21 October 2012

The Gentle Art of Staying Afloat

I have recently found all Roger Taylor's books are now available as ebooks.  I love ebooks - my bookshelves are already stocked to overflowing with old friends and until recently, when I came across a writer of books I just have to own, such as Roger Taylor, the only way I could indulge myself was by getting rid of one of my other treasured volumes.  No More!!  (www.thesimplesailor.com links you to paper books: I bought my ebooks from Kobo.)

Roger Taylor has my unalloyed admiration.  I love the way he writes, the way he sails, the way he thinks.  I appreciate his attitude of sailing with minimal outlay, but still being prepared to spend money on good equipment to do the job properly.  Not economy for economy's sake, but thinking long and hard before parting with money and buying something that has caused even more resources to be wrested from Earth.

One of the more interesting aspects of Mingming  is that she is unsinkable.  Generally speaking, if you want your boat to continue floating once holed, you'd better have a multihull (and it never ceases to astonish me that people think in such a woolly way, that they will build these essentially-unsinkable craft out of a heavier-than-water material.)  Even a lightly-ballasted wooden boat will have a tendency to go glug-glug-glug if she gets a hole in her and of course metal or GRP are only kept afloat by the volume of air within.

Now Mingming, being a mere 20ft long, does not have a huge amount of spare volume to be given over to flotation.  On the other hand, Roger doesn't live on board and (it has to be said) does rather camp out.  (Forgive me for saying this, Roger, in the extremely-unlikely event you will ever read this.)  He also, obviously, has a considerably better mind than I do, and can go for long periods of time with only his thoughts and observations to occupy him, whereas I need my books at the very least. But as he is also prepared for all eventualities that he has envisaged (and his powers of concentration are impressive) and carries the wherewithal to deal with those, he still requires room for quite a lot of gear.  Of course Mingming, is so simple that there aren't that many things to go wrong, and he doesn't need, for example, a comprehensive tool kit, spare filters, etc, etc for the engine.

What am I wittering on about, you ask?  Well, I'm wondering how much foam I would need to fit in my boat to make her unsinkable.  I get the impression that Mingming would stay buoyantly afloat, but that's maybe too much to ask for.  Especially in a boat with 50% ballast ratio.  But what if I do a bit of weeding of possessions - always good for the soul (but not my precious books!)?  I could possibly fill in the space under the forward part of the V-berth and certainly under the two quarter berths.  How about putting a floor in the lazarette and filling in under there?  No room under the floorboards - that's the water tank.  Most of the other lockers are full with food, clothes, tools, batteries, etc.  I'm not, I regret, prepared to forgo my engine.  This is a shame because it is a large beast and if I filled in all the area presently taken up by the engine and its ancillaries, I could add a lot of flotation.  But I day sail, I'm constitutionally lazy and I like being able to motor 3 miles to an anchorage, rather than staying out half the night or sculling madly for hours. So unless I'm prepared to make many more compromises, I can't do a Mingming on my little junk.

But I wonder if even a little foam, a little additional buoyancy is anyway a good idea?  Anything at all that helps us stay afloat?  Because like the wholly-admirable Roger Taylor, I do not wish to be baled out of my own folly, at the expense of the already-beleaguered taxpayer, and at the risk of endangering other peoples' lives.

14 October 2012

Back again!

Hah!  I guess you thought - hoped even - that I'd gone away for good.  No such luck. Life had dragged me by the scruff of the neck into a busyness that seemed to provide no time for musings of any sort, certainly subversive ones.  I was living a life full of Things To Do, hectic schedules - even airline flights, which I hate with a passion.  Unless in a small, propeller driven aircraft, where I can have a window seat and admire the beautiful land unfolding beneath me. But long distance 'plane flights are terrible things, made worse, for me, but the continuing knowledge of the damage I'm doing to this wonderful earth, by such greedy consumption.

But finally I am back on my boat and in peace.  I cannot begin to describe the pleasure I have in my little ship, in her grace and simplicity and the near-luxury of my little home.  Sometimes I can hardly wait to go to bed because my berth in the forepeak is so comfortable, and in the winter, with the down quilt wrapped around me, it is inconceivably snug.  And oh! the luxury of sleeping alone - of having a bed entirely to myself, with no-one else to think about if I want to stretch out, or to turn over, or to cough, or giggle at some silly thought that crosses what I laughingly call my mind.

On a cold, clear night, I lie there with the hatch partly open, gazing at the stars.  That hatch is both a necessity and a gross extravagance.  Its predecessor, the original fibreglass one, was, of course, completely opaque, which was bad enough: it also leaked and was impossible properly to dog, which was intolerable.  A great friend went and sold his soul to the manufacturer on my behalf, and obtained, at cost price, an enormous hatch, large enough for a super-yacht.  It was still heart-stoppingly expensive, but the original had a complicated moulding that would have been very difficult to incorporate in the same-sized alloy hatch.  With this mega hatch, however, I could build a frame outside the old one and simply drop the new hatch on top.  It is such bliss.  Several people have been puzzled that I should want a hatch that lets in the first light of day, but to me it is a necessity to be able to follow the phases of the moon, as I lie awake at night.  A lifelong insomniac - such things are important.

And we move aft a little to my superb galley.  Has any 26ft boat ever been blessed with such a fine place in which to cook?  I love to cook.  I love, particularly, to cook for myself: carefully-planned and light meals, for enjoyment rather than repletion.  Sometimes I will make the starter, eat it slowly with a glass of wine, and then prepare the main course from scratch, sipping away as I cook.  It may be an hour from one course to the next, and I enjoy every second of it.  I sit down at my varnished, mahogany table, laid with attractive cutlery, hand-made pottery and Waterford Crystal glasses, bought second-hand for a pittance.  As I savour my food, I can gaze out of the window at the passing scene.

The table is something I made myself, to replace the rather ratty plywood one that wobbled around on an ugly pedestal.  Originally it had - I suppose - had the facility to rise up and down like a Pantomime Demon, in order to accommodate a loving couple in connubial bliss.  A small, loving couple, I would have to say, as my whole boat is designed around hobbits.  Fine for me at 5ft 1in and weighing about a hundredweight, but a little constrained for more normal-sized people.  Yes, this bunk is 6ft long - once the cushions are removed fore and aft and assuming your tape measure hook is not particularly thick.  I have dozed on the outboard half at sea and not found it any too long.  I never did try the original table top, because the bed thus formed would have been too narrow for comfort.  At least in my V-berth (and only a couple ardently in lust would call it a double) I can't fall out of bed!  A friend thought that my replacement table (constructed in traditional manner, of one-inch wood, with fold-down leaves) should be made in the same manner as the old one 'in case', but I reckon two people on my boat is getting perilously close to a crowd and cannot imagine sharing with a couple.  Who want to sleep together.  So I did it my way.  Which is why I bought my own boat in the first place.

The other change from the original is that my new table has no fiddles.  I love to write - as you may have guessed - and the fiddles made this awkward.  Occasionally I like to write by hand, with a fountain pen, and the fiddles made this almost impossible.  I could understand fitting them for and aft, but athwartships?  So my new table has no fiddle.  Anyway, this is the 21st century, the era of sticky mats.  There is no need for such a thing 90% of the time.  In the galley, yes.  On the bookshelves equally so, but the saloon table?  But if ever I get the guts to go offshore, I shall fit removable ones fore and aft.

So here I sit in my comfortable little boat, looking up occasionally to admire the scenery, able in one short stop to reach the coffee pot and brew up.  One day I shall sing the praises of my cockpit, but at present it is too cool to enjoy it.

Why, oh why, would anyone want more?