Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Boats R Us – our plans for a boat-free holiday turned out to be anything but...

Photo of mefFishing - or at least trying to fish - on Loch Awe

Fishing - or at least trying to fish - on Loch Awe

We're just back from a week staying in a cottage on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll, Scotland.

Part of the aim of the holiday was a break from Ravensdale. Much as we love her, she has presented us with one problem after another lately and we thought it would do us good to get away for a while.

Having decided that we wanted to go away, I said I wanted to stay in the middle of nowhere and Phil said he wanted the opportunity to do some fishing.

We lived in Scotland for 16 years before selling our house to move onto a boat and both love the landscapes the country has to offer so decided a peaceful loch-side location would be an ideal getaway.

Photo of Tarbert in the sunshine

Tarbert in the sunshine

However, we ended up spending the best part of two days at Tarbert visiting friends with boats in the marina there and another day on a boat we hired in attempt to catch fish on Loch Awe.

Photo of Barr-beithe Upper

Barr-beithe Upper - the cottage where we spent a week by Loch Awe

As we booked just four days before we went away, we got a very good deal with Blarghour Farm Cottages and got a three-bedroom cottage that could accommodate six people for the price we were expecting to pay for a property that sleeps two.

And the location was lovely.

It was 19 miles from the nearest shop with an amazing view of the loch. In fact, it had beautiful views from every single window.

Photo of the view of Loch Awe from the cottage

The view over Loch Awe from the cottage

Photo of one of the beautiful sunsets we enjoyed during our stay

One of the beautiful sunsets we enjoyed during our stay

We were also very lucky with the weather. We had a couple of very hot sunny days – not what I’d been expecting of a holiday in Scotland J

A couple of days were overcast but dry and on the days it rained, it dried up at the time we wanted to go out and started again once we were safely back indoors.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of fish – or at least fish that were willing to allow us to catch them L

Photo of Phil fishing on Loch Awe

Phil wrapped up to protect him from the midges while fishing on Loch Awe

We both bought week-long fishing licences on our arrival, before discovering that the loch was practically surrounded by trees, making it virtually impossible to fly fish from the shore.

We tried fly fishing from the one clear area to which we had access on the shore below the cottage, but without success. We didn’t even see any fish rising. Phil also tried spinning, but still had no luck. Meanwhile I wandered around with my camera, snapping the beautiful scenery.
Photo of Loch Awe in Argyll

Loch Awe in Argyll

Photo of another shot of Loch Awe

Another shot of Loch Awe

Photo of a sunset over Loch Awe

The sun sets over Loch Awe

Photo of Phil fly fishing on Loch Awe

Fly fishing on Loch Awe

It was during our first attempt at fishing at this location that we became reacquainted with the Highland biting midge (one thing I certainly haven’t missed since moving to Cumbria).

However, we had remembered to pack Smidge insect repellent, which made the biting beasties just about bearable.

Having decided we were wasting our time on fly fishing, we decided to hire a boat from Loch Awe Boats and had a lovely day pootling around the loch in the sunshine.

We tried trolling, fly fishing and spinning, but again without success.

The only fish we saw all day were shoals of tiny fish in the shallows as we took the boat out and brought it back in at the end of the day.

Photo of Phil trolling on Loch Awe

Phil trolling on Loch Awe

Despite the lack of fish, it was great to be out on the loch admiring and photographing the beautiful scenery, which made both of us a little bit homesick for the Highlands.

Photo of a beautiful sunny day on Loch Awe

A beautiful sunny day on Loch Awe

Photo of reflections on Loch Awe

Reflections on Loch Awe

We also enjoyed our visits to Tarbert. It is such a pretty harbour and bustling with life. 
Photo of Tarbert Harbour in Argyll

Tarbert Harbour in Argyll

Photo of colourful fishing boats at Tarbert

Colourful fishing boats at Tarbert

Photo of another view of Tarbert Harbour

Another view of Tarbert Harbour

Photo of Tarbert fishing boats

Tarbert fishing boats

The water was beautifully clean and the boats can get out to sea at any time of the day or night as there are no tidal restrictions on access to the harbour.

In fact, we were so impressed that we decided to find out a bit more about the possibility of taking Ravensdale there at some point in the future.

Photo of a fishing boat tied up on Loch Fyne at Inverary

A fishing boat tied up on Loch Fyne at Inverary

We also spent a pleasant day out in Inverary, where we enjoyed a fish and chip lunch at The Inverary Inn and wandered around the shops. On the way back we stopped at much photographed Kilchurn Castle, where we took a few photos of our own.

Photo of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Photo of a wider view of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

A wider view of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Another great feature of the cottage was that its location meant we could walk straight out into the hills behind it from which we had panoramic views of the 25-mile long loch.

Our love of hill-walking was the main reason we moved to Scotland from Wales in 2000 and it was great to be out in the hills again.

Photo of me walking in the hills above our holiday cottage

Walking in the hills above our holiday cottage

Photo of the impressive view of Loch Awe from the hills

The impressive view of Loch Awe from the hills above

Photo of another view of Loch Awe from our walk

Another view of Loch Awe from our walk

Photo of Phil out walking in the hills

Phil out walking in the hills

There was a good breeze during our walk so the midges weren’t a problem and it stayed dry while we were out.

We felt the first drops of rain as we were walking up the drive to the cottage on our way home .

And, as we got indoors, the heavens opened and there was an almighty downpour.

We are not normally so fortunate J

The week passed too quickly and I was sad that the holiday was over, but at least I no longer return home from a break knowing that I have to go back to the “real world” (as I used to call work) on Monday.

Life is one long holiday now and it’s good to be back on board Ravensdale.

And, as if to make sure we really knew we were back afloat, there was a good swell on our first night back to rock us to sleep :-)

Friday, 14 July 2017

A prawn in the hand...

Photo of one of the prawns from our first catch

One of the prawns from our first catch

Crabs, eels, prawns, herons and seagulls have been keeping us entertained at Maryport Marina in Cumbria.

We have often wondered what sea creatures were living in the mud beneath Ravensdale and decided it would be fun to find out so we bought a prawn pot to see what it would catch.

Phil baited the pot with a piece of frozen mackerel and dropped it over the side to see whether anything would take the bait.

Photo of lifting our new prawn pot to examine the catch

Lifting our new prawn pot to examine the catch

The following morning he lifted the pot to find it had trapped around a dozen small crabs and a handful of little prawns.

Photo of some of the crabs we netted during our first attempt

Some of the crabs we netted during our first attempt

Photo of one of the prawns we caught laying on Ravensdale's aft deck

One of the prawns we caught laying on Ravensdale's aft deck before being returned to the water

We had no use for any of them so we returned them to the water, re-baited the pot and put it back to see if we could catch any other types of sea creature.

The next time it was lifted, it again contained little crabs and prawns. A larger crab was clinging to the outside of the pot, but it let go and fell off as it was lifted out of the water.

These were also released and the pot returned to the murky depths under our boat.

The following morning we discovered it had trapped two eels, each about 18ins long.

Photo of the eels that were caught in our net

Slippery customers - the eels that were caught in our net

We will continue to put the pot down to see what we can catch, more for interest than anything else, but Phil is considering using some of our catches as bait for fishing trips in the future.

Meanwhile, one of the herons that are frequently seen around the marina came in for some unwanted attention from one of the local seagulls.

Photo of a seagull dive-bombing a heron on a pontoon

A seagull dive-bombing a heron on a pontoon

The heron was sitting on a pontoon watching the water for fish when the gull started to attack it.

Photo of the heron squawking at the seagull to frighten it away

The heron squawks at the seagull in an attempt to frighten it away

The sea bird flew high above the heron and dive-bombed it at speed many times in an attempt to get it to move on.

I watched and took photographs from our boat for a while, then decided to try to get a bit closer for a clearer shot.

I was able to walk a little way along the pontoon and get a few more shots before the seagull flew away.

Photo of the heron posing for photos after the seagull flew away

The heron posing for photos after the seagull had flown away

However, the heron stayed and watched me taking photos of it. I’m sure it was giving me the evil eye so I decided to walk away and leave it in peace.

The images of it looking straight at me look like a completely different bird. Without its long pointed beak, it looked rather like an emu :-)

Photo of the heron watching me take its photograph

The heron watching me take its photograph

Friday, 7 July 2017

Sunshine after the rain - and our latest purchase opens up new opportunities

Photo of blowing up the new dinghy on Ravensdale's aft deck

Blowing up the new dinghy on Ravensdale's aft deck

We now have a new dinghy that will enable us to moor in places that would otherwise be inaccessible to us.

Finding a suitable dinghy turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

We initially thought the one that had been on the boat when we bought it would do the job, then discovered it was only suitable for inland waterways – not coastal waters.

So we sold that one and started looking for another.

Two of the berth holders here at Maryport Marina offered us second-hand dinghies, but neither fitted the bill.

However, during our recent visit to the Northern Boat Show in Liverpool, we found one that was the size we were looking for and suitable for our purposes.

It's an Excel Volante 235, which should carry two of us quite happily as it’s a three-man dinghy.

The hardest part was deciding which colour to get – light grey or dark blue. We eventually settled on blue to match the painted stripes and canvas covers on Ravensdale.

Photo of our new Excel Volante 235

Our new Excel Volante 235

It took longer to arrive than we’d been led to believe would be the case, but it is now here and seemed fine when we blew it up to check it.

It has now been stowed away ready for when it's needed.

We're still enjoying our new liveaboard lifestyle. The one bugbear is the wifi reception at the marina, which is very poor much of the time.

Sometimes it’s so slow that even loading Google is almost more than it can cope with. We often have to hit refresh and wait ages to get it to load at all. The same problem occurs when moving between websites.

And trying to put up this blog post is taking way longer than it should do, which is driving me crazy. Patience is not one of my virtues :-)

Meanwhile, we’ve continued to follow the local wildlife with interest.

On a walk around the marina to the pier, we noticed the seagull we'd watched sitting on her nest on the flybridge of an old cruiser on the hard-standing while we were out of the water was still there.

Her eggs must have hatched, as we saw two chicks wandering around on the flybridge, but she was still sitting on the nest. We couldn’t work out why this would be unless the nest just provided a good vantage point for keeping an eye on her offspring.  

Photo of a seagull nesting on a cruiser and one of her chicks

The seagull nesting on a cruiser and one of her chicks

A more impressive bird that is a frequent visitor to the marina is the heron.

On occasions, we've seen two at the same time, but there's usually a single heron fishing close to the slipway or perching on the pontoons or mooring ropes.

Photo of a heron waiting patiently on a pontoon

A heron waits patiently on a pontoon

Photo of one of the latest batch of jellyfish to visit the marina

One of the latest batch of jellyfish to visit the marina

And we’ve yet to work out why there are sometimes loads of jellyfish in the marina and at other times there are none to be seen.
We had some pretty miserable weather here for the first half of this week, with lots of rain and high winds.

Whenever the rain stopped, we emerged from the boat to make the most of the drier spells and I used our walks along the beach as an opportunity to photograph the wild waves that were being whipped up by the wind near Maryport pier.

Photo of a lone fisherman on Maryport pier

A lone fisherman on Maryport pier

Thankfully the weather improved on Wednesday.

The rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun came out, which is when living on a boat and not having to go to work really comes into its own... 
Photo of me soaking up the sun on Ravensdale's fore deck

Soaking up the sun on Ravensdale's fore deck

Photo of Phil looking cool in his shades

Phil looking cool in his shades

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Photo of the watery view through Ravensdale's windscreen

The watery view through Ravensdale's windscreen this morning

Fortunately we both saw the funny side of the latest challenge to our liveaboard lifestyle on Ravensdale.

Ironically we are totally surrounded by water – we’re sitting in a marina full of it with more pouring out of the sky – but have spent the last few days with no water supply on the boat.

We were getting ready for bed on Monday night when the water flow from the tap in the galley dwindled to almost nothing before coming to a total stop.

At first we thought our water supply may have run out, but we’d only filled the 500 litre tank the previous day.

It usually lasts at least four days before we have to refill it with a hosepipe from the tap on the pontoon and we knew we hadn’t used an excessive quantity of the wet stuff.

We then realised that we couldn’t hear the water pump running.

As it was already late and we were tired, we decided to go to bed and begin the diagnostic process in the morning.

Photo of Phil checking the old water pump in Ravensdale's engine room

Phil checks out the old water pump in Ravensdale's engine room

On Tuesday morning, I went up to our storage facility at the marina to get our water carrier so we would have water on the boat while Phil went down into the engine room to find out what had gone wrong.

He discovered that by messing around with the electrical wiring into the pump he could make it work again, but it wouldn’t carry on running. And, if he did this while the taps were all switched off, it started pumping water out into the bilges.

It soon became apparent that a new water pump was needed.

Photo of filling a jerry can with water on our very wet aft deck

Filling a jerry can with water on our very wet aft deck

Initially, we were both very disappointed that we were facing yet another unexpected and expensive purchase.

Photo of Phil unwrapping the new water pump

Phil unwraps the new water pump

Someone once told us that BOAT was an acronym for Bring Out Another Thousand and we are beginning to believe they were right.

This time we were only looking at another £200, but the things that need replacing on this boat just seem to go on and on.

However, when we looked out of the window and saw it was raining, we both burst out laughing at the idea that we were without water on the boat.

And, looking on the bright side, replacing the water pump means that is one more thing that is new and therefore should (hopefully) last us a good while before it goes wrong again - especially as we discovered the existing pump was not suitable for the purpose. It was a washdown pump rather than one suitable for a domestic water system.

Photo of The old pump (right) and the new pump on the galley bench

The old pump (right) and the new pump sitting on the bench in the galley

Phil has just finished fitting it while I have been writing this so normal service has now been resumed and we have hot and cold running water again.

Another interesting experience over the last few days was trying to cut Phil’s hair while Ravensdale was rocking madly.

When I set up the stool and got out the clippers and scissors to give him a trim, the boat was almost motionless.

However, soon after I started running the clippers over his head it started rocking and the swaying motion quickly became quite pronounced.

I suppose I should’ve stopped and finished the job off later, but I decided I’d started so I’d finish and carried on regardless.

It wasn’t so difficult when I was using the clippers. The real problem was trimming around his ears with a sharp pair of scissors and he seemed rather relieved when I completed the task without having drawn any blood.

Meanwhile, we have spent a good bit of time watching and photographing the wildlife and marine life in and around the marina.

The giant jellyfish has not returned – or at least if it has we haven’t seen it – but there have been plenty of other jellyfish around.

Photo of a compass jellyfish

A compass jellyfish

Photo of another compass jellyfish

Another compass jellyfish showing the distinctive markings on the top

Photo of an unidentified jellyfish

An unidentified jellyfish

We have seen quite a few compass jellyfish, varying in size from a couple of inches to about 6ins in diameter and literally hundreds of moon jellyfish of various sizes.

We also saw one totally different looking jellyfish. Sadly it was too deep to get a good photo of it and I have so far been unable to identify it. 

But the best photo opportunity this week was a visit to the marina by a family of swans, including three cygnets.

Photo of three cygnets hitching a ride on mum's back

Three cygnets hitch a ride on mum's back

Photo of three cygnets on mum's back

The cygnets take a rest from paddling around under their own steam

Photo of one little cygnet snuggling down among mum's feathers

One little cygnet snuggles down among mum's feathers

Mum and her babies came into the marina shortly before the gate that keeps water in the marina when the tide goes out was shut.

Photo of Mum calling for her partner from the marina side of the gate

Mum calls for her partner from the marina side of the gate

She quickly realised she had been separated from her mate and swam up and down on the inside of the gate with her little ones on her back calling out to her mate.

She could see him through the holes in the gate but could not reach him and was getting very upset, but soon afterwards he joined her and the pair presumably waited until the gate was opened again on the next rising tide before making good their escape.

Photo of family of swans swimming around the marina

Dad joins the rest of the family for a swim around the marina

We've also had some beautiful sunsets over the past few days so the camera has been putting in a bit of overtime.

Photo of Maryport Marina sunset

Maryport Marina sunset

Photo of another view of the sunset over Maryport Marina

Another view of the sunset over Maryport Marina

PS. For the purists among you, I am aware that I have adopted the common misquote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge for the title on this blog post.

It should read: “Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink; 
Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.”

Thankfully Ravensdale is GRP (glass-reinforced plastic) so we don’t have to worry about boards shrinking. At least that's one thing that can't go wrong on our boat J