Thursday, November 23, 2023

Darn engines🤬🤬🤬🤬

I thought I would run the engine yesterday for the first time in a couple of months, a few minutes later the overheating alarm went off. 

There was water at the outlet from the water strainer, so I took the pump off then it's back. When the shaft was turned the impeller didn’t, the bonding between the rubber impeller and the metal centre had failed and it was easy to separate the two. 

The water pump looking from aft.
Visually in good condition except its now in
two pieces.
I change impellers annually in the spring with Yanmar branded ones so it has one seasons use. I suppose I should be grateful that it didn’t fail when I was rushing back to the Hamble from Hope Cove in August for a family emergency; I carry multiple spares and could have fixed it in an hour but it would have been quite stressful until I found the fault and dangerous if it had failed going through the Needles channel with little wind.

The assembly is getting a bit tatty where bolts bare on it and as I want to replace some of the pipe work, (including the bit shown above) and check the engine anodes I am leaving the engine drained of water for a while and have the unit at home for the clean up and repaint.

After the repaint.


On a Yanmar check and if necessary replace the water pump belt regularly, the unit gets very close to the engine mount if worn and adjusted for the correct tension, this could be a particular problem if standard soft engine mounts are used as the engine will rock more. Fortunately I have the stiffer premium mounts.

Update 4 Jan 2024. With a brief break in the weather the engine got it's annual service yesterday along with a new drive belt for the water pump and new water hoses from the pump through to the anti-syphon valve and the exhaust elbow (the seacock to the water pump were replaced with the seacock in 2022), rerouted to hopefully avoid chafe. Everything working again. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

More winter work

The burn holes in the carpet has been bugging me for years, time to replace. Taking the cabin sole home to work on it led to cleaning the bilge to keep the smell down and whilst about it the fore and aft sections of the bilge needed a clean and a coat of paint (The main bilge was painted a couple of years ago), the teak faced boards over these sections were varnished not that long ago and don't need to be redone.

The aft section was easy having had a coat in 2022 when the
sea cock was replaced.
The section in the heads needed a bit more work on what was
almost certainly the original paint. Some wiring also needed
tying up - stick on pads don't seem to last long on a boat. I
added the rubber strips some time ago to stop the board rocking and
squeaking, a small section, lower left, now needing to be replaced.
The underside of the main section of the cockpit sole after what
was probably the first coat of paint in 45 years, but it had done well,
the board is in very good condition albeit with the centre bowed
down ¼" in places which may explain why the table has been
tricky to fit (the aft leg of the table goes over the block of wood).
Two coats of the excellent International "Danboline" bilge paint.
Two coats of varnish for the base of the table leg, two more to go.
Plus a cleaned up and lacquered ring lift. I'll be adding a second
 one to the forward section which will make it much easier to get up
and save pulling on the carpet.
I  replaced the carpet with carpet tiles; cheaper, easier to source, hard wearing and with some spares it will be possible to replace small sections if one gets damaged. It was also probably easier to cut them to shape than a single piece would have been.
Trial fit of the table base on the aft section.
Front and centre sections, waiting for the second lift ring, the
2 slide bolts that hold the centre section down and a tie down
 point will be refitted when the boards go back in the boat,
when the weather permits.
The aft section is screwed down, the middle section secured with
slider bolts. Also one of 3 tie down points for under table storage.
The electric bilge pump and the hose to the main pump are 
accessible  with the middle section lifted.
Job almost done, just needs the additional
lift ring.
Job done.
And a small job, a heat shield for the lamp which was starting to damage the headlining with heat and smoke. A piece of brass sheet left over from a job about 15 years ago, cut and bent to shape then lacquered. And it hides a join and looks better than before.

Friday, October 27, 2023

My review of anchorages and marinas around UK has been updated to June 2024.

Anchorages and Marinas covered at June 2024

Sancerre in the anchorage at The Holy Island of
Lindisfarne, 2021
, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh
Castle in the distance.  A trip line is required in
this anchorage, to see why click here.
My review of anchorages and marinas around UK has been updated with those visited through September 2023, at that point I had been to 141 different ones since getting Sancerre, almost all have at least some comments. The pages were getting over long so there are now 11 of them. 

I now include:

  • Harbours and Marinas.
  • Some info on fuel & gas availability but I would not have checked at many locations. 
  • Cell coverage, Vodafone and O2, for those I have visited recently.

Be sure to check out Reeds  and / or the appropriate pilots for more detailed information and alternates, this is just an overview of likely candidates, but I have been to all of them over the last few years. Some notes on passage making using some of these can be found here:  "Planning a round GB trip" , a list of charts and Pilots I have used round GB can be found here: "Charts and Guides for a round GB trip"

Further updated during a boring winter 2023/4 to include some information on access to and from marinas. Done from notes but largely from memory but fortunately that is good for this sort of thing, I just wish that I always knew why I went into a room or opened a browser page 😕. See my page Marina & mooring notes (opens in a new window) for some general tips, definitions and the context (handling of my boat) in which I comment.

Village Bay Anchorage, St Kilda
Hunda Sound anchorage looking towards Scapa Flow, Orkney at 03:30.
Note that these "Pages" do not show up under "Post Labels" (right). There will normally be more photos of each anchorage on the linked post and sometimes subsequent ones (I normally only "tag" the first post in a sequence) the associated slide show, or by clicking on the Post Label right:

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Memories, good and bad.

Back in late 1977 I joined Brian & Pam Saffrey-Cooper's crew running the front half of his Contention 30 "Buccaneer", that however was not the end game. That autumn there were meetings including one very long and late one at The Chequers Inn, Lymington, with Doug Peterson one of America's leading yacht designers, to finalise the design and layout of a new 1/2 tonner to be built for Brian (AKA "Hooter") by the Elephant Boatyard at Bursledon. Brian was a timber importer so she was built in the finest Western Red Cedar on Sitka Spruce and was very light but strong.

She was launched just before Easter, but a major problem cropped up in trying to find a name for her; Brian, who was rather superstitious and liked to have boat names ending in "eer" as in Buccaneer and his previous 1/2 tonner, a Norlin designed Scampi  "Racketeer" (not that good a name for a businessman!). The crunch came when a name had to be found to get the boat measured for her rating, they passed a pub called "The Green Dragon", green was Brian's lucky colour and already chosen for the hull colour so the name was decided.

Green Dragon on the way to winning our division
in the Round the Island race 1979. I am sitting out
waiting for the next sail change.
Although we did not manage to achieve our goal of winning the 1/2 ton cup, either at Pool in 1978 or in Scheveningen in 1979 when we suffered rudder failure, or even to come out as top UK boat in those events, but we did win the selection trials from 50+ competitors in 1978 (which was an off year for the Admirals Cup) and finished 7th in the event from 50. Overall she was the most successful British 1/2 tonner in 1978, 1979 and 1980 (I did not sail on her in 1980 but returned to help Brian get his one tonner "Dragon" into the winning Admirals cup team in 1981). She won the division in RORC, Solent Points and British Level Rating Association series in all three years - believed to be a first. We also won the RORC yacht of the year award in 79.
My favourite headline from 1979. Bob was a little biased, he
crewed for Brian & Pam on Racketeer, I think his introduction
to offshore sailing after very successful campaigns in dinghies
and crewing for Reg White winning the Little America's cup
for "C Class" Catamarans.
Then about 5 years ago, after I got my own half tonner as a gift to myself on my second retirement, Green Dragon was run down on her mooring, this from Doug Peterson's office after I shared the picture on Facebook (neither Brian or Doug lived to see her demise):

Then to cap it all she sank and last year(?) these pics came out.:

Such a shame to see such a beautifully made boat end up like this.



Monday, October 23, 2023

Installing a holding tank - Design.

With the slope of the hull and the web
supporting the aft lower shroud fitting
there is not a lot of room behind the toilet
and none under. Securing a sometimes
heavy tank would also be difficult.
To be more environmentally friendly and to avoid some trips ashore for "comfort breaks", I have been toying with the idea of a black water holding tank for several years but its not easy because of space constraints. 

Older boats are not required to have holding tanks in most jurisdictions, regulations vary by country but generally waste can be discharged when more than 3 miles offshore, perhaps unsurprisingly (in 2023) there are no restrictions on discharging waste in UK coastal waters although many marinas and harbours have local regulations or by-laws banning discharges.

The space behind the toilet could take a tank but to be anywhere near a useful size it would have to be bespoke and therefore very expensive, it would also be difficult to fit to the sloping hull, difficult to plumb in and I would loose some small but handy storage space for toiletries and loo cleaner. 

Underneath what was the port berth in the forepeak or under the port berth in the saloon would both easily take a rubber tank but they are difficult to secure and I don't fancy a rubber tank full of sewage anywhere in the boat. Again solid tanks would have to be specially made and both options would require lots of expensive plumbing with diverter valves, pump, etc..

More realistically with the forepeak no longer having berths, a tank could be installed there on the port bulkhead next to the heads. 

If the tank bottom is high enough above the waterline and the pipe work reasonably short and not too bendy this could be emptied overboard by gravity and, with the appropriate fittings, optionally by pump out. 

Again space and cost are issues; an excellent vertical tank is made by "Tek-Tanks" it is made to order in standard sizes with inlets and outlets positioned to order. There are problems, space is at best barely adequate for the smallest 40 litre version, there might not be sufficient "head" for it to drain correctly, and the tank without hose tails is £389. A similar but much cruder design by Nuova Rade is only £159 but again it would be difficult to fit and drainage could be an issue. Both options could be made to work with a lot of plumbing and a pump to drain the tank as sea but it gets expensive and complicated.

Schematic of the planned installation.
I gave up on the project the last couple of winters but this year I found a 25 litre horizontally orientated tank by Vetus that is much shallower so gives more space for installation above and below and a better head for drainage, still £270 but unlike the other tanks that does included all the hose tails bar one.

The height for gravity drainage looks to be OK even if a couple of elbows are required, especially as the electric pump and Macerator does a better job of breaking up solids and paper than a manually operated toilet.

When offshore the seacock is left open and waste goes straight out, in sensitive areas the sea cock is closed and the waste accumulates in the holding tank later be released at sea or pumped out.

If in use the gravity drainage proves not to work there is room to install the new Henderson Mk5 pump I happen to have (its a long story) between the tank and the seacock. That would be a pain at sea requiring manual pump outs but it would work and I could add a diverter valve and additional pipe work.

The back up plan (see next post for an updated final version).
Outline plan for the bulkhead mount.
Most of the components are on order and should be here by early next week, the rest I'll get locally some after trial fits, and I'll start the installation when there is some decent weather to visit the boat.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Installing a holding tank - Installation, Day 1.

I'm glad that I did not try using a 40 litre tank or even the 25 litre vertical, at best it would have had very complicated pipe work, needed new and tricky to build head lining and would probably not have self drained properly. 

The bad news was that due to a number of factors, mainly positioning of the filter and the length (depth) of the deck fitting for pump out, I had to put the tank lower than I had hoped so gravity draining was still going to be problematic and would probably not have worked at all on starboard tack so I switched to "plan B" and am fitting a pump, diverter valve and a stop valve between the tank and the discharge pump. The existing inlet pipe work and the anti-syphon loop can be reused without modification which will save some time and money.

The end of a long days work (finished at 19:00),
the pipe to the filter needs a clip to hold it up so it
would drain back to the tank if any water got in.
Apart from that I made good progress, 

  • The panelling in the heads is out and most of the black mould behind removed, the rest will go when I have moved some pipework.
  • The tank is mounted with a substantial block underneath that is bolted through the bulkhead to support it.
  • Inlet connected at the tank end and taken through to where the diverter will go.
  • Vacuum pump out piping completed, the head lining hides the deck fitting and just needed a small piece taken out on the aft edge for the pipe to go through. 
  • The filter is fitted to the bulk head and the inlet pipe fitted, it is close to the head lining but to change the filter the headline can easily come down, its held up by Velcro, and there is oodles of space above (where I had thought to put the filter).

The pump will go under the former port bunk, I have it home and it's now fitted to a mounting board ready to install. The locker lid has been shortened to open past the tank, the off cut will go back in with the waste pipe going through it. I'm now waiting for the diverter valve to be delivered and I should be able to finish the job in another long day.

The main problem fitting the tank lower was difficulty in siting the
pump out fitting to get the pipe to the tank without interfering
with the inlet pipe or getting in the way. In the end I put it on the edge
of the coach roof rather than on the deck. Further inboard would have
given a good lead but then there would be nowhere to put the filter
with the bottom of the unit and pipes above the tank and outlet in
the chain locker.
The fitted unit, I was quite pleased with the neat fit to the
Treadmaster anti-slip pad.

As fitted.

Installing a holding tank - Installation, Days 2 & 3

It was a bit of s struggle getting hoses on, even with lots of hot water, but I got there in the end.

There is a "Y" junction bottom left leading to the
seacock,  the holding tank outlet pipe going behind
the bowl, the direct outlet is waiting to be cut and
connected to the diverter via the anti-syphon loop.
The green pipe is for the automatic bilge pump
Getting the diverter straight and fixed to the panel
was the biggest struggle mainly due to lack of
room plus stiff pipes and pipe connections that
would not rotate (with jubilee clips slack).
The finished job. The board left is a drop down table,
rarely used now that I wear a beard so don't need it
shaving using the mirror out of picture right. If I
venture into the Baltic or some other areas I will
have to put an eye on the panel to "lock" (probably with
a cable tie) the diverter to feed to the tank as is required
in places to prevent an accidental discharge.
The holding tank and filter fully plumbed in, the breather goes
to the chain locker as there is insufficient freeboard to put it
through the hull without a high risk of getting water in the filter.
The Henderson Mk 5 pump in position with the ball valve left.
All plastic components are by Trudesign, the seacocks are genuine
bronze (not  DZR Brass)  by "Blakes". The pump is capable of
emptying the tank in less than 30 seconds. Lots of jubilee clips,
 doubled for all connections below the water line or hidden are
needed for piece of mind and to keep surveyors and insurance
companies happy.
The hatch, installed when I converted the forepeak to a wet area
had to be butchered, I can still get my spare washboards in the
locker but I'll have to find somewhere else for the spare tiller. For access
I'll need to keep this area reasonably free of obstructions so things I might
 need quickly or regularly are going to live in the locker.
All together it took about 3 days but I had the advantage of my work some years ago replacing the original vanity unit and installing panelling and the electric conversion to the toilet.

Servicing the clean water input side of the unit,
the output side was not as straightforward.
As I was working in the area a deep service on the 5 year old macerator seemed to be a sensible idea, unfortunately it as not straightforward; two slot headed machine screws were unmovable, I ended up bringing it home, drilling off the heads, disassembling, bending the 650mm M5 machine screws through c 90 degrees and using the bend to get leverage to free them after applying lots of penetrating oil. 

Fortunately nothing was damaged so it only cost a couple of bolts, lots of swearing, several hours and a "wasted" visit to the boat when I tried to do the service whilst on board.

Friday, September 29, 2023

ABC 2 - The Crinan Canal and the Clyde Puffer

The second of what may be an occasional series for "ABC" the Magazine of the parishes of Chesterton, Little Chesterton, Middleton Stoney and Wendlebury. Jan 2024 edition. With some additional pictures.

My track approaching and through the Canal in 2021.

Entering the Canal at Crinan.
I was storm bound in the Port Ellen marina Islay, had failed to reach St Kilda and was too late to get to a sailing event starting in Wales, so I decided to compensate by going through the Crinan Canal, a trip often recommended.

The canal runs for 9 miles between Crinan and Ardrishaig providing a short cut avoiding the often dangerous Mull of Kintyre, easing the trip between Glasgow, the Scottish islands and the coastal villages. 

The route was surveyed by James Watt in 1771 and built between 1794 and 1801 at a cost of £11m in today’s money, it opened in 1809 after being bailed out by the government following problems with the banks and a poor water supply. 

The canal can accommodate boats up to 88ft x 20ft with a freshwater draft of 8’ 10” (saltwater draft of about 8’ 5”), less in dry weather.

Steam vessels started to use it in the 1850s, the most common type in the late 1900s would become the Clyde Puffer; those of a certain age may remember the BBC series based on the short stories of Neil Munro, “The Tales of Para Handy” the devious skipper of the Puffer “Vital Spark”. 
Clyde Puffer VIC 32 (right) in the Crinan basin of the canal.
Originally the type was used only in fresh water, mainly the Clyde and Forth canal, and did not have condensers, steam went straight to the funnel which resulted in puffs of steam and smoke and a puffing sound. The name stuck when condensers were installed to recirculate fresh water so they could be used at sea. These vessels, a generic type rather than a standard design, made a huge difference to communities in the Islands and elsewhere, especially those without a good harbour. Flat bottomed, the Puffers would be beached on a falling tide and using their own derrick offload supplies and load with products to be exported then float off on the next tide.

During WWI Puffers were used to supply warships and in 1939 the navy needed more self-powered lighters to service the fleet. Rather than design anew, to avoid using major shipyards and for quick results the existing Puffer designs were used and orders placed with numerous small yards many of which had experience building them. Over 100 were built and were known by their VIC (Victualling Inshore Craft) number. Most of the surviving Puffers have had their steam engines replaced by diesel engines, VIC 32 pictured above in the canal is one of the few retaining the original coal fired steam engine.
Passing the second swing bridge after leaving Crinan.
Now canal staff operate the modern powered gates of the locks at each end of the Canal and the seven bridges, apart from that you are on your own to operate the eleven manual locks. That requires two people (now three are mandated if you don’t have a “Pilot”), one on the boat and one ashore. Being single handed I hired a “Pilot” who took and cast off my mooring lines, operated the lock, then went ahead on a push bike to do the same on the next lock.

In Lock 13 heading east and waiting for a boat in lock 12 coming
the other way.
The full story of this trip anti-clock wise around GB starts here, the passage through the canal with more words and pictures is here

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Why did the RYA drop splicing from the sylabus?

Years ago we taught basic splicing of 3 strand rope and basic whipping as part of both the the RYA dinghy and offshore syllabuses.

But no longer, and I have never really understood why. 

I just made up a new rope - chain - rope bridle, the rope to chain splices are the easiest there are and the eye splices are not much harder, by using a reel-end of 16mm rope (and 1 metre of new 10mm grade 40 chain) I saved about £90 or more than two thirds of the cost of buying it made up.

A rope - chain - rope bridle, ideal for mooring to a buoy with 
a ring or chain on the top or to a pile. The break load is over 5 tonnes.
Chaff protection at the fairleads will be added when I go to the boat. I
also have one with 8mm chain
that is easier to set up, especially
through chain.
Splicing braid on braid rope is more complicated but quite satisfying to do once you have cracked it and given the number of splices on a boat can save a lot of cash.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

ABC 1 - Sailing to St Kilda

The first of what may be an occasional series for "ABC" the Magazine of the  parishes of Chesterton, Little Chesterton, Middleton Stoney and Wendlebury, October 2023 edition with larger and additional pictures.

Although few get there, many cruising types have St Kilda on their “Bucket List”, partly the attraction is the landscape and the wildlife including unique species, one of the world’s largest Gannet colonies and the largest colonies of Fulmars and Puffins in Great Britain, all sadly now depleted by Bird Flu.

But mainly it is the challenge of getting there. First, it is a long way, especially for those of us sailing small boats solo from the south coast; then there is the weather and the rough seas.

The Sounds of Barra and Harris are the only way through the islands. Both are torturous with strong unpredictable tides and get dangerous in stronger winds that are frequent in the area, and in such conditions the ways round to the north or south don’t bare thinking about so, with few places of shelter on the west coast, a rare period of settled weather is needed to get to St Kilda. 

The NW part of the Stanton Channel through the Sound of Harris
The route from my anchorage to the Stanton 
Channel, the route from the south east is not
as complicated.
Then there is the island itself, 40 miles further out in the Atlantic at 57 Degrees 50 minutes North, it is subject to swell that can come from the Arctic or Canada or both at the same time. This can quickly make Village Bay, the only serious anchorage, untenable as can any easterly wind. To get there you therefore need an extended period of good weather over a wide area as did the original inhabitants of St Kilda who were frequently cut off for many months at a time.

In 2021 I hoped to include St Kilda in my second solo circumnavigation of GB but reaching Stornoway under time pressure to get to a sailing event in Wales, I skipped St Kilda and still missed the event. In 2022 I made a more determined effort, it took 39 days, to reach South Uist but weather systems developing in the Atlantic could have trapped me there for weeks, so I went to Plockton on the mainland (where the TV series Hamish Macbeth was filmed) and after 3 weeks, with no prospect of improvement I gave up and got home after 89 days.

In 2023 I set off again and made better time getting to Tobermory on Mull in 32 days. Prospects looked good so on the 19th May I crossed the Sea of the Hebrides to Vatersay at the southern end of the Western Isles.

Scottish waters are always good for seeing marine mammals, but this leg was exceptional; in 58 nautical miles I had 3 sightings of Minke Whales, more than in the previous 5 years together, there were Dolphins most of the way over and at least 200 in one super pod northwest of Coll, a pod of Killer Whales [fortunately, unlike their Iberian cousins, without a taste for boat rudders], a Basking Shark and Seals as I arrived in Vatersay Bay. 

A Minke Whale, this one in the Firth of Lorn on my return, it
was a good year for seeing whales, there were also many in the
sound of Harris (pics on the blog, link below)

With a weather window possibly opening the next week I headed north to The Sound of Harris via Barra, South and North Uist. Then I was off to St Kilda.

Arriving at the Village Bay anchorage, Hirta (St Kilda).
Hirta (aka St Kilda) is the largest of four islands and several stacks in the dual World Heritage Site and the only one to be inhabited. It is around 1,300 acres, about 78% of the total area of the archipelago. Initially inhabited at least 4,000 years ago, at the peak there were up to 180 people there, by 1851 it was down to 112 and the last 36 left in 1930 largely because of repeated illnesses brought on by increased external contact. Ironically, they were resettled to work with the Scottish Forestry Commission when some would never have seen a tree.  

One of the more accessible cleitean.
Life was extremely hard, fishing was limited by the lack of a harbour, rough seas and deep water locally also farming could produce little, so the main foods were sea birds and their eggs gathered swinging from ropes on sheer sea cliffs up to 1,400ft, the highest in UK. 

Food was stored in over a 1,300 “cleitean” unique small stone storage structures that litter the steep hill sides.

Some not so accessible Cleitean . Part of the ruined village and
accommodation for the contractors manning the tracking
station for the nearby missile firing range.
The trip took 76 days and covered 1,885 nautical miles (2,173 statute) and although it was generally cold until day 58, I only lost 11 days to the weather.

2023 Taransay to St Kilda
Slide show of pictures arriving and at St Kilda.