For Berrimilla's first circumnavigation, the International Space Station
and the North West Passage, go to

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The lost art of signwriting

or Close enough is not good enough...

Berri is on the slip at Castlecrag being antifouled and generally scrubbed up for her next biggish gig. Click the link on the homepage for her AIS position. More on that later.

About 20 years ago, I had a professional signwriter paint her name on each side of the bow. He made a sort of graphite template on paper (DSC1697, below) which he used to mark the surface and then used a soft brush and a signwriter's rod with a cloth ball on one end as a wrist rest and off he went. Not a bad job either. I've kept the template ever since.

The name had become very faded and hard to read so a  few days ago, I asked someone who called himself a signwriter - at least on the side of his van - if he'd repeat the process for me and I offered him the template. "Nah!" he said, "Not interested - we just stick on plastic letters these days". Oh Poo!

So, today, when I'd finished covering myself with blue antifouling, I had some time to spare and thought it might be worth trying to repaint the name. A doubtful proposition and here's the result. Looks ok from about 3 metres away but zoom in and you can see just how rough it really is. I used a flat brush, about 6mm, and freehand over the old paint, with my opposite forearm as a rest for the brush hand. With my senile tremor and reading glasses, it's wobbly and all over the place. Very hard to correct wobbles and flicks because it just makes more mess. About 2 hours of intense concentration and effective as long as you keep your distance...

But a journey of a thousand miles...

Test 1

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Something special

This is a tiny replica of the Memorial to Lost Sailors at Cape Horn. The original is 7 metres tall - Pete and I sailed past it about a mile out and I think I saw it but not sure as I do know now that I was looking in the wrong place. I heard about the replica on the grapevine and ordered a couple - the other one for Pete. They arrived this week.

The replica is available from the artist in Valparaiso. Contact me if you want one and I'll send details. I think it's rather lovely.

Hanging out...

This photo is copyright PA Photos Ltd. UK. (

It shows me standing around not shaking hands with anybody in particular but that really is the Queen in the background and the Duke of Edinburgh on the right. In December I was invited to a Reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate Exploration and Adventure to coincide with the anniversary of Scott's last expedition. There were about 300 people there - not sure who fingered me for the gig but it was interesting! I walked  to the Palace from RORC with Dame Ellen MacArthur who I had always wanted to meet. Not surprisingly, she knew her way across the park.

Monday, November 28, 2011

NWP bloggery

Speedy, bless his heart, put the NWP blog into blogspot as a fail safe precaution so it is still here

All we seem to have lost from the NWP episode is the home page with the background to the story and we'll get that back up real soon now.

Steve Jackson has a full backup of the website and we are trying to recover the actual URL from wherever it has gone in cyberspace and that will go back up too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Small disaster

It seems that our web host has gone seriously belly up and the two Berrimilla websites are broken. We are recovering them from backups and will - we hope - have them on line again soon(ish). Might be tricky and we don't know how long it will take. I'll post here when they are back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Working and Lurking in confined spaces

Or the things that take you back in time...I have spent a reasonably tiresome day removing the closed cell foam insulation we put into Berri's living space in early 2008 before going to the ice. Way back then we first tried to stick it to the hull and coachroof using double sided tape - FAIL - so we used copious Sikaflex. I remember wondering as we applied the stuff whether I would ever have to remove the Sika stripes and knowing that if so it would be a task needing subsequent Consultation to steady the nerves and uncramp the muscles (the iodine in the T is a fantastic uncramper...). Serendipitous joyfulness - while shifting stuff around inside, I found a small unopened bottle of pure lemon juice left over from the Capetown shopping gig in 2009 and a decanted remnant of Dr Gordon's throat elixir in a plastic bottle. Yay - buy the T on the way home...

And also - amazingly - the remaining 3 pieces of assorted mini chocs from the big bag McQ, Kimbra and I bought in Cambridge Bay just over 3 years ago. A mini Snicker, a Crunchie and a Hershey Bar. I remember finding them in Falmouth in an earlier trawl as Pete and I got ready for part 4 and putting them in a safe place to use as birthday gifts for Kimbra and McQ. They seem to be a bit short of structural integrity this late in the proceedings so perhaps the photo will have to do.

And the mould - and the leak over Kimbra's bunk finally exposed - and Berri's original blue speckled interior gel coat reappearing with all its blemishes and the remnants of bathroom paint and other gunk applied by previous owners. And signs that some deck fittings need urgent attention. All of which has a lot to do with why I have an aversion to headliners in boats.

The photos - first 2 looking up into the aft coachroof, then special THHGTTG kit and lastly the lost treasures.

Fingers crossed - there might be a voyage in the - perhaps distant - offing...T acquired and nerve settling Con under way.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Onya Pete!

Test flight was indicative - personal worst half - about 2.06.30. A bit slower than the world record for a marathon.

But a few things worked - this might sound a bit pretentious so I'll try to get it right:  In Sydney, I help to deliver the ISAF Safety and Sea Survival course for offshore yachties. Part of the course mentions the need for "the will to live" - one of those meaningless catch phrases that is not really helpful in a survival situation. I try to get the message across in the classroom by developing the idea of the need for a mental plan to stay alive until the cavalry arrives. Lots of ways of doing this and each person will do something different but essentially you must manage time in your head and maintain a level of determination not to wimp out and die. No matter how long it takes, no wimping.

Following that theme but an apparent non sequitur, Pete Goss friended me on FB yesterday - some random flabber and a bit of ghast but noice! - and, coincidentally, I was reading his book (Close to the Wind) and specifically his astonishingly courageous rescue of Raphael Dinelli. Out there on the course this morning, wimpery was hovering. Turgid biomass, incipient then actual pain, brain not wanting to endure for the full two hours. Survival plan essential so I turned the thing into Pete's rescue - writ small, of course, but conceptually very strong. Raphael was out there in his sinking boat and I had to get there - as fast as possible. Every downhill became a surging incipient broach, every uphill a knockdown that had to be endured and recovered, in between was mental cups of tea, dealing with the pain of infected elbow, sorting the sailing and the autopilot and knowing that if I stopped and walked, Raphael got a bit colder. The crunch came at 9 miles where the Examiner cracked her whip and the legs faltered but Raphael was still out there so we soldiered on. Every pothole a cliff, every curve a corrosive dose of acid.

At 11 miles - vroom - the RAAF aircraft arrived and things started to improve but that last couple of miles and a bit was interminable - all gently or severely up hill and the boat was on its side for most of the journey.

And then there he was - at the 13 mile sign, a red liferaft, lit up by the RAAF...6 minutes late but we got there. Raphael alive - just. And he had champagne in the raft - odd people, the French! And if all this makes no sense, go buy Pete's book and read it - 'Close to the Wind' on Amazon will find it.

On the way, I passed several Consultant Surgeries - The Stag, The Crown and a third whose name my doozy mind refused to register. All that medicinal compound and not a drop to drink. The Examiner at her most exquisitely subtle.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of shoes and ships and sailing wax

Of serendip and kings  - while negotiating the M5/M4 yesterday, got a text from the Falklands Cookie Crumbler who, by massive coincidence, was going the other way in the same tangled mess and only just the other side of the Gordano Services stop just south of Bristol. We met in the holiday disaster of a car park and she signed the CCA gong for me. Swoon! She probably doesn't  read this trash any more but a wonderful opportunity and lovely to see her for the first time since we left Stanley in 2005.

Biomass turgid and unresponsive during test flight. Too much sailing,  no running  The half tomorrow will be mind over matter in spades.

Here's a link to the rest of my Jambalaya photos.

 Haven't worked out how to upload the video but Geoff has put lots here

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Berrimilla breakfast

We called into Falmouth for fuel on the way back to Plymouth and - remarkably - the correct ingredients for a proper breakfast materialised. There was some serious philistinism amongst the assembled company though - HP sauce yet! UGH! Left to right: Geoff, Ferret, Andy, Dara. Mark and David below.

And now, after negotiating the 200 mile parking lot that is the M5/M4 motorway system, I'm in Burnham trying to persuade my decaying biomass that it can stagger around the Burnham Beeches Half Marathon tomorrow. 5k Park run today as a flight test. Us'll see - I think another Berri breakfast might help.

I wonder who collected the Berrimilla Dogbowl in the Fastnet. Looks as if it might have been Paddy in Psipsina. Onya!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

50 years on and history repeats...

The old boat in Falmouth, looking a lot younger than the Old Fart.

Back in Plymouth - sadly. We went with an old mainsail with no 3rd reef and it karked in the 25 knots and lumpy sea half way across the Irish Sea. Memo to self...But a wonderful race - huge fun and we were going really well. There will be start video and other stuff on the Jambalaya website, thanks to Geoff.

Crew photos to follow

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The calm before...what?

Once again outside the little cafe with mega coffee and this time fortifying Bacon and Egg roll. Apprehension level up there in orbit with the ISS. Wood pigeons in the trees behind the marina - Take twooo coows Taffy...Take twooo cows Taffy

Will be a bit of a combobulation at the start (ours is at 1150 GMT) with 79 boats in our class all trying to find the best tide at the Island end of the line...The crew - Andy, the owner, Ferret (aka Alex and also a leftie) navigator, Geoff, Dragon sailor extraordinaire from Sydney, Darra, also from Sydney, Mark and David from Singapore and the old fart bringing up the rear. I'm back up navigator and rail meat.

Been a busy week, doing all the little last minute things, with a blast on the Solent yesterday to give everyone a feel for the boat. I think there is video on the Jambalaya blog. I don't think i will be able to update this one but there's a chance Geoff might be able to keep the Jamba one running via iphone. We'll see.

We have a small dose of medicinal compound from the Scottish glens to pacify Poseidon at the Rock but no other  Consultative expertise aboard. Ah well!

 Also a wonderful week, meeting lots of old friends around the place. I even met Ken Newman, the only other person, as far as we can tell, who was also on the start line 50 years ago. He's doing his 27th Fastnet, having done his first in 1957. (Fastnets only happen every 2 years, so work that out)

If we are not exciting enough, follow Tehani - McQ's new and exquisite Contessa 32, going 2 handed in class 4 and google Marco Nannini Racing to get the name of his Class 40 - its a sponsors name - Marco is sailing with our special friend and amazing sailor Paul Peggs who lent Pete and me his own boat Audacious for the 2007 Fastnet. They are preparing for a round the world race next year.

Fair winds to them all. See you lot in Plymouth, with, I hope, slightly less grey knuckles.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nothing in particular

Sitting outside tiny cafe in industrial part of Hamble Marina with maxi caffeine in paper cup and next to boat lift - a sort of box shaped hollow crane - watching as boats get lifted and water blasted and otherwise fixed.
Polyglot crowd around me - all getting ready to go racing today over in Cowes. South africans, french, dutch, an englishman who borrowed the pc to get a weather forecast...and this solitary Oz - and just joined by ace navigator from Jazz - tiddly pom.

About 52 hours to the start.

Another blog

We might be able to update this one and maybe the Berri one as we go - will depend on mobile phone access as we don't have HF radio. What am I going to find to do all the time?

Lots of minor fixes under way. Weather forecast looks like a soft start on the nose, gradually strengthening. Us'll see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Time passing part 2

Leopard! Roughly 50 years ago in my first Fastnet,  I was out off the Scillies in a memorable storm in this lovely boat. One of those nights that stay in the memory, etched there by fear and inexperience. Ant the noise - it was blowing about 50 knots and maybe a lot more and I had never felt noise in quite that way before. But then, I was only 19. Wonderful that she's got a new life.

Leopard had a wooden mast in those days. She was one of the Royal Naval College training yachts and there were at least two others in the race. She developed a rather severe leak in the stern gland during the storm and we retired - hence the unfinished business that we completed in Berrimilla in 2005.

Thanks to David Carne for the photo. I'm going down to Falmouth to see her after we finish this one - respects must be paid.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Long time ago...

Time passing. The photo is me sitting on a boat called Leopard in 1961 before the start of the Fastnet - on August 13th, I think.  Leopard is still around too - noice! - she's down in Falmouth and I'm working on getting a photo to put here to celebrate. I wonder how many of the boats that start this year will still be around in 50 years.
This is the Fastnet website and I am sailing on a J109 called Jambalaya. A bit of a learning curve after Berrimilla's rather less than sporty character. There will be 7 of us aboard - another learning curve - and I will intruduce them all later.

Meantime, a little bit of purgatory - Gatwick to Munich by squeezy jet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The one-eyed undertaker sounds a futile horn,,,

with apologies to Mr Dylan.
I wonder whether there are any tragics out there who still read this stuff. I'll churn out some more just in case.
Writing this at Bangkok airport on the way to London and eventually another Fastnet - this computer is moribund - more when I get to London...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Wonderful green curtain across the sky over Hudson's Bay from the 747 - then the moon came up. The aurora too difficult to photograph through the window but here's the moon and Greenland. We crossed the Greenland coast from Davis Strait 48 miles north of Nuuk where we stopped in 2008 - eerie crossing Berri's track up there in the semi gloom before sunrise, with the sea ice in huge sheets. Couldn't see any bears but there was a ship (I think) out in the strait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Legends

All 47 finishers, more or less in order, last to first

And you can read about them all here - click on the name link for the bio - some amazing people