Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The new and the old

The old engine has gone to a new home in the north of England, the bits that were left have mostly been sold on and all that remains is the arrival of the Yanmar. Sometime this week we believe. Probably arriving the same time as this next gale/storm hits the UK...we may leave dragging it down the jetty until we get a dry day!

Some years ago we were given a gift by a good friend. Phil had a reputation for practical jokes and an avid interest in guns... I suspected the worst but was instructed NOT to open it until we were offshore. 

It was very heavy but I still remained convinced it was going to be a Glock or some such thing and we would have no option but to dump it in deep water before we made the next landfall. Well we opened it and it wasn't a handgun of course, but something from a famous (to sailors) Englishman from Birmingham. Phil had given us a Thomas Walker Harpoon Depth Sounder. 

The box looks tatty now as we kept it to hand in a cockpit locker which tended to be damp but the sounder functions as well as the day it was made. I think the design dates from 1850 or something although this one is probably much later than that. It works by setting the dial to zero and then allowing it to run freely over the side. Obviously it has a long line attached to the brass eye. The propeller spins,turning the dial until the lead hits the sea-bed whereupon the gate prevents any further movement. You haul it up to the surface and read off the depth from the scale. Naturally it shows the depth in fathoms rather than feet or metres. A fathom is 6 feet or 1.83 metres and the scale reads down to 30 fathoms. 
Thom Walker Harpoon Depth Sounder...not many left!
Unlike a normal lead and line where the skill lies in throwing the lead far enough ahead of the moving boat so that it touches the bottom as you pass vertically over the top, the Harpoon type seems to need you to be stationary before using. Defeats the object a little but we have used it a couple of times in Labrador when our electric sounder kept getting confused signals from the transducer and showed nonsense on the screen. Mr Walker's finest indicated we were in just under 17 fathoms of water. The weight of the lead makes it a fairly arduous task hauling it back up to the surface and whilst it doesn't have a hollow on the base of the lead for tallow (to gather a sample of the bed) we can achieve the same result by using plasticine.  


The hole on the left takes the line, the gate is the "hooked" piece. The lead can be seen at the top left.
 As I write the next batch of weather is arriving with 40 knot gusts being recorded down river from here although the worst is not due until tomorrow. More during the week and yet again at the weekend so it'll be a tad uncomfortable no doubt.

A few nights ago we were awoken by the arrival of Toots on the bed sometime between 3 and 4 in the morning. Nothing unusual in that of course as she'll go where she thinks the warmth will be. But this time she seemed a little agitated and I switched the light on to check and found her soaking wet from the neck to tail tip. Water entry number 14 had occured, thankfully at low water as the double HW we get here causes the ebb to roar out. It has taken us a week or more to work out how she extricated herself - using a fender we had borrowed from a neighbour that has a "sock" around it to scrabble to safety. 

and lastly...we've just listened to the Shipping Forecast andfor the first time ever we heard this description of sea state:

  1. Plymouth

    Gale Warning: Gale warning issued 4 February 15:46 UTC (Open)

    Storm force 10 veering southwesterly soon
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    • Wind

      South veering southwest, gale 8 to storm 10.
    • Sea State

      High or very high, becoming phenomenal for a time.
    • Weather

      Rain or squally showers.
    • Visibility

      Moderate or poor.
 Lordy lord....

Itchen River
Southampton