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

Friday, 19 July 2013

Cars, planes and trains (only no trains)

Well, we have an unplanned little excursion tomorrow. As the captains mother isn't at all well, we need to get to Norfolk. Real fun planning the trip. First thought - just get a hire car in Oban (the 2 local buses a day go there Monday - Saturday). Booked then told "nothing available". The Oban Fiat dealer offers rental cars but only 200 miles a day. Maybe Fiats break down if they go further? Cannot be a residual value issue as a used Fiat is pretty much worthless anyway.

The train from Oban to Glasgow takes longer than the coach. Think it stops at every molehill en route.

Flight to Norwich. Yes, possible but only on certain days from Edinburgh with FlyMaybe for the GDP of a small African nation.

So, we have the fun of:

Kilmelford to Oban with West Coast Motors

Oban to Glasgow bus station with Citylink:

Glasgow bus station to Glasgow airport with the Glasgow Shuttle:

3 hours in the BA lounge at Glasgow airport, with all that tempting free wine but a drive coming up later on:

A little Airbus 321 which hopefully will not be 3 hours late this time (if it is, we arrive LHR on Sunday not Saturday):

And then the fun of a Sixt car. Of course, not direct from Sixt. They were about 60% more expensive than the same little Sixt car via Holiday Autos. Madness.

No idea what we will find at the other end and we are unlikely to report on it either - not a suitable blog topic. So, will let you know when we are back afloat.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Loch Melfort life

First job of the day was to repair the dismantled internals of the fridge. The crew described it as a good impetus to clean out the innards of the fridge. The captain used other words. So, that is today's maintenance info updated.

Dinghy ashore to see if we could use the "wrong buoy" for another night and found a real timewarp boatyard which reminded the captain of the mid 1970's Norfolk Broads hirefleet yards. Just a much nicer setting though:

 Lovely welcome from a lady who came from Ilkley. She told us that the area south of Oban was an English ghetto. Worrying. The local hotel / pub is run by people from York and..... The marina owner wandered in and had a chat. Probably 80 years old and just lovely. He called ours "the chunky boat" and liked having a proper oceangoer on his moorings.

The office is a collection of furniture and "stuff" from lord knows where. The lovely lady apologised that "we are in the dark ages and don't take credit cards yet". Alongside was a workshop doing some very high quality spray work on some nice yachts though. A little different to the south coast marina where invoicing is high tech and the boat repairs are done by cowboys at high hourly rates. Not sure they could lift our 40 tons with this superannuated kit though...

Possibly good god fearing folk too - there is a sign saying that no diesel will be served on Sundays. Their storage tank would just about fill one of our 2 main tanks...

The walk into the village to support the couple from York for lunch was good, as was the food. The lochside walk to Melfort and back was needed, to make space for afternoon tea and cake (bad news, no carrot cake on offer but excellent cinnamon scones) in the local shop / cafe.

We are a little worried that the locals are really pygmies though. Either that or they are very friendly when they go on holiday:

On our buoy, we don't feel hemmed in at all:

Very international spot for a tiny village in Scotland. Last night a Finnish boat arrived and there is a genuine Japanese yacht with genuine Japanese people on board nearby. Guess they are not on a 2 week vacation!

The only downside was coming back on board and trying to wash off the black streaks from the rain (yes you down south types, it rained here on Monday evening). There must have been something very nasty in that rain - the streaks would not come off even our nice recently polished bits. Serious cleaning stuff came out of the cupboard and the evening saw the captain sorting out the streaky hull from the little dinghy. See, life afloat is just so relaxing!

And finally - you may have seen that Amanda suggested that the Emu isn't Shelia but Shane. This might make Patrick (whose gender was fixed earlier by his Grandmother) a gay penguin of course. Now, to stop such appalling rumours from spreading, here is proof that the Emu really is a Shelia and designed in Australia:

OK Amanda?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Ardfern to Kilmelford

As we said before, you can have too much of a good thing... So, despite loving the Ardfern area, it was time to move on. We started by visiting the local shop and were quietly amazed at the stock. Frozen filo pastry that we hadn't seen in Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsburys etc en route as an example. The nice storekeeper told us that he'd recently been visited by the students from Gordonstoun school who were on a sailing holiday. 40 kids, each brandishing a £20 or £50 note. Apparently he knows to stock up with change when they are due in. Wonder if the queen gave Charles pocket money for such trips?

One interesting thought - he was an English guy and might have been from Cornwall. Not because of his accent but because he had really bad teeth. Of course, we don't know if he brought them with him up north or developed the nice brown stumps here.

The crew had called Kilmelford Yacht Centre (a grand title for an old gravel yard and shed) to see if they had a free mooring buoy that we could use. They run some big heavy duty moorings in a sheltered corner at the head of Loch Melfort amidst more great scenery.

For the non boating folks - a buoy mooring is rare for us up here. All around Scotland the various development agencies installed mooring buoys to try and promote tourism by water, typically outside hotels / restaurants. Of course, with government efficiency, they had a standard 10 or 15 ton maximum capacity just as everyone was buying bigger and heavier boats. They also didn't budget any money for maintenance so as the chains rusted it all got interesting. Government agency solution - hand them over to the hotels. Neat move. Of course, the resulting bunch of buoys are useless for us as fully laden we push 40 tons. They just fill up all the best anchorages!

The nice temp lady in the office told us we could pick up number 303. Capacity - 50 tons. All OK then.

The trip was a bit hazy but no radar needed. We passed the Gulf of Coryvreckan which is infamous amongst boating folks as the home of fierce tides and big whirlpools (3rd largest in the world) - here is a borrowed example:

Imagine going through the big hole in the middle in a little boat like ours. Actually don't - not a nice mental image. In rough weather there is a standing wave that can be about 9 metres high in the entrance. Nice and friendly. Today, it looked and was much less threatening:

Another very calm trip (apart from the eddies and smaller whirlpools that we had to negotiate) with gentle views:

 and some interesting pilotage when the crew (trying to avoid the camera, as usual,!) had to check on Patrick's navigation between the rocks:

The one downside to the Lochs as a cruising person is the number of ugly fish farms that are now around. Loads and loads of structures like this beauty:

Of course, the employment and revenue they bring is much needed in the remoter areas and the odd escapee salmon might just get illegally caught by people nearby too... One challenge of the trip today was the vast number of pot markers. No rant here about using old litre milk bottles as markers - just that putting a string of them between two islands makes navigation interesting. For the German friends, that is the English other meaning of interesting of course.

A bit of a challenge picking up buoy 303 in Kilmelford though. We looked hard for it and ended up using another one in roughly the same place. When we took the little dinghy ashore later on, we found 303 - a little hard to moor up to:

They were a bit confused about what was where, we think....

Another awesome spot. Wouldn't want to be here in a big blow though.

Happily snuggled up to buoy 301!:

Maintenance: Well, when the crew went to open the deli drawer in the fridge it, apparently, just fell out in her hand. Captain has to figure out how the various (luckily unbroken) support rail, runners etc etc go together to support the enormous drawer fitted to the Sub-Zero fridge. The captain is, or course, deliriously happy as all the documentation doesn't show how these are constructed. A job for tomorrow, wine beckons....

Monday, 15 July 2013

Loch Craignish life

Pretty good spot here. We have a great view from our berth (see last blog post for pictures) and lots of interesting places to explore by RIB now it has a happy Yamaha again and doesn't need to be rowed. We've had some walks (trying to avoid the horse flies), dinghy trips and even did some boat maintenance (=polishing) too. Very much in love with this spot, will try to show you why:

Princess Anne keeps her yacht here, it is about 100 metres away from us. Of course, on the grounds of national security, we cannot post a picture or tell you the name of it. The US monitoring stations who I believe back up our blog regularly (very helpful people) would have us rendered for that.

Our walk across to Craobh Haven was canned though - when the sun came out so did the horse flies who liked us rather too much. We gave up, returned downhill via some great views:

As a treat, we propped up the local economy by having tea and (you've guessed it) carrot cake in the one tea shop cum restaurant in the village. On our comparative scale, the cake was not up to St Ives standards - that is still the all time best. Probably joint with Dunoon though. Also, forgot to mention that the Co-op's "Truly Irresistible" offering was rather good for a chain store purchase. If only there was a Co-op nearby!

Anchored in the bay was this lovely old timer (for the German friends, Old Timer isn't necessarily an old car in English. Can be cars, people, boats, United airlines planes etc etc. For the confused English speakers, look at leo.org again and work it out).

She runs charter trips around this area in traditional style. Built in 1932 and for the tekkies of course she has a pair of Gardner engines that tick over so slowly you can watch the flywheel go round if you are that sad.

The best news about the area is that the natives are very friendly:

Pam (you've not met her yet,a lady that lives in Kingston upon Thames, most posh) mailed to say that she thinks Patrick might need a friend:

My only contribution to the debates are that perhaps Patrick needs a friend and from the last photo certainly needs a wash, which will need to be done before he gets a friend..

Yes, he does seem a little grubby. He started out less than white and the manhandling by many visitors (they usually say "Is this the world famous Patrick, we must meet him?") hasn't helped. However, he does have buddies on board. Sheila is a particular favourite of his:

You can blame Peter and Amanda for the rather scary looking bird. She came all the way from Australia with Peter a few years ago and roosted on board.

Of course, Patrick doesn't have a "friend" yet. He is far too young for that sort of thing. For the people with bad imaginations, please don't post comments that include pictures of penguin / emu cross children. That, is just too horrid a thought and we do separate them at night time.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

You, Patrick and other peripheral stuff

Thought it was time for an update on all the other themes that seem to be developing here.

Firstly, the desire to read this drivel seems to continue - 2,000 hits have now been reached and passed. If people take an average of 30 seconds to scan the rubbish work out the hours spent and brain cells exercised over nothing worthwhile. Scary, truly scary.

Amanda (Patrick's almost godmother) complained that she couldn't add any comments to the blog posts. Well, all the boxes to enable that are ticked but for some reason it doesn't want to work. If this was a Microsoft tool, then it would be a "feature" of course. We will mail the nice Google people in tech support and see if they can help. The "comments" option seems to work on some of the posts but not all of them.  In the meanwhile keep sending emails that we will cut and paste into here folks.

Patrick, it seems, hadn't managed to sell 20% of our boat or the other Nordhavn at Inverkip to Pat and Graham. They figured out that the deal might not be a good one. He has been quite subdued during the foggy trips and very engrossed looking at the local scenery when the sun breaks through, binoculars to flipper:

We found a couple of feral goats on the little island nearby and he seems to stare at them a lot:

Freud could probably work out why....

Blog updates will be "patchy" now as WIFI / strong O2 signals will become harder and harder to get as we head further north. So, expect big time gaps then several pointless updates being loaded all at once. We are sure that you can contain your excitement.....

Friday, 12 July 2013

Gigha to Ardfern

That ***** free android phone app that we moaned about before managed to wake us up twice during the night to say that we were drifting whilst at anchor. We thought we had cracked the technique of setting it but clearly not. On the upside,we were not drifting and the captain got to enjoy some lovely early morning views across Gigha sound and over the island itself. Trying to stay positive about it as you have probably spotted...

Colin (the Nom de Plume for the 747 captain) offered a solution to the app issue a while ago. He has an excellent app that works really well. Sadly he also has an i-phone and that app isn't written for anything else. So unless we buy another device, we will have to soldier on and master the Andriod offering that we have. It gets 4 stars in the play store - maybe from landlubbers who want to see if their house or Bobil is being blown away??

Up and away was the morning motto. Didn't bother to fire up the genset to make some hot water for showers as there would be copious amounts once the big Lugger was working to push us along. So, we headed off early. Another misty, atmospheric trip. Coming out of Gigha sound, the radar was busy spotting the fishing boats. For most of the run, visibility varied between 200 metres and 2 miles.

Travelling up past Jura was lovely (when we could see it) and the radio said that the south of England was basking in hot sun and a little too warm for many people. We looked at the mist and thought, mist (only in English, not German. For the non German speakers, work it out... Leo.org might help). Actually we were pretty happy. Various aquatic beings popped up and quickly vanished. Maybe seals, maybe porpoises, or sharks - whatever they were, they were certainly bashful and didn't stay "up" long enough to be identified by non wildlife experts like us.

Passing the Crinan canal entrance, the sun came out and going into the beautiful Loch Craignish was a joy. Stunning scenery, smooth water, not many other boats about.

We went into the Ardfern yacht centre moorings as we planned to stay there for a while to avoid the forecast near gales and to do some boat cleaning that had been sadly neglected recently. This has to be the most picturesque location for a yacht haven:

Certainly the best we have been in so far. Hills all aound, wooded mainly. Some buoy moorings with yachts on them.

A tiny village with a shop / Post office (2 of everything on the shelves, remember "Open all Hours"?), a tiny school, a bus stop (2 buses per day to Oban as out of school term time. 4 per day when the schools are open) a pub (of course) and a tea shop. What more could one wish for.

As it was a lovely evening, we launched the big dinghy. This is a RIB with a nice big outboard engine and so it allows the captain to enjoy speed again after plodding along by Nordhavn. So far you've only met the little roll up dinghy and egg-whisk outboard that we use for short runs ashore.

Here is the big brother dinghy:

The RIB hadn't been used since Falmouth but didn't complain about the colder Scottish waters. A good blast along the loch to a sheltered bay, then back again. Or not.... On the way back, the engine just quietly expired. 18 knots became 0 very quickly. The captain said "oh dear" or something like that. It restarted but died almost at once. Seemed like a fuel issue so the supply tanks were swapped over just in case - no luck. Rather then take off the cowling and starting to play with the engine whilst gently drifting the wrong way down the loch, the captain enjoyed another first - rowing the RIB back. It is a bit heavy for that game but helped work up an appetite for dinner!

Maintenance news: YES - we have something to report now. The previously wonderful Yamaha 20 outboard had stopped as the internal fuel filter had come loose and was sucking air, not petrol, into the carburettor. A little diagnosis job that kept the captain busy for 5 minutes. Thanks a lot to the guys at Warsash marine on the Hamble river who did the last service (it has a 5 year warranty so still gets an annual Yamaha dealer check) and didn't reseat the filter housing firmly enough.

Also greased the crane that we use to launch and recover the RIB as it needs some TLC every 3 months or so. Quite a cute piece of kit. If it ever stops working with the RIB in the water..... Let's not think about that possibility.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Troon to Gigha

Tuesday was spent ferrying stuff from Morrisons supermarket to the boat using the little folding bikes. See, who needs a shopping trolley that you have to drag not pedal around! The thinking was that this might be the last large(ish) supermarket we can raid for a while. Preserved for ever here:

Funny how the thoughts of little local stores can make Morrisons look appealing (OK, maybe to us and not you....)

As is often the way with passage planning, the optimum timing to leave for one spot isn't too good for arrival in or passing another. Leaving Troon (great place by the way, lots of golfing of course and a beach full of happy sun drenched pale white people) to round the Mull of Kintyre at the best time for tides / no overfalls meant a low water departure. As we only had 0.3 metres spare at low water on Tuesday, we figured that would be a bit sporty….. So, shock horror, we set the alarm for 6am. Yes, the alarm. So much for being retired.  This allowed us to escape an hour or so before dead low water and head out very alone into Irvine Bay and then across to the Mull. A few fishing boats about, the fast ferry from Northern Ireland and that was all we saw en route.

Pretty empty eh?

 Actually, that isn't quite correct. En route we spotted a couple of sharks who cruised alongside us (sadly, for the captain he missed them because he was resting / trying to sleep whilst the crew was on watch.  He didn't seem to appreciate loud squarks from the crew to wake him up to see the sharks though!) and of course one lonely looking puffin. Compared to the hordes we saw at Skomer he looked a little lost.

Patrick was busy checking the course and generally sitting on top of things, so we felt safe and secure:

Sadly, it was also a bit misty with some proper fog patches too that spoiled the photography even with the new posher camera. When you need the radar on, there is little chance for pictures.

Sanda island just before the Mull in the mist:

The Mull of Kintyre has a fearsome reputation for rough passages and short steep seas caused when the tidal flows meet each other head on, whipped up by a little wind from time to time.  As the wind was variable force 2/3 that wasn’t an issue. As we had timed the trip to work the tides properly, that wasn’t an issue either. In fact it was dead flat around there – most unusual and pleasant for our first “rounding”. Spot the big wave in the mist:

OK, there were none.

The trip up the west side of the Mull was fast (for us) averaging over 8 knots with some heavy tidal assistance. The sun had finally burnt the fog off too and we just had atmospheric misty conditions for the rest of the trip up to Gigha. The anchorage there was busy – as always, a couple of small yachts had got in first and filled up the best spot for bigger boats. So, we sat outside the mooring buoys, towards the ferry slipway and anchored in only 2.5 metres of water. Felt strange! The good news was that the water would be getting deeper, not much shallower as time progressed.

Gigha looked well worth a visit on the way back – we didn’t plan to go ashore as the weather was set to deteriorate from Saturday and so we planned to head a little further north and cuddle up in a nice sheltered loch for a couple of days until it “blows through”. Very gentle trip though – no salt spray on the hull to speak of and the head for the electric toothbrush stood upright, unaided, for the entire run. Even Patrick didn’t move (perhaps that is due to the millet ballast that he carries though).

Enjoyed dinner in the pilothouse watching some yachts arrive and struggle to find a spot to anchor, the wildlife, the island and contemplating how good life in general can be.

Maintenance : sorry tekkies, nothing to report. OK, maybe you’d like to know that the engine room temperature was about 8 degrees C hotter than normal thanks to the lovely outside temperatures. One of the promised winter jobs (well, a job for a winter before we go south) is to improve the ventilation in there. The factory fit blowers are at best marginal in hotter climates and many owners have fitted 2 extra units to help suck in cool air from the vents in the aft cockpit area. The Lugger technical guru Bob always quotes “every dollar spent reducing your engine room temperatures saves $100 in maintenance costs over time”. Belts and hoses don’t like running hot. Hope the same maths applies in pounds.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Back afloat and off to Troon

We hadn't missed much weather-wise in Kip. Whilst we cooked down south, Inverkip enjoyed strong winds and cloud. For once, great timing on our part.

The trip back to Inverkip was a wonderful reminder of why travelling around is a pain. Firstly a jam on the M25 that ran for miles - all caused by a broken down coach that was on the hard shoulder anyway. Secondly, because the flight to Glasgow finally took off 3 hours later than scheduled. Finally, because it meant we had to hang around for a bus to the delights of Paisley Gilmour street station and then had a big gap to the next Inverkip train.

What was good about the whole experience? Well, we sat in the BA lounge for over 3 hours in Heathrow (a positive relic from the frequent trips the Captain used to make for work) and enjoyed lunch and some pink Bolly. Sort of appropriate in the new terminal 5 surroundings:

The fact it was free somehow mitigated the big delay which they said was due to a sick plane. No spares at Heathrow eh?

In Paisley, we fitted in perfectly too. As it was so hot we needed a drink. The pub next to the station is a Weatherspoons and the clientele were awesome. Yes, how some of them remember to breathe is just awesome. http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/pubs/the-last-post-paisley if you feel the urge.

The Captain helped one diner with his menu choice. He was struggling to decide if he wanted a double portion of chips to go with his special order of a  double burger. He ended up agreeing that would be a touch greedy and decided to leave the space for a 5th pint of beer instead.

It was good to be back afloat. Tuesday's trip down to Troon was in brilliant warm sun and light winds - a T-shirt and shorts on the flybridge kind of passage.

Inverkip's big landmark (the old power station) is slowly being dismantled:

En route, we were passed by Waverley, the last remaining seagoing paddle steamer in service. She looked stunning in her "home territory" - a real throwback to the days when the Glaswegians took steamer trips "Doon the Watter" and the ferries raced each other to get to the islands first:

This guy passed pretty close but, sadly, didn't want to play today. We've been used for practice by rescue helicopters before and it was great fun to watch, if very noisy! The winchmen seemed happy being on board with us and both times were chased by the pilot to get them to return to the helicopter:

It was such a perfect day. Just enough breeze to stay cool and lovely views of Arran and Cumbrae underway:

The one thing that you cannot make look pretty is a nuclear power station like the one at Hunterston:

Look just to the left of the main building it and you might enjoy the irony of having a wind farm generating electricity sited behind the nuclear plant. Of course, the wind power wasn't doing much today. 

Troon gave us the now customary excellent welcome but had one unusual benefit. The harbour smells of freshly cut timber which is stacked and ready to be loaded onto a boat. Lovely smell, so much nicer than the perfume of old fishing boats

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Parent visiting down south

Flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow was a wonderful experience. Not because BA have installed First Class seats and offered us a free upgrade. Not because the crew were wonderful and didn't mess up the landing either. No, it was because we didn't carry a laptop or have to do any work in the BA lounge. Instead we read the paper and listened to some sad types who were making loud work related phone calls and trying to sound important. Phrases like "if I was being honest" and "well, as it is MY decision then the deal looks like..." were commonplace. They only succeeded in making themselves sound insignificant and lost. How we don't miss that fun. Hours spent on stuff that doesn't matter a jot in the big scheme of things really.....

Caister-on-sea (visit to Captain's mum) is not at all photogenic these days. Holiday village?? Didn't disturb any electrons on the SD card for it. However, we did stop in Norwich and get the threatened new camera just so you get better quality images on this blog. Feel honoured. Of course, the first few will be very dodgy as we learn how to master the new Nikon. Please send a 5 year old to help:

We did have a lovely lunch at a riverside pub though and remembered how nice the Norfolk broads can be:

Classic style gaff rigged varnished yachts too:

Harlow (chez Crew's parents) has the same photogenic appeal as Caister-on-sea. Walking through the park we noticed that they have different taste in canned drinks to the Scots but also like throwing empty tins away in parkland.

 However, we have a definitive decision on Patrick / Patricia now. Words from the penguins grandmother:

It was December 2012 when I decided to pop in to the orphanage Robert Dyas, in Harlow.  They said to me there is a delightful little penguin boy who is desperately looking for a home to be loved.  I took one look at him and simply had to take him home.  So do not let anybody think he is a Patricia, oh no, he is a real little boy.  

Oh yes......

Then it all got worse. This mail arrived from Pat and Graham (the kindly folks who have a secondhand trolley shopper for us that we have to collect from Samos):

Hi RnJ
Hope you're having fun down south.
We returned home today from beautiful Samos and an just picked up an emailed invitation from a P P Green to buy a 20% share in a Nordhavn 47 currently lying Western Scotland. It's a very good deal but has to be completed before the weekend.
We were quite interested until we remembered your quandary about leaving Patrick Penguin aboard.
Could there be a connection?

Memo to 'selves - lock up the laptop when leaving Patrick in charge. Unless he is trying to sell Annie M of course, the other Nordhavn 47 moored in Kip marina. If that is the case, we would go halves with Patrick on the profit. Sorry Owen. Our return tomorrow could prove tricky.