Thursday 9th October 2014 There are still some places left for my little talk about sailing to Jan Mayen in a 26 ft Vertue and climbing Beerenberg - the most northerly volcano in the world. It is on this Thursday 9th October and starts at 1845 lasting a bit over one hour. Ideally email email@example.com to book your place but I expect there will be space on the night. The talk is free of charge. Arthur Beale’s Yacht Chandler, 194 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JP www.arthurbeale.co.uk
28th September 2014
I normally run the Henley Half Marathon run by the local Rotary Club but my buddy who shall remain nameless although his surname sounds like a wood boring tool suggested this would be a great little run and we should sign up for it. So obeying instructions I duly signed myself and Grit up and paid the entrance fees. Of course my buddy who’s surname sounds like a wood boring tool decided not to bother! We went ahead and arrived in plenty of time for the 0930 start. I think there were about 400 competitors but that included a 10 k too. As we sat in the car park a car drew up alongside with a couple of hard-core runners – singlet top, slit shorts, dark glasses and I made a prediction that number 367 would win outright. It was a grand sunny morning but a little too hot for me. We started a 0930 and I was determined to do a negative split. The course was flat mainly along the Thames and predominantly on gravel, hard mud or grass but with some tarmaced paths. In theory it should be fast. I felt I was going pretty well even though I had done hardly any training and been working late the evening before. Sadly I misjudged it and came in at my usual time of 1 hour 50 min and I think 08 seconds only to find Grit already there having finished in a record beating 1 hour 28 minutes! Sadly she was directed incorrectly by one of the marshals and missed a big loop off the course so she duly owned up and lost her place. Number 367 came in first!
St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival
13th and 14th September 2014
I’m rather ashamed to admit that I have never been to this event before. I can only assume that any weekend that I had free I would whizz off to the coast to sail the Good Ship Sumara.
This year the Arthur Beale Yacht Chandler project has rather taken over my life so any chance to mix business with pleasure was to be very welcome. The staff at St Katharine Docks have been very supportive of the Arthur Beale project. They put our fliers in all the welcome packs which are given to the visiting yachts and send visitors down to us if they need anything for their boats. So when I broached the idea of Arthur Beale’s having a stand at their Classic Boat Festival it was received as a welcome addition to the shoreside activities at the festival.
We got to work and built a little stand and they let me sail in with Sumara as part of the festivities. The three mile trip up the Thames can be surprisingly rough. At high water, which is the only time you can lock in and out, the waves created by the pleasure passenger boats bounce off the embankments and cause a confused chop of short waves. It is lovely and calm at low water when the waves are dissipated by the beaches but of course you can’t lock in or out. Making use of the last of a really powerful spring tide we moored at St Katharine’s at about 4 pm on the Thursday. The dock was full of fantastic looking boats all dressed overall with gleaming brightwork. The steam tug Portwey was there, an MTB, some sailing barges and the Queens barge Glorianna plus a host of small yachts and wonderful river craft.
On Friday evening we built our stand. The blurb describes it as a pop up chandler – if only! It went together very smoothly but still took three or four hours to “pop” up. The stock arrived on Saturday morning and by 1100 we were open for business. Luckily it was a dry weekend although the odd spot of rain did scare us. The stand is watertight but we had spread our wings and laid goods out all around. We had no idea what to do if there was a downpour!
It was a lovely weekend with thousands of people admiring the boats and of course our fine merchandise. Some couldn’t resist the temptation and made a purchase others would chat about their boats and others just wondered what we were doing there.
On Saturday night we all dived on board Sumara for a drink and a modest bite to eat. With ten people on board it is a cosy affair!
The stand is all away now and early in the morning I’ll sail Sumara back to South Dock. Hopefully we will be able to do it again next year.
3rd August 2014 Brightlingsea
Best laid plans and all that. Eventually I had to pull out of the sail to Lofoten in Norway because of the time I needed to devote to the Arthur Beale Project. Beale’s is hard work. With so much going on it involves working long hours for six days a week. To leave for a long sail just wasn’t going to work out. It was a great shame to have to abandon what could have been a great adventure but the Beales Project is actually great fun too albeit rather closely related to “work”. Never mind, Sumara needed a little sail to get some salt on her decks and I needed a bit of a breather so I took last week off to go for a sail with no plans at all. It was a modest affair but we managed to sail every day (if Pyefleet Creek to Brightlingsea counts). The usual routine of taking the tide down the Thames and up the Medway led us to Queenborough. The next day was filthy so we decided to visit the Ropery in Chatham. As we are clients of Chatham Ropery we were given a fantastic trip around this amazing building. I had been before but had forgotten just how the length of the building is so impressive. The Hearts of Oak exhibition is worth a trip too. Sailing in the Thames Estuary is quite taxing on the brain. There are impossible equations to work out – if we want the tide we must leave at high water and get in at low water but there isn’t enough water at low water so we can leave later but then it will be dark or leave earlier but there won’t be any wind and in any case who knows when we will arrive because if the wind shifts we will be headed but then we could lee bow the spring tide and maybe get a lift from it now my brain is very tired can we go to bed and just go sailing when we wake up? We arrived at Brightlingsea at the bottom of a spring tide and gently touched the mud trying to mooch up to read the tide gauge in the half dark. To be honest I don’t think I was on that 40 degree leading line so maybe we could have got in. However I always think it is poor form to shut a harbour by going aground in the entrance and we decided to drop the hook in Pyefleet and venture in with more water in the morning. We were kindly shown to a berth on the visitors pontoon by the Harbour Master and we sat in the sun in the cockpit watching life go by. A fine collapsable rowing boat with a couple and two children rowed across the harbour and I remembered how my friend Martin used to rave about his collapsable rowing boat. Then, just as two and two were adding up, (my brain was still tired after all that tide work) Martin stood up and waved! What a pleasant surprise, Martin and Katie with their much more grown up children Dylan and Tess were moored just opposite us. After a catch up, they decided to teach the children some sailing while we decided to go for a swim – my first sea swim of the year. We took the ferry ashore and the little pier was heaving with happy children pulling crab after crab out of the sea with screams of excitement. We had a nice chat with a boat yard owner working on a launch in a place of great character. We walked past the beach huts, the lido and the tidal pool and had a swim in lovely warm water between the groynes. In the evening we met up with Martin and Katie and children and had a tasty meal in the Yacht Club (although my friend Norman has just told me that we missed the best fish and chip shop in the world – next time!). The next day we sailed to Slaughter House Point to await a tide back up the Thames. South Dock shuts up shop at 5 pm on weekends so we needed to return a day early to make use of the bulk of the flood tide.
It was a good sailing week, but now some real hard work must start.
20th July 2014
South Dock, London
Sumara’s teak decks are, like the good ship, 24 years old. In general I would say they are doing pretty well but they were beginning to look a little sad and dried out. Each year I replace quite a few plugs with new ones held in with resorcinol glue. I also do a few strips of caulking so the worst 5 – 10% gets redone each year. Nevertheless the timber just looks sad and uncared for. I have always been a believer in leaving teak as it is, just giving it a gentle clean across the grain or letting active deck shoes do the cleaning. So I had a choice of doing nothing and continue with sad decks or maybe try to clean them up a bit. I decided to give a couple of products a try despite them having the most appalling names – wait for it: “Teak O Bright and Clean” and “Teak O Bello” – arghh! They are both water based and didn’t sound like they would do any harm. We tried the cockpit sole first just in case and I must say I was very impressed. The cleaner didn’t seem to do much at first but the teak dried out looking very smart and the water-based top coat went on easily and gave the teak a cared for appearance without seemingly affecting the grip. It was all pretty quick and the water-based clean up helps too. Lets see how long it lasts.
15th June 2014
This was an on/off event for me. My crunchy arm had prevented me from swimming and there was so much going on that it all seemed very doubtful that I would make it to the start line. However, three weeks ago I decided to go for it and booked myself some swimming lessons, bought a wetsuit and persuaded my friend Richard to take me on a few cycle training jaunts. So feeling rather nervous and poorly prepared for my first triathlon I arrived at Windsor with John, Tim and Liam at the unearthly time of about 0600. We had racked the bikes on the Saturday. It was time to climb into the dreaded wetsuit (Zone 3 £150.00). They are unbelievably tight and, as my head comes out of my body in a different place to most humans, it has a tenancy to garrotte me. Tip toing bare foot from the transition area to the start point was quite painful.
The race starts in “Waves”. My wave was number 17 and the start gun went off at 0715.
There was an almighty scrum of clashed arms and thrashing feet. The current was really strong and I struggled to move at all. I also found it hard to get my breathing under control and it was an awful attempt to cross the river into quieter currents. Once there things went a bit better but still bad as I made slow progress up the right hand bank. The turning point was interesting as it was almost impossible to make progress against the strong current but it just had to happen. Once around the buoy I recovered my breath and got quite into the stride of it.
The end was in sight and I clambered out feeling very light headed and unstable after 39 minutes 36 seconds. Eventually I gathered my composure and ran to the transition area.
I panicked when I couldn’t get out of my wetsuit and decided to tear it off. Then I realised the Velcro flap was still attached and managed to peel the thing off and jump on the bike after more than 3 minutes.
The bike ride was fun and armed with some jelly babies seemed to go quite well. The 42 km ride took me 1 hour 27 minutes and 9 seconds. That said my friend Tim was riding a single speed wooden bike he made himself and finished
in a staggering 1 hour 19.38!
The transition from bike to run was fast and there was enough energy left in the tank the complete the run in 51 minutes 32 seconds.
The final time was a very slow 3 hours 03 minutes and 33 seconds – not too good but a result nevertheless.
I rather enjoyed it!
194 Shaftesbury Avenue, London
11th May 2014
I haven’t updated the Sumara blog for a while because I have been rather busy. Well it is always busy getting Sumara ready to go back in the water but this year something has made it double busy. Gerry and I seem to have bought Arthur Beale Ltd, a 400 year old yacht chandler based slap bang wallop in the middle of London’s West End. To be honest it was the last thing on our minds as we both had plenty on our plates but when we found out that it was really struggling it was obvious that if we didn’t act quickly the wonderful shop would be lost to all.
Arthur Beale supplied the rope for the early attempts on Everest. They supplied Shackleton too. In fact they were major suppliers of climbing gear such as rucksacks, ice axes and slings. It wasn’t just yachts. The history is quite fantastic. The five floors are littered with old ledgers, printing blocks for ancient catalogues and even stock that must be hundreds of years old.
Of course we sought advise. They all said “No, don’t do it”. We tried to get more people involved but most people felt it was too risky but Gerry and I just thought it needs to be saved and there was a remote chance that we were the people to do it. So the last couple of months have been hectic! The poor shop had been selling off stock but without funds to replenish. It had become rather sad. We have managed to get a lot of the stock replenished and are now opening longer hours. The place is already getting busier but there is a long way to go.
As the timing wasn’t really our choice we haven’t all managed to sit down and work out the master plan but we are all keen to keep the charm of the place and to try to re-establish it as a serious place to visit to buy chandlery. I expect you can imagine the kinds of things I would like to stock!
It is all work in progress but if you are in the West End it would be great to see you. I tend to work in the shop from mid afternoon until 8 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you are around this Saturday after 3 pm we will be celebrating Norway Day with a free glass of Aquavit!
Being in Sweden they should really be called Pulkka (from the Finnish pulkka) but pulks or sledges will do. The one we used was made of wood to a design of one of Svartes relatives. The design was so successful that it became part of the Swedish army’s equipment.
It was light in weight and Svarte had tarred the based. It had three runners which I think had brass strips on them but I could be wrong – it has been known.
The gear has to be placed so it is well balanced. The large nylon fish type box seems de rigour in the Arctic. Ours had a slide-in lid but we did see a nice touch on Lars’ one which had a wooden lid, foam padded and covered in vinyl so he could sit on it while ice fishing.
From the front of the pulkka was attached the skakel which are light poles to attach the pulkka to your harness. You need rigid poles to stop the thing mowing you down on the downhill stretches! Ours were made of bamboo and attached with leather. I suppose this was the “Classic Pulkka” and obviously appealed to a wooden boat owner like me.
The runners were waxed with some “glide”. The waistcoat drew up around everything and was secured by tieing the draw cord.
The skakel was clipped onto your harness. Our harness didn’t have braces but I think I would have preferred them. The harness felt like it was slipping down from time to time. Padding would help a bit but ours wasn’t and we didn’t suffer too much. On flat ground one person with skinned skis can pull away merrily for a while but on hills or long distances it can be good to share the load. It would be worth considering two light pulkkas rather than one heavy one. To share with two extra people we fed the hauling line (8 mm x 16 plait matt braided polyester) through an oscillant Petzl pulley attached with bungee to the person attached to the pulkka. The two other ends of the line went to each other skier. The pulley meant one can pull ahead slightly and the bungee gave a smooth transmission. I’m afraid the picture was a bit of a pose!
With one extra person pulling the 8 m length of rope was perfect. On hummocked ice it meant the front skier was on her/his way down the bump while the aft person was on his/her way up. Refinements would concern very quick attachment and release of all ropes. Maybe nylon “Cod End Rings” and light Karabiners would help.
It is good to be able to unclip rapidly because the person attached directly to the pulkka can start to run you down on downhill stretches bearing in mind your skis may well have skins on them. Our pulkka was never weighed but we think it was about 60 kg – mainly cheese.
Last week we returned from Sweden having spent a week tackling a grand section of the Kungsleden in Arctic Sweden.
We managed to miss our flight northwards from Stockholm due to fog delays in London so we arrived to meet Charlotte after a night sitting up on a train from Stockholm to Umea. Charlotte had persuaded the ski hire shop to open specially for us so we could collect Grits skis. I had decided a year earlier to buy a pair of Nato Combat skis with short skins. So armed with skis and Charlottes comprehensive provisioning we drove north to collect Svarte from his forestry conference.
We then continued north through the Arctic Circle and on to Jokkmokk where Svarte was originally from. By now there was snow as there was a distinct lack further south. We were to stay with Svarte’s sister for the night before heading off to the start of the adventure.
On Saturday Svartes other sister drove us to Saltoluokta Fjellstation which we reached by skiing across a frozen lake. A local warden offered to tow our pulka across saving us one drag. This “Hut” bordered on hotel and had a top notch restaurant where we enjoyed our last posh meal before the journey would begin in earnest in the morning.
The weather the previous week had been appalling with winds reaching 47 metres a second but things had calmed down and we were expecting some fine conditions.
Sunday. The first day was to be 20 km with a steep initial climb for 3 – 4 km then mainly gentle uphill through a mountain pass. We were to be pulling the pulka for the first time for most of us. It was quite warm at minus 10°C with light snow. The Norwegian weather site www.yr.no is recommended. We arrived at Sitojaure Stugan in reasonable light. It was close to the equinox so it got dark around 1800. Charlotte brewed up a massive spaghetti on the stove which we shared with the hut warden. We were going to share it with a guest there called Lars but there was none left when he returned from ice fishing. We offered him some nuts and got a beer in return. What a result! Not only that, but Lars offered to take our heavy pulka up the mountain on his snowmobile to save us an arduous tow.
Monday. A shorter day of 14 km but we were originally planning a long detour to Skierfe which is a massive cliff. As it happened it would have taken too long so as compensation Charlotte and I climbed Doaresoajvve (1,083 m) and had a pleasant ski down. I still have little confidence skiing downhill with these kind of skis especially after breaking my arm last year. Gradually I am sure my skills will improve especially with my new skis. The temperature was minus 17°C but fine. We arrived at Aktse hut to be greeted by a wonderful lady who wore strange shoes and, apparently, does massage! What’s more she sold beer! These Swedish “huts” are pretty good!
Tuesday. Down to minus 22°C but clear and sunny. We had 25 km of pulka towing ahead of us. Our progress was pretty slow at about 3 km per hour and it became very apparent that it could be a very late arrival. It made sense for two to go ahead and get the hut prepared and the fire underway while team two pulled away. Svarte and Charlotte were the fastest skiers so they went on and Grit and I pulled the pulka. The pulka weighed about 60 kg (guess) and would slip along quite easily on flattish ground. We had a technique with two people pulling using rubber bungee (gummi stropper) to even out the pull. The ropes were 8 m long and about right. We eventually arrived at a private hut at Sjabtjak at 8 pm and minus 26°C. Interestingly we discovered LED Lenser torches will work at this temperature but if you turn them off they wont come back on. I checked with the manufacturer and they agree that minus 20° is the lowest they effectively work at. Petzl headtorche remained on.
Wednesday. We decided to rest up and do a few hut tasks today but we also found time to drill a hole in the ice and catch an Arctic Chard. I also learned that so long as the temperature is below minus 10° C you can walk around in the snow in your socks without bothering with boots! My Eskimo socks with Bridgedale liners were perfect.
Thursday. Grit had a bad blister and decided it best to rest up until it healed. Svarte, Charlotte and I decided to climb Oarjep Sjabttjakvarre 784 m. We set off through the forest and made a fire for coffee. Actually we ended up climbing the peak behind our intended mountain which was a bit higher.
The weather was beginning to close in and it started to snow heavily with reduced visibility. Time to head for the hut. We kept our short skins on the skis as we descended the trickier steep slopes then took them off as we entered the tree line. Skiing downhill with skins is tricky on bumpy paths as the skin catch on the hummocks throwing you forwards. It is best to ski with one ski in front of the other by about a foot length to help with some front to back stability. We made it safely back to the warm hut for our evening meal.
Friday. We pulled the pulka to Klivkok through relatively flat landscape of lakes and woods before making the steeper descent to our final destination. The mountain station here was very well equipped with a wonderful warden who told us about the geology of this interesting delta area. I would imagine a trip here in the summer with a kayak would be as good as it was with skis in the winter although actually it wasn’t winter despite the snow but the spring equinox. The lady in the shop told us that we had left a credit card and a sun glass case at the Aske hut about 75 km north of where we were. Instead of telling them to cut up the card another plan was hatched.We hired some powerful snowmobiles to collect the credit card! It would be a 150 km trip over the Kabla Mountains. I had only driven a snowmobile years ago and they have got faster! In the dark we hacked across a lake at about 50 kph to Kalle and Ilvers country retreat.
Saturday. Armed with about five SkiDoos we set off at a fantastic pace towards the Kabla Mountains. This was a bit of a treat as we had hoped to ski across them on our trip to Klivkok but ran out of time. Travelling at high speed, some were going at 120 kph, across fresh deep snow in deserted mountains is quite an experience. We reached Aske and once again met the lovely warden with weird shoes. Once the card was safely collected we headed up into the woods to make a fire for lunch. More on fire making and food later. We returned to hand back the snow mobiles and had a fine meal in their posh restaurant. It was soon to be over.
Sunday. We drove back to Umea ready to catch our night train back to Stockholm and then home. Thanks to Charlotte and Svarte for an amazing and educational week!
2nd March 2014
Grit, Pen, Anthony (Alex), Paul and Alasdair
This was the Half Marathon that I had been waiting for. I’ve run it once before and loved it. It is virtually all trials and pretty hilly being based around the South Downs. The first time I ran it, the “Stinger” was pretty dry under foot with just a few muddy patches but today it was quite different with long muddy stretches sometimes up to a foot deep. I went for the mass start at 0900 but you can give your time and start earlier if you prefer to avoid the crowds. Actually you can opt to walk it if you like and set off at 0730.
There was no announcement but we were off! And it was straight into a muddy field that acted like suction pads on your legs. Anthony (Alex) lost his shoe and he certainly wasn’t the only one. The first “Sting” is a bit of a trick as there is a long uphill slog and eventually the brim of the hill and it turns down. Sadly don’t be tricked as the real sting hasn’t even started. Eventually you get onto the top of the downs with easy going and great views. Pen had motored on passed me by now and it wasn’t long before Anthony overtook me. The open running up here suited Anthony and he was soon out of site. There was a biting wind and even running it made me a bit chilly. There again I was only wearing a tee shirt.
At about 9 miles (I think) the path splits and those super-fit lunatics doing the full marathon shoot off to the right while us whimps begin the descent back to base. Here I misjudged a foot placement and twisted my leg but managed to carry on running on it with just a little pain. The 13 mile sign came into view so I tried to gather my reserves for the final sprint only to find a 13.1 mile sign and no sign of the end. That was a bit scary but it wasn’t far around the corner. Sprinting to the finish line in thick mud is a bit of a laugh. Grit had set off early so she was there to greet me with Pen and Alexander.
The times haven’t been posted yet but Pen did it in 2 hours so I must have been 10 minutes behind. The last time I did it in 2 hours 1 minute so I’m either getting less fit or the mud slowed things down.
We went off for the wonderful free breakfast provided by the friendly organisers, had a good natter and headed home. Definitely one for next year.