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

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Tarbert to Ardrossan

It was still soggy but time to move on. A soggy Sunday lunchtime had been happily spent watching a rather good grand prix race rather then hiking to the very remote hotel in the rain. A soggy Monday was spent cleaning up in the engine room. the big Lugger and floor area were treated to a "good gunking" and general clean out. Another annual fun task. After about 4 hours in there, you don't notice the Gunk smell any more which helps finish the job. It also probably means it is time to come out and breathe fresh air for a while.

After the day of hard labour, and with a nice residual whiff of Gunk that the shower just failed to completely remove, we decided that it was going to be a bit blowy for an overnight anchorage (the wind direction was going to change by nearly 180 degrees overnight, making selection of a sheltered spot a bit difficult. Instead, we opted to hit the delights (there are few) of Ardrossan. We'd never been there before but it has a big Asda store in staggering distance from the moorings and a train service to Glasgow about 4 minutes walk away.

The trip was very smooth but a bit misty and wet. No pictures of grey islands like Bute, Arran and Cumbrae against a grey sea for you as they don't do justice to the majestic scenery around here. A couple of porpoises lazily headed past but didn't come to say hello. We are used to being snubbed by Scottish sea life though (and the odd harbour person) so no surprise there. Look forward to being back in Welsh waters!

We still get amazed at how deep the water is though, even close in to the islands. Here we had 100 metres under us (the plotter depth is adjusted to show water below our keel) and if you look carefully there is over 150m nearby:

The 6 knots of wind only made little ripples on the surface of the sea. Way less than the forecast which was way less than the 6/7 that has become "normal" up here this year :

No dolphins,  just a couple of porpoises who felt obliged to ignore us totally.  We will resist our usual SNP comments here.... After a gentle but grey run,  we pottered into the harbour, through the narrow entrance to Clyde Marina (30 foot wide) and onto a huge hammerhead berth. As expected, not the loveliest of settings but for our plan (shopping, polishing if dry, train to Glasgow) a good spot. There is also the Webasto dealer for Scotland and Cumbria here and we will get them to look at the heater fuel pressure / delivery as it still seems to be unhappy,  noisier than before and burning too rich. If you remember our earlier moan, the Osmotech folks who were meant to check this in April didn't have any kit to do so..... So much for "dealer training and special tools". However, the Boatcare guys seem to have a good reputation so we will pop in and see!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Campbeltown to Carradale Bay to Tarbert

The next few days had to be planned around the weather forecasts. Sunday / Monday were supposed to be wet and blowy so we wanted to hole up somewhere with a few facilities in walking distance for 2 or 3 nights. Having decided upon Tarbert, the crew called to book a berth as their website said ">45 feet, book in advance". A fairly disinterested girl answered the phone and said that it would be "turn up and hope for space" on Saturday. After telling her that their website said "book" she managed to take some details but probably didn't bother to write them down.... Almost as welcoming as Tobermory last year. Perhaps they were both rabid SNP supporters and we have the wrong accents?

No matter, leaving Campbeltown in the sun for a nice short hop was delightful - in fact we actually managed to leave Campbeltown and clear the loch whilst sitting on the flybridge. No, we were not wrapped in duvets either, despite the lack of summer up here. As a fairly stiff NW'ly wind was promised, we picked a suitably sheltered anchorage at Carradale Bay for a night, arriving to find it totally empty. Had we misheard and misread the forecast wind direction? No, a double check said we were right. Suitably anchored at low water in about 7 meters we had lovely views of the bay:

 and astern of us, the Isle of Arran and some great colours:

After a quiet, well sheltered night there, we toddled off to Tarbert. Heading up the west coast of Arran there are some excellent views of the mountains / hills on the island. You also get to see some of the small CalMac ferries buzzing to and fro - a real reminder that you are in Scotland, the land of heavily subsidised transport owing to the geography. Seeing this hilly panorama around Lochranza, you can work out just how gusty it would be in the anchorage there during offshore winds:

You know how sometimes you can be very wrong? Well, whilst en route, a nice lady called Donna called from Tarbert Harbour, to tell us that she was reserving mooring B1 for us and where it was located. She said that as we would be "longer term visitors" (more than the normal 1 night!) she wouldn't put us on the visitor pontoon as we might have to raft up on Saturday night. We didn't like to tell her that it is often the other way around -  people don't like over 40 tons of Nordhavn hanging on their little Tupperware yacht! Super service, eat you heart out the miserable folks in Tobermory.

Having negotiated a tricky turn and reverse job onto the fabled "B1" with all the other boaters watching (no pressure) we had some great views from what is effectively a marina within the harbour:

There are some nice little islands in the entrance that provide shelter and also interesting pilotage when you meet a suicidal fishing boat going at full steam the other way, in the middle of the narrow channel, with no desire to give an inch. Probably driven by a wannabe Lewis Hamilton. Still pretty though:

In the harbour itself is a replica Viking boat:

and whoever carved the figurehead bit had a good sense of humour - this one doesn't look scary and has a lovely tongue retrofitted as well:

As Sunday's forecast was very wet, the crew had called and booked lunch at a hotel, kind of a hunker down and hide away day. Well, we went walking along Campbeltown Road to find the place to no avail. Back to an area where EE had some coverage to find that she had booked a hotel in West not East Loch Tarbert. She will not be allowed to prepare any boat passage plans in future. However, as it was sunny and to test out the recovering knee, we did the walk to the hotel and back to check it out in advance.

As the wind dropped during the evening we enjoyed one of "those" special moments with reflections in the water, a little harbour activity, a sensible temperature and a generally content feeling:

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bangor to Campbeltown

We hung around in Bangor for quite a while. Why? Well, the crew's dodgy knee had 3 treatments by the nice bone bender lady.  It is a great place and the people are great (OK, maybe not the ones who tried to blow up policemen in Lurgan this week or the two girls who advertised a fight in Belfast on social media and then had a ruck in front of a young audience in the city centre - see Belfast Telegraph )

Why not? Well the weather up here has been pretty grim for most of the summer. No heatwaves, melting roads and buckled railway lines so there is an upside of course. We used our extended stay here to do a bit more boat polishing between showers - finishing off the hull and some more superstructure. We were fed one evening by David and Caroline at their house. We went into Belfast (not to see the fighting girls, we add hastily) and helped the local economy by stocking up the larder and freezer.  Sadly, we have to report yet again that the local Bangor clocks are still mainly broken. Time does stand still here.

It was time to move on, just the weather didn't want us to - lots of blowy stuff forecast. The big decision was where to head for - east or west of the Mull of Kintyre? To help you, the Mull is at the end of the bit with Campbeltown on it!

Since we'd spent far longer than planned in Bangor (knee inspired), we figured that going "well up north" wasn't on for this year - time and the weather were against us. So, heading east into the relatively sheltered waters around the isles of  Arran and Bute became the plan. See how flexible / chilled we retired folks are?

Flexible and chilled were not our first thoughts when the alarm went off at 4:15am. Still, if you want to catch the tides.... One benefit was leaving a very quiet and calm Bangor and being greeted with a lovely sunrise, only the ugly Celebrity cruiseliner spoiled the view:

As it headed up to Belfast, a Stena ferry joined the act:

Still, it means you get two nice sunrise views to enjoy.

We had to divert around a tug and drilling rig that were heading up the coast and for once, we could overtake a commercial ship - our 6.5 knots over the ground felt fast compared to their 2.4. Wow. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, the Mull of Kintyre area was not too bumpy and as it looked a bit grey, no pictures here. The Ailsa Craig was equally a grey mound in the distance so no pictures either. However, Davaar island at the entrance to Campbeltown loch was impressive:

even if the picture isn't quite horizontal. Sorry, must have been excitement or tiredness from the 4:15am start. Here is the little lighthouse on the island to add to our ever expanding but totally pointless lighthouse picture collection:

Kind of cute as lighthouses go though.

When you approach the town, you can see that the timber business is still important here:

Although the 3 distilleries are more interesting perhaps. The pontoon moorings were extended recently and so there was space for us - we even had this lovely converted MFV come and berth opposite:

Pity that the captain wasn't as nice as his boat. Two of us went out to help with the mooring lines and all he could do was bark out orders. The "thank you" phrase clearly isn't in his vocabulary or doesn't get exercised that often if it is. Think the nice boat deserves a nicer captain.

Later on he fuelled up from the fishing quay opposite. It reminded us of our fuel spot in St Sampsons (Guernsey) when we also have a road tanker delivery:

Two significant differences though - in St Sampsons the quayside and pontoon are old and decrepit and the fuel is way cheaper. For the latter, we put up with the former of course.

Campbeltown loch is a lovely area, spoilt only by the warship fuelling jetty which we have decided not to picture as it is too ugly. Interestingly, the fuel base looked as though it gets used once in the proverbial blue moon. The pipework was going nice and rusty and the only real sign that it was a military refuelling establishment was a "Heightened awareness" sign outside about the risk levels. There was still only a piece of chain across the jetty entrance and no nice men waving guns around to protect the storage area. There were at least 7 people working (or perhaps sleeping) there based on the car park. No idea what they do, clearly it isn't painting!

A walk around the Loch is well worthwhile:

Maintenance news:

It was time to treat the big Lugger to a new air filter. Here is the old one and they are a big and relatively expensive canister device. This is a Northern Lights / Lugger specific part with special air inlet sound deadening - sadly you cannot pick up a nice cheap John Deere part from a tractor dealer although one did try hard to find a suitable filter for us once:

The filter had about 400 hours use (change time is 600 or 1 year). The dust around the intake had built up in about 40 hours running since the casing was last cleaned. No idea where all that stuff comes from or why it is always grey. Perhaps not knowing is a good thing.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A Jealous Penguin, Parade madness and being sociable

Patrick has been pretty quiet recently.  We kind of like that of course,  considering some of his earlier escapades.  He seemed  a bit gloomy but as he is mute (with us at least)  it is hard to tell exactly how he is feeling.

Desmond, the "I love Wales" bear seems to be having a ball visiting new places.  You might have seen him in earlier posts enjoying Herm (Channel Islands) and Tresco / Bryher (Scilly Islands). Well, he seems to love Norn Iron and is up to speed on all the local news too:

He has been devouring local news and culture to the extent that we need to buy bigger wheaten bread loaves than before to keep up with his appetite.  The £2 bed and board that he arrived with is looking less and less like a good deal now.

We invited Keith and Julie around for dinner at the start of their 2 week yachting vacation and a good time was had:

Patrick stayed in the pilothouse and made no attempt to be sociable as is his wont recently. He also stayed put when David and Caroline came for lunch and to watch the Wimbledon finals. We tried talking to him but to no avail. Might need some parenting advice soon....

Monday 13th was the "Marching day" here - when the Orangemen have big parades with drum and flute bands to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne. It should be on the 12th but that was a Sunday. The parades seem to be a great excuse to stir up hatred between the nationalists and loyalists with lots of provocation on both sides. Watching the practice parades you realise just how far this place has to go before true "peace" breaks out. Our plan to watch one of the large events at Holywood was thwarted by NI Railways who seemed to think that ONE ticket office man working in Bangor would suffice on the public holiday when what seemed like half of the Bangor population wanted to get the train to Holywood. It was manic, we left. So, here are a few "borrowed" images to give you a flavour of what happens:

All very ceremonial and military like. Some lodges want to pass sensitive catholic areas which the parades commission have banned (yes, this semi-crazy place needs a parades commission who agree routes and dates etc), Where the loyalists want to march and are banned by the commission, the police have such a nice job:

As an example of the stupidity, they march past some catholic churches but are only allowed drum noises as they pass, no music. The policemen who walk along with the parades must not walk in step to the music in case they are branded as taking part or enjoying it.  All so so sad and no end in sight to the situation either. Such a lovely country, such great people, such a sad history and such an inability to get beyond it too.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Mount Stewart (not Mount Stuart)

If you have a good memory, you might remember reading some rubbish that we wrote about Mount Stuart house on the Isle of Bute. This isn't a repeat due to senility. This one is firmly in Norn Iron and spelled differently just to help you but both were built on the back of fortunes made from the coal trade. Mount Stuart using money from South Wales, this one from Durham. Funny how both of the coalfield areas are so depressed today after creating such wealth for others.

The National Trust owned Mount Stewart has been the lucky recipient of a major refurbishment and repair regime recently and only re-opened in April. National Trust website will give you more information on this fascinating spot. The house has been the home of the Londonderry family over many (250+) years which has seen some most interesting inhabitants and guests over the years.

It is another "well worth a trip" place. Lady Edith (not the one from Downton, keep up you TV addicts) had very eclectic tastes and used some bold colours in her interior decoration - the house has her early 20th century furnishings and colour schemes which are evident in the dining room:

The chairs on the left hand side wall are from the agreements made at the Congress of Vienna when European borders were realigned (it keeps happening!) around Napoleon's time. The key organiser was Viscount Castlereagh who was given the chairs, each patterned with the national flag / symbols of the county that used them. Some serious historical links here - the armour in the hallway came form Napoleon's guard and was "liberated" by another family member who served under Wellington:

There was a most unusual chandelier shaped like a ship. A bit up market compared to the offering in the Dartmouth Royal Naval College that we shared before:

Originally you could see down to Strangford Lough and the chandelier looked as if it was floating on the water there - part of Lady Edith's attention to detail. Her bold (?) approach with colours also carried through to the guest bedrooms:

Imagine waking up a little the worse for wear after a good dinner in such surroundings. Personal requirements were not ignored either - the latest in washing technology in nice contrasting colours was fitted to make the guest feel really at home:

Apparently the gardens are up there with the best in the world - they even got proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. As people whose gardening ability is limited to a pressure washer being waved at the patio at home, we feel unable to comment properly. We did enjoy them though as did the couple of children here:

Even the flowers looked happy:

The typical National Trust tea room had to be visited. Of course, being Norn Iron they didn't have much "cake" - just lots of the traybakes that they love here and in Scotland. Please don't let this put you off visiting though - the scones are excellent.....

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Pottering in Norn Iron

So, the nice osteopath lady had a week of vacation booked so the crew's taped up and poorly knee could not get a second treatment for a while. That means staying in Norn Iron for longer - not a hardship at all. We extended the hire car for a while and planned trips out around the weather forecast.

We explored Carrickfergus to check out the boat lift there - at 45 tons capacity it is too marginal for us to use sadly. As it started to get a bit wet whilst we were there, we made a one time only mistake - a panini in the Sainsbury's supermarket cafe. Never ever again. Grim and tasteless. They even managed to mess up the "two decaf teas" that were ordered by turning them into coffee. Then, after a nice apology, the lady reappeared with one decaf tea and one Earl Grey tea. By then we had lost all desire to argue or stay there any longer and as the captain likes Earl Grey.....

More successful was a trip to the John Deere dealer just outside Lisburn Johnston Gilpin for oil and a couple of filters. Very organised - most impressive agricultural dealer we've visited so far with standards that some low end car dealerships could learn from:

Lisburn linen museum (see museum website) was a good place to spend a couple of hours too:

with some live demonstrations and lots of information on the long gone industry that once dominated the area:

A day in Belfast was as good as always. We reckon that this has to be one of the poshest Tesco shop buildings going:

The shame is that they've made the interior very Tesco......

We also loved this poster that kind of summarised the current situation in Norn Iron so well:

To give you an idea of how generally friendly the place is, whilst taking that photo on the mobile phone (which was running VERY slowly), a lady came up and asked if we were "lost" and needed some help with directions. In London you would just be barged off the path, in Edinburgh ignored albeit very politely and in Glasgow - well, probably taken for a beer or robbed.

A walk around Portstewart showed us why the harbour there would not be a good place for us to try and visit by boat:

Parking the little Fiat 500 was easy enough though, and free. You get to appreciate how car parking here is generally free or very very cheap compared to most spots in England, Scotland or Wales. Portstewart was very welcoming though and had even named a few roads in a new housing development after our boat, which was most kind of them:

Tempted, as the town is great but not too practical a place to live for us. Portrush, the nearby town is an equally tempting place. The harbour has a little visitors' pontoon which only had one little Bavaria yacht on it. During nice weekends it must be mobbed but midweek and a bit blowy out to sea meant a nearly deserted pontoon. Might visit by boat one day as the area is lovely:

Again, that laid back Norn Iron seaside pace of life was evident, witness the Lifeboat mechanic chatting to the local in his dinghy. If we had taken a video of their encounter, it would have filled up the entire SD card in the camera and then some more:

The seafront area and beach are very pretty, even in the blowy conditions we encountered:

A few brave souls were on the beach but we think that the water temperature wasn't that great, having watched the face of this lady who had an unexpected encounter when the dog on the lead dragged her seawards:

The kids who were on vacation (remember that in Scotland and Norn Iron school holidays start and finish much earlier then in England and Wales) were determined to enjoy the beach and water no matter what:

Grandad looked a little less impressed but stood his ground against the larger waves well. The local surf school seemed to have an instructor to pupil ratio of about 1:50 so unsurprisingly the students were not making much progress out to sea against the incoming rollers and lacking encouragement, soon gave up:

All in all, a beautiful bay area and on a hot sunny day (we think they get two per year here) it must be paradise, well a busy version of paradise on those 2 elusive days:

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Knees everywhere

John and Tina (yes, he of the world famous knees) were in Bangor in a rented house enjoying a peaceful week's vacation when we pitched up. We know how to spoil people's fun.

During the Friday afternoon, we took the train to the City airport (now known as "George Best Belfast City airport" just to make more money for the sign suppliers we guess) and collected a hire car. Think we mentioned before how the local trains are rather new and nice:

Especially when compared to the life expired, uncomfortable, antique local Cardiff trains that we had been using all winter:

We headed off by Fiat 500 into Belfast to find the osteopath's lair. End result? A pocket £60 lighter and the most wonderfully taped up knees you could imagine:

Of course, they will never rival John's awesome offerings but...

That evening, John and Tina treated us to dinner at an excellent new restaurant, Pearl Well worth a visit if in the area or a detour if not.

Saturday and Sunday were not exactly taxing. The (now famous) knees had to be rested a little from hills so we pottered about the area. It was busy as the Tall Ships were departing from Belfast and it felt like all of Northern Ireland had clustered along Belfast Lough to see them. We spotted an interesting Nordhavn though. Perhaps they are building a new motorsailer or perhaps the owner of this fine craft is dreaming of owning one:

Wandering around Donaghadee (still a nice name) we saw the lifeboat drag in a yacht, whose crew did not look even a teeny bit embarrassed at their rescue after being deposited alongside the quay:

We also saw another old lifeboat to add to our collection of sad decaying ex rescue boats. The hull was nicely painted but the superstructure was a real mess:

The irony of the notice propped up against this sad looking old girl was not lost on us:

The "restoration" must have been quite a while ago.