Page published 14 February 2021

This post was originally made on Wednesday 28 September 2011 on what used to be "The Blog", but referred to the events of the previous weekend.

Saturday Work

It was Saturday and Friends Elizabeth and Kevin were due to visit on Sunday. I was still worried about Just 17. the last time I was at the boat I had finally concluded that the solar panel was not delivering a charge when it should. I had found a new panel, by NASA, at a reasonable price and, after Diana arrived for the weekend, we went to Wroxham to buy one.

The NASA Solar Panel

Just 17 now boasts a new solar panel. Constructed on a white fibre glass substrate, it's a perfect match for the boat.

Whilst in Wroxham we also popped next door to the DIY store and picked up a cheap angle grinder that they currently have on offer. The plan is that next time Ian is over he'll bring a generator and we'll take off the surplus length of all the bolts inside the cabin.

Before moving on to the boat Diana and I also bought all the materials for a First Aid kit. When I bought Imagination, as she was then called, I acquired a fair bit of kit. Amongst it was a Tupperware box that contained one pack of Tesco assorted size waterproof plasters and an empty cardboard box that originally contained a tube of Savlon Cream. With the relaunch of Just 17 it really was time to equip the boat properly.

At the boat the initial task was to remove the original Solarex panel. This proved tricky. I had only laid it down a couple of days earlier using three strips of some Scotch double sided adhesive tape that was marked as "extra strong". It certainly was. I tried everything to gently lift the panel off the deck. Before the refit I had used a roll of Sellotape's "Sticky Fixer" tape. However, this time, I had only been able to find that product in small tabs, not a roll, so had gone for the Scotch "extra strong" tape instead. Big Mistake!

The bent Solar Panel

The solar panel, photographed the following morning. I tried, but couldn't keep the panel flat while removing it.

The core of "Sticky Fixer" tape was a soft sponge-like material. While the adhesive either side held when I came to remove the panel the tape's core separated. All I then had to do was clean up the residue on the two surfaces with a bit of white spirit. This was very different.

Gel Coat Damage

The Scotch tape adhesive was so strong that in one place it removed both the new paint and gel coat.

By the time I finished I had given up trying to get a knife underneath and was just pulling at the thing, with less than idea results. There was a small patch where not only did it take off the new paint but the blue gel coat too. However, the job was done and thn all I had to do was fit the new one.

The new panel lacks the rubbery top layer of the Solarex panel. NASA seem to have encased the working parts beneath clear resin. It's bilt on a white GRP substrate too, so it matches the boat perfectly. Certainly, I can't imagine that it will lift and peel in the way that the surface on the old panel had.

With holes drilled with what Ian would call my "chocolate" drill, a "Tesco Value" cordless thing, I soon had the new panel on the boat. I snipped off the plug at the end of the supplied cable but then struggled to thread the cable through the conduit in the cabin. Diana came up with the idea of using washing up liquid as a lubricant, then it went in with no trouble. I was glad I had snipped the cable right at the plug as the supplied cable was not an inch too long. I soon had it connected and both lights on the charge controller glowing the appropriate colours.

Saturday Fun

Diana on the Helm

Inevitably, as dusk was about to fall, the wind dropped. I wanted to avoid using the engine to get home.

With the work done, I rigged the boat, mounted the outboard and Diana and I then took a short sail. I took the helm initially and made for Pleasure Island. However, water levels were lower than I had realised - or the silt was thicker than I remembered it. Well out in the middle of the bay to the east of Pleasure Island we slowly coasted to a stop. In light airs, the keel plate will initially cut easily into the softest of mud that is found on the bottom of most Broads but eventually it will bring you slowly to a halt. It took me a few seconds to realise we were aground. I had gone aground in this area previously, but never this far out from the Island.

I lifted the keel and we swung round. It was pointless going forward so we returned and made our way round the north of the Island and out into the main Broad. Diana soon took over the helm. Although the wind was dropping, at first it was still livelier than on the Passage Race, and I think she found it a little easier to understand how to control the boat. However, it was only 20 minutes off sunset and the wind appeared to fall rapidly away, although that was partly down to us, as we turned to travel with the wind.

As we approached the Pleasure Boat Dyke I dropped our main and then jib. We sailed into the dyke but, in the light airs, we needed a slight push with the engine to reach our mooring. To make readying the boat on Sunday quicker, we left some of the gear on the boat that I normally take home, water and the cooker, for example. I also left the sails aboard, with the main sail still on the boom.

Sunday Fun

The Sunday Party

With the need for coffee sated and the boat rigged I ask for a set of smiles for the camera before we cast off.

Sunday morning was as bright and warm as forecast. Elizabeth and Kevin were later than expected but that didn't matter. After brief introductions - they hadn't met Diana before - we all bundled into my car, with the electric outboard on the floor in front of the back seats. While I prepared the boat the others watched from the tables outside the Pleasure Boat, drinking the pub's best coffee. Once things were ready, it only remained for me to take the inevitable pre-cruise photograph and we cast off.

We motored out of the dyke and, as soon as we were clear, I dropped the mud weight over the bow and hoisted the sails. The forecast had been for around Force Four, and I guess it was about that. I hadn't thought of reefing nor, it seemed, had any of the crews of Hickling Sailing Club's dinghies, who were all out racing. It was also the expected southerly, which must have accounted for the warm weather and even the sun.

The good thing was that the wind was steady, so progress was predictable. While we needed to keep three to windward to help balance the boat, the lack of gusts meant there were none of the sudden and unexpected lunges in the boat's movement that can be disconcerting for novice sailors and the result was that tacking down the Broad was an enjoyable and exhilarating ride.

I made for the bay between Swim Coots and Rush Hill at the southern end of the Broad. My plan was to put the nose into the reeds there and drop the mud weight. Sheltered by the trees of Coll's Plantation and the reeds around the Broad, I figured it should make for a comfortable mooring where we could have lunch.

Elizabeth eating lunch

The planned midday "nose bag" was taken, much later than intended, in the lee of Coll's Plantation, but the soup, bread, biscuits, cheese, grapes and wine seemed to satisfy.

As predicted, there were a few moments of pungent aroma as I threw the mud weight into the reeds, but this quickly dispersed and, as I had hoped, we found ourselves in calm air and water in brilliant warm sunshine. It was only as I was about to serve the soup in the melamine bowls I had aboard that I realised that my stock of cutlery was only designed for two, so some of our party had to drink the pea and ham soup from mugs or beakers instead.

Diana cutting cheese

Diana cuts herself a wedge of cheese, while Elizabeth stares at the passing boat of bird watchers.

It was nearly two thirty by the time we raised the mudweight and hoisted the sails again. In spite of my earlier suggestion that we would take a tour of the bay, by then I had returned to my earlier thought that we might be able to reach Horsey Mere.

Once clear of the lee of the trees, it was clear that the wind had dropped a little and I felt confident enough to pass the helm to Kevin and mainsheet to Elizabeth. As I should have anticipated, it took a while to reach Heigham Sound and the turn to Meadow Dyke and we were never going to be able to make the Mere and return at a reasonable time for the meal I had cooking in the oven at home. So having made the turn into Meadow Dyke, we immediately turned again and headed back past White Slea and back to the Broad.

Elizabeth and Kevin

What joke did I crack to ensure that Kevin and Elizabeth seem to be enjoying themselves?

Now we were on the return leg and the southerly wind behind us things seemed much calmer. Boats going the other way were still finding themselves in a stiff breeze and Elizabeth commented on a well heeled Pagasus yacht as it passed us on the Broad.

Passing a Pegasus

The full masthead rig and large genoa give a Pegasus an air of urgency on a beam reach across Hickling.

Having been off the water for so much of the season, I had not realised that navigation works were being undertaken on Hickling. Most of the Broad's red channel markers have been duplicated. At this stage it's not clear whether it is planned to remove the old worn ones. Perhaps that will happen when all the new ones are in place.


Last week, on the Passage Race, I was lucky to see a speed above 2 knots, but I saw 4.9 on this trip.

Without the need to work to keep the boat upright, I take some time off and go below. I have been having rouble with my camera. I believe the problem is caused by one or more cells in the set of batteries I am using not taking, or holding their charge. Whatever the cause, the camera sometimes refuses to focus and the image often "noisy". In the cabin, I try some test shots of my phone, running my favourite toy, "Saildroid". The speed may be good, but the heading suggests that Kevin is steering an erratic course. It's time to get back to the cockpit and tease him!

Hickling Dredger

It's not just the navigation posts that are being replaced. There's some dredging work going on as well.

When I first rigged the boat, outside the Pleasure Boat, I had noticed that the water level seemed a few inches higher than yesterday. It's four o' clock as we round Jervis Point. After yesterday's grounding I was half expecting to touch the bottom. However, we clear the shingle spit that lies beneath the water without incident.

Although our return had been a little later than I had originally planned, the food awaiting us at home in the oven wasn't spoiled. It only remained for me to whisk up some Yorkshire Puddings and serve the meal. All in all it had turned out to be an excellent weekend.

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