Enchanted lands and new sails

I’ve just returned from a memorable four day trip round the Markermeer (bottom half of the Ijsselmeer) with it being our Ascension weekend holiday Thursday till Sunday. We left the Westeinde lake around 6pm to make the first bridge in Aalsmeer at 7pm, which times well with the next large viaduct opening A9 at 8pm, across the Nieuwemeer to wait out the late night opening around 2am, passing through Amsterdam is quite an experience as it starts with some large road viaducts and a rail bridge which brings you into a lock, that particular night there was 30+ boats to pass through and into the lock and a fifteen minute window when the rail bridge could be open and it was the only opening, because half hour later the bridge was going to be closed for a couple of days for maintenance. We were none of us sure that we would all fit into the lock, so come the appointed time we were all jockeying for position as the light turned to green it was charge !!needn’t have worried we all made it into the lock was a close thing though!

Busy night in the Nieuwemeer lock.

There follows a long convoy through 13 smaller road bridges and then to finish another rail bridge, before emerging into the Houthaven ( wood harbour) where we tied up to sleep out the few remaining hours of the night.

Huge liner Disney Queen

Schellingwoude bridge

The Vigilant just before she went aground!

Following day it’s an hour motor along the huge Ij to the oranjesluis and another large viaduct bridge (schellingwoude), then out onto the bottom of the Markermeer, we tacked lazily in the light wind up to Volendam for the night.

New marina and holiday village

Old town harbour

Volendam is quite different from how I remembered it there is now a huge marina complex next to the older town, we felt a little small on the millionaires pier and we were given the only free box mooring which was 18 metres long.

Shouldn’t we be sharing this box?

Volendam has three sub cultures going on, firstly the new yuppie marina complex with holiday village, then walking down to the old harbour there is a horrendous touristy busy street packed with shops restaurants and drinking houses, we were glad we didn’t pull into the old harbour, a few meters from this road in the old village it was dead quiet as the tranquil village life was remarkably preserved and carry’s on with total disregard to the water front mayhem!! Despite being quite an enigma it is a delightful place to stop.

Aproaching Hoorn.

The next day brought yet another day of blue skies and sea, and a delightful breeze we sailed a little close hauled up to Hoorn.I often dream of getting further but on days like this it’s hard to beat the Netherlands, not only the delightful places to visit but the huge amount of interesting old and historic craft sailing in these waters, the harbour of Hoorn is just a lovely place to sit for a day or two watching everyone come and go.

Virtue right and Tom’s Mason yacht is left.

Who should stick his head out when we arrived in the harbour but the very recognisable Tom Cunliffe( famous yachting correspondent and writer) and complimented me on my humble craft!, my day was made!, we later had a chance to have a yarn with him and his wife and was delighted to show them my boat.

We met TC’s aproval, I think?

Following day we back tracked and leisurely sailed close hauled down to Edam, and entered the tiny entrance which only becomes visible when your within 100mtrs, no worries it wide enough when your inside, we had to moor outside another boat so I picked one that probably has a deceased owner, so was very quiet! Was a come down from the millionaires row in Volendam.

Edam entrance

Neighbours deceased.

Edam is quite delightful unbelievable picturesque the old town and surrounding countryside is breath-taking, and at just over 10 euros a night it’s one of the cheapest spots I know.

Tranquility itself, from the shore at Edam

The next day saw us in 30 degrees and a light SW sailing back down to Amsterdam, in slight dissatisfaction with our progress I hoisted my extra-large Genoa and had us suddenly tearing along at a phenomenal speed as the wind piped up to around 18knts, at that time we were surrounded by a number of modern plastic fin keelers who were wallowing around making rather underwhelming progress, there was a few open mouths as we took off careening around at  speed with our side decks nearly awash, cameras were shooting footage and photos from all sides as I momentarily stole the show, would you believe it!!

Halvemaen replica ship, reckon he needs bigger sails.

I have been sailing my Vertue now for four years and this year have renewed my 30-year-old mainsail, I was under the impression that I wasn’t really very competitive with the lighter modern craft, not so though.

The rig of the Vertue is particularly well thought out, the mainsail is very large and if it is well cut it puts the majority of the power into the rig, the modern yacht usually gains the majority of it’s power from these large roller foresails which are often hopelessly out of shape. The foresail on the Vertue is the less important of the two often it makes little difference whether you fly a working jib or the normal genoa, beauty of having the three foresails and the staysail is that you have a good sail combination for the right wind strength, inevitably whenever you put your light weather sail up it blows a hoolly!!Bloody hell!

The Vertue hull is pretty heavy displacement and you would think that that deep long keel was quite a drag compared with a modern fibreglass fin keeler, not so where the more bulbous round forms of the modern yacht being very wide and flat to the water have an enormous wetted surface area the Vertue is narrow and therefore very slippery, she points very high and stays high on the wind as a larger rounded hull slips often to leeward, and downwind she’ll  outrun most larger craft especially if you pull up a spinnaker, being significantly narrower.

It’s no wonder then really as Laurent Giles is widely believed to have based his Vertue design on the lines he’d taken of the particularly fast pilot cutter of the day Jolie Brise which is still to this day regarded as exceptionally fast.

The new generation of yachting seems to revolve around light weight floating lifestyle  apartments with considerable luxury and  often regrettable consequences in sailing  performance( not true off all) and despite the size none too comfortable in a seaway.The Vertue is very much the pocket cruiser in size, and three is a crowd believe me, but her abilities are still remarkable , I’m inclined to still agree with Humfrey Barton that the Vertue is amongst the finest of small seagoing craft available.









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Just add water.

Three weeks on the hard, considerable man hours I was ready to launch, and quite ready to be finally sailing again!

After painting the remaining contact points from the stand and the bottom of the keel with the boat suspended in the slings it was swiftly rotated round and lowered into the water. With great care we then craned in the mast with its new lines spreaders and shrouds, it took some time to sort the lines to the right side of the spreaders, thought I had set it up right, there is always a few lines that suddenly appear the wrong side of something!


Wow what a difference, and now the new mainsail, was a little concerned whether it would fit, I had ordered it having enlarged the size slightly as there was room on the boom and on the mast to take it, judged it just right and it pretty much spot on!

The sails have turned out to be a bit of a drama, I thought I’d got it all sorted back in December when I ordered them in the UK taking advantage of the low pound and tax-free import. The plan was to have the old style narrow cut panels in a cream cloth to complete the classic appearance, that was fine till I found they had added modern black camber lines across all the sails, was in the end easily sorted as I found they peeled off really easily and left no residue. The second problem having filled in the sizes on a comprehensive data sheet I was flabbergasted to find that the two foresails were nowhere near the sizes I had ordered in fact the staysail was 1.5 metre too long and considerably longer than the stay it was to be hoisted on, out of the six sides on two sails there wasn’t one side the correct length. The explanation was not very convincing from the sail maker, but they have agreed to make the sails I ordered and send them in another month.


Back to the main which after a provisional hoist sets nicely and look pretty good first impressions, just got to get used to the colour its somewhat more yellow than I anticipated, I did order cream, maybe they thought custard?

Well its mellow yellow from now on !!

Tack needs to be closer to the mast.

Following day there was a good breeze and it was delightful to have the first sail of the season, maybe I’m imagining it but there seems to be a little more power in the rig, boom is higher than I remembered , points better and tacks at 90 degrees, mission accomplished!! , now where that Schippers bitter!!

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Vertue haul out!

After three seasons it was really was due time to have Virtue craned out to inspect and repaint the hull, I was also very intrigued to see if I had any under the water issues, as I had bought the boat four years earlier and she was already freshly antifouled which was great but you never know what was covered up before and whether enough priming coats were used on bare metal spots.

Crane poised ready to attack! ( max lifting weight 4 tons! Virtue 4.25 tons oops, hope it’s ok?)

no problem, just can’t extend very far.

Anyhow my fears were completely unfounded and after some perhaps over enthusiastic pressure cleaning revealing a few areas where the paint wasn’t well adhered the revealed metal work seemed very solid and rust free, and quite well impregnated with a tarry linseed oil surface of a remarkably well-preserved boat. Considering it had had three seasons there was really no shells and very little weed growth, next haul out I’ll certainly let it go for  four years.

Topsides was quite a task, the top layer of paint was really old maybe 20 yrs and had become quite porous, it had been patched countless times due to the crumbling oil based original filler layer on the bare metal, so a large number of tiny areas needed special treatment and about three had rust to be treated and re filled and primed a number of times, this was where most of the work was preparing the topsides and then re painting the entire above water with first pre-cote then full gloss, luckily we’ve had a good run of sustained sunny dry days which has been ideal!, so two weeks and 35 hours hard  work she’s ready to be re-launched in the coming week.


Name re-applied with vinyl stickers

It still amazes me how many hours are sucked up in maintaining this boat, it is a labour of love never the less,  I have a great respect for the evolution of yacht design and practicality of a low maintenance modern yacht, but I can’t say that many of them capture the imagination and romance of classic yacht all ready to put to sea.

Mast all ready very smart with the new crosstrees new halyards and varnish!

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Hitters Proost website

Had an email this week from Thijs Hitters to inform me that there is now a website over the yacht builders Hitters Proost full of lots of details over the history of their yacht building etc and it has also revealed a few photos what is very likely to be  my boat being built, which I’m delighted about.

http://www.hitters-proost.nl   ( it’s all in Dutch, Google translate)

Lightly built angle steel frames, ready to be plated up.

Clad with the  3mm steel plating, followed by sand blasting and hot galvanizing.

My boat was built-in steel by them in 1954 no 61  for a Doctor Huizinga followed by a second in 1955 no 64 built for Mr de Jong, there is also a photo taken of de Jong on his way back for Lymington having one a race, brilliant !!


So Fong with de Jong at the helm in 1955

No 64 former So Fong

This boat has had a chequered history having been used for drugs smuggling under a slightly less honourable ownership, it is currently lying in Amsterdam, has not been rigged for sailing for some time.

There is also believed to be a third steel Vertue built by a different yard the whereabouts of this boat are unknown, anybody shed any light on that ?

Also read an article that spoke of an eccentric Dutch singlehander who regularly fell asleep sailing back from Norway, and ended up on a sandbank North of Holland, would love to know which of the three steel Vertues this was, may well have been the smuggler, anybody know about that ?

I stumbled recently upon a sales brochure from the 80’s Vertue II with a price list, makes interesting reading you could buy the hull and deck with keel for home finishing or the total finished boat was 37,995,00, or 24,495,00  pounds without the engine,  from Bossoms.

Also here is an interesting fairly recent article about Laurent Giles designs and his well-earned fame, from the Practical Boat Owner.



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27 hrs blood sweat and tears!

Meet my good friend Spruce stick.


Just finished my mast, three coats of primer + 6 coats of varnish sanding lightly between coats, must say it’s been quite a job and kept me busy in my weekends for about a month! Luckily Ive got a good place in an old glass house to do the varnishing, at 20 minutes from my house, probably used more petrol than varnish I guess, but more importantly it’s a stick to be proud of now and gleams a lovely honey hue, in its traditional varnish which somehow quite enhances the colour due to the golden colour layer upon layer, I’ve used Altura from Boero which I’ve been quite impressed with so far.


I’ve re fastened the fittings to the mast using Vaseline around the screws to seal that so that the moisture can’t get in, when handling my wet mast it was useful to lift it on the winches, but now the varnish is sorted I’ve removed the winches for re-greasing, which was well overdue!

As far as the other maintenance is concerned most of the small repairs etc. have been completed and hopefully I’ll be able to have the boat craned out for the hull repaint soon when there is space in a boatyard due to other boats being launched.

very grungy!


Good for the forseeable future.

Other jobs have made a pair of weather cloth for attaching either side of the cockpit in adverse weather, was amused to recently read Eric Hiscock’s account of his voyage in Wanderer III, he would only put his weather cloths on in rough weather, but in really tough conditions he would remove them for fear of them breaking his guard rails with the weight of waves hitting them, he would then heave too and retire below and have a good meal, shall do likewise.

Sewing a border having first stapled it together.

brown polycotton canvas.


Have also made a canvas cover for my forehatch, not because it leaks but just to give it a little extra protection, especially when rigging the boat it’s very easy to drop winch handles or shackle on it messing up my immaculate finish!

My new forehatch cover


I thought I’d break down what the mast had cost in time and money to re-varnish:

stripping and sanding 9hrs

Priming 3 hrs

6 coats + sanding 12 hrs

Replacing fittings 3hrs

Total  27 hours blood sweat and tears!

Primer € 17.00

Varnish 1.5ltr  €45.00

Petrol € 25.00

Sanding disks€ 24.80

320 grit sandpaper €4.95

Total €116.75

So for 27hrs work and € 116.75 I’ve got a great looking mast, just imagine what that would cost if I hadn’t got two right hands, certainly there would be no change from € 1000,00 at a yard in labour costs.

Now just have to renew the halyards at a cost of € 400, it never ceases to amaze me how the cost keeps mounting up, a point worth considering when choosing a boat as an aluminium mast does kind of simplify the maintenance issues, although most of the stuff I’m renewing won’t need much attention for a considerable number of years now.

Above the completed wooden spacer under the gantry, a great improvement.

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The trials of a wooden mast.

A wooden mast should be a thing of great beauty, mine was a rather matt mars bar brown, in fact you might think it could be mahogany, instead of the lovely spruce or pine.

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With a full overhaul of the rig and sails planned for this winter, I thought I’d better take the bull by the horns and get started stripping my chocolate-brown mast down too bare wood for re-varnishing in its naturel colour, was also a little apprehensive as to what was hidden or disguised by the brown varnish, needn’t have worried it was lovely!



First giving an ample coat of paint stripper to a two mtr section of the mast I enthusiastically scrapped the worst of the varnish of with a sharpened triangular scraper before turning on the sander with 80 grit to remove the last traces of residue, lovely close-grained timber spruce I think although could well be Oregon pine, extremely well-built and high quality  spar, amazingly after more than sixty years the joints are still completely solid and in most case barely visible, no idea what kind of glue they used in the fifties ?


had to remove the fittings .


there is a joint there still strong after 60 years!


Was quite a marathon preparing this mast for re-varnishing but at the end of the second day after  a second sanding with 120 grit and then a further sanding by hand   I was ready to get the first thinned coat of primer onto it.


These are the worst black marks !!


marks under the boom fittings.


It is quite important when working with bare wood to re seal it as soon as pos as it will otherwise absorb a lot of moisture from the air which will need to escape by cracking the new varnish treatment when the weather warms up.


Thats gona look good!

Applying the first sealing coat it turns very orange which will mellow to a lovely golden hues when the light gets to it.

I’m planning on coating it with Altura varnish from Boero, but first three coats of biowood, then poly wood, and then a few coats of Altura gloss varnish.


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Sails and Bilges


Interesting Dutch poster celebrating Dutch Anglo Treaty of 1814, new revised version to follow?

With the uncertainty over our trade relation with the UK I thought it a good time to get a nice set of  sails made in the UK before the terms may be changed, not to mention the low pound. Having been reasonably happy with the old set, as it was very difficult to judge the shape of them from below, did notice I wasn’t  pointing high enough on the wind, and on closer examination from photos I discovered that although my mainsail appeared nice and flat in the lower panels the depth of the round in the top half was huge and the leech hung a long way out of line  when the sail was fully in!!

img-20160727-wa0009The shadow on the sail demonstrates my point

Note the shadow on the sail, it should be a nice shallow aerofoil curve


V 35 with narrow panel sails

After receiving 6 quotes from diverse sail lofts in the UK and NL decided on a well-known sail loft in Poole UK, I have had several sets of sails from them for previous boats, and have always been happy with both the price and the quality and it’s  tax free!

dsc01895 classic-sailing

The build quality and materials of new sails is vastly superior to the older cotton versions, but one of the big differences is in appearance is  the width of the panels being much wider at around 24 inch, however for not much extra you can have your sails built up out of narrow panels and in cream cloth which having studied countless pictures on the internet really does look stunning, although its ‘debatable whether it is actually better or not, to my mind if you spread the form of the rounding over more seams you are decreasing the stress’s in the sail, although the expected stretch is only in the diagonal direction, if you look at the classic racing yachts many have opted for this combination, don’t think I’ll be racing at Cannes though!


Cannes Royal Regatta

Decisions made and ordered one mainsail and two foresails staysail and working jib ( Genoa will have to wait), sails should last me 20+ years, guess the old set was at least 30 yrs old, looking forward to seeing the finished sails and fitting them .


Freshly painted chain box, 37mtr of chain checked and marked every 10mtr with cable ties.


Some extra primer applied to the orignal paint wher the water had collected under the chain box.



fully painted in Grey Danbolin bilge paint

Further despite some quite low temperatures here have been working on the bilges painting, and interior doors have been scraped clean of sixty yrs build-up of old varnish, ready for some fresh stuff.



Tricky painting out the main bilge.


few coats of primer over some concrete in the bottom.


Time consuming stripping these interiors doors!!


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Amateur footage of a Vertue sailing

After a few software and format issues I have finally managed to join a number of average to poor video clips together and make a distinctly homemade and slightly amateur  video complete with the rather typical accompaniment, the type of music that gets into head and won’t leave for a week or so, you’ve been warned! Tis probably my best attempt till now, and yes I did actually trim out all the worst bits, but consider it a learning curve, from here on things may get better, anyway it should hopefully enthuse maybe a few prospective Vertue owners to take the plunge?


I made an extra perspex ring to cover my rust holes.


The extra ring will be painted with deck paint to match the rest.

Further I’m still fixing some very minor issues on the boat such as the  double spreaders which had been collapsing due to some rather dodgy repairs by a previous owner, where they should have been real strong on the mast bracket there were several blocks of wood glued into them and then disguised by painting the whole area white.



The old spreader is left taped together weher it broke!!


Four new spreader’s shaped up and coated with ipregnating epoxy.

Anyway they are kind of important  spreaders they kind of stop the whole rig from collapsing and falling overboard, prefer to have no wood joints in that area so have chosen to rough out some new ones in oak, shaped up with a slight curve on the top so the water runs off them.


The outward end re enforced with fibreglass cloth and epoxy.

The end grain  is always the Achilles heel of these thing and you often get water ingress where the bolt pass through them so as an extra protection have added a layer of fibreglass cloth and epoxy to seal the ends.






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More lingering rust !!


Time to tackle my boom gallows, I had my suspicions that the splits and warped blocks of wood on the bottom posts of the boom gallows were hiding some nasty rust as the slight seeping rust stains had indicated on the stern deck every winter, so it was a little apprehensively that I took a chisel and mallet to split off the base  hardwood pads to expose the real issue.

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Not surprisingly the rust was in quite an advanced stage, no holes though just severe pitting in places luckily have caught it in time, was another very awkward job grinding the rust out of all the surfaces before treating with owatrol oil.


Now busy re making the blocks from two halves this time maintaining the possibility of removing to access the metal underneath.

It’s nice to sort these minor issues as after more than sixty years of corrosion it is certainly overdue, hopefully they’l be then good for the coming sixty years!


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Oh no more rust!!

Now turned cold here in NL and glad to have the boat tidied up and covered for the Winter, time to check off a few jobs that aren’t too urgent but still require tending to.

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There’s a couple of ventilators and a Sampson post that seem to produce a small rust stains on the deck after every season, so guess  I better lift them and seal and re-bed them.


Now that’s not exactly what I expected!!


Does explain the rust stains on deck!!


Shock horror the front bronze ventilator did sit a little high on one side, now I see why there’s a 3mm cake of rust under it, the stainless bollard is not much better, but the aft ventilator mushroom was the worst having removed it a lump of deck fell out revealing a very moth-eaten hole with thick encrusted rust all round it.


That is awful rust!!!



This black rust has to be completely ground out to get to good metal to re prime and paint, I used grinder a dremel and pneumatic de scalar to remove it , horrible job doing the aft deck with your head through the aft locker and the grinder directly above it, makes a huge mess with rust dust getting everywhere!

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