Page updated: 19 October 2023
After bringing My SeaHawk ashore in 2013 she sat beside the house for five years. The new house, and its grounds, were taking a lot more time than we had expected and Just 17 never found her way back to the water so was sold in 2018. Almost another five years on we began to think about going boating again and so the process of buying a Hampton Safari began in November 2022.
Diana was never at ease aboard my 17ft yacht, Just 17. She claimed I was far too competitive when aboard, always looking around at how other yachts were performing and trying to get Just 17 to perform better. I do confess that, while it was an ideal craft for my solo sailing, she was cramped with two aboard. So here's the start of the story of our purchase of a Hampton Safari.
It took a fortnight before the Great Ouse had stopped being in flood and the environment Agency relaxed boat movement restrictions. Diana and I travelled to Buckden again to take our chosen boat out onto the river to she how she performed and to take a second look around her.
A week after the River Trial, on 7 December, we attended while our "Pre-Purchase Survey" was carried out. It was a freezing cold day and there was some drama when an Air Ambulance arrived at the marina. It turned out that my worries about a noise prop shaft were more serious than I had thought. However, a new price was agreed and the purchase confirmed a week later.
A fortnight after we had asked for the boat to be ready to move to Norfolk, Diana and I were on our way home after returning our grandchild to her mum. We had arranged to drop in on the marina at Buckden to pick up a box file containing the service history and other paperwork relating to our boat. We were wondering if it had been the right decision to have any work done at Buckden, when it would have been far easier for us to keep an eye on things if the boat had been in Norfolk.
Back in March we had to take a decision on a new name for our boat. We knew we wouldn't be sticking with either Wandering or Wandering Star which were both options as the inherited name. We played with something related to my surname before fixing on something with, for us, a musical connection. I was even persuaded to change the ringtone on my phone. Finally, there was the issue of how it should appear on the transom and finally who should produce it. Today the order was placed.
We thought we had arranged a mooring for our proposed boat before we had even viewed one, let alone purchased it. But at the beginning of April we were horrified to discover that we'd been forgotten and all the riverside moorings where we planned to keep our boat had been let. The only space left was in one of the two dykes. We were invited to see if we thought any space there would be acceptable. The first is only suitable for small day boats.We've agreed one in the other dyke that we'll use for the rest of this season, at least.
As part of my project to create a new web site for the Hampton Safari, yesterday I went searching for images to illustrate various points I knew I was going to want to make. I encountered a photo I thought I recognised. It led me to the broker's site through which the previous owners bought our boat. We can now see the things the previous owners changed. It includes new carpets throughout and new cushions in the saloon.
On 27 June we finally lose patience with Marlex Marine and ask for our boat to be moved to a local boatyard. I collect the gearbox from Attleborough, but thanks to a lorry breakdown it takes longer than we had hoped but for the boat to be moved. Today Singing the Blues finally arrives back in Norfolk and the remaining jobs to get her ready for launch will by done at Wayford Marine by Moonfleet Marine.
The day after Singing the Blues arrival in Norfolk I had a chance to look round inside the boat. Taking a step ladder with me I entered through the aft door to see how things looked. Yesterday I had been concerned about the missing windscreen wiper, but it turned out things were not as I feared they might be. However, with many of the carpet tiles lifted and the saloon cushions piled in the aft cabin, things looked in considerable disarray.
I had a spare hour before visitors arrived and went to the boat to remove the old registration numbers and name. I was armed with a heat gun as I had been told it would be useful to soften the adhesive, but it just softened the label causing it to stretch rather than come away from the hull. The task also revealed that on the bows the registration numbers were originally painted onto the hull. There's a bit of cleaning up to be done and a decision on the best positioning of the new name.
Today in a series of sessions at the boatyard I managed to get the new name applied to our boat. It was a struggle applying the name but the registration numbers were easy. After swapping a couple of parts between the old and new wiper motor I got it running, but am still to fit the wiper arm and pantograph. I also found out that the gearbox was ready to be installed in the boat. There's still a BSS certificate to get but launch is definitely getting close.
I managed to find a little more time to attend Singing the Blues today. I went with the aim of getting the wiper working. However, on arriving at the boat I decided to take a couple of photos. After that I found myself getting increasingly annoyed by the mountain of stuff strewn about the boat. Carpet tiles, bedding, a Red Ensign, boat covers, a shore power cable four balloon fenders. They all found their way into the car before I came home.
Back on the boat I decided to get the carpet tiles into a single pile only to discover to dirty Marlex Marine had left them, with oily marks made when removing the gearbox. Apart from the carpet tiles I brought home a car full of bedding and other stuff that was cluttering the boat including a shore power cable, bow, stern and side screen boat covers, a red ensign and flag pole, half a dozen mooring lines and the four large "balloon" fenders.
On Monday the gearbox was due to be returned to the boat and the BSS Examiner had been booked, so I had planned to do a task that could be done at home. I received a phone call. The BSS examiner had found a problem with the fuel tank. Once at the yard I was shown how the examiner had unscrewed a small ventilator panel by the tank. What was there was the original, 45 year old, unpainted mild steel tank that was rotting away. "Did you have a survey?", I was asked. I responded that it made no mention of an issue with the tank". "I'd have a word with your surveyor!" I was told.
Over the last ten days the old fuel tank has been removed and a new one ordered. That required the galley to be completely stripped down to the hull sides and bilges. There is clutter from this work all over the insides of the boat. A major cleaning exercise has started on the superstructure. There's been discoveries made along the way and we are now considering whether the cutlass bearing should be replaced. The problem being the rudder assembly has been discovered to be welded together which makes the job of removing the prop and its shaft a lot more involved.
It was just after 15:30 and I got a call from Kathy. This time Moonfleet had found issues with the rudder. I was soon on my way to the boatyard to see for myself! I parked the car and took a photo of the propeller before making straight for their shed. The rudder was laid out on a dustbin along with various bits and pieces. Apparently, the removal of the rudder bracket had gone a lot more easily than expected but, the concern now was the wear that they'd found both on the shaft at the bottom of the rudder and in the bracket in which it sits.
Inside the boat was the new stainless steel fuel tank. One of the things we had talked about with Moonfleet's Kathy was that we now had the two items, other than the tank required to rectify the BSS failure. A new fire extinguisher, which exceeded the minimum "5A-55B" standard required was already at home and a new stainless steel "DIESEL" label was expected in the post by the end of the week. In return Kathy said that they were working towards launching the boat on Monday and that the BSS examiner would call sometime during the day.
It was shortly before 14:00 on Monday when I got a call to say that the launch was about to take place. I arrived to see the tractor and trailer backed up to our boat and men passing straps under the boat. The plan was to bleed the fuel system, start the engine and go for a short cruise to see whether all the work done had fixed the clatter from the gearbox. There was no need for the cruise. It was clear the noise was still there. Much discussion was had and following a call from Kathy on Monday evening and more research on Tuesday we now have a plan on how to proceed.
We tried on the Thursday but the engine let us down, so we left Moonfleet to sort it out. On the Friday afternoon, we were told they were confident the engine would start and run reliably. So, on the Saturday, we tried again. It was a glorious day that completed a run of record breaking 30°+ September temperatures. The trip wasn't without incident, such as the loss of the mud weight, which it turns out are surprisingly expensive to replace, but at least we were happy to have reached Coltishall and tied up at our mooring.
The shower room door is refitted. The cruise to our new mooring on Saturday had also shown up a few things needed to be tackled. There was the threshold strip to fit under the shower room door, a missing piece of carpet tile to be found, cupboards to be cleaned out and a piece of floorboard to be cut away to stop the prop shaft coupling from fouling it. Then, before preparing a new line for the yet-to-arrive mud weight that will replace the one lost overboard on Saturday, I discovered another door with peeling Formica that will need some attention.
The weather was nothing like it had been on our shakedown cruise the previous Saturday, but Diana had planned our first trip from our new mooring for this date. Who can blame her! September 12 is her birthday and our anniversary. We cruised to Horning where we enjoyed a meal in The Swan Inn, but it all went pear-shaped after that. First our battery showed all the signs of being on its last legs, if not already dead and then engine cooling failed. We limped home after making two emergency stops to cool the engine.
After our Anniversary Cruise we had to wait just over a week to get the boat sorted. There were two issues. The batteries had died and the engine was overheating. I took a "Before" picture of the engine bay ahead of Moonfleet's arrival and an "After" showing the two new domestic batteries had been installed by the time they left. There was more to do, but at least I was confident I could sort that out myself with the parts I was to collect a few days later, along with the repaired mudweight that had been found in Moonfleet's shed.
We were ready for a trip on our boat with our granddaughter. She was staying with us over the weekend. Diana had planned a picnic that we would have aboard and as it was to be a short trip we didn't want to get as far as the bustle of Wroxham, so rather that go in that direction we emerged from from our mooring in the dyke at Anchor Moorings and turned right to go upstream. We turned at the head of navigation and only then turned and had our picnic the the Rising Sun, before carrying on downstream.
I hadn't been expecting it but Diana had looked at our diaries and the weather forecast towards the end of the week and decided the time was right to test the sleeping facilities aboard Singing the Blues. So it was that we arrived at the boat at lunchtime on Sunday and spent the next two nights on board. The cruise was not without incident. Our engine overheated again, but this time I was used to the routine to fix the problem. What I wasn't prepared for was when the engine wouldn't start after mooring in South Walsham Broad.
For a while Diana had been saying she wanted to try a pizza from The Rising Sun at Coltishall. The forecast said weekend weather would be reasonable so Diana had decided that as this was the right time for her chemotherapy side effects to be minimal, we could have the weekend aboard Singing the Blues. So it was that on Friday afternoon we went to Coltishall and readied the boat. This time we spent a fair bit of time sight seeing ashore at Horstead and around Caen Meadow and Church Lane Wroxham.
Today, we began another outing on Singing the Blues. It was midday and Diana had just returned from the hair dresser and I told her that I had cancelled a band rehearsal that afternoon. Chris had rung saying he had cold-like symptoms and felt he ought to stay clear of Diana as her immune system might be below par. It was the last week before Diana's next, and final, chemotherapy session, so she was past the worst of the previous session's side effects. Within the hour we had packed enough for the night, and arrived at the boat. We cast off shortly before 15:00.
Initially, I hadn't even realised the function of the length of dowel that was hung over the door to the cabin in the forward well. For a while I had thought it might be something used by previous owners to support a TV aerial. It was only when I discovered that it was a ruler with quarter inch markings on it that I realised it was the fuel tank dipstick that I had always believed must be on board somewhere. Today's task involved replacing rusty tool clips with a home made arrangement of wood and plastic.
We cruised to the Rising Sun to have lunch before moving to our new mooring. Its main advantage is that it gives us access to shore power. That's something that could be important over the next few months, as we may need to place heaters on board to stop the boat's plumbing freezing in cold spells. In other ways we don't feel the new location is quite as good as our old one. It's further from the car park. The recent rains have left much of the ground under water and the site is partially under trees. Time will tell how we feel about it in the end.