Friday, 25 August 2017

Living the dream - anchors aweigh...

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

Enjoying the sunshine on Ravensdale's aft deck in the Solway Firth

It’s been another busy week on Ravensdale, including our second trip out into the Solway Firth, further boat maintenance and Phil’s birthday.
Our first outing from Maryport Marina in Cumbria on our 43ft Neptunus 133 cruiser earlier this month was exciting, but in many ways the second on Monday of this week was better.
This time the new depth sounder/log, which had to be returned to the manufacturer because it wasn’t working properly, was back in situ so we knew what speeds we were doing and we were able to check this against the GPS on the plotter.
Photo of Phil at the helm of Ravensdale at sea

Phil at the helm of Ravensdale at sea

Phil took Ravensdale up to about 18 knots, which felt as though we were moving through the water pretty fast, and she still had more to give, but we decided not to push her any harder as the port engine seemed to be smoking a bit at speed.
However, she seemed very happy and was smoke-free at about 8-9 knots.
We’ve spoken to a number of people who have more experience of diesel engines than us and they didn’t seem to think it was too worrying.
It has been suggested that we run the fuel tank down as much as possible before refuelling to use up the old diesel before filling her up again so that's what we are planning to do.
It was a lovely calm day, with winds of just 5-6mph, so we took the opportunity to see how the boat would behave if we put the engines in neutral and let her drift.
And we decided this was a good time to have our first cup of tea on the aft deck at sea.
Photo of making our first cup of tea at sea

Making our first cup of tea at sea while the boat rocked around on the waves

Photo of Phil enjoying his first cup of tea at sea on the aft deck

Phil enjoys his first cup of tea at sea on the aft deck

The thinking behind this was that we wanted to discover how easy it would be to fish from the boat.
It seems it would be no problem at all when there’s very little wind and we wouldn’t be going out fishing in high winds anyway.
The rev counter on the port engine, which had been refusing to work on our first trip out into the firth, worked this time as Phil had checked all the connections and got it running again.

The blown water filter gasket

He had also replaced the gasket in the port engine water filter that we discovered was totally blown and, before we bought the boat, someone had used silicone sealant to seal down the perspex inspection cover that is supposed to be removed so the filter can be checked and if necessary cleaned out after every trip out to sea.
The lid can now be easily removed and the filter checked and cleaned.
It seems crazy that someone would seal the lid down rather than paying £11 for a new gasket, but that's what they had done.
Photo of fitting the new gasket to the water filter

Fitting the new gasket to the water filter

Sadly we still had no idea of the depth of water while we were out as, although the depth sounder worked briefly after it returned from the manufacturer, it packed up again just before we went out.
Photo of the depth sounder (top left)

The depth sounder (top left) registers "out" instead of the depth

We’ve now decided that there must be a problem with the “through hull” transducer. This sends a signal down to the seabed which bounces back, giving the depth reading.
In an attempt to rectify the problem without having Ravensdale lifted out of the water again, which would cost us more than £400, we decided it would be cheaper to buy an “in hull” transducer in the hope we will get a reading from that.
Phil’s in the process of fitting it as I write this, so I will provide an update on that in my next blog post.
In the meantime, Phil celebrated his birthday last week so I was faced with the near impossible task of finding something to get him as a present.
He already has just about every type of fishing rod imaginable (at least, that’s how it seems to me J) but he’d been saying he needed uptide rods so I ordered two rods and a pair of rod holders for his birthday.
Apparently uptide rods enable you to fish in reasonably shallow water, allowing you to cast fairly heavy weights away from the boat.
He seemed pleased with his present, so much so that he even went out in the rain on his birthday to fit the holders to the guard rail on either side of the bow, then tried the rods in them when the sun came out.
Photo of Phil fitting one of the new rod holders

Phil fitting one of the new rod holders

Photo of Phil trying a rod in one of the new rod holders

Phil trying a rod in one of the new rod holders

However, he hadn’t had time to sort out the rest of his fishing gear before our trip out on Monday so that will be something to look forward to on our next outing.
He has been busy making up traces and we’ve managed to squeeze some frozen bait into our tiny freezer to ensure that he will be ready to fish at a moment’s notice when we decide to go out again.
I was so glad the fishing rods and holders were a success as my attempts at making him a cake were anything but. After bragging that I thought I’d sussed out the temperature controls on our little oven, his birthday cake was an unmitigated disaster.
As a change from the courgette cakes I’ve been making lately, I decided to try a coffee and walnut cake and all went well until I got it out of the oven to discover that the sides were burnt and the middle immediately sank.
Photo of my sad apology for a coffee and walnut cake

My sad apology for a coffee and walnut cake

Thankfully, Phil thought it was hilarious and decided to share it with the local wildlife. He threw it overboard for the seagulls, who seemed none the worse for their birthday tea.
Oh well, they say it’s the thought that counts...
And I went out and bought a Belgian chocolate cheesecake instead (no image of that I'm afraid as we ate it before I could take a photo of it :-)).
While Ravensdale was out of the water on the hard standing earlier this year, we ordered and fitted a new trident logo to replace the existing one on the bow which was looking more than a little the worse for wear.
The only trouble was that we forgot to make a hole through the vinyl logo to allow the anchor chain locker to drain.
So, while we were moving the boat across onto the adjoining pontoon to enable Phil to clean the starboard side of the hull, I suggested this would be a good opportunity to pull the bow around to within reach of the pontoon to pierce the vinyl.
Poor Ravensdale looked a bit sad moored at 45 degrees to the pontoon and I’m sure passers by must’ve thought we were really bad at parking our boat, but it did the trick.
Photo of Ravensdale moored at a crazy angle so we could get to the bow

Ravensdale moored at a crazy angle so we could get to the bow

Photo of Ravensdale moored at an angle to the pontoon

Ravensdale moored at an angle to the pontoon

Photo of Ravensdale's chain locker emptying into the marina

Ravensdale's chain locker empties into the marina

Phil then used a hot soldering iron to make a neat hole and, immediately he pierced the vinyl, a steady stream of water started pouring out.
And it kept running for such a long time that I can only think it wouldn’t have been long before it would’ve started pouring out onto the bunks in the fore cabin where the internal access to the chain locker is situated.
We also decided it would be a good idea to try dropping the anchor in the marina before we needed to do so at sea, just to make sure that the winch was working properly after Phil replaced the switch and that it would lift the anchor.
Photo of Ravensdale dropping anchor for the first time

Ravensdale drops anchor for the first time

And it was a very good job we did...
Only about 10m of the 55m chain came out when he dropped the anchor and he had to inspect the chain locker to see what was happening.
The main problem here being that, lack of storage space has meant a number of homeless boxes of stuff and various other items had been “temporarily” placed on the bunks in the forward cabin.
These all had to be removed before he could get to the chain locker to discover that the chain was tangled up. He untangled it and the rest of the chain slid out into the water.
And, thankfully, the winch brought the chain and anchor back in again, but the chain needed hosing down as it went back in as it was very dirty after being sat in the mud at the bottom of the marina.
Photo washing the anchor after we tested it by dropping it in the marina

Washing the anchor after we tested it by dropping it in the marina

This little exercise taught us another lesson. We need unhindered access to the chain locker hatch while at sea.
If we’d been dropping the anchor in a rough sea, we would’ve had a terrible job on our hands moving all our stuff out of the cabin while the boat was being tossed around by the waves.
So we sorted all the stuff we had pulled out before putting it back to decide what we didn’t really need on the boat and anything that was considered unnecessary on board was taken to the storage facility we use near Cockermouth the following day.
The access to the chain locker is now clear. The only challenge will be keeping it that way... J

Friday, 18 August 2017

Looking after Ravensdale seems to be rather like painting the Forth Bridge...

Photo of me at the helm of a Bavaria 38 yacht

Me at the helm of a Bavaria 38 yacht

This week could have been a bit of an anticlimax after the excitement of making our first trip out to sea on Ravensdale last week.

But we’ve still had plenty to do – both on our own boat and other people’s.

In fact, maintaining Ravensdale seems to be a never-ending task - as fast as we sort one problem, we discover another one waiting in the wings.

After months of trying to fix the old winches on the davits that will support our dinghy when we set of on our travels, Phil finally gave in and declared them to be beyond repair. Then followed hours of searching for winches of the correct size that would fit the existing davits.

Photo of the rusty old winches that came off the davits

The rusty old winches that came off the davits

We also had problems finding winches which could be set up with the handle on either side, mainly for ease of use from a central position, but also to fit the slots in the covers on the davits.

We eventually found some that were just a little bit too big, but Phil was able to make them fit by making one of the bolt holes a bit bigger.

He was also able to swap the handle of one of them onto the opposite side.

Photo of Phil after he finished fitting the second winch

Phil after he finished fitting the second winch

We haven’t tried the dinghy on them yet so that's another job that we're planning to do soon.

Photo of me admiring one of the shiny new winches

Me admiring one of the shiny new winches

Good weather meant we could also get on with several tasks on the flybridge.

Phil fitted the rocker switch for the trim tab system that he installed while Ravensdale was out on the hard standing earlier this year.

He also checked the charger for the boat’s remote VHF radio handset, but found the 12V charger had been fitted to a 24V system, which has probably blown something somewhere along the line.

He plans to connect it to a 12V system at some stage to see if it will work.

However, as the remote radio is discontinued and spares are no longer available, this may mean that the remote radio is useless. Thankfully we have other radio handsets to fall back on.

Photo of Phil checking the power to the radio's charging unit on the flybridge

Phil checking the power to the radio's charging unit on the flybridge

Phil also went down into the engine room to check the water filters after our trip out and discovered that the cover on the port engine filter had been stuck down with silicone sealant.

When he cut the sealant to get it off, he found out why – the gasket was perished and breaking up so, rather than replacing it, some bright spark had decided to seal it in another way. Not a great idea when they're supposed to be checked daily when at sea.

He also discovered a small crack in the water filter cover so we've ordered a new cover and two sets of gaskets – one to replace the damaged one and the other as a spare.

So we're now unable to take Ravensdale out again until they arrive and are fitted.

On a happier note, last Saturday, we jumped at a spur of the moment opportunity to go sailing on Solway Adventurer.

Photo of Solway Adventurer

Solway Adventurer

I was on my way down the ramp to the pontoons on my way back to Ravensdale from the marina office when I got chatting to the folk on Solway Adventurer.

They asked if we'd like to join them for about three hours at sea that afternoon – as long as we could be ready to go in about half an hour.

We had a quick bite to eat as we were going to be out over lunchtime, grabbed our life jackets and waterproof jackets and headed down to the Bavaria 38 in plenty of time.

I knew the yacht belonged to a charity, but didn’t know much about the organisation and learnt a lot more from speaking to Mick, Glenda, Raymond and Val, who are all club members, while we were out in the firth.

Solway Adventure Sailing Club is a charity that provides a sailing experience for anyone suffering from a condition which affects their day-to-day life, whether physical, mental or emotional, and to youth groups and senior citizens.

Photos of Phil and Mike on Solway Adventurer

Phil and Mike on Solway Adventurer

And on Sunday, we were surprised to hear live music coming from the area alongside the marina gate, next to Maryport’s old lighthouse, and lots of people walking along the side of the marina in that direction.

It was a beautiful day and I didn’t have anything pressing to do so I grabbed my camera and went to see what was happening.

I discovered there was a fun day being held to celebrate the refurbishment of the lighthouse that was completed earlier this year.

Photo of Maryport Fun Day from the marina

The music from Maryport Fun Day filled the marina

There were people dressed up as pirates, a climbing wall and a number of activities for children, live music throughout the afternoon and free fish and chips, until they ran out when visitors were given fish and chip flavoured crisps.
The local Sea Cadets were also practicing their sailing skills in the outer harbour.

Photo of Maryport pirates

Maryport pirates

Photo of one of the musicians providing the live music for the event

One of the musicians providing the live music for the event

Photo of Maryport Rescue boat with the climbing wall in the background

Maryport Rescue boat with the climbing wall in the background

Photo of the Sea Cadets practicing their sailing skills

The Sea Cadets practicing their sailing skills 

Photo of people on Maryport Beach

There were also a number of people out enjoying the sunshine on the beach on Sunday

The weather couldn’t have been better and the kids seemed to be having a great time, but local people were later complaining on social media that it hadn’t been well enough advertised, with many saying they would’ve gone along if they’d known it was on.

And yesterday (Thursday) we were asked if we could help the marina staff move a large concrete boat that has been stuck on the refuelling pontoon for the past couple of weeks.

Lodestone’s owners removed her rudder for repair while she was on the slipway and she was pulled back to the nearby refuelling pontoon, which also accommodates the pump out, as a temporary measure until she could be towed back to her usual berth.

However, high winds and the lack of available staff during calmer periods meant the marina had been unable to move her.

Yesterday, Reg, the foreman, came and asked for our assistance as he wanted to move her before the high winds forecast for last night and the next few days and we helped him and marina manager, Pauline, to move the vessel.

Photo of Phil on Lodestone with Pauline and Reg in the background

Phil on Lodestone with Pauline in the dory and Reg pulling on a rope

Lodestone was initially pulled over onto the harbour wall, then dragged along to the hammerhead where they were planning to put her while Phil and I used our boat hooks to keep her away from the wall.

Reg and Phil then took her mooring ropes across onto the hammerhead on the marina’s dory, which is a flat-bottomed work boat, and they pulled Lodestone across into her new mooring, leaving me on board with my boat hook just in case...

Photo of mooring Lodestone on the hammerhead

Reg pulls on the bow mooring rope while Phil goes to take the stern rope

Meanwhile, the marina swans are still gracing us with their presence and can frequently be seen drinking from a dripping hosepipe set up especially for them by one of the other berth holders.

Photo of swans drinking at Maryport Marina

Swans drinking at Maryport Marina

And I have been busy baking courgette cakes in our tiny oven on Ravensdale.

Photo of courgette cakes fresh from the oven

Courgette cakes fresh from the oven

At long last I seem to have managed to work out which gas mark number relates to which temperature and we're getting far fewer burnt offerings.
My courgette cakes definitely taste better than they look, or at least I think they do. And I reckon they should count towards our five a day, given that each one contains a large courgette :-)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Ravensdale’s maiden voyage in our ownership and with her new name

Photo of me at the helm of Ravensdale in the Solway Firth

Me at the helm of Ravensdale in the Solway Firth

At long last our Neptunus 133 motor cruiser has made her maiden voyage as Ravensdale.

Yesterday (Thursday August 10) she made her first trip out of Maryport Marina in Cumbria and into the Solway Firth since we bought her more than nine months ago.

And the long-awaited excursion proved well worth the wait. It was everything we’d hoped it would be – and more.

When we decided to sell our house to move onto a boat, we never expected we would have to wait so long to take her out to sea.

She was called Candlelight when we bought her, but we were not fond of the name and replaced it with “Ravensdale” – the name of the road in Corpach, Fort William, where we were living when we made the momentous decision to sell up and for me to take early retirement.

Since then, unforeseen problems (as well as a few we’d known about before making the purchase) delayed the outing for weeks, then months. So much so that I was beginning to think it could be a year or more before we’d actually get her out of the marina.

However, yesterday the weather was perfect – dry and sunny with very little wind – and high tide was at 14.01, which meant the marina gate would be open from around 11.30am to 4.30pm.

Although we’d decided to put off going to sea due to instrument problems, we’d still been checking the weather and tide times and agreed that yesterday would probably be the day to do it if the instruments were sorted.

We’d bought new navigation software for our laptops and tablets as back up for Ravensdale’s plotters, but the new depth sounder/log that we fitted in the spring was still away with the manufacturer after it suddenly stopped working.

There was still a gaping hole in Ravensdale’s instrument panel where it should be, but we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and, anyway, we weren’t planning on going far or to be out for very long.

It was also quite a high spring tide at 8.2m and we’d checked the depth of this area of the Solway Firth before we went.

Photo of straps around the microwave and freezer

Straps were fastened around the microwave and freezer

When Phil announced that we were going, I was both excited and a little bit nervous. We’d done a lot of work on Ravensdale since we bought her and were really hoping the first outing would go well.

Phil removed the cover from the fly bridge and started removing some of the ropes while I packed away our ornaments, plants and other loose items that could be thrown around inside. We also strapped up the freezer and microwave to make sure they couldn’t move.
Phil started up Ravensdale’s twin 300hp Volvo Penta engines, which both appeared to be working fine, but we discovered the rev counter on the port engine wasn’t registering the revs.

We made a mental note that this needed fixing, but did not feel it affected our decision to go.

Photo of Ravensdale leaving the marina

Ravensdale leaving the marina

A friend offered to come along if we thought an extra pair of hands would help, but this was going to be a very special experience and we really wanted it to be just us. Thankfully, he understood.

We then called up the marina on the VHF radio to check we were clear to leave. We were asked if we needed any help from marina staff but said we’d be OK to do it on our own.

Now came the scary bit – leaving our berth and heading out between the pontoons and then towards the gate that opens out into the outer harbour.

But there was very little wind and Phil was easily able to control our progress towards the open sea.

I tidied away the mooring ropes and pulled the fenders in as we headed out past the pier and into the firth, trying to take a few photos at the same time.

Photo of leaving the harbour and heading out into the Solway Firth

Leaving the harbour and heading out into the Solway Firth

Then the real fun began. Once we were well clear of the pier and lighthouse, Phil opened up the throttles to see what she would do.

I was stood on the aft deck with my camera taking photographs of Ravensdale’s wake. Phil warned me to hang on before increasing her speed and the power surge was very obvious as her bow lifted and she accelerated forward, churning up the water astern.

Photo of Ravensdale's wake as she speeded up

Ravensdale's wake as she speeded up

This was purely an experiment to see how she behaves at speed and definitely not the way we plan to travel around in the future – not least because of the amount of diesel it would use J

Photo of Phil at the wheel

Phil keeps an eye out ahead while turning the wheel

We then pottered around for an hour or so, turning her around to see how she reacted to the tide and discovered that, despite it being a fairly calm day, she still rolled around a good bit with a beam sea. Again, this was just an experiment, whenever possible we’ll avoid crossing the tide, except when necessary.

Phil slowed her down considerably so I could go forward onto the fore deck to get some photos from a different perspective.

Photo of me at the helm

Yes, I know I should've been looking where I was going :-)

I also took a turn at the helm and was surprised at how long it took for the boat to change direction after I’d turned the wheel and that I needed to stop turning and to steer the other way before she had completed a turn.
I wasn’t really expecting her to handle like a car, but think it could take me a while to really get the hang of it.

Photo of cormorants nests on a navigational buoy

Cormorants build their nests on this navigational buoy

Photo of cormorants on a navigational buoy

Most of the cormorants flew away as we approached

We also went to take a look at the navigational buoy where I’d photographed nesting cormorants when we went out on a friend’s yacht in June.

The babies had obviously flown their nests, but there were still a number of cormorants perched on the top as we approached.

Unfortunately, even at a slow speed, we made considerably more noise than a yacht and most flew away before we got close enough for me to take photos and those I did take were not great as the boat was rolling around quite a lot, which made it difficult to focus properly.

Eventually we both decided that we’d spent long enough out for our first trip, especially as we had no idea what speed we were doing without our depth sounder/log. We later realised that we could’ve set up a GPS for this purpose.
Photo of heading back towards Maryport

Heading back towards Maryport

Photo of Ravensdale approaching the marina gate

Ravensdale approaches the marina gate

Photo of me on the boat on the way back

A selfie taken on the way back to the marina

Our return to the marina went smoothly and it was great to see Maryport and then the marina gate from the seaward side for a change.

And Phil managed to reverse her into the mooring very smoothly while I threw the mooring ropes ashore for Mic, who is a member of the marina staff, to tie up to the cleats on the pontoons.

All in all, Ravensdale’s maiden voyage since we bought and renamed her, went very well and, unsurprisingly, we had a few glasses of wine to celebrate last night :-)

We have a few things to do before her next outing, such as fixing the rev counter and hopefully fitting the depth sounder/log when we get it back, but we won’t think twice about going out again and next time we’ll probably plot a route and follow it rather than just pootling around.

Meanwhile, it’s been an eventful week in Maryport - and not in a good way.

Photo of the road closure on Senhouse Street, Maryport

The road closure on Senhouse Street, Maryport

When I walked up to town for a hair appointment on Tuesday, I discovered a section of the main street was closed with police officers at either end. It later emerged that a local man had been seriously assaulted during the night.

A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder as the victim was critically ill in hospital, but he later died so police are now treating it as a murder inquiry.

On a happier note, last Sunday, the new RNLI lifeboat from nearby Workington visited the marina to give locals a chance to see what their fundraising efforts had helped to purchase and we took the opportunity to take a look on board.

Photo of the new Workington lifeboat at Maryport Marina

The new Workington lifeboat at Maryport Marina

The £2.1 million all-weather Shannon class Dorothy May White is an impressive vessel.

Photo of the navigator's desk on the new lifeboat

The navigator's desk on the new lifeboat

Photo of the new vessel's pristine engine room

The new vessel's pristine engine room

Photo of the accommodation provided for survivors

The accommodation provided for survivors

Photo of me admiring the equipment on the Dorothy May White

Admiring the equipment on the Dorothy May White

We really enjoyed viewing the interior, including her state of the art electronic equipment, the engine room and the survivor accommodation.

And that is the only way I ever want to see the inside of a lifeboat.

That said, anyone would be very pleased to see it coming to their assistance if they were in difficulty at sea.

The Dorothy May White – named after a woman who left a substantial sum of money towards the new vessel in her will – has everything you could want to see on a rescue boat.
Photo of the new lifeboat leaving Maryport Marina

The new lifeboat leaving Maryport Marina