Pontoon Life and Oddities

The rain is absolutely hammering down today, but I promise that it was beautiful for the majority of last week. British weather is famous for being somewhat temperamental so we took advantage of the dry-spell to do some work on Teka. It was mostly sprucing jobs. We swabbed the deck, washed the hull, scrubbed the rib, and tidied the cockpit; I could understand the latter getting covered in leaves when we spent autumn moored under a row of trees but now? In the middle of a marina? In summer? The mind boggles.

Of course we were not the only people out and about. As soon as the sun shines the marina comes alive with people tinkering away on their vessels. Some are doing a few jobs before popping out in to the channel for an afternoon fishing, while others are getting their boats ready for a long summer of sailing. A lovely Moody has recently moored up near us, and the couple who own her were struggling with their mast. While I love our gaff-rigged sails, I had always seen the attraction in the very modern Bermuda rigged boats where the main sail rolls up in to the mast itself. This is how the Eas Mhor is rigged, but something had gone wrong and the sail was getting stuck. By this point we had all said ‘hello’ and admired each others boats while we got on with working on our own. After an hour or two of the four of us cheerfully working alongside, they asked for some help unsticking their sail. Despite being injured at the moment (and not being the greatest fan of heights), Keith happily popped himself in their bosuns chair and up he went! The plan was to hammer a wedge of hard wood into the part of the mast which had narrowed in order to – hopefully – widen it again.


Keith and I are still relatively new to this way of living, and are still learning the ropes (pun entirely intended). There is one aspect of it which I really enjoy, and that is the camaraderie on the pontoon. It’s not specific to where we are now: there were many similar occurrences in Bristol. There was the time that the electricity went down on the whole pontoon and, once everyone had breathed a sigh of relief that they hadn’t broken their boat, clubbed together to work out how to fix it. There were borrowings and lending of tools and advice. There was a lovely dinner party. The same seems to apply here. When we first arrived several people came over to help us with our lines. A couple who were preparing their boat to spend the summer in Cornwall kindly donated us some rope as they felt that they had a surplus. And Keith went up the mast.

I have heard people – usually older – talking about the loss of community in society. It was never something which had bothered me too much: chance has thrown you next to someone, but that surely doesn’t mean you have to be friends? They might be a total jerk! I wasn’t sure whether it was even ever real. Surely it was just that strange nostalgic thing that people do, saying that everything was better in the ‘good old days’. (I challenge anyone to actually be able to date ‘the good old days’ and show how they were so wonderfully problem free, but that’s another story). But now I get it, and I love it. Perhaps I am being naïve, but it seems to me that the automatic setting is a sort of cheerful vague helpfulness between all sailors.

This week’s oddities of boat life:

  1. Waking up at 3:45am to rush around closing portholes and hatches because weather is happening
  2. Very big splashes = starting to think there might be a kraken in Portishead marina

In my opinion, the greatest ship and boat designer of them all was, and still is…

A lovely write up on the chap who designed our ‘Teka’

Have We Had Help?

colinarcherColin Archer (22 July 1832 – 8 February 1921). He was a Norwegian naval architect and shipbuilder from Larvik, Norway. His parents had immigrated from Scotland in 1825. He was known for building safe and durable ships including possibly the most famous of all the ships he ever built, the Fram, specifically designed to get the polar expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen, and later Roald Amundsen, safely through the treacherous ice fields surrounding both the Arctic and Antarctic. Because of her strengthened multi skinned rounded hull, and with no keel protruding, she was deliberately designed in that way so as not to be trapped whenever the ice threatened to crush her. Instead she would merely be pushed up out of harm’s way.

When I was a good deal younger while still serving in the merchant marine, at the end of one particularly long voyage I had the great good fortune to…

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Our first voyage

April 1st 2017 Bristol harbour to Portishead Quay Marina

After wintering outside the Arnolfini in Bristol, it was time to move on. Our entire pontoon had been full of boats on winter moorings, so everyone’s time was up. It was a little sad to see it gradually empty as everybody moved on.

There had been some bad weather warnings on the run up to the trip, but apart from a few early morning showers the weather was perfect. Locking out of Bristol and heading towards the gorge is no simple task: we have two tall masts and so several bridges had to be swung to let us through. Apologies to anyone who is reading this who was caught in the traffic jam be caused at Cumberland basin!

We motored along the gorge. It turns out that there is no better way to see the suspension bridge than from below – it is an incredibly dramatic view. There is some great wildlife spotting opportunities too: we saw a tree filled with grey herons, and a flock of small black and white birds skimming over the water. Everyone was in good spirits. I took the opportunity to take to my favourite spot – sitting on the base of the bowsprit – as we hit the channel. I half expected it to get a bit choppy but it was incredibly calm.

Once we were in the channel we decided to set the jib. It is by far our smallest sail, but it added over a knot to our speed. I can’t wait to try out the others! It was so beautiful that we were tempted to continue on our bearing, as we were headed (more or less) towards the Caribbean. Unfortunately, although the entire crew had bought biscuits along, we didn’t think we would have enough food for an Atlantic crossing, so we stuck to our voyage plan and turned in to Portishead.

Crew: Bob, Keith, Annie, Paul, Hugh, Roger

10:12 342(T) SOG: 3.7knots – Passed under the Bristol Suspension Bridge

11:00 323(T) SOG: 4.0knots – Passed under the Avonmouth bridge

11:10 312(T) SOG: 5.1knots – Set the jib

12:15 – Locked in to Portishead

Time completed: 4 hours and 50 minutes

Days run: 10.8 nautical miles

Average speed: 3.84knots

Maximum speed: 6.77knots