Float on a boat V2.0
24 November 2014
2014 in hindsight.
Small video clip Yanni made.
Full update on the latest developments to follow soon - it's a promise.
14 October 2014 | Leverstock Green
It's been a while since my last entry. Not much happened on the sailing front - mainly due to work and ill health (Yanni broke a leg and I had to deal with kidney stones which prove to be rather painful). Just one gentle sail up and down the Stour and Orwell to report since my last post. Well, when I say 'gentle sail' I actually mean adrenaline and testosterone boosting white knuckle ride in 25kts plus of apparent wind. Brigitte wasn't too impressed.
The story of recent weeks - either too much wind or not enough.
Other than that: a rather painful and maybe ill-advised trip up to the boat last Sunday. The last chance to check on the boat for several weeks. I was in agony - driving up with Yanni - hoping things would get better along the way when the painkillers kicked in (they didn't). When I was in a good mind to turn back we were nearer to the boat than home. Anyway, long story short, once we were aboard we didn't really do much.
We checked the wiring for the second autopilot controller (turns out we need another part) and had lunch. Plans to tidy up the bilge pump installation were abandoned because I feared that if we stayed aboard much longer I would be in too much pain to manage to drive back. So, we took autopilot wiring diagram and heater installation manual home for further study and left it at that.
As you can gather from the above, the keel-cooled fridge will have to wait another year and the main project this winter will be the replacement of the now defunct cabin heater. Two main reasons: the current fridge still works and we can fit the heater without need for any outside intervention. Whilst as a unit, the heater is more expensive to purchase than the fridge there are no additional costs. If we opted for the fridge, the boat would need hauling out, an extra water inlet would have to be made, etc... Not things we could do ourselves.
I had quotes for the hauling out and for the water inlet, but I have sort of lost faith in 'quotes'. So it was quite possible that the fridge project would turn out to be more expensive than the heater project. This year, even more than usual, funds available is the deciding factor.
The new cabin heater will be a Webasto Airtop Evo 5500. I also looked at another Eberspracher, but the Webasto came out top (price/ease of fitting/warranty). The intention is to retain all the vents and ducting already in place. So, the unit is now on order (at boat show price) and Yanni and I are looking to fit it sometime early November. That way we get maximum use from it this winter.
Also on the agenda for November: service the engine at install the second autopilot controller by the chart table.
So, we have our work cut out for us for the coming weeks, but hopefully it won't be too long before we can get some sailing in. Because sailing is, after all, what it's all about.
19 September 2014 | Leverstock Green
Setback: Yanni’s broken a leg. This has in effect severely cut short our sailing season. Guapa’s on a mooring till the end of October. To cut a long story short: there need to be two of us to launch/recover the dinghy and to pick up the mooring buoy. Since other half and eldest daughter both work full time, Yanni (at college sort of part-time) was going to be the additional crew member most of the time. Not anymore. **** (insert swear word of choice)
Still, he should be back on his feet to help me tackle some winter projects.
1. When we bought Guapa we registered her in the UK (because it made sense at the time – for reasons I won’t go into). We bought a DSC VHF set for her. OFCOM issued us with an MMSI number and I duly entered this in the VHF set. A couple of years later we re-registered Guapa in Belgium. We notified local authorities that we already had an MMSI number. Much to my amazement, we were told that this was not transferable and we were issued a new MMSI number. To reprogram the MMSI number you have to send the set back to the manufacturer. Somehow, I have never gotten round to this. This winter, it’s on the list.
2. The engine is out of warranty, so from now on we’ll be servicing the engine ourselves. Replacement filters and anode already bought. Still need to buy oil, but other than that, we’re good to go. Scheduled to carry out the service the first WE we’re in a pontoon berth.
3. Top up the fuel tank. Want to take every possible precaution to avoid condensation and the dreaded diesel-bug.
4. Years ago I bought an extra control unit for the autopilot on eBay (half the kit on the boat seems to come off eBay) as a spare. Six years later and the spare is just sitting there, so I started thinking... two control units can be linked to the autopilot computer. Why not fit the spare down below by the chart table – where radar/plotter and GPS are? Costs should be minimal – a few meter of wire – so, that too is on the list.
5. This summer, I’ve been using a laptop running OpenCPN linked to our AIS transceiver to plot AIS contacts. And it’s worked fine. One drawback: the laptop (plugged into a 12V socket) seems to be very power hungry. In fact, on its own it wipes out all the power savings we made by going for all LED lighting. Yanni’s now going to build/program and alternative: a Banana Pi computer running OpenCPN on Linux linked to a 14’ touch screen tablet. The whole thing should not draw more than 1ah. All parts on order - total cost of hardware: GBP 135. If he really manages to pull this off, I see commercial possibilities for the little man as the closest thing available on the market costs well over GBP 700.
None of the items on the list above will break the bank, so the chances of completing them before Easter next year are very good. As we already had to replace one car sooner than we had intended too, there isn’t really much left in the kitty for ‘big’ winter projects.
Two items are currently under consideration: replace the fridge or replace the Eberspracher heater. I will be going to Southampton Boat Show tomorrow to investigate which project – if any – we can afford.
The fridge quite old but still works; but is also power hungry. The ideal replacement would be a modern, more efficient keel-cooled one. However, this will require an additional hole in the hull (a job we won’t be taking on ourselves). And a lift-out and all the costs associated with it. This might turn out to be an expensive job very quickly.
The Eberspracher died last year. It’s beyond economic repair and even if we could find someone to take on the job, spares are hard/impossible to find. So I am considering alternatives: either another Eberspracher or a Webasto. I’ve taken pictures of our entire current setup to show to the various reps at the show – I want to keep as much of the current ducts/controllers/etc... as possible to keep down the costs. Yanni thinks this project should not be beyond him. If we do not need outside labour, that would also help to keep the cost down.
If affordable, this would be my winter project of choice as a functioning heater on board will make it easier for me to convince the other half to spend more time aboard in winter.
Decisions, decisions,... Or to put it another way: is everything expensive, or am I just poor?
Another day in paradise
15 September 2014 | Levington, River Orwell
The weather forecast for the week-end looked promising. A gentle breeze and some sunshine. Determined as we were to make the most of it, Brigitte and I made our way up to the boat on Sunday. Saturday having been dedicated to birthday parties.
The initial plan (I never learn) was for a repeat of the Sealand cruise I did with Yanni. It would be a beat from Landguard to Cork Sands, but a doddle the rest of the way. Wind Guru forecasted 9-10kts, gusting 15. Just what the doctor ordered, taking Brigitte’s still restricted mobility into account.
Once aboard we started to get the boat ready for sea. Whilst doing this I noticed that all the boats coming back from sea where deeply reefed. There had to be a reason. So, I put a reef in the main before we left. Always easier to do in calm conditions than in the heat of the moment.
I had considered sailing off the mooring, but the river was just a tad too busy to be able to do so safely. So, we motored off, hoisted the main and unfurled the genoa. By Collimer it was ‘finished with engines’ – always the best moment of a sail.
By the time we got to Shotley Spit, we know what all those reefs were about. 20kts plus of wind. Guapa just put her shoulder down and got on with it. 7kts SOG, even against the tide. Big grin. We got to Landguard in no time. Then the wind really let rip. 25kts plus – consistently. Even with one reef in the main and one reef in the genoa, this was not exactly fun anymore. So much for Wind Guru.
Discretion is the better part of valour, so I decided to head back. The relief on Brigitte’s face was noticeable. As we hadn’t sailed up the Orwell for the better part of a year this was an acceptable alternative. Let’s see how far we can get.
Things were still a bit sporting at times in Harwich Harbour, but once back in the Orwell it calmed down somewhat. Handed the helm to Brigitte so she could get the feel of the boat again. And it went just fine – no drama, just a smooth and pleasant sail up the river. We sailed all the way up to Ipswich and down to Woolverstone. There we stacked & packed the sails and we motored the last mile and a half back to our mooring.
Last decision: who is going to park the boat and who’s going to pick up the mooring? Usually I park the boat and whoever is along picks up the mooring. However, it would be a lot easier on Brigitte if she didn’t have to pick up the mooring. So, decision made: we’ll swap places. Some last minute instructions and that was all what was required. It went without a hitch – first time round. Since I’m taller and somewhat stronger, we might as well stick to this procedure in future.
Ended the day in the now traditional fashion: drinks in the cockpit/sunshine, just watching the world sail by. Made our way back ashore shortly after HW as this always makes the recovery of the dinghy so much easier.
There you have it – an uneventful day in paradise. More of the same please, and soon.
Summer Cruise: Feedback
08 September 2014 | Northwood
Even though things did not go exactly as planned (when do they ever?), I think our mini summer cruise has been a success. Learned some new things, both about the boat and ourselves, and at the same time had a good time. And once again, this year I fell in love with the boat all over again. What more can you ask for?
If I am being realistic, I think I should bury any plans to go long distance cruising for the time being. As long as we are both still working it is just not practical. Even when we have 3 or 4 weeks available, everything becomes unstuck as soon as the weather gods turn against you. I will continue to prepare the boat for long distance cruising and ocean crossings, but it will be some time yet before we can turn that dream into a reality.
I am getting smarter
All my ‘bright ideas’ I had last winter actually paid off this summer. The windvane autopilot really does what it is supposed to. Will continue to get to really get to grips with it at every possible opportunity. Going all LED paid dividends and so did the solar panels. Even with the fridge, electronic autopilot and the laptop running, battery capacity never dropped below 80%. The ‘new’ way to rig the gennaker and the boom brake all made life considerably easier. Also, the fact that we were able to install all of these upgrades with the need for a boatyard was an added bonus. Because, apart from time, we are also forever short of money. Such is life.
But it can be said that our combined fault finding and boat fixing skills are improving. All that is needed is someone with an analytical mind and common sense (that would be me) and someone with a technical knack who knows what he’s doing (that would be Yanni).
Training pays off
This is (mainly) about the gennaker again. Really getting to grips with this sail has been the highlight of the year. We’ve got this down to a tee. Even in the crowded and restricted waters of the Orwell we have the kit up and flying or recovered in under two minutes flat. This is hugely satisfying and very rewarding. Keeping the kite up when running dead downwind, however, is not such a good idea. As one forestay wrap, and one near-wrap amply demonstrated. As mentioned above, the next training target is the taming of ‘Carly’ – our Monitor windvane. The motto continues to be: train hard - fight easy.
The electronic autopilot continues to be power hungry. But as we have ‘Carly’ as a replacement/backup this is not a big worry.
Once the fridge reaches its programmed temperature (usually 4 or 5 degrees C), it’s really not that bad. Of course, the warmer it gets the power it does need. When we, eventually, get to the tropics this will become a more important consideration. But, for the time being, it will do.
Been running a laptop with OpenCPN (AIS plugged in) this summer and did turn out to be quite power hungry – drawing about 4.5ah. This wiped out the energy saving we made by going all LED in one fell swoop. Our setup – laptop powered by a 12V cigarette lighter adaptor – was probably not the most efficient, but alternatives are under investigation. More on this in another post.
AIS works – full stop
We installed an AIS transceiver last winter and this summer was our first opportunity to use the thing in anger.
Before purchasing the thing I had considered buying just a receiver but eventually opted to part with the extra cash and purchase a Class B transceiver. What a good decision that turned out to be.
With now four Channel crossing under our belt this year, I am happy to report that merchant vessels to not filter out Class B transmissions in high density traffic areas such as a TSS and that they do take appropriate action to avoid sailing craft. Every time their track clearly showed minor course alterations to pass astern of us. Even in restricted waters and with limited visibility. And then there’s all the other additional/useful information AIS can provide, such as the name, destination, etc... of the ships you encounter. Having the name makes it a lot easier to contact them on VHF and knowing their destination makes their movements much more predictable. Whatever old farts on various internet sailing forums might say, AIS works and I am a convert.
That’ll be it for now. Southampton Boat Show is just around the corner and I have already discussed with the chief engineer the job list for the coming winter. Subject to budget and planning approval.
Summer Cruise: Last Day (Sealand Express)
04 September 2014 | River Orwell, North Sea
Our last chance of 'going somewhere' this Summer. The forecast wind (E-NE 3-4) looked to be too light to get us to Ramsgate in a timely fashion - or would require motoring at last part of the way there. To boot, it would require a 5 o'clock wake-up call.
The alternative (Bradwell) only called for a lunchtime departure. And since it is considerably nearer than Ramsgate we would certainly get there on one tide - even if we managed nothing more than a sedate 5kts of average SOG.
That was the plan. It bears no relation to what actually happened. Just giving it to you as background information.
Wednesday and Thursday looked like they were going to be the best two days of the week, so Yanni and I made our way up to the boat after rush hour Tuesday. Just made it aboard in the last of the sunlight. The days are getting noticeably shorter.
Slept in and woke around 09H30. Checked the NAVTEX - lots of WX messages had come in overnight. Today (Wednesday) was going to be a good day: E-NE 3-4 - seastate smooth or slight with lots of sunny spells. The following 24 hours, not much so: NE 3-4, backing N. This would see us motoring up the Wallet - wind against tide - on our return trip from Bradwell. Not a fan of motoring just for the sake of it. Quick Plan B: Sealand was going to be our last 'foreign' destination of the year. Once there, the plan (I must stop making plans) was to get the gennaker up if at all possible and sail up the Orwell as far as we could before returning to our mooring. Woke Yanni and informed him of the change of plan. Since it meant he would be back home - and on his computer - a day early, he approved.
Had breakfast in the cockpit - even though it was somewhat cold and foggy - and busied ourselves with some other boaty maintenance jobs. The main one being untangling the gennaker, which had been recovered and stowed somewhat haphazardly last week. Also, did already put the require blocks back in place if we did indeed get the kite up today.
Around lunchtime we cast off and motorsailed past Landguard and Cork Sands. As we bore away for the leg to Sealand we could finally unfurl the genoa and switch off the engine. Utter bliss. A nice beat to windward in glorious sunshine. It doesn't get much better than this.
Got quite close up to Sealand - close enough for one of the natives to come out and give us a friendly wave. Tacked in due course and made our way back to Cork Sands. Relative wind: green 60-90 degrees. The gennaker was going to stay down below for a bit yet.
Cork Sands to Landguard saw us with the wind right up the chuff. Keen to avoid another gennaker wrap situation I decided to leave it down below for a bit longer. Maybe up the Orwell.
Cracking sail up the Orwell: Landguard to Collimer. Overtook quite a few boats, am especially pleased that we managed to overtake a Malo 43 (roughly the same size and somewhat lighter than Guapa) and leave her in our wake - by some distance. When two or more yachts are going the same way, it's a race - always - and we won (handsomely).
By Collimer the gennaker finally saw daylight. Up and flying in less than two minutes. We're getting to be pretty good at this. What followed next was pure and utter heaven. Made our way up the Orwell with grace and style, leave more than a few boats in our wake. Once we got to Pin Mill, the wind started to become very fickle. The river was also getting too crowded and if anything happened there would be very little searoom. So, somewhat reluctantly, I decided to take the kite down and make our way back to the mooring.
Mooring picked up and various G&Ts enjoyed. Today had been a VERY good day. A day you would frame if you could. Tidied up the boat, did the dishes, emptied the bins, etc... As I'm due back at work on Friday, it will be some time before we get to go sailing again.
Made our way ashore just before HW - this always makes recovering the dinghy at lot easier. Decided to have dinner at The Lightship first rather than join the M25 traffic. The place has a lot going for it: food was decent, bar staff were very friendly. However, there is a downside: it's being run by a yacht club. And one thing the place is not is welcoming. The moment you dare set foot in the place you are being made to feel like an intruder rather than a potential future club member. Nice as the meal was, next time I think we'll give the newly reopened Ship Inn in Levington a try.
So, there we are: nothing went as planned but I think we had a great father-son day on the boat. I think Yanni enjoyed himself, but with teenagers you can never quite tell.
Back to the real world (work) tomorrow - I don't think I'm ready.
Summer Cruise: Day 7 & 8 (bilge diving)
31 August 2014 | Levington, River Orwell
Set off up to the boat yesterday - youngest (chief engineer) in tow. The 'plan' was to fix both pumps in the afternoon/evening and then go sailing the next day. So much for the plan.
Things started off well enough. The bilge pump was fixed within minutes. The blown fuse was indeed the cause of the problem. Tested and approved. Bilge monitor worked fine too. So far, so good.
Next: the fresh water pressure pump. The old one was replaced like for like. Once wired up and started, the new one sounded a lot healthier than the one it replaced. However, it kept going and going and going. And then, the bilge pump kicked in. Not good.
I tasted the water in the bilges and it was indeed fresh water. A leak somewhere. Bugger - or words to that effect.
This is probably the leak we have been chasing for longer than I care to remember. Somewhat angry, and more than a bit annoyed, we set off to track it down.
- Forward head: clear
- Aft head: clear
- Saloon: clear
- Engine room & calorifier: clear
It had to be in the galley somewhere. But how to get underneath the galley? Seats and floorboards removed and we got there in the end. We discovered a 'new' part of the bilge. You had to be a contortionist to get to it. But once there we did locate the leak - happily squirting away whenever we tried to pressurise the system. It had to be in the least accessible part of the boat - where else?
Anyway: slept in, waiting for the chandlery to open. Got bits of hose and joints. About an hour of bilge diving and hose wrestling later everything was in place. Or so we hoped. Water pressure switch flicked - pump ran for a couple of minutes and we could hear the water being pumped around the system. Then the pump stopped - a good sign. Ran the tap and water squirted out. Great success - high five.
I am now left with the niggling suspicion that the water pressure pump may not have been at fault at all, but I have to admit that the new one does sound a lot healthier. Keeping the old one as a spare. You can't have too many spares.
Sat back for a minute in the cockpit and contemplated what to do next. I had promised chief engineer we would be back home by 17H30 as he had arranged to meet with his internet weirdos/friends. This still left us a few hours to go sailing, but truth be told I wasn't up to it. I had barely recovered from the gennaker wrestling a couple of days prior and this morning's bilge diving and dinghy riding had left me a somewhat the worse for wear. Decided to knock it on the head there and then. Chief engineer approved.
So, now what? Not given up on getting away at least two more days next week. Destination to be confirmed, but looking at the forecasts, it will most likely be Ramsgate (again) with Bradwell as a back-up. Either Tuesday/Wednesday or Wednesday/Thursday. Chief engineer notified he's got to be ready to scramble a two hours notice and to adjust his social diary accordingly.
Stand by your beds.
Summer Cruise: Day 6 (fault finding)
28 August 2014 | Levington, River Orwell
I slept in - late. At around 09H30 noises indicated that the other half was up and about and I could smell something brewing. Might as well drag myself out of my bunk. Because of yesterday's wrestling match with the gennaker I ached all over. Mainly shoulders, back and knees. Definitely not 21 anymore.
Offspring arrived in due course and what followed was a logistic run to/from the boat in the dinghy. Luggage off the boat, tools to be brought aboard, people to be landed ashore. Nothing we haven't done before.
Fault finding mission did go well. The bilge pump problem turned out to be caused by a blown fuse. The pump itself is fine. No such luck with the water pressure pump though. That one is heading for the great scrapheap in the sky.
After lunch aboard the dinghy shuttle run started again. The girls headed straight home and I took Yanni shopping for a new water pressure pump at a nearby chandlery. £123 for a like for like replacement. Not the end of the world, but I kind of had other plans for the money. Uneventful drive home.
We've now pushed the pause button on the summer cruise. Brigitte is due back at work on Monday, but I don't have to be back at work for another week. Neither has Yanni. So, the plan is to make our way up to the boat on Saturday and fix the pumps. Should be simple enough: one fuse and a like for like pump switch. Sunday is looking good weather-wise.
We'll just take it from there and make it up as we go along.
Summer Cruise: Day 5 (gennaker flying)
27 August 2014 | Levington, North Sea
DEPARTURE of ship: GUAPA
Time: 2014-08-27 05:00 (UTC)
These early departures are getting to be a theme this summer. That and 'rain'. The new RNSYC HW was up and about early. Not only did he offer assistance with our lines as we were about to leave (politely declined) he later gave us a friendly wave goodbye as we exited the dock. Nice, friendly chap - but I must admit, Robert had more 'entertainment value'. I'm sure he'll grow into the job.
The first few hours of the crossing were very uneventful - at sea this is always good - a bit cold and humid, but otherwise fine. Not much wind to speak of as yet, but I hoped we would pick up more wind mid-Channel as the grib-chart had indicated.
Right on cue: there is was. Just as we were about to start the mid-channel TSS crossing. A good, solid 4Bft - NE. Time to get the gennaker out. I set about rigging all the lines and getting the sail itself ready. Next the hard part: hoisting the thing whilst taking into account Brigitte's limited mobility. Somehow, I managed it without having to involve Brigitte too much. Big grin.
And for the next four to five hours, nothing much happened. We made way at a steady 6kts. At sea, in the sun - it doesn't get much better than this.
Then, just as we passed the Sunk lightship, the wind veered SE. Not gradually, but on the spot. The autopilot reacted somewhat unfortunately and this resulted in the gennaker wrapping itself around the forestay. Things went FUBAR very quickly form there. However, untangled without mishap. Phew. Best get this thing down. Pull, pull, pull, ... nothing... it's stuck up there. A couple of seconds of internal panic: I need to get this thing down. Try as I might, the gennaker (in snuffer) refused to budge. To anyone around, we must have looked like a boat sporting a giant condom. I have had more dignified moments in my life.
Then, to quote Baldrick: I have a cunning plan, mylord. Or to be precise, I had a series of cunning plans. None of the yielding the desired result. As I saw it, the only option open to us, was going up the mast. And the stark reality was that neither of us was in a fit state to hoist the other up the mast. As soon as I picked up a mobile phone signal (just by Sealand) I contacted the shore crew (the offspring at home) and requested that they made their way to the marina forthwith. One of them was going up the mast. Five minutes later I received an SMS telling me they were on their way and with luck should meet us upon arrival. As we rounded Cork Sands I went forward once again and out of desperation/anger/refusal to admit defeat I gave the gennaker another thug. And the thing budged. Summoned Brigitte forward and together we stowed the offending sail. Shore crew stood down at once. All is well that ends well.
Enough excitement for one day. We motorsailed (just the main up) the rest of the way to our mooring. Main stacked and packed in due course. We arrived at our mooring just as the tide was about to turn. Brigitte seemed to have trouble picking up the mooring, so we swapped places. Third time proved to be a charm. Parked... and relax...
Informed the family we had arrived safely and made arrangements to be picked up the following day. Youngest told to bring all his electrical tools. We would be on a faultfinding mission: water pressure pump and bilge pump.
Lovely meal and something nice to go with it. An early night was called for, it had been eventful.
ARRIVAL of ship: GUAPA
Port: Suffolk Yacht Harbour
Time: 2014-08-27 18:27 (UTC)
Summer Cruise: Day 3 & 4 (in the rain)
26 August 2014 | Ostend
Suffice it to say that nothing much happened. We met up with some friends, shopped for food (always a delight in Belgium), strolled around town (in between the showers), read books,... In a nutshell: we were on holiday.
Also had a couple of meals out. One (expensive) disappointment: the RNSYC club restaurant. Once very good, now mediocre at best. And value for money it most certainly was not. Won't be going back in a hurry. Also went out for moules at a restaurant we hadn't frequented before (De Amandine) . And they were to die for. Plenty, tasty and reasonable priced. We will certainly be returning there in the future.
Only blot on the landscape (apart from the rain): the boat's fresh water pressure pump packed up. And it seemed the bilge pump was also acting up, as in: not doing anything. I started to trace our plumbing but could find no obvious leak. The pressure pump was making a sound of sorts but it sounded slightly 'off key'. No leak, not an electrical fault, this only left a fault with pump itself. This was not going to be sorted here and now, so we collected as many empty drinks bottles as we could find and filled those up ashore. Water to be used only for coffee/tea, cooking and washing up and personal hygiene. We still carried an ample stock of mineral water, so no-one is likely to die of dehydration.
On Tuesday afternoon I took another look at the weather forecasts for the remainder of the week. Wednesday looked to be the best day of the lot (NE-E 3 to 4, later backing SE 3). The sensible thing to do seemed to be to head in the direction of 'home'. Thursday looked manageable too, but I had Brigitte's limited mobility to consider. And after the last Ostend-Harwich crossing in May I had had my fill of heavy weather sailing for the year.
Sailing tomorrow it is then. We'll consider our options once we are on the other side.