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, 28 June 2015

Pembrokeshire by car

On the way back from getting our Dylan Thomas fix, we had to pop into Saundersfoot and Tenby. Andrew and Linda introduced us to these delightful spots last year and they needed a revisit. Shock horror - the shop called "Bronwens" in Saundersfoot which we shared a picture of has changed hands and the name has gone. Patrick was even more upset!

Tenby was as lovely as ever though:

We also headed out to Cardigan - the one in Ceredigion (not Pembrokeshire, sorry).  It is an ancient town and once was a major sea port. However, the river silted up, the ships got bigger and the railways arrived... There are some gorgeous buildings, like the Corn Exchange:

Shame about the lamp posts... The castle has been restored and advertises itself with this large and grand banner:

Unlike Penarth / Cardiff, most signs are in Welsh first and then English - a hint to the predominately Welsh speaking nature of the area. Many of the words look too hard to pronounce, or to even attempt. As an example:

Cannot imagine needing a Cyfreithwyr somehow. Or going to see one in Cardigan. We did, however, like the strange boat conversion that is an Indian restaurant on the river - get the name too:

"Shampan" fits so well:

If their business ever fails, not sure who would buy the boat from them though.

We headed back via St Davids - mainly for tea and cake of course. Andrew and Linda had introduced us to the smallest UK city last year and it was well worth a second look. The carrot cake? Well, the Espresso Bar does quite a good one we can report. Not an all time winner but good. Just to prove that we were there, here is the iconic shot of the cathedral:

Pembrokeshire (and Cardigan of course) is a nice area. They call the southern area "Little England beyond Wales" and you can see why from some of the villages. Nice area, very nice.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Getting to know Dylan Thomas

Well, having got the wonderful hire car (a Chevy Spark LS - bet you haven't seen many of those unless you live next to a Chevrolet dealer!) we felt obliged to use it. All 1.0 litres of it. Still, it was no worse that the truly horrid Vauxhall Corsa rental cars we have endured. Why are General Motors so far behind Ford in the small car game? The Chevy is particularly strange looking, even in GM's own press photos:

We started out with Pendine Sands, famous as the venue for many car / motorcycle races and speed trials on the beach itself. See Wikipedia entry. Then we moved on to Laugharne. A lovely spot, famous as the home and also last resting place of Dylan Thomas the "welsh bard" - a poet and writer. For more info on the town, see Laugharne Wikipedia entry. If you don't know about Dylan Thomas, look at the link in the Wikipedia entry.

The town has a great castle down on the waterfront:

Sadly, it needs a few repairs:

Dylan Thomas's  writing room, a little shack looking over the harbour area, above the house he lived in:

 And the recreated interior (not a great photo, through glass and reflections, sorry):

The captain can still remember big chunks of "Under Milk Wood", a book he studied for O level English more years ago than should be mentioned. Apparently Llareggub, the town in the book,  was based on Laugharne. For those who don't know the book or anything of the author, just read the fictional town's name backwards. It will give you some idea of how his amazing mind worked. Then go and read it / listen to the Richard Burton recording of it.

Here is the family house and an idea of the lovely setting:

He is buried in the local churchyard:

and despite an "interesting" marriage, his wife Caitlin is in the same grave:

Their rather modest resting place looks somehow tasteful compared to the other "over the top" commemorative stones in the same area:

So,  Welsh culture duly and happily consumed.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Bronwen and Patrick - the end of a lovely relationship?

After weather checks, we decided to stay in Neyland (force 7 in the Irish Sea was not tempting). As Neyland is the proverbial "one horse town" (should really be called a "one Co-op town") we decided to rent a car to allow some proper shopping and sightseeing trips around the area over the weekend.

We'd already tried shopping at the local Co-op and discovered that the banana must be a form of currency here as they never seemed to have any left. The town is pretty sad and the shops all have that "depressed" look, but nothing like as bad as Milford. However, the marina and surroundings are lovely.

The captain was very organised and got the new on-line code to allow the nice Enterprise rent a car folks to check for points etc on his licence. The rental agent clearly hadn't used the system before as he started looking in the driver, not hire company area of the government website. After much head scratching, he announced that he "couldn't find the right website and that as I had a code it must be OK". So much for progress - it has passed Milford by in so many ways it is scary. Still, the Enterprise folks are very friendly and helpful!

A very soggy (ie had been swimming) Bronwen and a suitably smiling Steve arrived to say hello. Bron was not amused about having her normal lunch when the smell of pork cooking was in the air:

She demonstrated that she is perhaps not the most ladylike drinker either:

So glad that was in the cockpit...

After a walk, we had our lunch and Bron was not amused at being left out from this food feast. She isn't silly though and tempted the crew into being kind and feeding her by offering lots of cwtch opportunities and generally looking cute and appealing (if still a bit soggy):

Of course, once the bowl was empty, Bron decided to bring it inside for us, as a hint that it needed topping up again:

Smart girl - and it worked.

Of course, all this preoccupation with food meant that she didn't say hello to Patrick once. He sat, most forlornly, in the pilothouse and was ignored by our canine heroine for the whole day. The end of what was a great relationship perhaps.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Neyland - guilty maintenance time

We went a bit mad after arrival here. Not through lack of sleep (nice calm trip, slept well) or through lack of alcohol (still plenty left in our systems from the Scilly Islands we fear). Probably through guilt after many days of pure hedonism. The boat had a monster wash off, waterline scrub, sand removed from the dinghy and washed out etc etc. All very energetic.

The captain also fitted the new Marco waterpump - he needed some extra fittings (elbows and hose tails) and these were waiting in Neyland for us. Here is the beast fitted but before the wiring was tidied up:

A really heavy (great fun holding it out at arms' length to screw it to the bulkhead!) and apparently a solid unit. Let's see. Very quiet in operation too and has a proper bleed screw to help priming it. Impressed.

The plan is to only use it intermittently at first - we want to completely wear out the original Jabsco unit that is just over a year old and to have it replaced under the 3 year warranty. We can then use the posh Marco gear driven pump and have a new Jabsco unit as a backup. From the noises the Jabsco unit is making, death isn't too far away....

The main engine gearbox oil and filter were changed. The ZF filter is pretty expensive but it handles oil at the full pressure inside the box. We've heard of a few people who used a "pattern" (ie rip-off ) part and found that all their gearbox oil got dumped into the bilge whilst underway. Gearbox overhauls do not come cheap so we keep buying the proper filters. Not pretty things though.

Most irritating is the upside down mounting meaning the gearbox casing and engine drip tray get a bath in oil every time you change it. So frustrating but ZF mounting it the right way up would mean a wider gearbox so....

The genset was also treated to fresh oil and a filter as it had run about 140 hours since the last change. The book says 200 but with intermittent use we like earlier changes. The good thing is that the genset never needs topping up between oil changes and the built in pump makes it a very quick job. Of course, the oil filter is mounted at 90 degrees to the block and so you get nice black diesel engine oil spilling out when you change it. Cleaning up takes almost as long as doing the job!

We love the big lugger engine - a proper oil filter mount with the filter the right way up (thanks to John Deere) so no spills and no big clean up after a change.

After all that activity, we thought we deserved some fun. Instead, we invited Steve (the Cardiff waterbus man) and Bronwen the spaniel over for a day.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Scilly Islands to Neyland (Milford Haven)

All good things must come to an end sometime, so they say. We felt a little like that leaving the Scilly islands after such a great time but, it had to be done. So, we picked a nice settled time to leave - the wind didn't get above 10 knots until we were about 10 miles off the Welsh coast and there was only a small swell left from the previous strong NW'ly winds. Nothing to worry the Nordhavn though.

So, we slipped our mooring in New Grimsby Sound mid afternoon to optimise the tides for the run up to Milford Haven. Navigation is pretty simple, leave the sound, avoid the kettle bottom rock, hang a right and steer 027 degrees for about 120 miles and assuming the tides do what you have planned you pitch up in the Milford entrance. Nothing to it really,

The last lingering sight of the Scilly Islands was Round Island and its lighthouse, previously seen from the other side when we visited St Martins:

The route avoids the traffic separation scheme lanes between the islands and the UK mainland, just missing the top of them. However, the lanes are of course a pinch point and so we had to dodge a couple of big guys who were heading south into their proper lane. This chap caused us to divert a little:

In theory we had right of way and could have caused him to alter course but sometimes it isn't worth pushing things..... As we headed away from the Cornish coast and lost sight of land, we witnessed another spectacular sunset. The Irish Ferries ship "Oscar Wilde" managed to get in the way and look a bit mean and moody too:

Overnight, we had the normal fishing boats to avoid but not much else around us. It was only really dark out to sea for about 5 hours and the crew was very happy when just before 5am during her watch, a pod of dolphins came to play and stayed around for about 45 minutes. At the time she was trying to avoid a guard ship that was positioned over an exposed undersea cable and was most annoyed that she had to keep popping back into the pilot house to check the course was OK. Luckily the dolphins didn't get upset that she was temporarily absent.

The trip ended with several more dolphins, some puffins and, sure enough, arrival off Milford pretty much as planned. For those interested in the tidal effects, here is our track after steering a constant course bar a little ship dodging. The nice S shape is kind of cute and equates to a 5 mile tidal push away from our straight line route and then back again. Had it been spring tides, it would have been significantly more of course:

As we arrived in Milford, the pilot boat was returning to the harbour and came very close so the crew could take pictures of us. Plaid Cymru checking up on incomers perhaps? (for non UK folk or the politically apathetic, see website). As we headed up to Neyland so it started to drizzle and get gloomy. Such a shame after a gloriously sunny and calm trip.

Still, the berth had 32 amp power and so a happy crew got the washing machine and tumble dryer busy. In the Scilly islands we didn't run them to save water (our water maker on board isn't commissioned to save all the regular maintenance and use they need!) That wasn't a problem though, after 4 days with 3 people on board, followed by 4 days with just the two of us, we still had 1/3 of our tank capacity left and hadn't gone smelly.....

Maintenance news:

No, nothing to report. Overall a 20 hour run (Neyland is quite a long way from the Estuary entrance) and the log which had decided to stop en route to the Scilly Islands, decided to work again without the captain removing the log impeller to clean it and causing stress to the crew. (Stress as removing it leaves a hole in the bottom of the boat and a "little" sea water tends to come in before the replacement plug seals it up again!)

Monday, 22 June 2015

Pottering about in the Scilly Islands

As expected, we decided not to rush anywhere in the fog. No fun spending 19 hours staring at the radar so instead we stayed put and spent time pottering around the islands a bit more. No hardship frankly.

A very lazy time was enjoyed at the Flying boat café / bistro on Tresco with coffee and cake (no, not carrot this time, chocolate but excellent!) which then morphed somehow into wine. You know how these things can happen…. That took up all of an afternoon and early evening somehow.

We also had a brief (crew’s knee is playing up a little after her mountaineering exploits on Tresco) wander around Bryher a day later. Of course, her knee started to play up close to the Hell Bay hotel so coffee was needed there too. We bumped into some local folks who knew Soleil d’Or. Remember her? If not, here is a reminder. She is a lovely classic boat who belongs to Steve. He is better known as Bronwen’s dad and the Cardiff waterbus operator: 

The black "blob" hanging over the gunwale is Browen the Spaniel by the way.

Soleil d'Or was the “gentleman’s launch” and transport for the Tresco island main man and spent many years moored very close to where we are now. The main man now has a much less impressive looking Aquastar with a strange green hull as his transport.  Apparently there is a rock known by the local folks as the Sol rock. Not because Soleil d’Or hit it but because if you could see any of the rock, there was not enough water in the channel for her to pass through. Wonder if the ferry skipper who grounded a little (see earlier post) knows that trick?

On Sunday afternoon, the wind picked up but was blowing across New Grimsby sound. It was strong enough to compete with the tide and so all the boats ended up laying across the sound and, hence, broadside on to the waves coming in from the Atlantic. Not ideal. So, we deployed our “flopper stopper”. For the non-boating folks, this is basically a big stainless steel plate hinged in the middle that hangs from a spar into the water on our port side. As the boat rolls to port, it closes up and “dives” down. As the boat rolls the other way it opens up and acts like one big brake in the water, slowing the roll dramatically. Deploying it means fitting a line to the stack to support the end of the spar:

And then some fore and aft lines to keep it in position. Launching is nothing more ceremonious than slinging it over the side from the aft cockpit. The finished arrangement:

This grabbed the attention of the other folks moored near to us. Expressions of amusement / amazement as we rigged and deployed the spar and flopper stopper turned to jealousy as it started working and we rolled significantly less than them (yachts included!) Worth the 10 minutes or so of activity for a quieter night.

You can just about see the big stainless plate under the water here as it "opens" on the way up together with a little weed the guy line has collected:

Crude but effective. We like simple solutions. You can have a “stabilise at rest” function with the hydraulic fins but of course they need a genset running all the time to power them and the wear and tear on the bushes etc must be huge. We don’t have this feature, ours only work when underway and that is fine by us. The low tech flopper stopper is ideal.

Maintenance news:

Some time ago (3 years or so), the main engine oil cooler had a mist of oil underneath it and the bolts securing the housing to the engine block needed tightening. Well, a similar mist has appeared so the bolts got another tweak. Will order up a new gasket and fit it when the main engine oil is changed, not a big job. As we’ve been using the genset every day since Weymouth over a month ago (bar during a brief Plymouth marina stay) the hours have racked up and it will be due an oil change shortly. Will leave that until we are in a marina again, with oil disposal facilities to hand.

Friday, 19 June 2015

St Martins Island

Having sort of visited all the other inhabited islands, we thought that we should collect the complete set by hitting St Martins too. Again, we decided to cheat a little and leave the boat safely moored up (no great anchorages around St Martins in this wind direction) and use the ferry from Tresco. So, we took the Firethorn again and this time they headed out from New Grimsby sound and around the islands (perhaps the grounding yesterday reminded them that things can go wrong!). We landed at "lower town quay". The island has settlements called Lower Town, Middle Town and Higher Town. Pretty simple really!

Here is the ferry leaving Lower town, as you can see, not too much water under her keel:

To add to the lighthouse collection, here is Round Island as seen from St Martins:

We wandered slowly through "Middle town" (not huge) and over to the capital, Higher Town. Again, not huge of course. However, they have some lovely gardens clinging to the hillside and great views:

We decided that lunch should be in Little Arthur Cafe / Bistro. Hum. Finding it from the local map proved a challenge, Still, once there we very much enjoyed a home-made pasty with parmesan pastry. Very good stuff.  Have a peek at their website.

Then a small issue struck. We didn't have as much folding money with us as we thought -despite having drawn out an obscene amount in St Marys yesterday just in case. Most of it was safely but inaccessibly tucked up on the boat. A quick calculation said that we were a little short as this place (like the rest of the island it seems) didn't take any type of plastic. Ouch.

The captain talked nicely to the lady, said he would walk to the Post Office to get some cash but managed to almost match the bill with all the cash we had and a left over Guernsey pound note that could be changed in a bank. She, for some strange reason, thought we looked honest and took the proffered pile of cash in settlement for lunch. Phew.

After a quick trip to the Post Office for cash, we resumed our wandering, loving Par beach:

The views and turquoise sea could have been in the Caribbean. Only the temperature was about 10 degrees too low.  To give you an idea of how shallow the bay was, we watched these trainee divers arrive in their dive boat, pick up a mooring buoy and then walk ashore!

Before catching the ferry back to Tresco, we felt obliged to check out the local (only) tea rooms. Boy are we glad that we did. Although there was a very tempting carrot cake on offer, we went for the even more calorie laden and fat sodden cream tea. We think that we have to start a new category on here - one of the best scones that we've found and so far, this place (see Polreath website) is way out front:

A bit of a trek just for a cream tea but when you visit the Scilly islands, this is a must do.

After returning to Tresco we managed a short walk to burn off the worst of the calories before returning to the boat. The beaches on Tresco are equally appealing:

These islands are truly lovely. Waking up, looking out and seeing the view moored between Tresco and Bryher is died and gone to heaven stuff. So glad we had a settled spell of weather allowing us to see them properly. We plan to head off to South Wales (Milford / Skomer) shortly but Saturday promises fog and 2 metre waves on the stern quarter. The combination of the nice corkscrew motion that the crew loves, together with 19 hours glued to the radar isn't too appealing. On Sunday the fog might clear but it will be bumpier. Maybe we will just hang about here for another couple of days....

Thursday, 18 June 2015

St Marys Island

Julie had booked a flight back to Newquay around lunchtime. (We were amazed that she didn’t want to escape from us earlier, most people do). As the forecast was for NW force 5 winds, we decided that the trip from our mooring to St Marys would be a challenge for the RIB. Hence we took the ferry. Easier said than done as they hide their timetable quite well. Kind of a “last minute publishing” approach. Luckily, as the boats are run by the Tresco estate, we manage to get the times from the estate island office yesterday afternoon. Very strange way of operating.

So, we took the dinghy to Tresco, caught the ferry that was supposed to go to St Marys to find that it first went to Bryher to collect more passengers and then back to Tresco to drop off one person then over to St Marys. By then, the tide was very low and we grounded once crossing the drying area en route.

Interesting trip. Think the skipper of the ferry had a small buttock clenching moment as we were on a falling tide...

Luckily we made it over in time for a rapid coffee before Julie’s flight though. We continued to wander around Hugh Town (the “capital” of the island) and loved some of the old style shops even if many have become tourist clothing and "stuff" places now:

The island tour bus looks like another one of the pieces of equipment that has come over to the island to die, but the operator clearly has a sense of humour:

At the rear, a bungee cord was holding the engine cover down…. There is something very honest about a place with a lack of flashy cars, no outside lane hoggers (no dual carriageways here and very few roads!) and no need to display wealth or power by buying expensive unsuitable automotive toys. Here, flashy is a newish Land Rover Defender.

This view at Porth Cressa kind of sums up island life:

And these show the view that those two folks were enjoying:

The lifeboat station looks like one of the traditional slipway launched places:

However, the slipway is just to launch the boarding boat now - the lifeboat lives out on a buoy:

Although Hugh Town is the metropolis, it is still pretty peaceful and relaxing. We had a good day and even visited St Agnes on the way back as the ferry went to collect some more passengers there. Only St Martins to go now and we will have seen all the inhabited islands.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Tresco Island

Of course, being the UK you cannot have 4 sunny days on the trot without something happening. This time it was mist and then a little fog and then more mist. That didn’t stop us heading over to Tresco and doing the drag the dinghy up the beach thing again.

This time the New Grimsby Sound view was a little more atmospheric, kind of soft focus:

The track around the north of the island is not well marked or documented on the little map they provide for free. However, it was worth the mountaineering activity needed to reach King Charles Castle:

Walking around to the eastern side of the island, Grimble Porth was laid out below quite beautifully:

The only problem was that the tracks in front of us bore no relation to the little map. None at all. So, executive decisions were taken that led us into a wooded area, then down a steep bank through a narrow track that was nicely overgrown and finally into a small field:

Phew – finally we could see the proper pathway and we just needed to find a gate out of the field and onto that path. Yes, result. Well, it was all good until we closed the gate behind us and saw the notice that was on the other side of it:

The lucky captain had his red Gill boating jacket on and so was perfectly safe of course.

Having survived this, we fortified ourselves at the Ruin beach café with great views over Old Grimsby harbour. The walk back to the dinghy took us past the local school, which doesn’t have the typical local education authority sign outside:

We stopped off at the Flying boat café for a drink and an excellent piece of carrot cake which was up there amongst the all-time greats we have to say (a little less sugar in the topping and it could have rivalled the St Ives offering):

Interestingly, in the cafe / bistro we think we found the bull from that field:

Luckily it seemed quite docile, despite the captains jacket.