Meander gets her bottom wet again – at last!
In the chilly hours of the early (-ish) morning on Monday 4th May, Loch Creran sea life once again tasted the fresh coat of antifouling on Meander’s bottom, as she floated for the first time since September 2013. Following the usual checks for water coming in where it shouldn’t (it didn’t), Peter the Beta started first time, and clicked into gear to pull Meander out of the hoist and round to the loading pontoon for his trials to start.
This momentous event was prefaced by a week’s frantic work to get the last bits of preparatory work completed in time. The topsides received a fresh coat of black paint, the bottom was scraped and received two coats of antifouling, and the spars all received several coats of varnish. As well as these final cosmetic touches, there were several loose ends to be tied up after the last year’s work, not least returning the accommodation to a state in which human beings could live by removing 12 months’ worth of tools, detritus and sawdust, as well as small jobs such as removing the windlass to paint the base underneath, welding on a new lug to the mainmast cap fitting to allow attachment of the new jibstay, untangling and preparing all the standing and running rigging after the masts had been moved around the shed a few times, and lots of other stuff I have probably already forgotten about.
The team for this final refit period was once again parents Lyn and John, and we were joined by recently-qualified Yachtmaster and general all-round good egg Stuart Sheldon, who also has the dubious pleasure of having been selected, from a shortlist of one, to be my companion for this summer’s epic cruise in June and July (more on this later, or if you want to cheat, click on the “Cruising Programme 2015” tab). Given the weather and the unhabitability of Meander’s insides, we had once again taken a cottage locally for a week, this time returning to Kinlochlaich House in Appin (where I stayed in April 2013), which proved to be very comfortable for the 4 of us. For the first couple of nights we were joined (in Lyn’s absence for the first night as she had an appointment in the tropical south delaying her arrival by a day) by Mike Buggy, a fellow member of Hornet sailing club and yacht surveyor, whom I had engaged to conduct the survey on which my insurers were insisting prior to their renewing my insurance later this year. By giving him a lift up to Scotland and accommodating him whilst there, we were reducing his expenses to an absolute minimum.
Meander moves out into the sunlight
After a few days’ hard work in the shed at Barcaldine, on Friday 1st May, Meander was hauled out into the watery sunlight and the guys helped us get the masts restepped. We then had the weekend to get the rig set up, apply the second coat of antifouling (done single handed by John – thank you!), bolt on the new anode and check that everything was ready for splashing on Monday. So efficient were we that we managed to get all of Sunday off (almost – we did visit the boat briefly in the morning) and had a lie-in and did a bit of sightseeing, which took Stu and me down to Easdale so I could show him my favourite spot in the area.
Then, on Monday… splash! The new engine managed to get us (with the shiny new prop, of course) to the pontoon, and then the Beta agent turned up to run us through its sea trials. These consisted of running the engine in gear alongside for a while, then slipping the berth and romping up and down the loch, first at 1500rpm, then at 2000, then finally at an ear-shattering 2800 (maximum) revs, each for around 15 minutes. With fairly gusty conditions, the new engine performed well and gave a good turn of speed, which also gave me confidence that Darglow had set the pitch of the new prop correctly as well.
We had one final night in the comfort of the cottage, and then Stu and I moved on board, whilst John and Lyn headed south once again. We had hoped to get a few days’ sailing in before we, too, came south once more, but the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday was not entirely encouraging! In fact, on Tuesday we spent most of the day stowing gear and getting some stores in, but Wednesday was another sightseeing day, so we went back to Easdale and I drooled at a few properties which were on the market there (I’m getting tired of living 600 miles from Meander, so I am”looking at options” – one of which is most certainly not bringing the boat south again).
Fortunately Thursday brought a much better day; still blustery but mostly sunny and almost ideal for a test sail. We motored upwind out of Loch Creran, and then I ran Stu through setting the sails one by one, and we bore away to the south. With winds varying from flat calm to a good F5, we tested many different sailplans, including the new jIb furler, which performed satisfactorily, although it shares the fault of the old Wykeham-Martin gear in that it does not like to furl in stronger winds, and one has to bear away until it is blanketed by the other sails. The rest of the season will no doubt reveal the tricks required to get it working well.
We arrived at Puilladobhran anchorage at around 1600 and dropped the hook – unfortunately the first position had us swinging just a tad too close to the shore for comfort, so we had to pick up and re-anchor in a slightly different spot. After an early supper of Chilli, we then undertook the compulsory walk over the hill to Tigh an Truish, the local pub by the Clachan bridge. We spent a convivial evening there, avoiding all talk or news of the election and chatting up the Kiwi barmaid, boring her with our reminiscences of our travels in her distant land. Staggering back in pitch darkness under a star-speckled sky, we rowed out to a boat warmed by the Dickinson stove and crashed out.
Waking to a very chilly morning, I excelled myself by making porridge which could just as easily have performed duty as foundations for a sizeable building, but which was sufficient to tempt a reluctant Stu out of his bunk. Once ready, we set main, mizzen and staysail and weighed anchor, impressing the only other boat remaining in the anchorage by tacking all the way out in very light winds. The crew of Oceanlord complimented Meander and her ship’s company as the cranse iron swung past only 50cm from their topsides. No, they really did – they said we made their morning!
Unfortunately we were not blessed with the same favourable winds as on Thursday, and we had to motor all the way home, but went via the Sound of Kerrera for a change of scene. On arrival back in Loch Creran we went up to the head of the loch and picked up one of the moorings at the Creagan Inn. However, the pick up chain was in such poor condition that I decided not to remain there overnight, and we went back to my mooring at Barcaldine, and once we had squared away, and stowed the sails, we rowed ashore and went overland to the pub for a final meal there.
After a final night on board, we finished off the tidying up on Saturday morning and then jumped in the car to come home again.
As for the plans for the season, I am looking forward to taking Meander north to the Faroes in June and July, followed by Shetland and Orkney on the way home. This promises to be a bit of an adventure, and hopefully a taste of Northern waters for future cruises there and beyond.