A sailing blog about a skipper and his yacht

April – Setting up the rig

Sea Bear was re-launched in mid April and I went down to finish setting up the rigging. First job was to ensure the mast was upright and with the right amount of rake. It is not a job that can be down with the boat ashore as that the boat is level cannot be assured when it’s chocked up in the yard. Afloat and you know the boat is level. There was no wind and the sea calm, essential conditions and I was able with the aid of measuring, a plumb bob and by eye that the mast was straight and all in order. Next step was to get the correct tension in the rig, I had invested in a Loos rig gauge to assist me with this. So slowly I went around adjusting the bottle screws a turn or two at a time. First the cap shrouds, then when where properly tensioned, moving on to the backstays, lowers and babystay, a bit at a time and checking checking. A time consuming process but one not worth rushing. Finally I was satisfied and could fit split pins to all the bottle screws. I will recheck all the tensions etc after a few weeks as as things settle in.

Another calm day saw me finishing off a few more little jobs. I really wanted a nice steady sailing breeze to check out the rig under sail as recommended but then instead we had very strong winds and whats more very cold ones, it still felt like winter, and in light of a poor forecast I went home for a bit.

Rigging gauge

A week later I returned, the winds were lighter though still from the East so cold. I sailed down to Hamford water to anchor for the night, it is always nice when you can just sail up the long narrow channel, without tacking and without the engine. I always like visiting here, it is a beautiful spot.

Next morning I left and decided to sail out towards the Rough Towers. The wind were light so a gentle sail with flat seas, very relaxing. I didn’t quite get to the Towers, perhaps a mile or so short but I had set myself a turn-around time  so  that I wouldn’t be too late back. Reaching Harwich I turned up the Stour and up to anchor just past Ewerton Ness.

The following morning I though to go further up the river, past Wrabness to anchor at Stutton Ness. This turned out to be not one of my wiser decisions. The wind had increased in strength and was blowing right up the river so the anchorage was a trifle bumpy. I resolve to stay her only till the tide turned and I could take the ebb back downstream. In the event I returned to Pin Mill. Once again the forecast was not great for the next few days so I returned home. I was a bit fed up with being so cold sailing in these E and NE winds.

Winter refit 2023

This winter, whilst Sea Bear was laid up ashore I decided it was time to renew the standing rigging.  I had arranged for the yard to take down the mast for me and arranged for a rigging company to make up a new set of rigging using the old as patterns. With the mast down I removed the shroud deck fittings to check on their condition and to re-bed them, after all I reckoned the old sealant was maybe the original and  so needed  renewing. 

Sea Bear no mast in yard

Sea Bear no mast in yard


It was also a convenient time to replace the masthead tricolour as the lens was very badly crazed, so that was replaced with a new LED unit. Another replacement at the mast head was new VHF antena  and windex, the old one had lost its direction arrows. The steaming/deck light was also replaced being badly corroded. Whilst at it I replaced all the wiring to the lights and a new VHF cable too. The old wiring was just domestic cable  un-tinned so looked and was in a nasty state. All replaced with proper marine grade tinned cables. Last job on the mast was a new radar reflector, the old one having been lost in a storm of Jamaica  some while ago.

new bits on mast head

new bits on mast head

All that done the mast could go back up, the yard did that when I wasn’t there. Ah but there was a problem. They told me the clevis pins with the new standing rigging were too big to fit so they put it up with temporary pins. They said they had told the rigging company of this and it would be sorted.

When I went down to the yard to finish fitting out I discovered with horror that the baby stay was not connected and  the rigging company had put in undersized clevis pins, thinking this would do.

Toggle & pin mismatch

Toggle & pin mismatch

No No No I thought that just won’t do. They took some persuading that  they had used the wrong size toggles for parts of the rig when making up the new rig.

The had overlooked the fact that on a Vancouver, although all the wires are the same size at 6mm, the toggles and of course turnbuckles are different sizes for the cap shrouds and forestay from the lowers, back stays and baby stay. This despite them having the old rig as patterns. A rather schoolboy error I thought. Eventually they agreed that they had got it wrong and would make up a new rig. But of course the mast had to be unstepped again.  Eventually after much delay the right rigging was supplied and the mast back up.

Meanwhile I had finished the rest of the refit, cleaning, checking and maintenace, a long list as usual. Sea Bear was ready to go back afloat so a date for relaunch was arranged. It will be good to get back in the water. It has felt a long, cold and hard winter.


The Cub

For quite a while I had wanted a rigid tender for Sea Bear. Something that would row better and didn’t involve all the faff of inflating  and stowage, preferably one that you could stow on the foredeck. Of course that was a bit of a problem with a small boat- lack of room and of course you wouldn’t want a tender that was too small and would feel unsafe in waves or if you had far to go.

Still I came across a picture of a Vancouver 28 with a rigid dinghy on its foredeck and had an email exchange with the owner so I knew it was feasable. After some research I settled on a Eastport nesting pram dinghy, one that would seperate into two halves – that would make stowage less of a problem. So started the project to build the Cub.

Boat kit

Boat kit

I could have course built it just from plans but an easier option, the one I plumped for was a kit with all the parts pre-cut. It dully arrived and so the build began.  I am fortunate in having a garage so the initial stitch up of the panels with copper wire of the hull took places here. 

hull wired up

Hull wired up

The next stage was epoxying it. Now successful epoxying requires a minimum temperature of at least 16 degrees but it was winter and the garage was cold. I decided that heating the garage was out of the question cost wise. The solution, clear out the living/dining room in the house, spread out a big tarpaulin over the floor and work in there. I was using eco epoxy which has little or no smell or fumes so that was OK.  

epoxying the seams

Epoxying the seams

Gradually it all came together, bulkheads filleted in, seats supports added, gunwales affixed and rubbing strakes and skeg added. Then it was time to give it coats of epoxy inside and out.

complete & ready for sanding

Complete & ready for sanding

The boat is built in one piece and then sawed in half so that it can become a nesting dinghy. A step approached with some trepidation.

sawing in half

Sawing in half

in two halves

in two halves

Before painting and varnishing it all need sanding down and long and arduous process as paint and varnish won’t stick to un-sanded epoxy. 

I made some built in bouyancy from polystyrene foam insulation sheets epoxied together, shaped, sanded, coated with epoxy and painted. 

The final step was painting on the name and so Sea Bear Cub she became.

sea bear cub

I think she looks a pretty little dinghy, let’s see how she performs. 

The completed dinghy

The completed dinghy

Fitting out 2022

I spent a week down at the boat yard. The big job was re-fitting the engine after it’s re-build.  After a clean up of the engine bay and a lick of paint the boat yard hoisted the engine aboard and it dropped straight in place. It was just a matter of refitting the alternator and water pump and connecting everything up. 

After bleeding the fuel system and with a pipe from pump to a bucket and hose pipe at hand we were all ready to start it up. Oops, turning the key and pushing the starter button – nothing. Obviously something wrong. An inspection soon revealed a wire carefully tucked out of the way of for lift-out not connected – soon remedied. Engine fired up – all well – what a relief.

Engine back in – all connected

Of course there were lots of other jobs to do.

Overhauling and re-greasing the furler, re-reeving the running rigging, up the mast to refit the wind instrument, re-fitting the sails and canvas work, plenty of cleaning, waxing the hull, re-greasing seacocks to name but a few. But eventually all done and now just wait for a launch date from the yard. Something to look forward to after all the hard work.

Sea Bear in Yard

Sea Bear in Yard

Rebuilding the engine

This off-season I had decided to tackle the engine. Although over the years it had been pretty reliable it now looked a little tatty, the paint particularly on the rear of the engine was gone with lots of rust showing. I considering getting a new engine, perhaps a beta marine instead of the Yanmar but decided to best thing was to hoik the old Yanmar out, strip it down and inspect it and then make the decision..

Once the boat was out of the water, shored up in the yard, It didn’t take long to disconnect it and then the yard hoisted it out for me and lowered into the back of my trailer. I could take it home and strip it in my garage. It would give me something to do over winter.

The engine before rebuild

First look  made me glad I had taken it out and I was soon stripping it down which revealed a few problems so a list of work and parts needed started. Digital photography is a great boon these days. Quick snaps of the disassembly process with a mobile phone give you a record of how things come apart and even of what they are! It helps  to have a nice spare bench to lay out all the bits in order, grouped together or in separate trays. As work progressed I reckoned that with a rebuild there was no need for a new engine, and the extra work and expense that would entail.

Rocker cover off – spot the missing valve cap

Dismantling the head and lifting off the rocker assembly, I at first thought I had dropped one of the valve caps but close inspection and I realised it had been assembled with one missing. Worse was on removing the injectors, one came out easily enough the other was stuck. Eventually I freed it and then the reason for it’s ‘stuckness’ revealed. It had been assembled without the essential domed top of the injector chamber and heat shield washers. There were some curses for the bodge artist who last had had the engine apart and put it back together with the parts missing. No wonder that it hadn’t been running so smoothly.

Cylinder head before cleaning

The internal water ways in the block and head were badly ‘limed” up so I cleaned these by sealing off the outlets and filling the passages up with cheap white vinegar. This fizzed reassuringly with plenty of bubbles so you knew it was doing it’s work. Flushed out after an overnight soak the passageways were nice and clean.

The block cleaned off and primed

With the block stripped of old paint, wire brushed and de greased, it was time to repaint. What to use? In the end it seemed a choice between tractor enamel or Rustoleum, I opted for Rustoleum as there were favourable comments about it on various forums. 2 coats of primer and 2 of top coat were used and the rest of the engine parts similarly treated. The resulting colour was a little more silvery than the original Yanmar paint. Time will tell if it is nicely durable.

Repainted block & head

Gradually the engine went back together, a new oil seal behind the flywheel, valves ground in, a new external oil pipe, new valve oil seals and cap, new injector nozzles, the correct ignition chamber parts and some other bits. I even built a sort of frame for the trailer to which I could bolt the engine so it didn’t slide around when I would take it back to the yard. By the end of January it was all done, ready to fit back in the boat. That would wait until later when the days were a little longer and hopefully warmer.

Engine on frame in trailer

Fitting out done & shakedown sail.

I had made a start on the winter work schedule just about as soon as the lockdown easing at the end of April allowed me to travel down to the boat yard. I made a start and got a fair bit done but then was interrupted by a spell of cold and wet weather which put a stop to the work. It wasn’t until almost the end of May that finally we had some good weather and I was able to proceed with fitting out. Of course there is always far more to do than you first anticipate and it all takes longer than expected. There were few nonessential things I wanted to do but decided to put off. Eventually it was all done and the Sea Bear was ready to go back in the water. A few days after the yard told me that she was back on her mooring I went down to Pin Mill with Wendy for company. It was a lovely hot sunny day and after dinghying out to the boat we had a leisurely afternoon just settling in and relaxing.

Wendy & Sea Bear

Pin Mill Sunset

Next morning we slipped away from the mooring, there was no much wind but we did care about that, just sailed and drifted slowly down the river. It was Wendy’s first trip in the area so she was happy to have plenty of time to enjoy the sights. We decided not to go too far and once past Harwich we just headed for the Pye End buuy and hence to the channel to the Walton Backwaters. I though to anchor off Stone point, never having anchored there before but once there I wasn’t too happy with the Anchorage, it either felt too close in and too shallow for when the tide ebbed of far too close to the channel to be truly relaxing so we moved into Hamford water to anchor – much more relaxing. Not long ad after we had settled the wind increased and veered to the NE. This created quite a chop so it was a little uncomfortable for a while but it later eased. Next morning we spotted a pair of Avocets working along the shoreline, it was the first time I had ever seen these distinctive birds. Once the tide had risen enough we set off back out the channel and could just hold the line close hauled so had a good sail back to the mooring. There was enough tide for us to go ashore and have a walk though Pin Mill woods.

Pin Mill views

Returning back I made a classic mistake in that I overlooked the old age dictum of time and tide wait for no man. Actually it was the lure of a pint in the Butt & Oyster, which was perhaps my downfall. Maybe after it was excusable, as I had not had a pint in a pub since before lockdown, October last year, and even so that was just once since lockdown had started way back in March the previous year. Wendy queried whether we would have the time before the tide dropped but anyway the pint prevailed but sure enough back at the pontoon and the dinghy was high & dry. And so it was that I made my first acquaintance with Pin Mill mud – I won’t so easily make that mistake again!