Monday 27 April 2020


I was rummaging around for some boat parts when I came across this which was in a box of bits from Blue Clipper our Van de Stadt 34 we sold 22 years ago.

TillerMaster was an early electrical self steering gear, it was very robust built of metal and I believe it used light aircraft actuators which were quite powerful and very reliable. The drive mechanism on ours was still working fine but the course setting and control had problems which I never managed to fix, plus we had a Clearway Autosteer wind vane gear which was a super piece of kit so repair of the TillerMaster was always one of those jobs you put off and was sold with the boat.

Blue Clipper was built in 1970, so I'm guessing the TillerMaster was from the early 70's, it was certainly old when we bought the boat in the 90's.

Photo credit Onboard with Mark Corke

There's also a great instruction and repair article by Electric Marine  which if it had been around back then I might have had more luck fixing our old unit.

Friday 24 April 2020

Early morning in the western Solent

For those of us who have been stuck at home on lockdown or doing essential work, here's a reminder of how things are down at the western end of the Solent.

Keyhaven harbour to be specific during last summer, we were up early to catch the tide, there was a faint haze which quickly burned off.

That sparkling water over towards the Isle of Wight was delightful.

Boats on moorings in the deep water channels among the saltings.

Hurst Castle and the old lighthouse.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Evening exercise

In contrast to the misty morning pictures from earlier in the year, this was a near perfect evening walk.

Clear sky, flat calm, warm late afternoon sunshine.

Monday 20 April 2020

Misty Morning

It wasn't that long ago that we had frost on the windows and mist circling on the still water.

Missing my early morning row, the Hamble harbour master  has posted on face book suggesting that being on the water puts rescue staff at risk based on a boat which ran aground at the river entrance.

So a couple of reminders from better times.

Friday 17 April 2020

Seagull Saturday - something for a rainy day

We've had to cancel our planned holiday in Fowey, but found this reminder from last year.

We had a visiting seagull, in fact he seemed to have staked out balcony out as his territory, chasing off a couple of young birds who tried to land.

Joseph nicknamed him Cedric and on fine days when the doors were open he would even venture in on his quest for food.  Fortunately we only had one rainy day but he didn't look too happy being left out in the rain.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Making the best of...

The Easter weekend, with nowhere to go and no one coming around it was a case of doing stuff around the house and garden. I confess I'm not a big fan of gardening.

On Saturday after cleaning, oiling and adjusting everything on the bikes, fitting a new fuel line to the strimmer, sharpening the mower... I turned to Gato which frankly was looking a little neglected around the gunnels.

I was sure I had half a tin of white Toplac left over from Joseph's Optimist renovation, but if I have I sure can't find it. Then without thinking I put thinners in some old Weathershield paint only to realise it was water based. Eventually I found some diamond hard floor paint, two coats of which looked pretty good - then again the old paint was 13 years old so hardly surprising.

I then turned my attention to the herb dinghy, which perhaps should have been renamed the weed dinghy. Suitably  dug out ,weeds burned so now Mrs BB can replant with flowers.

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Perfect sailing day

There was a very slight frost at 6.00AM, in the lee of some woods and a small hill the river was mirror smooth but in the main channel there was a slight ripple of an early morning light breeze.

The river is closed to leisure vessels for the COVID lock down.

Monday 13 April 2020

Keeping busy during lock down

I'm very fortunate being able to work from home and weekdays seem even more busy than before the lock down with video conferences at all hours. But it's weekends that I need to keep busy now that we can't go out.

With the few nice weekends recently the garden is looking better than it ever has, there's a growing pile of sawn and chopped logs and I've caught up on most of the DIY jobs around the house.

So I started on restoration of a regular plane I picked up at a sale somewhere, after a good clean up the only thing it needed was the blade sharpening, so not having anything other than an oil stone I decided to regrind the blade to take out a couple of dings and straighten the edge which was worn in the centre

It took a bit longer than anticipated, in total around 2.5 hours of grinding, done in 15 or 20 minute sessions when I was down in the garage and not doing anything else. You can see the blade set up in the sharpening jig which for me is essential. now it's razor sharp and just needs reassembly and put to work.

Above my small collection of planes, the wooden jack plane was my Dad's must me 70 years old at least. It's done great service including making the center pole of the spiral staircase to my office and the new top section to Greta's main mast.

The little red block plane came from B&Q but keeps a good edge and is the most often used plane.

A couple more purchases from second hand shops awaiting a refresh.

Still trying figure out if this can be repaired and how, it's a rebate plane I picked up for £15 but stupidly dropped it on the concrete floor.

Friday 10 April 2020

Drill Table

I've been following fellow blogger Steve (Arwen's meandering) as he constructs an outboard motor stand with interest and slight embarrassment. Steve did in depth research and some fairly meticulous planning which resulted in a really nice and practical stand.

By contrast I needed to make a table for newly acquired bench drill and with only a couple of hours to spare threw together a table from some old scraps. It seems to be robust (time will tell) and all the legs are pretty much the same length, plus using the new drill was a dream - for some reason I seem to be unable to drill a straight hole using a hand held drill.

Different strokes, I do admire Steve's approach, it's just not in my character :O)

Wednesday 8 April 2020


Pretty much since the equinox things have been changing very quickly as it should be.  A couple of weeks ago I was running in hat and gloves into the teeth of a bitter north easterly, now we've just had a  shorts and tee shirt weekend.

It's interesting to see the stages of progress our cherry tree is in full blossom while the oak has not a bud to be seen. Of course the oak is always the last to shed it's leaves in Autumn so not surprising it's a late starter in spring.

Monday 6 April 2020

Clear Skys

I've been out at 6.00 AM for my allowable daily exercise partly as it's quiet, there's hardly anyone around so good for social distancing, but also as there have been some fantastic clear and frosty early mornings recently.

The sky hasn't been this clear since the volcano problems 10 years ago which also grounded flights.

On this morning in particular there was a blanket of white frost on the grass everywhere, the river was still and calm perfectly reflecting the pink light as the sun came up.

Friday 3 April 2020

Lockdown Daily Exercise & Masks

The current dilemma is where to take the allowed daily exercise?

Shortly before the lock down we were out in the New Forest, with social distancing being practiced we didn't get within 50 feet of other passing walkers.

Hence the sometime heated discussions and even the man who was fined, over whether people should be allowed to drive to somewhere to take a walk.

I'm conscious that we're really fortunate to have the river and sea on our doorstep, but those living in a city or a high rise getting out to wide open spaces can undoubtedly be beneficial to both health and mind. The risk of spreading infection of a car journey followed by keeping an extended safe distance would appear to me very low.

An update from colleagues in Hong Kong, new social distancing guideline for the pubs have been announced (yes they remain open)which  limit four people to a table and a minimum distance apart. The HK subway the MTR has been open throughout the crisis and I'm becoming firmly of the opinion hat the almost universal wearing of face masks in HK has been a significant contributor to arresting the spread especially of those who have the virus breathing capturing the virus as they breath out.

While buying masks in the UK is still very difficult and essential that those mask which are available should go to front line, so I made a few of these - every little helps right?

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Yachting magazines

A New Zealand friend Russ, used to make fun of the English yachting press for running articles like "I went out to check my mooring ". Given that he's sailed around the world and some of the worst weather imaginable, I guess it was a fair point.

Anyway to celebrate what might not be the finest tradition of English yachting journalism here's a bloke checking his mooring.

On a more practical note, apparently PBO will be running a feature on the new cordless hose, perfect for washing down the deck when there's no marina hose available.