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 June 2014

North Walesing - part 2

Part 2 was conducted in wonderful sun again. Funny how the whole world looks better on a nice day (apart from Holyhead of course, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear etc etc)

So, on sunny Sunday, we just loved Beaumaris and the suspension bridge area. There was a classic car event on too so the captain could drool over some interesting old cars. The views across the Menai strait towards Snowdonia were stunning. The pic doesn’t do it justice sadly:

The castle is equally amazing – another one of Kind Edward I’s buildings whilst attempting to control North Wales  – this one was never fully completed before the money ran out:

They even look after the local crustaceans here, giving the kids who love fishing for crabs at the pier a hint on how to care for them whilst out of the sea. The message is, don't use the tapwater:


The town was also very north Wales – English seemed kind of optional here and some shops didn’t bother to have their signs in both languages:

So we didn’t go in there as we had no idea what they were trying to sell us. Big mistake Mr Shopkeeper. Actually not that big as we would not have helped to swell his profits dramatically anyway, we only wanted a tea.

Patrick got very very excited again, and then most disappointed. Following his shop sighting in Saundersfoot, he found what he thought was his spaniel friend’s boat:

Of course, when she was not visible on board he went into a sulk. Again.

On the way to the mainland, we bumped into a Waitrose store. You can tell that the Beaumaris area is up market. Of course, that was a tea and chocolate twist (torsade in Waitrose speak) excuse that we could not pass up.

We took a trip around the mainland coast via Conwy (lovely but madly busy as there was a beer festival underway so no chance to park and wander around), Deganwy and then up to the old tourist resort of Llandudno. We were quietly impressed with how well it has been preserved compared to many other seaside towns. OK, it was full of day tripping scousers (sorry Steve, Julie, Karl, Mark) and coach tour folks but the town was not all charity shops and cheap souvenir stalls. We enjoyed a great walk around the bay area in the sun. Almost tropical (well, apart from the chilly breeze):

We were very cheered by an SMS we received from John (he of the knees) and Tina. They were sitting having lunch in Villefranche sur Mer where it was pouring with rain (but the boats were bigger of course). We hope to welcome them back on board before the winter to get some more knee photos for our female readers to enjoy.
On the way back we enjoyed the iconic views of the suspension bridge (one of Telford’s prettier creations) from the Anglesey side:

All in all, it was well worth hiring the little funny coloured Fiat (less than £40 for 3 days) as it enabled some serious exploring and gave us some ideas on where to visit this winter from Penarth (assuming that Penarth will have us back of course).

Saturday, 28 June 2014

North Walesing - part 1

The Fiat 500 theme sort of continues here. We decided not to treat the sad town of Holyhead as a “useful stop on passage” but instead to view it as a good spot to explore Anglesey and a little of North Wales from. We booked a rental car on-line, with collection from the ferry terminal Hertz office at 10am on Friday. Of course, having walked there, the desk was shut and a sign said “open at 10.30 – go to our other location when this office is shut”. No map to show where the other office was of course. The captain found it on the internet and did the 15 minute walk in the soggy conditions only to be greeted with “oh your car is at the ferry terminal!” They knew he was not amused – very poor organisation for a “proper” rental company.

Still, the little powder blue Fiat 500 was OK, or as OK as they can be. We know that we are a tad biased from previous employment but why anyone would buy one in preference to a MINI is beyond us. 

OK, car rant over – what did we do with it? A good trundle around Anglesey and some of North Wales, visiting nice spots like Camaes where they have a restored 100+ year old lifeboat. She was “on station” from 1907 to 1932 but was only launched 7 times in anger. They now use her for trips / education:

We reckon that going out to a ship in distress in her would have been an education in itself. Amazing what brave people did in those old rowing boats, wearing nothing more than a cork lifejacket. We also walked the cliffs and raided an excellent tea shop (Anns Pantry website) which we can recommend if you feel at all cake minded, as we have been known to.

Continuing the lifeboat theme that seems to have developed recently, Moelfre is in the middle of building a new home for the new, faster, bigger Tamar lifeboat. Some serious engineering work is underway to build the boathouse and slipway. Looking at it makes us realise that our annual donation to the RNLI is a very small drop in a very big ocean of cost:

They also have a good visitor centre, with an old (old=in use until 1986) lifeboat as an exhibit. Scary how the captain remembers lifeboats like it being launched off the beach at Caister-on-sea as a kid and how they could only manage 8 knots. It took a lot longer to reach the casualty in those days and there was no neat electronic kit to help locate you in bad weather either. 

We also visited Pwllheli, Abersoch (in the rain) and loved the walled old town in Caernarfon:

The steam train was pretty good too; sadly this picture cannot recreate the smell and sounds:

And here is one for the tekkies that love old style solid engineering; the engines are pretty powerful to handle the gradients in the area:

We decided that £35 per person for a return fare to Porthmadog was a little steep so didn’t go for a trip. Instead we took the healthier option and walked along the shore a little. Here is the harbour with the castle in the background:

In the town, the captain was very tempted to be unhealthy but sadly, this place was shut by the time we found it:

Of course, you just have to do the typical tourist thing whilst on Anglesey. So, here it is:

For the non UK readers, this is a real railway platform sign for the station in a Welsh village with a rather long name. Underneath, for the non-Welsh speakers (guess that includes Andrew and Linda), is a helpful phonetic hint on how to pronounce it. We doubt that it will be useful as a party trick in Munich, the USA or Canada but thought it might amuse you anyway. Look at Wikipedia if you think we just photoshopped the sign to make it longer. 

On the way back we hit the local John Deere dealer, Mona Tractors, to get some spare oil. The captain will get around to that oil change we mentioned a few days ago soon (!) and this will replace our stock. A 20 litre drum in the boot took the edge off the performance of the little Fiat….

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Neyland to Holyhead

We finished our time in Neyland with yet another form of transport – the Fiat 500L had gone back so we resorted to the RIB and two feet. Had a gloriously sunny trip up river, as far as a place called Hook.  Of course, this was a very different and much more enjoyable trip compared to the captain’s old commute to the Hook BMW office. The waterway reminded us of a bigger scale Hamble River (yes, when you get above the M27 bridge, the Hamble gets very pretty not like the wall to wall moorings that you see further downstream). On the way back we stopped off at the Lawrenny Arms pontoon so the crew could stretch her legs. Of course, the pontoon said “for the use of patrons only” – a good excuse to sit in the sun with a drink and watch the world go by. The eagle eyed will spot the RIB on here:


Having shared a picture of the Angle lifeboat with you earlier, here is an example of what happens to old ones. She looked kind of sad in her mud berth. We always think that they deserve a better retirement than this after a life of hard service:

We also did a little boat cleaning – scrubbing around the waterline to get rid of some grot / weed that was starting to build up. The boat had some extra stainless steel “corner pieces” fitted to the transom when she was built – apparently because the original owner was keeping her in Denmark and was worried about ice damage. Of course the stainless doesn’t like being antifouled (it needs to “breathe” or it will corrode underwater) and so left bare it quickly accumulates some weed and gunge. Equally the CopperCoat on the hull is great at keeping away barnacles etc but does let a film of slime build up which weed can then attach to. After all the sun of the past few days, we needed to give her a little waterline scrub. Not as much fun as sitting in the sun at Lawrenny but part of the joy of boating…..

On Wednesday, we headed off for Holyhead. Patrick was not happy as he’d had an email from Bron the spaniel saying she was coming to Pembrokeshire but we wanted to take advantage of a nice weather window for a trip north (the wind had been northerly until Wednesday when it veered to east / south-east). Milford is reckoned to be responsible for 30% of the UK’s energy imports.  Departing Milford there was lots of evidence of this – not pretty but needed:


The area was also well defended in former times:

Now they seem to rely on the Heddlu (Police) patrol boats instead with way smaller guns on board.

The run passing Skokholm / Skomer was pretty bumpy. Wind over tide and overfalls too. Short (ie short wavelength) and tall waves  up to 3 metres from astern gave the autopilot a good test. The new settings that we tried based on input from other Nordhavn 47 owners with a Simrad autopilot worked very very well.  Would not have liked to be going through that rough patch in a planing boat. At one point, we were in an eddy and making 6.0 knots through the water but only 0.9 over the ground. What a waste of diesel.

Once clear of the islands and strong tidal streams it all calmed down and the rest of the run to Holyhead was very calm. No stabilisers, no rolling, no pitching, no nothing. Here is Bishops Rock and the lighthouse with some nice rock strata on view:

We did see lots of puffins riding the waves off the islands but sadly this was to be a no dolphin trip – unless they played in our wake during the night.

The overnight run was, again, quiet. Not a lot about on the AIS or radar. We did get a call from the Aberport Marine Control radio. There is a firing range in Cardigan Bay which tests some serious ordnance (see Quietiq Aberporth). We had phoned them to check the firing times and locations and having seen us on AIS, they called and advised that we would be well clear of their night time test area if we continued on our course. Comforting that both our planning was right and they checked us out carefully!

Of course, we missed having Andrew on board. The shortage of Andrew meant that we had to share the watches and got less sleep. He might well be kidnapped. We just have to hunt him down.

Arrived in Holyhead at 6:30 am after 125 miles and 21 hours just as it started to spit with rain and the place looked suitably gloomy:

Pretty much like last year, the marina is run by very friendly folks but the pontoons / wavebreak are still sad and decaying with disconnected power supply boxes on most of the visitor area. It needs some serious investment now but based on the number of berths that are full, the maths might not appeal to their bank manager. Still, it is a good stopping off point and this year, we might explore Anglesey a little.

Maintenance news:  For the tekkie types, again sorry, but nothing to report, except that it is now time to change the main gearbox oil and filter. Might do that whilst we are here, if we get a rainy Friday as per the forecast. Might even treat the main engine to some fresh oil too – not “due” according to the manufacturers schedule but good preventative maintenance practice (about 250 hours since the last change).

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pottering around Pembrokeshire - but by Fiat 500L

Several firsts in the next couple of days for us. The first first was being shown around a chunk of Wales by proper native guides who have the accent even if they cannot speak the local language (some feeble excuse about Welsh not being used in the Bridgend area etc etc). The second first (if there can be such a thing) was seeing some of the Pembrokeshire towns and villages. The third first was driving a Fiat 500L diesel courtesy of Enterprise rent a car. The third first was way less exciting than the first two firsts.

Stop number one was Saundersfoot - a beautiful little seaside resort that reminded the captain of how Caister-on-Sea used to be back in the days of his youth. What an amazing memory he must have for one so aged. Lunch was taken outside at St Brides spa hotel weblink and was excellent, as was the view from the terrace:

Wandering around the town later on, we found a shop that really excited Patrick. Sadly, he could find no evidence of his spaniel friend inside:

Remember that in his little penguin brain, she is the only Bronwen in the whole wide world.

Next stop was the picture postcard perfect Tenby with clear blue sky too:

The old lifeboat station in the foreground is now a private residence, having been converted at great expense and featured on the TV programme Grand Designs. Would have loved a look inside.....

Despite the nice weather and warm seas, the crew was not tempted to have a dip. Apparently one of the local residents put her off a little:

For info that was a pretty big jelly - about 3 feet long.

We had noticed that the Tenby folks were way bigger (read fatter rather than bigger if you are not very politically correct) than the Saundersfoot types. Perhaps Saundersfoot attracts a better class of visitor? Perhaps the locals in Tenby frequent the fish and chip shop too often? As we wandered around the town, this shopfront confirmed all our worst fears:

We didn't have any carrot cake whilst in Tenby, just in case...

Our Saturday was spent in Solva and then St Davids. Solva harbour area is simply stunning, especially on a nice sunny day. The entrance looking out to St Brides Bay was impressive:

It was a great day for messing about on the water, or in the case of these canoeists, in the water after a messy capsize:

The harbour area was being prepared for a film shoot too - Under Milk Wood. Again this tested the captain's memory as he had studied it for O level English many many moons ago. A few lines came back to mind though and seemed to fit the location perfectly (providing the girls recover and remove their canoe before filming starts of course). If you want to take part see Under Milk Wood filming but brush up on your languages as it will be recorded in Welsh and English apparently. Kind of rules out Andrew and Linda from a speaking role...

St Davids advertises itself as the smallest city in the UK. The cathedral is quite magnificent though. A church has existed there since the 6th century and the whole area just feels historic. Look at St Davids Cathedral history to get a feel for this great place:

A must visit if you are ever in the area. A must.

The little Fiat was called into service again to take Andrew and Linda to Swansea station on Sunday so they could get a train back to Plymouth and be reunited with their car / reality. Many thanks to them for being excellent crew / helmspeople / native guides / company over the last week. We might well need to borrow Andrew as a helmsman on future long passages...........

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Skomer to Neyland

Having enjoyed a very chilled (but actually warm) night anchored off Skomer we decided that anchoring off Dale would be a good next move. After some RIB trips to watch the wildlife a little more we headed off towards Milford Haven entrance. Out of the shelter of Skomer, the wind had really picked up with a brisk (F5) northerly causing some fair sized waves - again we watched a boat heading in the opposite direction pushing up lots of spray.

Just as we entered the estuary area, the local lifeboat was heading out on a "shout" - recovering a sick crewman from an anchored tanker according to the radio conversations that were underway. An impressive sight:

Of course at those speeds our annual financial contribution to the RNLI would not even pay for the fuel to keep it going very long. The anchorage off Dale whilst lovely was also very windy and bumpy so we gave up on that idea and headed up the river instead.

There is always plenty to see in a big commercial port area (oil and gas facilities here) even if the scenery isn't as lovely as that off Skomer. Our timing didn't allow entrance to the marina at Milford itself, which we had visited last September (see Milford post but the summary is - nice marina, nice staff there too, decaying town centre, sad) so we continued upstream to Neyland:

For the vaguely interested, Dale is kind of the left hand yellow blob on the chart above and Neyland says just where it is with no help needed. 

The nice folks at Neyland gave us a visitor berth and even came down to help with the lines as "the last big boat we had in here messed it up". Yes, for Neyland we are a big boat, helps the ego and makes all the washing off and polishing seem worthwhile.

Initially we would have been easily visible on their web-cam but we moved into the main marina after 4 nights in the entrance with great views of the main river. Upon arrival, another council of war was held. Decision - to rent a car for a while and use the local knowledge of the native Welsh guides (Andrew and Linda) to see parts of Pembrokeshire that you don't get to appreciate by water.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Puffin (poo) dodging

After the long(ish) trip, our guests seemed remarkably perky. More so than Patrick who was decidedly sniffy about being surrounded by cute puffins. Think he was feeling a little less "centre of attentionish". Luckily for him, Linda came to his rescue with a cwtch or two. For the non Welsh readers (and that must be over 99% of you), a cwtch is rather nice. See Urban dictionary for info.

Patrick started to like having the Welsh folks on board and even tuned in to the accents. He picked up on the rather frequent use of "fair play" and other nice sayings. We worry that his rather faltering English is already being corrupted. At what age should penguins begin to converse?

Linda offered him a RIB trip. At first he was unsure as he'd had an email from his spaniel friend Bron:

 We have also been out on the wobbly stuff. We got as far as the pier twice last weekend to play something called committee boat for some dinghy racing. I got a ride on a fast rubber boat but me dad didn't come so I cried and they took me back again

As you can see, he took a little persuading to go and needed a big cwtch:

However, once out in the RIB he lost all his inhibitions (as did the RIB crew it seems):

Of course, having been led astray, the RIB crew then went for a burn. After 25 hours at around 6 knots, perhaps the urge to play hooligan was just too much:

Note how the helmsman seemed slightly less impressed / uninhibited than the passenger. However, upon their return to the mothership, they both said that they wanted a RIB like this one. Of course it would be way cheaper than a Nordhavn but harder to sleep on. Sorry Phil and Neil (the Nordhavn Europe men that you met last summer in this blog) - think we have lost you a sale. 

Post lunch, a trip around to the northern side of the island where you are allowed to land was fruitless. No places to leave the RIB. Actually it was far from fruitless. The scenery was lovely, we watched puffins doing belly flops across the waves as they tried to take off in choppy water and a couple of RIB occupants who were sitting on the side tubes got a bit soggy. Not a bad result really for those of us enjoying the jockey seat in the middle:

The day was rounded off by some serious puffin photography, birdwatching and general chilling. They are just so cute and entertaining. Here are a few images to give you a taste of what we enjoyed:

Take off is quite tough for them as you can see in this sequence:

Of course, the razorbills looked unimpressed at these antics:

A great day. Wonderful weather, a morning arrival after the overnight trip, a beautiful anchorage, some RIB fun, lots of wildlife to watch and a peaceful night at anchor to enjoy. It really doesn't get much better than this. Even the boat looked happy with yet another "Mew Stone" in the background:

Fog, flexibility and Falmouth to Skomer

Well, having set the alarm for an early(ish) departure to St Marys (Scilly Islands) the Captain had a disappointing moment. The weather forecast had changed and fog was expected from Wednesday evening to Friday morning out there. Hum, would mean arriving Tuesday late, enjoying the place for a day and then potentially being holed up until it cleared. After a crew conference, the plan got changed - a passage to South Wales was decided upon to give Andrew and Linda  passagemaking experience and an overnight trip on a trawler yacht. Kill or cure for their desire to own one perhaps??? (By the way, they suggested doing this trip - no arm twisting was needed. They are clearly demented.)

Boat duly prepared for the trip, we headed off on the 140 nautical miles or so run. Leaving the Fal, we passed one of the iconic Enterprise boats. they always look so tidy compared to the average ferry / trip boat operation:

Sorry Steve, we think they are better at painting than Bron, your spaniel (see Penarth post ) but probably their labour costs are a bit more than dog biscuits and vet bills.

The run down towards Lizard Point passing the Manacles had the waves on our stern quarter. We even saw a couple of dolphins who played with our bow wave briefly. This Aquastar heading in the other direction was not so lucky and was throwing up plenty of spray - the photo doesn't really show how much of a submarine he was:

The flybridge was used by Andrew and Linda during this "blowy and chillier" bit whilst the Captain and crew had retired to the pilothouse. Either we are getting very old and feeble or they needed to stay up top to avoid us. Reader - draw your own conclusions. Rounding the Lizard it all calmed down nicely:

This meant that the full ship's complement managed to migrate to the flybridge for the trip along the coast towards Lands End.  We explained to Linda that there was a centuries old tradition to be upheld when first rounding Lands End - you had to eat a Cornish cream tea and wear a bobble hat. Luckily, she managed both with great aplomb:

Andrew was less gullible but managed the cream tea of course. The background shows the Lands End visitor centre in case any of their friends are reading this and think they just took a train.

After passing the Longships lighthouse, we all had to retire inside - got a little chilly as the wind was on the nose. We also had a little pitching to contend with which frustratingly continued through to dinner time. So, instead of a freshly concocted dinner delight (do you like the way that the crew bigs up her cuisine in here?) we had a freezer surprise. Not that it was a big surprise though as the crew managed to dig out an unidentified frozen parcel that turned out to be the same recipe that she had cooked two nights earlier. So, Captain and crew consumed that. Then, result. A lamb tagine was unearthed which was fine for Linda but not for lamb averse Andrew. Such is life afloat - must mark the little freezer bags in future.

Andrew, who had helmed nearly all the way bar a short lunch break, had a brief rest and then took over for the first night watch. The captain liked having an experienced boater on board so he could get some sleep. This could become a habit.  One little bit of maintenance was needed though - the starboard navigation light blew when it was switched on so a replacement was duly fitted whilst underway and enjoying a lovely sunset across the water.

With people dotted around the boat, sleeping in various strange locations (don't ask, nothing scandalous here), Andrew guided us towards South Wales (land of his forefathers etc etc). Not too much other traffic and so a pretty quiet time. The Captain did the next stint (the 1am to 3am oh boy I want to yawn timeslot) and guess what - the new navigation light bulb blew. So, another was duly fitted whilst everyone else slept - see, you can never have enough spares on board... The crew took over for a while then "Iron Man Andrew" was back.

An early breakfast was enjoyed by all - the sea had calmed down, the wind had dropped (crew and Linda had reported 35 knot gusts early evening) and the sun was out again. So were the dolphins:

This picture is just to show how much they seem to enjoy the bow wave created by the Nordhavn. Several visits by various pods /  pairs were enjoyed by all the crew.  Andrew was prised from the helm seat to take this video, the soundtrack of squeals is of course, not dolphin speak - more crew and Linda speak. Yes, conversing with them is hard:

The final 20 miles or so to Skomer seemed to fly by - or as much as they can at just over 6 knots. More dolphins came to play, then we started to spot some puffins too. Linda decided to practice her best Titanic pose:

The southern anchorage at Skomer was not too busy. a yacht had tucked itself well into the bay and so we simply held off a little. We have lots of chain so that was not a problem! The view across the small bay was just lovely:

and the puffins, razorbills, guillemots etc were all around us. Died and gone to heaven stuff really.

The engine was switched off after a 25 hour run. Andrew helmed for about 21 of those 25 - total respect for how he managed that with only a few cat-naps.

Maintenance news: Well, you know about the 2 navigation bulbs. No idea why the first replacement went pop but the second one is all OK so we assume that the bulb had a manufacturing defect. As they cost about £5 a go, that is not great. Might just invest in some LED versions when the current stock is exhausted. One more job to do - the solenoid on the windscreen washers has stuck shut. Andrew couldn't get any water to wash the pilothouse screens when some salt spray got onto them. Made us realise that the last time we needed the washers was well over a year ago! Quite a nice dry boat the Nordhavn, doesn't throw up much spray normally... There is a little dismantling job for the captain on a rainy day soon.