September 28, 2015

News Flash

Click the following link to see the new video of the Catri 25 hydrofoiling trimaran sailing on the sea.

Learn more about the TS515 Training Scull at Yes you can still buy on-line. But like I said, most people prefer to chat with me and send money directly from their bank to mine.

Watch some taster videos at and then enrol in Sculling Academy or at the very least buy my book, How to Win - The Sports Competitor's Guide to Success by clicking this 1st link for the Kindle Version and this 2nd link for the paperback.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2015

Catri 25 in the sea

Here is the new owner, Matthias, of the new Catri 25 hydrofoiling trimaran going for his first sail in the sea.

It was very windy 20-23kn gusting up to 30kn, and he was reluctant to go to sea at all. So wisely he reefed the main right down. You cannot be too careful sailing in a new boat with which you are unfamiliar. Gradually, with experience, your confidence grows and you learn what your boat can do.

Although the wind was strong the waves were not high because the wind was coming off the land so there was not much fetch. Ideal conditions for sailing fast in a multihull.

But understandably erring on the cautious side, the boat only made 15kn this day. But better safe than sorry. More videos will follow.

Oh, and the boat is available for a test sail if you want one. Get yourself out to Latvia and give it a try before it gets too cold!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2014

Interview (part 5) with Aldis Eglajs

This is not the final episode. There is more! People, like you, interested in buying the new Catri 25 had posed many questions in response to my video request and survey.

So follow this link to the video interview of Aldis Eglajs, designer of the new foiling Catri 25 trimaran.

In the interview I came across a good question seeking comparison with the French Hydroptère. I expand upon Aldis's answer in the description under the video on YouTube.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2014

Interview (part 4) with Aldis Eglajs

Here Aldis Eglajs shares more insight about the new Catri 25 foiling trimaran.

In this, part 4 of the interview, Aldis addresses topics such as:

  • suitability for single handing

  • getting the boat ready for sailing single handed

  • key safety features

  • mast stability during folding

  • the ease with which the foils may be raised or lowered

  • and the profile of the new foils.

All interesting, cutting edge stuff, especially if you are a man!

In my experience most women will be more thrilled by the outstanding stability of this sexy looking new boat from Latvia.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2014

Interview (part 3) with Aldis Eglajs

Another part of the new Catri 25 trimaran puzzle. In this part of my interview with Aldis Eglajs he answers these questions and more.

What speed does she foil at?
What wave conditions can she cope with?
Can the boat be beached?

Watch this interview with Aldis Eglajs here.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2014

Interview (part 2) with designer of Catri 25

Here is the second part of my interview of the famous, Latvian, multihull designer, Aldis Eglajs, made during my recent visit to see the new Catri 25 and test sail it.

In this interview Aldis explains how the special shape of the amas (floats, outriggers) acts together with the specially shaped foils to stabilize the boat by eliminating pitching so that air flow around the main sail is kept constant.

Aldis Eglajs also touches upon fluttering. We know that in the early years he had to solve the problem of exploding rudders at high speed. The solution is ingenious but secret!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2014

Interview (part 1) with designer of Catri 25

Here is the video interview (Part 1) that I conducted with the famous architect and desinger Aldis Eglajs whilst in Latvia to test the new Catri 25 foiling trimaran, "Designed to Fly".

Sorry about the sound and video quality but we were pressed for time so had to do this on the fly.

Thanks to Julie for holding the camera!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2014

Test sailing CATRI 25 trimaran

If you want a demonstration of this amazing new boat than please contact me on +44 (0)7985 043 981.

If you know anything about sailing trimarans you'll know that you need a smooth flow of air around the sails to go fast. So you need a stable, steady boat. If the boat pitches then the top of the sails will never be set properly. As the boat picthes forward the topsails will be moving fast and as the boat pitches backward the topsails will be moving slowly through the wind. So the sails will never be set correctly.

When Aldis Eglajs set out to design fast but safe boats he fully understood that stability was an essential prerequisite for high speed sailing and so this is what he has created. The wave piercing hulls cut evenly through the waves without altering their attitude and without slowing the boat down.

The leeward outrigger never loses contact with the water and thus it is constantly monitoring and adjusting the trim. This is a major difference between the CATRI concept and the scary, hydrofoiling boats such as Hydroptere and the Americas Cup boats, which are designed to sail clear of the waves and are thus very susceptible to pitchpole. I've seen video of people being swept overboard from an AC72 when the leeward hull dug in and worse things have happened. A British sailor was killed! You would not be able to sail such a boat from San Fransisco to Honolulu.

But the CATRI is designed for safe cruising as well as for high speed racing. Stability, safety and speed go hand in hand.

So check out the video above from my latest trip to Latvia to see this new creation of Aldis Eglajs, the world authority on foiling trimarans.

You'll notice how easy it is to cant the mast. I was flabbergasted by how easy this was. You do it just before the tack so that the wind helps you. The advantage, of course, is that instead of spilling wind when the boat is slightly heeled, the sails may be kept upright and thus they are more effective.

Watch out for the self tacking bowsprit, that is adjustable so that you can optimise the flow of air around the other two sails.

Notice the step in the hull above the waterline. You might wonder what this is for when you see the boat on such flat water as on Lake Burtnieks but when the waves are bigger this step helps to keep the boat in foiling mode and also deflects spray downwards.

Check out the Bruce foils at the front of the amas. They have a different profile from those on the Catri 24, TARDIS, that I sailed back to England from Latvia in 2005. And there is a curved extension to these foils that very effectively reduces both leeway and pitching.

The pair of foilets at the aft end of each ama are adjustable in two dimensions on this boat so that the angle of attack can be optimised and the drag from the flow of water over them minimised.

You cannot see the major foil on the rudder, which is under the water the whole time but you can see its effect if you watch carefully. The engine mounting is the clue. It would have been raised if it had an engine on it of course.

When I saw that there was no engine I immediately realised that we were going to have to pick up our mooring under sail, something I have never attempted. But the designer, Aldis Eglajs was skippering so I thought that I would be able to learn from a master of sailing. He has been sailing for over 60 years after all. But no. As the end of our expedition approached Aldis handed me the tiller and said that I could get us alongside the dinghy that was on the mooring!

The dinghy was secured by its stern but fortunately Edgars told me this or I would have been turning downwind to bring this valuable prototype (the only one of its kind in the world) to a standstill instead of turning upwind. I realised that my reputation as a sailor was on the line!

It turned out alright and I was praised for perfect parking, thank goodness.

So check out the video and get in touch directly if you wish to have a demonstration yourself. Call me on +44 (0) 7985 043 981.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2014

CATRI 25 nearing completion

Following a very long gestation period, the prototype CATRI 25 is almost ready for launch, which means that you should be preparing yourself to buy.

If you are not on my database you will not be informed when it will be possible to have a trial. And the first to come will be the first to order. And the first to order will be the first to take delivery!

How many people do you know who own a 100% hydrofoiling trimaran?

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2014

Video of CATRI sailing from Latvia to England

When I first made this video to show on a DVD at the Southampton Boat Show it was impossible for me to upload it to YouTube. It was too long.

But now it is possible so I'm delighted that I am able to show this to you in time for the launch of the new CATRI 25 which is imminent. More on this later.


At the moment you can reserve you place in the queue for a CATRI 25 here.

However, as the launch date is imminent this facility will be withdrawn soon and only full 30% deposits will be taken.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2013


Slow progress with the prototype but the emphasis is on the production of a quality product.

Now you can see the hatch giving access to the companionway and also the portholes have been cut. This boat is much more shapely and sexy than was the CATRI 24 trimaran that somebody once described to me as looking like half a dustbin had been plonked on top. The new boat is MUCH prettier.

Have you ordered yours yet? No? Do it NOW!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2013


Recent picture of the principle hull of the new CATRI 25 trimaran. You can clearly see the step above the waterline designed to keep the boat in foiling mode when sailing in a seaway.

Next operation is to cut the portholes.

If you would like to visit the shipyard with a view to purchasing one of these cutting edge boats please contact us.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:50 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2013

CATRI 25 takes shape

Check out this video, just released by CATRI managing director, Mareks Justs.

The plug for the principle hull of the new, 100% hydrofoiling trimaran will be polished to within an inch of its life after this spraying to remove the orange peel effect and any blemishes so that a perfect mould can be made ready for production.

If you want to buy one CALL +44 7985 043 981. Very Special price for orders placed before it is possible to trial the boat (in April) with flexible contract.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2007

New CATRI 24 video clip


Just received a great new video clip from the new owner of TARDIS, the CATRI 24 that I sailed back from Latvia in 2005. She is now in the USA and John Morfit managed to get 19 knots from her on Chesapeake Bay. I usually found that when I was going this fast I was concentrating on sailing and not using the camera. So it is unsurprising that John's crew, Ivars, only managed to capture the boat at 14 knots. It's great fun, neverthless.

John Morfit wrote about this exciting sail:

"Jim Neeley, the funny man in the yellow suit, sails a Reynolds 33 catamaran (single-hands it in moderate winds, too). He was quite impressed by the stability of the Catri - he liked that. He also felt it to be very strong and rigid, not at all a "worrying" boat. He had absolute confidence in it, even as I was letting off the main to reduce power. He said he never had a moment of thought that it wasn't doing exactly what it should be doing. Meanwhile, I'm dumping the main to get back a view of the lee ama!"

I like quotes like this from experienced mulithull sailors. They carry much more weight than my own opinion.

John's initial comments in video about wind speed being 25kn are due to his newly installed Tack-Tick equipment not being set up correctly yet. This would be the apparent wind speed at the time he mentions it. You can tell this from the sea state, which indicates a Force 3-4 only, about 15 knots. Wind speeds did reach 25 knots later during the day and he did achieve boat speeds approaching 20 knots. It takes a lot of bottle to go faster than this and one has to become accustomed the fact that the boat is capable and happy at speed and also to be prepared to take a reef! The theoretical maximum speed is achieved (with the boat stripped out) broad reaching in a force 6 with one reef in the main and a furl or so in the jib. The apparent wind in these circumstances would inevitably mean that you would be close hauled.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 07:51 PM

December 18, 2006

Log of trip from Latvia

I've just finished uploading all the photos onto my blog covering the trip in TARDIS, the CATRI 24, from Latvia to England last year. It was a mammoth task but worth it as they illustrate the adventures that we had and give you a better feel for what can be achieved with this exciting trimaran. So if you've got a spare moment or two over Christmas, why not have a browse through.

The first part of the maiden voyage started on 9th June 2005. I had only got up as far as June 26th before with the photos.

The journey finshed in July 2005.

I've also made the blog easier to follow by putting the entries into ascending order with the newest at the bottom of the page. Hope you like it.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:56 PM

September 26, 2006

TARDIS now in Pwllheli

I moved TARDIS today as there is bad weather looming for the next couple of days and I am busy already at the weekend. I need to clean her after her spell on a mooring at Abersoch and check her over. Call me on 07985 043 981 if you want a demonstration and we can look at the forthcoming weather, next week.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:39 PM

August 21, 2006

Sailing TARDIS with an Olympian

I had Jon Bilger, a New Zealander who competed in the Barcelona Olympics, sail TARDIS at Abersoch with me over the weekend. He is in an Americas Cup team now in Spain and flew over specially from Valencia to try out this exceptionally interesting, special boat.

Jon has been researching the CATRI for a while so I was delighted, when out in a seaway, to hear him say that it exceeded his expectations. We were doing 17 knots in 1.5m waves and because it was raining we were soaked through. "It's got more balls than I have!" he exclaimed, as he tested it beyond the limits that he had expected to. "Other boats would be hobby-horsing."

On the Sunday it was not so windy and Jon appeared bright and early, keen for another trial in different conditions. It was force 3 and dry, so we got the gennaker out and almost made 20 knots! Fantastic sailing. He was thrilled and is going to buy a 27R for use in Auckland, racing and cruising with his family.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:14 AM

August 05, 2006

Taking stock in Abersoch

We have lost a lot of time. To get to Brest now for our rendevous date will entail sailing every day, something that we know is possible but which puts us under pressure and it is when press-on-itis sets in that disasters happen. We know we can opt out at any time and catch a ferry or a plane. But then where would TARDIS be? Milford Haven at the tip of Pembrokeshire, Padstow on the North Cornwall coast or worse still St. Ives, virtually at Lands End, waiting for a tidal gate in a harbour that dries out! None of these places is anywhere near Chester and it would be a logistical nightmare for me to manage the boat and keep her safe at such long distances.

Click to ZOOM and then PAN with scroll bar

Abersoch is a good place. Indeed an excellent and very beautiful place to sail. And it is only two hours away from Chester by car. I can fetch the trailer here easily from Holyhead. It makes sense to make arrangements to leave TARDIS here and fly to Brest from Birmingham. So we have abandoned our sailing voyage but not our trip. We are spending a few days sailing and holidaying here in Abersoch and making the necessary arrangements.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 07:48 PM

August 03, 2006

Escape from Porth Dinllaen

TARDIS in the middle of Porth Dinllaen Harbour

We missed an opportunity to get away from Porth Dinllaen last night as we were on a bus returning from Pwllheli, via Abersoch & Pwllheli again for good measure at the time we could have been sailing round Bardsey Island as the wind has eased. We had all day to prepare for the next tidal opportunity so Sue went ashore with Jackie and took this photo.

At last the skies cleared and the wind dropped, a bit much actually. Despite the lack of wind Sue managed to get her hair in a tangle.

We set off at a mere 3 knots when I had calculated on 6 so we had to use the engine to get to Bardsey Sound in time for slack water. This pushed our progress against the slackening tide up to 7 knots. With a crew member at the bow the improvement in trim gave us 8 knots.

I drew a line on the chart and noted the time as the transit between the end of the peninsula and the southern edge of Bardsey Island became visible. As it was so calm we went through the races approaching the sound and gained another knot, 9 knots, and by the time we reached Barsdey Sound we were up to 10 knots over the ground.

Jackie helming TARDIS past Bardsey Island

Get it wrong here and you can be battling against 6.5 knots tides and if the wind is with you it would be rough into the bargain. Wind against you and you'd never get through. But at slack water in fair weather this fearsome passage is a doddle.

Safely through Bardsey Sound

We altered our course to East and passed Aberdaron, the scene of a previous sailing adventure with this intrepid crew but in a Magnum 21 trimaran that we had sailed there from Abersoch. Now we were headed in the opposite direction. Speeds increased to 13.5 knots without the engine and without tidal assisitance but with the aid of the gennaker as we reached past Hell's Mouth. This was enjoyable easy sailing.

A small, red monohull hove into view and we sailed as close as possible to her so that we could hail her. "RED PEPPER" was crewed, presumably single handedly, by a SALTY sea dog character. He had a white beard and a good head of white curly hair. He had all his sail up too. He asked if there was any chance of a tow as we wafted past. We had time to discover that he had sailed from Dublin and then we were gone.

We sailed into Abersoch to pick up a visitor mooring and he continued his relaxing, eastward journey.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:38 PM

August 02, 2006

Crew on verge of mutiny

Girls in desperate need of showers!

Sue and Jackie, heading for a shower at the swimming pool in Pwllheli, walk past the cottage where Sue and I stayed when we visited Porth Dinllaen with friends in May 2005.

So we all caught the bus today to Pwllheli for a wash and brush up. Since our dramatic arrival at Porth Dinllaen we have been unable to break out because of the bad weather. We heard today of somebody holed up in Bangor, N. Ireland, unable to set off for Scotland and our friend in France, Sian, has been held up crossing the channel in a car ferry!

We had been having glorious weather at home until the day of our departure, when, ominously, I spotted mare's tails in the sky, the first sign of a change in the weather.

It took us much longer than I had anticipated to get everything on board TARDIS that we had brought and to launch her using the sailing club slipway at Holyhead. So we missed our lunchtime opportunity to get away and round Bardsey.

For the tides to be with us we would have required a night passage and this was not on with a novice crew, unfamiliar with the boat. So we left early last Saturday and passed South Stack at about 15.5 knots. Jackie asked for a demonstration of how to use the radio to make a Mayday call. This is when I discovered the battery was not holding its charge. No worries; I had a spare battery system using conventional batteries.

I did a radio check with Holyhead Coast Guard. "Loud and Clear!"

Next the GPS went on the blink. Battery low. I had a spare GPS but elected to navigate manually. No problem we knew where we were.

It was getting rougher out to sea so we elected not to go to Ireland but tacked instead to stay in sight of Anglesey. The weather was closing in and we took a reef. Next I started the engine to charge the battery and bring the GPS back to life.

The weather deteriorated further and we took another reef and later part furled the jib. We were making slow progress against the tide and wind but we were making progress. Then the engine spluttered to a halt. We were on a lee shore and visibilty was poor. We tacked and sailed away from the shore and I called up Holyhead Coast Guard on Channel 16 on the VHF radio. They put me onto CH 84 and I let them know about our engine failure. After a brief discussion about our options and details of our position they informed me that the Porth Dinllaen life boat was happy to launch and come to our assistance.

Next on CH67 we were told they had mustered and launched and would be with us in 40 minutes.

It was a relief to see them. They stood by the whole of our beat towards the only safe harbour in Caernarfon Bay.

Just when spirits were at their lowest four dolphins joined us and finally the life boat towed us the last mile onto a mooring (diffcult for us to do without an engine in these conditions) at Porth Dinllaen, where we have been ever since.

Porth Dinllaen Life Boat being winched back into the Lifeboat Station after coming to our aid.

We were pretty tired and hungry after this, as you can imagine. We were not going anywhere the next day. We were due a rest. And we got to watch the lifeboat being launched for somebody else!

Porth Dinllaen Lifeboat having a busy time of it.

We went ashore in the new Bombard AX3 dinghy that I had bought for this trip and were just in time for lunch at Ty Coch (Red House) the pub in the village.

Bombard AX3 dinghy

On July 31st, my birthday, it was so windy that we decided not even to venture ashore in the dinghy for fear of being swept out to sea. The brand new engine had proved a trifle difficult to start. It got better later but I did not want to rely on it at this stage in these conditions.

Birthday boy

On Tuesday we moved to a mooring closer in shore after a fairly sleepless night on this one. I was up several times checking that TARDIS was secure and nothing was going to happen to her or us. We took the dinghy and went shopping in Morfa Nefyn, which is across the bay on a lee shore. When all the shopping was loaded we managed to swamp the dinghy in the waves and nearly everything got wet before we had even got into the boat ourselves! You live and learn. So I went alone in the boat back to TARDIS with the fuel whilst the girls walked around the bay with the wet shopping.

Then today we moved closer in shore again in search of even better shelter and dropped anchor. You can see it is a clear day, indicating a northish wind and rough water out of the harbour because of the fetch all the way from Ireland. Anglesey is just visible on the horizon. Perhaps it will be calmer later.

TARDIS anchored at Porth Dinllaen

This was an opportunity to try setting up a bridle. Everybody says that multhihulls require this to prevent them from swinging around on moorings or at anchor but nowhere have I discovered a recommended way of setting one up. What I did was to tie a slippery hitch in the anchor rode and attach two warps to the loop in the rode by means of bowlines. It worked a treat. You can see that the rode is not under strain as it leaves the boat and that the strain is taken by one warp or the other thus automatically creating a correcting force should the boat turn away from the wind.

Tomorrow we hope to get out and make some progress to Fishguard, perhaps, on our journey to Brest.


We later discovered that another friend, who was camping on the Lleyn peninsula the same weekend that we arrived there, had her tent poles broken by the gale!

Also I subsequently discovered that TARDIS'S main battery was not holding its charge (even though it was still capable of starting the engine) and needed to be replaced. This was the cause of the succession of electronic failures that led to my being concerned enough to inform the coastguard of our situation.

The engine was fine, as it turned out, the fuel was low and although there seemed to be ample visible in the tank, the rough seas were making it diffucult to suck up the fuel from the bottom of the tank and so the engine was spluttering. All I needed to do was swap tanks!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 04:35 PM

July 26, 2006

Getting excited

Off sailing in the CATRI 24 trimaran on Friday. Weather looking exciting. The plan is to sail to Porth Dinllaen on Friday, anchor for tea then choose our moment to nip through Bardsey Sound at slack water and take overnight shelter at Aberdaron or Abersoch, depending upon the wind direction. The forecast changes each time I look it up! With stiff southerlies we might be better staying at Porth Dinllaen as a favourable tide through Bardsey would mean wind against tide and rough water so we may reach across to Arklow in Ireland and spending a day there waiting for the wind to veer before heading back across to Pembrokeshire!

If we stay on the Welsh side of the Irish Sea again the wind direction will have some bearing on where we go in Cardigan Bay and which direction we sail in but it seems a shame to bypass the magnificence of the Snowdonia mountain scenery by sailing due south to Newquay. Anyway the wind is predicted to be from the south so sailing across to Aberdovey for lunch and Newquay for supper might be a good plan.

Then it's probably a pause at Fishguard to await the right moment to tackle Ramsey Sound and possibly also Jack Sound en route for Milford Haven where we will take stock before crossing the Bristol Channel. It's a small comfort that all these headlands and sounds have been written about in a book called "FEARSOME PASSAGES". Complusive reading before this trip!

It would be nice to pass by Lundy Island and if possible even stop there, especially as we know somebody who will be staying there at the time. But the tidal flow and the tidal range (supposedly 2nd highest in the world) in the Bristol Channel combined with the Atlantic swell and probably stiff SW winds make this an objective that will require careful planning before we set off. We may have to wait in Milford Haven. Apparently one does not get a comfortable night's sleep anchored off Lundy so we are probably best not stopping there but only pausing, if we go there at all.

Another consideration has to be the time of arrival at Padstow because of the bar and the lock into the town harbour, which we may have to avoid and use the dinghy anyway in order to time our departure for St Ives. Lots to think about as we plan ahead each day.

The tidal gate at Lands End favours northerly passages and so we have to leave St Ives at the right time to get around to Penzance. Here we will take stock again giving consideration to the wind, sea state and tides before we depart for L'Aber Wrach at the tip of Brittany. 100 miles averaging 6 knots will take us over 16 hours. But we can go faster than this, much faster, if the wind is in the right direction and the sea state moderate or less. We'll have to wait and see.

Once there we have to tackle the Chenal de Four, a narrow passage that again has to be timed just right and many British boats wait at L'Aber Wrach for the right moment to leave.

Once through we can take our leisure. I would like to visit Camaret sur Mer and drop in on Ronan Dollo who lives near Brest on the coast before sailing up to the sea lock on the River Aulne, which is apparently 11.5m wide so we do not need to fold TARDIS to get through. Then it's up the river to Chateaulin, our destination.

If you wish to meet us and see one of the most exciting small trimarans in the world and especially if you are thinking about buying a CATRI 24 and wish to join us on one of these legs then please phone me on my mobile +44 (0)7985 043 981. If you cannot get through you should find that I have left a message saying where I am sailing from and to each day.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:15 AM

July 17, 2006

CATRI 24 plans for summer

I have been training my trimaran crew for the summer at Holyhead. Practising knots, folding etc. Unfortunately no sailing as the weekend before last when we were there a severe gale blew up. So all we could practise was securing her well and attempting to sleep on board. Useful stuff though. And we are getting better at folding and assembly, launching and retrieval from the water. Discovering the snags so that I can write the manual!

Round turn many half hitches? Half-folded Note wooden spacer to provide extra stability when folded. This is removed for trailing width.

TARDIS, the boat from the future, will only be in Holyhead for another 10 days. On 28th I intend to set sail for France via Porth Dinllaen, Bardsey Sound, Aberdaron, Cardigan Bay maybe visiting Aberdovey or New Quay or possibly taking in Ireland but unlikely, Milford Haven, Bristol Channel, Padstow, north Cornwall coast, St Ives, Lands End, Penzance (where we may be for a while waiting for the right weather opportunity) and thence across the mouth of the English Channel, or should we call it the Atlantic, to L'Aber Wrach, the Chenal de Four, Camaret sur Mer, Brest and ultimately Chateaulin on the river Aulne.

This could take us three days or two weeks depending upon the wind and our inclination.

I have not decided yet where TARDIS will stay thereafter. Chateaulin is free mooring - very tempting. She is of course always FOR SALE but will not be available till after this trip.

If you wish to have a demo of the CATRI 24 trimaran and you can join us on one of these legs at short notice then call me on my mobile +44 (0)7985 043 981. Only really room for one. I shall be leaving a message on the mobile saying where I am sailing from and to each day so you can catch up with us if you are unable to speak to me personally.

If you are out there and can get a good photo of us then please email it to me.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 07:23 PM

June 20, 2006

CATRI 24 in Holyhead

After the Round the Island Race I towed TARDIS up to Holyhead where she is now ready for demonstrations for those interested in buying a CATRI.

TARDIS on her Brenderup trailer at Holyhead

She is on her trailer on the hard, folded up and ready to go.

It is worth noting that storing a CATRI 24 like this is very cheap. At Holyhead it is only £10 per week. So for a month it is only £40. A month on a marina berth would be £210. For a saving of £170 I think it is worth the small inconvenience of launching and unfolding before each sail and then refolding before retrieval from the water. Also the boat is not going to get fouled and is less susceptible to damage in high winds.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 02:54 PM

June 04, 2006

Single handed folding and retrieval

My crew is departed and I have the mast down which is a major obstacle to trailing overcome already. Now all I have to do is fold TARDIS, the CATRI 24 from Latvia, and get her across from the pontoon to the trailer when the tide comes in at 1800. So all day to plan how to do that on my own, a valuable exercise.

TARDIS folded at Cowes the day after the Round the Island Race

Folding was easy. I just had to think about the order of ceremonies. I used ropes to hold one side up on the pontoon whist I folded the other side because without the mast shroud tensioning system to hold up the floats it was going to be difficult otherwise to remove the plates holding the akas down.

Using the winches to fold the boat made the job really easy.

And I used the winches to help in the folding process. This worked really well.

You can se the rope leading to the trailer from the pontoon that was to act as guide for the TARDIS's short journey.

Next I took the longest rope I had and made it even longer in order to bridge the gap from the boat to the trailer. I knew that using the engine to try to drive onto the trailer in any sort of cross wind or tidal flow would be a nightmare. Ropes were the answer.

Inevitably somebody in a rib ran over it and stopped just in time. Luckily they neither cut the rope nor got their prop caught and were able to extract themselves.

TARDIS settled on her trailer

Eventually as the river Medina reached its highest point and the clouds gathered for the inevitable change in the weather I managed to settle TARDIS onto her trailer. By 20.30 I was on the ferry to Southampton and by 2300 I was at my twin sister's near Marlborough. Tomorrow I have to drive all the way to Holyhead.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:26 PM

June 03, 2006

Round the Island Snooze

Talk about a long day. Up at 5am and there is a little wind off Cowes in the windiest place in the race. We hang back off the start for safety as none of us has ever done this race before but the density of boats on the line is nothing like what friends have predicted so we are unnecessarily last to start in the multihull section.

We are able to reach down the first leg to Hurst but we are not setting the world alight as the tide is with us and the foils only start to make a significant difference when we reach 7-8 knots through the water. We manage a maximum of 10.5 knots with the tide. This shows how little wind there is now. But there is worse to come.

Approaching the Needles

Round the needles and straight into the first wind shadow, which we just manage to sneak out of by gybing and heading further out to sea.

Skipper relaxes as the big monohulls catch us up

A fair broad reach down to St Catherine's Point then it goes somewhat quieter and big monohulls are passing us slowly. It is difficult to maintain 5 knots. I send a text message a to Aldis asking why we are slow in these conditions. His response was to invent a CATRI 27 Extreme.

France 2 crossing our bow

France 2, the Americas Cup Yacht sails past, gracefully but slowly nevertheless, somewhere off Shanklin. We have had the company of a Dragonfly 1200 since Hurst and we try gybing downwind to see if we can go faster than she does running dead downwind. But when we get to Bembridge ledge she is ahead of us. Here the fleet is parked up and we have our first experience of going backwards.

Eventually we creep through close in shore and tack as close to Ryde sands as the forward looking sonar will allow us but we are surrounded by boats of all sizes now and feeling distinctly slow. This was a day for the engine. Oh for a good wind.

Only 735 boats out of the 1587 starters got round before the 22.00 deadline and TARDIS was one of them if a little tardy. Small consolation. This was not the day to show off the high speed capabilities of the CATRI concept. However, it was a nice day in good company.

Finishing at about a quarter to six we had not much daylight left to de-rig the boat ready for trailing. We did manage to take the daggerboards out, get the sails off, flaked and nicely packed away and then get the mast down - all in three hours, which is pretty good going, and I made it to the Cowes Combined Clubs in time to declare before 22.00.

Tim's comment afterwards, "She handles like a dinghy and is more sensitive than others I have looked at."

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:56 PM

May 28, 2006

Poole to Cowes with one board

The wind was from the north west so ideal for a passage to Cowes all on the port tack, utilising the remaining starboard daggerboard. Grant had retired with a hangover to mow his lawn and so just Chris Underwood and I sailed TARDIS to Cowes.

Outside the harbour we encountered David Harding in his motor catamaran snapping us for Practical Boat owner and we sailed amongst the regatta fleet on our way towards Hurst.

This was great day for sailing in this direction. We had the gennaker out and soon had the measure of TARDIS. The wind force varied between 2 and 3 and we were able to make our own wind much of the time.

When we stopped trying and had a break for sandwiches we dropped to 5 knots, sailing downwind like any normal boat. Then after lunch we turned across the wind a little picked up speed to 10 knots and bore away gradually reaching speeds of 15+ knots in almost the same direction in which we had been sailing at 5 knots just moments before. We did this lots of times but of course we were gradually getting too near the coast so we had to gybe and head in the direction of the needles for a while. Even without the port daggerboard this was no problem at all as we were running downwind and both boards would normally have been up in these circumstances.

We snook through Hurst as close to the castle as we could and overtook a number of other boats on our way up the Solent towards Cowes where we left TARDIS opposite Clarence Boat Yard.

TARDIS arrives at Cowes

Aldis has promised to get a replacement daggerboard sent over urgently from Latvia for the Round the Island Race next Saturday. Chris and I now have to get across to Southampton to catch the train to Poole and I have to take the trailer to Hamble before going home for a day. Thank God it is a bank holiday tomorrow.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:35 AM

May 27, 2006

MOCRA Nationals

10 minutes into the first race there was a loud BANG! Grant Kelly at the helm immediately let off the sheets and turned upwind. "The daggerboard!" I cried, jumping onto the port trampoline to see what we might have hit. But we had not hit anything. The forward looking sonar was showing plenty of depth. There were no containers floating about. It had just broken. Why?

The jury is still out as the daggerboard has to be inspected at the factory in Latvia. But we were sailing TARDIS incorrectly to be sure. We had been late on the start because the gennaker had not been properly furled the night before when we hoisted it and the wind had got into it and opened it. So whilst we should have been noting down the course Grant and I were busy with the gennaker, whilst Simon Ward helmed.

Everybody had gone and when we realised we set out after them with full main and jib up. We were catching them up, doing 18 knots just off the wind. Grant said that you could never get this performance out of an F24. We had the port daggerboard fully down and were having a debate about whether to sail with them both down as the starboard one was very stiff to raise. So we had made two mistakes here.

1. Neither daggerboard should ever be fully down except in exceptionally light winds when one wishes to point very high, such as before the start of a race. The original design calculations resulted in a daggerboard that was some 20cm shorter and this extra 20cm should hardly ever be used except in the conditions just mentioned. Shame I did not know this.

2. The windard daggerboard should definitely have been fully up. After all at 18knots the uplift from this board upon entering a wave would be considerable. (It later transpired that its surface was just too rough after I had applied a fresh coat of antifoul and this is why it was so stiff.)

See this EXPLANATION by Aldis Eglajs, the designer.

One could argue that the board should have been stronger. Maybe it was weak and an investigation will reveal this. However, one can make the daggerboard too strong. Then instead of the daggerboard breaking the box that it is in might break and that would be a much bigger disaster.

As it was there was no drama, no threat to life or limb, no capsize. We sailed gently back into Poole at about 5 knots in order to try to preserve the daggerboard for an investigation.

You cannot imagine my disappointment at this equipment failure in such a crucial event.

I was a bit encouraged later when quite a few other boats retired hurt, some with considerably worse damage to their structure.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:50 PM

May 25, 2006

MOCRA Nationals and Round the Island Race

TARDIS is ready and I am driving down to Poole today with her. I'll be launching round the corner from where she spent the winter, Poole Quay Boat Haven, which is where we will spend the weekend for the MOCRA Nationals. The racing starts on Saturday at 11.00 am and on Sunday and Monday at 10.30, I believe. Looks like Saturday is going to be the only windy day.

On Tuesday I shall be sailing her to Cowes, ready for the Round the Island Race, which starts (for us) at 06.20 on Saturday 3rd June. I SHALL BE STAYING IN COWES FOR THE WEEK, so anybody who wants to have a SAIL IN TARDIS should CONTACT ME by PHONE on my mobile on 07985 043 981. Can't guarantee to answer it straight away but will get back to you if you leave a number.

After the RTIR, possibly the day after, I intend to sail TARDIS back to the mainland and trail her up to Holyhead on Sunday 4th, probably stopping off at home in Chester on the way.

So during June and July, for those interested in purchasing a CATRI, she will be available for demonstrations from Holyhead. In August I will be sailing her to France.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:14 AM

March 16, 2006

Trailing TARDIS

Is it a plane? Is it a hovercraft? Is it a space ship?

Click this image to enlarge.

No it's TARDIS hovering above her new Brenderup road trailer suspended by a crane at the Shipwright Steps in Poole.

Simeon Penn was very helpful fitting the new Brenderup trailer to the boat.

Simon adjusting the trailer to fit TARDIS

So whilst Ellen McArthur was transporting the B&Q trimaran Castorama on a ship to the far east at great expense I was towing TARDIS, the only hydrofoil CATRI 24 trimaran in the UK, on her first journey by road through England from Poole to Chester.

She will stay here whilst I check her over after a winter at Poole Quay Boat Haven and prepare her for the coming season.

How did she behave on the trailer? Really well. I have to admit that being three times the weight of a Magnum 21 trimaran she dwarfed my Toyota RAV4 and we had difficulty getting above 50mph until we got the wind behind us on the M54. (Perhaps I need a diesel.) But handling was no problem.

The next everyday tasks that I need to attempt with TARDIS are launching and recovery from the trailer whilst folded!

My experience with the Magnum 21 trimaran is that these processes of rigging and launching, recovery and derigging take forever at first and with practice become ever easier to perform. I have had the preparation of a Magnum 21 down to 10 minutes and that was before the slick, new 2006 system was introduced. The CATRI 24 will inevitably take longer but we have already slashed the time it takes to get the mast down from all day at the first attempt to an hour and a half yesterday.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:26 PM

March 12, 2006

Log of Latvian trip finished

At last I've finished writing up the log of our delivery voyage in TARDIS from Latvia to Dover. I still have lots of photographs to upload which I will do in the fullness of time. The latest entries can be found here. The beginning of the journey in June 2005 can be found here. Remember that the diary is listed with the most recent entry showing at the top of each page.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 03:01 PM

February 01, 2006

Designer of CATRI 24

I have just returned from a trip to Latvia where I met with the Aldis Eglajs again.

What a great man!

This trip has confirmed my earlier opinion that there can be no other person in the world with a firmer grasp of the knowledge required to make high speed sailing boats. The years of meticulous study, the conception, the calculation, the design, the exprimentation, the research and the devlopment that have gone into the CATRI range are nothing short of astonishing. Probably nobody in the modern, commercial, western society could ever afford to do what Aldis was able to do under the communist system. I estimate that he is about 25 years ahead of the rest of the world in this field.

He was explaining details of how he broke the world sailing speed record in 1982. His understanding of the mathematics, the hydrodynamics, the mechanics, the aeronautics, the sailing requirements, the materials, the praticalities etc. etc. is just phenomenal. Nobody can hold a candle to him.

Every detail of the CATRI 24 that I sailed back from Latvia last summer has been carefully thought through. He was able to justify to me any aspect of the design that I chose to question him on. It is little wonder that this boat is so easy to sail, so incredibly stable and yet at the same time so fast.

One small example was the story of the number of rudders that he broke in testing (probably 30 years ago now) and how he tackled this challenge and overcame the problem. Another was the 40 knot limitation, which he presented as something like the sound barrier in flight. There are many more exciting boats to come from the CATRI stable. Watch this space.

I came away secure in the knowledge that I have backed a winner by choosing to import the CATRI trimarans from Latvia.

Why did I go there in the first place? Amongst other things I wanted to see my friends Inga and Ivars whose shipyard was responsible for the final assembly and to thank them for my safe return to Blighty in TARDIS. In particular I wished to thank and congratulate Oskars, who did such a sterling job making sure everything about the boat was ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

It is a great credit to the shipyard in Ventspils that we had no significant problems on the journey to England that could be laid at their door. Every expert on boats who has seen TARDIS has remarked how well made she is.

Ten minutes before I boarded the bus to Ventspils I rediscovered the boat chandlers "Regate", where I had bought my main anchor (not wishing to carry one with me on a Ryanair flight from Stanstead!) and nipped inside to thank Albert for it and for the advice he gave me. He said I was the first person ever to come back and thank him! I guess most cruisers only visit Riga once in their lives. There are so many other places to visit, aren't there?

On the flight back the young Latvian couple seated next to me asked if I knew what the land was that we could see below. Was it Denmark? And I immediately recognised it. It was the long, thin, Swedish island of Őland ahead and Gotland behind and to the right. These were the first places that we had visited on our epic journey across the Baltic to Kiel last summer. Then I could see the partly frozen Swedish archipelgo past which we had sailed in warmer times and then the very picturesque island of Hanő. I could even make out the rock to the NW of the island that we passed on our approach and I could clearly see its tiny harbour from the air. This was very special, seeing from the sky these places that we had sailed to. You can read about the CATRI 24 delivery trip here in the June/July 2005 archive.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:43 PM

January 25, 2006

Multihull Review article

An article about the CATRI 24 has just appeared in the magazine Multihull Review. It is written by Dr. Cris Trace, the 69 year old, retired vet from South Africa who helped me sail TARDIS from Ystad in Sweden to Stellendam in the Netherlands en route from Latvia to England.

It makes a good read. Cris has kept a diary all his life and his children have often tried to persuade him to publish it.

Cris busy writing his diary down below in TARDIS

He told us some great stories on the trip about is early flying days and his sailing experiences. I guess he is just too busy living his extraordinary life to take time out to edit it into a biography.

Mutilhull Review is out now and you can order your copy from:

Mutilhull Review
Regus HouseGeorge Curl Way
Southampton International Business Park
SO18 2RZ
Tel 02380 302028

If you want to read my log of the journey go to 9th June 2005 in this weblog which is where it starts. Bear in mind that it is shown in reverse order, most recent entry first. As of yet I have not finished it. It seems to take longer to write up than it did to do the journey.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:37 AM

December 01, 2005

Log of voyage from Latvia

The log of the delivery voyage of CATRI 24 trimaran TARDIS from Latvia to England starts on 9th June 2005. You can click on June 2005 in Archives and scroll to bottom of the page as the log entries are ordered with the most recent at the top.

It is not yet completed up to date but I'm working on it.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:04 AM

November 28, 2005

Impartial comment on CATRI 24

I received this email from Cris Trace today, who helped me sail the CATRI 24 between Sweden and Holland on the delivery voyage from Latvia to England. It speaks volumes of the CATRI 24.

>>I was out yesterday on development Cat'. 39' which is thought to be the fastest yacht in Cape Town, the Volvo open 60's only arrive next week! However, this had much the same feel as the Catri 24' but only half the stability! at 20 kts I was releasing the main sheet frequently to stop us turning turtle, and that in 25 kts of wind. I tell you once on a Catri your yachting thrills are ruined forever!<<

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 01:52 PM

October 19, 2005

New CATRI 24 video clips

I have today uploaded some high quality video clips of the CATRI 24 trimaran that last about a minute each. For a copy of the whole video of the trip from Gotland to Studland, which last about 20 minutes please contact me. I neglected to video our departure from Latvia. Sorry. It was grey, dull and raining anyway, even if it was a momentous occasion.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:35 PM

CATRI 24 now in Poole

TARDIS, the CATRI 24 trimaran is now in Poole Harbour for the winter, which is an excellent place for demonstrations.

If you are considering buying one for next season then please ring me a.s.a.p. on +44 (0)7985 043 981 to arrange a demo as it takes time to build them.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 01:07 PM

October 08, 2005

Hurtling past Hurst in TARDIS

Loading everything onto the CATRI 24 trimaran, TARDIS, yesterday, after she had been weighed and put back in the water was easy, as the tide was high and the pontoon was level with the hard so there were no steps to clamber down. But by the time my crew, Dermot and Bart, had arrived the ebb had finished and we motored under the Itchen Bridge at slack water in the dark. As we progressed down Southampton Water towards Calshot the flood started and the wind gradually died away. What had been 6 knots slipped to 4 as we groped our way against the flow along the channel in the West Solent and at 22.00 we decided to anchor just outside Newtown Creek off the Isle of Wight, as we knew it would be impossible to get past Hurst with the tide against us.

Bart was very impressed with my head torch, which was invaluable when anchoring in the dark. I'd bought it for the delivery trip from the Baltic but with the short nights in the summer that far north I'd hardly had an opportunity to use it. After a chat we settled down for a brief slumber, Bart in the bow, Dermot in the saloon and I in the aft cabin. Thankfully it was pleasantly calm.

I hate alarms at the best of times but somebody managed to make their phone wake us at the unearthly hour of 4am. We got the main sail up whilst at anchor and by 4.30 we were under way. With the engine and sails and tide we were quickly making 10 knots and so dispensed with the engine. This was a different story to the night before.

Dermot and Bart were busy attempting to identify lights the traditional way whilst I, confident in my Garmin GPS 276C, set a course past Hurst castle and put the kettle on. They were sure there was a light on it, they were saying as we hurtled past Hurst at 16.3 knots in total darkness!

Dermot has once been caught in the races off St Alban's head in a Wayfarer and was anxious not to experience 15ft waves again, no matter how much bigger and safer the CATRI 24 trimaran was. I had no reason to disagree with his judgement, hence the early start. The light grew steadily as we sailed across Bournemouth Bay at about 12 knots. We picked up the Poole fairway buoy and put in a tack that took us out towards a ship. After 15 minutes or so we tacked again and headed for St Albans head. We got there just after the tide had turned and were slowed to 3.5 knots as we crossed the overfall then it was "All systems GO" again.

As Lulworth Range was expected to be closed on this Saturday morning we were surprised to see the Range Boat coming out towards us. We were taking the inshore route and fully expected a roasting but instead they motored alongside us for a while and took a couple of photos. This is the better one of the two taken by Jeff Waters who is a relief crewman and normally works for Design 41 Commercial Art Studio.

Click to enlarge

As you can see we were making good speed along the Dorset coast in the direction of Weymouth. Dermot and I were not standing on the port ama to keep the boat level, by the way. We were standing there becuase it was fun!

As we got nearer to Portland Harbour the water became smoother and our progress improved until at last, without the assistance of the tide we surpassed the morning's max speed and hit 16.4 knots.

We arrived at Portland Harbour at 10.15, a distance of 66 miles at an average speed of 11.5kn!

I nipped ashore for the first briefing about the Speed Week and found Jeremy Evans from "Yachts and Yachting" aboard upon my return. Coffee and croissants were consumed, a quick atmoshpere shot taken and my crew and I set out to see what TARDIS could do, in a still fully laden condition.

The course was set alongside Chesil Beach as the wind was from the SW, the favoured direction for wind surfers, but not clever for yachts as it was very close in shore and we had to approach the start at 18 knots through a congregation of moored yachts, mooring buoys and oncoming windsurfers & kitesurfers meandering the wrong way up the course.

It was a good job that Bart, who was at the helm, is a very experienced dinghy sailor. He was nimble as they come, ducking and diving like Mohamed Ali.

We did a few dummy runs whilst they got the timing equipment ready and found that the best course for us took us even closer in shore at the end of the run. When the green flag went up we were one of the first over the line and everything was going fine until right at the end we hit the bottom with the rudder. It popped up, as it is supposed to do, but the wrong end of the autorelease system failed and I had to retire. The crew had to go home to their wives anyway so that was the end of our first day at the Weymouth Speed Week. The records showed that we did over 21 knots. Not bad for a fully laden boat in a force 4.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:15 PM

October 06, 2005

Cool as cucumbers

I received this in an email today:

>>Having seen a Catri 24 in the flesh, leaving Hurst Race in the direction of Poole several weeks ago, my crew and I were very impressed by the rapid pace you were making and the course to windward you were steering. Not only was she going so very fast but all the crew looked totally relaxed and as cool as cucumbers, very impressive!<<

You never know who is watching!

Off to Southampton tomorrow to sail TARDIS round to Weymouth for the Speed Week. Anybody want to come?

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:36 PM

September 26, 2005

Weymouth Speed Week

No question, the CATRI 24 was the star attraction at the Southampton International Boat Show last week. The press were all over her, just gagging for an opportunity to sail TARDIS and hungry for information on her. I now find myself inundated with requests for demonstrations of the boat from more genuine prospects than I probably have time to deal with in the short time before the winter sets in. Hooray! The boat boat is a success!

This is great news for the CATRI 24 trimaran and its Latvian designer, Aldis Eglajs, and the Latvian builders. I am especially happy for them.

This means that to have a boat for next season you will need to order as soon as possible. If a demonstration is the only thing between you and a purchase decision then YOU have top priority.

The plan, thus far, is to take her out of the water tomorrow morning, have her bottom cleaned, her engine serviced and her antifouling raised to a more practical level than the theoretical level (who ever has an empty boat, after all?) and then I shall return to Chester to be reunited with my lovely fiancée, Sue, give a demo of a Magnum 21 trimaran on Wednesday, participate in the County of Chester Long Distance Sculls on Saturday and celebrate my eldest sister's birthday with my other (twin) sister at the weekend and then return to the south to sail TARDIS round to Weymouth for the Weymouth Speed Week.

This passage to Weymouth, perhaps via places like Poole on the way, will be your first opportunity to have a demo and the Speed Week itself, which takes place at the new National Sailing Centre in Portland Harbour, where the Olympics will be held, will be a great opportunity for demonstrations of the boat. Obviously I would be especially delighted if you are an experienced trimaran sailor and you join me that week to attempt to get the best out of the boat. Customers who declare an intention to BUY NOW for next year will be given the highest priorty and I appeal to your integrity to abstain from even requesting a demo if you have no intention to buy in the immediate future.

Finally a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who came to the show and wished me great success with this new, exciting, spectacular boat. I am sure it will be a phenomenal success and now there is much work for me to do.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:14 PM

July 11, 2005

CATRI 24 in England

We made it back to Dover on Friday evening 8th July at 7.45pm having set off from Oostende at 10.30 am. I'm now back in my office. I'll be updating the weblog with more details of the adventure and more photos as soon as I have caught up with my mail, emails, telephone message, accounts (no they can wait) etc. Lots to do!

If you are thinking of buying a CATRI 24 then please call me to arrange a demonstration. I intend to sail it with prospective customers along the south coast of England, eventually arriving at the Southampton Boat Show in September. Where we sail it to in between time is not really important as long as customers who are keen to make up their minds about the boat are able to get an adequate experience of it.

I shall travel by train to the boat each time. It only took me 5 hours to get home to Chester from Dover.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:17 AM

July 08, 2005

The final leg: Oostende - Dover

We had to be up early, 05.45, because our neighbours were off to Calais and there was a tidal lock there that they wanted to get through. It had been a windy, noisy and rough night so after they’d left we took a walk to the North Sea Sailing club for ablutions and then went to look at the sea state. It was still rough so we wandered back along the harbour frontage and poked our noses into a fisherman’s bar where they were drinking beer following a hard night’s work at sea. The atmosphere was thick with smoke and we bailed out before we inhaled too much.

We found a nice little café in front of the cathedral and with our croissants and coffee we listened to the weather forecast on channel 27 on the VHF radio. Or so we thought. I must have misread the almanac because all we got was navigational information.

At 9.30 I sent a text to Sue, "Leaving soon. Overnight gale passed. Fingers crossed. Love you."

At 10.45 we were ready for the final leg and let go.

My only injury.

It was on this final leg that I sustained my only injury of the whole trip from Latvia. I don't know what I banged my hand upon but it swelled up significantly. Funny how you do this on boats. You notice little red spots on your nice white boat and then discover that you are bleeding. You have absolutely no idea what you cut yourself on and it didn't hurt at the time but now you have a cut and you are staining your beautiful clean white boat. Bizarre. It's just one of those boat things.

The uninspiring Belgian coast line.

We reached along the skyscraper clad coast of Belgium with the main and gennaker at about 10 knots passing Nieuport at 12.10. I had thought it would be nice to add another country to the list of those we’d visited on our journey from Latvia, France. But we were running out of time. Viv had to get home and I wanted to get home. We arrived at a waypoint where we were to alter course in the direction of Dunkirk, which we could see already and was clearly very industrial.

The plan had been to go to Dover via the Dyck buoy so we were never too far from the coast. As we turned that little bit to port we realised that we were changing from reaching to running and the speed dropped to 5 knots. Very boring. Whereas, if we altered course a little to starboard the speed picked up a little and we were heading directly for Dover. We altered course to 268°.

At 13.00 we were 45 miles from Dover and averaging 8 knots. ETA was thus approximately 19.00. At 15.00 we were 32 miles away from Dover. Still doing 8 knots. At 16.30 near the Sandettie light vessel with 20 miles to go we had to alter course to pass around the stern of a ship in a shipping lane and hit 15.3 knots. We really noticed how smooth the boat’s progress became at this sort of speed. TARDIS really did like to be sailing fast and to be sailing more on the foils instead of on the hulls.

16.45 sighted England 18.5 miles away.

With 10 miles to go I sent a text message to my fiancée, Sue, “10 miles from Dover. All sails up. Doing about 10 knots.”

Then I sent another message: “Crying!” The responsibility had weighed much heavier on me than I had realised and the relief I felt was palpable. Soon we would be home.

As it was we seemed to be one hour away for quite some time because we slowed in the approach owing to the tidal stream and the dropping wind.

Home at last.

At 19.45 we entered Dover Marina. It was raining. How typically English.

TARDIS, the first CATRI trimaran ever in England.

A final text message: “I am overcome with emotion. It’s been a huge strain. Miss you so much. Missed your love.”

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:53 PM

July 07, 2005

Penultimate day: Stellendam - Oostende

6am forecast good, N to NE 3-5. Engine bad. Restart were called and Kees was very helpful.


He diagnosed water in the fuel. We changed it all, including that in the carburettor, of course. But it later transpired that it was salt that was preventing the advance/retard mechanism from working properly and that the solution was to spray water repellant Rock Oil inside before every trip.

Then Kees had to take me into the village to get cash, as there was a problem with his card-reading machine. He did not have one!

This couple bravely attempted to keep control of their wayward yacht in the lock.

We eventually got through the lock, in which we were entertained by this poor couple a little out of control, at noon.

We attained 19 knots with the gennaker after the wind rose. Then, when we sailed with a normal rig, we found that, with the wind on the quarter, the main sail had a tendency to push the nose down. We wanted to play safe with only the two of us on board so I persuaded Viv that with one reef in the main sail but using the larger headsail we could still go fast yet reduce the risk of pitch-poling to the bare minimum. He acquiesced and it worked. We had a fabulous sail between 12 and 16 knots into the sun.

Fabulous sailing day! Viv steering nonchalantly.

We passed everybody, Viv steering nonchalantly as close as possible to every boat we caught up so that the occupants could get as close a look at us as possible.

Charging towards Ostend at 15kn. Steve becoming quite dishevelled by this time. Difficult to go at 15kn in any boat without getting a little wet.

As the afternoon wore on the waves inevitably became bigger and more confused so we put the gennaker away and set the genoa. Then, when the sky to the NW turned grey, we took a second reef, just in case. It was getting late and a bit threatening so we decided to put into Oostend in Belgium, the sixth country on our trip so far. As we approached and the water became shallower the sea became very much rougher. We did not have enough power in these conditions with just the engine, after we’d taken down the sails, so we let out half the genoa for the final approach and that was fine.

There were three red signals at the entrance barring our way and then a ship came out of the narrow entrance! Then we got the two green and one white lights and we thankfully entered the harbour. We’d covered 60 miles in 7 hours. Not bad for a small 24ft boat.

There was little space within the harbour so we had to raft up.

There was poor shelter and virtually no space at the North Sea Yacht Club. We raised Mercator on Channel 14 but they told us they’d put chains on the lock gates as a force 7 was anticipated tonight so we couldn’t go in.

TARDIS becomes an object of curiosity in Ostende. With a smile like this, she could launch a thousand ships!

We rafted up, for the first time in TARDIS, with two Dutch boats. This friendly couple Pete and Ellen and their daughter welcomed us aboard their boat and gave us some Friesland firewater to warm us up as we were wet and cold by now.

We went to a local Bistro. I had Penne Arabiata, which further warmed me, and 2 glasses of wine. Viv had Fruits de Mer and no wine as he’s almost teetotal.

The 'too busy to be nice' harbourmaster at Ostend

We saw the harbourmaster zipping about in his little rib collecting mooring fees and hailed him. But we didn’t take to him. Not the friendliest harbourmaster we’d met on our trip but then I guess that is what you get in a busy place. No actually, there was no need for him to be curt.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 02:49 PM

July 06, 2005

Cris leaves us at Stellendam

However, Cris, who had caught a bus at 5am, unfamiliar with the symbols on the web site forecast he had been looking at last night, had read the symbols upside down. The barometer had fallen all night and in fact the forecast was actually another day of strong head winds and the risk of thunder storms. Eric from the came over with his laptop and was very helpful assisting us with discerning the true meaning of the forecasts that he had access to on his computer. Several of them were saying the same thing and we did not fancy beating into a force 6 with a crew of only two so we stayed in Stellendam another day. We needed the rest anyway.

I sent an SMS to Sue, "I love you. Still stuck in Holland. Forecast not good yet."

Clean as a new pin. Storage space created under settee.

We seemed to be having trouble with starting the engine so we swapped tanks and cleaned the plugs. Seemed OK. Then we cleaned the hull, which was beginning to get grubby. Viv, ever resourceful, used the remainder of the netting he had purchased to make nets under the main cabin settee for storing fenders and the like.

We test started the engine again and it seemed OK. Forecast for tomorrow looking better.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:43 PM

July 05, 2005

Shelter in Stellendam

The lock by which we entered the marina is visible in the distant far right. Hopefully, with these pouches, we will not again let a sheet get wrapped around the propeller.

The Delta Sailing Centre at Stellendam marina had every modern convenience including free bicycles to take into the village to get supplies. There was the obligatory windmill. And the inevitable chandlery at which we bought everything necessary for Viv to make some pouches in which to store the offending gennaker sheet when not in use. It was he who had hung over the stern, after all, to cut it loose from the prop.

Note the wooden strut holding the ama away from the principle hull. Simple but effective.

While we rested and waited for the wind to abate we took the opportunity to attempt folding the trimaran. Cris could not believe how easy it was. Two nuts to loosen and with somebody controlling the shroud on the side to be folded it was a simple, two-man job, taking a few minutes only.

This was our last evening with Chris. The forecast was not good enough to venture out the next day and he had to catch a flight from Heathrow so we made arrangements for him to fly from Rotterdam to London City airport and we had a farewell meal together in the marina restaurant. Viv and I thanked him sincerely for all that we had learned from this great sailor. We were really sorry to see him go. We’d had a laugh together listening to all his many stories and really bonded as a crew. He was sorry not to be sailing with us the next morning as the forecast seemed to be ideal for a fast sail.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:38 PM

July 04, 2005

Gale off the Hook of Holland

There was a terrific thunderstorm in the night. We were all glad we were in harbour. It was still raining when we got up and listened to a fresh forecast. Wind Force 3-4 SE. Perfect. But warning of thunderstorms. Not so perfect. I sent a text message to Sue, “Leaving Scheveningen now. Just have to watch out for storms and reef as necessary.” Little did I know what lay ahead.

We were not sorry to leave the lack-lustre Scheveningen harbour at 11.00. We set a course of 240° and initially with all three sails set we were making 8-10kn. We were catching up with another yacht but she altered course into Rotterdam just before we caught her.

Rotterdam, at the Hook of Holland is an exceptionally busy Europort and off shore there is a roundabout in the sea to cope with all the traffic! Our course, close inshore, kept us well clear of this prohibited area.

Cris's storm hood made it impossible to understand what he was saying with the noise of the wind and spray! This eventually became so fustrating that Viv almost ripped it off him! We had not been briefed on the sign language that Cris used at the same time is shouting.

The wind was more southerly now and we were able to beat. Then it freshened and veered so that it was coming from where we wanted to go. Cris and Viv came on watch after their lunch. The wind continued to increase and so we took a reef in the main. We found we were sailing almost north and almost south. It was difficult to make way to the west. We reefed the main again and reefed the genoa too. Cris asked for the engine and when Viv tried to start it out of gear it was OK but when in gear it wouldn’t start. Cris said to check the propeller and, sure enough, the gennaker sheet was caught around it. The sea was pretty lumpy now and we needed the engine to help make sure that we made it up the steepest waves.

Viv, clipped on of course, leaned over the stern, resting his chest on the cockpit seat, whilst I hung on to his harness so that he could reach the propeller without falling overboard. He could not unwind the rope but he was able to cut it free. We heaved a crew sigh of relief when the engine started. Then I discovered that I had not been clipped on myself when I was hanging onto Viv! Oops.

Viv managed to catch this big wave on camera whilst standing in the companionway.

Now fully reefed and with the engine running we got half way to Zeebrugge but the wind, we estimated from the wave height and spume, was now at least force 7. And with it having veered recently there were confused wave patterns with some high waves, typically 2.5m from peak to trough, higher than the boat anyway. There appeared to be a terrific amount of leeway but the tide was against us too. The tightest tacks we could manage were about 150° so although we were making 6-7 knots on each tack we were only making about 1 knot in our intended direction. The principle hull lifted out of the water on one or two occasions and once Viv, at the helm, noticed that when heeled over significantly, about 20° was the most I ever noticed on the inclinometer, not that I was looking most of the time, the leeward dagger-board lost its grip on the water and TARDIS slipped, unalarmingly and quite safely sideways.

At this rate it would take us another day to cover the remaining distance and with the ceaseless buffeting we were getting tired already beating into this gale. Nevertheless we had pulled ahead of a 40ft ketch that was about a mile to starboard. Then she turned round to run for cover. After a brief discussion of the options I made the decision to bear away and run downwind till we too could reach a safe haven. Everything went reassuringly quiet, as expected, but, bearing in mind that we still had relatively little experience with this new boat, we felt that even with the main fully reefed we might be overpressed and risk a broach or a pitch pole so we took it down. Not quite as easy as it sounds because the boom was out to the side and as soon as we released the main halyard the top of the main sail spilled over the lazy jacks. But 69 year old Cris gamely leapt forward like a school boy and tugged at it till it was down and then lashed it.

One has to hang onto the seat in these conditions.

So now, having started the day sailing with all three sails, we were running on just the genoa alone and that is reefed. We were well in control and I set about the task of finding somewhere safe to go. We were near the West Schouwen lighthouse and making good speed so wherever it was we could get there quickly. We were roughly level with the storm surge barrier at Oosterschelde and there was a lifeboat station there. Good. Outside the barrier was a refuge harbour. Ominous. But outside this there were warnings on the chart – “Passage Prohibited”, “Very Dangerous Tidal Streams”. This was after all the place where most of the water from the great River Rhine entered the North Sea. The sluices here are what prevent the Netherlands from flooding.

So I looked at the next estuary north. Lots of yacht harbours here but all on the landward side of the dyke and none on the seaward side and no way through the dyke. There was a refuge harbour but it was exposed to the SW so not any use at all in a very strong SW wind.

Next one looked good; an approach from the NW so we would gain shelter from the wind and waves before entering an outer harbour, which hosted another lifeboat station and then through a lock to gain access to a fair sized marina next to a little village called Stellendam.

Video clip of TARDIS the CATRI 24 running downwind in a gale off Dutch coast. (High resolution large file will take quite a while to download).

Cris unfurled the reef in the genoa and we started to have fun again. Surfing down waves and able to steer wherever we liked. The faster we went the more lift we got from the dagger boards so there seemed no danger of tripping up on the next wave ahead. Indeed TARDIS loved it and leapt ahead onto the next wave. We were surfing at about 15 knots with just the jib. Viv managed to dip the bowsprit into one of the waves but I was unable to catch this on video. She just sliced into them like a knife through butter and any water that came up over the coach roof simply slipped over the side and made it neither into the cockpit nor into the cabin space below. We never had any water in the bilges the whole trip.

The sun came out and made a rainbow. The view astern looked like something one might see in the Southern Ocean! We avoided the Aardappelenbult sand bank where the sea looked really rough with lots of white horses and a couple of brave/mad windsurfers then we passed the lighthouse at Westhoofd. We had already passed the ketch again and in fact got into Stellendam some three hours before her.

This dredger stirred up food for the birds.

We had to share the lock with a dredger that took up the whole width of the lock and a flock of black-headed gulls or terns, I can’t be sure, went berserk diving into the water after it stirred up all the delicacies therein.

By 18.45 we were alongside. The couple ashore who helped us tie up presumed we had had a rough experience in the “Force 8 gale” that had just gone through. They were not far wrong but at the time it was just simply a case of making a series of decisions based on the natural instinct to survive any given situation. We never really felt threatened or in great peril but of course at any time things could have gone horribly wrong. As it was we were OK and just brushed it off as a normal day at sea. TARDIS, the little 24 ft trimaran from Latvia, had been asked to prove whether she was sea worthy and had not been found wanting.

The marina was warm and welcoming after the sea and the showers were “better than at home”, as an exiting sailor described them when I was entering. It’s nice to be in any port in a storm but its nicer to end up in a place like Stellendam. Nobbie sent me a text message asking how we had got on and where we were and I wrote we were "glad to be safe" and in Berrisz with its "wonderful facilities". He replied “Where?” I checked and this turned out to be the name of the marina restaurant that we were eating in at the time!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 02:35 PM

July 03, 2005

Texel - Scheveningen

0630 left the Oudeschild marina and sailed with the tide out of the estuary by Den Helder. We had somewhat carelessly furled the gennaker two nights before and the wind caught the untidiness so it unfurled itself. We ran downwind to furl it properly.

At first with the tide we were able to reach with the gennaker and main and managed to coax 17.4 knots out of TARDIS. Cris was like a child with a new toy. Really we were just having fun reaching to and fro but not making much progress towards our destination. When we started to point higher upwind we made adequate progress south at 8 kn and then also west, occasionally, when we got too close inshore and had to create some sea room. The coast was pretty boring as one might imagine. The sun came out and dried us off. We motor-sailed from about 14.00 passing the industrial area at Ijmuiden then sailed alongside another Red Ensign for a while.

We spent a while in the company of this yacht.

Later a beautifully kept, elderly yacht with lots of tumblehome passed us, also motor-sailing. Then Cris got the helm and his racing instincts took over. Without touching the throttle he used the other yacht’s stern wave to catch it up and eventually pass it.

How wonderful to be able to dispense with the engine.

As we approached Scheveningen the wind blew enough for us to be able to dispense with the engine and use all three sails. They looked beautiful.

Scheveningen looks like Brighton from the sea.

From the sea we observed that Scheveningen looked not unlike Brighton with its pier and fun fair and hotels and beach. It is the port for the Dutch capital, The Hague, a few miles inland. But we were disappointed by the yacht harbour.

The vast yacht harbour at Scheveningen.

Yes it was large and provided good shelter but the facilities consisted of a blue steel box for a shower block and the water was only tepid. It looked to be a bit of a building site so maybe there are some improvements on the way.

Bolt rope has come out of the slot. With a little patience and the most basic of tools Viv reduces the width of the slot. A final bit of lacing and it's as good a new.

We set about repairing the starboard trampoline, whose bolt rope had come out of its slot. This did not phase the ever-practical Viv, who immediately set about reducing the size of the slot using just an adjustable spanner and a piece of cardboard (so as not to damage the surface of the aluminium extrusion). These running repairs, a fact of life at sea, were an revalation to me. It seems that all that is required is a bit of ingenuity and anything can be fixed.

Young assistant harbourmaster with his adoring girlfriend. Gennaker coiled up on foredeck. TARDIS nestled into her berth with folded-away bowsprit at the building site that was Scheveningen yacht harbour.

A young couple came and collected our mooring fee and we took down the gennaker for the first time since TARDIS’s first day at sea and folded our bowsprit to fit into our allocated space.

It was a long walk to buy dinner!

Cris claimed to have been told about a good fish restaurant that involved our walking all around the massive yacht harbour to the fishing harbour. But when we got there it was closing. As we made our way back along our tracks we ended up eating, standing up, at a disappointing fish and chip bar serving a sauce with the fish so hot as to make it inedible. This, I guess, is one of the consequences of the Dutch connections established in colonial times with exotic eastern countries.

I think this Heron was dead already. Nailed to his perch!

On our way back we passed this Heron. Either they have very good model makers in Scheveningen or good taxidermists because he never batted an eyelid! Also on our way back Cris harvested some lavender petals to improve the fragrance in his cabin!

It is a shame that this yacht harbour made such a poor impression because others have told me since that Scheveningen is actually a lovely place with much of interest to see.

Before dinner the forecast elicited from the sailing club seemed to be good for a night passage. After dinner we heard a forecast on the radio that warned of thunderstorms so we stayed put!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:25 PM

July 02, 2005

TARDIS in Texel

If you want to get round Texel on two wheels then you do not have to bring your own.

When the oil runs out there will be no problems getting about in Holland.

There are fleets of bikes to hire. Nobbie said that this is big business in Holland and truck loads of them are moved around the country for major events.

Texel has a large, well maintained fishing fleet. Every facility here, including a floating dry-dock!

Texel also has a great fishing fleet. The boats are big and well maintained. It also has every necessary facility for the fleet including a floating dry dock. So it was not surprising to discover in the harbour a major fishing chandlery. Inside this Aladin’s cave everything was in jumbo sizes. Giant shackles, thick ropes, gallons of methylated spirit. We bought some for use in our spirit cooker.

Never use lamp oil in a spirit cooker. Yellow flames produce soot!

The vodka we had purchased in Latvia had long since run out and we had made the mistake, once, of buying lamp oil, which burns with a yellow sooty flame. Hence the somewhat blackened kettle! Never again.

Next we found the yacht chandler in Texel run by a lady who is also a sail maker. She had everything we needed including a clamcleat with which we were going to terminate the rudder downhaul so that it would release properly.

Nobbie found us there and took us back to our trimaran pointing out the famous Texel sheep on the way. Their heads are very large and they all have to be born by Caesarean section!

Hats off to those who do this at sea! My first time up a mast Actually it's no big deal in a harbour with two crew holding me up.

We borrowed a bosun’s chair from a neighbouring vessel and I went up the mast, for the first time, where I was able to inspect everything atop and take some unusual photos of TARDIS.

I trust Nobbie with my life. Spot the companion way ladder, the laundry, Nobbie's shopping basket. From here it is very clear how the suspension of the cockpit seaating, outside the principle hull creates space.

Nobbie took the safety line, Cris was on the winch and Viv took some photos of me taking photos. This was the first time I’d been up any mast. Hats off to those who do this at sea.

Viv gets ready to seal the holes he has drilled in the rudder. Nearly done.

Nobbie had brought his drill and Viv set about fixing the rudder downhaul.

'I'm still trying to learn the Riddle of the Sands'

Whilst he was doing this we fell into conversation with the neighbour who had lent us the bosun’s chair and he made a comment that I did not appreciate the significance of until my return home. He said, “I’m still trying to learn the riddle of the sands”. This was an allusion to a book “The Riddle of the Sands” written in about 1913. When I got home Stanley had kindly sent me a copy, writing inside the front cover that I would know all about this area now. The “Sands” were the shallow channels and sand banks between the Fresian Islands and the German mainland. This gripping book about amateur and professional spying in a small boat prior to the First World War had made this area famous and I never knew anything about it till I had passed through. I read the book eagerly as soon as I got it and made constant reference to my own charts to compare them with the ones in the book. It enriched the whole experiences of both the book and the trip for me. Thanks to Stanley Booth-Russell.

Time for a brew

Then it was time for a brew and more photos of this memorable occasion before stepping ashore with the ultimate visitor guide for Texel.

Our expert guide, Nobbie Dankers.

First Nobbie showed us a map, which explained the natural history, topography and geography of the island and its creation. Then he took us around in his car.

Talk about well camouflaged.  What ever is this? We were surprised that Nobbie picked up an egg but he assured us this was fine. He should know. You can't fool us with that trick.

But on the way to his car we were astonished to find an oystercatcher sitting on a couple of her well camouflaged eggs in the gravel. Nobbie explained that this is quite common. Meantime mummy was pretending to be injured in the hope that we would be drawn away from her eggs. This trick might work with a spaniel. We were not threatening hers eggs anyway but how was she to know that?

Viv swallows Steve follows.

Next it was off to the Veronica’s chippy to eat the local delicacy, herring, in the local manner!

Wind used to power pumps to drain the land water into the sea at low tide. One cannot do justice to the simple beauty if this little meadow with a photograph. You can tell the direction of the prevailing wind from these barns.

Then the grand tour. The thatched windmills would originally have been used as wind pumps to drain the land. This little meadow was beautiful. Poppies and cornflowers and other flowers each with an ecological purpose. But what simple beauty. These barns were a local feature as well. We saw quite a few of them all facing the same direction, naturally.

Nobbie explained how the dykes were made by the simple act of laying branches on the sand so that when the wind blew the sand it piled up behind them like snow drifts. No tractors, no JCBs, no bulldozers. He also took us to a lagoon that was formed naturally by the sea breaking through a dyke. Apparently others have tried but failed to replicate this phenomenon.

Note the queue of people on the tright waiting to get aboard.  And this is at 1600!

Then it was off for the once in a lifetime, never to be repeated opportunity of a guided tour around the brand new car ferry that will be linking Texel with Den Helder. It just happened to be the only open day on the day we turned up. And everybody in Texel had come to see it. The institute that Nobbie works for has some instrumentation on this boat so Nobbie already knew the boat inside out. He also seemed to know every person involved with it. The most staggering statistic about this car ferry was that they will be able to load 350 cars onto it in five minutes.

Ready, steady, GO!

They used these lanes as a running track and held races on it to raise money.

The blue part is what is controlling the propeller underneath. Nice motor! All this controlled by that little joystick.

But there were other interesting features like its 4 propellers, one at each corner, that can all swivel through 360 degrees enabling the boat to turn on a sixpence or manoeuvre precisely in any conditions and all operated from the bridge by a joystick. The propellers are powered by electricity that is generated by the power from four gigantic diesel engines.

Whatoh Biggles! The new clamcleat securing the rudder downhaul. Viv's little modification tidys up the tiller.

On our return to the CATRI 24 we did a little laundry, supermarket shopping and then Viv set about whipping a short piece of shock cord into a loop to tidy up the rudder downhaul on the tiller. Whilst he was doing this he fell into a conversation with Cris where they discovered that they were both model-plane enthusiasts. They waxed lyrical about this for long enough for me to record some of it on video.

Come back next year and Sail Around Texel in this boat.

Next we had a visit from a couple we’d met on the ferry. They were no ordinary multihull enthusiasts. They were the organisers of the Round Texel race in which 700 multihulls take part. That is some race! We were invited to attend next year on June 17th. I’ll have to make myself free.

Harbour restaurant.

We dined in this restaurant at the harbourside and whilst we were waiting for our meal a French family seated on the next table witnessed somebody falling off the edge into the water by accident.

During dinner Cris regaled us with more stories. One was about the only Indian to sail around the world. He took his wife and his manservant with him. This man insisted that his wife serve his food on time, that she deliver it with grace and that it be hot. The servant, Tiffin, did all the sailing. When he got home, astonishingly, his wife divorced him! Cris also told us a good customs story that I’ll have to ask him about again as I’ve forgotten it.

After a busy, eventful and enjoyable day on Texel we turned in at a respectable hour looking forward to sailing to Scheveningen tomorrow.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:21 PM

July 01, 2005

Oops a groyne then Texel

Vlieland, despite its uninspiring yacht harbour, albeit with clean showers (0.5€) was a nice little place.

It would take more than a thumb to close this dyke! Vlieland High Street Viv with some essentials

Once past the sea barrier there is a quaint little high street, where Viv did some shopping for us. There are regular ferries from the mainland and visitors’ baggage is taken to hotels by pony and trap.

Ubiquitous bike hire. Do not adjust your set!

There are plenty of bikes for hire, which is just as well because the roads are seemingly all narrow enough to justify having very narrow cars. This picture of one is not distorted in any way. Looks odd, doesn’t it?

The Netherlands cannot be appreciated from seaward.

The trouble with the Netherlands is that is all hiding behind dykes and thus impossible to appreciate from the sea.

General store and cheap showers.

There was a big van that served as a campers’ and sailors’ supermarket.

Would they have this if it were not necessary? Pit stop

Also a reassuring (or not depending upon how you looked at it) Search And Rescue helicopter and it was a short walk around the harbour with a wheelbarrow to fetch fuel. It was these daily fuel stops that prevented us from sailing day and night. But I don’t regret that one bit.

Most of the barges had departed by the time we got round to taking this photo.

The Dutch barges ideally suited to the shallow waters around here were in evidence. In this picture you can also see the narrow piled entrance on the right up which we had crept in the dark last night. Anything narrow always seems intimidating in a trimaran, especially in the dark.

As it wasn’t too far to Texel we cast off at 11.45 and set our sails as soon as we cleared the harbour entrance. We quickly rounded the tip of Vlieland and within a quarter of an hour had the sails down again and the engine started because the wind was on the nose yet again.

Not close enough inshore for Cris but too close for comfort for me!

Cris complained that we could have hugged the coast more closely coming out of Vlieland harbour to save distance and time. Without an echo sounder I was reluctant to do this but he then showed me how to read the colour of the water and tell its depth or rather its shallowness. He said that this trick worked all over the world. Not just where it was sandy or muddy. Then in his enthusiasm he ran us over a groyne and the rudder popped up. This prompted the question, “Do you have groynes in South Africa, Cris?” We hove to and used the weight of the engine to push it back down again because the rudder downhaul system had broken. It should have released itself but there was a plate screwed onto the rudder that should have been bolted through the rudder and the screws were not up to the job.

We managed to beat our way to Texel, which from the sea was as boring as the other Dutch islands. We came to the end of it and turned left passing the ferry terminal and exploring the adjacent harbour, which we had assumed incorrectly to be the yacht harbour for Texel as it was near to the town. But it did not look right. So I phoned my friend Nobbie Dankers who told us we were in the wrong place. This was the harbour belonging to the institute for which he worked. He redirected us to the proper yacht harbour at Oudeschild clearly distinguishable by virtue of its three resident Wind Turbines.

Arriving at Oudeschild, the main fishing and yacht harbour for Texel. The space age looking sailing club at the Oudeschild marina on Texel. Nobbie welcomes us to Texel.

Nobbie was there to greet us at 19.00 and made us very welcome. First he took us to a Chinese restaurant and then to his home for beer and tea. He gave Cris access to the Internet and we checked the weather and decided to leave early on Monday. Cris mentioned the Dutch barges and asked about one in particular that he had seen. At this Nobbie brought out an encyclopaedia of Dutch barges complete with detailed drawings. He turned out to be an authority, not only on Dutch barges but on just about everything Dutch and especially the islands and their ecology. This is his subject. He is a professor.

We are in for an interesting stay.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:18 PM

June 30, 2005

Norderney - Vlieland

At 0721 Martin Weigeler sent me a text message (SMS) with a weather forecast. It seemed OK. Easterly forces 3-4 mentioned. Not bad. Later turning SE-S. Not so great. Rainy gusts. Mmmmm. Isolated thunderstorms! Getting more hazy. Sea 0.5 to 1m waves. We can handle that no problem. A little bit about what lay ahead towards England then at the end: EXPECT A STORM IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL WITHIN THE NEXT 12 HOURS. Good luck Steve! :-)

Hard a starboard! Leaving Norderney Yacht Haven

Viv took a rare photo or two of me at the helm at 0900 as we left Norderney in an E-SE force 2, which was of no assistance at all. By10.30 we’d cleared the NW tip of the adjacent island of Juist and swapped our fuel tank for the first of several times. At this point we could probably have seen Memmert but again I did not realise the significance of this. We’d been making 8 knots with the tide. At around midday, in drizzle, we passed by the final German island of Borkum, which stands at the mouth of the river Ems. Then we were onto Dutch islands. Our target was Texel, the last island, where an old rowing friend of mine, from my University days, lives and works.

At 12.49 I sent him a text message. "Making slow progress. 80 miles to go. Only doing 6.7 knots with engine. Virtually no wind and what there is is against us....Passing Simonsand." It turned out, later, that he was on the other side of the island we were passing at this moment! However, in the next couple of hours we were down to just 5 knots and by 15.00 we were still only 6 miles north of the lighthouse on Schiermonnikoog, the first significant island. More slow progress past Ameland and by 8pm we were only ¼ of our way along the coast of Terschelling.

A front had passed through and with a light wind motor-sailing with the main and genoa we managed a little better, 7 knots. The days average was 6 knots with the wind on the nose all day. To be fair we had been ambitious to attempt to get along all the Dutch islands in one go. As it was we had covered 88 miles by midnight when we arrived at the penultimate island of Vlieland. The channel was well marked with lit buoys but we had a close call with a dredger that suddenly changed direction, started dredging and put its proper navigation lights on, all at the same time! Then there was the narrow entrance to the harbour in the pitch darkness! All in a day’s work.

Sent a text to Sue at 23.56 local time: "Arrived VLIELAND. Texel will have to wait till tomorrow. Cold and wet. Miserable day. X."

Meanwhile back in Blighty, Manchester University (whom I had been coaching for the previous 3 years) was, rather appropriately, beating the Dutch Student crew from Amsterdam, Nereus, by 1 1/2 lengths in the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. This news sent from Graeme Smethurst to me, also by text, was somewhat more uplifting than the message from Martin this morning.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:14 PM

June 29, 2005

Cuxhaven - Norderney

Trawler passing the training wall with, in the background, the Cuxhaven we never saw, a seaside resort.

We had checked the chart and found it would be impossible to sail inside the first of the Fresian islands because of a long training wall at Cuxhaven. This meant that we had to go right out past Sharhorn before turning southwest.

From the air on our trip back to England from Copenhagen, Stanley and I had thought that it might be best to sail between the islands and the mainlands of Germany and Holland, where there might be shelter from the North Sea gales. But the charts showed a maze of shallow, shifting channels, many of which dried out at low tides and would have been a nightmare to navigate under any circumstances but especially at speed and without an echo sounder, even with GPS. More about this later.

Despite appearances this foam is not caused by pollution but by bacteria or algae or something.

The wind was on the nose as we passed Kugelbake, a seamark looking like a gigantic man in a skirt with his legs akimbo and his hands on his hips, which marks the entrance to the North Sea. Then we crossed lots of foam on the water, which we thought was probably due to pollution but were later informed is a natural phenomenon. We motor-sailed with the tide at 10 knots until we were able to bear away and maintain this speed without the engine.

There were the same big, floating, buoys that had lined the channel in the inner Elbe numbered 29, 27, 25, 23 etc. You can see one here over Cris’s shoulder. But now there were also huge pillars planted in the sea bed marked with gigantic letters, G, F, E down to A the last one. If we had not already known that this was a very important shipping lane this would have made it clear. These big marks would have been clearly visible on radar.

Steve reclining at the helm of CATRI 24 trimaran, TARDIS.

We touched 13.2 knots before the wind came behind us and by lunch we were down to 5 knots so we started the engine again at 13.45. It was a lovely day spoiled only by the buzz of the engine. Helming is not a chore in a CATRI 24. This photo of me reclining in the German Bight will make a good Christmas card methinks.

Motor-sailing in the German Bight with gennaker.

It would have been nice to pay a visit to the little island of Helgoland, where the Germans had had a U-boat base during WWII but it would have wasted a day and as we’d just lost a day we continued in the sunshine motor-sailing along the coast with the main and gennaker on a starboard tack.

Cris Trace writes up his epic diary down below in the Catri 24 saloon

Cris wrote up his diary. His offspring have been trying to persuade him for years to publish it because he has had such an interesting life. But I guess he is still too busy living it.

We passed the Alte Weser lighthouse at the entrance to the rivers Alte and Jade, serving Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven and next we picked up the German, Fresian Islands of Wangerooge then Spiekerooge, Langeoog, Baltrum and finally Nordeney. Each of these islands was separated by a narrow channel leading, in most cases, to some form of anchorage or harbour that could have provided shelter if the weather had turned nasty. But the threatened front and force 5 never arrived. We spotted a few puffy clouds in the west at around teatime when we still had 14 miles to go to the western end of Nordeney, where we intended to rest for the night.

Bowsprit offset parallel to boom. The Catri goes faster in light winds if one or two crew members lounge in the pulpit.

We experimented with the bowsprit but without a pace boat we could not detect any difference in speed but it did reduce the risk of chafing the gennaker against the mast shrouds. We did confirm, however, that a CATRI trimaran goes faster in light airs if one or two crew members lounge in the pulpit!

GPS shows our max speed today was 13.2kn. The black arrowhead in the centre of the screen is us. The thick red line is the course I had set for us to take. Norderney beam trawler over Viv's shoulder. Norderney approaches

Approaching Norderney we passed a beam trawler similar to the one we'd passed at the start of our day at Cuxhaven. We could also sea that Norderney is a fine seaside resort too.

Norderney Sailing Club

We arrived at the very plush Nordeney Sailing Club at 20.30 and were greeted by an enthusiastic harbourmaster, who asked where we had come from. He was very impressed when we said, “Latvia” and by the time we had made fast and ambled to the lovely restaurant with its blue tablecloths we were already celebrities! Everybody already knew about our small, space age craft and our long passage. We all had a fish platter and an excellent Riesling summer wine.

In fact Norderney offered a suitably space age marina facility with a swipe card system for the showers!

Outside the bird life was very squeaky; oystercatchers, I think. And there was a veritable multitude of rabbits, a source of wonderment to Cris. Obviously there were no predators here. We walked around the harbour to get petrol and on our return we moved TARDIS a little and folded the bowsprit to make room for another boat that never came.

I wish I had known then what I learned later about Norderney and these German islands as I would have taken much more notice of my surroundings and better appreciated their significance.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:10 PM

June 28, 2005

The Rivers Elbe and Oste

Taking into account the northerly wind (German Bight forecast now force 6-7) and the fetch across the whole of the North Sea we decided that discretion is the better part of valour and opted to seek out the Mast route from the Elbe avoiding the rough seas along the Fresian Islands.

Viv & Cris

We headed back up the Elbe to where we thought it started at the confluence of the Rivers Oste and Elbe, which had been clearly marked. On our way, with the gennaker out and double-reefed main Cris again proved his worth as a sail trimmer and Viv as helm by coaxing 17.3 knots (against the ebbing tide) out of our very special hydrofoil stabilised trimaran, the CATRI 24.

This gave me all the less time to find in the Almanac the reference to the Mast route that I had undoubtedly seen on a previous thumbing through. No matter. We arrived at the junction, took down all the sail and turned right from the Elbe into the Ost motoring at first then motor-sailing with just the gennaker to give ourselves less to do each time we gybed as we sailed up this winding river.

The first bridge opened for us without us having to do anything. Later we discovered from the skipper of a moored boat what we should have known already, had I had the time to read the almanac properly, that we ought to sound two blasts on our horn to seek the bridge operator’s attention.

Soon we were running with the gennaker only and building the efficiency of our teamwork with every gybe.

Quite far up the river we came across a small rowing club who were using a VirusBoats Turbo II Classic, the very boat that had got me started in the boat business back in 1998 when I discovered it on a holiday in Britanny.

Then at Warstade we reached a bridge too far. It would have required us to dismast to get beneath it. Whilst we considered this we tied up and an investigation revealed that the river became unnavigable a further 18km upstream and was not connected to Wilhelmshaven, as I had presumptuously assumed, after all. We had all but wasted a day.

Still we did see some seals on the way back. Note the upside down broomsticks (withies) marking the channel. Returning to the Elbe the traffic was apparently steaming up river on dry land.

Seals Mirage on return to the Elbe

It was hard work beating back to Cuxhaven against the flood so we used the engine, yet again. We’d used 20 litres of petrol on this day trip. I let Viv steer us into the harbour this time. No problem, of course. He’s a whiz at the helm.

We walked to the fish restaurant for supper then I phoned Sue, my fiancée.

Forecast good for the next few days.

Martin Weigeler, the German customer, who had got me started on this CATRI adventure by introducing the boat to me, and who had been corresponding with me by SMS informed me that we had gone for the wrong canal!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:35 PM

June 27, 2005

Brunsbüttel to Cuxhaven on the River Elbe

Now there is a change in the weather. There is a cool greyness and wind-bearing clouds abound. Time to don our foul weather gear while the level changes in the Brunsbüttel lock prior to entering the River Elbe.

Cris casts his experienced eye at the sky beyond the lock. Time to put on foul weather gear, just in case. Steve takes the opportunity to tension the gennaker halyard.

Now also we have to take account of tides. One of the first sights to greet us upon entering the busiest shipping lane in the world is that of a yacht aground on the far bank.

Bigger ships than ever!

We cross the shipping channel where, plying their trade to and from Hamburg, are even bigger ships than we have encountered thus far in the Baltic and in the Nord-Ostsee canal. Quickly we pick up the first buoy, which seems enormous. Yet the next one seems small in the distance, until we get to it only to find it is as big as the last one was. This pattern continues down the Elbe estuary until, just three hours after setting off we reach the yacht haven of the city at its mouth, Cuxhaven. It is still only 10.30am.


Here we are greeted by a dour harbourmaster who informs us we can stay where we are for an 18€ mooring fee or move to a remote part of the marina where there is a long walk to the facilities for 9€. We negotiate 13€ and elect to stay where we are.

Cuxhaven is blessed by two excellent chandlers side by side ensuring that whatever one is unable to acquire in one of them will undoubtedly be available in the other. So we walk into the dock area of town to have a fish lunch and do some shopping for bits and pieces that we feel we need to improve TARDIS; a shackle here, a block there, a slightly longer rope here and there, nothing serious, just tweaking.

Cris tries unsuccessfully to use an Internet café so, as he is unfamiliar with predictive text, I use my phone to text his wife for him in South Africa whilst we are in a supermarket getting supplies. She responds quickly. Cris replies through me and I then get a message complimenting him on the speed of his SMS messaging! He laughs. We catch a taxi back and set to work. Andreas Wolfe from a local salvage company comes down to talk with us about our exciting looking boat and we express the hope that we will not need his services in the North Sea!

The day finishes with goulash soup and catfish in the Marina restaurant. We turn in at 10.30 intending to rise early at 7.30 and sail into the North Sea. The forecast is the same as today’s was.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:30 PM

June 26, 2005

Motor Sailing through Nord-Ostsee (Kiel) Canal

We are still drying our clothes from the previous day’s exploits as we sidle past these sleeping, Dutch barges about to return home from Kiel Woche.

Sleeping Dutch barges at ntrance to Kiel Canal

There is already a ship in the lock.

Ship in Holtenau lock at entrance to Nord-Ostsee Canal

While we wait a dismasted racing monohull arrives and when the gates open it sneaks in ahead of us.

Dismasted racing yacht

After I have paid our unbelievably low fee for the passage (8.70€) I interview one of the crew.

Interview with one of the crew

Apparently it is going to cost an unbelievably large amount of money to replace the yacht’s mast and sails (250,000€). The mast was only 6 years old and broke in only 18 knots of wind and 0.5m waves so there is going to have to be an enquiry.

The gates open and we start our daylong adventure by motoring under an impressive road bridge and then passing the restaurant where we ate last night.

The restaurant we ate in last night is just beyond the bridge

Pretty soon the first ship heaves into view.

First ship we meet on the canal It looks much bigger close up

It looks a lot bigger and more threatening when it is alongside! Cris has never seen so much shipping in all his life. By 10am we’ve only 83km to go.

Cyclists populate the towpath and every now and then there is a small car ferry crossing our path connecting roads that were cut through when the Germans built the canal before the First World War to give access for their warships steaming between the Baltic and North Seas. At the treaty of Versailles, after the war, the canal was made an international waterway.

Car ferries criss-cross the Kiel canal

The density of the shipping increases as the day progresses.

TARDIS had to squeeze through this lot!

We pass by a beach without stopping. We have our own sun lounge area after all. A train passes overhead.

We have our own sun lounger, Cris

trains and boats and ...

Much to our consternation we spend a lot of time in the company of this vessel carrying a dangerous cargo.

Dangerous Cargo!

Now and then it has to stop mid-channel whilst the traffic lights control the passage of other deep draught vessels wishing to occupy the middle of the canal.

We have enough fuel to get us all the way to the end and when we get to Brunsbüttel we are fortunate indeed to encounter a friendly taxi driver who kindly deprives us of our Jerry Cans, fills them and delivers them back to us at the Turkish restaurant that he had recommended we eat at.

refuelling TARDIS in Brunsbüttel marina

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:03 PM

June 25, 2005

Exciting passage to Kiel

Its amazing how easy it is to get up early when it is bright and sunny. Viv took this atmosphere shot of the marina at Gedser at the southern tip of Falster, Denmark and you can see how calm it was. At 0700 the barometer read 1009, quite a bit lower than yesterday's 1016 but the air was so still that the reflections were perfect.

So it was warm and dry when we set off at 0745 in our trimaran, TARDIS, and motored in the general direction of Lolland; wind force zero. I'd not made the connection beforehand with Holland; clearly meaning highland, whereas Lolland clearly means low land. If Holland is high, how low must Lolland be?

We passed part of a nature reserve (Redsand) with hides on stilts on it for watching birds. Then we had to negotiate the biggest windfarm I'd ever come across. Its 8 rows of 9 turbines standing perfectly still in the humid air.

The scale of the turbines only became apparent when we saw a small service vessel at the foot of one of them. They were massive. Apparently they have to be designed so that the tips do not reach the speed of sound. There seemed no chance that they would ever reach that sort of speed today.

Another range of obstacles that I'm glad we encountered in daytime under power were these stakes in the foreground, albeit topped with quietly awakening cormorants and gulls. We came across several fields of these and in the poor visibilty it was quite difficult to plan which way around them to go. These ones we left to port. As we passed the last one we noticed that the sky ahead was grey instead of blue.

We passed the last wind turbine and a few ripples appeared on the water. Cris suggested that we might get the gennaker out shortly. Then SUDDENLY we were sailing fast just on the main and genoa. We turned off the engine and tilted it out of the water. A glance at the GPS revealed that we were already doing 16.1knots, with no effort at all. So we came up into wind and put the port daggerboard all the way down and lifted the starboard one all the way up.

When we bore away we were doing 20 knots within seconds. The water was flat but only ruffled, as the wind was coming from another Redsand bank to the NW. Ideal conditions. This was the first time that I had noticed that the attitude of the CATRI 24 altered when she was really powerd up. The stern foil on the rudder had lifted the stern (and us) bodily up and the bow of the port float was slicing through the water with a fine spray coming off the bowsprit wire occasionally. This was a very different feeling and one which alarmed me at first. Later I became used to it as I realised that this was how TARDIS liked to be sailed.

Cris came alive and jumped about the boat in the most animated way looking at tell-tails, adjusting barber haulers and winches, trimming the sails. I nipped below to put on a jacket. When I came up we had hit 23 knots and it was pelting with rain but Viv, at the helm, had a broad smile on his face. We were quickly approaching the shipping lanes with white horses all around us. I though it was force 6. Cris thought it was 20 kn of wind and that we could go faster. Viv was still in summer clothing and wet through. I was near the limit of my own self confidence. We took a reef to be safe.

Catching up with shipping now and the sky looks even blacker ahead so we roll in a little of the genoa and take the 2nd reef in the main. The boat is well under control at 8-10 knots.

After a while when we had gathered our breath, we all, and especially Viv, had got dry and changed into proper clothing and we had taken stock of our cirumstances we were persuaded by Cris that TARDIS was lolloping up and down the waves and that she was not happy to be sailed like this. What was needed was more power. So we gradually increased sail. Of course Cris was right and soon TARDIS was leaping along from wave to wave at 12-15kn with just the one reef in the main, slicing through the bigger waves instead of climbing laboriously up and down them. We had left the main shipping route and we were making rapid progress towards the German island of Fehmarn!

We went pretty close to Markelsdorferhuk and its associated foul ground but made it out into the open sea again after the Westmarkelsdorfer lighthouse. Next was a series of yellow buoys marking firing practice areas that prevented our making our way directly towards Kiel. Not wishing to start WW III we sailed around them. After these we found ourselves heading slightly more south and Cris suggested that we leave the main with a single reef in it and get out the gennaker that was, as usual, furled on the end of the bowsprit.

To create a sail shape that Cris was happy with he attached a spare rope again to the clew of this big sail and tried attaching the other end to various points. Eventually as we approached the Kieler Fjord we were averaging 15-16 knots in not very much wind; force 3. At least there were no white horses to be seen anywhere anymore. I take my hat off to Cris! What an expert sail trimmer.

video clip

As we flew past a series of red and white fairway buoys we realised that this was the first time that we had really used the gennaker to its full potential.

Viv had been trying to make out something peculiar in the distance which I thought might be a square rigger. A quick squint through the binoculars confirmed this. We gained on this vessel all the while and as we entered the Fjord (not much of a Fjord by Norwegian standards) we could see hundreds of sailing boats of all shapes and sizes participating in regattas. And there were square riggers and Dutch barges a plenty. We had stumbled upon Kiel Week!

One of the boats we passed looked like a replica of Christopher Columbus's boat except that I dare say Columbus would not have been able to make this much way without any sails up, if at all. I thought it was appropriate, therefore, to take a picture of it with Cris (actually short fpr Crispin) in the foreground.

The approach to the Nord Ostsee Canal was straight downwind. Cris wanted to start the engine as we had dropped below the speed at which we could propel TARDIS with the motor. But we had plenty of time. We were not allowed through the canal at night and it was only mid afternoon. Besides I quite wanted to see how we did downwind against other boats. Although most people had much more sail up than we did we goose-winged past everybody. At least no vessel that was under sail passed us. So this proves that this little trimaran is a very slippery shape and its lightweight enables even a puff of wind to blow it along quickly.

There was plenty going on to keep us occupied and interested.

We too were an object of curiosity. No ordinary white fibreglass boat this.

Eventually we arrived at Holtenau where the entrance to the Nord Ostsee Canal is situated and stepped onto German soil (metaphorically speaking) for the first time on this trip.

It was warm and sunny by now and probably nobody round about would have experienced the weather that we had this morning. It's not as though the CATRI 24 trimaran is a particularly wet boat. In fact it's drier than most with its high cockpit. But it was pelting with rain and we were not wearing the right clothes. We should have taken note of that grey sky and dressed appropriately. But it was so warm and calm at 0930 that we were lulled into a false sense of security. Who would have a expected a black line cold front at 0945 with forecast winds of only 5-8 m/s?

All that remained was to shower and take a stroll with a couple of small fuel cans (as we'd not used much today but tomorrow we had to motor the whole length of the canal). Of course we also found a nice restaurant overlooking the canal to eat dinner. I had lamb; very lean lamb; in fact it had no fat on it at all.

When we returned to the Holtenau yacht harbour we discovered the entrance almost blocked by rafted-up dutch barges getting ready for their passage home to the Netherlands via the canal. Also we got an impression of the size of vessels with which we would be sharing our journey tomorrow.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:45 AM

June 24, 2005

CATRI trimaran arrives in Denmark

It is Friday, the day before Swedes go mad celebrating midsummer. But we had to leave there early this morning and head south to Denmark and thence to Germany. The pressure was high 1016 mb at 0630 as we squeezed out the tiny harbour of Skåre and the wind only Force 1 from the SSE; not much help as were heading SSW. So we used the engine and buzzed along at 5 knots all day. The four bladed sailing propeller that I had fitted to the Tohatsu 8HP 2stroke engine clearly has not enough pitch and with such a light boat we could cope with a coarser pitch. I will change this when I get home.

At 0930 we spotted a seal but it had dived before I could get my camera out.

This was the first we saw of Denmark. Could have been Dover! It got more interesting as we got nearer.

A Danish motor sailer chugged by showing great interest in us.

Notice the stakes in the water. Seeing these made me feel glad we were not sailing at night.

Later in the afternoon we had the good fortune to spot a fender floating in the water and Viv was detailed to clean it up to the appropriate standard for this beautiful, brand new boat.

A couple of times during the afternoon we set the gennaker.

This is a big sail, 40 sqm, and although the barber system enables one to move the clew about quite substantially this was not adequate for Cris, who is an expert sail trimmer. But this did not phase him at all. With a short extra length of spare sheet he took all the belly out of the sail by pulling the clew down to the stern cleat on the starboard float, outside instead of inside the mast shrouds.

Eventually we caught sight of the headland around which we were to go in order to reach the yacht harbour at Gedser. In the distance was the biggest wind farm that any of us had ever seen. There were 72 turbines!

The way into the marina was marked by buoys which seemed to be the wrong way round until we took account of the main direction of buoyage. We were glad of the GPS telling us we were doing the correct thing. It was very warm and sunny when we arrived.

We went straight to the restaurant and then walked into town to get some petrol.

In the berth next to ours was a British yacht and a crew member, Sue, donated a book for the boat's library entitled "The Dogs of Riga" by a Swede called Henning Mankell. The first page mentioned Ystad, where we had come from and there were references to Ventspils in Latvia where Tardis was built. So it was very appropriate and a damn good read. Thanks to Sue.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:04 PM

June 23, 2005

From Ystad to Skåre hamn in CATRI 24 trimaran

We waited till midday for the post to arrive as North Sails had posted me a batten for the genoa that was delivered to Latvia with the sail but was missing by the time I collected the boat. However, it did not arrive today so we departed after bagging an early lunch.

It has been a lovely day, with light winds, about Force 2 from the SW. A good day for the new crew members to familiarise themselves with the workings of the CATRI 24. Viv, ever resourceful, managed to turn light work into no work at all by lightly lashing the tiller.

We made 6 knots in this gentle breeze.

We passed Trelleborg the main ferry terminal for Germany from Sweden.

Trelleborg Robin Hood

And we saw this ferry, Robin Hood, more than once.

It was easy to cook in these conditions and we enjoyed our first day together at sea, establishing a routine.

We had chosen our destination, Skåre hamn, because it was the furthest we could get along the Swedish coast without going further from Denmark. This means that tomorrow we will have a short passage out of sight of land.

Hamn means harbour and what a harbour. It is tiny. Just two arcs of breakwater providing a small outer harbour and an even smaller inner harbour. The main entrance is narrow but the inner entrance is only just wider than TARDIS. And I mean only just. Maybe 25cm on either side. Of course my crew were encouraging me by saying this like, "Plenty of room this side." But I doubt if a bigger CATRI could have made it in without folding in the outer harbour first. As it happened we didn't have to fold.

We berthed without realising how dangerously close to a crane the mast was!

Then some locals came down and launched a motor boat from the slipway right next to TARDIS. Their battery was flat and so their engine wouldn't start and they had to paddle it across the harbour.

Then it was supper time and we realised we had no corkscrew for the wine that I had bought in Riga and had not opened yet. Viv, although virtually teetotal took this opportunity to prove how resourceful he can be. Once he had established that we had some pliers on board he went off in search of a something that could be made into a cork screw. Not five minutes later he returned with a nail. A quick twist with the pliers and bingo.

(Later in 2010 we discovered there is an easier way to open a bottle of wine.)

This was all very timely as the harbourmaster arrived and we invited him aboard for a drink. He was reluctant at first, as he'd already had something, it being mid summer, but he gingerly lowered himself onto our boat for a chat and we persuaded him to imbibe some whisky.

He had never been to England but he had been to Australia. He told us that Skåre was a village of only 80 households and that half of these were holiday homes. He kindly declined to charge us for our stay (it seems that midsummer is the season of goodwill in Scandinavia) and left us with some tourist brochures of the area.

There was no shop that we could discover. Across the fields we could see the bridge to Copenhagen. We watched the sun set and noticed how light refraction enabled us to see beyond the horizon as the air cooled. Through binoculars ships seemed to grow inordinately tall.

Finally a local delegation arrived, fascinated by TARDIS and wondering where we had come from and where we were going to. The CATRI 24 gets this sort of attention wherever she goes.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:21 PM

June 22, 2005

New CATRI crew - Ystad

Dr Crispian Trace, fresh from South Africa in his safari suit, was at Copenhagen Airport to meet me this morning. With him was a German living in Denmark who is interested in buying a CATRI for his daughter and son-in-law, and therefore wished to see one. Lucky them! So this time we drove through the tunnel under the shipping channel and over the impressive bridge joining Denmark to Sweden whilst the trains swished imperceptably underneath us.

On arrival at Ystad we left our German friend looking over the boat and quickly went shopping in the quaint mediaeval old town, once the home of the King of Sweden.

When we returned to the harbour Viv Thompson, an experienced, single handed Magnum 21 sailor, had arrived from England.

He set about taking photographs of this fascinating boat that was to be our home for the next couple of weeks, whilst Cris studied it without a camera.

Cris studies TARDIS with an experienced eye.

Our English harbourmaster, Bradley, and his Swedish wife Anika would have us stay until the weekend when all the celebrations for midsummer take place. This is a big event this far north but we can't hang around and tomorrow we intend to sail further along the Swedish coast before turning south for Denmark.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:09 PM

June 17, 2005


Our final destination together as a crew was determined by the accessibility of the airports of Malmő and Copenhagen. Sian was already booked on a Ryan Air flight from Malmő at 22.10 so we aimed to get to Ystad by lunch time.

It was an uneventful start with a grey sky. We hugged the coastline, whose character had changed somewhat. Now we could see cliffs and people on top of them to wave to who even waved back.

Then it turned drizzly & damp and fog enclosed us. Visibility was down to 200 metres and we were all on deck watching as yacht after yacht appeared out of the gloom. The GPS was a great comfort as we always knew where we were and which way we were heading.

The water was deep enough that we could have sailed right up to the harbour entrance and turned sharply to starboard to go in but this was a ferry port so I chose to stand off some way. Good job. As we were approaching a motor boat flew out of the entrance at full speed. Then just as we were crossing the channel a huge fast catamaran ferry came out of the dock heading straight for us! We could see each other clearly and there was no danger but I'm glad I didn't just cross the harbour entrance.

Once inside the yacht harbour we found a berth and tied up. I went to reception to see if I could get anybody to help me charge up my phone again. And lo, wasn't the harbourmaster an Englishman from Essex. Bradley was ever so helpful. His Swedish wife, Annika whisked my phone home to where her daughter had a compatible charger, whilst Bradley made heroic efforts to help Stanley and me get flights home to Blighty.

Meantime Sian packed her bags, bade her farewells and headed off to the conveniently situated railway station. We were sad to see her go.

Bradley invited us to move TARDIS to a more convenient berth right outside the office/restaurant. This was not only a more secure place for the boat but also it was a place where a great many people would see it. Great advertising.

We made her fast and discovered that the sail cover fitted extremely well dispite Aldis's initial misgivings.

A quick walk around this lovely little town, a visit to the travel agent to book our flights, an evening meal to remember with a first class guitarist who entertained us and two hen parties royally and then it was our final night aboard this now trusty little trimaran.

The next part of the saga of our voyage to England will start on 22nd June. But the our start may be delayed a little because of the midsummer celebrations on Friday. Too bad.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 07:15 PM

June 16, 2005

Gennaker day (1/2 hour)

Hanő had one more surprise in store for us. At 4am when it got light I woke up to discover that a three masted schooner had appeared in the night and was berthed alongside all those white tyres that you can see in the background. That'll make a fine picture when I get up later, I thought.

But at 6 o'clock it was on its way and this was the best I could do before the batteries on my camera gave up.

Our plan today was to sail as far a Skillinge on the mainland. We had been island hopping thus far. We got a chance to play with the gennaker for half an hour but the wind was so light we were down to under 3 knots so we gave it up for the engine again. This time the gennaker furled beautifully.

We motored in a straight line the whole day, in the company of another yacht. A sip overtook us quite slowly. We saw the occasional other motor boat and fishing boat and we watched yacht some distance ahead sailing with its spinnaker and getting steadily nearer.

When we got into Skillinge harbour we found a two masted schooner, next to which we berthed, bowsprit to bowsprit. The most memorable thing about Skillinge was the excellent plaice and chips that we ate. I guess that after Hanő anything was going to be a let down.

I forgot to take a photo of this harbour. Sorry.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:41 PM

June 15, 2005

Our finest day

In Őland yacht harbour two Germans, Birtle and Werner, offered their assistance. I was able to recharge my phone and the VHF radio battery, the power outlets in the CATRI having gone on the blink. Turned out later only to be a fuse had blown because some salt water had got into the VHF radio charger during the rough spell.

They asked us if we had got caught in the gale that had passed through here the day before and was recorded at force 8! We said we had been in it but that it seemed to be only a 6-7 when we encountered it. Apparently it had come out of the NW where nobody was looking for it. It certainly wasn't on any of the forecasts we had been offered by Aldis, with whom we were in daily contact.

So our friendly german neighbours offered us a weather forecast and we made our plans accordingly. Today we were expecting maximum 3-4 during the morning and 5-6, possibly 7 in the afternoon.

When we set off it was calm and fine. After an hour or so it was deemed worthwhile getting the sails up.

We had decided to stick to the coast of mainland Sweden where there were quite a few refuges in amongst the archipelago. The E wind gradually rose from 0 to 1, then 2 then it just made 3 by midday. As we were tacking downwind this was the first time that it had been warm enough for shorts and bare feet. But it was still a bit fresh for T shirts.

On we sailed waiting for the gale that never came. To be fair to the weather forecasters, the forecast did cover a vast area, the whole of the southern Baltic Sea! The wind gradually dropped, 2, 1 then 0 again. We had decided if conditions alowed it then we would make for the little island of Hanő. We could see it through binoculars from about 30 miles away but this shot is from much closer.

What a delightful place. We were excited as soon as we could make out the lighthouse. Then the approach to the tiny harbour was simple and welcoming. A very Nordic looking place. Inside the tiny harbour we quickly tied up and cracked open the bottle of RIGA bubbly that Stanley had bought for just such an occasion. The white painted tyres gives you some insight into the special quality of this place.

Our little hydrofoil stabilised trimaran looked very futuristic in this place.

We were elated. We certainly felt we had landed on our feet here at Hanő. So we went for a walk.

Sian points to the northern tip of the Island around which we had just sailed. But closer inspection of the Hanő map reveals an English war cemetry dating back to the Napoleonic wars.

Also Grillplatts, which later turn out to be large open air barbequeue sites. Visitors party here big style. And the best party of all is on the Friday after Midsummer. Shame we can't stay.

This was typical housing. There turn out to be only 35 permanent residents on the island, mostly elderly. We met the only young couple who live on Hanő and their dog. It was they who told us of the English cemetry. Then we came across a grillplatts.

On our return to the harbour we discovered that it had the most fantasic restaurant of the highest standard, overlooking both the harbour and the sea. The charming waitress told us of the 300 wild, yet quite tame, deer on the island and how as a northerner she was better able to understand the English of her colleagues than their Swedish. The sun took ages to set. What a delightful setting.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:54 PM

June 14, 2005

Rest day in Őland

We quickly made some soup and then all went straight to sleep last night.

This morning it was a bright sunny day and we decided to stay in Őland to recover. There was virtually no wind anyway. A couple of yachts motored out of the harbour. The pressure had been rising steadily since we set off from Ventspils.

First impressions of Őland were good. Note the grass roofed building in the background. South Őland is a world heritage site or something like that. The central plain is apparently very special. There were plenty of wind farms about.

We needed 2 stroke outboard motor oil, which we found at the local supermarket and we needed petrol. To get this we needed a taxi. Our taxi driver (centre of the picture below left) was very friendly and helpful. He helped us locate an adjustable spanner as well. He told us that when he was a teenager he had been as far as Aberystwyth, which is where Sian was born. The green jerricans which we had obtained in Ventspils had a capacity of 20 litres each. We had two. We emptied the fuel into the small 5 litre plastic cans of which we also had two. These were then easy to handle when refilling the two 10 litre fuel tanks on the CATRI 24 trimaran. So altogether we had 70l of fuel and with this we could go for a couple of days provided we were frugal. At 4.5 knots we were able to motor for 6 hours on 10l one day.

I also took the trouble to investigate our jib furling problem a little further. It turned out that it was not the bottom of the long vertical batten in the jib that had slipped out. It was the top half that had become separated from the bottom half and had slipped down beside it. The batten is like a tent pole except that, instead of having shock cord down the middle of it, it is held together with a few grub screws. I put it back together using an Allen key set we'd just bought and pushed it back up.

Then I examined the furler and decided that we had too many turns on it. So I removed a couple of turns and will keep an eye on it to see if it is worth while removing any more. One has to be mindful that when it is very windy a sail can furl very tight and require more turns of the furler. So it is possible to remove too many turns.

Now it was time to take stock and replenish ourselves at the local restaurant.

We had travelled some 250 miles in two days, most of it with the engine on. Two of us had been sea sick. Although we quickly felt better afterwards it was difficult to eat properly and we knew that it would not be possibble to keep our energy levels up unless we stopped each day at a harbour or marina. Now after a rest day we had only covered 250 miles in three days. If we only sailed in the daytime in future we could only expect to cover 60 miles or so as long as the high pressure persisted and we were forced to use the outboard motor. OK we could do almost 8 knots with the engine if two of us stood on the bow but the engine sounded a bit stressed and the fuel consumption was poor at this speed. It was now the end of Tuesday. The Round the Island Race is to be on Saturday. Had we pressed on without our rest day here in Őland we might have made it to Cowes in time but we would have been much more likely to have a terrible accident or a mutiny. So we abandoned all hope of participating in the race and set about enjoying the rest of our trip.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:58 PM

June 13, 2005

Too much excitement

Up early this morning to find there was brilliant sunshine and a fresh breeze blowing from the SE. The wind speed was ideal but the direction meant that the waves would build up in size as the day wore on.

Although it was sunny it was pretty cool but it was great to be sailing at last. Pretty soon we were doing 10 knots in our CATRI 24 trimaran and we got our first chance to trim sails and inspect them in daylight.

We cleared the southern tip of Gotland and set our course for the southern tip of Őland. Wind was now up to about force 3 and rising.

When the wind had reached force 4 and we could see white caps in moderate numbers we found that we were doing about 15 knots and it was great fun surfing the waves. We sent Sian below to get some rest, as we would need her later and gradually eased the main sheet as the wind increased. We closed the companionway hatch and thereafter were unable to see the GPS but we were content to steer by the compass.

We noticed that we were keeping up with two ships some distance away to our left. We were going fast. The wave piercing hulls of the outriggers sliced into the waves and the considerable reserve of buoyancy in the front of them lifted the bows up each time they became immersed. The foil on the rudder was lifting the stern up so we could see the antifouling and the propeller of the outboard motor was no longer dragging occasionally in our wake. When the bows of the main hull went under the water the sound was not the boommf followed by spray scattering everywhere that one gets with traditional hull shapes. The CATRI makes more of a swoosh noise as it slices into the bottom of a big wave like a knife through butter. Quite often water came over the coach roof but its rising curved shape dispersed the water sideways so very little would have gone down the hatch had it been ajar.

I looked up and saw that the sky ahead was no longer blue but a grey mass. "I don't like the look of that", I remarked to Stanley. The waves were now 2m high and white horses were everywhere. Stanley asked me what I thought and I responded that I thought it was time to take a reef. He agreed and we set about it. After we'd done it we looked across to see the ships had gone.

Sian came up top and I went below for my rest. It was quite lively below. Not very restful. After about 3/4 hour I heard some flapping and came up to discover Sian and Stanley were having a little difficulty with the roller reefing jib. One glance at the furler and I realised I was going to have to clip on up front and deal with it personally. No time to waste. The jib was flogging and the furler was jammed. I could see that the very long vertical batten (more like a modern fibreglass tent pole) that runs the length of the luff to hold up the roach in the jib had slipped out of its pocket at the bottom and was preventing the furler from turning. I lay down on the deck and gave orders to release the furling line whilst I pushed the batten back into place.

With that fixed Sian attempted to reef in the jib but the furling line had slipped outside the furler so again I had to go up front and lie prostrate on the bow to fix it. The flogging of the head sail was really distracting and had a tendency to instil panic so I ordered Stanley to sail with it and Sian then pulled the jib sheet taught on the winch to provide us all with a little peace and quiet. However, we were now surfing down waves at speeds approaching 20 knots and I went under a couple of times before I had the problem fixed. One expects to have teething problems with a new boat but it would be nicer to have to resolve them close in shore near one's home port. Still the boat was behaving well. Stanley had no problem controlling the rudder and pointing her exactly where he wanted. Nothing broke and if anything were going to break this is when it would have broken.

Waves were now 3m high and the job was not finished. I was reluctant to unclip myself so I lay across the coach roof and winched in the second reef with Sian easing out the main halyard. Success! We were now depowered and unable to keep up with the waves in the steadying wind.

A short while later we sailed out of this squall into blue sky and light ineffective winds. But we still had the big waves. We started the motor again. Whilst we could see Őland for a long time it was dark by the time we rounded the lighthouse at its southern tip and turned north into sheltered water. That was a relief. We could see two flashing red lights guiding us into Grőnhagen and with the GPS confirming our position we eventually tied up at 3am, conveniently adjacent to a public convenience, with hot running water! Bliss.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:49 PM

June 12, 2005


After about 4 hours sailing the wind changed direction and then died away so we started the 8hp Tohatsu engine again. We had left the main shipping lane behind but still there were ships around. One came past extremely quickly, probably doing about 25 knots.

Eventually we came out of the slopping waves and into the shelter of some islands. A long way ahead we could see what looked like a ship coming towards us head-on, but which turned out to be a grain silo at our destination.

After 23 hours at sea we eventually turned onto the heading that would take us into the tiny fishing harbour of Trygg-Hansa. At least that is what I thought it was, as this was the name on the life belts. But this turned out to be the name of the Swedish insurance company which has sponsored all of the life belts in all of the harbours.

Once alongside an old fishing boat we took out all the wet gear (we'd not discovered the lock on the forehatch until everything in the forpeak was soaked) and then we all fell asleep in the warm sunshine.

Stanley in the saloon, Sian on one trampoline and I on the other.

After an hour or so I took a walk around and discovered the yacht harbour where we should have been.

I also discovered a camp site nearby with a toilet!
We were all exhausted so we turned in early after eating.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:35 PM

June 11, 2005

Maiden voyage

In the national paper there is a photo of TARDIS with a headline about us setting sail for England today. However, this morning we discovered that the power outlets for charging phones, VHF radio, camera batteries etc. was not working satisfactorily. Ivars, turned up pronto, screwdriver in hand, and set to work. It was a fiddly job and so we got out of his way. Aldis took Stanley to see the weather forecast and I negotiated our release from the port with an attractive border guard in a smart green uniform.

Off we set into the Baltic.

Lunch in the Ventspils Sailing Club and then at about 3pm it really was time to go. It was overcast and there was hardly any wind but after motoring out of the river Venta we gamely set our sails and waved goodbye to Ivars and Inga who were videoing this momentous event from the lighthouse. Inga shed a tear or two.

Aldis had recommended that we stay on the Latvian coast and head south towards Russia. After some considerable time watching the forest and beaches relentlessly slipping by we came to a white lighthouse. We had inspected the charts and GPS and discovered that it was going to be difficult to refuel going the way Aldis had proposed. We calculated that we had plenty of fuel to get across the Baltic to the Swedish side, where marinas and harbours were plentiful, so we altered course and headed west towards Gotland about 90 miles away.

We started our watch keeping system of two hours on and one hour off. When I came up from my rest we were sailing (at last) at about 7.5 knots (almost twice what we'd been doing under power) in the company of a number of ships and it was dark. This was exciting. Our little trimaran was doing what she was designed for and it felt really good.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:50 PM

June 10, 2005

CATRI 24 on the water

Hooray! The boat is actually on the water. I thought I'd never see the day. But instead of finding people polishing a completed boat we find Aldis, the designer, near the top of the mast.

Fortunately, Oskars, who has virtually built the boat single handed has hold of him.

Meanwhile, Uno, is reclining in the pulpit, utilising his great mass to prevent the 40 sqm gennaker from blowing away.

We decided to stay out of their way and go shopping for fuel, oil, bits and bobs.

The end of TARDIS's maiden voyage. Well hardly a voyage.  Let's say a Christening.

Then finally at the end of the day, when sadly the fresh wind had all but died away, we got to sail her with Aldis at the helm, Oskars feeling deservedly proud of his efforts, Stanley, Sian and I observing closely and with Inga and Ivars on the breakwater by the lighthouse taking photos.

The gennaker proved a trifle difficult to furl but, being familiar with this sort of problem with the Magnum 21's early gennaker furlers, I was able to propose a quick fix, which worked extremely well.

Then it was time to store ship now that everybody had finished with her and to go for a lovely meal at the hotel in Ventspils where I had stayed on two previous visits. Time now for our first night aboard and the prospect of an early start.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:01 PM

June 09, 2005

Off to Riga

"Are you Stephen Walker?" asked Stanley Booth Russell, the most experienced multihull sailor I was able to recruit for the job of sailing the CATRI 24 trimaran from Ventspils in Latvia to England for the Round the Isalnd Race. "The dinghy oars were a bit of a give away", he said.

I was already at the front of the Ryan Air check-in queue so I was relieved that he had turned up on time. Sian Glanrid-Jones, yachtmaster and trusted old friend was only two paces behind him, complete with the heavy box full of essential items that I had had couriered to her mother in Caerwent, South Wales, to save me carrying it on the train to Stanstead.

The queue was considerably longer by the time we had finished checking in our excess baggage.

So far, so good.

On arrival at Riga, the lovely Inga, whose company has been building TARDIS for me, was there to greet us and took us straight to a supermarket to stock up on food and other essentials for the voyage.

By the time we got to Ventspils, 190km away to the NW, she was nearly asleep at the wheel and there was only one restauraunt open still in the whole town. Her husband, Ivars, joined us for supper and then they took us to the camp site, where we had a luxurious log cabin booked. The Latvians certainly know how to camp.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:44 PM

May 20, 2005

CATRI 24 entered in Round the Island Race

I have just enetered the Round The Island Race and I'm looking for competent crew to do it with me in the CATRI 24. Who is available to race this extremely fast boat around the Isle of Wight on June 18th? More importantly, who is available during the period beforehand to work up in the boat? Anybody know what Ellen McArthur is doing?

The boat, the first in the UK, will have the exclusive sail number, GBR1. It is being shipped over from Latvia on May 30th and so there will not be much time to tune up a crew. Really I need a competent racing skipper, as I have not done this sort of thing before. Are you available?

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 12:45 PM

April 22, 2005

Back from Latvia

I'm back from Latvia where I was viewing progress on my CATRI 24 demonstrator. It's not quite ready yet but I was able to stand up inside it for the first time and get a feeling for the space and head room, of which there is plenty.

I will have to go back again in a few weeks to test it and ship it over to the UK.

Meanwhile I am available for demos of the Magnum 21.S. Call me on 0870 770 2728 to arrange yours.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:17 AM

April 14, 2005

Off to Latvia to see CATRI

I'm off to Latvia tomorrow, Friday 15th till 21st, to see the progress on the CATRI 24 demonstrator that I have ordered. It is nearly ready. The sail maker was asking if it was OK to put GB1 on the main as the sail number, as they put SWE1 on the first boat delivered to Sweden. Sounds exclusive enough to me.

I'll have my mobile with me, 07985 043 981, but you can leave a message for me to pick up on my return on 0870 770 2728. Or you could just send me a cheque for the a deposit on the boat of your choice! Magnum 21 trimarans ordered now will be ready at the end of May.

I should be able to give demos of the CATRI 24 during May but I would appreciate it if those contemplating ordering one for next season should hold off until I have demonstrated the boat to those keen to order for this season.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:02 PM