Jonty Pearce checks on his Southerly 105 ketch following the recently stormy winter weather, but discovers not all of the boats have fared as well as Aurial

It’s coming up to the anniversary of last year’s Beast from the East; I particularly remember my frost-bitten fingers trying to feed a new antenna wire down Aurial’s mast.

Flurries of fine snow announced the approach of the forecast blizzard as I stood back to admire the new standing rigging on the refurbished mast; as it turned out there had been no need to hurry as my booked slot to reunite Aurial with her masts was duly cancelled due to adverse conditions.

This year has been the year of wind and rain; we have (so far) escaped snow and ice, but in their place gale after gale has lashed our coasts while veritable deluges of rain have swollen our rivers into muddy torrents that quite appropriately flood those flood plains that remain uncluttered by new housing developments.

In a slightly quieter spell of weather I ventured down to Neyland to service Aurial’s engine and check that all was well.

It is never a favourite job, though the Bukh 36 set-up makes it easier with a built-in pump that makes emptying the old oil from both the gearbox and engine sump a doddle.

This year I came prepared with proper containers for the hot waste oil; last year I used old 2L milk cartons from the skip whose plastic went soft in the heat.

The oil went everywhere, and I got told off.

The Bukh is raw water cooled, so I next contorted myself to reach the inaccessible far side of the block to change the internal anode – just as well, it had all but disappeared.

I chickened out of changing the impeller – an even worse job – reckoning that as I had motored so few miles that it would easily last another year.

The final job was to change the fuel filters and suck antifreeze through the water intake to prevent corrosion and any risk of freezing before luxuriating in a restorative hot shower.

The only thing still left to do is to renew the oil filter – I couldn’t find my spare.

Continues below…

Neyland Yacht Haven kindly lent me their test Meter Maid electricity meter; mine had become unreadable due to condensation forming on the inside of the window.

Typically, it was mere months out of warranty, but I’ve sent it off for a very reasonably priced repair.

Aurial had otherwise endured the storms without ill effect; the dehumidifier had kept the cabin cosy, the cockpit was dry and clean under its new sprayhood and tent, and there was no evidence of chafe on the mooring lines. Happy days.

Not so, though, for poor friend Hutch. He had asked me to check his Nimbus 27 Familia, Octara in the lower basin; at first glance all looked well, but then I noticed an odd corner of crazed glass and a curiously flat windscreen cover.

On closer inspection, the starboard half windscreen glass was shattered, and the sharp edge had sawn through the corner of the canvas cover under the shelter of the protecting forward lip of the roof.

Inside, shards of laminated glass were strewn around the cabin.

Mercifully, the canvas had kept the rain out and there was no internal damage.

Pontoon security is excellent here and there was no sign of unauthorised entry, theft, or vandalism. So what had caused the damage?

The most likely culprit is flying debris picked up or ripped off by the high winds.

Whether this came from masts, decks, or the shore is a matter of conjecture, but it must have been fairly substantial to break a strong windscreen like Hutch’s.

Mike and Mos from Dale Sailing delayed their Sunday lunch and covered the damage with a couple of old jibs, and next day the yacht was lifted into the yard for protection and repair; a new screen is on order from Sweden, though the roof will probably have to be lifted to bond it in properly.

Thank goodness for insurance; thankfully Hutch had paid the extra premium to have coverage while Octara is in the marina.

Not all policies include this; now is the time to check yours.

This was a freak occurrence, but such instances can happen.

Last year, while in my berth, one of my derricks was caught by a maneuvering yacht and twisted to the point of fracture.

The lessons learnt are to check your boat regularly and keep adequate levels of insurance bang up to date.

Remember to smile, maintain a cheery outlook through these dark months, and remind yourself that very soon we’ll all be out on the water again, joyfully sailing off the winter blues.

Except for Hutch, who’ll still be waiting for his screen…