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, 18 December 2016

That Lanzagrotty time of year

You know how people can become creatures of habit? Well, we must be. When the chills and fog of winter descend, we feel the urge to head for a couple of weeks in the sun and the well known and loved areas of Lanzarote seem to have a magnetic attraction.

This year, things were a little different, Not the weather, scenery or the lovely coastal walks luckily:

The volcano (Timanfaya) was as spectacular as always and the coach driver who slowly winds you around the narrow track in the lava field was equally skillful:

We still love the dramatic coastline at El Golfo only this time there was no Morgan Aero 8 parked outside the restaurant. Pity, but the pictures from a coastline walk there are still worth sharing we think:

One unfortunate thing was that when we visited Arrecife, the capital, our liner curse was in operation. This time Ventura disgorged hordes of sweatshirt and baseball cap toting folks to fill up the pavements, cafes and generally give tourists a bad name:

Some of the liner's inmates were into taking pictures of their teddy bear in as many locations as possible:

Then they took another three pictures. Patrick, be happy that you are not subjected to such indignities. (Mainly because you are just too heavy to carry around of course). We did manage one picture of the waterfront area that wasn't completely full of liner folks so here it is:

Overwintering in Marina Rubicon? More than a little tempting but we have to visit the northern climes first.

So, we hear you ask, what was different this year? Well, for part of the holiday John and Irene (better known as the owners of Archie the cutest Lakeland terrier on the planet) were also around. Whilst visiting Cesar Manrique's house, the crew and Irene seemed to be in good spirits: 

Spirits? Well, actually Irene seemed more at home with sangria sitting in one of the smart marinas:

For the lady readers who are feeling cheated, we can assure you that John was in a similar mood:

We also discovered a cafe in Marina Rubicon that offered the best apple cake ever and at a great price when combined with a coffee:

It was kind of a reward for walking the 3 and a bit miles from the hotel to the marina.

Perhaps the sun and sangria were getting to the crew a little though. Another kiddies swing moment like in Bangor, only this time significantly warmer and higher: 

Still, the picture sums up the general mood of folks getting some Lanzagrotty winter sun. Of course, we then had to return to a grubby boat and the cleaning fun that involves.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Winter maintenance and pottering

When the days get shorter, wetter and windier, thoughts do turn to all those "little jobs" that are on the list but had no chance of being done during the cruising season. And then some new ones pop up of course....

Where to start is the question. Well, initially we wanted to fit an external breather to the vented loops. We loathe and detest the stupid plastic Jabsco things that were fitted in the factory:

Firstly because the two fitted on the aft heads and grey water pump are pretty inaccessible. Secondly because the little rubber duck bill fits inside a plastic screw on cap:

When you screw that cap tightly enough to stop leaks past the threads, it can distort the duck bill insert and cause that to leak instead.

So, some chromed brass fittings were procured, suitable holes drilled in the walkway area with a hole saw (carefully!!), and vent pipes led down to the hated Jabsco fittings. A great time to discover that one of them had a small crack in the casing. Cue a temporary epoxy job. Grr.

The power panel had also started to do funny things. Initially, it looked like the inverters were failing (ouch!) Here is the panel:

The incoming genset supply shows 228 volts. The power being "passed through" the inverter to the consumers shows 209 volts. Bit of a problem! However, when the heating / air conditioning system was fed from the inverters, it showed a healthy 228 volts as per the picture. So, not likely to be the physical inverter causing trouble then. Maybe the cabling to the consumers fed via the "inverter panel"? Well, checking the voltage at one of the plug sockets, it was fine. Opening up the power panel, the errant voltage gauge was getting the same full 228 v fed to it but was only displaying 209 v. It also had started to wander around by about 10 volts. A seriously sick gauge.

Once again, the Nordhavn Owners' group was a wonderful resource. The advice was that this is normally caused by a capacitor failing on a circuit board and a new one of those is three orders of magnitude cheaper than a new gauge. The trick is to replace it before it fails totally and destroys the rest of the gauge! Hence the unit was hastily unplugged.

The power panel does not look quite as professional now:

The plastic bag hanging out of the slot contains the connector plug for the sick gauge.
Just need to find someone with a fine point soldering iron now - we only have a chunkier one on board that would trash the printed circuit board.  The fine one is stored away with our furniture in Romsey (we hope). 

The offending capacitor is the closest one (the biggest black cylinder for the non electronics folks):

It hasn't all been work though. There has been a little playtime too, walking the white fluffy dogs (Pip and Poppy) the black spaniel Bronwen and having a visit from Anne and Izzy (our goddog).

The three smaller canines looked quite cute together:

Izzy took quite a shine to Pip. Quite a shine.  Shame that the poor lad had been "done" a while ago. Still, it must have done his street cred no end of good.

All was well until Izzy had chicken and cabbage for dinner. You can work the rest out for yourselves.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Automotive fun (no, the Captain isn't back at work)

We had a little excursion to the wilds of Malvern. Why? Well, firstly, there was the Morgan sports car factory to visit. Of course, the captain had spent many years involved with car production but this place is very different. No robots, no real automation, no computerisation, no proper "just in time" parts supply etc etc. It is kind of a cottage industry that just happens to produce a few cars in a most inefficient way at the end of it. Mind you, what they produce is a lot of fun:

Some of the craft skills on display, the tools and the facilities are quite unusual for a car plant too:

Yes, they do have timber frames around the passenger tub.

What else has been happening? Well, one of the things you get with a Defender (alongside water leaks, a dreadful on road ride, clunky drivetrains, built in corrosion etc etc) is an off road experience session. We picked Eastnor as a good venue and for some strange reason, invited Anne along with us. You might remember her as the crew for a trip to Guernsey a couple of years ago who was instantly sick when supplied with red berry tea by the crew. Quite understandable really. However, since the off road ride is a lot like being out to sea, red berry tea was banned.....

The day was the best. We are still in awe of what a Defender can do in novice hands with standard tyres on and how it happily crawls up slippery hills with the engine at idle in low range 3rd gear. Torque to die for.  Backing down a slippery rough hill is amusing too. The best way is to put the truck into reverse whilst holding it on the brakes. Then, switch the engine off, release the clutch and gently release the brakes. The Defender just hangs there on a 45 degree slope, held by the engine and transmission alone. To go backwards, you just start it without touching the clutch and it walks backwards downhill quite happily.

We did get it a bit muddy of course, despite the many runs through deep water to try and wash it off:

The bent front bumper was not a battle scar that we caused by the way.

Should you want to join us on a trip and hear the soothing words of the instructor, have a look at this video:

The noises from the crew can, of course, be muted if you wish..... A great location and a great day.

After so much sedentary stuff, some walking was needed. The Malvern Hills provided the necessary challenge:

Weather was kind, hills were suitably steep, just not too much boating in this post really. We will get back to that stuff soon.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Oily stuff (in the wrong place though)

Well, as the weather was nice and the boat deserved a run out, we did the huge "run around Cardiff bay" thing. Trundling up and down the bay. giving the wing engine some serious exercise and then a wide open throttle run for the big Lugger too. Afterwards we did the sad end of season bit and took the seats and covers off the flybridge. Symbolic stuff.

Now, the rest of this post is boring maintenance information. Normal folks should now stop reading and do something mind improving.

That evening, the captain noticed that the main engine had spat a little coolant into the overflow bottle. Hum. Upon checking the header tank, the bad news unfolded. There was a little clean oil on top of the coolant in there. Grr. Luckily the engine had decided to wait for the end of the cruising season to play up and as the engine is keel cooled, diagnosis is pretty simple: the O rings in the gearbox oil cooler have almost certainly started to leak a little, allowing gearbox oil under high pressure to get into the coolant. The big questions is, how much?

Well, after cleaning out the slightly contaminated header tank, the coolant that was drained from the engine block was fine. No nasty emulsified stuff at all - seems we were lucky that it chose to fail on a shorter run. A little cleaning and perhaps flushing with some dishwasher detergent in the system, a coolant change and all should be well. Just the small matter of changing the O rings in the cooler to contend with. We had the spares on board for such an eventuality too. Perhaps we should have changed them last winter as a preventative thing? Well, on keel cooled engines they are supposed to last many more hours than we have recorded so far but lesson learnt. They are now on our routine maintenance list a little more frequently than before!

Whilst the coolant level was low, the thermostats got changed too. Here are the two new ones cuddled up in their housing:

Michael, who owns Coracle, a Nordhavn 40, intends to replace his oil cooler O rings as a preventative job this winter. Hence he came along to help and so we discovered  the challenges together.

Draining down the coolant via the drain fitting on the engine block was a slow process. It resulted in some suspicious looking bags:

If you remember the story of the Liverpudlian that we bumped into at Fort William, then you will see how the sight of these brought back some unpleasant memories. The John Deere pre-mix coolant is an unfortunate colour.

The next challenge is removing the coolant pipe from the bottom of the oil cooler without drowning the small alternator. It sits in just the wrong spot and so some large plastic bags were taped into position to protect it as the hose was gently released and the residual coolant leaked out. Alternator saved, the cooler itself was removed:

and then we found the next challenge - a normal Allen Key will not undo the top end cap as there is not enough space to get it into one of the three fixings. Nothing in the tool box was going to work but luckily Michael had an extensive Dremel kit on his boat and so we cut down an old Allen key to suit. This is now an important part of our toolset!

The end caps came off relatively easily to reveal the tubestack and the offending O rings:

Nice gloves though....

The tubestack had a good clean up and then, after cleaning the casing, the work hit trouble. there were what looked like some form of stress cracks in the casing itself. Two thin ones along the length of the cooler and three smaller ones around the body - all of these were hidden between the cooler and engine when it was in position.

There had been no leaks evident (oil would be coming out under pressure onto the cooler surface) but it looked suspicious. There were two choices - get it tested by a professional outfit with the right kit or replace it. A new casing was amazingly sensibly priced via ASAP Supplies at a lower cost than a test would be so new parts were duly ordered. In fact we went wild and got a whole new cooler as that was as cheap as ordering a casing and tubestack individually. Having a spare tubestack seemed sensible somehow. The new cooler duly arrived:

was dismantled and the original end caps were fitted as they have different outlets. We also used the new O rings from Alaska Diesel, the Lugger people, rather than the ones supplied with the Bowman cooler itself. Apparently they have sourced a different material that is more forgiving of assembly issues and more durable. Let's see if they can survive a ham-fisted captain.

Of course, having a brand new tubestack means that the one we had carefully cleaned out is now a spare. Still, it had to be spruced up..........

A new coolant hose was procured and then the whole thing rebuilt. Here is the oil cooler free engine adorned with plastic bags to protect the alternator:

And with the new cooler casing, tubestack and hose:

Coolant gently refilled, gearbox oil level adjusted, we fired it up to check for issues.

Guess what...... Luck was on our side and it all looked OK. Will need to take the boat for a run and get it seriously warm to prove the point but so far, so good.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Pottering around in the Indian Summer

Know what, we've enjoyed some great weather since we arrived in Penarth. Must be because we are near Barrybados, the well know tourist resort that the local roadsigns call Barri Barry. (Welsh then the English name). Just to prove how sunny it was, here is Patrick sitting out in the aft cockpit being restrained by his Grandmother:

So, what has been going on? Firstly, we had to collect Derek the Defender from his home chez Norman (the Bobil man) and Julie. The train to Cornwall from Cardiff is amusing at present as the tunnel under the river Severn is closed. That means either a bus ride to Bristol or a big diversion via Cheltenham or Gloucester. We opted for the diversion as it didn't rely on buses and promised some great river views. We didn't quite get as much of the view as we hoped for but it was good all the same. 6.5 hours to get to Cornwall is pretty slow though.

We had a visit from the toddlers for a few days and packed in some culture (paintings at the National Museum in Cardiff), a National Trust property (Tredegar House) and some narrow gauge train fun.

Tredegar house was impressive. If you believe the possibly slightly biased local Civic Society, it is one of the finest restoration houses in Britain :

Of course, there is little in Newport to judge it against.....

The male toddler really enjoyed his visit as in the old kitchen some lovely ladies were cooking fresh welshcakes that you could try (or devour) for free as you wished. They were excellent. Well worth visiting just for those. During a wander around the nice lake:

the female toddler discovered that she had picked up a little bonus on her shoe, left by a kind dog walker.

The face says it all. The crew tried the "wave it in the water" trick:

As you can see, the one-shoed toddler found this most amusing:

We also enjoyed a trip to Perrygrove Railway. A wonderful narrow gauge layout amazingly built from scratch by another Nordhavn owner. Go and visit in the summer months when the beautiful steam engines are working. Mind you the winter diesel train service is great fun as well. You MUST go and visit - look at the website link.

We also had an entertaining morning watching a wide beam narrow boat getting launched into the corner of the marina. The crane operator didn't seem to have bothered with spreaders or anything useful. The boat was suspended by two strops that were in no way far enough apart - it looked most precarious:

The boat was, rather aptly, named "The Sitting Duck". Well, the crane managed to swing the brand new craft into one of the lamp posts:

A slightly bent lamp post and a nicely scratched new boat later, it was finally launched safely:

It enlivened our morning and probably did just a little more than that for the owner. A real cowboy operation.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Penarthing and the summer in numbers

The boat has settled into Penarth quite happily it seems. As have we. Mind you, the bilge pump was running rather too regularly for our liking and when the captain investigated, we found a fresh water leak into the bilge. Of course, tracing it was going to be a nightmare as the water was pooling under the diesel supply tank (forward of the engine) but clearly was not coming from there. If only the Lugger ran on tap water....

After some investigation and head scratching, one fitting on the heat exchanger that was installed last year in Ardrossan was leaking:

Some gentle tightening of the left hand one (hot water supply out to the boat) and it behaved luckily. All that was left was to dry out the areas that the water had been tracking through. That, will be a longer and trickier job......

We did enjoy the unexpected Indian summer though, walking Lorna's dogs Pip and Poppy a little:

and of course delivering lots of cwtches.

Some numbers for those who are numerically minded or terminally sad:

Since leaving Gosport on April 1st, we have notched up 300 main engine hours, 86 generator hours and a huge 6 for the wing engine (over many shorter runs)  just to keep it running and happy. That was a total of around 2015 nautical miles (we timed many trips to get maximum tidal help hence a higher average NM/hour than our normal cruise speed!) That is about 2320 land miles or for the continental readers about 3730 Km.

What else of note? Well the fuel burn will have to wait until we top up again as the nice and basic mechanically controlled genset and wing engine don't record fuel burn. Guess what - the two Webasto heaters don't either. We did use one 6Kg propane cylinder so we must have eaten and drunk a bit too.

We visited 17 islands in our travels:

Isle of Wight, Guernsey, Skomer, Lewis, Harris, Bernera, Scalpay, Shiants (count them as 1!), North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra, Vatersay, Mull, Skye, Gigha. We won't count the little ones in Strangford Lough that we visited by car or Northern Ireland or Anglesey. There are plenty left though, many of which we just cruised past like Egg, Muck, Rum etc etc etc. We have absolutely no desire to anchor off one and go ashore in the dinghy in pouring rain just to say we have "been there".

The main engine, the big Lugger behaved well - just an annoying oil weep from the pesky turbo oil drain pipe that was "one of those" jobs to fix. We could have left it until we returned as it was far from a problem and it wasn't going to fail on us. However, better to have it right. We also treated it to an oil and filter change mid summer.

The wing and genset were impeccably behaved, we cannot blame the genset for sucking up jellyfish. Saying that they were "impeccable" is inviting disaster of course.....

The Furuno gear and navigation PC also seemed very happy. We still have a strange and very very intermittent issue where the Simrad autopilot loses communication with the plotters / PC for a second or so and then resets itself perfectly. This happens on perhaps one trip every two months or so. It has a simple NMEA cable interface and the cable is fine. It doesn't seem to be an issue from the Plotter / PC end as the error has happened when the autopilot is being fed from either of them. No pattern to this or obvious reason but it has been like it since we bought the boat and happens so infrequently that we live with it.

The 20HP Yamaha on our RIB needs a new part - the cold start enrichment thing (a strange heated wax pellet design) is playing up. The engine starts fine and then will cut out if you don't give it some throttle to help during warm up. Apparently these are known to misbehave and fail over time.

Damage - well one snapped mooring line and one burst fender from the Dunstaffnage battering.

Not a bad season all in all

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Neyland to Penarth

We crept out of Neyland a good couple of hours after low water but with only just over a foot of clearance under the keel in some spots. Always character forming. The idea of getting stranded in the entrance channel and sitting there blocking it up waiting for the tide to rise a little isn't appealing. We already felt like the main topic of conversation in Neyland (lots of folks walking up the pontoon for a gawp, seeing us then saying "we don't get big serious boats like this in here"). We had missed the crew of C-Spirit though, no sign of them during our stay.

Getting stuck and delayed would have been even more annoying as we had timed our departure to allow some time for a detour around the firing range we mentioned before and to still optimise the use of the tides up to Cardiff.

Heading out through the harbour, the range safety vessel Smit Merrion passed us and advised that they would be firing with a 3 mile range. Not too bad when the biggest diversion could be up to 12 miles! As we left Milford Haven we were treated to a lovely sun-down series of views:

The Castlemartin Range control man was most polite when we called - perhaps he thought that we looked "Naval". Or perhaps it was because they seem to have to chase most people by VHF or safety boat as people don't bother to radio them for advice? Anyway, he gave us the course to steer to clear the firing fun. As the light vanished we were treated to an excellent pyrotechnics show on the land. Battlefield flares hanging in the sky and making the beach look like day. Red tracer fire. It was all going on. Wonder what the cost per hour for the show was - actually no, we would rather not wonder. Our images of it are a bit feeble. This is the best that the tablet could deliver:

Very feeble really. The proper camera didn't do much better either as a wave interrupted a picture of the coloured tracer fire in quite a pretty way:

The range control guy was great, called us a couple of times to give us new courses that minimised the diversion we had to make and had a sense of humour when we left the range area and thanked him for the free fireworks show. All in all it was about an hour's worth of diversion but quite spectacular. 1 hour = just over £3 in diesel. We couldn't have bought a box of sparklers for that.

The detour isn't obvious from our track:

We would have just tucked much closer to the land when we left Milford Haven rather than making a big loop around.

The forecast shift in the wind from SE to SW had, of course, not happened. In fact is stayed SE'ly all the way to Cardiff but as it was pretty gentle, the waves that built up even when it was wind over tide towards the end of the run, were not unpleasant.

Heading towards Swansea, it got very boring frankly. Nothing else apart from buoys and land on the radar and of course nothing showing on the AIS either:

That is a pretty rare sight. Makes being on watch pretty simple though. As the sun made an appearance, we were treated to the most appealing sight of  the old coal / biomass fuelled Aberthaw power station. Even better was the news that it had just been found guilty of breaching allowed pollution levels, see BBC news report. We tried not to breathe in:

By now we were enjoying a good shove from the fair tide (on this trip you aim to take all the flood tide for the last part of the run as the further up the Bristol channel you get, the stronger the tide gets. Also, arriving at Cardiff around high water makes the locking in process quick and easy. Of course, as it was high water some folks were locking out of the main ship docks. They also had a grey hull but a little more weaponry than us and looked quite sinister in silhouette as they passed us:

She was HMS Kent by the way.

We reached the entrance channel to Cardiff more or less exactly at the time we expected (10:20) after a little wing engine exercise and of course a burn for the big Lugger too. The bad news is that the inbound locks are at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. Hence we pottered around a little before calling the barrage control and heading towards the locks. The cliff face at Penarth has been disfigured by some of the ugliest flats we have ever seen:

They look more like the concrete horrors you get on some south London sink estates than flats in up market Penarth overlooking the water and Cardiff Bay. Demolition needed soon! In the narrow approach channel looking towards the breakwater bounding the locks:

We had a great welcome. Lorna walked up to the locks with Pip and Poppy, her two dogs. Then Steve (the waterbus man who owns Bronwen the spaniel) was at the entrance to the marina taking pictures of us as we motored through. Lisa the marina administrator lady was waving from the office balcony. Then we got help with out lines as we moored and very shortly afterwards, one of the cleats on the pontoon was unbolted and moved for us so we could tie the stern of the boat better. This felt like coming home / a royal visit all rolled into one!

No maintenance underway to report or dramatic engine failures etc etc. Sorry to disappoint on our last major trip of the year. Mind you, we think that the forward facing white navigation light failed shortly before they were all turned off. Need to check that as it might need a new bulb. That one is the original so it hasn't done too badly really.

On a soggy cold day we will prepare a few numbers for those who like such things as a summary of the cruising season. In the meanwhile, we need to settle into Penarth life and prepare the boat for a less active lifestyle.....