How did it
all start, we used to meet up on a stall on grey mare lane
market, in Manchester about 6 years ago. I think we all met each
other through that market at one time or another, Don turned up
one day and said "I have bought a boat", I think my answer was
"you bought a coat?", "no I bought a boat!" he said.
Well it turned out he bought 2 boats, "no problem where are they Don?" "Barrow in Furness" "its 100 miles away Don" "yes I know its 100 miles anyone fancy a jolly boys outing to see the boats?". We were always ready of an outing to break up the days,
So five of us set out one morning to see the boats, well when we got there we were seeing the boats for the first time.
Even don had only seen the pictures of them on eBay, to say the first boat was a ship wreck might have been a bit insulting to ship wrecks?,
It was more than a wreck and would never see the sea again, mind you where it was we were lucky to see the sea.
To give you an idea of barrow beach ok its not a beach, more of a field that gets wet once a month. the boat was about 800 meters from the water.
It looked like the water came up once a month maybe once a year, so working on it would have been no problem.
Like I said she was well gone but under a wooden cover on the deck, there was an immaculate diesel engine and gearbox and heat exchangers all made of stainless steal.We then turned to the boat next to her this was also in the deal, Now this boat had promise apart from the snapped mast and no engine.
The idea was to use the other boat as a donor for the engine, but sadly there was no where to fit it.
This boat was designed to have an outboard on a type of rail that folded up back into a neat little place for the engine, So that was our first and last time going there don put the pair of them on eBay, We sold each of them separately and still made a profit on the pair of them,
It wasn't long before don got the itch again, he turned up one day and said I have bought another boat.
Don where is it now, we were used to dons exploits by now.
Don seems to go on eBay and change the preferences to distance farthest first for some strange reason,
Cardiff he said, Don its 188 miles from here how are you getting it home,
Well the plan was to sail to Conwy 250 miles by sea, only problem it was October winter was setting in.
Still don had it in his mind he wanted to sail it back and was not taking no for an answer,
Up to this point the rest of the Crew and I say crew?, Had never been to sea well not in a small boat and none of us had the bottle to undertake such a long first trip,
So don made arrangements for his nephew to sail with him back from Cardiff to Conwy,
Me and Alan said we would go with don down to Cardiff, To check the boat out the day before he was going to set off from there, again don or any of us had not seen the boat before buying don was told she was sea worthy?.More about that later?
Well we went down to Cardiff the day before he was setting off back Conwy, the boat was on a swinging mooring about 30 feet out in the closed off bay, behind the lock gates leading to the open sea.
Now to anyone that's not been to Cardiff bay or sailed the Bristol channel that's the little bit of water outside the bay, I say little its one of the most dangerous places around the united kingdom for tides and big waves,
Again more about that later?
We went up to the office of the marina, again this was our first contact with the boating elite?. Yes turned out it was moored at the best marina in town.Full of the type of yachts men that wipe there arses on £50 notes for fun, most of them have never sailed in more than a light breeze in the bay.
Most would never venture out into the sea,
Funny thing is with most of the places we have been seems no ones using the boats for sailing?.
Yes I know for most men its a shed at the end of the garden syndrome,
Well by the look of the boat from 30 feet away, don might need a few more days maybe 2 weeks to sort it out.
First thing he asked was what was the possibility of the boat staying there for a couple of weeks, The commodore or captain or who ever was in charge looked at us as if we were a lump of dog shit on his boots.
We were not the kind of people they wanted in there club, no problem he said you will just but have to join the club.
Now if you have ever seen carry on camping that film springs to mind
The scene where they get to the gate of the campsite and are confronted by the farmer that owns the site, in the film everything was £1 each per person per night per week funny film
Well this bloke was even funnier, £2000 per year you will have to pay in advance.
I had to help poor Don up from the floor, don't know if it was shock or he had a fit of laughter and fell down, ok no problem any chance of a lift out to the boat so we could check it over.
We had made provisions to sail the boat away at least to the council short stay mooring across the bay,
The council moorings are next to the nice big shiny building they have built there, nice place Cardiff shame about the marinas.
Yes no problem if your taking it away go down to number 1 jetty and ill send a man to assist you, like I said we had brought all we think we would need down with us in the car
So we went and got the tools and fuel we thought we would need to get the engine going, the engine was an outboard an old evinrude about 10 hp.
We waited on the jetty I say jetty more like an aircraft carrier, God they have nice jetties down there well they should do for 2 grand a year?.
2 nice men came over in a nice inflatable dingy, Me and Don jumped in and Alan stayed in the jetty, we got out to the boat and both got on
We had a look around the yacht not bad at first sight, so I set about the engine spark plug out give it a few pulls of the starter rope cleaned the plug, then set about trying to start it.
Well it had been sitting there for about a year now so the fuel would be stale, after a few minuets no luck so I pulled out a few tricks of the trade? we had filled up the fuel tank by this stage I took the spark plug back out and dipped it in petrol, and put it back
After about 3 pulls she sprang into a sort of life, chug chug splutter it had been a year and most of the fuel that was already in the Tank was off.
She would be ok with a run, and it would give the good fuel time to come through.
So we shouted over to Alan we are good to go, I said can you drive around the bay to the council mooring and meet us there, I think Alan had foreseen the next bit.
Don did one of his springing jack routines and went up to the front of the boat and let loose the mooring strop, now ill explain just where we were in relation to the jetty the jetty was 30 feet behind us. And the boat was in the middle of what I can only explain as the battle of Trafalgar
There was 20 boats I say boats yachts Big yachts shiny Big yachts expensive yachts
No problem ill just put her in reverse and pull back and make our way along the 30 foot track along the jetty, turn left at the end and go around the armada, well the engine had other ideas when I put her in reverse putt putt stop,
Well unknown to us the wind and what little tide there is in the bay started to push us back to the jetty, great no problem Alan's standing there just throw him a rope,
What rope there's no ropes in sight don jumps inside the boat looking for a rope,
Well the wind had other ideas in stead of sailing to the jetty, it stayed 15 feet from it and 15 feet from the yachts but was still moving FAST, and at the end of the jetty was ROCKS big rocks
The jetty was about 100 foot long and that dam tide and wind only wanted to take us one place, the ROCKS.
Well Don came out with what I can only describe as a rope it was a rope, but the last man to use it was black beard?.
I took the rope and wound it around my arm a few times to give me a decent bundle to chuck to Alan, at this time laughing his balls off on the jetty.
Now I am about 18 stone dry never mind wet and I can throw like a shot putter, now bearing in mind Alan's only 15 feet away 1. 2 .3
This ancient relic of a rope had other things on its mind?, it might have thought it was a bird or a feather.
Might as well had of been, it did feel like I was throwing wool very thin wool at that
it went about 5 feet, no problem ill try again at this time were about 20 feet from the rocks
1. 2 .3 well you guessed it 6 feet this time I am getting better, 15 feet from the rocks and dons pulling his socks off trying to start the outboard, 1. 2 .3 were now ten feet from the rocks still no luck,
Well in what I can only explain as one of them strange slow motion moments I jumped into the back of the boat, thinking about it now I should have jumped for the jetty
I moved Don out of the way ok maybe chucked him out of the way, and gave the engine one last almighty pull
I think if she had not had started the force of my pull would have turned the prop enough to take us across the bay,
She sprang to life a sort of life that only a mother could love?,
But she was running well I looked at Don and Don looked at me I think we both looked for GOD to thank him, in a split second we decided well don decided the easy way would be to plough ok make our way through the armada.
That was the direction we needed to go to get to the council moorings, well God had helped once he must have been sat back laughing his balls off now.
No problem we got through the first 2 nice shiny boats or had we?,
What we did not know was this yacht had a long keel yes you guessed it she picked up the mooring chain for the 2 boats behind us.
Well like I said I had never been on a boat before my excuse, I turned around and said to Don why are those boats following us, well it looked like that to me
The boat on our left seemed to be racing towards us, after about 20 feet Don give the engine a bit more throttle bad idea?.
I don't think there was anything he could have done, it looked like the other boat was trying to Mount our boat if boats do that,
From Alan's viewpoint it must have looked like 2 dogs mating at sea,
Well when the other boat had had its way our bitch decided to slap him and he went off in a huff and a crash?,
We must have slipped the chain off luckily, and he wend back sulking to his moorings I think,
All this time the 2 men were sat on a floating pontoon laughing the socks off, don't think they wanted to get involved.
So off we go to the council mooring across the bay and very nice moorings they are wood structures with power on tap.
They were shaped like a letter e, when we got there I was quite proud of myself mooring the boat up for my fist time?,
Nice and slowly but as we got there don sprung up and made a run to the front of the boat,
And again in one of them slow motion type films he jumped over the front of the boat,
Trying to land on the jetty and grab the rope, only Dons an old man he might have been able to do such super human feats years ago, not this time one leg went over no problem the other leg had different ideas?, he was left hanging in mid air and almost got crushed by the boat
But luckily he survived to live another day.
Well we went home soon after, now tales from the trip
The young lad arrived that night Don had made sure they had provisions for the 300 mile trip,
This consisted of 2 sandwiches and a bottle of water, not one to spend a lot of money Don
And 1 gallon of fuel plus the one in the tank, for some strange reason he had looked up
the spec of the engine and had taken some claim of a forum that it would do 1 hour per litre,
And as he said in his own words we will stock up on the way, funny I have not seen many fuel service stations at sea, nor supermarkets come to think of it.
I forgot to say the day before when we were docked up at the council jetty as we were walking back to the car, we came across a nice man in full captains uniform he was boarding the ferry boat they have there that takes people out of the gates and into the Bristol channel,
what's the weather like out there Don said weather you wont see us out today 20 foot waves out there forecast for a few days he said?,
Well next morning Don and the lad set off about 7 in the morning through the lock gates into the sea,
With the wind in the wrong direction most of the way he decided to use the engine, well abuse the engine full whack for about 6 hours what do think happened then?
Yes putt putt stop out of fuel so he made the decision to beach the boat luckily there was a beach at hand and he went and got fuel, then off they went on there merry way
After about an hour the lad said have you seen inside the boat Don took a look,
Well unknowns to don the previous owner had took the bilge pump out to replace,
But had not put a new one back and had left just the pipe that leads to the pump
lying in the bottom of the boat.
Again not a problem if under sail but when your gunning it on the engine alone, the stern of the boat tends to sink into the water and left a nice tube that sucked up the water and deposited it into the boat, so Don had to block the pipe up and made his way to the first port they could safely get to, then tied up over night and did the repairs
Next day they set off for Swansea well luck was not on there side nor was the wind and I forgot to say the fuel again, but could have just been the engine had decided it was time to go to that engine graveyard in the sky?.
It packed up and would not start and then the sea did the rest the waves as big as houses he said, well there was a port on there map just a few miles away Don got onto the coast guard and asked if the port was open
"What port was the reply"
What map are you using, said the cost guard that port was closed years ago.
There's nothing there now not even a mooring buoy even the light house have been sold for a holiday home, ill send the RNLI out to you they wont be long.
Well about 30 minuets later there arrived 4 nice men in a bright orange rib with a 300 Horse power mariner on the back, the sea was rough by now so one of the men jumped in with Don attached a rope and said where are you going,
Don said we were going here but seems like its closed?.
Yes been closed years he said we will take you to Swansea 20 miles away hold on.
Well as Don describes it they set off at some speed Don said he just closed his eyes and thought of England, funny that he was in WALES
WELL THEY MADE IT TO SWANSEA JUST
The boat was stored there for about a month and transported overland to Conwy cost £1000,
This boat was seal song and it give us loads of experience of sailing and caused loads of headaches, seal song had a lifting keel handy when you hit sand banks, we hit a lot just wind the keel up and away you go to the next one.
A bit like the modern car stop start technology,
Outboards we went through about 5 before we realised you get what you pay for and we were not paying a lot, if you have the money buy a new one and service it when it needs it,
Our final outboard was a HONDA ill just say the others were not Hondas.
Hondas are the rolls Royce of the outboard world silent reliable great on fuel,
This is reflected in the price you have to pay,
But all things come to an end and the season ended to soon for us fair weather new sailors, and the thought of paying for a boat you could not use for 4 months was enough to make Don sell his boat so he did.
Well it must be the thought of not having a boat for a few months that sparks a funny part of a mans brain and we were soon looking for the next adventure?.
And soon along came Gabriella, long keel we had not remembered the last long keel that part of our brains must have not been working, and she had an inboard engine BUT it was a vire 7 petrol
Single cylinder 270cc a bit like putting a lawn mower engine in a articulated lorry, and about as reliable as a stack of jenga stack in a hurricane.
Now this baby could motor well for about 5 minutes at best, but did sail well and we got a lot of experience out of her and fun fixing the engine, we even took the engine out took it home did a service on it painted it and put her back in, lasted about 2 trips then back to her old ways it was 30 years old and had an hard life.
next came dalwitch, apart from the fact we could not even pronounce the bloody name, its a Welsh name a bit like Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch ok if you live there, To us she was the blue yacht.
Still no toilet inside, ass over the side ok that was just Don, we did it the more civilised way bucket and chuck it?.
But she did have a nice diesel inboard yanmar engine spot on reliable, and a deep fin keel
Were not learning by our mistakes yet I see.
Only problems we had were that the front roller furling went on us and we had to order a snap furl replacement from the America, about £500 all in and what a piece of crap to fit.
Instructions say unfold the 30 feet of curtain track that had been rolled up for years and years and it will straiten its self out on a hot day on the jetty only needs about 75f, not much chance of that in the united kingdom standing with 2 billion gallons of cold water coming down from the mountains in Conwy.
And then place the 2 bits along side each other and just snap them together yes right sure,
but we did it and it worked ok,
Our last day out was the most eventful day, a nice sunny day a day when you forget all your troubles and the rules,
Off we set to puffin island sails up going like a steam train wind in our hair well my hair the rest of the crew have about 3 hairs between them.
Well it was time to head back to Conwy and we were late and the quickest route was a strait line, the quickest routes not always the best route at sea FOLLOW the rules STAY in the marked buoys,
Yes we found out after about 10 minutes sea looked perfect calm, well it was only about 4 feet deep
And dropping fast
Conwy has a sandbank outside the mouth of the river on both sides, hitting sand at 9 knots is like someone tying a rope around your body and giving it a tug
Then a big tug
We soon stopped and tried to put the boat in reverse, but to no avail we were stuck fast.And then the panic sets in (looking back we were then in about 24" of scary water it would have not come up to our knees)
But sand is sand is sand
Try asking the Chinese cockle pickers in Morecombe
And when wet could suck you down in seconds NEVER GET OUT OF THE BOAT
So we chickened out and called the RNLI what made it worse was the long keel made the yacht list to one side and seemed more scary than it should have been.
The RNLI came to our rescue, saying that the ride back to Conwy was the scary bit 25knots in a rib, But we survived
Then came the Lady Helen
Westerly Centaur 26ft of beauty with a real toilet in a real cabin,
Now this centaur is a special edition a one off, it has 3 port holes on each side And a Volvo inboard diesel with loads of power, and has a roller main sail that can be operated single handed
the adventure continues
p.s the lady Helen has a bilge keel yippee.