Rescue at Sea!

The Devon and Dorset coastline, east of Brixham, is pretty undiscovered for us. We’ve spent countless weekends around Dartmouth, Torbay and if time permits we usually head west towards Cornwall. Craig and I had a week off and planned to sail to Weymouth where we would meet up with his parents and travel together to the Southampton Boat Show to try and pick up some bargains. We had a few days to get to Weymouth so decided to coast hop, stopping in Teignmouth, Exmouth and finally Beer.

Leaving Beer, we motor-sailed across Lyme Bay to ensure we got to Portland Bill at the right time for the tide. We had got this wrong on a previous trip where we were ambushed by the Portland Race. It was scary experience, exhilarating and probably worth a post of its own. For the non-sailors out there, the race is an area of water off of Portland Bill (a headland) that can get particularly rough at certain times of the day due to the effect of the tide.  Fortunately though, we were well prepared! Everything was stowed down below, we had our lifejackets and safety harnesses securely fastened, we’d made sure the stove was secure, as this detached itself from its mounting point on our last rounding of the bill!. Finally, we’d had a good lunch, a stubby beer and a final cigarette… after all it could well be our last.

Our second rounding of Portland Bill was a bit of an anticlimax after all of that preparation, it was flat calm and passed by uneventfully. However, the sea gods are fickle in nature and as we were praising our own planning brilliance, we began to realise that we weren’t actually making any forward progress in relation to the land that we were following. For the next couple of hours, we faced a far stronger tide than I had predicted, only travelled about half a mile despite a boat speed of 5-6 knots. Cue boredom.

We were having a beer when the radio started buzzing and we picked up a distress call from a yacht that had a engine failure, they were concerned about drifting into the now heaving Portland Race, and were requesting immediate assistance. We responded frantically, taking down the vessels position and working out our distance to it, only 2 miles! At this point it seemed that we must be the nearest people to the stricken yacht and that we helped by towing them into Weymouth then we would save the lifeboat a job. Now I’ll level with you here, we then proceeded to have a pretty lengthy conversation about whether we might receive a Pride of Britain award for our endeavors. I could picture us, up on the stage, embracing a grinning Carol Vorderman (Craig a little more vigorously than I) and graciously accepting our award.

Deciding that we were pretty much guaranteed an accolade, we radioed up Solent Coastguard and offered our assistance. They were happy to accept our offer and they asked us for an ETA to the yacht in distress, which by now had secured itself in position with its anchor. A quick speed, distance, time calculation that factored tide told both us and the other yacht that despite the past five minutes of exciting chatter on the VHF, we were all in for a couple more hours of tedious waiting. So the decision was taken to crack another Guinness and begin working on our Pride of Britain acceptance speech. Time dragged on and we occasionally kept in contact with the other boat, assuring them that although it had been an hour and a half, we were still on the way. Acceptance speech finished, we spent some time coming up with theories about what could have happened to the other boats engine and at some point one of us suggested that they had probably ran out of fuel. We laughed at this, the notion that somebody would be stupid enough to have run out of fuel, when it dawned on us that after the past few hours on the engine we may have a slight problem.

Pulling open the port locker we found our fuel gauge bouncing perilously on ’empty’. This provided us with another few minutes of desperate excitement as we both swayed around on deck, trying to coax the flow of diesel from our jerry can in the general direction of the fill pipe, with mixed results.

Refueled and with the tide slackening, we made good progress and were soon alongside the other boat,  a 30-odd foot Halberg Rassey with two people aboard and a little dog. After a brief shouted conversation (no idea why we didn’t use the VHF) we had agreed how we wanted to handle the tow and we put out a number of fenders and tied up alongside them. We only had a couple of miles to Weymouth and we had decided that a side by side tow was going to be our best bet.

Towing into Weymouth

Helming whilst having another boat attached to ours was an experience. You turn the wheel the the left, and watch as your bow heaves away from the others. The line securing the bows goes taut, resulting in your bow violently bouncing back towards the other boat, simultaneously causing the sterns to jar away from each other. This cycle repeats itself until you completed your turn. The lines connecting us took a real battering… fortunately though, they weren’t ours.

If keeping a course was difficult in the open sea, it was nothing compared to parking our makeshift catamaran. This was effectively a parallel park maneuver whilst being stood 10-15 feet away from the curb and having next to know steering control. With the help of the harbourmaster and the nervous direction of Gareth who owned the Halberg Rassey, we got alongside with the lightest touch against the dock and minimal fuss.

Tied up in Weymouth Harbour

We’d got to know Gareth and his partner Jen a little on our slow motor in to Weymouth. Soon discovering they operated a ‘dry boat’ policy (imagine that!) but they keenly made an exception and had a few drinks on the journey. When we got to Weymouth they insisted on taking us to the nearest pub and it turned out this guy really could put them away. Most likely, the dry boat policy was in place to save him from his own drinking abilities.

Team photo

After being drunk under the table, we returned to Joint Venture and our holiday carried on without any further incident.

We are still waiting for the people from Pride of Britain to get in touch.

Winter Maintenance 2016/17

After a packed summer of sailing, we had developed an extensive snag list to be worked on during Joint Venture’s time ashore. From November 2016 to March 2017 we spent every other weekend working on the boat and the result at the end is that Joint Venture feels like a different boat.

Some of the big, meaty, expensive items had been replaced by the previous owners; the fact that the engine, the sails, the anchor windlass etc. were new, was a real attraction when buying her. However, it seems like the great expense of these items had drained the enthusiasm from those owners and lots of the running maintenance had fallen by the wayside. Some of these things included;

– The bilge pump worked… occasionally.

– There was a big hole in the anchor locker, meaning that water was running through into the fore cabin.

– The fresh water in the boat was not working as it should, our tea tasted like oil!

– The heating system didn’t work.

And generally the boat was really dirty and needed a deep clean.

In this entry, we’ll take you through all of the elements we worked on over the four months that Joint Venture was out of the water in Dartmouth, Devon. You’ll see some of the results that we achieved and we’ll share what we learnt.

Josh’s dad joined the boat for the sail round from Brixham to Dartmouth. Despite the rain we had a good sail and it was great to finally get him on board, the old sea dog who sparked the interest in sailing nearly fifteen years ago. Although we had plenty of wind, the boat just didn’t want to pick up any speed – a combination of a weed encased hull and a baggy rigging.


Our first job once the boat was secure was to remove everything. All of our wet weather gear and the soft furnishings were damp, this was perfect chance to wash them and leave them somewhere warm and dry. Fortunately, Josh has a spare room in Brixham which
quickly became the winter store.IMG_3622

As the weather was so wet and windy throughout November and December, we decided to focus on the tasks that we had to complete on the inside of the boat. First up was to service the engine. This is a 2015 Beta 20 and given it is virtually  new, we really wanted to give it some love and attention… we really don’t fancy paying out for a replacement! Given that Craig is godlike when it comes to all things ‘engines’, we were happy to save some money and do the work ourselves. It’s worth noting here that we thought to double check if the Beta’s warranty would be invalidated by us working on the engine ourselves, it wasn’t so we cracked on. A couple of hours later we had the engine fully winterised and serviced. This included:

– Engine oil change.

– Air filter replaced.

– Fuel filter replaced.

– Fuel/water separator replaced.

– Coolant check.

– Sea water pump impeller check (replacement not required.)

– Belt relaxed for winter.

– Raw water inlet pipe removed, drained and left off for winter.

– Anode replaced.

We then set about working on our fresh water, heating and the gaping hole in the anchor locker.

The heating and anchor locker were both a relatively easy fix. The heating onboard is fuelled from the same gas bottle which fuels the stove. The systems was actually working fine and we found the the pipe that carries the hot air had just been severed in the engine bay. So the heating was working fine, it was just warming the engine! We were able to add a new piece of pipe and the boat was toasty in no time. The hole in the anchor locker was actually a problem that we had found in the first few weeks of owning the boat and had been revealed when we decided to take all of the chain out of the locker… just to see how much there was. We had patched over it at the time with a fibre glass repair kit and some wood, adding a plug hole into the center of the locker. Basically, water exits the anchor locker through a pipe and ends up in the bilge, ready to be pumped out. Whilst she was out the water, we took the opportunity to reinforce the patch-up job we had done with some more fibreglass and we’d now put money on the anchor locker being the toughest part of the boat now. If we ever have a big crash, all that will be found of Joint Venture is a super thick anchor locker.

The fresh water system was a slightly tougher proposition. It hadn’t worked right since we had bought the boat… it would be ok for a short time and then our tea would taste like oil. By the time Joint Venture was craned out of the water, we had resorted to buying bottled water and refilling them when we could, so empty water bottles were scattered throughout the boat and had become an irritation.

The way fresh water works on Joint Venture is not complex. A pipe runs from the water fill point, to a flexible water tank located in the bilge under the saloon floor and the water is then lifted to the taps by a manual pump. In the end we decided to take everything out, new pipes, new tank, and start from scratch. The biggest challenge was the fill pipe that ran through the engine bay, it was fun and games getting that out and then even harder installing the replacement. Especially for Craig, he grew used to squeezing into the port side locker and spending time in there seems to bring him great comfort. If he ever goes missing, he can always be found hiding out in there.


Replacing the entire system turned out to be the right solution, as the old fill pipe had been installed next to the prop shaft… this had worn away at the pipe, hence the oily taste. Further to that, the pipework was filthy inside and really shouldn’t have come into contact with drinking water!

Once the work inside the boat had been completed and the interior given a thorough cleaning, we moved outside.

We used International UNO paint, it went on well and it only needs one coat. We felt one coat was beneficial because the hull had clearly had many seasons of anti-foul without being completely stripped back. So this is our job next year!

The darker anti-foul looked much better than the lighter blue that was previously used but the real difference came when we painted the white plimsoll line. As you can see from the ‘before’ picture, this was a wobbly, grubby line. We managed to get the line nice and straight and painted it in a clean glossy white. We hadn’t realised the difference until we compared these pictures!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once the hull painting was finished, we set about cleaning and polishing the deck and the hull. Probably the most satisfying part of the process was jet washing all of the teak around the boat. This wood was holding dirt from the 80’s! We’ve included a picture below that shows the incredible difference that this made… it’s x-rated jet wash porn. After a few months of being ashore, we found that the winches were not moving too smooth anymore (lesson learnt – cover them!). So we took them apart to find the grease had mixed with salt to form a sticky paste. A clean up with some diesel and applying some new winch grease had them turning perfectly in no time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To finish off the winter maintenance, we had riggers aboard to re-tune the rig and electricians in to replace the battery charger which had given up during the time ashore. Finally, we replaced our manual bilge pump with a Gusher Titan. According to our online research, the Gusher Titan is superior because it is an all plastic unit, not affected by corrosion or expansion. So far, it is working like a dream.

All in all it was a successful time ashore, Joint Venture is in great condition and the first sail of the new season had us hit a high of 8.6 knots!

We are now looking forward to seeing what the 2017/18 season has in store for us.

Thanks for reading,

Josh and Craig

Intro to our Blog

Welcome to our blog! All about our boat, ‘Joint Venture’.

We’ve decided to start writing this blog because after one year of boat ownership we have already done so much that it is difficult to keep track of all the adventures, near misses and ongoing maintenance of the boat. Part of the reason for writing this is for personal recollection but also because Joint Venture came with a fantastic catalogue of documents that charted her entire history right from her first launch, past race results and manuals for every bit of kit on board. Like all of the previous owners, we wanted to continue documenting the history. Read more