About us and the boat

About us and the boat:

We were lucky enough to retire early at the start of 2013 so we could head off and "live the dream" on board our Nordhavn 47 Trawler Yacht. The idea is to see some of the planet, at a slow 6 - 7 knots pace. There are no fixed goals or timings, we just had a plan to visit Scotland and then probably the Baltic before heading south.

The Baltic has been postponed as we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to in Scotland during our first year owing to family issues. The idea is to visit the nicer areas in these latitudes before heading south for warmer weather. If we like somewhere, we will stay for a while. If not, we will just move on. So, for the people who love forward planning and targets, this might seem a little relaxed!

If anyone else is contemplating a trawler yacht life, maybe our experiences will be enough to make you think again, or maybe do it sooner then you intended!

The boat is called Rockland and she is built for long distance cruising and a comfortable life on board too. If you want to see more about trawler yachts and the Nordhavn 47 in particular, there is a link to the manufacturers website in our "useful stuff" section. For the technically minded, there is a little info and pictures of the boat and equipment in the same section


Richard and June

Monday, 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.....

Monday, 19 September 2016

A canine sort of time in Neyland

Neyland isn't quite a one horse town, more a one Co-op town really. However the marina which is tucked into a little river is lovely. There are also some great RIB trips you can make, heading to Lawrenny etc further up from here.

So, what did we do?  Well, firstly we slept to catch up from the overnight run. Then we washed the remaining grot off the boat from Holyhead and the big winds. There was plenty of it too.

Steve, the Cardiff Bay waterbus man popped in - he was en route from Dale to the Penarth area and so stopped for coffee. Bronwen, the spaniel and a proper ship's dog came too. She tried the "I am very appealing" look on us:

Of course she is, but that look only got her a bowl of water. 

Then she tried the laying on the floor and letting us cwtch her method:

Tougher to resist, but still only cwtches and water. Finally she tried the laying down and looking bored approach:

We finally cracked - that got her some raw carrot (she is on a diet after all).

Needing fresh food, we braved a walk to the aforementioned Co-op. As we headed off the owner of the yacht alongside told us "not to make eye contact with the natives" as it was dangerous. We were OK - thanks to rather posh sunglasses from Andrew Care opticians, no one could tell if we were looking at them.

We also did a bit more polishing - we had launched the RIB for an upriver "burn" and so could access the bits that are normally bordered by the Avon (RIB not river, keep up). Lawrenny is a lovely spot. We didn't take the camera so here is a ripped off from the internet picture of the area:

We also planned our last proper sea trip of the season - a sad thing to do after so many cruising miles and new venues this year. Of course, the trip up to Cardiff takes about 14 hours from the harbour entrance so there is no chance of doing it all in daylight. Secondly, you just have to get the tide times right - the further up the Bristol channel you go, the stronger the tides get and so you want to do the last bit with the flood tide. This, together with the weather forecasts, pointed to a Tuesday evening departure, getting out of Milford Haven before it was totally dark to help with pot spotting, then an overnight run to Cardiff arriving mid-morning or so at the sea locks. The only fly in the ointment was the Castlemartin firing range, which extends a long way out to sea and covers the area we need to transit:

It can extend as far as 12 miles offshore so quite a diversion when we just want to cruise along the coast towards the east. On Tuesday evening, they happen to have night firing planned. Grr. A day earlier or later would have been fine, no firing, no restrictions. Such is life. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Holyhead to Neyland (Milford Haven)

Getting the timing right was important for this trip as it was spring tides.  The run takes about 3 tides worth and so it is good to have two with you and only one against! Also, having a fair tide round Anglesey and again around St David's Head (South Wales) is important as the tide runs very fast around those areas. It is more benign in the wide Cardigan Bay. Of course, this meant leaving late evening but for once the calmer weather window fitted pretty well (although the forecast said it would become southerly and so on the nose for most of the trip).

We left just before 8pm. The ideal time for the tides would have been 9pm but we wanted some daylight left when leaving the harbour as there are a few pot markers strewn around that area and seeing them would be comforting!

The route looks pretty simple really:

The "wide berth" off St David's Head is to avoid the rocks there. There was no planned firing activity in the huge range that uses most of Cardigan Bay so that was simple too. After a bit of chop around Anglesey, the trip settled down nicely. A little swell left from the strong winds but nothing to pester the Nordhavn. We just plodded our way south at a leisurely and fuel efficient 1475 rpm. The little grass skirt that the boat had grown during our stay in Holyhead didn't help our speed of course. She has become quite Hawaiian really,

As it was nearly a full moon and with little cloud cover, the night time was not truly dark. The moonlight across the water was way better than the Samsung tablet camera could capture through grubby pilothouse windows:

Pity really that you cannot enjoy it as we did. The captain was too lazy to get out the good camera (and didn't want to disturb the sleeping crew). Sunrise was equally good, this time the crew saw it as the captain was snoring nicely:

See how calm the sea was by this stage? Lovely! (Unless you were a large and powerful yacht that left Holyhead about an hour behind us and ended up more than 6 hours behind us thanks to the lack of wind of course).

It has become a traditional thing when passing the South Bishop lighthouse and rocks off St David's Head to post a picture of it. You've seen it in sun, mist, gloom etc. Well, today, it was back to sun and reasonable visibility too:

Just around the corner, St Bride's Bay had a fair number of tankers at anchor, awaiting orders / oil price changes / space in Milford Haven / divine intervention / whatever. You can see 5 little AIS green triangles in there this time:

Wonder what the daily cost of an anchored oil tanker is. Ken - as a shipping expert person, you might be able to help with a ball-park figure? The final part of the trip was pretty fast thanks to the spring tide pushing us along. We saw 10.1 knots at times (boat speed was more like 6.1 with her grass skirt in tow). The route into Milford Haven and then up to Neyland is below:

Passing Skomer at this time of the year is less exciting as all the puffins have gone. As we entered the harbour, Steve the Cardiff waterbus man SMS'd us to say that we looked small. He was afloat in his recently purchased yacht and testing out the sails. Yes, compared to the bulk tankers that use this place, we are tiny. She doesn't feel that way come cleaning time but we are tiny really.

We had one of those amazed moments when we saw an antique cruise liner anchored off Milford. Albatros (yes, it is German run and hence the spelling is correct) is an old girl built in 1973 with a string of different names under her belt since then. The ship was anchored forrard, but aft there was a tug holding her in place with a tow line - a strange job for the tug skipper, must have been a very boring day for him:

Now you need to help us - just how would a cruise ship passenger feel being dumped in the decaying horror of Milford Haven town. They had better take the 59 Euro (yes 59!) optional tours to St David's Cathedral or Tenby.

As you can see from our course above, Neyland is a long haul once you are inside the harbour entrance but worth it. The folks here are very helpful and friendly - you always get someone wandering down to help you with the mooring lines for example (although the crew doesn't need the help, it is nice to have it offered!) We were given a hammerhead berth and settled happily onto it after 19.5 hours underway.

Stats and maintenance:

You know how long it took us. We burned about 170 litres of diesel - covering some stabiliser activity and a 10 minute wide open throttle (WOT) burn just before entering Milford to clear out the exhaust, engine bores, turbo etc. WOT eats up 33 litres an hour or so!

The sickly coloured new piece of oil drain hose worked fine, no more weeps down the engine block. Nothing else exciting to report apart from the irritation of the now not so new engine start battery alternator drive belts that are still shedding bits of black gunge from time to time. Might follow "Lugger Bob's" advice and just run with one Gates Fleetrunner belt (better quality) in place.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The end of Holyhead....

Well, the southerly gales that we hinted about in our last posts (see the nice forecast that we copied and pasted in) duly came and gave us a nice sleep disturbed night. The shelter here is pretty useless really. A big open harbour area, anything from the east is really grim. Strong winds pick up quite a strange wave pattern and that reflects off the big breakwater wall and the shore so you just get thrown around a bit - yes all 40 plus tons of Nordhavn get thrown around.

During the night of the southerly gales, we had to reprise the Dunstaffnage experience, doubling up on the lines, deploying all the fenders bar one which was discovered had been split during the pounding they took up there. You also get lots of nice grot trapped between the boat and the pontoon and when the waves kick in and the wind howls, the grot gets liberally sprayed over the boat, even reaching the saloon windows. you have to look closely but then you can see all the grey lumps we had to wash off:

you can see the multiple lines and fender nursery too.

Then it decided to blow a northerly force 7 - so the same game was repeated but this time we had to double up the lines holding her in the other direction. More disturbed sleep. Lovely.  We will have to polish the starboard side of the  hull again to protect it for the winter after these batterings (and the extreme one in Dunstaffnage). So looking forward to doing that.

Some of the workboat folks like to wake you up a little too - the crew of Enterprise need a set of radio headsets like we have to save their vocal chords. The shouting when they berth this is unreal:

Especially when it is right ahead of you (see the nice new Rocna anchor).

Still, the area is great even if the town is grim (bar Lidl of course) and the marina rather exposed. Some progress on the marina infrastructure though, the shore power worked all the time we were here - never been able to have any before. We also had a very sociable time with John and Angela (our arrival berthing party if you remember). They found us a nice slot near to their boat - so near that this is Glenisla their rather nice yacht viewed from our flybridge:

This made toddling over for pre-dinner drinks very simple indeed...

What else? Well we also met a very cute schnauzer puppy called Douglas. Dognapping him was so tempting. His owners had TGT (The guided tour) and it was quite spooky as Michael looked so much like an actor friend of ours, even down to the mannerisms. Mark the actor hails from the Liverpool area. Michael hails from Birmingham (but he said that his dad had a car so perhaps.........) Who is Mark the actor we hear you cry. Well, currently Captain Birdseye (or Captain Igloo for the German readers). Have a look at Mark's showreel.

We had a wander around Bangor (the Welsh one of course, no return trip to Norn Iron although that is tempting) and the beautiful cathedral:

Bangor is also reputed to have the longest "High Street" in the country which considering that it is one of the smallest cities in the UK is impressive. So, we walked the length of it and wondered why. It starts with some seedy shops, turns into a normal town centre shopping area then gently decays towards the port again. Go and see the cathedral, avoid the town although the university buildings are great.

Finally, a weather window popped up. A brief one of course and as it got closer so the forecast northerly wind for our trip south decided to become a lighter but southerly one - right on the nose again. Still, at least it was calming down a bit. During all this fun, the weather reports on the TV talked about "the hottest September days for many years". Not in Holyhead we can assure you. It was pleasant, not too hot. Quite happy about that really.

However, just before we left, the sun came out in all its glory, the wind abated, the chop on the water in the harbour dropped and the evening looked lovely. Proof that the sun does come out here is below:

Monday, 12 September 2016

Culture, castles, Chester and hoses

Having enjoyed Beaumaris castle and being keen to get our money's worth from the Cadw membership, we ventured to Harlech castle too. Loved it. The location is amazing and the castle ditto:

Bored with old castles? Well, we spotted a great house in Harlech with views over the water that looked like an ideal spot to us. Just a bit remote perhaps, and of course we would have to learn the language:

Not having been there for many many years, we also spent a very happy day in Chester. We had forgotten just how wonderful the city centre is:

Walking along the canal, a narrowboater lady gaily told the crew that the three locks together were "not a flight" (Wikipedia says that the Northgate Staircase is a flight by the way) and tried to explain how locks work. The crew was good, listened for a while then explained that we had spent many years ditch crawling on the Thames and so had negotiated the odd lock or two.

One person had named their narrowboat rather inappropriately:

Escaping from Chester in the Friday evening rush hour traffic reminded us how much we don't miss rush hour travel for work. No fun at all.

Having seen 2 of the 4 world heritage site castles, we had to complete the set. Conwy particularly impressed the crew:

They even have a lovely footbridge built like the Menai straights suspension bridge to look the part. Proper old engineering stuff:

All of this was lost on one oriental couple who spent their entire visit taking selfies with a determination that was impressive:

We wonder if they can remember anything about the castle at all in a few days time as they didn't look at anything - at least they will be able to remember themselves from the many pictures they took.

The estuary looked great from the castle:

We felt as though we were back in Norn Iron too - these boats were out on mooring buoys:

The green hulled Fisher 37 looked like George's boat from Bangor. The Bavaria could be David and Caroline's. We checked, they were not.

The wander around the town walls with lovely estuary views was enjoyed, except that we were accosted passing a local catholic church by a lady who wanted to tell us all about it (apparently there was a church open event going on) and how the Bishop was visiting soon and he wants to close their 100 year old church and force everyone to go to Llandudno Junction instead. We made what we thought sounded like suitably sympathetic noises and escaped before the locals had us leading the petition and campaign. We guess that their church would make plenty of cash when turned into flats or houses with the nice location tucked inside the city wall. The Lord moves in mysterious / commercial ways these days....

We also spotted a real winter project for anyone with a garage, fondness for old Citroen cars and a slight mental problem:

The town walls have one watchtower which now has a railway line passing underneath it. This hasn't helped its longevity:

Arriva trains Wales have managed what many many years of sieges and revolts failed to do. Congratulations.

We also spotted one of the fishing boat engines in truly wonderful condition:

another winter project....

The last castle to "tick off" (sounds just like a American tourist doing Europe, doesn't it!) was Caernarfon. Hearing the Tom Tom navigation system speak that was very amusing! The castle was up there with the others in spectacle:

There was a moving poppy tribute in place as well:

Being economical types, we figure that we've had our money back from the Cadw membership now, although we still cannot pronounce it properly of course. That doesn't worry us unduly. You are now safe, no more castle pictures for a while.

Maintenance news

Well, the new oil drain pipe that the captain ordered arrived and on first measurement, seemed to have a smaller inside diameter then the original. "Again?" we hear you cry. Well, This should have been 1mm bigger than the last one and more flexible as it was the top spec fluorosilicone lined stuff. Of course, it comes in 1 metre lengths and when you only need just over 4 inches of it, there will be plenty of spare hose ready to be cut to length. Wonder if we will run out of turbo oil drain hose before the engine is worn out? Actually, as the original lasted 2,600 hours and we have enough to cut 9 replacements, the engine might still be running. The Deere base engine is reckoned to be good for well over 30,000 hours before any significant overhauls. Keep reading, we will let you know.....

The new pipe was a fetching (or yuk depending upon your viewpoint) green colour and the penguins on the table mats (courtesy of Andrew and Linda) did not seem impressed when they examined it:

Yes, this boat has a major penguin thing going on.

The good news was that the new hose stretched enough to allow it to be fitted in the rather tricky little space behind the starter and under the exhaust manifold. Suitably double clipped as a precaution it ought to work. Lots of messing about for what should have been a simple thing really.

However further down the oil drain route from the turbo to the sump, there is a metal pipe that terminates in the engine block with an O ring to seal it. We probably ought to replace that as well as it will have been disturbed a little when replacing the hose . Getting to it will be a "take the starter off the engine" job though so that can wait for a wet winter day when we are happy to lose more skin from our knuckles and use more bad language.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Angleseying about - despite Europcar, because it was windy....

Guess what, after our one day weather window, the forecast was for lots of nice southerly or south westerly wind with nice bumpy conditions off St Davids head. The one window was not terribly long (need 16 hours or so to get into Milford Haven and it was more like 10) and there would still be a residual nasty lot of waves on the nose for the entire journey. It wasn't tempting. In fact, a New Zealand yachtsman who was checking the weather at the same time made the same decision to stay put. As he had been around Greenland, Iceland etc and was heading south - "probably ending up in the Falklands again" we felt that it was a good call! This is pretty typical of things:

What to do in the time until it calms down a bit - or is supposed to calm down? Well, as Holyhead is a decaying dump of a town (but with a very nice new Lidl store in walking distance), we wanted to explore a bit further again.

We found that Europcar really have one of the worst websites for hiring a car out of Holyhead! Here is an example of the cost for a baby car for a week. Note the midweek 10 am pickup and return times:

Not a bad price for a week you think. However, you also get this message:

The top bit says that this is outside normal pick up times and so an extra £60 charge has been applied. So, if I pick a time when they are "open" then the car would only costs £30.98 for a week - result!! Pretty unlikely though.

Sadly, no matter what time you enter or day you choose, the place is reported as "shut" and the mythical £60 added. So, you assume this is a website error and continue with the booking. We had a voucher from Europcar thanks to the stuffed up service at Glasgow airport last year. Naturally, the voucher details could not be entered in their reservation system properly. Then, when the booking was completed OK on-line, around 20 hours before the rental was to start, this email arrives:

Yes, despite an "all OK " on the website, the email tells you that the booking will be confirmed within 48 hours. With the rental due in 20, you call the call centre. "Yes, that is all OK but to make sure please call the branch by dialling the same number you just called on then taking the following IVR option numbers, I cannot transfer you".

You call the branch, it rings and rings. Then a lady answers. She checks their system, says it is all OK and that a confirmation email will arrive. When you mention to her that the on-line system tells lots of funny stories about Holyhead opening hours and surcharges she say that she knows but the head office folks will not fix it and she is all alone today and has three phone lines for three locations to manage and it is very busy and (she stopped before telling us that she has a drink problem and that her rent was due and that she was broke and....)

As for trying to use the voucher when collecting the car - now telling you about that would get too boring. Suffice to say that the captain had, whilst waiting for the naturally late "meet and greet" service, read the reverse of the voucher. When the staff had no idea what to do with the thing, he showed them the instructions on the reverse. Hearing them translated into Welsh on the phone was bizarre in the extreme.

Anyway, an upgrade to a seriously bashed about and slightly grubby Focus was fine and let us loose on the unsuspecting locals.

Where to go - well, Beaumaris castle looked lovely when we passed through it before. So, we went mad, visited the place and even joined Cadw  despite the fact that we could not pronounce it.

The castle was never completed as King Edward ran out of money and interest - there were so many people to fight and subdue in those days. It would have been an amazing place - kind of the big brother of all 1300s castles:

It is amazingly well preserved - perhaps because it was never finished and so there was not too much fighting to gain or retain it:

Mind you, there seems to be a little sword-fight action for supremacy in the place these days:

The crew, together with penguin rucksack that now goes everywhere (Patrick is a little jealous but he is way heavier to lug around and his carrying capacity is filled with millet) read about the walls and toilet facilities:

The text on the sign says "Big and perfectly formed". She is probably OK with half of that.

All in all, an amazing place with a  strange history, great location and well worth visiting. Afterwards, you have to continue "up north" on the island to Penmon Point, the lovely lighthouse and views to puffin island and the mainland:

A tranquil and beautiful spot. The sign painted on the lighthouse advising people not to try and pass between it and the land is amusing. Wonder how many lifeboat calls there had been before they agreed to deface the lighthouse.

Our liner curse was active again by the way. Mein Schiff was in Holyhead:

and they picked a nice gloomy misty day to visit the delights of the town. As well as Lidl, we think that the nice church qualifies as a local delight. The folks who didn't take the optional coach trips seemed to enjoy wandering about the town in a very non German sort of way. They kept walking across the roads in front of us - luckily the Focus brakes were good. This behaviour is not at all typical for Germans who will wait at a red pedestrian crossing sign at 4am in the morning with not a car in sight until it goes green for them, in case they set non-existent children a bad example. Obviously, the inbred good behaviour of the German nation is overcome by the "I am a cruise liner passenger and I own this place" attitude that comes with a little cabin, unlimited food, the illusion of being special, sharing a dinner table with 6 total strangers and the regulation branded T-shirts and baseball caps. Such a pity.

Maintenance news

Well, we duly checked the little piece of oil drain hose and found that it had been weeping again. It had been fine since it was double clipped in Mallaig a couple of months ago but it looks like the inner liner is giving up, allowing oil to weep out. Grr. The new piece that we had bought from a nice on-line race car parts company had been "stretched" by leaving a couple of hose tails fitted into it. Guess what. Despite this, it still would not fit onto the turbo pipes. The inside diameter was a tiny bit smaller than the original (0.75 inch original and the same 3/4 inch ID hose as supplied was 0,72 according to the calipers).

Grr. So a new piece of silicone hose was ordered and the captain can struggle with it once it arrives - or just refit the original and struggle during the winter when there is a gale blowing and rain tipping down. Hang on, that is forecast for tomorrow!