Friday, 19 January 2018

Wind, rain and snow outside - warm and cosy on board

Photo of Ravensdale's welcoming glow on a cold, dark night

Ravensdale's welcoming glow on a cold, dark night


Why do folk who live on the land think liveaboards must freeze in the winter?

The first thing many people seem to assume if we tell them we live on our boat is that we must get really cold when the temperatures start to drop outside.

Why?

I just don’t get it!

If someone tells you they live in a house, you don’t automatically launch into a series of questions about what type of heating they have.

But, if you live on a boat, it seems to be the first thing people want to know.

The questions sometimes vary, but the sentiment is the same.

“Don’t you get cold in the winter?”

“How do you keep warm?”

“Do you have heating?”

Yes, of course we have heating.

We wouldn’t have moved on board our Neptunus 133 Ravensdale at Maryport in Cumbria, UK, if we didn’t have the ability to keep ourselves warm.

The next question is likely to be about the type of heating, which is fair enough.

Actually, it’s all fair enough really. Our lifestyle is outside most people’s experience and they’re just interested to learn more.

And, to be honest, we're happy to explain how we manage to keep warm on board to anyone who genuinely wants to know more about it.

Photo of Ravensdale's super efficient Webasto heater

Ravensdale's super efficient Webasto heater


Ravensdale has a very efficient and very effective Webasto hot air diesel heating system.

Photo of Phil with the old heater

Phil with the old heater

That said, this time last year, we were in a very different situation.

The Eberspacher heating system that was onboard when we bought our 43ft seagoing cruiser packed up on January 5 - http://fromahousetoaboat.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/our-heater-is-dead-and-marina-has.html

And it took a month for the company we took it to for repairs to discover it was beyond repair and to get us a replacement. It had to be ordered from Germany and the first one sent went missing in transit.

We were very lucky that it was a particularly mild period for January/February, but it was still pretty chilly.

We got by with a couple of small electric heaters, which pushed our weekly electricity costs up from around £20 per week to £50 per week, but it made life just about bearable until the new heater was fitted - http://fromahousetoaboat.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/at-long-last-we-have-heat.html


Ravensdale’s heating system

The new system we had fitted was the Webasto Airtop Evo 55 diesel 24V, which is designed for use in trucks, vans and mobile homes.

Photo of the new Webasto heater being fitted in February 2017

The new Webasto heater being fitted in February 2017

Photo of one of the heating outlets in the saloon

One of the heating outlets in the saloon


It’s capable of providing heat at five outlets, but we currently only have four – two in the saloon, one in the dinette/galley area and one in the aft cabin (AKA our bedroom).

Photo of space heater in the bathroom

Space heater in the bathroom

We also have a 55W space heater in the en suite heads in our bedroom, which seems to do a good job at keeping the chill off as it is only a very small room.

We’re considering piping the hot air through to the fore cabin and installing a fifth outlet there as there’s currently no proper heating at that end of the boat.

But it’s not really a problem as the cabin is only used for storage at the moment and we have a dehumidifier running in there as and when needed.

There’s also no heat in the heads in the fore cabin so we’re planning to install a space heater in there very soon.

Another improvement we plan to make as soon as possible is to fit a thermostat and timer to the Webasto system as we currently have to control it using knobs to turn the heat up or down.

Photo of the controls for our Webasto heating system

The controls for our Webasto heating system


We tend to keep it on a low economy setting overnight, turning it up a bit just before we get up.

We then keep it on economy for most of the day, unless it’s very cold, and we switch it up to the lower of the two main heat settings during the evening, adjusting the temperature on that setting as required. We haven’t needed to use the highest settings yet.

The temperature on board ranges between about 13C and 16C (55.4F - 60.8F) during the night, around 20C (68F) during the day and about 24C (75.2F) during the evening.


Other means of keeping warm

1.    Dehumidifiers – We have two, one in the fore cabin and one in the aft cabin. These give out some heat, but mainly ensure that the boat remains dry. The one in the aft cabin is on for about an hour before going to bed and an hour after we get up in the morning. The one in the fore cabin is on all night with the doors to the rest of the boat left open to keep the whole boat dry. We also bring one of them up into the saloon at any time that condensation starts to form.


2.    Electric blanket – Absolutely invaluable during the winter months and pretty good to have during much of the spring and autumn too.


Photo of warm brushed cotton bedding with a dehumidifier in the corner

Warm brushed cotton bedding with a dehumidifier in the corner




3.    Brushed cotton bedding – A recent addition, but one we would thoroughly recommend. The warmer feel of the fabric makes for a much cosier night’s sleep.


4.    Thermal underwear – A sleeveless vest is a big help during cooler periods and, when it gets really cold, we don our thermal base layer underwear that was initially bought for mountain walking.

Photo of me in a warm, woolly hat

Me in a warm, woolly hat


5.    Always wrap up and wear a warm hat when going out – It’s much easier to stay warm than to have to warm up again after getting cold.


6.    And finally, my personal tip for keeping warm – Always make your husband get up and turn the heating up a good half an hour before you get out of bed. Trust me! It works! J


The dreaded lurgy

The flu-type bug I developed almost a fortnight ago is still making its presence known and I’ve been particularly grateful for our excellent onboard heating system while feeling unwell.

Phil never caught the full-blown flu, but has been feeling less than 100% much of the time so we’re convinced his body has been fighting off the bug too.

Hopefully we will both be back on top form very soon.


Wet and windy weather

Photo of Phil checking the wind speed with a hand-held anemometer

Phil checking the wind speed with a hand-held anemometer


The past week has been a mixture of wind, rain and even a little bit of snow.

We had a thin covering of snow on our aft deck and the pontoons for a short while at around 6.30pm on Tuesday evening after blizzard conditions, which must have lasted all of about 10 minutes.

Photo of snow on Ravensdale's aft deck

Snow on Ravensdale's aft deck


Photo of snow being blown around by high winds as it starts to settle on the pontoons

Snow being blown around by high winds as it starts to settle on the pontoons


But most of the time the weather has either been very windy or raining or both – just typical UK winter weather really J

We had very stormy conditions overnight Sunday into Monday, with 33mph southerly winds, gusting to 46mph, recorded at nearby St Bees Head at midnight.

This continued throughout the day on Monday, overnight Monday into Tuesday and during the day on Tuesday.

Photo of storm clouds gathering over Maryport Marina

Storm clouds gathering over Maryport Marina


The highest wind speed recorded in this area on Monday/Tuesday night was a westerly 36mph wind, gusting to 48mph at 4am on Tuesday.

Ravensdale’s TV aerial blew off again and Phil had to get dressed and go out in the wind and rain at around 2am to lash it down.

He fixed it again the following morning and we now know that we need to make some alterations to stop this happening every time we get high winds. Amazingly, the programmes that were scheduled to record that night were still recorded with very little disturbance to the reception.

Photo of Phil fixing the TV aerial after it came loose in the latest storms

Phil fixing the TV aerial after it came loose in the latest storms


Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday was another stormy night as Storm Fionn battered the UK leaving large swathes of the country covered by deep snow.

Maryport was on the edge of the various severe weather warnings for snow, ice and strong winds that the Met Office issued for Storm Fionn and it seems they were right as we certainly seem to have missed the worst of it this time.


Boat jobs

Photo of one of Ravensdale's crushed fenders

One of Ravensdale's crushed fenders

We haven’t really got back into doing any of the long list of jobs that want/need doing on Ravensdale since our Christmas and New Year shutdown.

Bad weather and feeling unwell have meant we’ve just been relaxing on board, waiting for the flu bug to run its course and for the weather to improve.

However, Phil changed the valves on a couple of fenders that suffered while being repeatedly squashed between Ravensdale’s hull and the pontoon during Storm Eleanor on January 2 and 3.

There was a bit of a delay as we’d run out of valves so we had to order more and wait for them to arrive.

But the fenders were blown up and back in place ready to take the strain before the worst of the high winds this week.

Meanwhile, the swans that can often be seen around the marina have been visiting our boat looking for food because the person who usually feeds them is away at the moment. We didn't have any proper swan food to offer them, but they seemed to quite like slices of potato.


Photo of the swans swimming towards Ravensdale in search of food

The swans swimming towards Ravensdale in search of food


Photo of Phil feeding chips to one of the swans

Phil feeding potato to one of the swans





Friday, 12 January 2018

Facebook comes to Ravensdale's rescue over lift-out dilemma


Photo of Ravensdale in the boat hoist the last time she came out of the water

Ravensdale in the boat hoist the last time she came out of the water

The response to our first request for help on Facebook far exceeded our expectations.

And advice from around the world led to a solution right on our doorstep - OK, on our pontoon, but it’s the same thing J

I posted a request for guidance on how to overcome the problem we face every time our 43ft cruiser Ravensdale is lifted into or out of the water on two Facebook groups for liveaboards.

The design of the Neptunus 133, with fibreglass exhaust outlets running along the outside of the hull, means they get damaged by the slings on the boat hoist.

Photo of Ravensdale's starboard side showing one of the problem exhaust outlets

Ravensdale's starboard side showing one of the problem exhaust outlets

We had her lifted out for a survey before we bought her in October 2016 and put back in the water at the start of November of the same year when we moved on board.

On these occasions, both outlets lifted, damaging the screws and breaking the sealant along the top edge on the port side, which we repaired.

The next time she was lifted was last spring, when we had her out on the hard-standing for antifouling, to replace the anodes and for other work that could only be carried out while she was out of the water.

This time, the exhaust outlet on the starboard side snapped in half and the port side lifted again.

While she was out of the water, Phil repaired the broken side and we replaced the screws that had become damaged on both sides.

Lifting her back in was a big worry as we really didn’t want it to happen again.

The marina’s boat lift should be up to the task as Ravensdale is only 16 tonnes and the lift is designed to take up to 25 tonnes.

Photo of the problem lift point with one of the wooden blocks we tried last time

The problem lift point with one of the wooden blocks we tried last time

Phil and one of the marina staff built some wooden blocks that we hoped would do the job, but they snapped as soon as the slings took the strain so we ended up having to place fenders under the exhaust outlets again.

Photo of the marina's fender solution

The marina's fender solution

And, once again, the fenders lifted when the slings pulled up underneath them and lifted the exhaust outlets.

Thankfully, they didn’t break the outlets this time, but again the screws were bent and the exhaust began escaping around the screw holes.

Photo of one of the drawings sent by a Facebook group member

One of the drawings sent by a Facebook group member

Last week, I explained our problem and posted photos of the things we’d tried, without success, on Facebook and asked if anyone had any better ideas before her next lift out – possibly in the spring.

And we were totally overwhelmed by the response.

Within hours of posting my request, I received literally dozens of suggestions from people all over the world and all but a handful were extremely helpful (the others I just ignored J)

The many good ideas ranged from making larger wooden blocks and using hardwood for a similar design of block to moving to a marina with a wider boat lift.

Photo of another drawing from the same person

Another drawing from the same person

I made it clear that we liked our current marina at Maryport, Cumbria, UK, so needed to find a solution that would work for us here.

Other members of these groups posted photos and videos of the equipment they used or had seen used with boats of a similar design.

And a few kind people posted or sent me drawings of their suggested solutions. One also provided all the details on the grade of steel, etc, that was needed.

Our plan was to take this information to a local fabrication yard to see if they could build something to do the job.

We'd recently become aware that another berth holder here, Stuart Norton, whose boat is moored on the same pontoon as us, was some sort of engineering designer.

He had just designed a piece of kit for another boat owner here, so I asked if he could suggest someone to do the welding work.

Photo of Stuart Norton's initial design

Stuart Norton's initial design

Stuart immediately volunteered to take a look at it for us.

I emailed him the information and drawings I’d been sent on Facebook and he came up with what looked like a workable solution constructed from 6mm steel, with each one weighing 20kg.

The steel bridges include holes to take lines so they don't get dropped in the water, and Stuart is suggesting 10mm neoprene, or similar material, on the pads to protect the hull.

He brought a special tool along to measure the angles involved to ensure a snug fit.

As Ravensdale is in the water at the moment, this involved crawling around on the pontoon and trying to make sure it was fitting correctly under the water.

Photo of Phil watching Stuart measure the angle

Phil watching Stuart measure the angle

To help with this project, I offered to send Stuart photographs of the relevant parts of Ravensdale when she was out of the water.

He also took a series of photographs with a tape measure in shot so the software he uses can make the necessary calculations.

Having taken the measurements, he has gone away to tweak his design and to get us a quote for the work, which he would also commission and oversee for us.

We’re well aware that it’s not going to be cheap – after all nothing is ever cheap where boats are concerned J

However, if it solves the problem, it will be money well spent.

Once we have his final design, we will check whether the marina foreman thinks the steel bridges will work and is happy to use them before getting them made up.

Meanwhile, we had a lovely surprise last week when we were given a brace of pheasants.

Photo of Phil with the brace of pheasants

Phil with the brace of pheasants

I have to confess that there is no way I could have dealt with them as I’m a bit squeamish about raw meat at the best of times, but Phil was happy to take them on.

As there wasn’t really room to deal with them in the galley, he split open a black bin liner and laid it across the coffee table in the saloon.

I had visions of the boat filling up with feathers while he was plucking them, but he managed to keep most of the flying feathers under control and only a few downy bits of plumage found their way into the rest of the boat.

Thankfully, he took the birds out onto the aft deck to gut them and he hoovered up the feathers in the saloon as soon as he’d finished.

The pheasants provided two meals – the first night we had one roasted with bacon on it, served with cider, celery and onion sauce and roast vegetables.

And the second one was casseroled with root vegetables in the remaining cider and served with mashed potato and cabbage.

Both meals were delicious.

Photo of the pheasant plucker at work

The pheasant plucker at work


Photo of an oven ready pheasant

Oven ready pheasant

Not such a pleasant surprise was catching the flu that has left me feeling rotten for the whole of the past week. In fact, I don’t feel any better yet so really hoping it will clear soon.

And we’ve had a couple of very cold nights when the water in the marina froze over and Phil spread salt on our pontoon so we could get up to facilities safely.

Photo of Phil salting the pontoon that leads to Ravensdale

Phil salting the pontoon that leads to Ravensdale

I have to say going up to use the marina toilets and showers when feeling so unwell has not been the best experience, but I know it won’t be long before I’m feeling better again.

Photo of the new name on our freezer

Russell hoobs - the new name on our freezer

And finally, I thought you might be amused by the logo on our freezer.

It reads “Russell hoobs”
I couldn’t help thinking it sounded like a bad knock-off version of a Russell Hobbs freezer, but I knew we’d bought a genuine Russell Hobbs so I took a closer look.


It turned out that the straps we put around the freezer to stop it sliding when we take Ravensdale out to sea had knocked off part of the letters.

Photo of the microwave and freezer strapped down for going out to sea

The microwave and freezer strapped down for going out to sea

So it really was “knock off” but not in the way I first thought J

I have no idea why I did this, but I decided to Google “Russell hoobs” and was amazed to get pages of results.

It’s obviously a common misspelling of the brand as the search engine directed me to results for Russell hoobs, but clicking on any of the links took me to Russell Hobbs products. Who’d have guessed? J

Friday, 5 January 2018

Sleeping fully clothed during the worst storm of our liveaboard lives


Photo of waves crashing onto the Promenade at Maryport in Cumbria, UK

Waves crashing onto the Promenade at Maryport in Cumbria, UK

Much of the UK was battered by two named storms over the New Year period, both of which coincided with high tides.

And we experienced plenty of wild weather action from Storm Dylan and Storm Eleanor here at Maryport in Cumbria.

They were definitely two of the bumpiest nights we’ve had since we moved on-board our 43ft seagoing cruiser Ravensdale 14 months ago yesterday (Thursday).

Storm Dylan arrived in Maryport in the early hours of New Year’s Eve and continued until early afternoon.

The boat was rocking dramatically as we were blasted by strong winds, which were accompanied by torrential rain.

The highest wind speed here was 39mph, gusting to 56mph at around 6am.

That night was fairly bumpy on-board, but didn’t rate as our roughest yet as the tail end of ex-hurricane Ophelia back in October of last year was definitely worse.

The rain had stopped the following morning, but it was still very windy so we took a walk over to Maryport Promenade because we could see the waves crashing against the sea wall from our aft deck.

They were fairly impressive, but not as high as I’d hoped, but then the high tide was only 8.1m.

Photo of one of the impressive waves whipped up at Maryport by Storm Dylan

One of the more impressive waves whipped up at Maryport by Storm Dylan


Storm Eleanor, which arrived on Tuesday evening and lasted through much of the day on Wednesday, was much more dramatic as the high tides were so much higher.

The high tide at 23:45 on Tuesday in Maryport was 9m and it reached 9.1m at 12:07 the following day.

The highest wind speed recorded in this area was 47mph at midnight and the highest gust was 66mph at 2am.

The wind really started to get up at around 9pm.

Our Neptunus 133 was being thrown around and rocking wildly causing the ropes to creak and Ravensdale to slam up against the fenders alongside the pontoon.

The water was making loud sloshing noises as it slapped against the hull and the guardrail on the boat started knocking against the handrail on our metal steps on the pontoon. There's usually a gap of 12-18ins between the two rails, but the pontoon and boat sometimes rocked in opposite directions during the storm causing them to clash.

We heard a loud banging noise coming from the aft deck and looked out to see that part of our TV aerial had come loose and was swinging by the cable. Phil went out in the howling gale and strapped it to the radar arch with a bungee until he could get outside to fix it properly.

Photo of our mangled aerial strapped down to stop it blowing away

Our mangled aerial strapped down to stop it blowing away

Our sliding door then started to rattle so we wedged lumps of cardboard into it to hold it steady.

The boat was rolling as if out in a fairly rough sea and things started to be thrown around inside so we strapped down the freezer and the microwave.

Unfortunately, before we could move everything that was at risk, our little fibre optic Christmas tree that was sitting on top of the freezer went flying and crashed to the floor.

Photo of the trawler outside the marina seen from inside at high tide

The trawler outside the marina seen from inside at high tide

The wind peaked around midnight at about the time of the high tide, which we could see was considerably higher than it should have been, presumably due to a storm surge.

The water in the marina was only about 18ins below the top of the dock with waves on the surface bringing it even closer to the top and sea spray could be seen flying over the top of the coastal path and raised sea wall that separates the marina basin from the beach.


Even in the darkness, we could see that the former trawler used as a liveaboard, which is moored in the basin outside the marina gates, looked as though it was level with us.

The boats in the marina were rocking around madly, the masts of two sail boats close to us struck each other a number of times causing them to become tangled and the noise caused by the wind howling through the rigging was louder than we had ever heard before.


Photo of the tangled masts the following morning

The tangled masts the following morning

We didn’t even consider going to bed until about 1am, but decided to give in at that stage as we knew the wind wasn’t going to ease up anytime soon.

And we decided to sleep fully clothed in case we needed to get out in a hurry for any reason.

Phil converted the dinette into a bed so he could be closer to the saloon and more aware of what was going on outside.

Normally, the boat rocking helps me get off to sleep, but this time was different.

The rocking was too severe and the noise of the storm was difficult to ignore, but I must have eventually nodded off because the next thing I knew was when Phil joined me in our bed at around 3.30am because the wind had quietened down a bit.

It was still extremely windy when we got up on Wednesday morning.

Photo of Phil rebuilding our TV aerial

Phil rebuilding our TV aerial

Phil went out to check the boat to see if she'd sustained any damage other than the TV aerial, which we were convinced was going to be useless and in need of replacement.

There was no other damage at all and he discovered that the aerial had simply pulled out of its clamp. He replaced it and amazingly the TV still worked perfectly.

So the only casualty of Storm Eleanor as far as we were concerned was our little Christmas tree, which could hardly be classed as essential boating equipment J

The marina staff were out checking the boats and pontoons first thing and discovered some of the cleats had worked loose. The only damage to boats were the two yachts whose masts had become joined together near us.

Photo of marina staff checking the boats and pontoons after the storm

Marina staff checking the boats and pontoons after the storm

Photo of the roof blown off the marina bike shed

The roof was blown off the marina bike shed

Photo of one of the marina staff holding down the roof of the bike shed

One of the marina staff holding down the roof of the bike shed while it was being fixed

The roof of the marina’s bike hut had blown off and was stood upright against the fence behind it. Staff carried out a temporary fix and it blew off again on Wednesday evening so had to be mended again yesterday.
We decided to have breakfast at The Aquarium by Maryport Harbour the morning after our dramatic night aboard.

We then went around to the Promenade at high tide to photograph the waves that were so much bigger and more impressive than those generated by Storm Dylan. We also visited the pier and shore to see the effects of the storm.

Photo of a huge wave eclipsing Maryport

A huge wave eclipses Maryport


Photo of me photographing the rough sea on Maryport Promenade

Me photographing the rough sea on Maryport Promenade


Photo of a giant wave crashing onto Maryport Promenade

A giant wave crashes onto the Promenade


Photo of Phil taking photographs on Maryport Promenade

Phil taking photographs on the Promenade


Photo of a powerful wave rolling onto the shore at Maryport

A powerful wave rolls onto the shore at Maryport


Photo of debris on the Promenade and another wave being blown across the walkway

Debris on the Promenade and another wave is blown across the walkway


Photo of a towering wave spinning its way along the Promenade

A towering wave spins its way along the Promenade

Photo of storm debris on Maryport pier

Storm debris on Maryport pier


The storms rather overshadowed the start of 2018 for us, but it was good to see in the New Year on-board again.

I couldn’t help thinking what a difference a year makes – or in our case maybe not J

This time last year, we were wondering where we’d be and what we’d be doing this New Year - http://fromahousetoaboat.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-new-year-brings-new-challenges-for.html

Well, now we know.

We’re still here in Maryport, albeit in a different mooring about 100 yards from the first one, and still enjoying every minute of it – or at least almost every minute of it J

And I’m already wondering where we'll be and what we’ll be doing next New Year.

Meanwhile, we took down our Christmas decorations yesterday, a couple of days earlier than planned because some of the fairy lights had come down when the aerial came loose during the storm.

Photo of Phil taking down the fairy lights on Ravensdale's aft deck

Phil taking down the fairy lights on Ravensdale's aft deck


Photo of Phil sorting out the fairy lights on the pontoon

Phil sorting out the fairy lights on the pontoon

Phil cut the many cable ties holding the fairy lights on the outside of Ravensdale and rolled them up while I took down the interior decorations to go away until next year – all except the Christmas tree, which ended up in one of the marina’s bins.

I was sad to see them go, especially the colourful, flashing lights all over the outside of Ravensdale as they always made me smile and I know others enjoyed them too. In fact, another berth holder told me he thought we should leave them up all year as they brightened up the marina.

It only remains for me to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year.
Here's to 2018!