Friday, 27 November 2009

Remember Summer?

This was the scene one evening in May when we fetched up in Newtown Creek just to the east of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.

Why are we posting it now? Well, firstly it's a nice picture and secondly we have not been afloat for some weeks and so have no new snaps to share.

Sitting here in chilly Oxford the stillness and silence of the creek seems a million miles away. There is a salutatory lesson to be heeded from this tale.

The following morning we had a cooked breakfast (why is it bacon tastes even better when the smell drifts across a mooring?) and afterwards started the engine to return to Gosport. Well, to be more accurate, we tried to start the engine. It coughed and spluttered and it was pretty obvious this donkey was not for stirring. We did all the usual checks; fuel (60 galls), fuel pump (working), electrical connections (all looked sound). So, we reminded ourselves that Starquest is a sailing boat and as wind is her primary power we'd better sail out. There was a little breeze, luckily from the south, and so we slipped the mooring and with two-thirds of the genoa set we picked our way through the trots and into the Solent. Once out into clear water we hoisted the main, unfurled all the genny and headed east.

At Cowes we lost the wind and by Gillkicker we lost the tide. The donkey was still fast asleep and so we had to rely on the mercy of the marina for a tow in.

An engineer's report subsequently identifed the problem - no fuel. Yes, we'd run out of diesel! How could it happen we are always so careful and we'd checked there were 60 gallons of fuel in the tank. Well, it transpires the red diesel had stained the sight tube and what we thought was a full tank was, in fact, empty. Our peek into the tank gave us a false idea of what was there. A very shallow depth of fuel laying on the bottom of the tank reflected to look like an almost full tank. If only we'd dipped the tanks, but we could 'see' it was full and besides the sight tube 'confirmed' it.

We now have two dipsticks, monitor fuel usage on a trip-by-trip basis and still blush at running out of fuel.

I am so pleased we don't have a motor boat.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Blisters to be Lanced

Afloat off Thailand.

The time has come to break the news to the old girl that she’s going to be spending several months out of the water, those unsightly blisters will have to be lanced and she’ll have hot pads attached to her nether regions and all in the name of looking better. Think of it as maritime cosmetic surgery; on a woman it would be liposuction, or a boob job and would probably cost about the same! But on Starquest it brings all the joy of enhanced looks with a five year guarantee, now what cosmetic surgeon would offer that to ladies who go under the knife?

We now have the written quote from the company performing the ‘operation’ so all that remains is to move her – luckily it’s not far and can be achieved in an hour or so. She will spend the winter being dried out – think of it as detox for boats – which is where the hot pads come in. She will then be given a new coat – the more I do this the more I realise why boats are feminine – and come Spring next year she’ll be in tip top condition and be ready to take us south in search of the sun.

Once launched again next year she really will be in fine fettle. I think just about the only bits that have not been replaced will be the basic hull structure and bulkheads. She’ll be as good as new, in fact better than new, and fit for many years afloat. Now, if only I could do the same for myself I’d be a happy chap.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Solent in Summer

Traditional local boatmen waiting to take crews to the Folly Inn at Cowes.

Autumn is giving way to winter and with it darker, colder nights and fewer opportunities to sail. What better way to cheer us all up then than a reminder of what life is like in the summer on the Solent. Just up river from the popular Royal Yacht Squadron lies the exclusive Folly Inn where intellect meets raw maritime skill across the tables bowing under the sheer weight of alcoholic beverages. The Folly Inn is well known well beyond these shores for its five star food, helpful boatmen (see picture above) and Saturday night cabaret performed by local traditional dancers. Entry to this nautical institution is strictly controlled and it is rumoured that the only way to gain membership is through inheritance; fathers passing on their privileged membership to sons and now daughters. There is talk of strange rituals having to be performed during a complicated, obscure and at times bizarre 'adoption ceremony' which is cloaked in mystery and, some say, dark practices. Former members have let slip mention of breast ropes, bare poles and tackle attached to a preventer. We plan to go under cover to the discover the truth about this secretive establishment and its members. Have you managed to get into the Folly Inn? Why is it called Folly? What secrets lie within? What did you discover? Do let us know. More details in a future bulletin.

I'm now off for a bight before I end up in the drink.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sunset ...followed by new dawn

They say that nothing is as bad as a doctor telling you the worst but once you've accepted the diagnosis and have recovered from the shock things start to look better. Well, that probably applies to boats as well.

Having been told poor old Starquest had picked up the pox we were pretty devastated. Our plans to buy a new, bigger, cat and put her in the Med had been blown apart. The old girl will have to go into a 'home' for the winter and be given a new bottom. Things could be worse. True, it would have been good if she'd sold and we could move "onwards and upwards" in the words of a well known horticultural broadcaster (sorry Eric) but in boating, life is never that simple. We may be playing with the elements but most of the time the elements play with us.

We have spent a silly amount of money on Starquest, much, much, much more than was sensible and now we will have to spent even more but we will have a boat that's virtually new from stem to stern. I have no doubt she's the best Prout Quest afloat and after her osmosis treatment she'll be as good as new. Actually that's not true, she'll be a heck of a lot better than new. True when we set sail next Easter she will not be as big as we'd planned, she'll sail a knot slower, she'll yield to the waves a tad more than her 40 foot cousins but we'll have a well found craft, equipped with every known navigation aid and more comfortable below than any boat coming off the German production lines.

We have grown to have a deep affection for Starquest and to be honest we felt guilty at putting her on the market. But we needed a bigger boat, we needed a boat which could shrug off the worse Biscay could throw, a boat which could entertain eight people and not feel cramped but it was not to be. Well, not this (or next) year anyway.

The sale of Starquest has almost certainly fallen through. It's our fault. We spent far too much on the refit and although we have a boat that's a shiny example of her type, indeed the best of her type, we cannot afford to write off such an investment. We know how much has been spent on turning this boat from a tired wreck into a brand leader. If we'd known how much it would cost to renovate we'd certainly not bought her in the first place, but having now spent a small fortune we cannot give her away.

Fate dictates we are to spend some more time together.

Our plans, assuming the sale falls through which seems more likely than not, is to have the osmosis treatment done asap, and as early as possible next year head south as quickly as possible. We hope to transit the Canal du Midi and get Starquest into the Med for the summer.

As we said the worst news is the doctor saying the prognosis is not good...after that it all starts to look a lot better.

Pass the Med pilot.

The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington