Friday 5 July 2024


A party that considers the ex-Tory MP Natalie Elphicke to be a good fit, but a fair and moral man like Jeremy Corbyn to be unsuitable is not a party that represents me. Nonetheless, I'm very glad to wake this morning to find that Starmer won and the corrupt, duplicitous, divisive, self-serving shower that have abused their privilege of governing our country for the last fourteen years are finally out on their collectively irresponsible ear.

I find it hard to reconcile voting Tory (or Reform, for that matter) with anything resembling a moral choice, but that choice is a necessary freedom of democracy so I try hard not to judge people too harshly on their political views. As individuals, at least. Despite differences in our moral perspectives, what unites us is greater than the sum of what divides us. 

I'm sure I stole that from somewhere.

On a similar theme, I particularly liked the now former Chancellor's parting words this morning:

"This may seem like a tough day for our family as we move out of Downing Street, but it isn’t. We are incredibly lucky to live in a country where decisions like this are made not by bombs or bullets, but by thousands of ordinary citizens peacefully placing crosses in boxes and bits of paper."

Tuesday 2 July 2024


Walking the dog has become something more of an exercise in logistics, of late. Still, it's nice to have company for our daily evening romp around the local park.

The twins are growing like weeds and my daughter appears to be positively thriving on her new responsibilities.

Monday 1 July 2024

meanwhile, somewhere in Upton-St-Leonards

A barn dance. In so far as we were playing in a barn, and some dancing was definitely done.

Friday 28 June 2024

Petrella: refloated

We successfully relaunched Petrella at the beginning of the week. I got both my weekend's gigs out of the way on the Saturday, as previously reported, then Dad and I headed down to Plymouth to complete a few jobs on the boat.

There wasn't actually much to do. Some antifoul on the foot of the skeg and some preliminary investigations into the loose floorboards in the main cabin. The later could have actually waited until we were afloat, and the remedial work that still needs to be done will do just that. Basically, most of the coach-bolts holding the wooden spars in place that cross the bilge and support the floorboards have corroded away, leaving the spars, and therefore the floorboards they support, decidedly wobbly.

Dad, who knows about these things, was highly vocal in his disgust that anybody would consider using bolts of such an inappropriate and inferior grade of metal on a boat, let alone in the wet and potentially salty environment of the bilge. 

To my way of thinking, as they've apparently lasted the last 45 years or so, they couldn't have been that inferior or inadequate, but I will bow to Dad's far more qualified opinion. The bugger now is going to be getting those old corroded bolts back out so that we can replace them with new (and appropriately graded). We removed one, but the rest are a job that will keep for now.

Anticipating an early start on Monday, and the marina being two and a half hours away from home by car, we might have broken a rule or two Sunday evening and stayed aboard whilst the boat was still on the hard. I'm not sure. I didn't ask, figuring it was safer to seek forgiveness than to risk having permission refused.

With a brief pause with her in the slings so that we could apply a bit of antifoul to the base of the keel, Petrella was lifted back in without mishap on Monday morning at 0900. It was a calm, warm morning, and hardly any wind should've made putting her back into her berth simple, but I still managed to overshoot the final turn, which led to the need for some jockeying back and forth on the throttle to get us realigned to enter our berth, and Dad managed to fumble getting the bow line onto the dock cleat. 

However, the calm conditions meant that whilst my mishandling did result in us coming to rest briefly against our neighbour, the fenders were more than adequate for their job, and I was able to manually push us back off, which then put me easily within reach of the cleat at the end of our finger pontoon that I needed to get my midship's spring onto. Once that's done, we're home and safe, regardless of whatever might be going on with the line at the bow.

So not the most elegant of landings, but one achieved without any damage to ourselves or anybody else or any great embarrassment. If only through merit of the fact that it was early on a Monday morning so nobody else was watching.

With Petrella safely back in her berth, we retrieved her freshly laundered genoa back from the local sail makers, stopping at the café opposite their workshop for a quick breakfast, then back at the boat I bent it back on to the forestay, reattached the sheets and furled it away. An easy job as it had been neatly flaked and rolled, and whilst the wind was astern, it wasn't strong enough to actually fill the sail.

Once I'd refitted the repaired binimi and put the cockpit tent back up, Dad jet-washed the decks. Finally, with everything squared away, we were on the road by mid-afternoon and, the traffic light, were home again by tea-time.

There is some kind of juniors' regatta running at the lake this weekend, so the routine Sunday racing has been cancelled. The weather looks very light anyway. We could slink off down to the boat for the day and potter around the Sound, but I'm actually free of gigs the weekend following, so I'm thinking that if instead I spend this Sunday at home and pretend to be domesticated I might actually manage to wrangle a pass for the whole weekend the week following.

So likely just two gigs, tonight and tomorrow, and no sailing for me this weekend. But I did race the Laser this Wednesday evening just gone. A fickle, occasionally boisterous wind and 30°C so no wetsuit, just rash vest, buoyancy aid, gloves, boots and swimming trunks. A lovely evening.

Which made the unexpected capsize both comic and inevitable. It wasn't the warmth of the wetsuit I missed, so much as the padding and protection. In vaulting out of the water and onto the dagger-board to effect the recovery, I managed to take about an inch of skin off my right shin. Just a flesh-wound really, and the capsize didn't cost me a place so much as my poorly managed start had already cost me a few. 

Despite the swim, I still managed a creditable fifth place, out of the twenty-eight boats racing. Which is fine. I was only sailing the Laser because Amanda had been unable to make it this week, so not being in the Albacore, with which we're actually completing for this series, I had no real skin in this race. 

Aside from the that which I left on my dagger-board, that is.

Wednesday 26 June 2024


Actually had a canvasser knock on my door yesterday evening. Well, a leafletter - a polite, well scrubbed young man, handing out little flyers for our incumbent Tory MP. I was in a rush so simply smiled and said no thanks. Anyway, it's not proper canvassing unless it's freezing rain in the middle of December. 

Aside from a single house on Tuffley Lane with its garden fence shrouded in the new mock-nationalist colours of our local Labour hopeful, that's the first hint I've seen around here that there's anything resembling an election coming up in a couple of weeks. On which note I don't know why, but I have a distinctive distrust of any political party that feels it needs to be so unnecessarily up front and centre with our national flag in its branding. It smacks of populism, and that just makes my hackles rise.

I guess I'm a little disillusioned with politics these days. But that's probably a healthy state to be in.

I almost felt sorry for the Tory flyer guy, and wish I'd had a little more time to chat to him. If only to say how I admired his nerve for volunteering as a poster boy for the debacle of the last decade and no, I'd never vote for them but appreciated the effort he'd made in knocking on my door.

Maybe if his candidate Richard Graham defected from the Tories and stood as an independent. I actually quite like the guy, just not his political allegiance, which I can't help but worry could be a direct tell as to his moral character. Or maybe if he went full on political survival mode and switched to Labour. I mean, if they'll take Natalie Elphicke, they'll take anyone these days. Anyone to the far right of the old New Labour's politics, anyway.

The photo at the top was a snap I took of the band that followed us at our first gig last Saturday in Yate. We hung around to watch them as we had an hour to kill before we had to to get to our next gig in neighbouring Thornbury. I took the photo because I was admiring the guy's guitar, a PRS like mine, and wanted to see what model it was; so I zoomed in hoping I could see the branding on the headstock or the detailing on the body. The resolution isn't quite good enough.

But I quite like the photo. Very much captured the mood of the afternoon. It was a great gig. As was the one that followed later that evening. 

Tuesday 25 June 2024


Lottie thinks that since the twins arrived I have been remiss in that my camera lens has spent far too long pointing at them, or occasionally, my boat, and not at her. So, to remedy my apparent misdemeanor, above is a snap taken in the park yesterday, where I walked her after getting home from relaunching my boat.

Actually, I do her a disservice. Lottie thinks the twins are fascinating, gorgeous and lovely, and her favourite pastime when not out walking with me is to sit watching over them, patiently waiting until they're big enough to throw a ball for her.

I will add, just to state the obvious, she is never left alone unsupervised with them. Never leave any dog alone unsupervised with any child.

let the canary sing

“I just think you keep going and you find the little things that are joyful. Things that you think are the absolute end of the world, they are not really, they are just the end of that chapter and there are many chapters in your life. I had a friend tell me that once and I didn’t understand, but I understand now.”

Cyndi Lauper

Thursday 20 June 2024

Petrella: shiny

She's had a bit of a buff and polish this week. Looking forward to seeing her again on Sunday. More so to relaunching on Monday. It will be good to have her back on the water again.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Petrella: high & dry

The weekend's fussing and fettling went well. Lightly rubbed down the copper coat, which for now remains in reasonable shape. After the jet-wash when she was lifted out, it really didn't need or want anything more than a light burnishing with what amounted to a scouring pad.

Scraped the hard growth off the prop, prop shaft, foot of the rudder's skeg and around the engine's water intake. Antifouled the keel and a few patches the copper coat didn't cover. Freed up the paddlewheel of the log so that it spins again. Fully in the anticipation that it'll seize up with growth once more within about a week or two of relaunch.

Was surprised at how easily the copper coat cleaned up. Not sure when it was put on, but it's nearing end of life now. Was dubious about the almost certainly significant cost of replacing it, but having seen how well it's looked after everything below the water line, and how easy it's been scrubbing her off for another season, I'm having a serious rethink.

A local company (same chap that sorted out the forward heads and resealed our aft windows earlier this year) is giving the hull a deep clean and polish this week, so she should look all shiny and new, or as shiny and new as a lady of her admittedly veteran age can hope to be, when we relaunch next Monday.

Fingers crossed for some settled weather. My unintended theatrics at the helm when we moved her to the slip to lift her out last Monday have left my confidence a little unsettled. Which is silly, because it's not like I'm entirely new to this.

But it will be nice to get her back onto her berth cleanly and without mishap.

I haven't opened negotiations with my wife yet, but I'm conscious I have no gigs the first weekend of July. Weather permitting, that might be the perfect opportunity for a mid-season shakedown cruise. Perhaps sneak the Monday off work as well, and stretch the trip all the way out to Falmouth and back.

We shall see.

Monday 17 June 2024


Last Friday we laid my Uncle Steve to rest. The youngest of Dad's brothers; where there were once five now only Dad and Uncle Mike remain. Uncle Steve was a gifted stone mason, an architectural surveyor, and a talented guitarist. He also had a green thumb and kept a beautiful garden with his wife, my Auntie Jo. He had a passion for roses. And good food, he was an excellent chef. And motorbikes.

He died aged 68, which these days feels like no age at all, after a bitter and painful struggle with liver failure that he met with his characteristic grit and stubbornness. 

It was a good ceremony. My brother-in-law James conducted it, and I read a few touching words that Auntie Jo had written. It went well, and we gathered with friends and family at a local pub after afterwards. My cousins and I joked that we only ever seemed to gather together for weddings and funerals these days, and it seemed more funerals than weddings of late. We promised to remedy that this summer. We might, or we might not

I count myself lucky to have a close family. Even if we don't see each other as much as we should or we used to, we're always there for each other when needed.

It's easy to take that for granted. But really, it's no small thing.

Thursday 13 June 2024

The Guardian: Susan Smillie

A link to a post on the Guardian's website that I've just read over my morning cup of tea. It put a smile on my face, so thought I'd share. 

I remember reading Susan Smillie's story, probably in an article on the same website, of how she and her small yacht "Isean" ended up sailing from here to Greece, and have enjoyed many of the photos she's posted of her travels on Instagram, so I'm something of a casual fan.

I'm also quite fond of dolphins.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

great grandad

I've got to admit, I'm not even sure which one he's holding. Think it's Charlie, but could be wrong. As usual. My daughter refuses to let me touch them with either paint or permanent marker. 

I don't think it matters. Which ever one it was, their Great Grandad was enthralled.

So was my brother, their Great Uncle Jamie. Think he got Harry. Could've been Charlie. But pretty sure it was Harry.

I can see we're going to have a lot of fun in the years to come.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Petrella: hard standing

And she's out. 

I made a complete hash of moving her around from her berth to the slip for the lift out. 0800 Monday morning, and a shower had just passed through. Wind was gusting to around 18 knots from the north west, so over the city and onto our port bow as we cast off, which I thought it would make things relatively easy.

I released the mid-ships spring, and Dad slipped the line on the bow. Which then promptly snarled up on the dock cleat before it came clear. I nosed back in, but couldn't get the mid-ships spring back onto its own cleat, so we ended up resting lightly against our neighbour whilst Dad sorted out the tangle and released us.

No big thing, no damage done.

Lines finally clear, I gently eased her back into astern, nudged clear of our neighbour and out of our slip. I'd meant to do my usual turn to port and then reverse down the aisle into clear water, but an unfortunate gust caught me, dampening the turn. I'm not exactly clear on the sequence of events that followed, but I somehow ended up turned 180° but across the aisle, and now fighting against our natural prop walk to try and get her to turn to where I wanted.

What followed were a series of shuffles forward and astern as I tried to get either the bow or the stern to turn into the wind, and we crabbed slowly but inevitably the wrong way down the aisle.

Whilst I'm not seeking to make excuses, the aisle is about 15 meters wide, which is a little problematic when your boat takes up 11 of those meters.

It all turned out okay. At one point somebody from the crew of another boat on the pontoon opposite ran over to stand by ready to fend us off the boats on his side, but short of a catastrophic mistake on my part, I was never really in any danger of shunting another boat, only running out of room as we crabbed our way in the wrong direction eastwards down the aisle before I could get her turned.

But we didn't, and eventually, disregarding the adverse prop walk and just focusing on turning ahead, taking the way off astern, turning ahead again, and so on, I eventually got her lined up to proceed sedately down the aisle to open water, leaving bow first for the first time in our short tenure so far at QAB.

I waved my thanks to the crew of the other boat as we passed. They grinned and waved back.

I reversed up to the pontoon off the slip where we were scheduled to meet the lift to save manoeuvring  in close proximity to the shallows off the university's marine station, as the yard had told me they wanted to take Petrella onto the lift stern-first. The final landing wasn't a particularly elegant piece of boat handling either, but by this point I'd given up on elegance. As soon as we were within reach of the pontoon, I took the stern line and hopped off to secure it. Dad secured the bow.

Everything else went without a hitch.

Despite not having been out of the water for about eighteen months, she's still quite tidy underneath, the coppercoat antifoul still performing well.

We replaced the anodes easily, the anode on the prop-shaft having disintegrated completely, and the one bolted to the hull clearly having given good service. The stainless steel nylocs on the latter made swapping it for a new one very simple.

The headsail had to come down for the duration she's on the hard, so I handed that over to the local sail makers on site to launder for us. If nothing else, it was easier than trying to neatly fold the huge thing for storage by myself. Dad's always willing, but relatively immobile at the moment as he's suffering with his knee. I also removed the bimini from its frame and gave it to them to repair a few seams that have come unstitched.

Next weekend we'll rub over the coppercoat, which seems to be all it needs at this point, and renew the antifoul on the keel and few odd patches on the hull where the coppercoat has had to be removed for previous work, and a company called Choppy Seas is going to clean and polish the hull for me above the waterline, to see if they can't clean up some of the staining and yellowing.

With all that hopefully done, she's due to go back in on Monday 24th. Hopefully I'll make a more elegant job of putting her back in her berth than I did getting her out of it.

July is a crazy month for the band, with seven gigs booked, but I do have the first weekend free so will hopefully manage a trip out to somewhere and back. If workloads with the day job permit, I might sneak a Monday or two off across the month, again to sneak out for a bit of sailing. If we don't have Nikki along with us, I quite fancy just anchoring out somewhere overnight, weather permitting, rather than simply trekking the miles harbour to harbour in Fowey and back as usual.

Then come August, the band goes quiet and Nikki and I have a couple of weeks off work at the end of the month. I'd like to make it around the Lizard to Penzance, but would be happy settling for Falmouth. Of course, we could go the other direction, and head back to Brixham and Torbay. 

But I do love Cornwall.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Petrella: Plymouth Sound local

A good weekend, but to be fair, they usually are. It's an almost routine formula: 

Quiet night in Friday, and by that I mean very quiet. The twins are now home, so if they're asleep in their Moses baskets in the living room, as they usually seem to be, with their mum and their nan watching over them, then any noise in the house is deeply frowned upon and immediately chastised by both. 

"Don't wake the babies!"

So the house is as quiet as a chapel with only the church mouse in residence. Which suits me fine, as I am fond of my peace and quiet. And mum and babies are all doing well. As is their nan.

Saturday was karate in the morning, which I was pleased and relieved to manage without further injury; the kumite (in our style, essentially "light contact" free sparring) seems to have become quite intense of late, and I've been left sporting bruises along with their commensurate aches variously to my instep, hip, and most recently the ball joint of my right thumb. Most of these seem to be the result of clumsy or ill timed technique on my part, rather than actually getting hit.

In the afternoon I had lunch with Nik at our favourite Greek restaurant in town, which was followed by a very enjoyable gig at a club in Cheltenham on Saturday night. 

Sunday morning was an ingloriously early start, and by 0730 I was heading down to Plymouth with Dad. We got to the marina and were aboard the boat just a little before 1000 to find, as hoped, clear blue sky, light winds and a gently rising neap tide.

Boat tent down, instrument covers off, shore power disconnected, lines shortened up. Engine oil checked and topped up, sea cocks opened, stern gland greased, electrics on, wind turbine on. The routine took a just under an hour, and we were ready to cast off.

The first few attempts to start the engine failed. Just a click, as if the battery were dead. Which made no sense, as it should've been charging off the shore power all week.

A pause as we ran back through the routine, making sure I'd missed nothing obvious. Like turning the electrics on. But no, nothing. Wind was picking up nicely, I could hear the blades of the wind generator spinning on its pylon at the stern of the boat.

Back through the starting sequence, and this time the engine started without hesitation.

Uncertain as to why, and a little uneasy, I let it run for a few minutes, then stopped it, and started it again. Again, no problem. A couple more stops and starts, then stopped it and let it stand quiet for fifteen minutes. Through the starting sequence again, and again, it started without any hesitation.

Mystery unresolved, we put it aside, and cast off.

About 8 knots of wind on our tail was blowing us into the berth, so I held her astern against the bow line, removed the midships spring, and Dad cast off the bow. I'd hoped to back out and across into an empty berth opposite and a little to our starboard, but half expected the prop walk to work against me. As it did.

So I turned astern to port as far as I could go without hitting the aisle opposite, then shunted forward, letting the inertia of the boat continue the turn. Back to neutral, centred the helm, checked space behind and put her astern again. Waiting for rudder authority so that I could complete the turn, puzzled as to why we weren't moving back, fed in more revs. And then horror as I realised I was actually pushing the throttle into full ahead.

It's a bit of a hazard with the position of the throttle. It's set up on the bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit to the helm's left, so for throttle ahead you push it away from you to port, and throttle astern you pull it towards you to starboard. It's reasonably straight forward, but clearly easy to muddle yourself when overloaded with other considerations, such as not hitting any of the other boats in close confines around you.

That said, I honestly thought I'd got over that one. But clearly not.

Fortunately, feedback from the helm and the boat not turning in the direction I expected quickly alerted me to my mistake, and I put her hard astern in plenty of time to arrest our forward movement, and so avoid ramming our erstwhile neighbour. Senses realigned, the rest of the manoeuvre completed without mishap and we reversed down the aisle, out of the marina and into clear water.

Dad, coming back into the cockpit from the bow, even complemented me on the departure. When I mentioned my mistake, he was surprised and explained he'd thought it was just confident boat handling and had just assumed it was me being assertive on the throttle.

Just goes to show, appearances are everything. As is not hitting anything.

Out into the Sound, we found a light south westerly, 8 to 12 knots, blowing in from the western entrance, and the flood tide pushing quite assertively against us into the Sound, despite it being neaps. At around around 18°C it was a pleasantly warm morning in the sun, and the wind didn't carry too much of a chill even when you were in the shade of the sail, so for the most part it was tee-shirt sailing weather, although I did keep my fleece handy.

Sails up and engine off, we beat up the Sound towards the eastern entrance, then along the inside of the breakwater over towards Cawsands and the western shore with lots of other yachts for company doing the same thing. The ample short handed tacking practice was good for us. The first few tacks saw me getting the clew of the genoa repeatedly snagged up on the baby stay. 

This used to happen on Calstar until I substituted the two separate jib sheets attached to the clew with conventional bowlines with a single jib sheet attached in the centre with a cow hitch, in the same way I'd rig a dinghy's jib sheet. Petrella's sheets are, of course, the conventional two separate sheets attached with bowlines. I don't think the single line cow hitch solution would work for Petrella, everything is scaled up. I think the increased loading would make the knot almost impossible to loosen and remove at the end of the season. If the knot itself didn't slip.

Turns out that technique is the answer. As it is for most things. For our first few tacks, like the diligent dinghy racer that I am, I'd instruct Dad to release the old sheet as the boat went through the wind and the sail backed, then frantically sheet in on the new leeward side as quickly as I could. Which saw the clew of the sail, with the sheets essentially under continual tension, first hook up on the baby stay, and then once free of that, snag up on the leeward shroud.

So, instead of frantically sheeting in immediately on Dad's release, I instead let the sheet take a little slack, essentially flying the clew of the sail forward a bit and then over to the new leeward side, before then sheeting furiously in. It worked a treat. I'm clearly getting better at this whole sailing thing. One day I might even be good.

Over onto the western shore, my initial intent of bearing away and running back to the other side was complicated by a cargo ship departing and another, with attendant tugs and a pilot vessel, entering the Sound, so we loitered for a while over on the western side of the bay until they both got out of the way, and then turned back for Jennycliff Bay, started the engine (without any difficulty) downed the sails, and, after setting lines and fenders, turned for the marina.

Coming back into our berth was textbook, and more than made up for my letting myself down with our departure. I judged the turn to port just right, the wind on my left shoulder encouraging, if not actively assisting, a nudge astern but with the helm kept locked over just to arrest our movement ahead and tighten the turn, and then finally nudging gently into our berth. I secured and then powered gently against the mid-ships spring, and Dad got his line neatly onto a dock cleat at the bow.

In total, 2 hours and 40 minutes underway, 8.1 nautical miles covered. 

By way of postscript: we plugged the shore power back in, but nothing came on. With the marina's help, found a trip switch gone on the fuse box, flipped it back, still nothing, suggesting it was us that had tripped it. Traced the likely cause of the problem to the boats shore power socket, which is sited on the outside the of the cockpit rope locker. The wiring connections at the back of the socket, which are inside the rope locker, are suspiciously loose. Knocked or pulled loose by our rummaging in the locker, I would imagine, which is a liability we'll have to address. 

We lacked the tools to take it apart and rewire it, so left the boat with the wind generator running and the shore power unplugged. We shall fix it when we return next Sunday, in preparation for Petrella's lift out on Monday 10th and storage on the hard for some TLC over the couple of weeks following. As an aside, I'd originally booked this for so late in the season to coincide with my grandchildren and daughter coming home and the inevitable impact this would have on my sailing. But, of course, they came early.

Anyway, putting the two and two together, I think the engine might have been reluctant to start at the beginning of the day because the battery, which we had thought had been on charge all week, was actually run low as the shore power had previously tripped out. My turning the wind generator on in preparation for sailing put, over the fifteen or twenty minutes we puzzled over it, just enough juice back into the engine's battery to finally get the engine to turn over.

Hopefully, it's as simple as that. Although that does leave me a little worried over the state of the batteries, if they can't hold enough of a charge to start the engine after a few days or so of being off shore power.