These are some of the boats I have owned, shared or sailed in.
HAMBLE RIVER 1946-1949
My first boat was a 14 ft wooden sailing dinghy (shared with my brother Geoffrey). Bought for us by our parents, the longest sail we did in her was the delivery trip from Lee on Solent to the Hamble River.
I cannot remember her name (if she ever had one). She was a heavy, traditional clinker built centreboard dinghy, with a single lugsail on an unstayed mast, and varnished inside and out. She leaked like a sieve, mostly from the stem but also from the centreboard case. My mother had taught both my brother and myself to sail on a small boating lake in Parkstone Park (near Poole, Dorset) during World War II. It was still possible to hire a sailing dinghy for an hour or so during that period of the war.
My brother and I had a great time in her, working the tides on the Hamble River (which run fast), upriver past Bursledon and on to Botley, sailing round the T.S. "Mercury" which was the converted H.M.S. "President", a Naval Reserve drill-ship. In those days there were far fewer moorings, no marinas, and the few boatyards working at the war's end were still building wooden boats.
“ Strato-Cu” was owned by my parents and kept on a mooring in the Hamble River upstream from the RAF Yacht Club where the dinghy was stored. The Lloyds Registry of Yachts for 1950 states she was registered at Southampton, Reg. No. 6342. Strato-Cu is short for Strato-cumulus clouds. These clouds are often seen at either the front or tail end of worse weather, as her previous owner was an RAF pilot; this might have had something to do with her name.
She was a sloop, carvel built in 1939 by A. V. Robertson & Co., in Woodbridge, Suffolk, and was 22’ 6” overall. She had a Stuart Turner R3M 1½ hp single cylinder two-stroke petrol (gasoline) water cooled engine. It was my job to keep this nice and shiny. She had been stored under cover during the war years and suffered no damage. There were no electrics, and no marine toilet. A galvanized bucket was provided with a lanyard which was passed up the fore hatch for disposal over the side. Times have changed!
With my parents, my brother Geoffrey and I sailed all over the Solent, which is the strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland. We once spent a few stormy days tied up to the Town Quay in Poole Harbour, waiting for the weather to improve. We must have had a battery-operated radio for listening to the BBC weather reports. Many years later I saw her on her mooring near Porchester Castle outside Port Solent Marina, looking very well cared for. I heard that a Camper & Nicholson shipwright had restored her.
My parents replaced her with "Trintelle". She was a 29 ft steel hulled long keeled masthead sloop, designed by E. G. van de Stadt and built by the Anne Wever yard in Holland. These yachts were also built in grp by Tyler Yachts and known as Trintella's. The name "Trintel" is derived from a sandbank off the Enkhuizen coastline of the Netherlands. Why the designer ever chose to name a boat after a sandbank we shall never know!
CEYLON in the 1950's
"Gigi" (with Kit) was a Heron sailing dinghy. She was 11’ 3” long with a beam of 4’ 6” and had a sail area of 70 sq. ft. Built from a plywood kit from Bell Woodworking in Leicester, and designed by Ian Proctor, she was a smaller and lighter version of the Yachting World GP14. Her length was dictated by the need to get the bottom and side paneling out of two 6 ft long plywood sheets. The mast and gaff were 10’ 8” and 10’ 4” long respectively, so they could be stowed inside the hull.
Kit and I built "Gigi" in a bedroom in our bungalow on Cannavarella Estate, Namunukula. We refreshed ourselves with cans of Fosters Lager. When finished the centre post of one of the window frames had to be sawn out to get her outside. She had varnished insides and fore deck with a yellow hull and "Gigi" in the correct script in red on her varnished transom.
Our maiden sail was on the Nuwara Eliya Lake (elevation 5500 ft). After this we trailered her to the beaches on the east coast several times. On one occasion a wheel detached itself from the trailer in the middle of the jungle. I do not remember how we recovered both the trailer and the dinghy. I got a 'Seagull' outboard motor for when there was no wind. Does anyone remember these? It had a two stroke motor which ran on a 10:1 mix of fuel and oil, so it was oily to use and could be temperamental to start. You may find this YouTube link interesting, showing how it was started. Instructions for starting. So you see that one had a close relationship with one's Seagull!
"Gigi" was followed by an Enterprise plywood sailing dinghy bought from Donald (Kit’s brother). Like all Enterprises she had a blue sail, was 13’ 3” overall with a beam of 3’ 3” and designed by Ian Proctor, who also designed the larger GP14 dinghy which at one time was very popular. We sailed her at the Darrawela Sailing Club situated on the Castlereagh Dam lake, not far from the tea estate I managed. Most weekends were spent sailing or racing her. Practices were on the Saturday, handicap races on Sunday, followed by a curry lunch in the Clubhouse.
I crewed an Enterprise for Ray Wijewardene in the International Enterprise Championships at Harwich, Essex, in 1971, where we had the honour of representing Ceylon. Ray was an experienced helmsman and had represented Ceylon, sailing singled-handed Finns in the Olympics. He had arranged for the loan of Ian Proctor’s own dinghy which we picked up from his yard in Richmond on the banks of the Thames. When we got to Harwich we found literally hundreds of Enterprises and their crews from all over the world. Crossing the starting line was intimidating, but I remember we came somewhere in the first 30, so we were able to celebrate suitably at the after race party.
Back in Ceylon we had the use of Roger Somerville’s ski boat “Disco Volante”on the lake. She was a locally built fiberglass dinghy with a 40 HP Evinrude outboard motor. Water skiing was fun on the lake in the early morning as usually there was little or no wind, perfect for water skiing. I recently found out that the Darrawella Sailing Club was closed in 1973 and the Club's starting bell is now in use by the Ceylon Motor Yacht Club.
BAHRAIN in the 1970's
15 ft Dell Quay Dory This was a good runabout and a good ski boat. Although heavier than a similar sized Boston Whaler, with a 40 HP outboard motor she planed quite well with two up. We used her for trips to nearby islands and sandbanks for picnics, sometimes in conjunction with friends in the Royal Navy. These picnics were called "Banyans". Some Googling turned up this: " I think a banyan is an adjective (as in banyan party) and it derives from the religion of the Bannyans or Banians (a Hindu sect) who are not permitted to eat any meat, thus (Royal) Navy meat-free days were called banyan days, then they started saving meat from other days to have a beach party on the meat-free days."
The 11 ft Topper was a lightweight polypropylene sailing dinghy, also designed by Ian Proctor in 1977. Sail Area: 218 Sq. Ft. At 11' long, the Topper was designed to be carried on the roof of a car.
She came with a serious leak which I was never able to cure, so that the hollow interior slowly filled up with water. She didn't quite sink, but it was only possible to sail downwind. As there were no paddles, this sometimes meant a return after dark.
The Hobie 16 cat was great fun, with a sail area of 218 Sq. feet and a length just over 16 ft. In a good steady breeze one could fly the upwind hull.
"Gulf Breeze" was a 34 ft fast cruiser (shared with fellow pilots Brian Holloway and Pete Thornton). She was built for the Italian fresh water lakes and had two Italian BPM 6-cylinder petrol (gasoline) engines fitted with twin barrel Weber carburetors. The aluminium cylinder heads corroded in the seawater, so she had serious overheating problems!
She had been imported as a toy for a member of the Bahrain Royal family and had been much neglected. When we rescued her one of the prop shaft brackets had been wrenched away from the hull, probably by running her aground at high speed. But we had contacts in the Royal Navy and were given much help in repairing her.
We had some good fun with her as when both engines were delivering full power she was capable of pulling six water skiers at once. However, at that time there were severe penalties for going too far from the harbour, and trips at night were forbidden. Most of the south of the island was off limits to foreigners at all times, the Bahraini sheikhs had (have?) a habit of abandoning their once-lived in palaces when the head of the family died, leaving everything behind.
Chichester Yacht Basin, Hampshire
"Quartet" was a Westerly 28 sailing sloop (shared with British Caledonian pilot Roy Linnington and his children in 1979). She was 28' 3'' overall, with a beam of 9 ft and only drew 4' 4''. She was fitted with a 7hp Volvo MD1 diesel, and had a dinette and two quarter berths We sailed her all around of the Solent, getting to know the ways of the double tides there, which result in unusually prolonged periods of high water.
Gosport and Portsmouth
"Red Shift" was a Sadler 32 sloop (with Jean). She was designed and built by David Sadler in 1981 and is a modernised version of a Contessa 32. We bought her in 1983 from David Burnett, who was an amateur astronomer, hence the name and the fact that she had a red hull.
The delivery trip from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex to the Camper & Nicholson marina at Gosport was in the winter of 1983. It was a very cold trip! We spent summers sailing all over the Solent and to Cherbourg, St. Vaast, St. Malo, Morlaix and Lezardrieux. Also the Channel Islands, Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey and St Vaast. Jean recalls that one time we had a very rough trip from St Peter Port, Guernsey to Dartmouth. The pleasure of tying up in the Dartmouth marina I can remember to this day. The bliss of hot showers and then breakfast!
"Regard". In the summer of 1993 I was asked whether I would like to skipper a 54 ton Brixham trawler ketch owned by Michael Pearson, a member of the Square Rigger Club. Like all Brixham trawlers she was of wooden construction, ketch rigged with a long bowsprit that could be hauled aft and stowed when in harbour. On the main mast she carried besides the mainsail, a square-rigged topsail and two or three jibs. The main and mizzen sails were of course gaff rigged. She had a pale blue hull and plenty of varnish! She was 75 feet long, including the bowsprit.
I found her lying in St Katherine’s Dock in the Port of London, just downstream of the Tower of London and London Bridge. With the help of Hugh Illingworth and the Square Rigger Club I was able to assemble a wonderful crew; the plan was to sail her to Cowes in the Isle of Wight for a Parade of Sail where we would be met by the owner and other VIP’s.
We sailed down the Thames past Greenwich and then turned south, passing the North and South Forelands and into Folkestone marina for the night. The next day was a long one, along the south coast and eventually into the Cowes Yacht Haven marina. (I was suffering bad toothache and had the offending tooth quickly wrenched out by the nearest dentist).
The Parade of Sail went very well. We had a timed start, turning to the west once out of the river. We were one of the larger boats and in the lead with the whole pack following. We were being carried down fast by the tide and judging when to turn back towards the finish was difficult. However we went about in more or less the correct place, being enthusiastically encouraged by the owner to blow the foghorn long and loud to warn the dense pack of oncoming vessels to keep out of our way.
I do not remember much about our return trip except it was uneventful. I have good memories of my fantastic crew, who were all members of the Square Rigger Club, and were extremely knowledgeable about sailing a square rigger (and put me right once or twice).
This contribution is from Paul who was a member of the crew:
Some years ago (1990?) I was invited by Ian to be part of a crew to take a sailing Brixham Trawler “Regard” from St Catherine’s Dock to the Isle of Wight to take part in a Cowes Classic rally. Regard was built in 1933, originally named “Our Boy” and changed to “Regard” in 1954. Wooden boats have a ‘character’ all of their own, some love it, and some put up with it.
Regard had been in dock for several years, and was suffering from a lack of maintenance and a surfeit of decay and dirt. It was arranged to take her out onto the river (Thames) for a shakedown trip before venturing out to sea.
I really don’t remember much about it apart from getting very dirty, as everything we touched was covered in grime. Wood swells when it gets wet and this is what makes wooden boats waterproof. If the wood dries out, it shrinks and gaps appear between the planks. Gaps had appeared in the deck and all that part of the hull that is above the static waterline whilst just floating in the calm waters of the dock.
The original design had not given a lot of thought to an engine, the consequence of which was that the propeller was to one side of the substantial rudder. This meant that turning to port was inevitable and rapid, whereas turning to starboard was recalcitrant and slow. This made the tight manoeuvring required in St Catherine’s quite interesting, and I was only watching. Once out on the river, we motored down river towards the sea.
As soon as Regard started to move on the water and roll in the wake of other boats, the water started to come in. Lots of it. We had to clear everything away from the hull sides and man the pumps. It wasn’t threatening but it was wet. We also found that the deck leaked. In heavy rain lying in your bunk getting dripped on is not fun.
I remember Ian remarking about: “That’s the reason we have fibreglass boats”, and some die-hard traditionalist crew members muttered about his suitability as Captain if he didn’t appreciate the ‘Character’ of the boat. The other members of the crew were two guys with a vast amount of experience, tales and fun, and one know-it-all who actually knew nothing, nearly ran us onto the well marked submarine defenses off Southsea.
On the trip around Kent we moored up at Sheerness for a couple of nights due to a storm in the Thames estuary . There were some giant concrete floating pontoons (very industrial) and on the other side of our pontoon was a real traditional Thames sailing barge, complete with Aga cooker and barrels of beer who were very hospitable to us.
We also found that old engines in boats can give up at any time. (The engine was a Parsons & Norseman 105 HP diesel - age unknown! - Ian). I earned my keep by making water pump gaskets out of brown paper with a ball pein hammer. It was a great trip for me, and I got treated to a most spectacular thunderstorm at night over a dead calm sea. It was my first sailing passage, as prior to that I had only done day trips. Thank you Ian for the experience.
We stopped in Folkestone on the outbound leg, and also in Eastbourne’s brand new marina. We had engine failure due to a dodgy water pump, one of their guys came out in a work boat to shepherd us in if the engine failed again. (We needed them to push our bows or stern to get us into our berth - Ian).
The sails were tanned, I don’t know what with, but it came off on your hands, and when I rubbed my eye it stung a lot! I seem to remember that the square sails were a pig to raise and lower, but really did push us on downwind.
"Red Shift II" (with Jean) was a Contest 38 sloop. She was built for us by Fritz Conyn, the owner of Conyplex in Medemblik, Holland and designed by Dick Zaal.
Our delivery trip in March of 1987 was from Medemblik on the Ijsselmeer, through several locks including the Oranjesluis, to Amsterdam where we stayed for a night or two in the Sixhaven Marina. Then to Ijmuiden along the North Sea Canal, and so to France. We never returned to the UK in her as we did not want to pay the VAT.
We sailed to the Mediterranean, via North and South Brittany, the North coast of Spain, Portugal and into Gibraltar. We then cruised most of the Med for the next three years; France, Italy (but not the Adriatic), Greece and Turkey. Coming westward we visited Tunisia, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta, Gozo, Pantellaria and the Balearic Islands.
Lungta" was my last boat , a Salar 40 Pilothouse sloop. British registered no: 336544. Her designer was Laurent Giles and she was built in 1968 at the Essex Boatyard, hull No.17.
I bought her from her first owner, Dr. Stoddart (a Harley Street specialist). He lived in a large house with lawns sweeping down to the water's edge where she had been kept in a mud berth in Chichester Harbour for some years. She had not been used for some time, and it was apparent that quite a lot of TLC was needed.
She had a teakwood rudder which had developed some rot from fresh water so I took her across the harbour to the boatyard at Bosham Village (which made the large wooden blocks used in HMS "Victory"). Although the Volvo Penta MD30 engine was in good condition I discovered that the two galvanised iron fuel tanks had come to the end of their life. I replaced them with custom made stainless steel ones.
The delivery trip, with two friends helping, was from Chichester, stopping at Torquay Marina, round Lands End, then to Newquay harbour and into the Bristol Channel to the historical Victoria Docks in the City of Gloucester, via the Sharpness Canal.
I spent two winters in the Victoria Basin Marina, refitting and preparing for ocean sailing. I modernised the galley completely, replaced the rusty old windlass with a new one from Vetus, replaced most of the fresh water system including installing a hot water tank, and did a lot of electrical work.
We then set out for the Med, calling at Salcombe in Devon, the Scilly Islands, and various ports in North & South Brittany. Then across the Bay of Biscay to Bilbao on the coast of North Spain, onwards to Portugal, and into the Mediterranean at Gibraltar.
We spent the next several years visiting the south coasts of France and Spain, visiting many islands along the way and spending a lot of time in the Aegean and on the Turkish coast.
From Jean: " We sailed from Pantellaria to La Goulette harbour in Tunisia. Vancourt was on board and Anne flew in to Tunis where we met her with a placard saying "Red Shift - Crew".
We had docked with a mooring line to a buoy from the bow and then stern on to the quay. However there was nothing to stop up hitting the quay and our fenders weren't enough. A lovely big jolly Tunisian said he would help and then he disappeared.
He came back about an hour later carrying a lorry tyre on his head and put that between us and the quay wall. We had no local money but he wanted a T-shirt and you gave him your Hedgehog Preservation Society t-shirt. No doubt he is still wearing it?"
Eventually we turned westwards, returning to Spain where we wintered in the large marina of Puerto Sotogrande just to the east of Gibraltar. In Gibraltar we spent more time preparing for the Atlantic crossing. Finally we left for the Canary Islands, encountering an un-forecast storm five days out. However we persevered, arriving in Lanzarote very wet and bedraggled.
After visiting Gran Canaria and Gomera Is., we left for Barbados, anchoring in Carlisle Bay, taking some three weeks for the crossing.
Here is the email I sent to friends at that time:
We have had a delay sending this as everything here was pretty much closed up for Christmas. We are sending this from a friendly travel agent's office. There are 2 cybercafes, but both are shut till the New Year.
However we made it! We arrived at dawn on Christmas Eve. The crossing took us 24 days, nearly all of which was fairly hard work, and the constant rolling got a bit tedious. We had everything, including big seas, calms on three days, too much wind on plenty of others, rain squalls, you name it! A "milk run" it wasn't! The "puffy white Trade Wind clouds" just didn't seem to be there on most days... We were short on sleep as we kept night watches, we saw several container ships and tankers, also several yachts. One morning a large ketch appeared on our starboard, kept going and crossed ahead of us by a quarter of a mile, there was no one in the cockpit and no response to our foghorn or several calls on Ch. 16!
We were lucky in that we had no breakages of any consequences, and no water found its way down below. We only caught two fish, both dorado, the second one fed us for four days, we ran out of ideas for cooking it and eventually Debi rebelled from any more fish! We were also lucky in being one of some thirty boats that all checked in to a radio net at midday each day, so we could compare notes on conditions and we also had a met guru who gave us the weather each day. It seems that this is a "EL NINA" which has really screwed up the Atlantic weather.
Anyway it's great to be here, we are at anchor in Carlisle Bay to the south of Bridgetown (the capital). We have met up with old friends and made plenty of new ones as well. The guys that ran the radio net are from Oz and good organizers, they arranged a beach BBQ for Xmas Day in a beach bar which was closed for Christmas, so we had a very good Xmas.
Everyone is very friendly ashore, there is good shopping for just about everything. Yes, we have had several rum punches which are somewhat lethal!
There is no dinghy dock or pontoon, you just land on the beach, waiting for a wave to carry you in. Leaving is more difficult, particularly after a rum punch or two, and with shopping, as it is easy to turn the dinghy over in the surf.
Many thanks to everybody who sent us messages @ Rocketmail. We will try to respond to everyone. Also thanks to Jim KC4AZ and members of Ben's Net for tracking us on the crossing.
We are organizing a party for New Year's Eve, probably at the Hilton Hotel which is on the point at the end of the bay. We expect to leave for St. Lucia about 80 NM away after that, then visit St. Vincent, the Grenadines, & Grenada on our way to Tobago and Trinidad. Carnival there is in early February. Plans after that are rather hazy as we have had conflicting reports about Venezuela.
PS. Torpedo (our cat) didn't really enjoy the crossing, too rolly for her. She became an experienced sea cat, bracing herself on all 4 legs and swaying with the roll without effort. She was good company on the night watches!
After leaving Barbados it was a short hop to St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Grenada, and Trinidad, where we remained for six months. It is a difficult island to leave! Not forgetting Tobago, a day trip along the north coast. Then Venezuela and its offshore islands, Isla de Margarita, a large island with a good anchorage and duty free shops. Other Venezuelan islands we visited were La Tortuga, Islas Los Roques (with good snorkeling), Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba (with excellent scuba diving), then Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman Island, Cuba, and entered the United States of America at Key West.
I sold "Lungta" to Maurice White, a Professor of Marine Engineering living in Norway and sailed her back to Plymouth, Devon for her new owner in the summer of 2006 as the new owner wanted delivery in England.
He has since sailed her from Bergen to the Arctic Circle and back. I am glad she went to a good, caring sailor as I am now a happy landlubber after some twelve years of live-aboard life. Maurice has kept in touch with me ever since, sending me photos and accounts of his annual summer cruises.
Here is a precis of the log of my return Atlantic crossing.
My last sail was a few years ago, when I launched my 10-foot Dyer dinghy at the local public slipway in the St. John's River. She was designed by Philip L. Rhodes in 1934 and is a classic of her kind.