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

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Plymouth to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight that is, the other Yarmouth harbour isn't appealing)

After a few days of strongish winds from the west, it promised to be nicer for a couple of days before a big high pressure sat over the UK and introduced some strong Easterly stuff. What to do? Well, the original thought of going to Guernsey for a fuel top up at today's low prices was shelved as St Peter Port harbour in easterly winds with any strength is not very sheltered. Instead, we decided to head overnight to the Solent. The "Supermoon" meant that the tides would be very strong so we wanted to have 2 of them with us and only 1 against during our 18 hour journey! We also wanted to be in the areas that have the highest concentration of pot markers (start Point, Prawle Point, St Albans Head) in daylight. So many boundary conditions for one little trip! See how tough this cruising lifestyle can be?

So, a mid-afternoon departure was decided upon and a 1475 rpm cruise. That sort of worked out on paper (and did beautifully in practice too).

Heading out through the sound, we saw how much help the Fleet Auxiliary ships get when they berth:

We tend to get fewer tugs attending to us and as for the Police RIB just out of the picture.....

In our post about arriving in Plymouth, we showed you the dinky little lighthouse at the western end of the breakwater. The eastern end has something that looks like an A level metalwork project on some spare concrete though:

Pretty, isn't it?

Sure enough, we dodged lots of pot markers and even made it past Start Point and the myriad of pot markers around there before it got dark. Here is proof, the point and lighthouse - no flashgun could illuminate that at night:

Overnight, there was the much vaunted "Supermoon" and we were ready for a partial eclipse of the moon as promised on the TV and radio. Of course, some clouds came out to spoil it. So, here is our rather pathetic Supermoon out to sea:

The dodgy horizon level was due to the waves - no alcohol on passage, honest guv!

Stuff got marginally more exciting at dusk as some dolphins passed by but declined to play with us. The trip across Lyme Bay in the dark was fine - just lots of fishing boats to avoid which caused some stress for the crew. They love turning towards you, just as you have altered course to avoid them. We think they must teach that at fisherman school. Perhaps a little like Bob Newhart's bus driver school - old but still clever. Our track doesn't show the dodging too clearly though at this scale, just a few wobbles:

Dawn arrived on time - as we were off St Albans head, another pot marker forest. Dodging them and heading into the Solent was strange. Not because we had a big spring tide shoving us along but because we saw so many yachts and other boats about. Yes, back in the M25 of boating. We had already called Lymington and learned that as it was a Saturday, there were no overnight berths for us. Luckily, arriving at 8:30 am meant that Yarmouth harbour on the Isle of Wight had a spot. Just one mind - the place normally occupied by the Scoot Ferry overnight. Beggars and choosers and all that, so we happily stole their mooring as directed by the harbour staff who were amazingly helpful. The Scoot Ferry staff might not see it that way of course. We heard from one ferry passenger that the crew had won on the lottery one evening and so went celebrating and were too drunk to operate it the next day - see Isle of Wight radio article. Luckily they didn't try to moor alongside us in an alcoholic stupor - looks like their ticket failed to deliver this weekend.

A glorious morning, looking from our berth over the breakwater at high tide (a very high one) towards the pier:

We only add this one to show the blue sky. Yes, summer finally arrived. As did hundreds of yachts trying to moor for the night later on. The harbour was wonderfully busy including a rally of Royal Yacht Squadron boats. They might be the poshest yacht club in existence but they are no better at handling their boats than Mr and Mrs average we reckon after watching them depart the harbour. Most amateurish.

Overnight we had more Supermoon views - this time over the quayside in Yarmouth:

Funnily enough, we didn't stay awake to see the 3am eclipse.....

Maintenance news - nothing, sorry. Might give the big Lugger an oil top up after a few hours more running but nothing needed attention or caused stress.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Toddling around Devon (and a bit of Cornwall)

So, what do you do when it is very blowy out to sea and you are in Plymouth with toddlers? Simple, you toddle around, consume inordinate amounts of coffee in various coffee shops dotted around the area, ditto lunches and wine. Simple really.

Here is a picture version of the trips for you, without all that tedious text stuff to read / ignore.

Let's start with Saltash,  not a promising place but one that houses an excellent wine bar / coffee stop called Just Be. Unfortunately, we only sampled their excellent coffee and cake but the rest looked promising too. The Brunel bridge is impressive though ( and good coffee is just behind us!):

The local pub is pretty patriotic:

Charlestown harbour was on the list:

Although we saw filming preparation going on for Poldark, there was no chance to get any half naked shots of Ross Poldark for you girls. Remember, here you get something way more special - John's knees. The BBC could never afford them.

Salcombe harbour was as lovely as ever:

Even if the service at the North Sands cafe was beyond slow, the spot is a good one:

Plymouth Hoe was enlivened by lunch at Gary Rhodes @ The Dome and an Estonian waitress with the most amazing English language capability. The sun even peeped out a little:

The award for the dodgiest ferry has to go to the Mount Batten ferry - old, sad and driven by a skipper who qualified on the day we used it. His mooring approach was to ram the pontoon and then power the stern alongside. Sometimes the "ram" was a little enthusiastic too.....

Apparently they are getting some ex-navy Nelsons for this winter. Poor boats.

Patrick, meanwhile, was busy helping the crew play cards:

He really wasn't very good, despite the intent look.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Falmouth to Plymouth

The nice strong easterly winds finally abated, allowing a window for a trip eastwards that didn't involve pushing through 2 metre short steep head seas. So, always looking for a quieter life, we headed off nice and early in the morning. Well, that is early for us, quite late for working folks of course.

We left Falmouth in nice grey conditions with poor visibility too. As we left the harbour (with lots of yachts who all had the same idea) we even contemplated firing up the radar. No pictures as grey on grey isn't that exciting. Luckily it cleared but the typical Falmouth forest of tiny pot markers didn't. They were still scattered around the harbour entrance - lots of old milk containers and oil cans (nice black ones) that are so easy to spot. As they were so small, no pictures

Not much to do on the trip (one long leg heading for the entrance to Plymouth Sound) bar watch some TV, check the big Lugger from time to time and avoid the many fishing boats and a few yachts that had left Falmouth earlier than us. They all seemed to like one area just west of Plymouth and the crew was once more suitably stressed avoiding them all:

Such a tough life.

It all got a bit more interesting as we approached Plymouth though. The VHF radio was very busy with calls from "Longroom" (the Plymouth port control) saying that an exclusion zone had been established around some unexploded WWII ordnance just south of the breakwater. Our track would keep us the regulation 1,000 metres away from the spot but funnily, some of the local fishing boats didn't seem to hear the frequent broadcasts. Instead, they kept the patrolling Police launch busy.

As we entered Plymouth Sound, they announced a controlled explosion in 15 minutes so we were too far away to see any waterspouts or fishing boats being blown to pieces. Somehow, we bet that the milk containers on board would survive though.

Continuing the lighthouse theme, here is the little chap on the Plymouth Breakwater for your enjoyment:

We berthed in Plymouth Yacht Haven (on the Mount Batten side of Plymouth Sound) as our normal stopping off spot at Mayflower had no space for a fat, heavy thing like us. At least, that was their excuse.

Maintenance news:

Nowt. Nothing. Sorry. To avoid total tedium though, someone asked about our boat and her moment of fame in the Southampton boat show. Well, here she is on display in 2008:

Finally, to add a little "ahhhh" to proceedings, we met up with John and Irene, the folks who we bumped into whilst in Dartmouth earlier this year. Of course, Archie the Lakeland Terrier came along too. Quite a character - very chilled and mind manglingly cute to boot:

The owners aren't bad either.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Holyhead to Falmouth (yes, it is a long way....)

In Holyhead, we managed to walk into town to get essential supplies from the Co-op store without being mugged or offered illegal substances.  In fact the crew was so brave that she spent nearly an hour with a local who was using sharp instruments - yes she had her hair cut....

We also met a truly inspirational couple, John and Angela who keep a yacht in the marina. They were interested in the Nordhavn, having looked at one when they were first launched.  In fact, John had a copy of the first "Circumnavigator" magazine on board  his yacht which was all about the launch of the first 47.  See Circumnavigator. We gave them TGT (remember it? TGT= the guided tour) and later on joined them for pre-dinner drinks. All very civilised.

What was inspirational? Well, they are still sailing around and have a very full life although he is 95 years old.  A target for us perhaps??  Before we left, Angela kindly gave us some home made preserves too. Their energy, activity and engagement with life in general was a lesson in how to grow older!

There was one nice weather window that would allow a long trip (40 hours according to the plan) direct to Falmouth.  Breaking it up by stopping in South Wales would lose the calm(ish) conditions forecast around Lands End and up the English Channel. The departure time was critical too - trying to take the tide with us off Holyhead, St David's head and Lands End where the tide runs strongly as part of the overall trip. Tricky planning!

This meant a 4pm departure from Holyhead and then two nights at sea. As we left, Mike the photographer took a few more shots. Inside the breakwater:

Heading out to sea with the Skerries in the background:

The leg around Anglesey was the bumpiest part of the trip with the remnants of a force 6 blowing and the built up waves on the bow as we departed and then on the beam. You can get an idea of the wind strength from the approaching yacht, running into the harbour:

And an idea of the wave height from this nice "nod" as we headed out:

Passing Holy Island (yes, yet another one!!) you could see the bridge across quite clearly:

Just to keep the lighthouse series of pictures up to date, here is a better view of the one on the island. Quite a nice one really:

Shortly afterwards, with the chunky waves astern of us, a tiny fishing pot marker popped up directly ahead of us in the big swell and only about 4 metres away. No time to turn away from it and as we were running with the tide, the line running down to the pot would be even closer still. Quickly into neutral, many bad words about cowboy fishermen and we were lucky, we glided over it and the rope. The stabilisers didn't pick it up and the shoe that runs from the keel under the prop and to the bottom of the rudder helps push the line away from the propeller and astern of the boat. Phew... When will fishermen start using sensible markers??????

Heading south the waves were around 1.5 metres high and coming from astern, so not a big deal. However, overnight we had to make a huge course diversion to avoid a ship towing a cable. The information is here, but the survey area was way bigger than in this plan. The survey ship isn't the prettiest thing - as it was dark we have stolen this picture from the internet:

We either had to give 7 nautical miles clearance astern of him or 3 ahead. We opted for 3 ahead and so headed into Cardigan Bay a bit. A bit meant a cross track error  (diversion to the west) of 6.8 miles so it added some time to the trip, as if we needed that.... Just as we started to head west a little, we encountered a trawler which meant another "jink" east. Yes, this was turning out to be a longer trip than forecast. Here is a rough idea:

To fit with our "go around the headlands with a fair tide" plan, we put a bit more power on to catch up. It worked as we zoomed around St David's head as dawn broke with a lovely 2 knots tidal help.

Crossing from South Wales to North Cornwall we were blessed with the usual pods of friendly Welsh dolphins who came to play in our bow wave. One mum brought her calf along to try it out too. Lovely. It was sunny and pretty calm by now so we enjoyed standing outside whooping like lunatics at their antics.  Linda - we missed you again.

Sunset on night number 2 was glorious. Here is how it looks from the pilothouse:

Overnight, we closed in on Cape Cornwall, passing around Lands End (the Longships lighthouse) dead on midnight. Again the tide turned and shoved us around quite nicely. For the run eastwards up the English Channel, the crew was in charge and had a stressful time avoiding plenty of traffic. It was a touch busy as you can see from the dark AIS plot (screens dimmed for night time running):

The quality of the photograph reflects the tension in the crew's camera hand... The rest of the run to the Lizard was just "ship avoidance" and then we had a last large diversion for a big tanker before heading up towards Falmouth. En route the crew was so happy to get even. A commercial guy who was also heading north to Falmouth had to divert his course around us - the overtaking vessel has to give way and all that.... Here is proof:

The fuzzy "dog-leg" track in the bottom right of the screen is the lucky guy who had to avoid us according to the regulations and he did it most properly.

We even slowed down a little so we would be off the Manacles at dawn to see the myriad of pots that seem to live there, ready to catch Nordhavn's unaware....

In Falmouth Bay there were a few tankers anchored and one was bunkering (for non boaters = filling up with fuel!) ironic how ships that drag crude oil around the globe need some nice refined stuff from little bunker ships. Here she is in the early morning sun:

We entered Falmouth harbour and poodled up river to our favourite mooring spot - Ruan Creek mid-river pontoon. That spot has starred in here many times before. Shock, horror, it was FULL!! Looked like a Westerly yacht owners' rally. What were they doing there on a Monday morning??? So, turned around and went back to the pontoon above Turnaware Bar instead and finally killed the engine after about 40 hours underway.

Mid river there were a couple of older ships laid up again. We think that their names are just so wrong - nothing "flower or meadow like" about these old girls:

This old converted MFV looked way nicer on her mooring buoy:

The view from the mooring down towards the estuary was pretty calm too:

We happily did breakfast and had a snooze on arrival after about 40 hours underway and around 255 nautical miles covered. The log decided to stop working during the trip - we must have some gunge or fishing line wrapped around it, so we cannot tell you how many miles "through the water" we did. Nothing on the maintenance front to report. The big Lugger and the stabilisers (which had the maximum use during the run) were very happy. The crew was the most tired thing on board - the big Lugger seemed happy to carry on.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ardrossan to Holyhead

The forecast had a few days of Northerly or North Westerly winds promised.  A rarity and way better for our trip south than the prevailing winds which are normally SW and so pretty much "on the nose" for the run down to Lands End where it can get wonderfully rough.  So, on the feeling that summer (such as it was) had finished, we decided to start the trek south.

After the Boatcraft guys had finished in the engine room, we checked the boat over and started stowing things away for a proper sea voyage again.  Trundling around inside the Mull of Kintyre is lovely and relatively sheltered and so we'd got into bad habits  -  not stowing things properly and not worrying about having kettles and coffee machines sitting on the worktop.  It is amazing how much stuff migrates out of lockers in a month and then has to go back into them although there doesn't seem to be any free space.

We had to wait in Ardrossan for the ferry to arrive:

Then another neat reversing job off the berth which the wind wanted us to marry or at least have a small affair with. This time we had the meerkat audience from the commercial boats in the harbour, not just the yottie lady. We escaped OK and headed out.  There were some chunky waves on our stern quarter even when sheltered by the Isle of Arran.  They slowly picked up as we headed south and out of the sheltered area.  Passing the oddly shaped Ailsa Craig, Patrick was intently looking for relatives:

Many people have offered comments on what the shape of the island reminds them of. You can think up your own:

No penguins were spotted though.  Just some sniffy dolphins who would not come and play.  We are looking forward to seeing some Plaid Cymru (Welsh equivalent of the SNP) dolphins soon who seem much friendlier.   Heading past Loch Ryan (Cairnryan, where the ferries to Northern Ireland leave from) we saw and then were overtaken by the one pleasure boat that we saw during the whole trip:

A serious Australian yacht called Sydney Rock being driven hard in the force 5 to 6 wind conditions. We now had the nice "wind over tide"  situation and so we slowed down by a couple of knots as we pushed a "springy"  tide which also whipped up bigger and steeper waves.  The "normal" 2 metre jobs that were coming from astern and trying to push us around became a little bigger with the odd one that reached about 3 metres.  We even managed to dip our anchor into the water whilst it was still on the bow roller. Easy enough in big head seas, less common in following ones.  The bigger waves were breaking under the boat too so we had a few "elevator" moments. Of course, the boat didn't think twice about all this.  The only evidence was the engine load which at fixed rpm varied from 37 to 56% as waves picked us up and pushed us forward or we had to climb the big ones.

What did this mean for us? -  well you just had to be a bit careful walking around in case a big "rogue" wave caused a sudden movement.  No problem though, the boat just soldiers on with a "call yourself a wave,  I'm built to cross proper oceans" attitude.  You do feel so confident in the seakeeping ability of the Nordhavn and the gentle ride.

Here is the route courtesy of Marinetraffic:

To show you just how hard the stabilisers had to work when the bigger waves arrived, here is a night time shot (hence a bit dim and fuzzy, like the crew and captain at 3am) of the stabiliser control panel:

The two black bars on the right hand side show that the fins are at maximum deflection -  a rarity. They then flipped hard over the other way as the wave broke underneath us.  Glad we had the stabiliser service completed earlier this year!

It was an amazing trip.  25 hours underway and just once (near Ailsa Craig) did we have to divert for a fishing boat. Here is the AIS picture showing that several were out and about though:

Once more, in the deep bits, the B&G instruments reverted to 0.0 metres depth.  We had a little more as the Furuno gear shows:

Even the Furuno stuff gave up in around 220 metres when a couple of big breaking waves passed underneath us.

As we approached Holyhead crossing the traffic separation zone, so a fierce cross tide slowed our progress.  Just when you can see the port breakwater and want to get there,  the "time to go"   calculation gets longer, not shorter.  We got even by giving the big Lugger a "burn"  to clean out the exhaust and engine bores / rings after 25 hours at around 40% load.  Although Holyhead is a god forsaken town (sorry residents but just walk up the main street and look around!!)  we were happy to arrive.  Holyhead Marina didn't respond to radio calls on channel 37 (of course) so we just found a suitable spot and moored.  For the first time ever here, we actually had cleats to tie up to that were not all loose and wobbly and a working power supply bollard.  Amazing!

A little later on we had an email from Marinetraffic to say that a new picture of the boat had been added to their database.  Here it is, kindly sent to us by Mike the photographer who captured the boat entering the harbour:

As you can see,  no seaweed hanging from the radar.

For the people who like numbers:

The trip was around 150  nautical miles, but owing to tidal effects we travelled 160 or so.  That took 25 hours at 1575rpm -  average fuel burn of 10 litres per hour. That is higher than normal as the stabilisers were busy (more hydraulic pump load) and the rougher seas meant the big Lugger had to work harder to maintain the set rpm.

Maintenance -  nothing to report.  We'd mentioned that the big Lugger had spurted out a little coolant before (probably overfilled from when the coolant was changed early this year).  Well, it did the same thing during a wide open throttle run around the Scottish Islands.  So, it was treated to a new pressure cap from the spares locker and since then has been fine;

As you can see, the cap likes to advertise its origins.  Anyone (apart from Ruben and Lourdes who have a small native speaker advantage)  know the Spanish for header tank or pressure cap?  Might need that to order a new Mexican part unless they are manufactured to be properly bi-lingual.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Webasto surgery and upgrades

A warning - this is only for the serious heating system addicts, folks with little going on in their lives or people who cannot sleep at the dead of night.

Still reading? Sad sort of life, isn't it....

So, we reported previously that the big Webasto water heater was getting some overhaul surgery courtesy of Boatcraft in Ardrossan. Robert and Donald seem to know about the kit in a way that the one man at Osmotech in Hamble Point can only dream about. They also do what they say they would do unlike the Keto man, Toby, who struggles to even answer emails.  Sad how the marine industry allows stuff like that to happen.

OK, rant over. We duly had a new heat exchanger (rusted and worn) and a burner tube (had a split in it, hence the strange combustion noises) fitted to the BIG water heater. It gets some serious autumn, winter, spring use of course - for the last 6 years it has been on pretty much every day during the winter for varying lengths of time. As this is the UK, it also gets some exercise during the summer too of course. Treating it to the new parts seemed fair. Here it is reassembled, reinstalled and working happily:

All you can really see is the silencer and slightly tatty lagging on the exhaust. the expensive new bit is hidden away at the back.

We also have a second Webasto water heater, a little 5Kw water heater that just runs matrix fans in the two heads compartments. It was installed so the original owner didn't have to fire up the full heating system to warm up the heads on chilly days (for non boaters, heads = toilet and shower areas). This little unit gets very very little use in reality and we just fire it up occasionally to make sure that all is well:

However, the Boatcraft folks said that you could plumb in a small heat exchanger like the ones used on coaches and get "instant" hot water to the taps and showers in the boat from it. That would be good for us. Currently a tank of hot water comes from either the 240v immersion heater (via shorepower or the generator) or it is heated when the main engine is running. That means we have to fire up the genset if at anchor or away from shorepower unless we've been cruising. The immersion heater takes some time to warm up the tank and if 4 of you want showers one after the other, then the tank needs to be very hot up front.

The heat exchanger approach means we can fire up the small heater and after a couple of minutes for it to warm through, get hot water until either the diesel runs out (unlikely as the main fuel tanks could supply the heater for about 11,000 hours at full power) or the water tanks run dry or the heater goes wrong. We try not to think about the latter of course. In the winter, when we are in a marina berth, this is very handy.  Heating water for showers if you cannot be bothered to go ashore and use their facilities needs a lot of electricity.  You pay inflated prices per unit for that too. The little Webasto heater uses about 0.5 litres per hour and when you buy diesel in bulk, it is way cheaper unless you really want that 11,000 hour shower.

Here is the heat exchanger fitted in next to the calorifier:

The Boatcraft guys did a proper job (no, not the Cornish beer) with tidy pipe runs and couplings and they were diligent in fully bleeding the system to make sure that all was well. Very happy with what they did for us and charged -  labour rates are a little less than in the Solent area and their skill level is way higher too.

End result -  a dent to the bank account, main heating system ready for the next few years, we hope and "instant" hot water available.  Happy to have found Donald and Robert!