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Badger

Badger
In Greenland

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Iron Bark
Under full sail

Fantail

Fantail
At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

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Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
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About Me

13 January, 2012

Fantail's upgrade


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David’s visit has been a great boost for Fantail and me. As well as giving me the encouragement and inspiration to get on with jobs on board, David has also put his designer’s brain to work on my behalf, and given me skilled assistance – particularly with some tricky woodwork, which is not my strongest suit.

The Junk Rig Association is to hold a rally in North Island in March. The Royal Cruising Club plans a Bay of Islands meet. I should very much like to go to both, but really felt that neither Fantail nor I were up to it. David agreed about the former, but not the latter and has spent a considerable amount of his time and energy on both. I have been worried about the forehatch, which I’ve always felt to be a miserably inadequate affair, ever since I bought the boat. For a start it never had any adequate means of securing it. Although I remedied this, with some difficulty due to its unusual design, nothing I could do would make it more than barely weatherproof. It certainly wasn’t strong enough to go to sea. Most people kept telling me to ‘get over it’, so I asked David’s opinion. He took one look at it and said replace it.

  So that was job number 1. After costing wood, considering the amount of work required and also the amount of mess that would ensue building a wooden hatch, I then looked at an aluminium one. It was possible to buy one large enough to go right over the old cut-out on a new framework that would probably strengthen the existing deck, too. My friend Paul came to my assistance again, conning one of his innumerable contacts into selling me a top-quality Culé hatch at cost price. I bought some cedar and David and I made and fitted a frame for it. I painted it and its surrounds the colour that I plan for the decks, but alas have not had time to do any more.

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In spite of apparently being so huge, it fits on deck ‘like it grew there’ and I’m very pleased with the result. As well as being completely waterproof, it lets in light. What bliss! I also love being able to lie in bed and see the stars and the moon, check the burgee and get an idea of the weather.

One of the best pieces of kit that came with the boat is a Simrad TP22 autopilot. Of course, it requires a lot of electricity, but it is great not to have to steer all the time and can be very useful at ‘lending a hand’ at the tiller. However, I have an innate distrust of such a complicated piece of equipment and was not keen on the idea of having to rely on it for my trip up north. David agreed, but ‘just happened’ to have several pieces of self-steering gear in his lockers. He designs and builds his own gears and often tries out new ideas. These leftovers, combined with a few more pieces of wood, some blocks and some line, were assembled, assessed, fitted, trialled and finally passed as fit for use. This all took rather longer than it sounds, but Fantail now has a proper sea-going, offshore wind-vane self-steering gear. 

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To me, this is not only a vital piece of gear for any short-handed or single-handed sailor, but one of the best pieces of safety equipment you can fit. Mine cost virtually nothing, due to the fact that David had so much of it to hand, but even starting from scratch, it would not be expensive. It will work regardless of the state of the battery, needs hardly any maintenance, can be repaired on board or in a simple workshop ashore and allows me to concentrate on things like pilotage or cooking warm food, while it gets on with the job of steering the boat. The only time it does not work well is when the winds are very fluky, as in sailing in the Marlborough Sounds, of which more another time.

The first boat I ever sailed in, Stormalong was black and it seemed quite natural for us to paint Sheila black, too. Since then, every boat I have owned, with the exception of Spartan, has been black until I bought Joshua as she then was. At the time I disliked the white hull and the maroon trim and the passage of time did nothing to make it more appealing. I soon envisaged the colour scheme that I wanted and was so sure that it was correct, that it was always something of a surprise for me to see the all-white boat at anchor. To me, my little ship’s transformation would not be complete until I had painted her the colour I wanted.

David and I had planned a small cruise in company over the Christmas holiday. Fantail had become quite foul in her drying berth in Motueka and the difference in her performance had become noticeable. As I had to haul her for antifouling, I decided to paint the topsides at the same time. I made arrangements to get her pulled out on one of the trailers that the Yacht Club uses, in spite of the truly dreadful forecast. The weather on the day we hauled out was better than anticipated and taking this as an omen, or maybe simply because I’m an incurable optimist, I went for broke and started sanding down the hull. I was then committed and I have to confess that mid-way through the operation, I was rather wondering if I hadn't bitten off more than I could chew. The boat had had plastic ‘go-faster’ stripes stuck on, and these took an age to remove. A heat gun didn’t work, nor did sanding. The least inefficient way of getting them off was to peel them, but the plastic was old and brittle and often reluctant to co-operate. I had only 5 days to get these damn strips off, sand the hull and bottom and apply two coats of paint on the built-up topsides, 2 coats on the hull and 2 coats of antifouling on the bottom. And the forecasters were still muttering about rain.

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David nobly offered to feed and water me every night, so by 0630 every morning, I was hard at it. He also nobly refrained from telling me that if the weather forecast was right, I didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting the work done. But I bet he thought it!

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The gods were kind to me, the weather held and with careful juggling of painting times so that the hot sun was not kicking the paint off faster than I could apply it, I got the job knocked over. The Good Old Boys in the Yacht Club were somewhat taken aback at both my frenetic activity and my colour scheme. They tend to do their work in a more leisurely fashion and, generally speaking, boats are white. However, Ivan was going away on the 22nd and as he had taken such infinite cares with Fantail when hauling her out, I preferred that he would be the one to put her back in. Besides, David and I wanted to be in Pelorus Sound for Christmas, so I had to get a move on.

By 0730 on 22 December, I was ready to launch. Ivan checked all his lines; I fussed over my new paint and occasionally relaxed sufficiently to admire my handiwork. I thought she looked rather special, actually.


I felt a huge sense of relief as I warped her along the wharf and in spite of the early hour, I had a small bottle of bubbly chilling for The Occasion. I felt I deserved a celebration.

 
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I went round and admired the new paint job, looking very mellow in the early morning sun. At last (apart from the deck) Fantail was looking as My Boat should.


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Less than an hour later, Tystie and Fantail were sailing down the harbour, bound for the Marlborough Sounds.