Rather like the Second Coming or the new series of  The Crown, the Great Refit has been anticipated for a long time. Now it’s here, I feel somewhat overwhelmed.

For one thing, The List has been growing steadily for five years. The boat hasn’t been out of the water for more than a couple of months in all that time.

Indeed, since the beginning of last year, she’s been in constant commission: up the East Coast of England, over the top of the Shetlands, down the west coast, up the English Channel and back again, down to the Canaries, West Africa, the Cape Verdes, the Caribbean from Grenada to the BVIs, then back to Falmouth, the Channel Islands, France and now Conwy in North Wales – where all this started back in 2017.

No wonder she needs a bit of TLC.

However, the phrase “a bit” suggests a polish, a dab of antifouling and a couple of new filters.

Not what I’ve got on the list.

You want to know about the list? Here it is:

A new heater: Yes, I really do need a new heater. After mentioning on the My Classic Boat channel that the old Hampshire Heater was slowly poisoning me and that I had taken the batteries out of the carbon monoxide alarm, I have been deluged with warnings about impending death.

Of course, I could go for the cheap Chinese forced air variety, but I really like the idea of something that consumes no electricity at all and asks only for a bit of driftwood. Consequently, I became obsessed with the Dickinson Newport solid fuel heater. I imagined some sort of hippy existence – all Fair Isle sweaters and home-baked bread.

In fact, it transpires that the salt ingrained in driftwood will wreck the combustion chamber. Also, they’re notoriously difficult to regulate (coal burns too hot, charcoal too fast. Wood pellets are the answer, but you have to keep feeding it every hour on the hour, or it goes out…)

So now it looks like I’ll be going for diesel with the Refleks bulkhead mounted version – if I can find anyone to fit it.

Then there’s The New Cooker: I’m on my second Aqua Marine Neptune. It lasted 18 months (the first managed 11). In both cases, the flame-failure devices packed up – closely followed by the right-hand burners. Then the rest of this useless piece of crap dissolved into rust. It was only later that I considered it might have been designed for occasional weekend use over six months of the year – so I was giving it six times the wear and tear it was intended for.

The solution seems to be a GN Levante – admittedly, this does cost more than three times as much, but independent advice suggests it will go on forever. Meanwhile, the galley may have to be remodelled to accommodate it.

Then there’s a new deck hatch. Maybe I could get away with replacing the glass in the old one, but if I’m going to have new headling anyway, a 50 year-old-hatch is going to look really tatty.

And yes, I am having new headling. Apart from its age, there are all sorts of fastenings behind it leaving rust streaks all over the place.

New Sails: Ah yes, I had already spent a contented hour on the Crusader Sails stand at the Southampton Boat Show – and then both the main and headsail tore in the same gust off Land’s End.

And here’s the ridiculous thing: I carefully measured the headsail so the new one would be identical – and then kept it in case of any questions.

Eventually, I decided it was just cluttering up the place and threw it in the marina skip.

The very next morning, Paul at Crusader rang to say my measurements didn’t make sense – and yes, that was the day they emptied the bins.

Also, I’m going to have something called an Ultra-Large Genoa. When I did the OSTAR in Largo, Crusader made me a mylar ghoster which was fabulous but really needed to be flaked every time by a racing crew. I just stuffed it in the bag – and destroyed it in a season. The new one will be on its own furler – and I would like to see it set on a “prodder” bowsprit.

New Anchor: If I am having a prodder, I can’t have an anchor with a roll bar.

New Stanchion: I managed to break one on the way from the Canaries to the Gambia when retrieving something called a Round Sail. This was one of those mistakes you make if you’re prone to impulse-buying: Spending 900EUR on a cut-down parachute flying from the top of the mast seemed like a good idea at the time. After dropping it in the water on one side of the boat and pulling it out on the other, I left it in the skip at Banjul harbour (where the local fishermen thought Christmas had come early).

New Coppercoat: The first lot fell off – although it did take five years to do it. Actually, it worked rather well while it was doing so.

New halyards. 12mm is just too big for the cleats.

New standing rigging: It’s 15 years old, and a bunch of us Rival owners got together and had a job lot of new deck bolts made – they’re one size up and would look massive on a 40footer.

New furling gear (it actually disintegrated when Tony the rigger started removing it). He thinks the latest Furlex looks “plasticky” so we’re going for Profurl. I had a Profurl on Largo, and it was fine.

A new S-bend for the exhaust. It will be nice not to have a constant leak all the time the engine’s running.

New autopilot: I’m on my third Raymarine ST2000+ and daren’t leave it out in the rain in case it goes the way of the other two. This is plainly ridiculous. Watch out for an ST2000+ on eBay.

New sprayhood: apart from being able to put your finger through it, I left a dab of deck paint on it back in 2018, and it’s offended me ever since.

New beer cooler. The compressor-powered Alpicool is more efficient. Anyway, being a vegetarian, I don’t need a proper fridge.

A new length of toerail: I forgot to lash the anchor after waiting for the tide round Land’s End. The chain spent half an hour chewing through the teak while I wondered what that knocking noise was. Have you any idea how much teak costs these days?

New washboard with a window for use at sea – manhandling a three-part companionway just takes too long.

Give me a minute; I’ll think of something else…


7 Responses to Refit

  • Well that’s a wonderful coincidence John, love the sea connection with strawberry fields…Incidentally, Lottie is a fabulous name! My late grandmother who emigrated to America from Poland in 1916 and her name was Lottie. I always wished I had met a girl with the same but alas, it is a name from another era or so they say.

  • That is a long list John, but since the post is almost one month old, I hope many items are crossed already
    Got a new anchor yet? Check the sarca excel, excellent.
    Good luck with the projects and keep us posted on the progress.

  • Hi John… I have a ‘prodder’ and manage very well by letting my rocnaanchor droop, then re lift it so it sits under the prodder… used this system for 5 years. Lockgate stoves near Nottingham gave very good service a few years back 🙂

  • Thanks for your story, John. It keeps on reminding us of what a lovely life you have mapped out for yourself – envy is the word!
    Safe sailing…

  • John you’re amazing!
    Thankyou for sharing your story. As time goes on I enjoy it, every instalment is another moment along a lifetime.
    It’s one I relate to and it means so much.
    Thank you

  • “Have you any idea how much teak costs these days?”
    Yes….. that’s why I bought several hefty chunks from Robbins – their ‘Cutty Sark’ consignment – when they were having a clear-out. And I’m keeping it for the next couple of times my anchor chain goes a-chewing or the Border Force bandits bounce extra-hard off my toerail….

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After a week or two, food assumes an importance far greater than mere sustenance. Read any account of the great singlehanded voyages, and you will find references to curry (Knox-Johnston), plums and cheese (Slocum), Worcestershire Sauce (Thompson).

It was halfway through Pete Goss’s Close to the Wind and finding him desperately looking forward to an alternative to his freeze-dried diet (any alternative to his freeze-dried diet) that I decided I just had to try this Huel stuff.

It will be a long time before I attempt a voyage long enough to call for freeze-dried victuals, but I always imagined them to be full of artificial colouring and E-numbers, and besides, I’ve now gone vegan (except for the other day in St Malo when I found myself ordering the Plateau de fruits de mer).

I started looking into this meal replacement stuff. I read reviews (mixed). I read through the ingredients (very mixed).

Naturally, the Facebook algorithm picked up on all this in the same way that it calculates my age, adds my obsession with not dying, multiplies it by the occasional click on TikTok and feeds me a diet of prostate preparations and Asian brides.

So, once I stopped at Conwy for the big refit and could be reasonably sure of mail-order parcels catching up with me, I spent a happy hour on the Huel website. This is necessary because they won’t let you buy just a bag – you have to buy a whole box. By the time I had finished, had considered Cinamnmnon Swirl and Tomato & Herb, and compared Mac & Cheeze to Thai Green Curry, my credit card was lighter by £87, and the packets locker was full again.

Within seconds, an email: My order was being prepared. I could hardly wait – especially when the DPD app beeped with the excitement that my parcel would be arriving the very next day. I needn’t have waited. I could have had it delivered to Torquay or Hamble. Heavens, it would even have reached me in Bembridge.

In fact, it arrived in the Conwy marina office just after breakfast (damn, I could have had it for breakfast). Instead, I would replace lunch with a coffee shake. I think it was the ceremony that appealed: They give you a special bottle with Huel written on it with your first consignment. Come to that, they give you a special T-shirt to wear while you’re shaking it up – but it was pouring with rain, and I was splashing about the place in my Guy Cottens.

With great care and only a little more excitement, I added the water up to the mark and added two scoops of the powder. I awarded myself two scoops. I reckoned the carrot and kidney bean sandwich with mayonnaise, HP sauce and beetroot   which it was replacing amounted to at least 400calories.

It did taste of coffee – cold coffee, of course – and with the consistency and sweetness of a milkshake. It was not unpleasant. I know that the average gourmet – even the gourmet with a busy modern lifestyle that does not permit a Parisian two-hour lunch break – might expect more than a milkshake, but the idea of getting 26 essential nutrients down your neck in three minutes was a novelty that could not to be denied.

There was only one problem. As soon as the bottle was empty, I looked around for lunch.

This was not supposed to happen. What about those 400 calories? What about “keeping me going through my busy day” (taking down the headlining in the loo and disconnecting all the wiring ready for the mast to come down). I was damned if I was going to make a sandwich now.

I had a mince pie.

Then a digestive biscuit.

And a cup of mocha with a spoonful of sugar.

I don’t know whether it was this, but sometime around three o’clock, I began to feel distinctly queasy.

And dinner came early. Rather in the manner of my Parisian counterpart, I opened up the packets locker and perused my menu. I could have Mexican Chilli or go for the Chick’n & Mushroom. In the end, I opted for Cajun Pasta, only because it was the one with its picture in the brochure, with mixed peppers, sweetcorn and “a kick of cayenne pepper and paprika”. I must say it did look good – rather in the same way that the photographs outside restaurants on the Costa Brava always look so good.

I doled out two scoops into a bowl. I added 200ml of boiling water (I measured it out exactly). I covered the bowl and allowed my cajun pasta to cook while retaining the vitamins which might otherwise escape with the steam.

It tasted of cajun pasta. It was not unpleasant.

I looked around for dinner.

This was ridiculous. It was lunch all over again. I decided it was my fault – after all, I’m the one who goes out for tapas and then says: “Right, where shall we go for dinner?”

The pub just across from the marina office does a passable vegetarian burger (and pre-mixed cocktails on draught,  for heaven’s sake) but that would be flying in the face of the Huel corporation’s much-vaunted economic principles: each meal costs only £2.66.

Except if you do what I did. I mixed up another bowl.

And then had a mince pie.

And three digestive biscuits.

After that, I had to have a lie-down.

I woke up at four in the morning and decided the whole thing had been a bad idea. I still had the unopened bag of Mexican Chilli – and the Chick’n & Mushroom. I would put them on eBay (I have). I would get up and write a blog post about my experience. I could save others from making the same mistake. If I had read something like this, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted £87 and half a night’s sleep on the experiment.

Although I know my curiosity would still have got the better of me.

If it gets the better of you, there’s a bag for sale on eBay (actually, there are a lot of bags for sale on eBay).

Just make sure you have some mince pies handy.


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