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

Monday, 27 January 2014

Boat maintenance - a joy for life

People ask "how do you spend all that free time in the winter when you are not travelling"? Well, apart from 2 weeks in the Canary Islands, there are always things to fix. Boat maintenance is such a joy... Such a joy.

At least on the Nordhavn most things are easily accessible unlike in many boats where the engines, pumps etc are buried away under floorboards. The walk in and full standing height engine room is just wonderful.

Of course, that doesn't help when you have jobs like removing the liferaft from it's cradle for a service. The cradle is designed to allow the raft to fall free from the boat into the water once it is opened. Hum - not ideal when you want to lift the heavy raft out and down into a trolley...

Luckily we have a crane that is used to launch the RIB so we made up some straps to hold the raft using lifelines  and cable ties - very professional. Then we managed to lift it down using the crane (the raft is about 35KG and so leaning over the rail and trying to lift the slippery canister out and up would have been a mission impossible task. Working out how to do that and setting up the cats cradle arrangement burned about 3 hours in total - see how time goes by when you have a boat! Luckily the service is only needed every 3 years.

You might have read in an earlier post about the exorbitant cost of this work. Well, refitting the raft was even more fun. The same straps and cable tie arrangement hoisted it up very nicely. But then we found that the repacked canister was fatter then before and it wouldn't snug into the stainless steel cradle properly. More time spend modifying the senhouse slip arrangement (see below) that holds the raft in place and changing the locking arrangement too. Another 2 hours of fun outside in the cold

It is amazing just how long silly jobs like this take - and no, it is not because we keep stopping for tea, gin, whatever.

Another example is the reprogramming of the satellite TV dish to find the new Astra satellites when the services were moved around late last year. We mentioned the problem in a post but you folks failed us dismally - no one said that they had an old Windows XP laptop with a serial port so we ended up buying a cheap secondhand one from an internet supplier and then a serial cable. Getting a serial (modem) cable isn't easy now either. The fun of maintaining old technology stuff (old = 2007) these days! However, with the great help of Kevin the technical man in the UK importers, we reprogrammed the Tracvision TV antenna so it found the new Astra satellites. The various TVs on board have worked fine since this - is that good or bad one wonders....

These two examples are just to show how what should be a simple job often turns into hours of entertainment. Basic maintenance like oil changes, fuel filter changes etc are very simple and relatively quick because of the great engine room access and simple "designed for easy maintenance" filter fittings. As an example, the fuel filter on the main engine can be physically swapped in about 30 seconds. However, no matter how well the boat is constructed and no matter how good the equipment, things like the satellite changes catch you out. Trying to fix them in parallel to a full time job used to be tough. At least now we have the time to investigate, diagnose things and work out the repair methods.

One fringe benefit - the old Dell Windows XP laptop we bought is brilliant. It reminds me of how good XP was and what a pile of junk Windows 8 is. Our nice new laptop fell over yet again this morning after installing a Microsoft urgent update. Thanks for this rubbish Microsoft! I have spent more hours fixing one silly little HP laptop in 2013 than I needed for all the oil, oil filter and fuel filter changes for the 3 motors on board. Must be progress....

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The other stuff about Gran Canaria that the brochures don't cover....

OK, for the people who like a more sideways view on the universe, here are the experiences and thoughts from the last 2 weeks.

Firstly, a rant. Never, ever, ever hire a car from Orlando rent-a-car. We know that Canary Island hire cars are pretty battered by normal mainland Europe standards but there are limits. After waiting forever to get the shuttle bus to their so called "airport" location, we waited ages to be served. The man said he would upgrade us from the allocated Renault Clio to a Ford Focus as we had been there for nearly 30 minutes. This little beauty was our upgrade:

The observant will have noticed that it isn't the current model Focus. It had 62,000 Km on the clock and I'm sure it was a nice car when it left Cologne a while ago.  Made the Captain think a little - the last time he had a car with that mileage on it was in 1985 (a company car when working for Ford UK- it was a  prototype diesel under test). Sadly 62K in the hands of rental customers had taken it's toll on Ford's finest. The obvious lack of any maintenance had then done for any self respect the poor thing had left. The interior had been allergy tested according to the sticker:

Of course that was before the rental customers got to work adding a few stains:

And then the sun in Gran Canaria seemed to have upset the buttons which made things a bit of a  lottery when trying to use the radio / aircon / whatever. (We are sure it was the sun and not an aggressive cleaning fluid as the interior had obviously never been cleaned...):

The mechanical issues aren't worth listing here suffice to say it was, in used car parlance, a right shed!

Of course, it wasn't the only automotive shed that we saw. This was the shed to end all sheds:

They had removed the original van doors and replaced them with timber versions and a neat brass bolt to keep them closed:

I wonder how it gets on with the pedestrian safety tests that cars now have to undergo. Death by splinters? At least they had cut-outs around the headlights and being Spanish, I bet the horn works.

Enough about motoring. What about the people? Well, some stereotypes were fulfilled. The French could learn lots from the Germans (eg how to engineer nice cars that people want to buy) but sadly seemed to have picked up one of Germany's worst habits - reserving loungers around the pool by towel from 7am and pushing their way in front of everyone else at every opportunity. Guys, please pick another country as a role model in these areas.

For the non European readers, who have no idea about the lounger thing, Germans on holiday have a reputation for placing beach towels on loungers first and then defending their ownership of the said lounger forcefully even if they spend hours away from it. Here is what we mean sun lounger reservation . It is kind of a national joke in the UK, look at Sun lounger beer advert  to see how commercials in the UK make fun of this behaviour. Of course, as the hotel had lots of German and French guests, you can imagine the morning competition between then. Such sport.

Finally, I will never say anything bad about my previous jobs ever again. The trend of playing statues in tourist places to make money was taken to a new high (or should that be low) by this guy:

How much of the colour was put on each morning and how much came from the birds he fed during the working day we wonder. Didn't linger long enough to check it out though.

Gran Canaria

For the non boating people, no we didn't motor down there from Penarth. The storms that just keep coming in across the Atlantic would have made it a very unpleasant and downright dangerous thing to try. The little Boeing 737 was maybe not the safest way to travel but way better than a Biscay trip in such weather by Nordhavn 47.

8 metre high waves forecast today - and it has been calming down a little!

So, we got our fix of winter sun in the last 2 weeks and enjoyed our first ever trip to Gran Canaria. What is worth reporting on?

Well, one of the day trips was to Las Palmas harbour as a potential future winter berth. For boaters, it is known as the place where the "Atlantic Rally for Cruisers" starts from. This is a sailing yacht "rally" where people depart together to head across the Atlantic - see ARC website . For a first hand account of what the place is like at that time, look at  ARC Blog - the BMW folks might well recognise this as Bob & Lin Griffiths notes from their recent travels. Others might know Bob from earlier posts as a trolley shopper sort of person. Enough said. An ARC tradition is to paint a little image on the harbour wall before departure - some are very artistic:

You might find a slightly less artistic example in Bob's blog somewhere.

Our first walk along the sea front reminded us of poor Patrick left in Penarth as the guard penguin:

We loved Puerto Mogan:

and the tourist trap stalls set up high in the mountain pass roads like this one:

The country may be nearly bankrupt but road construction continues apace:

Guess we should thank the German blog readers for funding it? Could you also resurface some of the UK's potholed roads for us please?

So, what about the "more subversive thoughts" you ask. You don't want a boring Travelogue kind of update with lots of touristy pictures that anyone could take? OK, we will prepare something in the next post to appease those people who enjoy a more warped reflection on life (Norman Lazarus, you know who that means...).

Friday, 10 January 2014

So what is all this fuss about storms then?

Most strange. Everyone mails to ask us if we have survived the various storms that swept the UK in the last few weeks. Well, Penarth Marina is very sheltered - a big hill behind us that breaks the prevailing South Westerly winds (and breaks the spirit of the crew when she has to walk up it into town). The marina is in an old dock so the walls are pretty high too and there is housing built around it. All in all, as sheltered as you could hope for.

Have a look at the slide show here: http://www.quaymarinas.com/Marinas/PenarthQuays/ and you will see what we mean.

Others have asked if the flooding in Wales was an issue. Funnily, if the water level rises, the floating pontoon and the boat tends to as well. Kind of handy that!

Now, the aforementioned hill that causes much whimpering upon ascent (actually no, there is no breath left to whimper, the crew tends to do that before and after the climb) caused us to reassess things yesterday. As we walked down, a guy was running up. He had one foot and one of those Oscar Pistorius style blades and boy, was he travelling fast. Kind of humbling really.

We are preparing for 2 weeks in (hopefully) the sun now - The Canaries beckon. Flying from Cardiff could be fun. As you can see, it is a little quieter than Heathrow:

We don't expect to be waiting too long for a take off slot. The plane will probably be full of Welsh holidaymakers too. Wonder how they will behave. Lots of "lush" we expect. Of course, Patrick has been sulking - big time. As soon as the case came out of the lazarette to be packed, he looked grumpy. Two more weeks as guard penguin. Any messages of support or sympathy for him gratefully received as he needs cheering up.

Finally, we feel cheated. Alison (as in the better half of Stephen who is addicted to good chocolate) brought us some "Broons" fudge that she bought in Glasgow. For the non Scots amongst the readership, the Broons are a Scottish institution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oor_Wullie) and the tin of fudge was cute:

However, it cannot be original Scottish stuff - on the back it says "contains no hydrogenated oils or fats". What is the land of tablet and heart attacks coming to we ask ourselves, when you cannot rely on traditional Broons fudge to mess up your arteries. The Scots will start drinking diet Irn Bru next. Oh, I think we saw that last summer too. The nation is going soft....

Sunday, 5 January 2014

And then it became 2014

Well, after a Christmas spent "alone" eating, drinking, walking and generally enjoying life, New Year was different. Different how? Well, we had a couple of friends on board with us, and hence were with friends eating, drinking, walking and generally enjoying life. Do you spot a trend building here??

Who were the unlucky people forced to live afloat and eat the output of our dodgy galley? Well, it was Stephen and Alison. You "know" him already, from previous trolley shopper comments. Yes, we had one of the trolley shopper experts on board and we treated him suitably royally of course....

The dodgy galley output was aided by finding that Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit fame) had become the chef for the night (or at least his hands did):

Now for the drinking bit. As you can see, one glass isn't enough for Stephen:

Alison seems able to just ignore his obvious alcohol issues.

Stephen is also a world authority on chocolate. Eating it, that is. He needs a regular fix of the stuff but follows the "quality not quantity" motto. Witness him checking out the rather low budget chocolate we keep on board - it is always a pleasure to see an expert at work:

However, following the nautical "any port in a storm" approach he did eat some low percentage cocoa stuff we had, then topped up from the stock he had brought with him later on. Sensible move.

Around midnight, we watched some of Jools Holland and his superannuated guests on TV. They either have to increase the budget for that show to get some younger guests or they will be filming it in a nursing home next year. If you missed it, don't bother with I-player.

Finally, a little update for you on another friend of this blog. Coleen, our transvestite 747 captain who didn't crash the plane in Johannesburg shared a nice video clip with me. You know how some people had jobs that you are jealous of because they sound like all play and no work? Well, watch his last flight piloting a Lightning jet here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S7Mj33jhek  That will only consume 48 seconds of your life but is well worth it. Then realise that if you are a UK tax payer, you paid him real money to have that much fun. Sickening.

Of course, some people think that a job where you are given fast cars and nice motorcycles that get changed every few months, get to fly around the world and experience lots of different cultures is also something to be jealous of. Trust me, they are wrong. Save your jealousy for Coleen and watch that video one more time.