Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Suffolk Yacht Harbour and a 150nm test sail

We met up with Stephen and had a great time finding out about Marelle's history, including that she used to be kept at Suffolk Yacht Harbour when Stephen's family owned her.  Jonathan Dyke also said he remembered when Marelle was moored here before.

We stocked up on food, beer and diesel at the supermarket in Ipswich, and then prepared for the next leg of the trip - Den Helder, 140 nm away.  As it would take around 30 hours and we wanted to arrive in the daylight, we left SYH at 10:15 on Thursday 19th May.  The first part of the trip was lovely sailing - Force 3-4 and sunny.

All went really well for the first part of the trip - we finally got the sails up and switched off the engine.  Marelle was sailing really well, even with two reefs in, but after a while the wind dropped a few knots and Martin took out the reefs.  As the wind strengthened towards the evening, Martin put the reefs back in the main and we put on oilies ready for the night.  The autopilot started struggling, making a loud clonking noise and having difficulty holding the course, so Martin took the main down and we carried on under just the jib, with a Force 5 SW wind.  

At about 2 a.m. we crossed the first part of the Deep Water Route, used by big ships, although we didn't see any traffic nearby, and were nearly at the halfway point when the autopilot reported "Compass deviation too massive" and the boat started wandering around all over the place.  Martin put the autopilot into standby, and we switched on the engine in case it was down to some electrical issue, tried restarting the autopilot, and checked for anything magnetic near the EV1 sensor, but nothing helped.  Martin decided it would be better to head back to SYH rather than continue on to a strange port, so we headed back across the shipping lane, which had now filled up with ships going both north and south.  

One ship was gigantic and had an unusual light spacing.  We tacked back out of her path and then started across the shipping channel for the third time, this time fortunately made it across.  It does seem rather like crossing a motorway very slowly, a scary experience especially once we had already had an unexplained equipment failure.  

Martin thought he would have to hand steer all the way back, and it was now quite choppy and we were heading into a Force 6 wind, but after a couple of hours the autopilot compass decided to start working again spontaneously.  It was a long slog to get back to SYH, and as we approached Ipswich and I got phone signal I started getting lots of texts from people who had seen we were heading back, and asking if we were ok - this was so nice to know people care enough to keep an eye on us!

Stephen was one of the people who had texted me, and luckily for us he was in SYH harbour office when we called to ask for our berth, so came and helped us moor up - much appreciated especially as we were both very tired.

We called Greenham Regis and Foxs Marina (local Raymarine agents) to report the autopilot problem, but there was nothing they could do until Monday so we had a restful weekend getting jobs done on the boat.  I made another foredeck hatch cover as I had left the previous one at home, and Martin made some mounts for the TackTick instruments.

On Monday, Foxs called and said they had a replacement EV1 they could fit, and their engineer James came over to install it.  He did a superb job, upgrading the software for the ACU200 also, and made sure the data sources on the chartplotter were set right, as well as tightening up the nut for the autopilot drive unit for us.  Hopefully that should resolve the clonking noise, as it seems to have removed a lot of play from the system.  We went out for a brief sea trial this time, and the compass deviation is now reading 3% instead of the 15% it had before, so is much better.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cowes, castles and calm

We finally left Shamrock Quay almost a week 'late' after lots of driving backwards and forwards between the house and the boat.  We were supposed to be transferring boat stuff onboard from the house but at times it felt like we were managing to fill up the boat and the house with things we decided we didn't need after all and brought back.

Our neighbour, who regularly sails a few months each year, suggested the best way to start is to just go somewhere local even if it is only a few miles away to begin with, so we took his advice and chose Cowes as we know it really well and there are lots of chandlers.  It also feels like being on holiday,  as we go to the regatta there each year.

We sailed part of the way to Cowes, down the Itchen river, but the new jib was really stiff on the furler and got stuck part way out, so it was quite a gentle sail with that halfway out and two reefs in the main.  We were still going nicely though.  Martin took a good look at the roller reefing gear and realised the problem was that we had used the wrong halyard for the sail, so that is straightforward to sort out at least.

Arriving in Cowes would have been uneventful, except that I was quite worn out from quickly getting all the lines and fenders done, and instead of letting me have a five minute rest, Martin decided to turn the boat round using ropes straight away.  Then one of the ropes he was using came off, leaving me on the boat, and Martin shouting at me from the pontoon.  

We got lots of stuff done in Cowes, mostly because we were stuck there waiting for easterly winds and fog to clear.  We now have working interior lights!  (It's only been 3 years since I originally bought them!!). We also had a visitor who had sailed a lot with Ben Pester on Marelle - he mentioned how well she sails even with reefs in.

After almost a week, we left Cowes on Thursday 12/5 for Dover.  There was still a lot of mist, and calm seas with no wind on Thursday, so we motored all the way, only putting the jib up once for a couple of hours.  Martin had to go forward on deck to tighten up the aft lower rigging, so I was pleased we had finished off the jack stays in Cowes.

Friday morning (13th - appropriate) we were off Dungeness and Martin saw some really bright lights flashing blue white red, they turned out to be fishing buoys we think but it was quite terrifying trying to figure out what was going on in the middle of the night and quite choppy seas.  The wind carried on strengthening all through Friday morning, and by the time we were approaching Dover it was a force 7 - on the nose of course - with really choppy waves coming over the foredeck and spray flying off the tops of waves.  The autopilot couldn't really cope with it, and when I went below to use the toilet I saw there was a big leak in the foredeck hatch as well.  The glue around the edges of the Perspex and wood had stopped sealing the water out, and every wave was causing seawater to rain down on the duvet and cushions in the cabin.  We were also not sure how much diesel we would have used, and were both quite worried about the engine failing.

Martin took over the steering, and headed for shallower water to try to get out of the bigger waves.  This meant heading in towards the huge cliffs around Dover, which felt very unnatural.  It seemed to take forever to get anywhere closer to Dover, but was probably only a few hours.  The entrance to Dover harbour looked tiny and there was a huge cross tide (at least 2 knots anyway), and then even inside the harbour it was rough water.  Somehow I managed to rig a few fenders and some lines, and we moored up at the second attempt, having bumped the side of the bow on the pontoon but only very gently and not even enough to leave a mark.  We arrived at 6 a.m. after 22 hours at sea.

We stayed in Dover for a few days to rest, and to see the castle.  Dover marina is quite basic but has good toilets and showers and laundry, and lovely marina staff.  The whole marina is planned to be redeveloped with a European grant in the next 5 years, it will be interesting to see if that still happens if we leave the EU.  We went round the castle on Sunday, lots of walking and steps but fabulous views and interesting history of course.

Monday at 4 a.m. we got up to leave Dover at 5 to catch a good tide up to Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the river Orwell, north of the Thames.  At 6 we actually left(!) - having underestimated how much we had to do to get ready, including putting duct tape on the leaky fore hatch.  Fortunately for this trip it was much calmer seas, and although there again wasn't enough wind to sail, the trip was uneventful despite all the dire warnings from the pilot books and almanacs of the traffic in the Thames estuary.  When we were a few miles out from Dover, the coastguard radioed us to ask us to check out a report of pollution in the water, which we did but found nothing.

Arriving at Suffolk Yacht Harbour around 6pm was fine thanks to a helpful chap catching the second mooring line I threw at him (I threw the first one in the water, not his fault!).  We had a lovely meal and beer at the Haven Yacht club and an early night.  We are staying in SYH for a few days to rest and plan the next leg.  Maybe we will also be able to catch up with Stephen Weldon and Jonathan Dyke while we are here.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ballast, bilges and bugs

So the original plan was to set sail on Saturday (two days ago) at 10 a.m.  This would have been quite a challenge as we had people working on Marelle up to Friday afternoon, and no time to put any food or clothes on board, let alone finish any of the wiring jobs left to do, or try out the new jib etc.

Last week our crew unfortunately fell ill, so as it is now just our own schedule to worry about we decided to stay a few days and get some jobs done.

I cleaned the bilges of lots of smelly stuff and old paint, bits of wood, screws, bolts, sawdust, and pencils.  With some persuasion from hand pumping to prime it, the automatic bilge pump is now working again.

We connected up the new windlass on Saturday and tested it, and finally moved all the anchor chain into the new chain locker next to the mast step.  This is where Marelle was designed to have her anchor chain originally, but what with this and converting the bow from a sail and rope store into a lovely bow cabin, we have taken so much weight out of the bow that she was not floating right, on her waterline.  Martin decided we should use the bottles of Bollinger I stocked up with as ballast, so we now have 15 bottles stowed in the fore peak locker.  Sorted!

Yesterday Martin drew off some fuel from the diesel tank, and it came out with a lot of sludgy muck. We decided this was probably diesel bug, which is worrying as it can block fuel filters and stop the engine.  We haven't had any symptoms from the engine, but as we are about to go on a long trip (if we ever finish all these jobs!) all the diesel would get stirred up in the tank and it could dislodge the slime from the bug and block up the filter.  Today Martin drained the diesel tank, and I spent a few hours cleaning the tank out of black gloopy slime.  We have now refilled the tank with new diesel and treated it with Marine 16, a biocide that should kill off any remaining bug.

Tomorrow we are going to get a few spare fuel filters and then hopefully start on some of the wiring jobs - cabin lights and the new galley sink pump.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Exciting times

Life is short, and the past couple of years have really brought that home to us.  We have decided to take a sabbatical from work, and plan to sail around the western end of the Baltic for a couple of months from the end of April, then come back to the Solent for the BCYC regatta in July.

It's also a great excuse to finish off lots of jobs and fit some cool new gear - including a Digital Yachts AIT3000 AIS transponder, fitted by Greenham Regis.  See where we are in the map below!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Decked out

Four months of hard work, hundreds of decisions, attention to the smallest details, and one huge gamble.

Three weeks before work was due to start on Marelle, Graham Collingwood told us he was not willing to rent his tent to us after all - having agreed the rental back in April - as he had a regular customer he wanted to book in first.  We couldn't slip our dates as we had Mike Moody and Tim from Centreline Marine already booked to start work, so we had a big problem.

Fortunately, BD Marine in Shamrock Quay saved the day, and we lifted out and into their tent at the start of September.  Given the scale of the work we were about to undertake, we could have done without this extra stress!

The gamble was in how we planned to redo Marelle's deck.  She originally had a plywood sub deck, with a 7/16" teak deck on top, glued, screwed and secret nailed every 4".  Over the years, the teak had worn to the extent that the caulking was coming away, and in several places there were voids between the teak and the ply - the deck was leaking water in to the cabin and the sub deck was deteriorating.  Something had to be done, but replacement of the deck with a new teak deck would have been a huge amount of work - the sub deck would have had to be removed, affecting the beam shelf and covering boards.

We decided instead to leave the current deck in place, stabilise the teak layer, replacing loose planks and injecting voids with epoxy, and put Flexiteek on top.  Flexiteek is a synthetic (plastic) material, manufactured to look like teak but without the maintenance problems a teak deck has.  We had agonised over this decision for almost a year, canvassing opinion at the 2013 classic regatta (a 50-50 split between "go for it, it's your boat" and "you must be kidding, you have got to put a new teak deck on").

To make absolutely sure we got a good bond between the Flexiteek and the teak deck, we used Eposeal on the teak as recommended by Rob Tilney from AMD.  The Flexiteek was then glued down with SABATack 750XL.

We chose the "weathered" Flexiteek for the main deck, and the "teak" Flexiteek for the king plank and coachroof edge.  We also made AMD's job more difficult by specifying a wider plank width than standard - 60mm rather than the 45mm they normally use.

Every deck fitting that is through bolted had hard packing material hot welded to the regular Flexiteek deck, as the normal deck can deform under pressure.

Finally, to get a doubly watertight edge, the edge of the Flexiteek was rebated and the covering boards varnished to this undercut, then the caulking applied around the edge.

It will be very interesting to see people's reactions at the 2014 classic regatta!

The deck work meant we could finally address the toe rail damage caused by the neighbouring boat when we were moored at Deacons marina.  Mike Moody did a superb job on this, curving the replacement teak skilfully to fit.

We also got BD Marine to make us some reinforcement for the aft corners, in the form of stainless steel corners with roller fair leads built in.  These have turned out really well, and look great alongside the newly polished back stay fitting.  Hopefully the corners look a bit more substantial now, and will put off any other boats thinking of using Marelle as a fender.

The transom and toe rail were then professionally varnished by Ady Murray, in challenging temperatures.  Not ideal to be varnishing in December, even if it's inside a tent!

While on the aft deck, we decided to put in an extra centre cleat, and BD Marine polished and welded the spinnaker fittings, and polished the back stay fitting and cleats.

To help with mooring up, we put mid ships cleats in too.  We decided to go with solid bronze cleats for these, rather than Clyde cleats, as they may need to take a lot of strain in an emergency, if we need to use them to stop the boat.

Ady also varnished the coachroof sides, and we got Hampshire Electroplating to re-chrome all the windows and the bronze tracks.

We hadn't originally planned to do anything with the bow fitting, despite it looking quite shabby - rough welding and tarnished steel.  However Mike got carried away and removed it, so we got BD Marine to have a look at it, thinking we'd need a new one made.  Andy suggested that they could tidy up the existing fitting, and it now looks great.  It always feels better to restore original fittings where possible, even though it can mean more work than replacing them.  We thought long and hard about modifying the bow rollers too, to make launching and retrieving the shiny new Ultra anchor easier, but could not decide in the end and so fitted the original rollers back on.

The Ultra anchor is 316L stainless steel, and we got the matching swivel and 20 metres of duplex 1.4462 stainless chain from Cromox to go with it.  All in all, with removing the windlass as well, we have lost a lot of weight from Marelle's bow.  The original plan was to put a new horizontal windlass on the coachroof, but we ran out of time, and money, and settled for just the chain stoppers on the fore deck.  Ultimately we want to be able to deploy two anchors on chain rodes if necessary.  We currently have the anchor on a temporary base on deck, while Martin decides where it should be stored.

Mike made new teak bars for all our Clyde cleats.  Looking at old photos of Marelle that Stephen sent us, she used to have an extra cleat on the centre line on the fore deck, but we have not reinstated that for the moment.

Right at the last minute Mike and Tim managed to fit in installing our new navigation lights, which look quite smart and not at all as huge as they looked off the boat.  Now I just have to wire them in.

With the saving we made on our alternative deck installation, we got Mike and Tim to redo Marelle's galley and bow cabin.  We have changed the cooker to a Taylor's paraffin cooker, which is what Marelle originally had, and since this cooker was about an inch wider than the previous gas cooker, it prompted a whole galley replacement!  It's actually quite amazing how much bigger the galley seems now, and we have fitted in a lovely shiny double sink from Penguin Engineering, as well as a mixer tap with extending hose, and a traditional style tap for salt water.  We used Hanex for the work surface - I chose a black colour (pearl black) with small shiny bits, to match the cooker top.  I also got an Isotherm ASU SP 3251 fridge, with a fitting that goes on the sink drain to make the cooling more efficient.  Mike fitted the skin fitting, but we ran out of time to put the rest of the fridge in place.  We did manage to design, and get BD Marine to make the stainless steel fridge box, which we are going to install where the chart table currently is.  I have got some high tech insulation to use - Spacetherm - which has an insulation rating of R30 at only 4" depth.  Just have to figure out what glue to use to stick it to the stainless fridge box, and to the foil vapour barrier, then we'll be ready for it to go in the boat.  Oh and find the compressor bracket, which I have mislaid during the move out of the shed.

A big goal in this refit was to make the bow cabin into a double berth.  Previously it contained a single berth that we did not use, and a lot of rope and sail stowage, as well as the anchor chain and rope rode.  Paul, who works with Ady Murray, did a superb job of cleaning up, sanding and varnishing and painting the bow cabin, including the bronze floors.  When he had finished it looked fabulous, all the better as we had Mike remove the partitions so there is an uninterrupted view right up to the fore peak.  It would have been good to have a fixed double berth, but with the doorway central we just didn't have the room, so have had to go with a removable insert.  The joinery Mike and Tim have done is beautiful, and looks even better with Ady's varnishing (Epifanes wood finish matte).  They also made up some new teak cabin sole for us.

To finish off the bow and galley, I have got new LED lights from Calibra Marine.  The lights are made by Prebit, except for some Cabin LED strip lights for inside the galley cupboards, and in the engine bay.  They look gorgeous and are good quality, and a lot of them do red light as well as white, and dim.  I am fitting the lights at the moment, and in the process re wiring the whole boat.  There is an incredible amount of old wiring on Marelle, that I am removing - I am sure some of it must date back to 1965.  Martin wanted the wiring run through clear plastic piping, rather than in conduits, so that any problems are visible.  I have gone up a size from what is strictly required in terms of wire size, just to make absolutely sure we will have no voltage drop, so I am using 14AWG tinned wire (2.5mm) for everything.  We want to replace the fused switch panel at some stage with a circuit breaker panel, but can only find panels from Blue Sea or BEP and both are stupidly expensive, so at the moment I am sticking with the existing panel.  One of our challenges when we have the fridge and the Fusion stereo both installed, will be to put in extra battery power, and a solar panel, CTEK D250S and Smartpass to keep the batteries charged.  The main issue with that is finding an appropriate place to put the batteries - currently they are below the cockpit sole, which is not ideal.  Possibly a good place would be below the starboard quarter berth.

While we were doing all this work on the boat, I got Spencer Rigging to fit an Andersen 40 full stainless winch to replace the old spinnaker winch, and an Andersen 18 for the reefing winch.  We now have a full complement of Andersens!

Spencer Rigging also raised the Lopolight LED masthead tricolour for us, so Martin can see the light from the deck, and ran a new wire through the mast for it.  We have yet to install the through deck fitting for the mast wiring, but at least we are one step closer to having the tricolour working.

Martin installed a Whale super sub automatic bilge pump before Marelle's launch, which took some of the worry away - it's still such a nerve-wracking time.  She still had a trickle from the seam near the engine water inlet sea cock, like at her previous launch, but it was not as bad, and the bilge pump coped easily with it.  Everything sealed up within a few hours, and we had a smooth journey back to our marina, in a small weather window between horrendous storms and spring tides.  We got back to the marina to find the car park flooded, and had to move Martin's car really quickly - surreal to walk downhill from the pontoon to the shore and then wade through foot-deep water to the car!

We still have to figure out the paraffin piping for the cooker and heater, and install the plumbing for the sink and taps, as well as order the bow cabin cushions and finish the re wiring.  I also have the stereo and speakers to install.  A lot to do, but the finishing line finally looks in sight, and this year we will be able to go sailing on Marelle.  We are planning to do the Cowes classic regatta, and the new Dartmouth regatta in June, and weather permitting, lots of Solent sailing weekends.

Monday, 24 June 2013


The all bronze 3 blade feathering propellor by Maxprop is our fix for Marelle's poor stopping power, and we are hoping it will also help with reversing and prop walk as well. The blades rotate, so that the leading edge faces the direction of travel, and when sailing they feather to reduce drag.

Here is the previous propellor alongside the new one.

With advice from Chris at Darglow http://www.darglow.co.uk/ we have chosen a slightly bigger propellor size, as well as of course 3 blades rather than 2.

Darglow carefully machined the propellor to fit the tapered shaft so we didn't have to cut the end off, as we wanted to keep the original propellor as a spare. We came to fit the new propellor, but the new nut would not fit on the thread, and Martin did not want to force it. Chris from Darglow saved the day, making a special trip over from Wareham to fit it for us in time for Marelle's launch. Here are some pictures of the fitting: