About Josephine of Hoo

plansJosephine of Hoo 9.9 m (32′) LOA, 2.37 m (8′) beam, and 1.52 m (5’6″) draft, with a grown oak rudder stock hung aft of the stern post.

Josephine  is constructed of Honduras mahogany planking on Canadian rock elm ribs. The hull above the waterline is splined – strips of mahogany are inserted between the planks to give a smooth finish. The hood end fastenings, where the planks are fastened to the stem and stern post were originally brass screws but were replaced with phosphor bronze screws in 1981. The hull,  cockpit and cabin sides were stripped to bare wood and re-varnished in 2014.

The keel is lead.

The owner

Stern

Bruce Grant purchased Josephine in 1980. He viewed her on a mooring in Chichester Harbour, and was taken for a test sail. He was looking for a new boat, having sold a cherished wooden folkboat, Goddess Freya, earlier in the year. He enjoyed working on wooden boats, and Josephine had all the credentials of an excellent sea boat. Bruce has been a member of Royal Northumberland Yacht Club since 1963. At its base in South Harbour, Blyth, Northumberland, the Club aims to provide undercover storage for wooden boats and there is a spar shed where masts may be stored indoors. Since the early 1990s the Club has had pontoons for members’ yachts. In 1981 Bruce was the Sailing Secretary, and was later elected to office as a Rear Commodore, Vice-Commodore and Commodore between 1983 and 1991. In photographs, if not engaged in racing, Josephine is generally wearing the defaced blue ensign of the Club, and a pennant appropriate to Bruce’s office at the time. In 1979 he took over RYA Cruising courses at the club and it continues to be a RYA Sea School for its members. He became a Vice-President of the Club, but his sailing days ceased on account of a series of medical problems which have left him in a wheelchair. He last sailed Josephine in 2012, but since then his three children, and a son in law have attended to maintenance, and have used the boat for day sailing and short cruises. In 2014 Josephine was offered for sale at £15,000.

The crew

It is possible to sail Josephine single handed. Sheets and winches are all to hand in the cockpit and although hoisting and lowering sails has to be done on deck, there is a useful piece of string for ensuring she (more or less) holds her course. There is a captive spring-loaded hook on a pole which enables a buoy to be captured without leaving the cockpit. Her relatively small foresails make sail handling easier. Insurance companies tend to treat single-handed sailing as an exceptional risk. Check your policy. It may limit single-handed sailing to daylight hours in coastal waters or exclude it altogether. She can be sailed with up to four crew. She is equipped with life-jackets and a life-raft for that number. However, most of her longer cruises have been undertaken with either two or three up. With three up a watch-keeping  system of 3 hrs on, 3 hrs off, 3 hrs on, 6 hours off can be maintained indefinitely.

Launching

If using slings the after one should be positioned at the after end of the ballast keel. The sling will naturally cover the stanchion, which is the method for ensuring the sling is properly positioned when the boat is being lifted out.  The forward sling goes under the hull in the vicinity (but clear of) the log impeller.

The deck

The deck is constructed of pitch pine planking covered with cloth. The original cloth had begun to loose its adhesion, and in 1982 it was replaced with glass cloth, glued with epoxy resin, and painted with non-stick deck paint.

The cockpit

Cockpit

The cockpit is divided into two by the main sheet horse. The after part has a thwart and two folding seats for use by the helmsman. The main cockpit has a plywood seat which was totally replaced in 2013. It is of an exterior quality beechwood and varnished. The two-speed winches are to hand on the outer sides of the cockpit coaming. There is a bilge pump mounted on the port side under the seat. The single lever Morse control for the engine is mounted on the port side at the aft end of the seat. The control is designed to be used with one’s foot rather than have to lean down and lose vision when approaching a close quarter situation. The cockpit sole consists of its original teak planking on plywood. Dodgers bearing the ship’s name are mounted on the stanchions.

The beam which spans the forward end of the cockpit is in two parts. In 1981, shortly after assuming ownership, I noticed that the mahogany facing board was showing signs of rot, and removed it, only to discover even worse rot in the softwood behind. I removed all the rotten wood and was faced with the problem of how to replace it. I was given a piece of keruing, a SE Asian hardwood, to replace the beam and bought some genuine mahogany (that was still possible in 1982) for the facing board. But how to insert them? I cut them carefully and created a long scarfe in each piece so that they could be inserted in two pieces and glued into place. The repair has lasted over 30 years, which is at least 10 years longer than the original!

The only other rot I have found was in one corner of the cockpit. That was repaired in 2006 with a West African hardwood called sapele, genuine South American mahogany having ceased to be available.

The rig

The mast is a hollow sitka spruce tapered spar (designers knew about pre-bend in the 1930s) and she is three quarter rigged. The mast is meant to be raked aft slightly. When craning it the natural attachment point is under the lower spreaders with the lifting rope led forward of the upper jumper struts. This allows for the aft rake as well as ensuring the lifting cable does not foul the masthead light. To control the lift attach ropes to the mast at the level of the mast cleats.  When seating the mast into the mast step the foot needs to be pushed forward into the slot in the mast step. There is a slight depression in the mast step the correct position for mast. I find sitting down between the berths facing forward and applying pressure with my feet and legs as the mast is lowered into place does the trick.

Having got the mast into position, the order in which the stays are attached is crucial. It should be (1) one running back stay, (2) the inner forestay and (3) the other running backstay. If you apply the forestay first the foot of the mast can slide aft down the step. If you apply both running backstays first it is well nigh impossible to tension the forestay with the highfield lever. As soon as you have applied these three on their highfield levers, the mast is stable and the remaining shrouds and stays can be made up at leisure. The shroud plates were re-fastened in 2013. A new masthead light was acquired in 1984, but is yet to be fitted.

To tune the rig

Tuning the rig takes practice. When first launched, Josephine, like most wooden boats, will take 24-36 hours to take up, longer if she has dried out ashore, but another 7 days for the full effect. Leave tuning the rig until the end of this period. Over-tightening the rigging during taking up may cause the hull to leak. Release tension slightly in everything except the inner forestay and the two runners. This includes lowering the boom to take the weight off the topping lift.  Sight up the mast track for signs the mast is bent out of true. Provided the mast is straight at rest, it doesn’t matter that the upper part bends gracefully aft when put under tension from the backstay. That is normal, but if the top of the mast bends to port or starboard, you need to correct it by adjusting the jumper stays at the lower shrouds. To do that you need to use the bosun’s chair. I tape over the locknuts as an added precaution. The lower shrouds need to be tightened next and finally the cap shrouds. The lowers can be marginally tighter than the caps but the shrouds shouldn’t pull the mast out of its alignment. The outer forestay needs to be adjusted to be under the same tension as the inner forestay. It is not possible to set these stays with the same bar taught tension that is common these days on plastic boats. True, the forestay will bow to leeward a little, but the sail compensates. When sailing the lee shrouds should not be swaying in the breeze.

Sails

Josephine is equipped with the following sails:-

  • Main                         Saturn Sails     1991
  • No 1 Genoa            Saturn Sails     1991
  • No 2 Genoa            Delta                  1981
  • Working Jib           Delta                  1981
  •  No 1 Spinnaker    Saturn Sails     1991
  •  No 2 Spinnaker   North
  • Storm jib                McWilliams

Inventory

Josephine is fitted out for cruising. She has an inflatable Avon dinghy, and a Tohatsu 3.5 hp, two-stroke outboard engine, two anchors (CQR and fisherman) with chain for the bower anchor and rope and chain for the kedge. We carry a plank for lying outside the fenders when appropriate. We also carry aprons to protect the varnished hull from the fenders. The instrumentation is simple. The log and echo sounder are by Brookes and Gatehouse. There is a VHF radio. There are cups, bowls, plates, and cutlery. There is a Baby Blake sea toilet.

Running back stays

The running backstays provide tension for the forestays. One of them (the windward one) should always be tensioned on its highfield lever. The levers are to hand for the helmsman. The backstays have light rope preventers which stop the leeward backstay from thrashing around. The leeward preventer has to be released before a tack (or gybe) and when the boat settles on its new tack the new leeward preventer needs cleating off. If you fail to get tension on the new windward backstay before the wind fills the foresail your job will be made much harder. Don’t worry if things get in a tangle – the mast may sway but it shouldn’t fall down. Gybing, especially in strong winds, can be a bit of a challenge. A crash gybe is not recommended. Keep the main under control with the mainsheet at all times. Haul the boom amidships as you steer dead downwind. Release the about to become lee runner, and then gybe. Tension the windward runner before sheeting in the jib. If the jib fills before the runner is tensioned you will have a struggle to get the runner on.

Accommodation

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Main cabin looking forward – note the mirror and the sailing scenes. They were there when purchased in 1980!

Josephine is really designed for racing, with only rudimentary accommodation. There are two cabin berths with lee cloths (“boards”), one quarter berth aft and one surprisingly comfortable pipe cot forward. The pipe cot used to be made of galvanised steel which had been painted over in times past but when the paint started flaking off (and getting in my sleeping bag) I replaced the cot frame with one made of stainless steel. Various attempts have been made to stop leaks through the joint between the cabin top and its sides. These occur from time to time . In 1981, I renewed the cascover sheathing on the cabin top and and deck. In a very cold winter it proved impossible to maintain sufficient heat for the glue to set, so rather than wait for mid-summer I removed the new cascover from the cabin top and replaced it with glass cloth with an epoxy resin glue, painted with International Paints deck paint. The same solution was applied to the deck in 2003. In 2013 we extended the glass cloth covering of the cabin top over the sides. That stopped the deck leaks from that source entirely for the 2013 season. There is still a small leak from one of the stanchion bases.

The engine

In 1981 Josephine was fitted with a two cylinder Albin petrol engine which hadn’t been working for some time. It was replaced with a single cylinder BMW D7 diesel engine. That was overhauled in 1991 at Caley Marine on the Caledonian Canal but saw service only until 1995, when it was condemned by the importers. Having lost an entire season, Bruce decided to buy a Yanmar 1GM10.  That was fitted in 1996 and has given good service since.

Electricals

There are two 12 volt batteries, one in the battery box at the foot of the companionway, and the other in the space beneath the galley cooker. There used to be one battery only at the foot of the companionway. The second battery was added in 2003 when the foredeck electric winch was installed.

Instruments

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The instruments, radio, navigation lights and domestic lighting are switched through a bespoke switch box on the bulkhead above the chart table installed in 1982. The Harrier log and Hecta echo sounder are by Brookes and Gatehouse but long since discontinued. They were installed in 1981. The VHF radio is more modern but not so modern that it carries digital selective calling (DSC). There is also a fuse box inside the switch box.  The fuses are of a ceramic type which is difficult to obtain these days. There are spares in the bosun’s box, but to avoid bad contacts through corrosion it is as well to take the precaution of brightening the ends of the fuses every year with fine emery cloth or wet and dry paper and spraying them with WD40. There is a wiring diagram for the switch box and its circuits.

Foredeck winch

An electric fore-deck winch was fitted in 2003. It was overhauled in 2013. There is an isolator switch on the outside of the engine box in the quarter berth. The winch uses a lot of power so the engine needs to be running while it is in use. The switches for up and down are on the foredeck each under a protective cover. The lightest touch is sufficient to activate the winch. If you press too hard the switch may jam. While the winch is well attached to the boat it is unwise to rely on the winch gearbox to provide security when anchoring. I use a rope snubber on the anchor chain with a bight over the winch.

Plumbing

The stainless steel water tank sits under the cabin sole. Where it comes into contact with hull fastenings there was a tendency to galvanic corrosion. I have applied 1mm of epoxy glue to the tank surface to protect it which seems to have done the trick but it would be worth removing the water tank periodically to inspect it. There is a nylon reinforced plastic pipe between the aft end of the tank and the galley freshwater pump. The pump is a Munster and Simms original circa 1960. In 2014 a new lip-seal and O ring were sourced and the pump was  overhauled.

Galley

Galley

Oh so simple – if you are used to primus stoves. If not – they are rare beasts these days – here are some instructions. The galley primus stove needs a supply of paraffin and methylated spirit for pre-heating the burners. Lamp oil is a temporary substitute for paraffin, but it produces more soot.  A gas burner is an alternative for pre-heating but meths is simpler, although these days, not so readily available in any quantity as before. It used to be possible to order a 5 litre container from a pharmacy, but now they consider you a potential meths addict, and restrict you to 500 ml at a time at much greater cost. Meths is stored under the galley. Pour meths over the burner with the delivery tube until the tray fills but does not overflow, and light it. Pressurise the paraffin tank. Wait for the meths to burn almost completely away before opening the valve which allows the paraffin to vaporise to produce a clean and quiet flame. If the burner isn’t hot enough you will get smoke. If it is within a smidgeon of being hot enough the putting a light to it will get it started. If not, you may get flame. Turn it off and start again. The cooker is a Taylors 028. Spares are available on-line.  The burners can be de-sooted by being immersed in household cloudy ammonia and cleaned with a tooth brush. It’s a very messy job but cheaper than buying new burners at £100 each.  I modified the stove by having a stainless steel hob made. The original had a rather smart black enamelled hob in cast iron, but it suffered from corrosion on its underside. The hob on the present stove is stainless steel. Maybe it doesn’t look as good but is much more serviceable.