Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Happy Hooking at Beaulieu Boat Jumble

Daria and Alex Blackwell draw a crowd at PBO Ask the Experts Live 2017
Photo credit: Practical Boat Owner.
Alex and I were invited by Practical Boat Owner to present our anchoring seminar at the Beaulieu Boat Jumble near Southampton in England on the 23rd of April. It was the 40th anniversary of the event's launch. Forget the fact that Beaulieu is pronounced bewley, we had always wanted to visit the legendary jumble and this was the 30th anniversary of the event. It was a great opportunity for a triple whammy: promote our book, visit the jumble, and see our good friends Lynda and Philip Meakins.

Some of the attendees from our point of view.
Photo: Alex Blackwell
We thought about coming by car so we could load it up with stuff we wanted to buy, but it proved to be too expensive and time consuming. We flew to Southampton and Philip met us at the airport. After a lovely evening with Philip and Lynda, it was showtime.

We had sent our presentation off to Laura Hodgetts to upload on the shared computer; but just in case, Alex came with thumb drive pre-loaded with our Happy Hooking the Art of Anchoring seminar (based on our book by the same title) as well as our Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland talk from the OCC Annual Meeting. His reasoning was that if a speaker cancelled for any reason, we could step in.

Lo and behold, the first speaker, a cooking expert, was not there at 15 minutes before showtime. Dave Pugh got him on the phone and found out the chef was in Paris, clearly not on his way. So we loaded up the CWAW talk and did a double feature.

Last year, as part of the morning cooking show, they fried up bacon sandwiches for the audience. When the hungry seat sitters learned cooking was off and sailing in Ireland was on, they got up en masse and walked out. So we put on some Irish music while we loaded the talk and attracted passers by. We were recorded and the edited video will be posted on the PBO website.

By the time the anchoring seminar came around, which was back to back with the CWAW seminar, the room was packed with standing room only. We gave the 40-minute version of Happy Hooking to a highly attentive crowd. The morning went quickly and the audience was thoroughly appreciative of the information. We received many 'thanks' and a strong round of applause.

People came to shake our hands, ask questions and thank us for our talk. Comments included "great job", "very professional presentation", "wonderful information", "very thorough overview", "very easy to understand", "most enjoyable and entertaining", "thanks for confirming my anchor choice decision". Several people wanted to buy our book but we were not permitted to sell them there. A boat show discount was made available to anyone who ordered the print book through our website.

Otherwise the boat jumble was fascinating. Car boots loaded with really good marine stuff and truly ancient trashy junk, professional vendors, and food stalls covered vast acreage of the Beaulieu Estate. The estate also houses a motor museum, a monorail, a stately manor house, and a shipbuilding village -- more on that in another blog. The best part of the show was the people watching. People were heading home with inflatable dinghies, loaded with fenders and ropes, prams carrying engines, rolling carts overflowing with goodies, and wheelchairs stuffed with enormous surplus inventory. We got away with only a winch handle, a courtesy ensign, a men's jumper, and two tiny Buddha carvings. It's a good thing we didn't bring the car as we had eyed so many large treasures we couldn't bear to leave behind but circumstance did not allow us to take along. We saved thousands by not bringing the car.

Thank you PBO for the invitation to speak as part of your Ask the Experts series. I hope attendees took away a bit of useful information along with the haul of treasures they couldn't leave behind. Read more here.

The Montagu estate, Henry VIII ordered destruction of religious buildings

The PBO Tent

One of the car boot exhibitors with good stuff

One of the professional vendors -- lots of rope

The Meakins family, with Ben Meakins of PBO on the left.

Wheelchairs and prams full of treasures

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Alphabet Soup of Cruising Clubs

View from Knockranny over Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay and Clare Island

For the past two weekends, we have taken part in the annual meetings of first the Irish Cruising Club and then the Ocean Cruising Club. I am a new member of the ICC this year, which has about 650 members in Ireland. I am a flag officer of OCC, which has about 3000 members around the world.

We attracted 250+ ICC members to our little town of Westport in the west of Ireland, and almost 300 attended the dinner on the Saturday night. Alex and I were involved in organizing the weekend and leading the visit of 85 members to Clare Island. I must say that Carl O'Grady made it very easy for us. (http://www.goexplorehostel.ie/) He organized two buses and two ferries, lunch at the Sailor's Bar, a lecture at the castle and a walk to the Abbey. He even made certain that the Abbey was open and ready for us and that weather was perfection. Other people bicycled on the Greenway and still others enjoyed a delightful guided walk with Stephen Clarke (http://www.westportwalkingtours.ie/home-slider-1/about-westport-walking-tours/) around the town. We stayed overnight at the Knockranny House Hotel; the views were astounding over Clew Bay and sunset over Clare Island. We organized WAW goodie bags from Failte Ireland which people loved. The dinner the next night was served with perfection to almost 300 attendees. A resounding success. And 250 people vowing to return to Westport. We did our job for tourism in the west.

In contrast, we had only 80 OCC members attend the weekend event in Henley. We had more than 100 last year but I suspect people just don't want to spend the money going to the same place twice. It was a very different event. We enjoyed a river barge tour of the townlands around Henley on the Friday evening, a series of lectures including a talk we did on sailing the west of Ireland on the Saturday morning, the AGM in the afternoon, and the Awards dinner in the evening. It was a packed agenda mixing business and pleasure.

I was elected Rear Commodore of the OCC at the AGM, and of four new Committee members, three are women. So between the Board and Committee, OCC now has 7 men and 7 women representing 9 different countries on three continents. Not bad for a little sailing club. The most international and gender balanced club in sailing. I am very proud to be a member and Flag Officer of this little blue water sailing community Club.

I am also proud of being a new member of the ICC, especially as it comes one year after I became a citizen of Ireland. Alex is being recruited for multiple jobs in the ICC and OCC, so I have a feeling we are going to have a busy few years. Bring them on. All is well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Safer Sailing

These are things we learned, often the hard way, on three Atlantic crossings and many more offshore passages. What things have you learned that can help others sail long distances safely?

1. The No.1 rule of sailing: STAY ON THE BOAT! Having a healthy dose of fear of falling overboard can save your life. Remember: 'One hand for the boat, One for yourself.'

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Safer Anchoring

by Daria Blackwell, co-author of Happy Hooking. The Art of Anchoring. 

We're starting the year with a new summary from our book with our top ten tips for anchoring safely. Do you have any tips to share with us?

1. Select your spot carefully. Do not anchor on a steeply sloping bottom, on a lee shore, or in close proximity to other vessels. Follow the lead of other vessels in the anchorage for method of anchoring (one anchor, how much scope, etc.).

2. Secure the bitter end of your chain to the bulkhead with a thin line that has a float attached. In an emergency, you’ll be able to cut the rope to release the anchor rode. The float will serve as a marker to assist in retrieval of your ground tackle later.

3. Always drop your anchor to the bottom slowly so the rode doesn’t end up in a tangled heap on the sea floor. Set your anchor by putting the engine gently into reverse or using a backed sail to exert pressure on the anchor to help it set.

4. Always use a snubber with chain rode to introduce elasticity into the system. Protect rope rodes and snubbers with chafe protectors. More boats are lost to chafe than to dragging anchors.

5. Keep in mind that more scope is better: 3:1 minimum, 5:1 acceptable, 7:1 better, 10:1 best for storms. Examine your ground tackle frequently for weak links.

6. Always make certain your anchor is holding by observing stationary objects on shore. Holding your hand on the rode can help you determine if the anchor is dragging as you’ll be able to feel the rode skipping over the surface.

7. Use a kellet in light air especially with rope rodes to prevent the rode from wrapping around the keel.

8. Deploy a trip line in an anchorage with rocky or questionable bottom to assist with retrieval if your anchor gets stuck.

9. Turn on all around white light at night and hoist a black ball during the day when at anchor. It’s the law.

10. To retrieve your ground tackle, take up the rode, then let the motion of the boat slowly pull the anchor out. Never power forward over your anchor to retrieve it if it is stuck. You can bend the shaft or flukes and the anchor will never set properly again.