Wandering Rose 2010 Preparation

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River Cruiser: Wandering Rose (2010)

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Posted by Pizzalover, 18th June 2010

Technical Info.
Craft:Wandering Rose
Class:River Cruiser

THE 3 RIVERS RACE 2010 - Preparation

Me and my 15 year old son Jake were coming to the end of our week on a motor cruiser, and – as planned – were now switching to help with the preparation of a yacht for the 3RR. This is my diary of that bit. This is all from memory, so may not be totally correct.

I should also say that that everyone on the yacht has at least two names, and some as many as four or five. The reasons for this are lost in history, and I’ll try not to bore or confuse you with the details, except to say that there were, in total, seven bodies on board.

Thursday 3rd June

Jake and I are in a motor cruiser. We need to park it out of the way in Potter Heigham for an unknown amount of time, so we head to a quiet bit of Herbert Wood’s yard.

It’s 10am, and we are due to meet up with the yacht skipper (known to some as BarnacleBill) and another crewmember for the race (known to some as Rads.)

Our task for the day is simple – prepare the yacht, Wandering Rose, for the Three Rivers Race.

10am comes and goes. Rads arrives and joins us on the motor cruiser for coffee. There’s no sign of the skipper (the one person who knows what we should do to prepare Rose.) Rads confirms that (48 hours before the start of the race) Rose is still in a cradle and totally naked of anything that might be needed to make her sail.

Jake, Rads and I stroll over to the yard where Rose has been resting after undergoing surgery through the winter. Fortunately, while we were drinking coffee, she has been craned into the water.

There is a mast in the horizontal position on Rose. But it’s not hers, and everyone knows it (it’s far too light.) So we lift it to the shore. Rose’s own mast is in the boatshed, and for convenience, we position the yacht under the boatshed door.

So: Yacht moored alongside a boatshed. The boatshed is a two storey building with a double door on the top floor looking out over the river above the yacht below. The mast needs to come out of the door (about 10 feet above ground level) then be rotated through 90 degrees and lowered into the yacht tabernacle below.

I can’t guess how much the mast weighs. OK, so it doesn’t have its lead weights on (that would be silly) but trust me, it is still a very heavy, and long, bit of wood. It also has crosstrees sticking out of it. These are useful grab-able lever/handles which could easily break off.

It is propelled easily downwards by gravity towards the yacht.

Catching the mast are:

- Me: despite having a slim and elegant body, am a weedy weakling. - Jake: strong and nimble, but smart enough to know that what we are doing is mad. - Various people from boatyard: one is injured (I assume this is an injury related to putting the mast into the boatshed) – and his colleagues, who are expert in being in the right place to catch something if it should need to be caught. - Rads: built like one of the hydraulic rams that I suspect raise Breydon Bridge.

All of the catchers are standing on the yacht. And going overboard is the least of our worries.

The mast plummets at us. I stumble around with my arms in the air, trying to look like I could do something useful. Rads catches the lump of wood at the top which acts as a cuckoo perch when the yacht is moored, and continues to feed the mast over his shoulder.

I fight my way through the shrouds – metal wires which normally hold the mast up, but are now just left on to make this event even harder.

The mast is shifted back to a pivot point, so that it can swing and be manoeuvred into the tabernacle.

The pivot point is Rads’ shoulder. He is standing on the outboard toe rail of a river cruiser with a mast on his shoulder. Even one right move (let alone a wrong move) could be a bit of a problem.

We stagger the mast into position, and Jake slides the bolt into place.

I consider one of my stupid jokes, “er… guys… sorry, but that’s the wrong mast” – but even I am not that stupid.

(Actually, I seem to remember that the mast was found to be the wrong way up in the tabernacle, which would have meant that we would need to sail the WHOLE race backwards, and not part of it, but that was easy to fix.)

The skipper arrives, and he, Jake, Rads and I set about turning a car-boot full of rope into a River Cruiser.

The weights which counterbalance the mast – a cubic foot of lead – are located among some weeds. We don’t bother trying to carry them into place, and use a crane instead.

I demonstrate my skill level, and fit the cabin floorboards.

There is a considerable amount of manipulation of string and rope. Topping lifts are strung inboard of backstays and backstays are strung outboard of outhauls. Jake fetches the dinghy so that the bobstay can be attached. I coil the fenders and hoist the winches.

We are rigged – if you could call a yacht which has no sails “rigged” and it’s time to play. BarnacleBill has a string fetish, and he’s got a cunning plan which will improve the boat’s performance significantly. If I tried to explain every detail of this plan, I’d lose you, so I’ll try to summarize. Think of the sail on the front of a yacht. One corner needs to be fastened to the front end of the yacht. The cunning plan to do this (and a lot of other stuff) involves a Very Strong Bit Of String which goes to the back of the boat, and then An Awful Lot Of String And Pulleys. The highlight of this mechanism is a superb bit of brass engineering which runs back and forth along a track. The brass lump looks so much like a steam engine that it is proposed that we fit points and sidings for it.

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Friday 4th June

With a final flourish, we fit the mainsail.

Jake, an experienced brass-polisher, fills in free time by making the cleats gleam.

OK, I’m going to admit it. I’ll take my punishment like a man. I used a hire boat to tow. Yes, it was naughty – but, dear reader – especially if you should happen to be a first time hirer tempted to drag someone off the mud on Breydon Water at low tide (or in Heigham Sound at high tide) – I have RYA qualifications; was towing a boat skippered by her experienced owner; and I have crewed during previous owned/owned towings, from which I have learned.

So I towed the yacht (alongside) from Potter to Horning.

Actually, if anyone had an issue with this, Jake would have stood at the tiller of the yacht making “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr” noises, and we would have claimed that the yacht was towing the cruiser.

The weather and river-water conditions were fine. The challenge was that a lot of the 3RR competitors who were more organized than us were out for a trial sail.

There were two moments of high pulse rate (which may not have been caused by pre-racers.)

Firstly, I carefully timed my passage behind a yacht as it came out of its tack in light airs. The yacht slowed and then stopped. But I still had momentum, and needed to go astern to stop. Of course, as I did so, the yacht that I was towing continued forwards. This didn’t surprise me, but I did go through a heartbeat of self-doubt while things settled.

The other moment was in higher winds. Again, I passed behind a yacht which was tacking away from me. But a motor cruiser decided to pass in front of the tacking yacht, causing it to short tack back to me quicker than I expected. And all that was complemented by a half decker (of some sort) which cut through the melee. So I now had the tacking yacht coming back at me through the foam. And so, of course, I did what every stinky needs to do in that situation. I leaned forward on the throttle, and powered out of the problem. So Motor Cruise pilots, I DO know that it ain’t easy dealing with them sailing boats.

As we arrive in Horning, we have the fun of trying to find two moorings – one of which needs to be central for race preparation. My head is like a lighthouse which is going in both directions at once.

I bring Rose alongside another boat at the Swan. As we are manoeuvring, there are hails from the shore – other crewmembers are arriving. I am incredibly rude – I totally ignore them and concentrate on boats.

We leave Rose at her mooring and then leave the cruiser on Percy’s island, taking the dinghy to attend a very busy barbecue and a very quiet pub.

It’s late, and we reach the “who is going to sleep where” moment. SpelioWhotsit (another nickname) and Son (HungryDave) are going to sleep on Rose. So, also, was Rads – but it might be more comfortable for him to take the “saloon” berth on our cruiser, so he crosses the river with Jake and me in the dinghy.

It’s 3am, and there is a beam engine in my boat. Rads snores as much as I do, and sounds just like a beam engine in the next cabin. I think that in his dreams he is shifting hundreds of gallons of water, but over morning tea, he tells me that he awoke with quotes of Shakespeare in his head. I feel sorry for the poor chap. It didn’t occur to me at midnight to hunt for the saloon curtains, so he has been in sunshine since 4am – a bit like sleeping in a greenhouse.

I pack a very large bag with stuff for the race - most of which won’t be needed. It’s dropped over to Rose by dinghy. And then we return the cruiser to Ferry Marina.

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