December 15th, 2014 Alasdair
13th December 2014
Queens College, Cambridge
A few months ago I was invited to lunch at the Athenaeum Club, and a very fine lunch it was too! Not only was I fed halibut but I was also asked if I would like to be a member of the Arctic Club. I have to confess that although I had heard of the Athenaeum Club I hadn’t heard about the Arctic Club. I soon realised that it is a huge honour to be invited to be a member so I was very chuffed to find that my application had been passed by the committee and I am now a member. The Club is a gathering of people who have a keen interest in the Arctic and who have led or been members of at least two Arctic Expeditions. They provide funding for worthy expeditions via their own Arctic Club award or through the Gino Watkins Award. I have already been able to help provide some slightly dated advice to a couple from Imperial College hoping to sail to Svalbard. I have threatened them with the punishment of watching my slides from my trip there a good few years ago. I suppose that is where Clubs like this can be so helpful as amongst all the members there will be someone who has been there or done that. Every year the club holds a special dinner. This year it was at the Old Hall at Queens College, Cambridge. It is a chance to meet other members and discuss any plans for future trips. It is also a chance to eat fantastic food in a very wonderful hall. In the morning after the dinner we all gathered at the Scott Polar Research Institute for coffee and to hear a presentation from Olly Sanders who was awarded funding from the Arctic Club. He gave a brilliant and very entertaining talk about his kayaking adventure around Cape Farewell. It was very inspiring and I am very tempted to travel to North Wales and learn how to do it from his company www.rockandseaadventures.co.uk. I took a couple of photos with me which I found tucked into a book at Arthur Beale’s. The book has invoices signed by Shackleton plus a picture of Quest. The challenge is to identify the two chaps with the dogs. Answers below please! We left some photo copies with the Scott Polar Research Institute so they are on the case too.
The Scott Polar Research Institute have come up trumps! They actually have the film negatives and copies of the photos can be bought online from their website. They all originate from the British Arctic Route Expedition 1930 – 1931. The two chaps are Quentin Riley holding the pipe and J M Scott smoking a cigarette and putting on gloves. They were setting setting off to relieve Courtauld. The photo was by Henry Cozens and it was taken in Greenland. Arthur Beale supplied the expedition with Arctic Club Rope.
The other picture of Quest shows her unloading at Base Fjord on the same expedition.
Who are these chaps?
Shackleton’s Ship Quest
November 30th, 2014 Alasdair
29th November 2014
Southwark Park 5 k Parkrun
My friend across the road mentioned these park runs to me. Amazingly I had never heard of them despite the fact that 60,000 runners run them every Saturday morning at 9 am. Yesterday I gave it a go and was really impressed. To enter you go online to http://www.parkrun.org.uk and fill in a simple form. It is FREE! You then need to print out your personal barcode. They advise that you laminate them and keep various ones in handy places (on your bike, glove compartment, under the insole of your trainers etc). Once you have your barcode you can turn up at any of 3,500 parks at 9 am (9.30 in Scotland). No need to book. They give a little briefing for all the first timers. At 0900 they set you all off. You don’t need to show your barcode to enter. There were 89 people running in Southwark Park. After three laps of flat tarmacked paths you enter the finish funnel and are given a barcode chip. You then take this chip with your personal barcode to one of the many volunteers who logs your result. Later in the day you can see how you did by going online. Brilliant. I managed 22 minutes 23 seconds and 70.98% age grade which wasn’t too bad. Coupled with a swim in the local pool it is a good way to kick start your Saturday. Give it a go!
October 6th, 2014 Alasdair
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
September 28th, 2014 Alasdair
28th September 2014
The Route with some Confusing Loops that caught a few people out
Me looking wiped out after the finish
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!
Before the start at Temple Island
September 15th, 2014 Alasdair
Arthur Beale’s Stand at St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival
St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival
13th and 14th September 2014
Gudrun and Hannah take a break at St Katharine Docks
It does quite “Pop Up”!
The Arthur Beale Stand Closed Down for the Night
Sumara dressed overall
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.
August 3rd, 2014 Alasdair
Man and Dog on Smack CK105
Chatham Ropery 220 m long plus a bit. It is huge!
24 inch cable. The biggest ever made at Chatham. I think it was for the Victory but may be wrong.
A Fine Boatyard in Brightlingsea
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.
August 3rd, 2014 Alasdair
20th July 2014
South Dock, London
Sumara’s Side Decks
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.
The Well Deserved Pub Lunch.
The start line against a strong current
15th June 2014
In our wetsuits waiting for the early start
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.
Running to transition
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!
Tim Powers Across the Finish Lime with an Amazing Time!
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.
Some of the old shelves upstairs at Arthur Beales – wonderful stuff!
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.
Old Ledgers showing supplies to the British Arctic Expeditions in Greenland.
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.
Hardware Heaven – Arthur Beale has massive stocks of marine hardware.
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!
Old sacks – but what is in them? What a voyage of discovery this place is!
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.
The empty wooden pulkka.
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.
Pulkka with fish box being fitted
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.
Svarte prepares the wooden Pulkka
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.
Pulkka pulling with one person
Pulkka with three towing via line pulley and bungee