About us and the boat

About us and the boat:

We were lucky enough to retire early at the start of 2013 so we could head off and "live the dream" on board our Nordhavn 47 Trawler Yacht. The idea is to see some of the planet, at a slow 6 - 7 knots pace. There are no fixed goals or timings, we just had a plan to visit Scotland and then probably the Baltic before heading south.

The Baltic has been postponed as we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to in Scotland during our first year owing to family issues. The idea is to visit the nicer areas in these latitudes before heading south for warmer weather. If we like somewhere, we will stay for a while. If not, we will just move on. So, for the people who love forward planning and targets, this might seem a little relaxed!

If anyone else is contemplating a trawler yacht life, maybe our experiences will be enough to make you think again, or maybe do it sooner then you intended!

The boat is called Rockland and she is built for long distance cruising and a comfortable life on board too. If you want to see more about trawler yachts and the Nordhavn 47 in particular, there is a link to the manufacturers website in our "useful stuff" section. For the technically minded, there is a little info and pictures of the boat and equipment in the same section


Richard and June

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A penguin dominated Xmas

Poor Patrick has been a little ignored recently. He has been left as a guard penguin whilst we were going back and forth to Norfolk and he hasn't starred in this blog for a while either. Well, we didn't help his ego by forgetting to buy him a Xmas present. He had previously missed out on getting first birthday presents too (that was on the 23rd) and so he was quite sniffy all day. He turned his back on us, grabbed the remote control and watched trash TV and using the laptop as a bum warmer. Actually most Xmas TV is trash of course so that wasn't too hard for him to find :

No matter what, we will have to work hard to win him around in the next few days. Sharing a small boat with a snifffy penguin is no fun. We will keep you updated on this most important topic.

Xmas in Penarth was great. Not because June's parents decided not to join us (wind and rain) but because the weather was very kind. A nice walk in the sun to prepare for the traditional monster dinner really helped. We even had a small Xmas tree on board so it felt a little festive:

The marina held an illuminated boat contest, the winner gets a watercolour painting of their boat by a local artist. Every entrant gets a £5 electricity supply credit too. We reckon this was simply a money making scheme seeing how many fairy lights were festooned around the place and how much power they must be burning:

Stuart the marina manager asked if we were going to take part, then immediately realised it would cost a small fortune to dress a tall Nordhavn overall in lights and that fitting them would be a major health and safety challenge. Frankly, if we had a ladder tall enough to get to the top of the fibreglass stack, we would simply wash off the green goo that has accumulated on the satellite domes, not mess about with lights. Xmas; bah humbug!

The recent storms didn't have much impact on us here. The marina is very well sheltered and a few cm of water really doesn't make a difference here! Actually, thinking about it, the rain did - we went for a trip out during the week and had to lock out of the marina upwards as the water level in the bay was higher than normal - usually there is a permanent free flow and the gates just open for us. Not a huge issue to be fair.

Some very good news for regular readers of this drivel. You probably saw the pictures about the BA 747 which had a small collision with a building in South Africa whilst taxiing (not knowing the full details, we still guess the building was not to blame):

The excellent news is that Coleen, our transvestite BA 747 Captain friend was not steering the thing. That could have seriously damaged not just the plane but also his pension prospects. He looked suitably relieved:

Again, regular readers will spot that he seems to have undergone a little corrective surgery and hair colouring since we last showed a picture of him/her in September. He/she also seems rather close to the other lady (or man??) in the picture. We get more and more concerned about his behaviour now.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Storms and the "how much can you get into a VW Golf" game

Well, just before we were due to leave Caister-on-Sea (and complete on the sale of the bungalow there, a nice big storm and corresponding spring tide decided to batter the East coast. Luckily, the bungalow is on one of the high areas of the village. If it flooded, then half of Norfolk would already be underwater.

The beach too a pasting though - most of it seemed to vanish overnight as did the cafe that has been on the beach ever since the captain was a kid. Now it is more "all over the beach" than on the beach:

UK readers of this strange blog probably saw some coverage of the chaos. For people outside the BBC / ITV world, here are a couple of pictures showing how the storm surge took out houses etc a few miles up the coast:

In Great Yarmouth, there was a little car wash irony:

We had less excitement, until it came to loading up the hire car to get back to Penarth. With careful thought, you can get more into a little Golf than the baby petrol engine wishes to drag up hills. Then of course, you have to find spots inside an already full Nordhavn 47 to store it all - the rental companies get a bit sniffy if you return the car with overflow stuff inside.

Well, mission finally accomplished, bungalow emptied and sold. There will be fewer "Norfolk" posts now and most certainly nothing about "Great" Yarmouth. We can both live the rest of our lives in total contentment without ever seeing that place or the delightful imported and unemployed people again. How places change when the holidaymakers and their money vanish and guest houses turn into doss houses.....


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Saying bye bye to Norfolk

It has been a bit quiet on the post front as we have been away from the boat, doing the last tidy up of the bungalow in Caister-on-sea before it is sold. The Captains' childhood Austin J40 pedal car has found a new good home and the little sailing dinghy is off to become an exhibit in the Museum of the Broads. Interesting place, have a look at: http://www.museumofthebroads.org.uk/

The dinghy was built in the 1950's by Herbert Woods Ltd, which in those days was a famous local wooden boatbuilder and hirer. She was used as a hirefleet dinghy, being dragged around the broads and abused behind hired cruisers and yachts until 1971 when she was damaged and sunk while moored up at the boatyard. Here is how she looks today:

One nasty shock that is relevant for other boating types who have Zodiac liferafts like us:

Apparently the new owners of the Zodiac business have hiked up the spare parts prices dramatically. A 3 year service on our 4 man canister "Open Sea" liferaft now costs about £460! Ouch. A quality replacement from another manufacturer is about £1,400 so you are a bit stuck. Zodiac owners beware....

We should be back afloat early next week and then are being invaded by an ex-detective living in the south of France. Tension and intrigue built, we will leave it at that for now.....

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Brum - just why did we go there?

You know how you sometimes have those "shall we go to x" conversations?

Well, we had one that involved Birmingham and a coach trip there and a couple of days in a cheap hotel and walking around to see what they've done with the city centre and doing it in sunny warm November. The conversation kind of ended up with us booking it all.

Madness? Perhaps. Probably. Worthwhile - oh yes.

The hotel was in the Chinese Quarter - you could easily tell by the view through the window:

Wandering around we were most impressed by the Birmingham museum and art gallery. Lovely building, great exhibition on the history of the city and the industries that flourished there (note use of past tense here). We learned useful (?) stuff such as 75% of the pen nibs in use worldwide came from Birmingham until the nasty Biro pen appeared and people stopped writing properly.

Our wander around the Pen Museum (yes, there is one) was an out of body experience. It is staffed by well meaning volunteers who were keen for us to get the full on experience. Seeing the skill of the tool makers who produced the dies to make nibs was amazing. Learning about the processes used to temper the steel to the specific needs of a nib was interesting. Seriously, it was! When one of the staff moved on to tell us about being a photographer for the police and starting his life in a childrens' home, the link became a touch tenuous. Poor guy just wanted someone to talk to and we were it. We excused ourselves before falling asleep. Shame, the industry has a fascinating story which was put across by the typical volunteer types - dead keen, slightly tedious.

Another big German Xmas market was underway. Again, we resisted the siren call of Spaetzle and goulash. For the UK readers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sp%C3%A4tzle

The captain resisted as he knows just how leaden they become in the stomach and how further walking becomes impossible, especially if they mix with Weissbier in the stomach. Lethal but lovely.

The canal area in the centre has been tidied up a lot. The "romantically" named Gas Street Basin:

We looked at the space on the narrowboats and reckon that living on a Nordhavn is much better. Mind you, their party boats look much nicer than the "HMS 69" offering here in Penarth that starred in earlier posts:

Of course, there is always a welcoming canal-side pub to hide away in when it rains. It is Birmingham after all....

Poor Patrick (who has been quite quiet recently) was left on guard duty again. He did an admirable job (as you see, he outranks the captain quite markedly). Brenda (a real life Texas girl who has a sense of humour that is much needed for her job with United Airlines) sent a nice picture that cheered Patrick up though. He is sitting in the pilothouse, with a dreamy look on his beak right now. Wonder how his past loves (see earlier posts) feel about this:

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Cold culture, Gluhwein and reindeer??

One glorious day (ie sun, no rain, no work to go to) we get culture. That translates as a walk around the bay to the Millennium Centre to get tickets for the "Nutcracker on Ice" performance. Again, we could go to the matinee with all the VERY old people. The lifts and toilets were under great pressure. It was our first visit to the large theatre there which has been nicely designed:

The show is detailed here: http://www.imperialicestars.com/nutcracker-on-ice

AWESOME. Just something that has to be seen with amazing use of the limited ice space they have on a stage. Here are some images of the show taken from the website:

Despite their creaky joints, several of the elderly audience members managed a standing ovation at the end. I hope that didn't cause them problems the next day....

We then walked into the city centre to find the "traditional German Xmas market" underway. The captain felt right at home surrounded by Gluhwein, Steins of beer and lots of sausages. Sadly, it will always be a poor relative of the massive affairs he saw in Munich. The positive part is that it was a little warmer than Munich tended to be. (Ask John and Tina...) We resisted the calorie laden fare having damaged a curry before the theatre trip. Brave bearing in mind the public toilet pressure there but you live and learn.

In the middle of the main shopping street, there was a small herd of reindeer too - surreal:

And we thought the locals were more into sheep....

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Old Gaffers, Tim and Sheila

Perhaps that title didn't come out too well. No one could ever accuse Tim of being an "old Gaffer" even though he has a free bus pass (spot the jealousy). Tim and Sheila are the owners of a proper gaff rigged yacht - a Yarmouth 23 like this one:

We met by chance many years ago when we were all stuck in Torquay for 10 days during a lovely British summer of rain and gales. We got to know the local bus services pretty well.

We'd never managed to take them out on the Nordhavn for a trip and so we had planned a proper ocean going voyage as a treat. We fitted the acrylic storm plates to our saloon windows and then headed out through the marina lock to brave the elements en route to Cardiff. OK, maybe not the most taxing navigation or sea conditions but at least it was a trip out (their yacht is ashore for the winter and you can get withdrawal from a lack of boating you know).

They both had some helming responsibility. Here is Sheila looking pretty happy after finding out that the Nordhavn goes right if you turn right - a bit different to handling the tiller on their yacht.

The marina entrance does look small as you approach it in a fat trawler yacht:

Still, we made it across the bay to Cardiff and had a good day catching up / eating. Tim looks pretty relaxed about everything after getting us over there and tied up OK:

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A shortage of leg, Gavin and Stacey

Sorry girls. The weather wasn't warm enough to tempt John into shorts. Although we did get caught in a heavy rain shower near the Millennium centre, his trousers had dried by the time we got back to the boat. Upshot is - no pictures of his legs for you to swoon over this time. Apologies, you will have to make do with another look at the Falmouth post to keep you warm tonight....

So, after a good walk around the city with John and Tina (and the difficulty the captain had carrying all the empties up to the recycle bin) they departed for the Isle of Wight. They left behind some excellent chocolates though so they can come again. Frequently.

One lovely day, we took the boat for the long trip over to the Cardiff Bay moorings to give the engine and the little wing engine a run. Got a bit stuck as there is a car park ticket machine there which usually takes your £1/hour for the mooring and spits out a ticket that also includes the gate code. The machine wasn't working so no gate code and hence no escape from the pontoon for a walk. Not too hard though - lovely views from where we tied up:

 A call to the  office brought along Tim the deputy harbour master who fixed things and was interested in the "impressive looking boat that has got everyone talking in the bay area". The guy who came and moored ahead of us asked about "the minesweeper". Think we might have to slink off quietly one day. We continue to be a great advertising campaign down here. Then Dave, the charter angling boat skipper pitched up, so we chatted to him. Next visitors were Steve (the trip boat owner) and Bronwyn the adorable spaniel (OK Steve, you are adorable too...) On the way back to our berth, the radio call to Penarth Marina was answered with "Hello Richard, I will set the lock gates for you now". This is beginning to feel like home.....

We gave the wing engine a good run, and had two fast trips (fast is of course a relative concept) to give the big Lugger a blow out too. Important after slow running and the recent lack of use.

For fans of Gavin and Stacey, we took a bus trip to Barry Island too. For foreign readers, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_&_Stacey  (except for Fatma as I remember giving you a Gavin and Stacey DVD to see if you "got" the humour and so you are already an expert).

The bay and the beach:

And of course, the cafe that had a starring role in the series has a small unobtrusive reminder:

about as small and unobtrusive as Ness in reality....

Finally the lovely old world fairground where "Dave coaches" antique bus worked from:

For the terminally addicted, you can have a Gavin and Stacey tour - see http://britmovietours.com/bookings/gavin-and-stacey-tour/ We didn't do this as we are not quite that sad or keen to spend £50.

Maintenance news:

When we returned from Norfolk, everything was working just fine. During a blowy evening, we turned on the satellite TV system so it would stabilise itself in the gusts and continue to track the nice Astra 2 satellite. Except it didn't. It couldn't lock on at all. Much head scratching until we read that there had been satellite frequency changes whilst we were away as new devices were launched and put into service.

As we have an elderly (2006/7) system, you cannot reprogram the satellite details via the display panel of course. It needs a laptop with a serial cable and hyperterminal loaded. For the non tekkies, that roughly means that a new laptop, which is "blessed" with Windows 8 and only USB ports is pretty useless. By the time you load a Windows 8 compatible version of the terminal software (which nice Microsoft stopped bundling after Vista), find a USB to serial port lead and drivers that might work, there is little chance it will communicate with the antenna. According to Kevin, the really helpful KVH support man "I don't know anyone who has made a Windows 8 laptop work with that antenna yet...." We know when trying is pointless.

So, we are hunting around for an old Windows XP laptop with a serial port to reprogram the sat TV dome.Should you have one in your attic, please let us know! In the meanwhile, we can get lots of French, Italian, Spanish stations but not a lot in languages we sort of understand. Lots of Kindle use at present and a few DVDs too. Apparently there might be further frequency changes early in 2014. Can't wait....

Friday, 1 November 2013

High and Dry - well, low and dry actually

Hello again. Well, we are finally back afloat after our extended time on shore. It was strange to live like the landlubber majority of the country again.

The sale of the Norfolk bungalow proceeds at glacial pace, as such things tend to of course. We managed some important stuff though - like finding a new home for the little Austin J40 pedal car:

Also managed to get the little wooden dinghy varnished and looking nice and shiny. The weather was so kind to us - a couple of consecutive dry and warm(ish) days.

What else have we been up to? Well, wandered around Great Yarmouth and figured that the word Great has no place there. Such a sad dump now with al the old seaside guest houses turned into bedsit city for people who tend not to work but have lots of pit bull terriers / roll-up cigarettes. Lovely. Even some of the beautiful old seafront buildings on the "golden mile"are decaying now. This is the 1878 built Winter Gardens that arrived in the town around 1903 after initially being erected in Torquay and failing there commercially too! Kind of empty with weeds growing inside it now but as a listed building, We guess they will have to do something to restore it to its former glory soon before it rots away:

The tourist pier entrance looks as tacky as ever:

The type of visitor the place attracts is nicely summed up by this fast food fascia. Wonder if they spotted the irony in the UK bit, considering what they offer:

Returning to Penarth, it was so good to hand back the Astra estate hire car with the horrid clonky gearbox (apparently they are all like that) and get back to walking everywhere and life afloat. This weekend, we have John and Tina visiting us. Yes girls, John is the one with the knees / legs from the Falmouth update. Cannot promise any more enticing leg pictures for you though - I think it will be a touch cold for shorts. More info to follow.....

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Edinburgh in the rain

Know the phrase "Biblical torrent"? Well, it was forecast.... So, armed with serious yachting waterproof jackets, we headed for Edinburgh in trepidation.

Sometimes, stuff just works out though. The normally tedious M25 was pretty quiet and the Purple Parking people were very organised. Gave us plenty of time to sit in the nice BA First lounge (probably for the last time) and enjoy their hospitality. Will miss that place next year when we are in sitting with the masses and buying our own lunch... See, there are some drawbacks to this retirement lark.

Edinburgh was duly soggy when we arrived but the nice no 35 bus took us all the way to Leith for the huge sum of £1.50 each. About an hour and half ride in the rush hour traffic and rain. Crew complained of numb bum courtesy of the rather thin bus seats. An excuse to put eat wildly in the next few days to increase her level of posterior padding the captain reckons.

This wasn't taken on Wednesday of course. The elderly little camera isn't waterproof......

Thursday saw more rain. Walked into town though in the dry spell and climbed Carlton Hill - part of the UNESCO heritage site so we didn't drop Irn Bru cans or similar litter. (see earlier posts from Dunoon). Despite the gloomy day (yes, the dreich word again) the views are still great from up there:

North Bridge and the Waverley station area:

And finally, Holyrood Palace:

The afternoon, after a good walk around town, was spent getting out of the rain / getting culture in the National Gallery. Lots of Cherubs, naval battles, landed gentry in their finery.

Princes Street gardens view from the gallery:

Friday was spent addressing a major wrong from our past. Despite living in the city we had never visited the castle. It started badly - in the queue to get admission tickets a dopey wasp decided to crawl into the neck of the jacket worn by a German man ahead of us. The crew spotted this, but her fear of wasps meant that instead of warning him, she slunk backwards, squeaked something about his jacket and a wasp to the captain but let our European visitor walk on blissfully unaware. So, to the German man who almost certainly spent Friday in hospital recovering from an anaphylactic reaction to the sting(s) - sorry.

At least the visit was well worthwhile. Amazing place. Why didn't we go before?

Examples of the views from the various vantage points:

and one with castle the dog cemetery in the foreground, used for the regimental mascots / officers dogs:

The prison cell hammocks looked a lot like the forecabin on our boat mind you:

The prisoners' food was probably better than we offer too.

Final thought - if you are visiting the city and want a good Italian meal - go to La Favorita  http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186525-d951521-Reviews-La_Favorita_Restaurant_Leith_Walk-Edinburgh_Scotland.html

Our last visit there was with Peter and Amanda, the Aussie connection. This time we drank less alcohol. Wonder if there is a connection? Perhaps the crew should have imbibed more as her cold / sore throat developed nicely the following day.

The promised report back -  we couldn't steal any toiletries from the extra hotel room as the stuff was in big dispensers fixed to the wall. Not everything in Edinburgh was perfect....

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Where do they manufacture estate agents?

Well, a non boating sort of post this time. We picked up our hire car, managed to load it up and get ready to leave just before the heavens opened in Cardiff. Amazing timing. The Vauxhall Astra diesel estate isn't terribly amazing as cars go but it is a diesel, has lots of space for stuff inside and so is ideal for what we need whilst sorting out the Norfolk bungalow. It is also very very red and uses more fuel than a BMW 520d. Not impressed.

We headed for Harlow (Crew's parents) and Norfolk via Anne's house - she who came for the weekend and left us her coat as a present. We also excavated some stuff from the marina lock-up in Hythe that we needed, bumping into Stephen and Alison there. (Stephen is the previously mentioned trolley shopper expert, who is also a hunting shooting and fishing expert, BMW car aficionado and general all round good egg. Alison is, of course, a significantly better egg..)

We started the dinghy clean up and varnishing job - some of the bits, like the rudder and tiller, got varnished indoors as the weather changed and it got a bit rainy. There is nothing quite as beautiful as varnished 65 year old mahogany. Well, you would also think so if you'd done all the work to get it to this stage:

The captain now is ready for a little house breaking / safe cracking as he has no fingerprints left. Sandpaper is wonderful stuff - who needs hand cream to soften the skin, just wear it away...

We also went flat hunting in Norwich. Idea is to buy something we would want to use as a second pad when we have to come ashore but to rent it out in the meanwhile - cash in the bank isn't terribly useful right now of course.... Where do estate agents get manufactured? It must be a very strange factory. They all come out with the ability to say lots of words with minimal meaning or content. They also have the same deathly pallor of the face and total inability to relate to normal human beings or follow basic instructions like "it needs 2 bedrooms and an en-suite". We found one lady who is in the wrong job though - she works for House Revolution (pretty grim name) in Norwich and was sensible and helpful to talk to. We reckon she will find a real job soon to escape from the army of clones that she must be working with.

Some OK places:

With lovely views across Norwich to the cathedral from the penthouse balcony:

We will rent the flat out initially so the fact that there are sitting tenants in this particular flat - two female Chinese students who clearly don't use the cupboards - should be enticing. Walking around the place and finding their underwear hanging in most unexpected paces was a surprise. Not a nice one, just a surprise. Got to decide if we like it enough to empty the bank account now....

About to head for Harlow and the dentist - the retired life doesn't mean you can't avoid such fun sadly. Then off to Edinburgh for a couple of days. This trip was booked as a late 80th birthday celebration for the crew's dad but owing to tablet changes he cannot travel now. Means we now have two rooms in a cheapo hotel in Edinburgh booked . We will check in to both and see which one we prefer / steal the toiletries from both.... More news anon.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Maintenance news & a radicalised Patrick

Well, as the longer distance trips are over for 2013 and we will be spending some time away from the boat, the time had come to do some pre-winter routine maintenance stuff.

Firstly, the main engine was treated to an oil change. About 250 hours running since the February oil and filter swap (lower than expected thanks to the various unplanned trips down south this summer). The official oil change time is after 500 hours for our engine but we like to leave her with some nice fresh oil for the winter period when she is going to be lightly used. There is an oil change pump built in:

and the filter is easily accessible (most unlike the average boat engine):

So, even the ham fisted Captain can complete the change in about 15 minutes. That is to pump out 20 litres or so of oil and then replace it together with the fresh filter. Simple job. We carry a drum of oil on board in case we need to change the oil in an emergency (eg split oil filter or hose) so we had all the necessary stuff to do the work too. (We've always used John Deere branded oil as it is sensibly priced from the agricultural dealers.)

We also gave the RIB engine a service. The irritation with the Warsash Marine gorilla that was previously reported was still fresh in the captain's mind but we cheated and pumped out the outboard oil rather than attack the immoveable drain plug. A winter job is to get a suitable socket..... Also changed the gearbox oil, lubed / greased the engine as necessary and gave it a good check over. That was a couple of hours work - again, not too stressful.

Patrick seems to have really settled in to the Welsh lifestyle. A regular son of Glyndwr now:

(For the non UK readers, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Glyndwr)

He will be the guard penguin again whilst we are away sorting out the bungalow in Norfolk. No idea how bad he will be when unsupervised bearing in mind his new radical pro-Wales stance. Hopefully he isn't silly enough to torch his own home? Perhaps we should change the port of registration from Fowey to Cardiff just in case? We are thinking of setting up a webcam to keep an electronic eye on him.

A last thought - one of the swans that lives in the marina keeps flapping past us trying to take off. He/she runs out of water every time and has to abort before crashing into the quay wall nearby. We thought swans were smart enough to realise that if they have failed to get airborne every day for ages, they ought to find a longer runway or give up? Or perhaps the marina is the swan equivalent of a Gym? All answers to this conundrum happily received.....