the wind to drop a bit*, trying to fit the tent.  Regular readers may recall that I picked this up from a sailmaker in Poole a couple of weeks ago. This tent can be likened to a huge pram hood, with hoop frames made of short lengths of stainless steel that slot together and a canvass (or similar) top and sides. No instructions were supplied for the fitting, so it took a lot of trial and error to get all the pieces of metal put together in the right order and mounted on the boat. Pieces of wood had to be obtained (Utile, of course) from a local timber merchant, flexible sealant from a chandlery), the Workmate assembled, measurements taken saws, planes and drills used and, hey presto, as if by magic the frame was fitted.

When the cover was applied, it was clearly fitted in not quite the right place so the whole exercise had to be repeated. O er – moving the position of the wooden mountings meant using a cheese wire to unseat the ones in the wrong place and  this revealed a slight flaw in the layup of the composite material forming the cockpit coaming. A 1 x 1.5 inch strip of the gel coat came away with the wood, revealing a layer of glass fibre lay up that was free of polymer……… Oops I hope there’s not more like that in the rest of the hull.

Fixing this delayed things a bit and I had just finished putting in place the new wooden mounts when the wind obligingly dropped. So we went sailing for an hour or so. Then the rain started and it was time to come home. The tent is still not fully fitted.

Read more about it (and see some pictures (but not of the defective lay up))  in the next episode………




* I’ve become a bit of wimp and must get over it. When I took VAgabond round Britain, I wouldn’t sail if there was an F6** or above in the forecast. Recently I seem tp have slipped to F5

** Beaufort force for the wind strength. Admiral Beaufort documented this wind strength scale in 1805. I’ve discovered that it wasn’t invented by him – there had been others before him but he was the man who persuaded the British Admiralty to officially adopt  it ***. in 1835. You can read more about it at:

*** Well, he was an Admiral, after all

More on Axles

I’v found a couple of photos of the trailer showing the old and new axle. No wonder there’s a problem, the new axle is about 9 inches ahead of the old one.

Here’s the picture of the trailer as originally supplied:

Old axle posititon

As you can see, the wheel centre is at least 9 inches behind the sixth upright post between the top and bottom rails of the trailer.

Whereas, the new axle is fitted to the trailer with the wheel centre

new axle position as supplied by cls

about level with the sixth upright (it’s hidden behind the wheel).

Considering  that the axles were changed by the trailer manufacturer, you’d think they would know where to position it!

I suspect I’ll have to shift the axles further towards the rear.

I suppose I could move the winch post forward and thus move Riff Raff further onto the trailer……..




A Tale of Two Axles and an Assymetric

Another reader has joined the followers – that makes three! Wow, another step along the monitisation of this blog. I keep getting “helpful tips” from WordPress on this – so far I have ignored them all.

But I digress.*

Now where were we? I think Riff Raff was back at Northney, on her trailer and ready to go. The returen journey from Mylor had been as nailbighting as the ouitward leg – trailer sway commenced at just over 50 (yes, I know it’s the legal limit for towing a trailer but one does try to keep up with the traffic) and Martina demonstrated her new found ability to control the sway on several occasions. I though I’d better check the car manual and found that this ability is a “feature”, so all is well on that front.

I looked up trailer sway on t’internet. A US discussion board (well, I think it was US but you can never be sure these days) recommended I fit a “swaycontrol bar” for a mere $300. One entry suggested that “yous not enough weight on the tow bar bud.”

So that gave me some food for thought. Readers of my blog about sailing round Britain in Vagabond will recall that Terence was her trailer too. We didn’t experience sway with that combination but the axle was only rated at 1500kg, not the 1700 or so that the trailer and boat weighed. I’d had the trailer manufacturer replace the axle with an uprated model. Perhaps this was the cause of the sway.

Suitably equipped with bathroom scales, blocks of wood and a jack, I zoomed down to Northney and measured the down thrust on the tow bar – 59 kg – quite light really for a 1700kg train weight. Riff Raff was thrown into the sea, u bolts undone and the axle slid backwards on the trailer by a couple of inches.

Then we went off sailing in light winds and attempted to fly the asymmetric. Flying it from the bowsprit (very traditional) was no problem – recovery was a very different matter – it didn’t quite go in the sea but it was a close run thing. Needs further thought (and practice).

Riff Raff was recovered, the tow bar down thrust measured – 65 Kg. Well, that’s better but the tow bar can take 80 so the axle could go further back……

Back at home I went looking for photos of Terence. It seems that the”new” axle is positioned at least 6 inches ** ahead of the old one.

So I think I’ll have move the axle still further back…..


* As usual

** Sorry, about 150mm (I think we’re still in Europe***

*** Although I suspect “metrification” and decimal currency will survive BREXIT.

Swallows flock to Mylor – it must be summer

My loyal readers (there are at last two of you) will recall that Riff Raff had arrived at Mylor, after wild ride on Terence, late on the Wednesday evening in the middle of the first week of July.  We parked “up the valley” and Riff Raff was rigged before dark. We stayed up the valley all night and launched after breakfast. Several other Swallows were launching too.

We had all arrived early for the Swallow Yachts “raid”* on the river Fal. Over the next couple of days more Swallows arrived, launched, sailed and tried to moor in the same small stretch of pontoon provided by the Mylor habour master. Tents were erected at the campsite, cottages and B&B’s occupied and the important code for the shower block was learnt by heart. Charts were perused, the racing rules for the week were examined and hulls were polished with secret concoctions.**

We met together in the local restaurant for the “welcome” meal, where we hailed people we recognised from previous years and welcomed new comers with ribald remarks. And, eventually to bed, to wake for breakfast and the briefing for the fist race. Riff Raffs chat plotter decided that racing was not for it, so failed to “initialise”. The snag is that the chart plotter is a single point of failure in the instruments. If it doesn’t work, there’s no depth sounder, so not only do you not know where you are, you also don’t know if you’re liable to run into the hard stuff. So, whilst the fleet went off racing, I spent an hour or so on the Garmin help line only to establish that the software needed updating. ‘Just download version xx to your PC, save it on a USB stick, transfer that to the plotter and turn it on – the new software will load itself’ said the helpful help desk.

But no PC was available.

To my great surprise, the Marina office allowed me to use one of their PC’s for this purpose and we were back in action by the middle of the afternoon.

I won’t bore you with the detail of the next few days – suffice to say that Riff Raff rapidly acquired the mantle of Vagabond and acted as “back marker” for the fleet. I took a few photographs but they were all pretty rubbish as you can see from this example:



Fortunately, there were other photographers present and you can find some of their work at 

There are even a few of Riff Raff!

At the end of the week, we recovered the boats to their trailers, derigged, packed up and drove out. Riff Raff was back at Northney by mid July, rigged and ready to go again. But first I had to get her tent and that’s another story.


*  For the uninitiated, a raid is a series of races under sail (rowing is allowed) for small boats, followed by periods of deep discussion, bragging and much quaffing of various beverages by the skippers and crew. Points are won in the races and w all know what points mean……

** Well, not the last part.***

*** As far as I know.

Motoring to Mylor and Martina reveals hidden depths.

A week ago last Wednesday, after an exciting academic meeting in London, a train journey interrupted by power failures and expanding track, some trailer repairs and a little domestic R & R, the skipper (aka your scribe) returned to Weymouth, in Martina, towing Terence and carrying clothes for a fortnight * and a set of Italian Carp waders. The intention was to haul Riff Raff up the town slip and onto Terence so that she could be taken to Mylor by road.

I had originally intended to sail her all the way – the interruption caused by the meeting had allowed the wind to change and what the forecast thought there would be was light Westerly for the next few days. “On the nose” as they say. The Italian Carp waders were (as I was advised) essential as the town slip in Weymouth is not flanked by a floating pontoon and there might be a need to wander around waist deep in water whilst persuading boat and trailer to get acquainted.

In the event, the Italian Carp waders were not required – the town slip had useful railings to which Riff Raff was secured whilst Martina manoeuvred Terence into position (in line with Riff Raff and just far enough down the slip for his tyres (but not the brake hubs) to get wet. Terence’s winch wire was wound out, hooked on to Riff Raff and the up button pressed** – hey presto! – up she rose onto his back.

An hour later, with mast lowered and all the bits of associated string made fast we were on our way westward, into quite a strong head wind. This proved a bit of a problem as the dreaded trailer sway kept occurring at ridiculously low speeds – only just over the speed limit for a car towing a trailer. During one particularly vicious bout, Martina suddenly applied her brakes in anti skid mode, first on one corner and then on another. The only control I had was through the steering wheel.

‘WTF’, I thought, ‘the bloody ABS has chosen to fail at this precise moment’. However, once we had slowed enough, Martina returned full control  to me and we carried on. It happened a few more times and I concluded that, somewhere in her software, she had found that she was towing a trailer and had invoked some anti sway routine. Do I trust it? Perhaps I should read the manual.

We evntually reached Mylor before dusk, parked”up the valley” and set about rigging Riff Raff again. The Ninja Warrior facilitated raising the mast and Riff Raff was ready for launching. But it was now dark so we spent the night on the hill.




*  two weeks for any US readers

**  Despite his agricultural appearance, Terence is quite sophisticated. He is fitted with a solar powered electric winch which goes by the name of “the Ninja Warrior”.

To Weymouth (3)

By now, my reader(s) must b wondering if Riff Raff has disappeared into myth, or perhaps turned into the Flying Dutchman. The discerning one will have noticed that my typing skills have returned to their normal state and misspellings and typos are returning to confuse you all.


The last post told of our sail to Poole; now we have to recount the voyage to Weymouth

We motored out of Poole early on a sunny, windless morning, passing the chain ferry without incident and along the entrance channel with no interference from Ferries. A sol fisherboat was entering the channel, with its usual escort of hopeful gulls. I was hopeful too – that a sea breeze would spring up so that Freddy2 could be silenced. Past Old Harry, breasting a little tide, hoping to get to St Alban head at slack water to avoid the overfalls from the off shore leadge.

Pas the yachts still dozing in the anchorage by Old Harry

P1020752 then on past Swanage, we crept along the coast, parting placid waters with our bow and shattering the peace with Freddy. A couple of Gulliemots passed overhead but no other wildlife appeared.

No sign of the tide when we approach St Albans point so we kept even closer to the shore, taking the inside passage (keep within 50 feet of the shore, say the pilot books). Still calm water – ahead and to port were the ominous very  swirls of the beginning of the tides rush to the west. Riff Raff twitched a few times but we were through. The bulk of Portland was ahead,so Weymouth must lie in the valley a little East of that. Now we can head straight for it.

It’s Monday. It means the Army is at work. Up comes the guardboat, urging us to head away to the South for half an hour to clear the range. In theory there’s no legal requirement to do this but I thought discretion was the order of the day and complied until they were out of sight, whereupon I resumed my course and speed for Weymouth.

Still no sign of a breeze, so Freddy 2 hammered away.

Away to the south west an ethereal shape started to emerge from the haze.P1020756 It hardened into a 3 masted sailing ship, with the yards all brailed up, making about 8 knots against the tide.

Then the guard boat rushed up again to give it (and us) our marching orders.

Thirty minutes later I resumed course for Weymouth – we didn’t see the guardboat again.

We inches our way to Weymouth, lunchtime came. Freddy 2 was shut down for a few minutes as I listened to the one o clock news (how traditional) and ate the sandwiches I had made the night before (cheese, marmite and tomato, if you must know).

We drifted in the hot sunshine, on a glass like sea (I was reminded of the verse from the Ancient Mariner):

“All in a hot and copper sky, the bloody sun at noon”

but I couldn’t remember having killed an albatross.

Freddy 2 was set to the task again. I called up the harbour master at Weymouth to ascertain that the Bridge would lift at four and we chugged on.

We sighted the mole and turned round it’s eastern end.

I was enchanted by the sight that met us:P1020759

I could almost imagine the harbour as it would have been at the beginning of the nineteenth century – the customs house on the right, ready to assess my cargo and examine my ships papers, the forest of masts of the various cargo and fishing boats on the wharves, the warehouses bulging with goods and the rummage gang already to pounce on suspect boats.

But it was a summer day in 2017, so we made our way unmolested and untroubled to the waiting pontoon. Soon the harbour bridge was lifted to let us through into the marina and we settled in silence to the heat of the afternoon.

As I had to go to London for a meeting the following weekend, this seemed a good place to pause the trip. I covered the cockpit with the purpose built cover, paid in advance for a weeks mooring and left by train the following morning.


En Route to Weymouth (2)

Younger readers* will recall that Riff Raff has arrived at Cowes, just in time to for the Isle of Wight festival. Our next stop would be Yarmouth or even Poole. It meant using a west going tide. We had delayed in Cowes for a day so that the morning west going tide was not quite  too early, so Sunday found us in the offing of Cowes at 0800 (breakfast and coffee having been scoffed and sandwiches prepared before cast off) waiting for the tide to run westward. There was a breath of wind** from the North East and the sails were up. Freddy2 was on too as we moved ponderously towards the Needles channel. By 08:30, the wind had disappeared and the tide and Freddy were carrying us along at just over 5 knots. In no time at all (or so it seemed) we were passing Yarmouth, noting the enormous motor yacht moored outside the harbour. Well, it couldn’t have got in.

We kept well clear in case some officious “guard boat” full of gents in black balaclavas came to visit.


Woosh. That was us through the narrows past Hurst castle and then jiggling to the West to take the inshore passage.

Now the tidal current deserted us. There seemed to be some wind. An on shore breeze, possibly of the sea breeze varietyUp went the sails, off went Freddy2 and we sauntered past Christchurch and Bournemouth at a sedate 2 knots, taking in the sights and bathing in the sun (or the shade of the mainsail) depending on P1020747how the wind felt.

Brownsea Island  hove into view and we sailed along the small ship passage to within spitting distance of the obnoxious chain ferry, before cranking up Freddy 2, lowering the main and breasting the outgoing tide into the harbour to look for a space to park. A marina took us in, and sandwiched us into a corner between some rather large things.


The sunset was great.


What shall we do on Monday. The forecast looks hot.



* e.g. those who have unimpaird short term memories

** Force 2, if you really want to know

En Route to Weymouth (1)

Riff Raff is currently resting at Weymouth – at least she was last Thursday when I had to dash for a meeting in London. It all seemed so logical when it was planned in the winter but I had reckoned without the sun…..

I digress (as usual).

Riff Raff slid off her trailer a week ago last Wednesday evening, into the murky waters of Northney Marina. We left at crack of dawn (about 08:30) to dash down wind to the entrance to Chichester harbour and catch the tide west along the Solent (we’ve done this before, it’s easy). We didn’t make the mistake of passing the wrong side of the fort and were soon (or so it seemed) amongst the throng of traffic. P1020732

This time the navy had joined in the fun. I realised that the big green buoy off to starboard was the one HMS Montrose and the cross channel ferry were going to turn round – we were safer on the “wrong side of it”. And, to miss-quote Captain Kirk, we made it so.


It was just about lunch time as we approached Cowes. There seemed to be an awful lot of boats about and it was only Friday. I thought I’d better see if we can find out what’s going on and if we can find a berth for the night. There are at least three marinas in Cowes – they all use the same VHF Channel, as do several on the mainland. This weekend, each marina seemed to have a similar sounding young woman (I have to be careful here, dear reader, I wouldn’t want to sound sexist) on the airwaves. An old buffer like me gets confused ‘Cowes Marina, Cowes Marina, this is Riff Raff’. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Cowes Marina, stand by’. It’s a bit like being put on hold but at least they don’t play you music of indifferent quality. ‘Hello Riff Raff, this is Gosport can I help you, over” Hnag on, I was on hold of Cowes, why is the girl there now pretending to be from Gosport – then the penney dropped – it’s all because they use the same channel. So I abandoned the VHF and used the mobile phone. It sounded like the same girl answered but at least she was now speaking for Cowes. The found me a berth amongst the confusion explaining it was the Isle of Wight festival weekend. We were perched on the end of a pontoon amongst a throng of larger boats. As you can see from the picture, they certainly crammed them in – I was gald we were on the end, it meant we could get out when we wanted to go!


Cramming them in at Cowes Yacht Haven



Stack Packs and Stays (Corsets)

Our readership has grown to three. Keep it up, spread the word etc etc. I can’t remember if I told you, dear reader(s), of the disappointment that I had with one part of Riff Raff’s equipment – the stack pack. I always thought they (it?) were called the lazy jacks and a sail bag but, I suppose, stack pack sounds so much more metro-sexual and therefore coool. Anyway, the one (ones?) supplied with Riff Raff was so tight that it squashed the sail when one tried to do it up. I suppose it should really be called a corset or a set of stays – but Riff Raff already has four of the latter (but, so far as I know, none of the former). But I digress. So I threw a wobbly with the builder: we added a few inches* here and there and, hey presto, designed a new version. It eventually arrived, in the right colour and is now fitted.

The sail can breathe in and out in comfort whilst at rest.

Here’s a photo of the two, with the older one on top. You can see the where the extra inches were added.sail bag


All I have o do now is persuade the lazy jacks to catch the sail.

Now we’re off somewhere and you can read about it in the next thrilling installment. Don’t change channel.**



* Just remember 1 inch = 2.54 cm – it’s a generational thingy  nothing to do with Brexit.

** Another generational thingy to do with broadcast rather than streamed TV stations

Repair and Maintenance

Gosh! Already? But Riff Raff has only been to sea for about 40 hours, so what’s gone on?

Well, to start with it’s the b****y “pre stretched” dyneema stays.

‘They’re fully stretched before we make them’ says the designer.

‘That’s as maybe’ I replied ‘but I want a steel wire forestay. Then at least I’ve a fixed point in the rig, just in case the dyneema does stretch.’

As we were drifting to a light wind back from Cowes the other day, the mast flopped from side to side and fore and aft to an alarming extent. After taking Riff Raff onto terra firma (or at least onto Terence), I went to investigate.

I had to take up about an inch * of slack on both the port and starboard main stays and a similar amount on the baby stays too. Assuming that the steel wire forestay hasn’t stretched, the rig might now be back to “factory set”. We’ll see on Thursday.

I had also to try out the cockpit cover. This had arrived at home just before I left for the trip to Cowes and Yarmouth and I hadn’t had time to play with it. 20180610_125655

Unpacked and fitted (held in place by oodles of lengths of bungee and a couple of car roof rack stretchy things with hooks), I was rather pleased with it. It covers the spray hood and the engine and there’s space under which all manner of stuff can be hidden from prying eyes. It might even stop the cockpit seats from getting covered in atmospheric fall out. All we need now is the tent….


* One inch = 25mm (at the moment – it might equal more (or less) after the UK has left the EU.)