Monday, 9 July 2018

And back again

We left Pendennis when the winds stopped blowing from the east momentarily, and sailed to Dartmouth.  It was motor sailing as there was not enough wind to sail, but the sea was quite calm and we saw a couple of dolphins and a shark.  Martin spotted a big fishing net just drifting around, and decided to pick it up so it wouldn’t cause any problems.  Good practice for man overboard too!

About two hours out from Dartmouth the autopilot drive unit broke - the drive cable had pulled out of the socket.  Martin hand steered the rest of the way.  We moored up on the deep water pontoons again in Dartmouth, this time on the inside of them facing downstream so we had a bit more shelter from the wakes of the ferries and other boats, and it was easier to get off.

Martin fixed the autopilot motor cable by installing it properly in the motor - the cable hadn’t been pushed in past the locking bolt, and the washer was missing too.

While we were in Dartmouth, Martin gave me my second lesson in dinghy sailing with our Walker Bay.  This time I had to do the mainsheet as well as the tiller, it was great fun but a bit scary at first with the wakes of other boats and having to avoid the chain ferry.  My hands and wrists were aching after about 10 minutes!  We went all the way down to the bay on the Dartmouth side before the castle, and stopped there for a drink and a snack.  Martin then sailed us back to the boat.

We set alarms for midnight Saturday and left Dartmouth at 01:00 to get the tide right for the Needles and arrive in daylight in the Solent.  It was a really clear night and we could see lots of stars.  We also saw the moon rise!  There was enough wind to sail so we spent most of the night just under sail with no engine running for once, that was lovely.  The wind died away in the morning, so we motored the rest of the way.  Coming back through the Needles the sea was quite choppy, and also past Hurst, but once we were through that it was fine.

Martin decided it was best to go to Lymington Town Quay as we could have showers, go shopping, and pick up the spare autopilot motor cable that he had asked for from Greenham Regis.  The plan then is to head over to Beaulieu to pick up a mooring buoy and do some dinghy sailing in Beaulieu river, then go over to Cowes for the regatta.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Lymington, Dartmouth, Falmouth

We left Shamrock Quay for Lymington on 22 May.  Berthons kindly gave us a really easy berth to get into, C51 which we could go straight into - assisted by a whole racing boat crew who were unloading their stuff on the pontoon.  Being right next to the fuel pontoon also made it easy to get our fuel canisters refilled - first red diesel we have used since I cleaned out the tank, but since we won’t be going to Belgium on this trip it doesn’t matter.

Berthons was fully booked for the bank holiday weekend so we moved to the town quay.  This was really good, it’s fun rafting with other boats and meeting and helping new people.  We also met up with Mark again, whom we had first met when we got engaged.  He told us that Lymington Town Quay is going to be redeveloped in 2019 - sadly the new layout will mean we can’t go there any more in Marelle, and no more rafting.

On 29 May we left for Dartmouth at 1:30 a.m. to make sure we got the tide right to get through the Needles, and arrive in Dartmouth in daylight.  It was very dark leaving as it was cloudy and quite poor visibility too, so a bit spooky, with flat calm water.  Going through the Needles we reached 9.4 knots!  The water was swirling around too like it does going past a ferry - a bit disconcerting steering through that.  We motor sailed to Dartmouth with the jib out occasionally.  Martin steered when we got to Dartmouth as he knew the entrance from previous sailing trips, and we moored up on a deep water mid river pontoon (“Deep Water 3”).

In Dartmouth I realised I had been over zealous tidying up the boat before we left, and had taken home too much paraffin.  We ordered some more, after an unsuccessful search in the Dartmouth chandlery.  We also ran the wiring for the solar panel, and ordered a new 100W panel.  We used Dartmouth Yacht Club for showers, that was really good, and found a great pub The Dolphin that did really good food and had a good atmosphere too, with lots of locals.  Martin helped a couple on a boat moored next to us on the pontoon to make a boat cover, so we ran out of shock cord hooks and I ordered some more from Kayospruce.  We walked up to Dartmouth Castle and looked around, then got the ferry back.  There are some amazing houses on the waterfront in Dartmouth, most seem to be holiday lets.

We spent a few days sorting out the steaming light, which had failed as we came through the Needles.    I changed the circuit breaker from 15A to 5 A, and we got a new bulb, and called a local rigger (Petersen Rigging) as I wasn’t sure how to undo the light fitting.  Of course, the new bulb didn’t fit - so later armed with a new LED bulb I went up the mast and changed the bulb!  A bit scary at first, especially having to use both hands to do the light and holding on to the mast with just legs.  The new bulb flashed once then went out, so we wondered if I had put it in the wrong way round, but after swopping the connections at the base of the mast it was still not working.  We tested a bulb at the wiring at the base of the mast which was fine, so decided to replace the mast wire, and got Petersen Rigging out again.  Olly was superb and ran the new wire through for us and connected it up, while I connected the wire at the base of the mast.  All fixed!  The old wire that came out was ordinary household wire and had burned through.

Meanwhile the new solar panel arrived and I fitted an 8A fuse in the solar panel wiring (positive feed to the CTEK D250).  It works great - 2.5A vs 1A from the old panel.  We can’t really use both together though as they are different voltages.  Martin wants to sell the older one, even though it’s easier to store as it’s more flexible.

On Friday 8th June we sailed to Falmouth.  There was a Westerley rally that had the deep water 3 pontoon booked, and we wanted to get to Falmouth before the winds changed to the south west.

We arrived in Falmouth and picked up a visitor mooring buoy on the first attempt.  We had arrived just before the Golden Globe preparations which had the Falmouth Haven marina booked up.  We made contact with Susan, and she texted me from the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club to say she could see Marelle on the mooring.  The next day she came by in a motor boat.

We have some delignification of the wood around the hull anode, so we disconnected it and washed it with fresh water.  I ordered a hanging anode kit from ASAP Supplies, and some thick (4mm) wire to extend it.  We ran the new wire through the pushpit.

After the Golden Globe, we arranged a lunch with Susan’s help at the club, for the people who used to sail with Ben.  It was great to meet people and hear their stories.

On Friday 15 June we moved to the Falmouth Haven marina, after the Golden Globe boats had left.  As we were mooring up, one of the marina staff told us we couldn’t stay for a week as the Falmouth Classics had booked the marina.  We decided to enter the Falmouth Classics as the website said mooring was on a first come first served basis.  Mark from Falmouth Haven explained that we would have to leave if the Falmouth Classics berthing manager didn’t have us on his list, “or there would be repercussions” when Mark got back from his week off.

Over the weekend Martin said we should look for a Walker Bay sailing dinghy for sale on the internet, and we found one!  We put in an offer which was rejected, but then with 3 minutes to go we decided to bid anyway and we won it, for £190 less than we had offered!  Only snag being we needed to hire a van to pick it up from Bournemouth.

Since we were so close to home we called in to reset our router and pick up the light genoa, and sewing machine.  After a long day of driving we had a new dinghy and were still a bit shocked to have got it!

Thursday, the day after the lunch with Susan at the RCYC was the start of the Falmouth Classics booking.  We were asked to leave and told we hadn’t entered, despite Susan saying that the Falmouth Classics treasurer had emailed her to say that we had entered the Friday before, and the money having been paid and an email confirmation.  Unfortunately, there were also 20 knot winds pushing us on to the pontoon, and we had a 15 ton steel boat outside of us too.  The Falmouth Haven marina staff arranged a launch to pull the steel boat out, which hit the steel boat’s anchor on the way in, not inspiring confidence.  The club bosun came over in another launch and took a line from the steel boat’s stern, which saved the day as otherwise it would have drifted back on to Marelle.

As we were getting ready to go, the Falmouth Classics berthing manager directed two large boats with bowsprits to moor up behind us, and rafted 5 boats in front of us.  The wind was still blowing 20 knots on to the pontoon, and now we had no way of getting Marelle out.  We tried with the assistance of the club bosun’s launch, but the wind was still too strong, and during the third attempt Marcus Pomeroy-Rowden the skipper of Grayhound, one of the large boats with bowsprits blocking our way out, came over and interfered with our lines, shouting and swearing at Martin and when Martin explained we couldn’t spring Marelle off due to our rudder/prop configuration (prop above and behind so unlike most boats we have no prop wash), Marcus started throwing punches at Martin.  At this point we called the police and gave up on getting Marelle out.  Of course the police took some time to arrive, but we were both so shaken up that we couldn’t have done anything anyway.  The general manager of Falmouth Haven, Barry, came down with some people from the office and Martin asked his advice on if we could use our ground tackle or a mooring buoy to winch ourselves off, but Barry said this was not ok as the buoy was not rated for Marelle’s weight and there were too many chains to foul the anchor.

By the time we had given a statement to the police, it was late afternoon and Martin offered to the Falmouth Classics berthing manager to have boats alongside, but he did not put any there.  The pontoon party was spent with people coming over and asking why we hadn’t left, and telling us we weren’t welcome.  We were also wary of a repeat attack by Marcus whose boat was still next to ours on the pontoon.

One or two people were nice, including one of the annual berth holders who used to be a Channel pilot, manoeuvring big ships for a living.  We asked him if he had any ideas or suggestions how to get away, but he didn’t have any solutions - just prayer! We also saw Robert who we know from the Cowes Classic regatta - it was so nice to see a friendly face.

The next morning when the boats had gone out to race, we moved Marelle to the next pontoon and then off to the mooring buoy we had been on while waiting for the Golden Globe boat’s to leave.  While we were still in Falmouth Haven, Fraser and Sue came down and we had a succession of visitors who knew Marelle from Ben’s ownership of her in Falmouth.

We took part in the parade of sail on the Sunday, so Susan could see Marelle from Pendennis point.

Afterwards, we checked with the Falmouth Haven marina staff if the marina was reserved again and they said not till Falmouth week in August, so we moved back to the marina again.  The next day they put out reserved notices for the RCYC blind week.  When we moved to a space on the pontoon that wasn’t reserved, several people shouted that the harbour master had reserved that space for another boat.  We tied up and Martin checked with the harbourmaster, Steve, who said it wasn’t reserved, but Martin offered to move alongside the boat in front of us, which we did to get out of the way.

We paid for 7 days in the marina office.  That night, the people on the boat who had told us they had the pontoon reserved switched their engine and really bright floodlights on at 22:00 and ran the engine till Martin asked them to switch it off at 23:30.

The next day Steve said that Mark wanted to see Martin in the marina office, and we were told to leave.  We moved straight over to Pendennis marina, and the staff there were fantastic.  We saw Scott there, another friend from the Cowes Classic regatta, who skippers Saskia and a very smart motor boat Kestrel of Lorne, and spent a great evening drinking a few glasses of wine on board Kestrel with him.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Getting closer to departure

Wood gouged out needing filler, and coachroof epoxy damage
It's been a bumpy ride, I don't think we have had this many problems with a lift and boatyard work for a long time - we had got used to a great service from MDL Shamrock Quay.  This time we could not get the lift and launch slots we wanted in April, and it was downhill from there really.  The compromise we came to, was to spend two weeks lifted out for varnishing rather than three, which would have been a tight schedule but fine.  Then it was announced as Marelle was going into the shed, that she would have to be moved out again in the middle of this time to allow other boats to be launched.  If we had known this beforehand we would have cancelled the work, as any less than two weeks is not feasible.  Then Tim at MDL Shamrock Quay said that there were no launch slots available till June - not great when we have both left work to go sailing at the start of May!  It really has been a complete nightmare dealing with MDL Shamrock Quay this time for lift and launch work, and just to top it all off when Marelle was launched, we found that the handrail and coachroof had been damaged by the mast being lifted with a bottle screw trapped under the handrail when it was unstepped at the lift out, so we are having to get that fixed.  Spencer Rigging have been very good about this, and have accepted responsibility and covered most of the cost of the repair, but MDL's attitude was that it was nothing to do with them even though they were operating the crane and their people were on board Marelle at the same time as the riggers.

Depressingly, talking to other boat owners we are not alone in having problems with MDL Shamrock Quay resulting in boat damage during lift/launch this year.

I have used the time to get the new bow cabin cushions finished off, very pleased with how these turned out.  Kayospruce did us a great deal on the material and supplies.  I also made some hand rail covers, and now I am working on a hatch garage cover.
Completed bow cushions
Handrail cover

New radar installed!

Martin had a great idea to get BD Marine to make an engraved stainless bracket for the chart plotter station inside the boat, this is going to look fantastic when it's installed.
Template for chartplotter bracket

Greenham Regis installed the new Raymarine Quantum 2 HD radar today, they did a great job - it was fiddly getting the wire down the mast as the inside of the base of the mast was filled with polystyrene that was blocking the wire run, and had degraded anyway over the 53 years since the mast was made.  This new radar uses Doppler effects to automatically highlight if a target is heading towards or away from us.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Am I fixing the boat, or is the boat fixing me?

Lifting out for varnishing
I discovered a great Youtube sailing channel recently, by Christian Williams, and the title of this post is a quote from him.

Marelle has just been lifted out for varnishing and antifouling before we go on another sailing trip - we have 4 months this time and no particular place to go, but will most likely be heading towards Falmouth and then back along the French coast.

We are getting a radar fitted by Greenham Regis, and a place to put the chart plotter inside the boat rather than just at the helm, also a remote station VHF so we can use the VHF in the cockpit.

I am also making a new set of bow cushions, using a Sailrite LSZ1 sewing machine.  I finally got one of these after persevering with a heavy duty Singer for a few years, and breaking needles and losing tension all the time.  It has been great, really easy to use and I probably should have got one years ago, it would have saved a lot of frustration!

Windlass cover with chain extension
I made a windlass cover complete with an extension for the chain, as we got some water coming through the chain hole when waves came over the deck on our last trip.  I used a "Pres'n'Snap" tool to install snaps on the chain part, I thought this would be really easy watching the videos on Youtube, but my hands aren't very strong and it was more like a torture machine!  I went through about 10 practise snaps.  The finished cover has turned out really well though.

I am really looking forward to going sailing this year.  Martin started to teach me how to sail last year, and this makes me feel a bit more confident being on the boat.

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.