Tuesday, 23 February 2010

First night on board

This visit was bound to be a particularly memorable one as it was the first time I planned to stay on the boat overnight. I brought a small electric heater that British Gas had kindly donated to me and my flatmate when they cut off our gas supply for a few days..

When Emma and I arrived at the boat we were confronted with the usual interior pond a sight that usually indicates luxury, but in a boat it indicates problems. I tried to start the engine but to no avail.. Luckily, there was still some juice left in the house battery so I was able to start the electric bilge pump and get rid of the water.. nevertheless the boat was very wet. Emma tried to convince me to stay at a nearby inn but I was determined to sleep in the boat. The electric heater did a marvelous job to keep us warm and I think we had a cosy good night's sleep, with the occasional drop of water only marginally annoying us.

I had also brought with me a drill and a sander and was prepared to do some work on the boat. Previously I had been reading all about fiberglassing and repairing chainplates and bulkheads. Anyway to cut a long story short, I did not get around to doing much that weekend, partly because of lack of tools (saw) and partly due to the fact that I did not know what to do. The only useful thing I managed to do was to drill a hole on the cabin floor so that I could lift the planks and gain access to the bilge. Bob from the cafe came along to offer some advice on what needed to be done. He suggested I wait until the summer to do the work but I did not like that idea very much as I wanted to get Ting-a-Ling ready for sailing as soon as possible.

Before we left on the Sunday, I managed to find an old piece of tarpaulin which I used to cover part of the coach roof.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Will it float?

At the moment, my main concern is to keep the boat afloat. I have not been to the marina in 2 weeks and I'm slightly worried that I will find it at the bottom of the river or that the engine will be flooded. These are valid concerns as it has about a foot of water every time I go. Last time the manual bilge pump did not work so if the engine doesn't start, I'm slightly screwed as I don't have any emergency buckets on board..

Sailing with friends

It was perhaps the first sunny day of the year in the beginning of February. The plan was to go to the boat with a friend and do some work. However it was a perfect day for sailing and we just could not resist. After having a very big breakfast at the cafe, I went to the boat to conforont the, now common, flooding. I started the engine and the electric bildge pump did its job perfectly well with no complaints. I tidied up a bit as it was the first time I would have guests on the boat and wanted Ting-a-Ling to make a good impression. My guests arrived and a good impression they got indeed, or at least they said so..

I thought it would be a good idea to get some fuel before we leave the marina as I wasn't sure how much there was in the fuel tank. There was a motorboat at the fuel station and we had to wait until refueling finished - it took quite some time! Anyway, our turn to refuel came and I was quite pleased to skipper a crewed boat for the first time (in reality it was the second time out in Ting-a-Ling but the first one doesn't really count). Turns out the fuel tank was almost full and all the diesel we could get was only £2.17..

So, away we go with my friends taking turns in steering and doing quite well in all the tasks really and making me a proud skipper. As we exited the marina creek we put up the sails and then turned off the engine. The moment you turn off the engine a heightened sense of tranquility overtakes you. Even though there was almost no wind, we were all overjoyed to be sailing. However, we were making very little progress as we were going against the tide. It was starting to get dark and we decided to head back. Now we had the tide on our side and the wind had picked up considerably. I believe we were making very good progress and we were all excited by the speed we suddenly picked up. My boat was sailing!! The wind was getting stronger and Ting-a-ling started to heel noticably. I was a bit concerned as the lower shroud chainplate was very weakly attached to the hull/bulkhead. Suddenly we heard something snapping and while I was certain it was the lower shroud chainplate, I was too excited by doing some proper sailing to stop. The mainsail is not a reefing one and I was reluctant to take it down just yet. Then, a gust of wind hits us and we heel even more. The chainplate could no longer take the load and came of its attachment with a loud noise - it had also taken off a deck plank with it! A little panic overtook us, I immediately steered into the wind to take off the load and we took down the mainsail. Our experience was cut short..

We started the engine and headed back to the marina a little disappointed as our first propper sailing trip in Ting-a-Ling was cut short.. When we arrived at the marina I made a temporary patch for the deck area that was now missing. I tried to start the engine but it wouldn't start - this worried me more than the detached chain plate as the electric bildge pump was really the only way to empty the water..

Then we all headed to the cafe for a well deserved dinner.


Finding out about boat repairs became my latest obsession. As I frequently talk about obsessions here, I need to clarify that when I say obsession I do mean it: it's something I think about all the time and I devote almost all my energy to it, without necessarily achieving the desired outcome..as my obsessions come an go.

Most of the research I did was online in an effort to minimise my expenses which are bound to mount if I want to make the repairs. I found out about the different types of wood: there's hardwood and softwood - I never knew about that distinction. Then I found out about the properties of different species of wood: teak, mahogany etc. I checked wood prices. Then I though tabout the tools I'd require. And the possibility of having to unstep the mast, which I do not like at all to be honest.. as it probably means that I'll have to take the boat out of the water.

Third visit - oh oh

Third visit to Ting-a-ling. I opened the cabin hatch and guess what I see? It was again flooded with about a foot of water... Hmm.. I thought - it's not the snow. What is it?? I saw a drop of water coming from the coach roof and went  to see what it was. As I entered the forward cabin and tried to close the cabin door (which also serves as the heads door) I realised that the door would not fully close - it got stuck on the top of the bulkhead which was a bit deformed and compressed. I went out to the deck to check the mast step - the coach roof had collapsed under the mast step and there were cracks. I poured some water to see if it came out the other way and sure enough it did. That's it I thought! This is where the water is coming in from. But that was not my main concern anymore.. How would I repair the mast step / coach roof etc.?? It sounded like a big job to me at the time. The seller said everything was fine!!?? Sure he did.. Buyer Beware!

When I went back home that evening I started reading about repairs.I emailed a very helpful guy that I had met on YBW and he told me that the same thing had happened to his mate's T24 and how they repaired it. It was two days work for them. I thought that this translated to about two months for me..

Anyway, I started reading about woodwork. I had never done any woodwork in my life. Not that I'm bad with DIY, I just have never done anything serious..Changing the oil on my motorbike and putting together an Ikea bed was probably the best experience I had. And that's not woodwork! I thought I might take a short course - it's always been something I'd really like to do anyway. Making my own furniture was always a dream I had. But I never got up to it, mainly due to lack of space. However when I visited a friend's newly-bought house in Cambridge and I saw the shed at the back of the garden I was very envious. I offered to do any DIY at his place if I could use the shed. I never did.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

There's work to be done

When I bought Ting-a-ling I did not expect that there would be much to do in order to get her up to a reasonable standard. By "reasonable standard" I mean a state that would allow her to sail safely in reasonable weather and sea conditions. To be fair, she wasn't in a bad state, but the one foot of water in the boat was quite a concern.. I thought the water came in through the deck as one of the chainplates was not properly sealed and an old wooden deck is expected to leak at some point anyhow (or not?). Plus the snow that was on the boat when I first saw her must have found its way in.. So it wasn't biggie unless it rained like hell for days and days - which, to be fair, is not that rare in this country.

Anyway, apart from that, the bulkheads are quite soft at some spots on the starboard side. It seems that the leak through the deck had rotted them away. I had spotted that in the first place and this was the major piece of work that I thought I had to do. Also, the attachment point for the starboard lower shroud was rotten - on the port side this consisted of a wood board attached to the bulkhead and to the hull via a GRP base. The wood was simply not there on the starboard side. It needed fixing but I thought at that time that it was not urgent. What was I thinking?

There were other bits and pieces too. But I really thought that most of it would be cosmetic.. There was no water pump and no stove - I needed both. Also the heads had some problem which needed attention.

First time out

It was another cold morning. Emma and I arrived at the marina on my bike. This time I was hoping to have a proper inspection of the boat, although it was now too late to ask for my money back.When I opened the cabin hatch I was quite shocked to see that there was about a foot of water in the boat. Luckily I had my wellies on.

First thing I did was of course to find the bildge pump. How does it work?! I couldn't find out how to start the electric pump. No problem I thought, let's try the manual. Where is the handle? Nowhere to be found! I found some other metal rod and started pumping. We must have been doing it for about half an hour when I decided to have another go at starting the electric one. This time I got it right. It was just a matter of flipping the right switches on..

In a matter of minutes the water disappeared. Good! The cabin looked much healthier now; just a bit wet though. Oh well. I was not sure whether I wanted to get the boat out for a little sailing. All my experience was 5 days of the RYA competent crew training and one more day of crewing on a friend's boat.

I had never skippered a boat before, navigated, moored etc. But the adventurous spirit in me that keeps me going and often messes things up could not resist. Emma was slightly concerned.. And I must admit I was too. But what's the worst that can happen on the river Crouch with no wind at all?

I started the engine, untied the mooring lines and off we went. The sensation was subtly mesmerising. I was skippering my own boat! It must had been around 4pm and the sun was nearing the horizon. The scenery on the Crouch was just beautiful. But the noise of the engine was disturbing the tranquility. Despite the almost complete lack of wind I decided to get the sails up. That's why I got a sailboat. And so I did. After taking off the mainsail cover and the ties I did struggle a bit to figure out which is the main halyard. Such was my experience on boats. When I finally did find it and after I created a bit of a mess with the other halyards/sheets, I looked up the mast with pride, joy and satisfaction..

..which instantly evaporated when I saw the blue sky through a 2 foot tear on the sail. But, he had said the sails were fine! Did he lie? Emma said she heard the sound of something tearing as I lifted the sail... I was disappointed for a while but then thought that it's not a biggie - it can be repaired - just another job to add on the list.

So I unfurled the genoa and pretended to be sailing in the non-existent winds. The calmness drew us in and we drifted with the falling tide. By the time I realised it was getting dark we had already drifted quite some distance from the entrance to the creek where the marina was. And it was near low tide meaning that we may not be able to get in as the boat has a substantial draft of 5foot 6inches.. On the way back, against the tide, we were making little progress. It did get dark and we could barely see where we were going. At the creek entrance we must have had skimmed the mud as the boat started turning round instead of going straight. But we did not get stuck so we did not have to panic.

But I have to say that I was quite worried. What with the darkness, the falling tide and my complete inexperience, so many things could go wrong. When we reached our berth I thought I'd have an easy time. How wrong I was. It's a finger berth facing the shore which at low tide is probably less than two boatlengths away. No problem, I thought; I'd make a 90 degree turn and then make a few maneuvres forwards and backwards and get in. And that's what I did. But when I tried to go backwards I discovered that the boat would only turn to starboard!! I was trying for more than 10 minutes pushing the engine hard but drifting away the more I tried. I thought it was the tide that that was too strong and prevented me from turning to port when going backwards. The engine was making a lot of noise and probably woke up our neighbour, two boats to starboard side.. Finally, I managed. I don't know how but I certainly was in a state of controlled panic.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

How not to inspect a sailboat

As you have probably figured out, I had not viewed the boat at the time I bought it. I just relied on the seller's word. If what I saw did not match what he told me over the phone, I had the right to refuse to honour my part of the deal. Plus I thought it was a bargain at that price so didn't want anyone else to bid for it.

The seller of Ting-a-ling could not make it the first weekend which was quite disappointing as I was dying with anticipation to meet my new "object of desire". (perhaps object of desire is an exaggeration).

We arranged to meet the following weekend, 10 days after I had bought her on ebay. It was mid December 2009 and all of you that were in the UK at the time may remember the record-breaking snowfall around that time. The view from the train window was wonderful as Essex was covered in snow and the river Crouch curved a silver line through the white fields. But enough with the poetry.

I had previously gathered information about what to look out for when buying a boat. My ex-boss, a keen sailor insisted on three things: keel, sails, engine. Considering she was on the water a full inspection would be impossible.. To cut a long story short, the only thing I got to see was the engine...

The deck was covered in snow and there was no way I could inspect it. It was too cold to even think about unfolding the sails. The keel bolts were not accessible as the seller had made a new cabin floor which we could not lift as it was quite snug.. Suspicion mounted.. The starboard side of the main bulkhead was quite rotted and the starboard lower shroud chainplate knee had fully rotted away. Plus, there was quite a bit of water in the bilge. I had serious doubts that this boat was a real bargain. Emma loved it. In the end, I thought, what the hell, it may need some work but it's definitely got potential. And if I didn't buy her, who knows how long it would take me to buy another boat. So I just paid the money and bought her. There was quite a bit of documentation going back to the original registration in 1969..

I got myself a bargain! Or did I ?

As I said before, you may find a million (or was it zillion) reasons not to buy a boat. Conversely, you can find as many to buy one. Here was my excuse:

As I said, the T24 was offered with a six-month paid marina berth which, alone was worth nearly half the price of the boat. And the fact that I did not have to find storage or arrange mooring straight away gave me peace of mind. It also came with a 1996 Yanmar 1GM10 engine which I think goes for about another half of the total amount I paid. So even if the boat was in a really bad state, I'm still not going to lose a lot of money. And according  to the seller, the hull, sails and engine were all in a pretty good condition,

I got myself a bargain! Her name is Ting-a-ling. If you've met her before, please drop my a line.