It was fairly clear that Ian was going to miss his original target of May day for the launch of Summer Breeze when I went over to help him glue the block of wood in place. Since then Ian has been reporting progress. His first message, on 2 May, said:
Not much progress due to rain and 4 hours each day at hosp. New cushion material, upholstery foam and thread sourced, sail retrieved from Jon Clark (New jib £165 vs Jackals UV strip at £178!!) Need weather slot to sort rigging. Cox's say slip is limited to 400kgs so its going to be Wayford or Stalham for launch. Need to sort push bike to retrieve car!
The four hours a day at the hospital involved Paul, Ian's son, who had had some rather serious stomach problems. Edge sails at Coventry had certainly come up with the goods on price and quality. I reckoned that there was a hint in that final sentence that involved me! Five days later there was another message repeating part of the earlier one:
Eric at Cox's boatyard has imposed a 400 kg limit on his slip and suggests a £2.90 + vat crane as an alternative - I think I'll be going to Wayford and doing a trailer launch there very soon - fancy a first sail in a Pirate?
This time it wasn't a hint, but an invitation! I never was sure whether Ian meant to type £290, as the figures typed sounded a good bargain. However, Wayford is little more than a minute down the road so that sounded like an even better idea from my point of view. However, I was busy doing other things and didn't respond immediately.
On 10 May Ian wrote again:
Boat is now re-rigged and is only a few hours work away from a launch, probably Monday or Tuesday if the weather is ok - does that suit you? Got to get some extra heavy duty needles for Jans sewing machine so we can learn upholstery - can't afford prof. fees (can't make web sites either to pay in kind) so off to Dereham in a few minutes
And so launch was fixed for early this morning. Those who know my tendency to go to bed and get up late will question Ian's wisdom in his plan to have me up dressed and down the road as early as 10:00 on a Monday. As it was, it was around 10:20 when I turned up at Wayford to find that Ian had there with the mast already stepped and tightening bolts on the outboard.
A few minutes later the rudder was in place as well and we were ready to move the few yards to the slipway itself. It's an excellent slipway at Wayford - wide and deep with a gentle concrete surface slope that won't defeat a front wheel drive tow car when seeking to recover a boat.
Once at the water's edge we made sure everything was ready, taking both bow and stern lines ashore to the quay heading to one side. I was impressed with the work that Ian seemed to have done to the brakes on the trailer. After a simple lift of the lever, the boat didn't move an inch on raising the hitch off the towbar.
We'd already got a good length of line on the winch arm of the trailer and had tied it to the tow bar. Ian then drove the car a few yards up the slope to take up the slack before I unclipped the winch strap from the bow eye, the last thing holding the boat to the trailer, released the brake. Ian gently reversed down the slope. The trailer was remarkably well behaved, running more or less straight and true down the slipway. I had feared some obstruction would chock the off-side wheel and the boat would make a lunge at the Hampton Safari tied on the far side of the slip.
Summer Breeze was now afloat. I pulled on the shrouds dragging her backwards a little to ensure she was fully clear of the trailer and Ian drove back up the slope till the trailer was clear of the water. Meanwhile I made the boat fast. The next job was to get a car in position at Barton Turf.
We completed the five minute drive, to Barton Turf, in convoy and, after a brief chat with Simon at the Adventure Centre, we left Ian's car there, ready to get us back to Wayford after our cruise to Barton. In forty minutes we were back at Wayford and casting off. The plan was just to motor round with no attempt at sailing. It was, in any case, a dull grey day and not one that encouraged sailing.
Once on board I wanted to make comparisons with the SeaHawk. The first thing you notice in the Pirate's cockpit was the big winch on the transom. Ian explained how he had done a little work on it after purchase. It pulls on a cable that runs in a deep grove down the centre of the cockpit sole before disappearing through a small hole. It is this that raises the keel.
While the keel on a Pirate is similar to a SeaHawk's in that it is slung under the cabin sole it differs in that it is considerably bigger and forms virtually all the ballast. Being so much heavier means that you need the winch to lift and lower it. I like the super simplicity of the SeaHawk's arrangement, where you just pull a handle attached to a short strop and push a pin through a hole in the keel to raise it. However, the Pirate's design is definitely better than the Swift 18 or Sailfish where the keel housing is intrudes terribly into the cabin and you have to go below into the cabin and winch the keel there. this difference may not matter too much to a coastal cruiser, but for a Broads sailor, being able to lift the keel from the cockpit, and in double quick time, when you hit the putty is definitely to be preferred.
A SeaHawk is often described as having dinghy-like performance. When I bought mine I felt I had bought a yacht and yachts don't have flimsy dinghy-like tiller extensions. Summer Breeze does, and while a hinged tiller extension may have some advantages in a yacht's cockpit, it is most useful when sitting well out of the boat so the extension is at ninty degrees to the tiller. You don't sit out that way in a yacht and I prefer my solution of simply having an longer tiller when I want to sit well forward in the cockpit out of reach of the standard tiller.
Travelling down the Ant from Wayford one soon comes to Hunsett Mill. Back in the 1960s probably the most photographed landmark on the Norfolk Broads was Hunsett Mill. It was a charming cottage, with typical Norfolk lean-to extensions on each side, set in a wonderfully maintained flower rich garden in a commanding position on a bend in the river. It was classic chocolate box and calendar material - not so these days.
Over twenty years the garden fall from splendour. Then the house too showed signs of rot. Acouple of years ago a new owner ripped the place apart, losing the traditional extensions, replacing them with huge angular misshapen black sheds and filling all the windows with with near invisble black frames that from a distance give the building a derelict appearance. Naturally, the renewed house won architectural awards. It's not all bad, however. The old mill and boat house have been restored and look as good as any photograph from the old days.
Once past Hunsett, we soon joined the main river and then were turning right into the dyke that takes you to Cox's Yard, Barton Turf Adventure Centre and the public moorings and staithe. We got there at about 12:30 and made our way into Ian's mooring. It's big disadvantage is the trees that surround it. They drop all kinds of muck on the boat. The dyke there needs dredging as well, as lilies and other water weed in inclined to foul your prop when approaching or leaving the mooring. Unlike my mooring, at Hickling, there's no real possibility of being able to sail off the mooring, whatever the wind direction or strength.
Ian also has a minor grouse about his neighbour's boat. This is always left with its outboard tilted on the transom. There is a constant risk that if the mooring lines go slack the propeller will carve out gouges in his boat.
It wasn't long before Summer Breeze was secure and we were speeding back to Wayford in Ian's car and from there it was a short drive home. Ian's boat is one of the earliler better finished Pirates, with internal linings. After my couple of hours aboard I told Ian what I liked about his new craft, which offers so much more than Deux Chevaux. I said I liked the general layout of the cabin, in particular, its optional double berth in the bows, which means friendlier sleeping arrangements are possible, something I feel the lack of now that Diana sails with me. However, the Pirate lacks a forward window in the cabin that restricts your views around you when below, and a forehatch, which on my SeaHawk, allows me to stand low within the boat and, with complete confidence, rig the head sail or throw a mudweight overboard, knowing I won't find myself going overboard, whatever the conditions.
Overall, it would appear that Ian has got himself a good example of a Pirate and I'm sure that it will be a boat that will suit him well. I look forward to reports on how she sails and a chance to sail her too.
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