The simple life afloat of a simple boater in a simple boat.

West Drayton to Slough

West Drayton to Slough

I'd stopped by Morrisons at Yiewsley to fettle and locate a Grand Union Milestone. In finding the milestone, I also discovered the butt end of a canal I'd not seen before ...  just by the Packet Boat Marina. Looking up my A-Z and Nicholson's I discovered "The Slough Arm". It had been mentioned by an acquaintance, but didn't register at the time. Passing previously, I believed this little spur to be part of a marina but now discovered it was some five miles long.

At the intersection, there was no sign at all of anything interesting but I was keen to find Sarah's boat which I understood to be down there 'at High Line'. Tiller hard over and [Pentargon Springer] stuck her nose in. There was a muddy but  well-used towpath on the left side.

Also on the left, a huge derelict warehouse indicated previous commercial or industrial activity. Closer observation showed the 'warehouse' to be stuffed to the very roof with fly-tip.. Obviously some real estate C&RT does not even know it owns, has been opportunistically commandeered by entrepreneurs to dispose cheaply of spoil they were probably paid thousands to get rid of legally. Some day this opportunism may cost C&RT tens or hundreds of thousands to get rid of: If the building does not burst at the seams first and dump all its contents in the canal.

The Slough Arm is well-described in Wikipedia. Feel free to look up the details while I deal with some sustained "leaf-mugging". I googled "leaf mugging" and to my great surprise discovered the only reference and description on t'internet is right here within this website and neatly incorporates a link to a rambling conversation playing around the subject on

From [Pentargon Springer's] own website then:-

" Leaf mugging occurs when the propeller picks up and retains sodden and partly submerged or suspended leaves on the blades, reducing the ability of the prop to move the boat forward. Provided it is anticipated, stopping the prop for a moment will cause the water-flow over the blades to clear the prop. Sometimes a momentary selection of reverse, speeds up the process and when forward is re-engaged it is possible to see the leaves been churned away from the stern." 

 Another vegetable challenge on the Slough Arm is floating pennywort of which there is no shortage. This nasty and intrusive plant was introduced to England by aquatic garden centres within the past 30 years and is becoming a particular nuisance in the London area. Luckily for me, it was not 'all joined up' during my visit and I was able to navigate through til arriving under the M25 at which point tying up for a cuppa and a stroll was in order.

These 'strolls' are an essential element of my Odyssey. I'm known to explore my surroundings intimately for "opportunities". An overhead bridge with traffic is an invitation to check the road above for bus stops (well! not the M25!). Finding a bus stop is an opportunity to find  where it's bus goes. A copse is an invitation to check out the contents: mushrooms in Autumn, wild garlic in Spring, rose hips in Winter, bullace in Summer, maybe a spindle bush or an apple tree. The possibilities are endless. I was scheduled to meet Sarah on the following day, so I decided to wander right down to the end of the Slough Arm in the interim. To the "Basin".

Crikey! Could it ever use the attentions of a Lengthsman

 However, what most took my fancy was a five mile stretch of cut (apart from 500m of linear mooring at Highline) ... completely devoid of boats ... while just a few miles away the London cut is teeming with boats often multi-moored. It is for others to extol the virtues of the Slough Arm as a mooring place, but could I suggest to C&RT that The Slough Arm could become a "Site of Special DisInterest" where enforcement officers would concentrate on licenses only?

Putting an optimistic notice up in the Slough Arm inviting Winter Mooring does not cut the mustard unless it includes the word "free". The fact that the Slough has absolutely NO facilities would ensure that those who availed of "free" mooring might, BY DEFINITION, have to travel five miles back and forth to Yiewsley for waste disposal, water and groceries. The constant canal traffic thus ensuing could only help to free up the bottom and disperse rotten leaves more evenly.  It might even help to make vegetable soup out of the pennywort?


Or not?

Brixhams and all that

Where it all started

Torbay has known human habitation from prehistoric times, when man lived in limestone caves at Torquay and Brixham. Kent's Cavern has revealed extensive deposits on human and animal remains, which archaeologists are still assessing,. Brixham and Paignton became villages at an early date. There was little at Torquay before Torre Abbey was founded in 1196 and the monks built a small quay there. Brixham and Paignton, with St Marychurch, soon developed into fishing centres, the former growing to become the leading fishing port in the country, a position it held until the late 19th century with a great fleet of the famous Brixham trawlers that sailed to Newfoundland as well as around Britain.
The Torbay Towns ISBN:  0850336945 Publisher:  Phillimore Pages:  174pp Published:  1989 Binding:  hardcover 

00290 The number of the text report of BM163 TORBAY LASS salvage tow of schooner WELCOME 18 May 1935 held by Brixham heritage. Report by Mr. Alf Worth with sketch chart


"Kenya Jacaranda" in typical sailing trim in light airs, with main, mizzen, jib and foresail flying. She also has a main topsail, a mizzen top and various fore-sail combinations, depending on the weather, the crew and how hard the skipper wants to push her. Our boat was logged at 14 knots, SOG, in 1936. Most modern sailing cruisers would have difficulty in achieving half of that! This is why Brixham trawlers have been described as " the Greyhounds of the Sea ", 

Brixham trawler database

Alan Lanfear was born in 1907 and devoted many years to researching Brixham sailing trawlers. "At last I have a complete list of all vessels and have also compiled a list of owners and skippers," he wrote to a friend. He used various sources. "The Brixham Fishing Register was established in 1902. Before that all were registered at Dartmouth", he recorded. "The Dartmouth Shipping Register commenced in 1824; the Brixham Shipping Register in 1864. All the earlier registers may be inspected at the Devon Record Office and the later ones at Custom House". On his death Mr. Lanfear gave his archive collection to Mr. Brian Blackmore, who very kindly made it available to the Archive Project.

An e-mail which says it all

-----Original Message-----From: ShaunWallMedia KJCoordinator []
Sent: 04 March 2005 16:01 to AHOY

The Kenya Jacaranda is a young person's boat.

Even if she is 82 years old

She's not for sale! She's for sailing

But we want her to sell herself to young sailors

for the experience of a lifetime.

She has already impressed over 7000 visitors since 1951

when she first arrived in the river


This is a 1923 Brixham Trawler, the "Porsche Carrera" of the North Sea and the North Atlantic.

She has been clocked at almost 15kts, speed over ground as far back as 1936.

Her waterline is 69 feet. Her length from stem to stern is 77 but her length overall, in other words the space she takes up at a jetty, with her bowsprit extended is 107 feet. For young 'uns working metric that is over 30 metres! Same as eight or nine cars parked nose to bumper. Try it out in your boat park and you will see why we need you guys to come LOOK before we even THINK of bringing her up river.

One of our recent 'jokes' is that the Lord Mayor of the City of London, who is a friend of the Mayflower Sail Training Society, but not familiar with the boat close-up, wanted us to have it in his parade: as in: ON A FLOAT (no pun intended), and towed through London's streets.  We had to explain displacement to him. The Kenya Jacaranda displaces 85 tonnes or about the same weight as 100 motor cars! She's a B I G girl!


The Kenya Jacaranda is all wood (except for the existing masts)

 which are 1. Steel and     2. Going for scrap when we refit!.

Above and below she feels soft to the touch, as a lady should.

She has soft ropes mostly made of traditional materials, which feel nice to the hand.

The deck is soft and warm underfoot. (But watch you toes: boots when working OK?)


She is 82 years old and smells of wood, tar, varnish and damp. Crew and visitors attest to the soporific properties of her aroma. No sleepless nights on Kenya Jacaranda She has the most marvellous aroma of old and used. The engine room smells like a proper engine room should!

Have I said enough about her?

The Composition of The Ships Company

All members of MSTS may sail in the Kenya Jacaranda as CoreCrew via KJChainGang and many do. Our youngest sailor in 2006 is not yet sixteen. At the other end Bus Passes and we are working towards zimmer-frame accreditation. Common bond is a willingness to cover essential "Core-Crew" positions on all trips. There are always six fully-competent crew on board, supervising up to twelve 'trainees' and teaching the ropes. Elsewhere on this site you can see what they might get up to. Look up for pointers.

An elite few MSTS members sail as Skippers or First Mates competent to take charge of the boat . They are skilled at pilotage, navigation and seamanship and are rated on Ship's Radio, Radar, GPS. All have full knowledge of all the working parts of this complex vessel.

Ship's Engineers ensure that the boat remains fully functional, safe and seaworthy at all times. They are competent to service and maintain the twin engines and the pumps in port or under-way and ensure that all mechanical parts are actually working or ready for work.They can also sail the Ship!

"Core-Crew" sailing members are competent seamen, who can raise, trim and lower sails under orders and undertake the many and varied tasks needed to sail such a boat safely. All have some specialist skill: navigation, sailmaking, carpentry, painting, tides, voyage planning, cooking, rigging, safety, splicing. We rarely splice the main-brace on the Kenya Jacaranda. [ see for what the term means and be advised that at the 1977 Spithead review an exception was made when the order WAS given by the competent authority ] 

Finally there are those who can take orders, share a watch, man the wheel. YOU can be one of these. You need only the will and enthusiasm to sail a 1923 trawler in the traditional way. Everyone is equally important on the "Kenya Jacaranda". Everyone is treated equally. And Yes! Skippers cook for the crew in turn. First timers take the helm and plot positions. If you are up for it you will be enabled.

The primary purpose of the Society is to take disadvantaged young people to sea. Many have no previous experience of sailing. They are given tasks within their ability and never expected to do more or less than they want to. But at all times, it is part of the overall plan that they work as a team, or learn to do so with the help of their adult 'minders' and the Core-Crew. Since 1951, some 8000 young people have sailed on the "Kenya Jacaranda", over 3000 of those since 1980.

Trips are tailored to suit the ability of the crew on board at all times.

The "Kenya Jacaranda" sails with a Core-Crew of six but may have a FULL complement of eighteen. To optimise income and permit us to carry the 'disadvantaged' at an affordable rate, some voyages are tailored for 'advantaged' sailors. They also come on board as part of the crew, to sail a Brixham Trawler. They share the same bunks. They take their place on watch. They share the same food. They pull the same ropes. They all the chores needed for a safe and enjoyable experience. There are no passengers on board the Kenya Jacaranda.

On most voyages the work-load is light and enjoyable. But if we get a hardy crew, who want to sail a Historic Sailing Ship as the men of old, it is a big sea out there. On the "Kenya Jacaranda" if the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Additional crew come on board for 75 per day. (less if MSTS members)