Life has the annoying habit of dragging one down to the depths of mere existence, of reducing one’s horizons to merely making ends meet, living to an agenda set by others.

Some Coldplay lyrics spring to mind – “Written up in marker on a factory sign, ‘I struggle with the feeling that my life isn’t mine’

And then one day the luckier ones are reminded that, whilst never truly free, those with a sailboat ready to sail have the potential to be freer than any human ever could be.

Anna Freud, sixth daughter of the infamous Sigmund, once said “We are imprisoned in the realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat, on an infinite ocean” but I think not being a sailor perhaps she was mistaken. That’s the weirdness of a sailor on a sailboat, all at once a prisoner on this tiny little floating capsule but in reality freer than ever can be, the vast ocean horizon the only limit.

Despite the ever-present reluctance to drop the lines and set sail, the ever-present “It’s not worth the effort” or “the wind is too light” or “the wind is too strong” or “the conditions are not perfect” weighing on the skipper’s mind, this Friday last saw Ocean Blue slowly puttering through the harbour dragging the reluctant Skipper in her wake. Bursting free of the harbour limits there came a tangible sigh of relief from ‘Blue and a slowly widening smile from the Skipper.

Freedom at last!

And with the bow now gently rising now gently falling to the western swell, driven ahead by 10 knots of Nor’westerly breeze, a lazy aimless day once again cemented the bond between jaded Skipper and dock-bound boat. A reminder that dreams of distant shores perhaps remained worthy dreams to nurture.

The four aimless hours spent traversing the bay a far cry from the adventurous voyages of the fleet cruising to Knysna. No drama, nothing worthy to note or even write about.  And a happier time, insulated from the demands of a world gone mad, could hardly be imagined.

Most definitely free at last!

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Living the life?

As the eastern sky slowly awakes, shakes off the covers and prepares to usher in a new day I find myself alone, sitting quietly at the southern end of Fish Hoek Bay. It’s cold this morning, especially so after the last two weeks of unseasonably warm winter weather. It’s taken me all the way from the house and up to the Fish Hoek municipal boundary to warm up sufficiently on my run this morning but now, sitting on the park bench, all that quickly recedes. All that matters now is this moment, this present natural beauty.

A pair of Kalk Bay fishing boats lie gently to their anchors in the bay, hardly moving at all. There is a distinct and abnormal absence of deep ocean swell. I easily imagine Ocean Blue lying alongside them, her hull and rig reflecting in the calm. Even the waves that manage to make it through to the rocky shoreline cannot really be called waves. It’s as calm and flat as I’ve ever seen it. The Hottentots-Hollands mountains across the water appear close enough to reach out and touch so clear is the morning air and, as the dawn greys fade and morph through reds and yellows, I drag my creaking knees off the bench and fire up for the return run.

Heading back home I like to think I’m running fast but the reality is I’m no longer eighteen nor as fast as I remember. The years, it seems, have taken their toll on my knees and, if I’m honest, I stumble more than run these days. But a little discomfort is no reason to stop and jogging is not an option so I push on, leading the pack behind me, even if only in my dreams.

My thoughts drift as I run along the coast….

There’s a vicious front headed our way and I hope ‘Blue is secure in her mooring“, “I need to plan another road trip“, “There’s a fence post that still needs to be planted“, “I need to move the plumbing to reposition the dishwasher“, “I need to check what jobs are currently being advertised and secure an interview“, “How do I transport the mountain bike on the Zook“, “Today is a perfect kayak day“…..

The road is filled with cars ferrying their occupants to places of work. All over the city the majority of people fortunate enough to still have jobs are either travelling to work or are already at the office. For some strange reason I feel guilty, feel sorry for them. Despite the lack of income that not working brings there are other benefits. Not many of those I witness in the frenzied traffic could conceivably take an hour out of their morning to watch the sun rise and run the beach. They have places to be, supervisors diligently supervising, clock-watchers fastidiously checking clock-in times. Sometimes I like to think that the freedom I currently enjoy is worth the risk of the looming financial abyss.

Always, in the back of my mind, the cogs are grinding, trying to figure out the next income stream. We live a relatively simple life with few interests but those few interests do still require a certain level of sustainable income. Many folk from my past are stoic enough to sit out their corporate jobs and, sucking up the attendant unhappy bureaucratic crap, hang in for an envisaged better future once they retire with benefits. I was not so strong and couldn’t endure, stepping out as soon as I thought it possible. “Did I step out too soon?” crosses my mind.

I console myself with the thought that those that remain do seem to be dreaming of the life I am currently living. I have to admit it’s a damn good life this running by the beach, this sailing in the bay.

But the “How to pay for tomorrow?“-demon rides shotgun alongside “Happy Me” always ….. !

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Two Feet

Two Feet. That’s all (in theory) that’s different between Sole sUrchin and Ocean Blue. Two Feet.

But with boats life is seldom simple or obvious.

Of course I’m comparing two very different yachts, with two very different design briefs – the Trapper 28 and the Miura.

Obviously, the first question that springs to mind is “Why the heck is he comparing those two yachts?”. On paper they don’t even fall in the same category and wouldn’t be compared by anyone who knows their stuff. But, I am Clewless after all, and well, those just happen to be the current and most recent boats in my life, so for me the comparison is obvious and relevant.



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Galley slave

Slow progress is being made in returning the boat to her former self after the recent unauthorised PNYC clean-out. The main challenge, I’m finding, is missing critical tools to perform simple jobs on board. The stove and base were manufactured in the workshop back in Dirtville but a certain amount of measurement and cutting was required to finalise the supports and hang the assembly in the gimbals. Arriving on board to find no hacksaw in residence almost put paid to the proceedings. I was pretty sure I replaced that saw, the one which was stolen with the rest of the tools but after turning the boat upside down and shaking hard I can safely say I didn’t [not unless I hid it so well that now not even I can find it]. Fortunately my neighbour in the next slip had a half-a-hacksaw-blade in his kit which he kindly donated and I managed to get the bits cut and installed. [It’s not easy gripping half-a-hacksaw-blade]. It still needs some work to pretty it up, varnish the base and the gas hose needs to be properly routed still but for now it functional and at least I can brew a cup of coffee without feeling like I’m camping in the wild.

The new galley taking shape

The new galley taking shape

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Self steering

If one considers all the truly great and useful inventions and innovations in the history of the world, self-steering for your sailboat has to be right up there with the best of them.

There’s nothing much worse than being invisibly shackled to the tiller, watch after watch, day after day, manually steering a course that starts out ok but soon degenerates into an erratic and jagged course across the ocean as boredom and exhaustion set in.

Even on sheltered inland waters, especially when sailing short- or single-handed, the ability to leave the boat to herself while tending the sheets or nipping down below to raid the cooler, is a luxury that, once experienced, will always be high on the wishlist. One might even argue … a necessity even!

There are basically two types – electronic auto-pilots and mechanical wind-vane systems. Both have their place on an ocean-going sailboat.

In confined waterways the wind-vane system will have limited application since any wind shift would quickly put you on a collision course with something. In these situations, the electronic pilots have the upper hand. But they obviously require battery power, which means you need to keep the batteries charged, which means running the motor or installing enough solar or…..and so it snowballs. Anyhow, the average boat would likely have most of the required battery and charging facilities for other needs as well, so it’s likely that a small, low power pilot would be on board.

The biggest problem with the electronic autopilot at sea may well be the sea itself. Electronics and salt water don’t mix and, no matter how well sealed the system, sooner or later it will fail and need repairs. Or the batteries will fail. Or the charging system will host a gremlin or two.

So, for offshore sailing, nothing beats the simplicity and reliability of a mechanical system. There is enough documented experience of wind-vane systems tending the helm for thousands of miles and in all wind strengths. These systems are robust, reliable and long-lived. It’s not unusual to hear of sailors using the same system for 25 years and hundreds of thousands of nautical miles of sailing.

They don’t come cheap however. Delving into this world you start coming up against trim-tab systems, servo-pendulum systems and all the associated theory and speculation as to which system is best and why. It’s fascinating reading a little of the history of how these systems evolved.

There’s plenty of superb gear to be had off the shelf but considering the vast number of different boat shapes and configurations out there, any system will require a fair amount of DIY for installation and set-up. So, it’s not so much of a stretch to move from thoughts of “BUY + DIY” to purely “DIY + DIY”. Here’s a really interesting design concept by Jan Alkema: Self steering for outboard rudders RHM-USD which then lead me to this website which has a wealth of reading material.

Some might consider it strange, all this thought of wind-vane self-steering for a Vaal-based Miura. Others will just understand and believe…! It’s just a matter of time and so here is the new and evolving self-steering research page.

Posted in Ocean Blue, Sailboat Cruising, Self Steering | 1 Comment

At least it’s not only South Africa

Taken from John Vigor’s blog article “Are you a drunken operator

A vessel, apparently, is “every description of watercraft on the water . . . capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water” with the illogical exception of seaplanes, inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

Thus, in the eyes of the legislators, your dinghy is a “vessel” and if you have too many drinks in the club before rowing the dinghy back to your yacht, the cops can nab you for drunken boating.
The answer, it seems, is to paddle back to your boat on an inner tube or small raft. You can get as drunk as you like then, and the fuzz can’t touch you. At least, not under these laws.
So, it would appear that South African law enforcement values our lives as much as any first world country does….. or our legislators are just as ridiculous as everyone else out there? Your choice……!
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I have finally received my Certificate of Listing. December 2012 the boat was bought and the application made. End July 2013 it arrived in the post. That’s good going, no?


Anyhow, the good ship “Tubby” is now officially listed and ….? Well. And nothing really….!

Having the piece of paper doesn’t materially affect life afloat. It just means we now have a piece of paper.


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Tips to save fuel

Save Fuel


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Sitting here onboard, I hear nothing. Nothing except an owl going “Hoo…..Hooo” that is.

Why would I want to be in the Jhb traffic and stress with this on offer I ask ?

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Baaa… !!

The stupidity of the system…

Instructions on how to wash your hands in the corporate washroom

A lable to warn “Don’t Drink this poison because it’s harmful”

COF’s and COC’s


It’s amazing humanity survived into the 21st century !

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