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GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



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Colvic Watson

Owning a Colvic Watson - Part 1

Caer Urfa, the author's yacht, after restoration.Mike Newby MICME is probably the UK's leading authority on the Colvic Watson Motor Sailer.  As Archivist for the Colvic Watson Owners' Group, he has researched this particular yacht extensively, and undertakes pre-purchase surveys for prospective buyers.  We are pleased to publish his own account of owning a Colvic Watson.


Finding a Colvic Watson Motor Sailer for sale is not a problem, finding a good one is the clever bit.

Like many others I decided then that the cost of diesel would never come down and my next boat would probably be my last for when I retired and fuel consumption would be a major consideration.Byrona Star

Another issue that many boat buyers do not always take into account is where they are going to keep the boat? a marina, swinging mooring, drying out harbour etc. and what and where they want to go and do in the boat, who if anyone will be coming with them on the boat and lastly if it's going to be a yacht what sort is best for them.

My next boat would be kept where I was already berthed at Royal Quays Marina on the Tyne, which has the major advantage of deep water and 24/7 hr tidal access whatever state of the tide, the cruising area would be the north east coast, and because of the weather a motor sailer would fit the bill exactly.

I also realised early in 2001 that there was little known of the history of the Colvic Watson and I decided as a winter project I would research and write the History of Colvic Watson Motor Sailer for the Colvic Watson Owners Group as it would only take me a year.

The writer with Caer Urfa at Newcastle Quay 2011 with Trekkaway a CW 28’-6” ahead11 years later I am still researching and learning but now for a part 3 for the Colvic Watson Owners group.

The response of my The History of the Colvic Watson Motor Sailer now part 1 in 2009 was a bit overwhelming to say the least and part 2 quickly followed in 2010 due to the massive amount of new information that came in that also needed further research and today I am now nearing researching a part 3 as I found out purely by accident in early 2011 some Colvic Watson had been built in Holland and Germany under licence.

Although my budget would have stretched to a larger boat after sailing in some smaller Colvic Watsons I decided the CW 23'-6" or a CW 25'-6" was the boat most suitable for me, but I found maybe like some house sales the condition and presentation of some boats I viewed was beyond believe and I wasted hundreds of pounds in travelling expenses on viewing after I found many pictures were totally misleading. (some taken years before) and some brokers were only interested in a sale at any cost and knew next to nothing about a Colvic Watson.I also found some yacht brokers selling boats as a Colvic Watson when they were a not, but actually a Colvic 23 or Colvic Atlanta, so I also researched further and addressed this problem in my History of the Colvic Watson Motor Sailer part 2.

As a Constructional engineer I had one big advantage during my research in that I had not only spent hours reading old Colvic Watson design drawings but more importantly understanding what I was looking at, this enabled me to draw up a short list of the features I would be looking for in the type of Colvic Watson I wanted as again many people do not realize there are six designs with two cabin layout variations.

After selling Byrona Star for near twice what I had paid for her I was travelling hundreds of miles for viewings all over the UK and it took me 11 months to track down the final two possibilities. The first a CW 25'-6" was my first choice but I was finally after close inspection not happy with the hull condition and the second a CW 23'-6" which later Caer Urfa became.

Mouette - chocked to keel, not waterline!In July 2006 I remember clearly the day I saw Mouette as she was then called when I found her near Yarmouth and she did not give me that 'Wow factor' as she was filthy dirty and had been stored ashore for over two years in a boatyard due to her owners serious illness, she also had been 'chocked the wrong way' and had partly flooded internally due to rainwater getting in.

My short list of 'must have' was short, A) I wanted duel steering, as other than poor weather and berthing I would be sailing from a tiller, B) Some Colvic Watsons have an enclosed rear wheelhouse, I wanted one with an open back design for quick access, C) after my experience of sailing other Colvic Watsons with bilge keels I did not want bilge keels, D) I wanted her to be sloop rigged, and finally a good reliable engine.

If a Colvic Watson is chocked 'keel to earth' her decks will not drain properly and flooding can be the result, they should always be chocked 'water line to earth'.Cutting a six month long story short an offer was made for Mouette which was declined, 3 months later I made another proposal which was also declined, but after hours of inspecting every inch of Mouette I cunningly made a final offer but 'subject to Survey' that was accepted, but my final offer was further reduced after the surveyor confirmed what I had found which is exactly what I had planned and finally I had bought a
Colvic Watson Motor Sailer so my renovation of Mouette began.

'Before' and 'After' restoration.


I have had some sort of boat most of my life and my interest in Colvic Watsons first goes back over 14 years when I owned a twin engine motor cruiser which had also taken me 6 years to renovate, however I also crewed on two Colvic Watsons from time to time a Ketch rigged 34'-6" and a 28'-6", but these were not ideal in my thoughts of my planned next boat as 98% of the time I would be sailing it single handed.I tell all new buyers get two things right when buying a boat, hull and engine condition, get either one wrong then it will seriously damage you bank balance.

On the minus side She still was not a cheap buy by any standards , I had bought a boat that had not moved for two years with a jammed rudder, 200 mm of water had flooded the all the bilges including the engine oil sump, dated navigation equipment (most not working) and twenty years of antifoul on the hull, rigging dating back to at least 14 years and the rest of the boats general condition needing hours of TLC, BUT, I knew exactly what I had bought and had costed things out before I purchased her of what needed renewing or replacing.

On the plus side I had bought a quality1989 build with her upper hull in its original Gelcoat finish (most important) and in sound condition, the 27.5 hp Isuzu Marine engine had 320 hours on it, mast and three sets of sails were in good condition, a 3 years old full Taylor's oven, fridge, autopilot, new upholstery with all solid teak woodwork and like buying a house I could 'see through' the present condition.My respect for the sea came from many years experience before when I worked as a professional diver on offshore oil terminal construction in the then Persian Gulf and later on North sea oil rigs and safety is never far from my thoughts, infact any visitors/crew on Caer Urfa is politely asked to wear a life jacket, if not they simply don't go anywhere.

Owning a Colvic Watson - Part 2

Restoration underway - and how to chock correctly!The initial internal renovation/refit of Caer Urfa took from August 2006 to late 2007 when I removed all the existing valves, rubber and copper pipe work, fuel tanks, navigation equipment, bilge pumps and sea toilet, diesel and raw water filters etc.

First on order was the complete new set of rigging of 6mm dia stainless steel, the sails were sent for cleaning and a new battens were added at the service together with a new sacrificial strip added to the Genoa.

One of the conditions before I bought the boat was that I wanted to see the engine run or I would 'walk away' and to be fair the previous owner purchased a new starter battery, changed the oil and it did start.

Once back in our boatyard the engine itself was carefully checked and serviced including removing and servicing the alternator, fuel lift pump, injectors, removed and completely cleaned out the existing twin fuel tanks etc.

I then designed a new twin filter fuel system so that I can run off either of the two selected 53 litre capacity diesel tanks, or, run off both tanks; divert the return fuel to either selected tank, or both tanks.

I can also isolate either tank and change either of the individual fuel filters at sea and keep the engine running.

Restoring the HullOther work is too numerous to list, a complete new sea toilet was installed with anti siphon system, a new wheelhouse control panel was made, all the navigation system was replaced with new Chart plotter, wind sensor, depth gauge, vhf/dsc radio, fuel gauges, battery monitoring system, compass, mods to the autopilot, and all new instrumentation gauges, a new deck drain system in the wheelhouse, twin 110amp batteries, shore power added, new engine stop and control cables and complete new windscreen wiper and raw water pump impellor, Certified water and diesel pipe work, diesel and raw water filters etc.

I also removed the jammed rudder and increased its size and change its profile which made a big difference in handling the boat, all the anodes were replaced together with removing the propeller and serviced. All the bilges and locker internals were painted and when I got better weather all the external teak toe cap to the bulwarks was sanded right back and re-stained with 8 coats of Deks Olje no 1, (I now recoat every two years)

Over the later years from 2008 to present additional more minor improvements have been made as replacement bilge pumps, battery isolator switches; push pit mast, additional safety gear, new fresh water system added, wheelhouse seats, carpet tiles internal lighting improved, new cockpit, sail and winch covers and gearbox.Owning any new boat is a learning curve and Caer Urfa is no different, Colvic Watsons going astern are notorious for sometimes going straight with the rudder hard over when leaving a pontoon, but with practice and understanding your 'prop wash' you can learn when to do the 'Colvic Kick' and get her bows round at the right moment by giving a good short burst ahead on the engine controls

Colvic Watsons were not designed or built for speed, Caer Urfa is sloop rigged and I spent two years just getting to 'know the boat' when sailing in a variety of conditions as I found some improvements to the rigging does not always suit other weather conditions and some experiment with sheet positions is required.

A Colvic Watson 23'-6" makes an ideal livaboard for short breaks of up to a month with a bit of thought to the layout and home comforts, they can sleep up to 4, but 2 is better, on your own its 'home from home'.

Scuppers, Heater & Sheet WinchI have no gas onboard, cooking and heating is by my Taylors 030 paraffin cooker and full oven which when the oven door is set open to 45 Degrees acts as a heater, once I have shore power available I also have a thermostatically controlled fixed mounted convector heater and for winter weather I have another tubular heater in the engine bay.

As I use the boat regularly and even more now that I am retired condensation is not one of my problems, when possible I sleep with minimum one window open but normally also the access door to the cabin is open, and by having a canvas cover over the wheelhouse fresh air is not lacking!

More 'Before' and 'After' pictures showing the huge improvements.

For close quarter handling under power I usually use the wheel and it is obviously the place to be in poor weather to keep you out of that wind and rain, I very rarely have any heating on when sailing as normally I am at the tiller, as I sail all year round normally alone I rarely do more than an 8 hr trips in one go, but I always have plenty of hot flasked coffee at hand and usually a prepared sandwich.

Ninja HatFor winter clothing one of the best and cheapest things my wife bought me was a woollen 'Ninja hat' as if your heads warm you are off to a good start, during my RNLI training the one thing they do drum into you is 'Do not get cold' and that's very sound advice.

On the safety side I also invested in a good quality Crewsaver 190 lifejacket which I also find very comfortable to wear and never take it off once underway, I also keep my waterproof vhf radio in my offshore jacket. Anything above a force 4 wind or a heavy swell I always 'clip on' when on deck and I also have additional secure 'clip on points' in the cockpit.Sometimes I think Caer Urfa is in her element in rougher conditions, All Colvic Watsons have a high 'freeboard' with deep bulwarks with deck drains, but in addition another advantage I have (not on all Colvic Watsons) is I have two good sized deck 'scuppers' fitted both sides which helps seawater on the decks drain out even faster.Caer Urfa did have bilge keels but after sailing various Colvic Watsons with and without them 'my personal' choice is without bilge keels, but in poor weather I personally think boats with bilge keels fitted caused the boat to roll more, my main disadvantage is I cannot 'dry out' in some harbours that I would dearly like to visit.

Some owners of course do not have a choice and need bilge keels for where they keep their boat maybe on a swinging river mooring for example that dries out, or their cruising ground; however over the years I have found few well designed bilge keels.

Most DIY boaters just fit a flat plate, this I find is next to useless in taking in mud harbours as they just sink into the mud, however the same bilge keel with some thought and a bottom 'shoe' plate fitted is a much better design giving better grounding results, for those boats taking mainly a gravel sea bed the 'tubular' bilge keels have a lot of plus points, however when a boat has bilge keels it should always be wise to have a good' keel shoe' fitted, as keel wear is notorious on gravel sea beds.

It should also be noted however that all Colvic Watsons were never designed for bilge keels and I have seen many very poorly fitted by over keen DIY enthusiasts.I have sailed many motor sailers and the closest to a Colvic Watson for sea keeping good manners I have to say would be a Fisher, sailing both the IP24 and Colvic 23 which are fine motor sailers themselves but with totally different hull shapes and therefore in no way have the same sea keeping manners and do roll quite a bit more compared to the Colvic Watson which because of the flared bow deflects sideways most head on seas.

Owner-added Bilge Keels of various designs on other CWs.As already said I find a Colvic Watson with bilge keels fitted do roll a little more than a one without bilge keels but the biggest difference is in the hull design itself, there is a myth that Colvic Watsons were designed on Scottish fishing boats, but during my research I found little evidence of this albeit that the Colvic Watson basic design was derived from the Norseman and Spey class motor sailers, both being designed by G L Watson and most built in Scottish boatyards that also built trawlers many on a Colvic or Colvic Watson Hull.

Also in my study of original Colvic Watson drawings it was noted they have many similarities in the design to a lifeboat and that was used as the basic principle and concept in the Watson design and can be clearly seen with the high flared bow, low amidships, and high stern, all of which can be found on lifeboats.

To date my best speed under full sail only has been surprisingly 7.4 knots in only a force 4, my previous best speed on an number of other CW 23'-6" was 6.4 knots and usually if I can have a SW wind at say 12/15 mph she will happily cruise for hours at an average of 5 knots, motor sailing is another experience all together and needs your full attention to wind as the helm becomes 'very responsive'.

Tacking and ReefingTacking I found very quickly is something of a long learning curve, Caer Urfa will not easily tack unless we have about 2 knots headway minimum, she sails best about 35/45 degrees off the nose and is a weather helm boat so you have to remember and also get used to that, as at speed she becomes very responsive to the tiller and with the wind just off the nose you need to stay alert or she will quickly round up on you, but sailing for me on a SW wind on a broad reach is a pleasure.

One major plus is if or when you run into poor weather if you had a choice of boat then a Colvic Watson would be top of my list, their sea keeping manners are like their pedigree 'second to none', with the flared bow to deflect most waves and the canoe stern ideal in a following sea a Colvic Watson will look after you in usually dry conditions in poor weather but more importantly in safety.If you have six yachtsmen at the bar all six will have their best time to reef and methods of how to do it!

As I sail all year round it was two years ago I started experimenting with reefing and had a sharp introduction when I slipped sailing alone and fell off the coachroof in very wet weather trying to reef in a force 5 and only by being 'clipped on' saved me from becoming another fatal statistics lost at sea, as life expectancy is 15 minutes max in February in the cold North Sea. (Never think it's always going to happen to someone else ).

However I would be the first to say how I reef now on is not necessary the Holy Grail of reefing, but what works best for me.

I wanted to be able to start reefing at the same time together when lowering the main sail and after four variations I have now settled on the simplest set up, but like most simple things it works fine.

What you have to remember is I have to go on deck for any main sail adjustments, headsail is by Genoa roller reefing system so that's no problem from the cockpit winches.

Now if I stand on the coachroof in front of the mast facing aft to reef I can lower the mainsail, then clip the first reefing cringle eye onto the reefing hook on the gooseneck, but I can also 'at the same' time pull on only the one reefing line and pull the rest of the sail down tight, once reefed I just lock the reefing line in the clam cleats and pull the main sheet halyard tight, you will note the reefing line is continuous

I also have my own simple boom 'preventer' which I can undo in seconds whilst still in the safety of the cockpit as I do not adjust the kicking strap or the topping lift, fortunately the boom is 3' above my head when I am in the cockpit, but I do not want that boom crashing over.My friends Colvic Watson has a bow sprit, the down side of course is additional berthing costs, but on the plus side his Colvic Watson which is of identical design and size to Caer Urfa has a much bigger Genoa and to date is showing she is slightly faster.

I have also found personally sailing Ketch rigged Colvic Watsons gives you little if any more in terms of additional knots over a sloop rigged Colvic Watson; however I have also found that Mizzen is an advantage in poor weather and helps to keep the boat more steady and on course in poor weather conditions.

The renovation of Caer Urfa is now almost complete but as all boat owners know there is always something coming up or needs replacing or updating.

More restoration picturesFrom 2007 to 2010 I did not stray too far from the Tyne as I not only wanted to get to know the boat better but also limited due to other commitments, but now I am retired I have much more time

If you ask again six yachtsmen their favourite cruising ground I do not think the North East Coast will even be in the top ten, but then again they most likely have not been cruising up here or seen our glorious beaches.

Based on the Tyne I have a number of options, even in poor offshore weather I can always go for a run upriver to Newcastle (8nm) away but most trips are either a daily sailing offshore or a planned longer cruise either North or South.

One problem we do have on the North East coast is when cruising there are 'not many bolt holes' in the event of poor weather especially if you're cruising north.

North of the Tyne we can have a daily cruise up to Blyth (9nm) or Coquet Island to see the puffins or visit Amble (24nm), for two/three day trips further North we have the beautiful Farne Islands and Holy Island (47nm) which provides good anchorage in the right wind conditions, heading more North a visit to the historic town of Berwick (53nm) is recommended.

After Berwick a short run takes you to the nice little harbour of Eyemouth (63nm) a nice place for a stopover of a few days for those usually heading for the Firth of Forth or as many heading further North for the Caledonian Canal for a complete summers transit cruising holiday to the West coast of Scotland.

Cruising South we 'do have more bolt holes', Sunderland (9nm), Seaham and a 25 mile cruise visit to Hartlepool marina (25nm) will not disappoint, after that next stop further south will be the picture harbour of Whitby (48nm) with Scarborough a few more mile further down the coast, after that it's a long run to Hull Marina or further South.

Like many harbours most need attention and planning to visit due to the tides/winds and I have found the website of Visit my harbour an excellent source of reference,

late in 2010/2011 I decided to remove all the years and layers of old antifoul but had not planned on us having such a hard winter and lying under a boat in up to – 12 degree winter conditions it not for the light hearted or recommended.

I first decided to scrape off the entire old antifoul but after five hours I went and purchased an orbital sander!

I found that by using the recommended 80 grit paper it would not look at it, so I finally removed most of the antifoul with 40 grit paper, then re-sanded with 180 grit paper, I wrote a separate paper on this project for those interested just drop me a line.

Due to the first original gel coat protection of VC Tar Epoxy and the excellent help and advice of Richard Jerram- Technical Manager International Paints - UK Yacht it was decided to not remove it completly as I would be just sanding for the sake of sanding the bare hull, following the preperation and procedures advice by Richard Caer Urfa has now 5 protective coats of Gelshield 200, one coat of Primocon and two coats of Micron Extra as I do not 'lift out' for up to two years if possible depending on the anode condition.

At the same time an investment in a Maguiars G220 machine polisher was money well spent and the upper hull was cut back using compound followed by a polish then a final wax coating.

Caer Ufa's fuel consumption of her 27.5 Marine Isuzu engine is 1 litre/hr at 1800rpm at 5/6 knots), her right handed 3 blade Bronze 380mm diameter fixed pitched propeller is on a 25mm shaft.

Over the past two years various other things have continued to be replaced or updated as I am a firm believer that if you look after the boat 'the boat' will look after you, all engineering servicing I carry out myself including last August for the first time ever I replaced the Hurth Gearbox.

Now as Caer Urfa's renovation is nearing completion and being finally retired I hope all I have to do is normal annual maintenance and get more of the fun side of owning a Colvic Watson.

Caer Urfa Basic Data:

  • • Type of Craft: Motor sailor
  • • Design: Colvic Watson 23'-6"
  • • Designer: G L Watson & Co
  • • Hull : Colvic Craft Ltd Witham Essex
  • • Built at: Dauntless Boatyard Canvey Island Essex
  • • Hull Number: 8387
  • • Year of Build: 1989
  • • Length overall: 7.2m
  • • Beam: 2.67m
  • • Draft: 1.2m max.
  • • Displacement: 4.6 tons
  • • Cruising speed: 6 knots
  • • Sail Area: Genoa 135 sq/ft, Main 115 sq/ft, total 250 sq/ft (also a new storm sail)
  • • Engine: Inboard 27.5 hp 'Isuzu' diesel
  • • Mast & Spars/rig: Sail Spar, Aluminium/Bermudian sloop
  • • Hull Construction: GRP with all Teak wood trimmings
  • • Keel Configuration: Long Keel with encapsulated ballast

In conclusion the Colvic Watson motor sailer offers both safety and good sailing together with excellent sea keeping capability with a pedigree second to none.

Mike Newby MICME

Archivist for the Colvic Watson Owners Group

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