Friday, 16 February 2018

Sleeping more soundly thanks to our new automatic bilge pump


Photo of Phil tracing the wiring for the old engine room bilge pump

Phil tracing the wiring for the old engine room bilge pump


The scary experience of trying to sleep on a boat with a steady flow of water coming in turned fitting an automatic bilge pump into our top priority.

We also have a 24V manually switched bilge pump and another automatic one will be fitted very soon.


Fitting a new bilge pump

We’d been planning to swap the manual bilge pumps on our 43ft cruiser Ravensdale for automatic ones for some time, but there always seemed to be another job that was more pressing.

That all changed the night Phil had to get up every two hours during the night to operate the bilge pump when the stern gland on the port prop shaft developed a fairly serious leak. And, yes, I know we should have taken turns, but he volunteered J

The leak developed after we took our Neptunus 133 out cruising on two consecutive days - Winter cruising joys and the misery caused by flooding bilges

Unfortunately we discovered the rising water level in the engine room quite late in the day and Phil was reluctant to touch it while the boat was in the water in case he made the leak worse.

Photo of the manual pump that is being relocated to the bow bilges

The manual pump that is being relocated to the bow bilges

This meant we had to wait until the following morning to get help.

It turned out it was just a case of tightening the nuts on the stern gland plate so we'll know what to do if it happens again.

At the same time as discovering the leak, we found out that the bow bilge pump was no longer working so we immediately ordered a new one.

We decided to move the working manual pump in the engine room into the bow bilges and put a new larger automatic pump in the engine room.

After checking the various options online, we went for the 24V Rule-Mate 2000, which can pump 2000 gallons per hour.

Photo of Ravensdale's new automatic bilge pump

Ravensdale's new automatic bilge pump

When it arrived, it became evident that it needed a three-way switch for automatic, manual and off settings so that was duly ordered along with the necessary cabling.

Phil then set about trying to work out how to get the cables from the switch on the helm console to the bilge pump in the engine room.

The existing cables could not be used as there were only two, when three were now needed, and they were not in particularly good condition.
Photo of Phil preparing the wiring for the new bilge pump in the engine room

Phil preparing the wiring for the new bilge pump in the engine room

Photo of the three-way switch for the new bilge pump

The three-way switch for the new bilge pump


He also fitted the new pump in a more accessible position as the original had been under the diesel tank and at arm’s length from the end of the walkway in the engine room.

It was such a tight spot that Phil asked me to be ready to pull him out by his feet if he got stuck. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary.

And we now have a fully functioning automatic bilge pump in the engine room.

Phil poured water into the bilges with a hosepipe to test it and the pump kicked in when it reached the required level.
Photo of Phil pouring water into the engine room bilges

Phil pouring water into the engine room bilges



Creaking mooring ropes

Our latest trips out to sea also created another far less worrying but fairly annoying problem – very creaky mooring ropes.

Photo of Phil adjusting one of the creaking mooring ropes

Phil adjusting one of the creaking mooring ropes

We’ve had this happen before and have always found that moving the ropes around reduced the amount of creaking to a tolerable level even in the windiest of weather.

However, for some reason it didn’t work this time. We tied and retied them a number of times, but still the loud creaking continued to keep us awake at night.

In desperation, Phil poured washing up liquid over the ropes on the cleat nearest our cabin one night and they seemed to quieten down a bit. 
The next morning we could see streaks of the yellow washing up liquid on the side of the boat, which have since been washed off, but the ropes still seem to be quieter than they were before it was applied so we’ll know what to do next time J


Patching the flybridge cover

Photo of me sewing a patch on our torn flybridge cover

Me sewing a patch on our torn flybridge cover


Meanwhile, I attempted to patch a tear in the canvas cover for the flybridge, which proved much more difficult than I’d expected.

I wasn’t convinced my domestic sewing machine would be up to sewing through the thick canvas, but that proved less of a problem than manoeuvring the bulk of the cover through the machine while turning it round to stitch the four sides of the patch.

I broke the only needle I had that was supposed to be able to handle heavy fabric and had to resort to a leather needle to finish the task.

It’s not the neatest sewing job I’ve ever done, but it has stopped the rain getting in.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get fabric that was an exact match for the existing cover, but at least the Sunbrella patch is blue and, more importantly, waterproof.

Photo of Ravensdale's patchwork effect flybridge cover

Ravensdale's patchwork effect flybridge cover


There are so many patches on it now that it’s beginning to look like a patchwork quilt so I think a new one may be needed before too long.

However, after the trouble I had trying to sew on a simple patch with my machine, I doubt I’ll attempt making a new one. I’ll probably leave that to the professionals.





Feathered friends

The pair of swans that frequent the marina have been around looking for food again while the berth holder who used to feed them has been away.

Photo of the pair of swans in search of food

The pair of swans in search of food


And the little black and white duck that we first saw back in December of last year was a regular visitor for a couple of days during the past week.

We previously looked it up to find out what type of duck it was and learned that it was a lightweight domesticated breed called a magpie duck.

Keen to find out more now it seemed to be here to stay, I looked it up again to find out whether it was male or female. It turned out to be male because it has curly feathers just above its tail.

On Friday evening, we found him in the water near our boat quacking at us whenever he saw us. We took pity on him and gave his some bread.
Photo of the magpie duck on the pontoon by our boat

The magpie duck on the pontoon by our boat


He was back the following day when we saw him sitting on the pontoon by our steps waiting for us to come out so we tried giving him some bird food we had on board and he stayed around for much of the day.

He seemed to get tamer each time we saw him, running along the pontoon towards us if we called him, but was unwilling to take food directly from us.

On Sunday, he arrived earlier and stayed for most of the day. He allowed us to get closer than before, but still shied away if we got too close.

But, on Monday, he started eating from the palm of my hand.  

Photo of the first time the duck ate out of my hand

The first time the duck ate out of my hand


I was all set to give him a name and declare him our new pet when the marina staff, who had started pressure washing the pontoons the previous day, reached our pontoon.

Photo of one of the marina staff pressure washing the pontoons

One of the marina staff pressure washing the pontoons


The duck flew off and hasn’t been back since. Hopefully he’ll return very soon as I was getting used to having him around.

I recently learnt that anatidaephobia is the fear of being watched by a duck, swan or goose. I wonder if there’s a name for the fear of NOT being watched by a duck J

Windy weather

We’ve had a pretty cold week here with some frosty mornings. The temperature has just about managed to stay above 0C (32F) but strong winds have made it feel a lot colder.

And there has been a LOT of wind over the past week so no chance of taking the boat out.

Photo of me checking the wind speed with our anemometer

Me checking the wind speed with our anemometer


Low temperatures are fine, but we prefer not to leave the marina if the wind speed is higher than a single figure.

And on many days it would not even have been possible to do so as the marina doesn’t open the gate if there’s too much swell and it has stayed closed on a number of occasions this week.

Photo of water pouring over the closed marina gate

Water pouring over the closed marina gate


Last Friday was cold and sunny so I took my camera for a walk around the local area.

Photo of the sun setting behind clouds over the Solway Firth in Cumbria

The sun setting behind clouds over the Solway Firth in Cumbria


Photo of Maryport Marina

Maryport Marina - Ravensdale is just visible in the far right corner of the marina


Photo of Grasslot shore at Maryport with with the Scottish hills in the distance

Grasslot shore at Maryport with with the Scottish hills in the distance


Photo of a wider view of Maryport Marina

A wider view of Maryport Marina


Saturday, Sunday and Monday were also very chilly with high winds. 

Tuesday was still cold, with rain, sleet and wet snow in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon, which provided another opportunity for a walk with my camera. The snow started falling again as I got back to the boat.

Photo of Maryport in Cumbria from Mote Hill

Maryport in Cumbria from Mote Hill with the Scottish hills in the distance


Photo of the blue bridge crossing the River Ellen at Maryport

Blue bridge crossing the River Ellen at Maryport


Photo of Maryport Harbour

Maryport Harbour


Photo of Maryport Marina just before the snow arrived on Tuesday afternoon

Maryport Marina just before the snow arrived on Tuesday afternoon


Valentine’s Day followed a very cold and windy night with a highest average wind speed of 36mph, gusting up to 48mph, recorded at nearby St Bee’s Head.

The high winds continued throughout the day on Wednesday, peaking late morning with a top average speed of 40mph and gusts up to 57mph.

Yesterday (Thursday) the wind continued to blow throughout the day with the highest average wind speed of 31mph and gusts of up to 44mph recorded at 1pm.

Last night and today (Friday) have also been very windy, but at least the sun's shining today and it's a bit warmer at around 6-7C (43-44F).

So glad we eventually managed to get our mooring ropes to stop creaking or we would’ve been totally shattered due to lack of sleep after such a windy week.


New neighbour

Last night (Thursday) we had a new neighbour for the night.

Photo o the Bayard 7 moored on the harbour wall opposite Ravensdale

The Bayard 7 moored on the harbour wall opposite Ravensdale


The Fred. Olsen Windcarrier Bayard 7 has been on the marina slipway having work carried out by the local boat yard for the past fortnight.

It went back in the water yesterday afternoon and was moored up on the harbour wall almost opposite Ravensdale, but it was only there overnight and left when the marina gate opened this morning.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Winter cruising joys and the misery caused by flooding bilges


Photo of Phil at the helm of Ravensdale in the bright winter sunshine

Phil at the helm of Ravensdale in the bright winter sunshine

The past week has been both exhilarating and nerve-wracking in equal measure.

We took our 43ft cruiser Ravensdale out to sea for her first cruise of the year in beautiful cold, sunny weather on Sunday.

There was very little wind again on Monday so we decided to go out for a fishing trip, which proved successful for the first time ever J

On both days, we enjoyed spectacular views of the snow-covered mountains inland from Maryport in Cumbria, UK, and, on the way back to the marina on Monday evening, we were treated to a dramatic sunset.

At that stage, I couldn’t have been happier with our new, or rather newish, liveaboard lifestyle.

I was convinced that boat life was so much better than real life J

But that quickly changed on Tuesday evening when we discovered our bilges were filling up with water.


Rising water levels in the bilges

Photo of Phil removing the broken bilge pump

Phil removes the broken bilge pump

By the time we discovered the problem, the water had covered the metal grid between Ravensdale’s two 300hp Volvo Penta engines. The bow bilges were also pretty full.

The engine room bilge pump cleared the water in there, but the bow bilge pump refused to work and, when Phil removed it, he found that part of the impeller had melted.
Just hours after pumping out the engine room, it was filling up again and Phil discovered that the water was coming in around the port prop shaft.

It wasn’t just dripping. There was a steady flow of water coming in and he was reluctant to touch it while we were afloat in case he made it worse.

So we spent the night waking every couple of hours to pump out the bilges until we could ask someone with more knowledge than us to take a look at it the following day.

Photo of the broken bilge pump showing the melted impeller

The broken bilge pump showing the melted impeller


Meanwhile, we ordered a new, fully automatic bilge pump that can pump 2,000 gallons per hour.

We’d been meaning to buy an automatic bilge pump for some time and the water ingress, together with the broken pump, forced our hand.

The plan is to install the new, more powerful automatic pump in the engine room and move the functioning pump from the engine room to the bow. We are also going to see if we can get a replacement impeller for the broken pump to provide back up.

First thing on Wednesday morning, we started trying to track down Norman, the local man who’d sorted our overheating engine problem, but he doesn’t use a telephone.

He’d previously told us to catch him at the marina, where he has a small fishing boat, around the harbour, where he can frequently be found working on his son’s and grandson’s commercial fishing boats or to call at his home.

We tried all three locations without success, then I realised that we could probably reach him through his grandson, who’s a Facebook friend. I sent Tom a quick message saying we were in urgent need of Norman’s assistance and in no time at all I had a message back saying “He’s on his way”.

While waiting, we continued to pump out the bilges.

And, to say we were relieved when we saw Norman and his black Labrador walking along the pontoon towards Ravensdale would be the understatement of the century.

I quickly put the coffeemaker on as I now know coffee (or tea) to be the first priority in all boat-related situations J

Norman took one look at the water that was coming in and declared that the stern gland was leaking. He tightened the two nuts on the plate and the flow stopped.

He said it would be worth replacing the stern gland packing next time we have our Neptunus 133 lifted out, adding that there was no rush to do it.

Photo of the port prop shaft stern gland that caused our sleepless night

The port prop shaft stern gland that caused our sleepless night

We both slept a lot better that night, partly because there was no need to keep getting up to pump out the bilges and partly because we didn’t have to worry about the boat filling up with water.

The new automatic bilge pump arrived yesterday (Thursday) and will be fitted asap.


Winter cruising

Photo of Ravensdale on the Solway Firth

A local woman took this photo of Ravensdale on Sunday and kindly allowed me to use it here

Our trips out into the Solway Firth on Sunday and Monday were a much happier experience.

Photo of Ravensdale cruising into the winter sun

Ravensdale cruising into the winter sun


The first was to test the starboard engine to make sure it was working properly after Norman cleaned out the heat exchanger and intercooler for us a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t attempt high speeds, but took Ravensdale up to 13-14 knots with no problems. The engine temperature stayed well below 200F. Before the work was carried out, the temperature started to shoot up as soon as we went over 12 knots.

The port engine was running a little hotter, so we plan to get the heat exchanger and intercooler off that one for cleaning one day soon.

The weather was amazing. The sea was flat calm and the sun was so bright that we needed our sunglasses when heading into it.

Photo of me on Ravensdale's aft deck on the Solway Firth

Me on Ravensdale's aft deck on the Solway Firth

We didn’t drop the anchor, but put the engines in neutral and allowed the boat to drift while we had a cup of tea on the foredeck and enjoyed the views. That said, we didn’t drift much at all as there was very little wind.

Unsurprisingly for such a beautiful day, we were not alone on the Solway Firth.

Ten other berth holders from Maryport Marina also took their boats out for a sail or cruise, which is the largest number we’ve seen out at one time since we moved onto our boat here 15 months ago.

We decided to go out again on Monday to test our anchor as we’d never dropped it outside the marina and thought it best to check everything was working properly while close to home.

Phil also fancied doing a spot of fishing so we headed north up the coast a short way.

Photo of Sunrise fishing on Monday

Sunrise fishing on Monday


We stopped fairly close to a local fishing boat called Sunrise and, as we knew the owner, tried to make contact. We didn’t know which VHF channel he’d be using so I suggested calling him on his mobile phone.

And, while I was looking for his phone number, he called us. Great minds think alike! J

We dropped the anchor and Phil set up his fishing rods while I got lunch and a cup of tea, which we had on the foredeck in the sun.  

Photo of Phil dropping the anchor

Phil dropping the anchor


Photo of Phil fishing in the Solway Firth

Phil fishing in the Solway Firth


Phil was just about to give up fishing when we decided to give it another 15 minutes and, shortly after making this decision, he got a bite and reeled in a decent sized cod.


Sadly, we will never know what it weighed as Phil gutted it before I had a chance to get it on the scales, but it provided two reasonable sized fillets.

Photo of Phil with the first cod he has caught from Ravensdale

Phil with the first cod he has caught from Ravensdale


I spent much of the time we were at anchor taking photographs and was moaning that I couldn't get the view of the snow-covered hills that I wanted so Phil suggested I try taking them from the flybridge, which helped a lot.

It was the first time I'd been up on the flybridge at sea and I was amazed that just being a few feet higher made a big difference to what I could see.




Photo of a row of bare trees and the white hills behind them

A row of bare trees stand out against the white hills behind them




Photo of me on Ravensdale's flybridge

Me on Ravensdale's flybridge


We retrieved the anchor without any problems and headed back to the marina as the sun went down.

Photo of Phil weighing anchor at the end of the fishing trip

Phil weighing anchor at the end of the fishing trip

I was delighted with the dramatic clouds, with the sunset breaking through them that made for some good photo opportunities on the way back to the marina.

Photo of the view as we returned to Maryport from our fishing trip

The view as we returned to Maryport from our fishing trip


Photo of the Isle of Man just visible in the distance

The Isle of Man was just visible in the distance


Photo of the sun breaking through heavy clouds over Maryport pier

The sun breaking through heavy clouds over Maryport pier


Photo of a wider view of the pier including the lighthouse

A wider view of the pier including the old lighthouse on the left of the image


Photo of the sunset as we entered Maryport on Monday evening

The sunset as we entered Maryport on Monday evening

Photo of Ravensdale about to enter the gate to Maryport Marina

Ravensdale about to enter the gate to Maryport Marina

Winter weather

We’ve had a mixed bag of weather this week - ice, snow, rain, drizzle and sunshine, but for the first time in a very long time we’ve had very little wind.

Last Friday was a lovely sunny day in Maryport and there was a very high tide so I just had to get out and take some photos.
Photo of Maryport Marina with a 9.2m high tide

Maryport Marina with a 9.2m high tide



Photo of Maryport Harbour at a very high tide

Maryport Harbour at a very high tide


Photo of colourful fishing boats in Maryport Harbour

Colourful fishing boats in Maryport Harbour


Photo of Maryport from the bridge over the River Ellen

Maryport from the bridge over the River Ellen


We had a 9.2m tide, which brought the water level in the marina and nearby harbour up almost to the top of the dock walls, totally changing the look of the town.
Most of Saturday was wet and miserable, but it cleared up later in the day.

On Sunday, the sun came out again.
We got a bit of a sunset in the evening and clear skies led to low temperatures overnight.

Photo of sunset at Maryport Marina

Sunset at Maryport Marina

We woke up on Monday to find ice on the surface of the water around the boat and on Tuesday morning we discovered it had snowed overnight, but it quickly cleared when the snow turned to rain.

Wednesday morning was another icy morning after a cold night during which we were told it went down to -4C in Maryport.

Photo of ice on the surface of the water at Maryport Marina

Ice on the surface of the water at Maryport Marina

And yesterday (Thursday) was mainly overcast and drizzly, with sunny intervals.


Wildlife in the marina

We’re always interested in any wildlife that visits the marina and this week we were told two otters had been seen on the ramp between the marina facilities and the pontoons.

We’ve seen otter scat on the ramp, but we haven’t seen the carnivorous mammals yet. Hopefully we’ll get to see them soon.

Sadly, we found a dead kingfisher floating in the marina this week. We’ve often seen one flying around, or at least we assumed it was the same one, but we've seen a kingfisher again since so it seems there was more than one.
Photo of a kingfisher in Maryport Marina in December of last year

A kingfisher in Maryport Marina in December of last year



We’ve started dropping our prawn pot off the boat while in the marina again lately and have caught a few small fish and a lot of shore crabs, but this week we also caught a spider crab.

Photo of the spider crab we caught in our prawn pot

The spider crab we caught in our prawn pot


Other boat jobs

The dark blue canvas we ordered to repair the cover on the flybridge arrived.

I then realised that I should also have ordered the proper thread for the job.

The order was placed and it has now arrived so I will have to get my sewing machine out to put a patch on the cover on the next available dry day.

We’re planning to use the remaining fabric to make a cover for the windlass.