Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Getting Sumara ready for the sailing season

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

The Arthur Beale project has been zapping up all my spare time so some things are being neglected. Most of all I’m not getting to see all my buddies so that certainly needs to be rectified soon! But I realised the Good Ship wasn’t going to get all the love that she would normally get so I decided to ask Harry Kings Boatyard to help out. I’ve had some pretty mixed quality work done in the past when I have called in the professionals so I was a bit nervous about getting work that I’d normally do done by a boatyard. However I went to the boat last weekend and was very pleased with the quality of the work that Lee had done. So now I can relax knowing everything is in safe hands.
I am partaking in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks race on Brimble at the end of May so I won’t be sailing until June but I like to get her afloat before things heat up on land. Hopefully she will be bobbing up and down on her buoy in the River Orwell in the next few weeks. I still need to varnish the mast. She is all sanded and ready but I need that rare thing a dry still day before I start to varnish. I’m replacing the runners this year too due to finding a loose strand during the annual inspection.
One little job I have proudly finished is the renovation of my 20 year old Aerogen 4 wind generator. The bearings had gone and I managed to snap the hub when attempting to get it off the shaft so I relegated it to the boat jumble. When I was offered £20.00 for it I refused and decided to mend her myself. Now she has new bearings, newly tapped fin holes, a new hub, and a repaint job. I feel very proud, as she looks like new and I reckon fit for another 20 years. The great thing about the Aerogen generators is that they are virtually silent.
Tomorrow we are running the Three Forts Race with the Brimble Team. It will be a team bonding session and a chance to see how fit we are so we can pair up for the Scottish Islands Race. Better get some pasta on the boil!

Arthur Beale Yacht Chandler Shaftesbury Avenue

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

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!

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.

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 Beales has massive stocks of marine hardware.

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!

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!



Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

April 2014


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.

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 bow being fitted

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

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 pulling with one person

Pulkka with three towing via line pulley and bungee

Pulkka with three towing via line pulley and bungee

Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

Sail Reef Webs

Sail Reef Webs

South Dock

16th February 2014

Proud as Punch having made my first thing using the new Sailrite LSZ 1 Sewing Machine. Not only that, but the bobbin ran out and I managed to re-wind and re-thread it too!
The machine has a lovely heavy feel about it, a bit like a paddle steamer engine. It looks like it will sew through just about anything and it does.
These web gizmos are to help with reefing Sumara’s mainsail. My main is made from very heavy weight fabric and it is pretty bulky at the gooseneck. The first reef normally slips over the horns easily but the second and third can be hard especially in very cold weather. These webs threaded through the heavy reefing eyelets on the luff will make it really easy. I decided to use a delta shaped Maillon Rapide (WLL 450 kg) on one side so they can be removed and fitted easily. They will remain on the sail at sea. The ring is 6 mm x 40 mm stainless steel and the webbing is 1″ wide polyester five layers thick in the centre. The length is a bit of a guess but the web is 120 mm long plus the fittings. If that needs adjusting I can just knock up some more!

Vertue Engine and Alternator Sizes

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

As there seem to be a few Vertue Owners logging in I thought it might be useful to describe Sumara’s engine and the charging arrangement and to open up some thoughts as to the ideal horse power for a Vertue. I seem to remember coming across one Vertue with a 20 hp engine and I believe some have 10 hp Yanmars. I suppose the engine size depends on what you propose to use the yacht for. If you moor at the head of a strongly tidal estuary and you mainly sail at weekends then perhaps 20 hp would be a good choice. If you like to venture further afield, then a smaller engine will allow for a larger fuel tank. I like the 12 hp size, it has a bit of grunt when needed (especially with the alternator turned off – I’m coming to that!) and yet it will gently push the yacht through hundreds of miles of flat sea when the calms set in. A worry with a large engine is the tendency for Vertues to squat. When Terry built Sumara he was well aware of this problem and sneaked in an extra couple of inches to the turn of the bilge under the cockpit. Even with this extra buoyancy she sits down when all the crew are snugged up aft. My feeling is that a larger and heavier engine would result in needing to add weight up forward with a negative effect on her ability to respond to large waves. Going smaller would be fine but it could be a struggle to get into harbours like Dover against a spring tide (even with 12 hp, Dover needs care if the timing is wrong).

Sumara has a 12 hp Kubota which Terry maranised. Transmission is via a Hurth gearbox. She is solidly mounted to heavy bearers and raw water cooled. As the engine is now 22 years old with a good few hours I am able to vouch for the installation and the raw water cooling. Being solidly mounted allows for the engine controls to all be via stainless rods rather than cables. This makes the controls pretty bullet proof. The raw water cooling simplifies the engine and results in far better belt grip on the alternator because the belt does not have to drive the heat exchanger pump and therefore has a 180° grip on the alternator pulley.

When I installed the Eberspacher heater for the first Arctic trip I had to give consideration to the battery capacity. I spent a year or two researching and, with the help of Merlin Power, came up with the following highly successful solution.

I installed a Balmar 75 Ah marine grade alternator. It is twice the size generally used on this size of engine. I also installed a Balmar controller which enables me to run the alternator at half power or turn it off entirely. So now I have and engine which, at the flick of a switch, turns into a generator to charge the batteries at anchor. On full power it takes about 3.5 hp off the engine. The extra load put on the engine while charging at anchor helps to prevent the cylinders from glazing (so they tell me!). I can also turn the alternator off when I need every bit of motive power I can get to round the harbour wall.

To make use of all this power I changed the batteries to Adanced Glass Matt batteries choosing a 105 Ah (or was it 120 Ah) general service battery and a small light punchy 45 Ah engine start battery. I actually saved weight on the old twin 75 Ah lead acid batteries while dramatically increasing the capacity. Furthermore there is no chance of leakage of acid into the bilge. The batteries charge faster too so in no time the little engine has topped everything up.

Sumara’s Maintenance

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

South Dock

19th January 2014

There were a few jobs that I wanted to get out of the way before Sumara is lifted into the yard. My poor Eberspacher had conked out after the Jan Mayen trip so I sent it off for servicing. Easier said than done because it is mounted in a totally inaccessible spot under the aft deck. This very small area also has the exhaust swan neck and various bilge pump pipes and sea cocks. Access is by wrapping your arm in through tiny locker hatches and everything is done by mirrors and taking snaps on the phone! Without my Festool work light I think I would have given up. In any case the newly serviced heater eventually went back in place using about 8,000 different tools and wearing Puggy gloves to stop the shards of razor sharp tubing slicing up my delicate mitts. I went below to start it up but nothing showed on the screen. I had a further mooch around checking the wires etc and when I was taking out the fuse I noticed the control panel lit up. I fiddled with it and cleaned up the fuse and it all worked well. I reckon it was probably the scruffy fuse that was the problem in the first place. Maybe I could have saved the £600.00 service fee but at least it should perform well during our Arctic trip this year. Also on my to do list was to service the cooker and move the pressure tank into Sumara’s forepeak. This will free up space under the cooker for pots and pans and keep all the paraffin tanks together. The tank is now mounted as is the new fuel filter. I’ve just got to service the cooker, polish it up and pipe it all in. Nice evening jobs for next week.

Newly Positioned Paraffin Tank in the Forepeak

Newly Positioned Paraffin Tank in the Forepeak

The Cramped Mass of Pipes in the Lazarette

The Cramped Mass of Pipes in the Lazarette

Cutty Sark Sadolin Ultra Varnish Failure

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Cutty Sark Strake Varnish Failure and Water Ingress Under Stanchion Base


Cutty Sark Deck Trim Varnish Failure


Cutty Sark Deckhouse Door Varnish Failure

9th February 2013 Greenwich

I was shocked at the poor condition of the varnish on the newly restored Cutty Sark. These pictures are now about a month old (January 2013) but I have noticed the varnish has got even worse since. The ship only opened in the summer and there is varnish failure on almost every surface. Even some vertical surfaces are failing and they generally last a long time. It does seem such a shame that there was an opportunity to do a really thorough job on bare timber and that somehow this simple task has been messed up. Now the whole lot will need stripping off and re-doing at great cost. It will need doing pretty quickly too before more staining and water gets in. It was an apparent lack of maintenance which seemed to cause the Gipsy Moth to rot away in her Greenwich berth. I never saw anyone painting or varnishing the yacht. I can’t understand how every yachtsman knows that boats need annual maintenance and yet these “National Treasures” are left to suffer until they need radical and unneccessarily expensive work. Already water is getting under the varnish and causing black staining around some stanchion posts. Varnishing is not rocket science, it just needs doing in a tried and tested way. Why play around with new varnishes on an old ship when they clearly don’t work.

I found this on the Sadolin website and would be interested hear any comments:

“Craftsmen involved in the meticulous conservation of one the world’s most famous ships, Cutty Sark, are using the Sadolin Ultra Highly Translucent Woodstain system to decorate and protect her teak deckhouses, spectacular wheel, ornate pin rails, decorative panelling and many other wooden fixtures and fittings on deck.

Cutty Sark is an iconic reminder of a bygone age of sail and a symbol of Britain’s long and successful maritime heritage. Built in 1869, she is a shining example of Victorian ingenuity, engineering and craftsmanship, and one of London’s most popular attractions. In November 2006, however, the visitor signs were taken down and The Cutty Sark Conservation Project began: a massive undertaking by The Cutty Sark Trust to give the ship its biggest overhaul in fifty years and to ensure she has a secure and sustainable future.

Heery International Ltd, a division of Balfour Beatty Management and the principle contractor responsible for delivering the conservation project for The Cutty Sark Trust, specified Sadolin Ultra for the decoration and protection of woodwork above deck. Construction Manager Kevin Elson explains how the decision was made: “Ultra offered the very high degree of translucency that we were looking for,” said Kevin, “and the system has been formulated to provide exterior joinery with up to seven years decoration and protection before maintenance is required. Unlike yacht varnish it offers flexibility and a high degree of UV protection. And when the time eventually comes to maintain the finish, there’s no need to strip back to bare timber, you can simply clean the surface and apply a maintenance coat to revive the appearance and protective benefits.”

Maldon Painting Company Ltd is responsible for coating the exterior timber fittings. Director Geoff Smith had not used Sadolin Ultra before but is now a firm fan. He explains how it was applied to the deckhouses: “We stripped all the old varnish right back and sanded all the teak back to a perfectly smooth surface, before applying a coat of Ultra Basecoat. We then filled in any pinholes and cracks with Sadolin Exterior Woodfiller and went on to apply two coats of the lightest shade of Ultra. Once the deckhouse is refitted on the ship we’ll apply one last coat of Ultra to offer the maximum level of protection.”

Geoff’s decorating work is just one of a huge list of projects which have to be completed by an army of craftspeople, engineers and conservation experts before Cutty Sark is ready to welcome visitors once more in 2010, by which time the ship will be a much improved visitor attraction. Geoff said; “It’s a once in a life time opportunity to work on Cutty Sark and it’s a job I am really enjoying. It’s always good to be given the opportunity to carry out a project to a full specification using the best products and being able to take the time you need to deliver a really high quality finish.”

I wonder if they will use Sadolin Ultra again? It hardly seems to live up to the statement “up to seven years before maintenance is needed” promise. It didn’t survive seven months since the opening. Maybe there is a reason why it didn’t work. Perhaps it was applied a long time prior to the opening?  It would be good to know what went so wrong. I’m sure the painting company would have done their best, was the product faulty or poorly specified? Is there a decent maintenance regime in place? Whatever the reason, it is a real shame that a National Treasure which has had £50 million pounds lavished on it is in such a disgraceful state so soon after opening.

Brantho Kurrox 3 in 1

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

My Christmas Preparations – de-rusting the engine block!

Brantho Kurrox on Sump Pan

Brantho Kurrox on Sump Pan December 2013

As Christmas looms closer and most people are finishing their Christmas shopping or decorating the tree I seem to have decided it is the ideal time to tackle the rust on Sumara’s Kubota engine. Sometimes the saying “If a jobs worth doing it’s worth doing properly” just has to be put aside. There was no way that I was going to take the engine out and get it on a bench so I would have to do the best I could with the engine in situ. In this respect it is not a proper test for this wonder paint – Brantho Kurrox 3 in 1 but it is a realistic one. I normally touch up any rust with some convertor, a bit of metal primer and some Hammerite but I haven’t had the time for the last few years because the boat has been left in Scotland over winter and certain tasks did not happen. The result was a pretty sad looking engine block – cared for internally but a rusty lump externally. This paint looked ideal. It needs no primer or top coat. Just one, two or three coats depending on the harshness of the environment. They recommend it for painting road gritters and give it a 15 year life expectancy with three coats! Furthermore there is no sanding between coats and it goes on like a dream with total obliteration in one coat. I prepped the engine by cleaning with Awlgrip T0340 cleaner and a stiff nylon brush. Wiped down with Blue Roll. Followed by a heavy stainless steel wire brush and some chipping away with an old screwdriver. Then a bit more cleaning and more wire brushing until I got bored. Too be honest I could have carried on for a day or two but actually I spent five hours cleaning and brushing before applying the paint with throw away budget brushes. I found one small corner where I had failed to clean out properly so I will tackle that in the New Year when she will get a second coat. The paint had a great feeling about it, lovely adhesion and good flow out. It can be applied in -10C apparently. The soft sheen is fine with me and means no sanding between coats. There is a gloss additive that you can buy but the joy of this paint is you only need one product so there is less waste. 750 ml cost £17.50 but with VAT and delivery it came to £32.40. I bought it from but it is made in Germany. We will have to wait until next year to see if it lasts (with my slightly sub-standard preparation) but I am very hopeful. And a Merry Christmas was had by all!

26th December 2013

Well it is a year on since I repainted the engine and it still looks super smart. However the dripping water pump did cause a bit of rust damage on the starboard side which I will sort out this year. I took off the sump tray and it was also showing some signs of corrosion but this was never treated to the Brantho Kurrox last year. It has now got three lovely coats and a brand new gasket. To stop future corrosion by the stupid leaky pump (which no one knows how to stop it dripping) I have now made a drip tray out of a thermoplastic called Wonderflex. It will divert any drips straight into the bilge. The Brantho Kurrox is the best paint I have used on metal work – tough and easy to apply with no special primers needed. I’ll update next year!

Sumara Laid up for the Winter

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Laid up at Chichester 2012-2013

Sumara was lifted out at Chichester Marina on 23rd November. It was my intention to get her back to London and haul out at South Dock Marina but sadly they said it was full. Strangely when I cycle past there seems to be loads of space.
My mast was accidently taken out a week too early to my surprise. I always like to be around during any lifting operation but it seemed to have taken place without mishap. The boat lift was smooth and professional and Sumara was lowered gently into a really solid cradle. The staff sometimes lift 16 boats a day which seems incredible. I was surprised to see the amount of masts left standing. That doesn’t happened in Scotland! I have to varnish my mast each year but I really believe all masts should come down each year. I remove all the rigging and inspect it from end to end. All the split pins are replaced with new ones and all the running rigging is washed. The mast is then placed on my own trestles and coved in a heavy canvas cover. You can see it just behind the boat. In effect no wear and tear takes place for four months of the year and everything is checked. That’s got to be a good thing.
The engine oil has been changed and I have run antifreeze through the block in a closed loop. I have forgotten to top up the diesel tank but I will when I go down next week. The engine block has got rather rusty mainly due to a constantly leaking water pump. It is a Johnson pump and the engineers tried out four new pumps and eventually gave up. It cools the engine fine but drips constantly. If anyone knows how to solve this I would be very grateful to hear. In the meantime I will give the engine a good going over with a wire brush and some rust proof paint. I’ve looked at POR15 but it looks over the top. I may try Brantho-Korrux “3 in 1” and see how I get on.
The inside of the boat has been cleaned with a mixture of processes starting with fresh water, then Dettox and finally Ambercleanse Foam Cleaner. I like to have a large roll of Blue Roll to hand. The bilge is completely dry now but may get grubby after the engine clean and repaint. The aft bilges will be repainted in the spring. The whole boat is covered with a heavy cotton canvas cover. It amazes me how people buy rubbish sweaty plastic dross from BandQ and tie it over their pride and joy. In the first breeze the eyelets pull out and they flap like mad. My cover does need renewing now but it is 15 years old and has saved the boat so much wear and tear that it has been a very good investment. I use an aluminium scaffolding ridge pole as the weight of heavy snow is too much for timber sandwhich battens. Key Clamps and plastic end stops make up the support posts. It is a very tough frame and capable if withstanding storm force winds.
I will off load my wonderful Aqua 70 chain chain onto a pallet. It looks as good as new with no rust signs.
I have special winter wash board with extra ventilation holes. It means I can varnish the other ones at home and the boat is well aired. I will put a small tube heater with a thermostat on board just to keep the worst of the cold away.
Snug as a bug.

Port St Mary to Aberystwyth

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Aberystwyth Mooring

We reckoned the best time to leave would be 1800 but the sun was out so we left at about 1500 with a very gentle southerly breeze. The wind gradually veered to become a westerley generally around force 3-4 but with a couple of light patches which meant a few hours of motoring. We sailed through the night, passed Bardsey Island and had our destination in sight. Sadly, once again, my Lopo light caused radio interference and I had to resort to a handheld radio in the cockpit. This is now my forth Lopo Light and I think I will have to give up. They look beautiful but just don’t work! Aberystwyth only has about .5m of water at MLWS so the pilot books advise new visitors to arrive two hours either side of high water. So it was rather unfortunate that we were going to arrive about an hour before low water with and onshore breeze. Luckily it was neeps. I had a chat with the Harbour Master who was very helpful and basically said proceed with caution. We knew there would theoretically be enough water so long as we found the channel. Care should be taken as you near the north pier  because the leading line of 133 degrees leads you very close to the aptly named “Trap” and a slightly more southerly approach would be advisable. A J29 was lost on the trap not so long ago according to the Marina Manager. The huge floods they had earlier in the year have actually improved the entrance by scouring away some of the banks. If you are thinking of a low water approach (neeps only) I would suggest a call first to the marina or Harbour Master. Waves break on the trap and I would imagine an onshore force five wind would be tricky. The problem is that the next port of refuge would be Milford Haven!

We had about 0.9m under our keel at the lowest point (2.3m deep). We motored up to the marina and found an empty pontoon berth with no trouble. I am leaving Sumara there until mid August so we later moved her in to a snug berth nearer the gate.