Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now that I have the Navy thing finished, Off to Lymington!

We gathered our stuff and rented a car to bring us to Lymington, where Wildebeest III was on the hard getting serviced.

I left instructions for the mechanics to replace all hoses, fluids and fix that pesky oil pan leak. We return to find they did most of it, but blew off fixing the oil pan leak because it was "Too Hard." Despite my whining nothing ever did happen about that. But they did spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning the bilges, which the mechanic did exceedingly well.

The tough thing was having Berthon technicians install the Windhunter self steering.

Background: I have the mechanical acumen of a small soap dish, so I can be trusted to use tools on small things, like replacing something or tightening a nut. Creating something out of nothing, even with careful instructions, is a sure path to failure. I just cannot imagine how to attach anything if the holes aren't already there.

The windhunter had three main components; A Fluid Logic device that looked like R2-D2 that sits on the rail. A generator that hangs over the side and a Ram piston device connected to the rudder. The manufacturer claimed that it could all go together with minimal tools.


It took Berthon at least seven working days to install this contraption at a cost of two thousand pounds. But it was solid work, since the railings would have been ripped right off had I followed the instructions and merely tied the contraption on.

Sorry for the crappy photo.

Look; The whole reason for going to a high cost yard like Berthon was to get quality work. They failed on the engine work, and they were making us mad that the install of the self steering was taking so long. Of course, any contractor will try to get a good deal like cost plus time. Then, they will take their time in doing a good job.
Lesson learned? Firm fixed price. Firm time of work completion with punitive costs for time over run. The contractor will cry and wail, but they will take two weeks to do what can be done in three days.

When we got the bill, I about puked. It was Ten Thousand pounds!!! I had a conniption and went straight in to talk to the owner of the yard. I complained of the time it took and that I was paying craftsman rates while I knew for a fact that it was a junior apprentice doing the work. My next bill was equally outrageous, but it was for L5900.00. I paid it and the owner was grateful for us paying and kindly gave us a 12 bottle case of champagne for our troubles.

Berthon was a good yard, just be ready for the high expense. They did work with us and treated us very nicely. I would use them again, just not to install a Windhunter.

We did the bottom paint ourselves, and I took the time to rebuild all the winches, install an electronic and traditional compasses, new instruments for knot log, wind direction and log and depthfinder. We had a tuneup for our new Hood sails and a dodger was purchased and installed. (A dodger is the windshield on a sailboat).

Funny thing about the UK and the pricing schemes; Anything boat related is generally priced about one and a half times what you pay in the Land of the Big P.X. The glaring exceptions are Dodgers and Life Rafts. I got a custom made dodger made and installed by a Craftsman for about four hundred pounds (about $650). Amazing, since the criminal class who make the same thing in the U.S. will charge $1500. Same with the life raft. In America you can expect to spend about $4K for a decent raft. UK it was 900 pounds. We supposed that it is because more people will buy a liferaft or Dodger in the UK since these things are considered a requirement vice a luxury. Most UK sailors have formal classroom training whereas U.S. sailors tend to learn on the job.

Not to mention the fact that Dodger and Bimini stitchers are paying for their children to go to Harvard. Or greedy.

We were going through cash like a Philanthropic Congressman spending tax money on Social Services.

We purchased about six hundred bucks worth of canned and dry foods, figuring a year without seeing American prices. The rental car was riding so low that the shocks were inoperative. I had to use a hoist to bring all the food aboard. Our gear and spares were jammed into every little storage space, so much that we had no idea where everything really was.

I had hoped to have about twenty to thirty thousand bucks in the cruising kitty when we left. But the preparations cost us about thirty grand, so we actually had about $6K for this trip of a lifetime, and my paycheck was about to get cut to half of basic pay on 29 October. Bummer. I really had no idea of how we would get piled on from every direction.

Note: Today, with hindsight I know how to do all this at a quarter cost. We paid for some really stupid unnecessary services and equipment.

Finally, after a month we were dumped in the water and told we had to leave. We were only about three weeks behind in our schedule, little did I know the effects would be felt in the coming months.

In the week up to departure, we made careful plans for our itinerary; Our first crewman, Chris Nicholson, was available in a couple weeks. We planned on him joining us in Brest, France. This would happen in Mid September. Our other crew for the crossing, Richard, would meet us in Rota Spain.

My pass port was due to for renewal in November, and I had to come back to do my final check out from the Navy at the end of my terminal leave. I thought we would be in Rota by end of October, so I could get a military flight to the UK and wrap up those loose ends.

With that plan we got underway on Labor Day 1999, at sundown. We passed the Isle of Wight for the final time, with the Needles on our port side as we headed south to Guernsey, Channel Islands.

The little rocky things in the background, we passed about two hundred yards to their right.

Photo from The Needles Park, UK.

The sailing and cruising life I had hoped, prayed and planned for over fifteen years was now beginning.


We were heading for Guernsey:


Buck said...

This is just the MOST amazing tale. Wow.

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Oh Buck; We ain't anywhere near the good parts!

Stay Tuned for more on our first passage alone...