Saturday, 15 April 2017

Replacement mast crutch

Easter project: yet to be varnished replacement mast crutch
Improvised splint supporting previously broken mast crutch
The issue was really to do with varnishing.  I just put it off and, after time, the thing weakened and subsequently snapped during transit. The main lesson to be learned: look after wood, particularly where it supports other structures.  Also, one tends to look after spars more so than less glamorous but equally vital pieces of supporting timber.

On the return from the Easter cruise, whilst driving through Braintree, I noticed the irregularity of the mast flailing around as I negotiated another mini-roundabout.  I pulled over, assessed the problem and then improvised for the remainder of the trip.  If nothing else, the experience offers a good reason for keeping several items, particularly lengths of rope, aboard - not for everyday usage, but always there should the need arise.  The supporting structure involved sandwiching the broken section between two pieces of timber, and repeatedly wrapping the whole in two lengths of rope.

Hence, this brought on an Easter project: fashioning a replacement.  The only purchase was a piece of timber from B&Q: 21x67x2400 for £6.  The remaining costs were varnish - in this case, existing stocks of epoxy resin used as a coating - and time.  I recycled the top 'cradle' end of the previous crutch along with five brass screws.

The first job was to cut off two lengths, roughly 37cm and glue them to either side of the remaining piece.  I used Gorilla Glue which is excellent for bonding wood.  Once dry, I used a power file to shape the base of the new structure.
New base fashioned using the sadly neglected previous base as a template.
I then cut from the existing crutch the top 'cradle' end - which is made from 10mm 3-part plywood.  Having trimmed the edges and sanded it down to remove existing coatings, this was glued to the new support, again using Gorilla Glue.  My judgement was that, despite the lack of attention it has received over the years, it was basically sound and worth recycling.  The opening photo in this blog article shows the new crutch, yet to be varnished, sitting in the mizzen slot.  In support of the glue, there are five existing holes for brass screws which will be re-inserted in due course.  Here's a shot of the bottom end.
Snug fit in the mizzen slot.  This was fashioned to the match the dimensions of the old crutch which used to offer some 'give' when moved laterally in the slot.   Once varnished, this new one will hopefully be up to a millimetre or so thicker on each face, so slightly more secure in the slot.
Currently, the crutch is being coated - and I'm taking no chances: three coats of epoxy with some extra around the key sections, such as the top end of base structure shown above - which is where the old one finally gave way.
Between coats of epoxy

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Easter Cruise, 4-8 April 2017

Mundon Stone Point, Lawling Creek
Easter cruising has been in Daisy II's repertoire since I purchased her in late 2006.  So, this year sees the eleventh incarnation of the event.  Last season's early Easter yielded a launch date on the last day in March at Bradwell Marina and a lovely cruise within the confines of the Blackwater Estuary.  This season, musical commitments up until 1st April somewhat delayed proceedings.  I then needed a few days of recovery before spending 3rd April putting things back on the boat and preparing for launching the next day.
The forecast for the week was dominated by a high pressure system moving slowly across the UK.  This presented an opportunity too good to miss and the chance to do some coastal hops.  I would like to have gone south, perhaps back to Kent and could well have done so, but would have needed afternoon tides to achieve this and it's really good to make use of mornings.

Tuesday 4th April
Afloat once again at Bradwell Marina slipway.
Bradwell Marina was once again the selected launchpad for the season's shakedown cruise.  Tides were right to drift off to Osea Island for an evening anchorage on the south side of the island.
Light winds on the way along to Osea Island
 Wednesday 5th April
Tides were right for an early start and a trip up the coast to the River Deben.  Winds were, as promised, from the north-west and a pleasant F3 was good for sailing up to the pier at Walton.  At this point, the tide was slack and, to speed things along with the wind now on the nose, I used the motor for the trip across to Landguard Point.  Once across the shipping channel, I went close in to shore and sails were set once more for a sail past Felixstowe.  The motor was employed once again to negotiate the sometimes tricky Deben entrance before a pleasant beat with the tide upstream against a fading breeze to a quiet evening anchorage just short of Methersgate Quay.
Evening anchorage near Methersgate Quay (well, actually, I think it's the next morning...)
Detail of tacks up the River Deben

Thursday 6th April
The first task today was to pop up to Woodbridge for some shopping.  As is so often the case, there was little early morning wind so the motor was used.
Briefly tied up at Tide Mill Quay, Woodbridge.  
 The tide had now turned so I set sail for a trip back down the Deben, out to sea and south west to the Walton Backwaters.  I sailed rather close in to Landguard Point by which time it was close to LW and I clumsily scraped the centreplate on the shelf there.  Winds were turning more westerly as I reached the channel into the Backwaters.
Lugger entering Oakley Creek
I then found an afternoon anchorage on the north side of Horsey Island for some early supper during which time a green lugger with several passengers aboard made its way from Landermere and up Oakley Creek.  Closer inspection through the binoculars showed a remarkable colony of seals at the entrance and I resolved to pop up there myself later the same evening.  I wasn't disappointed.
Seals in Oakley Creek
Detail of track in Oakley Creek
Friday 7th April
Low tide was at 4am and I resolved to rise at 3am in order to be off the Naze Tower ready to hitch a lift on the fresh flood tide.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated and found the boat high and dry.  So, it was back to the bunk for a couple of hours.  At 5am, Daisy II was afloat and I departed, taking in breakfast along the way.
Sunrise off the Naze Tower
 Unfortunately, there was little by way of a meaningful breeze, so I had to put up with noise from the engine for the trip down The Wallet.  By 9am I was pulling in to Brightlingsea.  It would be good to pull in there, one day, and find an open cafe. Yet again, I was disappointed today.
So, I anchored up the Pyefleet Channel for a bite to eat.  Later, I sailed out of the Colne and as far round the Mersea Flats as I could before the ebb overpowered the effect of the sails.  Then, engine was once again deployed for a trip in to West Mersea for mid-afternoon fish and chips.

Finally, an afternoon breeze took me up to an evening anchorage off Mundon Stone Point in Lawling Creek.
Mundon Stone Point anchorage

Saturday 8th April
The morning brought on sea fog, so it took longer than anticipated for the planned return to Bradwell Creek.
The final piece of excitement was a broken mast crutch somewhere in Braintree!  So, I improvised a splint consisting of two pieces of wood and lashings of rope - which, having had a winter clearout, if nothing else made it clear to me as to why it is necessary to have copious quantities of rope aboard.  It also drove home a good reason for keeping pieces of wood well varnished...!
Improvised splint supporting the broken mast crutch.