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Findochty Water sports Club
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What we do 2015

The First Sail

The “First Sail” of 2015 was scheduled for Saturday 16th May, but the weather put the kybosh on that. The forecast for a walk along the cliffs was superb. Sunshine and warm with a westerly breeze. superb. However the breeze was the problem. At the time of the sail it was forecast gusting to 40 knots, so a decision was made on the Friday to postpone to the Sunday. The planned first race on Sunday would be re-scheduled for a later date. Sunday started showery but soon cleared to bright sunshine. On arriving at Findochty a westerly breeze was building with white caps evenly spread. It was marginal and some skippers decided that there would be more productive ways to spend a Sunday morning so it was debatable whether the First Sail would have any yachts sailing. In the end three yachtsprepared to sail. Lady Vi, Sea Swallow and Solan. Lady Vi was first out and sailed on genoa only. Next Solan had two goes to depart the pontoon against the wind and then hoisted the main in the harbour, with both reefs in. He then circled within the harbour waiting for Sea Swallow. Even with two reefs and a furled genoa,  Solan was heckled from across the water for exceeding the harbour speed limit. Soon Sea Swallow joined Solan heading out past Sterlochy pier and, once they had the measure of the wind, a scrap of genoa was added to the reefed mains of both boats. Fun was then had as the breeze continued to increase. I’m sure there will be better weather ahead. Roll on Summer.
2015 was probably the quietest year for club activities in it’s history. This was due to a number of factors, but was mainly down to the weather. It was atrocious! One low pressure system after another came at us from across the Atlantic keeping boats in harbour week after week. My reason for staying in harbour was more serious however. It started in June. It was a rare sunny light breeze day so I was looking forward to a gentle sail in pleasant conditions. The boat was prepared and I backed out of my berth. I put the gearbox in ahead ....... and nothing happened! I was without drive in between the pontoons. I spent a couple of minutes fending off and ended up back in my berth the facing the opposite way to normal. A check on the prop shaft showed that it would run astern no problem but not ahead. I spent the next hour head down in the  engine space trying to re-adjust the selector linkage after I had checked the hydraulic fluid level of the gearbox.( I found out later that most of the time I was doing this a pod of Orca’s were just the other side of the harbour wall.  Doh!!) I eventually came to the conclusion that something like wire weed may be wrapped around the prop and this was  stopping the prop selecting ahead. This became more likely as I noticed that there was no prop wash in astern. There was nothing more I could do,so I arranged to be towed across the harbour the following Saturday afternoon to dry out. I would then be able to scrub the hull and clear whatever was fouling the prop. A week passed and I was towed across to dry out at 17.00. By 19.00 the water had dropped enough to start scrubbing. I decide to start by clearing the propeller. It was then I discovered the cause of all my troubles. The propeller wasn’t fouled, it wasn’t there! On examining the end of the prop shaft I could see bright copper, the typical signs of de-zincification. The bronze shaft had been leached of zinc over the years leaving soft  and weak copper. It looks like the inertia of the prop sheared the shaft as I went from astern to ahead and it was exactly the point where I did this that the prop was recovered from the bottom of the harbour the following week. The up side is that the prop shaft could have sheared at any time and I was lucky that it sheared when it did. This explained the lack of propulsion but it gave me a major problem. My tow across to dry out was not available to get me back to my berth for another week. It was at this moment that a shout from the harbour wall saved the day. I had told a club member about my drive problems and he had come down to see how I had got on. With the problem evident he said he had an old outboard in his shed that could get me back to my berth. So it was off to Portknockie to find an outboard. Fresh petrol was put in the tank and the starter rope was pulled. It took quite a while to start but eventually we could get it to run in gear, stop it and start it again, so it was back to Findochty to hang it on the outboard bracket. It was 00.30 when the boat started to rock on the keels, so I went up the ladder to the pier and pulled the boat off the sand and down the pier into deeper water. Then, with a single line around the ladder I went to start the outboard. It started first pull. It all looked good to go until I put it into gear when the motor died. Luckily I had taken the precaution of staying tied to the ladder. It was after 01.00 before I managed to get the motor going again. I let it run in gear for five minutes before taking the plunge and casting off. The wind was blowing strongly from the west and although it was only 100 yards across the harbour to my berth, if the motor died I would find myself crashing onto the rocks by the harbour entrance. I can honestly say it was the scariest voyage I have made, which just goes to show that it isn’t just storms and collisions that can cause us worry. It effectively meant the end of my season. I was offered the long term loan of the outboard, but after my trip across the harbour I decided to accept that my season was done. It was then time to decide what to do about it. There were some boats lifting out early in September so I joined them and was lifted ashore. The plan was to replace the prop shaft and propeller. With this in mind we went off to the propeller specialists in Buckie. I was given a estimate of about £800 for a propeller, shaft, coupling and machining, which wasn’t too bad. The problem was that I couldn’t get the shaft to turn ahead when the prop had sheared off. This could mean that I could pay for a new shaft and then find that the gearbox needed work. The Engine and gearbox were a Bukh 10hp. The unit was fitted when the boat was built in 1972. It is pre-glow plug and relies on an ether tube to aid cold starts and has a dynastart instead of an alternator and starter motor. Bukh inform me it has been obsolete since 1975! This has made it difficult to start on cold days. The gearbox is a hydraulic torque converter which is very sensitive to selector adjustment. I suspect the previous owner (14 years ago) had given up on the gearbox as he was using an outboard on the transom when I bought the boat from him. With very fine adjustments I discovered how to get it working but, realistically, engine and gearbox were on borrowed time. To replace engine, gearbox, shaft, prop, exhaust and ancilliaries would be about £8000.00. With the boat valued about £6000.00 this was a non-starter. The alternative is a saildrive outboard. I could get an 8hp Tohatsu sail drive four stroke outboard, with a five year warranty for £1700.00, so that is the plan. Over the next month everything was disconnected and, with the help of a timber lorry grab arm, the engine was removed. It only remains for the raw water inlets to be glassed over along with the end of the prop log. With the large three blade propeller removed light wind sailing should be faster and if stability is a bit tender after the removal of a quarter of a ton of engine, I have a good stock of sash weights that can be secured between the engine beds with a bit of concrete. I will let you know how it works out in these pages.
What we do