Guapa: Beauty and the Sea

One family and their boat. A daydream, a vision and now, slowly, becoming reality.

14 December 2016
25 May 2016 | Sainte Marine
23 May 2016 | L'Aber Wrach
21 May 2016 | Port Pendennis
19 April 2016 | Boxmoor
05 April 2016 | Northwood
28 January 2016 | Hemel Hempstead
17 December 2015 | Boxmoor
01 September 2015 | East Coast
30 July 2015 | Northwood
26 July 2015 | Northwood
01 June 2015 | Ostend/North Sea
27 May 2015
31 March 2015 | Leverstock Green
23 February 2015 | Leverstock Green
13 January 2015 | Leverstock Green
24 November 2014
14 October 2014 | Leverstock Green
19 September 2014 | Leverstock Green
15 September 2014 | Levington, River Orwell

Mixed feelings

17 December 2015 | Boxmoor
Here we are then - so many months down the road, and not much to report in the way of sailing. For fear of sounding like a stuck record, for pretty much the same reasons as always: lack of time/shit weather and a dodgy engine. All this leaves me wondering: what do I do it for?

Lack of time: for much longer than I care to, I have been (and will be) working week on/week off. As I need some crew to help me park the boat (and crew is mostly only available on week-ends) this means there are only four days available every month to go sailing. And if the weather is crap on those days...

Crap weather: of course, this is to be expected - we keep the boat in Britain after all. Speaking of which... As some of you may remember, we're on several waiting lists for a mooring in Brittany. In one place in particular, we are third on the list and the local council was planning to put down 5 new moorings suitable for boats our size this winter. However, in this bleak economic times, moorings for yotties do not seem to be a high priority for the council and the funds will most likely be reallocated elsewhere. So we may have to stick it out on the UK East Coast for another year.

Dodgy engine: this really has haunted our sailing year. Not only did it force the sailing staycation upon us, it also kept us alongside for nearly two months since November. The seized wastegate has been overhauled and everything seems to be back to normal now. Took Guapa out for a spin in the fog the other day and the engine certainly seems to have more horsepower available than before. More quiet too - always a good thing. Still awaiting the bill with baited breath, but we can take that as sorted.

At the end of the summer, I also noticed a crack in the drum of our furling gear. That too has been rectified. The RigMagic invoice came as a pleasant surprise too. It doesn't happen often in the world of boat ownership that something costs less than you had hoped/feared. Also tried and tested during our brief test sail in the fog. Another one to cross off the to-do list.

What's next? This year: not much. I hope to be able to take the boat out for a family sail between Christmas and the New Year. And that's the best case scenario.

The start of the new year will look pretty much like the end of this one: more work and other non-sailing real world commitments (and I had both equally - and with a passion). Hope to have an update on the mooring availability in Brittany by this time next month.

On this will also depend whether or not we finish the refit of the boat this year or next year. Items still on the to-do list: fit the electric windlass, replace the leaking starboard water tank and overhaul or replace the fridge. The fitting of the SSB has moved way down the list as I am starting to have serious second thoughts about this thing. In a time of rapid developments in the (satellite) communications field, would fitting an SSB still be worthwhile? Thoughts and comments on this last matter would be most welcome.

2015 leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings - it certainly did not live up to the great promise it showed early in the year. Frankly, this equally applies to the two or three previous years. As I was wondering earlier - 'what do I still do it for?' Many years of work/planning better pay of soon.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Going nowhere - several times

01 September 2015 | East Coast
OK, I'll better get this on paper while I still remember it. It's been a while, but what follows below is the story if how we went nowhere, over several days, several times. In other words: summer cruise 2015.

In a nutshell: nothing went as planned or hoped for. 'So, what's new?' I hear you ask. Good question. All part and parcel of boat ownership I guess.

Anyway, all the dirt... The engine problems I reported a while back turned out to be somewhat more complicated than we thought at first glance. When our mechanic replaced the corroded exhaust elbow, he also found that the wastegate had seized half open due to large carbon deposits. Whilst the donk did run, we did not get all the available HP. Locals were unable to 'un-seize' the wastegate and it would have to be sent away. Heaven only knew when we would get it back. With our luck, October probably. So, I told them to put it back 'as is' and I would take my chances. A job for the winter to-do list.

However, my choice did somewhat limit our options to go cruising. I was keen to minimize our motoring. The fickleness of this summer's forecast left cruising in local waters as the only realistic option open to us. An East Coast farewell cruise of sorts: Bradwell and Ramsholt were the most likely destinations. We had a sort of 4-5 day weather window in early August (the week before we were due to move house), that would have to do.

Saturday - Day 1

We haven't had a family sail in a LONG time. Kids off college/work, so no excuses. Even the dogs came along for their first ride - ever - in the RIB.

The weather was nice enough, nice breeze and blue skies. The dogs did not exactly enjoy the RIB ride, but no mishap either. A nice way to start the day: lunch in the cockpit. Dogs went straight into 'begging mode' and did their best to look starved.

Consumed something alcoholic whilst I watched the world sail by followed by a little snooze in the sun. The, confab about the plans for the rest of the day. High on my wishlist: getting the kite up. It has been over a year. Full complement, suitable weather,... the vote in favour was unanimous (well, 3 in favour and 1 abstention - that's unanimous in my book).

Slipped our mooring and tootled all the way up to Pin Mill - females at the helm and dog minding whilst Yanni and I rigged the necessary blocks and bits of string. It might have been a while, but when we turned downriver everything went up as it should. Kite up and flying in less than a minute. We've still got it - high five. Progress was slow, 4kts, but I didn't care in the least. If you're in a hurry, you have no business being out on the water.

When we were about two cable short of Collimer I had this funny feeling I could not explain. But it felt like something was about to happen. I looked downriver towards Shotley and some of the modern plastic fantastics were flat on their ear. Yanni and I got the kite down in record time, which also turned out to be just in time. No sooner had we shoved the kite down the forward hatch and we got hit by 25kts+ over deck.

Since we were quite near our mooring, and we had the dogs on board, picking up our mooring and sitting out the blow seemed like the sensible thing to do. So we did.

More drinks and chats in the cockpit before we made our way ashore for a family dinner. The Ship Inn in Levington welcomed dogs and the menu looked decent enough. And it was within walking distance of our mooring. Two RIB rides later everyone was ashore. Pleasant walk to the pub, a GREAT meal there and another stroll back. A nice day, enjoyed by all. The kids and the dogs left for home, while Brigitte and I returned aboard. New adventures tomorrow.

Sunday - Day 2

The plan - I've got to stop making those - had been for a gentle sail and head for Ramsholt. We were going to pick up a mooring there and maybe have a meal ashore in the Ramsholt Arms (I had heard some good things about the place lately). Slight, but not unimportant detail: Ramsholt is on the river Deben. This means crossing the Deben Bar. Drawing 7', as we do, we have to cross HW +/- 2. And I did not want to risk it on a falling tide. To all intents and purposes we had a two hour window.

Please bear in mind that I had just come off a week of night-shift. Truly knackered and maybe ever so slightly sloshed, I slept for 14 hours. And, ... we missed our window. Breakfast would have been pointless, so we had lunch in the cockpit whilst we discussed our plans for the day. Both Bradwell and Ramsholt were off the options list. We settled for a sail up the river Stour.
Well, we did not exactly sail up the Stour, it was more like we drifted on the river with sails up. We eventually turned back downriver at Wrabness. Wind picked up a bit too. Quite pleasant.

Picked up our mooring a while later and settled in for the evening. Lovely, home cooked dinner as only Brigitte can make them followed by sundowners in the cockpit. Another enjoyable and relaxing day going nowhere.

Monday - Day 3

Only slept for 12 hours. Got up not quite early enough for breakfast, but too early for lunch. So we had brunch instead.

Skies a bit overcast and it was distinctly breeze. Nice SW-ly though. Sealand was going to be today's destination of choice. About as 'foreign' as we were going to go this week.

I really don't remember much of this day other than that it was a cracking sail. And over all too soon. Plenty of sunbathing opportunities for the other half and I was just happy being out and about on the water.

Not much happened the rest of the day. Quick trip ashore in the RIB to pick up some supplies: eggs, bacon, milk, bread ... And that was it. Another nice dinner, sundowners and reading in the cockpit (I really, really could get used to this), and an early night. I was happier than I had been in a long time.

Tuesday - Day 4

Awoke to grey skies and a stiff westerly breeze. It would put hair on anyone's chest. Reefed the main and cast off. Under sail in no time. Over 20kts over deck by Landguard. Adrenaline rush.

Nice sporting sail to Medusa and back. Encountered a classics race on the way there. Boat porn everywhere you looked. As pretty as these things are, I don't think I would ever want to own a wooden boat - unless I was filthy rich and I could pay someone to do the maintenance.

Back on the mooring without mishaps. Brigitte at the helm and me picking the mooring really is the way to tackle this.

You may start to see a pattern emerging here: dinner, reading and sundowners. It does not take a lot to make me happy. Though ships liquor cabinet is starting to look quite bare.

Then the rain put a dampener on things and forecast for tomorrow didn't look great either. I decided to sleep on it.

Day 5 - Wednesday

Awoke to grey skies - again - but it had stopped raining. Slight southerly breeze. How about a sail rather than a drift to Wrabness this time? Other half nodded her approval but I could tell her heart wasn't really in it.
Off Harwich the wind dropped altogether and the grey skies started to look ominous. Rain was not far off. Dropped, packed and stacked sails and motored back to our mooring.

A last bite to eat on the boat and it was understood that we would head for home. The house move could not be ignored for much longer.

And that was it. Really not much more sailing on the horizon till early or mid September. Other - non sailing related - areas of our lives require our undivided attention for the moment.

I'll post another update as soon as I have something worthwhile to communicate.

Sailing and stuff

30 July 2015 | Northwood
Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned a ‘Summer Cruise’ this year and that’s for the simple reason that there won’t be one. The reasons are as varied as they are depressing.

- Lack of time: another blow dealt to us by reality (call it ‘real life’ if you must), but it is a fact of life that as long as we are still wage slaves we will always be short of time. Whilst I get a decent share of time off work, this is not the case for Brigitte who is still climbing the greasy pole in the corporate world.
Also, our landlord is selling the house so we had to look for alternative accommodation. And we all know how easy and stress free moving house can be.
- Lack of money: we have suffered some unexpected financial setbacks lately. Ranging from large garage bills to keep the various family cars on the road to the recent removals invoice and the bill from marine engineers (boat engine). This year’s cruising kitty is gone (and then some) before we even have set sail.

It has not all been doom and gloom though. We have spent a few weekends afloat just cruising in local waters. Fewer than I would have liked, but we have to be grateful for small mercies.

There has also been a recent addition to our fleet of tenders: I’ve acquired a 10’ RIB (another pre-loved eBay bargain). So far I’m impressed with it. Much more stable than the leaking GRP tender it is going to replace and lighter too so we can lift it aboard.
A very lightly used inflatable Zodiac will find its way to eBay soon. A lovely thing it is, but just not suited to our needs. The Orwell can be quite choppy and rides to/from the boat could get quite ‘wet’. Refreshing in summer, but not so much in winter.

Anyway, I am rambling. What’s next on the horizon? We will be spending the next 5-7 days on the boat. What we do will in a large part be down to the weather. Checked out a few forecasts and two scenarios look likely: either it will be a (shortened) repeat of last summer – our North Sea Triangle (Ramsgate-Ostend-home) or we’ll stick to local waters. In case of the latter, we will most likely head for Ramsholt and/or Bradwell. I wouldn’t mind either way. Wherever we go, it will most likely be our Farewell Tour as I am hopeful that in 2016 Guapa will be heading for a mooring in Brittany.

Enjoy summer while you can and hope to see some of you on the water in the (very near) future.

Fair winds.

Engine woes

26 July 2015 | Northwood
OK – first update in a while. Again.

I’m going to stop apologising for the irregularity of posts – life’s not been all that kind to us lately. You’ll have to take updates as they come.

If I recall correctly, at our last update I had left us on our mooring with a non-running engine, so let’s take it from there.

The following week-end Yanni and I set about changing all the fuel filters. Whilst the engine made several tentative attempts to turn over it never really ran. Some blue smoke from the exhaust, but that was about it. After a few tries, the engine just didn’t budge anymore.

I know my limits when it comes to messing with engine and I thought I’d call it a day before I did any (more) damage. Let a professional sort it.

Checked an internet forum for advice. Lots of horror scenarios: worst one seemed to be water in the injectors. Arranged with the marina to tow Guapa in so the engineers could have a look at the engine.

One day later:
Engineer worked through the system backwards.
Disconnected water hose that goes from engine to water lock. Full of water - all the way up to the mixing elbow.
Inside of the mixing elbow very humid and somewhat corroded.
Next step: check injectors: all were dry.
Manually cranked the engine. No water appearing anywhere.
Engine put back together again and started whit raw water seacock shut.
Started at second attempt. Running smoothly now.

In a nutshell: water working its way into the engine through the exhaust system. Inappropriate water lock - badly set up. Not only was the water lock put in backwards, it was also installed athwart ships instead of along the centre line.
When she was hard on her ear starboard side water flowed into the exhaust/water lock. When we tacked, water all the way up to/in the mixing elbow.

We're up and running for the moment. Shouldn't really sail her flat on her ear in the very near future.
And order for a replacement mixing elbow and a different model water lock were placed – to be fitted asap.

Bit of a bugger, but it could have been (a lot) worse.
I am somewhat insecure about my limited diesel engines skills, and therefore relieved that our predicament wasn't caused by anything I did wrong.
Talked the engineer through everything I had done prior to his arrival, and turns out I did the right thing at every step.
Diesel itself is still quite clear too. So, that's another immense relief.

Couple of weeks further down the line: replacement parts had arrived and Yanni and I brought Guapa into the marina (under her own steam this time) so we could have the exhaust elbow replaced and the new water lock installed. Seemed straightforward enough – a couple of hours and we’d be on our merry way. Of course, on a boat it’s never simple or straightforward. Fix one problem and uncover another. So it was this time.

Old exhaust elbow removed. The corrosion was not as bad as anticipated but is was apparent that salt water had made its way up there quite a few times over the years. It seems we have been extremely lucky for quite a long time. What was not anticipated was this: the exhaust elbow was ETREMELY sooty. And so was the engine turbo which is located right behind it. I lack the technical expertise to accurately describe the state of the turbo, but I’ll do my best to describe it in ‘numpty’ terms.

There’s a valve which regulates the air intake – due to the amount of soot in the turbo this valve has seize half open. So, at times there is either too much or not enough compression in the engine. In a nutshell: we lost some HP.

It was impossible to ‘unseize’ the reluctant valve – it would have to be sent to a specialist workshop. When we would get it back was anyone’s guess. Well, that was not going to happen. I do not like open-ended stories and certainly not when it comes to boating expenses. I do not write blank cheques. The seized valve was put back as it was. After all, till a few hours ago I was blissfully unaware that it had seized. It would have to do for now.

I was advised that to avoid the accumulation of soot in the engine, you have to run it a full throttle from time to time. I must admit that this is something we NEVER do. If memory serves, the maximum throttle is in the region of 3400rpm – we never run her at more than 2000rpm (2200rpm tops). The reason is that our prop is very close to the rudder and once over 2200rpm the prop wash over the rudder is so strong that the boat becomes hard steer. Must bear this in mind and remember to in future occasionally run the engine flat out – preferably when motoring in a straight line.

So this is how things stand at the moment. But at the moment we’re a sailing vessel first and foremost but with very much an auxiliary engine. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep going till winter when this problem will be revisited and hopefully be put to bed once and for all.

Oostende voor Anker 2015

01 June 2015 | Ostend/North Sea
The Oostende voor Anker maritime festival is sort of a fixture in our annual cruising diary. We missed out a couple of times recently (main culprits being adverse weather and lack of free time) but this year I was determined to make it.

I managed to shuffle some shifts around but it would still require at least one overnight Channel crossing to make the whole thing worthwhile. Weather was borderline too. Sometimes, it seems there is only a hard way to do things.

Anyway, I came off shift Thursday morning and slept for a few hours. When I woke I made my way to Levington where I was met by Yanni. Tender loaded and launched. Very wet, very slow dinghy ride to Guapa (wind over tide). When we finally boarded, we made the boat ready for sea. Underway by 16H30.

One of the first things we noticed is that the boat’s bottom is in desperate need of a pressure wash. The loss of boat speed was noticeable – even in a stiff breeze. Lift/hold/drop to change the anodes and a pressure wash already booked for the 18th. Had hoped to do it before this trip, but the diary and available funds dictated otherwise. Ho-hum, I quickly calculated that the loss of boat speed would add an hour or two to the crossing.

Foul bottom and adverse tide meant initial progress was very slow – despite the stiff breeze. Wind right up the ass meant we rolled a fair bit. Then, just before sunset, the wind dropped completely. We went from motorsailing to just motoring. The perfect time to prepare dinner: ravioli and a baguette.
The reefed main looked ‘silly’. But as stronger winds were forecast later that night and early morning I was not going to shake it out. Not keen to put the reef back in at night.

Just before midnight, a usable breeze materialised and we were once again making way in a manner befitting a sailing yacht. When crossing the TSS, the AIS transponder proved to be invaluable. Nice to see the merchantmen change course/speed up/slow down to stay clear of us. A lot less stressful than working out if those blobs of light in the distance had seen us. Especially that fishing vessel lit up like a Christmas tree.

I had initially planned to share watches with Yanni, but as the TSS proved to be a lot busier than I had anticipated, I let him sleep in. It was therefore a tired skipper who woke his crew 5NM from Ostend. Sails furled and stacked in good order and we were all secure alongside just before 09H00 local time. Fourteen hours and a bit after we set off.
Harbour master located – mooring fee (half price) paid – codes to shower and heads obtained in short order. Retired to my bunk for some kip.

Woke from coma rather sooner than hoped – wide awake but still tired. Met up with some of the usual suspect who had all made the crossing in the days/week before. First topic of conversation: the weather. It did not bode well for the return trip. We had planned to sail on Sunday, but gale force winds were forecast for that day. In fact, gale force winds were forecast till the middle of next week. And for once, all forecasters were pretty much in agreement. As Yanni had to be back in college on Monday sailing later was not an option.

After much conferring, all the crews returning to the UK were in agreement: there was a weather window Saturday midday till Sunday morning. Those with more time on their hands stayed put, but those, like us, with shore commitments decided to make a run for it. This would only give us just 24 hours to enjoy Ostend. So much to do, and so little time.

Anyway, shopping was done, friends were met and drinks were had. And that was just the afternoon. Continued the Oostende voor Anker tradition of blagging a ‘Participant’ flag. The most successful year to date as I walked away with a full goody bag. In the evening we met up with other UK based boats for drinks and a meal. A pleasant end to a nice but hectic day. Retired to the RNSYC for a nightcap and then my bunk.

Rose early Sunday morning to check various weather websites. Outlook still ‘not great’. Weather window still there. Westerly, backing SW 5-6. It would have to do. One boat ventured out, then another and then us. Once we passed the breakwaters, it turned ‘unpleasant’ very quickly. Short, steep North Sea chap. One minute you’re looking at the stars, the next at the fishes. Wind on the nose to boot. Struggling to make 2kts over the ground – motorsailing. Tried bearing away for a while, but that only seemed to take us due North. Neither of us fancied a visit to Holland, so onward we pushed – covering 7NM in 3 hours. At that rate we’d be home on Monday.

By 14H00, the wind started backing SW (as forecast). And just in time too, as the engine just died on us. Not an electrical problem (as Yanni first suspected) but a clogged fuel line (as was my idea). The hours of bouncing off the waves must have well and truly stirred all the crud in the tank. As for replacing the fuel filter? When you use your spare when you service the engine, you have to buy a new one straight away, otherwise you have... no spare. Lesson learned the hard way.

So, we pushed on under sail making a very respectable 6.5-7kts over the ground. Lots of time to contemplate and start contingency planning. What this, if that, ... Kept in touch over VHF with another boat (Jolie Brise) also making the crossing with us. If the wind did indeed continue to back SW (and S later) I figured it would be possible to get to our mooring under sail. Whilst I have picked up a mooring under sail before, I have never attempted this in the dark. A new challenge.

As we were approaching Long Sands Head, Jolie Brise – who was already on the Orwell - came through with a weather update. Blustery conditions on the river, and wind all over the place. Not good. As we passed Rough Towers I started monitoring Harwich VTS. Busy night in The Harwich Approaches. Not ideal. Then Thames CG came through with a gale warning: F8 – soon. And to top it all, the wind started veering W. This would mean we would have to tack in the fairway between Cork Sands and Landguard. And then there was the falling tide on the Orwell to consider. Should I let ‘pride’ have the day and try to make it to our mooring unassisted? Tiredness can lead to poor decisions and there was only one way that was going to end – ‘not well’.

I would like to think that I did the sensible thing, and I contacted Thames CG and informed them of our predicament. Laid it all out for them: no engine, gale warning, falling tide, amount of traffic, backing wind and crew fatigue.

Was told to continue to make way towards Harwich at best speed and they would monitor our progress on AIS and see what, if any, assistance they could offer. Just short of Cork Sands we were informed that Harwich Lifeboat was dispatched to render assistance and also the Harwich VTS had been informed of our predicament (why didn’t I think of that?).

About 15 minutes after we passed the Cork Sands goalposts we were met by the Lifeboat. Suggested the best option would be for them to take us in tow. Lifeboat cox’n agreed. Furled and dropped the sails while the Lifeboat stood by. Then, I put Yanni on the helm with instructions to keep the boat in the wind as much as possible whilst I made my way forward to catch and secure the towing line. All done without a hitch. Then there was not much left for me to do but sit back while Yanni helmed to keep the boat pointed towards our tow.

Once inside Harwich harbour a further confab with the Lifeboat – what was our destination? Told them we were on a swinging mooring on the Orwell just beyond Collimer. Lifeboat said they would drop us off there. Informed them that there was a dinghy on the mooring and that I would shine a torch on the mooring to point it out to them. As we approached our mooring the sheer folly of what I would have attempted soon became clear. It was pitch black and the moorings were almost impossible to see.

Anyway, the Lifeboat dropped us off on our mooring. Picked up the line on the first approach. Exchanged details with the crew and gave them a small token of our appreciation. Mixed feelings: embarrassed, but also relieved and very grateful. Only in Britain.

As the Lifeboat departed, Yanni and I set about securing the boat: furling and stowing the sails properly, securing all sheets and lanyards, etc... Suddenly, we were distracted by a noise. Shone a torch at the dinghy and all of a sudden it was filled with water. Bizarre. A minute later, that same sound again. But this time I thought I had seen a black shape. Shone the torch at the dinghy again and this time round we caught the culprit in fragrante delicito: a big seal was trying to get into our dinghy. Luckily I managed to persuade him that this was not a good idea.

Once the boat was all secure on deck I clambered in the dinghy and started bailing. Truly the cherry on the cake. In view of the forecast 30kts plus winds forecast for the morning we opted to make our way home straight away.

Got home about 20 hours after we had left Ostend. A long, eventful and tiring day.


27 May 2015
It's been a while. Blame lack of morale if you must.

Our lives are in some turmoil at the moment and this is having a detrimental effect on the boat/sailing side of things.

As you may be aware, we're nearly always short of two things: time and money. And at the moment we have little free time and what money we do have is required elsewhere. Add to the equation some health issues and you will understand - and hopefully forgive - the recent lack of blog updates.

To give you some idea of the current issues:
- Our rent is going up by more than we can afford. So, this is forcing a move and all the costs associated with it.
- The car is in desperate need of some TLC - about £2K worth. So, there goes this year's cruising/refit kitty.
- Reduced manpower at work means I have to work more shifts than I used to. Less time for sailing. Other half in a similar situation. Children have other priorities too (work/girl-boyfriends). Crew not as readily available as they once were.

Optimism is a moral duty, but it can be hard at times.

Some sailing updates, to follow in the very near future.

Good to go

31 March 2015 | Leverstock Green
Well, the boat is slowly coming out of hibernation so it's time for another update. It's been a busy few weeks. Lots to report and it's mostly good news.

All of the items on our winter 'to do' list have been crossed out. I've reported some of them in previous entries, but here's a summary anyway:

- The DSC VHF has been reprogrammed with the correct MMSI. About time.
- The leaks in the tender have been filled and the rubber rubbing streak - which had become unstuck in places - has been re-glued. Full credits to Yanni.
- The outboard engine did pass its test with flying colours. It's impossible to kill that thing. Fuel is still good.
- The inboard diesel has been serviced. Some remarks regarding this. For the first 3 years (warranty period) I had the engine serviced by a 'recognised agent'. This was the first year we serviced the engine ourselves and what do we find? The anode has NEVER been changed - and now it was completely gone. So much for 'recognised agents'.
Also, when the engine was installed they had conveniently hidden the raw water inlet strainer. Out of sight is out of mind and I really hadn't given the thing much thought till I rediscovered the it when installing the new cabin heater last week. Good thing too - not quite clogged, but as good as. Potential disaster later in the season averted.
- The new Webasto heater has been installed. As with everything boat related, it took longer and did cost a bit more than anticipated but I am quite pleased with the result. It's so nice to have a heated boat again.
Note for Webasto: you might want to consider manufacturing extension leads for your wiring loom. The provided 4.2m didn't cut it - at all. If you sell units to suit a boat up to 46', the wiring loom should be of an appropriate size.
- Last year we switched to LED navigation lights. By the end of the season, the forward port/starboard lights started acting up. When I opened them up, both LED bulbs were heavily corroded. Not surprising really, considering their rather exposed position on the pulpit. So, I've now invested in two (one red, one green) waterproof LED bulbs. They were about three times the price of a normal LED bulb but hopefully they should last longer than one season. Time will tell.
- Finally, the deck has had its annual scrub; the boat has had a good clean down below and bedding also back aboard.

The only let down was the Raspberry Pie based chart plotter Yanni promised to build for me. Despite the not inconsiderable cash investment in parts on my part, I have yet to see anything closely resembling a working unit. He's got other priorities right now (college), but the last word has not yet been said on this subject.

What's next? We still have to take the life raft back to the boat, but other than that we're good to go. Fuel tank could do with some topping up, but as we're not planning to go anywhere in the near future that can wait for another couple of weeks. We're also moving the boat onto her swinging mooring on Thursday.
The marina informed me today that there are already a couple (suitable for our size) which have been serviced and/or replaced. We need to do this now, as I will have very little free time in the next 5/6 weeks.
Work schedule looks very busy for the immediate future: week on/week off till at least the middle of May. Things will hopefully ease after that.

Only thing still to arrange before we sail away for summer is a quick lift/hold and drop to change the anodes (prop and pro shaft) and a quick pressure-wash. Hopefully some time in May.

That's all there's to it. No boat or sailing related excitement on the horizon. But we must crack on - time and tide wait for no man.


23 February 2015 | Leverstock Green
Not much to report on the sailing front. I think we only managed to get away from the pontoon once since the last post – the usual ‘Medusa and back’. The usual suspects are to blame: work and weather.

There has been some progress on the refit front. After nearly five years, the VHF has finally been reprogrammed with the correct MMSI. Also, there has – at long last – been some progress on Yanni’s project: getting OpenCPN to run on a Raspberry Pie computer. Some details still need to be sorted (touchscreen drivers, loading all the charts) but the thing works. And it works with the Digital Yacht AIS transponder. High five.

The eBay bargain Webasto heater will be fitted the first week of March. Not entirely a ‘self-install’ as a start-up marine engineer will be along too. So, that should be another tick in the box pretty soon.

More news on the eBay front: another bargain. I acquired an ICOM M800UK SSB transceiver, complete with AT120E ATU for just a couple of hundred quid. Still can’t believe my luck. I have also located a local marine electronics wizard to take on the job of installing it ‘a bit later on the year, once his workload clears’. It’s not a rush job, and as he’s busy I take it that he must be good. So, I am willing to wait – within reason.

And the shopping spree did not end there. Another bargain – stock clearance this time. I got a brand-new Lofrans Tigres electric windlass at a heavily discounted price. This had been on the shopping list for a very long time, but until now it had never been affordable. Good things come to those who wait.

So, what does the immediate future look like?
- Get the heater installed first week of March.
- Fix the leaks in the tender before we go back on the mooring first week of April
- Service the engine
- Top up fuel and water tanks
- The deck is due its annual scrub – again before we go back on the mooring

A bit further down the road (but still this year):
- Have the SSB installed. I would like some time to get to grips with the set before we finally leave these shores summer 2016.
- Have the electric windlass installed. Will get quotes from some of the local yards in the next few weeks.
- Replace the leaking starboard freshwater tank.

I have gone off the idea of a keel-cooled fridge. The old fridge unit will still get replaced, but with a modern, standard unit – not a keel-cooled one. Cost is one factor (a keel-cooled unit is more expensive) and there is the added cost of having the boat lifted and another hole drilled in the hull. And I would like the number of holes in the hull kept to a minimum.
Also, since we went all-LED for the interior and navigation lighting and since the Raspberry Pie draws less than half the A/h of the laptop we have already made significant savings on the electricity consumption front. Provided I only use the electronic autopilot when motoring and rely on the windvane exclusively when under sail ours solar array should churn out more A/h in a day than we could realistically use.
Everything is a compromise, and this is one I am willing to make.

There you have it: our entire ‘to-do’ list. The refit has once again gathered momentum. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And this time it is not an oncoming train. I am looking forward to knocking this refit – started in 2008 – on the head.

Looking forward to some more time afloat in the not too distant future. And, finally, go places.
I am starting to suffer from sailing withdrawal syndrome.

Winter write-up

13 January 2015 | Leverstock Green
Long overdue, but here goes... an update of what’s been going on these last few months.

Started off with a panic. The second half of October a storm made its way across the UK. Guapa was still sitting on her mooring. I had checked all tackle the week before and doubled up the mooring to make sure we could ride out the storm safely. There’s only so much you can do, but at least I did what I could. A neighbouring boat however was not so lucky. She broke her mooring and ended up on our pulpit. Received second hand (and later first hand) reports of the daring rescue undertaken by the marina staff in +50kts winds. The last really went above and beyond. Guapa seemed to have come off virtually unscathed: some scuff-marks on the hull and that’s about it.
Still, not good for the heart though. I was very relieved when I parked Guapa alongside on a pontoon berth (for winter) the following week.

And that’s pretty much where she has remained since then. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we’ve been able to take her out this winter. This has been in a large part due to the weather we’ve been having – not a ‘normal’ winter by any means. Plenty of wet (noting new), but lots of high winds too. As I am writing this another forecast came through predicting +40kts of wind for tomorrow. Here’s hoping for some more settled weather in the very near future. I’m getting ‘boat withdrawal symptoms’.

I am sad to report that we haven’t made much progress on the refit front. In fact hardly any progress at all. The second autopilot controller I had bought on eBay a couple of years ago (as a spare) I planned to fit by the chart table turns out to be as dead as the Dodo. We have done a couple of trips to recce what needs doing to fit the new Webasto heater and controller. I (and Yanni) seem to have underestimated the work somewhat. It’s doable, but we would need two consecutive days of ‘no rain’. And getting hold of Yanni over the weekends is proving to be increasingly difficult. First love and all that.
I’ve been looking at getting some outside help, but that too is not as easy as anticipated.

I have not given up hope that Yanni might finish work on the tablet/plotter in the next few weeks. If not, I’m going to hit him where it hurts: in the wallet.

What is likely to happen? I’m going to have the DSC VHF reprogrammed with our current MMSI. Should not take more than a week or two. Toying with the idea of getting the genoa valeted (some mildew marks), but it’s not a priority. What is a priority, is fixing all the tender leaks. Another ‘Yanni job’. I am confident that he’ll manage to complete that one before we go back on our mooring as the tender is sitting in our garage at the moment.

All in all, I’m not really a happy bunny. No sailing, no progress on the refit front. I’m starting to regret my decision to remain afloat this winter. A mistake I am not likely to repeat next year.
On a more positive note: the days are getting noticeably longer – always a good sign.
Vessel Name: Guapa
Vessel Make/Model: Kalik 44
Hailing Port: Ipswich, UK
Crew: Wim, Brigitte, Evita & Yanni
About: The Vandenbossche family
Extra: One family and their boat. It started as daydream, then a vision and now, slowly, becoming reality.
Guapa's Photos - Beauty and the Sea (Main)
1 Photo
Bringing Guapa home - Bruinisse lock
35 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
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Created 20 February 2014
12 Photos
Created 22 May 2013
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Created 22 May 2013
Ostend, UK East & South Coast and Normandy
30 Photos
Created 10 August 2012
Winter sailing - UK East Coast
18 Photos
Created 9 February 2012
34 Photos
Created 17 April 2011
10 Photos
Created 17 April 2011
It's all been worth it.
4 Photos
Created 26 July 2010
The horror... The saga continues. Hull respray, new engine, and loads more (expensive) fun.
20 Photos
Created 21 June 2010
Replacing a teak deck and other horror stories
25 Photos
Created 31 December 2008
The Solent, Channel Island(s) and Normandy.
21 Photos
Created 8 June 2008
Messing about in the Suffolk/Essex area
17 Photos
Created 21 December 2007
UK South Coast, Normandy, Northern France & Belgium
40 Photos
Created 23 September 2007
A thing of beauty
7 Photos
Created 3 June 2007
Meet the crew
12 Photos
Created 27 March 2007
Messing about in the Suffolk/Essex area
8 Photos
Created 27 March 2007
Running from the storm(s) - North Sea Triangle: Ramsgate - Ostend - Harwich.
6 Photos
Created 17 February 2007
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