Le mistral est arrivée

No sailing today.

Overnight the skies cleared, the temperature dropped and the wind started to blow down from the mountains.

A clear and crisp beautiful day unfolded with 30 knot winds from the North and the full power of the mistral arriving by lunch time; A dry and freezing mountain wind, howling down though the valleys and accelerating towards La grand motte to keep sailors in the harbour.

No great drama for me as my keel repair is not quite finished. I am suffering from the cold temperatures and my final coat of hi-build primer, to fill in the small cracks and holes and ready the bulb for antifouling, is struggling to dry in the low temperature.

The rest of the sailors also found plenty to do an enforced day off the water is never a wasted one, as most of us have a massive drive to sail ALL the time, yet boats need love and time spent repairing, preparing, optimising and just as valuable as training on the water.

I saw our team chiropractor last night and was signed off from any heavy exercise for a little while as my neck is still very sore from a bicycle accident I in the new year. I am now only allowed to run, but I cannot complain about this. My route is up a completely empty, endless sandy beach, watching either sunrise or sunset and normally sharing my space with no one.

Below are a few snapshots of the days activities – what sailors do when they cannot sail.

It’s not all sailing in the sunshine


I was all set to launch my boat, it was a perfect day to calibrate my new pilots, sunshine, flat water; I had a rib lined up to tow me around, the slings on the boat, and then I looked down.

The fibre glass sheath over the bulb on my keel was cracked in several places and peeling away from the bulb.

Disappointment did not set in; I was looking forward to sailing so much that the logical part of my brain turned off and I was fully prepared to put the boat in the water, go sailing and deal with it later.

Several people passed, and of course passed comment. Eventually I had Franck come and look at the problem and tell me in no uncertain terms that it was not an option to sail; I must fix the problem and do it properly; no quick bodge- then it was time to sulk.

I have found with boats and single handed sailing there can be a lot to sulk about. Plans seldom turn out the way you had planned and problems arise when you do not expect them. Sulking though indulging the inner child, does not really move you any further down the line, and in warmer climates can lead to extreme sunburn on your lower lip.  So after a quick pout and stomp around I set to preparing the keel for a repair.

It appeared that the lead of the bulb had not been properly prepared and primed when the boat was first made and so the fibre glass jacket to make the bulb fare had not stuck in several places.

With the cold weather over Christmas and possible temperature differences between the lead and the fibreglass the sheath had cracked and I had a problem.keel preparation

The first thing to do was to remove all of the fibreglass that was not well stuck to the bulb. First I tapped all around the bulb with a hammer, listening to the metal clunk where it was stuck and a hollow crack where it was not.

Then out with the angle grinder; removal of the old sheath and a gentle chamfering of the edges to allow the repair to bond to the remaining sheath around the sides.

An angle grinder in the hands of anyone can be a dangerous weapon but particularly so with an impatient blonde trying to go sailing. I had to take great care to concentrate so as not to dig big holes out of my keel or out of my legs.

Following this the very messy job of priming then laminating over the bare patch with bi-axial fibre and epoxi. I have nothing but respect for boat builders who manage to do this and keep themselves and their environment clean and unsticky.

I have a knack for spreading epoxi everywhere, in my hair, on my van, over my trailer and some on the repair. I have condemned yet another pair of trousers to the ‘work clothes’ draw.

Meanwhile the boatyard suffered as the music wars developed between me and Giacomo Sabbitini, another mini sailor who was working behind me and trying to drown out my little stereo with his Italian rock which he was singing along to at the top of his voice. I am afraid to say he was a clear winner and Europop is alive and kicking the backside of ‘The Kings of Leon’ in a boatyard in France.

Now I am waiting. I have a heater on the repair, it is 3.30 in the afternoon and I have a long and exciting night of sanding and filling and sanding and filling and sanding and filling………………………..

blonde with angle grinderhi tech tent

New Toys!

I have managed to survive 4 days now of intensive physical training and slowly my poor body is getting the message, the aches and pains are disappearing and little muscles are starting to emerge again from their Christmas coverings.

My main focus for the past couple of days has been the installation of my new Raymarine autopilots and instruments.

Thanks, thanks and thanks again Raymarine!!

Sarah Brooke

I have upgraded all of the equipment on the boat and now have two complete stand alone pilot systems, running the GP tiller rams, one installed on each side of the boat.

My pilots are the SX5 model, which uses a gyro as well as the fluxgate compass. This is really essential for a boat as small and twitchy as the mini, as any sudden movements from the boat will affect the heading from the fluxgate compass, which can make the autopilot correct the course unnecessarily.

When the boat is moving a lot, rolling on waves or slamming, the pilot uses the fluxgate compass to give a long term overall good course and the gyro senses the small fast movements from the boat itself and corrects only where necessary, making for a much smoother ride.

The other significant improvement is the addition of a rudder reference unit which I have fitted to a tang, on my starboard rudder that comes in through the hull.

The rudder reference unit will complete the feedback loop for my pilot so it will be able to learn how rudder to use to make effective corrections to course.

The rudder reference unit has been giving me a hard time. It is the final item to install and positioning of it is critical. At the moment I have made a bracket out of plywood, just to get the pilots up and running and find the best position in the boat – later I will laminate a more professional looking version.working in a small hole

Last night I gave up on the installation – I was rammed into a tiny space at the back of my boat, in the dark, with a head torch on, not much room to move my arms and an array of screws, tape measures, drills and screw drivers around me, which kept falling into tiny spaces I could not reach them or moving of their own accord out of my reach.

After banging my head a couple of times and getting cramp in my neck I went home in a strop. Today however, I have returned with a don’t mess with me attitude………I am going to show that unit who is boss………just got to have a coffee first.

work in progressnew instruments in place

Back in the saddle………… and ooh it hurts

_DSC2187It is my third day back at CEM and training is full on in the wonderful (though apparently unseasonable) Mediterranean sunshine.


My latest purchase for the mini campaign, before leaving the UK was a fine green Mercedes Vito van – and already I have started to fit it out with a table and a bed, ready to move in and become a fully fledged mad vagrant mini sailor.


The first test for this amazing machine – named ‘The Shed for the Shed’s’ – was a mere 1000 km drive  across France.


Little did I know that driving across France would also be good training for my year of solo sailing ahead, but after 400km I was suffering from a serious case of nodding donkey, so I pulled over, put my head on the steering wheel, had a quick nap for 6 tracks on the CD, then was ready to complete the rest of the journey, fresh as a daisy!weight training


Arriving back in La Grande Motte felt like coming home, the communal kitchen at our accommodation was full of French, English, Italians; mini sailors and Figarists all talking over the top of each other, cooking, eating, gesticulating frantically – making a complete mess, and very impressed with my camionette.


The following morning we were at the gym at 8am for a 2 hrs session of circuit training; a big shock to the system after becoming accustomed to the Christmas and new year way of life.


Most of the training this week will be theory based, and we plan to do some match racing to work on our boat on boat skills, but I have a major mission on to install my new electronics, supplied by Raymarine, whom I am now lucky enough to be an ambassador for.


My whole body is aching, my head is stuffed full and struggling to find the easily forgotten  French vocab I learned before Christmas; my boat is a mess of wires and equipment.


The sun is shining – je suis tres contente!

mini sailors at workGiacomo in the gym