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

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Mobile marketing service (unpaid)

Looks like we have created a bit of a stir here. Not through our obviously English accents, our strange relaxed retired behaviour, scruffy clothes etc. More through the Nordhavn which appears to be the first one that has ever visited the area. The interest we noted in our earlier posts has continued.

This weekend, we had Anne (she of the relatively newly hatched offspring and dreading her impending return to work) as a visitor. What do you do with visitors who are having a weekend away from the 2 kids? Walk them around the area, fill them up with food and alcohol and try to prevent them getting all sad at missing their youngsters. We didn't wake her at 2 hourly intervals during the night though to make her feel more at home - seemed a touch unfair.

After a good 8 miles or so walk around the bay and the city on Saturday, Sunday was sunny and so a chance to take the boat out for the HUGE trip across to the visitor berthing area at Mermaid Quay in Cardiff. There, we found the Cardiff "Survival of the fittest" event well and truly underway:

It was kind of a 10Km run with added torture spots on the way (like a wall to scale and then a nice water area to cross just before the finish line). Sunshine had brought out the spectators, family, friends and ghouls in equal measure. The wall before the finish was entertaining. Some people (after 10Km) managed to climb it with no stress. Most needed help to get over:

One nice man stayed there to help several people over. Perhaps that is because he saw three scantily clad and exhausted ladies approaching?

On the visitor pontoons a local family were moored in their Shetland dayboat. He apologised saying "Sorry that our boat is showing yours up a little":

His little son said that "your boat is a 2 lottery win I think". After telling him that we hadn't won more than a tenner on the lottery, the father felt sorry for us and offered to make us all tea when we returned. See, the natives are friendly!

Back into Penarth after lunch, we were gawped at unmercifully by the lock bystanders. One guy called over saying that "Steve hasn't talked about anything except your boat since he looked around it- he was on about it all yesterday evening". We guessed this was Steve the waterbus man and apologised for spoiling the man's evening. After mooring, we forced Anne to walk further - down to the pier and lifeboat shed. The pier is being painted so here is a stolen picture - lovely old building:

Penarth is just a nice spot - still very happy that we decided to stay here.

When we returned from our wander, we were followed up the pontoon by a couple who had to stop a little way off when they saw us climb on the Nordhavn. Then he got brave enough to walk a little closer and chat about the boat. The conversation finished with "wow, just lovely, a real beast". We'd never viewed the boat like that before - perhaps the guy was talking about Patrick?

The next day we had two further "visitors" who walked up the pontoon, had a good look and then saw us so asked the usual questions.

To help, here are the standard Q&A's:

What is she? - a Nordhavn 47

Scandinavian? - no American design 

What is the range then? - 3,500 nautical miles at normal cruise speed, further at a slow 6 knot cruise

How much fuel can she hold? - 5,500 litres

How heavy is she? - about 40 tons

How big is the engine? - see the links on the blog - a 6.8 litre John Deere base engine and a low (170 or so) HP output but we cruise using only about 75 HP

Now any of you can run the standard conversation for us. We have certainly caused quite a stir here.

We are thinking of printing out a Q&A sheet and just handing it over in future. Perhaps the Nordhavn Europe guys (see earlier post) will fund that for us! Must call them and ask......

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A regenerated Cardiff waterfront

After a little boat polishing (winter is coming...) a cycle trip into Cardiff in the sun (yes, sun in Wales in late September!) allowed us to explore the newly regenerated waterside area. Nice job for the many millions that were invested. The transformation is quite something, from a muddy mess at low water and the delights of Tiger Bay (bring your own gun) to a huge freshwater lagoon home to plenty of fish and a waterfront eating and walking area to rival Gunwharf in Portsmouth.

We stopped to grab a few pictures en route of course  Here is the old Pierhead house, millennium building (copper colour in the background) and the Welsh assembly building. Not at all like Scotland - no "Vote yes for independence" banners here. Not like Bangor either - the clock was working:

The Millennium building - a theatre etc is pretty impressive:

Think we will be visiting that this winter.

A church built to care for Norwegian sailors which was in a bad state got dismantled, stored, repaired and rebuilt as part of the dockland renewal scheme. Now a lovely arts center:

Sitting drinking coffee watching the world go by in the new waterfront complex was very pleasant. Probably more so for the crew as the  local Firemen who were on strike had decided to congregate there too. Lots of very happy ladies for a few hours.

The area has some good sculptures / monuments too - this one is for Captain Scott's ill fated Arctic expedition which set sail from Cardiff in 1910 - it was built to commemerate the 100 year anniversary:

Of course, the local mining heritage had to be covered too:

And every self respecting waterside location needs an old lighthouse converted into showers, restaurant, visitor centre, whatever:

Just to prove that we did cycle, the little fold up bikes had a guardian whilst the captain was busy with the camera. Cannot imagine that anyone would want to steal them though - no street cred with these. Marginally more than with a trolley shopper though:


The evening turned into an impromptu return there by boat. Steve, the waterbus man and his partner Jane (and their lovely spaniel Bronwen) invited us to join them on their old launch for a trip back to the waterfront area. For the avoidance of doubt, Jane is lovely too just in case you wish to misinterpret that line. So is the launch. A beautiful trip on board a 1950's launch built for Tresco island (Scilly) which has transported most of the royal family in her time. Then it got us.. For the mechanically minded, she (Soleil D'Or)  has the compulsory old Gardner diesel that revs slowly and sounds just wonderful. You can see her on the historic ships register http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/register/2106/soleil-dor

A great and unplanned end to an excellent day.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Getting settled in Penarth

Well, that didn't take too long. when we arrived early on Sunday, we were given a berth astern of an old trip boat from Poole, the ex Dorset Belle. She has been repainted in a very fetching red, renamed as "Dame Shirley" and offers party trips. The advertised name "HMS69" maybe gives you a hint of the kind of party trip they are aiming for.....

We recall her like this doing trips from Poole quay in a less garish colour scheme:

There are many traces of red paint on the walls of the marina entrance lock. Seems like the 2 pod propulsion system challenges the local skipper a bit. We reckon that the real challenge would have been bringing her round from Poole by sea! Brave stuff....

Astern of our mooring was an old Norfolk Broads trip boat from Wroxham, Princess Royal, looking a bit sad compared to her glory days on the broads but the shape and style was unmistakeable:

The captain remembers her as a smarter craft, built around 1955, with a skipper that had to wear a suitable hat, white shirt and tie too....

The owner / operator of  this boat joined us for a chat and a look around our Nordhavn - which he quite liked. We then moved to our "winter berth" and were approached by a couple who have a yacht nearby. Question - why do the first 2 lots of locals we make contact with have scouse accents then?? OK, Cardiff offers way better boating than Liverpool but....

We have the feeling that everything here is going to take longer than normal as people just want to chat. Spent about an hour en route for a walk learning all about the economics of running a charter fishing boat from one of the local skippers who had also fallen in lust with our Nordhavn. A trend is building here - apparently we are the first such visitor and are causing trouble - people cycling past stop and call across the dock with questions about the boat too. We are an unpaid marketing display right now. Despite this, it feels like "home" although the hill up into the town doesn't get any flatter....

The marina manager Stuart made up for the hill though. We went to pay our winter berthing fee and sat in his office chatting. He made us tea and we learned lots about the marina. local environment, berth holders etc etc. He also gave us a really good deal. So, happy people! Patrick too - he is gazing down the marina, with a  view of the Tupperware navy boat parked ahead of us:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Milford Haven to Cardiff Bay (Penarth)

Another one of those irritating trips where to get the best tidal help, you need to leave exactly at the time when the lock into Milford isn't available. This trip needs proper timing too - we mentioned before that the tides down near Cardiff are pretty fierce so we need to be going with them, and arriving when there is enough water around too.

The best bit of the trip planning was that the various firing ranges will / should not be active on Saturday / Sunday so no need for big diversions to avoid being caught in friendly fire.....

So, we opted to leave the marina towards the end of free flow (for the non boaters that means both sets of lock gates are open so you can "drive through". No McDonalds ordering point mid-way though, thank heavens). This was an ungodly 7:30 am in the morning - retired people don't do such hours.... Then we would anchor up in the bay at Dale until departing around 4pm for the overnight run down to Cardiff. We would get about 9 hours of tide with us and only (only?) 6 against, arriving at relatively high water and just as it was getting light - helpful for a new spot and the barrage lock entry that looked tricky for a first timer at night.

Of course, the nice part was the fog. Thick, thick fog. Normally, we wouldn't leave for a trip when the forecast was for it to be "very poor visibility", in new territory for us. No rush, go a day or so later. Well, the fog was promised for quite a while and the forecast said "occasional fog banks".

Of course, we had one at 7am. Seemed silly to be using the radar to help safely navigate out of the lock and down the harbour to Dale. Still, we love the huge 12Kw Furuno radar. Awesome piece of kit that really picks out every detail. We needed it.

As there would be about a 7 metre drop in the tide height we had to pick a suitably deep spot to anchor in too. Despite the pea soup fog, there was still a brisk wind (somehow you feel cheated when that happens) so crossing the harbour entrance was bumpy. The anchor set OK, but then broke out so we had to make a second drop - very rare, think it went into an area with lots of weed. The view slowly got better:

By better, we mean that we could see the shore and some of the buildings that were only 500 metres away or so through a haze:

Of course, by the time we had to depart, it was very thick again so no pictures. Or view of the buoys that we watched on the radar.

Heading south east we had the waves on the nose so had a bit of a bumpy ride close to the shore where the tide was running fast in nice thick fog. The "occasional" in the forecast seemed inadequate somehow.

As we turned to the west, the waves moved to our beam a little more and the stabilisers killed them. Nothing could move the fog though. We heard an LPG Tanker talking to Milford Port control as he approached and was advised that his pilot time was already delayed and that if the fog didn't lift a little, they could not enter the port that evening. See, we weren't making it up or being feeble! Didn't worry the dolphins though - some came along and played with us for a while - great to see the friendly Welsh dolphins after the somewhat sniffy Scots variety.

Running at night in the thick fog always seems eerie. So, we had an eerie trip as it didn't lift at all. Tiring as you are pretty much glued to the radar but apart from commercial ships, there were only a couple of other idiots / brave souls / people in well equipped pleasure boats about. You can decide upon which applies here. Pushing the tide off the Gower peninsular we were down to 2.8 knots at one stage. Of course, that meant rocket assistance and speeds up to 10 knots when it turned with us.

Finally, off Burry Port (near Llanelli) the fog abated a bit. This gloomy set of lights is the port area, just to prove that we could see something.

Strangely, the view across to Watchet on the England side became as clear as the proverbial bell at the same time.

The trickiest bit of navigation was going to be around Lavernock Point, just before you head sort of north up to the Cardiff bay barrage. Lots of banks, overfalls and very strong tides. Of course, the fog really closed in when we got there so you couldn't see lights on the buoys even when passing them about 50 metres away. Great timing.

A big instrument failure then would have been a challenge. We always try to have a "plan" in mind- often just continuing on the existing safe course or if approaching a hazard, making a 180 turn and retracing our steps for a while until we can fix things or revert fully to the paper charts (we always keep a position log). This spot had such strong tides that figuring out the course to steer that allowed for tidal drift would have been really tough - no local knowledge of how the tide eddies around the headland etc. Sometimes, you don't want the radar to fail. OK we have a backup second unit but.... Relying on just the depth sounder to work out where we were would have been equally tough - lots of banks and shallow areas around so picking the right one could have been tricky.

The good news is that all the kit worked just fine. Equally luckily, the visibility as we entered the barrage lock for a 7:15 am lock-in was better. To prove it:

Of course, being Wales it has to be in 2 languages. Here is your first Welsh lesson of this blog - we think it is appropriate as you had some local Scottish & Irish phrases before. We aim to educate as this stuff certainly cannot entertain. OK, small pronunciation test later:

We were wonderfully tired and happy to moor up on a temporary berth in Penarth Marina. Will move to our winter home early in the week

Maintenance news: Nothing earth shattering to report. Before the trip, the Captain added some oil to the main engine (it wasn't down to the fill mark - just did it "to be sure"). Means it has burned about 1/2 of a litre in 260 hours of use. Well within specification. (For info, the engine holds about 20 litres in the sump so an oil change uses a little more lubricant than your average car!)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Haverfordwest by charabanc

Having tested out the local trains, we went big and took the bus to Haverfordwest for a look around. As expected, another geriatric bus full of geriatric passengers - we seemed like the only people on board who actually paid for the trip. Roll on our free bus passes. Not too long to wait really.....

The captain remembered a little of it from his one visit there for work, many many years ago. The memory of the drive from Swansea was vivid - just keep on going west until you feel like you are falling off the end of the earth, then you are half way there...

The town felt very Welsh, as it had a Tabernacle:

The farmers market was pretty small and tame though. No desire to lug half a lamb back on the bus to Milford and our freezers are pretty full anyway.

The other key Welsh thing was the ruined castle:

The sad part was that they had built a records office in the middle of it and that the local lads / girls seemed to use it as a place for alcohol fuelled parties.

Good day though, exploring the town and realising that this is the metropolis if you live in South West Wales. Where the Milford crew go shopping.  Winter in Milford would be a bit challenging and I think we would need a train season ticket to Swansea at least. The mooring in Cardiff / Penarth idea looks much more appealing!

We were accosted by a nice elderly lady whilst waiting for the bus back. She wanted someone to chat to. Think we must have looked approachable or friendly. They say that older people are good judges of character. This proves that theory to be so wrong.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

More Milford and stuff

Firstly, you folks are now responsible for over 4,000 page reads. This continues to be of concern as at least half of you should be working hard to protect our upcoming pensions or keep the world economy ticking along. There are plenty of other, more wholesome and educational things you could so with your time you know....

Milford is an interesting place to wander around. We raided the local marina restaurant for coffee yesterday as the WIFI in the harbour is rubbish and we couldn't up or download anything of significance. All lovely Microsoft updates are "of significance" of course. Whether they work or not is another question.

Nice coffee, strange mix of clientèle. One man was desperate for a mixed grill (with a jacket potato not chips as he has to be careful!!) at 11:45. For the early lunching German readers, we know this doesn't sound abnormal. For us Brits, it is a touch early - from the look of him, the guy had probably only just finished his big fry up breakfast. Even better, now we have the code we've found that their WIFI signal leaks across to the moorings so....

No big boat trip yet as the gales are lingering until Friday / Saturday and so it is a bit rough out there. Not a huge issue though as there are some nice estuary walks and views:

For the first time in "n" years, where "n" is a large integer, we will not be going to the Southampton Boat Show. All these habits we are breaking in 2013. The £156 train fare wasn't tempting. We are safely cuddled up in the old admiralty dock letting the gales blow themselves through. Patrick has a nice view out from his pilothouse vantage point too so he seems strangely quiet and content:

Felt all nautical by preparing the courses for Swansea and Cardiff instead. Of course, the further up towards Bristol we get, the stronger the tides get and hence timing becomes more critical. 7 knots at springs is a little faster than our normal cruise speed and so would be fun. Getting into Cardiff would not be possible at low tide either. Hence a little planning was completed, the idea being to see if we can hang out in Swansea for a few days and then move on to our planned winter home in Cardiff. We need a longer stay in one place than we originally planned as we have to sort out the Norfolk property so will be away for chunks of time.

As for gainful employment - we still fancy the Fisheries Protection boat if we need to earn some cash. Although the lock gate is now fixed, that hasn't tempted them out. Or even on board. Exhibit A - an empty boat untouched for days:

 Wonder what they do instead. Perhaps they are expert poker players?

The lock here is having some major investment - a new set of gates about mid way between the existing ones to give the option to use one big or one smaller lock. Should make the whole process much faster. The £6 million investment from the EU and Welsh government is interesting. Maybe the berthing fees will get a hike next year! The town has more than its fair share of "99p" stores. Three are next to each other in the new shopping area near Tesco. You can work out what this means about average local incomes etc.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Cardiff by train

We retraced our steps a little, back on the train through Swansea and out to Cardiff. Arriving Sunday in the rain (and boy, did it rain) we kind of explored a coffee shop, shopping centre, pub for dinner and the hotel room. Not too much more.

Monday was very different. Windy but fit for hiking. So, we did. Walked through the town to Cardiff Marina to check it out as a possible winter base. En route, we passed one of the greatest places to live in town - right next to the famous Brains Brewery:

And good views of the Millennium stadium as you cross the river:

Oh no... Cardiff Marina was a horrid place, had to buzz the office to get through the electrically operated gates. Found that moorings were dirt cheap (they would have to be!) and then got locked in as the dozy guy hadn't told us we needed a key fob thingy to get out again. Sad. It could be so much nicer.

The walk across the lifting bridge you see above and down to Penarth was much more rewarding. A converted dock area like Swansea but with much better facilities and management too. Sue (another marina lady called Sue..) found a possible berth for us but when we went to check it out (she loaned us a visitor key fob thingy!) it was going to be a bit too slim for our tubby boat. So, thinking things would not work out, we returned the fob. Then a great 3 way conference between the berthing masters and marina managers ensued, moving visiting boats around, figuring out when the local plastic navy craft would be leaving etc. Upshot was, they could clear a hammerhead for us. Ideal!

The place is right next to the Cardiff bay barrage:

Will be a good place for some winter time - trips across to Portishead and Watchet are simple enough and will let us give the big Lugger some winter exercise. Bristol could also be a destination but is trickier of course - tides, bridges locks etc. If you are not feeling adventurous, then it is always possible just to trundle around inside the bay area and go up to the waterfront development where short term berths are available - the typical day trip when we have visitors we guess so book in early!

Walking into Penarth was fun - felt like a 1:3 hill up to the town. Not good for people who are half Dutch or from Norfolk where hills are at a premium of course. Quite an up market centre and worth the oxygen mask we ordered with a coffee. The carrot cake was good. Not an all time great, but worth repeating. The bus back into town was followed by a quick look at Cardiff castle:

One barber shop was concerning - would you trust this guy anywhere near you with a cut-throat razor?

So it looks like we will have Cardiff as a winter base for a while. Looking forward to exploring the area. On the train back, we sat near three young (compared to us) girls who were heading to a company conference in Swansea. Listening to the conversation about "time off in lieu" and the pressures of working in a retail shop, we felt so happy to be out of work and out of the pointless conversations between total strangers such events generate. Freedom!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Swansea exploration

The train trip to Swansea was a surprise. On two levels; firstly because it entailed getting up and active much earlier than we were used too & secondly because the 3 carriages that were heading for Manchester were full, standing room only well before Swansea. The soundtrack was from what we think was a hen party heading off to wherever. One of them liked standing in the passageway and loudly telling everyone how much and how long all of her beauty treatments took. They were clearly either too cheap or too short. Or maybe it was the raw material.....

Wandering around Swansea in the sun was good. The Marina area development was impressive but the berths were full. We enquired about a spot for the winter and it looks like waiting to see who would be lifted out - no obvious gaps for a tubby Nordhavn yet. The museum had some floating exhibits (some only just floating though) including this cute little tug that needs lots of TLC:

Not much older than the captain, who thinks he is in slightly better nick:

They also have a nice vintage yacht called Olga that was returning from a trip when we walked around to the Tawe barrage lock:

The town is a strange mix of nice old and modern. Some works:

Sadly the 1960/70's concrete horror buildings are also present in vast numbers. Naturally, there has to be a Dylan Thomas theatre -pity about the building they picked:

It was just nice to see people out enjoying what might be the last warm & sunny day of the year:

Of course, we are praying for an Indian summer. Or one from any other warm, dry country. If you are reading this in a country that could help, please get in contact.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Milford Haven life

Well, the staff in Milford were just as friendly as the night berthing master and getting a WIFI code turned into a comic treat with 3 of them enjoying scoring points off each other. Quite a floor show, they could/should be on local radio.

The inner lock gate for the dock area was in trouble - they could only open it for the 2 hours of free flow each day and this (we think) gave the crew of the local fishery protection vessel a nice gentle time. As free flow lasts for only about 2 hours, they didn't bother to take out the big boat. Instead they came down, fired up the generator (maybe for tea?), launched the RIB, went for a drive around the dock area and then recovered it. Then they vanished. An interesting day at work, not too stressful. Guess they are praying for a nice long delay to the lock gate repair!

Actually, that seems to be the way with the fishery protection boats. We spent nearly 2 weeks in Bangor during our 2 visits and the fisheries boat there never moved. It had a little TLC but was firmly tied up all the time. If we are reborn, or have to find a job soon to help the finances, we want to be employed on those boats.

The marina here is fine - with the now typical flats, shops and restaurants built around it:

As the dock area is still in commercial use, there are fishing boats, a dry dock and other interesting "parked" craft about to give the place a real salty atmosphere:

Plus this lovely MFV conversion:

Went for a nice walk along the estuary (until it started raining) and then back via the shopping area. The town is what you would imagine for a port area. Way better then Holyhead though and as there is a Tesco right next to the marina, ideal for those of us without a trolley shopper (yet?)

Since the forecast for Saturday was dry, we decided upon Swansea by train (station is the same distance as Tesco). Sunday - wet and windy, Monday, just windy. So, Sunday we will take the train to Cardiff, stay overnight in a very cheapo hotel and then explore the place on Monday.

We plan to check out the marinas in both places as possible bases for a couple of months. We need to leave the boat for a while to sort out the bungalow in Norfolk if the sale goes through as planned and then we would like to see more of South Wales too. The alternative is Falmouth, a favourite location. Let's see how this works out......... So far the forecast says that it will be Thursday next week before the wind calms down enough to make a trip around Land's End sensible.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Bangor to Milford Haven

On the basis that as nice as Norn Iron is we had to be in driving distance of Norfolk soon, we decided to use a nice 2 day weather window to head south. It had been blowy beforehand and the forecast was for up to force 9 during the coming weekend. Lovely. Before we left, we checked and can update you on the mysterious Bangor town clock syndrome - they are still not working. Uri Geller must live nearby.

So, with a sensible NW to W and occasional SW 4/5 forecast, we set off around low water on Wednesday for the 200 nm run to South Wales.There was an option to divert to Kilmore in Ireland if the wind became strong westerly or to continue to Falmouth if it got calmer and we got keen - 325 nm of keen.

The wind was, once more, little like the forecast. It decided to be SW'ly most of the time (ie the worst direction for us from all the forecast directions) but not as strong so the waves didn't build too much, even with wind over tide.

Our timing was to take a favourable current down the Norn Iron coastline, where it runs quite quickly, and then to be further out in the Irish sea when it turned against us for the first time. "First time" as the leg from the NI coast to Bishops Rock off South Wales was 154 nm so it took more than a couple of tides to cover it!

A nice grey departure from Bangor didn't show the coastline at its best:

Off South Rock we encountered more fishing marker buoys than we would like to risk at night - a note for future trips up and down this coast! There were a couple of concentrations of fishing boats but nothing too busy as we headed down the Irish sea, more or less in the middle of it. Gives you a great feeling of power when the overtaking commercial ships have to divert around you. Also a feeling of "thank heavens they saw us on the AIS / radar / by eyeball".

Overnight we used our usual "short trip" method of watch-keeping. Roughly translated it means sleep as long as you can on the pilothouse berth then when you are properly awake again, take over! Easier for us than fixed watch times for shorter runs. Typically that means 2.5 hour spells for some reason. You could argue that old guys can't sleep much longer for various anatomical reasons. You would be wrong. You could argue that the captain is so nervous with the crew helming at night that he cannot sleep properly. Wrong again. Somehow we both seem to sleep in 2.5 hour chunks when underway. Peter (the massively overqualified consultant surgeon in Australia) can probably explain why...

For the non boaters, helming at night is actually a very "spiritual" experience - unless it is very rough!! You have the boat on the autopilot and one screen is telling you how that is performing against our plotted course. Another screen is showing the navigation chart and the position of any other vessels that are sending AIS signals in the area. Our third screen is showing the radar picture. Helming means keeping an eye on the AIS situation and any likely close calls. Watching the radar for things that are not using AIS and out of the windows for lights / whatever. Then you have a visual sweep of the instruments: engine temperature, engine load (if you pick something up around the prop the load increases for the same rpm), oil pressure, gearbox oil pressure, exhaust stack temperature, alternator outputs, depth, wind speed and direction. Every so often, you update the paper based log and course plan just in case all the electronics decide to take a time out!

There is time to think, enjoy the motion of the boat, the gentle engine noise, and (if you are lucky as we were on this trip) the noise of the water running past the boat because we had the top half of a pilothouse door open (the downwind one!!) The serious ocean crossers say that after a few days you get into such a rhythm that you don't want the trip to end. We haven't had a run long enough to experience that yet, but it gets close to feeling like that after only a day! Addicted... Just addicted.

There was one amazing moment - a fishing trawler was crossing our path (no AIS broadcast..) heading NE on the radar. We altered course to SW to pass well behind him and after about 15 mins, he called us on the radio (he was monitoring our AIS output) to say that he would be turning to the SW shortly. Wow. Normally trawlers just do that and enjoy messing you about (see earlier posts on channel crossings!) So, thanks nice Irish trawler skipper, whoever you are. Hope you caught lots that night.

The next morning, the wind decided to stay from the SW and so give us a bit more movement than was expected. No big deal though - 6 foot waves on the quarter with the stabilisers busy wasn't a big issue. The day was livened up by 3 pods of dolphins - one came over to play with us and we had several doing tricks in our bow wave and swimming with us for a while. Funny how we saw more of them in the Irish sea during one trip that we saw during all our time in Scotland. Maybe the SNP have banned the local guys from playing with English registered boats? Sadly, the pics were taken of the second lot, who stayed further off - as you can see:

Arrived at St David's Head late afternoon pushing a strong tide. Nice and grey and misty with anchored tankers in the background:

Bishops rock lighthouse looked almost friendly:

We tucked inside Skokholm and headed for St Ann's point - the entrance to Milford Haven which can get very bumpy in spring tides / strong winds. As a hint, the nearby headland is called Vomit Point. Nice.

We didn't need to though - it wasn't that bumpy. Up to Milford Marina holding pier for a couple of hours to wait for free flow through the lock into the dock area. Nice to tie up after 35 hours underway. Dave, the berthing master came to visit us on the holding pontoon. We completed the usual paperwork (plan was to stay 5 nights or so to avoid the gales that were forecast) and then, as we have come to expect, he chatted for ages about the area, his fishing boat, life in general. Another warm welcome - so south coast marinas, you have been warned. The bar has been raised, significantly.

Technical news: Well, our B&G instruments decided to show 100m+ depths as --- again. No idea why. The Furuno kit was showing the correct depth of course. Then the B&G sounder showed 11.7 metres, just dropping the extra 100. This is an intermittent thing and we will live with it...

Weirdly, whilst the crew was helming at night, the PC rebooted itself, untouched so the crew reports. Not a big issue as we always use the plotter to run the course and autopilot (we have a healthy lack of trust for Microsoft based PCs) and the PC was just showing the chart, track and AIS data graphically. It restarted and ran fine for the rest of the trip. Again, no plan to try and figure out why, yet. Let's see how it behaves on the next trip.

No mechanical issues to report. The big Lugger ran very happily thank you.