The Eventider's News
Issue Four, Spring/Summer 2005
Log of Molly Jade
Molly Jade – The story so far
The story of Molly Jade starts on the 18th of October 2003 as far a we are concerned. On that day I was traversing the spiky crest of Blabheinn, an outlying mountain to the main range of the Cuillin hills of Skye, with my pal Andy.
Andy has been a sailor for years though our association has been through our mutual love of climbing mountains. We first met in a campsite in Switzerland and then hours later we embarked on a terrifying climb up a very loose north face, though that is all in a different world and not relevant just now.
As we traversed the ridge that day we were discussing our other mutual love, boats. I have had boats for years, though until now not of the sailing variety, Andy has been trying to convince me for years to embrace sail, and during that traverse of Blabheinn the seed finally began to germinate. One thing we discussed that day was hull material, Andy said steel was the material for him.
The story jumps forward almost a year now, we had done the house and had a bit of spare cash earmarked for paying off the credit card. As we drove past the boatyard at Strollamus, Briony said "sod the credit card, why don’t we get a boat instead".
A long silence ensued (about 3 days I think), during which I popped into the yard and did some research, juggled some figures, and had a think.
"OK, I said, lets get a boat"
During a trip to Calley Marina in Inverness one day we were looking at a few boats and in the process of scrambling down off one of them I accidentally kicked the scruffy and neglected hull of the boat next door. It rang, it was steel, Andy's words of the year before came back to me.
And so we found Molly Jade, named Altair at the time. We negotiated a price (£6000) and had a survey done, and then she was ours. We then had to get her home. The previous owner assured us she was seaworthy, the surveyor was not so sure. Andy and Kerry (his partner) were the only sailing folk we knew and they were somewhere between Australia and Thailand sailing their boat home (from Australia), so we decided to go with the surveyors advice and bring her to Skye by road.
The lorry arrived to pick her up only two days late, which by Skye standards is almost excessively punctual (Here we tell the time by the calendar), having picked the boat up he drove off through Inverness and his gearbox went into self destruct mode, gridlocking the Highland Capital – oops. She finally arrived in the yard at Strollamus a mere 3 days behind schedule.
That is our history of how we came to aquire the boat. The history of the Molly Jade, formerly Altair is an unknown, she is a 26’ Eventide, built in Kesteloo's yard in Holland in 1965, and that is all I know about her.
When we acquired Molly Jade she had been sat for a year ashore in Inverness. The coach roof and cabin sides were a mixture of quickly applied primer and peeling paint, there was evidence that water had made its way into the cabin through the ply of the coach roof. The decks were peeling and scruffy with a few patches of heavy rust. The cockpit was all peeling paint over damp ply. All the external woodwork was grey and ‘hairy’. The painted parts of the hull were not too bad, just a few minor rust patches, the hull below the waterline had lots of loose antifouling and large areas of rust on the keel.
Inside the cabin woodwork was in good order where varnished, but peeling and damp over the ply. The worst problem was the inside of the hull, poor paintwork over damp steel had let rust get a hold.
On the plus side the engine looked in good order and had been properly mothballed, the mast and rigging were all pretty new and the sails looked ok.
I decided to tackle the inside of the hull first and with a needle gun "borrowed" from my work set about cleaning all the old paint and rust back to bare steel, starting in the forepeak I began making lots of noise and getting frustrated as the compressor only allowed me 2 minutes out of every 5 actual needle-gunning. Half way through day one, just as I was nearly finished the forepeak, I was brushing away the debris while I waited on the compressor to recharge and a particularly stubborn flake of paint refused to be brushed away. Then I realised that it was a very bright flake, then realised it was a hole!! A sold tap with a chipping hammer proved it, I now had a big hole! Over the next few days I finished the needle-gunning and made two more holes in the hull.
Fortunately I work on a drilling rig in the north sea and so am quite used to rusty holey steel, I also have access to some damn good welders one of whom served his time building ships in Aberdeen and who was also involved in building a steel hulled yacht many years ago. Oh, and I can weld!
Armed with lots of advice and access to the ultra modern MIG machine at the boatyard I cut the paper thin steel away from the forepeak until I was back to good plate, cut a patch and tacked it in. The MIG welder was a nightmare and I could not produce a satisfactory weld, in the end I resorted to my trusty old oil cooled shipyard ‘portable’ stick welding machine. Portable meaning that two men can just about lift it with only minor medical attention required afterwards! The welds were now perfect, looks like 40 year old boats need 60 year old welders to fix them.
The hull now sound we turned our attention to the rest of the boat. I had erected a tent over her and after a few months the ply of the cabin had dried sufficiently to begin work. We decided that the priority for this year was to get her in the water, so rather than doing a perfect job it was a patch and repair, then we could sort the rest over the following couple of winters.
Briony got out the heat gun and attacked the cabin, I attacked the deck, external cabin and cockpit. After months of stripping and sanding we had stripped and inspected the whole boat, inside and out. We then painted and varnished her and on a beautiful sunny evening in march the tent came down and for the first time we were able to stand back and actually see the whole boat.
All that left was electrics and engine. I checked out the wiring and replaced/re-wired about 50% of it and fitted new batteries. The engine was treated to an oil change, new filters and pump impeller and the tappets checked. It started instantly when tested.
We launched Molly Jade on the 1st of April, must be something in that! The day before had been glorious, not a cloud in the sky and light winds. The launch day it poured with rain and a gusty west wind threatened to cancel our plans, it was also bloody cold! We did however get her in the water without incident and there were no leaks from the patches in the hull!
We took her for a wee motor up Kyle Scalpay (the sails were still away getting checked at this point) and then tied her to the mooring for the first time.
I must admit to feeling a great relief that working five days a week on the boat for the whole winter was at an end, we could now start to enjoy our new boat.
Learning to sail
The sails had in fact turned up on the day of the launch, while we were out. We bent them on the next day and on the third we went out for our first sail.
As I have mentioned before we are novices, lots of folk have given good advice and tips, but all of a sudden we were faced with lots of ropes and pulleys and big flappy things up sticks.
We left the mooring for the first time and motored with a gentle south breeze on our port beam, then moment of truth time, we rolled out the foresail and when the boat had obviously not ground to a halt we switched off the engine and were under sail power for the first time!! It felt great, a mix of apprehension, delight, achievement, pride, and after a while peace.
As we came out of Kyle Scalpay and the shelter of the hills the breeze stiffened as it gathered momentum down Loch Ainort and all of a sudden we were trundling along at almost 5 knots, we continued on around the Island of Scalpay and decided that a circumnavigation of it would make a nice first day. After about six miles the wind was shifting around until we were on a close reach and also it had strengthened to around force 4, Molly jade started to heel and was very heavy on the helm (we still only had the foresail up). We chickened out, rolled up the sail and motored on in worsening weather until we arrived back home. We were well satisfied with our first day.
Then ‘till now
We are now in the process of ascending a steep learning curve, continuing to learn and gaining in confidence and having a great time.
We did our first man overboard drill when Boo, my Springer Spaniel launched himself over the side as we were sailing along at 5 knots a mile off the island of Rassay.
Molly (my daughter after whom we renamed the boat) and I had an exciting reach across The Inner Sound in a force 5 with some quite lumpy seas, we then sailed on to Kyle Rae and down the sound of Sleat (under engine power) straight into the same wind to Isle Ornsay. The next day we continued to Armadale and then a lovely sail back home to Strollamus the following day, during which we drifted in a flat calm for half an hour while a 20’ basking shark swam around us feeding.
Briony and I have not long returned from a trip to Applecross, some exciting sailing (for us) down the sound of Rassay with a 10’ following sea (at least the big ones were!).
We are now eagerly awaiting the return of our friends Andy and Kerry, who got us into this in the first place, they are still bringing their boat back from Australia, last known location, the canals of France. When they get back they can teach us to sail!!!