Wednesday 27 September 2023

we shall see

We brought Jack's ashes home today. It always stops me dead to realise how such a large personality can be reduced to the contents of such a small box.

Lottie's new life jacket also turned up today. Actually, technically it's a DFD, apparently: a dog floatation device. The size guide suggested she needed an XL. But she's not an XL dog, so I couldn't bring myself to believe it was right and bought an L.

Which appears to fit. But I now worry that it's too small. We shall see.

Dad and I planned to head down to the boat Saturday evening (despite no gigs this coming weekend, family commitments prevent me from escaping earlier), spend the night aboard, work on the various odd jobs that still need doing through Sunday then head home again Sunday evening. I had planned to take Lottie with us.

I've just looked at the forecast. It's changed; it's now dry with 11 to 16 knots from the southwest. Almost perfect for a christening sail out and around Torbay. Which would mean leaving Lottie at home. The ultimate plan is to get her comfortable sailing with us, but first we need to get her comfortable with the boat.

And we need to get ourselves comfortable with the boat.

So we shall see.

I'm currently listening to "I Never Really" by Anna Leone. I'm working from home and the house is quiet, so a little background music always offsets the tinnitus that is otherwise my persistent accompaniment these days. I don't know who she is, why she's in my Spotify library or how she got there. But I'm pleased. 

She has a lovely voice and an obvious gift for crafting a lovely song.

Monday 25 September 2023

Petrella: fettling

Two gigs this weekend just gone; a wedding on Friday evening followed by a pub gig in Bristol on Saturday night. In between that, my brother and I managed to fit in a three hour rehearsal in Bristol with our new friend James, who was standing in for our regular drummer at the Saturday venue.

Both gigs were intense, high energy, fantastic fun, with packed out crowds that danced the night through. By the time I got to bed in the (not so anymore) early hours of Sunday morning, I was quite exhausted.

The alarm going off a couple of hours later to get me up at 0600 for the drive down to Brixham wasn't welcome, but a necessary evil, and the trip down, as Dad was good enough to drive, went smoothly enough.

Sunday's forecast promised gusts of up to 35 knots, so it was a day for odd jobs and fettling, of which there is plenty to be done, rather than a chance to take her out for our maiden sail. That, frustratingly, continues to have to wait.

Dad spend the day on his knees in the cockpit, fitting a socket for the shore-power, whereas I spent the day tracing wires, throwing switches and reading through documents and manuals, getting used to all the various systems we now have to deal with. And trying to find an appropriate home for everything we've moved in from our last boat.

On Calstar, it was a simple case of climb aboard, switch on the engine and domestic batteries, open the engine's seacock, turn the key and go. Oh, and maybe open a couple of seacocks for the heads.

With Petrella, we have the same domestic and engine battery switches, but something else called a cross-bank that links or unlinks the two. Two heads, not one, so double the sea cocks. A Webasco diesel heating system that provides both central heating to the cabins and hot water. Plus an electric immersion heater that also provides hot water if you're plugged into shore power, I think; it might work without shore power too? In any case, unaware that it was a thing, I accidentally left it switched on when I left the boat the week before, so the immersion element has been ticking over all week keeping the water hot and ready for our return yesterday.

Plus of course, a myriad of instruments, one of which was clocking 25 knots true at the top of our mast around lunch time (I love seeing the wind in actual numbers, although, of course, it is also something else to go wrong) and two chart plotters, both of which are linked up to our AIS transponder. The larger, coach-roof mounted one was originally unserviceable; it went black on Rebecca and TJ, the previous owners, and TJ was never able to get it functioning again. 

It did however resurrect itself for me the week before, after I spent a couple of hours randomly punching buttons trying to invoke a factory reset, squinting at FAQ's and Raymarine user manuals on my phone and cursing and moaning at the persistently truculent black screen. I was somewhat relieved and pleased to find it popped back up all ready to go again this week at the push of the power button.

We lifted the cockpit floorboards to take home, so Dad can strip and re-varnish them over the week ahead.

It was a productive Sunday. With the cockpit tent up, the boat is an exceptionally sheltered, snug place to spend a blustery autumnal day by the Brixham seaside.

Dad's really struggling with his mobility at the moment. He damaged himself a while back and (I think) didn't give himself time to rest and heal. We've (finally, no easy feat in this day and age) got him to see the docs, and along with the promise of physio, they've taken bloods to make sure there's nothing more sinister going on, for which we're awaiting the results.

We haven't taken Petrella out of her berth yet, and I know she won't really feel like she's all finally ours until we do. Next Sunday, maybe, but only if the weather is kind, and it's all over the place at the moment. I have to admit, the idea does fill me with a certain amount of trepidation. Which is silly; I've handled boats as big as Petrella before. 

Out at sea and under sail the idea doesn't give me the slightest pause, but the close manoeuvring, out and around the marina and other boats does. With Calstar, she was small enough that I could single-hand her in and out of her berth if I needed to, and if something went wrong whilst Dad was at the helm, I could literally use myself as a fender to hand her off from anything she was trying to bump in to.

Petrella is much bigger, of course. And significantly heavier.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

opposable thumbs

A letter to the Guardian made me grin this morning. In response to an article arguing The case against pets: is it time to give up our cats and dogs? earlier this month. I admit I am terribly biased on the subject, but I do find such arguments puerile, condescending and mildly offensive on a purely visceral level.

That said, I sometimes wonder if dog ownership has become too much of a "thing" in recent years; gone are the days when me and mine could naturally expect to have the park to ourselves on any given evening's walk. Although a side benefit of everybody having a dog now is that they're now quite welcome in most places you go, pubs and many shops in particular. Market forces at work. And were there fewer cats in our street, those evening walks would be easier.

Actually, that's a little obsolete; Jack found cats an offense to the natural order of things, and on spotting one he would turn totally feral, hackles raised, snarling, barking and lunging on the lead like a mad loon. And he wondered why people would cross the street to avoid him? Whilst the cat invariably just sat there ahead of us on the pavement, smirking at the idiot dog and intentionally blocking the path so we'd have to walk into the road to get around it.

Lottie, on the other hand, merely thinks they're cute and vaguely interesting. Which I suspect massively offends and irritates all the cats in our street to no end. 

For the record, I love cats almost as much as I love dogs. And whilst I have been bitten my any number of dogs, almost all by accident, a dog has never put me in hospital. Whereas a cat has.

Anyway, I shall quote the letter on the Guardian's website this morning, as I find myself very much with Mr Nigel Walker from Hutton Roof, Cumbria.

 Your article asks if it’s time to give up our pets. When I did a survey of our dogs and cats, the answer was a hard stare from beside their food bowls. Clearly a no from them. Anthropomorphising animals is always a bad idea. A dog with an outfit on doesn’t care about the outfit unless it’s uncomfortable; all it wants is to be with its pack. Cats are social animals too, and see us as large nurturing sort-of cats with opposable thumbs. Though it might be true that if cats developed their own opposable thumbs, humans would all be dead in seconds.

Nigel Walker
Hutton Roof, Cumbria

(Top photo is Dad's late Bruno, the others all feature Jack)

Monday 18 September 2023


Captain Jack. A giant of a German Shepherd with floppy ears that briefly stood up, true to breed, for a day when he was a small pup, then decided the continued effort wasn't worth it and collapsed, never to rise again. I'd annoy my wife by telling her they were broken, but really thought they were the cutest thing in the world. 

He loved water, had an irrational, baseless terror of bridges. Longest tongue in the world, always hanging out over his characteristically laid-back grin, he was an affectionate cuddle monster ever ready for a hug, adored a belly-rub and loved nothing more than to chase a ball. A loved and loving companion and treasured part of our family for just over a decade.

Ten years and ten months old. We said goodbye to him on Saturday morning. A peaceful parting at the end of a long, slow illness; it was far from unexpected, but it still stings like a bastard. 

We shall miss him badly.

Thursday 14 September 2023

how things go

"selfie": roger gribble

It has been a bitter sweet month so far. On Sunday 3rd September we completed the purchase of Petrella, as planned, and with the help of Rebecca and T|J, the now previous owners, moved her around the corner to her new home in Brixham.

We are, obviously, delighted, but work, band and other previous commitments have kept us from heading down to Brixham since, which although not unanticipated, has been frustrating.

photo: tj cowell

On a more positive note, we sold Calstar at the end of last week, for very close to the asking price, which I actually thought (but allowed myself to be influenced by the broker) we'd set unreasonably high, judging by other boats of the same class on the market.

But I do think Calstar is an exceptional example of her type, and it seems the market bore me out on that.

I shall actually miss her. But she's going to bring joy and adventure to somebody new, so I only hope they'll enjoy her as much as we did.

"selfie": roger gribble

On a sadder note, Dad had to put his old dog Bruno to sleep last week. Just age and failing bones, which I guess get the better of us all eventually. Likewise, our Jack is now on a very rapid decline. Like Bruno, he's 11 now, which is a more than fair innings for a GSD. We've known it's been coming for quite some time, since our vet spotted some irregularities with his heart when he last had his annual vaccinations, almost a year ago now. 

We were pretty sure then, and have become more certain since, that something sinister was going on, likely an abdominal tumour of some kind. But the scans and tests couldn't find it, and there's only so much intervention that's fair with a dog of his age.

He's tired, very tired, but doesn't seem to be in any distress or pain aside from the occasional cough that comes or goes; he still loves a belly rub and still begs by the door for his evening walk. Or the decision would be simple, no matter however hard. And it always is. But he's stopped eating over the last few days, no matter what we try, and we've tried everything, and is visibly weakening. 

I'll admit, I've been finding this week exceptionally hard.

With no gigs, we were hoping to get down to the boat this weekend. But we shall see how things go.