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.

nick.

Leaving Bursledon, England / Powered by Beforeudig.co.uk

Firstly, I'd like to profusely thank BeforeUdig.co.uk - 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 Beforeudig.co.uk 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.

nick.

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].

nick.

(France trip delayed till Saturday due to weather)

Drum roll... She starts! How tenderific.

Thanks everybody for the kind comments in my launch post. I have answered one or two of the questions from the comments here. Firstly however, not only was the launch a success, but post-launch jobs have also been coming along nicely. I went into Southampton to buy a battery charger at my new favourite store Argos, and attempted to charge up the batteries I have... But alas they wouldn't charge, and I splurged on new set, now totaling 220 amp hours. I serviced the engine, replacing the impeller, changing the oil and and filters, and bled the fuel lines with fresh diesel. To my amazement, the engine started straight up, after one and a half years of storage - I couldn't believe it. I knew the engine was in good shape, having been new in 1999, but I wasn't quite expecting such an easy job of it.

I've taken Constellation for a spin up the Hamble, but only just a little up river as I'm a bit hesitant until I'm confident things are reliable. I've put the mainsail back on, and am now just waiting on a friend to help me tension and adjust the rigging. Unfortunately my VHF radio is defective, so I'm saving my pennies for a replacement. I've spent this weeks cash on batteries and a charger, so I have 15pound left for food until Wednesday, and next weeks budget is already spent on new running rigging.

I have a holiday set for the 2nd of July, until the 11th, where Constellation will hopefully have her inaugural voyage to France. I have my fingers crossed Paulo from Portugal can make it over to assist with the passage, however failing that, my next post will be one searching for an able crew member, who likes small boats and a good chance of a completely chaotic crossing.

As for the trip to Germany, Johannes and I will be leaving for either Hamburg or Kiel in August. Johannes is hesitant about me leaving for the Canaries too late in August from Hamburg, so if I can, I will try and push the Germany trip to late July. The only issue (as always) in all this is money - If I had an EPIRB and about 300pounds in cash, I'd fly Johannes over and we'd leave tomorrow... But alas, as this entire escapade has been predicated on financial issues, I don't see them ceasing anytime soon, so patience is my only option. Please note my departure countdown has now hit double digits - At this rate, it seems I may be leaving with two cans of tuna fish, and hand steering all the way to Australia...

The original owners of Constellation, who put up with my six month payment scheme, have been especially generous once again, and parted with their Avon tender. I couldn't believe my luck, as I had been scratching my head and researching options regarding tenders, because I'm quite sure I'll be avoiding marina fees as often as possible, by taking advantage of visitor moorings and anchorages. She needs a patch or two, but overall, Avon seem to make incredibly good equipment - It gives me confidence in the fact that my canister liferaft (also by Avon) is 19 years old. Thank you once again to Simon and Caroline.

Constellation & the new tender RIB Constellation

All it ever does in England is rain. Rain

nick.

Real Launch Date, Photos & The Pink Panther

It's been a busy last two weeks, with three days lost pointlessly in London on work... I was then offered to have a tour of the Solent on a Nicholson 35 for two days, and consequently pushed back my launch date again... This time to the 15th - But, unless something goes drastically wrong, I will definitely be launching, as everything is already nearing completion. The additional week may mean I can have the Diesel ready by the launch, as I was intending on getting towed to the berth because I didn't have the money to service the engine and get new batteries in time. Next week I am going to see Jeremy Rogers, to buy a new transom mount gudgeon, and with any luck ask a few questions about my Contessa. It was great to see the Solent at last - After looking at it from practice charts. We sailed out of Gosport, past all the Destroyers and Aircraft Carriers, and back onto to the River Hamble, to have a canvas company double stitch the sail cover. The next day we sailed West, and chased a square rigger back to Gosport.

I was rudely awoken last week, as the tractor slotted into my cradle to move the boat to a new position. I ran out onto the cockpit half dressed waving my hands. Luckily, the yard staff had a laugh and I climbed down, and was moved into a much better place for painting, instead of sitting on the 'highway' which is dusty, and I'm always nervous someone is going to drive past and clip me.

I found out a place for cheap paints, and was kindly driven over by a friend to a very sketchy looking boatyard not from from the River Hamble. The paints and anodes were stored in a shipping container, and everything was 50% off retail. I have no idea if it all fell off the back of a truck, or whether it is expired, but whatever it is, I'm a cheap skate and I was giggling like a child at the thought of not having to pay Chandlery prices.

The rudder reconstruction has also been difficult to content with, because I've been waiting on some free teak planks. I've eventually given in because of time restraints, and purchased two pieces of Iroko (thanks for the tip Rich!) instead, rough sawn for 20pounds. As you well know, I've never rebuilt a rudder, so I'm just trying to do what seems logical with this whole thing... I have a pattern made up, and just need to get access to a table saw to make the cuts. I'll then epoxy the cheeks on, and through-bolt them.

Photos and descriptions below:


Trying to dry cloths.


The rudder template.

Square Rigger
Square rigger in the Solent.


At anchor for the night in Gosport, England.


Pontoon BBQ. These guys are amazing! Karin is always making me up something to eat, and Rob has to deal with far too many questions from me.


My boat has been named The Pink Panther - For now, until I paint over in red.


The planks I will attempt to turn into a rudder

nick.

Working, Thanks!

Special thanks to Adrian at www.advancedosmosis.co.uk. He's been kind enough to supply me with an emergency hull repair kit, for making repairs under water. It's a very kind gesture, but honestly, I hope I never, ever have to use it. Thanks Adrian! Also a big thanks to Sven Helemann of www.id13.net for making repairs to my site for IE6. I met Sven after a brief stint at Dropping Knowledge in Berlin, earlier this year.

I've been busy working on the boat since my last post - On the boat, at the pub, and in London. The weather has been horrific for boat work, but my prep for painting is coming along nicely. I was hoping to rebuild the rudder last weekend, but my teak source has been having trouble finding something to my required dimensions. I'm in London today on work, but hopefully tomorrow I'll find out more, and if I can't get any at mates rates (a few beers) then I will have to make the plunge and purchase retail like everybody else.

A friend at the boatyard helped me drill out a transom skin fitting for my drain improvisation, which was a horrible experience. There is something just not right about putting holes in your boat... We've done it properly, with brass fittings and a good quality valve switch, and I'll plumb the cockpit fittings when I can afford to.

I've also been making plans to build a completely waterproof cockpit door, so you can basically lock yourself in an entirely watertight cabin. Door boards are nice, but they are troublesome to shut up quickly, and while they will keep water out 95% of the time I think with my intentions I need something robust. I've also purchased two big stainless lifeline points to place in and around the boat which I can lock onto - One is for the cabin, and I've not yet decided where the second will go - I have jackstays, but maybe I'll wait until I've done some sailing before commiting to the drill for the second anchor point.

Some photos:


I've since finished sanding - But as you can see, I've been prop polishing too!




This is my view most mornings - Wet; the tarpoline heavy with water

Better photos coming, now that my Flickr account is alive again.

nick.

Absolute Truth

I'm beginning to find my battle with water to be utterly amusing. I mean really, I should be steaming mad about it, but I think it's only a small show of what's yet to come. This evening after a dinner of rolls and mayonnaise tuna, I set about wondering what I could amuse myself with when the sun went down (I have no electricity). So there I was sitting in the dark eating my roll, and I had a cracking idea: Audio Books! I set about getting ready for bed, to lie down with Bertrand Russel's 'Religion and Science' crackling through my headphones. I was sure it would set the mood for the possibility of complex dreaming, and if not, maybe the enigma of two opposing systems of thought could be unleashed in the forward cabin of my Contessa 26. I moved into the forward cabin the night before, after finding a few small leaks dripping on my feet from the cockpit seats. Clearly the screws holding the teak down on the seats need a new lease of life, and are letting drips through. So I moved into the forward 'cabin' thinking it was dry and cosy up the front. When I say cabin, it sounds a little glamorous - It's more like one of those Japanese motels that are like decompression chambers. You couldn't sit up if you tried - You'd be lucky to get your head four inches off the pillow before meeting the 'ceiling'. It seemed like a good idea from a damp point of view, but alas, the other issue aside from space was that my feet were ever so slightly above my head, due to a minor incline towards the forepeak. I swear I could feel my heart pumping a tiny bit harder to circulate the blood. So here I am lying in a tiny bed with my feet higher than my head, practically breathing in the gel coat above me, thinking how wonderful all this boating business is. I miracuously slept through, and even quite enjoyed having the hatch just above my head, so as to to look at the rigging when I woke up.

But back to unravelling the mystery of Religion and Science - There I was (and I'm not embellishing this for literary reasons) climbing into bed on my second sojourn in the front cabin with Bertrand Russell playing over my headphones, only to find my sleeping bag completely and utterly wet through. As I had a torch in my mouth, I quickly moved around to see what the heck was going on, only to have it hit the ultra low roof, nearly knocking my teeth out and breaking the bulb. I had one leg in the wet sleeping bag, a broken torch in my mouth, and this rather poncy Cambridge voiceover babbling on about absolute and logical truths. I was just about to get angry, but then I couldn't help but laugh at the entire situation, because I really think its only the nano-tip of the iceberg. I mean really, by the time this escapade is over, nothing will ever suprise or annoy me, ever again.

Luckily for me though, I have a second sleeping bag from when I first came down to see Constellation, back in August. It's too thin for these British spring evenings, so the sailing pants I bought for the failed Sotogrande delivery have finally come in use - They were my pillow, but now they're keeping my legs warm, and maybe even dry if it rains again. Needless to say, I'm back to the bed where I started.

I've decided from now on, the only thing going in the front cabin ever again, will be my pet sea otter, Albert - I'll let him roam about up front, building dams.

nick.

Moving to the UK, the long version

Firstly, an enormous thankyou to Marty for his generous donation at a very tough time. Thanks again Marty, I really appreciate it. As you well know, I flew over succesfully, however my trick of strapping the mainsail to my backpack and claiming it was only one bag was unsuccesful the second time around. British easyJet staff let it through, but the Germans wouldn't have it. So, for an additional 15euros I got it onboard, and managed to only be 1kg over the baggage limit which was overlooked. I arrived in at Gatwick and took the train in to see a friend I hadn't seen for a year, and as we're as poor as each other, he'd already made dinner and we sat near Victoria Station for quiche and salad (thanks Matt!). I stayed for two nights in Harrow, London with the company I work for - I was put up with good food and drink for two nights, and even a lift down to Constellation on the Friday (thanks Simon!).

Constellation was full up with water again, but I've been through that already... I pumped it out and luckily Friday was one of the last sunny days since, and she dried fairly well. Saturday & Sunday were a right-off, I just walked around a bit and bought food for the week. Wondering what on earth I was going to do about my dwindling money situation, I looked into a pub job and suprisingly started on Sunday evening. My first night was utterly nerve wracking, not knowing the first thing about working behind a bar. The locals have named me 'Ned' (after Ned Kelly) and I was flamed thoroughly for not knowing the Sunday night quiz question of 'what is the name of a dry bed in Australia that fills with water' - It's a Billabong in case you're wondering - I slapped myself with a wet tea towel after finding out the answer.

The remainder of the week has been hopeless for boat work. Incredibly wet and windy, and no sign of a break. I've worked more hours than intended this week, but since I haven't yet got an office or nice weather to work, I guess it doesn't really matter.

I'm still really pushing for a May launch - However finances are incredibly tight at the moment. The past year has been really quite amazing in regards to last minute donations or help from people. On around 5 distinct occasions I've been utterly devasated financially, with bills looming and banks chasing minimum payments, only to have money literally appear from nowhere. Last night was an excellent example: I had 2pounds left in my pocket to last till Thursday, and I was wondering how I was going to make it - And then, a large table came in at the pub and left a 14pound tip, of which the manager gave me 10pounds. Thursday is payday, so now I'll make it quite easily. Matt, my friend living in London boasts a 3pound a day budget, but I must say I've completely smashed his efforts, living on roughly a pound a day. Tesco's is your friend.

While living finances are non-existant, I have managed to more or less pay off the boatyard - I now just need to come up with 90pounds for the launch fee. Finding a marina who will allow me to pay pro-rata on the yearly mooring fee is however posing to be difficult. The yard I'm currently in is reluctant to give me a berth on such terms, because they'd rather an annual customer. Other yards have quoted me 'visitor rates' at 21pounds a night, which is laughable at best. I'll anchor in the Solent and swim in to shore for sandwiches before I part with that kind of money...

So, problems abound, but I'm doing my best. I'm able to get Internet access at the pub instead of having to go through my 5 mile walk to the local Library which is nice, so fingers crossed for everything else working out. I do miss Berlin dearly, as it's been my home for over a year and I loved the life I was living there. My apartment is still there intact however, which the Germans call a 'Koffer in Berlin' (translation: 'Suitcase in Berlin') - It's definitely a city you can't leave easily, and must always have a toe in. I'm here now though, still completely focused as I have been for the past 9 months on this project - This new effort is merely another step closer to making it happen.

nick.

Living Aboard

A very quick post on this horrible rainy day. I've finally made it down to the boat, and I have a good list of things to do before launch. Everything should go according to plan, however money is as always an issue. I'm working one day and two nights at a local pub to cover hard standing fees, food and my rent at home in Berlin, so it's nice to finally have a reliable income. I'm a terrible barman, I can never remember peoples drinks, and I constantly break the till. I have however only worked one night... Anyway, soldier on. I have nothing organised on the office-space front just yet, so I'm a bit nervous about that. I need somewhere to carry on my other work otherwise I'll be in more financial woes... Not to mention the fact I have to walk 5miles to the local library to check my email.

Constellation was full up with water again, but I have some fresh ideas on a self-draining cockpit to implement before launch. I'm not looking forward to drilling holes in the hull.

Other than that, life is fairly solitary. I have no elecricity or gas, and I sneak around the yard because I'm not technically supposed to be living aboard... But I am happy to finally be here doing something.

More when I can,

nick.

Almost in Sotogrande, new website

I was within inches of a fully paid-for (including return flight) delivery trip to Sotogrande, Spain, however minutes ago it fell through due to the owner trying to seek compensation from another delivery company. So very disappointing... It could have been a 2000+ mile addition to my log book too - I am at the top of the list for the next opportunity though, so fingers crossed on something happening in the future. I even just traveled across Berlin to buy new sailing pants! So in light of this fiasco, I'm now arriving in England three days earlier than planned, on the 2nd of May. In other news, please say hello to my new site. I hope it's working for you, and if it isn't, I suggest a Shift+Refresh in your browser. I took a lot of advice from the wonderful SEO Clinic review from SearchEngineJournal.com, so I hope the site is easier to read, and less cluttered. I've also centred the design for higher resolution browsers, moved the navigation around, and shown my sponsors more prominence on the page. On the left-hand side is also the addition of my Twitter updates - This is really just a silly addition to see how it goes - Think of it as a mini-blog (140characters or less) that I'll be updating daily. Thank you also to Ahmed Bilal for the technical assistance on getting the new site up.

There are still a lot of ideas I'd like to implement, and further suggestions from my review, however I've done my best in this revision. A lot more will come, including some new revenue generation and charity fundraising ideas. For now though, it's time for me to pack my bags and get ready for my new life aboard, starting this Wednesday!

Nick.

P.S If you have a website and you'd like to 'trade links' please contact me and I can add you to my new links page (a rather bare one at the moment!)