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.)

The rest of the Weekend

Having enticed the readers to Cowes (yes, there are more than one of you!), they might be wondering what happened next. Well, after sampling the empty eateries in Cowes, the following morning (just) we caught the tide for Yarmouth. The wind, which promised to be fair and from the North, as usual had not read the forecast and disappeared completely by about three. (I suspect that some sort of sea breeze effect had vaguely materialised) so Freddy2* was called in to push us to Yarmouth. Passing the odd merchantman,  we arrived at the busy (even on Thursday) marina, missing the ferry on the way in.


There’s something about modern ships – shoe boxes with scalloped fronts and backs. The romance of the sea trade is, I fear, dead. I’m glad I never became a Naval Architect, after all!

After a quiet drink at the Yacht Club, I repaired to Riff Raff for an impromptu repast and so to bed, pondering where to go next. Poole? Bembridge (round the South of the Isle of Wight)? or retrace my steps.

Friday morning came and I woke quite late. That, and the tide times determined our fate we’ll catch the tide to retrace our steps. The wind was from the North again, so we lazily tacked up the Solent to Cowes and resumed our acquaintance with the East Cowes Marina.

On Saturday, I intended to go “home” to Northney, rent a pontoon space for a night, and take Riff Raff out of the water on Sunday. Of course, I hadn’t booked any space anywhere.

Up late again (I wonder why) – even at 10:00 the radio was alive with people trying to book a berth for the night (and it’s not school holidays yet). I set sail, more in hope than expectation, and arrived at the entrance to Chichester harbour just after low water. The wind was light from the South and we drifted in with a touch of help from Freddy 2. Suddenly, Freddy 2 seemed to lose power. I checked that I’d undone the petrol tank vent – I hadn’t so rapidly took corrective action – without much effect. There was a lot of weed about in the channel so it seemed possible that there was some round the propeller. This – in the centre of the narrowest bit of the entrance, surrounded by several wet suit clad “young people”. So, the tiller was lashed and off went the engine – the prop was complete wrapped in some stringy species of seaweed. It took a few minutes to clear it as Riff Raff drifted upstream (I suppose that I should have raised black balls to the masthead but there was nothing appropriate to hand….)

With that mess cleared, we continued sluggishly upstream. On arrival at Northney I discovered that a berth was available and we were soon back on the mainland. I then attempted to lift the centre board, only to find it was jammed down. Of came the cabin table and I peered into the centre board slot. Sure enough, it was full of weed which took some time to clear.

Next morning, Riff Raff was dragged from the briny and now sits on her trailer again, waiting the call of the sea. It might come this week.



Going abroad

At last, a few days without social commitments – such is the hectic life of the retired.  The owners agent is having a weekend “jolly” with the local horticultural society, so I can go to sea with a clear (ish) conscience.

To Northney on Tuesday (just as the new cockpit cover arrives – more of which anon).  Half way there I remember that I have left my important navigation tool (an elderly ipad) on charge in my office. Hey Ho. Riff Raff slides off the trailer with ease and is soon moored alongside a pontoon for the evening whilst I go off to the local chandlers (for a boat hook,  a chart of the Solent and the Admiralty Tidal currents book (the last two of which would have been on the ipad) and then to a supermarket for those essentials that have also been forgotten – cup a soups, cheese, bread and wine. Then to a pub for an evening meal and back to the cabin to study tide atlas and chart – just to make sure that my plan still appeared to work. And so to bed.

Up with the lark (but too late for the 05:30 forecast). The smart phone suggests a quiet day with a NE wind, F3-4 at first, dropping during the day to 2 – 3. So it’s going to be a downwind sail to Cowes – fortunately the tide will eventually be with us.

Cast off 11:00. Freddy 2 takes us out of the marina and into the channel towards the harbour mouth. Up go the sails and, after the mess of reefing lines has been untangled, the main fills and we’re sailing down wind and with the tide towards the entrance of Chichester Harbour, through calm waters (forecast smooth or slight). Out of the harbour into the approaches to the Solent. It’s misty and I fail to identify any land marks. The few way-points that I’set are on the iPad in my study so I set a course to the West. We gently burble along. A large fort drifts past to the South. Oer – it’s Horse Sands fort and we’ve crossed the “submerged barrier”, fortunately without damage.

The wind picks up a bit and we turn slightly to the South and cross he entrance to Portsmouth. Three light towers appear ‘they’re new’ I thought and realised they’d been put in place to help these big new toothless carriers that the RN now boasts. I could see a great block of Naval Grey alongside the RN dockyard wall, –  the main “island” of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Now we’re in the land (sorry sea) of noisy hovercraft and boxlike ferries:


Not to mention AIS collision alerts:P1020735

The danger is soon passed (no boats were harmed in this situation, nor were words exchanged between skippers) and Cowes hove into view. The weather had read the forecast and decided to adopt it – the wind dropped to very little as Freddy 2 pushed us along the small boat channel. We avoided a large ferry and, rather than use the flash Cowes Yacht Haven, we snuck up river, crossed the path of the fearsome chain ferry and puttered* into East Cowes Marina. Riff Raff and I were now attached to the Isle of Wight – we’d gone abroad!

* well, not exactly puttered. Freddy 2 doesn’t seem to do puttering. More like a slightly muted roar.




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.

Riff Raff floats

Latest from West Wales

The lovely Lara from Swallow Yachts (the one who really runs the place) sent me a photo today of Riff Raff afloat. These days, those cunning people at Swallow Yachts make sure that their boats actually float before entrusting them to their future owners. It’s probably called the  f(onp)t* or some such wizzy quality system** acronym. No doubt it’s all written down in the build instructions. Somewhere it will be recorded and I’ll be presented with a suitable print out showing the length of time she was afloat, the amount of water ingress and whether or not this met the specified maximum leakage rate. This will, of course, be included with the signed off build certificate, warranty card and owners manual………I notice the sheep weren’t particularly interested.

Riff Raff gets wet

This is all very well and fitting for the 21st Century but it leaves open to doubt whether or not this test qualifies as the launch? This is serious stuff. If it does, will the certificate show that appropriate libations were made to Neptune, or is he now gritting his teeth in anger, grabbing his trident (or whatever)  and getting ready to launch a flight of vengeful winds and wet fish at her next time she floats into his domain?

On the other hand, she is not yet showing a name, so perhaps he might not recognise her next time.***

I’ll let you know.


*Floats (Owner not Present) Test

** a process whereby a bookfull of written instructions result in the completion of a 25 page checklist confirming that the boat has been built in accordance with the instructions, whether or not same instuctions are correct.

*** Fat chance of that, I thought gods were meant to be all seeing etc etc.