Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Our first liveaboard Christmas - a very noisy "quiet Christmas"

Our first Christmas on Ravensdale

In many ways, our first Christmas on Ravensdale was just the way I like Christmases to be – very quiet. But in others it was probably the noisiest festive season I have ever experienced...

Our star and Christmas tree are visible from outside

We had no real plans, except that we would have Christmas dinner at some stage on December 25. Beyond that, we decided to do what we wanted when we wanted and have a nice, quiet relaxing time.

But we hadn’t reckoned on Storm Barbara.

She began to make her presence known on Christmas Eve Eve (Friday December 23) and continued well into Christmas Day.

The gales wailing around the marina causing the yachts to sing in the wind provided an unusual musical accompaniment to the festive season and, at times, I was convinced I could hear the sound of Christmas bells playing in the background :-)

Some of our Christmas cards against the backdrop of the marina wall at low water

Our tiny 3ft tree

Ravensdale rocked as much as her mooring ropes would allow and at times the wind was so strong that marina staff were unable to come down onto the pontoons due to safety regulations. But Dex still had to go out for regular walks. These were very wet and windy outings, but still enjoyable when wrapped up against the weather.

So, other than the crazy noise outside the boat and the rocking we experienced while inside, Christmas went very much as we had hoped.

With a bit of careful planning beforehand, we managed to cook a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in our little gas oven, ate too much and generally chilled out in our new home.

Our Christmas lights proved to be a local attraction

The 800 colourful lights on the outside of the boat proved a big hit in the run up to Christmas – so much so that we were told one of the local taxi firms, which runs festive lights trips, included Ravensdale in its itinerary this year, which we found highly amusing J

Unsurprisingly, not too many people turned out to see the lights during the storm, but we took a trip over to Maryport beach on Christmas Eve, which is on the opposite side of the marina to our mooring and just around the headland, to see what it was doing to the sea.

Storm Barbara whipped up the waves on Maryport beach

Dex's first Christmas as a sea dog

And we were glad we did as the massive waves lashing the pier and the lighthouse were an impressive sight.

As I write this, the wind has gone, the sun is shining on the marina and, at 7.2C, it is pretty mild for the time of year, but I’m sure winter has plenty of cold, wet and wild weather in store for us before it is over.
One thing is for certain, Dex really doesn't seem to care what the weather is doing outside as long as he can curl up in the warm with a cushion or two - and he's not the only one :-)
However much the boat rocks and the wind wails, he sleeps through the night and doesn't make a sound until we get up, whatever time that might be.
We are really hoping that by the time we get to take Ravensdale out to sea next year, he will be so used to the motion of the boat that he will not be bothered by it at all.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A surprise Christmas present for Ravensdale

Our sitting room became a workshop

I really thought we’d got the boat all ready for Christmas, but it seems I was wrong...

Ever since we moved on board, we’ve been trying to get someone to service Ravensdale’s two 300hp Volvo Penta engines and, just when we thought there was no way it was going to happen before Christmas, the boat yard said they were coming down to carry out the work.

So, yesterday morning, we carried the unfitted furniture from the sitting room down into the main cabin, lifted the carpet and took up the section of floor we’d previously lifted for Phil to tackle the heating problem.

Two guys from MPM, the boat yard next to the marina at Maryport, then turned up with a trolley load of oil, filters, anti-freeze, and all the tools they needed to carry out the service.

It soon became obvious that the pair - rather confusingly both called John - would also need the other side of the floor lifted to reach the second engine.

Initially it seemed this could be difficult as the boarding we needed to remove disappeared under the seating. However, the relevant section of seating was easily removed so they could get down into the engine room.

In a matter of minutes, the room was totally transformed from its usual tidy state, with a few festive trimmings, to a workshop and I was on coffee-making duties for the next few hours.

One of the Johns in the tiny space between the heater and the port engine

Dex wasn’t too sure about strange people coming in and turning his home upside down.

He seemed to think it was all a game – like everything else in his life – and was keen to join in so he had to be clipped to a long lead attached to the base of the dining room table.
This enabled him to get just far enough to see what was going on without getting in the way or falling down the holes into the engine room below.

All went to plan (except for a screw that sheared off and will have to be replaced before we can move the boat) and the two Johns finished in time to get to their work Christmas party.

The good news is that, as soon as we’re ready to head off on our travels next year, we will now be able to do so as our insurance company insisted the service was carried out before we took Ravensdale out to sea.

Meanwhile, the previous night, the sitting room was plunged into darkness (except for the Christmas lights) when the second 24V light bulb in the room blew and we had so far been unable to find any spares locally.

I wasn’t too worried about whether we got this problem sorted before Christmas as I was
going to put up more Christmas lights inside to provide a bit more light, but we managed to find an electrical supplier in Maryport with just three 24V bulbs, which fortunately turned out to be exactly the ones we needed - so we now have one spare J

And order has been restored ready for our first Christmas on board.

One of Phil’s jobs for the New Year will be to replace the crazy mixture of 12V, 24V and 240V lights on the boat with LED light fittings.

We have also put our names down for a radio operator’s course that the marina is hoping to organise here if enough people are interested.

And we are both going to do the Day Skipper course with Keith Morgans at Whitehaven Marina starting asap in January.

There are a few more things we want to get sorted on the boat, then we will be ready to set off on our nautical adventure next spring/summer...

Dex was very happy when the seating was replaced and he could get back to his favourite spot

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Looking forward to our first Christmas on Ravensdale

Ravensdale decked out for Christmas

This Christmas is definitely going to be different for us.

And if the weather forecasters are correct we are quite literally going to be rocking around the Christmas tree J

We considered booking into a hotel for the festive season, as we have done on a number of occasions in the past, but decided we really wanted to spend the first Christmas since moving onto Ravensdale on board.

Neither the prospect of cooking Christmas dinner in a tiny gas oven nor the forecast of 70mph winds on Christmas Day have managed to put us off.

We even decided to stay put when it looked as though we could have been without our heating system over the festive season.

However, we’re now hoping Phil has rectified the heating problem as it has been running fine since he went down into the engine room and straightened out the outlet pipe from the heater. So we should be lovely and warm for the celebrations.

The new name plates have been fixed on both sides of the boat

We have also put up the new name plates we had made for the boat once we had registered her on the Small Ships Register and received our registration number.

Choosing a name for our new home proved incredibly difficult as it would also be our address.

After compiling a list of around 50 possible names, a neighbour suggested Ravensdale as we were then living in Ravensdale Court, Corpach, and it was the first name we both liked so Ravensdale seemed the obvious choice.

And, at long last, we have got around to putting up the Christmas lights on the outside of the boat.

We have previously only put up warm white lights at Christmas, but decided a white (OK, whitish) boat called for something a bit more colourful so we went to B&Q and bought two sets of 400 flashing, multi-coloured lights.

Armed with a pack of cable ties, we attached one set to the rail around the bow and port and starboard sides. The other set creates a canopy of lights over the aft deck.

I was like a kid in a sweetshop when we turned the lights on and I totally love being able to see the boat flashing like a beacon to welcome us home when I take Dex out for a walk in the dark.

They also seem to be attracting the attention of passers-by who stop to take photos and some have brought their children along to see the lights.

I tried to take some photos of the lights in the dark. They haven’t come out very well, but thought I would share them anyway as they may be poor quality, but they still make me smile J

Finding room for more decorations inside the boat was more difficult as the main cabin is surrounded by windows.

The end of a tiring day!

I got out the boxes of decorations from previous years, but most have had to be repacked due to lack of space and we have had to settle for a three-foot fibre optic Christmas tree, a lighted rattan star, our Christmas cards, a few baubles and a table decoration.
I also swapped some of the pale grey cushions in the main cabin for large red ones to give it a more festive feel.

All the decorating proved a tiring business and Phil and Dex fell asleep in front of the TV.
Talking of sleeping, I don’t know whether it’s the sea air or not going to work, but I seem to be sleeping much better now than I have in years – especially since the arrival of the new mattress J

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Greetings from Ravensdale! – at long last we have wifi on the boat

Dex helping me write my blog

Some of our main bugbears since we moved onto the boat six weeks ago have been the lack of wifi on board, problems with the TV reception and a very hard and uncomfortable bed - all of which have been resolved in the last few days.

So for the first time, I am able to write my blog on Ravensdale with Dex by my side. He’s being a big help, as you can see J

The marina has put in a new wifi system and it seems to be working, even at low water when we disappear down behind the wall to the marina basin.

Phil has also put in a new co-ax cable for the TV and we can now get all the channels on Freeview regardless of the water level, even though at low tide the TV aerial points straight into the wall. We have no idea how we're getting such good TV reception at low water, but we're very happy that we are J

Dex was unimpressed by both these improvements.

However, he seemed a lot more interested when our new mattress from arrived on Friday -

The hard, old mattress

It is made of CoolBlue Memory Foam, which is supposed to overcome the overheating problems normally associated with memory foam.

The foam was cut to size using a template we supplied of our island bed, which is the width of a standard double bed at the top but tapers away on both sides to a narrower curve at the bottom end. The foam was then encased in a custom-made zip-off quilted cover.

The thick, new mattress that is oh so comfy

It came rolled up in a box, which enabled us to get it on the boat and down into the master cabin.

When it was released, we were amazed to discover it was a perfect fit and it quickly swelled up to the eight inch thickness we had ordered.
The old mattress was very thin (no more than about four inches) and very hard so the new one is pure luxury.

Dex would love to try it out, but he is not going to get the chance. The bedroom is the one part of the boat from which he is banned.

Meanwhile, we have been experiencing intermittent problems with our Eberspacher heating system. Most of the time it worked fine and kept the boat lovely and warm, but it suddenly started cutting out and refusing to go.

Phil inspected the heater, which is behind one of the two 300hp engines in the engine room, and we made a few inquiries about the likely cause of this problem. Those who know more about these things than we do thought it could be caused by one of the concertina heat outlet pipes having been squashed at some stage.

Phil repairing the heating system

There was insufficient room to get around the engine to reach the heater so Phil lifted the carpet and floor in the main cabin and went in from above. He disconnected the relevant pipe, pushed his arm into it to open it up and reconnected it.

It has been working fine ever since, so fingers crossed that was the problem and the heating won’t cut out on us again - especially over Christmas.

So all in all, there have been some massive improvements on the boat this week.

However, with all these things going on, together with regular dog walks, etc., we have not yet had time to put up the rest of the Christmas decorations so that’s my plan for tomorrow...

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Happiness is a warm, dry bed!

Water definitely belongs on the outside of a boat

Much as I like living on the water, I really don’t want to sleep in it.

One of the main problems we discovered soon after moving on-board Ravensdale was a damp bed (not what you’re thinking J – unless you’ve spent any time on a boat, in which case it’s probably exactly what you’re thinking)

We found that the cold water tank beneath the bed was causing terrible condensation under the mattress, which was getting soaking wet so we had to strip the bed, tip the mattress on its side and put the dehumidifier on full power every day to dry it. This also meant we were using more electricity than planned.

An off-cut of the Dry-Mat that is now under the mattress

Fiona at Maiden Marine chandlery in Whitehaven recommended a product called Dry-Mat. We were told that this anti-condensation underlay, which is only about 1cm thick, allows air to circulate under the mattress, thus preventing damp, mould and mildew.

We ordered some, cut it to fit and the result has been amazing – so much so that we checked it every day for the first few days expecting to find it hadn’t worked. Thankfully it has worked brilliantly.

The bed in the main cabin

And putting the dehumidifier on in the bedroom for an hour or so each day seems to keep the rest of the moisture at bay.

Our Christmas present to ourselves is going to be a new mattress. The one on the boat is probably as old as the boat itself and is so hard that it’s like sleeping on the floor. Anyone who has ever slept on a cheap sofa bed, marked “for occasional use only” will know what I mean here.

Anyway, we made a template of the bed, which is double bed width at the top and slopes away on each side making it narrower at the bottom, and we have now ordered a custom-made mattress.

The company has said it will pull out all the stops to get it to us before December 25 so we will have it in time for our first Christmas on the boat.

And if that’s all I get for Christmas this year I will be very happy (Just hope Phil doesn’t read this bit J)

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Blogging blues fail to dampen the Christmas spirit

The Christmas tree in the customer lounge at Maryport Marina

I had intended to post much more regularly, but the wifi problem in the marina has not yet been resolved so we still have to go to the customer lounge to get an internet connection. This is very frustrating as everything else about the marina here at Maryport is brilliant.
However, there is now a Christmas tree in the customer lounge, which is making me feel really Christmassy, so much so that I've already put up a small fibre optic Christmas tree on Ravensdale, much earlier than I would have put up any decorations in previous years. Must dig out the rest of the decorations and get them up asap. 

A really bad pic of Ravensdale taken on my mobile phone in the dark, but at least it shows our little Christmas tree

Anyway, we're settling in well. The boat already feels like home and Dex seems more at home here than he ever was in our house in Corpach.
He is getting much better on the lead, especially when meeting people and other dogs, and loves running on the beach and playing in the sea.

Dex's first trip to Maryport beach

Dex is also very relaxed on board. Even the rocking caused by high winds and the sea swell doesn’t seem to bother him at all so I guess he’s becoming a real “sea dog” now :-)

Dex resting after his run on the beach

I enjoy the rocking motion too, especially while we were watching an old naval war film the other day. It was rather like watching TV in 4D :-)
It’s also very comforting being rocked to sleep in a nice, warm bed while listening to the weather raging outside.
A new electric blanket and a good heating system mean we are every bit as warm here as in any of the houses we have owned – and a lot warmer than in some of them!

Sunset over Maryport Marina

On the whole, the weather has been fabulous since we moved in just over a month ago – wall-to-wall sunshine and some really beautiful sunsets.
However, it’s been pretty cold at times. The coldest temperature we’ve recorded so far was -6C one morning last week.
Until the last couple of days, we had a few windy days, but it has been mostly dry and sunny, with only the odd wet day – very different to what we were used to in Fort William.
However, we’ve had a bit of rain this week, but I now have a new jacket from the Maiden Marine chandlery at Whitehaven Marina that keeps me dry and cosy so I’m still happy doing things on the boat and taking Dex out for walks whatever the weather – it certainly beats working for a living :-)
And it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...