Ragdoll is a Westerly 33, yard number A50, and was born in 1978, making her fairly and squarely the oldest member of the team! We found her in November 2015 at Quayboats brokerage in Plymouth. I had been looking at a few yachts at this point and had been interested in a Nantucket Clipper going for a seriously competitive price, though as usual, some boats look bigger in their photos than they actually are in real life, and so we quickly came to the conclusion that it would not fit our needs.
Fortunately, the trip from Aberdeen to Plymouth wasn’t wasted, and James Green, the exceptionally professional and accommodating broker had a few other boats to look around at. We looked at an Ohlson 38… which was easily the sexiest thing I had ever seen… but in my eyes it needed a lot of work, and would not have been the fast track quick turn around 4 month project ready for the 2016 sailing season in the Forth…
Then we looked at Ragdoll. I knew exactly what would happen the moment he mentioned he had a Westerly to look at… We were going to be taken on board a well built cruiser which feels a lot bigger than it actually is… and I wasn’t wrong! Right away Rosanne’s eyed lit up as she saw the space and the possibilities… this is going to hurt the wallet I thought…
So after a week or two to think things over and make a plan, we made the arrangements to buy her. We managed to negotiate a good price, have her surveyed, organised a berth at Port Edgar, bought and built a Tennamast cradle on site, arranged for road transport by Jason Lengden of Squirrel Marine, completed the sale, had her leaky water pump and thermostat replaced and arranged for her escape from Millbrook!
I work on some of the biggest engineering projects in the North Sea, and as a logistics exercise, this wasn’t far off! I was on the phone and email playing middle man for 2 solid weeks!
After a few back and forths with the boat yard and the transport company, we came to the conclusion that escape from Millbrook by road would be impossible. There is only one route out for a HGV, and the width between two buildings on this route did not allow for a 3.4m wide boat to fit. Time for plan B. I travelled back down to Millbrook on the 21st of December 2015 to prepare Ragdoll for a quick blast across Plymouth Sound to Plymouth Yacht Haven. This would tie in nicely with Squirrel Marine’s schedule, as Jason was delivering a boat to PYH on the 6th January.
Ragdoll was launched onsite on the 23rd December after I had established that the engine and fuel system were up to the job. Timing was critical, as the UK was experiencing extremely awful weather during this period, and combining that with the early nights and a less than favorable tide, it literally boiled down to a half hour window before the boat yard closed for Christmas in which the launch looked favorable. Even still we had a 30kt crosswind, and as the yard staff was already offski, it was left to myself and the yard manager to operate the boat lift and get her afloat! None the less, it got done and with the help of Jonathan the Yard Manager, we motored across Plymouth Sound without incident! (I had of course prepared the anchor and had the Genoa ready on the furler in case of engine failure!)
So we made it safely across with only a half hour to spare before darkness. Lift out was planned for the following morning, however the yard staff were aware that the weather was more favorable at that moment to carry out the lift than it would be in the morning, so we made straight into the travel hoist. For my first time helming the boat under power, I was pleased. No obvious vices, turned well, responded to prop wash, predictable prop walk in reverse, and the 42hp made itself well known! At tickover, she felt like she wanted to pull the cleats out of the pontoon!
With Ragdoll safely locked up I went back to Millbrook with Jonathan to rescue my van, and then made my way home for Christmas and New Year, to return on the 5th of January to prepare the boat for transport. I had Hemisphere Riggers at Plymouth Yacht Haven drop the masts and prepare them for transport, which was worthwhile as they had a good look at them as they came apart and talked me through the various jobs that needed doing. Fortunately, nothing major came to light.
With the masts removed, de-rigged, prepared and loaded back on board, all that was left to do was wait for Jason Lengden of Squirrel Marine to turn up, and turn up he did! The next morning, Jason got his trailer unloaded, and PYH loaded Ragdoll onto Jasons trailer. Jason said he “felt good about this one this time… all the others just keep falling off!” I asked him if he said that to all his customers, to which he replied “only the really worried looking ones!” Hmmm… didn’t think I was such an obvious tell!
I wonder if the strains both physically and financially of getting the job done were getting to me at this point… I mean, logistically, the whole operation relied on so many factors intertwining, some within my control, many outwith my control. I finally cracked and had a good laugh about it with Jason. He did well to put me at ease!
So with Ragdoll safely loaded and underway to Port Edgar, I finalized things with PYH and the Riggers, and headed off to McDonalds for a well earned Bacon and Egg Mc Muffin… I earned that McMuffin so no judging!
So after leaving Plymouth, I caught up with the load on the M5, and couldn’t resist a cheeky snap of the transom! The shit was about to hit the fan though, as up ahead, a tanker had spilled a few thousand liters of kerosene onto the carriageway, with the expected results of disolving the tarmac! The M5 ground to a halt, and we were literally stationary for nearly 8 hours! Misery!!
So the next day, we both arrived at Port Edgar, and Ragdoll was promptly unloaded and made secure on her new cradle with the best view in the house! The awesome Forth Road and Rail bridges, and the rapidly progressing Queensferry Crossing! This is going to be a great place to sail!
With Ragdoll in her new home, we were visited by the family, and had a meal to celebrate her arrival. My niece has decided that she’s the captain… there’s gonna be some warfare on that front!
So there you have it! That’s the story of how an old Westerly made it from one end of the country to the other…. I hope I don’t have to repeat this exercise anytime soon!