Friday, 8 December 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Ravensdale

Photo of Ravensdale illuminations

Ravensdale illuminations


We're really looking forward to our second Christmas as liveaboards on our 43ft seagoing cruiser at Maryport Marina in Cumbria, UK.

Phil and I put up the Christmas tree in the marina’s customer lounge on Wednesday afternoon and got the lights up on Ravensdale this afternoon (Friday).

Photo of me decorating the marina Christmas tree

Me decorating the marina Christmas tree


We've put 800 coloured and 400 white fairy lights around her guardrails, up over the flybridge and across her aft deck and are now considering getting some more lights for added drama.

We collected our Christmas decorations from our shore-based storage unit at the start of the week (We haven’t quite managed to get rid of all the stuff in storage yet, but we’re still working on it. That said, we haven't quite worked out where the Christmas decorations will live when we let the unit go, but I'm sure we'll manage somehow J)

Photo of the finished tree

The finished tree

The plan was to put the lights on Ravensdale before doing the marina tree, but the weather took a turn for the worse and no amount of festive spirit could persuade us to decorate our boat in the wind and rain so we decided to do the customer lounge first.

The marina manager used a clever ploy to get us to erect the customer lounge tree this year. 

She said she thought we might like to do it because we haven’t got a house anymore so can’t put up our own tree at home!

I pointed out that we would be having a tree on our boat, but found her approach so funny that I just couldn’t refuse.

It gave me a mental picture of being a small child standing outside with my nose pressed against a window, watching everyone inside having a good time J

Despite the weather, it’s good to be back home after a two-week holiday in Scotland visiting some of our old haunts from before we sold our house, bought our Neptunus 133 and moved onboard.

I did everything I could to make sure there were no nasty surprises waiting for us on our return after our homecoming from an earlier holiday was marred by the discovery that the power to the freezer had gone off and the boat stunk of rotten meat.

We ran the contents of the freezer right down before we went away and everything that was left in it was in airtight containers.

Photo of Phil tying down the canvas cover

Tying down the canvas cover after it came loose at one corner

Thankfully the freezer was fine this time, but the fridge had gone off and we have no idea how or why this happened as it worked fine when we turned up the temperature when we got home.

My first night back was spent throwing away its contents and scrubbing it out before we could put away the supplies we’d bought on the return journey.

One of the press studs on the canvas cover on Ravensdale’s windscreen had also come loose and the corner was flapping so Phil tied a rope over the cover to hold it down and we ordered some new elasticated fittings to hold the corners down.

On a happier note, we were delighted to see a kingfisher that had visited the marina a few times before we went away when it returned on Sunday and we actually managed to get close enough to get a photo or two of it before it flew away.

Photo of a kingfisher on one of the escape ladders at Maryport Marina

Kingfisher on one of the escape ladders at Maryport Marina


Photo of the kingfisher flying away

The kingfisher making its getaway

The first week in Scotland was spent staying with a good friend, who was our next-door neighbour when we lived at Alness in Easter Ross.

We had intended to return to Ravensdale at the end of that week, but snow on the mountains in the Scottish Highlands, coupled with a good weather forecast for the following week encouraged us to look for a holiday cottage in the Glencoe area.

Photo of the view from the sitting room of the cottage

The view from the sitting room of the cottage

Photo of me with my camera by a Glencoe loch

Me with my camera by a Glencoe loch

We were lucky to find a good late deal on a lovely cottage in Ballachulish, with a magnificent view of snow-topped mountains.

The property was immaculate and the owners, who lived nearby, were helpful when needed, but otherwise left us alone – just the way we like it J

We met up with some old friends in Fort William and spent the rest of the week photographing the beautiful scenery in the Glencoe and Glen Etive area – one of our favourite places to be when we’re not on our boat.
We also took some photos in the Corpach area, just a few hundred yards from the house we sold before we moved onto our boat in November of last year.

Unsurprisingly, we both came home with loads of photographs. That said, I have many more than Phil because I still belong to the machine gun school of photography believing that the more I take the more chance I have of getting a few decent shots.
Photo of Phil taking photos on Rannoch Moor

Phil taking photos on Rannoch Moor


Below are some of my photos from our Scottish holiday and one that Phil took of me feeding one of the hinds we came across in Glencoe.
Photo of Black Mount on Rannoch Moor

View of Black Mount on Rannoch Moor



Photo of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe

Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe


Photo of Loch Achtriochtan at Glencoe

Loch Achtriochtan at Glencoe


Photo of the tree in Glen Etive that appeared in the James Bond Skyfall movie

Glen Etive and the tree that appeared in the James Bond Skyfall movie


Photo of Ben Nevis across Loch Linnhe

Ben Nevis across Loch Linnhe 


Photo of another view of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe

Another view of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe


Photo of Blackrock Cottage in Glencoe

Blackrock Cottage in Glencoe


Photo of the Pap of Glencoe across Glencoe Lochan

The Pap of Glencoe across Glencoe Lochan


Photo of Glen Etive

Looking back up Glen Etive


Photo of another view of Black Mount on Rannoch Moor

Another view of Black Mount on Rannoch Moor


Photo of boats on Loch Leven at Glencoe

Boats on Loch Leven at Glencoe


Photo of Glencoe Lochan

Glencoe Lochan


Photo of Loch Linnhe at Corpach

Loch Linnhe at Corpach

Photo of a stag in Glen Etive

A stag in Glen Etive

  
Photo of Phil feeding a hind in Glencoe

Phil feeding a hind in Glencoe


Photo of me feeding one of the hinds in Glencoe

Me feeding one of the hinds in Glencoe

Friday, 1 December 2017

Pros and cons of living on a boat


Photo of Ravensdale Ravensdale at Maryport Marina in Cumbria, UK

Ravensdale - our liveaboard home at Maryport Marina in Cumbria, UK

The move from a house to a boat has made some dramatic changes to our lives.

And, yes, I admit that they haven’t all been for the better.

That said, the positives definitely far outweigh the negatives and our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

We’ve spent the past week staying with a friend in the north of Scotland, who lives next-door to one of the last houses we owned in our shore-based life.

An old photo of one of our previous homes in Scotland

An old photo of one of our previous homes in Scotland - we spent last week staying next-door

The time away from our 43ft Neptunus 133 cruiser Ravensdale has also helped to focus our minds on the things we do and don’t miss about living in a house.

Before we decided to make the move, we drew up a list of what we believed to be the pros and cons of selling our house in Fort William, Scotland, and moving onto our boat.

And, after a year of living aboard, based at Maryport Marina in Cumbria, UK, I thought it would be interesting to repeat the process to see if it had turned out as we expected.

The answer is that the “pros” were everything we’d hoped for and more, but the real “cons” were not the things we’d anticipated at all.

I’m well aware that many of the positives on my list are retirement-related and being able to retire early has been an important part of the experience for me.

But the following lists also include a number of things that would be equally true, whether working or not.

Pros


1.    Every day’s a holiday!
Photo of chilling out and enjoying the sunshine on Ravensdale's fore deck

Chilling out and enjoying the sunshine on Ravensdale's fore deck


The move enabled me to retire early as we no longer have a mortgage and I was able to get rid of my car, which I really only used for work.


2.    Healthier lifestyle
Photo of Phil setting up a fishing rod on Ravensdale's fore deck

Phil setting up a fishing rod on Ravensdale's fore deck

We’re now living a more active, outdoor life with considerably less stress (also greatly helped by me no longer having to go to work
J)


3.    Freedom to live where we want
Photo of Ravensdale on her current mooring at Maryport Marina

Ravensdale on her current mooring at Maryport Marina

We can now move our home wherever we want to be so the next time we decide to move our base we won’t have to go through the expensive and traumatic process of selling a house.


4.    Sociable lifestyle
Photo of Phil helping a friend with his sails

Phil helping a friend with his sails

Living on a boat in a marina is a very sociable existence. There always seems to be someone wanting to stop for a chat on the pontoons, come aboard for a coffee and to help each other with any boating jobs.

5.    We can take our home on holiday with us if we want – or not, if we fancy a change
Photo of me on a fishing boat we hired on holiday

We didn't take our boat on this holiday - but we hired a little one to go fishing


6.    Slower pace of life
Photo showing that no watches are needed most of the time

No watches are needed most of the time

Both Phil and I have stopped wearing watches since we moved onboard. Obviously there are times when we need to be in a certain place at a certain time, but most of the time we do things at our own pace.


7.    New challenges
Photo of my first attempts at a sailmaker's whipping knot

My first attempts at a sailmaker's whipping knot

Moving onto a boat has given us the opportunity to learn new skills, both by following boating-related courses and the things we’ve learnt as we’ve gone along to enable us to look after our new home.


8.    Wildlife watching
Photo of a cygnet hitching a ride on Mum's back at Maryport Marina

A cygnet hitching a ride on Mum's back at Maryport Marina

I’m really enjoying watching and photographing the birds, animals, fish and other marine life that visit the marina and in the surrounding area.


9.    Rocking and rolling
Photo of our comfy bed in which we are frequently rocked to sleep

Our comfy bed in which we are frequently rocked to sleep

I thought the rocking motion of the boat may become a pain, but it’s actually a positive in that it rocks us to sleep at night
J

Cons

1.    Toilet facilities
Photo of the marina facilities from Ravensdale

The walk from Ravensdale to the marina facilities at the top of the ramp

It’s a bit of a nuisance having to minimise use of the onboard heads to prevent the holding tank filling up and needing to be emptied too often. This means making use of the marina facilities whenever possible.



2.    Damp
Photo of clothes in one of the lockers in our bedroom

Clothes in one of the lockers in our bedroom

Living on a boat seems to be a constant battle against damp, which we’re now winning, but we still find our clothes end up smelling musty when they’ve been in lockers for any length of time. And I really miss warm towels straight off a heated towel rail.


3.    Storage wars
Photo of storage space under the seats in the dinette

Most of our storage space is under the seats in the dinette and saloon

The lack of storage space meant serious downsizing of our possessions before moving onboard, but we still have too much stuff. And the type of storage (mainly under the seats in the saloon and dinette) make it difficult to store items in an accessible way.


4.    Maintenance costs
Photo of an engineer servicing Ravensdale's two 300 hp engines

An engineer servicing Ravensdale's two 300 hp engines

There's a very good reason why boating folk say BOAT stands for Bring Out Another Thousand. And the bigger the boat, the bigger the bills L


5.    Uncomfortable seating
Photo of the seating in Ravensdale's saloon

The seating in Ravensdale's saloon

The built-in seating on Ravensdale and most other boats I’ve been on never seems to be as comfortable as the furniture in a shore-based home. We’re hoping to find a solution to this one soon.

This list barely scratches the surface of the pros and cons of living on a boat.

I intend to continue adding to it as we go along and revisit it each year to see how our perception of our liveaboard lifestyle changes over time.

Meanwhile, I hope our experiences so far will prove helpful to anyone else considering the move from a house to a boat.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter sun, falling temperatures and flying visitors leaving unwanted gifts


Photo of cormorants enjoying the winter sunshine at Maryport Marina

Cormorants enjoying the winter sunshine at Maryport Marina

Winter is beginning to make its presence known here now.

We’ve had a couple of days of lovely winter sunshine over the past week, but it has also been getting a lot colder, especially at night.

We haven’t had any frost yet, but I'm sure it won't be long before it arrives.

Looking back at one of my first blog posts, written soon after we moved onboard this time last year, I can see that it was so cold that the water in the marina froze over on November 21.

And, for a few days before that, the marina staff were putting salt on the pontoons to make them less slippery.

Photo of a cold sunny day at Maryport Marina

A cold sunny day at Maryport Marina

The lowest temperature we’ve seen on the thermometer inside our 43ft Neptunus 133 cruiser Ravensdale so far this winter is 8C (46.4F) in the saloon first thing on Monday morning, but it was probably lower during the night.

It looks as though we’re going to have to start leaving our Webasto 5 diesel heater on overnight soon.

Thankfully the new heater we had fitted after the existing Eberspacher heater broke down in January of this year is a lot quieter than the old one, which means it doesn’t disturb our sleep as much as the Eberspacher, but we still prefer not to put it on until we really have to.

We’ve also swapped the tyres on our car for winter tyres this week ready for the colder months. They’re probably not really necessary in Cumbria, but we already had them from when we were living in Scotland so we will carry on using them until they wear out.

I really can’t believe how quickly the year has flown by. It’ll be Christmas again before we know it.

In fact, the shops seem to think it’s Christmas already. Some of them put their decorations up as soon as Halloween was over. I love Christmas, but I still think it’s way too soon. Surely they could at least wait until December before expecting us to get into the festive spirit? 
Photo of Ravensdale's new starter batteries

New starter batteries to ensure Ravensdale's two 300hp engines start first time

Photo of Phil fitting the new batteries in the engine room

Phil fitting the new batteries in the engine room

That said, Ravensdale has been allowed to have her Christmas present early this year.

Phil fitted two new 180 ampere hour starter batteries in her battery bank last weekend so hopefully she will start first time every time now.

And, after many years of retirement, Phil is now going out to work again – but only on a temporary basis. For as long as I can remember, I've been the one going to work while Phil stayed at home and now the roles are reversed, but I'm definitely not complaining J

This week, he’s been providing relief cover for the operational staff while they were undergoing training from Monday to Wednesday.

And he got a call yesterday (Thursday) lunchtime asking if he could do a few hours yesterday evening to cover for a member of staff who had called in sick.

Phil has been carrying out short periods of relief work, mainly opening and closing the marina gate and raising and lowering the footbridge across the harbour, for a few weeks now, but this was the first time he’d worked full days.

The funniest part was that, on his first day, three of the jobs he was given were fixing problems that I’d reported.

These were a toilet that had stopped flushing, a blocked shower drain and the replacement of a full-length mirror in the ladies toilet and shower block that was removed when the new door fob system was fitted.

Just goes to show that, even if he tries to go out to work to get away from me, he can’t get away from me finding jobs for him to do J

I’m pleased to report that, after his efforts, the broken loo is now working again, the shower drain is running better and the mirror has been reinstated.

Another job that he spent a good bit of time on was scrubbing birds’ mess off one of the pontoons that seems to attract a lot of flying visitors.

But, before he started, he kindly gave me a phone call to let me know that the cormorants I’d been wanting to photograph were sitting on the pontoon.

I've been trying to get a photo of the adult and juvenile cormorants together and this was the first time we'd seen them in the same place at the same time.

I was able to get a few reasonable shots before I got too close and they flew away onto another pontoon, leaving Phil to get on with the job of scrubbing the messy one.

Photo of cormorants perched on one of the finger pontoons at the marina

Cormorants perched on one of the finger pontoons at the marina


Photo of the adult cormorant taking flight

The adult cormorant takes flight


Photo of Phil scrubbing a pontoon

The down side of the many birds that visit the marina is guano on the pontoons

Photo of two cormorants sitting on a pontoon near the marina gate

Two cormorants sitting on a pontoon near the marina gate

I’ve also been trying to get some shots of the cormorants diving, but not had any luck as yet. The nearest I've got so far is a few shots of them swimming and a swan that was determined to get in on the photo shoot J
Photo of the juvenile cormorant urging the adult bird to join it in the water

The juvenile cormorant urges the adult bird to join it in the water


Photo of a young cormorant surfacing after diving for food

A young cormorant surfaces after diving for food


Photo of one of the two swans that are very regular visitors to the marina

One of the two swans that are very regular visitors to the marina


Photo of pigeons bathing in a puddle on a dinghy cover

Pigeons bathing in a puddle on a dinghy cover

The change in the seasons has also changed the view from our home – the marina is looking pretty empty now because a lot of the boats have been lifted out onto the hard standing for work or winter storage.

Photo of Maryport Marina

Spaces in the marina where boats have been lifted out for the winter


And there have been a few things going on in the marina this week.

One of the larger boats left for pastures new on Tuesday evening.

Dive vessel, MV Susan H, has been sold and is heading to Antwerp, en route to Chile, where she's going to be used for oceanographic survey work.

Photo of MV Susan H taking on fuel ready for the trip

MV Susan H taking on fuel ready for the trip - taken from Ravensdale's aft deck

Photo of the survey team's GPS equipment

The survey team's GPS equipment

A small team from Swansea in Wales has been up here surveying the seabed in the marina, the harbour and the basin between Maryport’s two piers to see how bed levels have changed since the area was last dredged in 2015.

They set up a tripod with an aerial near the marina building to enable them to take accurate GPS readings and drove a small dinghy around the areas they were surveying to record the levels.
The results will give the marina an accurate picture of how much silt has built up since the last time it was dredged and give an indication of when it's likely to need doing again.
I'm told the marina is usually dredged at roughly five-yearly intervals.

Photo of the bed level survey being carried out in the marina

The bed level survey being carried out in the marina


Photo of survey work in the harbour

Survey work underway in the harbour


And an old metal walkway that used to sit on top of the marina gate was cut up and taken away this week.

The bridge, which used to shorten the walk from Maryport to the beach, was removed a couple of years ago when it was discovered that it was too heavy for the gate and was putting it under strain. It had been sitting on the hard standing ever since.

Photo of the old bridge being cut up

The old bridge being cut up - taken from Ravensdale's fore deck

And, as usual, I’ve been out and about with my camera capturing the ever-changing views of Maryport, which I'm affectionately calling my adopted hometown J
Photo of one of the local fishing boats bringing home its catch
One of the local fishing boats bringing home its catch


Photo of the sun going down over Grasslot shore at Maryport

The sun going down over Grasslot shore at Maryport



Photo of fishing as the sun sets

Fishing as the sun sets



Photo of a local fishing boat returning home to Maryport

A local fishing boat returning home to Maryport


Photo of winter sun on the grasses above the beach at Maryport

Winter sun on the grasses above the beach at Maryport



Photo of a rainbow over Maryport Marina

Rainbow over Maryport Marina