In his latest blog, Jonty Pearce seems to have traded sails for steam...


In the manner of the Fast Show catchphrase; ‘This week I have mainly been playing with steam’. No sailing, I’m afraid, but most of the week helping to set up and enjoy our local Welland Steam Rally once I had completed my doctoring duties at my surgery. I have held the post of site Medical Officer at this steam fair for over 20 years, but now with the support of ever more skilled paramedics I am able to indulge myself more in the role of assistant driver to Lady Diana, a 1904 Ransomes Sims and Jefferies steam engine. We spend the entire weekend circling the central arena towing a trailer for those wishing to enjoy steam rides. We are always full and always in demand – even our well-earned lunch break is bombarded with the question ‘when are you starting again?’


After a day in the sweltering sun standing behind a coal fire blazing under a boiler full of steam we are well ready for our own lubrication halt at the end of the day. A few years ago the commentator regularly announced my suggestion ‘drink till you pee’ to prevent dehydration and heatstroke – while we do pour litres of water down our throats during the day we always seem to gain more relief from the cider in the beer tent once the day’s duties are at an end.


‘What has this to do with a yachting website?’ I hear you ask. Well, OK, not a lot, though I did visit the extensive trade stands and struck bargains for a variety of ‘chandlery’ for Aurial. On our last visit to our yacht the footstool step we use for climbing aboard expired under a combination of my weight plus a jerrycan of water – I think the UV from the sun had taken its toll over the seven years it has sat on the pontoon. I now have a nice strong motorhome step to screw down in its place. The lifting keel electro-hydraulic pump remote control replacement was my next purchase – ours had failed last weekend, but as they are mainly sold for trailer winches I had hoped to find one at the show. Finally, a new set of elastic bungies caught my eye. It will be a pleasure to relegate the old stretched and frayed ones into the marina skip and frap the halyards with nice fresh stretchy ones. Oh, and a new set of batteries for the LED lights that illuminate our galley cupboards fell into my boat bag – we will now be able to find the right sized pan in the dark.


Last year, despite lacking enough water at the steam fair to float even a duck, we enjoyed inspecting an unusual exhibit – a steam boat. This very pretty launch had been trailered to the show and inspired the suggestion that the Ross-On-Wye Steam Engine Society that hosts the event should develop a nautical section – all we would need to do is dig our own canal. We already have the GWR railway on site (Great Welland Railway) and lots of JCB diggers and even a steam excavator – the creation of the Welland Canal should pose the organisers no difficulties. Once dug, we could invite steam launches and canal boats. I am not aware of the existence of any steam powered sailing yachts – maybe the idea of lighting a coal fire in the engine room of a GRP boat that is motor-sailing with a 30º heel would fail a risk assessment.


Our next weekend is, gladly, a boat weekend. I am looking forwards to floating on nice cool water rather than bouncing about behind a full scorching boiler, and the gentle rocking of the ocean swell will be a welcome change to being jolted around on rock hard dry turf in the cockpit of a 9 ton steam engine. It is the extremes of life that make it so enjoyable!


Jonty Pearce