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Alpha FB552

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Current Owner
Previous owners
Bessel Sybesma - Brussels
Brian O’Loughlin - Malahide
Sean (?) O’Loughlin - Howth
Built Varne Essex 1978
General Information Read a fascinating story of the fortunes of Alpha

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At anchor in Pouilladobhran, a nice anchorage about 7 miles south of Oban

Can be quite full, but thanks to the handy size of the folkboat, you can usually squeeze in and anchor closer to the shore than most

Laying up at Oban Yacht Services, with the mast prepared for removal & storage, and most of the stuff on board packed for storage off the boat

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Approaching Ardnamurchan point from the north, headed towards Tobermory from Mallaig

The Current Story
Update December 2003

Just had a look again at Alpha's web page, and thought I'd give you an update on her fortunes. I managed to find a friend of mine to take her across the North Sea back in September 2002. Called him on the Wednesday, took the ferry to Hull on Thursday evening, on the boat in Hull marina on Friday morning, left with the tide around 6pm. From there, we had a very good crossing, covering the 250-odd miles in 46 hours, averaging almost 5.5 knots! A good northerly wind helped, but on the other hand we spent most of the time under jib alone - with the mainsail way out and the wind right on the stern, she becomes quite hard on the helm. We started with an easy F3-4 on a Friday evening, which freshened to 4-5 with gusts to 6 by the time we enterend the Schelde. With the swell getting tripped up by the numerous sandbanks in front of the Belgian coast near Zeebrugge, waves reached 10ft or so and were unpleasantly short - but by then we were well in the home stretch and too tired to care much anyway ! Alpha herself never had any trouble dealing with conditions, and through her surefootedness helped us stay relaxed. Since then, I have limited our adventures to some local cruising in Zeeland, which is a fascinating mix of tidal and non tidal waters, steeped in Dutch history.This winter, Alpha will finally get her front deck tended to, with complete replacement of the woodcore.There is a question I have been wanting to put to other Varne folkboat owners : is it possible to careen them ? ie dry them out on sand, lying on their side, and having the tide lift her up again.I seem to recall there is a picture of a wooden folkboat being careened on
the site, but since there is now way back once you touch ground, I thought I'd rather check what the Varnes do !

Anyway, my best regards and season's greetings to all Folkboats on the Irish
Sea !

Alpha was one of the Essex Varne folkboats, imported into Ireland in 1978 and fitted out there. I bought her in April 2000 from Brian O’Loughlin of Malahide, who I understand was the brother of the original owner Sean (?) O’Loughlin. He had Alpha based in Howth Yacht Club.
At that point I was working in Dublin, and I sailed her out of Malahide for a few months. When I left Ireland in the summer of 2001, the idea was to sail her single handed to Scotland and then on to the Netherlands. The boat needed some work and a lot of fitting out to be up to this plan : I replaced all the electrics, the headlining, washboards and cockpit hatches, improved ventilation by fitting two dorade boxes, had the cushions re-covered in dark red vynil, installed a small bookshelf, brass oil lamp, clock, barometer, etc.etc.etc.

Then I equiped her with all the cruising necessities : an alcohol fueled stove for the galley, two extra anchors (a Fortress and a fisherman, beside the CQR fitted), GPS, autohelm, dinghy with outboard, folding bicycle (Brompton), car radio & speakers, water tanks, masttop tricolor/anchor light, etc.

We left Malahide mid June 2001 and headed north. Up to Oban, things went quite smoothly, but once there, the engine, an ageing Volvo MD5A, refused further service. The injector had clogged and needed replacing, but was seized in the cylinder head as well ! So that had to come off, and this of course led to further discoveries of things to be replaced. This unfortunately this took quite some time and money to sort out, curtailing the plan to sail to Holland for the time being. Once the engine was sorted again, I did manage to get some leisurely cruising in Scotland, and then laid her up to spend the winter with Oban Yacht Services. All in all I had spent 4 months living on board during the summer of 2001.

I have now (September 2002) just returned from picking her up in Oban, by way of the Crinan Canal, the Clyde Forth Canal, and a few long hops along the East coast down to Hull, where she is now waiting for me to find some crew for the final crossing to her new home in the Netherlands, probably Terneuzen.

Alpha is structurally quite sound, with only a few soft spots in the core of the foredeck to be attended to. Some items need replacing, such as the forehatch, the fuel tank and the perspex windows, and she desparately needs a good cosmetic workover ! Apart from this regular maintenance, I plan to continue to improve her over the coming years, with a full engine rebuild (or replacement ?), windvane steering system, heater and a host of further additions planned to turn her into a pukka long distance cruiser.

Being Dutch myself, Alpha now is sailing under Dutch flag.

In the mean time, my best regards to all fellow folkboaters along the Irish Sea !
Bessel Sybesma - Brussels

PS : Incindentally, Brian O’Loughlin qualifies for the ‘traitors’ section of the site, having sold Alpha to buy a Jeanneau 29’ floating caravan !

To submit new information contact Eric Daniels

This page was last edited 12/09/02 19:04