Becoming acquainted with a gaff rigged boat

Six weeks later I returned from Melbourne having bailed from the job I was doing. My elderly parents, my relationship and learning to sail Ashanti held priority. The day after I returned we sailed Ashanti by ourselves for the first time. Concerned about the age and capacity of her batteries, we had replaced them with something a little more heavy duty. I was pleased we had a mild and sunny winter’s day with very light airs to motor around and hoist her sails by ourselves in the ocean beyond the marina. Each of the four sails had a halyard, three of which had a gaff and topping lift that needed to be hauled together with the ‘throat’ and tensioned separately. The jib had a dingy furler that seemed to tangle too easily and of course there was the halyard to lower the bow spit. With so many and so much rope (I know you shouldn’t refer to it as such, but rather as a sheet a line, a halyard or a painter), it was a relief to be able to become acquainted with their functions in a calm sea and the gentlest breeze. Back in the marina we spent another night on board. I explored and began to make an inventory of the contents with the various lockers, although for the most part I really didn’t know the name or function of the item contained within. With our heads swimming with new impressions and information we took a break and headed to the beach with our boards for a surf.

We’d planned to move Ashanti to Fremantle by overnighting at a mooring in Mangles Bay the following weekend. As is typical in winter the weather turned foul and we both developed colds with hacking coughs. We were anxious to bring Ashanti closer to home but I wasn’t well enough to do the two-day sail. I prevaricated and managed to put off the sail until both the weather and I were better. To be completely honest, I also felt rushed and didn’t want to sail Ashanti until we were more prepared. Much to our frustration a second weekend of stormy weather delayed us further. I spent the time reading about gaff-rigged boats, watching Youtube clips about sailing and contacted members of the Old Gaffers Association for advice and support. My tentative attempt to reach out resulted in several members contacting me. Like Colin they were generous with offers of support and invited us to attend their AGM, which was to be held during the same week.

On a wet and windy night we donned rain jackets and stumbled through the darkened University Campus in search of the Old Gaffers meeting place. No need for a sign, we knew we were in the right place when we noticed a gathering of healthily weathered, silver haired people through a lit window in one the University lecture theatres. It was also no surprise to see Colin (Ashanti’s creator) in the same gathering. Introductions were made and they kicked off the AGM with a most interesting talk about the corrosive effect of salt water on various metals. If I understood anything it sounded like salt water and metal created a corrosive circuit akin to a battery and particular metals had a negative or positive impact on each other. I learned boats had sacrificial zinc annoids to reduce corrosion and consistency in type of metals used because combinations of different types (depending on where they ranked in relation to one another on a metallic properties table) had the capacity to increase corrosion. My take home was that bronze was okay as long as we didn’t use it in combination with other metals higher up the property scale. Our stainless steel rigging was also okay because it was wrapped in a type of tar and protected from air and moisture. I was amazed to found myself fascinated by the talk, heretofore being acquainted with Ashanti, I couldn’t have remained awake through such a lecture.