Friday, 29 December 2017

A wet and windy Christmas in a deserted marina


Photo of the view from Ravensdale's saloon on Christmas Day

The view from Ravensdale's saloon on Christmas Day


Our second liveaboard Christmas proved to be quiet and very enjoyable, despite high winds and torrential rain.

And we were joined for Christmas dinner by the only member of staff working at Maryport Marina in Maryport, Cumbria, UK, on Christmas Day.

In fact, I think Phil, Mic and I were the only three people in the marina on December 25 as the other liveaboards had gone to stay with family or friends ashore and I didn’t see anyone else visit their boats that day.

That said, I think I would’ve been more surprised if they had.

The weather was truly awful so not really conducive to messing about on a boat – unless it also happens to be your home J

It started raining around lunchtime on Christmas Eve and continued throughout Christmas Day, with high winds for much of the festive period.

Photo of waves crashing onto the beach at Maryport

Waves crashing onto the beach at Maryport on Christmas Eve


We took a walk around to the shore on Christmas Eve to see the huge crashing waves that were being whipped up by the strong winds and Phil took a tumble when his feet slid out from under him on the pier. Thankfully, he only hurt his elbow, which was bruised and swollen, but already seems to be on the mend.

I didn’t even realise he’d fallen until I met up with him afterwards as he’d been chatting to fishermen on the end of the pier while I was down on the beach taking photos.

I thought he’d just bent down to pick something up when I snapped a photo of him bent double halfway along the pier and later discovered that he had actually been picking himself up off the floor.

Photo of Phil bent over on Maryport pier

Phil bent over on Maryport pier


That evening, we lost the power to all the sockets onboard several times as a fuse kept blowing and Phil had to reset it.

Initially, we couldn’t work out why this was happening, but later discovered that the fairy lights on the outside of the boat seemed to be causing the problem so we left them off for the night.

Overnight on Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, we had frequent wind speeds of 30mph with gusts of up to 40mph. The boat was rocking well, the mooring ropes were creaking and the water was slapping against the sides of Ravensdale’s hull.

Photo of some of Ravensdale's colourful Christmas lights

Some of Ravensdale's colourful Christmas lights

First thing on Christmas morning, Phil went out to check the fairy lights to discover that, although the two extension leads into which they were plugged were both undercover, the rain had somehow managed to get in and one of them was full of water.

When Phil picked it up, water poured out of the end of the socket box.

Well aware that water and electricity don’t mix well, he swapped the wet extension lead for another one and both were wrapped in plastic bags before being replaced under the cover. The lights could then be switched back on and we haven’t had any further problems with fuses blowing.

My treat to myself on Christmas morning was using the onboard heads rather than traipsing up to the marina facilities, which is what I do every other day of the year - OK. Yes, I know that is way too much information, but it is part of our experience of living on a boat J

Only using the onboard heads for emergencies means the holding tank lasts so much longer before it needs emptying.

I’m sure plenty of people will think me crazy for this, but most of the time I actually enjoy the extra exercise provided by the round trip of more than 300 steps to the marina facilities to answer a call of nature.

However, I really didn’t want to venture out on Christmas morning in the wind and rain so I stayed at home J

Photo showing Ravensdale on the left and the ramp leading up to the marina facilities far right

Ravensdale on the left and the ramp leading up to the marina facilities far right


Cooking Christmas dinner in our little oven with a three-ring hob was a bit of a challenge again this year.

The vegetables were prepared Christmas Eve to save work on Christmas morning.

I also typed out a list of timings to ensure we were making the best possible use of the limited cooking facilities and that the various elements of the meal were ready at the right times.

Thankfully it worked J

Photo of Christmas dinner for three on Ravensdale

Christmas dinner for three on Ravensdale


The only problem being that we ate too much three bird roast, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry jelly and gravy, leaving no room for the Christmas pudding with brandy butter and cream.

We spent most of the day indoors, eating and watching Christmas TV only venturing out later in the day when the wind and rain started to ease off a bit.

We were delighted to discover that the sun was shining when we got up on Boxing Day so we went out to try to walk off some of the excesses of the previous day.

It was good to be able to get out again even if it was pretty cold and Phil had to grit the pontoon that night when ice started to form on the surface.

The weather stayed dry and bright until today (Friday). It is now a bit warmer but it's raining again with more forecast over the next few days.

Meanwhile, we saw an unusual sunset on Wednesday evening when there were three beams of pinkish red light shining up into the sky to the north-east of us, which didn’t seem to make much sense, given that the sun sets in the west.

Photo of pinkish red rays of light stretching up into the sky

Pinkish red rays of light stretch up into the sky


Photo of the magpie duck's return to Maryport Marina

The magpie duck returns to Maryport Marina

We were also pleased to see that the magpie duck has been back in the marina again over the past couple of days. For a little while there, I had a horrible feeling it might have ended up as someone’s Christmas dinner.
New Year is going to be an equally quiet affair for us as we will be seeing in 2018 on Ravensdale.

However, the weather is going to be anything but quiet again with wind speeds of up to 45mph and gusts of up to 60mph forecast for New Year's Eve.


Below are some of the photos I took while out for a walk in the area around the marina on Boxing Day.

Photo of the view along the shore from Maryport looking towards Flimby

View along the shore from Maryport looking towards Flimby

Photo of Maryport Lighthouse

Maryport Lighthouse

Photo of another view along the beach from Maryport towards Flimby

Another view along the beach from Maryport towards Flimby

Photo of the entrance to Maryport Harbour

The entrance to Maryport Harbour

Photo of Maryport Lighthouse with the town in the background

Maryport Lighthouse with the town in the background

Photo of Maryport Marina

Maryport Marina

Photo of reflections in the still water at Maryport Marina

Reflections in the still water at Maryport Marina

Friday, 22 December 2017

'Tis the season to be jolly...


We're really looking forward to our second Christmas afloat even if the weather outside is frightful.
Last year was special as it was our first Christmas as liveaboards, but I think this year could be even better.

We’re having a couple of weeks off from boaty jobs at the moment, unless Ravensdale decides otherwise J

Photo of the small stove in Ravensdale's galley

The small stove in Ravensdale's galley

And we’ve well and truly settled into our new lifestyle.

Our only regret being that we didn’t do it sooner.

Last year, we were trying to work out how to cook a traditional Christmas dinner in a tiny stove, but we’ve got that sussed now. Anything that can be cooked in advance will be. It will then be microwaved at the relevant time.

We were also in the process of trying to sort various problems with our 43ft seagoing cruiser that we had no idea existed when we bought her and, yes, we did have a survey done, but that didn’t seem to help at all.

Anyway, it’s Christmas so I’m not going to moan about that.

Photo of some of the decorations inside Ravensdale

Some of the decorations inside Ravensdale

As I’ve said before, the good bits of living on our Neptunus 133 very definitely outweigh any of the not quite so good bits.

Last year, we considered booking into a hotel for Christmas, which we frequently did when living in a house, but didn’t want to miss out on our first liveaboard Christmas.

We went through the same process this year and came to the same decision.

And we're still glad we decided to stay put despite the less than pleasant weather forecast for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day when we're being warned to expect heavy rain and strong winds, gusting up to 56mph.

Photo of the misty view from our aft deck this afternoon (Friday)

The misty view from our aft deck this afternoon (Friday)


Ravensdale really feels like home now and it would seem weird not to spend Christmas with her here at Maryport Marina in Cumbria, UK.

I was always one of those people who didn’t believe in putting Christmas decorations up too early. I also preferred understated festive trimmings to "in your face" ornamentation, but I’ve changed since I gave up work and moved onto a boat.

This year I was more than happy to get the decorations up early and OTT is my default setting J

The only trouble with putting a couple of thousand fairy lights on the boat early in December is that some of them are beginning to pack up, which is so sad.

Photo of lights out on Ravensdale's port side

Lights out on Ravensdale's port side

Initially, a short length of one string of coloured lights stopped working so we overlapped it with the new string we bought this year.

Since then, other sections have slowly gone out, so much so that the port side of the boat was left with a 15ft gap without lights L

Photo of a closer view of Ravensdale's port side

A closer view of Ravensdale's port side


Photo of lights strung across Ravensdale's aft deck

Colourful lights strung across Ravensdale's aft deck

At the moment, we’re turning them off by day and on during the evening in the hope that the ones that are left will last until Christmas.

We have no idea why this has happened but are wondering if they could have been affected by the damp atmosphere in the marina.

We were reluctant to buy replacements this year so a bit of reorganisation was required, which involved cutting all the cable ties holding them onto the guardrails and re-fixing them.

We had intended to attempt this yesterday (Thursday) but Phil, who does relief work for our marina, was asked to work at the last minute to cover for a member of staff who was off sick and I really didn’t fancy attempting it on my own.

He's working again this afternoon, but he managed to fix them this morning by moving some of the lights along. We also bought a short length of lights that were reduced to half price in Asda this morning to fill the longest gap.

Photo of Phil operating the marina gate barrier

Phil operating the marina gate barrier on a damp, misty day 

Last weekend was great fun. We were invited to the marina staff Christmas dinner, which was held at Broughton Craggs Hotel, Great Broughton, near Cockermouth.

The food was delicious and I really enjoyed the disco. Phil isn’t so keen on dancing, but I persuaded him to join me for one slow dance – the first time we've danced together in the almost 19 years we’ve been together so it made my Christmas J

Photo of me with our little tree before the marina Christmas dinner

Me with our little tree before the marina Christmas dinner


Photo of Phil before the marina Christmas do

Phil before the marina Christmas do

Ravensdale is also being spoilt rotten this year.

When we bought her two new 180Ah starter batteries last month, we told her she wasn’t getting anything else for Christmas.

However, we caved in and she doesn’t know it yet but she’s also getting a galvanic isolator on the recommendation of our marine electrician.

Apparently, a galvanic isolator protects against stray currents and galvanic currents, which attack a boat via the shore power earth cable.

It won’t be fitted until the New Year, but we might let her see it on Christmas Day J

As for us, we will definitely be cosy and warm during the night this festive season.

Photo of our lovely warm festive bedding

Our lovely warm festive bedding

We weren’t really looking for new bedding when we came across a brushed cotton festive duvet set in Lidl while food shopping.

Although the bed is always warm when we get into it, thanks to a very efficient electric blanket, we couldn’t resist the idea of the warm feel of the brushed bedding. It takes me back to when I was little and my Nan had striped flannelette sheets.

We’ve since been back and bought another less festive set with a view to using them until the weather starts to warm up in the spring.

Meanwhile, we want to wish everyone a very happy Christmas from Ravensdale and all who sail (or rather cruise) on her.

Have fun and stay safe J
Still couldn't resist the temptation to add a couple of photos taken in Maryport this week. 
Photo of sunset on Maryport Pier

Sunset on Maryport Pier



Photo of Maryport Lighthouse at dusk

Maryport Lighthouse at dusk



Friday, 15 December 2017

Crunching ice, a frozen shipping channel and a mystery gift


Photo of a freezing cold sunrise at Maryport Marina

A freezing cold sunrise at Maryport Marina

Plummeting temperatures earlier this week left Ravensdale surrounded by thick ice.

This was the first time since we moved onboard our 43ft seagoing cruiser at Maryport in Cumbria, UK, that we’ve seen most of the water in the marina freeze over.

Photo of Ravensdale reflected in the ice at Maryport Marina

Ravensdale is reflected in the ice at Maryport Marina


Photo of jigsaw patterns on the ice by the marina slipway

Jigsaw patterns on the ice by the marina slipway

The crazy paving effect on the solid surface of the water looked beautiful, even if it did mean the seabirds that came to visit that day got very cold feet.

Photo of a young seagull walking on the ice looking for food

A young seagull walking on the ice looking for food


Photo of another seagull walking on the ice at Maryport Marina

Another seagull walking on the ice at Maryport Marina

Meanwhile, we were lovely and warm inside our boat, thanks to the Webasto diesel heater we had installed after the Eberspacher heater that was onboard when we bought the boat packed up in January leaving us without heat for a month.

The strangest thing during the cold snap was the noise made by the ice scraping and crunching against Ravensdale’s hull, especially when a fishing boat passed very close to her early on Monday morning on its way to the marina slipway.

We were still in bed at the time, which made the sound of the ice moving against the starboard side seem louder than ever as much of our cabin is closer to the water level than the rest of our living space.

Fortunately, I’d been speaking to one of the guys on the fishing boat the previous evening and he'd told me they would be passing us early the following morning so at least we knew what was happening.

With hindsight, I wish I’d got up earlier to see its hull breaking up the ice as it pushed through the frozen water.

Instead, I had to make do with seeing the after effects – a channel through the ice, running from the berth the fishing boat had been in the previous night, past the side of our boat and around to the slipway.

Shards of ice had been pushed under the frozen surface on either side of the channel and some jagged lumps had been pushed up on top of it.

Photo of the channel created by the fishing boat pushing its way through the ice

The "shipping channel" created by the fishing boat pushing its way through the ice


Photo of the gap in the ice leading from the other end of the marina

The gap in the ice leading from the other end of the marina

Thankfully a local Maryport man, Ronnie Bell, was up earlier than me and took some lovely photos of Ravensdale at sunrise just after the fishing boat had passed by and of the marina, which he has kindly given me permission to use them on my blog.

Photo of broken pieces of ice floating in the channel left by the fishing boat

Broken pieces of ice floating in the channel left by the fishing boat


Photo of a pair or swan taking an early morning swim at Maryport Marina

A pair or swan taking an early morning swim at Maryport Marina

The pontoons became very slippery overnight on Sunday and Monday nights, but the marina salted them so we were still able to get to and from our boat safely.

The coldest temperature we saw on our outdoor thermometer before we went to bed that night was -1.9C, but we knew it had been much colder during the night. And, the following day, the Met Office website showed that it went down to -3.5C in this area in the early hours of Monday morning.

It was so cold that one of the other berth holders here had to climb out of his bow hatch after discovering the hatch at the top of his companionway had frozen shut.

Photo of crazy paving patterns on the ice at Maryport Marina

Crazy paving patterns on the ice at Maryport Marina


Photo of smaller patterns in the thicker ice

Smaller patterns in the thicker ice

Until Sunday night, we’d been turning our heating off overnight, but we left it on the eco setting that night and have continued to do so ever since.

Overnight Monday/Tuesday was another very cold night with temperatures going down to -3C.
Since then, it's become much warmer, which inevitably brought rain L


Just before the cold snap, we went out and bought another set of 500 Christmas lights to give Ravensdale’s festive display some added drama and it seems to be proving popular.

We’ve seen lots of people taking photos of the boat from the road around the marina and one little lad was screaming with delight as he had his photo taken with the boat in the background.

I don’t think we’ve seen a single person walk by without stopping to look at the boat, but then our Christmas lights are rather in your face J

Photo of Ravensdale's colourful Christmas lights reflected in the still water

Ravensdale's colourful Christmas lights reflected in the still water

We had a lovely surprise when we returned to the boat after a shopping trip last weekend to find a large, square, plastic box in front of the door on our aft deck.

We took it in and opened it up to find a lovely home baked Christmas cake.

There was no note with it and we had no idea who it was from.

The only thing we knew was that it had to have been put there by someone with access to the marina as no one without a fob would be able to get in through the locked gate.

Photo of the Christmas cake that mysteriously appeared on our aft deck

The Christmas cake that mysteriously appeared on our aft deck


We asked around and discovered that another berth holder had been seen heading in Ravensdale’s direction holding a container while we were out.

And shortly afterwards I received a Facebook message saying he hoped the “larl home baked festive treat” hadn’t “freaked” us out.

He explained that he'd been telling his wife, who likes baking for friends and family, about the limited cooking facilities on Ravensdale and, although she has never met us, she decided to bake us a Christmas cake.

We were very pleased and very grateful.

There’s nothing like being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness to restore your faith in human nature J

Meanwhile, we’ve had a new feathered visitor to the marina over the past week.

Photo of Phil laying on the pontoon to get a closer look at the unusual duck

Phil lays on the pontoon to get a closer look at the unusual duck

A small black and white duck turned up a couple of times. We had no idea what type of duck it was so Phil looked it up and discovered it was a magpie duck.

Apparently, it's a domesticated breed so we were wondering whether it had escaped from somewhere when it disappeared again. We’re now hoping that it’s gone home as the other options aren't so good, especially at this time of year.
As usual, I've been out and about taking photos around the Maryport area.
Photo of Maryport lighthouse at low tide

Maryport lighthouse at low tide


  
Photo of Maryport Christmas lights

Maryport Christmas lights



Photo of fishing boats in Maryport Harbour at low tide

Fishing boats in Maryport Harbour at low tide



Photo of another fishing boat in Maryport Harbour

Another fishing boat in Maryport Harbour


  

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