The following article has been kindly compiled by Colin Geddie the owner of Eraser. He has forwarded accompanying photographs which I have added in. In the mean time its well worth a read. You can use e-mail to contact Colin Geddie.
Whenever inner turmoil starts turning my middle bits into knots, I always head for water. On this occasion, a sunny afternoon in April 1995, as a recent arrival in Dalgety Bay, a leafy commuter suburb and sailor's paradise nestling beside the Firth of Forth, I was wrestling with whether to move to a new life in the sprawling and seriously inland metropolis of Birmingham or to stay north of the Border. My tortured mind was leading me along the tortuous Fife Coastal Path when I strayed into the grounds of Dalgety Bay Sailing Club. Sighing deeply and raising my eyes to the fluffy white clouds (yachtmaster weather, here I come) scudding across the spring blue sky, the hairs on the back off my neck rose: she was not in the best condition she had ever been; she was slightly the worse for having been sitting under a tree, covered in grime and leaf litter; but her lines were unmistakeable. She was an E-Boat.
Like a child approaching the bottom of the Christmas tree I walked entranced towards her; my fingers lovingly caressed the red paint; picked out the name Eraser in the gold stick-on lettering. If this all sounds a bit dodgy, let me explain.
My love affair with E-Boats goes back to the spring of 1979, when as an extraordinarily unco-ordinated and unsporty 14-year-old I was thrust into the tender clutches of the RNSA at Port Edgar, the former navy base opposite Rosyth on the Forth, to see if maybe I could learn to sail. It was like lifting the scales from the eyes of a blind man: course made good and the no-go triangle, balance, trim, sails, centreboard and tides all made perfect sense. Knots tied themselves, and then untied themselves (but only when I wanted them to). The seed of a dream was planted. Always the last one picked and always the one to blame for points or goals lost, I had been thoroughly sickened of team or competitive sport but here was sport for its own sake; sport packed with adrenaline; with gadgets; where brain mattered more than brawn. And the possibilities were endless. Olympic glory held no allure. But the prospect of voyaging to remote islands and distant ports was irresistible.
At the time, owning a boat, even paying for sailing beyond the token sums asked by HM Forces, was never going to happen. (I was in my twenties before I got my first boat, a Mirror dinghy). But the Forth was covered in E-Boats and they blitzed their way into my dreams: they were the logical step up for the dinghy sailor, they cost less and offered more than many boats of similar length and they LOOKED good.
Back to Dalgety Bay. A still agonising month or so after my walk, my brother called. An irreconcilable dreamer, he was in the habit of buying sailing magazines. ''There's an E-Boat for sale at Dalgety Bay,'' he mentioned (we learned to sail - well, fight in a boat - same place, same time). ''What's it called.'' ''Eraser.'' The hairs on the back of my neck rose again. He came over and we went down to see the boat together. Then a trip to the Bosun's Locker at Port Edgar (the broker) and I wasn't going to Birmingham. Having just sold a flat in Edinburgh, I had the money. And I went for it. From then on I was boat obsessed. Never even having been on anything bigger that a Bosun dinghy and with most of my sailing done on Mirrors (school's and then my own). I read everything I could get my hands on. Practical Boat Owner was a Godsend. I asked the surveyor, a local, George McBean, if I could sit in on the survey. I was never out of the chandlery at the Bosun's Locker. I became a boat bore. And a Jonah.
First, after putting her on the water at the beginning of August that year, she broke off her mooring in a full gale and played pinball with a nearby GK24 (resulting in a hefty, non-insurance - it's a long story - bill) before being valiantly rescued by two club members, one of whom lost a boot. On the next trip after the rescue, lowering the keel which had had to be raised as she had run on to rocks, the 624lb of cast iron decided to take the quick way down by ripping the backing plate for the winching sheave right through the deck. The keel plunged, there was an horrific bang and gallons of water came shooting out of the keelbox. (Insurance job). Then the real horror story. I left her on the water over the winter of 1996/97 and in the April planned to pull her out for a quick antifoul. I had left her on a pontoon at Port Edgar and was motoring her back to the Bay to do various bits and pieces closer to home when I felt something was wrong. She seemed to be really down at the stern and was thumping off very small waves instead of cutting through them as usual. I toyed with hoisting the mainsail to see if that would help, but very quickly became glad that I hadn't. On mooring up at the Bay, I found the keel seemed to be coming up awfully easily. There was a reason for this. It wasn't there. Shit! The bolts had failed either due to fatigue, corrosion or both. It had never even occurred to me that this might be a possibility, and the insurers didn't want to know.
A summer and autumn spent chasing phantom spare keels and phantom patterns left me in no doubt that I was going to have to have one made from scratch. In February 1998, after a year of hard saving, I decided to go ahead. Julian Everitt played a storm. The previous year, taking his e-mail address from a letter reprinted in one of the association magazines, I had e-mailed asking for advice. Within two days a letter had arrived sympathising and offering a drawing for a pattern maker. A token cheque to cover costs and I had the drawing within days.
The following spring, trawling Yellow Pages gave me the number of a foundry in Bo'ness which couldn't take the job on but put me in touch with Taylor Group at Larbert. Malcolm Heron there was hugely helpful, organising the pattern maker, George, from Strathclyde Patterns. With phone calls and visits to make clear exactly what I wanted (neither pattern maker nor foundry had ever made anything as simple as a keel before) the pattern took shape. Pattern making is highly skilled, time-consuming work - it took ten days and was twice the combined price of the casting and the engineering work to finish the keel. Easter holidays got in the way but in late April I was called by Malcolm to pop out to Larbert to inspect the casting. After discussing how it should be done, Malcolm then arranged for an engineer in Bonnybridge to machine the keel top true and drill SIX bolt holes. A meeting with Ewan Hyslop at Port Edgar secured a new top pan which I put into the boat then chalked in the outline of the keel slot to give the engineer the exact position. In among all this I ordered a new piggyback trailer/trolley from RM Trailers in Hampshire (what the hell, it's only money) and made a 19-hour, 1,000-mile round trip with my dad and brother to collect it. The reason for this purchase was the axle had disintegrated on my old trailer and the offside wheel had fallen off. Then with keel ready and trailer in place I organised a crane (I thought this would be the easiest way to get the boat on to the new trailer and the keel fitted in a oner, I may have been wrong) to be at Dalgety Bay along with my dad, a friend Barbara, and my girlfriend Jenny then set off in a hired van - from Meadow Motors, Dunfermline - which ran out of petrol in less than a mile.
got the day off to a good start. Arriving at the bay at 3:30 when I had
arranged 2pm I was greatly relieved to find everyone there for what turned into
an epic afternoon. Epic and educational:
Lesson one: trying to lower the mast (why didn't I get the crane to help?) in a Force 5 is stupid, I am now aware.
Lesson two: mere people cannot hold 284kg of ductile iron upright for a boat to be lowered on to it if it took a crane to lift it out of the van; solution - jury rig a way to attach the winch wire to the bolts (chain and rope) and winch the keel in BUT if the crane has only one sling length, an E-Boat will sit down at the bow and the keel will have to be manhandled to tilt it into alignment with the slot (huge thanks to club member Ken Marshall who, still in his suit, pitched in to help after passing on his way home from work).
Lesson three: turfer winch handles choose their moment to break. And finally: an E-Boat hanging from a crane offers a lot of surface area to a Force 5. But anyway, we got it done and it only took three and a half hours. The new keel is now held on by high-tensile marine engineering bolts - six instead of four. Now I've only got to lay a new mooring. I actually quite like Birmingham.
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