Floods, rain and boat damp, Jonty Pearce takes stock of the wild British weather
And the rain, rain, rain
Came down, down, down
So Piglet started bailing
He was unaware, atop his chair
While bailing he was sailing.
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
This weekend our local newspaper had an aerial picture of Upton upon Severn on the front page. A more appropriate name might have been Upton in Severn as the flood waters had turned the town into an island, though mercifully the flood defences kept the dwellings dry. My heart goes out to those everywhere whose houses have been flooded – we watch television images aghast as brown torrents flow down high streets leaving properties and belongings ruined. Last night, while flicking channels, a program on Britain’s wildest weather caught my attention. As a sailor, the scenes of storms crashing into our coasts made my blood run cold.
I thank my lucky stars that I live on the side of the Malvern Hills, and that my yacht is safely tucked up in a secure marina. Even so, on a New Year’s Day maintenance visit (Aurial lies 3 hours drive away) I found her safely tucked up in a different berth – the piles that keep the pontoons in place were originally intended to carry oil around the Milford Haven refineries, and on my pontoon two of these metal tubular pillars had suffered fractures through forgotten underwater welds. Rather than risk the pontoons and their occupants being cast adrift, the Neyland Marina staff quickly and safely moved all the boats. Aurial was tidily tucked up opposite her usual home, and expects to return in the next week or so when repairs have been completed.
Such evidence and images of storm damage creates concern for the safety of our beloved craft. Few are the brave or foolhardy who leave their Milford Haven moorings occupied over winter. The majority are either left in the security of their Marina berth or lifted out to rest on the hard. There are advantages to each: those left afloat risk less freezing damage and cannot be blown over onto the concrete, while those lifted ashore are given the chance to dry out, and avoid the risk of leaking hull apertures. You pays your money (often lots) and makes your choice. Having taken the precaution of Coppercoating Aurial before I first launched her 7 years ago, I have saved lots of lift-out and antifouling costs. The minimal hull maintenance needed has always been completed on a sandbank when dried out, and, while I am aware that the hull does not get a chance to properly dry out, I trust the 8 coats of epoxy covering her gel coat will offer enough protection.
Whether afloat or ashore, damp is always a problem. At New Year, the Indoor Dragon complained that all was not totally dry down below. I’m not saying that it was wet, but condensation was apparent despite my leaving a tubular heater running on a frost stat with a dehumidifier to keep things dry. However, having been told that there have only been 6 rain free days in the Marina since 1st November, I accepted that conditions have been rather challenging. Arriving in the dark after a 3 hour drive to a moist algae ridden yacht is never pleasant, but the Eberspacher fired up first go and turning up the dehumidifier worked a treat. I’ve left it on a higher setting this time, and authorised local lads Alex and Adam to keep the algae at bay. I’m all for being green, but there is a limit.
These long dark days of winter, compounded by the cowardice of the sun and the dominance of the rain, do little to raise our spirits or keep our boats well aired and fresh. All we can do is visit often, open all the hatches when the sun brave enough to break out, and keep the the thoughts of warm, dry Spring days in our minds as the nights shorten and the days lengthen. Easter Sunday, the start of BST, is a mere 11 weeks away – so keep your wick dry and your spirits high!