How many G cramps to hold a boat together?


The two halves of Riff Raff are being glued together as I write (that’s the deck* and hull** bottom, not bow*** and stern**** sections nor the port and starboard sides****).

I learnt of this almost by accident and immediately commissioned Jamie (the Works Manager) to take some photographs. They’re all mostly of G clamps, like this one:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It looks as if the compass, bilge^ pump and some sailing instruments have been installed and the winches on top of the cabin. The galley^^ is not yet complete and the cubby holes in the sides of the cockpit coaming have not yet been installed. I hope they’re not forgotten…The rectangular holes in the sides of the cockpit are lockers that will eventually sport lids and the round hole in the cockpit sole ^^^ leads to a tank where the water ballast ^^^^ resides.

Jamie, Thanks for the photo’s! And I think the answer to the question above is “lots”.



*Deck – the bit that keeps the water out of the hull**

** Hull – the bit that makes the boat float provided it’s not full of water see* above

*** Bow – the pointy bit at the front

**** the less pointy bit at the back

***** left and right (or red and green******)

****** the colour of the navigation lights for the appropriate side

^ bilge – where the water goes (eventually) if the deck (see * above) leaks

^^ nautical term for kitchen

^^^ Cockpit sole = eg the floor of the cockpit

^^^^ ballast – a heavy weight to help keep the boat upright – not to be confused with crew.

I’ve run out of suitable indicators (as I can’t make this text do superscripts) so will befine crew in a later post…

Just Checking up

I paid a visit to Swallow Yachts last week. The designer was busy so I snooped around the “yard”. However, his spies ( aka loyal employees) had seen me and I was soon “accompanied” to the office, where we had a discussion about the finer points of the specification.

The layout of the “galley bulkhead” was discussed and photographed. 20180216_101230 (Medium)Perhaps I should offer an explanation. One of the “improvements” (I leave the assessment of this to later) I want on Riff Raff is a small bulkhead* between the forward end of the galley area and the after end of the forward port bunk. The idea of this is to stop spilling hot water on the occupant** of the bunk and to provide some shelf storage space for some of the galley related clutter (like plates and mugs). The photograph was to illustrate to the designer the nature of the stuff to be stored on said shelf. As with all these half thought out ideas it was immediately obvious the layout wouldn’t work and the order of storage would have to change……

Then it was off (officially) to the shed. Here, John was hard at work fitting something to the “lid”***.


The designer decided to help, too.


It was pleasing to note that there were three new BC23’s in the works:


Lady G (in the foreground) seems very posh. Teak top rail and rubbing string and a teak moulding round the top of the cockpit coaming. Riff Raff is already looking up to her name!

Then off to the other shed where the designers “secret” project is taking shape. Cameras and phone were banned (no, not really) – I understand all will be revealed in April……

I also noted that there were 3 of the 26 footers in for repairs or modification as well and the usual sprinkling of BRe’s and lesser fry (there, that’s upset most of the Swallow Owners in one sentence!)



Footnotes ****

* Translation for non sailors – Bulkhead = wall – I’ve no idea why

** Not a serious problem, there are unlikely to be any overnight occupants – see my aversion to crew in “Vagabond wanders around Britain”

*** At the moment, Riff Raff consists of two separate composite mouldings – a bottom bit (the hull) and the top bit (or “lid”) which will form the deck and cabin coach roof.

**** For the writers of academic papers, remember Notes are included in the word count.


The Build has commenced!

Swallow Yachts have started to put together the various pieces that will go towards RIFF RAFF (should her name be in CAPITALS? – answers on a post card please) so I’m off to furthest Wales tomorrow to check it out. Pictures next week perhaps.

I see the wind will be westerly Force 4, gusting F6 tomorrow. The journey along the M4 is going to be slow and noisy! Martina (the doughty Yeti tow car)  is not   exactly a streamlined shape – better than a brick but not as slippery as an F1 machine – so we’ll have to take it relatively slowly (at least around the real speed limit) and hide behind the shield of the odd lorry or two to give her a bit of a breather.

I’ve filled the Ipad with a pile of POD casts that I need to catch up on and it’s fully charged so I shouldn’t be lost for things to think about whilst on the way…..


Gotta Picture!

A call to the boat yard (eg the shed in the field next to the Teifi estuary) reveals that Riff Raff has been delivered. Or, at least, the hull and deck have arrived. Lara (who is really in charge) has sent me a picture:

The Bare Hull

Isn’t she clean!

Notice that the trailer is new – this means it’s not Terence but one the yard has borrowed for the time being. Now there’s a mystery – why haven’t they put her on Terence – he (it – se previous posts) was left at the yard a couple of months ago. I’m a little concerned that he/it might have been sold  – the works “Christmas do” is looming…….

Relax – it’s just a joke, Lara assures me he/it is still there. I’ll find out soon, I’m going to make a visit to make sure the build specification is really agreed.

Oh, and by the way,  I’ve purchased an outboard for Riff Raff – another Mercury I’m afraid. Now  what am I going to call it (Freddy2, Tribute (Band)?

Neither seem right. I note some web site or other claims that Mercury was the Roman God of ‘shopkeepers and merchants, travelers* and transporters of goods, and thieves and tricksters’. Seems quite appropriate to power Riff Raff when the wind won’t blow. Perhaps it should just be named god with a small g: this might become useful in frequently used phrases such as  ‘Oh god just start will you’, ‘O god, why have you stopped’ and so on and  on. It’s bound to offend someone too.


* It must be a Web site using American rather than English. What happened to the 2 ls in traveller?


Orders Orders (2)

I suppose the title of this should by choices choices. Now Riff Raff will need an engine. We don’t want to be drifting about at the mercy of wind and tide too much – do we?

The cunning SNA* in charge  of the team of designers at Swallow Yachts has planned for this eventuality by leaving a well in the back of the boat. This well is open to the waves but- don’t worry – the boat won’t sink because the well is  entirely surrounded by bits of the boat that are above the (normal) waterline. A large plank sits across  the front end of the well – just the place for an outboard engine.  Once clamped in place, the whole engine can be swung down so that the propeller  sits in the waterm making the boat go when the engine is running. Once you have got where the skipper wants to go (or when he (it usually is a he) deems there is enough wind to make sailing possible, the engine can be stopped and swung out of the way, leaving a large whole in which the water can slop about.

This causes drag . Drag is something no one wants, so the hole has to be stopped up with something. The SNA’s solution is a set of flexible flaps, which are pushed out of the way when the outboard is lowered into position and “spring back” into place once it has been lifted.

At least, that’s the theory.

Where was I? Decisions on engines. Clearly, from the above it has to be of the outboard type., otherwise what be the point of the well and the transverse plank (don’t forget the flaps). The SNA recommends I should choose one that produces 6HP and of course it has to be a four stroke.**

There are a whole gaggle of manufacturers, Some seem to make the same engine as other with just a different logo on the front. Vagabond had one carrying a badge labelled “Mercury”. It seemed to work alright, ran most of the time when it was wanted and only sulked once or twice but (fortunately) not in “pretty dicey” situation. ****  So I think I” stick with the brand and I’ll call it Freddie 2.

I suppose I could go electric …..

* TLAs explained

ONA Ordinary Naval Archtest (See SNA, below)

SNA : Senior Naval architect – Swallow Yachts only has one ONA, so he (it mostly is a he) has to be SNA

TLA Three letter abbreviation

Other footnotes

** Two stroke engines are light, easy (ish) to start), and mostly reliable but leave messy trails of oil behind them at all times. This is now considered a BAD thing and new ones are no longer available in Europe.*** In comparison  4 stroke engines are heavy and can be bxggxxs to start. But the oil within them is self contained so, apart emissions of CO2  and (no doubt)  oxides  of nitrogen and various particulates ,  are environmentally cool.

*** At the time of writing the UK is sort of semi detached but still part of Europe (I think).

****British code for being in real trouble.

Specify Specify (1) – The Sails

Vagabond made do with the standard two sails. A diminutive jib (the one at the front) and a large main (the one on the back of the mast). This was great in most instances but in light airs and downwind her performance was not that spectacular (it might have had something to do with the helmsman too….)

Riif Raff will be superior and have an extra sail which will be- an alternative to the jib in the right conditions . This third, lightweight, sail is known as an asymmetric (or a poor mans spinnaker). We should now go faster downwind in anything under a force 2 – assuming that I can eventually successfully hoist the thing – for they can be tricky to “fly”.

It’s made of several shaped panels in a specific layout: these can be of different colours. One is allowed a choice of three different colours plus white.

The flower farmer, now returned from Nova Scotia and living in the Borders* as a Shamanic Practitioner and author  (see her web site at  Plant Spirit Healing  ),  is the artistic one in the family. She has produced four versions of the pattern , shown below. Sadly her drawing programme has developed a flaw (or is it a bug?, or a glitch? or even a branch?) and the top quadrant of each has not been populated with the colours (or so I’m told).

RiffRaff spinnaker

Top left has it for me. Bottom left would be appropriate for a boat called   ‘Dennis the Menace” and bottom right has  “Super Hero” written all over it.

Now it needs a name….



*The Borders – the beautiful land between England and Scotland,  with the River Tweed running through it. Famous for the lawless nature of it’s peoples,  the Border Reivers, until a few of hundred years ago, it has been relatively peaceful since the Act of Union in 1707.  In this era of Scottish Devolution and Brexit will it remain so?

Orders Orders

The trouble with buying a boat.

If one chooses a second hand boat (sorry,  pre-owned as one really no idea how many owners have been involved) is precisely that. Were they all out and out racers, wearing everything out a super high speed. Perhaps they fancied their chances as rock or sand bank dodgers who may have been more or less successful – did they revel in surviving force 8’s on a regular basis or  sail sedately from one marina to the next, anticipating the next G & T? Was he/she  (it usually is a he) pride himself on his d.i.y.  capabilities and was his pride justified?

One knows none of this. There might be a sailing log which the owner might share with you – you might find a blog he/she has been silly enough to write. Either may or may not be true. In short you are in the territory that Donald Rumsfelt described as that of unknown unknowns.

Of course, one may have watched the boat with interest for several years and be on nodding (or even drinking) terms with previous owners.

None of this matters. What ever the situation the new owner will inevitably find something about the boat that he (it usually is a he) WILL NOT LIKE.

If, on the other hand, one chooses to buy a new boat, one only has oneself to blame (or the yard, or the weather). One does get the opportunity to have a boat built to ones’ specification. One has to, because the offer of a boat in  “sail away” condition usually means that it does not have any means of propulsion apart from the sails  and usually has no means of securing it on good old terra firma. Pas de l’ancre*, pas de ligne d’amarrage as they say on the other side of La Manche (where you’ll end up without either item).

So one has the delight of  SPECIFYING  what one would like on the vessel, only to find out that the money tree needs shaking some more.

That’s where we are at the moment. Doing the specifying that is, we’ll worry about the money tree tomorrow.

* Reminds me of a Goon Show joke (that shows my age)

They are at sea:

Neddy “let go the anchor”

Sound effect “Splash”

Neddy “Shouldn’t that have been tied on?”

Eccles “Yeah – it was no good anyway – it sank”