Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rooted to Ramsgate

All went well on Friday. In the morning, I signed off the June issue of Cruising magazine, and did a final boat and home grocery shop at Morrisons. In the afternoon I drove to Norwich to have a root canal filling – the less said the better really, but once it was done the tooth pain eased, although it did leave me feeling quite knackered. Just as well I had already decided not to try to sail with the lads down to Ramsgate. And in the evening we met Louis, our crew from Halcyon Yacht Deliveries, at Ipswich station and Sam & I managed to have dinner with our three crew on Friday evening in the lightship. All three are in their 20s, smoke, drink and are allergic to offices, so looks like they will get on well.

They had a relatively quiet trip down to Ramsgate on Saturday, mostly motoring, and decided to hold tight for a couple of nights until the winds passed through. Unfortunately it looks as though the winds will now be followed by more winds with no let-up until Friday, although a possible brief window on Wednesday.
Ramsgate looking a bit dismal on Monday. It's worse today (Tuesday).

One of our two autopilots burned out on the way down to Ramsgate and the other one kept tripping the switch. Dedicated readers of this blog may be aware that we have had regular autopilot problems since 2006 when we waited a week in Vilagarcia for a new one to be sent out by Seamark Nunn. We eventually had the old one repaired, and alternated them, but then found our new cockpit speakers (fitted 2011) caused both of them to steer us in a series of S-bends. Our electrician Phil removed the problem speaker last year but they were still not really sailing in a straight line; Ben fixed one by soldering it together but it was clearly on its last legs anyway.

I had the bright idea that we could replace the Raymarine Autohelm 2000+, which is undersized for our boat, by a Simrad TP32 which is theoretically tough enough. Unfortunately I couldn't get hold of the Simrad over the holiday weekend, but Fox's at Ipswich did have a replacement Autohelm. So yesterday I abandoned poor Sam and drove to Ramsgate to deliver the new Autohelm, plus a bag of food that we somehow managed to leave behind. The really frustrating thing is that I didn't want to drive down today (Tuesday) because Sam was due to go sailing at SYH – now cancelled because of the rubbish weather. So probably I could have got the Simrad. At least the Autohelm doesn't require any re-wiring.

Sam and I are due to go out by ferry on June 5/6 and it now looks as though we may get to Brittany before our boat does. Postponing the ferry doesn't look like a good option as there is no availability until June 9 and then it would cost us at least an extra £100. So we may end up staying somewhere for a couple of nights in hotels in Brittany. There are worse ways to spend a few days!

Today is my birthday. Here is one of my favourite cards. Do all senior railcards have boats on, or do National Rail somehow know about my interests?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Niggly things

Preparations continue and yesterday I went out on Kalessin with Guy & his girlfriend Kai, who knows nothing about sailing but is keen to learn more. Meanwhile Sam was sailing with EAST, so we were able to wave to him while out in the river.

For two or three years the compass on our rather nice Steiner binoculars has been unlit, so it's no good for taking bearings at night - annoying, as this is one of its most useful features. Somehow, while trying to replace the batteries we lost the battery cover and one of the batteries. i have now tracked down, through the Steiner UK dealership, a replacement battery cover and what we all hope are the right batteries. Fingers crossed.

I've also bought a hotspot generator, a tiny widget which logs on to a 3G or 4G mobile data signal and makes it available to any smartphone, tablet etc within range. This means even if there is no marina wifi you can still log on with a laptop or wifi-only tablet. The plan is to buy a data-only SIM card in France but in the meantime I have ordered a data SIM from the 3 network which should work ok provided we use it once or twice in the UK first.

I spent a happy hour or two at the weekend extracting and examining the sender in our fuel tank. It looks absolutely immaculate, whereas the gauge looks extremely manky, so we are back to suspecting the gauge. Our electrician will take a look at the end of this week.

Meanwhile my father is feeling better, our friend in France who has cancer is still keen for us to visit, and lots of family members are coming to my celebration on Saturday, so there's good stuff to look forward to.

Photos taken from a surprisingly comfortable position inside the cockpit locker...

Manky gauge
Un-manky sender

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Getting there?

As many of you know, our plan this summer has been to take the boat to southern Brittany, with a delivery crew doing the long passage, and then Sam and me, with friends, pootling gently from say Benodet to La Rochelle and back.

Making it happen has been a bit of an uphill struggle. I thought perhaps lots of people would want to sail with us but sadly that doesn't seem to be the case. We now have a professional crew member from Halcyon Yachts joining Guy and hopefully one other crew member (I haven't heard back from him) to take the boat from SYH in the general direction of southern Brittany, leaving on May 28. Sam and i will go out by ferry on 5 June, will sail with Guy for a couple of weeks and spend a long weekend with Sam's older sons Tim & Nick who will take the ferry from Guernsey to St Malo and drive to wherever we are. We'll be joined hopefully by a friend from Suffolk, Simon Evans, for a few days and then by Robin Swift, also from Guernsey. Somewhere around 10 July our plan was to get the car and go to see the couple known to us as the Zigmundo Van Dogs who have retired from sailing and live in Limoges. Sadly we heard from them a couple of days ago that Liz has inoperable cancer of the pancreas, so the visit may not happen.

In mid July we will come home to do the September issue of Cruising, get away from the French vacances annuelles and take a deep breath, and if all is well we will go out again in September with Ben for few weeks before going through the  process of getting a crew together for the return journey.

Getting Kalessin ready has also been quite busy, and expensive. Here's a list of what we've done or arranged to be done this winter - and when I say we, that means mostly me.
  • Hull and keel sandblasted and Coppercoated
  • Foresail, mainsail, hood, cockpit tent and sail stackpack removed, professionally cleaned and repaired, and re-rigged
  • Exhaust elbow replaced and calorifier reconnected to the now raw-water-cooled engine - we should get hot water in theory, although we haven't had any yet
  • Engine serviced (by Guy and me)
  • One of the seacocks under loo freed off (by Guy and WD40)
  • New handheld VHF - the old one kept losing charge
  • Checked fixed VHF and found a loose cable which may have accounted for the rather poor reception
  • New flares - one electronic LED flare, plus two handheld smokes, one white flare and one parachute flare, end we have got rid of a large number of old flares (and immediately found even more) 
  • Several new LED torches
  • New LED nav lights, and a foredeck floodlight finally re-fitted
  • New electronic charts of UK and Biscay
  • Various new pilot books - must remember to get paper charts to cover the areas where we borrowed charts last time!
  • Lifejackets serviced
  • Fire extinguishers replaced
  • New battery for EPIRB 
  • Made new flag for danbuoy
  • The fuel gauge isn't working - this means finding the sender which is unfortunately under the cockpit locker shelf
  • Cleaning, tidying, polishing, filling up tanks with water and diesel, etc.
I completed an inventory for Halcyon Yachts and was inspired to order a smoke alarm and CO alarm, and having not bought bolt croppers in the past because we thought if the rig ever fell down a hacksaw would be better, I have found some wire cutters on eBay which are on order and should do the job.

We've been out for a few hours on the Orwell with Andy Roe and found no major problems so far. Not a proper shakedown because we haven't managed to find a weekend where the weather was ok and Guy was available.

With the June issue of Cruising in its busiest few weeks it all feels like a massive challenge at the moment. Meanwhile my father, who has suffered numerous ailments for years, is getting very much weaker, with the real possibility that when we do go away we may have to come home again.

I hope it's all going to be worth it - very unsure at the moment. Next weekend we will have a small family gathering to celebrate my Important Birthday, which is actually a few days later, so hopefully that will be a chance to relax and enjoy for a while.

Meanwhile SYH, bless them, have finally installed a nice wide finger pontoon on their nice new jetty to make it really easy to get Sam on & off. It would be so much easier just to stay in Suffolk...
new anodes - this one required SYH to replace one of the captive bolts which was no longer captive

non-working fuel gauge