When the going gets tough…

Crunluath July 2016
Crunluath July 2016
…the tough get going. Guess I am not one of the tough then.
Last summer Crunluath’s cabin port side warped, probably owing to sun exposure on the same side for the last 15 plus years. A nasty split opened up and I was for some time at a loss to know what to do about it. It is one of the disadvantages of a marina mooring, on a swinging mooring the boat is never exposed to the sun on one side only.
After attempting various temporary cures I decided a spell ashore and some serious woodwork was required. I set off with good intentions but the job did not go smoothly and time marched on. Other jobs cropped up, real life got in the way of boat maintenance and before I knew it the summer was gone, autumn set in and the winter loomed.
At this point the tough would have got going; I lost heart, let things slide and got thoroughly depressed. Wooden boats to not suffer things sliding and have no sympathy at all for depression. A plan had to be put in place.
Varnished wood had to be reduced to a minimum. Keeping a boat more than two hours drive from home has always been a problem, old age is setting in, me and the boat, this was no time for further procrastination. A coat of white paint on the cabin and cockpit sides didn’t look half so bad as I feared. It should make maintenance easier and may, as my son pointed out, reflect sunlight and reduce further warping.
A year has passed but we are afloat again, upgraded pumping systems have cleared the post launch leaks and the prospect of actually sailing before too long is cheering. Most things work, the boat is still work in progress but aren’t all wooden boats and at least there is progress.
Right now the rain has eased but the wind is howling, marina’s are noisy places in a blow, Wales has just lost a miserable game of football and the country is on a leaderless course to the dogs but hey my boat floats and doesn’t leak… much…the pump has just kicked in! The Clyde looks as glorious as it ever did and there is sailing to be enjoyed. What’s not to like as the modern generation says?

They think it’s all over, it isn’t now.

Crunluath at MillportOh what happened to you,

Whatever happened to me.

What became of the people we used to be?

It happens to us all, even The Likely Lads. (60’s/ 70’s sitcom characters. Theme tune lyrics above) Suddenly it seems it might be all over, well it isn’t now. (misquote Wolstenholme 1966) There’s time for another push to keep the old boat afloat; that’s vessel and skipper.

I had just settled down with a dram and Classic FM when a ping from the ipad heralded a tweet from Iain McAllister reminding me of his blog post about the 1968 Tobermory Race.Iain also drew my attention to a comment from the granddaughter of the builder of Crunluath, William Boag. She said how she remembered the launchings in Largs and how Iain’s blog had made her smile.  We have never met but I guess we are about the same age, we have an invisible connection through her grandfather.

It’s memories like this that keep me me going, even when it seems it could well be all over. The last nine months have been the hardest yet keeping Crunluath and me sailing. William Boag and his sons did a great job on Crunluath but surely she was never expected to last this long, 51 ears this spring. Neither did I. I have outlived my Dad by 14 years already, past my best before date, but not yet at the sell by date I trust.

Put aside ideas ideas about giving up Crunluath my daughter wrote to me earlier this year. This was after I sent her a comment from Dylan Winter about a 92 year old yottie sailing the Humber. I’ll try.

Back to basics, I have been struggling with neglect, paintwork to attend to and crucially bilge pump replacement and reinstallation to fix. Engine electrics are a constant bugbear probably because modern engines are marine conversions of engines designed to power building machinery and the like where the chance of swamping or corrosion by salt water is remote.

Storm Katie is battering the south of England as I write, it’s only March, stay calm and keep preparing. KISS, keep it simple, stupid. A principal I try hard to follow. There may be troubles ahead But…

Before they ask us to pay the bill
And while we still have the chance
Let’s face the music and dance.


The Unvarnished Truth



Moving house and maintaining an old wooden boat do not mix…fact!

The plan to keep Crunluath afloat last winter worked fine for the hull but the superstructure has not weathered well, indeed cracks have appeared in the cabin sides with a bit of warping. No doubt a combination of freezing and warm weather in close proximity plus a lack of revarnishing and general maintenance;have caused the problem.

Boring everyday activities such as packing, throwing stuff out, giving stuff away, throwing more stuff out; unpacking, sorting, throwing more stuff out, organising carpets, putting up curtain rails etc.etc.etc. all added to the neglect.  There is one thing you cannot do with wooden boats and that is neglect them.

Early spring weather did not favour maintenance and I succumbed to arranging a spot of shore leave for Crunluath at the end of June, hardly ideal but needs must…  A few days of scraping and sanding have put right most of the ravages of the weather but the decision was taken to cut down on the amount of varnished wood and to paint the cabin side white leaving varnish only on the capping pieces. The decision was made easier by looking first at a photo of a 75 year old Vertue owned by wooden boat guru and author of ,The Trouble With Old Boats, Adrian Morgan. His boat had painted cabin sides, if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me I thought. A look at a few other Vertue photos revealed several more with similar painted cabins.

A visit further up my pontoon to a fellow wooden boat owner showed me it could look good, Neal’s beautiful 10 ton Hillyard sloop convinced me it could work.

So the deed is done or at least started, the undercoat is on and it looks…well ok, perhaps not quite right but it works.  It’s all white now!



February Resolution

(null)Portencross Castle

I have never been keen on New Year resolutions, they normally fail before the end of January. One possible alternative is not to make a resolution until February and back date it to the beginning of the year.
I did that today during a sail around Great Cumbrae. My resolution is to sail in every month of 2015. Successive short sails in the first two months have given me the incentive. It’s not a big decision but my days of winters ashore are over, Crunluath is the better for it despite some minor damage and some serious wear on mooring ropes during last month’s gales.
After a spectacular drive up the M74 through snow covered Southern Uplands, Largs was as usual snow free and basking in weak but warm February sunshine. With next to no wind I opted to motor south hoping to meet some wind south of Hunterston. A glassy sea and increasing cloud created a dramatic view down the Hunterston channel to Portencross Castle, (photo above) one of two castles guarding this entrance to the Clyde. The other on Wee Cumbrae is not open to the public but some gallant efforts by volunteer enthusiasts have resulted in some restoration at Portencross.
Through the Tann the wind veered to the west and Crunluath tramped along.

Looking north up the Clyde the Arrocher Alps and Ben Lomond appeared startlingly closer and higher than normal, one of the unique joys of off season sailing.

Apart from fishing boats and the Cumbrae ferry only one other boat was out, a traditional wooden motor cruiser moored at Largs Yacht Haven.
To be fair it was a weekday and only the professionals, the unemployed and the retired were free to enjoy the pleasure of winter sailing.
Oddly it is back to student days for me, our university sailing season was in the winter, fifty years on I am back frostbiting! I recommend it.

Ice Patrol



There is no doubt about it, snatching an hour’s sailing from the jaws of winter is the most satisfying thing a yottie can do between October and March.

A visit to Crunluath on Sunday in between gales and ice ostensibly to repair possible damage was too good a chance to miss; clear blue skies, a gentle breeze and views of snowcovered mountains from Arran to Arrocher. Only the windsurfers and me were out to witness the Clyde at its best.

Peel Ports pilot boat Gantock headed down channel from its tempoary berth at Largs Yacht Haven to take off a pilot  on a collier leaving Hunterston coaling jetty. Not a bad way to go to work even if you are having to work on Sunday, it certainly beats an afternoon on the tills at Tesco.

Just a genoa, initially only partly unfurled, was enough to see 2 knots on the log but on the return trip from the Cumbrae shore we hit 5.1kn. I seem to remember reading an article in a yachting magazine some years ago about winter wind feeling stronger despite recording the same speed as summer winds, something to do with air density at lower temperatures being higher. It certainly felt like it as I struggled to furl the foresail as we approached the marina.

A twitchy few gusts conspired to make my approach to the pontoon unreasonably difficult, perhaps the absence of many boats from their regular berths owing to dredging operations, meant a less than sheltered approach. After a bit of manual warping I got Crunluath safely alongside. Meanwhile the dredging barge was making its way through the marina using a strange coracle like action. The digger doing the dredging used its shovel to pull the barge along with an auxiliary tender at the stern for additional steering. It all looked rather weird. Largs marina has not been dredged since it was built 30 years ago, aparently increasing affluence has led to ever larger and deeper draught boats which are touching bottom at times. Serves em right, they shouldn’t carry so much gin!



The only ice I encountered was on the sidedeck.Casting off was a delicate balletic operation but disaster was narrowly averted.

Sailing On



This is what the remains of thirty years of boat projects looks like.

Moving house is pretty traumatic after such a long time in the same place but sorting through failed projects, the remains of successful projects and all those pieces you have saved because one day they will come in handy, is a bit of a nightmare. That one day seldom came but still the bits piled up, spurred on by the exhorbitant cost of timber, plywood and adhesives and encouraged by a surplus of storage space.

On the bright side many happy memories came flooding back, a laminated tiller from a GP14, another from a Flying Fifteen and lots of bits from eleven years ownership of Crunluath . There are experimental lamination projects, patterns for the tricky bits to avoid spoiling expensive marine ply and hardwoods, half a lifetime of evenings and weekends spent crafting the latest boat or part of boat. There were frustrations of course and minor disasters but most memories were of happy times sailing the completed boat: scaring ourselves silly in big seas and high winds sailing a GP14 at National Championships and a never to be forgotten sail at Cowes for the Flying Fifteen’s 50th Anniversary with the paint still drying as we launched, ending the week swanking it on the Platform of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

In recent years there have been balmy evenings at anchor in the Burnt Islands listening to the sounds of almost nothing at all or swinging from a mooring at Lochranza whilst the seals sang and the land breeze brought a whiff of malt whisky from the distillery.

It might be just a pile of wood to you but its a skip full of memories for me.

Its time to sail on from the house I have called home for so long but Crunluath is still around, looking a bit neglected this season but we’ll soon put that right with a touch of TLC and a glass of malt. Now where are those shed brochures?

Back to basics?



Weather and flagging energy levels conspired to persuade me to get Crunluath back in the water before I had completed intended work on the cabin top and deck. Hood and fittings, the hatch kennel and hand rails have been removed for work at home. I had time to fill a few screw holes but the rest of the work will have to wait.
One of the unintended by products of my procrastination is how much sleeker Crunluath looks without all the extras we now consider essential for modern sailing: no fence around the edge of the boat, no hood blocking the view from the cockpit,. I am tempted to keep it this way but I suspect I will weaken as soon as we are plugging into a choppy sou-wester off Garroch Head. Safety rails I have always thought to be of dubious value for anyone more than two feet tall: a secure grip, coupled with a harness and strong clip on points has got to be safer. I'll see what I feel comfortable with but I hope to try a few trips in, ” low drag” mode.
Either way there is a lot of work to do but the positive side of only one month ashore was no leaks upon relaunching. A few fine days should boost the enthusiasm.


Crunluath’s Fiftieth Season

image2014 will be Crunluath’s fiftieth season of sailing, not bad for a simple boat. This was no Lloyds A1 built boat but an artisan built yacht crafted more by eye than by plan and built by men who had served their time learning the traditional skills of boatbuilding using methods which had changed little in the previous fifty years.

Two weeks of hard won graft with more than a few breaks for weather and worn muscles are over and we are almost ready for another trip on the hoist. There is work to do on the cabin top,  mast and rigging to check over but the end is in sight and as always the optimism of a new year afloat is growing.

Crunluath spent the winter afloat and despite a few abrasions is all the better for it. There was surprisingly little growth on the hull after eighteen months afloat but a few barnacles were firmly attached to the propellor. The power wash took most off and there was not too much filling and fairing to do but I suspect my standards have dropped with increasing age and decrepitude. ( Me not the boat! ) The phrase “It’ll do” crops up more frequently but there are standards to be achieved because that phrase almost certainly never cropped up in the Boag yard, at least not when Dad was in earshot.

Thanks Ian and your brother, you did a great job, bet you never thought it would last this long! From what I gather old Wully was a hard man and life under him cannot have been easy but that is how things were half a century and more ago. Not many of us make something that gives fifty years of joy and pride of ownership to half a dozen families but Crunluath has done and continues to do so. I’ll keep going for a little longer but Crunluath will outlast me!




Fulani, another Honeybee rescued

Chris Brown contacted me a while ago about his boat Fulani which he believed to be a Honeybee.

William Boag Bermudan Sloop 2


It was not until recently that I came across a set of photographs of a Boag built boat on a broker’s website which I had downloaded several years ago. to my suprise this turned out to be Fulani .

The broker’s description said it was built in 1966, a year after my own boat, Crunluath. From the photos it does look almost identical to Crunluath  apart from the bowsprit and modern forehatch. Some boats had a bowsprit added to improve weather helm but I am pretty sure this was not original equipment.

Chris has been working on the boat for three years and no doubt hopes to be afloat soon!

I do wonder if this boat might have been called Tarpon as I do know a boat of this name was built by the Boag yard. If you know about this boat or Tarpon do get in touch.