The Lady J

March 6, 2016

Well, I know that we said that we’d not bother doing another blog until we were back on board Rampage in June but things have got quite boaty here in the wettest winter for years, so I thought it was probably about time I remembered how to use a keyboard and let the world know what we’ve been up to.

Simple things first then. And the simplest thing to deal with is Julia……. Hmmm, not sure if that came out the way it was meant to, but hey ho, I’ll live with the consequences. Julia is now well into her second term as a degenerate student at Falmouth Uni. I’d say that, for the most part, she’s enjoying life and is discovering parts of the literary world of which she was comfortably unaware until now. She’s done her first essays and assignments and is looking forward to the next lot (not); she seems to have taken over my usual position in the household ie, nose buried in book, hand reaching out for the next cup of tea and only seems to surface for meals.

In the meantime, I’ve been reduced to the role of housekeeper, ensuring that Julia gets to Uni on time, has enough to eat and drink and exercises regularly; you know, all that stuff that I thought had ended when the kids left home.

In between looking after Julia and catering to her every whim so as to enable her studies to be successful, I found myself volunteered as Bosun for the Flushing and Mylor Pilot Gig Club. Now we’ve talked about gigs before but for those new to the blog or looking for more information, I’d suggest visiting the Cornish Pilot Gig Association site (http://www.cpga.co.uk/). I now seem to spend an unreasonable amount of time playing catch up in maintaining a fleet of three wooden gig and two plastic ones plus innumerable sets of oars.

Digital Camera

Penarrow, one of the club’s wooden pilot gigs.  Based on a gig built in St Mawes in about 1830, she is just over 31 feet long, has six rowers, one cox and space for a pilot in the bow.

In addition, I’m rowing twice a week as part of the super veterans crew with a view to taking part in the World Championships in the Scilly Isles over the May Day weekend. Oh, and since one of regular coxs was injured, I’ve been taking out a couple of crews as cox on Thursdays and Saturdays (I usually manage to persuade Julia to come to one or both rows).

Finally, as if I hadn’t found enough to keep me busy, last October I blew £407.50 on a small sailing yacht in need of some love and attention. The boat, renamed Lady J, is a Hurley 18 dating back to about 1969. She’s a full keel yacht with a masthead rig and a nominal three berths in the cabin. The idea was to bring it over from St Mawes, where it was on a half tide berth to Mylor Creek boatyard. I had a little outboard that I thought would fit and that’d be the job. I could then work on it as I had time to spare. It wasn’t to happen……

Firstly, we discovered that she would only float off her berth on spring tides (that is, when tides are at their highest, happens twice a month). Then, as she has no electricity on board, the move has to take place in daylight (no navigation lights). Add in the fact that Mylor Creek boatyard is also very restricted by tides and I think you begin to get the picture of a fairly fun set of circumstances.


Lady J on her mooring in St Mawes, minus mast and rigging.

OK. So, we got her ready to move, mast refitted, all the bits on board that we thought we thought we needed, dinghy fettled. So, I thought, best test the outboard. Now, this is the four stroke outboard we bought a couple of years back that Julia found she really, really didn’t like. It has been hanging around, unused and unloved for about 18 months. It wouldn’t play. I stripped it down, fettled all the bits that needed love and attention and it ran. But roughly. So that was that. It clearly needed yet more attention and I was falling out of love with it rapidly.


Doesn’t look too bad, does it?  What you can’t see is the flaking paint and the carpet is nasty.

That all meant we missed that window and this was at the back end of November. The next time we might be able to move it was on Christmas Eve, so that clearly wasn’t going to happen. That did mean however that I could start looking for another outboard rather than the unloved four stroke. I did a lot of looking on eBay and Gumtree but found nothing at a price that made any sense. Then I got a really good dose of flu, which knocked me sideways for a week or two: no, not man flu, the genuine article. Julia had it too but her immune system must be better than mine as she threw hers off much more quickly. Oh, and Polly and Tommy had a baby on 31 December (Gracie Joy and she’s doing very nicely thank you). So all in all, circumstances continued to conspire against moving Lady J to a more accessible place (St Mawes is on the eastern side of the Fal Estuary, 40 minutes drive plus a car ferry away).

We eventually managed to move her off her berth and onto a mooring in late January, having bought a Mercury 2.5 hp outboard via Gumtree. That was an adventure in itself, as the berth is criss-crossed with mooring lines in a real cats cradle. The ‘new’ outboard also refused to play (I hadn’t put enough fuel into it…) and I wound up rowing Lady J to her temporary home.


Lady J, mast up, on a mooring in St Mawes, ready to move when tide, time and weather permit.

Well, that takes us to mid January. We had everything ready to go except for the weather, which turned windy, very windy down this part of the world. With only a small outboard to move her, I wasn’t about to tempt the fates by moving Lady J in the face of a gale, especially not when there was a good deal of south in the wind, which would have meant crossing the Carrick Roads with a fetch all the way from the Bay of Biscay. So we waited. And waited. And waited a bit more.

In the end, like everything else, I finally came to the conclusion that I’d have to throw some money at the problem. Mylor Creek boatyard is cheap; access difficult but cheap. Mylor Yacht Harbour is expensive but has access at all states of the tide. But its expensive. Ah well, bite the bullet.


Expanded polystyrene ceiling tiles…..  Look at them and they start to fall apart.  Now all removed ready for painting.

So decision taken and space found, we then ran into a scheduling problem. Julia’s lectures and seminars had been on end of semester pause for a couple of weeks, so I’d given no thought as to how I was going to get to St Mawes. It was simple, so I thought. I’d cox the Thursday improvers row, Julia could row and then we’d pop back to the house to change and have brunch, then set off for St Mawes and I could bring the boat back, moor up in Mylor for a lift out the following day and Julia could pick me up well before the light started to go.


The galley area.  Maddest layout I’ve ever seen with the water pump behind the cooker…..  Cooker gone now, decision yet to be made on the water pump.

No. Couldn’t happen like that on that day. Julia had a tutorial at midday to discuss her end of term results. Therefore had to be in some semblance of neat clothing, not in sweaty horrible rowing kit. So it was back home, shower and change before heading to Uni for her results tutorial, then on to St Mawes via the ferry. This got us to the mooring by about 3pm, leaving about two hours daylight to get out to the boat, transfer the outboard from the dinghy to the boat, get various bit and pieces aboard (like a flare pack, VHF radio, some sails, mooring lines etc etc), cast off and get across to Mylor Harbour.

In the event, it actually all went quite well. I didn’t forget anything vital, the engine behaved impeccably and from casting off to mooring in Mylor Harbour took about an hour. Once there I was a little concerned not to find a welcoming committee (in the shape of Julia) but bustled off to the office to ensure that Lady J would be lifted out the following day. I made it just before the office closed and was told that she would be lifted out round about midday.

And that was that. Apart from the fact that there was still no sign of Julia. She turned up shortly after that; it turned out that she had been caught the wrong side of a tree felling operation, along with a number of other frustrated folks. We bundled the deflated dinghy into the car and set off home.

Lady J is now ensconced in a far corner of the yard at Mylor. Their yard is located in a valley, which extends the best part of half a mile from the shoreline and is lined on both side by boats of all shapes and sizes. Lady J has to be one of the smaller boats in the place, quite a change from Rampage.

I’ve now started work on her. All the extraneous stuff has been removed from her and placed in store to leave a free field to work in. The gas cooker (an old camping one with no flame failure devices) has been junked along with the gas bottle (anyone want a small Calor Gas bottle?). I’ve stripped out the carpet that was stuck to the inside of the hull, scrapped of the expanded polystyrene ceiling tiles and managed to get rid of some of the flaking paint (looks like masonry paint – Sandtex or the like).


The quarter berth with a fine example of peeling paint.

I’ve now started to work on getting rid of the remains of all the foam carpet backing to produce a firm surface to stick new carpet tiles to; a filthy job that I find I can only stand for about an hour or so at a time. Once I’ve done that and got a good surface on the paintwork areas, I’ll put a coat of flow coat on. Then there’s the woodwork to rub down and revarnish before the last act of sticking on carpet tiles.

In the meantime, the cushions need recovering. They came in what is very probably their original vinyl covers. The foam seems OK but the covers are, shall we be generous, manky. I don’t intend to make proper loose covers as we did for Rampage. Rather, we will do as we for Prydwen; make plywood bottoms for the cushions, glue the foam to the ply and then stretch fabric over this and staple to the ply. A quick solution and easy to repeat if required. We’re going to use some left overs from the fabric we used on Rampage.


The almost antique echosounder that came with the boat.  I’ve got a more modern replacement which has a sensor which fit in the hole left by this one.

I’ve bought a depth and speed instrument off eBay: the depth sensor will fit into an existing fitting on Lady J. I’m going to leave fitting the speed bit until next year, unless things go really well. I will also fit a couple of interior lights and a small battery to power all this little lot. As there is no way to charge a battery on board, the battery will be small and easy to bring home for charging. Probably two batteries in fact, so one can stay on the boat and one can be at home on charge.

Cooking will be limited to heating a kettle and the odd fry up on a camping stove. Are you beginning to get the picture? This is minimal boating, cut down to the bare essentials rather than the somewhat luxurious set up we have on Rampage.


Cushions need replacing as the covers are hmmm, how to put this, old.

Outside, Lady J needs a damn good scrub but not much else except for her bottom. Which needs scraping and antifouling. Oh deep joy. I’ve told Julia about this and think she may help but at least the boat is tiny in comparison to Rampage. Indeed, if truth be told, I think that her underwater area is just about equal to the keel on Rampage and we’ve always treated antifouling that as an amusing pastime for an sunny afternoon…..

Anyhow, that’s an introduction to the Lady J. If time and inclination permit, I’ll post again soon on progress (or lack of it). I am actually working to a deadline; in common with just about any other boat yard, Mylor is ramping up to the busiest period of the year: Spring Relaunching. I took one of the few slots still left and will be back in the water on 7 April, so I’ve got to get anything that need power finished by then, as well as anything on the hull that needs doing. Ho hum.


One comment

  1. It’s all very “Boaty” but interesting. I like the bits when you have seen Dolphins and other such fishy things in the Med, this is all a bit cold and damp UK boats. Not so much fun, but very boys own. Lots of love, warm weather si
    ster XXX

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