Grateful thanks to all who helped

Guiding Star is ready to go sailing again after several weeks of on-off winter work frustrated by gales, rain and hail. I’m very grateful to everyone who helped. Thomas devoted a week to sanding, filling and priming the topsides; Celia froze for a day at the bottom of the mast holding me at the top to work on the rigging; Jo slogged through the Plymouth rush hour traffic to bring the refurbished windlass from Millbrook; Andy primed and anti-fouled the hull; Cathy sanded and varnished locker doors; and Jen from our neighbouring boat, Midstream, broke off her own work to help to thread the throat halyard.

The weather was terrible almost all the time I was in Plymouth and sunny and dry almost all the time I wasn’t. Here’s the view from the cockpit in early March:

At least that gave plenty of time for indoor jobs. For three years, the heads door has been flapping because the latch was broken. I finally found a firm, Croft Architectural Hardware, which was able to mend and refurbish a bronze latch from 1937, and screwed it back on. There’s not much privacy on a 39-foot boat but it’ll be good not to have to jam the door with a towel or hold it closed with your foot.

Even more importantly, for two years water from the aft bilge, which drains the cockpit, has been failing to seep through to the sump in the mid-bilge, where an automatic pump sucks it overboard. I hauled out twenty lead ballast ingots, each weighing twenty kilograms and covered in oily slime and mud, and re-stacked them to leave a path for the water to flow. I tied a length of chain to one of the aft floors with bungee so it can be pulled backwards and forwards through the channel to clear any debris that builds up; a great idea from Will Stirling.

Between bouts of rain, I filled a handful of weak spots in the caulking with red lead putty and painted the seams with primer and the keel with red lead. When the weather eventually cleared, we finished the hull, topsides and primer on the bulwarks in five days of heavy work.  Gloss on the bulwarks would have to wait.

On the worst day of gales, I gave up work and took the ferry to Cornwall to spend the afternoon with Chris Rees discussing how to improve Guiding Star’s sail plan. Chris built Grayhound and Spirit of Mystery and converted Three Brothers, a Looe lugger very similar to Guiding Star, from a full lug rig to a “dandy” rig with a gaff main and a lug mizzen, just like Guiding Star. He had a host of suggestions to give the boat more speed in light wind.

The hot, nearly windless days of last summer which prompted the discussion seemed a long time ago when I rode the bus home along the cliffs west of Rame Head. At one point, the passengers had to get out of the bus to clear a chain link fence out of the road. I now know that a double-decker bus can stand a Force 8 straight on the beam.

Rame head gale
Sea west of Rame Head in a March gale

I went to London for a week, and Cornwall basked in spring sunshine. I came back to finish the gloss painting and rig the boat for a first sail of the season, and a cold east wind brought this:

The plan for a shakedown sail had to be abandoned but I did paint gloss on the bulwarks, refit the windlass, put the rigging back on (with vital help from Celia and Jen) and bend on the sails.

The windlass looked like a work of art when Jo brought it back from Dave Webster at Deep Blue Engineering. The Simpson Lawrence 500 was installed, I’m fairly sure, when Guiding Star was converted from fishing 82 years ago, and by last summer the mechanism was slipping and jamming and had to be nursed to crank the anchor up. Dave stripped it, cleaned it, welded a broken foot back on and painted it. I bolted it back onto the deck and tied coloured ribbons onto the anchor chain every five metres so we don’t have to guess how much we’ve laid out.

The ribbons are the colours of snooker balls with the idea that it’s an easy order to remember, but it’s a long time since I played snooker on Saturday nights at university and I mix up yellow, green and brown. However, I’m fine on blue, pink and black which mark 25, 30 and 35 metres of chain so we’ll just have to anchor in at least six metres of sea (chain needed = 4 x depth of water).