The Mighty Morbic Massive

Early in 2020, before lockdown, I was visited by Paul and Robin to pick my brains before they took the plunge with their Morbic. Their resulting build is well described in Issue 144 of Watercraft Magazine, and they put it together in surprisingly quick time (well quick by my standards!).

Paul was in contact again, and told me he was hatching a cunning plan for a Morbic meet-up, and would I be interested. You bet! After some email ping-pong, the venue was chosen to be Cobnor Activities Centre, where Mike and Sarah are active sailors with Swefn. This was the ‘other’ Chichester Morbic 12 which had been rumoured by Adrian Donovan when I first met him at the boat show. I’ve never sailed from Cobnor, despite having taken the round-peninsula walk may times. With launching at any tide state, it’s an excellent starting point, if a little exclusive.

The inaugural Morbic Massive kitted up and ready to launch! Proteus, Swefn and Boudicca

Mid-October is starting to get a bit brave, but there was a spring tide and a fresh southwesterly awaiting, so a trip up to Chichester Yacht Club was agreed. We would be joined by an intriguing 1/2 length model of a Tancook Whaler, with schooner rig and clipper bow, called Lapwing. Would be nice to get hold of the plans for that.

After some admiring each other’s handiwork it was time to kit up and launch. Mike opted for a single reef down, and social distancing meant that Proteus would be going as Three Men in a Boat, with full sail. As I still haven’t reeved my reef points on Boudicca, full sail it was.

We needn’t have worried, the rising tide sluiced us up the Itchenor channel in no time, and before long, we were all moored alongside the new pontoon at CYC.

Lapwing, Swefn, Boudicca and Proteus tied up alongside CYC pontoon

Social distancing was to the fore at CYC, so we sat outside in the sun, and ordered from the menu. The fish and chips is to be recommended!

But today was not about eating, today was about sailing, so we set off with a following wind and ebb, with cameras at the ready. I had a huge advantage being one-up and a full sail, but we managed to get lined up for a few shots

Leaving CYC for the return trip

Proteus was well laden with three lunches, but with the wind up her skirts, she looked very impressive!

We all got back in no time, and all in all, it was a very successful first meet of Morbics, and it was a pleasure meeting all involved. Paul is already working on plans for a repeat next year, with the hope we can track down the other boats out there. Alec Jordan has apparently sold 11 kits in the UK, so there must be 8 or 9 others somewhere.

Maybe we should also invite the Bosham International 12s – that would be fun!

Here’s looking forward to the next Morbic Massive Meet!

One last gratuitous photo of Boudicca…..

Photo acknowledgements and copyright to Paul, Robin, Tom and George

OK, let’s try again

The next attempt at getting to East Head followed the same pattern – launch at Itchenor (don’t forget the face mask if you want to pay the dues in the harbour office – doh!)

This time, a northerly wind was forecast, swinging round to a SW breeze. By the time we got there, it was already filling in from the south-west, but in fits and starts.

While trying to reach the pontoon to pick up Signora, the beautiful Colchester smack Primrose passed by, on passage from Overy Staithe in Norfolk. I had a quick chat with those on board, and they recognised Boudicca as a Vivier design! Small world but I guess these old gaffers move in the same circles. It was good to see a smack from my neck of the woods.

It didn’t take us long to reach East Head this time, and it was absolutely beautiful. Many yachts were moored off the beach, and quite a few tenders had been dragged up. Someone had even set up a table and chairs for 6-8 people, who were woofing down their lunch with wine flowing. We left Boudicca to rest at the water’s edge, and settled down for lunch. What a glorious day!

The office tracked me down on the phone, but I sent them this photograph to say I couldn’t take their call right now.

Boudicca takes a well-earned rest

By the time we had finished our lunch, the wind had dropped to nothing, so it was time to think about getting back before the tide started to ebb. Time to break out the oars, and we set off, occasionally sailing when a zephyr appeared, but it was going to be a bit of a slog.

We got about half-way, when a huge Beneteau passed by and asked if we fancied a tow. They had seen us leave the beach and wondered how far we would get under oar.

The tow was gratefully accepted (thanks to Vainasha & crew), and as we approached Itchenor, a light breeze appeared, and we made the rest of the way under sail.

A lovely day, but note to self – maybe investigate buying an electric outboard motor for future use!

The first trek to East Head

One of the things that attracted me to Chichester Harbour was being able to explore the various inlets and beaches of which there are many. There’s Emsworth, Hayling, Nutbourne, Itchenor, Dell Quay, Bosham, Cobnor and the list goes on. But East Head on the east side of the entrance to the harbour is a lovely place – beautiful sandy beach, with dunes and wild birds (feathered and others) – normally only reachable by road, and then through a rather expensive toll. We go there off season, and it’s one of our walks on Christmas or New Year’s day. Bleak and chilly, but bracing.

The problem with East Head is that to reach it from Dell Quay, you have to launch, say, an hour after high water, and go down with the tide. The return has to be made with the flood, and in order to have enough tide for recovery, the day will be around 9-10 hours long, which is a real commitment. It also limits the morning tide times you can use, typically 0800.

It’s more convenient to use the launching at Itchenor, which can be done at all states of the tide. But the downside is that it costs 5 quid a time, and you also have to find paid parking, which in season, is always full.

Anyway, we decided to give it a go, and Signora came along for the ride. With a picnic loaded, we set off into a stiff breeze, beating across the channel against the strong spring tide. The channel was very busy with XODs and other keelboats beating out to their start lines, and it was gratifying to see one or two go aground on the mudflats.

It was quite tough going, and after an hour, we were barely up to Thorney channel, with yet another long tack to reach East Head. We could probably have done with a reef down, but I haven’t got round to rigging the reef points yet. We cut our losses (Signora was a little damp from spray!) and stopped at Pilsey Island instead, the other side of the harbour, where we sat on the beach with lunch, watching the dinghies and keelboats racing all around. There were a lot of boats out that day!

It’s a lovely spot, and we made a mental note to do one of the walks in that area in the future.

On the way back (which only took 20 minutes with the wind astern), I noticed the helm was a little wobbly, and resolved to check things when we got back. On inspection, I found that the rudder stock had split, allowing the blade to rock around quite loosely – not good for directional stability.

I was never particularly keen with the design of the stock and this confirmed it. The idea is that you can disassemble it for maintenance (which is nice) but the compromise is the strength, which I don’t think is enough.

After a good wash in fresh water and drying out, I fixed the problem by adding a bolt through the pivot as well as replacing two of the screws with bolts. If I were to make another stock, I would build it permanently – sod the maintenance, but I think my modification will see me out. Highly recommended from square one!

East Head would have to wait for another day…

A bit of racing!

Over the first few days after the opening of the harbour, I’ve been out many times, once with Signora, including a trip down to Bosham again. So much for social distancing there! The green at Bosham was heaving with picnickers, and I don’t think any were over 2 metres apart! Ah well.

One of the more recent sails was a test to see how long it would take to get to East Head. We’ve had a few Easterlies recently, which makes it easy to get down harbour in good time, but results in a windward slog on the way back.

Blowing a 2-3, it took only an hour to get within spitting distance of East Head, and on the way, I picked up some company from an International 12 creeping out of Bosham.

In principle, the Morbic 12 conforms to the Int 12 design, so this would be a good test, although their sail does seem to be quite a bit larger, and they use a stayed mast. However, I was pretty sure that would be offset by their greater weight, as they are built from solid wood planks

Boudicca acquitted herself very well, showing him a clean pair of heels downwind on the way to East Head. This was on a close reach – not exactly planing, but a good turn of speed. My competitor peeled off to sail up Thorney channel, so I continued to East Head, where about 25 yachts were anchored up and many people on the beach.

I was starting to worry about how long it would take me to get back to Dell Quay, so rather than landing, I turned for the long beat back.

The 12 reappeared and joined me on the sail back to Deep End, and once again, Boudicca had the better of it. In fact, I think the 12er was a bit miffed by her performance. A quick wave of acknowledgement and he was away up the Bosham channel.

I continued to beat up past Itchenor, and Boudicca really is a delight to sail – very well balanced, and you quickly learn how to tack with minimal loss of way. Take it slowly, let off the sail a bit and accelerate out of the tack before the centreboard stall, and then bring the sheet back in.

Against the falling tide, I had to hug the shore, but as we rounded the point opposite Birdham, I could crack off the sheet, and relax. I got back from East Head in 90 minutes. Good reference for future trips!

Escape from Lockdown

Chichester Harbour has been completely locked down since March, so we’ve had to take to the bikes to get around and social distancing has been the rule.

In May, it was announced that boating could resume, even though sailing clubs could not open, which ruled out any sailing at Shoreham for the foreseeable future.

The irony has been that the weather has been almost tropical, with incredibly blue skies and clear air. I wonder if it’s related to lack of traffic and no vapour trails in the sky? Well duh! (as my daughter used to say)

On 21st May, the time had come to get Boudicca back on the water, and with the help of a spring tide and perfect weather, it was irresistible.

A quick trip down to Bosham and back was easily achieved as the wind freshened, and we got back before the tide disappeared. The sad thing is that the Crown & Anhor is closed, so refreshment had to wait until I got home!

One of the nice things about Boudicca is that I get at least one compliment each time she goes on the water. She’s a good looking little boat, and appreciated by other sailors. I have had to explain what she is and who designed her several times.

A lovely day on the water

I suppose the first official sail was when Signora and I went down to Dell Quay for our first sail together. A glorious day, without too much wind, so we hooked up Boudicca to the Panda and set off. It’s only around 4 miles by road, and if you time it right, the parking is not too bad.

It can be a bit tricky launching a sailing dinghy at the quay, as, depending on the wind direction, the wind shadow of the sheds plays havoc. As Signora was going to be on board, I opted for a quick row to the pontoon, before hoisting, and letting the crew on board

The oars which Bill bequeathed me are a bit short for the aft rowing position, but at least they stay out of the way when stowed. I think I will revisit making a proper sized pair of oars at a later date

Our first voyage together went without incident, with a quick trip down to Itchenor, and the crew enjoyed it immensely. Good decision!

Maiden Voyage

This wasn’t supposed to happen but Signora was away in Italy, having her hair done, and I was at a loose end. So I thought “why am I here, I should be out sailing?” so I suddenly got the urge to go down to Dell Quay. The weather was perfect and the tide also, so there was no excuse.

It was a Monday, so parking at Dell Quay was easy, so taking the boat down with the Panda was a doddle. Before long, we were afloat! I’m afraid there are no launching photos, as my friendly photographer was away, but I managed to grab a photo on the iPhone as we approached Bosham – yes, a very brave first voyage, but it was no trouble at all.

Boudicca acquitted herself very well. A good turn of speed and very well balanced on the helm both upwind and down. I learnt how to take the tacks slowly, so the centreboard didn’t stall, and as long as you keep the boat moving, the centreboard bites fairly quickly.

Rather amusingly, on the way back, I almost ran over a swimmer off Cobnor point, and he asked me what the boat was. I shouted “a Morbic 12!” and he immediately said “ah yes, a Vivier design”. I wonder if I will track down the other Morbic 12 on the harbour, which Adrian Donovan had already told me about.

A lovely day on the water.

Official duties

Of course, before we can go sailing on Chichester Harbour, we have to pay our dues. We went down to Itchenor on one of the Harbour open days in the Spring, and while there were stands advertising and selling rubbish to those that wish to fill their houses with rubbish, we took the opportunity to call into the Harbour office to register for a licence. A one-off payment gave me a sticker which had to be affixed to the port quarter, hopefully the first of many……

….and we were ready to go. I was informed that to launch at Itchenor would entail a £5 fee each time, which I thought was a bit extreme in view of the fact you also have to pay for the parking, so I decided that Dell Quay would become our base. The only advantage of Itchenor is that you can launch at pretty much all states of the tide, whereas Dell Quay turns into a mudberth more than 2 hours either side of high water.

However, with some general awareness of tide times, I’m sure that’s manageable, even if it means being stuck at East Head all day waiting for the harbour to fill.

Covering up for winter

Let’s face it, I didn’t time this well. Finishing a boat just as the clocks change is not ideal, so Boudicca was going to have to spend the winter at home. I needed a cover and quick!

I was recommended by Chris Lintern at Shoreham to go to Cover Care who are based in Thornham Marina, just down the road from Emsworth. All I needed to do was get the boat down there, and they would make a fitted cover there and then.

Dave Hockaday was very helpful and, true to his word, I collected the boat with cover later that day. Just as well, as it was pissing down with rain.

Everything was perfect, including a snug collar for the mast where it passes through the transom, and a coverall for the stem.

The maiden voyage would have to wait until next year…….