All posts filed under “Life Pre-sailing

Waiting… In Monnikendam, Holland

Gigantic thanks to Ash & Tana from Melbourne, for sending through additional funds in my time of great need. I have such generous friends helping me behind all this, it’s simply amazing!

I’ve been waiting here in Monnikendam for the past two weeks – I left England around the 6th of August, and have unexpectedly spent what must be the best part of a month in Holland. The town of Monnikendam is incredibly quaint. As you walk down the small streets, there are chickens in the bushes, cyclists peddling past, the smell of smoke from the eel houses, and beautiful 100 year old original sailing barges moored up alongside – I swear on my life, I saw a man with a bicycle, holding a chicken under one arm and wearing yellow wooden clogs. Holland is great.

Constellation is coming together in terms of preparedness. The self-draining cockpit issue which has been a downer on me since I bought the boat, has been more or less solved for the immediate future. The floor really needs to be raised to fix it properly, but I’ve made some arrangements as a secondary measure, and I think it will suffice. I’ve also finally fixed the mainsheet connection to the boom, which tore off because of a destructive Chinese jybe – I never did find the special sliders, but again, I swapped some things around, re-riveted a few bits, and presto, it’s back. The spreaders have also been giving me stress, by dropping down after load has been put on the rig. It turns out when the mast was put up, the spreaders were not angled upwards slightly and tensioned correctly, which meant pressure on the rig would eventually loosen the lee spreader.

My final dilemma is that of the stove situation, because again I’ve been forced into heating food with tea-light candles, after finding my British gas tanks cannot be re-filled in Europe. It’s going to set me back 100euros for a new tank and regulator, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. For all I know, Portugal will have yet another standard to conform to. Oh what I wouldn’t do for a multi-fuel liquid stove…

The windvane (think of a wind powered auto-pilot) from Windpilot arrived last Friday, and it is proving to be the nicest piece of equipment on the boat. The engineering and quality of it is beautiful, and it’s a shame Constellation has a transom mounted rudder, because it means the Windpilot (I’ve yet to give it a name) will need to be mounted off of a custom stainless bracket. I’ve spent a a lot of time designing and r trying desperately to remember back to high school art classes in perspective drawing to create something that made sense. I eventually scribbled together a napkin blueprint, which the workshop seemed to understand. For some strange reason, the engineers kept insisting on speaking Dutch back to me, even though it was clear I had no idea what they were saying. When pressed they’d revert to English, but it turned into an amusing conversation after this repeated for about half an hour. I can’t work out whether it was forced learning, or if they thought I was faking my lack of linguistic flair – Either way, the bracket will be finished on Friday lunchtime, and I hope I can get it mounted by nightfall.

Which means, I’ll be leaving this weekend. (Weather pending).

Ohhh boy.


Leaving Bursledon, England / Powered by

Firstly, I’d like to profusely thank – The company who put up the funds to power Constellation with a brand new offshore cruising sail, made by UK Halsey Sailmakers of Bursledon. I picked up the new sail just days before leaving England, and couldn’t be happier. My old sail was tired and worn, and will now be only used as a backup, should something horrible come of my new one. The new sail has a slight racing leech, and a reduced third reef, which nears tri-sail size. Special thanks to Duane Rogers at for believing in what I’m trying to do, offering constant encouragement, and of course for funding an expensive but necessary piece of equipment.

(It has been hard for me so far to keep the narrative of this trip going in any kind of order, since the last couple of weeks were a blur, and my updates have been infrequent and random – This is my attempt over the next few posts to show some order…)

I finished my job at the pub last week, which was a welcome relief. By the end of it, I was tired and anxious to start the trip, and it seemed no matter how hard I worked, I still never had enough money to achieve much at all. I did get things together in the end, but it was trying to say the least. I finished work on a Wednesday, and traveled into London the following day to pickup Johannes and Jack from Victorian station. I had planned to be two hours early, yet to my astonishment, as I walked out of the bus doors, I nearly ran into Johannes, waiting at the bus stop, carrying enough luggage to move house for a family of six. We lugged it all back to the train station, where I met friends from Australia and ate lunch in the nearby park. We eventually met up with Jack, and travelled back to Southampton, loaded to the hilt with equipment. The following day was spent sailing in the Solent, to give Johannes and idea of how Constellation was sailing, and also as an opportunity for Jack to film at sea. I also learnt that I need an outboard.

It was a rush-job on Saturday to get Constellation ready for departure. I was waiting on guardrails to be sent from Compass, we needed to install the wiring and mounts for the autohelm, and I still had to climb my mast again to fix the aerial. The VHF turned into a debacle when the feeding line got jammed at the foot of the mast, however Johannes retrieved it, and the job continued. It was only when I pulled the wiring through the cabin roof did I realise there was nothing wrong with the old aerial at all – There was a BNC connector between the inside cable and the outside cable which had come loose… The moral of the story is, assumptions are fatal… Ok, maybe not fatal, but irritating and stupid.

I had final drinks with my new friends from England, whom I already miss dearly. I think if I had been living entirely alone in the boatyard, without all the wonderful people who also lived there, my experience would have been drastically different. There was always someone to ask a question, borrow a tool from, or just someone to talk to, and it’s to those people I thank immensely for being so kind and generous.

Constellation was ready for departure, and at 5am we left under blue skies. Bill followed in his boat, waking up at such an un-Godly hour just to see us off, and to let Jack film from another vessel while we motored for the last time up the River Hamble. Thank you Bill, you are a true gentlemen, may the sea chickens live on.

Thank you England for everything –

Brighton, Dover, Belgium and Holland in the next post.


Documentary Trailer – Getting your Bearings

You may (or may not!) have been wondering why there was filming going at the launch of Constellation… Well, in case you were, the reason is, DNR Productions is making a documentary about my trip and other related concepts.

It’s a terrifying feeling being put on camera, and even more terrifying watching yourself, but here it is for the world to see! An enormous thank you to Jack Rath for coming over, lending a hand, filming, and compiling a web-version of the trailer – I (we) hope you like it.

Or download the Quicktime version [10mb].


(France trip delayed till Saturday due to weather)