Living on the Dark Side – the Refit

“Oh! So, you’re deserting us and moving to the dark side, then?” sneered a sailing friend recently, on hearing my news. True I made the change maybe a couple of years earlier than I had planned, but an opportunity not taken is an opportunity missed.

There is a logic to moving to the dark side, or at least that is how I have convinced myself and the argument I impressed upon the first mate, who deserves a medal for listening (or pretending to listen) to my ‘boaty’ rambles, for I do drivel rather a lot on the subject.

First, I know that at 67 I no longer wish to wander alone on the ocean hundreds of miles from home, and secondly my body is rather glad of that. If I dredge deeper, I could add simple economics and the fact that we have downsized our lives, so doing the same with our boat is entirely in keeping.

I have eased my restless urge to roam and feel I can remember the longer voyages I have made since 2015 with satisfaction. I don’t look back as I’m not going that way, so there are no regrets, just powerful memories and a delicious tingle of excitement at the different voyages to come.

Water Rat undergoing refit at Boatworks+ in St Peter Port

So let me introduce you to Water Rat, formerly Foxy Dog, a Channel Island (CI) 22 designed by Alan Buchanan and built in Jersey from around 1979. About 400 were made and every one of them delivered on their own keels, at least one as far away as Finland. They have a semi displacement hull, unlike Pippin’s displacement hull, which means they still have a yacht like underwater forward section, but a much flatter bottom from around midships to her relatively broad stern, thus given enough power, this hull type can rise onto the plane and almost over the water, rather than through it like the displacement hull. Whereas the maximum speed of a displacement hull is limited to a formula based on waterline length, about 7 knots for Pippin, the semi displacement boat can motor well above displacement speed, which for a CI 22 is around 18 knots, cruising at around 12 knots. The beauty of this hull type is that you can also motor very comfortably and economically at displacement speed (for the CI 22 around 6-8 knots).

Water Rat was born in 1982, but not launched until 1991 and in the meantime her carpenter owner fitted her out to a higher standard than normal although he was clearly no electrician, given the spider’s web of DIY wiring now being replaced. A 160 hp Volvo diesel engine provides her motive force and two can sleep reasonable comfortably aboard and 4 or more can enjoy a day trip. Of course, there is much I have to get used to such as engine noise and the very much livelier motion, not to mention fuel bills. Pippin was quite happy and comfortable going through a gale, but Water Rat was never designed for that. She is a tough, sea kindly boat, but she is only 22 and a bit foot long, so nice days and calm seas will be the order of the day and that’s fine by me and the first mate. Talking of whom, one of the priorities of her refit is to provide additional security and comfort for the first mate and crew, hence the guard rails around the sides and the bathing platform with boarding ladder at the stern.

Stern showing bathing platform – ladder yet to be fitted

Being so small means berthing fees are less and she should be able to sneak in anywhere, even in the very congested south coast marinas, for I certainly intend to traverse the Channel in her and it will be so nice to do it in daylight, but first there is much to finish off before she will be ready.

Her all new electronics include radar, sonar and AIS but to make absolutely sure that her tiny form is seen by those monsters ploughing up and down the Channel, a Sea-Me Active Radar Target Enhancer sprouts from her little mast. This little device is an active system which receives a radar signal, amplifies it and re-transmits it, which ensures a stronger return signal and a more even strength around the full 360° azimuth. Great, though I was rather alarmed to read somewhere that it can provide a signal akin to that produced by a very large ocean-going steel trawler – I can just imagine a skipper 70′ up in his bridge seeing this image on his radar screen and looking out for a ship and seeing nothing! I would have to explain on VHF that the vessel on his screen is a minnow of 6.8 metres and barely 2 off the sea!

I shan’t bore anyone here with nerdy details of the refit, but if you do want to read of them, do let me know.

Well, this is all very serious stuff, but perhaps my most difficult re-alignment will be learning not to take food for an army, wine for several weeks, clothes for everything from Arctic to tropical conditions and a library plus charts, jerry cans of spare fuel, 25 litres of emergency water, not to mention 1/4 ton of tools and spares, because weight kills speed and eats fuel. So, I’ll cut down my toothbrush, slice my soap bar in half, travel naked, leave the hair restorer ashore, take just the book of the moment and pack a picnic – though I suspect I won’t manage to leave the Cobo sizzler sausages and bacon behind; oh, and eggs, and perhaps black pudding, not to forget Gentleman’s Relish. You see? This is going to be tough!!!

Meanwhile the refit is nearing completion and I hope Water Rat will return to her natural element in a fortnight or so.

Reaction to her livery has been varied and often been amusing. A lengthy pause followed by “Well no-one’s going to miss that are they?” (probably a no then) or “what’s the rat got to do with anything”? (he’s probably scared of these little rodents on dry land) or, from my sister “Oh what a fabulous name!” (but she is uber loyal and hasn’t seen the livery yet)!

Before you decide, let me explain that the rather bold red rat on her bows is the emblem of 7th Armoured Brigade, with which I proudly served in the last century; it’s actually a Jerboa but “Water Jerboa” doesn’t have much of a ring to it methinks.

Reader survey:

Livery – Y for yes, or N for No!

Name – Y for great N for rubbish!

(no prize draw offered)

By ajay290

23 comments on “Living on the Dark Side – the Refit

  1. Y,Y! If you must become a “stinkpot” enthusiast, John, and it sounds rather as if you really must, then you seem to be going about it in typical style and with typical passion and energy. I wonder if you’ll even be one of those rare ones who slows down when passing close to yachts under sail in order to reduce the size of your monstrous wake… Good luck with the re-launch.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Dave! Nothing monstrous about Water Rat, but will give all wind assisted vessels a wide berth I promise. Might even give you a tow!

      • Ha! No doubt you politely held back from referring to your former brethren as WAFI… The metamorphosis is complete!

  2. I’m told that food eaten while straight and level doesn’t taste as good as when heeled over 20°. It has something to do with insufficent mixing of spices. 😉

  3. What a magnificent venture! May you have calm seas and a little bit of wind from the right direction. And of course much love to the mate

  4. Hi young John, looking good. Sorry not to make it over this year, after my circuit of the Celtic Sea I was getting fed up with being weather bound and then they were predicting strong-ish wind possibly NE so I hurried back to the Hamble. Perhaps next year. You must certainly keep your Dessert Rat.

  5. Y and Y!!
    Excellent news CMJ and looking forward to meeting her and seeing you both and Sarah before too long!

  6. Hello there John
    What exciting news, a new boat
    She (he)? Looks wonderful
    Enjoyed the update
    Keep ‘em coming!!
    Good to hear from you
    Best regards
    Denise

    Denise Cohu
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