Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

February 16th, 2014 Alasdair
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!

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Deal Half Marathon

February 9th, 2014 Alasdair

9th February 2014

Deal, Kent

Awaiting the start of the Deal Half Marathon

Awaiting the start of the Deal Half Marathon

The Zetland Arms in glorious sunshine!

The Zetland Arms in glorious sunshine!

The rollers come in at Kingsdown Beach

The rollers come in at Kingsdown Beach

This was a bit of an impromptu race. I mentioned to my friend Philip who was up in London last week that I thought there was a half marathon in Deal which could be fun. Philip emailed the next day to say that we were welcome to stay with him as he lives in the nearby village of Kingsdown. I hadn’t realised it was this weekend! After a bit of deliberation as to whether we were ready for a Half Marathon we decided to go for it and treat it as a training run for the Steyning Stinger in early March.

We drove down on Saturday evening and were treated to a large pasta dish loaded with fresh fish and vegetables, just the ticket. After a restful nights sleep Philip kindly drove us up to the start. We paid our £20.00 late booking fee, collected our chip timing gizmo and numbers and headed off for the 10.30 start. I suppose there were around 400 people there. The route consists of a lead-in of two or three miles connecting to a big loop. The surface is all road and although it is described as hilly it is not severe in any way. All the hills are runnable without any need to put the brakes on during the down hill stretches. The up hill stretches were gentle but quite long. Despite the whole of England being drenched with floods and blasted by gales it was actually a really nice day! The sun was out and there was a very stiff, but not too cold, wind. The road surface was basically dry with just one puddle. Can’t complain about that or indeed anything else. The race was very well organised with ample friendly marshals, lots of water stations and clear mile markers. I don’t normally drink any water on half marathons. I have a good big glassful about an hour before and drink a fair whack after but never feel the need en route. Most of the runners were club runners with all the local clubs taking part and quite a few travelling from far afield. I was pleased enough with my time of 1 hour 46 minutes and 48 seconds (chip time). After the race we all went to the Zetland Arms on the beach in Kingsdown for a gastronomic Sunday Lunch. What a perfect day!

More Vertue News! V61 and Vertue 11 V14

February 2nd, 2014 Alasdair


2nd February 2014

One day I’ll learn to use this WordPress program properly and then I’ll try to organise all the information regarding Vertues in a nice list with all the sail numbers. In the meantime I’m afraid its all a bit random.

A fine steel Vertue called "Virtue" V61

A fine steel Vertue called “Virtue” V61

Last week I got a nice email from Ben Deveson in Holland who has just purchased V61 called “Virtue”. Unusually she is built of steel and believed to be one of three. I had a look in the “Blue Book” and two are listed as being built in 1954 by Hitters and Proost, Netherlands (V61 and V64). There is no mention of V62 or V63 so maybe there are three steel Vertues. The sail number in the “Blue Book” is H331. She looks like great a testament to Dutch steel boatbuilding. Ben is keen to get her sailing as soon as all the other yachts penning her in the shed have been launched. He will then sail her to his mooring by his house in Badhoevedorp for some minor upgrading before embarking on some adventurous cruising the following year. The boat still has her original cotton sails! Hopefully we will meet up when Sumara returns from St Petersburg in 2015/16.

Last week I met Philip who owns Vertue 11 V14 called Corina. Corina is currently moored snuggly in Dover sheltering from the appalling weather. Last year we sailed together across the Channel and Corina beat Sumara by quite a distance. As Corina is having a new set of sails this year I think I shall decline any future racing although hopefully a bit of East Coast Cruising may be possible without undo embarrassment.

We both went to a talk by Robin Knox-Johnston on the Cutty Sark. They have built an 80 seat theatre inside the ship. We weren’t too impressed when he proudly announced that he shot a shark for no apparent reason other than sharing the same sea. Nevertheless everyone seemed to enjoy the talk. I can’t honestly say that I did.

Vertue Engine and Alternator Sizes

January 28th, 2014 Alasdair

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.

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Sumara’s Maintenance

January 19th, 2014 Alasdair

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

Vertue News

January 19th, 2014 Alasdair

South Dock 19th January 2014

I went to the Boat Show out of habit really. My expectations were very low. Last year the day out was made worthwhile because the show was linked to the outdoor show. The combination worked well with good stands in the Outdoor Show selling binoculars, cameras, decent clothing and bikes. This year the other show was the Telegraph Cruise Show. Zero interest from me I’m afraid.

However the start of the show wasn’t too bad at all. Firstly the trip there was fun. We went by boat from Greenland Pier (next door!) and took the cable car across the river. A great trip but a bit pricey. Tarik from Rotamarine had kindly given us two free tickets so that was an excellent start. We entered the hall and turned right and enjoyed our stroll down the aisle chatting with various stand holders until we reached the Adventure Cruising Corner. This was the best bit of the show. We went to two talks. Tom Cunliffe was hysterical the way he was slagging off all the AWB’s. I’m surprised the organisers didn’t throw him out. Then came Will Sterling who gave three shorts talks about his trip to the magnetic North Pole, his amazing “new” boat yard in Plymouth, and his dinghy sailing trips out to lighthouses. These adventurous dinghy trips suited his desire for adventurous sailing yet without taking up too much precious time.

Will as sailed around Spitzbergen, right the way around it, which is quite a feat and we had a good chat. As it happens he is currently renovating Vertue V111 (Tom Thumb). This sounds like a fine all teak Vertue built to Lloyds A100 specification. His client is keen to have everything in top order without it brimming with technical gadgets. It sounds like the yacht will be going on some adventures once the work is all finished. Will came down to have a look at Sumara and we had a grand evening together chatting about Vertues. Tom Thumb has a deck stepped mast so the layout inside is quite different to Sumara but we swapped information about cockpit locker drains (I’m rather proud of mine!) and teak decks.

I heard from two other Vertues this week. A chap called Greg Currie dropped me an email to say he owned Vertue V162 in Australia and was keen to see Sumara when he visits London in February. I shall look forward to that.

I sent Adrian Morgan a copy of our theatre catalogue as I had read in Classic Boat that he is an avid fan of the Axminster Catalogue. I received a nice acknowledgment and an invitation to sail in company with Sally Vertue V2 the next time we are on the West Coast of Scotland. Well sadly that will be a few years away with the Russia Trip being next on the list.



Running Times in and around Greenwich

December 28th, 2013 Alasdair

South Dock

28th December 2013 (updated 25th August 2014)

I really enjoy going along to British Military Fitness Running Club on Wednesday evenings on Blackheath. I find that running with a group pushes you to run much harder than you would ever try when running alone. Every week is different but they often include some timed circuits. I keep forgetting my times but have now decided to jot them down here for reference.

If anyone is thinking of trying these routes, to set your own target, my fastest flattish half marathon time is 1 hour 46 minutes and I am noticeably slow on short sprints. Every time we do a new circuit I’ll try to add them and maybe add little maps if I can. I’ll also add details of any long runs in the Rotherhithe – Greenwich areas.

Greenwich Park Outer Circuit.

This is when the park is closed and you need to run the roads by the shortest possible way. Maze Hill is a long and gentle hill and Crooms Hill is short and steep. You can go either way.

My fastest time 18 minutes 20 seconds (some BMF runners can do this in about 14 minutes!) 131200

Greenwich Park Inner Circuit

Apparently this is 2.2 miles. When I lived next to the park it always seemed to take 16 minutes but hopefully it would be a bit faster now?

Maze Hill – Westcombe Park Road – Vanbrugh Fields – Highmore Road

A little all road circuit for sprinting

3 minutes 131200

Gloucester Circus

Good for pairing up, one person runs while the other waits.

50 seconds per lap is about my fastest but 1 minute per lap over four alternate laps is just achievable 131200

Thames Circuit through Greenwich Foot Tunnel and over Tower Bridge about 11 miles

This is my normal long slow run. I start at South Dock but it makes no difference. The run can be increased by adding bridges with London Bridge being a half marathon. A word of warning – although it is lovely running at high water there can be bridge lifts to mess up your timing. Deptford Creek, Limehouse Basin and Tower Bridge can all open up but are less likely at low water. The locks at South Dock and St Katherines don’t normally hold things up as you can run over the closed lock gate (on the assumption they can never open them both!). Other things to mess up your run are unthinking property owners who leave rights of way locked with padlocks and Tower Hamlet Council who for some reason insist on locking a Memorial Park (even on Christmas Day!) forcing you up onto a horrible main road. Also beware on Tower Bridge as the tourists often step backwards to get a scene in their camera causing a major trip hazard.

This is a great circuit to do with less able runners as a river bus connects everywhere so people can decide to go half way if they like.

This is generally treated as a long slow run.

1 hour 50 minutes 131200

1 hour 53 minutes 131225

About 2 hours 140201 – This time we ran clockwise and it provides much better views with a great vista of Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf when heading east. Sadly we ran in the evening and the path is virtually closed off by all the flat owners on the north bank who put up gates all over the place. Such a shame that the Thames Path hasn’t right of way.

2 hours 8 minutes 140810 (wow that was slow) 5.3 mph 11.25 M

1 hour 41 minutes 42 seconds (that’s better) 6.6 mph 11.15 M


Our neighbour has done this route in 1 hour 18 minutes but he is entering the Mount Blanc Marathon. Has anyone done the loop faster?

Putney Bridge to South Dock

This is a 12.42 mile run along the river, except by Battersea Power Station where you are diverted inland. Clearly marked but it get crowded along the stretch from Westminster Bridge to Butler Wharf and you need to run quite slowly to avoid the tourists. We did it as a long slow run. Sadly there are no hills!

2 hours 1 minute. Average speed 6.2 mph. 140119

Greenwich Park 10K – including triple climbs up One Tree Hill

This was a wicked route devised by BMF as a Sunday morning race. The route was complex, I got slightly lost right at the end, but it was a good and hilly run so it was excellent training with maybe 150 -200 m of ascent. The fastest in was 40 minutes and 9 seconds. My time was 49 minutes and 8 seconds.

Preparing Sumara – Stripping the Mast

December 26th, 2013 Alasdair
These three tools stripped 99% of the varnish with the help of a heat gun

These three tools stripped 99% of the varnish with the help of a heat gun

You can see just how thick the varnish was

You can see just how thick the varnish was

26th December 2013 South Dock Rotherhithe

Sumara’s mast is now 23 years old and the varnish has never been stripped off. Despite a trip to the Caribbean and various trips to colder places the varnish actually looks pretty good. However each year there are two or three blisters which need repairing. When I prepare the blisters for primer coats it is obvious that the bond between the thick varnish and the timber is giving way. It would be possible to slide a scraper blade under the varnish and lift a much bigger area. Although I could leave major work on the mast for a few more years it seemed wise to tackle this job while the boat is next to home in South Dock before leaving on the Russian Expedition. There is very little evidence of water penetration so the timber all looks clear of staining. The mast is made from Douglas Fir as a hollow box glued with resorcinol resin and solid by way of the spreaders and winches.

I decided to take off only the necessary fittings but to leave the track and fittings around the spreaders in place. Using an AEG heat gun with two speeds and six heat settings I softened the varnish and lifted it off with an 30 mm wide Hamilton scraper – slightly blunted to avoid scratching. The thick varnish lifted off easily in sheets. I then scrape over the area again without heat using the brilliant Bahco Ergo Scrapers. It was interesting that the newly applied varnish (in the repaired blisters) was really hard to get off because it had better grip on the timber and less thickness.

For the most part the stripping was pretty trouble free but some areas lifted patches of the grain. This was hard to prevent even by scraping gently across the grain but it is limited to a couple of areas about three inches long. I’ll need to see what it looks like once the mast is sanded but I suspect it won’t be worth trying to fill or scarph in a grafting piece. It is possible that the grain lifted due to the timber being very slightly damp. All the more reason to get the old varnish off. I didn’t quite finish all the scraping on Boxing Day due to it getting dark but the process would be complete after eight hours work (the mast is 36 ft long).

That said, I think I need to spend another two full days to remove the fiddly bits and to sand the mast prior to varnishing. I am debating the idea of giving it a coat of preservative first. It will eventually be varnished with Epifanes Gloss Varnish.

I have invested in the Festool Linear sander which I hope will make the sanding process very fast (I need to sand between each coat of varnish too so that is nine x 36 foot!). I have to make up a profiled block for the linear machine which only sands with a back and forwards motion. The profile will match the curved corners of the mast perfectly. I hope to be able to sand the mast in two hours using this and other machines.

I’ll post some photos later and update as I go.

Russian charts at the CA

December 14th, 2013 Alasdair
Atlas Cover

Atlas Cover

Side Elevation Diagram from Canal Atlas

Side Elevation Diagram from Canal Atlas

The Entrance to the Canals at Belamorsk

The Entrance to the Canals at Belamorsk

Diagrams of the Canal Bridges

Diagrams of the Canal Bridges

A Typical Section of "Canal"

A Typical Section of “Canal”

6th December 2013

During our Russian Meeting No 1 at Kentish Town Graham kindly suggested that he may be able to arrange a viewing of the Cruising Associations collection of Russian Charts. On Friday evening Grit and I arrived at the CA to take up the offer.
Graham and Fay had found the folio of charts, maps and “atlases” which were stored in the loft and had arranged them in organised piles on a large table in the Committee Room. We had the luxury of a whole evening to study them.
The charts are of significance because they belonged to the first pioneer yachts to make the journey. Some charts were marked with Wallace Clark who was the father of Miles Clark who sailed White Goose through the whole canal system sadly dying before finally completing the journey. The book “Sailing Around Russia” was completed by Wallace Clark.

We had a variety of aeronautical charts, maps, navigational charts from British Admiralty and Russian Sources plus three “Atlases”. These Atlases were books of charts plus side elevations and diagrams and photos of bridges. These books were fascinating and contained everything needed to navigate the “canal”. I suppose naïvely I rather had the impression that the journey would be a matter of entering and leaving a canal into a big open lake and then entering the next canal. It is apparent from the charts and atlases that it is all a bit more complicated. The canal joins into small areas of open water and buoyed channels and even when you exit into a massive lake there are large shallow areas and areas ridden with weed and rocky outcrops. That said, certainly from these 40 year old charts, there are plenty of navigational markers to help us on our way.

Looking at used charts has the benefit of being able to take heed of various notes written on the charts. Even knowing which town is which is tricky without a copy of the Russian alphabet to hand. Markings pointing to reporting Radio Stations reinforce the need to have Russian speakers on board.

Grit and I have taken extensive notes from the charts and we have posted a couple of pictures we have taken to give a feeling of the quality of the charts. The charts we studied were clear and easy to understand (given access to the Russian alphabet). It looks like we will need to purchase two Volumes (Toms) to complete the sections from the White Sea to St Petersburg plus various lake charts and charts of the White Sea. Obviously there will be more charts needed to cover our exit from Russia into the Baltic. It could be quite an expense.



Surrey Hills Run

November 24th, 2013 Alasdair
The Ugly Truth!

The Ugly Truth!

The Juniper Valley Route that we intended to run!

The Juniper Valley Route that we intended to run!

Gareth, Laura and Anthony. It's not that cold Gareth!

Gareth, Laura and Anthony. It’s not that cold Gareth!

24th November 2013

This was the first event organised by the South Dock Running Club – Fell Running Division. It may well be the last if our map reading skills don’t improve. Having recently discovered that Anthony had entered the Mount Blanc Marathon we felt some hill training would be in order. The plan was to drive to Headley Heath and park by the arrow on the map (coming soon!) We would warm up thoroughly and set off on a 9 km circuit which would take us to the bottom of Juniper Valley and up to Box Hill and around the North Downs Path with spectacular views over the Mole valley with another steep ascent and a jog back to the car. Basically a big hilly circle. How could it possibly go wrong? Gareth and Laura are now well accustomed to passing the same things two or even three times after experiencing one of my “circuits” of Oxleas Wood (just keep the fence on the right and you can’t go wrong). Laura was a bit worried about joining the Surrey Hills circuit in the first place and once we arrived at the same junction for the third time she smelt a rat and decided to call it a day. Gareth either being gallant or also smelling the rat offered to accompany her back to the Cock Inn at Headley. Anthony and I thought we would push on a bit further. We headed off in opposite directions. Twenty minutes later we met each other running along the same path the opposite way! Undeterred Anthony and I ran on faintly convinced that it we head north west we simply must find Box Hill. The thing is Box Hill is a massive great big hill so it can’t be hard to find surely. It is Surreys biggest tourist attraction. We sheepishly asked a walker, the Ordnance Survey map and compass swinging from my neck. “Oh, just go down there and up the other side and you can’t miss it”. We had just come from “there” but thought maybe we will give it another go. Twenty minutes later we were back where we had asked the lady the way. Anthony by now had realised that I was totally hopeless with the map, “all the gear no idea” kind of thing. I don’t really like to admit how rubbish I am with maps but I had better own up and get some training before I get seriously lost. Prudently Anthony suggested that we should finish off our running by running up the three hills that departed from the bottom of the valley as a kind of three pronged circuit. We could’nt get lost because we would stay in sight of the junction. So that is what we did. At this point I took off my rucksack with the Sports Tracker and left it at the junction. We ran up the steps and down, ran up the hill and down, hopped up the steps and down, and towed each other up the hill and down. Then we did some short hill sprints. Note that the Sports Tracker was static in my bag so when you see the picture of our actual attempt at the route it didn’t even include these runs. Nevertheless there are FIVE runs along the same path on what should have been ONE lap! That is how rubbish my map reading was.
We never got to Box Hill, never saw the views!
We met up with Laura and Gareth in the pub and had a huge beef sandwich and a pint of London Pride. We had run about 9 hilly miles so all was not lost.

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