Page published 30 April 2008
After the preliminary work on tidying "Imagination" it was time to launch her. The first attempt was a bit of a disaster. Three weeks after Easter, Mike and Mary, my brother and his wife came to stay for the week end. On the Sunday, 2 May, the four of us set out for Whispering Reeds Boatyard, on Hickling Broad, some sixty miles from home. Liz and I took the lead, towing the boat, Mike and Mary followed in their car.
Initially things went well, but then the tail board fell off the trailer. It did this a couple of times. On another occasion one of the straps holding the boat on the trailer severed. The boat jogging on the trailer had frayed the strap. We seemed to be stopping every ten miles to adjust one thing or another.
Imagination arrives at Whispering Reeds and what turned out to be an aborted attempt to launch her
It didn't help that the boat hadn't been recovered from the water properly. The centre of gravity of the boat and trailer combination was behind the axle and so it was actually nose light. If you hadn't got something wedged under the back of the trailer or you weren't standing on the tow hitch when it was disconnected from the ball on the tow bar, the front of the trailer would fly sky-wards - with all the doom to the stern of the boat that implies.
Anyone who has tried towing a nose light trailer also knows that it can lead to both a dangerous snaking action and generally upset braking. Let's just say, it wasn't a happy experience. I try to forget it!
We had been warned that water level were low and that the slipway at Whispering Reeds was more suitable to dinghies than yachts, even small ones. The slip itself was quite steep, which should mean that you don't have to back so far into the water, but with low water levels this didn't apply as the concrete slope didn't extend very far. Worse was the fact that you had to have the car at about thirty degrees out of line with the trailer on the approach to the slip.
The result of all this was that I managed to overheat the clutch. It has made strange squealing noises on most starts ever since. However, in spite of mentioning the problem to every garage that I have taken it to since, none has suggested replacement or doing any work on it - and as I write this, four years later,it is still working happily with the odometer less than a thousand miles from the 100,000 mile mark.
Mike holds the boat as I photograph the successful launch at Martham two weeks later
So the boat came back home again. It was a fortnight later, on 15 May, before I had arranged to make a fresh attempt at a launch, this time at the slipway at the Martham Boat Building and Development Company's yard. Martham in on the Thurne a mile and a half above Potter Heigham. It's a wonderfully traditional yard, still hiring wooden cruisers and yachts. The slipway points diagonally into the river and it is long and gentle with an ocean of concrete on which to manoeuvre and line up car and trailer for a straight forward launch or recovery.
With the mooring to be outside the "Pleasure Boat Inn" at Hickling, Mike arrived there, travelling up from Surrey. We left one car in the car park and drove together with the boat to Martham.
The theory is straight forward. Back onto the slope. Apply the trailer's brakes, Attach a long strong rope. Disconnect the car from the trailer and wrap the rope around the ball of the tow-bar a couple of times. Release the trailer brakes and pay out the rope slowly (The friction caused by the turns round the ball ensure that the car takes some of the strain), The trouble was that, as the trailer reached the water, it slewed off to one side. Not only that, I paid out the line too slowly and the slope on the slip was not sufficient to keep the trailer moving. It halted with the axle only just covered. It took a bit of paddling, shoving the trailer and rocking the boat before the two finally parted company and Imagination was, at last, afloat.
It's a shame I have no pictures of the launch. I never seem to get any as there's never anyone hanging about to whom I can give the camera!
Mike at the helm whilst we pass along Candle Dyke on the way to Hickling
The cruise took us up Candle Dyke. This branches off the Thurne only a hundred yards upstream from the boatyard. Then we crossed Hickling Broad to the staithe by the pub at the village. It was without incident. Winds were light and the SeaHawk behaved exactly as expected, without incident. Winds were light and the SeaHawk behaved exactly as expected.
Imagination, on her first mooring
The mooring was to be on the dyke to the rear of the pub. By the time we'd made our way across the Broad, and sorted out the details of its location with the publicans, the light cloud that had been around all day had dispersed. It turned into a wonderful evening.
The next stage was to collect the car and trailer from Martham. I can't recall why now, but we returned again to Hickling which is when these pictures were taken. Certainly, we turned the boat round between arrival and finally leaving the boat as I have other photographs taken with Imagination facing the other way.
The delay in getting the boat launched did have some advantages. Apart from giving me time to change the rotting jib cleat blocks, I was also able to replace the wooden block on the outboard mount. The original was ply, but I replaced with with a solid block of mahogany. At least there were some parts of the boat that looked good! The cabin doorway had also been repaired (described on the SeaHawk site).
The rest, frankly, was rather tatty. A look at her cockpit revealed patches of blue gel coat showing through the white paint on the back of the cabin where I'd removed the old or incomplete fittings. The profusion of blue non-slip paint seems over done to my eye. The flimsy perspex locker lids on galvanised hinges and hasps probably helped the most to make me feel there was still much to do. But, for the moment I had a boat to sail and time to consider which wee to be the priority repairs and enhancements.
Flimsy perspex hatches with galvanised hinges and hasps, and masses of anti-slip paint give Imagination a run down look that was not to be rectified in 2004
So ended the first day afloat. There were several more cruises to be made that year. Further pages will tell of those...