Well, that took a while…

…it is a long time since I found the time to update this little blog, but here goes.

Where to begin?  So much has happened since the last update.  I have started a new job in a really nice school.  A reduced timetable and the money is not great but a job is a job and blind blokes really can not pick and choose.  As if that was not enough good news, I found out yesterday that I have Access to Work funding for a support worker until 2018, which is fantastic and a weight off of my mind.  With all the talk of cuts etc it is good to know that I will be able to carry on working, and paying tax, for a while yet.

My right eye is being removed in August.  There is no vision in it and I am taking lots of drops and painkillers just to live with it.  So, I will soon be able to wear an eyepatch for real 🙂

We have had a couple of nice trips out on Rhoda Rose, an overnight in Brightlingsea and one to West Mersea where I met another sailing guide dog owner on the pontoon!  What are the chances of that?  I mean, we could have been really close to one another and not even noticed.  I think Inca was pleased to find another sailing guide dog, at least he knows he is not the only one after all.

This trip was particularly pleasing as I was able to sail, not motor, Rhoda Rose all the way there and had a great beat, tack on tack, all the way back to Maldon.  I am begining to learn that RR will indeed sail, but needs a top F3 to F4 to really get moving.  Low F3 and she can not get enough way on to get her head through the wind without starting the engine to help her through.  With a full set of instrumentation (wind direction and speed, depth sounder, auto-helm, rudder position indicator) single handing her is possible.  I had my old mum on board just to keep a weather eye open for small dinghys and bouys that I might not see but, apart from that, I brought her back single handed.  Although I did mess up the berthing just a bit, but there you go, we live and learn.  Basically do not try to berth without enough water!

As a VI sailor, taking RR out on my own would be foolhardy.  She is too big and heavy to risk a collision and would do a dinghy or classic wooden boat an awful lot of damage, built as she is like a proverbial brick ****house.  Yet I have long hankered for a taste of single handed sailing.  Just to get out on my own without having to rely or worry about others.  To spend a few hours independently.  But single handing without putting others at risk, or indeed myself into a situation I can not recover myself from is not an option in a 28′ 6 tonne motor sailor.  So I devised a cunning plan…

Say hello to ‘Little Nutmeg’. LM rigged


Little Nutmeg is a ‘Character Boats’ Lune Pilot.  She is based on a working craft used in Morcambe Bay to ferry pilots onto ships to bring them up the rivers.  There is a fantastic website/blog dedicated to these boats that I heartily recommend ‘www.thelunepilot.com’

She has no centreboard but relies on her hull form to reduce leeway.  She also carries 70kgms of ballast in her long keel and is all but uncapsizable, at least so I am told.

Lune pilots are often converted to gaff rig, but Little Nutmeg retains her original standing lug, with a tiny, but essential for tacking, jibsail on an even tinier bowsprit.  There is no standing rigging, so even sailing downwind, one can release the mainsheet and spill all the wind, maintaining total control.  Technically I think she is classified as a Pilot Skiff and looking from her bow you can see why.  She is very flat bottomed but retains a fine entry and is rather elegant, well I think so.  LM bow on

Now to my cunning plan 🙂

On a good day, I have some useful vision.  Not much it must be said but some.  On a bad day I have almost none, these are the days when Inca really earns his gravy bones.

I honestly think that with my trusty iPad running Navionics, with a large Sowester Bosun compass bolted to the rear seat, with my H/H VHF and my iPhone on board in a waterproof bag and on a ‘good eye’ day, I can manage to sail on my own in this boat.  No standing rigging to get tangled and only the main sheet and tiny jib sheets to worry about.  I reckon I can sail out of our yard, down river, behind Northey Island, maybe around Osea and find my way back in a tide.  If I hit anything or get into trouble, I can not do too much harm in a 14′ dinghy.  She draws 15″ so I can use an oar to punt her off of mud banks, I have a little Honda O/B just in case.  Little Nutmeg MaylandseaI have sailed her a couple of times with sighted crew and she is a delight to sail.  She points suprisingly close to the wind and is very forgiving.

I know the river well.  What could possibly go wrong?  OK quite a lot but seriously I think I can manage it.  I have a couple of waterproof video cameras and will record my adventure.  Watch this space!




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There goes another summer…

Well, that went by in a flash.

Another fun packed summer has passed.  A few highlights, got a new eye fitted, well not a complete eye, but a new artificial cornea.  Knowns techically as a Keratoprosthesis, basicall a tiny plastic lens in a titanium carrier that was implanted into my rejected corneal tissue.  Sadly the vision is not what one could have hoped for, light perception and not a lot more really, in fact what little there was seems to be fading daily.  Never mind, it was worth a try.  Started supply teaching, just a few days each week but enough to help out with the mortgage and, of course, buy toys for Rose.

We had a couple of really great trips, nothing too exciting for you hardy salty old sea dogs, but great fun all the same.  Middle son could not really reconcile himself to a motor sailer and went out and got his own boat.  A nice little Westerly Cirrus.  She was lying in the marina in Ramsgate.  The dear chap drove down with girlfriend and dog, a few sandwiches and a can of diesel and set off for the Blackwater.  To cut a long story short his engine failed off of North Foreland, he could not start the little Honda O/B I lent him for the trip (he forgot the kill cord), and he could not make any way against the strong current and the westerly wind, well not with three feet of kelp streaming off of the bottom of the boat he IMG_2006couldn’t.  He raised the CG at about 19;30 and they taked the Ramsgate lifeboat to bring  him in.  Still every cloud has a silver lining and it provided me with the perfect excuse for a trip in Rhoda Rose to escort him back home.  After cleaning the fuel tank and pressure washing the bottom of his boat.

There is a film of the trip if you have nothing better to watch in the Video section.  ‘Lively’ as she is now known as, sails really well and she made the trip home in fine style.

Just before the Ramsgate trip I decided to dry Rhoda Rose and check her anodes and give her a quick clean up.  She had been sitting in her berth for 8 years before I took over stewardship and was last dried out three years ago so I reasoned she must be encrusted.

IMG_1987As you can see, she was in very good shape.  Few barnies and only a little weed, even the anodes looked to have another season left in them.

So a quick coat of Barnacle food and she floated off on the next tide.

Of course, I have spent a fortune on her, everything was essential of course…

Well, in a manner of speaking…



New S/H DSC/VHF with built in AIS, linked to the 180i plotter, Rudder position indicator, NASA mast head wind speed and direction indicator and on the mizzen a windex.  Essential gizmos imho to sail a wheelhouse boat efficiently.  Webasto 3500 Airtop heater, second hand but seems a good investment, assorted halyards and sheets and a few deck fittings, Lots of varnish on the gunnels and rubbing strakes and a good clean below decks.

Middle son took this while fitting the NASA wind/dir.

Middle son took this while fitting the NASA wind/dir.

Since then Rhoda Rose has had a few outings and a couple of overnight stops anchored off of Osea Island, very nice too.

I find, as a VI person, visibility is not as good from inside a wheelhouse as it is outside in the cockpit.  I find I rely much more on instruments for navigation then  I ever used to, so having a sighted crew on board is even more important than it used to be.  On the upside, being big, warm and comfortable means I have no problem find said crew!

Winter sailing is definatly on the agenda now, indeed there is no excuse not to use her, so more updates during the coming months I hope.


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Romance vs. Practicality?

Well, I have bowed to the inevitable and sold my soul for the sake of my crew.  As regular visitors will already know, as a VI sailor I have to have a sighted crew aboard for the peace of mind of the denizens of the River Blackwater.  The suggestion of a blind bloke belting up the river in a heavy boat, for some reason, seems to bring out the worst in people and they purse lips and wag heads in a disaproving manner!  Inexplicably, having a sighted crew member aboard seems to make people a little more sanguine about my sailing activities.

Now, I love gaffers.  I loved my old Nutmeg, flush decked and crampped, impracticable as she was.  4’6″ of headroom is not, lets face it, to everyones taste, but she was a beauty!  Sailed as if she was on rails and a joy to handle in all types of wind.  Lifting center plate was ideal for east coast sailing.  (sigh).  You will note I speak of my love in the past tense.

Nutmeg had to go to avoid mutiny amongst my crew and to ensure my 36 year marriage continued blisfully into the future


So Nutmeg has been sold and will be living on the Thames at Greenwich.  I am now the owner of Rhoda Rose, a Colvic Watson ketch rigged motor sailor.  She seems huge!

The Wheelhouse

The WheelhouseRhoda Rose has all mod cons, two forms of heating, calorifyer, hot and cold running water, oven, grill and hob, sound system, and most important of all, well over 6′ headroom.

There is no getting away from it, she makes sense.  Accomodation is incredible.  Room to move about and relax in comfort.  My dear wife is much happier, the wheelhouse makes a great bird hide.

Jayne in WH


I suppose I will sound ungrateful if I state that I understand all the advantages Rhoda Rose offers.  She is big, safe, has a 50hp Volvo Penta, sails fine off of the wind and with the engine ticking over points well enough to windward too.  But she is NOT AN OLD GAFFER.  She is not romantic, I can not pretend to be a pirate aboard her, she does not creek, you do not get spray splashed on your face in a wheelhouse.


Rhoda’s helm position.  Auto helm, AIS, GPS, Chartplotter and DSC-VHF as well as depth and speed log and compass.  Windscreen wipers and, and, and, not a tiller in sight.

In every way all one could want, lots of gizmos to play with but, somehow, I think I will miss the feel of the tiller.

I know many many people would love a boat like Rhoda Rose and I am very aware of how lucky I am to own such a lovely boat.  Please do not think me ungrateful.  It is just that I do not yet love her.  There, I have said it.  She is a great boat but she is not a romantic one.

Me in WH

So, there you are.  I now own a sensible, practical floating carav, oops, motor sailor.  When Rhoda and I have scared each other a few times, spent a few nights at anchor together, got through some foul weather together and arrived safely home, I am sure I will grow to love her.

She has kept me busy, sorting out electrics, deck leaks and so on.  All great fun and a part of boat ownership I love.  She has been revarnished inside and out, and the gelcoat has been polished.  I have even fitted curtain rails and curtains to match her scatter cushions (not quite the same as releathering a gaff jaw and slavering tallow on a bowsprit).  Right, thats it.  I will not moan about her again! Promise! Really.

So begins a new chapter in my sailing career.  Goodbye Nutmeg, welcome Rhoda Rose.


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A new year ahead…

…here we go into 2014 and I don’t know about you but I am feeling a little bit (just a little bit) optimistic about it. My eyesight seems to have settled down (at a much reduced level) and the eye is much less painful now I am not persisting with the ‘trial’ lens. A good idea I am sure but just didnt work for me. Moorfields have made me a new Scleral that is a bit more comfortable although the vision is poor. Still handy to pop it in now an again for odd jobs around the boat. Talking of which, Nutmeg is still afloat and I visited her the other day to fiddle about below decks. I have made an extended chimney flue for her charcoal heater and the Pansey Atkey is much more efficient now. Inca and I went aboard about 10:00 and I worked below, listening to R4 and drinking

Navionics Tide App

Navionics Tide App

coffee, and, of course, working away. About lunchtime I thought that Inca was due for a walkies and we popped onto the pontoon to make our way to the local park to find we had been marooned! Inca and I had never seen the tide this high, but the yard manager said that it was a good foot or so higher just before Christmas. Even so, pretty impressive.  I often marvel at the energy required to shift countless millions of gallons of water up and down the Blackwater twice a day. IMG_1483   The pontoons were not that far from the top of thier piles.

One hour before HW and rising.

One hour before HW and rising.

A bit more normal!

A bit more normal!

So, there we were marooned aboard.  Still many worse places one could get stuck I suppose.

Inca is adept at bladder control and as long as I plied him with the odd biccy, did not seem to mind too much.

There have been developments on the Leather website too.  Ben, my eldest son, is  a software developer and he and his wife spent Christmas with us.  The live in Pasadena in the USofA and it was great to see them.  Ben decided the Blackwater Leather site needed ‘sorting out’ and set to with a will.  In not time he had completly re-vamped the site.  If you are interested pop over to www.blackwaterleather.co.uk and let me know what you think of it.

High Springs in the Yard

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How time flies..

What with one thing and another , another prostate scare not least amongst them, this sad little blog has been shamefully neglected. Promise to try harder!

20131001-230116.jpg Since my last post lots has happened with Nutmeg. We have had some great sails, even having a three day cruise with my old mum (76) and the long suffering Inca (4). (Lots has happened? Is that good English?)

The Blackwater Leather business is ticking along nicely, still early days but it is showing promise, there is even an online shop! Clever eh?

My eyesight is not too good at the moment and, despite Moorfields best efforts, is not back to my version of normal yet.
I have been thinking about this blog and wonder where it should go next? Any ideas?

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Blackwater Leather

well, funny how things change, how one thing leads to another. Following my depression over not being able to go astern in Nutmeg, she heard that I was going to sell her and behaved last time out.

There is a definite love hate relationship building between us!

I love her, she hates me!

Anyway, owning an old gaffer means learning lots of new skills and amongst them is leatherwork. As followers may remember I replaced all the leatherwork on Nutmeg and added a few innovations along the way..

Our ever helpful yard manager was much impressed and suggested that I could do leatherwork to supplement my meagre income. Several people around the yard have complemented us on the quality of the stitching and so on and three have even ordered phone cases! So, after due consideration, an investment in tools and materials Blackwater Leather is in business!!

Please please have a look at www.blackwaterleather.co.uk

I would really appreciate your feedback on the site, as I cannot, for obvious reasons, tell clearly how people see it.

Oh, and if you want a new phone case in handstitched vegetable tanned best quality leather, drop me a line at blackwaterleather@gmail.com

Every little helps!

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She might not go astern, but…

…she sails well.

We finally got Nutmeg out cruising and took advantage of almost perfect sailing weather to double tide it to West Mersea and back.

A truly wonderful sail.

New video added in the video section. Hope you like it.

So come on you fellows. How does a bloke with half an eye get a reluctant long keel boat to behave in and out of her berth?


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She Swims!

The long refit is coming to an end at last.  The Sunday before last our ever helpful yard manager offered to crane her in.  A hectic day of last minute preparations entailed.  I realised that there were no cleats or fairleads fitted, that we had never retracted the bowsprit, that a hundred lines, cups, tools and so on had to be removed or correctly stowed away.

A really busy day but at HW, which on that Sunday happened about 19:00, Nutmeg was launched.  No champaign or cheering crowds but nothing went wrong either, you can not have it all ways can you?

Mainsail up at lastOn her berth at last

Of course there are still a hundred little jobs to do.  Wiring up the masthead lights and VHF antenna proved to take a lot longer then it should have done.  The mainsheet still needs finishing as do the cockpit seat slats.  Chart plotter, compass etc etc.  But these are all minor details, the point is she is afloat and almost ready for sea!

In my last post I spoke about a chap I know on life support.  It didn’t look too good for him but he is recovered, out of a coma and home again with his wife!  Like Nutmeg, there are still things that need sorting but he is back where he should be.  At home.

My eyesight is still playing up.  I am waiting for a new Scleral Lens to be sent to Moorfields which, if it works, should extend the wearing time enough to get back to work at least.  We shall have to wait and see.

"Better then trying to climb that stupid stepladder"

“Better then trying to climb that stupid stepladder”


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Out of the blue…

S… things happen.  A friends husband, just a few weeks ago, bought me a pint.  Now he is on a life support machine.  A few weeks ago I was working as usual, then my eye started playing up and refused to tolerate its scleral contact lens.  I am now off work waiting to see a consultant at Moorfields and a few days later I shall be taking part in a trial of a new type of lens.  Funny old world, in’it?

A mate of mine has a saying, ‘we are not here for long and its not a rehearsal’, how very true that seems to me at the moment.

The answer?


Since I took over Lady Jayne (aka Tangle) I have not really ‘got’ the name.  Somehow it just didnt seem to suit the old girl.  Now being a fan of Patrick O’Brian I have always liked the name Nutmeg (from the Nutmeg of Consolation).  I once had a dinghy of the same name but…  So a quick bribe of middle son later…  Man at work

In not time at all he had primed, painted and sign written a new nameboard for Lady J err, Nutmeg.

Finally settled on a name we can live with...

Finally settled on a name we can live with…

Middle son informs me he is open to commissions by the way (www.mawkin.co.uk)

So, that job finally out of the way, where are with the refit?  Now, my eyesight being very poor indeed at the moment I have had to rely on middle son and my poor old mum to keep things progressing.

The after deck and lockers are all finished in lovely marine ply and gallons of epoxy resin…

After lockers going back in.

After lockers going back in.

IMG_0475The ever industrious chap has also started making really nice cockpit locker lids too.  Those horrible brown plastic things just had to go.


The forward decks have been treated to the first coat of deck paint and now look soooo much nicer.

IMG_0473The last owner of Nutmeg had a thing about brown paint.  One of the major tasks has been scraping the damn stuff off.  Even though I can not see at the moment, under supervision of my old mum, I set about scraping, scraping and scraping the rubbing strakes and gunwales.  Even without any varnish on, all agree that she is looking much smarter already…

Just removing the brown paint made the rubbing strake and gunwales look much better

Just removing the brown paint made the rubbing strake and gunwales look much better




At home, the gaff and bowsprit are finished, six coats of ‘Schooner’ and all fittings back in place.  The boom is waiting for one more coat and the mast for two, so weather and eyesight permitting I am getting optimistic about launching by the end of June.  Rats, I should never have said that, now we will find another thousand jobs to do!

More soon,  thanks for taking the time to read this rubbish.


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One step forward…

Mast based repaired and getting its first coat of varnish.

Mast based repaired and getting its first coat of varnish.

Mast base finished

Mast base finished

So, this weekend the mast came out of the shed and into the sunlight!  Jamie set about it with his plane and in no time the new timber was a perfect match and apart from the colour, was hard to spot.  The following day I applied the first couple of coats of Varnol.  It is a mixture of Kiln Burnt Stockholm tar, Pine Turpentine and Boiled Linseed oil.  It soaks in and, I am told, provides a good base for varnishing.  Time will tell.

The mast being varnished at last.

The mast being varnished at last.

With the weather continuing bright, the following day I applied the first of the varnish coats and the mast is turning a lovely golden colour.

During the week I set about the gaff jaws and jib traveler.  The jaws had lost most of the leather and had scrapped a lot of varnish off the mast, after all this work I wanted to get this sorted.  I belong to the Cornish Crabber Club and its associated forum, a mine of information on all things Crabby.  A very nice chap sent me detailed instructions on the black art of re-leathering and I set about following his advice…

Gaff Jaws and Jib Traveler finished

Gaff Jaws and Jib Traveler finished

Re leathered and ready to fit.

Re leathered and ready to fit.

I have to say I am very pleased with the end result.  I have now applied three coats of Dubbin and polished the bearing faces to a bright shine.  I have also ordered some Tallow from eBay as I have it on good authority that Tallow is the best stuff to lubricate the Gaff Jaws and Traveler, thus avoiding damage to the varnish in the future and, hopefully, make hoisting sails much easier!

So, all good so far.  Yeah, right.  Just when things are going well, there is always something waiting in the wings to kick you in the goolies when you least expect it.  There I was happily (smugly) reflecting on how well everything was going as I prepped the cockpit for a coat of paint when I noticed a slightly soft patch of plywood.  Nil Desperandum, I had recently replaced such a soft bit and felt confident that I could deal with it…

Repair to deck forward of engine hatch

Repair to deck forward of engine hatch

This bit was the work of just a few minutes to sort out.  Just needs sanding and covering with matting and epoxy and a coat of deck paint.

Ahh, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  To cut a long story short, I have found a huge portion of the after-deck that is so rotten I could, literally, squeeze water out of it with my bare hands.

Stbd deck support beam

Stbd deck support beam

Not a pretty sight

Not a pretty sight

Beam that supports the rudder tube.

Beam that supports the rudder tube.

Removing rotten sections of aft deck 1

Removing rotten sections of aft deck 1

From a little soft patch to this in 15 minutes!

From a little soft patch to this in 15 minutes!

So we seem to have another major job on our hands.  Mrs BS was her normal totally supportive self, providing tea and support just when I needed it…

Tea and sympathy!

Tea and sympathy!

…while I set about getting support of a more technical sort from those chaps on the CCC forums.  Thanks chaps.

Asking for help on the forum!

Asking for help on the forum!

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