Varnish, Fame and War

Apologies for the lack of recent blog posts. It has been a hectic couple of weeks and the time rather got away from me. The weather has, largely, continued to be fantastic, and so work on the deck has also continued. Although it is incredibly time consuming, and the weather in the South West being as temperamental as it is adding a certain amount of gamble to each coat, varnishing continues to be my favourite job. The combined efforts of Keith and his family brought our down rails back to the original wood, and they are looking stunning! They have been positively glowing in the sunlight. Wooden boats take an awful lot of upkeep, but when the sun shines off the varnished teak it is really worthwhile.


It seems like we are not the only people to think that Teka is a pretty boat. Part of the recent hectic-ness was my birthday, and Keith was bizarrely excited about my birthday card. What could have possibly been on it that he was virtually jumping up and down to give it to me? None other than our Teka. Bought from a card shop on Portishead high street, it was a photo of the marina, with our boat front and centre. We are famous! It is a little odd to think that there may be complete strangers out there with a picture of our home on their fridge door. It does reinforce our obsession with varnish, though. She really is a very beautiful boat, and we want to keep her that way. The cover of Classic Boat magazine, here we come!

There is a negative element to all this aesthetic work though. We have declared war. Our opponents don’t actually know that we have declared war yet, but we have. As mentioned before, there is a lot of wildlife around. On the whole, this is really enjoyable. Unfortunately, we have developed a seagull problem. Or, more specifically, a seagull poo problem. They keep sitting at the top of our mizzen mast and going to the toilet. The guano sets like Roman concrete! The most infuriating thing isn’t that we have apparently become an avian loo, but that it seems only to be us. We haven’t seen any on any other boat, even those which are left mostly unattended. When we asked the guys on our current port-side neighbour boat, Sea Grass, they denied any such problem. We are by no means the only masted ship, nor do we have the tallest masts. While it is rarer than fibreglass, we are not even the only wooden boat. So why us? We have nob idea. We have contemplated buying a bird scarer: one that is shaped like a hawk, but given the violent attacks by the seagulls on the buzzards which occasionally visit we aren’t sure about how long it would survive. It might even draw the seagulls as they ‘defend’ themselves and their patch. Send help?


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