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, 12 September 2017

Greenock farewell time

Remember how we said that after the exhaust muffler replacement we just needed some good weather to set sail? Well, this was on offer:

followed by this a day later:

So, we stayed put in the shelter of James Watt Dock and used the last couple of days with the hire car to do all the heavy shopping things that are harder without transport.

During our various excursions, we spotted this stone penguin in a garden:

Not sure if it is looking after the egg properly though, it can be cold up here and the egg looked very exposed and a bit blue. Patrick insisted that we post this picture as he has been feeling a little ignored recently. He also thinks that we should adorn the Defender with something like this to make it more "his car":

Poor deluded penguin.

We went for a wander around Stirling and wondered why we had never done so beforehand. Many wonderful old buildings:


and some inventive locals including one who put a cute little pretend clock tower on the top of his garden shed:

(Maybe we should say garden hut as we are in Scotland of course.) The captain particularly liked the inscription on one building (hard to read all of it thanks to the sun and shade but worth the effort):

The captain will try to enforce this when the crew ignores an order whilst underway. His chances of success are, realistically,  not high.

Maintenance news:

The little engine battery alternator that we had ordered many many weeks ago finally pitched up. Prestolite supply here is pretty dire unless the part is already in the UK stock and their tracking of deliveries from the USA to the dealers seems feeble. Very unimpressed with them. The supply of repair parts is reported as equally hopeless by some alternator overhaul specialists too. So glad we now have a spare domestic alternator for the main engine as an 8 week lead time could really cause trouble if the bearings went (it runs on the same serpentine belt as the water pump).

Fitting the little alternator wasn't straightforward. Getting the pulley off the old one and onto the new needed some tools that were not on board so he had the delight of wandering into a local garage (that mainly fixes taxis, enough said) and asking one of the mechanics if he could spin it off using his impact gun. The guy was very helpful and suitably critical of the kind of folks who drive and basically abuse the taxis he has to fix. We have seen some of them out and about on the local roads. The mechanic was right.

Alternator fitted with a new drive belt and the mounting was shimmed a little to try and align the pulleys better:

No need to play the battery parallel game underway any more. Just got to check the charging voltage is OK when we fire up the engine now. It might well need adjusting upwards to suit the AGM batteries.

We also (finally!) sorted out the cold idle problem with the RIB outboard. The strange heated wax pellet thing (called a Primestart in Yamaha terms( that manages the enrichment until the engine is hot had been misbehaving for ages. It started fine but needed some throttle until warm to prevent stalling (a bit like temperamental old 2 stroke engines!) A new Primestart was not much cheaper than a whole carburettor so that it what it was treated to. The first repair for it in 8.5 years so no big complaint.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Exhausting stuff

To prepare for the new exhaust muffler fitment Anthony (aka Biscuit), who has replaced a muffler on a 47 before for Nordhavn Europe, kindly called and gave us the benefit of his experience. Summary was " it is a horrid job". He also advised us to cut an access hatch in the stack moulding behind the vent grille at the bottom to give decent access to the bolts on the lower flange of the muffler.

This was going to be messy - bits of fibreglass and dust floating around so the captain prepared for battle with lots of PPE involved (the hat was to avoid the strong sunshine - unlikely in Scotland we know but true!):

You could say that he looks way better than normal but that is a little unkind. Accurate but unkind. By the way, the protective gloves were added later - just in case any health and safety types are reading this....

The hint from Ant was a good one as you can see from the "after" picture below:

giving decent access to the bottom of the muffler and the dreaded bolts.

The Nordhavn Europe, Harco and DHL folks did a good job getting the new exhaust to us in a week, and it kind of filled up the saloon floor nicely:

The foot ruler laying on top of it gives you an idea of scale. Yes, it is BIG. Heavy too - 50 odd kilos to lug around. The crew was a little unhappy at the new addition to the saloon furniture.

There had been a big debate on ordering a stainless or another carbon steel replacement. The captain was tempted to the stainless version especially as we'd been told that it wasn't significantly more expensive than the standard unit. Problem was a 4 week manufacture time and then shipment to us. Not ideal - 6 weeks in Greenock. It also messed up some autumn plans. We also had no proof of how much longer a stainless muffler would last - stainless does not like the temperature variations it would be exposed to in a muffler longer term and several "engineering" folks advised against one.

The clincher was advice from the Nordhavn Europe folks on price. The stainless unit was around 3 times the cost so, we opted to take the ex-stock standard unit and we will give it a serious TLC regime. They seem to corrode from the outside in mainly with water being held against them by the lagging wrap stuff. As the new wrap is way way better then the original and fitted via straps and D rings, we can remove it when the boat is not being regularly run in the winter to prevent it trapping moisture against the metal. We will also give the muffler an occasional paint job. If it lasts 10 years like the original one which was totally ignored, that will be OK.

With the help of the very good guys from Swordfish Marine in Holy Loch, the old muffler was removed leaving a big gap between the two pieces of pipe:

Having a crane makes dropping in the new unit so much easier:

So, with the muffler in place it was good to fire up the engine again - mainly to help cook the new paint on it not just to check for leaks.

A fun day was then spent touching up the paint on it and covering it with the new wrap from the excellent T and M Supplies guys. The new silencer wrap is just miles better (OK. Kilometers better for some readers) than the original stuff. It fitted very well too:


The only challenge was that the original wrap on the flanges had to be reused and it was in a very sorry state:

So, it was temporarily wired in place and will get replaced this winter (T and M's workload permitting that is)

We very happily refitted all the grilles and recovered the RIB which had been launched to allow proper working space. Good to know that the boat is ready for sea again. Just need the right weather now....

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Keeping occupied and amused

As we would not be travelling anywhere by water for a few days until a new muffler arrived and was fitted, we opted to do some land based stuff. This meant a nice hire car from Glasgow Airport to begin with.

The folks at the Hertz desk were very grumpy - "I've been here since 7am with no food". It was around 12. Actually, they were big enough to have survived for a little longer but we didn't like to point out the obvious. This time the rental car was quite a nice one - a Toyota C-HR trendy crossover thing:

For a 1.2 litre turbo it drives well and actually steers pretty well too with a little feedback through the controls. Horrid wind noise at motorway speeds though and even the fag end basic specification car the hire company uses has a reversing camera. Why? Because you cannot see anything behind through the high and miniscule tailgate glass.

We used it for various excursions, ranging in excitement from shopping to taking the crew to the osteopath as her knee was painful and in need of a service. Better was a nostalgic trip to Loch Lomond via the country park:

and the lovely tiny village of Balmaha. When we lived in Edinburgh we used to trail our little Dory over to Loch Lomond and launch it from the boatyard slipway here. The boatyard hadn't changed much at all:

and brought back many memories - mainly good ones. The village has expanded a little and now sports an excellent tea room. Very very good carrot cake was enjoyed. Probably in the top 10, yes that good.

To avoid a rainy day in the west, we drove over to Edinburgh and revisited our old stomping grounds. Old of course means the 30 years ago that we lived there. The views over the city are still lovely:

and we happened to be around as the "third Forth bridge" (properly known as the Queensferry crossing but that is pretty boring) was going through its many opening ceremonies. Happily we avoided meeting Nicola (the First Minister) during our visit as she seems to be trying to turn the bridge into a nationalist rallying thing. Politics are so sad.

Adding another bridge has changed the view from Port Edgar marina a little:

Impressive when you see them together.

A little trip to Largs and a wander around the waterfront there and the nice Marina area was good too. We also visited Luss for the first time ever. A little village on the shore of Loch Lomond, it was rebuilt many years ago as a "model village". Not model as in minature houses but as in a village set up for the local workers by the landowner:

A conservation village with lovely views over Loch Lomond:

and the regulation old pier for people to walk up and down, lean over the railing and consume vast amounts of ice-cream no matter what the weather is doing:

The drive up the side of the Loch (out of the busiest tourist season when it is madly busy) is still as lovely as when we used to drive visitors around to show them a bit of Scotland during their stays with us:

In between this lot, the corrosion on the curved pilothouse windows got cleaned off, the aluminium was given a nice golden chromate coating and then painted (Bonderite and Awlgrip time again) but thanks to the rainy days, it was a job that took a week in elapsed time!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Puffing and blowing

Maintenance news:

Yes, normal folks can skip this post. Only those with an unhealthy interest in exhaust silencers and messy jobs need read on.

The next day, after some biblical rain finally cleared up, we took off the grille from the side of the stack and did the horrid horrid horrid and very messy job of removing the insulation from the muffler.:

Like the stuff that we replaced earlier this year in the engine room, the outer foil surface was de-laminating in some areas and the wire arrangement to hold it all in place was great fun to remove.

Did we say how horrid the job is? Sure enough the silencer was pretty rusty overall as we expected at this age:

It also had a small hole in the top of it, the insulation had been holding the loose rusty metal in place and preventing a major leak. Some serious prodding revealed that the metal around it wasn't fit for a temporary repair as the little hole turned into a big one. Replacement earlier than planned is needed:

Cleaning out the rust, soot and general grot after we dragged the wrap out of the stack was another horrid job. Looking at the bolts holding the old unit in place, we can see an angle grinder (messy!) or a cutting torch being used.  We will give them a good bath in penetrating fluid but we cannot see that doing much to help free them off.

How best to support the silencer and pipes during replacement? Time to get advice from the folks who have already done this job at Nordhavn Europe. The new muffler and wrap were already on order so, a quiet time until they arrive perhaps?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Portavadie to Greenock (James Watt Dock)

So, because we wanted to strip the insulation blanket off the exhaust silencer to check it, we needed to go somewhere "big" with stuff to do locally and some engineering help if needed. Where to go? Well, James Watt Dock might not be the most scenic place but it is well sheltered (blowy stuff promised for a couple of days) and has easy access to anything and anyone we might need. Decision done. Robert, the Nauticat and sloe gin man booked a slot for us using his influence and we were good to go.

The route was a reversal of the trip to Tarbert, again through the most lovely scenery:

You can see that the track doesn't start from Portavadie - no shore stations picking up our AIS signal until we were a little further along this time.

As we arrived in James Watt Dock to the nice alongside spot that had been cleared for us (thanks Robert) we spotted Waverley again. Only this time, she wasn't underway with lots of happy people on deck:

The funnels are peeping out from the dry dock next to the marina here. Have a look at BBC news item.  Apparently she picked up a rope around a paddle. Maybe another pot marker? The damage to the bow and possible damage to the propulsion gear means that she is out of service for a few days. Perhaps they will sign the Cruising Association petition against poorly marked and positioned pots too?

During the trip we kept a careful ear and eye on the exhaust muffler. Still a little noise but no signs of exhaust fumes and soot being blown out from the insulation. That was good news, if there had been a hot exhaust gas coming out inside the stack in any quantity, it could easily melt the wiring that runs from the many and varied instruments housed up top. We will have the fun of removing the wrap and examining the muffler once it cools down a little tomorrow. Can't wait.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Tarbert and Portavadie - being social

Whilst in Portavadie, we met up with Robert and Deborah, the folks who have the slightly larger Nauticat than Stephen and Alison. No bragging rights though, they are not like that.

Robert is a founder member of a sloe gin club and so tested the brew that Anne had made in a most serious manner:

Could be that he made it all up of course, just to get a little more of the stuff.

We went for a wander around the lochside and just enjoyed the views:

At the end of the road, there is a cute little bay with a few houses dotted around it:

and more than a few midges so our walk back was a little faster...... On the way we found another little winter boat project:

The poor thing has been sitting there looking sad for at least 4 years. Shows that either the locals are very law abiding or they know that the engine is seized up and beyond rescuing hence not worth nicking. Not tempted to take on a restoration project though, we have enough boat to look after:

We then made the huge trip across to Portavadie; the strange half empty marina and very up-market (ie very expensive) apartments and chalets in the old oil platform building yard that never actually built a thing. We've told you about this before but have a look at Wikipedia.

The large visitor area was totally empty. They still like charging high visitor berthing rates though. And you have to buy electricity cards. We checked out the pool area but the crew objected to being charged the full visitor rate for a swim even though we were berthed in the marina. Oh, and the fee was £12. Kind of high. So, they didn't get any more money from us - until we walked into the shop that sells basic provisions and wildly expensive clothes. They had a discounted ladies Musto jacket.....

During the evening, we were visited by Sheila and Niall, the folks that we bumped into at the Tobermory Highland games last year:

They seem to have got the hang of  Nordhavn life rather quickly.

We also enjoyed an evening ashore in their house with stunning views across the loch, being royally fed and entertained. Tough life this boating.

Maintenance news:

The little bulkhead light that the crew uses started to play up - sometimes it would switch on , sometimes not. This resulted in earache for the captain who finally took it to pieces and soldered the wires across the other pair of terminals on the switch which were not worn:

Don't you love simple fixes!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Holy Loch to Tarbert

Leaving Holy Loch it looked very threatening but dramatic:

Our run to Tarbert takes us though some of the prettiest cruising grounds in this area, winding around the Island of Bute and through the Kyles:

Off Dunoon, this old girl was still out trying to earn a living for someone:

Quite a way to earn a crust or two.  Dunoon also sports this rather sad little light tower to keep folks away from the Gantock rocks. It looks like it is overdue for a paint job or maybe just a clean up but is an addition to our collection:

Oh, and whilst we are playing lighthouses, here is the one a little further south at Toward point:

Much nicer. The trip around the Kyles of Bute is one that we always enjoy and as the sun peeped out, it was even better. Firstly, going past the Burnt Isles and through the narrow channel:

Then it was a stunning flybridge run down the West Kyle in the sun enjoying some strange cloud shapes:

We were chased into Tarbert by the Waverley:

and with her 2,100 HP steam engine and significantly bigger waterline length, she goes a lot faster than us. Mind you, most motorboats do. As she is bigger and captained by someone with a very miserable voice in the VHF radio, we diverted a little to let her into the harbour first although we did have right of way. Sometimes you don't push these things:

We happily stopped on "our berth" in Tarbert (the one that we used several times when we were in the area 2 years ago). It was a lovely trip. No more to add really, just to remind everyone of how lovely the scenery is around here.

Maintenance news:

Well, we have something to report for you. The night before we left Holy Loch, there was monsoon like rain, thunder, lightning, the whole shebang. In the morning there were a few water drips on the tray above the main engine that had clearly made it down the exhaust stack. A first! Less pleasant was the appearance of a flake of rust there too. Very very probably from the exhaust muffler / silencer which is a huge steel thing inside the bottom of the stack all nicely wrapped with insulation. After 10 years it has a right to rust a bit and we were planning to replace it next spring at lift out time. Perhaps it will not wait that long?

During the trip, we listened carefully to the exhaust and checked for any signs of leakage inside the stack. Nothing obvious although the note sounded a little different - or was that paranoia? So, we gave the engine a good wide open throttle burn to properly test it. Sure enough the engine note sounded slightly different to normal or our paranoia was telling us so. A leak in the silencer? A loose baffle inside? Not sure. The only way to tell will be to remove the insulating wrap around the silencer and see:

However, if the thing is seriously corroded and the wrap is holding it all together, then unwrapping could be very unwise. We might end up with an inoperative silencer and either stay in Tarbert until we get a new one or rely on the wing engine to get about. Not sensible. We will head back to a slightly bigger place before we take the wrap off and in the meanwhile, have ordered a new muffler / silencer as a precaution. It was going to be renewed early next year anyway. Why is it so impatient?!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Rhu and Holy Loch

Whilst in the area, we loitered about a bit. First stop was Rhu, just around the corner from Faslane the nuclear submarine base. Rhu is much prettier we are pleased to report with great views across the Clyde.

As we left Greenock, the old paddle steamer Waverley was going past en route to Helensborough reliving her history with trips "doon the watter":

She still looks impressive.  For more information have a look at History of doon the watter and for more on the last sea going paddle steamer in the world look at Waverley website.

From Rhu we walked into Helensborough and back. Very good for the crew's step count of course and lovely views of the yacht  racing activity. The marina in Rhu is a bit sad. Strange kind of a place for Quay Marinas to run- really you don't know why they bother. Scruffy car park, little bunker of an office, marquee erected to try and entice folks to look at brokerage boats etc. The owners, the Crown Estate, must be so proud of it. We guess and hear that each winter the pontoons get seriously shaken up as they are so exposed too.

Leaving Rhu we took another short trip, this time to Holy Loch. Then the nice walk along the waterfront into Dunoon, passing the Hunters Quay ferry terminal:

The beautiful old listed building that is the Royal Marine Hotel:

and, like so many of its kind, had become a 3 star establishment inside. Hope it survives! The town of Dunoon was as sad as ever. It just has that barely surviving look about it. The high spot that we had found before (Livingstones restaurant) was shut on Monday lunchtimes so even that temptation was removed from us. Pity as the location is great and the walk further south around the little bay is very pretty.

Back in Holy Loch we had another first - a "gawper" who had come to look at the boat (nothing unusual in that) but this one brought his own chair:

Astern of us a timber boat was being loaded:

and it was fun watching the loader. Each time it grabbed 10 or so tree trunks from the trailer and lifted them, the big articulated truck shook like a kid's toy. The truck driver, who sat inside for the whole unloading time, must have had double vision afterwards. Good thing that the local roads are not too busy.