Monday, December 18, 2006

Refit: December update

Above: Chaos reigns below decks!

Work pressures, coupled with yesterday's less-than-sparkling attempt to get to Southampton, conspired to prevent me from going to see how Arabella's refit was progressing. But the yard's bills just kept on coming in all the same, so in desperation today I rushed through my meetings and made time to go and inspect the work done since September.

The refit was obviously going through a 'messy children' stage at the moment, with various people starting and stopping work around each other's progress (or lack of it). But the process was moving inexorably forward, and even in her unfinished state, it was becoming easier to see how Arabella would look when the work was finished.

Much of the interior work shown here was done in September and October, and the focus had now shifted to the exterior fittings. A key issue for me was the height of Arabella's guardrail. The original pushpit and pulpit were in great shape, and the stanchions had clearly been replaced at some stage and were also in excellent condition. The only problem was that they were all pathetically low. This had clearly been done with a view to maintaining the yacht's visual proportions, and it has to be admitted that in that sense, it worked well. But - call me a wimp if you like - I just couldn't see how they would engender any sense of security at sea. I like to feel that I am in, rather than on, the cockpit. I opted to double the height of the guardrail all round.

This turned out to be quite an undertaking. Each of the stanchions had an extension welded on (and the seam polished out for aesthetic purposes). The original plan was to weld extensions to the pulpit and pushpit, too. This worked well for the pushpit. However, extending the lines of the current pulpit would have led to it overhanging the bow by a considerable degree. Apart from looking odd, this would have increased Arabella's length to the extent that my marina charges would have increased. That didn't seem good for my blood pressure. After taking a deep breath, I authorised the fabrication of an entirely new pulpit. It looked the part, but I would have to claw back the cost overrun somewhere...

Once I had checked the work and taken pictures, I sat down and made a list of the other things that need to be done. Once I got back home and typed it up, it ran to four pages. Damn. I'd learned the hard way on this project that planning was everything, so I broke down the list into as many constituent items as possible and tried to put them into some semblance of order, according to their priority. Then I asked the yard to sit down with me in January and work through the list together.

I'm determined to get Arabella back into commission this coming Spring - before I forget how to sail. If all the work can't be done before then, she can go back in the water unfinished and then come out in the high season, when I rarely sail (I hate the Solent when it gets overcrowded in high season) and the yard is quiet again.

Above: New self-tailing winch (note the custom s/s base) and cockpit instrument heads to starboard.

Left: Plastimo Contest compass to port.

Above: View forward, showing an example of the stanchions which have been extended to create a full height guardrail, and the new pulpit beyond

Above: The new pulpit.

Left: New wooden panels to the rear bulkhead. The Studer Innotec MBC battery charger has now been installed alongside the 240V consumer unit (lower background).

Above: A composite photostitch showing the instrument panel, among the debris, awaiting installation.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

An Unsuccessful Trip/"Deep Water"

SWMBO and the kids had left to spend a month in Italy, trailing behind them dark mutterings about the fate that would await me if I allowed work to prevent me from joining them for Christmas. So, having been a good boy and gone into the office on Saturday, what better way to pass a Sunday than to go down to Southampton and check on the boat for the first time since September?

Work had been especially heavy throughout the autumn, coupled with which I had picked up some kind of chronic cough which kept me close to the office or home. Now, feeling increasingly on the mend, I realised that this was the one and only chance I was going to get. As an added bonus, the movie Deep Water was showing at the Harbour Lights cinema in Ocean Village, so I could kill two birds with one stone and catch the movie too.

Normally, I get the train to Southampton and take the pushbike to reach the marina from the station. For whatever reason, I chose to take the car. Big mistake. The traffic making its way south-west out of central London was horrendous. I found myself in a seemingly endless snake of traffic making its way through Battersea at two miles an hour. I was just debating pulling a U-turn and heading over to Waterloo to do the sensible thing, when I drove, at a heady 10 mph, over the kerbs of one of those silly little islands that they put in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I winced as first the front offside wheel, then the rear one, graunched over the curb which felt like it was at least six inches high, and crashed down on the other side. A grumbling noise and a floppety-floppety sensation confirmed my worst fear. Oh for pity's sake. I pulled the Alfa over onto the pavement, carelessly scattering the pedestrians who seemed to feel that they had some right to be there, and sure enough: the front was completely blown, the rear badly cracked and scarred.

Out with the jack and the space-saver (almost flat, another fine example of Italian car servicing only a few weeks ago) and whipped off the flat and replaced it with no trouble (we're self-reliant, us yotties). There was no point crawling on to Southampton on a deflated spare, and anyway the rear tyre wasn't safe, so I managed to find the nearest Kwik-fit and emerged, just as it was getting dark, £190 poorer.

Expensive game, this sailing.

Anyway, I did get to see Deep Water, at the Curzon Soho, and very good (and deeply moving) it was too. Try to see if it if you can. A tragic tale of an inexperienced sailor's compulsion to push himself to the verge of bankruptcy and beyond for the sake, hang on a minute!