Monday, 31 December 2007

Bristol Rose... a short history.

Over the past 53 years you could count the number of rash decisions Robert has made on one hand. Living in a good neighborhood on the US East Coast, raising 2 children, working for the same company for 21 years… in short, life was fine but getting dull, on the road to…well, where? He couldn’t help wondering, is life about working towards security and retirement and ultimately just maintaining the status quo? How long could this last?

In 2004 while taking a Sunday afternoon drive to the Chesapeake Bay a spark was ignited. Who knows, maybe Bristol Rose sailed past that fateful afternoon as Robert and Trish happened upon a late summer festival at the John H. Downs Park. As they ate hotdogs and enjoyed the Bluegrass band, their eyes traveled with the boats across the Bay to Rock Hall. A plan was hatched to buy a boat of their own. This boat need not be fancy. Maybe a little center cockpit fishing boat. Big enough to get out and catch some of the striped bass the Chesapeake Bay fishermen get so excited about. “Stop right there big boy, if you are getting a fishing boat look forward to lots of quality time by yourself!” exclaimed Trish.

Old Coot, found hanging around the Chester River, MD

We relocated to the USA in June 1996 with our two children Owen and Elliot, from Sydney, Australia. Like many Australians we’d spent a lot of time at the beach. Although we felt a strong affinity to the water, our collective sailing experience was limited to OPBs (other people’s boats) and the occasional Hobie Cat rental down at Balmoral Beach on Sydney Harbour. We couldn’t have imagined it then, but perhaps we were destined to one day be at the place we are now in our lives.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
In another time and place Charles and Anne Brackett had plans of their own. They’d done some sailing on their 38’ Shannon and in 2002, planned to build their 43’ dream sailboat, Bristol Rose. Bristol Rose was designed by Walt Schulz and built by Schulz Boat Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. She was launched in October 2002 and the Bracketts sailed her to the Bahamas where she spent the next few years of her life.

Bristol Rose receives her bottom paint, Schulz Boat Company, Bristol, Rhode Island
After months of book and online research, as well as time spent climbing over the OPBs waiting in boatyards for new owners, we bought our first sailboat, Sandpiper in early 2005. Sandpiper is a 1979, S2 9.2A sloop and she opened our eyes to a lifestyle on the water that fitted us very comfortably. Just to be sure we could handle a 30ft boat on our own; we took sailing lessons with Getaway Sailing in Baltimore. This gave us the confidence we needed to begin sailing in the unfamiliar waters of the Chesapeake and to eventually take off on a two-week cruise down the Bay.

Quiet Boatshed on St. Leonard Creek, MD

We also learned from Matt, our affable sailing instructor, how to tie lines like a sailor (power boaters go round and round and round in knots), and how to laugh at anyone silly enough to be caught out sailing with fenders still hanging over the rails. Most importantly, Matt taught us that sailing is “all about lookin’ good!” Thanks Matt!

The Francis Scott Key Buoy, Baltimore is the site where Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner, the morning after the Brits trained their cannons on Fort McHenry. "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there."

We have always been travelers, always inquisitive about the world and the many cultural differences that make travel so addictive. We’ve both worked on 3 of the 5 continents. Even as we’ve traveled across over half of the 50 states of the USA, we’ve marveled at the cultural differences from one state to the next. We’ve both experienced life in various parts of our homeland, Australia, from north to south, east to west. Sandpiper turned out to be the perfect boat for a family to explore the nooks and crannies of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. We’ve spent weeks aboard, exploring from the waterside industries of Baltimore to the islands and inlets all the way to Crisfield on the Maryland/Virginia border.

Container Terminal, Baltimore Harbor
Was it the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” or maybe that Christmas read “An Embarrassment of Mangos”? Who knows, but more research came into play, for the boat that would take them to far away places.

In 2007 the decision was made to sell the much loved Sandpiper and buy the “dream” boat. Now, looking for a dream boat has nothing to do with being practical, this is all about romance and escapism, and above all else, “lookin’ good”. Our dream boat would be special; not brand new but one that previous owners had loved and cherished. She had to be an American design but with traditional lines, be sea worthy, sail well, have a good reputation, be big enough to live on for a year or more yet small enough for two of us to handle.
We did the research, hung out at the Annapolis Boat Show, read books about the cruising life and along the way, fell in love with Shannon boats. Sure, we looked at other boats, but we always came back to the dream of maybe one day owning a Shannon.

Boat stands at Quality Boatyard, Tiverton, RI
As if by fate our search came to a happy ending with Bristol Rose; it was meant to be. When we first stepped below, Robert knew what Trish was thinking – Ahhh, American cherry wood interior! A standing joke is that Trish would have every piece of furniture in the house made of cherry, if she could. The closing date on our offer was 11th August, Robert’s Birthday. Bristol Rose’s tender is named Rosebud; we named our pets after flowers, Rosie Bud and Daisie Dog. The “signs” were stacking up. Bristol Rose not only met, she far exceeded our expectations of a previously owned, well-designed, much-loved and cared-for sailboat. She is a special boat that we feel is perfect in every way.
First look at Bristol Rose

Bristol Rose is a Shannon 43, hull # 51, launched in 2002. She is the second-to-last of the 43’ hulls made by Schulz Boat Company in Bristol, Rhode Island. Walter Schulz’s experience working with boats began when he was still at school. In February 1975, he began construction on his own design, Shannon 38 hull number one, in the same building that now houses the Herreshoff Museum. The boat was unveiled at the Annapolis Boat Show in October 1975. In the Fall of 1985, the first Shannon 43 was shown at the Annapolis Boat Show. Schulz named his Shannon yachts after the Shannon River in Ireland, where both his grandmothers were raised.

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff (1848-1938) revolutionized yacht design and produced a succession of undefeated sailboats for the America's Cup between 1893 and 1920. (Wikipedia)

One of the four boats built by Bill Koch's America3 Syndicate for the 1992 challenge.
When we visited the Herreshoff Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol, RI in 2007 on our search for our “dream” boat, we learned about the legendary boat building skills of the Herreshoff brothers. It seems clear that Walter Schulz has been greatly influenced by the Herreshoffs, as well as some other greats in sailing. “Also I never build a boat without twin headstays. With them you can wing and wing or have roller furling on one and hank-on jib on the other. I mean what the hell do you do when you roll up your furling jib? How can you run up a smaller headsail? I copied the system of Chichester’s boat when he was in Newport long ago. As soon as I saw that on Gypsy Moth I said to myself, ‘That is going on every boat I build’, Walter Schulz (Ferenc Máté, The World’s Best Sailboats, Vol I).

Herreshoff boats
Bristol Rose has the unique Shannon Sketch sail configuration. She is equipped with sails made by Clarke Bassett of Kappa Sails in Westbrook, CT, auxiliary power provided by a 75hp Yanmar diesel, carries 200 gallons of water and 100 gallons of Diesel.

So what’s it like owning a Shannon? The first thing you notice is a lot of rubber necking. If we are in a slip people stop to admire her. We are often asked, “What type of boat is that”? Our favorite was when a woman walking past stopped and asked, “Is that really a Shannon?” She had never seen one up close but like us, dreamed of owning one.

An earlier vintage Shannon called Sandpiper, caught our eye on the Chester River.
There’s an air of romance around the Shannons, thanks in large part to the character of the man, Walter Schulz. On a trip up the Patapsco River to Baltimore this Fall a large power boat was bearing down on us as we crossed the shipping channel. The power boat slowed down as she came near, while the passengers took pictures of Bristol Rose. As they powered past us we noticed the Australian flag flying proudly. Small world! They might also have noticed we were flying the green and gold, Boxing Kangaroo!

Bristol Rose at anchor, proudly flies the Boxing Kangaroo, as well as the Star Spangled Banner!
The people at Shannon make their owners feel like members of a large family. It was a delight to meet Walt, Bill Ramos and Walt’s daughter Erin Schulz at the Annapolis boat show in 2007. Trish proudly wore her Shannon cap, thanks to Bill, for the rest of the day. No ordinary hat; you can't buy one anywhere. As Bill explained, you have to own a Shannon to get one of these. Walt Schulz has designed over 20 Shannon models and the company has launched over 335 boats. Even though we had just recently bought a previously owned Shannon, they knew who we were. The Shannon Owners website keeps a record of current Shannon owners and there is a great exchange of ideas and helpful information from one to another. Walt is quoted by Ferenc Máté: “….I like to hear where they are. I like to keep track. Before I go to bed I listen to the weather, and when I hear that there is such and such a storm blasting where one of the Shannons is cruising, I can smile and feel good and sleep well that night. I get a great kick out of that.”

Walt Schulz launches Bristol Rose. "Every boat Shannon launches, I launch with a few drops of blackberry brandy, some on the bow for good luck and a few drops in the water for the gods."

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Bob's Philosophy

" I wouldn't recommend a life of decadence ..... but it has worked for me" - Bob Bitchin

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Family (& friends) Christmas Blog

We wish you a Merry Christmas &
a Happy New Year!
As usual, the Holidays are here and we are hopelessly out of time to send greetings by snail mail - thankfully! We don't have any cool looking pictures of our gorgeously handsome kids (ha!), no tales of exotic travels near and/or far, no high achievements or work promotions to boast about, just the usual day-to-day, work, school, dog, cat, etc. etc. etc. We can't even tell you we're enjoying the sailing; it's winter here and Bristol Rose is in her slip in Canton, winterized, waiting. Oh well, that's life. Snow has come and gone and is forecast to come again before April. Life is good.

A heavy fall a couple of years past blankets the berries and branches of the Washington Hawthorne on our corner.
So please... send us your cards and letters. It's great to hear from you all with tales from far-off shores.

We love to hear your stories at Christmas, of beaching in Australia; working on the B&B in Wales; making it through nursing with high distinctions no less! in Bulli, Yes Michael!; graduating from school in Sydney; making money in the Macau casino; spending time with the kids in the UK; basking and basting by the pool in Brisbane; grabbing too much sun on Queensland's Gold Coast; picking bananas on the hillside in Woolgoolga; mowing the lawn in Murwillumbah; dining with the swimming club in Dundas; sailing the Trimaran across Moreton Bay; taking in the horse track in Tennessee; wiling away the time at White Rocks; enjoying the Fois Gras with a glass of Sauternes in France; mixing it with the neighbors in Minnesota; building boats in Bristol RI; staying warm in Phoenix; fishing at Fingal; missing us in Mission Beach, working on the movies in Woollahra; sailing and basking in the Bahamas; ghost hunting with swamp dog in Georgia's tidal shore; touring the sights of Toronto; cooking up a storm nightly in New Zealand; havin' an ale or two at the village pub in Bath, Avon; sloshing whiskey in Scotland; practicing social welfare in Perth, WA; knocking around the hot spots of Noosa, finding interesting species in Florida; living well in Lilyfield, and just plain making it, one more year, through the terrifying traffic on the East Coast of the US.

Thanks to family and friends one and all for contributing to our Christmas blog.
We couldn't have done it without you!

Have a wonderful Christmas (what will it be - seafood or ham?). With Love, and Very best wishes for a fabulous New Year in 2008!
Robert, Trish, Owen, Elliot, Daisie Dog and Mitsi Cat

Monday, 17 December 2007

Where will Bristol Rose Winter?

For the past 2 years Bristol Rose was on the hard. However this winter she will stay in the water at the Anchorage Marina in Baltimore.

We will stay over some weekends and explore Fells Point and Canton and enjoy the city.
This year I returned the sails to Kappa Sails to have them cleaned, checked/repaired and sunbrella UV covers added to the Yankee and Genoa ready for the summer.
Typically boats seem to fill in the available time with jobs to do. Bristol Rose is no different. I have a short list of projects that we need to attend to over the next year. These include
  • Upgrade LP gas bottles
  • Repair DC refrigerator raw water pump (intermittent operation is driving me crazy)
  • Brightwork never stops
  • New TV
  • Laptop computer, navigation & photography software
  • Repace the Dinghy, we now have 2, both for sale, a Trinka 10 and Avon and a Honda 2hp outboard. I am thinking of getting a Walker Bay RIB
  • New life raft and replace flairs
  • Ham radio licence
  • Windvane, still looking but like Cape Horn
  • Lots or organization, downsizing and packing stuff away
For a look at Bristol Rose's sister ship Fortitude, Shannon hull # 52 and her first offshore passage - 400 miles from Newport, Rhode Is. to Annapolis, Maryland, read the article in Blue Water Sailing magazine.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Handrail Covers

I love the brightwork on Bristol Rose and don't mind the upkeep. My problem is time; full time work and part time cruiser does not make for regular maintenance of brightwork. To solve this problem I have made a set of Handrail Covers to protect the brightwork.

For these covers I used Oyster White Sunbrella. I cut strips of material as follows:

  • Forward Handrail 8" x 44.25"
  • Aft Handrail 8" x 114.25"

Measure and mark 2.5" in to create a 1.25" hem on the long edges. Fold the material first to the marked line and use the back of your scissors to crease the material in place. Then stitch the hem first near the edges then fold over a 1/4" hem and stitch.

Fold the cover in half with the hems outside and trace the approximate curvature of the end of the handrail.. Sew this curved seam.

To add the snap fasteners, turn the cover right side out. Measure and mark 6" in from each end for the shorter cover. For the longer covers, measure and mark 6" and 46.5" from each end. Fit snaps to cover. You are finished and in shorter time than it takes to put on 10 coats of vanish, you have your handrails covered.

I also made some covers for the 3 hatchs while I was at it. Lookin good!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Two weeks on the Chesapeake Bay


We purchased our first sailboat, Sandpiper, a 30ft S2 9.2, in 2005. Our collective sailing experience prior to Sandpiper was gained aboard OPB's (other people's boats) and on Hobie Cats rented on stormy afternoons at Balmoral Beach in Sydney. During July of 2005, we spent two great weeks exploring the Chesapeake Bay with our youngest son, Elliot and Daisie Dog. Although we'd spent the past 3 months putting our mark on Sandpiper with a few coats of varnish on the brightwork, re-caulking of the toerails and chainplates, installing a new hatch and new head, removing the microwave and re-installing the original Origo fuel-burning stove, and a general spit and polish above and below decks, we learned a thing or two during that 2 weeks about proper maintenance. Quick attention to the stuffing box and a new forestay were both on the agenda during that trip.

St. Michaels Museum
We sailed out of White Rocks Marina on Rock Creek, Pasedena Maryland on the 4th of July weekend, heading to St. Michaels. From there we criss-crossed the Bay all the way to Crisfield (the Home of Crabs) in the first week, then turned around and headed back towards Baltimore during the second. Anyone who sails the Chesapeake Bay will tell you that July is not the best time to sail. Despite the heat and the need to run the engine when we'd rather be sailing, we count those 2 weeks as 2 of the best weeks we've spent on vacation.
Crisfield, old and new.

On the final day, we sailed back into White Rocks with a storm chasing us up from Annapolis and another closing around us out of Baltimore. A spectacular moment at the very end of our journey; the skies pitch dark all around, a small craft advisory over the radio, power boats tearing across the water for shelter, sailboats docked, and one bright shaft of skylight breaking through the clouds directly above the entrance to Rock Creek. Like a light in the window welcoming us home, it was as if someone had turned on the light waiting for our return; an incredible sight and the perfect ending to a special vacation.