Captain's Table

Mark Austen

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.

2017.05.10 - Naiad Anniversary

Two years ago to the day I went down South and returned with Naiad.

This is what she looked like when I bought her...

...and this is what she looks like as of lunchtime today.

The boom and gaff are just in place to check that I've not messed up the measurements.

The bowsprit is in place for the photo shoot.

The spars do look rather nice in their varnish even if it's not finished just. Another two coats minimum to go on yet.

Still, she is the same boat yet an entirely different boat at the same time.

2017.03.17 - Birthday

This is the sight that greeted me this morning after I had woken up and gone down to the kitchen.

As you can see I have reached yet another milestone, 60 years of age. Amazing! Tina has kept up her tradition of getting a child's card and amending it and the note in the card from my parents reminded that I am now eligible for a free bus pass.

It's enough to make you feel old!


The bus pass would be quite useful if there were any busses around here. Well there is one. It comes down from King's Lynn turns around when it gets here and the returns to King's Lynn. It visits all the villages in the area in both directions and runs every other Tuesday.

It doesn't really, it runs every hour or two as it takes that long to go round the countryside on it's journey.

The annoying thing is that there is no public transport that goes south of here. If I want to get to Littleport I'd have to get the bus north to Downham Market and then the train south to Littleport. It would probably be quicker to walk the 7 miles.

These are the presents I received all for use on Naiad.

A battery charger power from a USB port. It can take between 1 and 4 AA or AAA batteries and I have a USB output on the electrics box in Naiad so this is very handy.

A pair of 7x50 waterproof binoculars. These do not need focussing, you just look through them.

Stainless steel cutlery.

And a set of kitchen knives and a peeler.

Each knife comes in its own plastic sheath making these very safe on a boat as long as you keep the sheath on when not using them!

2017.03.16 - Experimental Cookery

Over the last few weeks I have been trying out a few recipes on the Dometic original One spirit cooker that will be the main source of cooking onboard Naiad. The results have been most satisfactory. The initial source of recipes was a couple of backpacker websites since small spirit stoves are used by hikers due to weight constraints but although the recipes are good, there are designed for people expending a lot of energy during the day and therefore have a high calorific content. Too high for a sedentary sailor so although the recipes were very tasty, I'll probably not be using the too much whilst sailing.

Instead I turned my attention to the myriad of one pot recipes that can be found on the Internet and have been trying those out. The ingredients do need to be adjusted somewhat as most recipes serve at least 4 people and there's only two of us but without exception the ones I've tried so far have been very good.

I only use the pots, pans and the spirit stove that I have bought for Naiad and I can say without a doubt that there is no reason why cooking on Naiad should not produce great meals.

Even bread.

Yes, baking bread is going to be part of the sailing experience and I can make two small loaves of bread, enough for two people (two medium rolls, really), without needing a large surface on which to knead the dough. I still use the "sponge" method of bread making so it does need to be started the night before and the dough has two rises before the baking. Nevertheless, the results have been good.

So the Wednesday evening experimental cookery sessions will continue for a few more months until I have a good number of recipes available. I'll print out the instructions and laminate them into A5 cards and have one set onboard and another at home so that I can decide what I'd like to eat at the next sail and buy the correct ingredients without having to remember to take the recipe cards to and from the boat.

2017.03.07 - Man Overboard!

I've been thinking recently about falling overboard. With Naiad's re-launch approaching there are a few things that I need to sort out and self-recovery is one of them. Naiad does not have guard rails nor jack-stays and although most of the control ropes will be lead back to the cockpit not all of them do so and this means that occasionally I will need to get out of the cockpit and go forward. The anchor or mud weight, for example, can only be deployed and recovered from the foredeck. It is at this point that it will be possible to fall overboard. Not problem really until trying to get back into the boat.

Imagine the scene. You're in a lake or at sea and you have fallen overboard. You are wet, cold and wearing now waterlogged clothes. The question then is how to you get yourself back on to the boat. The lowest point of Naiad is about 12" above the waterline but even so, at 60 years of age and somewhat unfit (read very unfit), that distance will be too much for me to lift myself.

Even the late Charles Stock had qualms about this very thing and in his later years, stopped using several of his sails, like the topsail, so that he did not have to go forward so often and even in calm weather wore a buoyancy aid, something he rarely did in times gone by. His concern, as you can read in his last book, was not the falling overboard, but getting back onboard having done so.

There's wealth of information about crew recovery on the Internet but the issue of self-recovery boils down to "die like a gentleman". Not very helpful. So what to do?

I have decided to run a simple block and tackle from halfway up one of the shrouds. A single block and becket will be attached up the should a distance and a rope will be tied to the becket, lead down to a single block at deck level, back up and round the upper block and then back down to the deck. The lower block will have a loop of rope attached to it and the lower end of the contraption ties to the bottom of the shroud with a piece of rope. Should I fall in, then once the boat has come to wind and stopped moving I swim to the shroud, untie the contraption, put the loop over my head and under my arms and then haul away on the fall (the free end of the rope). The mechanical advantage is three to one and I figure that should allow me to pull myself up high enough to clamber back on to the deck. I may also need to have a jamming cleat on the lower block so that as I haul on the rope it is held in position so that I don't loose the whole thing through having cold hands and letting the rope go accidentally.

I will have to rig up a test system on one of the trees in the garden and see if this arrangement is good enough for me to lift myself up. The distance should only be about 4', I figure that this would be high enough for me to get my legs onto the deck without a struggle.

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