Making Waves – Dipping the Toe in Sailing Boats

The Good Boat "WyvernThe Good Boat "Wyvern

I grew up in the little town of Banagher, and have always loved and wanted a boat. Boys and their toys, women will say. Well, boats are my weakness, and of late I picked up a Foxcub 18.

She looks sad and battered, and that she is, but she will be lovely again.

The Landlubber Learns the Lingo

Sailplan of the Foxcub 18 I would never have made a diplomat. To spite working as a security guard there is no situation so bad, that something I say cannot make it worse. Donald Trump must have been eavesdropping and taking tips from me before the G7 summit.

That is when speaking a common lingo. Boating has its entire own lingo.

The Language of the Waters

Its sailing, when under sail, and only when under sail. Never say sailing if using an outboard. I learned to my cost, and gained another grey hair in the process.

There is an entire language in the sailing world, delightfully archaic but quite confusing. “Fore” and “aft” are the simpler terms. Why is it “transom” and not “back of the boat?”. Theres “jibs” and “Genoas”, “mainsails” and foresails.

And no matter how logic tells you a sail looks like a sheet – indeed as kids we used bedsheets to make sails for imagined ships – a sheet is on fact not a sail. Its a ROPE!

Its a joy to learn, and the thinking behind some of it is quite deep. Take port and starboard. Left and right in real English, port and starboard are relative to the front of the boat, which keeps your position on the boat in the mind at all times. It also avoids confusion of similar sounding words, it is said.

Using confusing terms to avoid confusion. Ah, yes, now I understand why so many sailors took to the rum! One of the more pleasurable risks of sailing!

A Little Tender Loving Care

Like myself, I like to joke, the boat needs a little tender loving care. Starting with a good scrub to get rid of the algae, there is no substitute for the actual boat cleaning fluids, the Cif will get it moved, but getting it clean will be another matter.

That’s for the boat, I stress to add!

The timberworks have to be planned out. New rails, replacement cleats for the sheets to attach to . There is a joke in sailing circles about the definition of a boat.

Boat: a hole in the water money is thrown into

Again – language. Not sailing circles – boating circles, as only under sail is sailing circles!

If you do get boat, do be prepared to put in money. And time. It is a labour of love. Much like a classic car.

Hitting the Waves

I got the outboard fitted. A second hand “bargain” from DoneDeal. For something so heavy, its remarkably easy moved when you grab it the right way. Tie a rope to it before you try putting it on, if it slips, you can pull it back in. If you dont, bye bye!

If it does go in the water and you get it out, get it to your dealer as quick as possible, as its when it dries that corrosion sets in. Ill let those who know what they are talking about explain it:

First day, it wouldn’t start. Though it did start when I tested in in the bin in my house. I let it dry overnight, a local came over to help, and we saw the sparkplug was rusted into the chassis. So replacing that will be a challenge.

Rusty Plug - check the innards of an outboard before you buy

Rusty Plug – check the innards of an outboard before you buy

Next morning, it DID start, and I went around the harbor and out into the bay and back in again, to practice docking. Or parking in real English. It wasnt much, but it was a start to my sailing. Or powerboating… as I wasn’t under sail!

Its like parking a car on ice. Against a hill. Without crashing into the wall you are mooring against. There is a proper way to do it, but as Napoleon said, the plan of battle lasts until the first engagement. I found it easiest to reverse slowly in and park easy. Gauge your speed against the resistance of the current. And be prepared for it to disappear so you need to reduce throttle to maintain steady speed.

The Bravery of Fools

Boating like everything is for the brave. If you are like me, its the bravery of fools. Know nothing about boats? Buy a sailboat. Cant saw straight? Ill do some of the timberwork!

Trying everything is good, but its important to know your limits. Even seasoned boatfolk have told me of them taking on more than they were able for.

A chap called John from Dromineer Yacht Club put me on to Western Sails, ran by a Breton man. He said its worth paying the bit to do the job right. He tried fixing his own. Against the advice of all. In strong winds, his repaired sails ripped. While cheaper, it was a false economy. In the wrong weather, it could have been quite dangerous.

The reason I got an outboard and did not just sail the boat, was that the sails are damaged, and I need new sheets. Which are ropes, remember? So this will suit down to the ground, as he is local to me, and sails are easy transported on the bus.

About the Boat

Boy racers talk about their cars. The BHP, the Litre size of the engine. The skirting. Boat folk are as bad.

The boat is a Foxcub 18. It came in two models, the Mark I and Mark II. I think mine is the Mark I: it has a lower cabin, and no front window. But getting a straight answer out of anyone is hard. Understandable as there were only 650 odd made by Copland from the 70’s to the 80’s.

Uffa Fox, legendary boat designer

Uffa Fox, legendary boat designer

Designed by, or based on a design by, depending on who you listen to, the boat designer Uffa Fox, they are possibly to boating what the Mini Cooper is to cars. The ideal starter boat many moved on from, never forgot, and always regretted selling.

It sleeps two comfortably, and takes a 5hp or excess of an outboard. The original mast is easy for two to lower and raise if they know what they are doing, but even one can do it. Again, safety is everything. You can never snooze when working on a boat.

Electric, electric, the future is electric. Except it is not.

Electric trolling motors was an idea I was looking into to power it. It proved not to be an option for such a big boat, but they are getting better, and if the batteries move with the car and domestic solar batteries in the coming years a high power electric motor could help if not run boats of such a size.

Basically, approx 750W is 1HP, and the problems begin with the weight of the batteries as they stand. To keep them recharged, if not via an on shore charing system, could only be done by a portable generator – more weight – as solar would be too expensive, and not effective at all. Mine would need a 3.7 kw electric motor to come close to 5hp. A 1kw solar instillation would only make power at a third of the rate it was being used, in ideal conditions. A turbine on top of the mast would have the same limitations.

Battery power is only for the on board electronics. Its the petrol for the outboard still, environment or none.

Go on, you want a boat!

If you have been ever wanting a boat you should go for it. Do factor in mooring costs, the cost of bringing the boat from where it is to where you want it.

Explaining Sailing

Explaining Sailing

Ask yourself what you want it for.

Is it that you enjoy boating (sailing in under sail, powerboating is under outboard or inboard, I have been told!)? Is it that you enjoy the restoration? Or the fixing up as in the way some love to fix up and sell on cars?

There is no wrong answer for why to want a boat. But it is important to know what the answer is for you. You can plan and direct your energies most efficiently that way.

Be brave, and don’t panic.

I bought mine in Killaloe. Understandably, the Waterways Ireland wanted it moved, it was on public moorings all winter. It should only be there for five days.

I had never sailed before – under sail or under motor. I was cagey about it, so got it towed upstream. For €300 of hard earned cash. Half the cost of the boat, and facing as much more to bring it to Portumna. So eventually I saw sense and grew a pair, and bought the outboard.

I could have bought newer, better for the combined cost of what I paid for the one I got, and the towing fee from Killaloe.

But I panicked. I went for the cheap option, and got myself a false bargain. You live, you learn, you advise. And you know those being advised will ignore the advice of your experience and possibly will do the same themselves!

Choosing a Name

When I bought mine, she was called “Little Vixen”, an apt name as the designer was Uffa Fox. But I wanted something more meaningful.

Sailing Superstitions

Sailing Superstitions

As I wrote of before, I had family in Barbados. Alas, they were part of the slave trade out there. Their name was Drake, and they were the only sailor in the family, though family lore records they worked mainly as overseer.. Indeed the wider name of Drake, in the English branch of whom ours claim to be related, sailing is legendary.

So the dragon on the arms looked cool, known in coat of arms circles as a “Wyvern”, so the name was set for the boat.

So, whatever takes your fancy, name your boat.

Seafaring is full of superstition. Some claim its bad luck to rename the boat. But I wanted to rename mine, and to get around it I will have in small print “formerly known as “Little Vixen”…”

Registering the Boat

Im on the Shannon, so I only know its rules well. You contact Waterways Ireland, fill a form with as much info as you have, and they post out a sticker that is on your window. That will be good on the Shannon Erne system. The canals are different, and the seas different again.

Registering for the Shannon costs nothing, at time of writing. However there is a proposal for regulation I saw online that is going to make it nearly as hard to run a car as to run a boat. I hope it does not come to pass, or it will drive the working classes off the waters, which would be a shame.

So “aaaaargh me Heartys”, or even “Arrgh me Cartys!”, new adventures await, which I will occasionally post here!

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!