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, 30 March 2015

The last bits of preparation in Wales and we go back to work for a while....

So, as the weather wasn't warm enough to get the crew keen enough to polish the hull, we found some other stuff to amuse us instead. The information on maintenance work might not amuse all the readers though so we have included a little other stuff in this post to break up the tedium.

First of all, replacing the reflector for the searchlight which was losing its silvering and hence effectiveness, big time. It looked like water had got in through the front bezel seal. Getting the new reflector had been fun - no UK dealers shown on the web so an email was sent to the US manufacturer who pointed us to a UK distributor. They then were very helpful, found the part number and price but then forgot to order it. It then went onto their next stock order and got delivered to us at the wrong address. Kind of the typical comedy of errors you get with low volume boat parts. Luckily it wasn't an urgently needed item!

Still, a new reflector, bezel and seal later we are capable of dazzling incoming aircraft once more:

There was one warm day though and so we managed to polish about half the starboard side of the hull. The rest of the fun is to come...

We actually worked for a few hours too. Yes, worked! Well, it wasn't too hard and it wasn't paid and so we cannot make more of it than to admit that we crewed for Steve the Waterbus man (and dad to Bronwen the spaniel) who had a couple of school trips and no crew. 3 hours out in the Bay on board the "Princess Royal" with various school children, teachers and Bronwen wasn't too bad.

See Waterbus website for more info - you might spot a picture of Bronwen there, taken on our phone. Here is the boat (and by the way, we stole this picture. When we were crew there were no fenders trailing in the water):

Next, a replacement for the flybridge B&G display that shows speed, depth, wind strength and direction etc etc was fitted. This little guy had been a bit sick ever since we bought the boat with a couple of "lines" out across the screen. It wasn't a big deal as everything was still perfectly readable. However, it slowly deteriorated to the "what depth is that saying" point and although all the same stuff can be read from the plotter alongside it, this wasn't ideal. Andrew (yes, the Welshcake person) found one second-hand on eBay as they are no longer made (of course). He kindly got it for us and it had been sitting in the pilothouse all winter waiting for the nicer weather (didn't want to leave it out in the cold up there until it was going to be used!)

Of course, removing the old one was fun - someone had put sealant underneath it rather than relying upon the gasket the manufacturer supplies. Steve had some old fishing line and that carefully sawed through the sealant and loosened the old unit. The new one isn't 100% perfect - it has a small line missing but it is 99% better than the old one so a good step forward thanks to Andrew who is a complete star:

The wind speed got a little higher over the weekend though - 57 mph gusts here and worse predicted for tonight (65mph or so). The start of springtime?

One of the "irritants" was a bulkhead light in the main cabin. Some time ago the switch failed but as it had 3 terminals, the other pair could be used. Then the thing packed up again so it was time to get another switch. Tracking down a supplier was easy enough, finding the part number courtesy of the manufacturers excellent website was OK too. However, the supplier would only ship a customer's first order to the address that their credit card is registered to, as fraud avoidance. Not ideal when afloat. Eventually the little switch arrived via Essex and was soldered in. No need to wake up the crew when light is needed now - this should increase on-board harmony but reduce the fun:

What else? Well, the regular fuel filter replacements were completed (8 of them in total - main engine 2 primary and a secondary; wing and genset -1 primary and one secondary each  and the polishing filter). The little wing engine was also treated to some new coolant as it was time to do so.  Luckily changing that lot isn't too bad - about 3 hours including bleeding the engines afterwards and cleaning up / disposing of the old filters & coolant etc.

The steering system hydraulic reservoir needed a "pump up" too, it was last re-pressurised in May 2014. It is fitted in the pilothouse and hidden amongst various cables and Furuno boxes so dead easy to access. The system runs with a low pressure in the reservoir to ensure any oil lost from the system is replaced by oil from the reservoir and not air. As we have a helm position higher than the reservoir, on the flybridge, a little pressure is needed. The Nordhavn book suggests 20 psi plus. We run at between 5 to 10 psi having heard of some people who popped out the reservoir seals at 25 psi or so! The local hydraulics man supported this. Even taking a picture of the reservoir is hard owing to limited access:

Departure from Penarth? Well, the weather forecast is pretty grim until next weekend so we are unlikely to head off before then. Time for more maintenance perhaps.....

See how much fun you can have with a boat - still want one??

Sunday, 22 March 2015

When the toddlers came to stay, we set off to raid the Castle

The crew's parents (also known as "The Toddlers" for reasons that it would take too long to explain here) came to stay in sunny - yes it was - Penarth for a few days. This was our trigger to go and explore Cardiff Castle properly and we are pretty pleased that we did so.

The exterior of the old castle keep is impressive:

The exterior of the other buildings perhaps less so but elegant all the same:

However, once you get inside and see what the Bute family did to turn it into a "summer residence" you realise just how much money they made from the coal export business. For images of their main house, on the island of Bute called Mount Stuart, see 2013 visit post

Here is the children's room, with images of children's tales around the walls. Recognise Little Red Riding Hood in the picture? How she got to ride the wolf is beyond us though:

The large formal dining room is rather special and is now used to host visiting dignitaries from around the world (and the less than dignified visiting politicians too):

The fireplaces didn't escape the ornate treatment either:

and the ceilings were astounding:

Even the cafe in the grounds was impressive offering good carrot cake. Regular readers will know what a critical component of our happiness that is. Overall a great place to visit and do that "wide open mouth gaping in awe" thing.

On the way back, the iPad king (aka the crew's father who is ever so slightly addicted to his) took this panorama of the marina and Cardiff bay and the serious boat spotters might find our Nordhavn in there somewhere, sitting on a hammerhead mooring (for the non boating types, that is the end of the pontoon):

What next? Well, we had a trundle around the bay area to check out all the "systems" again and luckily everything worked OK. Even the singing wing engine alarm was quiet but we have to admit that we have no idea what we did that finally fixed it.....

There are some more "bits and bobs" to do before we head off cruising again, as you would expect, but nothing that would stop us leaving here, hopefully in a week or so. All weather dependent of course, but more of that in the next post. We have to keep you reading this stuff somehow.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Liverpool and the loud Welsh ladies (?) experience

Another one of those "so why did you go there?" weekends - a trip to Liverpool this time.

So, why? Well, we hadn't been there since 1987 or so apart from work visits. We guessed that it had been improved a little since then. Also because we found a really cheap trip. Normally we trundle around by train or National Express coach and find cheapo hotels to stay in. This time a local coach firm offered the trip and a nice central hotel with food included at a stupid price. Although this meant becoming one of the "coach tour types" we felt it was safe - no excursions, no group dinners, just a coach up and back with a hotel in the middle. Have a look at Edwards coaches for the full horror of some organised coach tours though.

Our coach was a last minute elderly replacement for the planned nice new one. Only 1.7 million miles on the clock though so plenty of life in it yet:

We had a nice run up to Liverpool despite the best efforts of some stereotypical Welsh valley women who occupied the back of the bus, drank shots, sang (out of tune and loudly) and had voices that were clearly due to many years of heavy smoking. Noisy irritating lot. For those unfamiliar with the Valleys stereotype, here is the Wikipedia entry to enjoy:

The area is less diverse than the rest of the country, with a relatively high proportion of residents (over 90% in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil) born in Wales. High rates of teenage pregnancy give the area a slightly younger age profile than Wales as a whole.
The Valleys suffer from a number of socio-economic problems. Educational attainment in the Valleys is low, with a large proportion of people possessing few or no qualifications. A high proportion of people report a limiting long-term health problem, especially in the Upper Valleys. 

The limiting long term health problem used to be related to mining diseases. The back of the coach crew had alcohol as the cause. They also ran a very noisy "quiz competition" amongst themselves which confirmed the comments above about educational attainment! They were off to Liverpool to find an Irish pub, watch the Ireland v Wales rugby game and get drunk. 

We found other things to do, luckily.  The Atlantic Tower hotel has a great position on the waterfront - here is the view from our bedroom window, with the "parish church" next door and the Liver Building behind it:

Strangely we stayed there back in 1987 too - the crew used to work for Scottish and Newcastle Brewery who owned the Thistle hotel chain then. Discounts on hotel stays and free beer too.  Happy days, why did she ever leave???

Steve (Bron the Spaniel's dad and Cardiff Waterbus man) had given us a Scouser's walking tour of the city to follow. We added a visit to Liverpool marina to check it out and covered 11 miles in the day. Well worth it though!! The marina is a little sad, and has a serious tidal restriction (realistically a couple of hours at each high water when the tide is high enough and the stream outside is slow enough for a safe lock in/out). Here is the lock entrance without the water outside:

Back in the city, we were amazed by the Anglican Cathedral - the largest in the world apparently. Outside is not so grand but the sheer scale of the building inside is amazing. Here is the small Lady Chapel as an example:

The area around the cathedral has lovely old houses and some interesting street sculptures to enjoy:

The nearby modern Metropolitan (Catholic) cathedral looks strange from the outside but after a while spent inside, you get the "feel" of the place and come away quietly impressed. The outside was nicknamed "Paddy's wigwam" and you can see why from this stolen image:

Remember that Liverpool has a high number of folks with Irish Catholic backgrounds. The interior:

Steve told us that we had to visit the Philharmonic pub / dining rooms to admire the woodwork and the toilets. Hum. Carl and Julie (the other resident Scousers here) said the same thing. So, we forced ourselves to comply. Here is the detail on Wikipedia.

If you have seen / remember our blog post on Rothesay then the Philharmonic toilets are a smaller version and not quite as grand (sorry Liverpool). Follow the link above and then compare to this picture. Warning  - for ladies of a nervous disposition, this picture shows places you probably never ever want to witness:

The large Chinese contingent living here - the oldest in the world - built a stunning arch (the largest multi-span arch outside of China apparently):

and their influence extends to the street signs too:

Finally, two iconic Liverpool things. Firstly the "Ferry cross the Mersey" made famous by the song (for younger readers or those folks outside the UK, or those old nostalgic characters, watch Gerry and the Pacemakers video ) This is a 1959 ship, still working:

And then the "three Graces", the stunning waterfront buildings near the ferry terminal that show the power and financial muscle that Liverpool had (sadly, a lot of it through slave trading in the past). A UNESCO world heritage site and just beautiful. The Liver building first with the famous Liver birds on top:

then the Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings:

which also look stunning at night:

On the way back, the impact of hangovers, late nights and lots of food seemed to quieten down the Welsh Valleys ladies. Or perhaps it was the knowledge of how much they had spent on alcohol...

If you haven't been to Liverpool recently, go.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pre-season maintenance fun and frolics

It had to happen. Reality struck when we had to wash off the boat and start those little maintenance jobs that had been put off for a while, mainly because we had been very busy since late November heading off to various places and having fun. That all stops now....

This little lot might put you off boat ownership for ever of course. If so, sorry. No, not sorry because if you are not prepared to do such things on a regular basis, don't go and buy a boat! The reality is that boats are complex things with many different systems and points of failure. You can design them to keep the boat seaworthy and running through all sorts of weather, poor fuel etc etc but stupid stuff like light switches will go wrong occasionally.

The kick off was that a new fluorescent light had to be fitted in the engine room to replace the one above the genset that had given up the ghost. Not a huge task but it was a start on the pre-cruising worklist.

Next, we found the cause of the slight coolant loss from the heating system. How? By opening a drawer and finding some soggy books in it..... The expansion tank had started to weep from the bottom fitting. Of course, it couldn't be as simple as tightening up the hose fitting that goes into it. Oh no. The threaded fitting that is moulded into the bottom of the tank was leaking and there is no way that you can get into it to either melt some plastic around it or "bodge it up" with epoxy for a while.

Here is the old style tank (this one is fitted to the smaller Webasto water heater that we have on board as a separate system for heating the two heads' compartments. controlled from the main cabin. Why get chilly doing your morning ablutions after all!)

So, we ordered a new tank and found that they have done away with the pesky moulded in fitting. The downside to that is, of course, that the new style tank needs a much bigger hose to push onto the inlet fitting and the fixing holes are in totally different positions.... So, one short piece of 20mm ID pipe and a reducer later we  had a solution. Stuff is never simple.

What else? Well, one of the bulkhead reading lights had packed up - the switch was kaput. Finding a new switch on-line was easy enough. Of course, the UK supplier will only ship it to your home address for your first order to avoid credit card fraud. Hum. It should get delivered when the crew's parents come to visit next week. Again, never straightforward.

The trusty Yamaha outboard on the RIB coughed and spluttered a bit on start-up this week. Think the carburettor needs a clean out - after a good blast around the bay it was fine again. So were we, the hooligan smile came back. The only adjustment needed was to slightly increase the idle speed as it has dropped over time . We do love that 20HP outboard though.....

The most annoying thing was a spurious alarm on the little wing engine. The alarm started to "click" a little and then get louder and more like a full blown alarm noise at higher speeds and when the engine was hot. Of course, the engine was running just fine - no overheating or oil pressure issues at all. Diagnosing the problem was hard. Disconnecting the senders that are designed to set off the alarm for high temperature / high exhaust temperature /low oil pressure made no difference. So, they were not faulty. Disconnecting the wiring to the senders at the control panel also made no difference. No sign of a short circuit in the wiring either. Tracing the wiring diagram and testing a couple of diodes in the system drew a blank too. Time for an email to "Lugger Bob" the brilliantly helpful  Lugger / Northern Lights engine guru to see if he has come across this teaser...

However, refitting the bimini cover and the flybridge cushions on a nice sunny day felt so good. A hint of spring really cheers things up.