Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2018.05.02 - What Makes a Sail Enjoyable?

Those of you that read my other site will know that despite being wet, cold, tired, in pain and with the wind against me, last Friday I had the most fantastic sail that I have had since I sailed past the Atlantic coast of Spain towards the Straits of Gibraltar surrounded by thousands of dolphins. That trip was in the early 1990s. But what was it that made this trip so good that the discomforts paled into insignificance? What was it about the trip on Friday that had me smiling even as I shivered with cold?

Indeed an even better question would I have enjoyed it so much if I had been comfortable?

From a silting point of view, the wind was not on the nose but from about 2 o'clock as I looked down the river. With the propensity of the wind to follow the course of the river, this did not change, or not by much, as I progressed up the Great Ouse from Littleport despite the many twists and turns in the river. This mean that the starboard tack, the one with the wind on my starboard side, was a long one and the port tack a short one almost directly across the river.

Surprisingly the high banks did little to affect the wind but the trees and houses on the bank did, entirely as expected.

So the wind allowed me to make quite good progress sailing down river and in one or two places I managed to skirt the river bank for some distance before having to put in the short tack.

I dare say that I would have enjoyed the sail a lot if it had not been raining and it had been warm but I think that there was also an additional element of enjoyment because of the discomforts, a 'beating the odds' sort of thing that magnified the enjoyment.

All subjective of course but interesting to think about all the same.

However, I don't think I'm going to set out in the rain anytime soon just to find out.

2018.01.06 - New Car

Dear diary, today we bought a new car!

The things you can do nowadays on the internet are almost beyond belief. We had been talking about the need for a new, larger car since we realised that we were overloading the Galaxy every time we went to an event and that was why it kept on breaking. For four of the events last year we hired a Vivaro van and that turned out to be a very wise decision. However, it is also expensive and relies on such a vehicle being available at the time we need it. Had we not also need something in which I could also get things like sheets of plywood I dare say that we might have stayed with the renting route, but in the end we decided to buy.

I looked at the available Vivaro minibuses on the Internet that suited our purposes and narrowed the choice down to three. Then, whilst sitting in the Costa at Tescos in Ely last Wednesday afternoon I applied for a loan on line using my iPhone and received acceptance in Friday morning. I phoned the nearest of our choices, paid a deposit and made an appointment to view today. We drove down, saw, test drove then paid for the vehicle. The tax was completed on line, the insurance by phone and we drove home in convoy.

So, three days in total. I remember having to do all that by phone and post in the old days!

We now have a Vauxhall Vivaro Combi CDTi LWB LR 9 seater minibus and it is pretty spectacular. I've never owned such a large or new vehicle before. It is a mere 15 months old, doesn't need an MOT yet and only has 33,321 miles on the clock.

Both rows of rear seats, three seats in each row, come out and the floor space is big enough that I have room to put a sheet of plywood lying on the floor with room to spare. The only thing that is missing is a tow bar and we will get that little detail sorted out in the next month or two.

2017.12.11 - More Ruminations on Charcoal

I was looking at charcoal again a few days ago since I've recently bought another 5 x 5kg bags and I'm about to finish those. In my chasing around the Internet looking at various articles about charcoal I found a site that offers 10kg bags at an even cheaper price than I have paid before.

So I bit the bullet, as the saying goes, and bought a pallet load.

Here it is outside the workshop. That's 40 bags or 400kg of charcoal. Needless to say, it can't sit outside in all weathers so I moved the bags into the container.

It didn't take that long, I'm pleased to say.

I wonder how long this will last? The charcoal arrived 6 days ago and we're already halfway through the second bag having finished off the 5kg bags.

2017.10.12 - The Importance of Being a Computer Programmer

Over on my Naiad pages I make use of the menu provided by the Content Management System (CMS) that I have purchased called Armadillo. It works but I find it ugly and unpleasant. I have an enhancement request with the writer of the CMS but he is busy and so the request is low priority.

However, the menu finally got on my nerves too much and yesterday evening I sat down and wrote a short program in JavaScript to convert the menu into something else.

This is what the menu looks like before I got to it. There are 377 entries and it goes on forever.

And here is the menu after I've mangled it. The dates at the beginning of each title have been used to create a nested menu with the top level being the year the next level the months then days and finally the articles themselves.

At a press of the button the menu collapses to show just the top level.

Clicl on a year to expand it and you can see the months.

Click on a month to show the days that have articles.

Then click on a day to see the posts.

It needs some styling and a few other things such as reducing the width of the indenting, maybe some little triangular symbols before each node and turning the cursor to a hand when it is over something that can be expanded, but that's all easy stuff.

I like this new menu so much that I've added it to this site as well.

Occasionally it is good to be a computer programmer!

2017.05.22 - What Now?

Naiad was successfully launched last Friday and I'm already feeling the effects of that in both a positive and negative way. On the positive side the project is completed, my boat is in the water and not leaking and I have spent some time on the river moving her from Ely to her mooring. Tina tells me that I smiled practically all the way and I'm not at all surprised at that. There were times over the last two years when I wondered if I would every get the reconstruction finished and get her launched. There were times when I did nothing on the boat for months at a time through lack of enthusiasm. Recently, if you look at the project log, I have worked on Naiad almost every day for the last 10 months and all of a sudden that has come to an end and that is the negative part.

Whereas for the last 10 months I have spent the majority of my free time working on Naiad (248 days out of 316), from now on I will be spending a minority of my time with Naiad. Previously I could work on the boat whatever the weather, now I will only be on the boat in good sailing weather.

To be honest about this, right now it feels like a bit of a let down.

But only right now.

I have to get used to a different way of doing things. I'll be going down to Naiad most days for the next few weeks firstly to make sure that she isn't leaking and that her mooring ropes and fenders are sufficient, the river level can change but as much as 18" and whilst that doesn't sound like a lot, if your ropes are too short it can be too much. Secondly, I have a few things left to do on the boat. I broke one of the cockpit thwarts and have had to repair it and add extra support underneath. That extra support also has to be done on the other thwart before I break that one as well. The burgee needs to be made and I will spend a lot of time working out the best place to stow everything.

Most of all I have to get used to looking outside at 16:00, seeing that there is a good sailing wind and getting over to the boat for a sail even if for only an hour or two. It requires a new mindset.

I am no longer a boat builder.

I am a sailor.

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