Not at all surprisingly, if you know me that is, I did some more research into alternative moorings for Naiad from next year and I have found a better option than even the Blackwater Sailing Club (BSC).
Moorings are available there without the need to belong to a sailing club and they range from half-tide mud berths up to marina moorings. The half-tide berths are the cheapest, then fore & aft moorings upriver, then fore & aft moorings closer to the town, then pontoon moorings and finally marina moorings.
My budget will stretch to the closer the fore & aft moorings, but not the pontoon or marina berths.
Still, the half-tide mud berth, for which I have applied, is a mere £189 per annum and not dependant on boat length. The cost of all the other mooring options are dependant on overall boat length.
There is a water taxi, so no need to take the tender, the facilities in the town are good and the Harbour Office staff are really helpful as I found out when I phoned them up to ask some questions.
If there are not enough half-tide moorings available, I'm not top of the writing list for next year, then I can stretch to one of the other mooring options.
The mud berths at Brightlingsea allow me to get on and off Naiad better than the BSC which is 2 hours either side of high water. The half tide mooring is 4 hours either side so there will be more weekends where the tides will allow me to sail.
I checked the tide tabes for 2021 at the BSC and there were only 11 weekends where the Sunday afternoon high water was between 15:00 and 18:00, the practical limits given the drive home and 25 weekends if I extended that from noon to 18:00.
Conversely, doing a similar exercise for Brightlingsea shows that were are considerably more weekends available when the Sunday high tide allowed good access. I counted 40 weekends for 2021. Not that I intend to sail that often, but the greater choice allows me to fit sailing weekends around other activities and to allow for inclement weather.
The drive to Brightlingsea is two hours and 80 miles, so not that different to getting to the BSC. The difference is not having to join a sailing club and the much reduced mooring fee assuming I get the mooring I want.
Interesting times ahead.
I was somewhat dismayed to learn that the Environment Agency (EA) is intending to increase the cost of having a boat on the River Great Ouse, amongst others, and the proposed new fee structure will increase my EA registration fee from £44.20 this year to £144.80 next year and £150.57 for 2023. An increase of 327% and 340% over this year (2021). And that is only if the length x beam calculation is rounded down from 8.9m2, for Naiad to 8m2 as per the examples. If that were to be rounded up to 9m2, then the figures will be £157.60, £163.88, 356% & 370% respectively.
Needless to say, I'm not particularly happy about this. I don't mind the EA from putting up its fees to try and cover their annual funding shortfall but they way they have done it places a much greater burden on the small boat owner compared to someone with a larger boat.
And the proposed new fee structure is just a tad complicated.
Also, there's no mention of the EA trying to reduce their own internal costs to help close the funding gap. I'd propose that everyone in the EA that earns a salary greater than £100,000 is made redundant. That should close the funding gap considerably, but this is about a likely as being struck by lightning five times in the space of five minutes on a cloudless day.
The EA have, like many accountants, politicians and other people with little of no idea about how the average person thinks, the EA have missed the point and will fall prey to the law of unintended consequences. To wit, they are assuming that all the current boat owners will just pay up and have based their calculations on that. Instead what will happen is that a significant proportion of boat owners will just stop putting their boats on the river and save themselves the money. This is especially true right now as many, many families are feeling the pinch as a result of the Covid-19 problems over the last 18 months. With furloughs, redundancies and business closing down most people do not have much spare money to spend in the next year or two, if any. They are, in my opinion, more likely to decide save some more money by not using their boats at all.
The EA will not receive the increased funding that they expect, again in my opinion. It would be interesting to see just how much my prediction holds up.
Anyway, this very unwelcome increased cost has made me look at possible alternative mooring spots. The main advantage the River Great Ouse is that it is about a mile away from home, so getting down to the boat is quick and easy. Aside from that, I'd rather have Naiad somewhere where there is open water and I have repeatedly lamented the 6ft (2m) high river banks that grace the River Great Ouse round here and the subsequent detrimental effect on sailing.
So, what are the alternatives?
Two immediately spring to mind, the Broads and the Blackwater. I looked up the available moorings on the Norfolk Broads and the prices range from acceptable to outright ridiculous. Barton Broad is the largest broad and there is a marina just off the broad in Barton Turf. I have contacted them about their fees and available space but not heard back yet. Barton Turf is 60 miles and 90 minutes drive from home. The advantage is a secure marina, a large stretch of open water and no tides.
The Blackwater, well that is something else. You see, Shoal Waters has her home on the Blackwater, previously at the Blackwater Sailing Club (BSC) and currently at the Goldhanger Sailing Club (GSC). The GSC is a small sailing club that has no available space and a very long waiting list but the obvious choice for me is the BSC.
Their fees are £200 annual membership plus £354.75 for a mooring of cruising boat of Naiad's size. That's just over £8 more than I currently pay to be a member at the Denver Cruising Club plus the annual EA fee. The advantage of the BSC is that it is the place where I first learnt to sail, is ideal for Naiad, has a very large stretch of open water called the North Sea and has hundreds of places to visit within a weekend's sail. The disadvantages are it's 90 miles and two hours drive away and has tides which restrict the weekend upon which it is possible to sail given that I would have to drive there on a Friday evening and return on Sunday evening, meaning that I would need to have a suitable tide on Sunday afternoon to be able to pickup my mooring.
From a monetary point of view, since the cost of the membership and mooring as the BSC is comparable to that which I now pay, the increased cost would be that of the fuel driving there and back. A 180 mile round trip in our Vivaro would use around 5l of fuel based on an average of 33 miles per litre. It would probably be less than this since the average of 33 miles per litre includes trips pulling a loaded horse trailer. But let us take the figure of 5l of fuel for the moment. Currently fuel is 129p per litre so the round trip would use £6.45 worth of fuel. Now the proposed EA increase lowest figure is £144.80 - £44.20 or £100.60 which equates to 15 visits to the BSC before I start paying more than the fees on the River Great Ouse for next year.
Suddenly mooring at the BSC looks a lot more attractive.
The two hour, 90 mile drive does not, at least not on a permanent basis. I've contacted the BSC to enquire about the possibility of a temporary membership, say two seasons, and I'm interested to see what they say.
Interesting times ahead.
One of the many things that has not been carried out on Naiad as yet is the replacement of the quarter-round battens that covered the joint between the cockpit locker sides and the bulkhead on the bridge-deck. I decided that today was the day to address that.
This is one of the two joins in question on the Port side.
The one on the starboard side is clearer to see due to the light.
I had wondered for some time as to what I would use to cover these joins. Previously I had taken a square section batten, rounded off one corner and stuck them in place using a construction adhesive. These were completely destroyed when the work on the hull/bulkhead joint was done last year so I do not have these to put back in place. I didn't much like them anyway as they were a last minute thing and clumsy due to the haste.
During the slow cleaning up of the workshop I recently came across this. It's the piece of the laminated tiller that I cut off and replaced with part of the tiller that came with Naiad that had all the rope work. This, I thought, should do for the battens I require. The side shown here is in good repair...
The varnish on the other side not so but this is acceptable since I'll only need one half of the tiller for the job.
The tiller off cut was cut to approximately the correct size.
Then cut in half lengthways...
...and the better piece of the two cut in half lengthways again giving me two quarter-round battens. These were cut to the correct length after being offered up to the cockpit, sanded, hung up in the workshop and given a coat of varnish.
The show sides already have about eight coats of varnish so I shall only give the pieces a couple of new coats since the non-show faces will only need this for weather protection, not display.
These are the two battens with two new coats of varnish.
I decided to use silicone sealant to fix the battens into the cockpit mainly because it is a good sealer and a not-so-good adhesive. I made the mistake of using an adhesive on the prior battens and these had to be destroyed in order to remove them. The other reason for the choice is that the only other sealant I have is for roofing and guttering and not only does it take ages to tack but it stays quite flexible for a considerable time, it's black and gets everywhere.
The battens were put in place with something underneath to hold them at the correct height, a small piece wood on the outside face to prevent damage to the varnish and two piece of wood resting on the protectors to hold everything in place until the sealant had thickened.
About an hour later I was able to remove the supports and the result is quite good.
Again, the light means that the starboard side is easier to see.
I'm very pleased with the result especially since I have managed to use a piece of Naiad that would have been thrown away otherwise.
Time for a cup of tea.
Not posted for a while, real life has been a bit busy and I have had other projects taking up my time.
After the block shells had soaked in the Boiled Linseed Oil for a week, they were taken out and after about an hour of letting the oil drip back into the pot the remaining excess oil was removed with a soft cloth and the shells hung up to dry. This is the result after a day or two. Technically, Linseed oil doesn't dry, it polymerises with exposure to oxygen and hardens, but the effect is the same.
After more than a week drying, sheaves were installed using a stainless steel pin and the shells were given about eight coats of varnish. This was during a spell of warm weather and by putting a coat on first thing in the morning, the varnish had cured sufficiently by late afternoon to put on another coat, so the process didn't take that long. After the coats varnish had been applied I hung the shells up again to allow the varnish to harden for another week.
Finally, I added the rope work to the block. This consists of a length of rope with an eye-splice in the end that is made around the block and a whipping added to the base of the splice to draw the eye tight on the block. The result is pretty good.
I also whipped the free end of the rope and cut off the melted rope as I find that it cracks over time and because it is hard, it is not so easy to thread through holes.
This is one of the block loosely tied around the boom. When I rig Naiad after launching, the block will be tied a lot more securely. This is just to show how the new block will be fixed in place.
Not a bad job. I learnt a few things in the process of making these, the sheaves have glass and plastic bearing races so they turn very freely and the result looks very nice.
A suitable upgrade for Naiad.
Over the past few days I've continued the work on the new mainsheet blocks.
Once the glue holding the cheeks and spacers together had dried, the cramps were removed and any excess glue squeeze-out removed with a sharp chisel.
The excess material was removed over at the bandsaw and sanded smooth using the belt sander.
At this point the shells are shaped in one direction and need to be shaped in the other.
This is a drawing of the block that I made using my cad software and then printed it out full-sized.
One side of the drawing was cut out to give a template that could be held up to the block to see where the wood needed to be removed.
It wasn't easy for me to achieve as this is the first time I've done this, but here is one of the shells partially shaped.
And again with more wood removed to give a smooth shape.
A groove around the shell was made using various round files and it was at this point that I realised that I had drilled the hole for the pin in the wrong place. It was too close to the top of the black and with the sheave fitted the rope would not pass through the block.
Fortunately I have many Ash arrow shafts around in the workshop. One of these was turned down to 8mm, the smallest I could go using the dowel maker I have, so the holes in the shells were widened to 8mm and then plugged with pieces of the arrow shaft. Once the glue had dried, the plugs were trimmed to length and sanded flush with the shell both inside and out.
The pin holes were then re-drilled in the correct position.
Here the second shell has been shaped but not yet had the groove cut, however, as soon as that was done and both shells sanded with 240 grid sandpaper and they were submerged in Boiled Linseed Oil.
The shells float in the oils so a lead weight was carefully placed on top of the shells to keep them completely submerged. The lid was put on the pot and the whole thing put aside out of the way where the shells will soak for a week. This will allow the oil to penetrate deeply into the pores of the Ash. After a week the shells will be removed from the oil, drained, the excess oil wiped off and they will be hung up in the workshop for another week to allow the oil to dry.
Once the oil has dried several coats of varnish will be applied before the sheaves are pinned in place and the strops added to complete the blocks.
But right now, it's time for a cup of tea.