Author Archives: Alasdair

Sumara of Weymouth has a ReFit

In 2018 the engineer at Pin Mill told me that he felt the life of Sumara’s engine was coming to an end and it could conk out at any time. He had replaced the inboard shaft bearing but it continued to spray some oil. Maybe the pressure was building up? Then my friend Philip told me all about runaway diesels – scary stuff. This new technical information added a frisson of excitement when motoring against a falling tide to reach your mooring after a long sail. I decided it was time for a new engine.

A couple of years previously Alan Staley, my surveyor, said that I should consider having my teak deck replaced. They were 30 years old and didn’t look too bad. However, each year about half a dozen teak plugs covering the screws would fall out and need replacing,  the caulking needed doing too. A few millimetres of teak had worn away so the plugs were now only about 2 mm deep. The fixings would need sinking down lower. If the fixings were all reset and the decks recaulked it would still only give me another three or four years before the whole deck needed replacing. I decided now is the time to have the decks replaced.

The first few coats of varnish have been applied

For convenience, I decided to get the work done in Ullapool, a mere 590 miles away.  OK, not very convenient but Tim Loftus and Dan Johnson run a boatyard there and I felt I could trust them to do justice to the boat.

A previous post describes the sail north, the engine conking out in Whitby and the final haul out onto a trailer from Amble. I was rather pleased the engine finally died to justify my choice of getting it replaced.

My old engine was a Kubota 12hp which was hand marinized by Terry Newman who built Sumara. It was raw water cooled, solidly mounted and controlled with rods and levers. I confess I rather liked its robust solidity.

The new engine was going to be a Beta 16hp. It is also Kubota based, but indirect cooled with flexible mountings. The new mountings meant rod controls wouldn’t work. I have little faith in most cable controls so Tim and Dan suggested I invest in a German Kobelt system. It did feel like a bit of an investment as the bronze lever cost twice what I pocketed by selling my old car. But you soon forget the price and just admire the sheer beauty of the thing.

The new Kobelt bronze engine control. Paintwork sanded back ready for a fresh coat.

Talking of bronze, I decided to have a prop cast in aluminium bronze for added strength. Tim and Dan did some research and calculations and selected a slightly larger prop (14 x 7) than my previous one. It shouldn’t need any anodes. I believe Clemments undertook the special casting.

New specially cast aluminium bronze propeller. Should be ice proof with any luck.

Of course one thing leads to another, so the shaft was replaced due to some wear. There wasn’t any crevasse corrosion which I was worried about but too much general wear for Tim to be happy. A new greaser was fitted too. And of course while the fuel tank was out all the wood was scraped, sanded, touch primed and coated with a few coats of Danboline.

In theatreland, there’s an expression called a “bytheway”. A BTW is when someone adds something to a job – “By the way, did I mention replacing the bilge drain pipes?”. Some jobs end up being more BTW’s than the original task. Actually there weren’t too many BTW’s on the re-fit because I had been composing the list for a couple of years and indeed the drain hoses were on it! However, the Eberspacher heating hose was a BTW!

New prop shaft and specially fabricated water trap for the exhaust.

The drain cocks were replaced on the fuel tank before it was put back in. While all the varnishing work was going on, Tilman was keeping busy tidying up the beach.

Tilman, our Parson Russell Terrier enjoyed his time on the beach.

We debated using a teak substitute called Lignia to do the decks. It was pretty impressive stuff but very new to the market. Tim had some stock of excellent teak which could be supplemented with more from Robbins Timber. I was a bit concerned how the Lignia would bond as we weren’t using screws this time. To be on the safe side, we stuck with teak, but it was a close call. They used TDS for the caulking which Tim highly recommends. Interestingly (well to some of us) TDS will not take paint or varnish at all. Not that that is an issue on this job but could be on some tasks.

New teak laid. Varnish to the margin boards next.
New teak decks and fresh varnish.

All the varnish was stripped back to bare wood. This also involved removing the window surrounds and many fittings. I asked if they could run new cable through the pulpit as I had a niggling intermittent fault on the bow light. They found the pulpit was full of water! Some drain holes were added. There were a series of minor improvements and mods undertaken during the refit including welding a couple of cleats to the pushpit for the tricing lines and adding a couple of drain holes in a “catchrain” beside the companionway. Finally the engine start battery was found to be on its way out so we replaced the start battery and the 105 AH AGM general service battery. That wasn’t on the list!

It was lovely to see my boat going onto a mooring after her refit in Ullapool, North West Scotland. She is being looked after in the very safe hands of Johnson and Loftus Boatbuilders. It's not possible to go for a sail just yet but it is a great start. The shop has been busy sending out paints and varnishes for all our clients doing their finishing touches. We will be opening the actual shop in a limited way around 15th June but you can arrange collections now via "click and collect" or just phoning between 11:00 and 16:00 BST. Hopefully we will all be sailing again soon!..#Vertue #LaurentGiles #Ullapool #Johnsonandloftusboatbuilders #WoodenBoats #ClassicYachts #ClassicBoat #Boatyards #Sailing #Yachting #Epifanes #Varnish #Owatrol

Posted by Arthur Beale Ltd on Thursday, 28 May 2020

And what did it all cost? Well let’s not go there, but worth every penny.

Scoresby Sund – or not?

Some people dream of rounding Cape Horn, some people dream of going through Havengore Creek – a far more risky adventure in my opinion. I dream about sailing to Scoresby Sund. We made a half-hearted attempt in 2011 after sailing Sumara to Jan Mayen but we were stupidly early and the ice was fast all down the Greenland coast. Sadly, our schedule didn’t permit waiting for the ice to shift so after another attempt the get to Kangerlussuak we gave up and sailed home.
When Will Stirling asked if I would like to sail with him to Scoresby Sund on “Integrity” of course there was only one answer. So on 7th July 2019 we flew to Husavik to prepare the boat. Two quick tips, don’t even consider buying a cheese and ham toastie on EasyJet, words can’t describe its foulness and there were enough E numbers to kill a rat. God knows what their other “food” tastes like! Secondly, it is a long drive in the hire car from Reykjavik to Husavik, but don’t try speeding, Will was fined £377.00 for driving at 115 km in a 90 km zone which was rather painful.

Heavily loaded with sailing, camping and climbing gear plus the maximum allowance of cheese and several bottles of King’s Ginger!
Overwintering in Iceland takes its toll on a classic wooden yacht. There was plenty of work to do before setting off but after a couple of days we were ready to go. Our plan was to do a man overboard practise, swing the compass to draw up a deviation table then head off to Flatey.
We decided to skip the idea of stopping at Flatey and so we set off along the north coast of Iceland to the West Fjords. Sadly the ice situation wasn’t going to allow us to get into Scoresby Sund so we changed plans to head for the Westfjords and thence onto East Greenland but further South. We passed the Horn of Iceland in thick fog but we were able to hoist the square sail off Oskubakur en route for Sudureyri
After refueling, we left Sudureyri on 12th July, earlier than planned because strong winds were due to hit Greenland late Sunday or Monday.
Dan is not only a genius fisherman but he cooks one of the best fish curries I have ever tasted! Will’s signature dish is tuna pasta which was bad news for Dom who hates tuna pasta! We would cook it up secretly while Don was asleep.
We did a fair bit of motoring being keen to avoid the strong winds forecast to start on Monday.

The boat was very cosy, heated partly by warm air from the engine and also from a solid fuel stove. On 12th July the air temperature was 4 degrees and the sea was 3 degrees, indicating the possibility of encountering ice soon.
A brew up in Integrity’s cosy interior. The solid fuel stove could be supplemented with warm air blowers driven from the heat of the engine – but obviously not while we were sailing!
It wasn’t long before we spotted ice. Firstly small growlers then large bergs. With the fog, it demanded the helmsman’s careful attention. Our technique was to count how long an auk sitting in the sea would take to reach the boat, if it took a minute from sighting to the bow then we knew we had one minute to throw the helm over before hitting a berg. I suppose some people use radar but this was certainly more fun. Will even managed to catch a glimpse of sun and presumably the horizon to take a sight.

Icebergs can be quite dangerous as they often roll over or crack in half but the temptation to take the dinghy through an arch of ice was simply too great! ..#icebergs #eastgreenland #Greenland #adventure #denmarkstraight

Posted by Arthur Beale Ltd on Sunday, 18 August 2019
How could we resist a trip through the middle of a giant berg! The yacht was actually quite a distance away and with the drifting fog there was the potential of losing the mother ship!
We were hoping to visit the fjords to the north of the settlement but visability was diabolical and the charts can’t be relied on. We headed to the main settlement of Tasiilaq. We moored against a large supply ship but were woken abruptly when it needed to move so we anchored outside the harbour wall. Will had already bought a rifle but had it sent to Scoresby Sund so we pondered hiring or buying one in town. In the end we decided to proceed unarmed as buying another rifle was a huge extra expense (£670.00) and hiring one would necessitate bringing it back. As we intended to cruise north and leave from there to avoid potential strong headwinds it would be a shame to head south to return the rifle.
An interesting range of products can be purchased for the local supermarket.
After visiting the little museum and having a rather wonderful private talk we set off on a 30 nm voyage up the Semilik Fjord. Although there was quite a lot of ice we were reliably informed that there was less than usual!
We anchored in Tiniteqilan for the evening. We touched a rock near the entrance which was our reminder to ensure someone is always aloft when entering bays. The charts are completely unreliable and the sounder was too late. The water is generally gin clear. In the morning we met up with a group of kayaker being led by Martin from the Shetlands. As it was one of their birthdays we served them tea and cake while we towed them under sail. After a while they decided they could row faster and left us behind! Coincidentally I met a women at the Arctic Club dinner last year who remembered the occasion as one of the highlights of the day!
Always better with someone aloft in these waters
After Will and Dan explored the island of Ikasartivaq in the dinghy we pushed on to anchor in 20 m off an old American Air Base. This was in Ikateq Fjord an off shoot of Sermiligaq Fjord. The holding in small pebbles with a fisherman’s anchor was doubtful. There was a .5 kn current running.
We went ashore necessitating crossing the delta of a fast stream. We split up to explore which was probably not ideal as one group had the bear scaring kit and it wasn’t me. The base was abandoned leaving all sorts of old relics to explore.
There were derelict hangers and old boilers.
Photo by Will Stirling. They also left thousands of barrels of diesel. We were told, but have no evidence, that there was a dispute over the ownership of the fuel so the cans were spiked to render them useless.
Dan and Jack laid out a net at the base of the stream to try to catch some trout. We should have checked the net later in the evening because when we woke in the morning there were 100’s of very ugly and very spiky fish caught up in the net. It took us a long and painful time to free them. The good news was we caught an Arctic Char and a couple of cod.
Integrity moored in Storo in 20 m with 50 m chain. A near perfect anchorage. The larger bergs in the fjord ground near the entrance rendering the bay relatively berg free. That said one hit the boat during the night while I slept through it. However beware of the incorrectly marked rocks off Sermilligaq (Chart 2300)
We climbed up the hill from the boat. Note we were armed with a wooden oar in case of bear attack. I had my hunting knife too, so obviously we all felt absolutely safe and sound. Er. The ice was building up out to sea.
On 18th July we motored up Odesund to Kangertigtwatsiaq. Keep to starboard on entry due to a bar. We saw the waterfall then headed up to Midtpynt and east up the coast in thick fog past Kap Japetus Steenstrup. We left Ailsa O to starboard and headed up Tugtilik. We anchored at the head of the port hand branch of the fjord where we climbed onto an iceberg for some publicity photos for Kings Ginger.
Well someone has to do it!
This is Gino Watkins – Henry George “Gino” Watkins (1907 – 1932) who was a British Arctic Explorer. The most important expedition he led was the British Arctic Air Route Expedition in 1930 – 1931. They used Shackleton’s old ship the Quest. They also bought rope from the excellent chandler Arthur Beale as a telegram in our archive shows!
He was awarded the Founders Medal in 1932 which bought him international fame. Sadly he died in a kayaking accident in this fjord when he returned to Greenland a few years later.
Gino Watkins telegram requesting rope.
This is a photo from Arthur Beale’s archive of the ship Quest which was used by Shackleton for his last expedition and was then purchased by Gino Watkins for the British Arctic Air Route Expedition. You can see the tender which we found in the fjord.
We went for a wander to try to find Gino Watkins old hut. We found the location and the remains of his old boat. Here Will is considering a keel up restoration job. Maybe not.
As we left the anchorage we visited the Gino Watkins memorial cross set into rock at the head of the fjord. There is a Gino Watkins Memorial Fund which still funds worthwhile polar expeditions.
The highest mountain range in Greenland – the Watkins Range – is named after him.
After filling with fresh stream water involving six dinghy trips we left the anchorage on 19th July. Our chosen anchorage was blocked by bergs so we headed for the Bay of Horrors. We sailed past Kap Hildebrandt and Imilik and found an anchorage off steep moraine in the first bay to the west of the headland. We anchored in 12 m. The following day we headed towards Solos Sund only to find it blocked by ice. We continued North through heavy ice conditions as far as Sondre Aputiteq where we moored the boat to a flat sheet of ice for the night.
As the ice was quite dense we decided to take a rest for the night by mooring to a flat ice sheet. You can see the Island of Sondre Aputiteq in the distance to the left. The idea was to climb the island in the morning to see out to sea to find out whether the ice was clear. We didn’t have enough diesel to reach Iceland so we were depending on some wind. The engine sprung a diesel leak which luckily Dan and Will managed to successfully repair.
Position 67.13.28N x 33.15.68W and drifting.
Photo courtesy of Will Stirling. Getting squeezed!
In the morning Will, Dan and Jack set off in the dinghy to climb the island to check the ice conditions out to sea. Bearing in mind we had already seen a bear and the landing party were unarmed, there was a frisson of excitement about the trip! And indeed it did get very exciting for them. As they were half way up the hill they spotted this sleepy bear and decided to make a very rapid exit!
Photo – Will Stirling.
Photo – Will Stirling
We decided it was time to leave Greenland as the yacht was getting hemmed in by ice. It was very calm to start with but we needed some wind or we would soon run out of fuel. On 23rd the calm fog turned into F5/6 NE. The No3 jib got wrapped around the bobstay and it took a couple of hours to free it. We eventually made it to Flateyri in Iceland only to have the engine stutter to a halt as we neared the harbour. The dinghy tow wasn’t too successful but a friendly fishing boat gave us a pull in with considerable skill. Dan, Jack and I decided to walk to Isafjordur over the Breidiadlur Pass and to race the boat around the headland with Will and Dan onboard. It took us 7 hours 25 minutes and 36 seconds to cover the 27.2 km. The following day we worked on the boat and met up with my old friend Siggi. On 28th July we left Isafjordur in the hire car stopping at Arkannes en route for the airport.
It was a brilliant adventure but that ambition to get to Scoresby Sund remains!

South Dock towards Ullapool 2019

I had decided, after a wobbly moment, that it was time that Sumara had a refit. I had become increasingly nervous about the engine after an engineer told me it was on its last legs and my teak decks were beginning to look a bit shabby. Even the varnish was now rather patchy. For convenience, I decided to have the work done in Ullapool, being about the furthest place in the UK from where we live. The reason for this obscure decision was that my friends Tim Loftus and Dan Johnson run Johnson and Loftus Boatbuilders and I could trust them completely to make a fine job of all the work. More on that later.
The plan was to sail Sumara as far as Inverness where I would run out of  holiday time to go through the Caledonian Canal. I would then arrange for her to be lifted and trailed the short drive over the mountains to Ullapool. The canal will have to happen another year!

South Dock Marina Boatyard – View from our Balcony

It was so useful to have the boat hauled out for the 2018/2019 winter in the boatyard at South Dock as it is right next to where we live. It means we can slap on some primer in the morning before going work to get those coats built up. The only snag is that it is so incredibly expensive. The price increases the longer you stay. Sumara, being wooden, likes to be out of the water in the winter to regulate the moisture content of the timber. The South Dock boatyard isn’t really geared up for wooden yachts sitting under their covers, with the price rate racking up every month. Once we had finished the work in the spring, we were put back in the water but had to escape quickly as we were put on visitors’ rates which are oligarchy pricey.
So on the 5th May we sailed the 45 nm down the Thames to Queenborough. It is a sail where you need to hold that tide. With all the sails up and a northerly force 4 plus a good belt of tide we were soon clocking 8 kn SOG. We picked up a mooring in Queenborough at 20:00 GMT.
The next day we left at 05:35 GMT heading for Shotley, near Harwich. It is a 50 nm trip but with a NW force 4 and a flat sea we were sailing at 5 kn through the water. We moored in Shotley Marina at 17:15 after a cracking sail. We always a lovely friendly welcome by the Shotley staff. It became our favourite departure point for all our trips to Norway.
As I needed to give a talk at the RHYC about Arthur Beale, we sailed Sumara up the Orwell and made use of their moorings (£21.50 per night). The Orwell is a lovely place to sail with options for most weather. I do miss the old Pin Mill mooring with Harry King but hope to return one day.
On 27th May we sailed up to Lowestoft in a brisk westerly breeze on a neep tide. We moored in the RNSYC moorings. It cost £420.00 to cover the three weeks that we needed before we could return. It is a very fine yacht club!

RNSYC Urinals!

It wasn’t until 17th June when Philip and I were free to sail Sumara north. Our first port was going to be Grimsby. It was blowing a strong SW breeze with a very confused sea off the entrance to the harbour. We decided to get all the sails hoisted in the outer harbour but became slightly confused because a fat seagull must have bent our Windex so it got jammed. Now using the tips of our ears to judge the wind direction, we got the sails up and headed out into a very wild sea.
By the evening the wind died off and eventually the donker was started. It was making a strange smell! By early morning we were sailing again under full main and yankee. Philip and I have both wanted to visit Grimsby but sadly the tide was so inconvenient that we decided to skip it and head for Whitby. 

Warmly Dressed in Beerenberg Pullover in June!

On 19th June we were sailing so fast we would arrive too early for Whitby so we continued with two reefs At 02:37 we started the engine as the tide was slipping out of our grasp. We motored towards Whitby Harbour at 05:00 and when we were in the entrance the motored failed entirely. We tried rowing and hoisted sails but it was no use we were beginning to drift helplessly. Luckily a friendly fisherman in “Boy Andrew” threw us a line and we were able to tie up alongside. We eventually restarted the engine to give us enough way to reach the marina pontoon.

Whitby Harbour

We enjoyed our stay in town, visiting the fine museum and seeing William Scoresby’s House.





Scoresby’s Crowsnest in Whitby Museum

We managed to spend £48.00 on fish and chips in The Magpie Café and climbed the hill to drink craft beer. We also changed the engine oil which was badly diluted with diesel. We reckoned the engine would be up for a short run enough to get us into a harbour.
We left Whitby on the evening of 20th June for the 65 nm trip to Amble. There was a good breeze and even with a slightly lumpy sea we were making 4.7 kn. Of course, that would mean we would arrive bang on low water! Which is exactly what happened, so we anchored in Coquet Road for three hours before risking the entrance. Once secure in the marina, we managed to spend £76.00 on Fish and Chips in The Old Boathouse! That’s a bit unfair as we had chowder and halibut and it was very tasty. Northumberland is a lovely and overlooked part of the country and I wish we had more time to explore.

Northumberland Coble – very fine type of boat!

We left the boat in the marina and returned a few weeks later to have her lifted by Amble Boat Company onto a John Shepherd Transporter. The cost to trail her to Ullapool was £1,500.00 including VAT which I thought was very reasonable. We followed her up in our new camper van.
In Ullapool the boat was shored up and we put on her winter cover ready for the refit later in the year.

At least 2019 was a Good Year

It is Saturday 28th March 2020 and I am locked in at home due to the new coronavirus rules. At one point I thought I would have loads of time on my hands but, as I have had to sadly furlough most of the Arthur Beale staff, I am actually busier than ever.

Nevertheless, after a year without a single post, it is about time that I updated the Sumara of Weymouth blog.

Last year was actually a very good year for us with a bit of forward progress on a few longstanding dreams.

Good News Number One

Whitby Harbour Entrance on a calm day

The Good Ship Sumara’s engine conked out on the way into Whitby Harbour. That was good news because we were en route to Ullapool to get it replaced, and this was total justification that I needed! More on the refit later.

Good News Number Two

Parked for the night at Gattonside en route back from Ullapool

We eventually bought the “camper van” that I had been thinking about for a few years. Its not really a camper van as it doesn’t have the built in wardrobe and kitchen units but it does have a pop up roof and a night heater so it is super versatile. More on the van later.

Good News Number Three

Tilman - The Parson Russell Terrier
Tilman – The Parson Russell Terrier with Ella!

We have got a dog! He is an Alfa-male Parson Russell Terrier with loads of “character”, and we love him. He is called Timan! More on Timan later.

Good News Number Four

Self Isolation in Angmagssalik (Photo by Will Stirling)

I didn’t make it to Scoresby Sund – but I did get to East Greenland and it was a grand adventure. More on Greenland later.

Good News Number Five

Arthur Beale struggles on but this lock down is going to be a real challenge. The Great Plague of 1665 started just around the corner from the shop and the company somehow survived that, so there is hope. Lets see what we can do.

Well that’s enough good news for now!

Whoops rather a long gap between posts!


I’m still alive and really looking forward to 2019.
The reason for the long pause was that something had to give way. The Arthur Beale project has proved surprisingly exhausting especially on top of the stress of running my other company so I had to let things go. It got so bad that I almost decided to sell the Good Ship Sumara. Those early year boating job lists were getting rather unappealing. I felt I could do with a bit of relaxing time rather than driving to the East Coast to antifoul etc. Luckily I came to my senses when that wonderful 2018 summer arrived. We went down to the boat, rowed out to the mooring loaded with gear, hanked on the sails and wafted down the Orwell. The sun didn’t stop shining for three weeks of no-hassle cruising and I was totally revitalised. Sumara can not go!
But I was still getting overloaded at work so I decided to sell Flints to the staff so I could concentrate on saving Arthur Beale. So, I now start 2019 with only a small commitment to Flints but loads to do at Arthur Beale and as a treat I’ve booked the Good Ship in for a major refit with Johnson and Loftus Boatbuilders in Ullapool. With the money from selling Flints I’ve ordered a little camper van so we can travel to Scotland in comfort and retrieve to loose gear from the boat. We can also use it for the trail runs we enjoy and for those outdoor boat shows like Beale Park.
Just in case I get bored I decided to take up Will Stirling’s wonderful offer of a place on board Integrity to sail to Scoresbysund and circumnavigate Milneland. Well who could refuse an offer like that!
So Sumara lives on, there will be a little Arctic adventure, a bit of interesting running and hopefully I can launch Arthur Beale on a really interesting five year plan!
Oh, we are going to get a dog too!
Better get on!

Maldon Mud Race 2017

The man in the wedding dress!

The man in the wedding dress!

After the race!

After the race!

Having had to pull out due to a broken arm in 2015 the Maldon Mud Race has been on my list of things to do for a while. This year we entered it with some trepidation. The race originally started in the seventies when a local pub placed a barrel of beer on the far bank of the very muddy river and dared its clientele to go for it. That was in the depth of winter and it must have been quite a challenge. Now it is held in the same mud but in May when the water has warmed up a bit. To my surprise the mud was lovely and warm! The only rule seems to be that your shoes are gaffer taped onto your ankles and I can see why, there is quite some suction! Most people dress up to some degree. A chap in a wedding dress comes most years! We went for stripy tops which never fully recovered. It was great fun, even the cold drizzle of a shower was a laugh. Might well go for it again!

Steyning Stinger 2017

The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

I think it is my forth attempt at this amazing hilly trail half marathon (ascent 1,700 feet). I suppose that says it all. Each time is different according to the weather and the general aches and pains of life. This year Pen, Liam, Grit, Alex, Kerry and I took part. John was overwhelmed at work and couldn’t make it. It had been wet during the week and a front was due to pass over the Downs during the race. There was a lot of deliberation as to what to wear. In a strong wind it can be pretty cold on the ridge if you are soaking wet. I went for a Devold Expedition long sleeved merino top and a cheap as chips waterproof smock. I wore long Nike running trousers because I needed to dose my right leg with ibuprofen to dull off some long standing pain – in shorts it would have just washed off. I took off the waterproof top at the top of the first Sting and rolled it up and tied it around my waist. I was pretty hot until a blast of rain and hail hit us then I got pretty cold but never bothered trying to put the smock on again.
The Salomon Speedcross shoes were superb and I overtook loads of runners on the slippery rutted chalk downhill stretches just because I had fantastic grip. They probably knocked five minutes off my time.
OK so the time wasn’t great but it was better than I thought at 2 hours 15 minutes (TBC). Pen pulled in first at 2 hours 3 minutes and Alex and Kerry came in at 2 hours 12 minutes. Liam was hampered by slippery footwear and came in just after me. Interestingly everyone who ran last year came in 5 minutes later this year due to the conditions. It really is a struggle to get in before 2 hours!
To stay locally or to drive down in the morning?
Well we stayed locally but I think I’ll drive down next year. The problems with staying in a B and B are threefold. One, it is very hard to get a big pasta blowout meal the night before. We ended up eating a very nice burger in the White Horse but it wasn’t ideal. Secondly, it is always hard to sleep in a new place. I hardly slept at all. Thirdly breakfast on a Sunday starts at 08:00, just too late for the start.
I think my new policy will be, if the run is within about 100 miles, just drive down on the day.
I’ll be back next year. It is the best organised race I have ever attended. One day I’ll get over the line in 1 hour 59 minutes and 59 seconds!

Deal Half Marathon 2017

Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

Phew, the finish at last!

Phew, the finish at last!

This early February Half Marathon is becoming a bit of a fixture for me. Partly because my friend Philip lives in Deal and its a great chance to catch up in the winter -in the summer our Vertue Yachts often sail together on the East Coat. It is also well placed as a training run for the dreaded Steyning Stinger which takes place in early March. The Deal run isn’t as hilly as the Stinger and it is on roads but it still acts as a useful gauge of fitness. However its a grand run in its own right. Its non-commercial, dare I say cheap to enter (I hope they don’t think of hiking it up because of my poorly guarded comment). It is very well organised with loads of marshals and very friendly all round. There are even loos en route which is a first for me.

Neil Renault came first with a very impressive 1 hour 11 minutes which was so fast the lead bikes struggled to keep up on the hills! Sadly I struggled in after 1 hour 50 minutes 46 seconds which was well below my PB of 1 hour 43 for the route. I looked pretty knackered too! Two things contributed to my poor time, one was insufficient long training runs. I hadn’t run the full distance for many months although I had done quite a few 10 milers. Interestingly it was at ten or eleven miles that I run out of puff. The second excuse, and its a good one, is my continuing problem with my right leg caused by a dodgy piriformus which I tore in September and is still playing up. It makes me run with a very slight limp and seems to reduce my power. I’ve been having a bit of physio and even acupuncture but it is taking a while to heel. I believe it could have been aggravated by a broken bike saddle. As I cycle for about 1 hour 30 minutes every day my old lopsided saddle was probably of no help. Strangely it hurts most when I try to drive which I have now had to restrict to 10 minute journeys.

After the race Philip and I headed of for a slap up meal in the only pub which wasn’t fully booked. So the lesson for next time is to book the pub lunch several weeks in advance! Oh well, Steyning Stinger next – gulp, I’m going to be thrashed.

Marlow Half Marathon 2016

Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

It was touch and go whether my right leg would be up for this year’s half marathon, having pulled out of the Oxford Half a month earlier. I decided to rub some Ibuprofen gel onto the muscles and take a couple of pain killers before the start and see what happens. There was a 7 mile race being held at the same time so I could peel off at two miles and follow the shorter route.
For the first time in three years the weather was perfect, cold but clear and dry. I was surprised to see the Costa Coffee nearby was open at 0830 so next year I’ll take advantage of a booster there. The race is always well organised. I mentioned to my sister how impressed I was with Dave the Disco who gave the impression of knowing all the runners personally. My sister said he probably does! This was backed up by Liam who lives locally so it appears that Dave is a bit of a local hero.
As our little running group had decided this was not going to be a fast run we decided to position ourselves at the back of the start queue, being chip timed it doesn’t matter too much and at least it is better to overtake runners than be overtaken. The firework started the race as usual.
We set off at a steady pace but slowly overhauled some of the slower runners. With only moderate pain I decided to carry on past the two mile turn for the shorter route. The route through rolling countryside and little villages is entirely on tarmac so not too taxing on the muscles.
I eventually finished at 1 hour 58 minutes which although my slowest time for the course was much better than I had hoped, in fact just finishing would have been enough. For some reason there was a big hold up at the baggage reclaim. I can’t remember any queues before so there must have been a new system. It didn’t really matter as we were given our free tee shirts which we all donned to keep warm and it wasn’t raining. However there were some grumblings going on which was a shame.
I’ll be back, it is a bit of an institution now.

South Dock Marina Boat Yard Update October 2016

Ridiculous Model of the Proposed South Dock Boat Yard

Ridiculous Model of the Proposed South Dock Boat Yard

On 19th September we were invited to another “consultation” regarding the proposed development on the South Dock Marina Boat Yard site. The proposal has once again changed and now the height of the tallest tower has increased to 28 floors and the percentage of “affordable” housing has dropped even further. They are clearly getting tight on funds. The consultations are pretty pointless. Bruce Glockling clearly pointed out during the second “consultation” (he first consultation was held in virtual secrecy) that the proposal was going ahead no matter what. In effect we would probably have a say in the colour of the front doors although I doubt they would trust our judgement on such an important matter. A Southwark Council development is to be scrutinised by the Southwark Council Planning Department. At no point has the council said to the local population or the people using the boatyard “Here is an area of land in our borough that we believe is underutilised. We need more affordable housing and we must preserve the boatyard. What do you think would be a good proposal?” Instead they go ahead and hire a firm of architects to come up with a high density plan that no one around here wants. They then hold ridiculous tick box consultations with vague information which are sprung upon us with hardly any notice.
There are many reasons why the development is badly conceived which I will leave to others to argue with the council. Here however are just a few:
1) Lack of transport infrastructure to support the amount of new housing in the area – Canada Water tube station is already wildly overcrowded and the Jamaica Road is known as one of the slowest in the country. The River Bus costs £6.50 for a single journey and no longer always stops at Greenland Pier.
2) There is a lack of schools, clinics, and doctors etc to cope with the extra people.
3) The area is predominantly low rise moderate density suburban area. High-rise high-density urban development doesn’t fit in.
4) There is a lack any detailed drawings to show that the development has any architectural merit. Judging by the already tight funds (shown by the lack of affordable housing) I would doubt there would be any merit to these buildings whatsoever. Not that we have had a chance to look at any detail.
5) There is a constant failure to meet the council’s own dead lines. They just shunt things to suit them while the area is suffering from the planning blight.
6) Creating the tallest riverside building on the Southbank between the boatyard and the centre of London is inept and not in keeping with the Thames valley effect where taller buildings are placed further back from the river edge.
7) Parking and traffic chaos will be caused by 600 people travelling to and from work (somehow) and the ever increasing use of online delivery services. This will be exasperated by the fact that the road is a dead end and cars and trucks will be turning near boat lifting operations. The chaos will be made worse when a predicted 39 heavy goods vehicles a day are due to use Plough Way during the building of the Thames Super Sewer.
8) The development will totally destroy a quiet pleasant leafy part of the Thames Path
9) The proposed tall buildings will create a wind vortex and shadow around the buildings making the environment unpleasant.
10) There is a lack of demand for high priced luxury flats while there are currently over 3,365 flats available on Zoopla* for sale within one mile of the boatyard and over 10k available within 3 miles! There are 4,813 flats available to rent within one mile. Clearly there is no shortage whatsoever of this kind of property and with many more developments underway within a few yards there could well be an oversupply. The house next door to me, overlooking the boatyard is empty and has been on the market for about two years. (*as of 30th October 2016)
11) There is a very small and decreasing percentage of what are called “affordable” homes incorporated into the development. The need in the area is for truly affordable homes.
I could go on but my gripe is to do with the potential loss of the boat yard. London needs industry. The boatyard is fully protected under the London Plan which states:
Policy 7.27 Blue Ribbon Network: supporting infrastructure …
Planning decisions
A) Development proposals should enhance the use of the Blue Ribbon Network, in particular proposals:
a. that result in the loss of existing facilities for waterborne sport and leisure should be refused, unless suitable replacement facilities are provided
b. should protect and improve existing access points to (including from land into water such as slipways and steps) or alongside the Blue Ribbon Network (including paths). New access infrastructure into and alongside the Blue Ribbon Network will be sought.
c. should protect and enhance waterway support infrastructure such as boatyards, moorings, jetties and safety equipment etc. New infrastructure to support water dependent uses will be sought. New mooring facilities should normally be off line from main navigation routes, ie in basins or docks.
The South Dock Marina Boat Yard is currently 5,907 m2. The area can be clearly seen on Google Earth covered in boats and containers which mainly house boating related activities. The new proposal will obliterate well over half of the ground area which can hardly be called an enhancement. Of course we haven’t had the chance to see the proposals in any detail but it doesn’t look like there will be enough space to swing a cat. In fact they have already admitted that they are struggling to find the necessary car parking spaces. They said they are “looking into the matter” but there is clearly either enough space on the site or not. The council may well be thinking of using other areas to provide car parking so we need to ensure our nearby open spaces don’t become designated overflow car parks. The same goes for the possible expansion of the lock office as rumours are out about a proposal to extend this building too. Surely there should be enough space within the boatyard?
It seems that consulting is not a strong point for Southwark Council. On 5th September I decided to check with the Port of London Authority to see if they had been made aware of the proposal to build housing on two thirds of the boat yard. I received this reply.
“For example in 2013 in relation to the Draft Revised Canada Water AAP, the PLA wrote formally to the Council and stated the following:

“Given that South Dock Marina is London’s largest marina and the document identifies that boatyards are protected in the London Plan it is surprising that the Council is considering alternative development on the car park site. It is also surprising given the desire to see an increase in passenger and freight transported on the River Thames. It is questioned how the existing boatyard would be able to expand to meet any increased demand for their facilities if the car park site is developed in accordance with the AAP as currently drafted.””

Whoops a daisy, Southwark must have accidentally forgotten the consult with the Port of London about the latest proposals. It also appears that Southwark Council are describing the boat yard as a car park site.
The reality is that the boat yard’s potential working area will be reduced from 5,907 m2 to well under half that.

Even ignoring the massive reduction in the area available to work on boats my other main concern is that the close proximity of housing to the boatyard will cause an understandable conflict of interest between yard users and residents. Eventually the yard will become effectively useless for carrying out serious work on boats due to the restrictions on noise, solvents, dust etc. The fact that the boat yard was here first holds no weight in court – a noise nuisance is a noise nuisance full stop.

During the last consultation the architects said they had managed to resolve any potential noise problems by the use of special moveable sound barriers. On the plan that they briefly showed to us the barriers looked about 600 mm thick. They would encircle the yacht or barge and supposedly reduce the noise to an acceptable level. I was intrigued by these barriers but sadly there was, as usual, no time to ask any detailed questions. Mr Bruce Glockling assured us that if we haven’t had time to ask questions then we should email them and they would reply. So I sent off a polite and very simple question asking for more details about these proposed sound barriers. Of course I received no reply, so a week later I asked if he could acknowledge receipt of my email and of course got no reply. So now I have had to use the Southwark Council complaints procedure to try to get an answer and I still await the response. Of course it only leads me to speculate about the suitability of these temporary noise barriers if indeed they exist.
I will keep you informed if I hear any more news.

In the meantime Southwark are proposing yet another consultation next year. I wonder how tall the block will be by then. Oh joy!