Back from the Shetlands

The plan was to sail up the coast of Norway this summer into the Arctic Circle and explore the remote coastline and fiords in 24 hr sunshine … but … the most miserable and cold summer weather in living memory dampened our initial enthusiasm and we ended up staying a few weeks in the Shetland Islands before returning back to Lochinver at the end of the month.

After a couple of days of exploring the west coast of the mainland we found ourselves in thick fog, little or no breeze, and a contrary current off Papa Stour, so raised the Iron Jib (started the engine). After about an hour of motoring the propeller started making the most horrible sound compelling us to shut the engine down. Fortunately a breeze came along and we sailed up to Hillswick and dropped anchor. A couple of days later a diver went down to inspect. He reported that the shaft was oddly loose.

We then sailed down to Delting Boat Club in Brae where we let it dry out enough to inspect. The cutless bearing had lost all its inner rubber lining (for unknown reasons) and had to be replaced. Given the fact that there is only a small tidal range in the Shetlands (around 1.5 m) and there was only a ramp rather than a tidal grid to dry out on, it resulted in a startling but harmless angle to the boat when the tide was at its lowest. See pictures.

delting boat club brae shetland ramp

drying out on the Delting Boat Club ramp – look s bit dire from this angle!

It’s not the first time I’ve sailed without any working engine / propeller alternative and every time it happens I thank Neptune she’s junk-rigged. Not that I couldn’t manage with the more commonplace triangular sail rigs, but just how much safer, easier and more seaworthy the junk rig is.  No engine? no worries, when you sail a junk!

drying out ramp delting boat club

Speaking of the rig, the central theme of this blog, other than maintenance and upgrades, it has caused me little concern. The upgrades this year have consisted of changing the running ropes from three-strand to braided polyester. The result has been a smoother, less kinky, experience. The only downside is that the braid is more slippery and requires a bit more attention when hauling and tying off.

The dimensions I have used are the following :

main (400 sq ft) halyard – 12 mm

fore (200 sq ft) halyard  – 10 mm

main yard hauling parrel – 10 mm

fore yard hauling parrel – 8 mm

main luff hauling parrel – 8 mm

fore luff parrel (now standing) – 6 mm

all batten parrels – 6 mm

Future plans

  1. Experiment with alternate sheeting arrangements to reduce or eliminate twist when reefed. Up till now I have applied the KISS (keep it simple stupid) formula to sheeting which keeps the sheet power to each batten essentially the same avoiding undue twist when full. However, when reefed the sheet power increases substantially on the lower bundle introducing excessive twist in the leech. This is not really a big problem as it sails well regardless but I believe it is possible to create a more balanced sheeting arrangement, even when deeply reefed, if one incorporates euphroes (wooden blocks with holes through them) into the mechanics.  Experimental stuff.
  2. Source two grown Douglas fir poles to replace main and fore masts. I understand there may be some suitable poles to be harvested around Perth. To be confirmed.
  3. Make a new foresail to replace the thinning and much patched current foresail.

In the nearer future I’m looking around for a place to take the boat for the winter as it’s just too far and the weather is too brutal up in Lochinver. Unless I can find a suitable place here in south Wales / Bristol channel, I may go back to my old bolt hole in Crosshaven (Cork, Eire).

One response to “Back from the Shetlands

  1. Wow. What a coincidence. For some unknown reason, I stumbled on today’s Charlotown news paper & what a surprise. I’m happy to see you on the pic. You haven’t changed buddy. Good luck in you journey. Hope to see you again someday.

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