Alanna applying Stockholm tar and boiled linseed oil to the rolling vangs.

We decided to rig as usual this month so as to be ready for whatever the forthcoming season brings. Last week Oli did a myriad of mainly little jobs aboard; everything from cleaning through and touching up some varnish and paintwork to putting washed cushion covers back on. He found some leaks in pipework we will need to sort before charters and spent an unpleasant few hours chipping and painting rust in the forecastle bilge finding his covid mask the best protection against fumes. Quite a bit of touching up was done on deck too between showers. On Thursday David Ogg inspected and certified the gas installation and on Friday Brian Kennell came to measure up for some shelving for the ship’s library and cupboard storage. Then on Friday we used the foresail halliard and winches to lift the sails out of the forehold ready for lowering down this week. It saves a lot of grunting and heaving for a small crew if the sails, especially the mainsail, are in the right place for attachment before the gear comes down.

Then the weather forecast intervened and plans had to change from a relaxing week rigging out, savouring every moment of graft and finesse with filming it to boot into a rush before the wind and rain promised for midweek. So four hopeful and keen crew went aboard Sunday afternoon aiming to lower down that evening and heave up twenty-four hours later. Richard and Oli were joined by stalwart tree surgeon Jake, fresh from volunteering on Queen Galadriel and Prolific and getting another badge on his logbook before joining a delivery to North Britain at thr weekend. Relishing as we do Jake’s vigour and muscles we only had his help for a few days. Last but by no means least was SHTP trainee Alanna Cameron from Ireland via St Osyth, serving a brief extension to her traineeship before starting employment with the Pioneer Sailing Trust at Brightlingsea.

Monday morning dawned overcast and cold but dry and a coat of varnish was possible for the topmast before the mainsail and topsail were bent on. By late afternoon it was time to slot the topmast pole complete with bob into the hounds fitting. Jim Dines crafted Blue Mermaid a galvanised steel hounds fitting that sits on the topmast head and avoids any risk of rot where the served wires of the many stays trap water in distressed wood. This we learnt a few years ago in Sallie where the mast was found to have a necklace of rot at the hounds, remedied by the skills of Brian Kennell and Shaun White.

As the gear went up with numerous interruptions to ease the preventer holding the sprit clear of the aerials on the mizzen, the dusk settled upon us and with it came a steady and persistent drizzle, the sort that doesn’t seem enough for wet weather gear until you are wet through. Ending under torchlight the few tangles were left for the morrow and a brighter forecast.

And indeed it was. A lovely sunny spring day to gladden your heart before the gales came spreading. Richard needed to attend an appointment ashore and after being rowed ashore by Alanna, he was pleased to get a text that the topmast was up and the bob flew proudly above Colliers’ Reach again. It remains to rig the mizzen and have a shakedown sail as well as antifouling soon after. But that will happen later in the month.

We plan to attend as many barge matches this year as possible. These start with the Passage on 26th June and Pin Mill on 3rd July and are then one a fortnight until the Colne. The Medway has moved to 28th August. If you would like to join us as a participant or guest please get in touch. There are six guest places each time, some with passages to and from the match. Costs will reflect the logistics.
It looks like some day sails will be possible at the start of the season for small numbers until residential activity is allowed in May.

More photos here